Monthly Archives: September 2008

Police confiscate walking stick from retired teacher, 78, because it is an ‘offensive weapon’

Philip Clarkson Webb has had to use his spare stick after his other one was confiscated by police. Mr Webb has received an apology from the poilce but they still haven’t found his stick.

Daily Mail | Sep 29, 2008

By  Daniel Bates

They must have known he was a troublemaker the moment they saw him.

With his white hair, wax jacket and glasses, 78-year-old Philip Clarkson Webb clearly ticked all the boxes any eagle-eyed policemen would mark as ‘danger’.

And as he shuffled along the pavement towards them there was one thing above all they deemed to pose a threat – his walking stick.

The officers surrounded the retired classics teacher and informed him the 3ft wooden cane was an ‘offensive weapon’ and had to be confiscated.

Mr Clarkson Webb duly handed it over, but the farce did not end there.

When he later went to collect it from his local police station in Southborough, Kent, with his police receipt, he was told it had been misplaced.

It took a string of phone calls for Kent Police to finally admit they had lost it and to offer to buy him a brand new one.

Mr Clarkson Webb was caught up by overzealous policing at a climate camp environmental demonstration in Kingsnorth last month.

He was not one of the activists at the climate camp but merely paid a visit to attend a seminar on trade energy quotas.

The police stopped him and confiscated his walking stick as he approached the site where dozens of policemen, some in riot gear, where stationed.

Mr Clarkson Webb said: “At the bottom of the lane Kent Police officers confiscated my stick as an offensive weapon but gave me a receipt and promised to return it.

“But later when I produced my receipt and asked for the stick it was curtly refused.

“Since that date there have been three different telephone conversations. They’ve lost the stick even though it had a numbered receipt.”

Mr Clarkson Webb, who is currently using his spare stick, said: “What this shows is that the efficiency of the police leaves a lot to be desired.

“In total the policing for this climate camp cost the taxpayer £6 million. It was a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Medway MP Bob Marshall Andrews criticised the police for being “provocative and heavy handed” and said the vast majority of the people at the climate camp were “thoroughly decent people”.

Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Allyn Thomas has apologised

He said: “We are sorry we have not been able to return Mr Clarkson Webb’s stick and we have apologised to him directly.

“During the climate camp there was a considerable amount of activity and our officers and others from around the country who supported Kent Police had to make swift decisions as part of policing the protestors.

“Any complaints that are made will be looked into thoroughly.”

How China has created a new slave empire in Africa

A Chinese supervisor cajoles local workers as they dig a trench in Kabwe, Zambia

Out of desperation, much of the continent is selling itself into a new era of corruption and virtual slavery as China seeks to buy up all the metals, minerals and oil she can lay her hands on: copper for electric and telephone cables, cobalt for mobile phones and jet engines – the basic raw materials of modern life.

Daily Mail | Sep 28, 2008


I think I am probably going to die any minute now. An inflamed, deceived mob of about 50 desperate men are crowding round the car, some trying to turn it over, others beating at it with large rocks, all yelling insults and curses.

They have just started to smash the windows. Next, they will pull us out and, well, let’s not think about that

I am trying not to meet their eyes, but they are staring at me and my companions with rage and hatred such as I haven’t seen in a human face before. Those companions, Barbara Jones and Richard van Ryneveld, are – like me – quite helpless in the back seats.

If we get out, we will certainly be beaten to death. If we stay where we are, we will probably be beaten to death.

Our two African companions have – crazily in our view – got out of the car to try to reason with the crowd. It is clear to us that you might as well preach non-violence to a tornado.

At last, after what must have been about 40 seconds but that felt like half an hour, one of the pair saw sense, leapt back into the car and reversed wildly down the rocky, dusty path – leaving his friend behind.

By the grace of God we did not slither into the ditch, roll over or burst a tyre. Through the dust we churned up as we fled, we could see our would-be killers running with appalling speed to catch up. There was just time to make a crazy two-point turn which allowed us to go forwards and so out-distance them.

We had pretty much abandoned our other guide to whatever his fate might be (this was surprisingly easy to justify to myself at the time) when we saw that he had broken free and was running with Olympic swiftness, just ahead of pursuers half hidden by the dust.

We flung open a rear door so he could scramble in and, engine grinding, we veered off, bouncing painfully over the ruts and rocks.

