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Archive for August, 2010

Master Hilarion’s Weekly Message – August 29 – September 4, 2010.

Posted by Admin on August 31, 2010

Beloved Ones,

During the coming weeks, there will be much activity taking place in the interdimensional octaves of higher vibrational frequency and this will translate as a greater influx of Light to and through each of you. Many of you have become ‘stuck’ in past life dramas that were simply to be observed, acknowledged and released and instead, you have found yourselves trying to transmute and transform over and over again as this drama plays on in your lives. During these coming weeks, we, the Ascended Host will be standing by to give you assistance to help overcome these age old dramas once and for all and so we remind you once again, that you, Dear and Beloved Ones, must ask us to do this for you and with you.

Our Love for you is unconditional and unending and it is our greatest joy and pleasure to serve you in these times of transition as you move from one timeline to the Ascension timeline of the Ascended Earth reality. Ask that we help you to do this and you will be instantly surrounded in the Great White Light which will raise your vibrational frequency to this new timeline. This is very important, Dear Ones and we cannot stress enough that each of you must intend to move onto this timeline as soon as possible. There is much work that needs to be done, for many of your brothers and sisters upon Earth still need Awakening and the sooner you are all firmly anchored into the Ascended Earth timeline, the sooner the work can begin.

We ask that you not rest from your disciplines and that you strive ceaselessly to raise your vibrational level each day and maintain it. We can help with this if you remember to ask us each morning. We are encouraging each and every one of you to make this your priority from now on. Try to lay aside your daily concerns amidst the situations that you find yourselves in at the moment and rise a cut above to the higher perspective, the perspective of your Higher Self and Great I AM Presence. Spend as much time and intention ‘seeing’ yourselves as the Beings of Light and Love that you truly are and let go of any other distractions that may come forth. Know that your Loved Ones will follow as you lead, for you are the pattern breakers and the pattern makers, and therefore, the leaders of Humanity. By your works, your actions, words and deeds and your personal example, you shall rise up as the shining Lights that you are.

The time for hiding your Light is past, is over. Now is the time to become the pure and shining example to all, so that they may look upon you and the miracles that are occurring and want to follow in your footsteps. You are THAT powerful! Let go of all that does not resonate with this new vision and hold to that new vision with every fibre of your being. Your Light is needed now more than ever and by your Light, you inspire others around you to take up the torch and follow the example that you shall be demonstrating by your daily living, which shall show them many miraculous transformations that occur within you that will be visible to all who have known you before your transformations. This will become evident in the months and years ahead. You will each fall into your part in the Divine Plan and we ask you to remember that you are the Ambassadors of Light and therefore must lead by example. BE the Light, radiate your Love from your heart chakra with the Golden Light of the Christ, and walk in grace and ease and with a light step upon the Earth.

We, your brothers and sisters who have gone before you, overlight and expand each of your auras as much as you can comfortably withstand each and every day, so please remember to ask and state your intention to anchor your Light to the Ascension timeline and keep your energy levels vibrating at the highest levels possible. Ask for alignment with the Ascension Stargate and for daily and constant guidance from your personal Guides and Teachers. We want a stronger connection with each of you and have much to impart to you. We stand ready to assist and impart much needed knowledge to you, as events transpire upon the Earth plane. You are moving quickly into the Ascended Earth reality and that is where your focus will serve you for the greatest and highest good for all.

Until next week….

I AM Hilarion

©2010 Marlene Swetlishoff

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US’s flood aid ‘not enough’ to win over Pakistan

Posted by Admin on August 31, 2010

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SUKKUR, Pakistan — US aid pouring into Pakistan’s flood-hit regions is helping reverse widespread anti-American sentiment but will not be enough to win hearts and minds in the long term, experts say.

The United States has been the biggest and the quickest single international floods donor, committing 200 million dollars to help its ally in the fight against Islamist extremism recover from its worst-ever natural disaster.

The United States currently has 22 helicopters rescuing stranded villagers and ferrying relief supplies around the country, with four more on the way, said embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire.

The superpower has been involved in every area of the relief effort, spending its millions mostly through the United Nations, and international and local charity channels, to supply tonnes of food, water, shelter and medicine.

Fifty million dollars has already been diverted from a 7.5-billion-dollar aid package approved by the US Congress last year in a bid to deepen ties with the South Asian nuclear power, a key partner in the fight against Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Victims are grateful for the help but many Pakistanis think it ironic that while the United States is sending tonnes of aid, it is also sending drones to bomb Islamist militant hideouts in the border areas with Afghanistan.

And the gratitude may be short-lived, just as it was after a swell of support from America following Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake that left 73,000 dead, said Pakistan analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai.

“There will be goodwill created, it’s already happening for America and it also happened in October 2005 during the earthquake… but that was for a short while and this is again the fear that it may not last long,” said Yusufzai.

