Monday, February 28, 2011

U.S. Military Reportedly Positioning Forces Around Libya, While U.K. Working on Plans for No-Fly Zone


The U.S. military is "repositioning" U.S. forces to be ready should it be called to assist with the situation in Libya, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

Most likely U.S. forces would be asked to provide humanitarian relief, but that decision has not been made yet, Col. Dave Lapan said. 

In addition, no decision has been made on whether or not to set up a no-fly zone, an effort that would require NATO support, he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Monday that Britain would join allies in creating a no-fly zone to protect the Libyan people from Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's military, Reuters reported.

"We do not in any way rule out the use of military assets," Cameron said."We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people. In that context I have asked the Ministry of Defense and the Chief of the Defense Staff to work with our allies on plans for a military no-fly zone."

The European Union slapped its own arms embargo, visa ban and other sanctions Monday on Qaddafi's regime, part of an escalating global effort to halt his bloody crackdown on critics in the North African nation.

In a series of fast-paced developments, France pledged to send two planes with humanitarian aid to Libya's opposition stronghold of Benghazi while Germany mulled a two-month cutoff of oil payments to Qaddafi's regime. The moves came after days of increasing protest against the hundreds, and potentially thousands, of deaths caused by Qaddafi's military resistance against the popular uprising in his country.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the European measures, including a freeze on assets, aimed to reinforce the U.N. Security Council-mandated sanctions against Libya approved over the weekend.
She said the EU also was putting "an embargo on equipment which might be used for internal repression" and urged coordinated action by nations to help people across North Africa and the Middle East.

A more complex set of negotiations, she added, were being held over the possibility of creating a no-fly zone over Libya.

Diplomats gathered in Geneva on Monday -- including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ashton, to coordinate action against Qaddafi's regime. Clinton was pressing European leaders to enact tough sanctions to force Qaddafi to stop his violent attacks and step down after 42 years in power.
In Paris, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said planes were taking off for the eastern city of Benghazi with doctors, nurses, medicines and medical equipment.

"It will be the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories," he said on RTL radio.

France's government is studying "all solutions to make it so that Colonel Qaddafi understands that he should go, that he should leave power," Fillon added.

Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, proposed cutting off all oil and other payments to Libya for 60 days to make sure that Qaddafi's regime does not get more money to hire mercenaries to repress anti-government critics.
Westerwelle called Qaddafi's violent crackdown on protesters "a crime."  "We must do everything so this murder ends," he said after meeting with Clinton.

"We must do everything to ensure that no money is going into the hands of the Libyan dictator's family, that they don't have any opportunity to hire new foreign soldiers to repress their people with," Westerwelle added.

The German action is significant because 85 percent of Libya's oil goes to European customers. Last week, both Britain and Switzerland froze assets belonging to the Libyan leader and his family.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, meanwhile, said he has personally urged Qaddafi to step down and set up a transitional government to prevent further violence. Blair told Monday's edition of The Times newspaper that he made two telephone calls to the embattled dictator last week, but that the message that he should resign was rebuffed. He described the Libyan leader as being in denial about his situation.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd called on the world's powers to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and compared Qaddafi's violent suppression of opposition forces to genocides in Rwanda, the Bosnian town of Srebrenica and Sudan's Darfur region.

"For the sake of humanity, go now," Rudd advised Qaddafi in a speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
He later told The Associated Press his nation supported the creation of a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over Libya aimed to prevent the type of aerial bombing unleashed on the Basque town of Guernica in 1937, killing hundreds in the Spanish Civil War. A no-fly zone would require the approval of the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

"Guernica is known throughout the world for the bombing of the civilian population. We have seen evidence of that in Libya. Let us not simply stand idly by while similar atrocities are committed again," Rudd told the AP.

Fillon said the prospect of a no-fly zone over Libya needed U.N. support, "which is far from being obtained today," and he questioned whether NATO should get involved in a civil war in a North African country. The NATO chief has already rejected intervening in Libya.

Lavrov, the Russian minister, said he and Clinton didn't talk about a possible no-fly zone over Libya in their meeting Monday.

Clinton came to Geneva to make the administration's case for stronger action against Qaddafi.
"We want him to leave and we want him to end his regime and call off the mercenaries and those troops that remain loyal to him," Clinton told reporters a day after President Barack Obama branded Qaddafi an illegitimate ruler who must leave power immediately.

British and German military planes swooped into Libya's desert over the weekend, rescuing hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites. The secret military missions signaled the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya's territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of their citizens.

"Right now, our attention is focused on Libya -- and rightly so," Ashton told the Human Rights Council. "The fact that so many colleagues from across the world have gathered here today tells us something big. That what is going on -- the massive violence against peaceful demonstrators -- shocks our conscience. It should also spring us into action."
Some 1.5 million foreigners were in Libya before the uprising began. Turkey said Monday it had evacuated 18,000 citizens. More than 20,000 Chinese workers and 10,000 EU citizens have also left Libya, and tens of thousands of others have fled into the neighboring countries of Tunisia and Egypt.

The U.N. Security Council has instructed International Criminal Court to look into possible crimes against humanity occurring in Libya, only the second such referral. The first was in 2005 when the U.N. asked the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal to probe mass killings in Darfur.

Walker Bolting Capitol Windows NOW to Keep Workers from Passing Food to Those Inside

by Tula Connell, Feb 28, 2011

Editor's Note:  Austerity measure or a fire hazard?  Third world techniques introduced to a declining superpower. 

This from AFL-CIO Political Communications Director Eddie Vale who’s on the ground in Madison, Wis.
As we speak, Gov. Scott Walker & the Senate R’s are literally having the windows of the capital bolted shut to keep people from passing food into the building to the people inside.
Our attorneys are collecting affidavits from the people who witnessed this, along with people who have been illegally denied access to a public, government, building.
 We will be filing for a TRO [temporary restraining order] to open the Capitol.
It is a sad for democracy when Governor Walker and his R Senate allies are locking the people of Wisconsin out of their own state capitol.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Iraq’s biggest oil refinery shut down after attack

International Business Times

Gunmen have attacked and bombed Iraq's largest oil refinery, Baiji, shutting down the facility and killing at least five employees.

"Armed men entered the refinery and shot dead two of the engineers," said Abdul Qader al-Saab, the facility's deputy chief.

"Then they detonated bombs at one unit, the al-Shamal unit, of the refinery, which represents 25 percent of the refinery's production. In the morning, we came to put out the fire, which erupted as a result of the bombs."

Baiji, located in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad, was badly damaged by a fire. It was one of Iraq’s three most important refineries and at one time was controlled by Sunni insurgents to finance their activities. It produced about 150,000 barrels of oil per day (other sources its capacity is almost double that figure).

Analysts said that while attacks on pipelines are common, targeting a refinery itself is rare.

Ahmed al-Jubouri, the governor of Salaheddin province, told Reuters "it's a big loss for the whole country. All Iraqi cities depend on its production.".
Officials said the damage was severe and would take at least two weeks to repair.

The attack followed days of protests across Iraq against the corruption of the current regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and its perceived failure to provide jobs and basic services, including fuel.

