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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>>
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Federal Debt 2003-09 (estimated in 2004)
Fed. Budget Summary 2003-2009, as estimated

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10.24.08 Stocks dive on belief global recession is at hand

NEW YORK (AP) October 24 - Wall Street joined world stock markets in a precipitous plunge Friday, with the Dow Jones industrials dropping more than 300 points in early trading. The growing belief that the world will suffer a punishing economic recession has investors furiously dumping stocks. The massive decline was caused by increasingly grim news from overseas. In Japan, shares of Sony sank more than 14 percent after it slashed its earnings forecast for the fiscal year. In Germany, Daimler's stock dropped 11.4 percent in morning trading after it reported lower third-quarter earnings and abandoned its 2008 profit and revenue guidance.

Japan's Nikkei stock average fell a staggering 9.60 percent. In Europe, Germany's benchmark DAX index was down 9 percent, France's CAC40 dropped 8.9 percent while Britain's FTSE 100 sank 8.2 percent after the government said its gross domestic product fell 0.5 percent in the third quarter, putting the country on the brink of recession.

The dour outlook convinced investors that the world economy is headed for a long and severe downturn despite a raft of government rescue efforts aimed at pulling the financial system from the brink. It also indicated that the tremors caused by the global credit crisis may have only begun to be felt in their true scope and magnitude. "There's a lot of panic out there today," said Scott Fullman, director of derivatives investment strategy for WJB Capital Group in New York. "People have been saying that we're in a recession. This is the realization."
[More>>thejakartapost.com; See related stories:

nytimes.com, October 24, "US stocks slide after rout overseas":
When is a 300-point plunge a relief? Wall Street was pondering that question on Friday as stocks in the United States picked up a sharp sell-off that began in Asia and Europe. But before the opening bell, things appeared much worse. Stock futures, essentially what investors are betting will happen once trading begins, fell so sharply that their trading had to be halted early Friday morning. The size of the declines had reached a set limit, with futures on the Dow Jones industrial average down by 550 points.

The actual declines after 9:30 a.m., while large, did not indicate an uncontrolled selling frenzy. Shortly after 12:30 p.m., the Dow was down less than 400 points. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was off 4.1 percent and the Nasdaq had fallen about 3 percent. Dismal corporate earnings and poor economic data around the world were the immediate causes for the sell-off, which sent major exchanges in Asia and Europe down by more than 8 percent.

japantoday.com, October 24, "Wall Street layoffs could surge past 200,000"
: Traders and investment bankers might have more to worry about than dwindling bonus pools this year as mass firings on Wall Street are set to hit a record. The fallout from this year's global credit crisis has claimed jobs on all corners of Wall Street, from hedge fund managers to floor traders and beyond. More than 110,000 have lost their jobs so far this year, and some industry experts forecast it could come close to 200,000 before the year is over.

Even the financial industry's biggest name isn't immune. Goldman Sachs Group Inc, the world's biggest investment bank, made plans on Thursday to cut 3,200 positions from its staff of 32,000. Barclays Capital is in the midst of purging 3,000 jobs as part of its takeover of Lehman Brothers, and Bank of America Corp's acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co is sure to add thousands more. Major US financial companies are getting rid of redundancies caused by this year's rapid-fire consolidation. They are also adapting to an environment of more regulation, less risk, and dwindling profits...

koreaherald.co.kr, October 24, "Stocks, won tumble on economic woes" : Korea's stocks and currency continued to nosedive yesterday as local economic woes and disappointing corporate earnings added concerns to investors, who have been already panicking over growing worries on a global recession, analysts said. The benchmark KOSPI plunged 110.96 points, or 10.57 percent, to 938.75 points, on heavy selling by foreign and institutional investors. It was the first time the index fell below the psychologically important level of 1,000 since 999.08 recorded on June 29, 2005. Compared with the highest peak of 2,064.85 on October 31, last year, the stock index lost more than half the value. The won dropped 1.08 percent, or 15.2 won, to close at 1,424 won against the greenback...

washingtonpost.com, October 24, "Treasury investing in regional banks"
: The Treasury Department plans to announce as early as this afternoon that as many as 22 regional banks — including Capital One of McLean and PNC bank of Pittsburgh — have accepted billions in capital injections from the government that are designed to spur lending and to drive consolidation in the banking industry, according to industry sources.

Separately, Treasury is working on ways to get some of the $700 billion in rescue money granted to it by Congress to insurance companies that are a critical backstop to a wide range of deals, bond issues and leasing arrangements, an industry source said. Treasury officials said that many insurance companies are eligible for government investment because they are regulated as thrift holding companies by the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Concerns about insurers grew this week when Metro and other transit agencies faced demands to pay billions of dollars to their banks as years-old financing deals unraveled. The deals were guaranteed by insurer American International Group, which was taken over by the government last month after it nearly collapsed, and now officials are concerned that other insurers, which report financial results next week, are facing similar problems...

10.24.08 Oil price falls despite supply cut by producers

October 24 - Oil producers this morning unanimously voted to cut their output by 1.5 million barrels a day, following an emergency meeting in Vienna to discuss the plunging price of crude. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), which is responsible for 40 per cent of the world's production, said the cut, which was more than the one million barrel forecast, would come into effect from November 1.

While a fall in daily output is expected to increase the price of oil, Brent North Sea crude slumped to a 17-month low of $61.08 a barrel and New York prices declined to $63.05 after concerns about the global economy's march towards recession overrode fears about shrinking fuel supply. Ministers from the oil producing nations are thought to be keen to push prices above $70 a barrel, although they said this morning that they had not set a price target. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

10.24.08 Iran turns tables, threatens strike on Israel

JERuSALEM, October 24 - In an upping of the tit for tat rhetoric between Tel Aviv and Tehran, several senior Iranian officials have recommended a pre-emptive strike on Israel in order to neutralize any Israeli attempt to bomb the Islamic republic's alleged nuclear facilities. A senior Iranian official, Seyed Safavi, the head of the Research Institute of Strategic Studies in Tehran and an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned foreign diplomats in London recently that such an option was being lobbied by a small group of senior officials in the Iranian capital.

The diplomats had gathered to discuss the effects and consequences of a possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear reactor. Numerous Israeli threats in recent years to carry out an offensive strike on Iran appear to have backfired badly as some Iranian hardliners believe that the only way to prevent such an Israeli attack is by hitting Israel first.

10.24.08 Some 400 Iraqi Christians flee to Syria

BAGHDAD (DPA) October 24 - After a series of atrocities against Iraqi Christians in Mosul, around 400 Christians arrived in Syria to escape the harsh conditions of home, according to a statement by a Syrian refugee assistance organization Friday. In the last few days, some 20 Christian families arrived in the city of Qamhley, which is close to the Syrian-Iraqi border, said Lauren Gul, a representative of the refugee assistance group. Since the end of September, Iraqi Christians in Mosul, which lies 405 kilometres north of Baghdad, have been targeted by extremists.

