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Monday, February 14, 2011

Army Chief Ashkenazi: Prepare for all-out war

In his final days on the job, Chief of Staff Ashkenazi warns about growing radicalization in region; given recent changes across Middle East, Israel must prepare for a battle in several theaters, he says

Given recent changes in the Middle East, Israel must prepare for a battle in several theaters, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Monday at the Herzliya Conference.

"The connection between the different players requires us to contend with more than one theater," he said.

The radical camp in the Middle East is gaining strength, Ashkenazi warned, adding that "the moderate camp among the traditional Arab leadership is weakening." He also made note of what he characterized as the "fascinating phenomenon" whereby power is shifting to the people of the region thanks to online social networks.

The army chief said that in the wake of the growing threat of radical Islam among Israel's neighbors, the defense budget would have to be boosted in the coming years. The main change faced by the army is the widening spectrum of threats, he said.

"Because of this spectrum, we must prepare for a conventional war…it would be a mistake to prepare for non-conventional war or limited conflicts and then expect that overnight the forces will operate in an all-out-war," he said.

Praising Israel's youngsters

However, Ashkenazi said that both Hamas and Hezbollah pose only a limited threat to Israel at this time.
"I do not underestimate Hamas or Hezbollah, but they cannot take over the Negev or Galilee," he said.

Hezbollah and Hamas understood that encountering the IDF on the classic battlefields is lethal, and are therefore fighting out of urban areas, the army chief added.



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Fed Holdings of U.S. Treasuries Surpass China's

A bit of recent news that hasn't gotten enough press is the fact that the Federal Reserve has surpassed China in total U.S. Treasury holdings and is now the largest holder of Treasuries in the world. As of last week, China held $896 billion of Treasuries while Japan held $877 billion. The Fed now holds $1.108 trillion and it has not even passed the halfway mark of its second round of money printing, which they call Quantitative Easing.

By June the Fed could own $1.6 trillion of Treasury bonds. The experiment that the Fed has embarked upon is simply unprecedented in this country. So far it has been an abysmal failure. Ten year treasury yields are nearly 120 basis points higher since the Fed announced their second round of Quantitative Easing just three months ago. Food inflation is raging throughout the world, even though Ben Bernanke denies any responsibility for it. Speculation is running rampant as to how much inflation the U.S. will export.

This is what fiat currencies and the printing of money bring: Rampant speculation and volatile prices. It is incredibly difficult to predict how the Fed’s printing will impact prices, so speculators are doing what they do: They’re jumping ahead of the curve and buying commodities before they all shoot through the roof. Sugar is now at a 30 year high and cotton is at a 28 year high. Cotton has risen 100% in the past six months alone. All of this is happening while we’re supposed to be in a deflationary stage due to the credit collapse.
The Federal Reserve has been destroying our currency for nearly 100 years now. The dollar has lost 97% of its value since the Fed’s creation in 1913. But none of the Fed chairmen has been as bold as Ben Bernanke. What he is doing would have been impossible to fathom just three short years ago. It’s bad enough that the Fed is taking money from savers by holding short-term rates so low and giving it to the banks. To add insult to injury, the Fed debases the currency by printing trillions of dollars to prop up the government’s budget deficit. It is a terrible time to be a saver or to be living on a fixed income.
These are frightening times and it is prudent to prepare by owning gold and even stocks of companies that make things we truly need, such as food, water, and energy. The future depends partly on how much faith people lose in the dollar. A serious collapse of the dollar and hyperinflation likely won’t come from the physical printing of money itself. It will come from a breakdown of faith and confidence in our fiat system.

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Why is China building 'ghost cities'?

