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Terrorism: The facts are in. It's up!

The Independent, in this article confirms what anyone who has reflected on it has known all the time:

"Innocent people across the world are now paying the price of the "Iraq effect", with the loss of hundreds of lives directly linked to the invasion and occupation by American and British forces.

An authoritative US study of terrorist attacks after the invasion in 2003 contradicts the repeated denials of George Bush and Tony Blair that the war is not to blame for an upsurge in fundamentalist violence worldwide. The research is said to be the first to attempt to measure the "Iraq effect" on global terrorism. It found that the number killed in jihadist attacks around the world has risen dramatically since the Iraq war began in March 2003. The study compared the period between 11 September 2001 and the invasion of Iraq with the period since the invasion. The count - excluding the Arab-Israel conflict - shows the number of deaths due to terrorism rose from 729 to 5,4…

Lord Downer of Baghdad does it again - for the family!

The daughter of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is now working for him. He, like his fellow Ministers, just doesn't seem to get it. It's not the first time that a Downer family member has "cracked" something at or through Lord Downer of Baghdad.

As Crikey [only on subscription - well worth every cent!] records:

"The federal government runs a worthy initiative called Family Business Australia – and it seems even members of the government’s own top echelons are getting into the spirit of its aim to “improve the effectiveness of Australian families in business”. Leading the way is Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, whose daughter has just joined the Downer family business, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This continues the lineage which started when Alexander Snr became High Commissioner to Britain.

As Crikey reports today, Georgina Downer has been employed by Dad’s department as a graduate trainee. This career move follows another Downer family…

Israel Lobby ramps up things by a notch or three

To read how the Israel Lobby in the US operates is rather frightening. Lobbying is one thing. Influencing foreign policy is another - especially if underlying it is the old hoary cry of anti-semitism or anti-Zionism if someone doesn't go along with the Lobby's view of the way the world ought to be.

Franklin Lamb, Phd, former Assistant Counsel, House Judiciary Cmte.,
Washington,DC, writing in Counterpunch says:

"Come to think of it, wasn't it just a matter of time before the Bush administration would get around to declaring the Lebanese registered construction company, Jihad al-Bina, yet another "terrorist organization"? It finally did put Jihad al-Bina on the list this week.

Still smarting from Israel's defeat in the July war, the White House and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as well as their friends in the US Congress have been busy tightening the screws on Iran and the Lebanese Resistance. The Lebanese Resistance is led by Hezbol…

Dr. Zhivago: The Plot Thickens

Who would have thought it! The CIA "involved" in the publication of Boris Pasternak's book "Doctor Zhivago?"

The Washington Postreports:

"Into one of the most sordid episodes in Russian literary history, the Soviets' persecution of Boris Pasternak, author of "Doctor Zhivago," a Russian historian has injected a belated piece of intrigue: the CIA as covert financier of a Russian-language edition of the epic novel.

Ivan Tolstoy, who is also a broadcaster for Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, writes in a forthcoming book that the CIA secretly arranged for the publication of a limited Russian-language edition of "Doctor Zhivago" in 1958 to help Pasternak secure the Nobel Prize in Literature that year.

"Pasternak's novel became a tool that was used by the United States to teach the Soviet Union a lesson," Tolstoy said in a telephone interview from Prague, where he works as a Russian commentator for the U.S. government-funde…

Nothing's really changed for women since the 1950's

We hear and talk of change for the women of this world - like, things are different, women can, perhaps with difficulty, combine work and home, etc. etc. But is it true in reality?

No, according to Ruth Rosen writing in The Nation [reproduced on AlterNet]:

"A baby is born. A child develops a high fever. A spouse breaks a leg. A parent suffers a stroke. These are the events that throw a working woman's delicate balance between work and family into chaos.

Although we read endless stories and reports about the problems faced by working women, we possess inadequate language for what most people view as a private rather than a political problem. "That's life," we tell each other, instead of trying to forge common solutions to these dilemmas.

That's exactly what housewives used to say when they felt unhappy and unfulfilled in the 1950s: "That's life." Although magazines often referred to housewives' unexplained depressions, it took Betty Friedan&#…

The grim realities of and in Iraq

Media Lens in its email-bulletin, reports on these stark and grim facts and figures:

"It is an awesome fact that the war has so far forced one out of every eight Iraqis, more than 3.7 million people, to flee their homes, according to the United Nations (http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/01/08/iraq.refugees/index.html). Of these, 2 million have left the country while another 1.7 million have been internally displaced. Some 40 per cent of the professional middle class has left the country since 2003. It was recently estimated that of the 34,000 doctors present in 2003, 12,000 have now emigrated and 2,000 have been murdered. (http://web.mit.edu/CIS/pdf/Human_Cost_of_War.pdf.)