“(Aid) must happen on a long-term basis,” he said. “There’s a changing perception about America but not on such a big scale right now because at the same time America’s helping out they are also bombing Pakistan territory.”

During a visit to Pakistan’s devastated submerged regions last week, head of aid agency USAID Rajiv Shah sought to assure officials that the United States would keep a commitment to help Pakistan in the long term.

But touring the southern city of Sukkur, once a thriving semi-industrial trading post — now reduced to a city of tarpaulin tents providing thin respite from the heat for thousands of families, the scale of the challenge was clear.

“This is going to be very, very difficult, this is a huge-scale disaster,” said Shah. “But we have to continue to be optimistic and look for those opportunities to help Pakistan to use this to build back better.”

The floods have already forced the United States to rethink its spending in Pakistan, after announcing in July a series of water, energy and healthcare projects to improve the country’s dire infrastructure.

The floodwaters have wiped out part of Pakistan’s most fertile agricultural land, damaged roads, bridges, power stations, electricity facilities, hospitals, schools, homes and left millions hungry, setting back longer-term development goals.

Part of the five-year 7.5-billion-dollar non-military programme aimed at securing the strategic relationship between the United States and Pakistan has already been redirected as flood aid.

“Priorities will necessarily have to shift so that there is more of a recovery and reconstruction approach than people were thinking just a few months ago,” Shah told reporters during his trip to Sukkur.

But strategic relationships are no concern for the rural poor who have seen their homes and farms submerged by the waters, and simply welcome food, water and medicine for their short-term survival, regardless of where it comes from.

“We just want aid. Most people don’t care who gives it to us,” said Jan Mohammad, 30, a teacher staying at a US-funded camp in southern Hyderabad with his wife and four children.

“We are grateful that they have come forward to help when our own government is doing little for us. I have no issue with the Americans, whether they are angels or devils. Right now we just need all the help we can get.”

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So, Who Won the War in Iraq? Iran.

Posted by Admin on August 31, 2010

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by: Mohamad Bazzi  |  GlobalPost | News Analysis

Beirut, Lebanon – In February 2003, as he marshaled the United States for war, President George W. Bush declared: “A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.”

Now, as the U.S. military concludes its combat role — which President Barack Obama will formally announce from the Oval Office on Tuesday — Iraq is indeed a dramatic example for the Middle East, but not in the ways that Bush and his administration envisioned. Iraq did not become a beacon of democracy, nor did it create a domino effect that toppled other dictatorial regimes in the Arab world. Instead, the Iraq war has unleashed a new wave of sectarian hatred and upset the Persian Gulf’s strategic balance, helping Iran consolidate its role as the dominant regional power.

The Bush administration argued that its goal was to protect U.S. interests and security in the long run. But the region is far more unstable and combustible than it was when U.S. forces began their march to Baghdad seven years ago. Throughout the Middle East, relations between Sunnis and Shiites are badly strained by the sectarian bloodletting in Iraq. Sunnis are worried about the regional ascendance of the Shiite-led regime in Iran; its nuclear program; its growing influence on the Iraqi leadership; and its meddling in other countries with large Shiite communities, especially Lebanon.

Iran is the biggest beneficiary of the American misadventure in Iraq. The U.S. ousted Tehran’s sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein, from power. Then Washington helped install a Shiite government for the first time in Iraq’s modern history. As U.S. troops became mired in fighting an insurgency and containing a civil war, Iran extended its influence over all of Iraq’s Shiite factions.

Today’s Middle East has been shaped by several proxy wars. In Iraq, neighboring Sunni regimes backed Sunni militants, while Iran supported Shiite militias. In Lebanon, an alliance between Washington and authoritarian Sunni Arab regimes — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries — backed a Sunni-led government against Hezbollah, a Shiite militia funded by Iran. And in the Palestinian territories, Iran and Syria supported the militant Hamas, while the U.S. and its Arab allies backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement.

In 2007, at the height of the insurgency and sectarian conflict in Iraq, I went to see Marwan Kabalan, a political scientist at Damascus University. He explained the regional dynamics better than anyone else. “Everyone is fighting battles through local proxies. It’s like the Cold War,” he told me. “All regimes in the Middle East recognize that America has lost the war in Iraq. They’re all maneuvering to protect their interests and to gain something out of the American defeat.”

With U.S. influence waning and Iran ascendant, Iraq’s other neighbors are still jockeying to gain a foothold with the new government in Baghdad. For example, Saudi Arabia’s ruling Al-Saud dynasty views itself as the rightful leader of the Muslim world, but Iran is challenging that leadership right now. Although Saudi Arabia has a Sunni majority, its rulers fear Iran’s potential influence over a sizable and sometimes-restive Shiite population concentrated in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province. In Bahrain (another American ally in the Persian Gulf), the Shiite majority is chafing under Sunni rulers who also fear Iran’s reach.