Another oil refinery, in Samawa in southern Iraq was also shut down by fire, but reports indicate this was not due to a terrorist attack.
“Yet another concern is the attack's impact on the country's oil industry as a whole, which only recently has begun to spring back to life. The government has been trying to lure foreign investors to build four new refineries, without much success" said Ruba Husari, editor of Iraq Oil Forum, according to the Washington Post. "It has been difficult to get international companies to come to construct these. Now you have another element of risk."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Honolulu Rally in Support of Wisconsin Teachers

President Obama Signs Extension of PATRIOT Act: The Same Act He Railed Against During His Campaign

“Lawmakers will soon start debating” … yeah right, it seems like the PATRIOT Act is a permanent reality. I’d like to know more about the scope of this “lone wolf” provision. Via the Washington Post:
President Barack Obama has signed a three-month extension of key surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act.
The law extends two areas of the 2001 act. One provision allows law enforcement officials to set roving wiretaps to monitor multiple communication devices. The other allows them to ask a special court for access to business and library records that could be relevant to a terrorist threat.
A third provision gives the FBI court-approved rights for surveillance of non-American “lone wolf” suspects — those not known to be tied to specific terrorist groups.
Obama signed the three-month extension of the provisions Friday. They were to expire Monday.
Lawmakers will soon start debating a multiple-year extension of the provisions, which have drawn fire from defenders of privacy rights.

Israeli Forces Fire on Hundreds in the West Bank

Ma'an News Agency

Protesters said at least
10 people were detained
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces fired rubber-coated bullets at protesters in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday afternoon, where clashes left at least nine people injured, Palestinian medics and the Israeli army said.

Four international activists and two Palestinians were detained, organizers said. The military said that only one person was arrested.

The Palestinians injured by rubber-coated bullets were transferred to the Hebron and Al-Ahli hospitals, Red Crescent officials said. The Israeli army also said five border police officers were injured.

The demonstration, which called for the reopening of one of the city's main streets, came on the anniversary of the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians in Hebron by a Jewish extremist.

Protesters, who waved Palestinian flags chanting "Down with the occupation!" and "Hebron is Palestinian," said they were trying to reopen central Shuhada (Martyrs) Street, once home to the city's main market.

Israel largely closed off the street, citing security, after the 1994 massacre in the Ibrahimi Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinians and international activists participated in the protest.

Among those who inhaled tear gas were Hebron governor Kamel Hamid and practically every journalist who covered the event. Palestine TV reporter Sari Al-Ewaiwi was injured in his left hand by stun grenade.

The protesters also backed Egypt, Tunis, and Libya, and condemned US policy toward settlements.

Israeli forces tried to suppress the protest by forming a human wall. Some of the protesters entered the street and refused to leave, but soldiers kicked them, a spokesman for the group Youth Against Settlement said. Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouthi was barred from the area.

Some of the estimated 1,000 protesters, who included Israelis and foreign activists, threw stones at troops, who responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

"There was a violent and illegal riot in Hebron," the Israeli military said, putting the size of the crowd at around 300. An AFP photographer and correspondent said 1,000 people attended the rally.

The Israeli military said the crowd "confronted security forces in an effort to enter the Jewish community and the forces used riot dispersal means and the riot was dispersed."

Hebron, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, is also home to around 600 right-wing religious Jewish settlers, most of whom live in the area around Shuhada Street.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court backed an appeal by Palestinian traders, ordering that the settlers be evicted and the market reopened, but the orders were never implemented.

Under a 1997 accord with the Palestinian Authority, Israeli troops evacuated 80 percent of the city but continue to protect the settlers living around the site, which they also consider holy.

Egypt: Revolution's Not Over, Army Attacks Protestors

Global Voices

One month after a revolution began to demand political reform, Cairo's Tahrir Square was again the scene for bloody violence as the Egyptian army moved to quash continued protests for civilian rule.

Two weeks since the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak, Egypt remains grappled in a tug of war between protester demands for immediate democratic reform and a potent military refusing to cede power.

The use of force by the Army on thousands of peaceful protesters yesterday is a stark contrast from several weeks ago, when the Army appeared to be sympathetic towards public calls for Mubarak's resignation.

Citizen journalists from Cairo reported on Twitter that the army beat protesters with clubs and electric prods, and had sexually abused women.

Yesterday's violent confrontation suggests that patience on all sides is wearing thin, as protestors become increasingly frustrated at the military's reluctance to implement promised democratic reform.

It is also clear that, although Mubarak is no longer ruler, the army-backed political system that empowered his dictatorship for 30 years remains largely intact.

Egypt's revolution has entered a new phase as reform efforts are now aimed at reducing the military's role in political affairs. Protestors may be in for a long fight as the violent suppression of protests yesterday reveal an Army determined to hold onto its influence in the volatile country.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Caucus to Combat Terrorism, Domestic Violence, Divorce & Job Dissatisfaction via ‘Happiness Pill’

Boiling Frog
Sibel Edmonds

(Satire) According to our inside sources a new Bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Prozac will be launched before the end of the 112th Congress. The primary purpose of the Prozac Caucus will be to raise awareness and advocate for this ‘miracle drug’ aka ‘happiness pill,’ on the grounds of combating homegrown terrorism and domestic violence, lowering the national divorce rate, and increasing the level of general job satisfaction among the restless American workforce. “Increasing the level of general satisfaction and happiness, while decreasing the effects of violence and despair inducing factors such as anxiety and depression, are the major keys to achieving long term national security, family unity, and work force stability. With Prozac we believe we can achieve all that and more,” said a congressional aide who wished to remain anonymous. The caucus will have an interactive website with easy-to-print promotional materials and a password protected section for physicians titled ‘Patriotic Physicians for a Secure America.’

Let’s start with what is a congressional caucus, or at least what it is supposed to be, in theory that is. A congressional caucus is a coalition of House and Senate members who meet to discuss specific legislative priorities and policy issues. Caucuses ‘supposedly’ allow members to discuss issues to determine their positions and make sure their votes are informed. They can also give ‘advocates’ a chance for a group of legislators to champion their cause on the Hill. You may go ahead and change ‘advocates’ to ‘lobby and you’ll be even more on target.

When we look at the long list of these caucuses, a list that initially had only a few but seems to lately  have taken off rapidly, we see some caucuses that seem rather ‘ordinary and expected;’ for example,  Children’s Environmental Health Caucus or Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus. We also see some ‘amusing’ ones, such as Congressional Bike Caucus, Congressional Soccer Caucus, and Congressional Boating Caucus.

You follow me so far? Okay, then there are more than a few caucuses that are ‘confusing:’ Democratic Israel Working Group, Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, Congressional Friends of Jordan Caucus, and other ones for Turkey, Jordan, etc.  Why do I say ‘confusing’? Well, in the above paragraph we outlined the caucus definition, which includes ‘giving advocates, aka lobbies, a chance to influence, aka lobby, their cause through the members of their caucus. In this case, the advocates, aka lobbies, are foreign, and this means ‘direct foreign influence,’ and that in turn would make the representatives in these caucuses who then influence and lobby the rest of the Congress ‘foreign agents.’ Think of it as two-tiered foreign lobbies: First, the registered foreign lobby influencing the target caucus, then, the caucus acting as a lobby for that foreign lobby to influence and lobby the rest of the Congress.