Antonio Guterres, former prime minister of Portugal and head of the UNHCR, said earlier this month "we are facing a humanitarian disaster". (‘UN warns of Iraq refugee disaster,’ February 7, 2007; http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/middle_east/6339835.stm) Guterres is attempting to raise an ex…

Cluster Bombs: USA missing in action!

A cluster bomb is a container holding hundreds of smaller bomblets. It opens in mid-air and disperses the bomblets over a large area.

The smaller bombs do not always explode on impact, which means they can continue to kill innocent civilians years later.

A recent report by Handicap International claimed that 98 percent of casualties from cluster munitions are non-combatants.

CommonDreams [reporting on Agence France Presse] reports on how the US views the use of cluster bombs:

"The United States on Friday rejected an international call to abandon the use of cluster bombs, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"We ... take the position that these munitions do have a place and a use in military inventories, given the right technology as well as the proper rules of engagement," McCormack said.

Forty-six countries meeting in Oslo on Friday pledged to seek a treaty banning cluster bombs by next year, with major user and stockpiler Britain and manufacturer France signing …

The newest way of faking it

There will be many who will simply shakes their heads - and ponder on what has become of the world.

First there were writers who plagiarised the work of others. That was bad enough. Then there authors who have contrived, and lied, in the narratives of their books. Now, the NY Timesreports on how to fake that one has actually read the book one is talking about:

"It may well be that too many books are published, but by good fortune, not all must be read. In practice, primed by publishers, critics, teachers, authors and word-of-mouth, a form of natural selection limits essential reading to those classics and best sellers that become part of civilized intellectual and social discourse.

Of course, many people don’t get through these books, either, and too embarrassed to admit it, they worry constantly about being exposed as philistines.

Now Pierre Bayard, a Paris University literature professor, has come to their rescue with a survivor’s guide to life in the chattering classes. And…

How the IHT views Cheney's visit to Oz

Sydney-siders will have been glad to see the back of Cheney given the terrible inconvenience he and his entourage caused everyone. One would certainly not have seen the "visit" as being one to win the hearts and minds of the locals.

If the IHT is to be believed [remember the paper is read around the world] the visit wasn't a great success on any level:

"Vice President Dick Cheney received a less than effusive welcome during a three-day visit to Australia that ended Sunday, amid lingering tensions over China and the war in Iraq.

Australia remains one of Washington's strongest allies, but as the country heads into an election year, Prime Minister John Howard's interaction with Cheney appeared perfunctory and brief. The Australian leader waited 36 hours after the vice president's arrival before meeting him, and even then spared Cheney barely an hour of his time before giving a notably short joint news conference."

Another dimension to global warming

"The spread of human disease has become one of the most worrisome subplots in the story of global warming. Incremental temperature changes have begun to redraw the distribution of bacteria, insects and plants, exposing new populations to diseases that they have never seen before.

A report from the World Health Organization estimated that in 2000 about 154,000 deaths around the world could be attributed to disease outbreaks and other conditions sparked by climate change.

The temperature change has been small, about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 150 years, but it has been enough to alter disease patterns across the globe.

In Sweden, fewer winter days below 10 degrees and more summer days above 50 degrees have encouraged the northward movement of ticks, which has coincided with an increase in cases of tick-borne encephalitis since the 1980s.

Researchers have found that poison ivy has grown more potent and lush because of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In Africa, mosqu…

Iran increasingly in the firing line

VP Dick Cheney, in the course of a speech in Australia at the weekend - no questions by the way! - certainly more than hinted at taking on Iran. With the announcement of the Iranians having launched a space-rocket the sabre-rattling about Iran is going to increase.

Now veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, in the New Yorker, writes:

"In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both it public diplomacy and its covert operations, ha significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House hav called the new strategy, has brought the Unite States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with …

She's got a very valid point.....

This blogger isn't a fan of Miranda Devine - who writes op-ed pieces on a regular basis in the SMH and Sun-Herald.

However, in her piece in the Sun-Herald today, Devine has a a rather valid point when she reflects on the Government's decision for us all to have to change the sort of light-bulbs we use by 2010:

"According to the Australian Greenhouse Office, lighting accounts for just 5 per cent of household greenhouse-gas emissions, clothes washing and drying accounts for 2 per cent, cooking 3 per cent, fridge/freezer 9 per cent, home heating and cooling 11 per cent, electronic and other appliances 15 per cent, water heating 16 per cent and travel a whopping 34 per cent.