Hundreds have been killed, while the rest have received death threats. Most have sought protection in surrounding villages. The UNHCR is currently assisting hundreds of Iraqi Christians who fled from Mosul to Syria. Most of them asserted that they would return home soon. Meanwhile, Christian lawmakers condemned the Iraq security forces for failing to protect Mosul’s Christians. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.24.08 40 men gang-raped me, says nun

NEW DELHI, October 25 - A nun in eastern India has spoken out for the first time on live television about allegations she was gang-raped by more than 40 men in August, accusing police of complicity in Hindu attacks on Christians. A string of attacks on Christians by Hindus over the controversial issue of conversions in poor tribal areas has killed at least 37 people in the past two months, mainly in Orissa state where most of the violence is concentrated. "State police failed to stop the crimes, failed to protect me from the attackers, they were friendly with the attackers," Sister Meena told a news conference on Friday. The nun's case became part of the wider controversy surrounding the violence, which sparked an international outcry and drew strong condemnation from Pope Benedict. [More>>news.com.au]

10.24.08 Sharia incompatible with human rights: House of Lords

LONDON, October 24 - The House of Lords on Friday described the Islamic legal code Sharia as "wholly incompatible" with human rights legislation, a comment that could spark an outcry among Muslims in the United Kingdom. The Upper House of the British Parliament has drawn sharp attention to the conflict between Sharia and UK law, calling the Islamic legal code "wholly incompatible" with human rights legislation.

The controversial remarks came amidst a debate in Britain over the appropriateness of incorporating Sharia courts into the UK's legal system, a move advocated by figures including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and Lords Phillips, the new senior law lord. The comments in the House of Lords came today as it considered the case of a woman who, if she was sent back to Lebanon, would be obliged under Sharia law to hand over custody of her 12-year-old son to a man who beat her, threw her off a balcony and, on one occasion, attempted to strangle her. The woman was seeking asylum in the UK to avoid the provisions of Sharia law that give fathers or other male family members the exclusive custody of children over seven.

10.24.08 Turkey: 25 PKK rebels killed in airstrikes in Iraq

ANKARA, October 24 - Turkey's military said on Friday 25rebels of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) were killed in cross-border airstrikes on their hideouts in northern Iraq last week. Acting on intelligence services, 25 PKK rebels were killed in the air raid on Oct. 17, when Turkish fighters bombed the PKK dens in northern Iraq's Qandil region, Turkish army spokesman Gen. Metin Gurak said at a press conference. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

10.23.08 Markets tumble as Brown admits UK faces recession

October 23 - Gordon Brown admitted for the first time that Britain would go into recession as a survey showed a big increase in his standing among businessmen, who are losing confidence in the Conservatives. The Prime Minister, who has previously avoided using the word "recession," prepared the public for the worst ahead of official figures that will show Britain slipping into negative growth in the past three months.

Share prices fell dramatically yesterday after the gloomy forecast. The FTSE 100 ended down 4.5 per cent, with recession fears further undermining sentiment on ailing banks and commodity stocks. A late sell-off in New York meant the Dow closed down 5.7 per cent at 8,519.2. The 514-point decline was the seventh largest on record. Although there is only a technical recession when the economy shrinks in two successive quarters, Mr. Brown's statement was an admission that that is now inevitable.

Figures to be released by the Office for National Statistics are expected to confirm that the British economy shrank by about 0.2 per cent during the period from July to September. This follows the zero growth recorded during the second quarter of this year, and thus leaves the British economy on the brink of its first decline since 1992. The National Institute for Economic and Social Research predicted 18 months of contraction or stagnation in the economy, with unemployment reaching two million by Christmas. [More>>independent.co.uk; See related stories:

washingtonpost.com, October 23, "Greenspan: 'Crisis broader than anything I could have imagined' " :
Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan called today for imposing some of the same sorts of regulations on mortgage securities he resisted when he was in office, acknowledging that the current financial crisis had exposed "a flaw" in his view of how the world and markets function. The absence of significant controls on how mortgages are repackaged into larger and more complex securities has been cited as a central cause of the current financial crisis.

In testimony before the House Government Oversight Committee, Greenspan said that as a result of the current situation the United States is heading for a "significant rise in layoffs and unemployment" and a continued downturn in home values as the world works through a crisis that is "broader than anything I could have imagined."

Greenspan, who called the current financial crisis a "once-in-a-century credit tsunami," said that he remained "in a state of shocked disbelief" that banks and investment firms did not do a better job of analyzing the risks involved with investing in home mortgages extended to less creditworthy borrowers. Under questioning from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, Greenspan acknowledged that the failure of that expected self-regulation represented "a flaw in the model" he used to analyze economics. "I was going for 40 years or more on the perception that it was working well."...

thestar.com.my, October 23, "Asian stock markets close lower Thursday (2nd update)" : TOKYO: Asian stock markets closed lower Thursday in the wake of the lower closing in New York, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere overnight. Australia's stock market plunged Thursday as fears deepened that the global economy is sinking into recession. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 4.37 percent at 3,974 points and the broader All Ordinaries was down 4.39 percent to 3,939 points. It was the second straight day that the key index had fallen more than 3 percent in Australia as investor sentiment turned negative despite government efforts in Australia and worldwide to talk up markets and prevent a global recession. Resources stocks were hurt by falling commodity prices, and the market more broadly by disappointing corporate results in the United States and other signs of a global slowdown...

middle-east-online.com, October 23, "Kuwait traders stage walkout over financial crisis": KUWAIT CITY - Traders urge government to rescue financial sector as several companies trade even below their nominal value. Dozens of traders walked off the trading floor at the Kuwait Stock Exchange on Thursday and demonstrated outside the bourse building to urge more government support for the financial sector.

The protest developed as shares on the exchange, the second largest in the Arab world, shed almost 400 points or 3.7 percent to 10,420 points, leaving several companies trading even below their nominal value. All eight sectors in the market dropped, with the investment and banking sectors each diving by 3.7 percent each. Nasser al-Khorafi, chairman of Al-Khorafi Group, the largest in Kuwait, called on the government to rescue the market. "The government should swiftly intervene to rescue the bourse otherwise there will be a catastrophe," Khorafi told reporters...

Editorial note: See Maravot News 10.17.08 chart, "Dow Jones Largest Daily Loss" The independent.co.uk statement, "Dow closed down 5.7 per cent at 8,519.2. The 514-point decline was the seventh largest on record" does not seem to be correct. But the 514-point decline is important in the context that both 1929 and 2008 were years that registered three daily losses among the top 20 daily losses. It looks like 2008 intends to beat the 1929 record.

Mel Copeland

10.23.08 Russia lines up new anti-missile system to counter US missile shield plans

MOSCOW, October 22 - Russia's Strategic Missile Forces are being equipped with new anti-ballistic missile systems in response to US plans to deploy a missile shield in Europe, Interfax reported Wednesday. "Considering the changing military and political situation in the world, and US plans to deploy missile shield, as well as the need to adequately respond to these plans, a set of measures are being taken to develop the Strategic Missile Forces," Commander Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov told Interfax news agency.

New types of silo-based and mobile missile systems capable of countering the prospective US missile defense system will be created, he said, adding that a fifth-generation RS-24 multiple-warhead missile system will enter service with the forces in 2009. The new system will strengthen Russia's nuclear deterrence, including its capability to penetrate missile defense shields, he said.

10.23.08 Suspected missile strike kills 11 in Pakistan: Officials

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AP) October 23 - Suspected US spy drones fired missiles early on Thursday into a school set up by a top Taliban commander in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan, killing 11 people, security officials said. The air strike apparently targeting veteran militant Jalaluddin Haqqani, a major target for US forces, was the latest in a string of attacks on Pakistani soil that have raised tensions between Islamabad and Washington...Security officials said the madrassa, or religious school, near Miranshah, the main town in troubled North Waziristan region, was set up by Haqqani during the 1980s "jihad" against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. It was currently run by one of Haqqani's own commanders, Mullah Mansoor, and was recently used as a guest house for "international and local students traveling from other areas."