We feared there would be another barricade to stop our escape, and it would all begin again. But there wasn’t, and we eventually realised we had got away, even the man whose idiocy nearly got us killed.

He told us it was us they wanted, not him, or he would never have escaped. We ought to be dead. We are not. It is an interesting feeling, not wholly unpleasant.

Why did they want to kill us? What was the reason for their fury? They thought that if I reported on their way of life they might lose their livings.

Livings? Dyings, more likely.

These poor, hopeless, angry people exist by grubbing for scraps of cobalt and copper ore in the filth and dust of abandoned copper mines in Congo, sinking perilous 80ft shafts by hand, washing their finds in cholera-infected streams full of human filth, then pushing enormous two-hundredweight loads uphill on ancient bicycles to the nearby town of Likasi where middlemen buy them to sell on, mainly to Chinese businessmen hungry for these vital metals.

To see them, as they plod miserably past, is to be reminded of pictures of unemployed miners in Thirties Britain, stumbling home in the drizzle with sacks of coal scraps gleaned from spoil heaps.

Except that here the unsparing heat makes the labour five times as hard, and the conditions of work and life are worse by far than any known in England since the 18th Century.

Many perish as their primitive mines collapse on them, or are horribly injured without hope of medical treatment. Many are little more than children. On a good day they may earn $3, which just supports a meagre existence in diseased, malarial slums.

We had been earlier to this awful pit, which looked like a penal colony in an ancient slave empire.

Defeated, bowed figures toiled endlessly in dozens of hand-dug pits. Their faces, when visible, were blank and without hope.

We had been turned away by a fat, corrupt policeman who pretended our papers weren’t in order, but who was really taking instructions from a dead-eyed, one-eared gangmaster who sat next to him.

By the time we returned with more official permits, the gangmasters had readied the ambush.

The diggers feared – and their evil, sinister bosses had worked hard on that fear – that if people like me publicised their filthy way of life, then the mine might be closed and the $3 a day might be taken away.

I can give you no better explanation in miniature of the wicked thing that I believe is now happening in Africa.

Out of desperation, much of the continent is selling itself into a new era of corruption and virtual slavery as China seeks to buy up all the metals, minerals and oil she can lay her hands on: copper for electric and telephone cables, cobalt for mobile phones and jet engines – the basic raw materials of modern life.

It is crude rapacity, but to Africans and many of their leaders it is better than the alternative, which is slow starvation.

It is my view – and not just because I was so nearly killed – that China’s cynical new version of imperialism in Africa is a wicked enterprise.

China offers both rulers and the ruled in Africa the simple, squalid advantages of shameless exploitation.

For the governments, there are gargantuan loans, promises of new roads, railways, hospitals and schools – in return for giving Peking a free and tax-free run at Africa’s rich resources of oil, minerals and metals.

For the people, there are these wretched leavings, which, miserable as they are, must be better than the near-starvation they otherwise face.

Persuasive academics advised me before I set off on this journey that China’s scramble for Africa had much to be said for it. They pointed out China needs African markets for its goods, and has an interest in real economic advance in that broken continent.

For once, they argued, a foreign intervention in Africa might work precisely because it is so cynical and self-interested. They said Western aid, with all its conditions, did little to create real advances in Africa, laughing as they declared: ‘The only country that ever got rich through donations is the Vatican.’

Why get so het up about African corruption anyway? Is it really so much worse than corruption in Russia or India?

Is it really our business to try to act as missionaries of purity? Isn’t what we call ‘corruption’ another name for what Africans view as looking after their families?

And what about China herself? Despite the country’s convulsive growth and new wealth, it still suffers gravely from poverty and backwardness, as I have seen for myself in its dingy sweatshops, the primitive electricity-free villages of Canton, the dark and squalid mining city of Datong and the cave-dwelling settlements that still rely on wells for their water.

After the murderous disaster of Mao, and the long chaos that went before, China longs above all for stable prosperity. And, as one genial and open-minded Chinese businessman said to me in Congo as we sat over a beer in the decayed colonial majesty of Lubumbashi’s Belgian-built Park Hotel: ‘Africa is China’s last hope.’

I find this argument quite appealing, in theory. Britain’s own adventures in Africa were not specially benevolent, although many decent men did what they could to enforce fairness and justice amid the bigotry and exploitation.

It is noticeable that in much former British territory we have left behind plenty of good things and habits that are absent in the lands once ruled by rival empires.

