Oslo Bomb Blast Followed By Fatal Shooting At Labour Party Youth Meeting

Oslo: Bomb blast near Norway prime minister’s office

Eyewitness Ingunn Anderson says she saw injured people lying on the ground

A massive bomb blast has hit government buildings in the Norwegian capital Oslo, killing at least seven people and injuring several others.

PM Jens Stoltenberg described the situation as “very serious”.

The bomb was followed by a fatal shooting incident near Oslo at a youth meeting of the Labour Party, which Mr Stoltenberg leads.

Norwegian media said at least four people were killed when a man opened fire indiscriminately.

Police said the suspected gunman had been arrested, TV2 reported.

No group has said they carried out the attacks but police say they believe them to be linked.

Hours after the bomb struck Oslo, officials said some people were still inside the damaged buildings, some of which were on fire.

Television footage from the government quarter showed rubble and glass from shattered windows in the streets and smoke from the fires drifting across the city. The wreckage of at least one car could be seen.

All roads into the city centre have been closed, said national broadcaster NRK, and security officials evacuated people from the area, fearing another blast.

Mr Stoltenberg, in a telephone call to Norwegian television, said all government ministers were safe.

He said he had been advised by police not to reveal his current location, but is not thought to have been in central Oslo on Friday.

“Even if one is well prepared, it is always rather dramatic when something like this happens,” he said.

Egil Vrekke, Assistant Chief Constable of Oslo police told the BBC the rescue operation was ongoing.

“We are issuing warnings just [to] make sure people are not in the area in case there are further explosions,” he told the BBC.

“We have cordoned off large areas. There are bomb experts at the scene investigating whether there are other devices in the area.”

A spokesman for Oslo University hospital said 10 people had been taken there for treatment, some with serious injuries.

A few hours after the explosion, reports emerged of the shooting at a Labour Party youth camp in Utoeya, an island outside the capital.

TV2 said at least four people had been killed and several injured – there were reports a gunman was wearing a police uniform.

“This created a panic situation where people started to swim from the island” said Labour Party spokesman Per Gunnar Dahl.

Mr Stoltenberg, who had been due to visit the camp on Saturday, told TV2 the situation in Utoeya was critical.

‘Focus on rescue’

State Secretary Kristian Amundsen said Friday was a public holiday in Norway so the government offices were not as busy as they might usually have been.

Assistant Chief Constable Egil Vrekke: “There are a lot of casualties”

“But there are many hundreds of people in these buildings every day,” he told the BBC.

“We have to focus on the rescue operation – there are still people in the building, there are still people in the hospital.”

Reuters said the oil ministry was among the other government buildings hit, while NRK journalist Ingunn Andersen said the headquarters of tabloid newspaper VG were also damaged.

“It’s complete chaos here. The windows are blown out in all the buildings close by,” she told AP.

Oistein Mjarum, head of communications for the Norwegian Red Cross, which has offices nearby, said the blast could be heard across Oslo.

“This is a very busy area on Friday afternoon and there were a lot of people in the streets, and many people working in these buildings that are now burning,” he said.

Local resident Silvio told the BBC the blast shook everything in his apartment and that he saw several unconscious people in the street.

“If they were dead or not I wouldn’t be able to tell you but they were receiving assistance at the time.”

Mr Mjarum said people across Oslo and Norway were in shock.

“We have never had a terrorist attack like this in Norway – if that’s what it is – but of course this has been a great fear for all Norwegians when they have seen what has been happening around the world.”

The United States has condemned the “despicable acts of violence” in Oslo, while the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, said he was “deeply shocked” by “these acts of cowardice for which there is no justification”.







1. Norway is ending its involvement in Libya.

As of 1 August 2011, its air force will no longer be involved.

(Norway leaving Libya)

2. March 2011 -“the junior partner in the Norwegian government, the Socialist Left Party of Kristin Halvorsen, (Sosialistisk Venstreparti), plans to vote on a measure calling for military action against Israel if it decides to act against Hamas in Gaza.”

(Norwegian Socialists to Vote on Bombing Israel The Gateway Pundit)

3. In January 2011, Jonas Gahr Stoere, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said Norway will be a leading country in recognising the Palestinian state once the Palestinian institutions are set up.

(Norway to Be First European Nation to Recognise Palestine)

4. On 22 July 2011 a large bomb ripped through Norwegian government buildings in central Oslo.

(Bomb In Oslo Causes ‘Deaths And Injuries’)


The Daily Mail reports: “Fortunately, it is a public holiday in Norway and the offices are less busy than a normal weekday.”

“Why would ‘terrorists,’ who presumably want to kill as many people as possible, choose to bomb the building on a day when they know it will be almost empty?” (Prison Planet.com.)


On 22 July 2011, several people were killed in a shooting at a Labour youth camp outside Oslo.

(Bomb blast, shooting at youth camp horrify Norway)

Operation Gladio was the CIA-NATO organisation which carried out acts of terrorism in Europe.

The Norwegian branch of the GLADIO network was exposed in 1978, “when a policeman stumbled upon one of its arms caches, containing at least 60 weapons and 12,000 rounds of ammunition.

“The owner of the property where the cache was found, Hans Otto Meyer, an intelligence agent, was arrested but claimed that Norwegian intelligence had provided some of the weapons for use by a resistance cell. This was confirmed.” (Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian, 15/11/90)


Norway activist ‘was Mossad spy’

UN unveils new scheme to boost Central Asia’s fight against terrorism

UN unveils new scheme to boost Central Asia’s fight against terrorism

Miroslav Jenca

7 September 2010 –

The United Nations today launched a new initiative aimed at strengthening efforts to assist Central Asian countries in their efforts to combat terrorism.“Central Asia is one of the most interdependent regions of the world, with a large population, a potential common market and a crossroad of energy routes,” Miroslav Jenca, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), said at an event in New York.

To date, the region’s five countries have “been spared large-scale terrorist attacks,” he noted.