"At 2:25 am, two spy drones fired three missiles at the madrassa of Mullah Mansoor. Eleven people have been killed in the missile strike," a security official said. "Locals are still looking for more people in the rubble," he said. A similar missile strike targeting another house owned by Haqqani on September 8 killed 23 people, including members of Haqqani's extended family, security officials said. Haqqani was one of the most prominent Afghan commanders who fought the Red Army between 1978 and 1989. He subsequently became close to Mullah Omar, the leader of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban, Haqqani has become one of the most active Taliban commanders launching attacks on international forces in Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan, security officials said. His son Sirajuddin, also a leading Taliban commander, was an occasional visitor at the madrassa that was hit on Thursday, a senior security official handling tribal unrest said.

10.23.08 Bomber hits Iraqi minister's convoy

October 23 - A suicide car bomber has struck the convoy of Iraq's minister of labour and social affairs, killing 11 people and wounding 22 others, Reuters says. A spokesman for the ministry said the minister, Mahmoud al-Sheikh Radhi, was unhurt. Three of his bodyguards were among the dead in Thursday's attack. A Reuters television cameraman in the vicinity filmed the blast but an Iraqi soldier confiscated his videotape. The cameraman, about 150 metres away at the time of the explosion, saw a car drive into a convoy of six or seven 4WD vehicles and explode near Tahrir square in central Baghdad. Police and bodyguards in the convoy opened fire after the blast. Several vehicles crashed and others sped away. [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.23.08 US hands 'triangle of death' to Iraqi troops

BAGHDAD (Reuters) October 23 - US forces declared an area once known as the The province south of Baghdad is the 12th of Iraq's 18 provinces in which primary responsibility for security has been given to Iraqi forces. With violence at four-year lows, only the capital Baghdad, four ethnically and religiously mixed northern provinces and Wasit province along the Iranian border still require day-to-day US patrols of Iraqi streets. Iraq's National Security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said at a handover ceremony in the provincial capital Hilla that Iraqis will also take control of Wasit province within days. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.23.08 Wanted German terrorist surfaces on al-Qaeda video

October 23 - A 21-year old German citizen whom officials feared was preparing to carry out an attack in the US or Europe has surfaced in a new al-Qaeda video, claiming he is still in Afghanistan. "I am in Afghanistan and, personally, do not plan to carry out an attack on Germany," Eric Breininger said on the video downloaded by ABCNews.com from a internet site often used by al-Qaeda. Last month, German officials issued a wanted poster with Breininger's photo warning that his German passport and Caucasian appearance would make it easy for him to slip into Germany or the US without notice. On the video, Breininger is seen in traditional Afghan garb firing an automatic weapon. [>abcnews.go.com; See related story:

dw-world.de, October 23, "Germany arrests alleged courier for terror group":
German police arrested a Turkish national on suspicion that he ferried money and equipment for an Afghanistan-based group widely seen as a successor to al-Qaeda. The suspect, Burhan Y, aged 21, was picked up Wednesday, Oct. 22, at his home near Frankfurt, said the prosecutor-general's office in Karlsruhe. He is the younger brother of a man arrested last year for allegedly plotting bomb attacks in Germany on behalf of the Islamic Jihad Union, or IJU. The arrested man allegedly met with an IJU courier to pass over a night-vision device, a digital camera and a pair of binoculars needed by the IJU at its bases in the wilds along the Pakistan-Afghan border. A German news website, Focus Online, said they met in Turkey...

10.23.08 Bomb kills three coalition soldiers in Afghanistan

KABUL (Reuters) October 23 - A roadside bomb has killed three soldiers from the U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan, the US military said. Violence has surged to its worst level this year, resulting so far in the killing of some 4,000 people, a third of them civilians, the bloodiest period since US-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. The roadside bomb hit a vehicle of the coalition soldiers on Wednesday evening in the western part of the country, the US military said in a statement late the same day. It did not give the nationality of the victims.

Resurgent Taliban fighters use suicide and roadside bomb attacks in their attempt to topple the Western-backed government and to cause the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. On Thursday, unknown gunmen seized two Bangladeshi aid workers near a government building in the heart of Ghazni town which lies to the southwest of Kabul, police said. No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction. [>khaleejtimes.com]

10.22.08 Stocks decline as earnings reveal fallout of credit crisis

October 22 - Worries about the corporate sector sent stocks on Wall Street sharply lower again on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrials dropping more than 400 points before recovering slightly in the early afternoon. Improvements in the credit markets — including the third straight day of declines in bank borrowing rates — did little to placate stock investors who are eying the corporate consequences of an economy that many economists believe is already in a recession. Earnings reports have been weak this week, and many companies have warned about lower sales and a bleak outlook for the remainder of the year.

The problems have appeared in a range of industries. The aviation giant Boeing saw profits fall 38 percent last quarter. Merck, the pharmaceutical company, posted a 28 percent drop in net income and will cut jobs. The North Carolina-based bank Wachovia, which was recently acquired by Wells Fargo, suffered a $23.7 billion net loss. At 1pm, the broad Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was down 3.6 percent. The Nasdaq composite index was off about 1.5 percent, despite gains in shares of Apple and Yahoo. The Dow, after falling more than 200 points on Tuesday, was off 312.30 points to 8,721.36, a decline of 3.5 percent, with 28 of the 30 components of the index in retreat. Only McDonald's and 3M showed gains. [More>>nytimes.com; See also:

timesonline.co.uk, October 22, "Wachovia reports record credit crunch loss." and

thejakartapost.com, October 22, "Asian markets slide on glum corporate outlook"
: Asian markets veered sharply lower Wednesday, with Tokyo's Nikkei index tumbling nearly 7 percent, amid spreading pessimism over corporate earnings outlooks in the US and at home. As credit markets show signs of improving, investors are turning their attention to dismal forecasts from major US companies and Japanese media reports of disappointing sales and profit results. Asian markets opened lower after an overnight decline on Wall Street but extended losses as the day progressed. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average fell for the first time in three days, dropping 631.56 points, or 6.79 percent, to 8,674.69. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 6.2 percent, while South Korea's main index shed 5.1 percent...

cnn.com, October 22, "Mass layoffs at the highest level since 9/11 attacks" : NEW YORK - The number of layoff announcements involving at least 50 workers rose in September to the highest level since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks seven years ago, the government said Wednesday. There were 2,269 mass layoff actions, up 497 from August, according to statistics released by the Labor Department. That was the most mass layoffs since the 2,407 in September 2001...

abcnews.go.com, October 22, "AIG cuts $19 million Golden Parachute strings": AIG says it will freeze millions of dollars of payments to former CEO Martin Sullivan and other top executives, according to an agreement reached with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Sullivan, who left AIG in June, was due to be paid about $19 million as well as other benefits. Cuomo is currently investigating AIG for "unwarranted and outrageous" executive payouts after the company received billions of dollars in rescue money from taxpayers. [end]

10.22.08 Columbia says smashes drug ring with Hezbollah ties

BOGOTA, Columbia (Reuters) October 22 - Colombian authorities said on Tuesday they broke up a drug and money-laundering ring in an international operation that included the capture of three people suspected of shipping funds to Hezbollah guerrillas. More than 100 suspects were arrested in Colombia and overseas on charges they trafficked drugs and laundered cash for Colombia's Norte del Valle cartel and for outlawed paramilitaries in a network that stretched from South America to Asia, the attorney's general office said. "The criminal organization used routes through Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Middle East and Europe, bringing in cash from the sale of these substances," the statement said.