The AGO points out that each household could save more than two tonnes of greenhouse gas by buying a new efficient fridge, 1.5 tonnes by using gas to heat hot water. Using cold water to wash clothes saves almost half a tonne a year. But every litre of petrol saved cuts greenhouse-gas emissions by 2.8 kilogra…

US "justice" on trial

Leave aside the recent remarkable scene of the blubbering judge in the Anne Nicole Smith case, but a case now underway in Miami really puts to the test whether so-called American justice is up to the task:

"Something remarkable is going on in a Miami courtroom. The cruel methods US interrogators have used since September 11 to "break" prisoners are finally being put on trial.

This was not supposed to happen. The Bush Administration's plan was to put José Padilla on trial for allegedly being part of a network linked to international terrorists. But Padilla's lawyers are arguing that he is not fit to stand trial because he has been driven insane by the government."

Read this grim assessment by well-known author Noami Klein in The Nation of lawliness in the US. More to the point is whether the the judicial system, as so often in America, will be found wanting?

Fox News: Not even remotely fair or balanced!

It is nothing new that Fox News is biased and certainly can't be counted on to present any news fairly or balanced - even remotely.

This piece in The Huffinton Post - with a video clip - shows in graphic terms how Fox News has literally gone on the attack on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Osama.

Bear in mind that only one newspaper in the Murdoch press worldwide editorialised against the Iraq War. There is sufficient evidence that Rupert Murdoch - who really cares what he thinks? - gives the policy and political direction of his media outlets.

A shameful record

It seems like the world, including the US, hasn't learnt - as this piece in Forwardexplains:

"The recent discovery that the family of Anne Frank had unsuccessfully attempted to obtain an American visa before being captured by the Nazis shines light on the failure of the United States to do enough to save Jews from the Holocaust. In reaction to the news, Rep. Steve Israel has reintroduced a bill to make the child martyr an honorary American citizen.

“The best way we can honor Anne Frank in death is to give her what her father sought for her in life,” said Israel, a New York Democrat, in a statement last week. “The news that Anne Frank’s family sought to flee to the United States makes it clearer than ever that we should bestow honorary citizenship upon Anne Frank.”

We respectfully disagree: The best way to honor Anne Frank’s memory — and to demonstrate that America has learned a lesson from its past mistakes — would be for the Bush administration to take comprehensive steps to ad…

Consumers take on big business and the State

An interesting piece in The Independent explains how the general public in the UK - read for that consumers - has used the internet to literally revolt against big business and the State.

"For decades British customers tolerated poor service with a resigned attitude and never dared to complain. No more. From high street banks to football stadia, people are exhibiting a steadfast refusal to put up with high prices or shoddy standards.

Instead, in their millions and harnessing the power of the internet, they are switching supplier, staying away, signing petitions, engaging in local democracy. In short, they are fighting back."

Are we going to see the same happen in Australia? Hopefully - and soon! Read the full piece here.

What has allowed for this new approach by consumers has been the ability to harness the power of the internet, as The Independent also reports:

"It is what in theory ought to happen - but it is good to know that it is indeed happening. In theory the …

An unwelcome visitor

VP Dick Cheney is presently visiting Australia - with all the hype and inconvenience that is going to cause the people of Sydney. You know, all air-space above the city blocked off at the time of his flying into Sydney, a 30 vehicle cavalcade from the airport and green-light access wherever he travels in the city.

Do Australians want him here? Most, probably not. It is questionable whether the Government does either, even if Cheney is a "mate" of John Howard.

John Nichols, writing in The Nation, mocks Cheney's trip to Japan to thank them for their support in Iraq. In fact, Nichols analyses the number of countries who have supported the US as part of the Coalition of the Willing - now dubbed by one US TV network, post the UK's decision to partially withdraw from Iraq, the "Coalition of the Leaving".

As Nicols writes:

"Aside from Great Britain, which is dramatically downsizing its presence, only Australia -- where Prime Minister John Howard appe…

Now there is a war worth waging

The IHTreports on a war, of a different and positive kind, well worth waging - and whch should engage all people of goodwill around the globe....

"On the previous night, Mekonnen had slept under a mosquito net for the first time in his life, as part of a [Jimmy] Carter initiative to wipe out malaria and elephantiasis in this region. And Mekonnen now uses an outhouse as a result of a Carter Center initiative to build 350,000 outhouses in rural Ethiopia to defeat blindness from trachoma.

Carter has almost managed to wipe out one horrific ailment — Guinea worm — and is making great strides against others, including river blindness and elephantiasis. In this area, people are taking an annual dose of a medicine called Mectizan — donated by Merck, which deserves huge credit — that prevents itching and blindness.

Mectizan also gets rid of intestinal worms, leaving Ethiopian villagers stronger and more able to work or attend school. Among adults, the deworming revives sex drive, so some peo…

It doesn't look like real security

As any traveller to the US will testify the paperwork and all the security measures now in place in order to "protect" those Americans from terrorists are in some respects laughable. Fingers-prints and facial-photos, however many number of times, even within days, one enters the US. etc. etc.