Even worse, the brutal war between Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunni minority unleashed sectarian hatreds that are difficult to contain. This blowback has been most keenly felt in Lebanon, a small country with a history of religious strife. During Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990, the sectarian divide was between Muslims and Christians. This time, the conflict is mainly between Sunnis and Shiites — and it is fueled, in part, by the bloodbath in Iraq.

After Saddam was executed in December 2006, Sunnis saw the U.S. and the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government as killing off the last vestiges of Arab nationalism. Although Saddam was once a dependable ally of the West, by the 1990s he was among the few Arab leaders who defied the United States and European powers. In the Sunni view, America and its allies eradicated the idea of a glorious Arab past without offering any replacement for it — other than sectarianism.

In 2007 and 2008, Lebanese Sunnis felt besieged as they watched news from Iraq of Shiite death squads executing Sunnis and driving them out of Baghdad neighborhoods. At the same time, Hezbollah was trying to topple the Sunni-led Lebanese government by staging street protests and a massive sit-in that paralyzed downtown Beirut. In January 2007, as they confronted Hezbollah supporters during a nationwide strike, groups of Sunnis waved posters of Saddam and chanted his name in front of TV cameras.

It was a rich contradiction: American-allied Sunnis in Lebanon carrying posters of Saddam, a dictator the U.S. had spent billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives to depose. But it was also a declaration of war. Saddam, after all, killed hundreds of thousands of Shiites in Iraq. Many Lebanese Shiites have relatives in Iraq, and the two communities have had close ties for centuries. Lebanon’s political factions eventually compromised on a new government, but the underlying sectarian tensions are still in place, with everyone keeping a wary eye on Iraq.

As Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds argue over sharing power and the country’s oil wealth, violence is on the rise yet again. The latest elections produced a deadlocked parliament in Baghdad that has not been able to agree on a new government. Far from becoming a model of freedom and religious coexistence, Iraq remains a powder keg that could ignite sectarian conflict across the Middle East.

Mohamad Bazzi is a journalism professor at New York University and an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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West faces a losing battle for Afghan “human terrain”

Posted by Admin on August 31, 2010

This image geographically depicts the four ISA...

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Mon, Aug 30 2010

(For more on Afghanistan, click [ID:nAFPAK])

By Sayed Salahuddin and Paul Tait

KABUL, Aug 30 (Reuters) – As the conflict in Afghanistan deepens, with more foreign troops fighting and casualty tolls rising against a bolder Taliban-led enemy, a parallel battle is being fought to win the hearts and minds of Afghans.

Despite vast, sophisticated resources at their disposal, it is a battle some analysts fear NATO and U.S. forces can’t win.

“In my opinion NATO is making a monumental mistake,” said Kabul-based political analyst Haroun Mir.

“No matter what policy NATO might adopt, they are losing the trust and respect of the Afghan population because Afghans consider the Taliban the winners of this war,” he told Reuters.

That view was supported by a July poll by the Kabul-based International Council on Security and Development that showed the NATO force was failing to win hearts and minds and that most Afghans in Taliban heartlands viewed foreign troops negatively.

Since taking command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in June, General David Petraeus, the master of counter-insurgency tactics honed in Iraq, has stressed that the key battleground in Afghanistan will be what he calls “the human terrain”.

Many U.S. military officials feel the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) must do better at heading off Taliban propaganda by speaking directly to Afghans, seeing such “strategic communications” as part of the larger war effort.

It is no coincidence that, since Petraeus took over, media outlets have been flooded with media releases every day, many more than ever before, detailing the successes of Afghan and foreign forces and the perfidy of the Taliban-led insurgents.

KILLING CIVILIANS “NOT GOOD POLICY”

ISAF sent more than 20 media releases on Sunday from their 24-hour-a-day media unit.

One release, about two Afghans wounded by a roadside bomb in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar, quoted U.S. Army Colonel Rafel Torres as saying: “The insurgents are as indiscriminate as their choice of weapons. Killing innocent civilians isn’t good policy in Afghanistan, or anywhere else for that matter.”

No doubt these are fairly straightforward counter-insurgency tactics but, analysts say, what is interesting is that the Taliban have been doing the same for much longer.

On Sunday, the Taliban went so far as to suggest holding a news conference to counter Petraeus’ assertion last week that his forces were making progress, an unprecedented move since the Islamists were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

It was their second media release in four days, somewhat unusual for a group which banned television and computers during their rule from 1996-2001.

The Taliban’s tactics have not gone unnoticed by ISAF.

“One way of tackling this issue is to undermine the Taliban’s influence in society,” said Kamran Bokhari, regional director for global intelligence firm STRATFOR.

“The key to this is to try and drive a wedge between the Afghan jihadist movement and their social support network.”