Among those arrested in Colombia were three people suspected of coordinating drug smuggling to send some of their profits to groups such as Hezbollah, the office said. Those suspects — Chekry Mahmoud Harb, Ali Mohamad Abdul Rahim and Zacaria Hussein Harb — used front companies to send drug cash overseas, it said without providing further details. Colombia, a key US ally, remains the world's No. 1 cocaine producer, although over the last seven years Washington has sent more than $5 billion in aid that has helped weaken the country's FARC rebels and reduce violence from its conflict. Washington has often complained that Iran-backed Hezbollah and other Islamic groups that it considers terrorist organizations are active in Arab communities in South American countries such as Brazil and Venezuela. [>khaleejtimes.com]

10.22.08 Iraqi Qaeda-linked group confirms a leader killed

DUBAI (Reuters) October 22 - The al-Qaeda linked group Islamic State in Iraq confirmed the killing of one its leading members in an Internet audio tape posted on Wednesday. The US military had described the militant as ISI's second-in-command and said he was killed in a raid in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Oct. 15...the militant identified by the alias Abu Qaswara al-Maghrebi, who had Swedish citizenship. [Full story>>thestar.com.my; See a related story about a "convert" from al-Qaeda, also of Swedish citizenship, who was 'the al-Qaeda in Iraq media person,' :

metimes.com, October 22, "Former al-Qaeda emir in crosshairs'
: AD-DULUYIAH, Iraq - Najim Mahmoud Khalil al-Jabouri, a charismatic preacher in this town north of Balad, is a marked man...Najid moved to Baghdad as Jaish Islami's media head until he was caught in an anti-terrorist sweep and sent to Abu Ghraib prison, where he was thrown in with al-Qaeda detainees. "At that time I spent five or six months listening to their ideology," he said. "…They gave a new ideology and talked about a big program to building an Islamic state in Iraq with all the different groups working together. "At that time, al-Qaeda soldiers were ready to fight, really ready to fight, better than our organization. And when they talked to me I decided at last to follow this group."

He moved from house to house while al-Qaeda's media emir and spoke at more than 13 mosques. Captured in southeast Baghdad in 2006 by US forces, he was sent to the Camp Cropper detention facility near Baghdad's international airport. "The first time I was a detainee, I believed in continuing the fight," he said. The second time it was different. At Cropper they treated me kindly and I made friendship with a soldier. This guy treated the detainees differently than at Abu Ghraib. All the time they talked to me, and after six months they decided that I had changed. "When I got released, I [decided] to tell al-Qaeda, 'if you don't put your weapons away and fight on the political side I will fight you.' "

...Today Najid is a member of a board that helps facilitate the process of government and insurgent reconciliation. More than 600 fighters have utilized it. He also coordinates at least five, 50-man groups of SOI, the armed neighborhood watch groups credited by both the US and the Iraqi government with playing a key role in the success of the US surge and the dramatic downturn in violence in much of the country...

10.22.08 Iraq says flight of Mosul Christians ceased

BAGHDAD (AFP) October 22 - Nearly 2,275 families fled the city. The flight of Iraqi Christians from Mosul has been stemmed, a government official said Wednesday, but only after nearly half the 20,000-strong minority fled the northern city due to a spate of attacks. "The flight of Christians from Mosul has ceased," Ghanem al-Ghanam, director of Iraq's human rights ministry, said in a statement. Ghanam said a fact-finding mission found that 2,275 families based on an average of four persons per family had abandoned their homes and jobs, taking shelter in Christian villages on the northern and eastern fringes of Nineveh province. He did not identify who was behind the violence although various officials have blamed Sunni and Kurd extremists or al-Qaeda. [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.22.08 55 militants killed in southern Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, October 22 - International and Afghan forces killed 55 militants after coming under attack in southern Afghanistan, the US military said Wednesday. "ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) and coalition forces responded with small-arms, rocket-propelled grenade, heavy-weapons and supporting fire, killing 55 militants," the US Forces in Afghanistan said.

Police had said earlier that 35 Taliban were killed in the fighting in the southern province of Uruzgan that started late Tuesday when about 100 militants had tried to attack a district centre. "More than 100 Taliban launched an attack to capture the district of Dih Rahwud. Our police bravely resisted and killed 35 Taliban whose bodies are left in the area," provincial police chief said. "Three of our policemen were also martyred and nine others were injured in the fighting," he said, adding international military war planes were called in to help.
[>thenews.com.pk; See related story:

washingtonpost.com, October 22, "Coalition airstrke kills 9 Afghan soldiers - Officials say" : ...
Coalition soldiers called for air support after exchanging fire with Afghan troops near an Afghan army checkpoint in the Sayed Kheil area in what military officials said could be "a case of mistaken identity on both sides." ...

10.22.08 Organic farming 'could feed Africa'

October 22 - Traditional practices increase yield by 128 per cent in east Africa, says UN. Organic farming offers Africa the best chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition it has been locked in for decades, according to a major study from the United Nations to be presented today. New evidence suggests that organic practices — derided by some as a Western lifestyle fad — are delivering sharp increases in yields, improvements in the soil and a boost in the income of Africa's small farmers who remain among the poorest people on earth. The head of the UN's Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said the report "indicates that the potential contribution of organic farming to feeding the world maybe far higher than many had supposed".

The "green revolution" in agriculture in the 1960s — when the production of food caught and surpassed the needs of the global population for the first time — largely bypassed Africa. Whereas each person today has 25 per cent more food on average than they did in 1960, in Africa they have 10 per cent less. A combination of increasing population, decreasing rainfall and soil fertility and a surge in food prices has left Africa uniquely vulnerable to famine. Climate change is expected to make a bad situation worse by increasing the frequency of droughts and floods.

...An analysis of 114 projects in 24 African countries found that yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used. That increase in yield jumped to 128 per cent in east Africa...The study found that organic practices outperformed traditional methods and chemical-intensive conventional farming. It also found strong environmental benefits such as improved soil fertility, better retention of water and resistance to drought. And the research highlighted the role that learning organic practices could have in improving local education. Backers of GM foods insist that a technological fix is needed to feed the world. But this form of agriculture requires cash to buy the patented seeds and herbicides – both at record high prices currently – needed to grow GM crops.
[Full story>>independent.co.uk]

10.21.08 Sarkozy calls for halt to foreign ownership

October 21 - Nicolas Sarkozy risked blowing apart the European consensus over how to deal with the financial crisis by proposing today that each country launch sovereign wealth funds to take stakes in key industries to stop them [from] falling into foreign hands. The French President argued that falling share prices meant that big industries were in imminent danger of being taken over and called for the EU to follow the US Congress pledge to take $25 billion stakes in the country's three main car-making companies.

With France holding the rotating presidency of the EU, Mr. Sarkozy is in a strong position to push through his plans for sovereign wealth funds as world leaders prepare to re-write global financial rules at a series of Bretton Woods-style meetings starting next month. "Stock markets are at historic lows. I do not want European citizens to wake up a few months from now and discover that European companies belong to non-European capital which has bought at the lowest point of the stock exchange," Mr. Sarkozy told MEPs. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

10.21.08 Fed adds to its efforts to aid credit markets

October 21 - Adding to its efforts to unclog the credit markets, the Federal Reserve said on Tuesday that it would provide financing to shore up money market mutual funds, the consumer investment funds that have traditionally been considered as safe as bank accounts. Under the program, the Fed will help buy up to $600 billion in short-term debt, including certificates of deposit and commercial paper that expires in three months or less. This type of debt has historically been used by money-market funds seeking safe, conservative returns for their clients, but the recent turmoil has roiled the market and caused a prominent fund to fall below $1 a share, an extremely rare occurrence.