Now this news in the IHT on pretty basic security measures makes the whole exercise seem more than a tad ludicrous:

"The federal takeover of the checking of passenger names against terrorist watch lists, a top priority for aviation officials since the 2001 terrorist attacks, is not expected to be complete until 2010, more than five years behind schedule, a top Department of Homeland Security official has acknowledged.

The delay in the timetable is the latest setback in a long-promised program intended to enhance aviation safety, while reducing the number of passengers mistakenly identified as possible terrorists."

There's no other word for it - it's a withdrawal

Watching the politicians, especially in Australia, try to re-invent the English language - or simply engage in spin or outright lying - is rather fascinating as they seek to call the partial withdrawal of British troops from Iraq anything but that.

Now we have Australian Defence Minister Nelson telling the world that "victory" may not be possible in Iraq.

Dr Rosemary Hollis from Chatham House in London says the British strategy is a withdrawal and one driven to a large extent by the advice of concerned military leaders in Iraq who have warned that British troops may be doing more harm than good in the country.

On Radio National's The World Today yesterday Dr. Hollis said:

"I do think that there is a tremendous problem for all the coalition forces, and for the Americans in particular, in that there will be many, many Iraqis who have worked with the whole enterprise and who have taken enormous risks and relied on the American word and the British word, for that matte…

Lebanon, righty, fears the worst

As rumblings of war in the Middle East continue to grow, Robert Fisk, writing in TheIndependent, reflects on how Lebanon will be the country first in line of any conflict:

"How easily the sparks from the American-Israeli fire fall across the Middle East. Every threat, every intransigence uttered in Washington and Tehran now burns a little bit more of Lebanon. It is not by chance that the UN forces in the south of the country now face growing suspicion among the Shia Muslims who live there. It is no coincidence that Israel thunders that the Hizbollah are now more powerful than they were before last year's July war. It is not an accident that Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah's leader, says he has brought more missiles into Lebanon.

Why, the Lebanese ask, did President Bashar al-Assad of Syria visit President Ahmadinejad of Iran last weekend? To further seal their "brotherly" relations? Or to plan a new war with Israel in Lebanon?

The images of Iran's new missile…

Climate Change: A taste, literally, of things to come

The LA Timesreports on what is a clear example of the effects of global warming and climate change:

"Global warming has a taste in this village. It is the taste of salt.

Only a few years ago, water from the local pond was fresh and sweet on Samit Biswas' tongue. It quenched his family's thirst and cleansed their bodies.

But drinking a cupful now leaves a briny flavor in his mouth. Tiny white crystals sprout on Biswas' skin after he bathes and in his clothes after his wife washes them.

The change, international scientists say, is the result of intensified flooding caused by shifting climate patterns. Warmer weather and rising oceans are sending seawater surging up Bangladesh's rivers in greater volume and frequency, experts say, overflowing and seeping into the soil and water supply of thousands of people.

Their lives are being squeezed by distant lands they have seen only on television — America, China and Russia at the top of the list — whose carbon emissions are push…

Bush is losing the "war on terror" - for everyone

consortiumnews.com writes:

"Despite the sacrifices in lives, treasure and liberties, the painful reality is that the United States is losing the “war on terror” – in large part because too many people in the Middle East and across the globe view George W. Bush as a bully and a hypocrite.

Bush has become the ugly face of America, mouthing pretty words about freedom and democracy while threatening other nations and bludgeoning those who get in his way. Perhaps even worse, Bush has shown himself to be an incompetent commander, especially for a conflict as complicated and nuanced as this one.

Indeed, it is hard to envision how the United States can win the crucial battles for the hearts and minds of key populations if Bush remains President. Arguably, Bush has become a “clear and present danger” to the interests of the American people – yet he still has almost two years left in his term.

This predicament – the desperate need for new U.S. leadership and the difficult fact of being stuck w…

Now food is running out in Iraq....

On her way to Jersualem [see last posting] Condi dropped in in a flying-visit on Baghdad last weekend. She and the Iraqi PM proudly announced that the latest beefed up security measures had been successful in cutting down the suicide bombers especially in Baghdad.

As the last days have shown nothing could be further from the truth. The carnage has continued with suicide bombers killing and maiming many.

Meanwhile, life for Iraqis gets worse by the day:

"Look at us begging for food despite the fortunes we have," 60-year-old Um Muthanna from Baghdad told IPS. Standing at a vegetable market in central Baghdad where vegetable supplies are not what they used to be, Um Mahmood despaired for Iraq.

"A country with two great rivers should have been the biggest exporter in the world, but now we beg for food from those who participated in killing us." Iraq is rich in oil and agricultural resources.