Even so, with Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Uganda on our conscience, who are we to lecture others?

I chose to look at China’s intervention in two countries, Zambia and the ‘Democratic Republic of the Congo’, because they lie side by side; because one was once British and the other Belgian.

Also, in Zambia’s imperfect but functioning democracy, there is actual opposition to the Chinese presence, while in the despotic Congo, opposition to President Joseph Kabila is unwise, to put it mildly.

Congo is barely a state at all, and still hosts plenty of fighting not all that far from here.

Statues and images of Joseph’s murdered father Laurent are everywhere in an obvious attempt to create a cult of personality on which stability may one day be based. Portraits of Joseph himself scowl from every wall.

I have decided not to name most of the people who spoke to me, even though some of them gave me permission to do so, because I am not sure they know just how much of a risk they may be running by criticising the Chinese in Africa.

I know from personal experience with Chinese authority that Peking regards anything short of deep respect as insulting, and it does not forget a slight.

I also know that this over-sensitive vigilance is present in Africa.

The Mail on Sunday team was reported to the authorities in Zambia’s Copper Belt by Chinese managers who had seen us taking photographs of a graveyard at Chambishi where 54 victims of a disaster in a Chinese-run explosives factory are buried. Within an hour, local ‘security’ officials were buzzing round us trying to find out what we were up to.

This is why I have some time for the Zambian opposition politician Michael Sata, known as ‘King Cobra’ because of his fearless combative nature (but also, say his opponents, because he is so slippery).

Sata has challenged China’s plans to invest in Zambia, and is publicly suspicious of them. At elections two years ago, the Chinese were widely believed to have privately threatened to pull out of the country if he won, and to have helped the government parties win.

Peking regards Zambia as a great prize, alongside its other favoured nations of Sudan (oil), Angola (oil) and Congo (metals).

It has cancelled Zambia’s debts, eased Zambian exports to China, established a ‘special economic zone’ in the Copper Belt, offered to build a sports stadium, schools, a hospital and an anti-malaria centre as well as providing scholarships and dispatching experts to help with agriculture. Zambia-China trade is growing rapidly, mainly in the form of copper.

All this has aroused the suspicions of Mr Sata, a populist politician famous for his blunt, combative manner and his harsh, biting attacks on opponents, and who was once a porter who swept the platforms at Victoria Station in London.

Now the leader of the Patriotic Front, with a respectable chance of winning a presidential election set for the end of October, Sata says: ‘The Chinese are not here as investors, they are here as invaders.

‘They bring Chinese to come and push wheelbarrows, they bring Chinese bricklayers, they bring Chinese carpenters, Chinese plumbers. We have plenty of those in Zambia.’

This is true. In Lusaka and in the Copper Belt, poor and lowly Chinese workers, in broad-brimmed straw hats from another era, are a common sight at mines and on building sites, as are better-dressed Chinese supervisors and technicians.

There are Chinese restaurants and Chinese clinics and Chinese housing compounds – and a growing number of Chinese flags flapping over factories and smelters.

‘We don’t need to import labourers from China,’ Sata says. ‘We need to import people with skills we don’t have in Zambia. The Chinese are not going to train our people in how to push wheelbarrows.’

He meets me in the garden of his not specially grand house in the old-established and verdant Rhodes Park section of Lusaka. It is guarded by uniformed security men, its walls protected by barbed wire and broken glass.

‘Wherever our Chinese “brothers” are they don’t care about the local workers,’ he complains, alleging that Chinese companies have lax safety procedures and treat their African workers like dirt.

In language which seems exaggerated, but which will later turn out to be at least partly true, he claims: ‘They employ people in slave conditions.’

He also accuses Chinese overseers of frequently beating up Zambians. His claim is given force by a story in that morning’s Lusaka newspapers about how a Zambian building worker in Ndola, in the Copper Belt, was allegedly beaten unconscious by four Chinese co-workers angry that he had gone to sleep on the job.

I later checked this account with the victim’s relatives in an Ndola shanty town and found it to be true.

Recently, a government minister, Alice Simago, was shown weeping on TV after she saw at first hand the working conditions at a Chinese-owned coal mine in the Southern Province.

When I contacted her, she declined to speak to me about this – possibly because criticism of the Chinese is not welcome among most of the Zambian elite.

Denis Lukwesa, deputy general secretary of the Zambian Mineworkers’ Union, also backed up Sata’s view, saying: ‘They just don’t understand about safety. They are more interested in profit.’

