Sunday, November 21, 2010

Canada vs. UAE

Ok, this is getting very childish. I tried very hard not to write about this issue, but I failed.

The UAE is crying because they are not allowed to land their planes as much as they ask for and the Canadians want to protect their jobs....well this is not new especially in the UAE where AT&T, Sprint and Vodafone were not given rights to becoming the third mobile operator so that Etisalat and Du are protected. Hypocrisy anyone? Typical in this region isn't it.

The naivety is embarrassing and all states and governments play this game. Principles of free trade and competitive advantage exist only in theory.

It is just pathetic when the average individual has to suffer. Why does the average Canadian or Emirati have to bear the negative consequences to protect these companies and their inefficiencies?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don't let what was, get in the way of what's next

Well it has finally arrived...the big "three O".

The night before I turned another decade I thought about how I would feel and came to a conclusion that it was just another year; nothing would change and life would go on as it had for the last 7 years. I was wrong. I woke up thinking that all that I had wanted to do, all that I had achieved was not going according to plan. In the years leading to this milestone, I had planned to be married (or at least engaged), ready to start a family, I had planned to have completed my MBA from a top university, I had planned to have received senior management status, I had planned to have travelled to Australia, Tibet and Vancouver and I had planned to get involved in a private business venture...well it is safe to say I have achieved none of these waking up on the morning of joining the men-in-their-30's club.

Now I look in the mirror thinking, how did that hair get so long on my ear...wow, when did I get all these gray hairs, and will I be looking like Clooney or Kojack (damn...I know who Kojack is). On the other hand, I now know I am much wiser, experienced and part of the men's club. I know what to look for in a partner I wish to be with for the rest of my life, and what are the signs of her being a "psycho" or a "cheating tramp". I know that my friends are much cooler now, they are all doctors, architects, CEOs, VPs, journalists, etc. I know that my peers look at me as one of them now, they would listen when asking me for my advice. The demographics of my immediate group of friends has changed. My outlook on what life is or should be took a drastic change, I now want more quality and less quantity in things. I have found to appreciate the finer things in life for reasons other than “just because”.

It’s fascinating how turning one year older can make such a psychological difference. This single increment in age is a shift into a separate bracket of era. Turning from 29 to 30 feels like turning from 21 to 30. It's as if I was living like a 21 year old for 9 years, now I’m suddenly that much older, overnight.

So now the plan is to travel for the next 3 months, get this out of my system, find out more about me and then start living life in the good ripe age of 30. I will begin my MBA and hopefully that accreditation will get me my senior management status and whilst I am studying…who knows who will meet who or if I have already met that special someone…just don’t know it yet. Here is to a new decade and an upgrade to ME 3.0 (the 2.0 version had its time…a good one at that).

Stop Being So Religious by Hafiz

What do sad people have in common?

It seems they have all built a shrine to the past
And often go there and do a strange wail and
Worship.

What is the beginning of Happiness?

It is to stop being so religious like
That

Monday, August 30, 2010

Who's really the Special One?

Would you take Mourinho over Wenger as manager of Arsenal?, asked a friend this week. It was a good question. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have hesitated. There was no manager on the planet I'd have wanted more than Wenger then.

This French genius had driven the team to new heights of dazzling success and done it in a style so wondrously entertaining that even Spurs fans like my dad were left drooling over us.

But now, I wasn't quite so certain of my answer. Wenger has had a lean trophyless five years. Mourinho has had an astonishing run of silverware triumphs. I'd still rather watch a Wenger team play than a Mourinho team. But in the end, I believe sport is for winning.
More...
Oh, I'll cheer on Eddie the Eagle as he charges down one of his calamitous hill runs, roar with delight when Frank Bruno beats up some useless lump or get the bunting out when an English girl gets past the second round at Wimbledon.

It's what we Brits do: back the underdog, stick mediocrity on a plinth, salute our own ineptitude.

This is a completely alien concept in America, where I am currently residing. Here, sport is quite straightforward. You either win or lose. There are hardly any draws in their major sports like baseball, basketball, ice hockey or gridiron.

And if you're not a winner, nobody wants to know you, let alone cheer you. That's why the Mourinho- Wenger debate would last about five seconds in an American bar.

'So one of these guys has won nothing since 2005 and the other guy has won eight trophies? And we're even bothering to discuss this?'

Well, yes, we are actually. And the reason is because Mourinho popped up this week to verbally desecrate all and sundry in his usual cocky, infuriating, yet indisputably amusing and fascinating way.

Much of what he said, I agreed with. Rafa Benitez did take Liverpool backwards in his last few years there, Manchester City's limitless budget means they are serious title threats now and Fabio Capello is hopeless as England coach - regardless of whether Mourinho actually did or didn't say that last bit.

But when he turned his turrets on Wenger and Arsenal, I found myself bristling with more than just partisan irritation.

I've been a fairly vocal critic of Wenger myself in the last five years and also grown tired of the annual 'we are kids in progress' excuse.

But there was something insultingly dismissive about the way Mourinho spoke about Wenger, revealing a complete lack of respect for the man. And it got me thinking about the two of them in more detail.

Mourinho is indisputably a ruthlessly brilliant manager. Of that, there is no doubt. But he's also a shameless mercenary who trades clubs like my sons trade iTunes vouchers, doesn't invest in young players because he's never going to be around long enough to justify the wait and spends money like a Lottery winner on acid because he only works for billionaires and every decision he takes is for short-term gain and sod the consequences to the long-term welfare of the club in which he is temporarily housed.

Wenger, by contrast, is an extraordinarily loyal man who has revolutionised British football, changing the way Premier League players train, eat, drink, exercise and discipline themselves.

As a result, they're all fitter, faster, leaner and better. He has also been a magnificent ambassador for the club - he revels in its history and talks as affectionately about Arsenal players from the Thirties as ones from the Nineties.

It has taken longer than he thought to replace the dismantled Invincibles team of 2003-04 but, despite all the criticism, he has kept going. And I believe he's finally getting the squad he needs to properly compete.

Keeping Cesc Fabregas was a huge coup. The signing of mature French centre-back Sebastien Squillaci is a great move. And if he brings in a top-class goalkeeper like Mark Schwarzer or Shay Given, I'd say we've got a real chance of success.

Nobody can tell me that a team with a strong, experienced back five and explosive talent up front like Andrey Arshavin, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott and Fabregas cannot win trophies.

The one plea I would make to Wenger is this: love him or hate him, Mourinho plays to win every game and every competition. And that brought him success in both the FA and Carling Cup.

Wenger never tries to win either competition any more and, as a result, our young guns have never learned to experience the joyous art of winning.

Go for everything this season, Arsene, play your strongest teams in every game and do it with the class, style and loyalty that makes you a better man and manager than Mourinho will ever be.

Show the world what we Gooners believe - that you are the really Special One.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Good-Bye Dubai

In mid-May, with Dubai reeling from the effects of the global financial crisis, I flew into town and took a taxi down the Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s main thoroughfare, which runs parallel to the Persian Gulf. The evening rush hour had not ended, but the road was clear of traffic; during previous visits to Dubai I’d encountered gridlock day and night all along this highway. As we approached downtown Dubai, we ran a long gauntlet of illuminated skyscrapers, all built during the past few years. Covered with garish architectural flourishes, many were unfinished, with exposed steel girders and cranes frozen above them; almost all displayed TO LET signs in their windows.

Just beyond this cluster I could see the Burj Khalifa, a tapering cylinder of aluminum and glass that rises 2,500 feet above the city—the tallest skyscraper in the world. Emaar, the government-owned real estate empire that built it, had conferred upon it the slogan “I am the power that lifts the world’s head proudly skyward, surpassing limits and expectations.” But the Burj will also be linked forever to Dubai’s recent setbacks. The tower was originally called the Burj Dubai, but the name had been changed before its January 2010 opening to honor the president of the United Arab Emirates and emir of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Dubai, with a population of some two million people, is one of the seven federated emirates on the Persian Gulf, each run by a sheikh, and oil-rich Abu Dhabi is Dubai’s largest neighbor. Its sheikh had come to Dubai’s rescue last year with a total of $25 billion in emergency loans. “Sheikh Khalifa saved Dubai,” my taxi driver, a Pakistani, told me; but still “many people have been forced to leave,” he said. “The situation is very bad.”
More...
We turned off Sheikh Zayed Road and entered Jumeirah, one of the city’s oldest and richest neighborhoods, the land of “Jumeirah Janes,” the emirate’s wealthy expatriates. Here were villas hidden behind high walls—including the late Benazir Bhutto’s home in exile—and quiet lanes lined with date palm trees. Just off the beach, the Burj al-Arab, a white, sail-shaped hotel, rose on a small artificial island, with $30,000-a-night suites, a fifty-sixth-floor helicopter pad, and Rolls-Royces shuttling guests down the causeway to the hotel entrance. Its image is much used to promote Dubai. When the hotel opened, in 1999, the Guardian‘s architecture critic described it as “fabulous, hideous, and the very pinnacle of tackiness—like Vegas after a serious, no-expense-spared, sheik-over.” The world’s only “seven-star hotel”—which reportedly has never made a profit—competes with several other hugely expensive hotel-resorts, many of them now short of customers.