Local and international aid flooded into Iraq in 2004, the year following t…

Forget about a solution between Israelis and Palestinians anytime soon

The other day Condi met with PM Olmert of Israel and Palestinian President Abbas in Jerusalem in a so-called kick-start to peace negotiations. Informed views were that nothing would come of the talks.

The Independent has an interesting Q & A on the whole issue of the Middle East conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

As events turned out, the pundits were right. Nothing came of the talks. Yet another talkfest involving Condi on her 10th visit to the Middle East.

Lord Downer of Baghdad wrong - again!

Last night on ABC's Lateline program on TV, Lord Downer of Baghdad was asked about David Hicks. According to Downer, Hicks would be entitled, on whatever legal advise he received, to appeal any conviction through the US judicial system.

Wrong! Just overnight the Appeals Court in the District of Columbia ruled in a 2-1 decision that detainees at Gitmo do not have access to the civil courts in America - upholding recently legislation passed by Congress. Read all about it from the Christian Science Monitor here.

Of course, as we all know, the rules and laws dealing with detainees at Gitmo do not apply to American citizens. Shameful on all levels - especially the Australian Government's approach to the whole Hicks affair.

Too close an ally?

Hugh White is a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute of International Policy in Sydney, and professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University.

In a piece in this week's Newsweek White seeks to put into context for the magazine's world-wide readership PM Howard's attack on Democractic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama.

"Howard's statement broke a golden rule of diplomacy—never comment on an upcoming election in a friendly country—and earned him a sardonic rebuke from Obama, who pointed out that for all of Howard's tough talk, Australia has sent a mere 1,400 troops to Iraq. This uncharacteristic misstep from such a grizzled political operator had a fairly simple explanation: Howard is expected to call an election of his own, probably later this year, and figured taking a swing at Obama would play well in his staunchly, even uniquely pro-American country. Only he figured wrong; the normally self-assured Howard is becoming rattled, and it…

Pure racism challenged

"If we are to listen to visiting Israeli professor Raphael Israeli, Rwanda must now be heading for disaster. "When the Muslim population gets to a critical mass you have problems," he contributed last week. For this, we are told the archetypal exhibit is France, where, thanks to a 10 per cent Muslim minority, "French people say they are strangers in their own country". Violence flows from sizeable Muslim minorities as surely as breathing, apparently. But "if there is only 1 or 2 per cent they don't dare to do it … they are drowned in the environment of non-Muslims and are better behaved".

Sometimes a statement is so manifestly boneheaded it is difficult to know whether or not it is worthy of a response. So it is with Israeli's unsolicited social commentary. "Greeks or Italians or Jews don't use violence," he blundered, as though the Mafia had never existed, and Revolutionary Struggle, an active Greek terrorist group, had not clai…

A Fatal Trifecta

The Federal Budget Submission for the International Heart and Diabetes Institute puts forward these truly frightening statistics:

Obesity - 3.2 million Australians were obese in 2005 and that figure is expected to more than double to 7.2 million by 2025

Diabetes - 1 million-plus Australians have diabetes with 102,000 new cases of type 2 diabetes having been diagnosed in 2005

Heart Disease - 3.7 million Australian are affected by herat disease, stroke and vascular disease.

In the end, Australians will pay for all of this in one way or another - either physically themselves or the cost-burden on our hospitals and health-facilities. A call to wake up?

737 US Military Bases = Global Empire

The figures are truly staggering:

"The worldwide total of U.S. military personnel in 2005, including those based domestically, was 1,840,062 supported by an additional 473,306 Defense Department civil service employees and 203,328 local hires. Its overseas bases, according to the Pentagon, contained 32,327 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which it owns, and 16,527 more that it leased. The size of these holdings was recorded in the inventory as covering 687,347 acres overseas and 29,819,492 acres worldwide, making the Pentagon easily one of the world's largest landlords."

The premise of a piece on AlterNet is that with all that American military personnel across the planet, and military bases spread across each continent, it's time to face up to the fact that American democracy has spawned a global empire.

Six Critical Questions on Rumsie

As Harper's Magazine writes:

"If you miss having Donald Rumsfeld to kick around, you'll definitely want to check out Andrew Cockburn's soon-to-be released Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. Cockburn, who for the past three decades has written on national security issues for such publications as Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, shreds the former secretary of defense, following Rumsfeld's career from his early days in the Nixon Administration (Nixon once called him a “ruthless little bastard”) through his departure last fall. Cockburn's previous books include The Threat, Inside the Soviet Military Machine, and Out of the Ashes, the Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, which he co-authored with his brother, Patrick."

The six critical questions are posed here - in Harper's Magazine - and make for interesting reading.