Earlier this month, ISAF issued an extraordinary media release in which an unidentified “senior ISAF intelligence official” denounced the Taliban’s “attempt to manipulate the media in order to misrepresent the truth”.

The official said the Taliban used a “formalised network”, overseen by Taliban leader Mullah Omar himself, and which included spokesmen who usually give names like Yousuf Ahmadi and Zabihullah Mujahid.

Those spokesmen, he said, worked directly with “external malign media support, which is largely comprised of sympathetic media outlets”.

The Taliban usually communicate by telephone, their spokesmen calling reporters from undisclosed locations.

They are quick to claim credit for attacks on foreign forces, whether they were involved or not, and usually inflate casualty figures. They are equally quick in their attempts to discredit foreign troops when civilian casualties are involved.

Regardless of how untrue that information might be, analysts say there is little Western forces can do to counter it.

“There is only so much that they can do to improve their standing among the public because of certain structural problems, the key to which is the perception that Western forces won’t be in the country for long,” Bokhari said.

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani) (For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here) (paul.tait@reuters.com; Kabul Newsroom, +93 706 011 526) (If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to news.feedback.asia@thomsonreuters.com)

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AP IMPACT: US wasted billions in rebuilding Iraq

Posted by Admin on August 31, 2010

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KHAN BANI SAAD, Iraq – A $40 million prison sits in the desert north of Baghdad, empty. A $165 million children’s hospital goes unused in the south. A $100 million waste water treatment system in Fallujah has cost three times more than projected, yet sewage still runs through the streets.

As the U.S. draws down in Iraq, it is leaving behind hundreds of abandoned or incomplete projects. More than $5 billion in American taxpayer funds has been wasted — more than 10 percent of the some $50 billion the U.S. has spent on reconstruction in Iraq, according to audits from a U.S. watchdog agency.

That amount is likely an underestimate, based on an analysis of more than 300 reports by auditors with the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. And it does not take into account security costs, which have run almost 17 percent for some projects.

There are success stories. Hundreds of police stations, border forts and government buildings have been built, Iraqi security forces have improved after years of training, and a deep water port at the southern oil hub of Umm Qasr has been restored.

Even completed projects for the most part fell far short of original goals, according to an Associated Press review of hundreds of audits and investigations and visits to several sites. And the verdict is still out on whether the program reached its goal of generating Iraqi good will toward the United States instead of the insurgents.

Col. Jon Christensen, who took over as commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region District this summer, said the federal agency has completed more than 4,800 projects and is rushing to finish 233 more. Some 595 projects have been terminated, mostly for security reasons.

Christensen acknowledged that mistakes have been made. But he said steps have been taken to fix them, and the success of the program will depend ultimately on the Iraqis — who have complained that they were not consulted on projects to start with.

“There’s only so much we could do,” Christensen said. “A lot of it comes down to them taking ownership of it.”

The reconstruction program in Iraq has been troubled since its birth shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The U.S. was forced to scale back many projects even as they spiked in cost, sometimes to more than double or triple initial projections.

As part of the so-called surge strategy, the military in 2007 shifted its focus to protecting Iraqis and winning their trust. American soldiers found themselves hiring contractors to paint schools, refurbish pools and oversee neighborhood water distribution centers. The $3.6 billion Commander’s Emergency Response Program provided military units with ready cash for projects, and paid for Sunni fighters who agreed to turn against al-Qaida in Iraq for a monthly salary.

But sometimes civilian and military reconstruction efforts were poorly coordinated and overlapped.

Iraqis can see one of the most egregious examples of waste as they drive north from Baghdad to Khan Bani Saad. A prison rises from the desert, complete with more than two dozen guard towers and surrounded by high concrete walls. But the only signs of life during a recent visit were a guard shack on the entry road and two farmers tending a nearby field.

In March 2004, the Corps of Engineers awarded a $40 million contract to global construction and engineering firm Parsons Corp. to design and build a prison for 3,600 inmates, along with educational and vocational facilities. Work was set to finish in November 2005.

But violence was escalating in the area, home to a volatile mix of Sunni and Shiite extremists. The project started six months late and continued to fall behind schedule, according to a report by the inspector general.

The U.S. government pulled the plug on Parsons in June 2006, citing “continued schedule slips and … massive cost overruns,” but later awarded three more contracts to other companies. Pasadena, Calif.-based Parsons said it did its best under difficult and violent circumstances.

Citing security concerns, the U.S. finally abandoned the project in June 2007 and handed over the unfinished facility to Iraq’s Justice Ministry. The ministry refused to “complete, occupy or provide security” for it, according to the report. More than $1.2 million in unused construction material also was abandoned due to fears of violence.

The inspector general recommended another use be found for the partially finished buildings inside the dusty compound. But three years later, piles of bricks and barbed wire lie around, and tumbleweed is growing in the caked sand.

