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 Friday, October 28, 2005

Israel's Apologists Chastised Iran

  October 28, 2005

Read here original article in "The Guardian UK"

Tony Blair warned Iran last night in his starkest terms yet that the world would soon start demanding direct action against Tehran if "totally unacceptable" threats to wipe out Israel were repeated by its government.

At the end of the EU's one day summit in Hampton Court, Surrey, where Iran's stance was roundly condemned Mr Blair recalled that many countries had been urging restraint from the international community over Tehran's nuclear programme.

But he said that instead of people "telling us you are not going to do anything about Iran, the question people are going to ask is 'what are you going to do about Iran?' because can you imagine a state with an attitude like that having nuclear weapons".

Earlier the 25 leaders of the European Union issued a joint statement rebuking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, over his comment that Israel should be wiped off the map.

Several countries including Britain, France, Russia, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, called in Iranian diplomats to chastise them.

The EU leaders said no country that claimed to be a responsible member of the international community should be urging the destruction of another state.
(Note: Compare to Israel's treatment of Palestinians and the establishment of the Palestinian State and the respose of the EU leaders)

But none endorsed a call by Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, for Iran to be thrown out of the UN.

Following Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks this week Mr Blair said:

"I felt a real sense of revulsion at these remarks. Anyone in Europe, knowing our history, when we hear such statements made about Israel, it makes us feel very angry. It's just completely wrong."
Singling out Tehran's attitude towards Israel, terrorism and nuclear weapons, Mr Blair said that
"...if they continue down this path people may be a real threat to world security".
Jacques Chirac, France's president, said: "I was profoundly shocked by the declaration of the Iranian president," and that by his "irresponsible remarks" he risked his country being made a pariah.

Britain France and Germany have struggled to persuade Iran to accept supervision by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, of its nuclear programme.

In recent weeks British officials have also blamed bomb-making techniques imported from Iran for the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq.

Observers in Iran played down suggestions that Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks signalled a new era of hostility towards Israel.

Views differed on his motives, but Saeed Leilaz, a Tehran-based political analyst, said it was more likely for domestic consumption

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 Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Israel Will Trigger US to Start a Nuclear War on Iran

  by

Jorge Hirsch
(Jorge Hirsch is a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego. )

The stage is set for a chain of events that could lead to nuclear war over chemical weapons in the immediate future.

If these events unfold, the trigger will be Israel, the target Iran, the nuclear aggressor the U.S.

These are the reasons:

The U.S. State Department determined in August 2005 that "Iran is in violation of its CWC [Chemical Weapons Convention] obligations because Iran is acting to retain and modernize key elements of its CW infrastructure to include an offensive CW R&D capability and dispersed mobilization facilities."

According to the CIA, "Iran likely has already stockpiled blister, blood, choking, and probably nerve agents – and the bombs and artillery shells to deliver them – which it previously had manufactured."

According to (then undersecretary for arms control and international security, now U.S. ambassador to the UN) John Bolton's testimony to the House of Representatives (June 24, 2004), "We believe Iran has a covert program to develop and stockpile chemical weapons," and on Iran's ballistic missiles, "Iran continues its extensive efforts to develop the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction," and The 1,300-km range Shahab-3 missile is a direct threat to Israel, Turkey, U.S. forces in the region, and U.S. friends and allies."

In the IAEA resolution of Sept. 24 [.pdf], Iran was found to be in "noncompliance" with its NPT safeguards agreements.
Members of the Israeli parliament from across the political spectrum are urging the United States to stop Iran's nuclear programs, or Israel will "act unilaterally." Statements of grave concern about Iran's nuclear program have been made by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, and Mossad chief Meir Dagan (Iran poses an "existential threat" to Israel). Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter accuses Iran of plotting relentlessly to attack Israeli targets.

According to the head of the Russian Atomic Energy Organization, Alexander Rumyantsev, Russia will ship the first cargo of nuclear fuel for Iran's Bushehr's reactor at the end of 2005 or early 2006.

Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor (which was under IAEA supervision) in 1981 just before nuclear fuel was loaded into it (to prevent nuclear fallout).

President Bush has said that "all options are on the table" if diplomacy fails to halt Iran's nuclear program.

The U.S. House of Representatives on May 6, 2004, by a vote of 376-3, called on the United States to use all appropriate means to deter, dissuade, and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

In the recently released draft document "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" [.pdf], the Pentagon states that it will respond to the threat of WMD (which includes chemical and biological weapons) with nuclear weapons.

Conclusion: According to Israel, the U.S. administration, and 99.2 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives, Iran will not be allowed to have access to any nuclear technology.

No diplomatic options to achieve that goal will remain when Russia and China veto Security Council sanctions, or if the IAEA refuses on Nov. 24 to refer Iran to the Security Council. Military action will occur before Russia ships uranium fuel to Iran, and will inevitably lead to the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. against Iran.

How will it all get started? No matter how much Bush and Cheney want it, the U.S. Senate is unlikely to authorize the bombing of Iranian installations out of the blue.

Unless there is some major disturbance in Iraq that can be blamed on Iran, Israel is likely to pull the trigger. It knows how to and has every motivation to do so.

Once Israel drops the first bomb on an Iranian nuclear facility, as it did with Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, there is no return. Bushehr is likely to be the first target; other installations will follow.

Iran will respond – how can it not?

At a minimum, it will shoot missiles at Israel.

It may or may not shoot at U.S. forces in Iraq initially, but given the U.S.-Israel "special relationship," there is NO way the U.S. will stay out of the conflict.

Many of Iran's targeted facilities are underground, and U.S. bombs will be needed to destroy them all.

Once the U.S. enters the conflict, 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq will be at risk of Iranian missiles with chemical warheads, or of being overrun by Iran's conventional forces streaming into Iraq. According to the Pentagon planning [.pdf], nuclear weapons will be used:
"To demonstrate U.S. intent and capability to use nuclear weapons to deter adversary use of WMD."

"Against an adversary using or intending to use WMD against U.S., multinational, or alliance forces or civilian populations…"

"[O]n adversary installations including WMD, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons or the C2 infrastructure required for the adversary to execute a WMD attack against the United States or its friends and allies"

"[T]o counter potentially overwhelming adversary conventional forces…"

"For rapid and favorable war termination on U.S. terms…"

"To ensure success of U.S. and multinational operations…"


That makes six independent reasons for nuking Iran.

The first nuclear bomb used in an act of war after "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" should be code-named "Demo" – for "demonstration" that we can do it, don't mess with us, for "democracy" on the rise in the Middle East, and for the "Democrats" in Congress who will go along with the program. As with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we will be told it saved lives, ours and theirs.

You know the script.