“Yet it cannot be denied that there is a growing concern about the possibly of intensifying activities of various extremist, terrorist, and criminal groups and networks operating in Central Asia, fuelled by instability in the wider region and porous borders through which extremism and criminal networks penetrate the region.”

The project unveiled today brings together the UNRCCA, the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), Central Asian governments, civil society and others.

“Prevention of terrorism in Central Asia is key not only to protecting the well-being of populations and ensuring national and regional stability,” Mr. Jenca emphasized. “It is also a matter of global concern, given that the wider region is fast becoming the main front on the global war against terror.”

The new scheme aims to help Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan establish a regional counter-terrorism plan in line with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

That strategy, unanimously adopted by the General Assembly in 2006, focuses on four key pillars of action: tackling the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; preventing and combating terrorism; building State capacity and bolstering the role of the UN; and ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law against the backdrop of the fight against terrorism.

Today’s launch of the project “is very timely,” given the proximity of Afghanistan to the region as well as recent events in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Mr. Jenca told reporters in New York this afternoon.

Most Central Asian nations, he said, have acceded to all 13 universal anti-terrorism instruments.

The new initiative “seeks to build on existing efforts,” Mr. Jenca said, also underscoring the importance of ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights while fighting terrorism.

Sponsored by the European Commission (EC) and Norway, it will bring together regional experts, with the first meeting set to take place in December.

The gatherings seek to pave the way for a ministerial-level conference next year to lead to the adoption of a joint action plan for the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy by Central Asian nations.

The new project also aims to boost cooperation against the threat posed by terrorism and build consensus on common solutions to fight the scourge.



© 2004 by Webster Griffin Tarpley

To my wife Leah and my daughter Chloe, for their love and support during
the wilderness years.
E s’io al vero son timido amico,
Temo di perder vita tra coloro
Che questo tempo chiameranno antico.
Paradiso XVII, 117-120

“Bush’s fraudulent “war on terrorism” is of course a war of civilizations directed against the 1 billion Arab and Moslem people in the world; it is more hypocritical than Hitlerism because it assiduously denies its own real content. In reality, the “war on terrorism” is a racist war against Arabs and Moslems today, with China and perhaps Russia as candidates for all-out attack at some later time. From time to time the real essence explodes to the surface, as in Bush’s call for a crusade, or in General Boykin’s comments on satanic Islam. Neocon radio talk show hosts like Michael Savage are more explicit every day, and it is they who service the belief structure of Bush’s hard-core followers.” 

PDF here
2nd Edition Update PDF here



Countering Synthetic Terrorism in Central Asia


DUSHANBE, July 22, 2011, Asia-Plus – The Third two-day meeting of the project “Implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia” is concluding in Almaty, Kazakhstan today. According to the United Nations Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), building and strengthening state capacities and promoting regional and sub-regional cooperation among counter-terrorism authorities are the focus of United Nations sponsored meeting in Almaty.

Experts from the Central Asian region and beyond are reviewing Pillar III of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy on “Measures to build States’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in this regard.”

The Almaty meeting is the last in a series of three counter-terrorism expert meetings at regional level. (The first meeting was held in Bratislava, Slovakia, on December 15-16, 2010; the second in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on March 29-30, 2011).

The series of meetings is a joint initiative of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task-Force (CTITF) and the European External Action Service of the European Union (EU) working with the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA).  The initiative is funded by the European Union with financial contribution by Norway.

The aim is to assist Central Asian countries to strengthen their efforts to address the threat of terrorism and enhance cooperation at a regional level through the elaboration of a joint Plan of Action on implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia which is to be adopted at ministerial level meeting by the end of 2011.

There is growing concern about the possibility of intensifying activities of various extremist, terrorist and criminal groups operating in Central Asia, fuelled by instability in the wider region and porous borders.  Furthermore, terrorism is at the core of multiple security threats that spread across borders: it feeds into criminal networks, stimulates illegal trafficking of all kinds and corrupts state structures.

The Central Asia initiative, which was launched in September 2010 in New York, shows how the participating states work together to implement the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which was adopted by consensus of the General Assembly in September 2006, and demonstrates a shared commitment from Central Asian countries, regional organizations, the UN system and the European Union towards enhanced coordination to address the threat of terrorism.

The European Union has been one of the strongest proponents of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  Through this initiative, the EU intends to work with the Governments of Central Asia to prevent terrorism and to reinforce the security and stability of the region by means of the comprehensive implementation of the UN Strategy.

Speakers at the opening session include the Acting Head of the representative office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan in Almaty, Mr. Dudar Zhakenov,  the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) Mr. Miroslav Jenca, the EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan Mr. Norbert Jousten, and the UN Special Political Advisor of the Office of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, Ms. Anne Wu. Meeting participants also include representatives from Central Asian states, UN agencies, regional organizations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO),  Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure of the SCO, Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC), representatives from neighboring countries, regional and international experts.

Among the issues discussed at the Almaty meeting are state capacities to prevent and combat terrorism; the role of regional organizations in addressing state capacity; strengthening the role of the UN system in building state capacity to prevent and combat terrorism; enhancing information sharing on counter-terrorism technical assistance and public awareness; and public-private partnerships to prevent and combat terrorism.

Fed Rehearsing the Coming Default

Exclusive: Fed planning for potential default

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke reacts while testifying before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee about ''The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress'' on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 14, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing

By Kristina Cooke and Tim Ahmann


(Reuters) – The Federal Reserve is actively preparing for the possibility that the United States could default as a deadline for raising the government’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit looms, a top Fed policymaker said on Wednesday.

Charles Plosser, president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, said the U.S. central bank has for the past few months been working closely with Treasury, ironing out what to do if the world’s biggest economy runs out of cash on August 2.

“We are in contingency planning mode,” Plosser told Reuters in an interview at the regional central bank’s headquarters in Philadelphia. “We are all engaged. … It’s a very active process.”