My destination was far more modest: an $80-a-night bed-and-breakfast near Jumeirah Beach. Dubai’s sheikhs have discouraged such guesthouses, apparently to divert foreign visitors to its pricey resorts. But the owners had managed to stay in business by cultivating a powerful patron in Dubai’s ruling family. “We should be able to operate for the next five years,” I was told by the co-owner, a South African, who predicted that her business would grow as Dubai downsized its ambitions. She led me to an outdoor bar, where a dozen expatriates were downing shots of aquavit, tequila, and vodka at a birthday party.

The partygoers, well into their third hour of boozing, seemed to be typical of the Western set in Dubai: a Russian couple who had left Moscow a decade ago and had built successful careers planning “events” for property openings; a thirty-seven-year-old English ad man whose marriage had collapsed and who was cruising the nightclubs in Dubai’s Creek neighborhood in a search for female companionship. The birthday boy, a half-British, half- Palestinian Christian, was selling condominiums for a real estate firm.

He admitted that he was an endangered species. At the peak of the bubble, in 2007, he told me, “about twenty-five hundred” property brokerage firms had operated in Dubai. Many of these firms had collapsed when property prices began to plummet in late 2008. Now, he said, only a few hundred such companies were left. He and his twenty-four-year-old British girlfriend lived in a condo on one of the “fronds” of Palm Jumeirah—a configuration of artificial islands shaped like a palm tree, and the only one of three Palm projects to be completed—and prided themselves on having survived the shakeout. Dozens of acquaintances had lost their jobs, had their visas revoked, and been forced to leave. An unfortunate few had been thrown in jail for failing to pay their debts. “It’s the survival of the fittest now,” he told me.

Deserted highways, empty hotel rooms, miles of unsold residential and office space. These were not the images that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Makhtoum, Dubai’s ruler, had in mind when he wrote his book about the emirate, My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence, which was published in April 2006. “Dubai’s proving to be one of the most successful development stories in the world, and is being viewed increasingly in the Arab and Muslim worlds as a source of pride,” a gushing press release issued by the publisher declared. In the book, al-Makhtoum explained how Dubai had been transformed in the course of two generations from a desert backwater into the ultimate global city. He compared Dubai to Córdoba, the medieval capital of Arab Spain, and praised its melting pot of nations and creeds that enhanced, the release proclaimed, “human interaction and understanding.”

There was always much hokum in al-Makhtoum’s vision—a sense that his edifice was as fragile as the dredged sand on which the Palms and the project called the World—260 artificial islands shaped like the globe—were constructed. Built on the easy cash of foreign lenders, Dubai has purveyed a bland, everywhere-and-nowhere culture, spiced up with gaudy theme-park attractions that defy the desert environment: elaborate water parks, dolphin petting zoos, gigantic shopping malls done in faux medieval Arabian style. One of the emirate’s most popular novelties is Ski Dubai, a fake Alpine wonderland, complete with snow-dusted pine trees and an après-ski restaurant occupying a corner of the Mall of the Emirates.

Through tax breaks, gigantesque architecture, a well-trained security force, and spectacularly wasteful air conditioning, al-Makhtoum and his “Brand Dubai” team managed to create a buzz and turn Dubai into a seemingly safe, secure, friendly place to live. The Dubai fantasy peaked with the creation of Dubai’s housing bubble in 2002, when al-Makhtoum encouraged foreigners to buy property in the emirate. This unleashed a giant Ponzi scheme, fueled by money launderers and speculators who typically “flipped” properties after making a 10 percent down payment, driving up prices to absurd heights, and leaving the final investor catastrophically exposed when the bubble, inevitably, burst.

Moreover, the real estate boom was kept going by a Dickensian labor system that was bound at some point to self- destruct. At the height of the boom, tens of thousands of Southeast Asian laborers, banned by Dubai’s labor laws from forming unions, were put to work for eighty hours a week to build the Dubai fantasy and obliged to live in squalid residential camps in the desert. There, according to a report in the Guardian, they were packed “twelve men to a room, forced to wash themselves in filthy brown water and cook in kitchens next to overflowing toilets.” Before the crash, workers had begun to agitate for reforms; one target has been the kafala system, which requires foreign workers to have “sponsors” to obtain a visa and mandates their immediate deportation if they lose their jobs. A Kuwaiti government minister called this system “human slavery.”

In late 2008, Dubai’s leaders clung to the hope that the emirate would escape the widening financial crisis. The shift of some capital from the West to the emergent economies of the Middle East and East—summed up by the formula “Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai”—wrongly convinced many of them that Dubai would keep riding high while Europe and America tumbled. By late 2008, bankers had stopped lending money to Dubai’s heavily indebted real estate firms, and the steep fall of property prices made it difficult for them to continue servicing their debt. In February 2009, The New York Times reported that real estate prices had dropped 30 percent in three months, and that three thousand cars had been abandoned at Dubai International Airport by fleeing expats. (Dubai officials disputed this figure.) In November 2009, Dubai World, the gigantic investment company that runs a portfolio of businesses and projects for the Dubai government, announced that it would be unable to make a $10 billion payment on its $59 billion debt, roughly three quarters of Dubai’s total debt of $80 billion. After global stock markets fell the company laid off 10,500 employees worldwide, or nearly 20 percent of its workforce. Only the last-minute intervention of oil-rich Abu Dhabi saved Dubai from a potentially catastrophic default.

The emirate still has considerable resources, thanks to its strategic position in the Persian Gulf, its well-developed tourism, and its companies engaged in international trade. Emirates Airlines, Dubai’s carrier, recently ordered thirty-two new A380 airbuses for its fleet, and it reportedly grew by double digits last year. Dubai still has a sheen of glamour. It remains a center for breeding and racing horses, many of which run at tracks in Europe or in the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest series of horse races. Sheikh al-Makhtoum is an avid horse breeder, along with his second son, Sheikh Hamdan, while one of his wives, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, daughter of King Hussein, participated in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney representing Jordan in horse jumping. Still, Dubai may have lost “25 percent of its economic activity” with the collapse of its real estate industry, a British financial writer told me, and has plunged into a deep recession that could linger for many years.

Dubai has long made claim to being a “world city,” a meeting place of East and West, a bastion of moderation in a region prone to extremism. The collision of nationalities—Iranians and Americans, French and Yemenis—in its shopping malls and amusement parks can be exhilarating. But this souk-like air of openness has a dark side. The desert entrepôt is a Mecca for illicit enterprises ranging from human trafficking to arms smuggling. The term “five khandred,” uttered in a mock Eastern European accent, is one of the classic examples of Dubai-speak, referring to the going rate for the Russian prostitutes who frequent hotel bars and shopping malls.

In 2001 a World Customs Organization report confirmed that Dubai was a major smuggling route into Europe, and the US government accused Dubai the same year of serving as a conduit for Taliban gold. (The UAE was one of only three nations—the others were Saudi Arabia and Pakistan—to recognize the Islamic fundamentalist government in Afghanistan.) The rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan used Dubai to pass on nuclear components to Libya and North Korea; the notorious Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, the “Merchant of Death,” operated a large cargo company in Dubai’s next-door neighbor, Sharjah, and used it to funnel weapons to génocidaires in Rwanda, Marxist guerrillas in Colombia, and, allegedly, al-Qaeda.

One alleged arms buyer was Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a fifty-year-old Hamas operative based in Damascus who arrived in Dubai on January 19, allegedly seeking to buy weapons from Iranian dealers. Whatever his mission, Mabhouh checked into the five-star Al Bustan Rotana Dubai Hotel near the airport. Twenty-four hours later, he was discovered dead in his room by members of the hotel staff.

A murder investigation, ordered by Dubai’s veteran police chief, Dahi Khalfan al-Tamim, revealed an elaborate plot. Al-Tamim’s team culled thousands of hours of footage from Dubai’s security cameras, tracing an assassination squad as it followed al-Mabhouh to his hotel, put on clumsy disguises, murdered him (by suffocation, forensic tests revealed), then slipped back out of the country. Using face recognition software, al-Tamim was able to identify twenty-seven men and women who had participated in the plot and name them, or at least name the Europeans whose passports had been stolen—in Israel—and duplicated in a sophisticated case of identity theft. Al-Tamim left little doubt that the murder was the work of Mossad, Israeli’s counterterrorism and intelligence agency.

Al-Tamim is known as a crack investigator. Last year, he arrested the killers of another well-known political figure, Sulim Yamadayev, a Chechen exile and a former close aide to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who was gunned down in the parking lot of the luxury Jumeirah Beach Residence on March 30, 2009. “The security services here, despite lots of attempts to discredit them and turn them into Keystone Kops, are damned good,” I was told by a British correspondent who has lived for nine years in Dubai.