The upshot: a nuclear superpower will have nuked a non-nuclear state that is an NPT signatory and is cooperating with the IAEA, at the instigation of a state that is not an NPT signatory, that reportedly has over 100 nuclear bombs of its own, and that initiated hostilities with an unprovoked act of military aggression.

Given these prospects, the U.S. government should be doing its utmost to restrain Israel, yet it is doing exactly the opposite.

It should be trying to achieve a diplomatic solution, but it refuses to even talk to Iran.

The ongoing diplomatic effort by the EU is simply designed to provide cover for the planned military action, just as in the case of Iraq.

How many times must Bush play the same game before the EU finally learns it is being used?

And how many times will it take for the U.S. citizenry to learn?

The U.S. public and its representatives in Congress, preoccupied with the deception and subsequent disaster of the Iraq invasion, are blind to the enormously bigger deception and disaster unfolding just before their eyes.

Do the majority of American citizens, from whom the authority of the administration is derived, really want to be drawn by Israel into a nuclear conflict?

Is this really in the United States' best interest?

The sane world needs to tell the U.S. and Israeli governments to back off.
And the United States needs to tell Israel, in no uncertain terms, that it will NOT allow (American-supplied) Israeli bombers carrying (American supplied) bunker-busting bombs over Iraqi airspace, and that it will not aid, abet, or condone such an attack.

By not demanding this of the Bush administration, the U.S. Congress is complicit in what is about to happen and is betraying the trust of the people it represents.

There is a rational way to avoid this disaster.

Let Iran pursue a civilian nuclear program.

Over 30 countries have civilian nuclear programs, while only nine have nuclear weapons.

Let the Nobel-prize winning IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei do their job!

The U.S. can guarantee Israel's safety by assuring Israel that any threat to its existence from a non-nuclear nation will be met with the full force of U.S. conventional forces, and any threat from a nuclear nation will be met with U.S. nuclear forces.

If Iran were to withdraw from the NPT and not allow international supervision of its programs, it would still take several years for it to acquire a nuclear weapon.

There would still be plenty of time to act.

Otherwise?

Welcome to the new world order, where the U.S. can nuke any non-nuclear country at will. Refrain from having a nuclear deterrent at your own risk. All nations that can will become nuclear, others on their way will be nuked, and all-out nuclear war will become an absolute certainty.

Bye-bye, world.

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 Saturday, October 15, 2005

"Strictly No Sex Please !" Israel Tells Chinese Immigrant Workers

  by

Conal Urquhart

Read here original article in The Guardian

Chinese workers at a company in Israel have been forced to agree NOT to have sex with or marry Israelis as a condition of getting a job.

According to a contact the Chinese labourers are required to sign, male workers may NO have any contact with Israeli women - including prostitutes, a police spokesman, Rafi Yaffe, said.

The Chinese labourers are also forbidden from engaging in any religious or political activity. The contract states that offenders will be sent back to China at their own expense.

Advocates of foreign workers, who also come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania, say they are subject to almost slave conditions, and their employers often take away their passports and refuse to pay them.

About 260,000 foreigners work in Israel, having replaced Palestinian labourers during three years of fighting.

When the government first allowed the entrance of the foreign workers in the late 1990s, ministers warned of a "social timebomb" caused by their assimilation with Israelis.

More than half the workers are in the country illegally. Israeli police have increased efforts to deport those working without permits because of rising Israeli unemployment, which has reached 11% in recent months.

Analysts say there is much division within Israeli society over immigration and status, although the conflict with the Palestinians has given it an appearance of unity.

Recent immigrants such as Russians and Ethiopians are disliked by older immigrants, and there is much resentment among secular Israelis at the privileges given to ultra-orthodox Jews.

The foreign workers are at the bottom of the pile.

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 Wednesday, October 12, 2005

US Heading Towards a " Prepare-for-War with China" Strategy

  by

Michael T. Klare

Read here Michael T. Klare's article "Revving up the China Threat" in The Nation

Ever since taking office, the Bush Administration has struggled to define its stance on the most critical long-term strategic issue facing the United States:


  • whether to view China as a future military adversary, and plan accordingly,or

  • to see it as a rival player in the global capitalist system.
  • Representatives of both perspectives are nestled in top Administration circles, and there have been periodic swings of the pendulum toward one side or the other.

    But after a four-year period in which neither outlook appeared dominant, the pendulum has now swung conspicuously toward the anti-Chinese, prepare-for-war position.

    Three events signal this altered stance.

    1. The first, on February 19, was the adoption of an official declaration calling for enhanced security ties between the United States and Japan.
      Known officially as the "Joint Statement of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee," the declaration was announced at a meeting of top Japanese and US officials, including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Rice.

      The very fact that US and Japanese officials were discussing improved security links at this time was deeply troubling to the Chinese, given their painful exposure to Japanese militarism during World War II and their ongoing anxiety about US plans to construct an anti-Chinese alliance in Asia.

      But what most angered Beijing was the declaration's call for linked US-Japanese efforts to "encourage the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue."

      While sounding relatively innocuous to American ears, this announcement was viewed in Beijing as highly provocative, representing illicit interference by Washington and Tokyo in China's internal affairs.

      The official New China News Agency described the joint declaration as "unprecedented" and quoted a senior foreign ministry official as saying that China "resolutely opposes the United States and Japan in issuing any bilateral document concerning China's Taiwan, which meddles in the internal affairs of China and hurts China's sovereignty."
    2. The second key event was a speech Rumsfeld gave June 4 at a strategy conference in Singapore.


      After reviewing current security issues in Asia, especially the threat posed by a nuclear North Korea, Rumsfeld turned his attention to China.

      The Chinese can play a constructive role in addressing these issues, he observed. "A candid discussion of China...cannot neglect to mention areas of concern to the region."

      In particular, he suggested that China "appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world," and is otherwise "improving its ability to project power" in the region.

      Then, with consummate disingenuousness, he stated,
      "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment?

      Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases?

      Why these continuing robust deployments?"


      To Beijing, these comments must have been astonishing.

      No one threatens China?
      --- What about the US planes and warships that constantly hover off the Chinese coast, and the nuclear-armed US missiles aimed at China?

      --- What about the delivery over the past ten years of ever more potent US weapons to Taiwan?
      But disingenuousness aside, Rumsfeld's comments exhibited a greater degree of belligerence toward China than had been expressed in any official US statements since 9/11, and were widely portrayed as such in the American and Asian press.
    3. The third notable event was the release, in July, of the Pentagon's report on Chinese combat capabilities, "The Military Power of the People's Republic of China".
      According to press reports, publication of this unclassified document was delayed for several weeks in order to remove or soften some of the more pointedly anti-Chinese comments, to avoid further provoking China before George W. Bush's November visit there.

