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Chart showing National Debt & Annual Deficits with Presidents. Democrat administrations are blue, Republican in Red. Green reflects projected Bush debt. Click chart for larger image.

2008 update (10.14.08)

The Chart Showing the National Debt above is far more than projected, of about $11.3 trillion. See "The debt to the penny," publicdebt.treas.gov.
The Deficit for 2006 was $423 Billion; 2007 was $354 billion; 2008 is $451 billion
OMB Budget FY2005>>
Interest on Debt 2008
Federal Debt 2003-09 (estimated in 2004)
Fed. Budget Summary 2003-2009, as estimated

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News Headlines & Trends

2.16.09 Foreign investment in China plunges in January

BEIJING, February 16 - China's actual use of foreign investment plunged 32.67 percent year on year to 7.54 billion US dollars in January, a Ministry of Commerce (MOC) official said here Monday. Foreign investment use has seen consecutive falls in China since October, when a 2.02-percent annual drop was recorded. Yao Jian, an MOC spokesman, attributed the January decline to the global financial crisis and an unusually high level in the same month of last year. [More>>xinhuanet.com; See related stories:

japantoday.com, February 16, "Japan's Oct-Dec GDP posts sharpest fall in 35 years" : TOKYO - Japan's economy contracted in the October-December quarter of 2008 at the fastest pace in about 35 years, shrinking at an annualized real 12.7% from the previous quarter, on the back of the fast-cooling global economy, the government said Monday...

cbsnews.com (AP) February 16, "World markets sag" : LONDON - World markets fell Monday, after new figures showed Japan's economy contracted at its quickest pace in 35 years and a weekend summit of Group of Seven finance ministers provided few concrete proposals to counter the economic crisis. Drops in Europe followed losses in Asia, but trading volumes were subdued as US markets remained closed for Presidents Day. By late afternoon in mainland Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.6 percent to 4,164.20, Germany's DAX sank 0.4 percent to 4,396.80, and France's CAC 40 dropped 0.4 percent to 2,987.42...

2.16.09 Did France's secrecy cause a nuclear submarine collision?

LONDON, February 16 - A collision between a British nuclear-powered submarine carrying multiple nuclear warheads and a French nuclear submarine armed with a similar payload may have been the result of lack of communication between France and NATO nations, according to a former British submarine commander whose revelations were partially corroborated by an official at the French navy. Sometime on Feb. 3 or 4, the British HMS Vanguard and France's Le Triomphant collided in the mid-Atlantic.

The accident probably happened because the two submarines were not aware of each other. NATO operates a traffic control system that alerts allied nations to the deployment zones of friendly submarines. The system is designed to avoid collisions. But because France is not part of NATO's military command structure, it does not provide information on the location of its mobile nuclear arms to that system, according to Julian Ferguson, who commanded one of Britain's four V-class nuclear submarines until retiring in 2006. (See a graphic of the global nuclear arms balance.)
[More>>time.com via cnn.com]

2.16.09 Pakistan swaps dozen Taliban for Chinese engineer

ISLAMABAD, February 16 - [The] Pakistan Government has released over a dozen jailed Taliban commanders to secure the release of a Chinese engineer who was kidnapped by the militants nearly six months ago. Officials were tight-lipped about Long Xiaowei's release though "The News" daily reported that the government swapped more than a dozen Taliban prisoners for the Chinese national. "Yes, a number of militants were freed to secure the release of the Chinese engineer," an official with knowledge of the deal told the newspaper. He refused to give the exact number of prisoners who were released. [More>>indianexpress.com; See related stories,

aljazeera.net, February 16, "Pakistan to allow sharia in Swat" : Pakistan's government has agreed to restore sharia, or Islamic law, in the Swat Valley and neighboring areas of the country's northwest as part of a peace deal with local pro-Taliban fighters. The agreement was reached after talks in Peshawar between members of Tahrik-e-Nafiz Shariat Muhammadi and officials of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government on Monday. Announcing the decision to restore sharia, a spokesman for the NWFP government said Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, had already agreed in principle to this concession to the region's religious conservatives. "All un-Islamic laws related to the judicial system, those against the Quran and Sunnah, would be subject to cancellation and considered null and void," a NWFP spokesman said in a statement following the talks...

timesonline.co.uk, February 16, "Perves Musharraf was playing 'double game' with US" : Mr. Musharraf has reacted angrily to the book's allegations of double-dealing. Washington sent Special Forces into Pakistan last summer after intercepting a call by the Pakistani army chief referring to a notorious Taleban leader as a "strategic asset," a new book has claimed. The intercept was ordered to confirm suspicions that the Pakistani military were still actively supporting the Taleban whilst taking millions of dollars in US military aid to fight them, according to the "The Inheritance," by the New York Times correspondent David Sanger.

In a transcript passed to Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence in May 2008, General Ashfaq Kayani, the military chief who replaced Pervez Musharraf, was overheard referring to Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani as "a strategic asset." The remark was the first real evidence of the double game that Washington had long suspected President Musharraf was playing as he continued receiving US military aid while aiding the Taleban. Mr. Haqqani, a veteran of the anti-Soviet mujahidin wars of the nineties, commands a hardline Taleban group based in Waziristan and is credited with introducing suicide bombing into the militants' arsenal.

Washington later intercepted calls from Pakistani military units to Mr. Haqqani, warning him of an impending military operation designed to prove to the US that Islamabad was tackling the militant threat. "They must have dialled 1-800-HAQQANI" a source told Mr. Sanger. "It was something like, 'Hey, we’re going to hit your place in a few days, so if anyone important is there, you might want to tell them to scram.' " The intercept was the clue that led the CIA to uncover evidence of collusion between the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and Mr. Haqqani in a plot to carry out a spectacular bombing in Afghanistan. Two weeks later, India's Embassy in Kabul was bombed, killing fifty-four people and prompting a CIA mission to Islamabad to challenge the government with their evidence...

Maravot News 1.07.09 articles
01.04.09 Taliban bans co-ed in Pakistan tribal area and 1.04.09 Suicide jackets, explosives recovered in Khyber Agency

Maravot News 1.16.09 article 01.11.09 Pakistan NW Frontier Corps attacked;

Maravot News 1.20.09 articles
01.19.09 Militants bomb 5 schools in northwest Pakistan and 01.18.09 Al-Qaeda threatens German soldiers in web video...A sign behind his head identified him as "Abu Talha the German" and he spoke in German, with a slight foreign accent. Whoever tried to make a distinction between al-Qaeda and the Taliban had not understood his enemy, he added.

2.16.09 Taliban leaders killed in airstrike

HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) February 16 - Warplanes raided a militant hideout in northwestern Afghanistan overnight, killing two rebel commanders and several fighters, the US-led military and a police official said. A rebel compound was targeted in the province of Badghis, a troubled region on the Turkmenistan border, the US-led force said in a statement...Sayed Ahmad Sameh, Badghis provincial police chief, confirmed the incident and said 10 Taliban, including two commanders, were killed in the air raid. "Mullah Dastagir and Mullah Baz Mohammad, two big Taliban commanders and eight of their men were killed in the air strike by the coalition forces," he said. The pair were top Taliban leaders in the province, he added. [Full story>>news.com.au]

2.16.09 Bomb blasts as Iraq Shia rite ends with trek home

KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) February 16 - Roadside bombs killed eight Iraqis in Baghdad Monday as crowds of Shia Muslim pilgrims began an arduous trek home at the end of a major rite, some catching rides on army trucks because of a lack of buses. Defying the suicide bombs that have threatened gatherings of Shia Muslims since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Sunni-led government of Saddam Hussein, hundreds of thousands if not millions poured into the holy city of Kerbala for Arbain.