“It will never hold a single Iraqi prisoner,” said inspector general Stuart Bowen, who has overseen the reconstruction effort since it started. “Forty million dollars wasted in the desert.”

Another problem was coordination with the Iraqis, who have complained they weren’t consulted and often ended up paying to complete unfinished facilities they didn’t want in the first place.

“Initially when we came in … we didn’t collaborate as much as we should have with the correct people and figure out what their needs were,” Christensen said. He stressed that Iraqis are now closely involved in all projects.

One clinic was handed over to local authorities without a staircase, said Shaymaa Mohammed Amin, the head of the Diyala provincial reconstruction and development committee.

“We were almost forced to take them,” she said during an interview at the heavily fortified local government building in the provincial capital of Baqouba. “Generally speaking, they were below our expectations. Huge funds were wasted and they would not have been wasted if plans had been clear from the beginning.”

As an example, she cited a date honey factory that was started despite a more pressing need for schools and vital infrastructure. She said some schools were left without paint or chalkboards, and needed renovations.

“We ended up paying twice,” she said.

In some cases, Iraqi ministries have refused to take on the responsibility for U.S.-funded programs, forcing the Americans to leave abandoned buildings littering the landscape.

“The area of waste I’m most concerned about in the entire program is the waste that might occur after completed projects are handed over to the Iraqis,” Bowen said.

The U.S. military pinned great hopes on a $5.7 million convention center inside the tightly secured Baghdad International Airport compound, as part of a commercial hub aimed at attracting foreign investors. A few events were held at the sprawling complex, including a three-day energy conference that drew oil executives from as far away as Russia and Japan in 2008, which the U.S. military claimed generated $1 million in revenues.

But the contracts awarded for the halls did not include requirements to connect them to the main power supply. The convention center, still requiring significant work, was transferred to the Iraqi government “as is” on Jan. 20, according to an audit by the inspector general’s office.

The buildings have since fallen into disrepair, and dozens of boxes of fluorescent lightbulbs and other equipment disappeared from the site. Light poles outside have toppled over and the glass facade is missing from large sections of the abandoned buildings.

Waste also came from trying to run projects while literally under fire.

The Americans committed to rebuilding the former Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah after it was destroyed in major offensives in 2004. The U.S. awarded an initial contract for a new waste water treatment system to FluorAMEC of Greenville, S.C. — just three months after four American private security contractors were savagely attacked. The charred and mutilated remains of two of them were strung from a bridge in the city.

An audit concluded that it was unrealistic for the U.S. “to believe FluorAMEC could even begin construction, let alone complete the project, while fierce fighting occurred daily.” The report also pointed out repeated redesigns of the project, and financial and contracting problems.

The Fallujah waste water treatment system is nearly complete — four years past the deadline, at a cost of more than three times the original $32.5 million estimate. It has been scaled back to serve just a third of the population, and Iraqi officials said it still lacks connections to houses and a pipe to join neighborhood tanks up with the treatment plant.

Desperate residents, meanwhile, have begun dumping their sewage in the tanks, causing foul odors and running the risk of seepage, according to the head of Fallujah’s municipal council, Sheik Hameed Ahmed Hashim.

“It isn’t appropriate for the Americans to give the city these services without completing these minor details,” Hashim said. “We were able to wipe out part of the memories of the Fallujah battles through this and other projects. … If they leave the project as it is, I think their reputation will be damaged.”

By contrast, the Basra children’s hospital — one of the largest projects undertaken by the U.S. in Iraq — looks like a shining success story, with gardeners tending manicured lawns in preparation for its opening. But that opening has been repeatedly delayed, most recently for a lack of electricity.

The construction of a “state of the art” pediatric specialist hospital with a cancer unit was projected to be completed by December 2005 for about $50 million. By last year, the cost had soared above $165 million, including more than $100 million in U.S. funds, and the equipment was dated, according to an auditors’ report.

Investigators blamed the delays on unrealistic timeframes, poor soil conditions, multiple partners and funding sources and security problems at the site, including the murder of 24 workers. Bechtel, the project contractor, was removed because of monthslong delays blamed on poor subcontractor performance and limited oversight, the special inspector general’s office said. A Bechtel spokeswoman, Michelle Allen, said the company had recommended in 2006 that work on the hospital be put on hold because of the “intolerable security situation.”

In an acknowledgment that they weren’t getting exactly what they hoped for, Iraqi officials insisted the label “state of the art” be removed from a memorandum of understanding giving them the facility. It was described as a “modern pediatric hospital.”

Hospital director Kadhim Fahad said construction has been completed and the electricity issue resolved.

“The opening will take place soon, God willing,” he said.

Residents are pleased with the outcome. One, Ghassan Kadhim, said: “It is the duty of the Americans to do such projects because they were the ones who inflicted harm on people.”