      In many ways the published version is judicious in tone, stressing the weaknesses as well as the strengths of China's military establishment.

      Nevertheless, the main thrust of the report is that China is expanding its capacity to fight wars beyond its own territory and that this effort constitutes a dangerous challenge to global order.

      The report states:
      "The pace and scope of China's military build-up are, already, such as to put regional military balances at risk.

      Current trends in China's military modernization could provide China with a force capable of prosecuting a range of military operations in Asia--well beyond Taiwan--potentially posing a credible threat to modern militaries operating in the region."

      This annual report, mandated by Congress in 2000, is intended as a comprehensive analysis, not a policy document.

      However, the policy implications of the 2005 report are self-evident:
      If China is acquiring a greater capacity to threaten "modern militaries operating in the region"--presumably including those of the United States and Japan--then urgent action is needed to offset Chinese military initiatives.

      For this very reason the document triggered a firestorm of criticism in China.

      A senior foreign ministry official told the American ambassador at a hastily arranged meeting:
      "This report ignores fact in order to do everything it can to disseminate the 'China threat theory.'

      It crudely interferes in China's internal affairs and is a provocation against China's relations with other countries."
      While much of this was going on, the American public and mass media were preoccupied with another source of tension between the United States and China: the attempted purchase of the California-based Unocal Corporation by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).

      This attempt received far greater attention in the media than did the events described above, yet it will have a far less significant impact on US-Chinese relations than will the Pentagon's shift to a more belligerent, anti-Chinese stance--one that greatly increases the likelihood of a debilitating and dangerous military competition between the United States and China.

      What lies behind this momentous shift?

      At its root is the continuing influence of conservative strategists who have long championed a policy of permanent US military supremacy.

      This outlook was first expressed in 1992 in the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) for fiscal years 1994-99, a master blueprint for US dominance in the post-cold war era.

      Prepared under the supervision of then-Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and leaked to the press in early 1992, the DPG called for concerted efforts to prevent the rise of a future military competitor. The document stated:
      "Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival...that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union....

      we [must] endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power."

      This has remained the guiding principle for US supremacists ever since.

      In this new century the injunction to prevent the emergence of a new rival "that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union" can apply only to China, as no other potential adversary possesses a credible capacity to "generate global power."

      Hence the preservation of American supremacy into "the far realm of the future," as then-Governor George W. Bush put it in a 1999 campaign speech, required the permanent containment of China--and this is what Rice, Rumsfeld and their associates set out to do when they assumed office in early 2001.

      This project was well under way when the 9/11 attacks occurred.

      As noted by many analysts on the left, 9/11 gave the neoconservatives a green light to implement their ambitious plans to extend US power around the world.

      Although the shift in emphasis from blocking future rivals to fighting terrorism seemed vital to a large majority of the American people, it troubled those in the permanent-supremacy crowd who felt that momentum was being lost in the grand campaign to constrain China.

      Moreover, antiterrorism places a premium on special forces and low-tech infantry, rather than on the costly sophisticated fighters and warships needed for combat against a major military power.

      For at least some US strategists, not to mention giant military contractors, then, the "war on terror" was seen as a distraction that had to be endured until the time was ripe for a resumption of the anti-Chinese initiatives begun in February 2001.

      That moment seems to have arrived.

      Why now?

      Several factors explain the timing of this shift.

      The first, no doubt, is public fatigue with the "war on terror" and a growing sense among the military that the war in Iraq has ground to a stalemate.

      So long as public attention is focused on the daily setbacks and loss of life in Iraq--and, since late August, on the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina--support for the President's military policies will decline.

      And this, it is feared, could translate into an allergy to costly military operations altogether, akin to the dreaded "Vietnam syndrome" of the 1970s and '80s.

      It is hardly surprising, then, that senior US officers are talking of plans to reduce US troop strength in Iraq over the coming year even though President Bush has explicitly ruled out such a reduction.

      At the same time, China's vast economic expansion has finally begun to translate into improvements in its net military capacity.

      Although most Chinese weapons are hopelessly obsolete--derived, in many cases, from Soviet models of the 1950s and '60s--Beijing has used some of its newfound wealth to purchase relatively modern arms from Russia, including fighter planes, diesel-electric submarines and destroyers.

      China has also been expanding its arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles, many capable of striking Taiwan and Japan.

      None of these systems compare to the most advanced ones in the American arsenal, but their much-publicized acquisition has provided fresh ammunition to those in Washington who advocate stepped-up efforts to neutralize Chinese military capabilities.

      Under these circumstances, the possibility of a revved-up military competition with China looks unusually promising to some in the military establishment.

      For one thing, NO American lives are at risk in such a drive--any bloodletting, should it occur, lies safely in the future.

      For another, there has been a recent surge in anti-Chinese sentiment in this country, brought about in part by high gasoline prices (blamed, by many, on newly affluent car-crazy Chinese consumers), the steady loss of American jobs to low-wage Chinese industrial zones and the (seemingly) brazen effort by CNOOC to acquire Unocal.

      This appears, then, to be an opportune moment for renewing the drive to constrain China.

      But the brouhaha over Unocal also reveals something deeper at work: a growing recognition that the United States and China are now engaged in a high-stakes competition to gain control of the rest of the world's oil supplies.

    Just a decade ago, in 1994, China accounted for less than 5 percent of the world's net petroleum consumption and produced virtually all of the oil it burned.

    At that time China was number four in the roster of the world's top oil consumers, after the United States, Japan and Russia, and its daily usage of 3 million barrels represented less than one-fifth of what the United States consumed on an average day.

    Since then, however, China has jumped to the number-two position among the leading consumers (supplanting Japan in 2003), and its current consumption of about 6 million barrels per day represents approximately one-third of America's usage.

    However, domestic oil output in China has remained relatively flat over this period, so it must now import half of its total supply.

    And with China's economy roaring ahead, its need for imported petroleum is expected to climb much higher in the years to come.

    According to the Department of Energy (DOE), Chinese oil consumption is projected to reach 12 million barrels per day in 2020, of which 9 million barrels will have to be obtained abroad.

    With the United States also needing more imports--as much as 16 million barrels per day in 2020--the stage is being set for an intense struggle over access to the world's petroleum supplies.

    This would not be such a worrisome prospect if global petroleum output can expand sufficiently between now and 2020 to satisfy increased demand from both China and the United States--and in fact, the DOE predicts that sufficient oil will be available at that time.

    But many energy experts believe world oil output, now hovering at about 84 million barrels per day, is nearing its maximum or "peak" sustainable level, and will never reach the 111 million barrels projected by the DOE for 2020.

    If this proves to be the case, or even if output continues to rise but still falls significantly short of the DOE projection, the competition between the United States and China for whatever oil remains in ever diminishing foreign reservoirs will become even more fierce and contentious.