..The deployment of 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and police failed to prevent a bomb attack in Kerbala Thursday that killed eight people near the revered shrine, and a suicide bombing Friday on a route to Kerbala that killed 42. Saturday and Sunday, however, passed without bloodshed in Kerbala, the peace broken only Monday when two roadside bombs targeted Shi'ite areas in Baghdad as pilgrims returned. The first bomb killed four and wounded 13 on a minibus in the sprawling slum of Sadr City, a stronghold of supporters of anti-American Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The second also killed four and wounded 13 in a minibus, this time in Kamaliya, another Shi'ite area.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com;See also nytimes.com, February 16, "8 pilgrims killed in 2 Baghdad Blasts."]

2.16.09 Israel seizes West Bank land

February 16 - Israel has taken control of a large area near a prominent settlement in the Palestinian West Bank, paving the way for a possible construction of 2,500 settlement homes, officials have said. Oded Revivi, the mayor of Efrat, said on Monday that the Israeli military has designated 425 acres near the settlement of about 1,600 families south of Jerusalem, as so-called state land two weeks ago. Revivi said Efrat plans to build 2,500 homes on that land, but government approval would still be needed before construction begins, a process that could take years. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related stories:

haaretz.com, February 16, "Livni: Israel must give up land to remain Jewish and democratic" : Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told visiting American Jewish leaders on Monday that Israel must give up part of its land "in order to remain a Jewish and democratic state. I do believe Israel is fighting for existence not only because it's the only democracy in the Middle East, but also because it's the only Jewish state in the world," Livni told a delegation of about 100 leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, currently holding its annual leadership mission in Israel...She also told the delegation that Israel must take the initiative and come forward with its own peace plan to head off international programs. "Any plan put on the table will not be in our interest," she said...

haaretz.com (AP) February 16, "Netanyahu: Palestinians should have sovereignty, but not at our expense" : In his address before a delegation of visiting American Jewish leaders on Monday, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that his offer to the Palestinians should he be appointed prime minister would be considerably less than a sovereign state. Netanyahu told about 100 leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that while he would not want to govern the Palestinians, Israel must maintain control of all borders, airspace and electronic traffic. "Regardless how the solution is achieved, the Palestinians should run their lives," he said. "They should govern themselves, but they shouldn't have certain powers that would threaten the state of Israel."...

2.16.09 IAF attacks Rafah smuggling tunnel

February 16 - The Israeli Air Force on Monday afternoon bombed a smuggling tunnel located under the Philadelphi Corridor, on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The IDF said the aircraft identified a hit on the tunnel. Palestinian sources said the site was east of the Rafah border crossing. According to a Palestinian report, the attack was the first in the said area since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead. The military said the strike came in response to Kassam rockets fired on Israel on Monday morning. Meanwhile, more than 200 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were expected to cross into Gaza on Monday, 130 of which would enter through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in the southern part of the Strip near the area attacked by the IAF on Monday afternoon. [More>>jpost.com]

2.16.09 Maccabee-era tablets found near Jerusalem shed light on ancient Jewish warriors

February 16 - Three fragments of a Greek inscription, believed to be part of the "Heliodoros stele" were recently found at an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation at the National Park of Beit Guvrin. The Heliodoros stele, dating back to 178 B.C.E. and consisting of 23 lines inscribed in limestone, is considered one of the most important ancient inscriptions found in Israel. Dr. Dov Gera, who studied the inscriptions, determined that the fragments were actually the lower portion of "The Heliodoros stele." This discovery confirmed the assumption that the stele originally stood in one of the temples located where Maresha- Beit Guvrin National Park stands today. The new fragments were discovered in a subterranean complex by participants in the Archaeological Seminars Institute's "Dig for a Day" program.

As published by Professors Cotton and Wörrle in 2007, this royal stone stele bears a proclamation by the Seleucid king, Seleucus IV (father of Antiochus IV). The contents of the stele shed light on the Seleucid government's involvement in local temples, mentioning an individual named Olympiodoros, the appointed "overseer" of the temples in Coele Syria - Phoenicia, including Judea...Seleucus IV was assassinated and was succeeded by his son Antiochus IV, who was the ruler, who according to II Maccabees, eventually issued an edict of persecution against the Jewish people and desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem leading to the Maccabean Revolt.
[Full story>>haaretz.com]

2.16.09 Rising ivory demand threatens Asia elephants

SINGAPORE (Reuters) February 16 - Rising prices and strong demand for illegal ivory threaten the survival of Indochina's remaining elephants, according to a study by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. In the report, released on Monday, the group said they had surveyed 669 shops in Vietnam and found 11 percent selling nearly 2,500 ivory items. Much of the raw ivory was said to have originated from neighboring Laos, with the remainder from Vietnam and Cambodia. No raw African ivory was found.

..According to figures from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are at most 1,000 elephants in Laos and about 150 in Vietnam...An earlier TRAFFIC report found evidence of widespread smuggling of live Asian elephants and their ivory from Myanmar. The latest TRAFFIC study found that Vietnamese illegal ivory prices could be the highest in the world, with reports of tusks selling for up to US$1,500 per kilogram and small, cut pieces selling for up to $1,863 a kg.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

2.15.09 Ministers take tougher line on bank bonuses

LONDON, February 15 - Ministers and the Opposition hardened their line against bank bonuses today amid suggestions that Lloyds intended to go ahead with payouts worth £120m this year. Tony McNulty, Employment Minister, said that any bank employee who had responsibility for the disastrous business model adopted by the banks should "not get a penny". Junior staff should be able to get between £1,000 and £2,000, he said, but anyone with a significant involvement in the business model should be paid nothing extra at all.

Meanwhile Tory leader David Cameron also called for a ceiling of £2,000 on all bonuses in banks that have taken a stake from the taxpayer, to prevent big payouts to executives. "People who work hard and have paid their taxes are seeing billions of pounds of taxes go into these banks and yet large bonuses are still being paid. That's just wrong," said Mr. Cameron.

"I wouldn't deny the teller in a bank the £1,000 or £2,000 bonus if they have a modest salary... What I am talking about is bonuses to the board, to senior executives, to big traders, to big money earners. That's completely wrong." Mr. Cameron said he raised the issue with Gordon Brown at the time of the banking bail-out in October, and accused the Prime Minister of being "asleep on the job." Mr. Brown's announcement of a year-long review of the system meant bonuses would probably be paid out not only for 2008 but for 2009 as well, said the Tory leader. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

2.15.09 Pakistan, Pro-Taliban group in peace talks

ISLAMABAD (AP) February 15 - Pakistani Taliban announce cease-fire in Pakistan valley amid peace talks. Pakistani officials on Sunday hammered out a peace deal with a Taliban-linked group that could lead to the enforcement of elements of Islamic law in parts of the northwest, prompting militants in the blood-soaked Swat Valley to declare a 10-day cease-fire as a goodwill gesture. The agreement, expected to be formally announced Monday, could re-spark US criticism that Pakistan's truces with insurgents merely gives them time to regroup.

Although several of its past deals failed, Pakistan says force alone cannot defeat al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters sowing havoc in its northwest and attacking US troops in neighboring Afghanistan. Swat is a former tourist haven that has fallen under heavy militant sway despite a lengthy army offensive. Regaining Swat is a major test for Pakistan's shaky civilian leadership. Unlike the semiautonomous tribal regions where al-Qaeda and Taliban have long thrived, the valley is supposed to fall fully under government control.
[>abcnews.go.com; See more details,

cbsnews.com, February 15, "Taliban announces cease-fire in Pakistan" : A Taliban spokesman says the militants will adhere to a 10-day cease-fire in Pakistan's Swat Valley during peace talks with the government. The announcement Sunday by Muslim Khan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, comes a day after the Taliban in Swat freed a Chinese engineer held captive for nearly six months. Khan says he was freed as a goodwill gesture. It was not immediately clear if a ransom was paid or militants were freed in exchange for Long Xiaowei's freedom. However, Khan claimed the militants freed the Chinese captive after the government agreed to impose Islamic law in their region..."That was our only demand," Khan told The Associated Press via telephone. "Once Islamic law is imposed, there will be no problems in Swat. The Taliban will lay down their arms."...