Finally, there are some ‘just plain eyebrow-raising’ caucuses that have been popping up and gaining momentum recently. Probably you haven’t heard of them. Please don’t kick yourself for not knowing. Save that kick, or cancellation of subscription, for the news media you’ve been following. Okay, back to ‘eyebrow-raising’ caucuses. Here is one example:  The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Caucus, which has recently changed its name to the Unmanned Systems Caucus. Thanks to Corey Pein’s WarisBusiness site I was made aware of this scandalous caucus:

The motivation for members to join the UAV Caucus (not to be confused with the A/V Club) may be national security or job creation, but the caucus is also where members of Congress directly show their allegiance to an industry that donated generously to their war chests.

How much? In the 2010 election cycle alone, UAV-related political-action committees donate more than $1.7 million to the Caucus’ 42 members.

In February 2009, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), at the time the ranking Republican on House Armed Services, co-founded the UAV Caucus. He began to hold meetings on the future of the military systems and by the end of the year he had launched a website–on House servers–for the caucus, which was ostensibly designed to provide news on UAVs and connect members of Congress with the industry.

caucus has served as the Congressional booster for the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The UAVSI “Advocacy” page gives am overview of all the ways its members can maximize that relationship;In addition to whatever legislation and appropriations, caucus support has manifested in the opportunity to give committee testimony, visits from Congressmen, keynote speeches, meetings with legislators on “AUVSI DAY,” roundtables, facility tours, but perhaps most notably, a tech fair sponsored by McKeon’s office at the Rayburn House…

We filtered the 200 AUVSI corporate members to only the “Diamond” and “Platinum” members, then further narrowed the list to only those with corporate PACs. A stark picture emerged: Altogether, these PACs accounted for $1,788,800 in contributions in the 2010 to the members of the caucus. This figure doesn’t include members who weren’t reelected, such as AUV Caucus co-founder Rep. Allan Mollahan (D-WV), who was defeated in last year’s Democratic primary. Two of the newest members of the caucus—Rick Berg (R-ND) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)—received nothing from these PACs, probably because their incumbent opponents were the defense industry’s favorites.

You can read the rest of Pein’s revelatory piece here, but I think you all get the point on ‘eyebrow-raising’ caucuses. I guess it wasn’t a really long leap from the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Caucus to the Bipartisan Caucus for Prozac!
The expected chairman of the upcoming caucus who would neither deny nor confirm the formation of the Caucus for Prozac had the following to say (of course on the condition of anonymity):
“Listen, I’ve always taken pride in being a constitutionalist, and the formation of this caucus is further proof…Somewhere in the Constitution it says people should pursue happiness and their government should help them go get it. See? This is exactly what this caucus is about: help and encourage people to get happiness!”
The congressman may have been a bit under the ‘happiness pill’ influence. He must have meant the Declaration of Independence; not the ‘Constitution,’ and, the passage he must have been thinking of was probably this:  ‘All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…’Oh well, at least they are taking the pill they are anxious to sell others.
The expected co-chairman from the opposite party also commented off the record:
“As a nation we are losing our edge, our competitiveness, in so many areas; manufacturing, R & D, services…even in the Global Happiness Index!! We are America. We must be number one. It is time to declare war on unhappiness! With this caucus we are doing just that: declaring war on unhappiness, and getting competitive on the happiness front. If unhappiness is the enemy, this pill is the weapon to kill it…to quash the damn thing. With this caucus we’ll get Americans to swallow this pill… swallow it big time, and in no time they will rank number one again…at least in the happiness department…”
The expected cochairman was talking about the annual World Happiness Index report on countries. Judging from his hawkish tone and aggressive language, he was either not taking the pill, or, exhibiting one of the known adverse reactions to it. The follow up call to check on this was not returned.
With the new trend taking hold in the formation of congressional caucuses, some refer to them as neo-caucuses, other members are frantically working to stake out new territories and mark their turf. There are many empty caucus spots to grab: The Caucus for McDonalds, The Caucus for the F-35, The Caucus for JP Morgan, The Caucus for Pepsi Cola …So many caucuses to form, so little time!

Portland Says No to the Joint Terrorism Task Force

Will Obama Find Those Shoes?

Michael Monk

In the “flashback quote of the day” at Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, he highlights words from candidate Barack Obama, made in a 2007 speech (and referenced in Slate). That quote is as follows (spoken word differs slightly from the prepared text quoted by others, what follows is transcribed from the video):
And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.
Well, will we see it? Or will it end up like the closing of Guantanamo Bay, a public option, or restoring constitutional checks and balances? He has given credence lately to false framing from the right with his freezing of pay of government workers, extention of the Bush tax cuts, a “deficit commission,” more budget cutting, and lip service to looking into deregulation when deregulation led us to financial collapse. Will he find those shoes?

U.S. Government Caught Spying On Journalist Who Revealed CIA Secrets



James Risen
Federal investigators trying to find out who leaked information about a CIA attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program obtained a New York Times reporter’s three private credit reports, examined his personal bank records and obtained information about his phone calls and travel, according to a new court filing.

The scope and intrusiveness of the government’s efforts to uncover reporter James Risen’s sources surfaced Thursday in the criminal case of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer facing federal criminal charges for allegedly disclosing classified information. Sterling is accused of giving Risen details about what Risen describes as the CIA’s plan to give Iran faulty nuclear blueprints, hoping to temporarily thwart the regime’s ambitions to build an atomic bomb.

In a motion filed in federal court in Alexandria, Sterling’s defense lawyers, Ed MacMahon Jr. and Barry Pollack, reveal that the prosecution has turned over “various telephone records showing calls made by the author James Risen. It has provided three credit reports—Equifax, TransUnion and Experian—for Mr. Risen. It has produced Mr. Risen’s credit card and bank records and certain records of his airline travel.”

The revelation alarmed First Amendment advocates, particularly in light of Justice Department rules requiring the attorney general to sign off on subpoenas directed to members of the media and on requests for their phone records. And Risen told POLITICO that the disclosures, while not shocking, made him feel “like a target of spying.”

“We’ve argued that I was a victim of harassment by the government. This seems to bolster that,” Risen said. “Maybe I should ask them what my credit score is.”

Sterling’s attorneys and a Justice Department spokeswoman declined POLITICO’s request for comment.

Data retrieved from Davis’ phones, GPS device

The Express Tribune

LAHORE: The Counter Terrorism Wing (CTW) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has submitted a report to the Punjab police on the data recovered from Raymond Davis’ cell phones and other devices seized from his possession, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Davis’ belongings, that included two cell phones, sim cards, a wireless set and a GPS device, were sent by the Punjab police to the interior ministry for detailed forensic analysis.

The GPS device revealed that Davis has been to Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and some tribal areas of the country. Investigators believe that the report will be helpful in the probe, particularly regarding anti-Pakistan activities and spying charges.