    The intensifying US-Chinese struggle for oil is seen, for instance, in China's aggressive pursuit of supplies in such countries as Angola, Canada, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Venezuela.

    Until recently China derived very little of its petroleum from these countries; now it has struck deals with all of them for new supplies.

    That China is competing so vigorously with the United States for access to foreign oil is worrisome enough to American business leaders and government officials, given the likelihood that this will result in higher energy costs and a slowing economy; the fact that it is seeking to siphon off oil from places like Canada, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela--which have long sent a large share of their supplies to America--is the source of even greater concern, particularly if it results in a permanent shift in the global flow of oil.

    From a strategic perspective, moreover, US officials worry that China's efforts to acquire more oil from Iran and Sudan have been accompanied by deliveries of arms and military aid, thus altering the balance of power in areas considered vital to Washington's security interests.

    Initially, discussion of China's intensifying quest for foreign oil was largely confined to the business press, but now, for the first time, it is being viewed as a national security matter--that is, as a key factor in shaping US military policy.

    This outlook was first given official expression in the 2005 edition of the Pentagon's report on Chinese military power. The report notes:

    "China became the second largest consumer and third largest importer of oil in 2003.

    As China's energy and resource needs grow, Beijing has concluded that access to these resources requires special economic or foreign policy relationships in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, bringing China closer to problem countries such as Iran, Sudan, and Venezuela."

    Again, the implications of this are obvious: China's growing ties to "problem states" constitute a threat to US security and so must be met with countermoves of one sort or another.

    Two trends have thus joined to propel this new swing of the pendulum: a drive to refocus attention on the long-term challenge posed by China and fresh concern over China's pursuit of oil supplies in strategic areas of the globe.

    So long as these two conditions prevail--and there is no repeat of 9/11--the calls for increased US military preparation for an eventual war with China will grow stronger.

    The fact that Bush has seen his job-approval rating plummet in the wake of Hurricane Katrina might also tempt the Administration to play up the China threat.

    While none of this is likely to produce a true rupture in US-Chinese relations--the forces favoring economic cooperation are too strong to allow that--we can expect vigorous calls for an ambitious US campaign to neutralize China's recent military initiatives.

    This campaign will take two forms:

    1. first, a drive to offset any future gains in Chinese military strength through permanent US military-technological superiority; and

    2. second, what can only be described as the encirclement of China through the further acquisition of military bases and the establishment of American-led, anti-Chinese alliances.

    None of these efforts are being described as part of an explicit, coherent strategy of containment, but there is no doubt from the testimony of US officials that such a strategy is being implemented.

    Elements of this strategy can be detected, for example, in the March 8 testimony of Adm. William Fallon, Commander of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He noted:
    "It's certainly cause for concern to see this continuing buildup [by China].

    It seems to be more than might be required for their defense.

    We're certainly watching it very closely, [and] we're looking at how we match up against these capabilities."
    To counter China's latest initiatives, Fallon called for improvements in US antimissile and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) capabilities, along with a deepening of military ties with America's old and new allies in the region.

    With respect to missile defense, for example, he stated that "an effective, integrated and tiered system against ballistic missiles" should be "a top priority for development."

    Such a system, in all likelihood, would be aimed at China's short-range missiles.

    He also called for establishment of a "robust and integrated ASW architecture" to "counter the proliferation of submarines in the Pacific."

    Note that Fallon is not talking about a conflict that might occur in the central or eastern Pacific, within reach of America's shores; rather, he is talking about defeating Chinese forces in their home waters, on the western rim of the Pacific.

    That US strategy is aimed at containing China to its home territory is further evident from the plans he described for enhanced military cooperation with US allies in the region.

    These plans, encapsulated in the Theater Security Cooperation Plan (TSCP), were described by Fallon as "one of the primary means through which we extend US influence, develop access and promote competence among potential coalition partners."

    Typically, the cooperation will include the delivery of arms and military assistance, joint military maneuvers, regular consultation among senior military officials and, in some cases, expansion (or establishment) of US military bases.

    In Japan, for example, PACOM is cooperating in the joint development of a regional ballistic missile defense system;
    -- in the Philippines it is assisting in the reorganization and modernization of national forces;

    -- in Singapore--which already plays host to visiting US aircraft carriers--"we are exploring opportunities for expanded access to Singaporean facilities."
    And this is not the full extent of US efforts to establish an anti-Chinese coalition in the region. In his March testimony Fallon also described efforts to woo India into the American orbit. He noted:

    "Our relationship with the Indian Integrated Defense Staff and the Indian Armed Services continues to grow.

    US and Indian security interests continue to converge as our military cooperation leads to a stronger strategic partnership."

    All this and much more is described as an essentially defensive reaction to China's pursuit of forces considered in excess of its legitimate self-defense requirements--"outsized," as Secretary Rice described the Chinese military in a recent interview.

    One can argue, of course, about what constitutes an appropriate defense capacity for the world's most populous nation, but that's not the point--what matters is that any rational observer in Beijing can interpret Fallon's testimony (and the other developments described above) only as part of a concerted US campaign to contain China and neutralize its military capabilities.

    Chinese leaders are no doubt fully aware of their glaring military inferiority vis-à-vis the United States, and so can be expected to avoid a risky confrontation with Washington.

    But any nation, when confronted with a major military buildup by a potential adversary off its shores, is bound to feel threatened and will respond accordingly. For a proud country like China, which has been repeatedly invaded and occupied by foreign powers over the past few centuries, the US buildup on its doorstep must appear especially threatening.

    It is hardly surprising, then, that Beijing has sought modern weapons and capabilities to offset America's growing advantage.

    Nor is it surprising that China has sought to buttress its military ties with Russia--the two countries held joint military exercises in August, the first significant demonstration of military cooperation since the Korean War--and to discourage neighboring countries from harboring American bases.

    (Uzbekistan asked the United States to shut down its base at Karshi-Khanabad after a meeting of the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization in July.)

    But even if defensive in nature, these moves will provide additional ammunition for those in Washington who see a Chinese drive for regional hegemony and so seek an even greater US capacity to overpower Chinese forces.

    This is all bound to add momentum to the pendulum's swing toward a more hostile US stance on China.

    But that outcome is not foreordained: Future economic conditions--a sharp rise in US interest rates, for example--could strengthen the hand of those in Washington who seek to prevent a breach in US-Chinese relations.

    These figures argue, for example, that Beijing helps keep US interest rates low by buying US Treasury bonds and that China represents an expanding market for US cars, aircraft and other manufactured goods.

    But the pursuit of ever more potent weapons on each side could prove to be a self-sustaining phenomenon, undermining efforts to improve relations.