Plosser said his “gut feeling” was that President Barack Obama and Congress will come to an agreement to increase the Treasury’s borrowing authority in time to avert a default on government obligations.

Obama was due to meet with top Republicans in Congress on Wednesday to discuss the latest attempts to end the dispute over raising the country’s debt ceiling, a row which has raised the prospect of the Treasury Department running out of money to pay its bills next month.

The Treasury has repeatedly said default was unthinkable and that there was no alternative to raising the debt ceiling. Plosser’s remarks marked the most extensive public comments yet on preparations for a default from a U.S. official.

A Treasury spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.

One aspect of the Fed’s contingency planning is purely operational: the Fed is developing procedures about how the Treasury would notify it on which checks would get cleared and which wouldn’t, Plosser said.

The Fed effectively acts as the Treasury’s bank — it clears the government’s checks to everyone from social security recipients to government workers.

“We are developing processes and procedures by which the Treasury communicates to us what we are going to do,” Plosser said, adding that the task was manageable. “How the Fed is going to go about clearing government checks. Which ones are going to be good? Which ones are not going to be good?”

“There are a lot of people working on what we would do and how we would do it,” he said.

Plosser added that there are difficult questions that the Fed itself had to grapple with.

The Fed lends to banks at the discount window against good collateral. But what happens if U.S. Treasuries no longer fit that bill?

“Do we treat them as if they didn’t default, in which case we would be saying we are pretending it never happened? Or do we treat them as if they defaulted and don’t lend against them?” Plosser said. “Those are more policy questions.”

Plosser, who was a vocal critic of some of the Fed’s extraordinary lending during the financial crisis — which he said veered into fiscal policy and risked the central bank’s independence — warned it would be crucial for the Fed not to do the Treasury’s work for it.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t become, that we don’t conduct fiscal policy in this context,” he said. “That we don’t substitute for the inability of the Treasury to borrow in some circumstances.”


Plosser, a noted policy hawk on inflation, argued the Fed might need to raise interest rates before the end of the year, despite recent evidence of renewed economic weakness.

He said he expects the economy to grow at a 3-3.5 percent annual rate over the second half of 2011 with the jobless rate declining to around 8.5 percent by year’s end.

“The more my forecast comes to fruition the more I’m going to feel like we may have to act,” said Plosser, who is a voting member of the Fed’s monetary policy-setting committee this year. “I’d like to have a little more confidence in that forecast.”

Plosser pinned the slowdown in economic growth over the first half of the year to “easily identifiable” factors, such as weather, a spike in oil prices and supply disruptions from Japan’s earthquake. He also cited uncertainty stemming from Europe’s fiscal morass and the wrangling over U.S. debt in Washington.

“I don’t see the fundamentals of the economy as changed that much,” he said. “Yeah, there’s been some shocks and disruptions, but the underlying forces that are going to cause us to continue a slow, moderate recovery are still in place.”

That said, the Fed, which is charged with ensuring financial stability, would clearly feel the responsibility to step in as a lender of last resort if markets seized up after a U.S. default, he added.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last week warned that a default could have “catastrophic” effects on financial markets.

Plosser, a former dean of the Simon School of Business at Rochester University, was more circumspect.

“It could be very bad. At some level we don’t really know what the consequences could be. It could be very serious. It could be less serious. Do we really want to run that experiment?”

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Leslie Adler)

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News ran ‘black ops’ department, former executive claims

[Fox News, Murdoch’s “black ops” central.]

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News ran ‘black ops’ department, former executive claims

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News television channel had a “black ops” department that may have illegally hacked private telephone records, a former executive for the station has alleged.

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News television channel had a black ops department that may have illegally hacked private telephone records, a former executive for the station has alleged.

Roger Ailes talks to Fox correspondents Jenna Lee and Nicole Petallides  Photo: REUTERS

By , New York


Dan Cooper, who helped launch Fox News as managing editor in 1996, said that a “brain room” carried out “counter intelligence” on the channel’s enemies from its New York headquarters.

He was threatened after it found out he spoke to a reporter, he claimed.

Another former senior executive said the channel ran a spying network on staff, reading their emails and making them “feel they were being watched”.

The channel, which has come under pressure amid allegations that outlets owned by Mr Murdoch might have attempted to hack the voicemail messages of September 11 victims, firmly denies all the allegations.

Mr Cooper, who left Fox News soon after its launch, provided a quote for a 1997 article about Roger Ailes, Fox News’s president, by the journalist David Brock in New York magazine.

The quote was not going to be attributed to him, but he alleges that before the article was published, Mr Cooper’s agent received a telephone call from Mr Ailes threatening to withdraw Fox’s business from all his clients.

“There are only two possible ways Ailes found out,” Mr Cooper said. “Either Brock told him or they got hold of Brock’s phone records and saw I spoke to him.”

He first alleged that the records were obtained by researchers in the “brain room” in 2005 in an article on his website about the launch of the channel.

“Most people thought it was simply the research department of Fox News,” he wrote. “I knew it also housed a counter intelligence and black ops office. So accessing phone records was easy pie.”

Mr Cooper said yesterday that he helped to design the high-security unit. “It was staffed by 15 researchers and had a guard at the door. No one working there would engage in conversation.”

Mr Cooper said he was “willing to consider the possibility” that Mr Brock named him, but added: “I assume he operates under journalistic ethics and protected a confidential source. Brock told me at the time that Ailes told him he would never work again if he wrote the article.”

Mr Brock now runs Media Matters, a Left-leaning American media watchdog. A spokesman for the group said: “He declines to comment.”

Another former Fox News senior executive, who did not wish to be named, said staff were forced to operate under conditions reminiscent of “Russia at the height of the Soviet era”.

“There is a paranoid atmosphere and they feel they are being watched,” said the former executive. “I have no doubt they are spying on emails to ensure no one is leaking to outside media.