Since that fund "broke the buck," many money market funds have had trouble selling assets to meet redemption requests. The new program "should improve the liquidity position of money market investors, thus increasing their ability to meet any further redemption requests and their willingness to invest in money market instruments," the Fed said in the statement. "Improved money market conditions will enhance the ability of banks and other financial intermediaries to accommodate the credit needs of businesses and households." [More>>nytimes.com]

10.21.08 The widlest ride

October 21 - Up, down. Way up, way down. Stock volatility has reached historic levels -- as one market expert said, "We have no idea where things are going." The market's wild hour-by-hour swings have come to exemplify the turbulence of the financial crisis, but they're still puzzling for many market professionals. The Dow Jones industrial average now routinely travels hundreds of points in a matter of hours, only to reverse direction in many cases. During a single day earlier this month, the Dow spanned 1,000 points for the first time in history. On another, a 400-point rally during the last hour of trading sent the Dow to a historic 936-point gain. During the final hour of trading yesterday, the Dow surged more than 100 points.

Financial analysts suggest that the sharp ups and downs reflect investors' uncertainty about how quickly the financial crisis can be resolved and whether a recession will seep from the banking sector to other parts of the economy. Precipitous gains and losses have also been triggered as stocks reach pre-set selling or buying levels, prompting automated trading and causing investor whiplash, analysts said. The largest swings have often occurred during the last hour of trading, prompting a closer look by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a nongovernmental regulator of securities firms. The end of the trading day is when institutional investors, including hedge funds and mutual funds, rush to meet client demands to pull cash out of the market, analysts said.

The gyrations have turned even seasoned market professionals into skittish investors, waiting for a news tidbit that will turn the market's mood and start a stampede in either direction. "Psychology and emotion are a big part of what moves the market," said Andrew Brooks, head of stock trading at T. Rowe Price. "We are clearly in a highly emotional and schizophrenic point." [More>>washingtonpost.com]

10.21.08 The ones to blame for the meltdown?

October 21 - Congress to Grill Credit Rating Executives Tomorrow. Next to face the bright lights of a Congressional hearing: the top dogs of the big three credit rating companies, whose firms reaped millions in profits while helping sell trillions in dubious mortgage-related investments which led to the world's current financial meltdown. The executives are likely to face questions about how their firms – including Standard & Poor's, Moody's Corporation and Fitch Ratings — pulled down record profits while assigning undeservedly high ratings to mortgage-backed securities which held questionable subprime loans. When mortgage-holders began defaulting at record rates, those investments' worth plummeted, sparking the global economic collapse.

One firm, Moody's, rang up profit margins three to four times those of Exxon Mobil Corp. while assuring investors that complex mortgage-backed investments were safer bets than they really were, according to Bloomberg News. A spokesman for the firm confirmed that Moody's CEO Raymond W. McDaniel was planning to appear at tomorrow's hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but declined to answer questions about the company's performance. [>abcnews.go.com]

10.21.08 Further banks may fail, says IMF

October 21 - More European banks "may fail" as doubts persist about the viability of their business models, the International Monetary Fund has warned. Private funding is "virtually unavailable" and banks will have to rely on public intervention, asset sales and consolidation, it said. The six-monthly study also warns that eurozone economic growth will almost grind to a halt next year. Growth in the 15 euro countries will fall to just 0.2% in 2009, it forecast. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

10.21.08 Most Asia markets rise on possible US economic aid

(AP) October 21 - Most Asian markets rose Tuesday, following Wall Street's gains after the chairman of the US central bank signaled support for more government aid to revive the country's slumping economy. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average rose 300.66 points, or 3.34 percent, to close at 9,306.25, marking the third consecutive day of gains. While shares in most other countries moved higher, several key stock measures sold off early gains to close in the red. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 1.84 percent, Shanghai's benchmark fell 0.8 percent and South Korea's index shed about 1 percent.

As trading opened in Europe, benchmarks in Britain, Germany and France were higher. Market sentiment was helped by an overnight surge on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average rose 413.21, or 4.67 percent, to 9,265.43 as investors took heart from further slackening in bank-to-bank lending rates in light of government moves to boost liquidity.

10.21.08 Goods traded through Kashmir pass after 60 years

October 21 - Rumbling trucks of fruit, honey and maize today made history as Kashmiris traded goods rather than gunfire when a new business route opened between India and Pakistan. For the first time since partition, trucks crossed the Line of Control (LoC) that divides troubled Kashmir and marks the border between the two countries. Thirteen lorries bearing mainly apples set off from the Indian-administered part of Kashmir and 14 trucks also carrying fruit and other goods set off from the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir for India.

The distinction of being the first Pakistani driver went to Mazhar Hussain, who was carrying 1600kg of rice and spices destined for the Indian-administered town of Salamabad. As a police band strained the chords of the national anthem and schoolchildren sang patriotic songs, he could scarcely contain his emotion. "I'm very happy. I've never been to the other side. I had always dreamed of it," he said, setting off at noon. "We couldn't achieve anything through fighting, hopefully we can achieve peace through trade." [More>>independent.co.uk]

10.21.08 Police: Blast in India's northeast kills 14

GAUHATTI, India, October 21 - A bomb exploded outside a police training center in northeast India on Tuesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding 20 more, police said. The bomb was apparently planted on a motorcycle and placed outside the center in the city of Imphal, said city police chief Radheshyam, who goes by just one name...Dozens of militant separatist groups are active in India's northeast, an isolated region wedged between Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar with only a thin corridor connecting it to the rest of India. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

10.21.08 Western diet causes heart attacks

WASHINGTON, October 21 - The typical Western diet, which includes red meat, fried foods, dairy products and salty snacks, is responsible for 30 per cent of the world's heart attacks, according to a study of dietary patterns in 52 countries. The study has been reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers identified three dietary patterns in the world: Oriental, which include higher intake of tofu, soy and other sauces; Prudent, which includes higher intake of fruits and vegetables; and Western, which includes higher intake of fried foods, salty snacks, eggs and meat.

The Prudent diet was associated with a lower heart attack risk than the Oriental, researchers said. "The objective of this study was to understand the modifiable risk factors of heart attacks at a global level," said Salim Yusuf, D.Phil., the study's senior author. Researchers analyzed the INTERHEART study, which documents the association of various risk factors and the risk of heart attack in about 16,000 participants in 52 countries. Here, they analyzed 5,761 heart attack cases and compared them to 10,646 people without known heart disease (controls).

10.21.08 India set for moon mission

October 21 - India is set to send a mission to the moon in an Asian space race project that will boost its space programme into the same league as regional powerhouses Japan and China. The unmanned lunar orbiting spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 is scheduled to blast off aboard an Indian-built rocket at 6.20am (0050GMT) on Wednesday from Sriharikota on India's southeastern coast. For India, the $80m mission puts the country on the inside track of a fast-developing Asian space race. Kapil Sibal, India's science and technology minister said: "It is a proud moment for us."...The Chandrayaan-1 is being sent on a two-year orbital mission to provide a detailed map of the mineral, chemical and topographical characteristics of the moon's surface. [Full story>>aljazeera.net]

10.21.08 Journalist jailed for Prophet Mohammad blasphemy

KABUL, October 221 - Afghanistan's appeal court sentenced an Afghan journalist to 20 years in jail, commuting an earlier death sentence, for distributing an Internet article that said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women. Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, a reporter with the Jahan-e Now daily, was sentenced to death in January by a court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The arrest and sentencing of Kambakhsh, also a university student, drew criticism from a number of Western nations, the Afghan media and rights groups. Kambakhsh downloaded an Iranian article from the Internet and distributed it to friends."The court has sentenced Perwiz Kambakhsh to 20 years jail for the crime he has committed. But this is not the final hearing, he has the right to appeal," judge Abdul Salaam Qazizada told the court. [>news.com.au; See more details, alarabiya.net, October 21, "Afgthan court spares 'anti-Islam' reporter."]

