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Chalabi Named Iraq Oil Minister
Fuel Crisis Spurs Mandatory Leave For Incumbent
By Jonathan Finer and Naseer Nouri
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, December 31, 2005; A11
BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 -- As a fuel crisis deepened in Iraq, the government replaced its oil minister with controversial Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, whose poor performance in the Dec. 15 elections was a setback in his recent attempt at political rehabilitation.
The oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr Uloom, was put on a mandatory, month-long leave. He had previously threatened to resign over the government's recent decision to increase gasoline prices sharply, a move that has outraged motorists and sparked attacks on gas stations and fuel convoys.
Violence has escalated across Iraq since the elections. On Friday, two U.S. soldiers were killed, one by a bomb south of Baghdad and another by small-arms fire in the western city of Fallujah. Two mortar shells hit near a bus station in the capital, killing five people and wounding 24, police at the scene said.
Threats by insurgents seizing on the unpopularity of the gasoline price increase led to a shutdown this month of the country's most productive oil refinery, in Baiji, north of Baghdad. Assim Jihad, an Oil Ministry spokesman, said the shutdown would cost $20 million a day until the refinery reopened. Meanwhile, foul winter weather has halted oil exports from the southern city of Umm Qasr, Iraq's only major seaport. Many of Iraq's largest power plants, already struggling to meet even a fraction of the country's energy demands, run on refined fuels.
"If these issues are not solved soon, the country will be facing an uncontrollable situation," Jihad said. "Dr. Chalabi will be here for the short term, but this will need to be solved by the new government, by the Ministry of Defense and by the coalition forces."
Chalabi, whose government portfolio already includes heading the country's energy committee and overseeing security for oil infrastructure such as refineries and pipelines, will temporarily take the reins of Iraq's only major industry. He had briefly led the Oil Ministry earlier this year while the current government was being assembled.
Jihad suggested that Uloom would probably resign rather than return, meaning Chalabi's appointment would last until the parties that prevailed in the recent elections formed a new government.
Negotiations toward that end continued Friday in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah between Abdul Aziz Hakim, who heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a dominant Shiite Muslim party, and Kurdish leaders. Also Friday, an ally of the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose political followers joined the Supreme Council's election ticket, said Shiite parties should pursue an alliance with Iraq's Sunni Arabs, rather than with Kurds.
Iraq's leaders have said no major decisions would be made while the composition of a new governing coalition was being determined.
"I don't think there will be any drastic changes," said Chalabi aide Haidar Moussawi when asked about Chalabi's intentions for his new post. "But I will say we have seen a lot of problems facing the industry with security and weather, and the focus will be on trying to get things under control and exports back to a level Iraq can do."
Once tabbed by some U.S. officials as a future leader of Iraq, Chalabi suffered a series of blows following the U.S.-led invasion, beginning when intelligence he provided to the Pentagon about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction proved false. He was later accused of passing U.S. secrets to the government of Iran. But in recent months, several U.S. officials have praised Chalabi's technical expertise and ability to facilitate agreements among feuding factions within the government.
"He has proven himself quite capable and experienced in dealing with all aspects of Iraq's energy sector and is well-qualified for this position," a U.S. official said on the condition that he not be named because he was commenting on an Iraqi government decision.
Based on preliminary results from the December elections, Chalabi received 8,645 votes in Baghdad, well below the threshold a top U.N. official suggested this week would be required to win a seat.
Moussawi said Friday that Chalabi could still end up in the parliament, depending on how officials interpret a technical detail of election rules relating to how remaining seats are allocated after each party meeting a specific threshold is awarded its seats.
"There is still confusion, even today at the election commission, about this, but we are hearing the party will have at least one seat," Moussawi said.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, mortar shells fell a few minutes apart late Friday afternoon -- one on a cafe and the other on the roof of a car -- in a crowded section of the city center. Sadoon Ali, 48, was playing backgammon in a nearby restaurant when he heard the explosion. "We were standing there wondering what happened when another explosion surprised us," he said.
A man who police said was drunk and angry because a friend had been wounded in the explosion began firing shots into a crowd, sending people scattering in all directions and wounding one man in the left leg.
Also in Baghdad, the government of Sudan said it would close its embassy to meet a demand issued by the insurgent group al Qaeda in Iraq, which claimed to have abducted six Sudanese citizens last week, the Associated Press reported. Five of the men were shown in a video released by the group in recent days. Insurgents have carried out a wave of abductions and attacks that they say is designed to compel diplomats to leave Iraq.