"The Ground Truth"

PM Howard, and many in his Cabinet, were more than sceptical, if not scathing, of Al Gore when he visited Australia late last year to promote his movie "An Inconvenient Truth". Ministers like Joe Hockey actually "rubbished" Gore.

Whether any of these intellectual pygmies ever ended up seeing the movie we really don't know. However, no doubt prompted by political considerations, the issue of climate change is now on the Federal Government's agenda.

By the sounds of this piece on Common Dreams, there is another compelling movie which ought to be compulsory viewing for PM Howard and at least his little "echo" Defence Minister Nelson.

"Last night, I attended a MoveOn event, one of more than a thousand nationwide. Our principal agenda was to view the film, "The Ground Truth." The movie focused briefly on the recruiting, training and deploying of U.S. military troops to Iraq. It did not shy away from deaths - ours, theirs, calculated…

Get healthy - or else

Here is some food for thought for a Monday morning. Companies in the USA are taking more than an active interest in the health of their employees. Of course the employer has more than an eye on its bottom line in all of this - rather than the health and well being of its employee.

BusinessWeekreports on a trend which is certain to catch on in Australia. Maybe it's good, perhaps not. As the article points out, the active intervention of the employer saved one man's life. Whatever, it all raises interesting questions like the privacy of information on the the employee's health.

"Two stories—one man saved by the 11th-hour intervention of his employer; another fired on his 30th birthday for smoking—capture the dilemma facing companies around the country. How do executives looking to cut medical costs persuade employees to take better care of themselves without killing morale and spawning lawsuits? It's a question that's very much on the mind of Sco…

Battlefield medical techniques may assist civilians

What a strange world we live in! The carnage continues in Iraq, yet this report from Reuters suggests that all civilians will gain from the medical knowledge and know-how gained in treating all those US military men and women injured in battle. Of course whatever medical treatment may be given to the military people overlooks any mental scarring they probably suffered - and totally ignores the poor Iraqis, mostly innocents victims, caught up in the War.

"Advances in treatment of horrific battlefield injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan that have saved the lives of many U.S. soldiers who would have died in previous wars may yield valuable techniques for treating civilian trauma victims, military doctors said.

Survival rates have improved to 90 percent in this war from about 75 percent during the Vietnam War, even though today's weapons are more lethal.

"People are surviving more mutilating injuries," Dr. Dana Covey, a Navy captain and chairman of the Department of Or…

Taking a [big] stick to Ruddock & Co.

The Age reports today that the Government will do whatever it can to get David Hicks back to Australia before the Federal election, mooted for next October - as PM Howard and Co. realise that the electorate, whatever its views on Hicks, is not prepared to accept the unaccpetable way in which Hicks has been dealt.

Robert Richter QC - one of Australia's foremost barristers - writing under what The Age describes as Comment, takes a very big and sharp stick to Attorney-General Ruddock as he excoriates him and John Howard and Alexander Downer:

"Philip Ruddock is a hypocrite when parading his Amnesty International membership. He pretends to give a toss for the organisation and the principles for which it stands: the rule of law, freedom from arbitrary arrest and punishment, freedom from torture, opposition to the perversion of accepted civilised notions of justice and the obligations he owes to those notionally under his protection. Instead, he has publicly and shamefully betrayed al…

A plaintiff plea....

"I know of no way to measure suffering, no mechanism to quantify pain. All I know is that we Palestinians are not children of a lesser God.

Had I been a Jew or a Gypsy, I would consider the Holocaust to be the most atrocious event in history. Had I been a Native American, it would be the arrival of the European settlers and the subsequent near-total extermination of the indigenous population. Had I been an African American, it would be slavery in previous centuries and apartheid in the last. Had I been an Armenian, it would be the Turkish massacre.

I happen to be a Palestinian, and for Palestinians the most atrocious event in history is what we call the Nakba, the catastrophe. Humanity should consider all the above as morally unacceptable, all as politically inadmissible. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not comparing the Nakba to the Holocaust. Each catastrophe stands on its own, and I do not like to indulge in comparative martyrology or a hierarchy of tragedies. I only mention our r…

The "magical" power of an ipod!

From Kenya this report:

"In a strange turn of events, would be burglars got the shock of their lives when they broke into what they thought was an empty house only to stumble into the home’s owner who was getting a midnight “valentine” present from his wife.

John Kamau, 29, got an ipod from his older brother who lives in Kansas, USA as a christmas gift last December.

Lacking a radio set or receiver of any kind, John was lying next to his wife in the darkness of his living room and was holding the ipod in his hands while his wife had the headsets on her ears listening to romantic music that John’s brother had also sent from the US.

John had used the ipod to get his wife into a more loving and giving mood and was smiling from ear to ear when the wooden window behind him was suddenly smashed into pieces.