As for their general treatment of African workers, Lukwesa says he knows of cases where Chinese supervisors have kicked Zambians. He summed up their attitude like this: ‘They are harsh to Zambians, and they don’t get on well with them.’

Sata warns against the enormous loans and offers of help with transport, schools and health care with which Peking now sweetens its attempts to buy up Africa’s mineral reserves.

‘China’s deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo is, in my opinion, corruption,’ he says, comparing this with Western loans which require strong measures against corruption.

Everyone in Africa knows China’s Congo deal – worth almost £5billion in loans, roads, railways, hospitals and schools – was offered after Western experts demanded tougher anti-corruption measures in return for more aid.

Sata knows the Chinese are unpopular in his country. Zambians use a mocking word – ‘choncholi’ – to describe the way the Chinese speak. Zambian businessmen gossip about the way the Chinese live in separate compounds, where – they claim – dogs are kept for food.

There are persistent rumours, which cropped up in almost every conversation I had in Zambia, that many of the imported Chinese workforce are convicted criminals whom China wants to offload in Africa. I was unable to confirm this but, given China’s enormous gulag and the harshness of life for many migrant workers, it is certainly not impossible.

Full Story

‘666’road sign thefts bedeviling highways

AP | Sep 29, 2008

By WAYNE PARRY – 6 hours ago

BARNEGAT, N.J. (AP) — Is the Garden State Parkway the highway to hell? Or is the New Jersey Turnpike the road to damnation? Someone keeps stealing the metal signs at mile marker 66.6 along the heavily traveled toll roads, and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority is having a devil of a time keeping up with the thefts.

It’s been happening all over the country, particularly on roads with names like Route 666. Officials aren’t sure if the thefts are being committed by religious zealots upset about the number’s association in the Bible with the devil, by Satanic scavenger hunters, or by college students who think a ‘666’ sign would look cool in their dorm room.

Joe Orlando, a spokesman for the Authority, said officials have no idea who is taking the signs.

“Maybe it’s just some kids with a Devil-may-care attitude,” Orlando said.
The latest theft involved someone swiping the 66.6 mile marker sign on the Parkway’s northbound lanes. It’s in a sparsely populated section of the Pinelands far from any entrances or exits. In short, you’d have to know the sign was there and go looking for it.

But look for it — and take it — they do. Within the past two years, 66.6 mile marker signs have been stolen at least four or five times from the Turnpike and Parkway, he said.

“Given the symbolism of the number and the fact that it is obviously done in the middle of night, and in the middle of nowhere, I can safely say that I’m not eager to meet the rocket scientists doing it,” Orlando added.

In the Biblical Book of Revelations, verse 13:18 reads, “This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.”

The Parkway sign, when it’s not stolen, is located in Barnegat; the Turnpike sign in East Windsor.

It costs as much as $50 to replace the signs, which doesn’t sound like much, until you keep repeating it over, and over again.

A few years ago, highway officials in Morris County couldn’t keep signs for Route 666 on the poles; as quickly as crews put them up, someone would take them down and steal them, often within a day or two.

Solution: They changed the name of the road to Route 665. A similar tactic might be in store for the Parkway and Turnpike mile markers, with replacement signs reading 66.61, which kind of wrecks the Satanic buzz.

In 2003, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado renamed the 194-mile-long Route 666 as Route 491 after a rash of sign thefts. Some wound up on eBay.

Pennsylvania has a Route 666, but a state transportation spokesman said few signs, if any, have been stolen.

In the meantime, New Jersey transportation officials keep replacing the mile marker signs. The Parkway thefts are happening in the same general area in which a mysterious decorator made nationwide headlines last winter by covertly festooning a huge pine tree along the side of the road with Christmas decorations.

“You almost want to put a camera out there, just to see who has this much free time,” Orlando said.

‘Maoist’ Chávez strengthens oil ties with China

China’s President Hu Jintao (L) gestures to his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez while reviewing an honour guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Sepetember 24, 2008.  REUTERS/Alfred Cheng Jin (CHINA)

Financial Times | Sep 25, 2008

By Geoff Dyer in Beijing and Benedict Mander in Caracas

Describing himself as a “Maoist” and predicting the “collapse of global capitalism”, President Hugo Chávez announced yesterday that Venezuela and China would expand their energy ties by building an oil refinery in the Latin American country.