    The debate over China's military power and the purported need for a major US buildup to counter China's recent arms acquisitions will become increasingly heated in the months and years to come.

    As always, it will be fueled by claims of this or that Chinese military advance, often employing pseudo-technical language intended to exaggerate Chinese capabilities and discourage close scrutiny by ordinary citizens.

    If this trend persists, we will become locked into an ever expanding arms race that can only have harmful consequences for both countries--even if it doesn't lead to war.

    Questioning inflated Pentagon claims of Chinese strength and resisting the trend toward a harsher anti-Chinese military stance are essential, therefore, if we want to avert a costly and dangerous cold war in Asia.

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     Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    MALAYSIA: UN-based Academic Questions Malaysia's Racially Divisive Affirmative Action

      Read here Dr. E.T. Gomez's "The Perils of Pro-Malay Policies in Malaysia" in the Far Eastern Economic Review (September 2005

    Read here related discussion article on Malaysian Jeff Ooi's "Screenshot"

    "The Perils of Pro-Malay Policies in Malaysia"
    by Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez.


    Image hosted by Photobucket.com Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez is Research Coordinator at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development in Geneva.Dr Gomez was engulfed in a controversy when the local University of Malaysia refused to grant him the 2-year secondment to the UN and he was forced to resign.

    The Malaysian Prime Minister intervened to enable Dr Gomez to take up the UN position on secondment.

    Read HERE for more, and HERE and HERE


    Should Malaysia once again turn to affirmative action to promote social justice and the development of a Malay business class?

    Hishamuddin Hussein, Minister of Education and leader of the youth wing of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), has stirred up this longstanding debate with a call to renew explicit policies of positive discrimination on behalf of Malays.

    (News Compass notes: UMNO is a dominant Malay-based political party that has ruled Malaysia in Government since independence in 1957 in coalition with Chinese-based and Indian-based political parties and other minor parties. )

    However, Malaysians need to consider whether such policies would primarily benefit UMNO, rather than the country as a whole.

    Even though the country has made great strides in expanding economic opportunities since affirmative action was adopted 35 years ago, the heavy price paid in terms of economic inefficiency and lost growth suggests Malaysia should continue progressing toward a more meritocratic society.

    Mr. Hishamuddin's policy recommendation that UMNO commit itself to a goal of 30% Malay ownership of corporate equity by 2020 will appeal more to the party faithful than to the Malay electorate.

    This makes sense if, as is commonly believed, Mr. Hishamuddin aspires to a higher post in the party.

    When affirmative action was introduced in 1970 through the New Economic Policy, the 30% goal was supposed to be achieved by 1990. But even in 2000, by one measure Malay ownership stood at only 19.1%.

    So the idea of readopting this goal would seem to have a certain appeal as a way to make good on an old commitment to Malays who have not fully participated in their country's prosperity.

    After all, the NEP's stated larger objective was to achieve national unity by eradicating poverty and achieving interethnic economic parity.

    However, the history of the NEP shows that its record of promoting unity is mixed at best.

    Returning to a more interventionist form of assistance could have severe consequences for a more mature and slower growing economy.

    The NEP originally entailed government intervention in the economy through public enterprises to accumulate capital on behalf of the Malays.

    After 1981, when Mahathir Mohamad took over as prime minister, he called for the state to retreat from the economy and shifted the focus to the creation of Malay entrepreneurs.

    Dr. Mahathir's grand vision was for Malaysia to achieve fully developed nation status by 2020, with the country's industrialization driven by a new breed of internationally recognized Malay-owned enterprises. He argued that the path to this goal lay through a process of targeting and preferential treatment.

    The government picked potential entrepreneurs and conferred on them—WITHOUT open tender—concessions like licenses, contracts and privatized projects, financed by loans from banks owned by the government.

    The tripartite link between the government, private capital and financial institutions would aid the rapid rise of well-diversified conglomerates.

    Dr. Mahathir was not wrong.

    By the mid-1990s, his dream of well-entrenched, influential Malays in corporate Malaysia was a reality.

    Dr. Mahathir did it his way, but not without the aid of his close ally, businessman Daim Zainuddin, who he appointed as finance minister in 1984.

    For both men, the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange, now renamed the Bursa Malaysia, constituted another key avenue for the creation of Malay conglomerates.

    Their chosen clients would inject the government concessions they received into a company that would be involved in corporate maneuvers like shares-for-assets swaps and reverse takeovers to capture control of quoted firms.

    Mr. Daim, who had little grassroots support, depended on Dr. Mahathir for all his political appointments—as UMNO treasurer, finance minister, and later, as government economic advisor, a post specifically created for him.

    Mr. Daim was seen as the most powerful figure in the corporate scene, as his business associates rapidly gobbled up Malaysia's leading privatizations.

    Mr. Daim's protégé, Halim Saad, for example, secured in 1990 control of the UMNO-owned multibillion ringgit privatized North-South highway project, and swapped it for majority ownership of Renong, a moribund but quoted company.

    Within half a decade, Renong emerged as the leading Malay-owned conglomerate, with a place among the top 10 publicly listed companies.

    Although just one of many well-connected quoted firms, Renong was the symbol of Dr. Mahathir's success in creating a class of "new rich" Malays through selective government patronage.

    But it was also widely alleged that through the NEP, UMNO had found a mechanism to implement policies, regulate markets and distribute concessions to serve its vested interests.

    Mr. Daim's influence in government and business was a major reason for a deeply fractious UMNO election in 1987 that almost led to Dr. Mahathir's fall from power.

    UMNO subsequently splintered into two groups, with the losing faction allying itself with opposition parties to forge coalitions that seriously threatened to unseat the Barisan Nasional coalition government during the 1990 general election.

    Not long after Dr. Mahathir's protégé, Anwar Ibrahim, had replaced Mr. Daim as finance minister in 1991, he too was mired in controversy.

    Mr. Anwar was alleged to have practiced patronage, not to enrich himself, but to develop his power base in UMNO by creating his own breed of politicians-cum-businessmen to accelerate his rapid ascent up the party hierarchy.

    The use of money in UMNO elections subsequently intensified, creating what Dr. Mahathir later called a "culture of greed."

    Although Dr. Mahathir and Messrs. Anwar and Daim all exercised control over the distribution of government concessions, the different reasons why they selectively patronized businessmen had a significant bearing on corporate Malaysia.

    Since Mr. Anwar's allies were politicians who had ventured into business principally to fund their political activities, their style of business was LESS productive, with many of them showing LITTLE capacity to build on their concessions.

    No Malay businessman linked to Mr. Anwar emerged as a major corporate figure by 1998, when he was sacked as deputy prime minister.