One of the pieces landed right next to John’s head on the floor almost popping his right eye out.

He says he turned and looked up from where he was lying on the floor with his wife to see…

Darfur and Chad: Off the world's radar?

The world is, rightly, concerned about the worsening situation in Iraq and the ever-growing threat of war with Iran.

In the meantime, the world's eyes, and concern, seems to have been averted from the plight of those in Darfur, and now Chad as well.

As BBC Newsreports:

"The violence in Chad could turn into a genocide similar to that in Rwanda in 1994, the UN refugee agency has warned.

The UNHCR says the killing tactics from neighbouring Darfur in Sudan have been transported to eastern Chad in full.

The warning comes as Chad, Sudan and the Central African Republic signed a deal not to support rebels attacking each other's neighbouring territory.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5m displaced since war broke out in Darfur four years ago.

Concern is now growing for the 200,000 refugees who sought shelter in eastern Chad.

The conflict in Darfur has followed them across the border with attacks by Janjaweed Arab militia on camels and horseback leaving hundreds dead and 11…

Deadeye headed our way.....

In what can only be described as a searing piece on VP Dick Cheney, aka Deadeye, Mike Carlton in his weekly column in the SMH provides some background about the man who John Howard is due to welcome to Australia next week:

"The Chickenhawk-in-Chief is coming. We are to be visited next week by Deadeye Dick Cheney, the most odious individual to hold the office of US Vice-President since the criminal Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace from the Nixon administration.

A little history to begin with: first the chicken. Asked in 1989 by The Washington Post why he had dodged the draft for the Vietnam War, Cheney notoriously replied that "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service".

Now the hawk. In recent years, his enthusiasm for military service - other people's military service, that is - has multiplied like anthrax. No man, not even George Bush, has done more to drive the American disaster in Iraq."

Before the invasion there was Feith. Who?

"Someday, you are going to read a whole lot about the shenanigans of one Douglas J. Feith and an elaborate scheme to get the United States to invade Iraq. That is because Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has been determined to get to the bottom of this sordid tale and is now, fortunately, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee and thereby empowered to get at the truth.

Last week, his focus led to the partial declassification of a report produced by the Pentagon’s inspector general. Although its shocking revelations did not get the coverage they deserved—what with a jealous astronaut under arrest and the death of a certain voluptuous stripper/heiress—efforts such as Levin’s eventually will uncover the full picture of why President Bush committed to a war costing tens of thousands of lives and an expected $1 trillion that served no valid national security purpose."

Read Robert Scheer' piece in truthdig on the attempts by a US Senate Committee to uncover the true story on the I…

David Hicks - continued

Former PM Malcolm Fraser in an op-ed piece in The Age this morning:

"In his defence of his government's behaviour in having imprisoned David Hicks for five years without trial, the US ambassador was reported in The Age yesterday as saying that Hicks is ideologically ruthless, a fanatic, who would kill Australians and Americans without blinking an eye.

The ambassador went on to argue that, because of the war on terror, it was fair enough to keep Hicks in jail while that war continued. This would mean keeping him in jail forever because, as defined by President George Bush, the war on terror will never end. It is also making a total mockery of the trial process.

The ambassador also said that challenges to the military commission process protected the "pedigree" of America's democratic processes in getting the law right. Today that surely means in American terms establishing a commission that will provide a guilty verdict. How can it be otherwise? From the President t…

Chips.....without any fish?

Chips, without any fish, might be the order of the day if the world keeps on fishing out fish stocks.

The position with respect to fish stocks and the variety of fish available to consumers was graphically put on ABC Radio National's Breakfast program earlier this week.

"According to the annual 'state of the fisheries' report, 64 out of 83 species surveyed are either being over-fished or we don't know enough about them.

And then there are as many species again that we are not surveying.

Dr Jessica Meeuwig is project manager of the WA Marine Futures project and a lecturer at the University of Western Australia." - and is interviewed here.

How some in the US view Howard's outburst

John Nicholwriting in The Nation ponders [and comes to a conclusion] why John Howard not only entered into the fray of American politics but singled out Barack Obama:

"Why would Australian Prime Minister John Howard separate out Barack Obama from all of the other contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination -- and from all the prominent Democratic and Republican critics of President Bush's dangerous foreign policies -- for attack as the favorite son of the terrorists?

Why would Howard, suggest that the Illinois senator's candidacy will "encourage those who wanted completely to destabilize and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for an Obama victory"?