___

Associated Press Writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.

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Warning: Why Cheaper Money Won’t Mean More Jobs

Posted by Admin on August 31, 2010

by: Robert Reich  |  Robert Reich’s Blog | Op-Ed

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(Photo: MNicoleM; Edited: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)

Can the Fed rescue the economy by making money even cheaper than it already is? A debate is being played out in the Fed about whether it should return to so-called “quantitative easing” – buying more mortgage-backed securities, Treasury bills, and other bonds – in order to lower the cost of capital still further.

The sad reality is cheaper money won’t work. Individuals aren’t borrowing because they’re still under a huge debt load. And as their homes drop in value and their jobs and wages continue to disappear, they’re not in a position to borrow. Small businesses aren’t borrowing because they have no reason to expand. Retail business is down, construction is down, even manufacturing suppliers are losing ground.

That leaves large corporations. They’ll be happy to borrow more at even lower rates than now — even though they’re already sitting on mountains of money.

But this big-business borrowing won’t create new jobs. To the contrary, large corporations have been investing their cash to pare back their payrolls. They’ve been buying new factories and facilities abroad (China, Brazil, India), and new labor-replacing software at home.

If Bernanke and company make it even cheaper to borrow, they’ll be subsidizing a third corporate strategy for creating more profits but fewer jobs — mergers and acquisitions.

The M&A wave has already started. Continental and United Airlines just got approval to merge. Biotech giant Genzyme is on the auction block after Sanofi-Aventis announced a $18.5 billion bid. On Friday, 3Par, a data storage company, accepted a $1.8 billion takeover offer from Dell – one day after Hewlett-packard raised its offer. Campbell Soup is eyeing parts of United Biscuits, BHP Billiton has put in a takeover bid for Potash, Oracle or H-P are likely to pay up to $1.5 billion for security software maker ArcSight. Bain Capital is expected to acaquire Air Medical Group for almost $1 billion. The insurance industry is headed for the biggest merger boom in recent history.

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Who wins from all this? If history is a guide, shareholders of acquired companies do better than shareholders of companies doing the acquiring. Top executives who end up running bigger corporations get fatter pay packages. And Wall Street and big-name corporate law firms who engineer the M&As reap a bundle.

Who loses? Large numbers of ordinary workers will lose their jobs. After all, the purpose M&As is to create greater economies of scale and more “synergies.” Translated: More pink slips.

Last week at the Fed’s annual confab in Jackson Hole, Ben Bernanke insisted the Fed will do what’s necessary to increase consumer and business spending in order to keep the economy growing. But cheaper money won’t necessarily create the kind of spending that generates more jobs. In fact, right now it’s having the opposite effect. When consumers and small businesses can’t and won’t borrow more, big businesses use cheap money to bid up the prices of corporate assets and cut payrolls.

What we need now is more jobs, not bigger corporations. And that means focusing on the demand side of the economy, not the supply side.

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Indonesian volcano erupts again, spewing hot ash

Posted by Admin on August 30, 2010

TANAH KARO, Indonesia – An Indonesian volcano dormant for four centuries erupted for the second straight day Monday, shooting clouds of hot ash more than a mile into the air and forcing 30,000 people to flee.

Mount Sinabung spews volcanic materials into ...

Mount Sinabung spews

Some domestic airplanes had to be diverted because of poor visibility.

Many villagers living along the slopes of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province wore masks as they packed their belongings and headed to emergency shelters, mosques and churches, said Andi Arief, a presidential adviser on disasters.

Their abandoned homes and crops were blanketed in gray soot and the air was thick with the smell of sulfur.

While two people died — a 64-year-old woman from respiratory problems and a 52-year-old man from a heart attack — it was too early to say if the volcano was to blame, said Priyadi Kardono of the National Disaster Management Agency.

Sinabung last erupted in 1600, so observers don’t know its eruption pattern and admitted over the weekend they had not monitored it closely before it started rumbling days ago in the lead-up to Sunday’s first, less-powerful blast.

Hours later, the alert was raised to the highest level.

Like other volcanoes along the Sumatra fault line — the meeting point of the Eurasian and Pacific tectonic plates that have pushed against each other for millions of years — it has the potential to be very destructive.

Stiff magna forming inside the conical tip can act as a plug, allowing pressure to build up until it reaches a bursting point.

“A volcano with a long repose period could deliver a more powerful eruption,” as was the case with Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, which killed about 800 people, said Alain Bernard, a professor at the University of Brussels.

Sinabung could either go back to sleep or produce a series of blasts with increasing intensity, he said. “A Pinatubo-size eruption is a rare event and unlikely to appear during the following days. It takes normally weeks or months,” said Bernard.

Though strong wind shifts or a powerful follow-up blast could affect air traffic in nearby Singapore and Malaysia, Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said so far only four domestic flights heading to the provincial capital of Medan were diverted.