    Dr. Mahathir, for his part, distributed concessions much more selectively, and also to non-Malays, especially during the 1990s after he had strengthened his position in UMNO.

    The prime minister had a genuine belief in his ability to pick "winners" who would help him fulfill his vision of creating Malaysian industrialists.

    It was unclear if his closest business associates, now corporate captains, were running enterprises ultimately owned by them, or Mr. Daim, or UMNO. This complexity of political-business links is reflected by one key issue.

    There is no evidence that Dr. Mahathir and Mr. Anwar were corrupt, legally speaking.

    Even when Dr. Mahathir used the entire prosecutorial machinery at his disposal to try to convict Mr. Anwar of corruption, no evidence was presented that could stand up in court to substantiate the charge.

    When they resorted to selective patronage, Mr. Anwar did so primarily to secure the premiership, while Dr. Mahathir was driven by his longing to accomplish his economic goals.

    Both failed.

    Dr. Mahathir's legacy is in tatters, with little to show for his vision.

    Mr. Anwar has admitted his folly and now talks of reforms, including a new agenda for Malaysia that transcends racial barriers.

    It was the currency crisis in 1997 that exposed the true extent of problems with political-business ties.

    Since the rise of well-connected businessmen was linked to the patronage of influential politicians, their fortunes closely depended on whether their patrons remained in power.

    After Mr. Anwar was removed from office, most businessmen associated with him struggled to protect their corporate interests.

    Similarly, when Mr. Daim fell out of favor with Dr. Mahathir, the corporate chieftains he supported were divested of their assets and some came under investigation for corruption, though none have yet been prosecuted.

    Prominent businessmen have lost control of large, in some cases even thriving, enterprises, after falling out with key leaders.

    Inevitably, businesses owned by those well-connected to the three leaders quickly dropped off the list of top 100 publicly quoted firms.

    By 2000, the government had majority ownership of seven of the 10 largest KLSE-listed firms, an indication of the failure of privatization. These enterprises included the two largest domestic banks, two privatized utility companies, a shipping line and a gas producer.

    The other three firms in the top 10 were Chinese-owned.

    None of these 10 companies was owned by a Malay, and none was involved in the industrial sector.

    The government's failure to develop Malay entrepreneurs was due to the practice of selective patronage involving easy access to loans and other privileges.

    Individuals benefiting from selective patronage appeared to be more concerned with creating highly diversified conglomerates than their corporate groups' gearing imbalances and lack of business focus.

    It was the government's failure to check and discipline this style of growth that contributed to the rapid collapse of these firms when the currency crisis occurred.

    Moreover, the subservience of well-connected businessmen to their patrons meant that their corporate decisions were often influenced by politicians and affected by political crises.

    Dr. Mahathir and Mr. Anwar have learned the lessons of selective patronage, and have publicly cautioned that treading down that path again would only serve to hinder Malaysia's economic progress.

    But since these two powerful men are now consigned to the political margins, their views are largely unappreciated or ignored by UMNO members, possibly because of the culture of greed that has come to characterize the party.

    This was evident during the last UMNO general assembly in July 2005 when the Minister of International Trade & Industry, Rafidah Aziz, was heavily criticized for dispensing to a select few companies approved permits to import motor vehicles.

    UMNO members lamented not the practice of targeting individuals as beneficiaries of the APS, but that they were not the people who were targeted.

    The problem here is not that UMNO members are unaware of the lessons of their own past.

    The real tragedy is that, comfortable with UMNO's sweeping victory in the 2004 general election, they have chosen to ignore these lessons.

    The kind of racial targeting that UMNO is proposing, history suggests, will lead to politicians usurping concessions created by the government for all Malays.

    Malaysian history also shows racial targeting has the capacity to seriously divide UMNO, contributing to persistent allegations of corruption that eroded public trust in the party, creating serious intra-Malay class differences.

    Vast amounts of resources have been wasted.

    Had these funds been deployed transparently and based on merit, they would have generated a far stronger enterprise culture.

    Malaysia may have been able to absorb such losses in the 1990s when the economy registered high growth rates.

    But it is unlikely that similar conditions can be replicated today.

    Another round of affirmative action could seriously harm the economy, as well as undermine efforts to promote social justice and national unity.



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    Iraq Snubs Australia to Buy One Million Tons of Wheat from the US.

      By

    Khaled Yacoub Oweis

    Read here original article

    Related article:

    "The Australian Navy frigate HMAS Parramatta has left Sydney for a six-month deployment in Iraq. Hundreds of families and friends have bid sad farewells to the 187 crew.

    The ship and crew will be involved in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq.

    They will help protect Iraq's offshore export oil terminals and will monitor, intercept and board vessels suspected of illegal trafficking."

    Read here for more and HERE

    Iraq will buy ONE MILLION TONS of U.S. wheat in the next few days, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi said on Sunday.

    The move marks the FIRST time that Australia lost a major deal in Iraq after dominating the market for years.

    The Iraqi government, among the world's major buyers of commodities, chose U.S. wheat after Australia failed to make offers under the new Free on Board (FOB) system, Chalabi, a key official behind procurement decisions, told Reuters.

    "Australia is out of the running because they insisted on quoting CIF. Some American companies who quoted FOB are getting the contract. They are reputable and we are buying from them," Chalabi said.

    The U.N. oil for food program started in 1996 and allowed Iraq to use oil revenue to buy food, medicine and other goods. Australia was a the major wheat supplier to Iraq under the program.

    Documents that surfaced after the U.S.-led invasion showed that Australia may have paid bribes to Saddam Hussein's government to secure contracts.

    Australian officials have denied paying bribes and pledged to cooperate with international investigations into the program.

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     Monday, October 10, 2005

    IS THIS THE DEATH OF AMERICA?

      by

    Dermot Purgavie

    Read here original article in Mirror(UK)


    "America's sense of itself - its pride in its power - has been profoundly damaged."
    THIS week Karen Hughes, long-time political adviser to George Bush, began her new mission as the State Department's official defender of America's image with a tour of the Middle East.

    She might have been more help to her beleaguered president had she stayed at home and used her PR skills on her neighbours.

    At the end of a cruel and turbulent summer, nobody is more dismayed and demoralised about America than Americans.

    They have watched with growing disbelief and horror as a convergence of events - dominated by the unending war in Iraq and two hurricanes - have exposed ugly and disturbing things in the undergrowth that shame and embarrass Americans and undermine their belief in the nation and its values.

    With TV providing a ceaseless backdrop of the country's failings:


  • a crippled and tone-deaf president,
  • a negligent government,
  • corruption,
  • military atrocities,
  • soaring debt,
  • racial conflict,
  • poverty,
  • bloated bodies in floodwater,
  • people dying on camera for want of food, water and medicine

    It seemed things were falling apart in the land where happiness is promoted in the constitution.

