Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cuba:The Accidental Revolution

Cuba:The Accidental Revolution examines Cuba's response to the food crisis created by the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1989. At one time Cuba's agrarian culture was as conventional as the rest of the world. It experienced its first "Green Revolution" when Russia was supplying Cuba with chemical and mechanical "inputs." However, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 ended all of that, and almost overnight threw Cuba's whole economic system into crisis. Factories closed, food supplies plummeted. Within a year the country had lost over 80% of its foreign trade. With the loss of their export markets and the foreign exchange to pay for imports, Cuba was unable to feed its population and the country was thrown into a crisis. The average daily caloric intake of Cubans dropped by a third.

Without fertilizer and pesticides, Cubans turned to organic methods. Without fuel and machinery parts, Cubans turned to oxen. Without fuel to transport food, Cubans started to grow food in the cities where it is consumed. Urban gardens were established in vacant lots, school playgrounds, patios and back yards. As a result Cuba created the largest program in sustainable agriculture ever undertaken. By 1999 Cuba's agricultural production had recovered and in some cases reached historic levels.

The four ‘new sheriffs’ of Wall Street

Go to Original

The Federal Reserve and Treasury are playing a dominant day-to-day role in overseeing Wall Street following this week’s rescue of Bear Stearns, raising the prospect that the central bank might be given more permanent authority over securities firms.

Bankers say the greater authority is a direct consequence of the Fed’s extraordinary decisions to extend a $30bn credit line to help JPMorgan Chase’s takeover of Bear and to lend emergency funds to securities houses for the first time in more than 70 years.

“There is a new sheriff in town,” said a senior banker. “The Bear situation changed everything: people saw death before their eyes. The Fed and Treasury are in charge now and are not going to let go”.

Under a regulatory regime dating back to the 1930s, the Fed oversees commercial banks, but investment banks are primarily regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
But as the credit crunch deepened, Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman, Tim Geithner, president of the New York Fed, Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary, and Robert Steel, his number two, have been in unusually close contact with Wall Street executives.

People close to the situation said the Fed and Treasury feared further problems among securities firms could destabilise the financial system and expose US taxpayers to sizeable losses on the new Fed loans.

Their stance has triggered talk of new financial services legislation, with bankers and politicians, including Barney Frank, House financial services committee chairman, asking whether investment banks should be regulated by the SEC or the Fed.

An extension of the Fed’s powers to investment banks might force them to reduce risk and leverage in order to comply with the tougher requirements faced by deposit-taking banks.
However, any change would require legislative action, which looks increasingly difficult ahead of the November presidential election, and could be even more problematic under a new Administration.

The SEC said different agencies were functioning as “equal partners at the regulatory forefront”.

Cheney: US will not pressure Israel

Go to Original

Dick Cheney, the US vice president, has said that Washington will not pressure Israel to take steps that will threaten its security and expressed hope for a "new beginning" for the Palestinian people in their own state.

Cheney, who is on a 10-day trip to the Middle East, arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday after spending two days in Saudi Arabia.

"America's commitment to Israel's security is enduring and unshakable, as is our commitment to Israel's right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other forces dedicated to Israel's destruction,'' Cheney told reporters shortly after arriving in Jerusalem.

George Bush, the US president, has dispatched Cheney to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the next two days to try to move forward rocky peace talks, despite recent violence.

At US brokered talks at Annapolis, Maryland, in November both Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, pledged to forge a peace deal by the end of this year when Bush leaves office.

However, there has been little visible progress because of ongoing violence and Israel's construction of new settlements on land which the Palestinians claim for a future state.

Israel is conducting peace negotiations with Abbas' West Bank-based government whilst fighting Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Scores of civilians were killed when Israel retaliated to rockets fired by Hamas into Israeli communities in southern Israel.

However, Egyptian efforts to broker a truce have created a recent lull in violence in Gaza.

Regional agenda

In Jerusalem on Saturday, Cheney reaffirmed Washington's commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

He assured Palestinian leaders that "they, too, can be certain of America's goodwill'' as it tries to help Israelis and Palestinians reach an accord.

"We want to see a resolution to the conflict, an end to the terrorism that has caused so much grief to Israelis, and a new beginning for the Palestinian people," Cheney said.

The vice president also said "we must not and will not ignore darkening shadows of the situation in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Syria and in Iran, and the forces there that are working to derail the hopes of the world."