2.15.09 Russia foreign minister: Moscow planning 2009 Mideast peace conference

February 15 - Russia's foreign minister says his country is planning a Mideast peace conference for the first half of this year. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow has diplomatic channels with Hamas and is pressing on the militant group to engage in peace talks with Israel, but that their leaders are not all of the same opinion. Lavrov added that Arab nations and Israel will be invited to the conference. He said the conference will be a continuation of US-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks restarted in 2007, and an Arab peace initiative.

Lavrov is visiting Israel. He told President Shimon Peres on Sunday that he hopes the new Israeli government will renew peace talks. According to a statement, Peres responded, "Our hand will always be extended in peace, but we cannot accept a situation in which rockets are fired at our citizens."

2.15.09 One killed, 18 injured in Baghdad bomb blast

BAGHDAD, February 15 - An Iraqi police official says a bomb hidden in a garbage pile has killed one person and wounded 18 others in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. The official says the bomb also lightly damaged a nearby minibus when it exploded Sunday in Sadr City. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered troops into Sadr City last year to wrestle control from a militia led by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. [>thenews.com.pk]

2.15.09 US-Afghan pact to reduce deaths

February 15 - The US and Afghanistan have signed a declaration containing measures aimed at reducing civilian deaths in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. The move was announced by Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, at a news conference in the capital Kabul on Sunday. At the news conference, Karzai said that he was "grateful" that the declaration had been signed, and that the two sides would work on its implementation over the coming days.

Al Jazeera's Hamish Macdonald, reporting from Kabul, said: "The US and Afghanistan have signed a declaration which will initiate specific measures aimed at reducing civilian casualties in Afghanistan." The document states that there will be an increase in cooperation between the two nations.  Afghan security personnel will play a greater role in the planning and undertaking of night time attacks, searches and operations in populated areas, particularly in tribal regions. It was also announced that an Afghan delegation would participate in the US joint strategic review of policy in relation to Afghanistan being conducted by Holbrooke.

2.15.09 Mumbai attackers den traced near Karachi: report

ISLAMABAD (PTI) February 15 - The house where the Mumbai Terror attackers and its planners camped before and after launching their deadly operation has been unearthed in Pakistan's Sindh province, a media report said on Sunday. A large map of the world with Mumbai and the sea route to it marked out prominently, and newspapers, including those carrying stories about the November 26 Mumbai carnage were found at the house, now sealed by investigators, Geo TV said. The TV footage of the unkept house, that is believed to have been used by the terrorists including Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving gunman, showed among other things a picture of a speed boat, equipment used in fishing vessels and a large amount of medicines.

The channel captured images of mattresses and blankets strewn around, in what it said were traces of a once well-furnished living quarter located in Dori, 40 kilometres from Karachi, from where the terrorists sailed for Mumbai. Islamic literature was also found stacked, it said. The caretaker of the now-deserted house told the channel that he was asked to stay away from the place. Geo also quoted local residents as saying that they saw seven people residing in the house and using a motor launch. After months of denial, Pakistan this week admitted that part of the conspiracy for the Mumbai terror attacks was hatched inside the country and said some of the suspects were in its custody.

2.15.09 Egypt Copts decry attempt to "Islamize" Cairo

CAIRO, February 15 - Governor sued for renaming country's oldest streets. Egypt's leading Christians have accused the governor of Cairo of trying to Islamize the streets by changing the names of some of the country's oldest areas from Christian ones to Islamic ones. The advisor of the Coptic Pope Shenouda III, Dr. Naguib Gebrael, filed a lawsuit against Governor Abdul-Azim Wazir for changing street names without any legal or historical reason.

Gebrael cited the example of Victoria Square in Cairo's densely populated Coptic area called Shubra whose name was changed to Nasr al-Islam or the victory of Islam, the name of a fundamentalist association that offers charity services in the area. "This is an attempt at Islamizing the districts of Cairo," Gebrael told AlArabiya.net. "These decisions infuriate Copts and prove there is a plan by the government to Islamize Egypt."

2.15.09 Muslim women 'face crisis over violence'

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) February 15 - Muslim women around the world are facing a "growing crisis" as Islamic governments fail to honour commitments to end inequality and violence against them, a senior UN official has warned. Yakin Erturk, the UN's rapporteur on violence against women, said that women must demand their governments carry out pledges to grant equal rights and ensure their safety. "There is no time left to lose any more as this is a growing crisis," she said after a speech which dealt with the issue at an international conference on "Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family."

"Women must demand that their governments implement agreements on women's equality, rights and an end to violence against women, which have been signed but have yet to be carried out," she said. "In these countries, those who speak on behalf of Islam still justify things like stoning or killing a woman for this or that reason as being part of their religion. I have heard this at the most official of levels," Erturk said without specifying which countries were to blame...Erturk said that very often, laws protecting women are not enforced or are weakened due to pressure from religious groups. Her view was endorsed by more than 200 international delegates attending the four-day conference organized by Musawah, a new Malaysia-based global movement demanding equality and justice in Muslim families.
[Full story>>news.com.au; See also "Stories from the meeting"; See related story,

alarabiya.net, February 15, "US Muslim TV boss arrested for beheading wife" : The founder of an American Muslim television channel, launched to counter the negative stereotypes of Muslims after 9/11, was arrested in New York late Thursday for beheading his estranged wife. Muzzammil Hassan, 44, was charged with second-degree murder hours after he went to the police and told them his wife's dead body was at the Bridges TV office in Buffalo, New York, local papers reported.

Police, who are still searching for the murder weapon, identified the victim as Aasiya Hassan, 37, and said she had recently filed for divorce from Hassan and sought a restraining order barring him from the family home, Buffalo News reported. "Obviously this is the worst form of domestic violence possible," the paper quoted District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III as saying. Police said there had been problems before and prior incidents of physical abuse but friends said they were horrified and shocked by the news and said they could not understand how this had happened...

2.14.09 Bush just escapes being $5-Trillion Man

February 14 - Twenty-four days saved George W. Bush from running up five trillion dollars of government debt. The latest posting on the Department of the Treasury website shows the National Debt just hit $10.759-trillion dollars. And that $5-trillion and change more than it was on the day Pres. Bush took office on Jan. 20, 2001. Even so, Mr. Bush ran up the biggest increase in the National Debt of any American president. The Debt was $5.727-trillion on his first day in the White House. And on the day he left, it was $10.626-trillion. That means the Debt increased by $4.899-trillion on his watch. Some would round it off to $5-trillion but that wouldn't be fair. He was saved from five trillion dollar infamy by $101-billion.

But watch for the National Debt to start shooting up again once the $879-brillion economic stimulus bill is signed into law next week. So far, the National Debt has increased $133-billion since the day Barack Obama became President. That averages out to $5.3-billion a day. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the federal deficit this year will hit an all-time high of $1.2-trillion
and that doesn't include the stimulus bill. At the moment, the statutory ceiling on the National Debt is $11.3-trillion. It will clearly have to be raised soon. [More>>cbsnews.com]

Editorial note (Updated 2.15.09): Interest paid on the National Debt during Bush's administration (See treasurydirect.gov):

Interest paid on the
National Debt 2001-2008
Barack H. Obama begins 44th presidency January 20, 2008
Debt February 12, 2009 - 10,759,196,587,563.44
October 2008 (Start of fiscal year 2009)
$18.98 billion
Debt October 1, 2008 - 10,124,225,067,127.69
(Fiscal Year) 2008
$451.1 billion
Debt September 30, 2008 - 10,024,724,896,912.49
$429.97 billion
Debt September 28, 2007 - 9,007,653,372,262.48
$405.8 billion
Debt September 29, 2006 - 8,506,973,899,215.23
$352.3 billion
Debt September 30, 2005 - 7,932,709,661,723.50
$321.56 billion
Debt September 30, 2004 - 7,379,052,696,330.32
$318.1 billion
Debt September 30, 2003 - 6,783,231,062,743.62
$332.5 billion
Debt September 30, 2002 - 6,228,235,965,597.16
2001 (January 20, 2001 Bush begins 43rd presidency)
$359.5 billion
Debt January 22, 2001 - 5,728,195,796,181.57
September 29, 2000 - 5,674,178,209,886.86
$2.98 trillion

George W. Bush began his term as president January 20, 2001, inheriting a National Debt of $5.7 trillion. When Barack Obama began as the 44th president the National Debt was $10.8 trillion.