CTW also succeeded in retrieving deleted text messages, incoming/outgoing calls, contacts, audio/video recordings, photos, schedules and emails from Davis’ cell phones while the agency has also retrieved data regarding frequencies fed in the wireless set recovered from Davis’ possession. During forensic analysis, experts detected that apart from frequencies allotted by the US, frequencies of the police and some other agencies were also fed in the wireless set recovered from Davis, sources said.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore Muhammad Aslam Tareen told The Express Tribune that he has not received the report yet.

“I am not able to comment before seeing the report,” he added.
The 300-page report also carries the ‘expert opinion’ of deputy director forensic CTW while the methods of retrieving the data have also been detailed. Sources said that the tools and technologies used to extract the evidences are admissible in a court of law.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

CIA mulls targeting Pak envoys abroad as reprisal against Davis' continued detention

SiFy News

The Central Intelligence Agency is contemplating trapping or targeting Pakistan nationals serving as diplomats abroad in retaliation against double-murder accused US diplomat Raymond Davis' continued detention in a Lahore prison.

The Davis detention issue seems to be taking its toll on US-Pak relations, which were already strained over stepped-up drone strikes in Pakistan's militant-infested tribal region and disagreements over the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

To avoid a popular backlash in a country where anti-Americanism is rife, Pakistani officials have said that the matter is sub judice and up to the court, even though the US insists the Davis' detention is illegal under international agreements, and that he must be released on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic sources have noticed vibes clearly indicating the level of frustration and annoyance, especially by the CIA, upon Islamabad's constant denial to release Davis on blanket immunity, The Nation quoted these sources, as saying.

As per the sources, the situation is proving to be the loss of not just the cover of an agent but also that of a key asset of the CIA.

"It is unlikely that they (American intelligence apparatus) would let it go without returning it to the Pakistani counterparts one way or the other," they added.

The sources pointed out that "easy prey of this revenge design of the Americans could be Pakistani intelligence staff serving abroad chiefly in US, Europe, and Afghanistan."

They also revealed that the White House as well as the US State Department has already cancelled all official invitations to Pakistan envoy Hussain Haqqani.

All US Administration outfits in the capital are also under instructions to seek clearance from the White House before interacting with Haqqani even for official urgencies, the sources added. (ANI

Koch Brothers “Prank” No Laughing Matter

Center for Media and Democracy

Embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker came under fire today after news broke about statements he made in a 20-minute phone call from a Buffalo-area alternative news reporter, Ian Murphy of the Daily Beast, posing as David Koch, a billionaire whose corporate PAC directly supported Walker and who has given millions to groups that have run ads to aid Walker's rise to the state's highest office. (Listen to the call here.)
As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, the Koch PAC not only spent $43,000 directly on Walker's race, but Koch personally donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association which spent $5 million in the state. Besides the Governor, the Koch brothers have other “vested interests" in the state.
They include Koch Pipeline Company, which operates a pipeline system that crosses Wisconsin. It also owns Flint Hill Resources, which distributes refined fuel through pipelines and terminals in Junction City, Waupun, Madison and Milwaukee. Koch Industries also owns the C. Reiss Coal Company, a power plant company located in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan.
The Koch company opened a lobby shop in Wisconsin two days after Walker was elected.  Many protesters have suspected that the “budget repair bill” provisions allowing the no-bid sell-off of any state-owned heating, cooling, or power plant, plus new rules on pipeline transport may be of interest to Koch. The company has denied any interest in these assets. 

Pink Slips as Poker Chips Raises Legal Concerns

At the start of the call, Walker eagerly reports on all he is doing: 

 First, he tells the fake Koch brother about a plan to change Senate rules on pay to reel-in the out-of state Democratic senators who are holding out to protect collective bargaining. The new rule would force the Senators to pick up their paychecks in person. This rule was passed in a partisan vote in the Senate yesterday -- a move that went unnoticed by the mainstream press. 

The fake Koch asks Walker how they might get others in Senate to vote to stop collective bargaining. Walker responds that he's involved the Justice Department in investigating whether the union is paying the absent Democratic senators to remain out of state, or providing them with food, shelter, etc., saying it would be an ethics violation or potentially a felony. Wisconsin legislators are well aware of these rules and have already stated they are using their own money while they are out of state.

But the Governor also explains how he is going to lay off thousands of Wisconsin workers as a tactic to get the Democrats to cooperate: "So, we’re trying about four or five different angles. Each day we crank up a little bit more pressure. The other thing is I’ve got layoff notices ready, we put out the at-risk notices, we’ll announce Thursday, they’ll go out early next week and we’ll probably get five to six thousand state workers will get at-risk notices for layoffs. We might
 ratchet that up a little bit too."
The move has been called “despicable” and “ruthless “ and “sickening.” But most importantly, if Walker is choosing to lay off workers as a political tactic when he wasn’t otherwise planning to do so, then it is not just morally repugnant, but legally questionable. State and federal contract and labor law has protections against this type of abusive behavior and inappropriate quid pro quo.

This morning the Capital Times quotes the state’s former Attorney General: “There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election-law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor-law violations,” said Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat who served as Wisconsin’s Attorney General after serving for many years as a U.S. Attorney. The head of the state teacher's association, Mary Bell, reminds us: “He literally planned to use five to six thousand hardworking Wisconsin taxpayers as political pawns in his political game. He actually thought through a strategy to lay people off -- deny them the ability to feed their families -- and use it as leverage for his political goals."

Kids and Hired Thugs

Walker also says he considered then rejected the idea of hiring trouble makers to disrupt the rallies, which have been packed with elementary school children and highs schoolers. When fake Koch says “We’ll back you any way we can. But what we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.” Walker says: “we thought about that," but he rejected the idea in case it back-fired, but not in the way one might think.  He didn’t want to  “scare the public into thinking maybe the governor as to settle to avoid all these problems.”

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said Thursday “very unsettling and troubling.” “I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members. I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers,” the chief said.

Wisconsin Ethics Rules

 Wisconsin has the toughest ethics law in the nation. Public officials are prohibited from soliciting or receiving anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence or reward official actions. The rules against “pay-to-play politics” say a public official is prohibited from taking official action in exchange for political contributions, or anything else of value for the benefit of a candidate, political party, or any person making certain candidate-related communications. You can’t even take a cup of coffee from a lobbyist.

Earlier in the call, Walker had asked the fake Koch for help “spreading the word,” especially in the "swing" districts, in defense of his determination to break the unions, and help get calls in to shore up his Republican allies in the legislature. Walker benefited from a high-dollar "issue ad" campaign by groups funded by Koch group before the election. Americans for Prosperity, which Koch chairs, also promoted and funded a couple thousand counter-protestors last Saturday.

On the same day that the scandal broke here in Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity went up with a $342,000 TV ad campaign in support of Walker –- an enormous sum in a state like Wisconsin. If such ads are effectively coordinated with the Governor's office, they may be subject to rules requiring greater disclosure of expenditures and contributors.

Toward the end of the call, the fake Koch offers to fly Walker out to California, after they "crush the bastards," and show him "a good time," to which Walker responds enthusiastically, "All right, that would be outstanding." But,Wisconsin rules bar state officials from taking action for something of value. After Walker agrees to the junket, the fake Koch adds, "And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well" to which Walker responds, "Well that's just it."