“There is a unit of spies that reports up to the boss about who was talking to whom. A lot of people are scared that they’re going to get sidelined or even that they’re going to get killed.”

A Fox News spokesman said: “Each of these allegations is completely false. Dan Cooper was terminated six weeks after the launch of the Fox News Channel in 1996 and has peddled these lies for the past 15 years.”

The FBI is investigating allegations that journalists on a British newspaper may have tried to have September 11 victims’ phones hacked. Both former Fox News executives said they thought Mr Ailes would never have let his reporters do likewise.

Explosion at Govt buildings in Oslo, PM safe

Explosion at Govt buildings in Oslo, PM safe

Explosion at Prime Minister's office in OsloExplosion at Prime Minister’s office in Oslo

Several people have been injured in an explosion that rocked Government buildings in Oslo this afternoon.

According to witnesses speaking to Reuters most of the windows of the 17-storey building, which houses the prime minister’s office, have been blown out.

NTB, the official Norwegian news agency has said that Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is safe after the blast.

The Associated Press writes that offices in the downtown area of the city are being evacuated at the moment.

It is not yet clear what happened or how many people are injured. Police are yet to comment on the cause of the explosion but reports suggest that there is a wrecked car parked outside the site.

Civilians have started posting images of the explosion and the aftermath across the Internet. Here’s a brief selection:


Image from Ingvill Dybfest Dahl


Image from Drachen Herz (Twitpic)


Image- Bruise Pristine (Twitpic)


Image and main image courtesy of @chaglen on Twitpic.

Explosion rocks central Oslo, Norway PM’s office

Explosion rocks central Oslo, Norway PM’s office


(Reuters) – A huge explosion damaged government buildings in central Oslo on Friday including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s office, injuring several people, a Reuters witness said.

The blast blew out most windows on the 17-storey building housing Stoltenberg’s office, as well as nearby ministries including the oil ministry, which was on fire.

Reuters correspondent Walter Gibbs said he counted at least eight injured people. The cause of the blast was unknown but the tangled wreckage of a car was outside one building. Police and fire officials declined comment on the cause.

China Tells U.S. to Respect its Territorial Claims Over Tension on South China Sea

China Tells U.S. to Respect its Territorial Claims Over Tension on South China Sea

by Naharnet Newsdesk


China told the United States on Friday to respect Chinese “territorial integrity,” amid simmering tensions focused on the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made the comments to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a bilateral meeting on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, according to a spokesman from China’s delegation.

“The Chinese side raised its own concerns, which is that it is important to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” spokesman Liu Weiming said.

“And to respect China’s major concerns in the issues of Tibet and some other sensitive issues. I sense that the U.S. side understands the sensitivity of these issues and they agreed to further promote dialogue and mutual understanding.”

Liu said Yang and Clinton specifically discussed the South China Sea, which China claims as its own.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and home to shipping lanes vital to global trade.

Tensions in the decades-long dispute flared in recent months amid accusations by the Philippines and Vietnam that China was being increasingly aggressive in staking its claim to the sea.

China and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced on Wednesday in Bali a “breakthrough” in the dispute, endorsing a set of guidelines designed to reduce tensions in the waters.

In brief comments ahead of her meeting with Yang on Friday, Clinton praised China and ASEAN for working to defuse the tensions.

But, in a move likely to irk China, Clinton was set to make a speech on Saturday to her Asian counterparts in which she would emphasize that the United States had a “strategic stake” in the South China Sea.

A U.S. official traveling with Clinton said she would make a “very detailed statement” at the ASEAN Regional Forum about the importance of the South China Sea to American and global commerce.

“We have a strategic stake in how issues there are managed,” the official said, citing comments Clinton was preparing to make in her speech to the forum.

China has long insisted the United States has no role to play in solving the South China Sea dispute with its neighbors.

Reckoning with Taliban irreconcilables

Reckoning with Taliban irreconcilables

By Derek Henry Flood

Though the concept of Afghan and Western reconciliation with the Mullah Omar-led Taliban has gained much momentum, the consequences of some kind of ad hoc settlement between the Islamists and the government of President Hamid Karzai have not been clearly defined.

Opposition is growing within some quarters in Afghanistan to a settlement that would give the Taliban access to power. Much of this opposition is being led by heirs to the late anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, particularly former foreign minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah and the former head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security, Amrullah Saleh.

As Saleh recently told a rally in Kabul: “We have not forgotten the burning of our homeland and the humiliation of the men and women of Afghanistan … But you [Karzai] are still calling these people [the Taliban] ‘brother’.”

A bitter legacy
Since the Taliban were ejected from central Kabul in November 2001 in the face of the United States-led invasion, the movement has transformed itself from a mostly unrecognized government to a Pashtun ethno-nationalist insurgency with its roots in the anti-Soviet jihad that consumed the country throughout the 1980s.

In Abdullah’s recent open letter to Karzai, he states emphatically, “In the reconciliation process, one of the clear red lines for any negotiated settlement has been that the reconcilable Taliban must accept the constitution.” [1] Abdullah, by drawing such a red line, has been interpreted by many as rejecting the very notion of reconciling with a movement whose raison d’etre is the implementation of a brutal interpretation of Islamic law at any cost.

Abdullah’s colleague, Amrullah Saleh, is one of the most ardent anti-Taliban figures in Afghanistan and is outraged by Karzai’s overtures to senior Taliban leaders, making no effort to hide his disdain after serving alongside the president for years.

Saleh, now in opposition to Karzai after an abrupt departure from his post in June 2010, has formed a nascent movement based on his Panjshiri Tajik power base calling itself the Basij-e-Melli (BeM). Saleh is keen to insist that his movement is not solely a Tajik one as it also contains a number of Shi’ite Hazaras and anti-Taliban Pashtuns from eastern Afghanistan.