Total interest paid against the $5 trillion debt run up by the Bush administration was ~$3 trillion, and most of the yearly "deficits" were about the same as the yearly interest payments (See Maravot News 10.17.08, article
10.14.08 Highest budget deficit ever).

This practice of running a government without paying for it began with President Reagan (called "Reaganomics") and continued with the Bush I administration. For instance the National Debt inherited by Reagan when he assumed office January 20,1981 was about $1 trillion. He nearly tripled the debt, leaving a debt to Bush I in 1989 of ~$2.7 trillion. Bush I (January 20, 1989 - January 20, 1993) took the debt from $2.7 trillion to ~$4.5 trillion. (Clinton took the debt from $4.5 trillion in 1993 to ~$5.7 trillion in 2001
retarding the growth of the debt by running a surplus in his latter years (A $70 billion surplus was inherited by Bush II). See Maravot News National Debt chart ;See also links in our sidebar). Also relevant to this history is a small work published as part of a correspondence with Wm. F. Buckley Jr. called "Duty and Profit" that reviews the affects of "Reagenomics" on the US in 1992, discussed from my personal experience and in light of Cicero's work "The Offices." This work discussed an impending economic collapse, aggravated by the practice of "usury." At the time, in 1992, both I and Mr. Buckley were against further borrowing on the National Debt. I argued that interest accumulating on the National Debt will bury us and reminded Mr. Buckley a quote from Cicero on the topic:

"Cicero, "The Offices" Book 11.25: (Cicero to Cato:) ...'Pray what do you think of letting money out to usury?
'Pray what do I think,' replies Cato, 'of killing a man?' "

Historically interest on the National Debt has run about 5%, against the total of the debt each year, such as in 2001, where the $332 billion interest is about 5% of the $6.2 trillion debt. Thus, we may expect our National Debt to be ~13 trillion with the addition of the added $2 trillion "stimulus" packages. What is 5% of $13 trillion?

Pundits tend to forget to mention the affect the National Debt has on financing. The Fed has to increase interest rates to attract buyers of government bonds financing the National Debt. The increase in interest rates affected variable rate mortgages as well as other financial instruments. While pundits complain that we are passing our "deficit" off to our children they fail to realize that they are really speaking of the National Debt and seem ignorant on the major component of the deficits
interest and surely have no idea that in order to sell bonds to finance the National Debt the Fed must raise the Prime Rate (interest rates) from time to time. Beware of pundits including lawmakers and media who refer to the "deficit" when they really mean "national debt."

Mel Copeland

2.14.09 Rise in jobless poses threat to stability worldwide

PARIS, February 14 - From lawyers in Paris to factory workers in China and bodyguards in Colombia, the ranks of the jobless are swelling rapidly across the globe. Worldwide job losses from the recession that started in the United States in December 2007 could hit a staggering 50 million by the end of 2009, according to the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency. The slowdown has already claimed 3.6 million American jobs. High unemployment rates, especially among young workers, have led to protests in countries as varied as Latvia, Chile, Greece, Bulgaria and Iceland and contributed to strikes in Britain and France.

Last month, the government of Iceland, whose economy is expected to contract 10 percent this year, collapsed and the prime minister moved up national elections after weeks of protests by Icelanders angered by soaring unemployment and rising prices. Just last week, the new United States director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, told Congress that instability caused by the global economic crisis had become the biggest security threat facing the United States, outpacing terrorism.

The synchronized slowdown of so many economies was among the issues that global finance ministers took up at the Group of 7 meeting in Rome on Saturday. "Nearly everybody has been caught by surprise at the speed in which unemployment is increasing, and are groping for a response," said Nicolas Véron, a fellow at Bruegel, a research center in Brussels that focuses on Europe's role in the global economy.

2.14.09 Obama scores early victory of historic proportions

CHICAGO, February 14 - Twenty-four days into his presidency, Barack Obama recorded last night a legislative achievement of the sort that few of his predecessors achieved at any point in their tenure. In size and scope, there is almost nothing in history to rival the economic stimulus legislation that Obama shepherded through Congress in just over three weeks. And the result produced largely without Republican participation was remarkably similar to the terms Obama's team outlined even before he was inaugurated: a package of tax cuts and spending totaling about $775 billion. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

2.14.09 Lloyds Banking Group rocked by shock losses in HBOS

February 14 - Embarrassment for Brown as Lloyds shares slump. Taxpayers could have to spend billions bailing out the banks again after massive and unexpected losses were disclosed by Britain's new superbank. Shares in Lloyds Banking Group fell 32 per cent to 61.4p yesterday after it reported losses of £10 billion in HBOS, making it worth far less than thought when it was taken over in November. The news, a huge embarrassment for Gordon Brown, who helped to broker the deal, triggered speculation that the bank will have to come back to the Government for more capital. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

2.14.09 'PMO: There will be no ceasefire until Schalit is released

February 14 - Israel will not agree to a truce with Hamas in the Gaza Strip without the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement released on Saturday. "Israel will not reach any understandings regarding the calm (cease-fire) before the release of Gilad Schalit," the statement read. Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect talks through Egyptian mediation since the end of Operation Cast Lead, in mid-January. For Israel, the goal of the negotiations has been to create a long-term ceasefire, and to secure Schalit's freedom; for Hamas, the main objectives are the opening of the border crossings without limitations, the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and a limit to the length of the ceasefire. [More>>jpost.com]

2.14.09 'Saudi king dismisses 2 powerful religious figures

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) February 14 - In an apparent bid to reform the religious establishment, Saudi King Abdullah on Saturday dismissed the head of the feared religious police and a hard-line cleric who issued an edict last year saying it was permissible to kill owners of satellite TV stations that show "immoral" content. Abdullah also appointed the first female deputy Cabinet minister, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The changes were part of a surprise reshuffle in the Cabinet, the judiciary and the military. The dismissals were seen as an attempt by the king to reform the religious establishment, which has come under persistent criticism especially because of the performance of the religious police and the judiciary.

The shake-up, the first major one since Abdullah came to power in August 2005, is significant because it dilutes the influence the hard-liners have had for decades on the religious establishment. The king, who has repeatedly spoken about the need for reform, has brought in a new group of officials and scholars who are younger and more in tune with the diversity of cultural Islam than their predecessors...Abdullah also removed Sheikh Saleh al-Lihedan, chief of the kingdom's highest tribunal, the Supreme Council of Justice. Al-Lihedan's edict, issued in September, was denounced across the Arab world.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com; See also alarabiya.net, February 14, "Saudi king makes sweeping changes to government."]

2.14.09 Pakistan fighting for survival against Taliban: Zardari

ISLAMABAD, February 14 - Pakistan is fighting a war for its survival against the Taliban, who have a presence in large parts of the country, President Asif Ali Zardari has said. ( Watch ) "Taliban want to overtake the state of Pakistan," he told a US TV channel. "It is indispensable to halt the rising influence of Taliban by using force as they desire to change our living style." The interview will be broadcast Sunday. Noting that the military was backing the government in its war against terrorism along the country's restive border with Afghanistan, Zardari said that but for this the Taliban would have overrun Islamabad.

Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday jointly presided over a high-level meeting to review the situation in tribal areas and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and decided to continue the military operation against Taliban militants in the turbulent Swat valley to re-establish the government's writ...The meeting was informed that the government would install jammers in Swat to block FM radio transmissions being used by militants for anti-government propaganda and for sermons inciting the people to attack the security forces.
[Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

2.14.09 'US drone' in fatal Pakistan raid

February 14 - At least 27 people have been killed in a missile attack by an unmanned US drone in a tribal district of Pakistan, Pakistani officials have told Al Jazeera. The raid destroyed a house in the northwestern town of Ladha, a base for Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban leader accused of plotting the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister of Pakistan, an official said. "Around 50 to 60 mujahidin [fighters] have been living [at the site of the attack] for about a week. All of them were Uzbeks," a Taliban official said. Pakistan intelligence agents are investigating the attack on the house in the South Waziristan region on Saturday.

Taliban fighters sealed off the site of the attack, preventing people from getting access, residents said. The US has launched more than 30 missile attacks on Pakistani soil in recent months, ostensibly against al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked fighters. More than 220 people were killed in the raids, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani intelligence agents, district government officials and residents.

2.14.09 Malaysia frees 3 suspected Islamic militants

KUALA LUMPUR (AP) February 14 - Malaysia has released three alleged members of a Southeast Asian terrorist network who had been imprisoned without trial for years, a human rights group said Saturday. Businessman Suhaimi Mokhtar was arrested in 2002, engineer Zaini Zakaria in 2003 and businessman Mohd Khider Kadran in 2004 under Malaysia's Internal Security Act which allows indefinite detention without trial during a crackdown on the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network. Southeast Asian security officials said Zaini had withdrawn from a foiled 2002 al-Qaeda strike in which he and two others were to pilot planes in a second wave of Sept. 11-style attacks.

The trio were freed from a prison Thursday but must report weekly to police and remain within the districts where they live, said Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh of the Abolish ISA Movement...Among the strikes attributed to Jemaah Islamiyah and affiliate groups are the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists; the 2003 and 2004 attacks on the J.W. Marriott Hotel and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta; and the 2005 triple suicide bombings on restaurants in Bali.
[Full story>>thejakartapost.com]

2.14.09 Climate change could be even worse than predicted, expert warns

(AFP) February 15 - It seems the dire warnings about the oncoming devastation wrought by global warming were not dire enough, a top climate scientist says. It has been just over a year since the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a landmark report warning of rising sea levels, expanding deserts, more intense storms and the extinction of up to 30 per cent of plant and animal species. But recent climate studies suggest that report significantly underestimates the potential severity of global warming over the next 100 years, a senior member of the panel said.

"We now have data showing that from 2000 to 2007, greenhouse gas emissions increased far more rapidly than we expected," said Chris Field, who was a coordinating lead author of the report. This is "primarily because developing countries like China and India saw a huge upsurge in electric power generation, almost all of it based on coal," Mr. Field said ahead of a presentation to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Without decisive action to slow global warming, higher temperatures could ignite tropical forests and thaw the Arctic tundra, potentially releasing billions of tons of carbon dioxide that has been stored for thousands of years.

2.14.09 Female bomber kills 32 on Iraqi pilgrimage route

BAGHDAD, February 13 - 86 injured in attack on crowd of women and children. A female suicide bomber killed 32 people and wounded 86 others south of Baghdad on Friday when she blew herself up on a major Shiite pilgrimage route, police said. The attack in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of the capital, came a day after a bomb killed eight people in the southerly Shiite holy city of Kerbala.Captain Mohammed al-Awadi of the police force in the capital of the nearby town of Hilla said most of those killed were women and children.

He said the suicide bomber had hidden her explosives under an abaya, the traditional head-to-toe black garment, and blew herself up among a crowd of women and children just after midday (0900 GMT). Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are heading to Kerbala to mark Arbain, one of the most important dates for religious Shiites. The Arbain rite marks the end of a mourning period after the anniversary of the death in the seventh century of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein. The attacks occurred despite heavy security on the pilgrimage route.
[More, w/blog>>alarabiya.net]

2.12.09 Mumbai attacks 'partly planned in Pakistan'

PAKISTAN (Reuters) February 12 - Pakistan has registered a case that could lead to prosecution of the people behind the killing of 179 people in the Indian city of Mumbai last November. "Some part of the conspiracy has taken place in Pakistan," Rehman Malik, advisor to the prime minister on the interior, said. "We have lodged an FIR into the case," he said, referring to a police complaint, generally known as a first information report. It was the first time Pakistan had acknowledged the attacks were partly planned inside its borders. Tensions have been running high between India and Pakistan since the attack by 10 gunmen on India's financial capital last November, though fears of a conflict between the nuclear armed neighbours has receded in recent weeks.

India has maintained since the attacks last year that the plot was hatched in Pakistan. It has been impatient for more forceful follow-up by Pakistani authorities against militants belonging to Laskhkar-e-Taiba, a jihadi group it says was responsible. "Some part of the conspiracy has taken place in Pakistan," Rehman Malik, adviser to the prime minister on the interior, said. Mr Malik said Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind, was in custody. Mr. Malik said six suspects were in custody and two others were still at large. One of those arrested was lured back to Pakistan from the Spanish city of Barcelona. "We have located those locations which were used by the terrorists before launching themselves," Malik said, adding that they had sailed from Karachi to India.

"Some of the accused who have been arrested, they have given us the full rundown." Investigators had also discovered that some funds transferred from Italy and Spain were used to finance the attack, Austrian telephone SIM cards were used, and he also spoke of a link to Houston in the US. He said a first information report (FIR), the term for a poice complaint, had been lodged to initiate a case. Mr. Malik said that Pakistani investigators had been unable to confirm the identities of the nine gunmen killed in the attack, though Pakistan has confirmed that the gunman caught alive was a Pakistani.
[>news.com.au; See also:

indianexpress.com, February 12, "26/11 link: Pakistan links Italy, Spain, Russia, US too" : From Italy, Spain and an unnamed Middle East country to US and Russia, the plotters of the Mumbai Terror attack tapped local resources including dollar payment transfers and registering internet domain names in a sinister global plan to numb India's financial capital that left 183 persons dead....238 dollars was transferred from Spain to acquire a domain name — used for communication over the Internet — that was registered in Houston, Texas in the US. A Pakistani man Javed Iqbal who was living in Barcelona was repatriated and arrested in connection with the payment, Malik said.

..Another domain name used by the attackers was registered in Russia, and a satellite phone registered in a Middle Eastern country, which he declined to name...Suspects used a digital teleconferencing system whose service provider is based in Houston while a Thuraya phone was issued in a 'Middle Eastern country' Malik said...It was also revealed that the money for the attackers was paid in Italy and the amount came from Islamabad. Voice Over Internet Protocol(VOIP) was purchased from Barcelona by Javed Iqbal, who also operated three e-mail accounts from the Spanish city, Malik said.

Payments for use of VOIP [were] made in Spain and Italy, it was stated. With cyber technology being tapped by the terror suspects to execute the plan, Malik also said that e-mail sent purportedly by Indian Mujahideen was traced to LeT operative Zahir Shah. Mumbai terrorists’ handlers in Pakistan had kept in touch with them by phone during the three-day assault, according to Indian investigators, who also monitored the worldwide traffic of VOIP flow to find out that nearly 5,000 calls were made across the globe at the time of the Mumbai siege...