Al-Tamim is also an Arab nationalist and a foe of Israel. But Dubai has always been quietly open to doing business with Israel (as has Abu Dhabi), allowing many Israeli entrepreneurs to set up shop here. These include a diamond import-export firm, run by the Israeli jewelry magnate Lev Leviev, that distributes gems to many nations in the Middle East. In fact, Israeli companies have also struck major deals with the UAE to strengthen their security facilities. One such firm is Asia Global Technologies, with offices in Zurich and Abu Dhabi. Founded by Mati Kochavi, a US-based Israeli who made a fortune in real estate before diversifying into security after September 11, the company also has a management team made up of retired Israeli generals and Mossad agents, according to a recent article in Le Figaro. AGT has built a series of “smart” security walls—equipped with sensors, facial recognition software, and other advanced technology—to protect fifteen oil installations in the UAE and the Emirates’ border with Oman. The reported price tag: $3 billion. Abu Dhabi also acquired, according to Le Figaro, two surveillance aircraft from Radom Aviation Systems in Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv, apparently to allow it to eavesdrop on communications on three islands seized by Iran in the Persian Gulf.

Al-Mabhouh’s murder threatened to unravel a delicate and mutually bene- ficial relationship with Israel. After two weeks of daily press conferences—during which he called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrest—al-Tamim was apparently told by higher-ups to stop talking. He has hardly spoken with the Western press since, though in a recent interview with the emirati newspaper Gulf News he said that Meir Kagan was being pressed to leave his job as Mossad chief because “the Mossad certainly does not accept losers.”

Syed Ali’s Dubai: The Gilded Cage, one of three books that have recently been published about Dubai, reveals the often ugly reality behind its façade. Ali minces no words in criticizing Dubai’s “plastic” culture: its “grotesque grandiosity”; its environmentally wasteful architecture; its abusive treatment of the “socially degraded” workers who made possible its growth; its repressive, antidemocratic regime that has banned critical bloggers and jailed opponents; and its transient population that makes a “Faustian bargain,” giving up

democratic freedoms (the right to vote, free speech, the right to criticize the government), for a standard of living one might not get in Arab or South Asia countries, or even in the UK or US.

Ali, who was deported from Dubai apparently after asking too many questions, and whose book is the only one of the three under review to deal at length with the current financial crisis, accuses Western journalists of buying too easily into the Dubai myth, largely smitten with “the idea of Dubai as an open playground for Westerners and as the land of opportunity for third-world migrants.”

Associated Press correspondent Jim Krane’s City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism occasionally falls victim to such credulity. Krane is particularly taken with Mohammed bin Rashid al-Makhtoum, or “Sheikh Mo,” as he is known in Dubai, the man who became ruler on January 4, 2006, upon the death of his elder brother, and the same year was appointed prime minister and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates. He has, Krane writes, “the entrepreneurship bravado of Richard Branson, the city-building prowess of Robert Moses, and the social engineering ambition of Ataturk.” Others, including Syed Ali, have portrayed the sheikh as a megalomaniac who seduced the Western press while tolerating human trafficking and organized crime—and ignoring Dubai’s ballooning debt. In recent years, Mohammed became fond of taking fellow billionaires such as Bill Gates around Dubai, boasting that the mini-cities that were springing up before their eyes—on landfill dumped in the sea—represented only “10 percent” of what he planned to accomplish. It was a seductive pitch, and it set off one of the greatest speculative binges in history.

Independent Dubai came into being in 1833, when eight hundred members of the al-Bu Falasah section of the ruling Bani Yas family of Abu Dhabi split off to settle alongside the Creek—a saltwater inlet from the Persian Gulf. As laid out in rich detail by Christopher Davidson in his careful study, Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success, the most prominent members of this clan were the al-Makhtoum family, which took control of the desert backwater. Thanks to their support of a lucrative gold-smuggling trade, the backing of the British colonial rulers, and the immigration of sizable numbers of Iranian and Indian merchants, they developed their domain into a modest trading hub by the middle of the twentieth century. Yet Dubai remained almost completely undeveloped. In City of Gold Krane provides a portrait of the place through the eyes of George Chapman, an English soldier and adventurer who was hired by a Dubai-based trading firm, Gray Mackenzie, in 1951:

Lurching into Dubai village, Chapman could see the orange light of kerosene lamps. The flickering glow revealed the ragged outlines of palm-thatch barasti shacks and adobe houses sprouting vents like oversized chimneys. Men in beards and rough turbans led camels through the sandy lanes. The air smelled of smoke and dung…. Dubai…sat in darkness. Literally. At night the town gave off so little light that it couldn’t be seen by those aboard a plane flying overhead or a ship passing offshore.

This began to change after 1966, when Dubai struck oil, fifteen miles offshore, giving Sheikh Rashid al-Makhtoum, father of the current leader, the resources to undertake a sweeping transformation. Sheikh Rashid, a self-educated man who spoke only Arabic, and whose most prominent features were “a crooked hawk’s nose and beady eyes,” was skeptical of modernization, Krane writes, but also “openly disdainful of the stagnant past.” Rashid ordered Dubai’s Creek dredged in 1961, making it the most accessible port in the Middle East; he gave the city electricity, built the first luxury hotels and dry dock facilities, and turned Dubai into an international shipping center. He also joined with neighboring emirates to form a loose federation.

Rashid died in 1990; his son Makhtoum, a Western-educated military pilot and horse-racing enthusiast, became the emirate’s de facto leader, and accelerated Dubai’s growth. One measure of the city’s transformation under his leadership was the expansion of Dubai’s airport, “a flyblown patch with an open concrete shed where sweaty officials hand-stamped passports” in 1969, according to Krane. It grew in two generations into the world’s eighth-largest airport, with 118 carriers serving 202 destinations and nearly forty million passengers. Many of those passengers were expatriates who had been seduced by Mohammed’s promises of near-limitless growth, and who became gullible participants in the real estate bubble. Krane is particularly good at capturing the hysteria that accompanied the building boom:

Developers sold tens of thou- sands [of properties] by brandishing drawings of dream neighborhoods with homes, trees, elevated trains, and European families strolling with ice cream cones. It took a leap of faith to trust that empty desert would be converted into the renderings on display. But the theoretical homes sold out in hours, years before structures would be built. Values shot into orbit. In the speculative secondary market, prices on luxury homes quintupled in five years, with properties sold repeatedly before completion. Blocky three-bedroom homes overlooking an artificial lake in The Meadows launched for around $350,000 in 2003. Five years later, they cost $1.8 million.

Today, a large number of similar real estate projects have been canceled, and many stand half or one-quarter filled. Last year Nakheel—the most aggressive and risk-prone of Dubai’s government-owned real estate entities—announced plans for a kilometer-high skyscraper that would surpass the Burj Khalifa, but that, too has apparently been shelved, as has Sheikh Mohammed’s bid to host the 2016 or 2020 Olympics. (This was always a long shot since from June through August the average daily temperature in Dubai hovers around 125 degrees.) The government’s World project may be the most spectacular example of Dubai’s failures: 70 percent of its islands have been sold at prices between $20 and $65 million apiece, but many developers have gone bust and virtually no building has taken place. One veteran journalist assured me, “the World will never be built.”

In May, Dubai World reached an agreement with most of its lenders to restructure debt worth $23.5 billion, leaving it with debts of $14.4 billion, racked up through such ill-advised acquisitions as the struggling clothing chain Barneys and the Queen Elizabeth 2 luxury liner. Last November, the chairmen of Dubai World and of Emaar were removed from the board of the Investment Corporation of Dubai, the emirate’s principal investment arm. Other top executives in half a dozen companies have been forced to resign.

Even so, Dubai’s slick public relations machine insists that all is business-as-usual: a press man took me to the 126th-floor observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, from which I could gaze upon half-finished skyscrapers and the empty islands of the World. He told me that all 160 floors had been sold long ago, though the place was still eerily deserted. At the Hotel Atlantis, a grotesque, faux palazzo that dominates the outer crescent of the Palm Jumeirah, my escort assured me that the 1,539-room hotel has enjoyed an average occupancy rate of “92 percent” since its opening. After touring the $7,000-a-night Neptune and Poseidon suites (each bedroom faces a giant, shark-filled aquarium) and its $35,000, seven-bedroom Presidential Suite, I was given a free pass to “Aquaventure”—a huge water park where tourists are propelled on inner tubes through artificial rapids and channels through a man-made jungle.

The Burj Khalifa, Dubai, the world’s tallest building, on the day of its opening ceremony, January 4, 2010

As I floated down a fake river with a concrete ziggurat looming over the scene, I took note of the heterogeneous makeup of both the hotel staff and tourists. Lifeguards from Kenya and China chatted up tourists from the Palestinian territories, Turkey, France, and the United States. Dubai welcomes everyone, its admirers say, building bridges between people. In fact, a longtime friend, an Egyptian-American who has lived in Dubai for several years, told me: “Here, Americans stick with Americans, Brits stick with Brits, Indians with Indians. Everyone keeps to his own kind.”