Olmert said that he intends to speak to Cheney about Iran.

Israel considers Iran to be a security threat and rejects Tehran's claims that its nuclear programme is not designed to produce arms.

Olmert also said the two would discuss peacemaking and Hezbollah, the Lebanese group that fought Israel in 2006.

The White House has said Bush asked Cheney to visit Israel to discuss the peace process and other regional issues in advance of Bush's trip in May to mark the 60th anniversary of the modern state of Israel.

Recessionary trends deepen, sparking gyrations on stock, commodities markets

Go to Original
By Barry Grey

In the wake of the bailout of Bear Stearns, brokered and largely financed by the US Federal Reserve Board, fears of a deepening recession and continuing uncertainties over the solvency of major finance houses fueled a week of wild gyrations on American stock exchanges.

On Tuesday, one day after the Fed engineered the takeover of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase and announced that it would extend unlimited credit for six months to investment banks and brokerage houses—a measure without precedent since the Great Depression of the 1930s—the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared by 420 points. The jump was led by financial stocks, which benefited from the Fed’s agreement to swap Treasury bonds for illiquid and dubious mortgage-backed securities.

The next day, the Dow plummeted by 293 points, buffeted by a sudden sell-off of commodities.

On Thursday, the final trading day in a week shortened by the Good Friday holiday, the Dow shot up again, closing with a gain of 261 points, despite a continued fall on commodities indexes.

The extreme market volatility was driven in large measure by growing indications that the US has slid into a recession and that the slumping American economy is leading to a global slowdown.

On Thursday, the US Labor Department reported that jobless claims jumped by 22,000 last week over the previous week, reaching its highest level in nearly two months. The Labor Department said applications for jobless benefits totaled 378,000 for the week, far more than had been expected. The four-week average for new claims rose to 365,250, the highest level since a wave of claims caused by the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes. The number of people on benefit rolls reached its highest level since August 2004.

The jobless claims report came on the heels of monthly employment reports for February and January which saw net declines in payroll jobs of 63,000 and 22,000 respectively.

Citigroup, the largest US commercial bank, announced that it was laying off 2,000 employees in its markets and banking unit. The layoffs, to take effect by the end of this month, bring the total job cuts announced by the bank since the mortgage crisis began last summer to more than 6,000—about 10 percent of the firm’s global workforce. Citigroup said the layoffs would be concentrated in New York and London.

The Wall Street giant has written down the value of its assets by over $20 billion in the last year, and is expected to report billions more in losses from subprime and other risky investments in the coming months.

Since the eruption of the subprime crisis and credit crunch in mid-2007, US financial services companies had shed over 60,000 jobs.

The Conference Board, a New York research firm, reported that its index of leading economic indicators declined 0.3 percent in February, its fifth straight monthly drop, and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve said its factory index had declined in March, the fourth consecutive monthly fall in the index. Nationwide, manufacturing declined last month at the fastest pace in almost five years, according to a survey by the Institute for Supply Management.

Auto industry spokesmen projected a sharp decline in vehicle sales for 2008, foreshadowing more layoffs and plant closures. J.D. Powers & Associates issued a forecast putting US industrywide sales of light trucks and cars at 14.95 million, the lowest level since 1994.

In yet another report pointing to a continuing slump in the housing market and rise in home loan defaults and foreclosures, the US Census Bureau said the national homeowner vacancy rate rose to 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007. That was up from 2.7 percent in the previous quarter and equaled the record set in the first quarter of 2007.

The global impact of the US financial crisis and recession was indicated by a report showing a virtual standstill in world trade over the new year. The Bureau for Economic Policy Analysts, a Dutch research institute, reported that in the three months to January, world trade in goods rose at an annualized rate of 0.2 percent over the previous three months.

“This is a substantial deceleration,” the institute said. “World trade volume growth is on a downward trend.”

The growing signs of economic slump, combined with the impact of the credit crunch and investor fears about new bank failures, sparked the broad sell-off on commodity markets that began on Wednesday and continued Thursday. Crude oil and gold prices nosedived from record highs set at the start of the week.

Oil prices fell by 6.9 percent over the two days, while most other commodities fell by 7 percent. Wheat prices plummeted by 15 percent. Overall, the decline in commodities prices for the week was the biggest in a half-century.