Special correspondent Omar Fekeiki contributed to this report.
Irony of the Month: Inmates have little incentive to stop because they seldom face punishment. Authorities say that's because law enforcement doesn't have the resources to investigate criminals already behind bars.
Inmates scam IRS with false tax returns: Prison inmates are trying to scam the IRS big time.
Dec 25, 2005, 07:32 AM EST
IRS officials detected $68 million in false tax refund applications filed by 18,000 US prisoners for the 2004 tax year.
That accounts for more than one-seventh of all phony refunds nationwide.
In Arizona, convicts were responsible for roughly half of the $600,000 in fraudulent claims detected by Department of Revenue investigators this year.
Nancy Jardini is the chief of IRS criminal investigations. She says that nationwide, inmate fraud has increased 700% in three years.
Inmates have little incentive to stop because they seldom face punishment.
Authorities say that's because law enforcement doesn't have the resources to investigate criminals already behind bars.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Meanwhile, Iraqi oil officials quoted by Dow Jones said yesterday that the deputy prime minister Ahmed Chalabi would take over the oil ministry, replacing Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, who has taken a month's leave.
Sunni lead mass Iraq poll protests
By Steve Negus, Iraq Correspondent, and Jan Cienski in Warsaw
Published: December 28 2005 02:00 Last updated: December 28 2005 02:00
and the Kurdish parties have maintained their iron grip on the south and north respectively, but with 89 per cent of votes counted in the Baghdad melting pot, both Dr Allawi and his arch rival and one-time Pentagon darling, Ahmed Chalabi, face marginalisation….Dr Allawi's secular coalition, the Iraqi List, scored 14 per cent and way behind was Dr Chalabi, whose paltry vote in the capital, less than 0.5 per cent, could deny him a slot in the first round of seat allocation in the new assembly.
US hopes of secular Iraqi state fade away
Posted: 12/22 From: Source By Paul McGeough Chief Herald Correspondent in Baghdad
December 21, 2005
Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Ahmed Chalabi are being backed by the US. …Allawi, a secular Shiite, former Baathist and a well known CIA asset who assisted in the planning and preparation of the US invasion of Iraq, was installed by the Bush administration as the interim Prime Minister in June 2004. …Among many Iraqis, Allawi's reputation for brutality is such that he is referred to as "Saddam without the moustache". …The Iraqi National Congress (INC) of Ahmed Chalabi is also being promoted as an alternative to the Shiite fundamentalists. Chalabi is one of the main Iraqi exiles who collaborated in the US invasion. In early 2004, Chalabi fell from favour with Washington. He resurrected his political fortunes by negotiating a ceasefire between the Sadrists and the occupation forces. He was named as the transitional Government's Deputy Prime Ministers. The Washington Post, citing unnamed White House officials, referred to him as Vice President Dick Cheney's preferred candidate for Prime Minister. Although the election results will not be formally announced till perhaps the New Year, one can imagine the end already.
POST EDITORIAL The Independent Dhaka, Bangladesh Issue 1708 December 23 2005 Gulf oil, Iraq war and Cheney By NASRINE R. KARIM
"Iran wins big in Iraq's election," reads an Asia Times headline, speaking a truth that American policy makers and much of the media is bent on ignoring: "The Shiite religious coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), not only held together, but also can be expected to dominate the new 275-member National Assembly for the next four years," the paper predicts based on the returns to date. "Former premier Ayad Allawi's prospects of leading the new government seem virtually nil. And Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Accord suffered a shattering defeat." Allawi and Chalabi are the Iraqi exiles and US intelligence "assets" who played such a huge role in getting the United States into this war. Chalabi, in particular, will go down in history as one of the great con artists of all time, managing to feed phony intelligence to the White House, the New York Times and countless other power players who found his lies convenient for one reason or another. Now, despite--or, more likely, because of--their long stints on the US payroll, both of these wannabe George Washingtons have been overwhelmingly rejected by their countrymen. Chalabi, long the darling of the Pentagon, seems headed to obtaining less than 1 percent of the vote nationwide and will fail to win his own seat. Allawi's slate, favored more by the CIA, will end up in the low teens.