So while Walker did not apparently not recognize Koch's voice, he certainly recognized his name, eagerly recounting his efforts to crush collective bargaining in Wisconsin to an out-of-state billionaire backer and thanking him for all Koch had done for him. The entire conversation raises ethical concerns that warrant much closer examination, especially with Wisconsin's tough pay-to-play rules. A week ago the Center for Media and Democracy filed an open records request for the Governor's phone records, email records, and other communications. Perhaps these records will help us understand all the influences behind the Governor's recent radical actions.

Wisconsin is not Illinois; it has a reputation for being a squeaky clean state where lesser scandals than this have brought down political officials. Governor Walker likes to complain of “outside agitators.” It's hard to imagine an outside agitator with more influence and money than the Koch-family.

Fresh violence rages in Libya

Al Jazeera

Protesters say security forces using warplanes and live fire 'massacred' them, as UN warns of possible 'war crimes'.

Libyan forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are waging a bloody operation to keep him in power, with residents reporting gunfire in parts of the capital Tripoli and other cities, while other citizens, including the country's former ambassador to India, are saying that warplanes were used to "bomb" protesters.
Nearly 300 people are reported to have been killed in continuing violence in the capital and across the North African country as demonstrations enter their second week.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has warned that the widespread attacks against civilians "amount to crimes against humanity", and called for an international investigation in possible human rights violations.

Witnesses in Tripoli told Al Jazeera that fighter jets had bombed portions of the city in fresh attacks on Monday night. The bombing focused on ammunition depots and control centres around the capital.
Helicopter gunships were also used, they said, to fire on the streets in order to scare demonstrators away.

Several witnesses said that "mercenaries" were firing on civilians in the city, while pro-Gaddafi forces warned people not to leave their homes via loudspeakers mounted on cars.

Residents of the Tajura neighbourhood, east of Tripoli, said that dead bodies are still lying on the streets from earlier violence. At least 61 people were killed in the capital on Monday, witnesses told Al Jazeeera.

'Indiscriminate bombing'

Protests in the oil-rich African country, which Gaddafi has ruled for 41 years, began on February 14, but picked up momentum after a brutal government crackdown following a "Day of Rage" on February 17. Demonstrators say they have now taken control of several important towns, including the city of Benghazi, which saw days of bloody clashes between protesters and government forces.

There has been a heavy government crackdown on protests, however, and demonstrators at a huge anti-government march in the capital on Monday afternoon said they came under attack from fighter jets and security forces using live ammunition.

"What we are witnessing today is unimaginable. Warplanes and helicopters are indiscriminately bombing one area after another. There are many, many dead," Adel Mohamed Saleh said in a live broadcast.

"Anyone who moves, even if they are in their car, they will hit you."

Ali al-Essawi, who resigned as Libyan ambassador to India, also told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that fighter jets had been used by the government to bomb civilians.

He said live fire was being used against protesters, and that foreigners had been hired to fight on behalf of the government. The former ambassador called the violence "a massacre", and called on the UN to block Libyan airspace in order to "protect the people".


The country's state broadcaster quoted Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, and widely seen as his political heir, as saying that armed forces had "bombarded arms depots situated far from populated areas". He denied that air strikes had taken place in Tripoli and Benghazi.
The government says that it is battling "dens of terrorists".

Earlier, Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said Gaddafi had started a "genocide against the Libyan people".

During Monday's protests, gunfire was heard across the capital, with protesters seen attacking police stations and government buildings, including the offices of the state broadcaster.

Witnesses told the AFP news agency that there had been a "massacre" in Tajura district, with gunmen seen firing "indiscriminately".

In Fashlum district, helicopters were seen landing with what witnesses described as "mercenaries" disembarking and attacking those on the street.

Mohammed Abdul-Malek, a London-based opposition activist who has been in touch with residents, said that snipers have taken positions on roofs in an apparent bid to stop people joining the protests.
Several witnesses who spoke to the Associated Press news agency said that pro-Gaddafi gunmen were firing from moving cars at both people and buildings.

State television on Tuesday dismissed allegations that security forces were killing protesters as "lies and rumours".

Benghazi situation dire

Benghazi, Libya's second city, which had been the focal point of violence in recent days, has now been taken over by anti-government protesters, after military units deserted their posts and joined the demonstrators.

Doctors there, however, say that they are running short of medical supplies.
Dr Ahmed, at the city's main hospital, told Al Jazeera that they were running short of medical supplies, medication and blood.

He said that the violence in Benghazi had left "bodies that are divided in three, four parts. Only legs, and only hands,".

While no casualties had been reported in the city on Tuesday, he estimated the number of people killed in Benghazi alone over the last five days to be near 300.

He also said that when military forces who had defected from Gaddafi's government entered an army base, they found evidence of soldiers having been executed, reportedly for refusing to fire on civilians.
The runway at the city's airport has been destroyed, according to the Egyptian foreign minister, and planes can therefore not land there.

Possible 'crimes against humanity'

According to the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR), protesters are also in control of Sirte, Tobruk in the east, as well as Misrata, Khoms, Tarhounah, Zenten, Al-Zawiya and Zouara.

On Sunday, the US-based rights group Human Rights Watch said that at least 233 people were killed in the violence. Added to that are at least 61 people who died on Monday, which brings the toll since violence began on February 17 to at least 294.

Pillay, the UN's human rights chief, called on Tuesday for an international investigation into the violence in the country, saying that it was possible that "crimes against humanity" had been perpetrated by the Libyan government.

In a statement, Pillay called for an immediate halt to human rights violations, and denounced the use of machine guns, snipers and military warplanes against civilians.


Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell, a major oil company, said on Tuesday that all of its expatriate employees and their dependents living in Libya have now been relocated.

Emirates airlines and British Airways suspended all flights to Tripoli on Tuesday, citing the violence in the country, even as Italy, France, Turkey, Greece and several other countries were preparing to send aircraft to evacuate their nationals from the country.

Two Turkish ships that were sent to evacuate citizens were not allowed to dock at Tripoli, and one of them then sailed to Benghazi in an attempt to dock there, Anita McNaught, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Istanbul, reported.

Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's became the second agency in as many days to downgrade Libya on Tuesday, as it cut the country's rating from A- to BBB+.

Main Street Movement Erupts as Thousands Across Country Protest War on the Middle Class

Think Progress
Last week, 14 Wisconsin Senate Democrats inspired the nation when they decided to flee the state rather than allow quorum for a vote on a bill that would have decimated the state’s public employee unions and dealt a crippling blow to the state’s hard-working teachers, sanitation employees, and other middle class union members. Since then, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites have taken to the streets in even greater number than before the walkout in support of the fleeing legislators and in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) anti-middle class agenda.

Inspired by the events in Wisconsin, thousands of Americans all over the country are taking action to battle legislation that would attack their labor rights, defund their schools, threaten their health and safety, and decimate the American middle class. Here are just some of the places across the nation that are taking part in this new “Main Street Movement” to defend and rebuild the American middle class:
- GEORGIA: Hundreds of workers demonstrated outside the Georgia capitol yesterday, declaring their solidarity with striking Wisconsin workers. Some demonstrators wore “cheesehead” hats, a clear reference to a cultural tradition in Wisconsin.