The sell-off was evidently sparked by the decision of the Fed, announced Tuesday, to cut its federal funds target interest rate by 0.75 percent, rather than the 1 percent expected by commodities speculators. That bolstered the US dollar on world currency markets and led to a sharp decline in the euro, the yen and the Swiss franc from record highs recorded earlier in the week. The British pound, Australian dollar and Canadian dollar also fell sharply.

Big investors, including hedge funds, which had bid down the value of the US currency and bid up the price of key commodities, in part to recoup losses on stock, bond and derivative investments, panicked and began unloading their commodity holdings. But the commodity sell-off was also fueled by fears of a global recession, which would deflate commodity prices.

Since the beginning of 2008, demand for oil in the US has fallen 2.4 percent compared with the same period last year.

The commodity plunge is also the result of increasing demands from hard-pressed creditors for commodity speculators to increase their margins in collateral and cash.

The Wall Street Journal on Friday described the mechanism as follows: “Investors with losing trades in credit markets—mortgage bonds or collateralized debt obligations, for example—are being required by banks and others to set aside more cash to cover the money they borrowed to make trades, a process called ‘deleveraging.’ To raise the cash, some investors and hedge funds have sold some of their commodity winners.”

The Journal went on to explain that the process is an expression of the generalized crisis of the financial system, centered in the big banks and investment houses. It quoted Rich Feltes, director of commodity research at MF Global Ltd. in Chicago, as saying, “This is all related to the liquidity crisis. As assets at banks are written down, they need to shore up their portfolios by bringing in more cash from hedge funds that are trading in commodities.”

Heavily leveraged hedge funds and other investors also dumped commodity holdings because they were compelled to sell liquid assets in order to make up for losses from bad bets on other forms of speculation.

As Mark Wilson, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service, put it: “We are in an environment where there is uncertainty all around.”

In an attempt to fend off a financial meltdown, the Fed has taken unprecedented measures, including pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into credit markets and taking onto its own balance sheet mortgage-backed securities, loans used to finance leveraged corporate takeovers and other failing assets that are weighing on commercial banks and investment houses and threatening them with bankruptcy, a la Bear Stearns.

This can only weaken global confidence in the Fed’s own solvency and further undermine the position of the US dollar. Ultimately, the cost will be born by the US government, either in the form of curtailed remittances from the Fed to the US Treasury, as a result of losses suffered by the US central bank, or a direct government bailout of Wall Street.

The US government took another step in this direction on Wednesday when the regulatory body that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-chartered mortgage finance firms, agreed to allow the two companies to reduce their capital requirements from 30 percent to 20 percent. This move, reportedly taken under intense pressure from the Bush administration, will enable the two mortgage finance companies to pump an additional $200 billion of liquidity into the US mortgage market. The aim is to bolster the distressed market for so-called “jumbo” mortgages greater than $417,000 and increase the firms’ capacity to refinance more subprime home loans.

Since the US government ultimately stands behind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of which recorded record fourth-quarter losses, the expansion of their lending facility represents yet another step toward a direct government rescue of the banking and mortgage industries.

The loosening of capital requirements for the two firms helped spark the stock market rally on Thursday, raising hopes that it will help stanch the fall in home prices and the spread of mortgage defaults and home foreclosures, thereby shoring up the balance sheets of the banks and investment houses.

That the fallout from the US housing collapse and failure of mortgage-linked investments continues was underscored by the announcement Thursday from Credit Suisse, the Swiss Banking giant, that it was likely to record a loss for the first quarter of 2008. The bank also admitted that it had mispriced the value of some of its securities and said it would write down its assets by $2.83 billion and cut its profit results for 2007 by 6 percent, or $7.8 billion.

Another ominous sign was the announcement from CIT, a major lender based in New York, that it had drawn down its entire $7.3 billion line of backup credit because it could not get credit from its usual sources. CIT stock plunged by 17 percent on Thursday. “It’s a ripple effect,” said Michael Taiano, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill & Partners. “CIT gets squeezed, the people they lend to get squeezed and end up maybe defaulting on their loans. It kind of goes down the food chain.”

Comparing the current crisis to the process that produced the Great Depression, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote Friday: “The financial crisis currently underway is basically an updated version of the wave of bank runs that swept the nation three generations ago. People aren’t pulling cash out of banks to put it in their mattresses—but they’re doing the modern equivalent, pulling their money out of the shadow banking system and putting it into Treasury bills. And the result, now as then, is a vicious circle of financial contraction.”

Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker suggested in a television interview that the Fed was taking inordinate risks and cautioned that its policy of cutting interest rates could lead to an explosion of inflation. He said on PBS’s Charlie Rose program: “We have seen the Federal Reserve take more extreme measures in some respects than any that have been taken in the past to deal with the financial crisis.”

He went on to say that the Fed was not a place “where you put in bad assets, possibly bad assets,” and warned that the weakening of the dollar “begins to raise questions” as to its role as a world currency.

Five Years On, How to Leave Iraq

Go to Original
By Ivan Eland

Editor’s Note: George W. Bush, John McCain and other Iraq War hawks are crediting the "surge" for a decline in violence in Iraq, even though other factors appear to have been more important including the outrageous actions of the hyper-violent al-Qaeda group which produced a predictable backlash among Sunnis.

The other chief consequence of the "surge" has been to buy the Bush administration time to run out the clock, as the Independent Institute's Ivan Eland notes in this guest essay:

As the fifth anniversary of the United States’ second-longest (next to Vietnam) and second-costliest (next to World War II) war passes, the good news is that the counterinsurgency strategy of Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno seems to be working. The bad news is that it will probably not save Iraq.

Although the U.S. troop “surge” has had some effect, it is probably not the most important factor dampening violence back down to the levels of mid-2004.
The United States had comparable force levels in Iraq (about 155,000 troops) in 2005, but the mayhem was worse than now and was increasing.

Furthermore, the carnage in Iraq started dropping even before the United States began the surge (and temporarily increased again as U.S. troops were being added).
In part, prior ethnic cleansing that had more cleanly separated hostile Shiite and Sunni populations has likely caused the reduction. Even more important was probably Petraeus’s and Odierno’s exploitation of the fissure between mainline Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s blindingly incompetent slaughter of fellow Muslim civilians, which brought rebuke even by al-Qaeda’s central leadership, caused Sunni insurgents to get fed up and turn against the group. [See's 2006 article, "Al-Qaeda's Fragile Foothold."]

Petraeus and Odierno cleverly exploited this fissure by driving a wedge between the two factions. Although guerrilla operations are the most successful form of warfare in human history and counterinsurgency forces seldom win over the long term, they do best when they can divide the rebel movement.

The United States was able to defeat the Greek communist insurgents during the 1947-49 period and Filipino rebels from 1900 to 1902 by splitting the insurgencies. In the latter case, the United States was able to persuade Emilio Aguinaldo, the most prominent rebel commander—perhaps by a cash payment—to surrender his forces.
In Iraq, the United States is now essentially paying off former Sunni guerrillas in the “Awakening Councils” by funding, equipping and training them to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq and working with the formerly hostile Shiite Mahdi militia.

Although this strategy has merits by attenuating violence in the short term, it will likely exacerbate Iraq’s larger problems, thus eventually leading to a full-blown civil war.

The Petraeus and Odierno strategy makes sense if the objective is to keep a lid on the violence until President Bush leaves office.

When the tar baby is successfully passed onto the next president, Bush can then rerun the “Kissinger” argument from Vietnam. That argument goes something like this: “The United States would have won the Vietnam War if the Democratic Congress hadn’t cut off funding for it.”

In Iraq, the similar Bush administration refrain will be: “The situation in Iraq was improving until we left office and handed over to power to President X.”
But Bush’s short-term strategy would likely aggravate Iraq’s central underlying problem—ethno-sectarian hostility.

Had the Bush administration made a serious effort to consult experts on the Arab world before invading Iraq, it would have discovered that the country was one of the most fractured in the Arab world and would be one of the least likely to support and sustain a liberal democratic federation.

Prior to supporting former Sunni guerrillas, the administration was only funding, equipping and training two sides—the Kurds and Shiites—in the ongoing civil war. Now the administration is supporting all three sides.

The Shiite/Kurdish-controlled government is opposed to the U.S. program to support the Sunnis and has been reluctant to let them in the security forces.

Such deep underlying ethno-sectarian suspicions and fissures have been around for centuries in what is now Iraq and are unlikely to be rectified by passing a few benchmark laws.

Given the history of Iraq—in which one group controlled the central government and oppressed the other groups—all groups, even including the formerly ruling Sunnis, are suspicious of central authority and will fight for control of it.

Thus, societal cooperation, of which Iraq has little, must precede legislation or the laws will be disregarded. Even less credibility will accrue to laws passed under pressure from an outside occupying power.