Bankers, journalists, real estate brokers, and others I spoke with believe that it will take five years for building to begin anew in Dubai, and they question whether the city can retain its allure meanwhile. Many doubt that Dubai’s financial problems have been fully revealed. “What is the extent of the debt, and what is the ability to service it while the economy recovers?” a South African businessman who’s lived here for years asked me. “People are terrified that it’s been papered over.” And if Dubai’s “formula of tax-free economic zones and mass tourism doesn’t work,” a long-time resident told me, “people who have been emulating it throughout the Middle East will say, ‘What the hell do we do now?’ There are a lot of angry young people out there, and the whole region will go up in smoke in ten years if they can’t find employment for them.”

During the past few months, I was told, Sheikh Mohammed has been trying to confront his dream’s collapse. He has said little publicly about the economic meltdown, other than issuing a handful of sunny pronouncements about Dubai. “Sheikh Mo is an angry man,” I was told by a source who knows him well; he feels “betrayed” by the real estate promoters who had assured him to the end that their ventures were healthy. According to my source, the sheikh has been taking long solo drives in his Mercedes at night, stopping in front of construction sites, and gazing pensively at the many vacant and half-built skyscrapers. Mohammed recently completed his autobiography for a US publisher with the assistance of a ghostwriter, but, a source in publishing said, he had refused to add a chapter about the bursting of the real estate bubble, the debt crisis, and the bailout by Abu Dhabi. He saw no reason to discuss these sources of humiliation. As a result, I was told, the book will never see the light of day

by Joshua Hammer

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Israel linked to exiled sheikh's bid for 'coup' in Gulf emirate of RAK

Israel is aiding an exiled Arab sheikh who is vying to seize control of a strategically important Gulf emirate only 40 miles from Iran.

The Israeli ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, has met Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi, the exiled crown prince of Ras al-Khaimeh (RAK), who asked him to help with his campaign to oust the leadership of the northernmost state in the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting took place in London in March and has been followed by phone calls and wider assistance and advice, according to records of the relationship seen by the Guardian.

Khalid, who has been based in London and has hired a solicitor from Ickenham as his agent, is bidding to replace his ailing father, Sheikh Saqr, and half brother, Sheikh Saud, to take control of RAK.

Israel's involvement in what would be a bloodless coup in one of the most sensitive regions in the world, would be "extremely uncomfortable", according to Dr Christopher Davidson, an expert on the politics of the UAE at Durham University.
More...
Khalid, who was sent into exile in 2003, claims RAK is now acting as a trafficking hub for nuclear arms parts to Iran and has spent more than £4m on an international public relations and lobbying campaign to persuade American politicians and the pro-Israel lobby in the US that it would be safer if he were in charge.

The alliance with Israel is the latest twist in the already extraordinary saga of Khalid's bid to return to power. In June the Guardian revealed that his fighting fund was being channelled through Peter Cathcart, a 59-year-old miniature steam railway enthusiast and parish council chairman who runs a family firm of solicitors in Ickenham, west London.

He in turn was spending it on top Washington lobbyists, Californian PR consultants and military experts to draw up dossiers damning the regime in RAK.

Prosor has pressed his contacts in the US government on behalf of Khalid whose aides asked for help setting up meetings in Washington with anyone interested in their claims about RAK's alleged sanctions busting, particularly concerning parts for the Iranian nuclear programme, plot records seen by this newspaper show.

An email from Cathcart to the ambassador's office reports that "His Highness … very much enjoyed his meeting with the ambassador".

In April Cathcart arranged for the two men to speak on the phone when the sheikh was in Oman and a note of the conversation recorded by Cathcart shows the ambassador "is working with certain people from his side" and "promised that the matter will be solved in his [the sheikh's] favour".

Sheikh Saqr is understood to be dying in hospital in Abu Dhabi and his son, Sheikh Saud, 54, the sitting crown prince, has been told to begin preparations for his wake, a significant event in emirates politics, which is likely to be attended by Abu Dhabi's rulers, who will have a large influence over which of the sons will succeed him.

"By meeting with the Israeli ambassador, he is sending out signals to Abu Dhabi and Washington DC that he will be hawkish on Iran if it comes to war," said Davidson. "This is a new kind of coup. It doesn't involve slitting throats, but instead spending large sums of money on global communications. It is the first of its kind and I am betting on it being successful. I think by the end of the summer we will have a verdict."

Asked about Israel's involvement, Peter Ragone, a spokesman for Khalid, said: "There is significant interest in the current RAK regime's relationship to Iran, particularly in the context of trying to stop the flow of arms, goods and technology from going through RAK to the Islamic Republic. Sheikh Khalid and representatives from his team meet with elected officials, high-ranking government officials and media representatives of various countries all the time. In fact, this week Sheikh Khalid's representatives are in Washington DC meeting representatives of the US foreign policy/national security establishment who are very concerned about the activity in RAK."

Odelia Englander, a spokeswoman at the Israeli embassy in London, declined to comment.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lockerbie: Megrahi Was Framed

The hysteria over the release of the so-called Lockerbie bomber reveals much about the political and media class on both sides of the Atlantic, especially Britain. From Gordon Brown’s "repulsion" to Barack Obama’s "outrage," the theater of lies and hypocrisy is dutifully attended by those who call themselves journalists. "But what if Megrahi lives longer than three months?" whined a BBC reporter to the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond. "What will you say to your constituents, then?"

Horror of horrors that a dying man should live longer than prescribed before he "pays" for his "heinous crime": the description of the Scottish justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, whose "compassion" allowed Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi to go home to Libya to "face justice from a higher power." Amen.

The American satirist Larry David once addressed a voluble crony as "a babbling brook of bullsh*t." Such eloquence summarizes the circus of Megrahi’s release.
More...
No one in authority has had the guts to state the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above the Scottish village of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 in which 270 people were killed. The governments in England and Scotland in effect blackmailed Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release. Of course there were oil and arms deals under way with Libya; but had Megrahi proceeded with his appeal, some 600 pages of new and deliberately suppressed evidence would have set the seal on his innocence and given us more than a glimpse of how and why he was stitched up for the benefit of "strategic interests."

"The endgame came down to damage limitation," said the former CIA officer Robert Baer, who took part in the original investigation, "because the evidence amassed by [Megrahi's] appeal is explosive and extremely damning to the system of justice." New witnesses would show that it was impossible for Megrahi to have bought clothes that were found in the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft – he was convicted on the word of a Maltese shopowner who claimed to have sold him the clothes, then gave a false description of him in 19 separate statements and even failed to recognize him in the courtroom.

The new evidence would have shown that a fragment of a circuit board and bomb timer, "discovered" in the Scottish countryside and said to have been in Megrahi’s suitcase, was probably a plant. A forensic scientist found no trace of an explosion on it. The new evidence would demonstrate the impossibility of the bomb beginning its journey in Malta before it was "transferred" through two airports undetected to Flight 103.

A "key secret witness" at the original trial, who claimed to have seen Megrahi and his co-accused al-Alim Khalifa Fahimah (who was acquitted) loading the bomb on to the plane at Frankfurt, was bribed by the US authorities holding him as a "protected witness." The defense exposed him as a CIA informer who stood to collect, on the Libyans’ conviction, up to $4m as a reward.

Megrahi was convicted by three Scottish judges sitting in a courtroom in "neutral" Holland. There was no jury. One of the few reporters to sit through the long and often farcical proceedings was the late Paul Foot, whose landmark investigation in Private Eye exposed it as a cacophony of blunders, deceptions and lies: a whitewash. The Scottish judges, while admitting a "mass of conflicting evidence" and rejecting the fantasies of the CIA informer, found Megrahi guilty on hearsay and unproven circumstance. Their 90-page "opinion," wrote Foot, "is a remarkable document that claims an honored place in the history of British miscarriages of justice." (Lockerbie – the Flight from Justice by Paul Foot can be downloaded from the Private Eye website for £5).

Foot reported that most of the staff of the US embassy in Moscow who had reserved seats on Pan Am flights from Frankfurt canceled their bookings when they were alerted by US intelligence that a terrorist attack was planned. He named Margaret Thatcher the "architect" of the cover-up after revealing that she killed the independent inquiry her transport secretary Cecil Parkinson had promised the Lockerbie families; and in a phone call to President George Bush Sr. on 11 January 1990, she agreed to "low-key" the disaster after their intelligence services had reported "beyond doubt" that the Lockerbie bomb had been placed by a Palestinian group contracted by Tehran as a reprisal for the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by a US warship in Iranian territorial waters. Among the 290 dead were 66 children. In 1990, the ship’s captain was awarded the Legion of Merit by Bush Sr. "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer."

Perversely, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, Bush needed Iran’s support as he built a "coalition" to expel his wayward client from an American oil colony. The only country that defied Bush and backed Iraq was Libya. "Like lazy and overfed fish," wrote Foot, "the British media jumped to the bait. In almost unanimous chorus, they engaged in furious vilification and op-ed warmongering against Libya." The framing of Libya for the Lockerbie crime was inevitable. Since then, a US defense intelligence agency report, obtained under Freedom of Information, has confirmed these truths and identified the likely bomber; it was to be centerpiece of Megrahi’s defense.