– IDAHO: Hundreds of teachers marched against legislation that would layoff 770 teachers and leave schools severely understaffed.

– INDIANA: In Indiana, House Democrats fled the state, preventing a vote on legislation that would enact “right-to-work” laws that would’ve crippled the right to organize. After the House Democrats took off, hundreds of workers and students marched into the capitol building and staged a massive sit-in, pledging not to leave until the radical legislation was withdrawn. Yesterday, Indiana’s Main Street Movement scored its first victory as Republican lawmakers withdrew the anti-union bill. Indiana Democrats are refusing to come back until right-wing legislators withdraw legislation to undermine the state’s public education system.

– MONTANA: More than a thousand “conservationists, sportsmen, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers and others” descended on the Montana capitol to protest against “unprecedented GOP attacks on public services and education and laws that protect land, air, water and wildlife.” Students carried signs that read “Keep Us In School,” protesting crippling cuts to the state’s education system.

– OHIO: In Ohio, thousands of ordinary Americans who rely on the right to organize to earn good, middle class incomes are facing off with Wisconsin-style legislation backed by Gov. John Kasich (R). Nearly 10,000 protesters demonstrated in Columbus, Ohio, gaining the support of former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). So many demonstrators showed up that the Ohio Highway Patrol was ordered to lock the doors of the state capitol to stop more demonstrators from getting into the building.

– TENNESSEE: Hundreds of Tennesseans gathered to protest a bill that would completely strip Tennesee teachers of collective bargaining rights. “What you have right now is 300 or so of us, standing and asking the state legislature to focus on what the priorities are right now, instead of attacking working people,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action. “If they listen to us, well then that’s great. … If not, I can see this thing growing.”

– WASHINGTON: 2,000 demonstrators in Olympia, Washington, marched against the state’s proposed budget cuts that would harm students and middle class Washingtonians and in solidarity with workers in Wisconsin. “If Scott Walker succeeds in ending worker rights in Wisconsin, the birthplace of public servants’ liberty, it could happen here,” said Federation of State Employees President Carol Dotlich.
ThinkProgress has put together a video compilation highlighting protests by ordinary Americans all over the nation to defend the middle class from this unprecedented assault. Watch it:

Even larger demonstrations are planned this Saturday, as thousands more Main Street Americans plan to take to the streets to protest the ongoing assault against the middle class. is organizing protests at every single state capitol in the country, aiming to “Save the American Dream.” Meanwhile, US Uncut, an activist group inspired by United Kingdom’s UK Uncut, plans to protest against American tax dodgers, asking why the rich in the country have been able to get off easy on their taxes while low- and middle-income Americans continue to be asked to sacrifice.


Gaddafi Pulls Out the "Bin Laden" Card


The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has given an extraordinary interview by phone with Libyan state television blaming the revolt against his rule on al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden, he said, was the real criminal.

Gaddafi said he himself had only moral authority in Libya and likened himself to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

He offered his condolences to those who had died in the fighting uprising.

And he called on people in Zawiyah 50 kilometres from the capital Tripoli to disarm the protesters, who he said had been taking hallucinogenic drugs.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Two CIA contractors spirited out of Pakistan


(Reuters) - Two U.S. citizens with diplomatic status were quietly withdrawn from Pakistan after being involved in a fatal car accident last month while trying to help Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor being held by Pakistani authorities on murder charges.

Editors Note:  Keep in mind that these agents were also involved with providing Al Qaeda operatives with "nuclear fissile material" and "biological agents".  This is what the U.S. is attempting to cover up.

Two officials familiar with U.S. government activities in Pakistan said the two Americans who left the country worked for the CIA under contract as protective officers. This means they were employed as highly skilled bodyguards, like Davis, for CIA operations officers serving in Pakistan.
The two Americans who left Pakistan have not been otherwise identified by U.S. or Pakistani authorities. The CIA declined to comment.

According to a translated Pakistani police statement obtained by Reuters, the two Americans got into the car crash while trying to go to the aid of Davis, who U.S. sources say claims he shot dead two Pakistanis on a motorcycle when they tried to rob him at gunpoint as he was driving in Lahore.
The police report says the vehicle used by the unidentified Americans, a Landcruiser belonging to the U.S. consulate in Lahore, drove the wrong way down a one-way street.

It struck and killed a motorcyclist named Muhammad Ibad-ur-Rehman, the report said, and "fled from the scene of the incident."

The two U.S. officials confirmed media reports the two men involved in the fatal accident were working and living in the same building in Lahore as Davis. They said all three men were working on similar security assignments for the CIA.

Pakistani officials and news reports have said items recovered from Davis included a telescope, a 9mm pistol and a camera containing pictures of bridges and religious schools known as madrassas.

Current and former U.S. national security officials familiar with the role of CIA "protective officer" contractors say it would be routine for them to do reconnaissance missions to chart safe travel routes and spot security threats.

U.S. officials deny media reports that Davis was involved in some kind of undercover counter-terrorism operations.

They also deny reports from Pakistan suggesting that Davis' assailants had some link to the Inter Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan's principal intelligence agency.

Elements of the ISI have been involved in secretly supporting U.S. counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan, including a long-running campaign to attack suspected militant camps using missiles fired from unmanned drone aircraft.

Destroying Evidence in Egypt: Part of Interior Ministry compound torched in Cairo


Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Smoke billowed into the sky over Egypt's capital Wednesday from a fire at the Interior Ministry compound, a blaze witnesses say was set by protesters upset about labor issues.
Part of a building, surrounding buildings such as the criminal records building, and several cars had been torched. Witnesses said the flames could have been ignited by Molotov cocktails.

Soldiers and police rushed to scene and a couple of men were detained, the witnesses reported.
The compound is three blocks away from Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the sometimes violent clashes that eventually brought down the 30-year regime of President Hosni Mubarak February 11. Skirmishes also took place near where the fire burned Wednesday.

The incident comes as Egyptians continue to work to create the new leadership structure of the country after the revolution.

State-run media reported Wednesday that there have been about 1,300 official complaints lodged against former Egyptian ministers and government officials. Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdi said he ordered that all of the complaints, many of them about government waste and corruption, be investigated, the state-run EgyNews website reported.

The investigation comes after Attorney General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud requested that the assets of Mubarak and his family be frozen, according to EgyNews website. Along with the former president's assets, those belonging to his wife, Suzanne, were also frozen, along with the assets of the former president's eldest son, Alaa, and younger son, Gamal, and both of the sons' wives, according to the report.

As CNN correspondent Ivan Watson was filming the aftermath of the fire outside the Interior Ministry Wednesday, an Egyptian military officer with two stars on his epaulets grabbed Watson and demanded he turn over his camera.

Watson showed the officer his Egyptian government press accreditation.
Saying, "Be quiet, don't talk!" the officer dragged Watson away from bystanders and demanded Watson delete video of the incident. "If you delete the video, I will let you go free," the officer said, identifying himself only as "Mohammed."