The only way the United States can pull its finger out of the dike without the dam crashing down is to use the threat of withdrawal—pulling the backstop out from the corrupt Shiite/Kurdish government—to get the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to agree to formally decentralize the country.

If the central government has only limited power, the groups would fear its potential oppression less and attenuate their fight for control of it.

In a decentralized, loosely confederated Iraq, their militias could provide security over members of the their own groups in new autonomous regions (the country would probably have three or more of these regions based on ethno-sectarian or tribal affiliation).

Also, judicial, resource (oil) management and most other government functions could reside at the regional level. The central government would be responsible only for diplomatic representation overseas and negotiating trade agreements with other countries and among regions.

Heretofore, the major sticking point in getting the three groups to support such a decentralization scheme was Sunni worries about meager oil resources in their region.

The Kurds have had a de facto state in northern Iraq since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Many Shiite leaders also favor setting up an autonomous region, the possibility of which is guaranteed in Iraq’s constitution.

Even the Sunnis, finally disabused of the fantasy that they are strong enough to once again rule all of Iraq, and having tasted oppression at the hands of the Shiite-dominated security forces, are becoming more favorable to decentralization.
To push the Shiite/Kurdish-dominated Iraqi government into gerrymandering regional borders—giving territory containing oil to the Sunnis to ensure their acceptance of decentralization—any new U.S. president must establish a timetable for the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces, which prop up that dysfunctional government.

Because the Shiite have roughly 60 percent of the oil and about 60 percent of the population, the only border that might need to be gerrymandered is near the northern oil fields by Kirkuk between Kurdistan (about 20 percent of the population and approximately 40 percent of the oil) and Sunni-dominated areas (roughly 20 percent of the population and little oil).

The historical record on partitions illuminates dos and don’ts for any soft partition of Iraq into a loose confederation—the most important of which is that the Iraqis must do the dividing themselves for it to have crucial legitimacy in their eyes.

In 1947, in partitioning India and Pakistan, Britain found out the hard way that the location of the partition line is vitally important and that an outside power drawing such a border arbitrarily can have disastrous and violent consequences.

Thus, the United States should avoid getting involved in the details of creating borders between regions, but some general lessons can be learned from past partitions.

First, regional boundaries don’t have to exactly mirror ethno-sectarian areas, but they should come as close as possible.

The case of Northern Ireland shows that a large minority (Catholics), which could be perceived as a threat by the majority (Protestants), should not be stranded on the other side of the borderline. A small minority on the other side of the line will probably experience little violence (Protestants in Ireland).

Second, the case of Kosovo demonstrates that boundaries must consider ethno-sectarian or tribal shrines and sites.

Third, although drawing borders along ethno-sectarian divides should minimize population movements, some migration will likely be necessary. Such movements must be voluntary, can be encouraged through incentives and must be protected (as the violence in Indian-Pakistan in 1947 showed).

Although a U.S. withdrawal and soft partition is not a perfect solution, Iraq is in some sense already partitioned, with forces primarily loyal to ethno-sectarian groups providing security.

U.S. policy training of such armed organizations is merely reinforcing this de facto partition. Such an unratified partition is very dangerous and will likely lead to a full-blown civil war.

Only a new American president signaling a rapid U.S. withdrawal could motivate the parties to formalize, adjust and make permanent the decentralized Iraq that already exists.

Pentagon Rules Out Fallon Testimony

Go to Original

Washington - The Pentagon on Friday ruled out including Adm. William Fallon as a witness before Congress when the top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad testify next month on the way ahead in Iraq.

Fallon's abrupt announcement March 11 that he was resigning, effective March 31, as chief of U.S. Central Command overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan triggered accusations by Democrats in Congress that he was being forced out for publicly opposing launching a war against Iran.

In declaring that Fallon would not join Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker as witnesses before Congress next month, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the decision had nothing to do with Fallon's views on Iran or the reasons for his unexpected resignation and retirement.

"I know there have been requests, in fact, from members of Congress to have Adm. Fallon testify with Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and I can tell you that Adm. Fallon will not be testifying" with them, Morrell told a Pentagon news conference.

Fallon was at the Pentagon on Thursday to join Gates in a video-teleconference meeting with Petraeus in which Fallon and Petraeus gave their views on troop reductions and other issues in Iraq, Morrell said. He said Gates met Friday morning with the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, as well as Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to hear their views on Iraq.