10.21.08 Suspected Saudi militants indicted for terrorism

RIYADH,Saudi Arabia (AP) October 21 - Saudi authorities have indicted 991 suspected militants for participating in terrorist attacks carried out over the last five years, the interior minister said early Tuesday. The legal proceedings mark a significant step in the kingdom's fight against terror. Authorities have been reluctant to resort to trials for terrorism charges that could result in death sentences until they had shown the public that every effort had been made to give the men a chance to repent.

The militants, he said, have been responsible for over 30 attacks in the kingdom since May 2003, killing 164 people, including 74 security officials. They also have wounded 657 security officials and 439 civilians. Another 160 attacks were foiled...The government fears a public backlash against its crackdown if it takes overly harsh measures against the militants and wants to avoid accusations it is moving against them just to please the United States. There is a degree of public sympathy for Saudis who leave the country to perform jihad in occupied Muslim countries. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com; See other details, alarabiya.net, October 21, "Saudi refers 991 terrorist suspects to court" and related stories:

xinhuanet.com, October 21, "China identifies alleged 'Eastern Turkistan' terrorists."

metimes.com, October 21, "Switzerland, a possible target of Islamist terrorism?"

10.20.08 ING taps Dutch state for €10bn of capital

October20 - ING, The Dutch financial services giant, last night became the latest large European bank to turn to its government for an injection of capital. The bank, the biggest in the Netherlands, announced it would sell an 8.5 per cent stake to the Dutch government for €10bn (£7.8bn), as it attempts to improve its capital funding. The capital boost followed a weekend of talks with the Dutch government following ING's announcement on Friday that it had lost €500m in the third quarter of the year, the first such loss in its history, after making €2bn of writedowns on investments. That revelation – and a 27 per cent fall in ING's share price on Friday – rang alarm bells with the Dutch authorities, which had already set aside €20bn to provide funds as and when needed to the country's banking system. [More>>independent.co.uk]

10.20.08 Prof James Tibballs says organs are taken before donors are dead

October 21 - A doctor claims most organ donors are not dead when their organs are removed. In an article in the Journal of Law and Medicine , Melbourne specialist Associate Professor James Tibballs argues it is "impossible to be certain" that the brain and circulation have ceased "irreversibly" before organs are taken. "It may be better to concede that, although organ donation is presently conducted under the guise of total brain death, it is in reality conducted under a point of 'neurological no return' or 'as good as dead,' " he said.

Dr. Tibballs, from the Royal Children's Hospital, argues discrepancies between legal definitions of death and actual clinical practice lead to ethical and legal problems. "What perhaps is needed is acknowledgement by the medical and legal professions, and acceptance by the public, that organ donation is presently commonly carried out on persons not actually dead but rather in the process of dying or 'not completely dead but dead enough,' " he said. [More>>news.com.au]

10.20.08 34 Taliban killed in Afghan offensive

KANDAHAR, October 20 - An Afghan official says 34 Taliban were killed in an operation by Afghan and foreign forces near a key southern Afghan city. Daud Ahmadi says the Afghan forces battled the militants south of Lashkar Gah on Sunday evening. Ahmadi is the spokesman for Helmand's governor. Ahmadi says the authorities recovered a number of weapons, ammunition, motorbikes and other vehicles used by the Taliban. Two policemen were wounded. Last week, Taliban fighters launched several barrages of rocket and mortar fire into Lashkar Gah, which is the capital of Helmand province. [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,

khaleejtimes.com, October 20, "Suicide bomb kills NATO-led soldiers, Afghans: military"
: KABUL - A suicide car bomber targeted German troops in northern Afghanistan Monday, killing some NATO soldiers as well as civilians, the German military and the alliance force's media office said..Civilians were also wounded, including children, the officer said...

independent.co.uk, October 20, "British charity worker shot dead in Kabul" : Two Taliban gunmen killed a British woman aid worker in the Afghan capital today, accusing her of spreading Christian propaganda, in an attack that could help further restrict humanitarian activities in Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents have increasingly targeted aid workers this year in their campaign to spread an atmosphere of fear and undermine claims by the Afghan government and its Western backers that they are bringing security to the war-ravaged nation.

"She was walking to work this morning. There were two people on a motorcycle. They got off the motorcycle and shot her and then went away on the motorcycle. She was dead pretty soon afterwards," said Mark Lyth, the board chairman of SERVE Afghanistan, the aid agency which employed the woman. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. "We killed her for spreading Christian propaganda," Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group, told Reuters by telephone...

10.20.08 Fresh air strikes in Pakistan kill 6 militants

ISLAMABAD, October 20 - At least six militants were killed and several others injured when Pakistani fighter jets and artillery pounded suspected Taliban positions in the troubled Bajaur tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The jets struck militant positions at several places in the Charmang and Loisam sub-districts of Bajaur Agency, considered strongholds of the local Taliban militants. A number of militant hideouts were destroyed in the bombing, TV channels reported...The News daily put the death toll in yesterday's air strikes in the Taliban-dominated Matta sub-district of Swat at 100, including some 25 militants. [Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

10.19.08 Britain faces crisis as negative equity to reach 2 million

LONDON, October 19 - Collapsing house prices are plunging 60,000 homeowners a month into negative equity, which means the country is on course for a worse crisis than the 1990s crash. At current trends, 2m households will enter negative equity by 2010, outstripping the 1.8m affected at the bottom of the last housing slump.

New research from Standard & Poor's, the ratings agency, coincides with evidence that banks are aggressively seizing homes whose owners have slipped just a few hundred pounds behind on their mortgage payments. It is a further signal that the financial crisis is now infecting the real economy as hundreds of thousands of families face the prospect of being unable to move house because their home is worth less than the value of their mortgage.

Many more homeowners will now be afraid that the bank may suddenly repossess their property. Repossessions have soared to 19,000 in the first half of the year, up 40% on the previous six months. That figure is expected to rise to 26,000 in the second half of 2008. Economists believe house prices will fall by up to 35% from their peak by 2010. This compares with a drop of only 20% in the early 1990s. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

10.19.08 Oil-fueled nation feels pinch

BOGOTA, Columbia, October 19 - Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has delighted in the economic meltdown in the United States, mocking the Bush administration for its bailout plan and predicting the end of American economic dominance. "The US model of capitalism is collapsing," Chávez, a self-avowed socialist, told reporters recently. But Venezuela's oil-fueled economy is deeply intertwined with the United States and is poised to face major challenges as the crisis pushes down the price of crude, economic analysts and oil experts say.

The price of a barrel of oil has fallen from $147 in July to less than $70, and analysts say the drop is a blow to Chávez's free-spending administration, which depends on oil for 50 percent of government revenue and 95 percent of its export earnings. Other oil-producing countries, which like Venezuela ramped up spending as the price of oil rose to historic highs in recent years, also face serious economic problems, analysts say.