Eventually, another officer intervened, and escorted CNN journalists from the scene.
Journalists, especially photographers, routinely have been harassed by Egyptian authorities since protests erupted last month. Cairo-based photographer Roy Mattieu wrote Wednesday on his Twitter account, "I've been arrested three times by the army for my camera & lens, afraid to take them out of the bag now, thought it was improving, not."

Egypt has faced a wave of labor unrest since Mubarak was ousted. Workers at banks, factories, government ministries and at the strategic Suez Canal have gone on strike, demanding better wages and the resignation of executives accused of corruption. Egypt's new military rulers have repeatedly called for an end to the strikes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gaza-Egypt border crossing reopens


GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Palestinians waited on Tuesday to cross into Egypt as the Rafah border crossing reopened for travellers leaving the Gaza Strip for the first time in nearly a month.

The terminal was closed to all traffic after anti-regime protests in Egypt, but reopened to travellers going from Egypt into Gaza on Friday, allowing many stranded Palestinians to return.

On Sunday, officials from the ruling Hamas government said the terminal would open Tuesday for Palestinians entering Egypt, including medical patients and students.

"The terminal is now open to Palestinians who want to leave, at a rate of 300 a day," said Ayoub Abu Shaar, a terminal official said on Tuesday.

"More than 3,000 people have registered with us to travel," added Abu Shaar, who expressed hope that the terminal would stay open 24 hours a day, though it is currently operating only between 11:00 am (0900 GMT) and 4:00 pm (1400 GMT).

The crossing, which is the only access point to the outside world for Gazan Palestinians, closed on January 30, as Egyptian anti-regime protests gained speed.

Mohammed Al Awda was planning to enter Egypt with his 10-year-old daughter, who has kidney problems.

"I'm very happy that I might be able to go to Egypt for treatment for my daughter, we have a medical certificate from the Palestinian Authority and we have all the documents," he said.

"We have been registered to cross for days and we received the authorisation yesterday."
Rami Abu Hassira, a 25-year-old student at Jordan University, found himself trapped in Gaza after entering through Rafah on January 27 for a family visit.

"I was planning to stay a few days before going back to Jordan to continue my studies, but we found ourselves stuck here because the crossing closed," he told AFP.

"CIA spy" Davis was giving nuclear bomb material to Al-Qaeda, says report

London, Feb 20(ANI)

Double murder-accused US official Raymond Davis has been found in possession of top-secret CIA documents, which point to him or the feared American Task Force 373 (TF373) operating in the region, providing Al-Qaeda terrorists with "nuclear fissile material" and "biological agents," according to a report.

Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is warning that the situation on the sub-continent has turned "grave" as it appears that open warfare is about to break out between Pakistan and the United States, The European Union Times reports.

The SVR warned in its report that the apprehension of 36-year-old Davis, who shot dead two Pakistani men in Lahore last month, had fuelled this crisis.

According to the report, the combat skills exhibited by Davis, along with documentation taken from him after his arrest, prove that he is a member of US' TF373 black operations unit currently operating in the Afghan War Theatre and Pakistan's tribal areas, the paper said.

While the US insists that Davis is one of their diplomats, and the two men he killed were robbers, Pakistan says that the duo were ISI agents sent to follow him after it was discovered that he had been making contact with al Qaeda, after his cell phone was tracked to the Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan, the paper said.

The most ominous point in this SVR report is "Pakistan's ISI stating that top-secret CIA documents found in Davis's possession point to his, and/or TF373, providing to al Qaeda terrorists "nuclear fissile material" and "biological agents", which they claim are to be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to re-establish the West's hegemony over a Global economy that is warned is just months away from collapse," the paper added. (ANI)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Colleague defended: ‘Qureshi loyal to PPP’

The Express Tribune

BAHAWALPUR: The prime minister was also quick to dismiss the notion that Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the former foreign minister, was quitting the PPP.

“He [Qureshi] is in the party, will be in it and will not do anything against the party,” said the prime minister.

Qureshi resigned from the cabinet as part of its restructuring in accordance with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. However, he was not included in the newly reconstituted cabinet, reportedly under intense pressure from the United States government owing to Qureshi’s refusal to certify diplomatic immunity for Raymond Davis, the American citizen accused of murdering two people in Lahore.

Soon after his resignation, Qureshi began holding political gatherings criticising the performance of the PPP-led administration and appeared to be campaigning for a leadership role, though it remains unclear which office he aspires to. Qureshi is a member of the National Assembly, representing Multan. Prime Minister Gilani and Shah Mehmood Qureshi have historically been rivals, both from leading political families in Multan. The two had been able to work amiably together as cabinet colleagues until the Raymond Davis affair, when Qureshi refused to give in to American pressure to declare that Davis had diplomatic immunity.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2011.

Raymond Davis: US blackmails Pak

Pakistan Observer
Sajjad Shaukat

US Senator John Kerry (D) Mass meets
Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani,
Controversial debate continues between Pakistan and the United States in connection with the arrest of American national, Raymond Davis who is an under-cover secret agent of American CIA, and has become a symbol of anti-American resentment in Pakistan because of the dreadful murder of two innocent Pakistanis in Lahore and subsequent suicide by the wife of one of his victims. Like other US high officials, even President Barack Obama urged Pakistan on February 15 this year to free Raymond as he has diplomatic immunity under the Geneva Convention. Meanwhile, the visiting Chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, while addressing a press conference in Lahore pointed out that issue of “Davis has nothing to do with local courts as diplomats enjoy immunity…we cannot allow that one incident can break the strong relationship between the two countries.”

On the other side, legal experts in Pakistan opine that Raymond Davis is a murderer who has no diplomatic immunity. Many Pakistanis are suspicious about Davis, who was arrested with loaded weapons, a GPS satellite tracking device, photographs of Pakistan’s defence installations and tribal areas, while American authorities are still silent about his role in Pakistan.

It is notable that the former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has stated that he was dropped from the new cabinet owing to his principled position on the question of diplomatic immunity to the killer, and he adopted a stance, seen by majority of people. Some sources confirms that Raymond Davis has visited Pakistan twice under the cover of diplomatic status, and this time he came with changed name to conceal his identity. However, Davis is killer and is an agent of CIA, while Washington is blackmailing Islamabad by applying coercive diplomacy. In this respect, on the one hand, US high officials say that on the issue of Davis, America will not break relations with Pakistan; while on the other, they continue pressure on Islamabad for his immediate release.The issue of Raymond Davis is not new one as past history of Pak-US ties prove that America has always blackmailed Pakistan on various occasions. In this context, it is of particular attention that in the aftermath of the November 26 catastrophe of Mumbai, Washington, while tilting towards India had blackmailed Islamabad. Setting aside the ground realties that Pakistan, itself, has been the major victim of terrorism, which has been bearing multiple losses in combating this menace since 9/11, with the support of the US, Indian blame game against Islamabad, continued during exchange of information between the two neighbouring countries regarding Mumbai mayhem.

