|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Monday, April 21, 2003
Hunt for Iraqi Arms Erodes Assumptions: "Intelligence suggests that Iraqi insiders have stolen files, electronic data and equipment from nonconventional arms programs under the cover of recent looting. Analysts said they believe that former Iraqi officials hope to conceal their culpability, barter for status with the U.S. military government or sell the technology for private gain. If such weapons or the means of making them have indeed been removed from the centralized control of former Iraqi officials, high-ranking U.S. officials acknowledged, then the war may prove to aggravate the proliferation threat that President Bush said he fought to forestall.
"It's a danger," Douglas J. Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said in a telephone interview. There are signs, he said, "that some of the looting is actually strategic." Former Baath Party and Iraqi government officials appear to be "doing at least some of the looting" of government facilities, he said, "including those that might have records or materials" relating to weapons of mass destruction." ..
One official interviewed in Kuwait described it as "the barn-door phenomenon." He said retired Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, the occupation governor of Iraq, sought special protection for 10 Iraqi ministries, identifying them as potential repositories of weapons data, but that only the Oil Ministry remained intact after U.S. ground forces took possession of Baghdad. Combat commanders, the official said, gave "insufficient priority to getting into these places," and "there wasn't enough force to accomplish that initial sequestering of buildings and records." ..
The estimated 50 facilities now being protected by U.S. forces represent a tiny fraction of the many thousands of government and Baath Party offices, state enterprises, prisons, barracks, camps and private homes of senior Iraqi officials -- all of them types of places where Iraq has a history of concealing evidence of nonconventional arms. The ministry of industry and minerals, for example, oversaw more than 600 Iraqi state enterprises and 100,000 employees. U.N. arms inspectors once found more than a million pages of weapons documents on a chicken farm." 11:04:22 PM
The True Cost of Hegemony: Huge Debt
: "Foreign investors now have claims on the United States amounting to about $8 trillion of its financial assets. That's the result of the ever-larger American balance-of-payments deficits — totaling nearly $3 trillion — since 1982. Last year, the balance-of-payments deficit, the gap between the amount of money that flows into the country and the amount that flows out, was about 5 percent of gross national product. This year it may be larger still. .. Foreign investors now hold about two-fifths of the federal debt in private hands — double the proportion they held 10 years ago, according to the Treasury Department." 3:38:14 PM
E-Stonia: Estonia has the most advanced information infrastructure of any formerly communist eastern European state. Dubbed E-Stonia by some, the country ranked No. 8 out of 82 countries in putting the Net to practical use in a recent World Economic Forum report. The country ranked No. 2 in Internet banking and third in e-government. .. Last month, the government launched a one-stop home page for online state services. Estonians can use it to digitally sign government forms or legally binding contracts with other people. The government also set up a site called "Today, I'm Deciding" to let citizens offer their own opinions on legislation. It's got a chat room where they can debate the merits of bills or offer up legislation of their own. ..
Many Estonians who now rely on wireless phones never had a landline phone. And most who now use the Internet to pay bills have never used a Western-style checkbook. About 70 percent of Estonians own mobile phones - about the same as the European Union average. Some 40 percent of Estonians have a home computer with online access. In business, online access is over 80 percent. Estonia's second-largest bank recently began a service that lets people use mobile phones as debit cards at restaurants, hotels and gas stations. ..
Cabinet sessions, held in a spartan room that looks out over the cobblestone streets of Tallinn's 14th-century old town, are all held online, with leaders huddled over screens and making comments through sleek silver PCs - as traveling ministers log on from abroad. When the Cabinet approves a policy or bill, the decision is posted almost instantaneously on the government's Web site. "All these ministers sit there with no papers in front of them - most coming into the room with no documents, not even briefcases," explained Daniel Vaarik, a former government spokesman. If ministers oppose a law, they type in their reservations for colleagues to see. If no one is opposed, the prime minister quickly calls for unanimous consent and moves on. "Cabinet meetings used to take between four and 12 hours," said Tex Vertmann, the prime minister's chief technology adviser. "Today, they take between 10 minutes and an hour." 3:24:17 PM
Iraqi graves found
: "The al-Qarah cemetery, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from central Baghdad, contains about 1,000 unnamed graves holding political prisoners, the graveyard's manager told the French news agency, AFP." 11:09:35 AM
Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert
: "A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said. They said the scientist led Americans to a supply of material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, which he claimed to have buried as evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs. The scientist also told American weapons experts that Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990's, and that more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, the military officials said. The Americans said the scientist told them that President Saddam Hussein's government had destroyed some stockpiles of deadly agents as early as the mid-1990's, transferred others to Syria, and had recently focused its efforts instead on research and development projects that are virtually impervious to detection by international inspectors, and even American forces on the ground combing through Iraq's giant weapons plants. An American military team .. said that they considered him credible and that the material unearthed over the last three days at sites to which he led them had proved to be precursors for a toxic agent that is banned by chemical weapons treaties." 11:05:35 AM
CBC News: Men arrested after videotaping Ambassador Bridge: "FBI officers in Michigan are questioning a pair of [Arab American] men caught videotaping the Ambassador Bridge that links Windsor, Ont. and Detroit. The men were arrested late Sunday by officers on a routine patrol, a police spokeswoman said Monday. Officials said they found a small amount of dynamite [not enough to damage the bridge], a collapsible baton and shotgun shells in the car. " .. Police also found a tape recorder and photocopies of immigration papers. .. the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest crossing between Canada and the United States, with about 25 per cent of Canada-U.S. trade going over it. " 10:39:03 AM