The bedrock belief of BeM, according to Saleh, is that the Taliban are not simply misguided Afghan “brothers” (as Karzai has been known to term them), but a nefarious group directly controlled by the Pakistani state, with which it seeks to control Afghanistan by proxy when foreign forces finally depart.

Together, Adbullah and Saleh represent a sector of the Afghan population that does not want to see a decline in the gains made by women and ethnic and religious minorities since the Taliban’s ouster.

While much has been made of the idea of bringing Taliban leaders in from the cold, Afghans directly affected by the former regime’s vengeful ethnic cleansing of Tajiks in the Shomali plain and Hazaras in Mazar-e-Sharif have no desire to see these men brought back to power in even the most modest fashion.

In a June 2011 op-ed, Amrullah Saleh countered Karzai’s dubious overtures to the Taliban’s Quetta shura (consultative council), stating that Karzai risked creating a “Hezbollah-type entity” out of the Taliban if they were not entirely disarmed in southern Afghanistan.

Skeptics of American and British intentions for the future of Afghanistan suggest that the delayed drawdown of a large-scale foreign troop presence coupled with the co-opting of certain amenable Taliban elements is part of a convoluted ruse to establish permanent military installations in Afghanistan.

With the killing of Osama bin Laden and the decoupling of the United Nations’ al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions list, some in Afghanistan believe the Western powers want to get out of the business of war-fighting and into the business of energy, using a rump occupation force as a hammer-like guarantor of their interests.

The role of energy in reconciliation 
The Taliban have once again become an important player in the seemingly unending regional competition between two large-scale natural gas pipeline proposals.

The competing projects, known as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) and the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline (IPI), have been the topic of much speculation in this fitfully integrating mega-region for years.

Both proposals are fraught with inherent security dilemmas. TAPI has been affected by a resurgent Taliban throughout much of its planned route in Afghanistan while IPI is plagued by the unending Balochi nationalist rebellion in the Pakistan section of its route.

The transit countries that would be involved are experiencing constant energy shortages in their major urban centers and both TAPI and IPI have promised to relieve these fuel gaps.

Recently, a rapprochement of sorts has taken place between Kabul and Islamabad with the signing of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, which one commentary described as holding “great promise for the prosperity of the whole region”.

Though enthusiasm for TAPI has appeared to be outpacing that for IPI concurrently with the talk of Taliban reconciliation, Tehran is far from leaving the playing field. Iranian officials told their Indian counterparts that their plan only ran into one insurgency; that of Pakistan’s restive Balochis, and that TAPI, beginning in Turkmenistan’s Dauletabad gas fields and terminating in the Indian state of Punjab, is much more vulnerable to attacks by non-state actors.

Iranian government officials have tried to sell IPI as the less dangerous of the two projects, stating that Balochistan will, over time, reap the benefits of transit fees that will eventually calm the insurrection there as the local inhabitants see improvements in their quality of life.

The role of Pakistan as the swing state between the two proposals is both critical and complex. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari is viewed domestically as being under immense pressure to implement TAPI and abandon IPI, thereby further isolating their neighbors on the Iranian plateau. Taut bilateral relations already exist between Pakistan and Iran from years of sectarian Sunni-Shi’ite proxy conflict and the anti-Shi’ite pogroms conducted by the Sunni-chauvinist Taliban during their five years in power in Afghanistan.

A retired Pakistani army brigadier suggested that for TAPI to leave the drawing board and become a ground reality, the project’s planners would require the “cooperation and support of the Afghan Taliban” to secure a route through the volatile provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

Though Islamabad is officially supportive of TAPI, it has not entirely abandoned IPI as an option should the former project collapse. At times, Islamabad’s precise position can appear ambiguous; Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani said that both TAPI and “joint gas and electricity projects with Iran were in [the] pipeline”.

The elusive notion of Afghanistan becoming an energy corridor began in the mid-1990s, as interest in Turkmenistan’s natural gas reserves set off a largely unrealistic competition among Western companies to court the Taliban led by the reclusive Mullah Omar in Kandahar. Today, the natural gas dream has been set alight once again by a host of indigenous political actors across the region.

Deep divisions over the US military presence
In a joint March press conference with former interior minister Mohammed Hanif Atmar, Amrullah Saleh stated that the Taliban were an unrepentant organization that, if given the chance, would renew a scorched earth policy without hesitation.

Saleh said that if the West were to pull out of Afghanistan entirely following some kind of settlement with the Taliban, Afghanistan would once again suffer in the throes of a proxy war. Saleh’s rhetoric is seen as increasingly divisive by the pro-talks camp in Kabul that views his opposition to all things Taliban as a stumbling block on the road to a cessation of hostilities.

Those allies of Karzai who are pushing for increased contacts with the Taliban leadership believe that former Afghan government officials now embittered with the president are purposefully sabotaging the very concept of peace talks because they are unfavorable to their personal agendas.

Saleh and Atmar stressed the need for a continued US military mission in Afghanistan beyond the scope of Operation Enduring Freedom, likely as a means of keeping meddling neighbors at bay. Atmar believes that Kabul would do better to keep the US military in the country guiding it towards an Afghans-first policy rather than have them abandon the country altogether, thereby turning it into a regional battleground.

There has been intense debate in recent months in the Afghan media over the future role of the United States inside Afghanistan contrasted against what some see as the overwhelming leverage of the Pakistani state among both the Afghan polity and the Afghan Taliban.

The Saleh-Atmar narrative paints the continued US presence, if carried out with increasing sensitivity to local desires, as a means of emancipating Afghanistan from the influence of neighboring states that seek to dominate it while delicately avoiding being subsumed by an American agenda.

If Afghans can get Washington to commit to certain obligations that will guarantee a balance between sovereignty and security in their country, then many believe that the benefits of an entrenched US presence there would far outweigh its potential negative impact domestically.