In 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred Megrahi’s case for appeal. "The commission is of the view," said its chairman, Dr. Graham Forbes, "that based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice."

The words "miscarriage of justice" are missing entirely from the current furor, with Kenny MacAskill reassuring the baying mob that the scapegoat will soon face justice from that "higher power." What a disgrace.

By John Pilger

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Forbidden Knowledge

It has been estimated by experts that the pressure which blows the oil into the Gulf waters is estimated to be between 20,000 and 70,000 PSI (pounds per square inch). Impossible to control.

What US Scientists Are Forbidden To Tell The Public About The Gulf
What you are about to read, is what the scientists in the United States are not allowed to tell you in great fear of the Obama administration.

They are under the threat of severe repercussions to the max.. Scientists confirming these findings cannot be named due to the above, but what they believe, they want to be known by all.

Take a U. S. map, lay it flat and measure inland just the minimum 50 miles of total destruction all around the Gulf of Mexico as to what you will read below.

The carnage to the United States is so staggering, it will take your breathe away.

Should what the scientists who are trying to warn everyone about be even close to being true... all of Florida will be completely destroyed as will everyone and everything on it.

You decide!! Everyone has the right to read what I have just written in this article, as well as to what is written below by the scientists who the Obama administration and BP are trying to shut up.

Please share with as many as you can.

--Dr. James P. Wickstrom

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2010/05/05/learning/oilslickLN/oilslickLN-blogSpan.jpg
More...
Summary of What is Happening
The estimated super high pressure release of oil from under the earth's crust is between 80,000 to 100,000 barrels per day.

The flow of oil and toxic gases is bringing up with it... rocks and sand which causes the flow to create a sandblasting effect on the remaining well head device currently somewhat restricting the flow, as well as the drilled hole itself.

As the well head becomes worn it enlarges the passageway allowing an ever-increasing flow. Even if some device could be placed onto the existing wellhead, it would not be able to shut off the flow, because what remains of the existing wellhead would not be able to contain the pressure.

The well head piping is originally about 2 inches thick. It is now likely to be less than 1 inch thick, and thinning by each passing moment. The oil has now reached the Gulf Stream and is entering the Oceanic current which is at least four times stronger than the current in the Gulf, which will carry it throughout the world within 18 months.

The oil along with the gasses, including benzene and many other toxins, is deleting the oxygen in the water. This is killing all life in the ocean. Along with the oil along the shores, there will be many dead fish, etc. that will have to be gathered and disposed of.

Summary of Expectations
At some point the drilled hole in the earth will enlarge itself beneath the wellhead to weaken the area the wellhead rests upon. The intense pressure will then push the wellhead off the hole allowing a direct unrestricted flow of oil, etc.

The hole will continue to increase in size allowing more and more oil to rise into the Gulf. After several billion barrels of oil have been released, the pressure within the massive cavity five miles beneath the ocean floor will begin to normalize.

This will allow the water, under the intense pressure at 1 mile deep, to be forced into the hole and the cavity where the oil was. The temperature at that depth is near 400 degrees, possibly more.

The water will be vaporized and turned into steam, creating an enormous amount of force, lifting the Gulf floor. It is difficult to know how much water will go down to the core and therefore, its not possible to fully calculate the rise of the floor.

The tsunami wave this will create will be anywhere from 20 to 80 feet high, possibly more. Then the floor will fall into the now vacant chamber. This is how nature will seal the hole.

Depending on the height of the tsunami, the ocean debris, oil, and existing structures that will be washed away on shore and inland, will leave the area from 50 to 200 miles inland devoid of life. Even if the debris is cleaned up, the contaminants that will be in the ground and water supply will prohibit re-population of these areas for an unknown number of years.

(End of scientists information release.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ethical = Civilised

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850), French economist

"The world today is as furiously religious as it ever was. ... Experiments with secularized religions have generally failed; religious movements with beliefs and practices dripping with reactionary supernaturalism have widely succeeded." Peter Berger, Desecularization of the World, 1999

“I think that on balance the moral influence of religion has been awful. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.” Steven Weinberg, 1979 Nobel Laureate in Physics


There has never been more talk about ethics than today, not only in private lives, but also in government circles, in business boardrooms and in the media. That is because most people realize we are living a very corrupt period. Click Here

In 2009, the United States ranked 19th in a worldwide corruption index, way below New Zealand (1st) or Denmark (2nd).

Indeed, more than three quarters of Americans believe that we are living at a time of declining moral values. A recent Gallup poll found that 76 percent of Americans think moral values in their country are getting worse, while only 14 percent believe they’re getting better. This would seem to be paradoxical, since other indicators show that the United States is getting more religious and pious. More religion and less morality?
More...

For instance, it has been observed that teen birth rates are the highest in the most religious states. Click here.

That may be because poor people tend to be more religious compared to the rich and tend to be less educated and less well informed. Consider also that it has been observed that religious people are more racist than average. Click here.

Morality is a complex issue, but that is no reason to sweep it under the rug of indifference.

In a new book, I attempt to tackle the issue of ethics and its sources. I have arrived at the conclusion that humanity needs a new worldview—a new moral code— a new objective standard of right and wrong, because our prevailing sources of morality are at best inadequate, and at worse, perverse.

This is because many of our problems today are not only technical in nature, but they also have a moral underpinning, and are thus much more difficult to solve. It may also be because our scientific and technological progress seems to be advancing much faster than our moral progress, with the consequence that problems arise faster than our moral ability to face them and to solve them can cope. Indeed, our problems are more and more global in nature, while our moral worldview is still essentially parochial.

We thought that wars of aggression (or pre-emptive wars) had been abolished with the adoption of the United Nations Charter on June 26, 1945 and the issuance of the Nuremberg Charter on August 8, 1945. But wars of aggression persist. —We also thought that financial crises [see TheNewAmericanEmpire.com] and the severe economic recessions and sometimes depressions they provoked were a thing of the past, thanks to a protecting net of financial regulations designed to control greed and prevent a repeat of the past. Well, twenty years of wholesale deregulation has brought us back to an era of anything goes and financial collapse. We also thought that the problem of poverty in the world could be alleviated, but abject poverty persists in many parts of the world.

There seems to be a pattern here, and it is that humanity seems unable to break out of a cycle of wars, economic crises and endemic poverty.

And, these throwbacks to an unpalatable past seem to coincide with other developments, such as the spread of nuclear weaponry, the persistence of ignorance, growing social and economic inequalities, disregard for basic democratic principles, the rise in global pollution, and an increasing religion-based willingness to kill and terrorize.

With the current globalization of our problems, we need to extend our circle of empathy and view humanity as a worldwide extended human family. As long as we refrain from facing that challenge, divisiveness and unsolvable conflicts will persist.

The contradiction between modern problems, new scientific knowledge and the inadequacy of our prevalent source of morality or of ethics, led me to ask what kind of values would be required to face the new challenges. What would our civilization look like if we were to adopt them?

In such a such a civilization,

• All human beings would be equal in dignity and in human rights.

• Life on this planet would not be devalued and seen as only a preparation for a better life after death, somewhere beyond the clouds.

• The virtues of tolerance and of human liberty would be proclaimed and applied, subject only to the requirements of public order.

• Human solidarity and sharing would be better accepted as a protection against poverty and deprivation.

• The manipulation and domination of others through lies, propaganda, and exploitation schemes of all kinds would be less prevalent.

• There would be less reliance on superstition and religion to understand the Universe and to solve life's problems and more on reason, logic and science.

• Better care of the Earth's natural environment—land, soil, water, air and space—would be taken in order to bequeath a brighter heritage to future generations.

• We would have ended the primitive practice of resorting to violence or to wars to resolve differences and conflicts.

• There would be more genuine democracy in the organization of public affairs, according to individual freedom and responsibility.

• Governments would see that their first and most important task is to help develop children's intelligence and talents through education.

Yes we can, if we try.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

US Threatens to Nuke Iran and Anyone Else it Feels like Nuking

The 2010 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference will convene from 3-28 May 2010 in New York. This year's conference - as with previous years' - promises to be yet another battle between the developing and the nuclear-armed nations. The US insists that the NPT needs to be rewritten so as to place greater limits on what it calls "nuclear weapons proliferation" whilst the developing nations say that the concern over proliferation is being used as a pretext by the US to avoid its own obligations under the same treaty to disarm its own nukes and to share nuclear technology with everyone else. This year, the same conflict will likely continue, and the US (and the US media) will of course try to blame it on Iran when in fact the emphasis on disarmament is shared by a number of countries called the New Agenda Coalition that includes Brazil, New Zealand and Egypt, and is not limited to Iran.

More...
In the 2005 Review Conference, the state parties failed to agree on an outcome document, largely because of disagreement between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, with the former emphasizing the importance of strengthening nonproliferation efforts and focusing on specific cases of actual and suspected non-compliance with the Treaty, and the latter emphasizing the importance of compliance with and implementation of past disarmament obligations by the nuclear-armed nations, as well as the importance of sharing civilian nuclear technology.