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, February 12, "Mumbai police admit local support for Mumbai attack" : MUMBAI - Admitting for the first time that there was local support for the Mumbai terror attack, police commissioner Hasan Gafoor on Thursday night said some Indian nationals were among the 16 men that also included Pakistanis who were wanted for their role in the carnage. Gafoor also said that two Indians have already been arrested. "Fourteen to sixteen men, which include Indians and Pakistanis, are wanted in the attacks," Gafoor told reporters here...Asked why names of Indians have been mentioned in the dossier, Gafoor said they likely escaped from India, and "we suspect that they might be hiding in Pakistan."

nytimes.com, February 12, "Pakistan says Mumbai attack partly planned on its soil" : ...Rehman Malik, the senior security official in the Interior Ministry, said the attackers had set sail from southern Pakistan to Mumbai, where they used inflatable boats whose engines had been purchased in the southern Pakistani port of Karachi...Sketching the international profile of the attackers’ communications, he said cellphone SIM cards were bought in Austria while calls over the Internet, using a server in Texas, were paid for in Barcelona, Spain...Mr. Malik identified another of the conspirators held in Pakistan as Hamman Amin Sadiq, who, he said, had been traced through telephone records and bank transfers. "He was basically the main operator," Mr. Malik said...Mr. Malik said e-mails that claimed the responsibility for the attacks were allegedly created by Zarar Shah, the communications coordinator of Lashkar-e-Taiba...

2.12.09 City trader Terry Freeman arrested over £40 million 'Ponzi' fraud

LONDON, February 12 - A City trader has been arrested by police investigating a £40 million investment fraud believed to be Britain's first major credit-crunch case. Terry Freeman, 60, a foreign exchange trader, was arrested at his home in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, on Monday by detectives from the City of London Police Economic Crime Department. His home and offices were searched and large quantities of documentation were taken away for analysis. Mr. Freeman, director of GFX Capital Markets Ltd, was released on police bail after questioning.

..Police sources said they were investigating claims that GFX was running a Ponzi fund
a scam that appears to be actually paying high returns by paying the supposed returns out of victims' own capital. Bernie Madoff, the American investor facing criminal charges in New York, is also accused of running a similar scheme but on a $50 billion scale. Mr. Freeman's business ran into trouble last autumn and collapsed recently leaving investors with huge losses. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

2.12.09 Out of work and challenged on benefits, too

February 12 - In Record Numbers, Employers Move to Block Unemployment Payouts. It's hard enough to lose a job. But for a growing proportion of US workers, the troubles really set in when they apply for unemployment benefits. More than a quarter of people applying for such claims have their rights to the benefit challenged as employers increasingly act to block payouts to former workers. The proportion of claims disputed by former employers and state agencies has reached record levels in recent years, according to the Labor Department numbers tallied by the Urban Institute.

Under state and federal laws, employees who are fired for misbehavior or quit voluntarily are ineligible for unemployment compensation. When jobless claims are blocked, employers save money because their unemployment insurance rates are based on the amount of the benefits their workers collect. As unemployment rolls swell in the recession, many workers seem surprised to find their benefits challenged, their former bosses providing testimony against them.

2.12.09 Halliburton, KBR settle bribery allegations

February 12 - Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root have agreed to pay $579 million in fines related to allegations of foreign bribery, the biggest fines ever paid by US companies in a foreign corruption case, federal authorities and the companies said yesterday. The Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice alleged that Houston-based Halliburton and KBR were part of a joint venture that spent $182 million to bribe Nigerian government officials over a 10-year period to win more than $6 billion in construction contracts...Federal authorities alleged that the companies used agents in Tokyo and Gibraltar to funnel money to Nigerian officials, who gave the companies contracts to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, on the Western African country's coast. The companies' efforts to obtain the contracts, alleged in court documents, sound like scenes from a James Bond movie. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

2.12.09 World stocks sag on concerns about Obama plans

LONDON (AP) February 13 - World stock markets fell Thursday amid pessimism about the Obama administration's plans to fix the US banking system and restore the overall health of the world's largest economy. European stocks were also undermined by a raft of disappointing earnings. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 58.82 points, or 1.4 percent, to 4,175.44, while Germany's DAX declined 96.81 points, or 2.1 percent, to 4,433.28. The CAC-40 in France was 45.08 points, or 1.5 percent, lower at 2,982.64. Sentiment in Europe, already depressed by further losses in Asia earlier, was hit by the news that a number of companies across the continent reported worse than expected earnings and predicted further difficulties for the months ahead.

..That risk aversion was certainly evident in Asia earlier, where Japan's Nikkei stock average tumbled 240.58 points, or 3 percent, to 7,705.36 - the lowest in nearly three months. The Nikkei's losses were accentuated by the fact the markets had been closed on Wednesday for a national holiday. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 310.91 points, or 2.3 percent, to 13,228.30, while South Korea's Kospi lost 0.9 percent despite another rate cut from the country's central bank. Shanghai's main index was off 0.6 percent and Taiwan's benchmark retreated 2.4 percent. However, Australia's key stock measure gained 1.2 percent. Shanghai's market came off lows late in the session after Aluminum Corp. of China, the world's biggest aluminum producer, announced it was investing some $19.5 billion in global miner Rio Tinto Group
China's biggest overseas investment ever. The state-controlled Chinese company, also known as Chinalco, will take a bigger stake in the Australian firm by setting up a joint venture and purchasing convertible bonds. [Full story>>thejakartapost.com]

2.12.09 ICC approves arrest warrant for Sudan's Beshir: NY Times

UNITED NATIONS, February 12 - International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have decided to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir over alleged genocide in Darfur, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The daily, quoting court lawyers and diplomats, reported on its website that the move by a panel of judges in The Hague marked the first time that the world's first independent, permanent tribunal on war crimes has sought the detention of a sitting head of state since it began its work in 2002. It said precise charges cited by the judges against Beshir had not been disclosed. [More>>turkishpress.com; See also

aljazeera.net, February 12, "ICC: No warrant issued for Bashir.": Officials from the International Criminal Court (ICC) have said no arrest warrant has been issued against Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, on war crimes charges, despite reports that ICC judges had decided to action one. "It is absolutely not true. There is no warrant of arrest issued by the judges of the International Criminal Court," Sonia Robla, an ICC spokesperson, told Al Jazeera. Her comments came after the New York Times newspaper reported prosecutors had evidence that al-Bashir had committed war crimes in the country's conflict-ridden Darfur region and ICC judges had decided to order his arrest...

2.12.09 Departing from NIE, Washington says Iran still pursuing bomb

February 12 - Departing from an intelligence estimate published just over a year ago, the Obama administration made it clear that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. The report quoted a news conference this week in which US President Barack Obama cited Iran's "development of a nuclear weapon" before correcting himself and saying that the Islamic Republic was merely "pursuing" the bomb. The harsher terminology reflects the degree to which senior US officials have rejected the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that said Iran had discontinued its military nuclear program in 2003, the report said. [More>>jpost.com]

2.12.09 Naval force seizes nine pirates in Gulf of Aden

MANAMA, February 12 - Seizure came after vessel sent out distress call. A multinational naval force seized nine suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday after receiving a distress call from an Indian merchant vessel, the US Navy said. "The guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf intercepted and apprehended nine suspected pirates today in the Gulf of Aden,” the US Fifth Fleet said in a statement. An Indian ship, Premedivya, had sent out a call to all ships in the area, reporting it had come under attack by a small skiff and that suspected pirates were attempting to climb on board, it added. [More>>alarabiya.net]

2.12.09 US 'lost track of Afghan weapons'

February 12 - The US military has failed to keep track of thousands of weapons shipped to Afghanistan, leaving them vulnerable to being lost or stolen, a report says. The report has been compiled by congressional auditors, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). It found that, in the four years up to June 2008, the US military failed to keep complete records on some 222,000 weapons entering the country. The report will be discussed in the US House of Representatives on Thursday. It states that weapons supplied by the US to the Afghan military "are at serious risk of theft or loss." The report says:

  • US military officials failed to keep proper records on about 87,000 rifles, pistols, mortars and other weapons sent to Afghanistan between December 2004 and June 2008 about a third of all the weapons sent
  • There was a similar lack of management of a further 135,000 light weapons donated to Afghan forces via the US military by 21 countries
  • The military failed even to record the serial numbers of some 46,000 weapons, making it impossible to confirm receipt of weapons or identify any which had fallen into the hands of militants
  • The serial numbers of 41,000 weapons were recorded, but US military officials still had no idea where they were

"Lapses in accountability occurred throughout the supply chain," concludes the report, which is due to be discussed on Thursday at a panel hearing of a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

2.12.09 Roadside bomb kills eight Iraqi pilgrims: police

KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) February 12 - A roadside bomb killed eight Iraqi pilgrims and wounded 46 on Thursday near a revered shrine as Iraqi Shi'ites marked Arbain, one of the most important dates in the Shi'ite religious calendar, police said. They said the bomb blast took place less than 1 km (half a mile) from the Imam Hussein shrine in central Kerbala, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad. The Arbain rite draws hundreds of thousands of Shi'ites each year to mark the end of a mourning period after the death of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussein in the seventh century. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

2.12.09 Militants torch school in Swat

MINIGORA, Pakistan, February 12 - Militants torched one more school in Odigram area, on the outskirts of Mingora on Thursday. One security personnel was killed and another wounded as clashes between security forces and militants continued in the restive Swat valley, while mortar shells were fired at a security post set up in an agriculture office in Takht Band area. However, no loss of life was reported in the attack. A rocket was also fired at a police station in Matta, killing one security man and injuring another. Besides, one security man was injured when unknown militants attacked a security forces’ convoy with remote-controlled bomb near Kanju Township chowk. The curfew is still in force in the district. [>thenews.com.pk]

2.12.09 Russian, US satellites collide in space

MOSCOW, February 12 - Two satellites, one Russian and one American, have collided some 800 kilometers (500 miles) above Siberia, the Russian and US space agencies, said Thursday. The collision on Tuesday produced two large debris clouds, NASA said. The satellites collided at 10 kilometers (6 miles) per second, producing 500-600 new pieces of space debris, the U.S. Strategic Command said. That debris is not believed to pose a threat to the International Space Station as long as the clouds continue moving in a lower orbit, according to NASA and the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos.

"There is some elevated risk, but it is considered to be very small to the ISS and to the other satellites that NASA has in orbit," NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey told CNN. She said experts were still assessing the effects of the debris. Mikhail Martirosov, from Russian mission control center, told Interfax news agency that the real threat from the debris will become obvious next week, once experts can calculate the trajectory of the fragments' descent.

2.11.09 Citing public anger, lawmakers question bankers on bailout

WASHINGTON, February 11 - Eight of the nation's top bankers faced off against critical lawmakers in Congress on Wednesday, who questioned their use of tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money and pointed out the growing public anger at the banks in the bailout. "When you took taxpayer money, you moved into a fishbowl," said Representative Paul E. Kanjorski, Democrat of Pennsylvania. "Now, everyone is rightly watching your every move from every side." The eight banks collectively received $125 billion in bailout money in exchange for shares in their companies, and two of them — Citigroup and Bank of America — were given tens of billions of dollars more because of their financial problems.

...Jamie Dimon, the chief of JPMorgan Chase, said his bank made more than $150 billion in new loans in the fourth quarter and also loaned an average of $50 billion a day to other banks. He pointed out his bank increased its lending by 2.1 percent last quarter even while consumers were cutting back their spending. The pullback in credit, Mr. Dimon said, comes from a retreat of lenders like money market funds and hedge funds — not a retreat of the banks. Many of the chiefs said they had not used the government money to pay bonuses and many tried to dispel notions that they had been irresponsible in their spending. "We have never been wasteful," said John G. Stumpf, the chief executive of Wells Fargo.
[Full story>>nytimes.com; See related stories:

cbsnews.com (AP) February 11, "Bailout companies may compensate taxpayers" : WASHINGTON - Financial institutions that received federal bailout money and paid large executive bonuses would be required to compensate taxpayers under the economic stimulus bill approved by the Senate. The $838 billion measure includes an amendment penalizing companies that paid bonuses greater than $100,000 to executives after receiving government rescue funds last year. The amendment would require the companies to repay within four months any portion of the bonus above $100,000 or face an excise tax of 35 percent on the portion of the bonus above $100,000.

news.sky.com, February 11, "Bankers grilling day two: Bonus row, RBS Chief Executive Stephen Hester pressured" : LONDON - The boss of the bailed-out bank RBS has admitted bonuses to staff are too high. Stephen Hester, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, said payments were needed to keep staff at the bank. RBS has been criticized for planning to pay bonuses to staff while being propped up by £20bn of taxpayers' cash. Mr. Hester was appearing before the Treasury Select Committee alongside fellow chief executives Eric Daniels of the part state-owned Lloyds Banking Group, John Varley of Barclays, Antonio Horta-Osorio of Abbey Bank, and HSBC UK managing director Paul Thurston. Mr. Hester said RBS would be cutting back on staff payments amid public outrage.

"I do think that bank pay in some areas of the industry is way too high and needs to come down and I intend us to lead that process." Mr. Hester said. "There will be no bonuses of any sort to anyone associated with losses. I am clear there will be no bonuses at board level. There will be a reduction in bonuses at RBS greater than any bank I know of in the world."...

cbsnews.com, February 11, "Madoff's wife withdrew $15 million before arrest."

2.11.09 In Israeli vote, the winner is gridlock

JERUSALEM, February 11 - Israelis awoke Wednesday to find that their parliamentary elections had not yielded a new government but political gridlock instead and the prospect of weeks of wrangling and dealmaking before the country's direction becomes clear. With 99 percent of the vote counted, the center-left Kadima Party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held a one-seat lead over the rightist Likud Party of Benjamin Netanyahu, 28 to 27 out of a total of 120 seats in Parliament. But the total gain of all parties on the right far outweighed those of the left, leading Mr. Netanyahu and his supporters to demand that he be given first crack at forming the next government. [More>>nytimes.com; See also haaretz.com, February 11, "Wooed by Kadima and Likud, Lieberman agrees to more talks with Livni."

2.11.09 Car bombs strike Shiite pilgrims, kill at least 12

BAGHDAD (AP) February 11 - Bombs struck Shiite pilgrims heading Wednesday to religious ceremonies, killing at least 12 people and wounding over 40, officials said. Fearing new sectarian tension, a UN official urged Iraqis not to respond to the "provocations of extremists." The deadliest blast occurred near a bus station and outdoor market in the southwestern Baghdad neighborhood of Bayaa, where pilgrims were preparing to board buses for annual Shiite rituals south of the capital. Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said 10 people were killed and 32 wounded in a single blast, which was caused by a bomb hidden in a small truck loaded with fruits and vegetables. An Interior Ministry official said 17 people were killed by two bombs in the Bayaa market area. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to release information to media. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

2.11.09 Suicide attackers kill 19 in Afghan capital

KABUL February 11 - Taliban gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed the Justice Ministry and another government building in Afghanistan's capital on Wednesday, killing 19 people ahead of a planned visit by President Barack Obama's special envoy to the region. Eight attackers also died in the assaults, including an attacker outside a third government building, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said. The coordinated attacks on the Justice Ministry and a corrections building struck in the heart of Kabul, underscoring the reach of the Taliban beyond their strongholds in the south and east. Azimi said all eight attackers had suicide vests, but only three assailants detonated them. [More>>japantoday.com; See also indianexpress.com (AP) February 11,"Suicide bombers storm Afghan Justice Ministry" and

alarabiya.net, February 11, "Taliban attacks kill 28, wound 56 in Afghanistan" : KABUL - Obama considers boosting US troops in Afghanistan. At least 28 people were killed and 56 wounded Wednesday in a spate of attacks by Taliban militants in and around the Afghan capital as the United States president considered a plan to double troops in the Afghanistan. Taliban attacks on three government buildings in Kabul with suicide bombs and gunfire killed 26 and wounded 55, sowing panic across the city.

