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US tied up in Iraq. China focused on Olympics. Russian tanks & troops into Ossetia, part of former Soviet republic of Georgia

a Russian mobile artillery unit fired toward a Georgian position outside Dzhava on Saturday

(quote)

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia declared that "war has started."

Shortly before dawn on Sunday, Georgia’s Interior Ministry said that Russian bombers had begun striking military facilities adjacent to the civilian airport at Tbilisi. The explosions could be heard in the city, said Shota Utiashvili, a ministry official. He said that Russia had built up large forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia — breakaway regions that have support from Moscow — including as many as 300 artillery pieces in South Ossetia alone. Russian forces, he said, were also poised just over the border at Larsi, a checkpoint, where they could open a third line of ground attack. As Russia moved more forces into the region and continued aerial bombing, it appeared determined to occupy both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, said Russia’s ambitions were even more extensive. He declared that Georgia was in a state of war, and said in an interview that Russia was planning to seize ports and an oil pipeline and to overthrow his government.

Russian air attacks struck two apartment buildings in Gori in what an official at the Georgian Interior Ministry called a ‘major escalation.’  read more »

Farnborough International Airshow celebrates 60 years - plane makers, airlines focus on green issues in challenging times

the Farnborough airshow celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2008, an event which is expected to attract more than 250,000 visitors

(quote)

FARNBOROUGH, England: Plane makers and airlines at the world's largest air show struck a tone between conciliatory and defensive on global warming Wednesday — pledging to make flying more fuel-efficient but bridling at a European Union emissions trading scheme. Executives from British Airways and Airbus used a "sustainable aviation" summit at the Farnborough International Airshow to attack the EU over its revised emissions trading scheme, which it said will cripple the European industry coming on top of soaring oil prices. BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said he supported a trading scheme in general but had "serious reservations" about the EU proposal, which he said would encourage carriers to bypass European hubs. "The EU should look again at applying a scheme that is workable in the first place and able to be applied worldwide," Walsh said.

a giant of the skies, Boeing's 777-300ER, can also be seen towering above the other aircraft on display  read more »

Rising Afghanistan death toll: monthly U.S. and NATO troop fatalities in Afghanistan surpassing those in Iraq

monthly death tolls of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan surpassed U.S. military deaths in Iraq in May and June

(quote)

KABUL, Afghanistan - Insurgents armed with machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades mounted a fierce assault on a remote, relatively lightly manned US outpost in northeastern Afghanistan on June 13, killing nine American soldiers. It was the largest loss of US troops' lives in a single assault in Afghanistan since June 2005, when 16 Americans died when a helicopter was shot down in the same province. Fifteen Americans and four Afghan soldiers were wounded. The province, Kunar, is a swath of mountainous terrain that borders Pakistan.

Although Afghanistan's south is the traditional heartland of the Taliban insurgency, the east has seen a sharp upsurge in attacks over the past few months. The 9 deaths accelerated what had been a rapidly rising fatality count among coalition troops. During May and June, the 65 deaths among US and other NATO troops killed in Afghanistan outnumbered American military fatalities in Iraq.

Afghanistan foreign troop deaths in May & June exceed those in Iraq  read more »

George Washington: "It is my most ardent desire...to introduce on every occasion as great a share of tenderness and humanity."

It is my most ardent desire, not only to soften the inevitable calamities of war, but even to introduce on every occasion as great a share of tenderness and humanity, as can possibly be exercised in a state of hostility.

— George Washington

Exceeds 11 million in 2007: world's refugees, half in two war zones: 2 million Iraqis & 3 million Afghans fled to Pakistan, Iran

Afghan girl carrying her infant sibling in Iran's Sistan Baluchistan province

(quote)

Conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan drive up world refugee numbers, accounting for more than half of the world’s refugees in 2007. More than two million Iraqis have sought refuge in Syria and Jordan, and three million Afghans have fled to Pakistan and Iran, the refugee agency said. Iraq and Afghanistan are behind a rise in the number of refugees worldwide for the second year in a row.

The U.N. refugee agency says the number of people fleeing violence and repression worldwide has risen to 11.4 million, largely due to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London on UNHCR's status report for 2007.

fleeing refugees

Launching the report, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said that for the second year in a row the number of people fleeing their countries and displaced from their homes is on the rise. "We have today 11.4 million refugees worldwide, but we have 26 million people displaced within the borders of their own countries," he said.

Guterres says conflicts are largely to blame. Refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan alone make up half the world's total. The 11.4 million tally does not include the millions of Palestinians living as refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.  read more »

Ron Paul: "I am just really concerned that this is going to lead to hostilities". Putin warns against military action

(quote)

*Update* Dec 15 2009
Statement of Congressman Ron Paul, United States House of Representatives, December 15, 2009

I rise in strongest opposition to this new round of sanctions on Iran, which is another significant step toward a US war on that country. I find it shocking that legislation this serious and consequential is brought up in such a cavalier manner. Suspending the normal rules of the House to pass legislation is a process generally reserved for “non-controversial” business such as the naming of post offices. Are we to believe that this House takes matters of war and peace as lightly as naming post offices?

This legislation seeks to bar from doing business in the United States any foreign entity that sells refined petroleum to Iran or otherwise enhances Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum such as financing, brokering, underwriting, or providing ships for such. Such sanctions also apply to any entity that provides goods or services that enhance Iran’s ability to maintain or expand its domestic production of refined petroleum. This casts the sanctions net worldwide, with enormous international economic implications.

...

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that many of my colleagues opposing war on Iran will vote in favor of this legislation, seeing it as a step short of war to bring Iran into line with US demands. I would remind them that sanctions and the blockades that are required to enforce them are themselves acts of war according to international law. I urge my colleagues to reject this saber-rattling but ultimately counterproductive legislation.

Date: 12/15/2009
Location: Congress
Legislation: Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194)

Transcript  read more »

Like minds pair up: Brown & Bush both resist calls for more rapid withdrawals from an unpopular war

U.S. President George W. Bush addresses a press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London

(quote)

LONDON: After talks with President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised tougher measures in Iran and Afghanistan, saying that Britain would freeze the assets of Iran's biggest bank and increase its troop strength in Afghanistan.

Appearing with Bush at a news conference, he sought to speak directly to the Iranian people, saying that Tehran's refusal to resolve international concerns over its nuclear activities would only lead to further isolation. Specifically, he said, the sanctions would be designed to freeze the assets of Iran's biggest bank, Bank Melli. "We will take action today that will freeze the overseas assets of the biggest bank in Iran, the Melli bank, and secondly, action will start today for a new phase of sanctions on oil and gas," he said, without elaborating.

U.S. President George W. Bush at press conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on Monday

For his part, Bush refused to rule out any action in Iran, saying "all options" were on the table — a formula he has used that has been interpreted as not precluding military strikes.  read more »

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