The mainstream US media of course automatically buy into the nuclear-armed nation's agenda, claiming that the NPT needs to be "fixed" because it has "not prevented Iran from enriching uranium" ... as if the role of the NPT is to prevent the peaceful use of nuclear technology (when in fact the explicit role of the NPT is to encourage it.) Look for the media making a big deal out of Ahmadinejad and trying to use him as a foil, and blaming him for the continued standoff at the meeting.

Under the terms of the NPT, the US and other nuclear-armed countries that have signed the NPT are obligated to 1- work towards disarmement, 2-share nuclear technology with other signatories, and 3- not share nuclear technology with non-signatories such as India and Israel. Also, in addition to these treaty commitments, in 1995 the US promised (again) not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear armed countries (known as the Negative Security Assurance) and is also bound by international law and UN Security Council Resolution not to threaten other countries with nuclear weapons.

However, every single obligation listed above.

The US had initially agreed to a 13-step plan of action to disarm its nukes as obligated by the NPT. By 2005 and under Bush, the US declared that the 13-steps to be non-binding and irrelevant. The US and Britain and France have formally declared that they have no plans on scrapping their nuclear weapons. Sure, Obama did just hold a disarmament meeting with Russia, but that was just PR.

The US has also shared nuclear technology with both Israel and India, two non-signatories, in blatant violation of the NPT.

The US and other nuclear-armed countries continue to place limits on the sharing of nuclear technology with NPT signatories under the guise of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. THe developing nations have consistently decried this. The Final Document of the United Nations General Assembly resolution S-10/2 which was adopted at the 27th plenary meeting of the tenth special session on 30 June 1978 stated in paragraph 69: "Each country's choices and decisions in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be respected without jeopardizing its policies or international cooperation agreements and arrangements for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and its fuel-cycle policies". This position was reiterated in the 1980 NPT Review and Extension Conference and has been consistently reiterated in every Review Conference since then, including the 1995 Review Conference and in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference. The Final Document of the 10th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2002 also reiterated that non-proliferation measures should not be used to jeopardize the inalienable rights of all States to have access to and be free to acquire technology, equipment and materials for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and that each country's choices regarding nuclear fuel cycle policies should be respected.

And finally the US has explicitly threatened to nuke Iran and anyone else it feels like nuking.

So, where exactly is the "crisis" in the NPT -- with Iran, or the US?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nukes & Temples

Evidently, American presidents wish to continue to guard Israel's nuclear "secret". If the motivation is a simple case of double standard, surely one must be deplored by the submissiveness of the general community. On the other hand, the more inquisitive mind would surely want to prod deeper and question the drive behind the guarding of this "secret"?

Perhaps motivations have changed over time. In 1969, Kissinger, aware that Israel had deceived the United States about its nuclear bomb program, which it was suspected to have stolen from the U.S., wrote to Nixon that pressuring Israel to reveal its nuclear arsenal would result in a Soviet nuclear guarantee for the [oil rich] Arabs and increase conflict in the region[i]. Ironically, it was Nixon who soon after had considered sending airborne troops to seize oilfields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi pursuing the 1973 war.

More...
Evidently, American presidents wish to continue to guard Israel's nuclear "secret". If the motivation is a simple case of double standard, surely one must be deplored by the submissiveness of the general community. On the other hand, the more inquisitive mind would surely want to prod deeper and question the drive behind the guarding of this "secret"?

Perhaps motivations have changed over time. In 1969, Kissinger, aware that Israel had deceived the United States about its nuclear bomb program, which it was suspected to have stolen from the U.S., wrote to Nixon that pressuring Israel to reveal its nuclear arsenal would result in a Soviet nuclear guarantee for the [oil rich] Arabs and increase conflict in the region[i]. Ironically, it was Nixon who soon after had considered sending airborne troops to seize oilfields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi pursuing the 1973 war.

Today, the secrecy continues, as does the aid -- perhaps towards a messianic return - the building of the Third Temple.

In 2006, the Israeli government began work on an exact replica of the Hurva synagogue on its original site. The story of the Hurva has received little attention other than coinciding with Joe Biden's visit to Israel and that government's insistence on building more illegal settlements. But Hurva is the beginning of the end.

As the United States protects Israel and pushes for more sanctions on Iran, thereby distracting the international community from the more pressing problem at hand, rabbis are being tailored for the special kind of garments they will be wearing in a "rebuilt temple". These rabbis believe that the return of Jews to Jerusalem are the obvious signs - "Less obvious are the more subtle realities that add up - the rebuilding of the Jewish Quarter, Jews steadily moving into the Old City, even the Temple Mount tunnel excavations. But alas, those big mosques are still situated on the Temple Mount. For now."[ii]

Attempts to fulfill the prophecy are not new. In 1990, there was another attempt by the 'Temple Mount Faithful' to bring a cornerstone for a reconstructed Third Temple to the site. In 1996, the opening of an archaeological tunnel adjacent to the Mount led to the first outbreak of widespread violence across the territories between Israelis and Palestinians since the signing of the Oslo accords. In 2000, Ariel Sharon staged a provocative visit to the Temple Mount and said: "The Temple Mount is in our hands and will remain in our hands. It is the holiest site in Judaism and it is the right of every Jew to visit the Temple Mount,".

It took four years to complete the work on Hurva. When presidential candidate, Barack Obama promised AIPAC an undivided Jerusalem in 2008, the building of the Hurva synagogue was well on the way -- which signaled continued future attacks on the al-Aqsa Mosque to make way for construction of the Third Temple. Past wars and future was waged against other countries based on unfounded accusations has distracted the international community from the reality of this construction and its implications - the messianic era. As importantly, Israel's stockpile of nuclear weapons - a nation more likely than any other to use their nuclear weapons based on their deep religious ideology.

Of particular concern is the Gush Emunim, a right-wing religious organization, or others, hijacking a nuclear device to ‘liberate’ the Temple Mount for the building of the Third Temple. The completion of the Hurva synagogue has increased these chances. On April 6, JTA reported that "Our Land of Israel" party had put posters on 200 city buses in Jerusalem showing an artist's rendition of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the al-Aqsa Mosque with the slogan, "May the Temple be built in our lifetime."

Equally disturbing, a 1997 article reviewing the Israeli Defense Force repeatedly stressed the possibilities of, and the need to guard against, a religious, right-wing military coup, especially as the proportion of religious in the military increases[iii]. The warming was not unfounded. The once secular army now has combat units filling with those who believe Israel's wars are "God's wars".

Mordechai Vanunu not only disclosed Israel's 200 nuclear bombs, but revealed the sophisticated underground plutonium separation facility producing 40 kilograms annually, several times more than previous estimates. The very 'apple size' plutonium Mr. Obama said had to be guarded as it was capable of killing hundreds of thousands of people. Surely Israel does not need several hundred nuclear bombs to defend itself? Prominent Israeli military historian, theorist, and one of the voices who strongly condemned George Bush's Iraq invasion, Martin van Creveld, the famous Israeli military historian and theorist, sheds light on what Israel may want with the bombs:

Referring to the mindset of Israeli leaders, he had opined: “We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome.” “We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.”

Assuredly this is not a bluff. American-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard obtained satellite-imaging data of the former Soviet Union, allowing Israel to target Russian cities. Israel is capable of using its nuclear arsenal a political lever or 'retaliatory capability'. Perhaps this explains Tel-Aviv's "friendly" trips to Russia when Israel wants Iran to be pressured. Israel also used American satellite imagery to plan the 7 June 1981 attack on the Tammuz-1 reactor at Osiraq, Iraq[iv].

This small nation controls much of the world. It commits crimes against humanity and its partner in crime, the United States, makes such reports as the "Goldstone Report" disappear. It extends war -- the 2006 Lebanon war -- for maximum damage. Yet, at the behest of Israel, day and night, Iran is persecuted, its citizens denied of their rights - and under the pretext of 'human rights' and in gross violation of international law and U.N. Security Council Resolution 984, threatened with nuclear weapons - for Messiah's Temple.

Heaven must be hell.

By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

Why Sharks Should Not Own Sport

As Tiger Woods returns to golf, not all his affairs are salacious headlines. The Tiger Woods Golf Course in Dubai is costing $100million to build. Dubai relies on cheap third world labour, as do certain consumer brands that have helped make Woods a billionaire. Nike workers in Thailand wrote to Woods, expressing their “utmost respect for your skill and perseverance as an athlete” but pointing out that they would need to work 72,000 years “to receive what you will earn from [your Nike] contract”.
More...
The American sports writer, Dave Zirin, is one of the few to break media silence on the corporate distortion and corruption of sport. His forthcoming book Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love (Scribner) blows a long whistle on what money power has done to the people’s pleasure, its heroes like Woods and the communities it once served. He describes the impact of the Texan Tom Hicks’s half-ownership of Liverpool Football Club, which followed another rich and bored American Malcolm Glazer’s “leveraged takeover” of Manchester United in 2005. As a result, England’s most successful club (with Liverpool) is now 716.5 million pounds in debt.