Like Ordos, Zhengzhou New District has glamorous public buildings


Google Earth photographs reveal towns completely devoid of people
Why is China constructing large, well-designed "ghost cities" that are completely devoid of people?
Google Earth photographs of China depict city after city of vast complexes consisting of office skyscrapers, government buildings, apartment buildings, residential towers and homes, all connected by networks of empty roads – with some of the cities located in China's truly most inhospitable locations.
Remarkable as it seems, photographs of these "ghost cities" – after countless billions of dollars spent on their design and construction – reveal nobody lives in them.
Block after block of empty houses and apartment buildings, glamorous public buildings, magnificent public parks and sports complexes, even art museums, remain entirely empty.
The photographs look like giant movie sets prepared to film apocalyptic motion pictures in which some sort of a neutron war or bizarre natural disaster has eliminated people from the face of the earth while leaving the skyscrapers, sports stadiums, parks and roads perfectly intact.
One of China's ghost cities is actually built in the middle of a desert in Inner Mongolia.
Business Insider ran a series of photos of these Chinese ghost cities. One showed no cars in the city except for approximately 100 parked in largely empty lots clustered around a government building, and another showed a beautiful wetland park with people added using Photoshop.
Business Insider estimated that China now has an inventory of 64 million vacant homes.
The Mail in London estimated that China is building up to 20 new ghost cities a year on the country's "vast swathes of free land."
Business Insider speculated that the Chinese need to put their money somewhere, so developers have decided to build, as a place to store the wealth, even if the Chinese building these cities do not intend to live in them and there is no prospect they can find renters.
ScallyWagAndVagabond.com reporting on the Chinese ghost cities quoted Patrick Chovanec, a business teacher at Tsinghua University in Beijing, who explained to English language Al-Jazeera TV, "Who wants to be the mayor who reports that he didn't get 8 percent GDP growth this year? Nobody wants to come forward with that. So the incentives in the system are to build. And if that's the easiest way to achieve growth, then you build."
Still, the phenomenon of China building these elaborate ghost cities is hard to understand.
"The result of this unnecessary expansion is that we have perhaps the first outposts of civilization that are impractical to the point of being unusable, as many of them have housing prices so high that even if there were people available to fill them, it would be impossible to do so," Anthony D. Poerio wrote in his entry on the website.
"The money simply isn't there, and ideally never will be," he said. "Otherwise the investments of an entire country's wealthy would be utterly devalued (unless China someday controls so much of the world's wealth the cost of living in these cities becomes affordable only to them."
Obviously, these ghost cities are not being built in China to be inhabited. Instead, they are being built to embody capital in a physical form, as bizarre as that idea sounds.
"More precisely by looking at these cities we witness the absolute limit of both capitalism and civilization," Poerio wrote. "Herein the physical (building, cities) and immaterial (capital), the objective and the abstract, reality and representation, have completely united, become indistinguishable, exactly as happens in the case of insanity."
Or, perhaps even more simply, the explanation may be as simple as speculation.
All bubbles have late entries that spend elaborately to grab bubble assets just as the market collapses.
So, too, China's ghost cities might be nothing more than real-estate speculators working with the government to build extravagant new cities that turned out to be unneeded or unwanted.
But with China, no correct analysis is simple.
"It might all seem mere nouveau riche folly, were it not for China's national goal of moving hundreds of millions of rural residents to big cities over the next decade, in the hope of creating a large middle class," the New York Times reported.
Still, Patrick Chovanek, business professor at Tsinghua University, insisted to the Times that the building boom is being driven by frenzied investors, not by the housing needs of millions of migrating workers.
"People are using real estate as an investment, as a place to store cash – they treat it like gold," Chovanec said. "They're stockpiling empty units. This is going on in cities of virtually every size."

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US, Israel will soon exit Middle East: Ahmadinejad

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that a new Middle East is being created which would be free of the United States and Israel, as he backed the Arab uprisings but warned Egyptians to be watchful of America's"friendly face."

Massive crowds of Iranians, waving flags and chanting "Death to Mubarak!" and "Death to America!" descended on Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to listen to the hardliner who lashed out at the West and Israel in a speech marking the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

"We will soon see a new Middle East materialising without America and theZionist regime and there will be no room for world arrogance (the West) in it," Ahmadinejad told the cheering crowds who gathered despite the cold and cloudy weather.
In a speech directed in good part at the Arab uprisings, Ahmadinejad said Egyptians need to be careful of the United States.

"They (the United States) have adopted a friendly face and saying 'we are friends of people of North Africa and Arab countries', but be watchful and united. You will be victorious," he said.
"Iranian nation is your friend and it is your right to freely choose your path. Iranian nation backs this right of yours."

Iran, which has no diplomatic ties with Egypt, has expressed its support to the uprising there, with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for installing an Islamic regime in the world's most populous Arab nation.

In his fiery style, Ahmadinejad, showed his messianic beliefs on Friday, saying the world was witnessing a revolution managed by Imam Mehdi, the 12 Shiite imam who disappeared as a five-year-old in the 10th century and who Shiites believe would return on the judgement day.
"The final move has begun. We are in the middle of a world revolution managed by this dear (12th Imam). A great awakening is unfolding. One can witness the hand of Imam in managing it," said Ahmadinejad, wearing his trademark jacket.
Ahmadinejad, who has often denied the Holocaust, said the United States is an "accomplice to the oppression of the Zionist regime."

"If you want people to trust you, first of all do not interfere in affairs of the region, including in Tunisia and Egypt. Let them be by themselves," he said.
"Come and take away the Zionist regime which is the source of all crimes... take it away and liberate the region. Free the region and give it to the people and take this regime, which is the child of Satan (the United States), out."