On his fifth visit to China, aimed at deepening cooperation between the two countries, Mr Chávez also announced that a joint investment fund would be doubled in size to $12bn (€8.2bn, £6.5bn).

Mr Chávez, whose anti-US rhetoric has sharpened re-cently, has long hoped that fast-growing China could become an important alternative market for Venezuelan crude and allow him to divert supplies from the US, which has caused unease in Washington. He said exports to China would more than treble to 1m barrels per day by 2012.

Although there remains considerable scepticism within the oil industry about the likelihood of Venezuela selling large volumes of oil to China because of distance and technical obstacles, the visit underlines the two governments’ strengthening relationship.

Bilateral trade is expected to exceed $8bn this year, from less than $200m a decade ago. Some 26 agreements are to be signed during Mr Chávez’s visit, including the construction of four oil tankers and projects in agriculture, telecommunications, electronics and petrochemicals. Before arriving, Mr Chávez said Caracas would buy 24 Chinese military aircraft and also planned to launch its first satellite from China in November.

Mr Chávez’s visit – which comes between stop offs in Cuba and Russia – could cause some difficulties for Beijing, which usually tries to avoid open confrontations with the US and eschews the Venezuelan leader’s outspoken rhetoric. Chinese diplomats have regularly argued that the country’s emergence will not lead to oil supplies being diverted from other countries.

However, China also sees Venezuela, which has substantial undeveloped oil reserves, as an attractive long-term partner to boost its energy security.

“To establish the strategic partnership with Venezuela would help China expand its overseas sources of oil in order to ensure its energy safety,” said Zou Jianhua, a professor at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou.

Some oil industry experts think the plans will not advance quickly. According to Trevor Houser at Rhodium Group in New York, China has announced investments that will expand its refining capacity by 50 per cent in the next three years, well ahead of demand growth. The result is that some of the announced projects will not get built.

David Johnson, analyst at Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong, said that it made sense for Chinese companies to attract partners to invest in building new refining capacity in China. It was less attractive to build refineries in Venezuela.

Iraqi govt to allow doctors to carry guns for protection

AP | Sep 29, 2008


BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq will allow doctors to carry guns to protect themselves after hundreds have been targeted and killed since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the government said Monday.

The government also ordered the Health Ministry to begin building high security residential compounds around hospitals for physicians to live in, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Cabinet said in a statement.

“By government decree, the Cabinet has ordered that each doctor be allowed to carry one weapon to protect himself,” the statement said.

About 8,000 doctors fled Iraq since the 2003 war and the government has been trying to persuade many of them to return. The moves appear to be a confidence-building measure to encourage doctors to come back and to provide them with protection from kidnap gangs that often target professionals.

The loss of so many health care professionals has further crippled a medical care system plagued by corruption, mismanagement and a lack of equipment and drugs.

Since 2003, at least 620 Iraqi medical professionals, including 134 doctors, have been killed and many more threatened, according to the Health Ministry.

A surgeon at a hospital in the northwestern city of Tal Afar, Ahmed Sabeeh, said the right to carry a gun would make no difference to him.

“Such decision came very late — after dozens of doctors were killed,” he said. “I think it will not be of help because I do not know how to shoot, and have never used a gun. I don’t think I will carry a weapon.”

Pre-election Militarization of the North American Homeland


Gangs of Iraq: military quietly enlisting thousands of active gang members

US Combat Troops in Iraq repatriated to “help with civil unrest”

Global Research | Sep 26, 2008

by Michel Chossudovsky

The Army Times reports that the 3rd Infantry’s 1st Brigade Combat Team is returning from Iraq to defend the Homeland, as “an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.” The BCT unit has been attached to US Army North, the Army’s component of US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). (See Gina Cavallaro, Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1, Army Times, September 8, 2008).

“Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.

It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. …

But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.

The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga.,

The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.

In the meantime, they’ll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it. (ibid)

The BCT is an army combat unit designed to confront an enemy within a war theater.

With US forces overstretched in Iraq, why would the Pentagon decide to undertake this redeployment within the USA, barely one month before the presidential elections?

The new mission of the 1st Brigade on US soil is to participate in “defense” efforts as well as provide “support to civilian authorities”.

What is significant in this redeployment of a US infantry unit is the presumption that North America could, in the case of a natgional emergency, constitute a “war theater” thereby justifying the deployment of combat units..