The number of people evacuated reached 30,000 by Monday afternoon, said Erni Damanik with the Tanah Karo district information center. Many people living along the base of the 8,000-foot (2,400-meter) mountain have also moved to outlying villages.

Food, emergency tents, and medicine were on the way to the scene, officials said, including more than 17,000 respiratory masks.

Indonesia is spread across 17,500 islands and is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its location within the so-called “Ring of Fire” — a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

It is also home to some of the largest eruptions in recorded history.

The 1815 explosion of Mount Tambora buried the inhabitants of Sumbawa Island under searing ash, gas and rock, killing an estimated 88,000 people.

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa could be heard 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) away and blackened skies region-wide for months. At least 36,000 people were killed in the blast and the tsunami that followed.

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Associated Press writers Irwan Firdaus and Ali Kotarumalos contributed to this report from Jakarta.

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Biden visits Iraq to mark formal end to US combat

Posted by Admin on August 30, 2010

BAGHDAD – Vice President Joe Biden returned to Iraq Monday to mark this week’s formal end to U.S. combat operations and push the country’s leaders to end a six-month postelection stalemate blocking formation of a new government.

Joe Biden, Ray Odierno

Wednesday’s ceremony will signal a shift toward a greater U.S. diplomatic role as the military mission dwindles seven years after the American invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Underscoring the shift, officials said Biden will make a new appeal to Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to end the political deadlock and seat a new government. March 7 parliamentary elections left Iraq without a clear winner, and insurgents have exploited the uncertainty to hammer Iraqi security forces in near-daily attacks.

Biden and al-Maliki will meet Tuesday morning “to discuss the political situation and withdrawal, and Iraqis taking over responsibility for security,” the prime minister’s adviser, Yasin Majeed, told The Associated Press.

It was the vice president’s sixth trip to Iraq since he was elected and, officially, he came to preside over a military change-of-command ceremony. On Wednesday, Gen. Ray Odierno ends more than five years in Iraq and hands over the reins as commander of U.S. forces here to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin. Austin also has served extensively in Iraq, most recently as commander of troop operations in 2008-09.

But the Sept. 1 ceremony also marks the start of the so-called “Operation New Dawn” — symbolizing the beginning of the end of the American military’s mission in Iraq since invading in March 2003.

Just under 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq — down from a peak of nearly 170,000 at the height of the 2007 military surge that is credited with turning the tide in Iraq as it teetered on the brink of civil war. Additionally, U.S. troops no longer will be allowed to go on combat missions unless requested and accompanied by Iraqi forces.

Under a security agreement between the two nations, all U.S. forces must leave Iraq by the end of 2011. But the Obama administration, sensitive to charges of American abandonment, has directed its diplomats to step into the void and help Iraq’s weak government, economy and other institutions get back on their feet for years to come.

Threats still remain.

Al-Maliki last week put Iraq on its highest level of alert for possible attacks by al-Qaida and Saddam’s former Baath Party loyalists in the days leading up to the U.S. ceremony on Wednesday. An Iraqi intelligence official said suicide bombers are believed to have entered Iraq with plans to strike unspecified targets in Baghdad, the capital.

And on the eve of Biden’s arrival, Iraqi police said two mortar rounds landed in the capital’s Green Zone, where the parliament and many foreign embassies are housed behind blast walls, steel gates and barbed wire. The rounds landed near the U.S. Embassy but did not kill or injure anyone, police said.

All Iraqi security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they was not authorized to discuss sensitive information with the media.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, is struggling to keep his job after his political alliance narrowly came in second place to the Sunni-backed Iraqiya coalition in the March 7 vote.

U.S. diplomats have encouraged a power-sharing agreement between Iraqiya and al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance. Together, they would control a majority of parliament and win the right to choose the new government’s leaders.

But al-Maliki and Iraqiya’s leader, former Premier Ayad Allawi, both want to be prime minister. So far, neither has backed down — creating a political impasse and leading to back-room jockeying by hard-line Shiite groups for a larger share of power.

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Hurricane Earl lashes Caribbean, threatens US

Posted by Admin on August 30, 2010

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Hurricane Earl lashed the northeastern Caribbean on Monday as a still-growing Category 3 storm on a course that could threaten the eastern United States later this week.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Earl, which formed on Sunday, was already a major hurricane with sustained winds of 120 mph (193 kph), and it was likely to keep gaining force.

“Interests from North Carolina all the way to Maine should keep an eye on the system,” said Jessica Schauer, a meteorologist at the Hurricane Center.

The storm’s forecast track would run north of the Caribbean, then bend to the north, roughly parallel to the U.S. East Coast. The hurricane center said it is early to say what effect Earl would have on the U.S.