The White House has said Bush plans to come to the Pentagon next week to consult with the Joint Chiefs, in the same manner as he did last summer and in the fall of 2006 prior to major Iraq war decisions.

Petraeus and Crocker are due to testify on Capitol Hill on April 8 and 9, and shortly after that, Bush is expected to publicly announce his decision on how to proceed with troop withdrawals in the second half of the year.

Although he is giving up his command, Fallon will remain on active duty until his retirement later this spring. His deputy, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, is scheduled to become acting Central Command commander when Fallon leaves March 31. No permanent replacement has been nominated, and Morrell said Friday that a successor is unlikely to be in place before May.

"We're at the very beginning stages of that process," the spokesman said.

Morrell said he did not know if Gates personally objects to having Fallon testify alongside Petraeus and Crocker.

Fallon is known to have differed with Petraeus over the pace and scope of U.S. troop drawdowns this year in Iraq, although Petraeus said after Fallon's resignation that they had recently come to a common view.

Petraeus is expected to recommend to Bush that after completing the current scheduled reduction of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from the peak of 20 last year to 15 by the end of July, there should be a "period of assessment" before resuming the drawdown.

Morrell said Gates and Fallon have both endorsed that concept, although the details are not settled. Administration officials have said the pause in troop withdrawals likely would be at least a month or two, with the expectation that the drawdown would resume before Bush leaves office in January.

There are now about 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The number is expected to fall to about 140,000 by the end of July.

White House: Computer Hard Drives Tossed

Go to Original
By Pete Yost

Older White House computer hard drives have been destroyed, the White House disclosed to a federal court Friday in a controversy over millions of possibly missing e-mails from 2003 to 2005.

The White House revealed new information about how it handles its computers in an effort to persuade a federal magistrate it would be fruitless to undertake an e-mail recovery plan that the court proposed.

"When workstations are at the end of their lifecycle and retired ... the hard drives are generally sent offsite to another government entity for physical destruction," the White House said in a sworn declaration filed with U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola.

It has been the goal of a White House Office of Administration "refresh program" to replace one-third of its workstations every year in the Executive Office of the President, according to the declaration.

Some, but not necessarily all, of the data on old hard drives is moved to new computer hard drives, the declaration added.

In proposing an e-mail recovery plan Tuesday, Facciola expressed concern that a large volume of electronic messages may be missing from White House computer servers, as two private groups that are suing the White House allege.

Facciola proposed the drastic approach of going to individual workstations of White House computer users after the White House disclosed in January that it recycled its computer backup tapes before October 2003. Recycling - taping over existing data - raises the possibility that any missing e-mails may not be recoverable.

At a House committee hearing last month, a computer expert who previously worked at the White House called the e-mail system "primitive" and said it was set up in a way that created a high risk that data would be lost from White House servers where it was being archived.

Under pressure to provide details about its computer system, the White House told the congressional committee that it never completed work that began in 2003 on a planned records management and e-mail archiving system. The White House canceled the project in late 2006 and says it is still working on a new version.

In the absence of a permanent archiving system, the White House has been archiving e-mails on White House servers since early in the administration.

The White House says it does not know if any e-mails are missing, but is looking into the matter.

It would be costly and time-consuming for the White House to institute an e-mail retrieval program that entails pulling data off each individual workstation, the court papers filed Friday state.

Israeli and US officers stage four-day training exercise

Go to Original

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said Thursday that around 200 U.S. and Israeli officers had staged a computer-based battle simulation designed to improve coordination between the two countries' armed forces.
The four-day exercise, codenamed "Juniper Falcon" was part of a standing agreement between the two strategic allies to hold regular joint training to boost "interoperability, understanding and cooperation" a military statement released on Thursday said.

The statement stressed that the exercise, which ended on Wednesday, had been planned a year in advance and was not related to actual events.

Defense officials said that in addition the Israeli military's southern command held a separate simulation based on a scenario of an escalated conflict in Gaza. They said that the drill, codenamed "Coiled Spring" should not be seen as a precursor to a real offensive into the Gaza Strip.

Israel has been battling the Hamas movement in Gaza since the Islamic militant group violently seized control of the strip from the forces of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last June.

The violence has however eased somewhat in recent weeks as Egypt pressed Hamas to stop its rocket fire and Israel to halt military strikes. The truce efforts intensified after a fierce round of fighting that began in late February and killed more than 120 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, as well as three Israelis.