How long has this been going on? In 1983, you could buy a ticket to a first division game for 75 pence. Today, the average at Old Trafford is around 34 pounds. Watch the latest crop of parents on morose queues to buy overpriced club strips and insignia, also made with cheap and often sweated labour, with the brand of a failed multinational emblazoned on it. Profiteering is now an incandescent presence across top-class sport. Sven-Goran Eriksson will trouser up to two million pounds for just three months’ work in Ivory Coast, where half the population has barely enough to survive. Australia’s finest, most boorish cricketers are collecting their bundles for a few months’ cavorting in the Indian franchises. The attitude is entitlement, the kind that less talented “celebrities” flaunt. It was in no way remarkable that in 2007-8 a number of the heirs to Don Bradman’s Invincibles achieved what was once nigh on impossible; they were disliked in their own country. Those high fives and air-punching fists have become salutes not to “everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards” (Bill Shankly), but to the voracious sponsor and the forensic camera.

Take for example FIFA, which has effectively taken charge of South Africa for the World Cup. Along with the International Olympic Committee, FIFA is sport’s Wall Street and Pentagon combined. They have this power because host politicians believe the “international prestige” of their visitation will bring economic and promotional benefits, especially to themselves. I was reminded of this watching a documentary by the South African director Craig Tanner, Fahrenheit 2010. His film is not opposed to the World Cup, but reveals how ordinary South Africans, whose game is football, have been shoved aside, dispossessed and further impoverished so that a giant TV façade can be erected in their country.

A new stadium near Nelspruit will host four World Cup matches over 10 days. Jimmy Mohlala, speaker of the local municipality, was gunned down in his home in January last year after whistle-blowing “irregularities” in the tenders. An entire school, which was in the way, has been removed into prefabricated, sweltering steel boxes on a desolate site with a road running through it. “When the World Cup is over,” said the writer Ashwin Desai, “it will become obvious that these stadiums are going to be empty shells, that our money has been used for what is really a pyramid scheme”.

A community of 20,000 people, the Joe Slovo Informal Settlement, is threatened with eviction from where they live near the main motorway between Cape Town and the city’s airport. They are deemed an “eyesore”. Street vendors will be arrested if they fail to comply with FIFA rules about trade and advertising and mention the words “World Cup”, even “2010”. FIFA will earn about two and quarter billion pounds from the TV rights, exceeding its income from the last two World Cups combined.

Incredibly, South Africa will get none of this. And this is country with up to 40 per cent unemployment, a male life expectancy of 49 and thousands of malnourished children. This truth about the “rainbow nation” is not what fans all over the world will see on their TV screens, although they may glimpse an unreported feature of modern South Africa, which is a vibrant, rolling resistance that has linked the World Cup to an economic apartheid that remains as divisive as ever. Indeed, another kind of World Cup for effective popular protest has long been won in the streets of South Africa’s townships.

In his chapter on Liverpool FC, Dave Zirin describes a similar resistance that also offers inspiration to those struggling to reclaim sport from the sharks. A fans’ organization, Share Liverpool FC, is aiming for 100,000 shareholders to buy back the club from Tom Hicks and his co-owner, George Gillett. Liverpool fans have also formed the Liverpool Supporters Union (LSU), which has had thousands in the streets calling for a boycott of the Bank of Scotland if it gives Hicks and Gillett any more credit. Remember how the boycott of Murdoch press succeeded in Liverpool following the Sun’s lies over the Hillsborough tragedy. “If we stand together and speak with one voice, regardless of language or accent,” says the LSU, “we can make a genuine difference to our football club, the city of Liverpool and indeed the wider footballing world.” On 17 April, Hicks and Gillett announced they were selling the club. Manchester United fans are mounting a similar, principled resistance in defence of the sport they love and which they believe rightly is theirs. We should support them.

By John Pilger

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Truth Has Fallen and Has Taken Liberty With It

There was a time when the pen was mightier than the sword. That was a time when people believed in truth and regarded truth as an independent power and not as an auxiliary for government, class, race, ideological, personal, or financial interest.

Today Americans are ruled by propaganda. Americans have little regard for truth, little access to it, and little ability to recognize it.

Truth is an unwelcome entity. It is disturbing. It is off limits. Those who speak it run the risk of being branded “anti-American,” “anti-semite” or “conspiracy theorist.”

Truth is an inconvenience for government and for the interest groups whose campaign contributions control government.

Truth is an inconvenience for prosecutors who want convictions, not the discovery of innocence or guilt.

Truth is inconvenient for ideologues.
More...
Today many whose goal once was the discovery of truth are now paid handsomely to hide it. “Free market economists” are paid to sell offshoring to the American people. High-productivity, high value-added American jobs are denigrated as dirty, old industrial jobs. Relicts from long ago, we are best shed of them. Their place has been taken by “the New Economy,” a mythical economy that allegedly consists of high-tech white collar jobs in which Americans innovate and finance activities that occur offshore. All Americans need in order to participate in this “new economy” are finance degrees from Ivy League universities, and then they will work on Wall Street at million dollar jobs.

Economists who were once respectable took money to contribute to this myth of “the New Economy.”

And not only economists sell their souls for filthy lucre. Recently we have had reports of medical doctors who, for money, have published in peer-reviewed journals concocted “studies” that hype this or that new medicine produced by pharmaceutical companies that paid for the “studies.”

The Council of Europe is investigating big pharma’s role in hyping a false swine flu pandemic in order to gain billions of dollars in sales of the vaccine.

The media helped the US military hype its recent Marja offensive in Afghanistan, describing Marja as a city of 80,000 under Taliban control. It turns out that Marja is not urban but a collection of village farms.

And there is the global warming scandal, in which climate scientists, financed by Wall Street and corporations anxious to get their mitts on “cap and trade” and by a U.N. agency anxious to redistribute income from rich to poor countries, concocted a doomsday scenario in order to create profit in pollution.


Wherever one looks, truth has fallen to money.

Wherever money is insufficient to bury the truth, ignorance, propaganda, and short memories finish the job.

I remember when, following CIA director William Colby’s testimony before the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan issued executive orders preventing the CIA and U.S. black-op groups from assassinating foreign leaders. In 2010 the US Congress was told by Dennis Blair, head of national intelligence, that the US now assassinates its own citizens in addition to foreign leaders.

When Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that US citizens no longer needed to be arrested, charged, tried, and convicted of a capital crime, just murdered on suspicion alone of being a “threat,” he wasn’t impeached. No investigation pursued. Nothing happened. There was no Church Committee. In the mid-1970s the CIA got into trouble for plots to kill Castro. Today it is American citizens who are on the hit list. Whatever objections there might be don’t carry any weight. No one in government is in any trouble over the assassination of U.S. citizens by the U.S. government.

As an economist, I am astonished that the American economics profession has no awareness whatsoever that the U.S. economy has been destroyed by the offshoring of U.S. GDP to overseas countries. U.S. corporations, in pursuit of absolute advantage or lowest labor costs and maximum CEO “performance bonuses,” have moved the production of goods and services marketed to Americans to China, India, and elsewhere abroad. When I read economists describe offshoring as free trade based on comparative advantage, I realize that there is no intelligence or integrity in the American economics profession.

Intelligence and integrity have been purchased by money. The transnational or global U.S. corporations pay multi-million dollar compensation packages to top managers, who achieve these “performance awards” by replacing U.S. labor with foreign labor. While Washington worries about “the Muslim threat,” Wall Street, U.S. corporations and “free market” shills destroy the U.S. economy and the prospects of tens of millions of Americans.

Americans, or most of them, have proved to be putty in the hands of the police state.
Americans have bought into the government’s claim that security requires the suspension of civil liberties and accountable government. Astonishingly, Americans, or most of them, believe that civil liberties, such as habeas corpus and due process, protect “terrorists,” and not themselves. Many also believe that the Constitution is a tired old document that prevents government from exercising the kind of police state powers necessary to keep Americans safe and free.

Most Americans are unlikely to hear from anyone who would tell them any different.

I was associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I was Business Week’s first outside columnist, a position I held for 15 years. I was columnist for a decade for Scripps Howard News Service, carried in 300 newspapers. I was a columnist for the Washington Times and for newspapers in France and Italy and for a magazine in Germany. I was a contributor to the New York Times and a regular feature in the Los Angeles Times. Today I cannot publish in, or appear on, the American “mainstream media.”

For the last six years I have been banned from the “mainstream media.” My last column in the New York Times appeared in January, 2004, coauthored with Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer representing New York. We addressed the offshoring of U.S. jobs. Our op-ed article produced a conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and live coverage by C-Span. A debate was launched. No such thing could happen today.

For years I was a mainstay at the Washington Times, producing credibility for the Moony newspaper as a Business Week columnist, former Wall Street Journal editor, and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. But when I began criticizing Bush’s wars of aggression, the order came down to Mary Lou Forbes to cancel my column.

The American media does not serve the truth. It serves the government and the interest groups that empower the government.

America’s fate was sealed when the public and the anti-war movement bought the government’s 9/11 conspiracy theory. The government’s account of 9/11 is contradicted by much evidence. Nevertheless, this defining event of our time, which has launched the US on interminable wars of aggression and a domestic police state, is a taboo topic for investigation in the media. It is pointless to complain of war and a police state when one accepts the premise upon which they are based.