Meanwhile, a French officer and an Afghan interpreter were killed in an ambush south of Kabul, bringing France's death toll in Afghanistan to 26. Another French soldier was seriously wounded in the double ambush, in which French and Afghan soldiers were hit by a mine explosion and were then attacked by insurgents, said Christophe Prazuck, armed forces spokesman. [end]

2.11.09 Russia may help US over Afghanistan

February 11 - Russia will consider allowing the United States and NATO to ship weapons across the country to Afghanistan, its foreign minister has said. Speaking after a meeting with US diplomats, Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was "ready for the very closest and very widest cooperation on Afghanistan," adding that relations with NATO needed to be repaired. Russia has previously allowed non-lethal supplies from European nations for Afghanistan to cross its territory, and recently said the US could follow suit.

"Non-military transit has already been granted as part of our agreements with NATO, and the United States very recently received our agreement... for delivery of their cargoes for the needs of the international forces," Lavrov said. "Additional steps are also possible," he said in response to whether Russia would also agree to include weapons or other lethal cargo. "What's important is that relations between Russia and NATO return to a normal course," he said, in a reference to Western criticism of Russia's military actions in Georgia last year.

2.11.09 Pakistan Taliban threaten to destroy schools

KHAR, Pakistan (AFP) February 11 - The Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday threatened to destroy all the schools in a region of northwest Pakistan if government troops did not leave the area within three days. The militants gave Pakistan an ultimatum to end military operations in the tribal area of Bajaur or face a "massive attack"  on the main town of Khar, Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) spokesman Maulvi Omar told AFP. "After three days we will spare no school in Bajaur and attacks on schools will be launched in other tribal districts in the next phase," Omar said by telephone. A separate announcement would be made shortly about targeting government buildings, power lines and even hospitals, he added.

Islamic militants in Pakistan's northwestern Swat valley have blown up more than 170 schools in the past two years as part of a violent campaign to enforce their repressive brand of Islamic Sharia law. Pakistani forces launched a massive operation in Bajaur last August. In the initial two-month offensive, military officials said more than 1,500 al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, and more than 70 troops, were killed. TTP is an umbrella group of Taliban militants led by tribal war lord Baitullah Mehsud.

2.11.09 Case filed against Kasab, 13 others under Terror Act

ISLAMABAD, February 11 - A case has been registered against Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving gunman and 13 others in connection with the Mumbai attacks. The case was registered on the basis of the probe conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the decision made by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet during its meeting on Monday. The case was registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act at the Dockyard Police Station in Karachi, sources said. Sources further said that among the others named in the case were three persons who were arrested in Karachi. Nine more persons had been identified but were yet to be taken into custody. [>thenews.com.pk; See also:

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, February 11, "Confusion over reports about Pakistan filing case against Kasab.": ...TV channels quoted unidentified sources as saying that the case was registered on the basis of the probe conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the decision made by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet during its meeting on Monday...However, later Dawn News channel reported quoting Interior Ministry chief Rahman Malik as denying that any case was filed by FIA against anyone in connection with the Mumbai attacks...

2.11.09 No more hunger or violence, says PM Tsvangirai

February 11 - The former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai vowed today that "no Zimbabwean will ever go hungry again" as he celebrated with thousands of supporters after being sworn in as prime minister by his long-time political foe, Robert Mugabe. Brushing off doubts about the decision to enter a power-sharing deal, the former trade union leader also vowed to reopen schools immediately and said that he would move to stabilise the Zimbabwean economy by paying civil servants and soldiers in hard currency rather than worthless Zimbabwean dollars.

"Political violence must end today. We can no longer afford brother against brother, because one happened to have a different political opinion," Mr. Tsvangirai told more than 10,000 supporters packed into a sports stadium in central Harare. "The transitional government will make food available and affordable," he added. "No Zimbabwean will ever go hungry again... Our hospitals must be places of healing... On Monday, all schools must reopen. This Monday." Mr. Tsvangirai took the oath of office under a white tent on the lawn of Mr. Mugabe's presidential mansion, although the two men's body language – they barely looked at each other and exchanged the briefest of handshakes – gave the lie to talk of a "unity government."

2.11.09 Indians held for reprinting Independent article that "offends Islam"

February 11 - The editor and publisher of The Statesman, a highly respected Kolkata based English daily, have been arrested on charges of "hurting the religious feelings" of Muslims because they printed a piece written last month by Independent columnist Johann Hari. Hari, a liberal atheist, penned the comment piece, "Why should I respect oppressive religions?", at the end of January and it was later syndicated by The Statesman. In the article, Hari (somewhat prophetically) lamented how the right to criticise a religion is being steadily eroded around the world.

Muslim protestors in Kolkata, West Bengal, have been causing havoc outside The Statesman's offices since it ran the article on Feb. 5th and police have even used baton charges to disperse them. Staff at The Statesman have had to barricade their front doors for much of the past three days and rely on police escorts to get them to their workplace, which is situated just opposite the Tipu Sultan Masjid, Kolkata's largest mosque. In his piece Hari defends the right to criticise all religions, including Islam, Judaism and Christianity. But the Muslim protestors in Kolkata appear to have been particularly upset by a paragraph that talks about the sexual history of the prophet Muhammad.
[More>>community.livejournal.com (via independent.co.uk]

2.11.09 Honor killing: Eight of a family beheaded

NAUGACHHIA, India, February 11 - In an honor killing of arguably the worst kind, eight members of a family were shot, beheaded and their bodies thrown into the Ganga in Binoba riverine area of Bihar's Naugachchia police district on Monday. An eerie calm now prevails in the village where 21-year-old Ratan and 18-year-old Kanchan once met each other clandestinely. On January 14 this year, the duo eloped and tied the knot at Mandar temple at Baunsi in neighboring Banka district.

While Ratan is almost illiterate, Kanchan has studied up to Class VI. Both belong to poor families and hail from Gangota caste. Yet, the elopement caused acute tension in the small village. For, the two families happened to be sympathizers of two rival gangs of criminals. "That's why we earlier thought it to be a gang war of attrition," a police officer said on Wednesday.

2.11.09 Urine test to detect cancer

(AFP) February 12 - Researchers have made the first steps towards devising a urine test for detecting prostate cancer, according to a paper released by the British journal Nature. A chemical fingerprint called sarcosine can be found in high levels in the urine of men with aggressive cancer of the prostate, providing a potential biomarker of the disease. Concentrations of sarcosine were high in 79 per cent of samples with metastatic prostate cancer and in 42 per cent of the samples of early-stage cancer, the team found. The telltale metabolite is a better indicator of advancing disease than a standard blood test, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) assay, according to the research, headed by Arul Chinnaiyan of the University of Michigan, Medical School.

The findings have to be confirmed and calibrated independently before the urine test is accepted as a diagnostic tool. The discovery of sarcosine could also open up new pathways for attacking the disease. By simply adding sarcosine to cultures, the scientists turned benign prostate cells into malignant ones, which suggests the molecule plays an important role in unleashing invasive tumors. Prostate cancer is the sixth most common form of malign tumors among men, after cancer of the lung, stomach, liver, colo-rectum and oesophagus, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).


09.11.05 When a nation lacks a competent leader it invites disaster – the legacy of Bush
"Using force the George W. Bush way – Bush's crusade"
11.25.04 Why the Crusade & Jihad?


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