As the ill-defined concept of Taliban reconciliation moves forward in fits and starts, those who were once part of a comparatively hopeful, if ineffective, unity government in Kabul are now disaffected with one another in a vastly unproductive fashion. All the elements of the web of interlocking and competing interests at work in Afghanistan today will be impossible to satisfy simultaneously.

Domestic political and economic pressures within the US are making a never-ending military commitment in Afghanistan unsustainable while a host of coalition allies are looking for the exit, such as Canada, which formally declared an end to its combat mission on July 7.

Pakistan seeks to hold a tether on the Afghan Taliban even as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban – TTP) and other domestic insurgent groups are shredding the social fabric of Pakistani society with each suicide attack.

Iran is loath to see the re-emergence of the Deobandi Sunni Taliban in any form that may threaten its Shi’ite and Persian-speaking Afghan clients even though it has been asserted Tehran provides military assistance to some Taliban elements along its border in southwestern Afghanistan to act as an irritant to foreign troops there.

The Taliban continue to vigorously deny claims that they have entered into direct talks with either the US or the United Kingdom as doing so would contravene their oft-stated condition that negotiations may only take place once all foreign troops have departed.

As a Taliban spokesman said, “It is clear as the broad daylight that we consider negotiation in [the] presence of foreign forces as a war stratagem of the Americans and their futile efforts.”.

Karzai has created a series of initiatives aimed at courting or co-opting the “reconcilable” Afghan Taliban. Karzai, along with former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, has established a Joint Peace Commission with the Pakistani government. Premier Gilani stated, “I fully endorse that statement [in which Zardari] said that a war in Afghanistan can destabilize Pakistan and it is vice versa so the war on terrorism is directly affecting Pakistan not only in [the] form of casualties but in [the] form of economy as well.”

Karzai has also formed the High Council of Peace as a multi-ethnic mechanism to facilitate talks with his adversaries. The council has become a controversial effort for including several notorious Taliban figures, including Maulvi Mohammed Qalamuddin, the former head of the Islamic Emirates religious police.

Other reviled officials in the Taliban regime have been included in the peace-building body by Karzai to lend credibility to those still following Mullah Omar and the original shura leaders.

Over the course of the past several years, talks between the Karzai government and the Afghan Taliban have been reported in various locales, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and somewhat incongruously a stunning holiday resort in the Maldives.

In each instance, Taliban spokesmen consistently deny they have made such contacts, perhaps for fear of losing the confidence of active guerillas engaging in contact with Afghan security forces and foreign troops. When former finance minister Ashraf Ghani confirmed that talks were indeed taking place with certain Taliban factions, Taliban commander Doran Safi shot back, “I confirm that none of us will lay down arms even if he is paid mountains of money; none of us would abandon the right path.”

The earlier strategy of a hammer-and-anvil approach of defeating the Taliban – with the US military and the Afghan National Army as the hammer and the Pakistani army on the other side of the Durand Line as the anvil – was a failure.

Pakistani village-flattening military incursions in the tribal regions led to the further Talibanization of large swathes of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, resulting in a series of suicide attacks in many of Pakistan’s major urban centers.

The current strategy of assassinating mid-level Taliban field commanders while reaching out to those willing to talk to Kabul and Washington was promulgated by now former defense secretary Robert Gates as the only means of ending the war.

However, defining the “end of the war” as the withdrawal of Western troops ignores the fact several very prominent Karzai opponents do not appear ready to accept the return of the Taliban in any form.

This may take the war in a new direction, one in which ethnic and religious factions are reconstituted along barely dormant fault lines, leaving no end in sight to this decades-long power struggle in the heart of Asia.

1. Dr Abdullah Abdullah, “Upholding Constitutional Principles and Rule of Law in Afghanistan,” Open Letter to President Hamid Karzai, July 5, 2011.

(This article first appeared in The Jamestown Foundation. Used with permission.)

(Copyright 2011 The Jamestown Foundation.)

There really will be “Life after capitalism.”]

[Until world leaders accept that our economic crisis is a wildfire, out of control, they will continue pouring on the little that is left, in hopes of beating the inevitable.  If you look at the European or American economies as giant forests, and the economic crisis as a massive forest fire, it would be easier to understand exactly what is happening with each “TARP” or other similar rescue effort.  As the fire expands, it burns-up things that may have taken years to grow.  Wasting those resources in feeble attempts to erect “firewalls” doesn’t stop the fire, it only slows it down, or forces the fire to take an easier path, but that doesn’t mean that there will be no backfire.  In the end, the accumulated water (capital) would have evaporated in the flames and the survivors would be in worse shape than if the fire-fighting effort had not been made.  The wisest solution would be to wisely use the limited supply of capital we now have, to put the survivors in a better position after the blaze has passed.  That means that investments should be focused upon the parts of the economy which were devastated first, making them first to recover in the new economy which will take shape.

There really will be “Life after capitalism.”]

EU May Accept Greek Default as Crisis Fight Intensifies

By Simon Kennedy and Jonathan Stearns

Euro-area leaders redoubled efforts to end the 21-month sovereign bond crisis as they erected a firewall around Spain and Italy and risked temporary default to lighten Greece’s debt burden.

After eight hours of talks in Brussels, leaders announced 159 billion euros ($229 billion) of new aid for Greece late yesterday and cajoled bondholders into footing part of the bill. They also empowered their 440-billion euro rescue fund to buy debt across stressed euro nations after a market rout last week sparked concern the crisis was spreading. The fund can also aid troubled banks and offer credit-lines to repel speculators.

Greek, Spanish and Italian bonds rose after officials drew concessions from Germany, the European Central Bank and investors for a twin-track strategy to support Greece and ensure its woes don’t spread. The summit is the latest in a running- battle to resolve the crisis amid calls this week for tougher action from U.S. President Barack Obamaand the International Monetary Fund.

“These measures are welcome because they create the best possible conditions for Greece and other peripheral countries to put their houses in order and hence limit the risk of contagion,” said Marco Valli, chief euro-area economist at UniCredit SpA in Milan. “Still, the market will continue to price some probability that troubled countries will not be up to the challenge.”