Crowds of Iranians chanted pro-Egypt and anti-US slogans as they participated in the regime-organised anniversary celebrations -- a yearly rallying point for the Islamic regime.
Chants of "Marg bar Mubarak (Death to Mubarak)", "Egyptians, Tunisians, your uprisings are just and we are with you" and "Hosni Mubarak 'mubarak' (congratulations) on the uprising of your people!" were heard in streets ofTehran.
Similar marches were taking place in provincial cities.

The 1979 revolution toppled the monarchy of shah Mohammad Reza, a key US ally in the region. Diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington were broken off soon after and remain so to this day.

"Death to America! Death to Israel!" chanted the crowd as they carried Iranian flags, banners and posters of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the uprising against the shah, and of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation's supreme leader.
The European Union is boycotting events marking the anniversary in protest at the hanging of Zahra Bahrami, an Iranian-Dutch woman executed by Tehran, a diplomatic source said.
The Netherlands has condemned the hanging of Bahrami, who was initially arrested during mass protests over Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election, which sparked a deadly crackdown, but executed on drug smuggling charges.

Her execution prompted the Dutch government to freeze all diplomatic contact with what it labelled a "barbarous regime" in Iran.

During last year's anniversary rally, Iran's opposition had attempted to stage anti-government demonstrations which were crushed by security forces and the Basij militiamen.
Since then the opposition supporters have stayed off Tehran streets but their leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have sought to hold a rally on Monday in support of Arab uprisings in the region.

But critics say their plan is to garner their supporters and attempt to stage an anti-government demonstrations.

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WikiLeaks: Israel's secret hotline to the man tipped to replace Mubarak

WikiLeaks: Israel's secret hotline to the man tipped to replace Mubarak

The new vice-president of Egypt, Omar Suleiman, is a long-standing favourite of Israel's who spoke daily to the Tel Aviv government via a secret "hotline" to Cairo, leaked documents disclose.

By Tim Ross, Christopher Hope, Steven Swinford and Adrian Blomfield

Mr Suleiman, who is widely tipped to take over from Hosni Mubarak as president, was named as Israel's preferred candidate for the job after discussions with American officials in 2008.
As a key figure working for Middle East peace, he once suggested that Israeli troops would be "welcome" to invade Egypt to stop weapons being smuggled to Hamas terrorists in neighbouring Gaza.
The details, which emerged in secret files obtained by WikiLeaks and passed to The Daily Telegraph, come after Mr Suleiman began talks with opposition groups on the future for Egypt's government.
On Saturday, Mr Suleiman won the backing of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to lead the "transition" to democracy after two weeks of demonstrations calling for President Mubarak to resign.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, spoke to Mr Suleiman yesterday and urged him to take "bold and credible steps" to show the world that Egypt is embarking on an "irreversible, urgent and real" transition.

Leaked cables from American embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv disclose the close co-operation between Mr Suleiman and the US and Israeli governments as well as diplomats' intense interest in likely successors to the ageing President Mubarak, 83.
The documents highlight the delicate position which the Egyptian government seeks to maintain in Middle East politics, as a leading Arab nation with a strong relationship with the US and Israel. By 2008, Mr Suleiman, who was head of the foreign intelligence service, had become Israel's main point of contact in the Egyptian government.
David Hacham, a senior adviser from the Israeli Ministry of Defence, told the American embassy in Tel Aviv that a delegation led by Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak had been impressed by Mr Suleiman, whose name is spelled "Soliman" in some cables.
But Mr Hacham was "shocked" by President Mubarak's "aged appearance and slurred speech".
The cable, from August 2008, said: "Hacham was full of praise for Soliman, however, and noted that a 'hot line' set up between the MOD and Egyptian General Intelligence Service is now in daily use.
"Hacham noted that the Israelis believe Soliman is likely to serve as at least an interim President if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated." The Tel Aviv diplomats added: "We defer to Embassy Cairo for analysis of Egyptian succession scenarios, but there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Omar Soliman."
Elsewhere the documents disclose that Mr Suleiman was stung by Israeli criticism of Egypt's inability to stop arms smugglers transporting weapons to Palestinian militants in Gaza. At one point he suggested that Israel send troops into the Egyptian border region of Philadelphi to "stop the smuggling".
"In their moments of greatest frustration, [Egyptian Defence Minister] Tantawi and Soliman each have claimed that the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] would be 'welcome' to re-invade Philadelphia, if the IDF thought that would stop the smuggling," the cable said.
The files suggest that Mr Suleiman wanted Hamas "isolated", and thought Gaza should "go hungry but not starve".
"We have a short time to reach peace," he told US diplomats. "We need to wake up in the morning with no news of terrorism, no explosions, and no news of more deaths."
The Telegraph

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