    Disillusioning news was everywhere.
  • In the flight from Hurricane Rita, evacuees fought knife fights over cans of petrol.

  • In storm-hit Louisiana there were long queues at gun stores as people armed Themselves against looters.
  • AMERICA, which has the world's costliest health care, had, it turned out, HIGHER infant mortality rates than the broke and despised Cuba.
  • Tom De Lay, Republican enforcer in the House of Representatives, was indicted for conspiracy and money laundering.
  • The leader of the Republicans in the Senate was under investigation for his stock dealings.
  • And Osama bin Laden was still on the loose.
  • Americans are the planet's biggest flag wavers.
  • They are reared on the conceit that theirs is the world's best and most enviable country, born only the day before yesterday but a model society with freedom, opportunity and prosperity not found, they think, in older cultures.

    They rejoice that "We are No.1", and in many ways they are.

    But events have revealed a creeping mildew of pain and privation, graft and injustice and much incompetence lurking BENEATH the glow of star-spangled superiority.

    Many here feel the country is breaking down and losing its moral and political authority.

    "US in funk" say the headlines.

    "I am ashamed to be an American," say the letters to the editor.

    We are seeing, say the commentators, a crumbling - and humbling - of America.

    The catalogue of afflictions is long and grisly.

    Hurricane Katrina revealed confusion and incompetence throughout government, from town hall to White House.

    President Bush, accused of an alarming failure of leadership over the disaster, has now been to the Gulf coast seven times for carefully orchestrated photo opps.

    But his approval has dropped below 40 per cent. Public doubt about his capacity to deal with pressing problems is growing.

    Americans feel ashamed by the violent, predatory behaviour Katrina triggered - nothing similar happened in the tsunami-hit THIRD World countries - and by the deep racial and class divisions it revealed.

    The press has since been giving the country a crash course on poverty and race, informing the flag wavers that an uncaring America may be No.1 on the world inequities index.

    The US has 37 million living UNDER the poverty line, largely unnoticed by the richest in a country with more than three million millionaires.

  • The typical WHITE family has $80,000 in assets;

  • The average BLACK family about $6,000. It's a wealth gap out of the Middle Ages.

  • Some 46 million can't afford health insurance, 18,000 of whom will die early because of it.
  • The US, we learn, is 43rd in the world infant mortality rankings.

    A baby born in Beijing, CHINA has nearly THREE TIMES the chance of reaching its first birthday than a baby born in Washington.

    Those who survive face rotten schools. On reading and maths tests for 15-year-olds, America is 24th out of 29 nations.

    On the other side of the tracks, 18 corporate executives have so far been jailed for cooking the books and looting billions.

    The prosecution of Mr Bush's pals at Enron - the showcase trial of the greed-is-good culture - will be soon.

    But the backroom deal lives on and, in an orgy of cronyism, billions of dollars are being carved up in no-bid contracts awarded to politically-connected firms for work in the hurricane-hit states and in Iraq.

    The war, seen as unwinnable, is becoming a bleak burden, with nearly 2,000 American dead.

    Two-thirds think the invasion was a mistake.

    The war costs $6billion a month, driving up a nose-bleed high $331billion budget deficit.

    In five years the conflict will have cost each American family $11,300, it is said.
    Mr Bush says blithely he'll cut existing programmes to pay for the war and fund an estimated $200billion for hurricane damage. He won't, he says, rescind his tax cuts. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel says Mr Bush is "disconnected from reality".

    Americans have been angered by a reports that US troops have routinely tortured Iraqi prisoners. Some 230 low-rankers have been convicted - but not one general or Pentagon overseer. Disgruntled young officers are leaving in increasing numbers.

    Meanwhile, further damaging Americans' self image, there's Afghanistan. The White House says its operations there were a success, yet last year Afghanistan supplied 90 per cent of the world's heroin.

    America's sense of itself - its pride in its power and authority, its faith in its institutions and its belief in its leaders - has been PROFOUNDLY damaged.

    And now the talking heads in Washington predict dramatic political change and the death of the Republicans' hope of becoming the permanent government.

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     Saturday, October 01, 2005

    Richest Female Golfer in the World and a Millionnaire at 16

      Read here original article by Doug Ferguson

    Six days before she turns 16, and still not old enough to drive car by herself, Michelle Wie, a 6-foot golf prodigy will turn professional with two endorsement deals that will make her the richest female golfer.

    Image hosted by Photobucket.com Wie was born in Honolulu and has a Korean heritage, and speaks to her parents primarily in Korean.

    The sources said Wie will sign two major endorsements, with Nike and Sony.

    Wie will make the announcement at 8 a.m. Wednesday in Honolulu at the Kahala Mandarin Hotel near Waialae Country Club. The time was set early so she could still go to school.


    Along with appearance money to play overseas, Wie could bring in about $10 million a year beyond whatever she makes on the golf course. Annika Sorenstam, whose 66 victories on the LPGA Tour include nine majors and the career Grand Slam, earns about $6 million a year in endorsements.

    One source said the Nike contract would pay her about $4 million to $5 million a year. Nike prefers its athletes to have a clean look with no other logos, meaning Wie would have the swoosh on her cap and clothing.

    The other major endorsement is with Sony, which is believed to be worth close to the Nike deal.

    But the money will start pouring in no matter how she fares in the 18-player field.

    Her father said his daughter's routine would not change despite her status as a professional and the amount of money she will earn. B.J. Wie said he would stay at the University of Hawaii, where he is a professor, and Michelle would spend her final two years at Punahou School before going to college.

    Wie will fly to the California on Oct 13 to make her professional debut in the Samsung World Championship at Bighorn.

    Sony officials got to know Wie during her two appearances at the Sony Open. She shot 68 in the second round last year the lowest score ever by a female competing on a men's tour and missed the cut by one shot. She returned this year and shot 75-74 in blustery conditions to miss the cut by seven shots.

    One executive from Sony walked all 18 holes of her second round in 2004.

    Wie will play the Casio World Open in Japan the week of Thanksgiving, her first tournament overseas against the men.

    Wie has even greater recognition overseas, especially in Asia, than in the United States.

    "The courses in Japan are not as tough as here, they're not as long as they are in the United States," Shigeki Maruyama said Friday from the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. "She should have a very good chance of making the cut over there."

    Wie is unlikely to play any other tournaments this year.

    Nike most likely will build an ad campaign around her decision to turn pro, although not to the extent of its "Hello, World" ad when Tiger Woods turned pro in 1996 at age 20 after winning six straight USGA titles.

    Wie is more about potential, a prodigy who already was hitting the ball like a PGA Tour player when she was still wearing a retainer. She first caught players' attention while playing in a junior pro-am at the Sony Open when she was 12.