These trillion dollar wars have created financing problems for Washington’s deficits and threaten the U.S. dollar’s role as world reserve currency. The wars and the pressure that the budget deficits put on the dollar’s value have put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. Former Goldman Sachs chairman and U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is after these protections for the elderly. Fed chairman Bernanke is also after them. The Republicans are after them as well. These protections are called “entitlements” as if they are some sort of welfare that people have not paid for in payroll taxes all their working lives.

With over 21 percent unemployment as measured by the methodology of 1980, with American jobs, GDP, and technology having been given to China and India, with war being Washington’s greatest commitment, with the dollar over-burdened with debt, with civil liberty sacrificed to the “war on terror,” the liberty and prosperity of the American people have been thrown into the trash bin of history.

The militarism of the U.S. and Israeli states, and Wall Street and corporate greed, will now run their course. As the pen is censored and its might extinguished, I am signing off.

By Paul Craig Roberts

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mossad's Licence to Kill

The killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh bears the hallmarks of the ruthless Israeli intelligence service. One of the leading chroniclers of the agency gives a unique insight into its methods.

The Mossad assassins could have felt only satisfaction when the news broke that they had succeeded in killing Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a top Hamas military commander, in Dubai last month.

The Israeli government's refusal to comment on the death has once more gained worldwide publicity for Mossad, its feared intelligence service. Its ruthless assassinations were made famous by the film Munich, which detailed Mossad's attacks on the terrorists who killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Long ago, the agency had established that silence is the most effective way to spread terror among its Arab enemies.

More...
In the past year, al-Mabhouh had moved to the top of Mossad's list of targets, each of which must be legally approved under guidelines laid down over half a century ago by Meir Amit, the most innovative and ruthless director-general of the service. Born in Tiberius, King Herod's favourite city, Amit had established the rules for assassination.

"There will be no killing of political leaders, however extreme they are. They must be dealt with politically. There will be no killing of a terrorist's family unless they are also directly implicated in terrorism. Each execution must be sanctioned by the incumbent prime minister. Any execution is therefore state-sponsored, the ultimate judicial sanction of the law. The executioner is no different from the state-appointed hangman or any other lawfully-appointed executioner."

I first met Amit in 2001 and through him, I talked to the spies of Mossad, the katsas, and finally, to the assassins, the kidon, who take their name from the Hebrew word for bayonet. They helped me write the only book approved by Mossad, Gideon's Spies. Amit said the book "tells like it was – and like it is".

Amit showed me a copy of those rules at our first meeting. After two years of training in the Mossad academy at Herzlia near Tel Aviv, each recruit to the kidon is given a copy.

The killing in Dubai is a classic example of how Mossad goes about its work. Al-Mabhouh's 11 assassins had been chosen from the 48 current kidon, six of whom are women.

It has yet to be established how al-Mabhouh was killed, but kidon's preference is strangling with wire, a well-placed car bomb, an electric shock or one of the poisons created by Mossad scientists at their headquarters in a Tel Aviv suburb.

The plan to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had been finalised in a small conference room next to the office of Meir Dagan, who has run Mossad for the past eight years. The 10th director-general, Dagan has a reputation as a man who would not hesitate to walk into a nameless Arab alley with no more than a handgun in his pocket.

Only he knows how many times he has asked a prime minister for legal permission to kill a terrorist who could not be brought to trial in an Israeli court, along with the kidon to whom he shows the legally stamped document, the licence to kill.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's name had been on such a document, which would have been signed by Benyamin Netanyahu. That, like every aspect of a kidon operation, would be firmly denied by a government spokesman, were he to be asked. This has not stopped Dubai's police chief, Lt-General Tamin, from fulminating against the Israeli prime minister.

Two years ago this week, Dagan sent a team of kidon to Damascus to assassinate Imad Mughniyeh. His Mossad file included details of organising the kidnapping of Terry Waite and the bombing of the US Marine base near Beirut airport, killing 241 people. The United States had placed a £12.5 million bounty on his head. Dagan just wanted him dead.

Mossad psychiatrists, psychologists, behavioural scientists, psychoanalysts and profilers – collectively known as the "specialists" – were told to decide the best way to kill Mughniyeh.

They concluded that he would be among the guests of honour at the Iranian Cultural Centre celebrations in 2008 for the celebration of the Khomeini Revolution. The team rigged a car-bomb in the headrest of the Mitsubishi Pajero they discovered Mughniyeh had rented, to be detonated by a mobile phone. As Mughniyeh arrived outside the Culture Centre at precisely 7pm on February 12, the blast blew his head off.

At Mughniyeh's funeral in Beirut, his mother, Um-Imad, sat among a sea of black chadors, a sombre old woman, who wailed that her son had planned to visit her on the day after he died. She cried out she had no photograph to remember him by. Two days later she received a packet. Inside was his photograph. It had been posted in Haifa.

The list of kidon assassinations is long and stretches far beyond the Arab world. In their base deep in the Negev Desert – the sand broken only by a distant view of Israel's nuclear facility at Dimona – the kidon practise with a variety of handguns, learn how to conceal bombs, administer a lethal injection in a crowd and make a killing look accidental.

They review famous assassinations – the shooting of John F Kennedy, for example – and study the faces and habits of potential targets whose details are stored on their highly restricted computers. There, too, are thousands of constantly updated street plans downloaded from Google Earth.

Mossad is one of the world's smallest intelligence services. But it has a back-up system no other outfit can match. The system is known as sayanim, a derivative of the Hebrew word lesayeah, meaning to help.

There are tens of thousands of these "helpers". Each has been carefully recruited, sometimes by katsas, Mossad's field agents. Others have been asked to become helpers by other members of the secret group.

Created by Meir Amit, the role of the sayanim is a striking example of the cohesiveness of the world Jewish community. In practical terms, a sayan who runs a car rental agency will provide a kidon with a vehicle on a no-questions basis. An estate agent sayan will provide a building for surveillance. A bank manager sayan will provide funds at any time of day or night, and a sayan doctor provides medical assistance.

Any of these helpers could have been involved in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Mossad has recently expanded its network of sayanim into Arab countries.

A sayan doctor in the West Bank provided details of the homoeopathic concoction Yasser Arafat used to drink. When he died in 2004, his personal physician, Dr al-Kurdi, said "poisoning is a strong possibility in this case".There have been reports that more than a dozen terrorists have died from poisoning in the past five years,.

Within the global intelligence community, respect for Mossad grew following the kidon assassination of Dr Gerald Bull, the Canadian scientist who was probably the world's greatest expert on gun-barrel ballistics. Israel had made several attempts to buy his expertise. Each time, Bull had made clear his dislike for the Jewish state.

Instead he had offered his services to Saddam Hussein, to build a super-gun capable of launching shells containing nuclear, chemical or biological warheads directly from Iraq into Israel. Saddam had ordered three of the weapons at a cost of $20 million. Bull was retained as a consultant for a fee of $1 million.

On the afternoon of March 20, 1990, the sanction to kill Bull was given by the then prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir. Nahum Admoni, the head of Mossad, sent a three-man team to Brussels, where Bull lived in a luxury apartment block. Each kidon carried a handgun in a holster under his jacket.

When the 61-year-old Bull answered the doorbell of his home, he was shot five times in the head and the neck, each kidon firing their 7.65 pistol in turn, leaving Bull dead on his doorstep. An hour later they were out of the country on a flight to Tel Aviv.

Within hours, Mossad's own department of psychological warfare had arranged with sayanim in the European media to leak stories that Bull had been shot by Saddam's hit squad because he had planned to renege on their deal.

The same tactics had been placed on stand-by on October 24, 1995, for the assassination of Fathi Shkaki who, like Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, had reached the top of Mossad's target list as a result of his terrorist attacks.

Two kidon – code-named Gil and Ran – had left Tel Aviv on separate flights. Ran flew to Athens, Gil to Rome. At each airport they collected new British passports from a local sayan. The two men arrived in Malta on a late-afternoon flight and checked into the Diplomat Hotel overlooking Valetta harbour.

That evening, a sayan delivered a motorcycle to Ran. He told hotel staff that he planned to use it to tour the island. At the same time, a freighter that had sailed the previous day from Haifa bound for Italy radioed to the Maltese harbour authorities that it had developed engine trouble. While it was fixed, it would drop anchor off the island. On board the boat was a small team of Mossad communications technicians. They established a link with a radio in Gil's suitcase.

Shkaki had arrived by ferry from Tripoli, Libya, where he had been discussing with Colonel Gadaffi what Mossad was convinced was a terrorist attack. The two kidon waited for him to stroll along the waterfront. Ran and Gil drove up on the motorcycle and Gil shot Fathi Shkaki six times in the head. It had become a kidon signature.

When the police came to search Shkaki's bedroom they found a "Do not disturb" sign on his door – a signature that was repeated in last month's Dubai killing.

By Gordon Thomas (Author of Gideon's Spies)