Bond Rebound

The yield on Greece’s two-year government note, which rose above 40 percent yesterday, has since plunged more than 1,300 basis points and was at 26.63 percent at 12:13 p.m. in Brussels.

Italian and Spanish bonds climbed for a fourth day, with the yields on 10-year debt falling to 5.25 percent and 5.62 percent, respectively. Both exceeded 6 percent last week. The euro was little changed at $1.4410 after jumping as much as 1.6 percent yesterday.

The Greek financing package will consist of 109 billion euros from the euro region and the IMF. Financial institutions will contribute 50 billion euros after agreeing to a series of bond exchanges and buybacks that will also cut Greece’s debt load, the leaders’ communiqué said.

The European Commission plans to brief reporters on the package’s technical details at 1 p.m. in Brussels.

European Monetary Fund

The leaders sought to regain the initiative after market turmoil intensified amid a spat between ECB President Jean- Claude Trichet and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over how to manage the crisis. The outlook was worsened by signs that Greece was backsliding on axing its budget deficit as it struggles to cut a debt of 143 percent of gross domestic product. A Bank of America Merrill Lynch poll this week showed investors trimming their European stock holdings to the lowest in more than a year.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy compared the transformation of the bailout fund to the creation of a “European Monetary Fund.”

“This meeting came at a difficult time,” Merkel told reporters. “I’m satisfied with the outcome because the euro countries showed today that we are up to the challenge, we can take action.”

The risk is that the drive will fall prey to the same internal European Union wrangling that blunted previous drives to stop the crisis. Bond purchases by the European Financial Stability Facility, the region’s rescue fund, will need the “mutual agreement” of member states and the facility may not be large enough should markets turn on Italy and Spain at the same time. Leaders also refused to increase its size.

Crisis Management

“The EFSF has gone from being a single-barreled gun to a Gatling gun, but with the same amount of ammo,” Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citigroup Inc., told Maryam Nemazee on Bloomberg Television. “It needs to be increased in size urgently.”

Sarkozy and other leaders also stressed that the Greek package won’t be replicated for other countries.

European officials tried to draw a line under the crisis in May 2010 when they set up the bailout fund and the ECB agreed to buy government bonds of debt-laden nations. That didn’t stop Ireland and Portugal needing bailouts when splits over how to make investors participate in financial rescues prompted a new wave of bond market selling later in the year.

The pact still doesn’t “make a significant dent” in Greece’s debt and may disappoint investors by failing to boost the size of the rescue fund, said Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London. “We doubt that this package alone will bring an end to recent contagion effects and prevent the broader debt crisis from continuing to deepen over the coming months.”

German Coalition

For now, Merkel and her allies have succeeded in their drive to make investors co-finance bailouts after voters balked at the cost of saving spendthrift nations.

“The summit resolutions fulfill the main elements of German coalition lawmakers’ demands, above all the participation of the private sector in solving this crisis,” Hans Michelbach, a lawmaker in Merkel’s ruling coalition, said in a telephone interview. “I see that a majority of coalition lawmakers will support Mrs. Merkel in parliament.”

Banks will reduce Greece’s debt by 13.5 billion euros by exchanging bonds and “potentially much more” through a buyback program still to be outlined by governments, said the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based group representing banks.

Investors will have the option to exchange existing Greek debt into four instruments. Three will be fully collateralized by AAA-rated zero-coupon securities and have a 30-year maturity, and the fourth will be for 15 years and partially collateralized by funds held in an escrow account.

Sovereign Default

Crisis managers are aiming for a 90 percent participation rate from Greek bondholders.

“With this offer, the global investor community is stepping forward in recognition of the unique challenges facing Greece,” said IIF Managing Director Charles Dallara. The gathering was also attended by Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann and BNP Paribas SA counterpart Baudouin Prot.

The ECB removed an obstacle to a new bailout after Trichet softened his opposition to a default which may be declared by credit rating companies if the debt swap occurs. The ECB had until now said the euro region’s first sovereign default could spark a bout of financial turmoil, clashing with Merkel’s position that a default could be inevitable.

Trichet Solace

Trichet signaled governments will guarantee any defaulted Greek debt offered as collateral during money market operations. That may enable Greek banks to keep tapping the ECB for emergency funds. Officials said the aim would be limit any credit event to a few days.

“The ECB pushed the argument as far as it could,” said Laurent Bilke, an economist at Nomura International Plc in London who used to work at the ECB. “It is Europe, everything is a compromise.”

Under the plan, Greece and fellow bailout recipients Portugal and Ireland will also have theinterest rate on emergency loans pared. Maturities will be lengthened to as long as three decades with a 10-year grace period.

Trichet may gain solace from the bailout fund’s wider remit which he repeatedly sought since the ECB suspended its own bond buying program in April amid concern it was doing the work of governments. Germany previously rejected broadening the EFSF, whose size was beefed up to its original lending target as recently as last month.

Passing Money

The facility will be able to buy debt directly from investors so long as creditors agree and the ECB declares “exceptional financial market circumstances.” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the purchases could be used to stabilize markets as the ECB was doing or to help countries retire debt at a discount.

The fund may also start passing money to countries to support banks a week after stress tests on 90 financial institutions put as many as 24 under pressure to show they can raise capital. Precautionary credit lines would allow it to lend to nations before markets freeze, mimicking a system introduced by the IMF for states that start losing investor faith even though they have relatively sound economies.

Governments will have to ratify the facility’s new powers, posing a potential obstacle given domestic critics in Germany, Finland and the Netherlands.