The new skills to be imparted consists in training 1st BCT in repressing civil unrest, a task normally assumed by civilian law enforcement.

What we are dealing with is a militarization of civilian police activities in derogation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

The prevailing FISA emergency procedures envisage the enactment of martial law in the case of a terrorist attack. The 1st BCT and other combat units would be called upon to perform specific military functions:

They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.

Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.

The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”

The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

Civil unrest resulting from from the financial meltdown is a distinct possibility, given the broad impacts of financial collapse on lifelong savings, pension funds, homeownership, etc.

Full Story


Why is a U.S. Army brigade being assigned to the “Homeland”?
Several bloggers today have pointed to this obviously disturbing article from Army Times, which announces that “beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the [1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division] will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North” — “the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.”

Army Combat Brigade to take on first-of-its-kind homeland security detail
“Sea-smurf”: The pronunciation for the acronym couldn’t be any cuter, but the duties of the U.S. Army’s CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force (CCMRF) could potentially be quite ugly — using military tactics, including some tested in Iraq, amid civilian populations here in the U.S.

Constant Conflict
We will find ourselves in constant conflict, much of it violent. The United States Army is going to add a lot of battle streamers to its flag. We will wage information warfare, but we will fight with infantry. And we will always surprise those critics, domestic and foreign, who predict our decline.

Millions of children struggle to survive below the poverty line in socialist UK

‘More likely to die’

BBC | Sep 29, 2008

Millions of children in the UK are living in, or on the brink of, poverty, a report claims.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty says 5.5 million children are in families that are classed as “struggling” – 98% of children in some areas.

The campaign classes households as being in poverty if they are living on under £10 per person per day.

A government spokeswoman said it had lifted 600,000 children out of poverty and was committed to the cause.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty is a coalition of more than 130 organisations including Barnardo’s, Unicef and the NSPCC.

According to its research, there are 4,634,000 children in England living in low income families, 297,000 in Wales, 428,000 in Scotland and 198,000 in Northern Ireland.

It says 174 of the 646 parliamentary constituencies in Britain have 50% or more of their child population in, or close to, the poverty line.

The parliamentary constituency with the highest number of children in or close to poverty is Birmingham Ladywood, with 81% (28,420 individuals).

‘More likely to die’

Campaign director Hilary Fisher said the figures were “absolutely shocking”.

She said: “There are currently 3,900,000 children in the UK that are classed as actually living in poverty, which impacts on every aspect of a child’s life.

“A child in poverty is 10 times more likely to die in infancy, and five times more likely to die in an accident.

“Adults who lived in poverty as a child are 50 times more likely to develop a restrictive illness such diabetes or bronchitis.”

Ms Fisher said some families could not afford school uniforms, and chose schools for their children based on uniform cost – which was “not acceptable”.

She said: “The government has lifted 600,000 children out of poverty, but 100,000 have gone back for each of the last two years.

“If the government does not allocate £3bn in tax credits and benefits in the next budget, then their plans to reduce child poverty will fail.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the government was committed to the cause.

She said: “We have lifted 600,000 children out of poverty, we are introducing free nursery education for all two, three and four year olds and have seen an increase in educational outcomes at all ages.”

She said local authorities and other service providers had to help it raise family incomes, encourage people to apply for tax credit and benefits and help parents work.

She said the latter was known to be one of the best ways for families to get out of poverty.

Donald Hirsch, author of several reports on child poverty, said a single-wage couple with two children would stop getting Working Tax Credit when they were on £18,500 a year – leaving them just above the poverty line.

He said: “The official government measure of poverty is families below 60% of median income before housing costs, so families with this composition on Working Tax Credit will be close to the poverty line.”

The report’s figures are made up from Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit data, and have been calculated by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion.

Government pledge

Another area with high child poverty is Bethnal Green and Bow, which has 79% (23,450) of its children in low income families.

The constituency of Bradford West has 75% (24,900) of children in or near poverty, while Nottingham East has 68% (12,360).

An estimated 98% of children living in two zones in Glasgow Baillieston – Central Easterhouse and North Barlarnark and Easterhouse South – are either in poverty or in working families that are “struggling to get by”.

And there are 58% of children in Swansea East (10,470) in families of this description.

The constituencies with the lowest levels of families in, or near, poverty are Buckingham and Sheffield Hallam, both with 17%.

At last week’s Labour Party conference, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said child poverty “demeans Britain” and repeated his party’s pledge to halve child poverty by 2010, and ultimately to end it.