...Venezuela exports about 1.4 million barrels daily to the United States, about 10 percent of U.S. oil imports. vThe dire predictions come as the inflation rate in Venezuela has surpassed 36 percent and the black market rate for dollars has shot well beyond the fixed government rate. JP Morgan, in a research note this month, predicted that economic growth in Venezuela would reach 5 percent this year and 2.5 percent next year. Last year, the economy grew by 8.4 percent...Venezuela is more reliant than ever on the food, auto parts, medicine, construction materials and other products it imports from the United States and Colombia, a close US ally. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

10.19.08 Saudi market sheds five percent at week start

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, October 19 - Saudi bourse loses around $20 billion of capitalization, now stands at just above $340 billion. The Saudi stock market ended the first day of the trading week on Saturday down more than five percent, shedding some of last weeks gains. The Tadawul All-Shares Index closed on 6,503.94 points, down 5.23 percent in the first day of trade since Wednesday.

All sectors slumped, led by a 9.64 percent plunge in the petrochemicals sector that approached the 10 percent permitted limit. Market leader SABIC fell by 9.95 percent. The TASI is now down 41.08 percent on the year. The Saudi bourse, the largest in the Arab world, recovered initial losses by the end of last week, ending the week up 11.4 percent. On Saturday it lost around 20 billion dollars of capitalization and now stands at just above 340 billion dollars...The Dubai Financial Market Index closed down 6.5 percent at 3,204.11 points, leaving it with a slight 0.2 percent gain for the week. The other United Arab Emirates stock market, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, saw its index drop 4.5 percent to 3,366.72 points. [Full story>>middle-east-online.com; See related stories:

arabtimesonline.com, October 19, "Lower oil prices may force cut in kuwait spending" ...
Economies in the Gulf had been booming as oil prices surged as much as sevenfold since 2002, which allowed government and private investors to pour billions of dollars into infrastructure and industry, stoking inflationary pressures...Kuwait’s finance minister warned in remarks published on Saturday that a recent decline in oil prices might force the Gulf Arab state to cut spending and revise downward its 2009-2014 five-year plan.  Kuwait would have to cut spending in its next budget if the price of its crude fell below $60 per barrel, Mustapha al-Shamali told al-Rai newspaper. Asked if the current budget with expenditures of almost 19 billion dinars ($70.71 billion) would be affected by a slide in oil prices, Shamali said: “The estimated budget of 19 billion dinar will not be affected but the new budget could be affected depending on an increase or decrease of oil prices.”

Shamali added that a fall in revenue, almost entirely made up of oil exports, would also mean Kuwait could spend less on its five-year development plan initially estimated at 35 billion dinars, part of efforts to become a regional financial centre.  Kuwait had based the current budget on a conservative oil price forecast of $50 a barrel. State news agency KUNA said Kuwait’s crude oil fell to $59.15 on Thursday, as US oil prices touched a 15-month low before rebounding partly on Friday...

daralhayat.com, October 19, "OPEC and the price of oil" ....
The price of a barrel fell from $147 to $84 in the US over three months; the dollar is worth 1.36 euros after this rate stood at 1.55. The financial shock that hit the world is not due to oil and oil prices. OPEC countries appear today to be facing the big challenge of defending the price level of $90, if they want to continue their investments over the coming years, especially since the need for more liquidity will be greater in light of the measures taken to save banks in a number of countries.

Today, OPEC cannot allow oil prices to drastically drop, irrespective of whether or not its member countries are rich. They have fundamental projects and commitments that require them to have sufficient reserves for investment in the coming decades. In view of the financial crisis and its repercussions, and the fall in demand for oil, OPEC countries will work to reduce production after a careful study of markets and prices. It is true that expectations with regard to demand will change and that they are difficultly verifiable. However, the most difficult thing for OPEC is verifying the critical level of demand, so that it can accommodate its reduction of production and protect oil prices...

Editorial note: OPEC is under the delusion that oil price increases from $60 to $147 per barrel are not the cause of, or did not contribute to, the current economic meltdown. We can see here that their spending spree in building projects funded by the exploitative oil hikes is jeopardized by a collapsing world economy. Yet, they complain about comparable price rises in food and commodities which they must import. What has fueled the world economic collapse is greed, and we can see that OPEC is as much affected in filling the ravenous coffers of greed as the Wall Street gluttons. If they don't curb their hunger they will see more unreasonable price-hikes in their department stores and fast-food malls.

Mel Copeland

10.19.08 Air strikes kill 30 militants: Pakistan officials

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) October 19 - Pakistani forces killed up to 30 militants close to the Afghan border on Sunday as America's top diplomat for the region visited for talks with government leaders, officials said. US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher's trip comes amid strains between Pakistan and the United States over suspected American missile attacks on militant targets in the country's northwest bordering Afghanistan. The US embassy gave no details on Boucher's trip other than to say it had been planned for some time and that he was meeting a range of government officials.

Washington wants Pakistan's government to do more to fight al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the northwest who are blamed for rising attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan insists it is taking the threat seriously, but US and regional officials suspect that elements within the government and security forces may be secretly aiding the militants, a charge denied by the government. In the latest fighting close to the border, Pakistani fighter jets bombed insurgents, killing up to 20, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said. The bombs hit an ammunition dump, causing extensive damage, he said.

In nearby Bajur district, seven more insurgents were killed when jets bombed their positions, said Muhammad Jamil Khan, the No. 2 government official there. Security official Fazl Rabi said three militants were killed in other parts of Bajur when they tried to attack security posts. It was not immediately possible to independently confirm the casualties. Reporters cannot visit the area because of poor security and government restrictions, and no Taliban spokesman was available for comment. Pakistan claims to have killed more than 1,000 militants in Bajur since August.
[>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]; See also:

khaleejtimes.com, October 19 (AFP) "40 militants said killed in Pakistan as US diplomat visits." and
thenews.com.pk, October 19, "Jets bomb Bajaur Agency extremists' hideouts." and
thenews.com.pk, October 19, "4 killed in remote control bomb blast in Dera Bugti."]

10.19.08 Dozens killed in Afghan bus ambush

October 19 - About 30 Afghans have been killed by the Taliban after it stopped a bus travelling from Kandahar to Helmand province, according to officials and the Taliban. General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the defence ministry spokesman, said on Sunday that 31 civilians were killed in the attack in the Maiwand district, a Taliban-controlled area just west of Kandahar city. But a Taliban spokesman said that 27 Afghan army personnel had been killed. Qari Yusuf Ahmadi said that Taliban fighters had checked the documents of the passengers and released all the civilians before killing the soldiers. Azimi denied the Taliban claims saying: "Our soldiers travel by military convoy, not in civilian buses. And we have military air transportation." [More>>aljazeera.net; See also thenews.com.pk, October 19, "Taliban hijack Afghan bus, dozens feared dead."

10.18.08 Wall Street banks in $70bn staff payout

October 18 - Pay and bonus deals equivalent to 10% of US government bail-out package. Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year — despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.

Pay plans for bankers have been disclosed in recent corporate statements. Pressure on the US firms to review preparations for annual bonuses increased yesterday when Germany's Deutsche Bank said many of its leading traders would join Josef Ackermann, its chief executive, in waiving millions of euros in annual payouts. [More>>guardian.co.uk; See related story, Maravot News 10.17.08, (nytimes.com), "Banks are likely to hold tight to bailout money (and not use it for loans)"]

10.18.08 Bankers' £16bn bonus bonanza

LONDON, October 18 - City bankers have not lost a penny of their multimillion-pound bonus packages so far, despite the credit crunch which has caused the worst financial crisis in 80 years, new figures show. Official statistics reveal that, in the financial year to April, City workers took home £16bn, almost exactly the same as in 2007. The period covers the Northern Rock nationalization and the UK employees hit by the Bear Stearns implosion. During the period, banks across the world were forced to make huge writedowns on investments linked to US subprime mortgages.