    Tom Lehman thought her swing was so fluid he called her the "Big Wiesy," because she reminded him of Ernie Els.

    Wednesday's announcement will end an amateur chapter in her career in which she spent more time playing against the pros. Wie already has played 24 times on the LPGA Tour, and has not missed a cut in the last two years.

    She was runner-up at the LPGA Championship to Annika Sorenstam in June, and tied for third at the Women's British Open in July. Both are majors on the LPGA Tour.

    Wie also has competed five times against the men, without making a cut three on the PGA Tour, once on the Nationwide Tour and once on the Canadian Tour.

    Wie will not challenge the LPGA Tour's policy that members be 18 years old. Instead, she will take sponsor's exemptions a maximum of six on the LPGA Tour, excluding the U.S. Women's Open or the Women's British Open.

    She can take up to seven on the PGA Tour, although it is not likely she will accept that many.

    Her most noteworthy victory was the 2003 U.S. Woman's Amateur Public Links, which she captured at age 13 to become the youngest champion of a USGA championship for adults.

    She lost in the finals of the WAPL a year later, but never reached the finals of the U.S. Junior Girls or U.S. Women's Amateur.

    Her path has been different from the start.

    She was winning state amateur events before she got out of elementary school, and qualified for her first LPGA Tour event the Takefugi Classic in 2002 before she was eligible for some junior tours like the American Junior Golf Association.

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    First Documented Evidence Wild Gorillas Use Tools

      by

    John Roach

    Read here John Roach's original article in National Geographic News

    Read here About the Great Apes

    News Compass Notes:

    Gorillas are primarily vegetarians, and large quantities of food are needed to sustain their massive bulk. The gorilla has 48 chromosomes, like the chimpanzee, bonobo, and orangutan, with a very similar banding pattern to the 46 chromosomes of humans.

    Gorillas, previously considered a single species, were recently divided into two species and five subspecies. The eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei) includes the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) of the Virunga Volcanoes area of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the yet unnamed, but distinct, population of Uganda's Bwindi (Impenetrable) Forest, and the eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri).

    Western Africa is home to at least two additional taxa, the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli). The mountain, Bwindi and Cross River gorilla populations all number only in the hundreds and are considered critically endangered.

    Researchers have observed and photographed wild gorillas using sticks and stumps to navigate a swampy forest clearing in the Republic of the Congo.

    The images provide the FIRST documented use of tools among wild gorillas.

    The researchers report their observations in the October 1 issue of the journal Public Library of Science: Biology. The photographs will also be featured in the new National Geographic Television series Wild Chronicles, airing Saturday on PBS.

    The observation of gorilla tool use came after more than 10 years of continuous monitoring at Mbeli Bai.

  • In one instance, a female gorilla named Leah tried to wade across a pool of water but found herself waist deep after just a few steps. She retreated, grabbed a branch sticking out of the water, and used it to gauge the water's depth before wading deeper.

    According to the researchers, Leah repeatedly tested the depth as she walked about 33 feet (10 meters) out into the pool, before returning to shore and her wailing infant.

    According to Thomas Breuer, a conservation biologist with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society:
    "The most fascinating thing about this observation is the similarity [to humans] with which the gorillas solve the problems in this particular habitat.

    If you or me want to cross a swamp, we use the same solutions as gorillas."

    Image hosted by Photobucket.com
    A western gorilla uses a stick to test the water for depth in the Republic of Congo. The photographs are the first documentation of gorillas using tools in the wild.Photograph © Thomas Breuer/Wildlife Conservation Society

  • In another instance, a female named Efi detached a stump from a bush and used it for support as she dug for herbs. She then made a bridge with the stump to help her cross a muddy patch of ground.

    "It was quite surprising to me and my team to make this observation," said Breuer . Breuer is currently in Congo, where the observations were made at Mbeli Bai in Nouabal-Ndoki National Park.

    Frans de Waal, director of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, commented via e-mail:
    "This is a spectacular finding, new and astonishing, especially since gorillas have long been regarded as somehow less smart than the other great apes."
    Craig Stanford, an anthropologist who studies ape behavior at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, agreed that the finding is a great surprise. He said:
    "We didn't expect that at all.

    Gorillas don't do a lot of things other great apes do. They don't eat meat or hunt.

    They lead a more sedentary life."

    Tool Use

    Prior to this finding, all the other great apes had been observed using tools. Captive gorillas have been shown to use tools, but observing the behavior in wild gorillas has proven difficult.

    Only a few wild gorilla groups are habituated to human presence, and those that are tend to linger where their behavior remains out of view, Breuer said.

    Though tool use is likely infrequent among gorillas, the new evidence provides insight to how gorillas see the world and interact with their environment, Breuer said.

    Like humans, the gorillas in the swampy clearing jump from one dry patch to another, walk over branches, swing from trees, and—as the observations and photographs now show—use tools.

    Evidence that all great ape species use tools also adds insight to human evolution, Breuer added.

  • It suggests that tool use—once thought a distinguishing characteristic of humans—emerged in primates before humans split from the great apes.

    Non-Food

    Most observed instances of tool use in great apes are directly related to processing food, such as chimpanzees using sticks to fish for termites and rocks to crack nuts.

    The use of sticks by gorillas for postural support suggests tool use can be triggered by other environmental factors. It also fits with the argument that tool use reflects ecological needs, Breuer and his colleagues conclude in PLoS: Biology.

    Stanford, the University of Southern California anthropologist, said the tool use of gorillas is "lower order," in the sense that their tools are not modified like the sticks chimpanzees use to fish for termites.

    Nevertheless, he added, the finding is "very cool."

    According to de Waal of Emory University, the observation is "a major step in our knowledge of the gorilla, who has now joined the technology crowd among our close relatives."


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    Middle East Balancing Act: Russia Strengthens Military Aid to Syria

      Read here in Novosti (Russian News and Information Agency)

    Russia will provide Syria with small arms ammunition and allow more Syrian students to study at Russian defense ministry universities, a ministry spokesman said Thursday.

    Syrian Chief of Staff General Ali Habib, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Chief of Staff Yury Baluyevsky reached this agreement during talks in Moscow September 27-28, the source said.

    According to spokesman from the Russian Ministry of Defense:

    "[The parties] agreed on small supplies of ammunition for small arms to Syria and doubling the number of Syrian students in Russian higher education institutions under the Ministry of Defense.

    There are about 30 Syrian officers studying in Russia now."

    The source also said the parties had not signed any high-level agreements during the talks.

    While in Russia, the Syrian general visited the Instrument Production Design Bureau in Tula (about 200 km south of Moscow), which has developed and produced 130 types of arms and military equipment for the Russian armed forces.

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