Pyrrhic Victory TruthDig posted December 21, 2005 (web only) by Robert ScheeR
Online at: http://politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/2442/1/137/
War Against Reason: The "Intelligent Design" Scam
12-22-05, 9:07 am
In November 2005, the first significant legal challenge involving the so-called "Intelligent Design" [ID] theory of creationism wrapped up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Court arguments in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District lasted 22 days, and involved a challenge by 11 parents who oppose the teaching of "intelligent design" (ID), a "lite" variation of the same old creationism theory that has been constitutionally excluded from the public schools since 1987. Even televangelist Pat Robertson has checked in on the issue, pronouncing damnation on Dover for having voted out a pro-ID school board. Yet if things go as planned, this may be only the opening skirmish in a broad offensive by powerful ultra-right forces whose openly stated goal is total control of every aspect of American life.
Intelligent design itself is in essence a scam: a theory based on lack of knowledge rather than knowledge, and as such impossible to disprove. ID theory claims that the anthropic principle, the remarkable series of low-probability cosmic events that allowed the development of multicellular life on Earth, the mysteries of quantum weirdness, the astounding complexity of DNA, the yet-undiscovered material basis of human consciousness and numberless other still-unexplored corners and closets of science all demand the presence of a "God of the gaps," an Intelligent Designer. This heavenly Designer is painted as a sort of divine CEO benevolently micro-managing The Universe, Inc. for the very special benefit of America, for private profit and for the Republican Party.
It is fascinating to observe that ID advocates nowhere dare to claim that our "intelligently designed" universe is perfect or even moderately well functioning. Pointing out the obvious, that hurricanes, smallpox, Scooter Libby, appendicitis or bird flu have no logical place in an intelligently designed universe fails to faze them, probably because the fragile artificial tissue of ID theory was never intended to stand up under hard questioning in the first place. Further examination reveals that ID always has a convenient escape clause for these sorts of questions. The universe was indeed designed perfectly to start, but sin, Satan, Eve, feminists and/or the liberals screwed it all up and left us where we are now.
Since they cannot (yet) push fundamentalist creationism back into the public schools, ID advocates, who never seem adverse to twisting truth to serve their utterly righteous cause, claim that it is the duty of science teachers to "teach the controversy" between science and ID, a controversy that they themselves are in the process of fabricating from whole cloth. In addition, according to Science magazine book reviewer Steve Olson, "recently, intelligent design creationists have been forging alliances with some members of the discipline known as the rhetoric of science, which holds that scientific conclusions inevitably emerge from a process of persuasion, giving rise to the odd sight of conservative Christians making common cause with radical deconstructionists."
At first glance it seems rather obvious that virtually any religious believer (except, perhaps, a Buddhist) must necessarily subscribe to some theory of intelligent design. However, the larger historical debate as to whether a "hand of God" is visible in the material universe is not a new one. Remarkably enough, in recent centuries it was mostly Calvinist Protestants (the doctrinal predecessors of today’s Evangelicals) who proclaimed the "sola scriptura" dogma that fallen humanity is despicably wretched and thus absolutely incapable of discovering or deducing the existence of a God from the design of the material universe. In the 19th century it was this evangelical challenge, much more than atheism or nascent Darwinism, that prompted the Catholic Church’s First Vatican Council to cast its "anathema" (damnation) on those who would deny that reason alone can discover (even though not conclusively prove) the existence of God from observation of material reality.
In the specific case of today’s ID debate, there is an additional element of extreme bad faith. In an amazingly frank document called "The Wedge Strategy," (available at www.texscience.org/files/wedge.htm) leading creationists wrote in 1999 that "we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a ‘wedge’ that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points."
The authors of this document blame evolutionism for most of the "evils" in today’s world, from product liability suits and welfare to the crime of trying to better the world. "Thinking they could engineer the perfect society through the application of scientific knowledge, materialist reformers advocated coercive government programs that falsely promised to create heaven on earth." And the ultimate goal of ID is made crystal clear. The movement "seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."
The authors put forth an aggressive 20-year plan of action to achieve their goals, "to cultivate and convince influential individuals in print and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies." By 2019, they aim for the complete and total defeat of American civilization as we know it, in order "to see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life."
Today’s Relationship of Forces
It is crucial to understand the balance of forces that are involved in today’s ID struggle in North America. As a website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science warns, "creationism appears again to be in a period of ascendancy," and ID is aptly described by science writers Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross as "Creationism’s Trojan Horse." Olson emphasizes that "intelligent design [advocates] have produced no evidence that anything other than naturally occurring mechanisms is responsible for the empirically observed world. But, as is meticulously documented in Forrest and Gross’s book, they have produced a flood of pamphlets, press releases, popular books, websites, and other pronouncements" carefully aimed at school boards, legislators, clergy, rural white churchgoers and other "soft" targets.Science writer Ushma S. Neil reported in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, "A 1999 Gallup poll showed that a startling number of people (38 percent) believed wholly in creationism, 43 percent believed in a more intelligent design-like theory, and only 18 percent of those surveyed believed in evolutionary theory as the sole explanation for the origin of humans. The same poll showed that increasing levels of education correlated with a belief in evolution (65 percent with postgraduate degrees versus 20 percent with a high school degree)." As always, purveyors of right-wing pseudoscience rely on ignorance and lack of education as necessary preconditions for successfully peddling their poisonous product. However, Neil points out that even among scientists, some 40 percent say they believe in God.