Bonus payments in the UK financial sector have more than trebled in just over five years, from £5bn in 2003, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is shared among just over one million employees in the sector, but that is heavily skewed towards the high-powered executives, who are routinely handed seven-figure packages. Last year, Bob Diamond, the president and head of investment banking at Barclays whose base salary was £250,000, was paid £18m after bonuses and options were taken into account.

The remuneration figures were released only days after Gordon Brown vowed to wage war on the "irresponsible" bonus culture that had helped cause the financial crisis gripping Britain. Financial sector payments made up about two-thirds of the bonuses across the entire British economy. Total bonus payments last year hit £28bn, which has doubled over the past eight years. Last night politicians and union officials said it was deeply concerning that such large bonuses were still being paid even when the financial markets were clearly deteriorating. [More>>independent.co.uk]

10.18.08 Suicide attack wounded 5 NATO soldiers in Afghanistan

HERAT, Afghanistan, October 18 - A suicide car bomber struck international troops near the western Afghan city of Herat on Saturday, wounding five soldiers, officials said. Bomb attacks are relatively rare in or near Herat, one of the most peaceful and prosperous cities in Afghanistan and the main hub for booming trade with nearby Iran. The bomber struck as a convoy of foreign troops was driving from the airport on the outskirts of Herat, regional police chief Rahmataullah Safai said. A spokesman for NATO-led force in western Afghanistan said five soldiers were wounded, and one of their military vehicle was damaged in the attack. Most ISAF troops in Herat are Italian. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.18.08 'Fighters killed' in Pakistan raid

October 18 - Fighter jets have killed about 60 Muslim fighters in a strike in the northwestern Swat valley, the Pakistan military says. The Reuters news agency said the attack took place on Friday. The military's claims could not be independently verified. "Jet fighters pounded positions of the militants and killed 60 of them. Two of their training camps were also destroyed," Major Nasir Ali, a military spokesman, said. Security forces have been fighting loyalists of a pro-Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah, who has led a violent campaign to impose Taliban-style laws in Swat, a mountain valley once popular with tourists, for more than a year. Government forces also launched an offensive against the fighters in the nearby Bajaur tribal region on the Afghan border in August. [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.18.08 Muqtada Al-Sadr urges rejection of US-Iraqi pact

BAGHDAD (AP) October 18 - Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Saturday called on Iraq's parliament to reject a U.S.-Iraqi security pact as tens of thousands of his followers rallied in Baghdad against the deal. The mass public show of opposition came as US and Iraqi leaders face a Dec. 31 deadline to reach agreement on the deal, which would replace an expiring UN mandate authorizing the US-led forces in Iraq.

Al-Sadr's message was read by his aide Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Mohammadawi before a huge crowd of mostly young men waving Iraqi and green Shiite flags and chanting slogans including "no, no to the agreement" and "yes to Iraq." "The Iraqi government has abandoned its duty before God and its people and referred the agreement to you knowing that ratifying it will stigmatize Iraq and its government for years to come," he said, in the address also intended to reach lawmakers. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

10.18.08 'Al-Qaeda web forums abruptly taken offline

DUBAI, October 17 - Four of the five main online forums that al-Qaeda's media wing uses to distribute statements by Osama bin Laden and other extremists have been disabled since mid-September, monitors of the Web sites say. The disappearance of the forums on Sept. 10 -- and al-Qaeda's apparent inability to restore them or create alternate online venues, as it has before -- has curbed the organization's dissemination of the words and images of its fugitive leaders. On Sept. 29, a statement by the al-Fajr Media Center, a distribution network created by supporters of al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups, said the forums had disappeared "for technical reasons," and it urged followers not to trust look-alike sites.

For al-Qaeda, "these sites are the equivalent of pentagon.mil, whitehouse.gov, att.com," said Evan F. Kohlmann, an expert on online al-Qaeda operations who has advised the FBI and others. With just one authorized al-Qaeda site still in business, "this has left al-Qaeda's propaganda strategy hanging by a very narrow thread." At the same time, in an apparently unrelated flare-up of online sectarian hostility, Shiite and Sunni hackers have targeted Web sites associated with the other sect, including that of a Saudi-owned television network and of Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric.

..."There had been this aura of invincibility" about al-Qaeda's media operations, said Gregory D. Johnsen, a U.S.-based expert on violent Sunni groups in Yemen. "Now this has really been taken away from them." In early September, the al-Fajr forums were drumming up anticipation of al-Qaeda's annual video marking the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "Await Sept. 11!" one message declared. Instead, on Sept. 10, the forums vanished...Al-Qaeda's Sept. 11 video eventually appeared on al-Hesbah, which means "one who holds others accountable," on Sept. 19. By then, the shine had been taken off the anniversary for al-Qaeda supporters.
[Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

10.18.08 Documents show how Iran trained Iraqi militia

WASHINGTON, October 18 - They wake before dawn, with time to exercise, eat and pray before the day's first class in firing Kalashnikov rifles. Over the next eight hours, they practice using bazookas or laying roadside bombs, with a break for lunch and mandatory religious instruction. There is free time in the evening to watch television or play Ping-Pong. Lights out at 11pm. Such is a typical day at a dusty military base outside Tehran, where for the past several years members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives have trained Iraqi Shiites to launch attacks against American forces in Iraq, according to accounts given to American interrogators by captured Iraqi fighters.

American officials have long cited Iranian training and weapons as reasons for the lethality of attacks by Shiite fighters in Iraq. Iranian officials deny that such training takes place.

Now, more than 80 pages of newly declassified intelligence documents for the first time describe in detail an elaborate network used by Iraqis to gain entry into Iran and train under Iranian supervision. They offer the most comprehensive account to date to support American claims about Iranian efforts to build a proxy force in Iraq. Those claims have become highly politicized, with Bush administration critics charging that accounts of Iranian involvement have been exaggerated.

The prisoners’ accounts cannot be independently verified. Yet the detainees gave strikingly similar details about training compounds in Iran, a clandestine network of safe houses in Iran and Iraq they used to reach the camps and intra-Shiite tensions at the camps between the Arab Iraqis and their Persian Iranian trainers. [More>>nytimes.com]

10.18.08 Troops killed in Ingushetia ambush

October 18 - At least two soldiers are dead after coming under fire in the southern Russian province of Ingushetia, Russian news agencies have reported. "A column of military personnel stationed in Ingushetia came under assault rifle and grenade fire," a local interior ministry spokesman told RIA Novosti news agency on Saturday. "As a result, two soldiers were killed and two were hospitalized."

A spokesman for the Ingushetian interior ministry said that a convoy came under fire near the village of Muzhichi, about 25km east of the main town of Nazran, but was unable to confirm casualties. However, a local opposition website reported that "around 50 soldiers" had died in a series of attacks by rebel fighters across Ingushetia, a small territory which shares a border which Chechnya. "A source from the Sunzhensky region interior ministry said around 50 soldiers were killed," the Ingushetia.org website reported. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also thenews.com.pk, October 18, "50 soldiers killed in southern Russia attacks": ...There was also a third attack on a military column that had come as a reinforcement to the road between Surkhakhi and Alkhasty, Ingushetia.org said. The website is highly critical of local authorities in Ingushetia. Its owner, Magomed Yevloyev, a local opposition leader, was shot dead after being taken into police custody in August.


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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