While, rejecting Pakistan’s stand that its government or any official agency was not involved in the Mumbai attacks, presenting one after another list of bogus evidence, New Delhi wanted to make Islamabad accept all other Indian demands since our rulers admitted on February 12, 2009 that Ajmal Kasab is Pakistani national and Mumbai terror-attacks were “partially planned in Pakistan.” In fact, being a responsible state actor, Islamabad’s admission which had emboldened New Delhi was forced by the US-led some western countries which have continuously been blackmailing Pakistan by insisting upon our government to “do more” against the militancy in the tribal areas by ignoring internal backlash and sacrifices of our security forces during war on terror—while paying no attention to the Lahore-terror attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team including other similar terror-incidents. In that context, India wanted to avail the Mumbai tragedy in increasing further pressure on Pakistan with the help of America in order to force Islamabad to confess that all the terrorists responsible for Mumbai attacks came from Pakistan.

In that respect, US former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Milliband who had visited India and Pakistan stressed upon Islamabad to take actions against the banned Jamaatud Dawa and the already banned Lashkar-i-Tayba. Speaking in Indian tune, they had also said that the terrorists involved in the Mumbai events came from Pakistan. In that connection, Ameria had played a key role in getting passed a resolution through the UN Security Council which added Pakistan-based Jamaatud Dawa and four of its leaders to the list of Al Qaeda-related terrorists. Without any doubt, this similar approach by the US and India show that these states are in collusion to destabilize and ‘denuclearise’ Pakistan through blackmailing diplomacy as demands on Pakistan to take action against the Jamaatud Dawa and its related welfare organistions including admission regarding the departure of the Mumbai culprits from our soil were forced. And Islamabad accepted these false allegations as our country was facing serious internal and external challenges of grave nature.

In the recent past, IMF decided to sanction loan to Pakistan after American green signal. Past experience proves that economic dependence on foreign countries always brings political dependence in its wake. While, at that critical juncture, our country had been facing precarious financial problem, US-led some western allies compelled Pakistan to accept some Indian false demands. Hollowness of New Delhi’s allegations and forced admission of Islamabad could be gauged from the fact that on February 27, 2009, Pakistan’s Naval Chief of Staff Admiral Nuaman Bashir remarked that he had no proof that Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of the Mumbai attacks used Pakistani waters to reach India. The statement of our naval chief coupled with American duress makes it quite clear that Mumbai mayhem was pre-planned by the Indian intelligence agency, RAW to further distort the image of Pakistan in the comity of nations.

Another example of blackmailing is that the US is emphasising Islamabad to to take action against the militants of North Waziristan. It also continuous drone attacks on Pakistan’s soil without bothering for the sovereignty of the country. Inaction of the US-led west over Hindu terrorism and such duplicity undoubtedly indicates that America and major European states have their common interest in India. Hence, they blindly support New Delhi’s shrewd diplomacy against Islamabad. These major countries only tolerate Pakistan owing to its role as a frontline state against terrorism, otherwise, they leave no stone unturned in blackmailing our country so as to harm our interests. In this respect, forced demands on Pakistan regarding Mumbai mayhem entailing accusation of cross-border terrorism either in Afghanistan or the Indian-held Kashmir are also part of this blackmailing practice. In fact, we are living in an unequal world order. The prevalent global system tends to give a greater political and economic leverage to the affluent developed nations who could safeguard their interests at the cost of the weaker countries. Whenever, any controversy arises on the controversial issues, the UN Security Council enforces the doctrine of collective security against the small states, while the five big powers protect their interests by using veto.

This shows discrimination between the powerful and the weaker. In this context, it is notable that in 2001, UN had permitted the United States to attack Afghanistan under the cover of right of self-defence. In case of the Indian occupied Kashmir, the issue still remains unresolved as UN resolutions regarding the plebiscite were never implemented because Washington and some western powers support the illegitimate stand of India due to their collective interests. Particularly, in economic context, the world order reflects greater disparities as the flow of capital and credit system is also dominated by the United States and other developed countries—the consequent result is an increase in the activities of the Multinationals which have shattered the economies of the poor developing states. Besides, international financial institutions like I.M.F and World Bank are under the control of the US and its partners who protect their interests by blackmailing the governments of the small states through financial pressure. In these terms, US-led countries especially blackmail Pakistan directly or indirectly.

In sense of Hobbes, Machiavelli and Morgenthau, a renowned strategic thinker, Thomas Schelling remarks about the US, “coercion to be an effective tool of foreign policy.” Kissinger also endorses politics of bargaining and pressure through threats, coercion and even violence as essential elements of the American diplomacy. In this regard, diplomacy itself becomes the real tool of blackmailing. Returning to our earlier discussion, Raymond Davis is a murderer, but the US blackmails Pakistan for his release as the latter depends upon Washington for military and economic aid in wake of multi-faceted problems. America should remember that it also depends upon Pakistan which is a frontline state of the US war on terror, and without Islamabad’s support the sole superpower cannot win this ‘different war’ against terrorism.

Wisconsin Fight: It's Not About the Budget

PR Watch

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, in a February 20, 2011 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, exposed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's disingenuousness in linking restrictions on collective bargaining to a need to cut the state's budget. Wisconsin's unionized workers have declared they are ready to start contributing to their pensions and health care to help resolve the state's budget problems, Granholm pointed out. But despite extracting these financial concessions, Walker insists on trying to curtail unionized workers' right to collectively bargain. Granholm stated, "What is this [Scott Walker's effort] really exposed to be, but an attack on collective bargaining?...This is really about collective bargaining," and not cutting the state's budget.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker alleges that dismantling public sector collective bargaining rights is made necessary by a $3.6 billion deficit in the next budget, and a $137 million shortfall this year. Setting aside the fact that the ability to negotiate shifts, seniority, benefits and conditions of employment would have a negligible impact on the deficit, and looking beyond Walker's deceptive claim that the alternative to union-busting is to kick 200,000 children off Medicaid (called "false" by Politifact), how deep is the state's economic crisis?

Representative Mark Pocan (D- Madison) has looked more closely at the numbers and writes that the $3.6 billion deficit is bogus. The alleged deficit is based on $3.9 billion in new agency requests for the 2011-2013 budget, a 7.2% spending increase. However, these are merely requests, not dollars actually allocated or spent, and Pocan writes that the legislature never votes to grant 100% of agency requests: "I don't think there is a member in the legislature that would vote for [the requested budget increase]. In fact, I asked [Legislative Fiscal Bureau] Director [Robert] Lang when was the last time we gave agencies exactly what they requested and was told he couldn't think of one and he's been here decades."

For example, the state's non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports that the difference between the amount requested for the 2009-2011 budget and the amount actually allocated was almost $3.5 billion, a sum nearly identical to Walker's alleged "deficit" for the next budget cycle. State agencies had requested a 9.7% increase but were actually granted a reduction of 2.6%.

For this year's budget, any shortfalls are a direct result of Walker's policies. The Fiscal Bureau told legislators in January that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million. The $137 million deficit Walker uses as an excuse to crush collective bargaining results from the tax cuts and incentives Walker has pushed through since taking office; this includes the loss of $48 million in revenue from private health savings account taxation, a move lauded by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce business lobby (who spent nearly $1 million on Walker's campaign).