During his speech he said: “The measures we have taken this year alone will help lift 250,000 children out of poverty.

“The economic times are tough – of course that makes things harder – but we are in this for the long haul. The complete elimination of child poverty by 2020.”

‘Broken Britain’

Harry Potter author JK Rowling recently donated £1m to the Labour Party, saying she was motivated by Labour’s record on child poverty.

But shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling said the figures “underline the vast social divide” within cities.

He added: “There are examples of wards within cities where hardly any children live in poverty but sitting alongside these wards are others where virtually every family lives below the poverty line.

“This just goes to show the extent to which Britain is truly broken.”

The Scottish government said it was helping low-income families with a council tax freeze, abolishing prescription charges and piloting free school meals.

“However, the limited nature of devolved powers restricts our ability to act,” a spokesman said.

“We need significant extra investment by the UK government.”

The report’s results are for the period of August 2006, except for ward or zone breakdowns, which are for August 2005.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty will stage a rally in London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday 4 October called Keep The Promise, where it will call on Gordon Brown to keep Labour’s promises on child poverty.

Communist Party boss urges cadres to bone up on socialist theory

Xinhua | Sep 29, 2008

BEIJING, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) — Communist Party of China (CPC) chief Hu Jintao has urged Party members to learn the theory on socialism with Chinese characteristics more conscientiously.

Hu, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, made the remark at a seminar which was participated in Sunday afternoon by members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

Prof. Yan Shuhan from the Party School of the CPC Central Committee and prof. Qin Xuan from the Renmin University of China delivered speeches at the seminar and put forward their views on applying the theory into practice.

Presiding over the seminar, Hu said the theory on socialism with Chinese characteristics is a fundamental guideline of the Party and government for social and economic construction.

Party members should understand the basic principles of the theory and use them in their practical work, he added.

Hu asked Party organs at all levels to make the theory accessible and understood by every Party member and draw long-term plans to promote and develop the theory.

Israel’s Ehud Olmert warns of ‘evil wind of extremism’ in Israel

An “evil wind of extremism” is threatening Israel’s democracy, the outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned on Sunday after a pipe bomb attack last week wounded an outspoken critic of Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Telegraph | Sep 28, 2008

“The security agencies have been ordered to deal with this case, investigate it and act with the utmost speed to bring to justice what appears to be another underground,” Mr Olmert told his cabinet in broadcast remarks.

Mr Olmert’s forceful comments came amid growing concerns in Israel over violence by hard-line radicals, including extremist West Bank settlers.

Israeli defence officials and human rights groups have noted a rise in settler violence against Palestinian soldiers and Israeli soldiers in recent months.

On Sunday, police were investigating the shooting death of a 19-year-old Palestinian shepherd whose body was discovered in a ravine in a remote area of the West Bank. The shepherd’s relatives blamed Jewish settlers, but police said they were still investigating.

Professor Zeev Sternhell, a political scientist at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and a leading opponent of settlement building in the Palestinian territories, was wounded on Thursday when a pipe bomb exploded outside his home.

Police found posters in his Jerusalem neighbourhood offering a one million shekel (£160,000) reward to anyone killing a member of Israel’s Peace Now movement that opposes Jewish settlement on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

He said there was a “direct link” between the attack on Sternhell and the assassination of former premier Yitzhak Rabin, who was gunned down by a right-wing Jewish extremist in 1995 for his efforts to make peace with the Palestinians.

“A bad wind of extremism, hate, evil, violence and contempt for state authorities is blowing through certain sectors of the Israeli public and threatening Israeli democracy,” said Mr Olmert, who is engaged in land-for-peace talks with the Palestinians.

In the 1980s a Jewish underground group, acting after six Jewish seminary students were killed in a Palestinian attack, carried out bombings that maimed several West Bank mayors and a shooting in an Islamic college that killed three students.

Members of the group were jailed but the sentences were later commuted by then-President Chaim Herzog.

Mr Olmert, who resigned a week ago in a corruption scandal, is serving in a caretaker capacity until a new Israeli government is formed. His deputy, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, is trying to put together a governing coalition.

Sold to US taxpayers for $700B: banks’ bad assets

“From now on, depressions will be scientifically created.”