The eye of the powerful storm was passing close to the tiny British territory of Anguilla, where police said the wind blew the roofs off buildings and damaged utility poles.

“The winds are whistling outside,” said Martin Gussie, a police officer involved in coordinating the emergency response. “When the gusts of wind come, each time it sounds stronger.”

In Antigua, powerful wind and rain destroyed at least one home and at least eight people had to be evacuated, though there were no reports of critical injuries. Emergency response officials said about 350 people were in shelters. Local weather authorities reported at least 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain and 10-foot (3-meter) waves.

In St. Maarten, the storm toppled trees and knocked out electricity to much of the island but there were no reports of serious damage. Heavy gusts of wind swirled debris across streets that were empty due to a government-imposed curfew.

Alisha Daya, a 24-year-old tourist from Milwaukee, said she wore earplugs Sunday night but still had trouble sleeping because of the noise from the wind and crashing waves at the Oyster Bay Beach Resort in St. Maarten.

“It was loud because we were right on the ocean,” said Daya, who said the storm will keep her and her parents and boyfriend from leaving the island as planned on Monday although the worst seemed to have passed. “Some furniture is flying around, but everything seems to be OK.”

Cruise lines diverted ships to other ports in the Caribbean and Mexico as a customary precaution for tropical weather. Antigua’s V.C. Bird International Airport closed, and regional airlines LIAT and Winair suspended flights.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rican islands of Culebra and Vieques.

By late Monday morning, Earl was about 165 miles (265 kilometers) east of San Juan and headed west-northwest at 15 mph (24 kph), according to the center in Miami. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 60 miles (95 kilometers) from its center.

Earl has grown rapidly in strength, fueled by warm ocean temperatures of 86 F (30 C).

Earl could bring battering waves and storm surges of up to four feet (1.2 meters) above normal on some islands, as well as downpours that threaten to unleash flash floods and mudslides.

Forecasters say there is a chance the hurricane could brush the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region toward the end of the week, with its closest approach to North Carolina on Thursday or Friday. In any case, the U.S. East Coast is likely to see pounding surf.

Meanwhile, the Category 1 Hurricane Danielle was weakening far out over the north Atlantic.

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Associated Press writers Anika Kentish in St. John’s, Antigua, Judy Fitzpatrick in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Clive Bacchus in Basseterre, St. Kitts, David McFadden in San Juan and Sofia Mannos in Washington contributed to this report.

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Martian ‘enigmatic elliptical depression’ baffles scientists

Posted by Admin on August 29, 2010

ANISat, Aug 28 02:10 PM

Washington, Aug 28 (ANI): Scientists have long been baffled by Orcus Patera, an enigmatic elliptical depression near Mars’s equator, in the eastern hemisphere of the planet.

The term ‘patera’ is used for deep, complex or irregularly shaped volcanic craters such as the Hadriaca Patera and Tyrrhena Patera. However, despite its name and the fact that it is positioned near volcanoes, the actual origin of Orcus Patera remains unclear.

One theory is that originally a round impact crater; it may have been deformed by compression forces. Alternatively, it could have formed after the erosion of aligned impact craters.

However, the most likely explanation is that it was made in an oblique impact, when a small body struck the surface at a very shallow angle.

Numerous rift-valley-like structures called ‘graben’ cut across its rim. Within the Orcus Patera depression itself, the large graben are not visible, probably having been covered by later deposits.

But smaller graben are present, indicating that several tectonic events have occurred in this region and also suggesting that multiple episodes of deposition have taken place.

The occurrence of ‘wrinkle ridges’ within the depression proves that compressive forces as well as extensional forces would be needed to create graben.

However, the presence of graben and wrinkle-ridges has no bearing on the origin of Orcus Patera, as both can be found all over Mars. The true origin of Orcus Patera remains a mystery. (ANI)

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Obama says combat operations in Iraq coming to a close

Posted by Admin on August 29, 2010

ANISun, Aug 29 12:30 PM

London, Aug 29 (ANI): US President Barack Obama has said combat operations in Iraq are nearing its end and the sovereign, independent nation would be free to chart its own course thereafter.

The U.S. combat mission in Iraq officially comes to an end Tuesday, 2,722 days after American-led troops stormed into the country from Kuwait. The remaining 50,000 U.S. troops are supposed to depart by the end of 2011.

“The bottom line is this: The war is ending. Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course. And by the end of next year, all of our troops will be home,” The Guardian quoted Obama, as saying.

“In the months ahead, our troops will continue to support and train Iraqi forces, partner with Iraqis in counter terrorism missions and protect our civilian and military efforts,” Obama added.

Obama further stated that as a presidential candidate, he had pledged to end this war, and as president, he would fulfill that promise.

“We have brought home more than 90,000 troops since I took office. We have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases. In many parts of the country, Iraqis have already taken the lead for security,” he added. (ANI)

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