Yet, opponents of ID include virtually all working scientists, believers or not, as well as almost every conscientious science educator. Jewish, Muslim and other non-Christian religious believers have overwhelmingly rejected ID as the latest twisted monstrosity to crawl out of the intellectual swamps of American right-wing Fundamentalism. And perhaps most importantly, vast sectors of mainline Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, are firmly speaking out against the ID scam in North America and around the world.
As an example, Dr. Neil Omerod, Professor of Theology at Australian Catholic University, recently wrote a scathing critique of ID entitled "How Design Supporters Insult God’s Intelligence," In his article, published in the Sydney Morning Herald of November 15, 2005, Omerod points out that ID is "just a more sophisticated version of so-called ‘creation science,’ which is poor theology and poor science. As theology, creation science failed to read the biblical story within its historical and cultural context, reading it through the eyes of modern positivism, which equates truth with the accuracy of data. The Bible could only be ‘true’ if it were literally ‘true’ in every detail."
Omerod points out: "This literalist fundamentalism finds few supporters in mainstream Christianity. As science it manipulates the evidence to fit this misreading of the Bible. Intelligent design seeks to go beyond the limitations of creation science. It does not reject or manipulate the scientific data, but argues that the scientific evidence for biological change reveals ‘intelligent design.’" He emphasizes that traditional Christian beliefs clearly allow for chance, and thus Darwinian evolution, and "because something necessarily happens does not mean it happens necessarily.… what God wills to happen by chance, will of necessity happen by chance." He concludes that ID is "an unnecessary hypothesis which should be consigned to the dustbin of scientific and theological history."
It is a major error for opponents of ID (even those who are nonreligious) to allow the right wing to frame the struggle as a serious debate of nonbelievers and secularists vs. Christians. The theory of ID remains political, not religious, at its core, despite advocates’ best efforts to validate it by plugging the issue into older philosophical questions of faith and unbelief. Nor is it entirely correct to portray ID as a struggle of science vs. obscurantism (the ancient canard that "there are some things that humans must never know"). The gurus of ID are far from knuckle-walking Neanderthals or ignorant snake-handling God-shouters, and they do not hesitate to use social science (and even evolutionary theory, as it is applied to petroleum geology, for instance) for their own profit when required – one of the prime movers of the ID movement formerly worked as a geophysicist for the Atlantic Richfield Company. And, as is made repeatedly clear in the "Wedge Strategy" document, profit, and not faith, is what ID is ultimately all about.
The current ID offensive must be exposed and confronted for what it is: a vicious, carefully-planned political (not primarily religious) attack against the American people, perpetrated by a tiny, mendacious clique of well-educated and ideologically-driven right-wingers with virtually unlimited funding and unrestricted media access.
As Neil writes in the Journal of Clinical Investigation:
We all must be informed and we all must get involved to make sure that our lay peers know the facts. The science curriculum is being changed to incorporate intelligent design in Ohio, New Mexico, Minnesota, Kansas and Pennsylvania – it is important to make sure this does not spread to other states, and that it is overturned in the states where it is taught. One thing is unambiguous: this sort of discussion – of religion – does not belong in the classroom.
To achieve this goal, progressives need to increase strategic cooperation with teachers’ unions, mainstream scientific, educational, political, academic and community groups, and should even consider tactical alliances with non-fundamentalist religious groups of all faith traditions.
In this struggle the ultra-right is already busy exploiting existing contradictions in American society (city vs. country – "metro vs. retro," "town vs. gown," Catholic vs. Protestant, gay vs. straight) and is eagerly seeking to create more. Only people’s unity can turn back the extreme Right’s offensive against science, education and reason, and only science, education and reason can guarantee America’s and the world’s future.Read more about the theory of evolution here: http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/628/1/74
.Read more about the recent court case related to teaching the non-scientific concept of intelligent design here: http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/2439/1/137/
--Contact Owen Williamson at firstname.lastname@example.org