– Congressman Charles A. Lindbergh Sr., following the passage of the Federal reserve Act in 1913


Bernanke: Federal Reserve caused Great Depression
Fed chief says, ‘We did it. …very sorry, won’t do it again’

AP | Sep 28, 2008


WASHINGTON – Sold to American taxpayers for up to $700 billion: an unprecedented plan to buy distressed banks’ least desirable mortgage assets.

What started as a fairly simple three-page proposal giving the Treasury Secretary unchecked power to orchestrate a bailout of the country’s financial system ended up as a complex rescue package, with enhanced congressional oversight, some added protections for taxpayers and a slap on the wrist to highly paid, underperforming executives.

The ultimate goal of the plan remains the same: buy bad mortgage-related bets from weakened financial companies so they can raise fresh capital and resume normal lending operations to businesses, municipalities and consumers.

Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which is expected to come to a vote in the House on Monday, the Treasury Department gets $250 billion immediately to start buying up banks’ and other financial institutions’ least valuable mortgages and complex financial instruments backed by those mortgages.

If needed, an additional $100 billion is available at the discretion of the president, and a final $350 billion is on the table, unless Congress resolves to take it back. The president has the authority to veto such a resolution.

The measure also proposes limited caps on the pay and benefit packages of companies who receive the government rescue, strengthens government oversight of the program and adds an insurance program for financial companies’ bad assets.

While Democratic negotiators made significant changes to the plan Paulson sent Congress a week ago, they did not get everything they had sought, particularly more help for troubled homeowners.

House Republicans, meanwhile, fought hard for — and won — a provision that would establish a program whereby banks could buy government insurance to back the principal and interest on certain troubled assets, rather than selling them outright. They argued this was a better deal for taxpayers, and would reduce the overall cost of the rescue package.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told negotiators that he believed the insurance plan would have only limited benefits.

While the plan broadly aims to prevent banks from profiting on the sale of troubled assets to the government, there is an exception made for assets acquired in a merger or buyout, or from companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

This detail could allow JPMorgan Chase & Co. to sell toxic mortgages and other assets it gained control of last week when it purchased Washington Mutual Inc. for a higher price than the failed thrift paid for them.

The government will only buy mortgage investments originated on or before March 14, 2008.

Responding to the outcry of constituents, Congress structured the bailout in a way that sets limits on executive compensation at companies whose bad debt is purchased by the government. Lawmakers also established various oversight boards including one with members appointed by Congress and another whose members will include the Treasury secretary and the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Despite all the oversight and restrictions Congress added to Paulson’s original proposal, the Treasury secretary will still have wide latitude in deciding such things as how to value the toxic assets and what experts to hire to run the program.

Paulson, who lost in an effort to have his decisions exempted from congressional review, has indicated that he expects to use a type of “reverse” auction in which the companies with the winning bids will be the ones willing to take less, say 50 cents on the dollar rather than 60 cents on the dollar, for the assets.

Private analysts said they believe the plan will give critical support to the financial system, helping to establish a vibrant market for hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgage assets that at the moment can’t be priced because no one wants to purchase them.

Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist for Global Insight, a Lexington, Mass., economic consulting firm, said Sunday that he believed the bailout plan “will provide some critical life support for the U.S. financial system, which has been hit by a very dangerous escalation in volatility in turmoil since early July.”

Asked on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night what the government will do if the $700 billion plan doesn’t work, Paulson said, “It’s gotta do it and we’re going to make this work and we’re going to do what it takes to work.”

Among the key segments of the bill:

_EXECUTIVE PAY. Restrictions would be imposed on the compensation received by executives whose companies sell some of their bad assets through the government’s purchase program. There would be tax restrictions on executive pay over $500,000 and limits on so-called “golden parachutes” for executives who leave the companies getting government bailouts.

_OVERSIGHT. The Treasury will be required to provide details of its purchases of bad assets within two days of the transaction. Oversight boards would be created including one with members selected by Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate and one that will include top government officials.

_TAXPAYER PROTECTION. Taxpayers would be given ownership stakes in companies whose bad assets are purchased and after five years if the government is facing a loss in the program then the president will be required to submit a plan on how to recoup a portion of the losses from the companies that participated in the program.

A proposal floated that did not make the final version of the bill:

• HELP FOR TROUBLED HOMEOWNERS. They failed in an effort to give judges the power to modify mortgage terms for people who have filed for bankruptcy and Democrats were unable to get approval for part of any profits the government might receive to go to help people facing mortgage defaults.