Leaders dumped a suggestion to finance Greek aid through a tax on banks with a French official noting the threat had nudged banks into agreeing to help in other ways. While they signaled no shift toward issuing joint bonds, Germany’s Deputy Foreign Minister Werner Hoyer said in an interview on July 20 that it may eventually back the concept “if we further develop the European Union towards a political union.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Simon Kennedy in Brussels atskennedy4@bloomberg.net Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at jstearns2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

Democrats In Shock–Republicans Still Control the White House

[The big surprise is any tax cuts will come after the collapse.]

Obama-Boehner plan: Cuts now, taxes later

WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) — The Barack Obama-John Boehner debt-cutting plan envisions $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion in U.S. spending cuts but few tax changes for two years, officials said.

The Democratic president and Republican House speaker are coming together on a plan to make sharp cuts in federal agency spending, including at the Pentagon — perhaps around $1.5 trillion over 10 years. But it would postpone tax-overhaul legislation and cuts to so-called entitlement programs until next year, an election year, pushing back the end to most special tax exemptions, tax deductions and tax credits until at least 2013, the officials told The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

The tax-code overhaul would lower personal and corporate income-tax rates while eliminating or reducing an array of popular tax breaks, such as the deduction for home mortgage interest, the officials said.

But Obama and Boehner, R-Ohio, envision no specific tax increases as part of legislation to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit by Aug. 2, the officials said. That date is when the Treasury will be unable to pay the nation’s bills without additional borrowing authority.

What’s still being hashed out is the amount of revenue that would be raised from the tax overhaul — and how to guarantee that revenue, the officials told the newspapers.

This apparent shift in balance from Obama’s “grand bargain” enraged many Democrats who said the proposal guaranteed upfront spending cuts while making any tax increases subject to later agreement, the Journal and Post said.

When “we heard these reports of these megatrillion-dollar cuts with no revenues, it was like Mount Vesuvius. … Many of us were volcanic,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

Mount Vesuvius destroyed the Roman city of Pompeii in A.D. 79.

White House Budget Director Jacob Lew denied a tax-free deal was in the works.

“We’ve been clear revenues have to be part of any agreement,” Lew told reporters.

Still, congressional aides told the Post the White House acknowledged the emerging agreement was “to the right of the Gang of Six” — a bipartisan Senate debt-reduction framework that Obama embraced this week — and was far from what Democrats have said would be acceptable.

Obama met with the top four Senate and House Democrats at the White House for 2 hours Thursday night.

If the Obama-Boehner deal comes together, House Republicans would move the legislation first next week.

This would short-circuit a backup plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to let Obama increase the federal debt limit himself unless a two-thirds majority in Congress objected.


Semantic Propaganda Feeds Stupidity

Semantic Propaganda Feeds Stupidity

Rich and powerful elites are not generally job creators as Republicans assert as part of their propaganda to get government spending cuts and prevent higher taxes on the rich.

by Joel S. Hirschhorn

We would already have had a much needed American revolution in response to the tyranny of the money-fed two-party plutocracy that is destroying the middle class except for one big problem: so much of the American population is just plain stupid.  Too stupid to behave like angry Greeks and rise up in the streets to rebel against the dysfunctional government.

In the never ending fight of Republicans and their cancerous (make that stupid) Tea Party members to gain even more control of the US political system, economy and culture they have fixed on another semantic weapon.  The latest attack on intelligence is the constant use of the term job creators in place of words like the rich or wealthy.  Not just plain Republicans in Congress are doing this, but especially the large crop of Republican presidential candidates.

This bit of cleverness surely was deemed necessary because much of the nation was beginning to appreciate the class warfare going on.  Rising economic inequality, unemployment set in concrete, and merging of the middle class into the poverty stricken lower class were all becoming clearer.

Keep this in mind: As Zuckerman pointed out, the US “experienced the loss of over 7 million jobs, wiping out every job gained since the year 2000.  From the moment the Obama administration came into office, there have been no net increases in full-time jobs, only in part-time jobs.  This is contrary to all previous recessions.  Employers are not recalling the workers they laid off from full-time employment.”  Business sectors have discovered that they can maximize profits with smaller US work forces; they export jobs and their capital investments.  And they benefit from all kinds of tax loopholes protected by Republicans so that they pay very little if any US taxes.

A terrific new article by Jeff Reeves makes the case that unemployment will actually rise to over 10 percent, because of anticipated layoffs in the financial, technology, and aerospace and defense sectors.  The data are compelling.  All this despite high profits.

What were Republicans to do, especially as they used the current crisis surrounding the need to raise the national debt limit to seek huge cuts in federal spending affecting ordinary Americans and prevent higher taxes for the greedy rich and corporate forces?

What better way than to falsely claim and constantly presume that those that should be paying higher taxes are exactly the ones who create jobs and that they would not do so if hit by higher taxes.  In truth, this is a bold lie.  The richest Americans have been paying the lowest taxes in many decades and corporate profits have been enormous, and this reality has clearly had absolutely no positive impact on the unemployment and underemployment plaguing at least 30 million Americans and their family members.

Go back to the post-World War II era when the richest Americans paid very high taxes and you discover that jobs and fairly distributed wealth were created in abundance.

Neither wealth nor jobs trickle down from the Upper Class.  Proper government policies are required to prevent criminally large fractions of the nation’s wealth going to the most greedy and selfish elites.  Those NOT rich that support Republicans are very stupid; they have been brainwashed by the steady stream of Republican lies and propaganda that are used to serve the rich and corporate interests sustaining Republicans with much money.  The return on their investment has proven more than adequate to justify their endless input of money to Republicans.

We probably will soon see President Obama cave in and giver Republicans much of what they want.  There will be major cuts in federal programs that will place millions of Americans in even more precarious economic uncertainty and pain.  And there will probably be far too little increases in taxes on the rich and corporations.  Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security may all be cut in ways that harm many people.

Lies are constantly being fed to the public.  Will you be smart enough to see them for what they are?  The more you face this ugly, disturbing reality, the more embarrassed you will be about the US political system and, hopefully, the more inclined you will be to stop voting for any Republicans or Democrats and participating in our delusional democracy.