And:

"...Howard, a savvy student of US politics, is unquestionably aware that many prominent Democrats -- including figures such as John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, who are far better known in Australia than Obama -- have criticized both the war in Ira…

Iraq viewed through rosy hues in 2002

As the debate rages in Australia and the US about the Iraq War, any timetable for a withdrawal of troops, how everyone got into the mess in the first place and who might be seen as "deserting" the war-torn country, today the NY Timesreveals how the whole exercise was viewed back in 2002:

"When Gen. Tommy R. Franks and his top officers gathered in August 2002 to review an invasion plan for Iraq, it reflected a decidedly upbeat vision of what the country would look like four years after Saddam Hussein was ousted from power.

A broadly representative Iraqi government would be in place. The Iraqi Army would be working to keep the peace. And the United States would have as few as 5,000 troops in the country.

Military slides obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act outline the command’s PowerPoint projection of the stable, pro-American and democratic Iraq that was to be.

The general optimism and some details of General Franks’s planning sessio…

A nap a day keeps a coronary at bay.....

Yeah! Good news! Napping on the job is a health-benefit. We leave it to you to persuade your employer that it is in your, and his, interests to take a nap on the job, but the "evidence" is seemingly in that all those Spaniards and Southern Europeans are right to have siesta-time.

"There may be something to siestas after all. Office workers feeling a bit drowsy during the day may feel better about themselves knowing that midday napping seems to reduce fatal heart problems by about one third among men and women, according to new research.

The study, released Monday, followed more than 20,000 individuals over an average of 6.3 years. Initially, all individuals were healthy at the start. The study also controlled details for risk factors such as diet and physical activity.

The study was carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens Medical School in Greece.

Siestas, which are common in the Mediterranean region and some Latin American co…

Jan Morris on how the USA has become a hated country

This piece in The Guardian by well-known Jan Morris [author and travel writer] highlights the position of how the US is viewed around the world.

"Far from being the most beloved country on earth, today the US is the most thoroughly detested. The rot really started to set in, in my view, with Abraham Lincoln, one of the most admirable men who ever lived. He it was who saw in American glory the duty of a mission. America, he declared, was the last best hope of earth. The pursuit of happiness was not its national vocation, but the example of democracy. The more like the United States the world became, the better the world would be. No statesman was ever more sincere or kindly in his beliefs, but poor old Abe would be horrified to see how his interpretation of destiny has gone sour."

Home, sweet dream

The newspapers have lately been full with articles pointing up how expensive houses have become for any prospective purchasers, especially first-time home-buyers, and even how costly obtaining rental accommodation is also. In the latter case there is now a critical shortage as well.

In an article in The Age, "Home, sweet dream" Tim Colebatch drills down into the actual figures on housing. No wonder the Australian dream of securing a quarter-acre block is becoming a mere dream for increasing numbers of people.

"At no time since statistics began have Australians directed so much of their spending into buying and improving homes: buying, building, renovating and redecorating, to make them an image of the way we want our lives to be.

Fifty years ago, when our population was growing twice as fast as now, Australians spent 4.5 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on building and renovating their homes. In the past four years, on average, we have spent 6.6 per c…

On Valentine's Day: A prescription for a healthy and longer life

Forget about the chocolates, flowers, sexy underwear, etc. Love, and more particularly married life, is the operative word for a healthy and longer life. Who says so? The Mayo Clinic in this piece:

"The benefits of a healthy marriage have been carefully studied for decades. Statistically, people who are happily married live longer than do their single counterparts. They have lower rates of heart failure, cancer and other diseases and develop tighter networks of emotional support.

According to one Harvard University study, married women are 20 percent less likely than are single women to die of a variety of causes, including heart disease, suicide and cirrhosis of the liver. Married men enjoy an even greater benefit — they're two to three times less likely to die of such causes than are single men. Statistics have also shown married people are less likely to be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes.

The upsides of healthy marriages — those …

Gerard Henderson goes for sleaze

For reasons best known to itself, the SMH continues to publish a weekly op-ed piece by Gerard Henderson [of the Sydney Institute - whose funding is kept under wraps]. To all intents and purposes Henderson is an apologist for the Howard Government. Bottom line Henderson's pieces lack any real substance or analysis worth more than a passing thought - that is, to dimiss it!

In his latest piece Henderson, dealing with the Howard outburst against US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obana has, like the Murdoch press in Australia reporting on the brou-ha ha, gone for the sleaze-factor by referring to Obama's middle name Hussein.

As the Washington Post editorialised late last month:

It's become a fad among some conservatives to refer to the junior senator from Illinois by his full name: Barack Hussein Obama. This would be merely juvenile if it weren't so contemptible. Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers, on "Hardball," was one of the early adopters of this sl…

Humanising the numbers

Chron.com reports on a race to match up numbers tattooed on people's arms by the Nazis with records whose those people actually were. It's a legacy of the Holocaust still very much alive 74 years after Hitler came to power.

"The hunt begins with a number.

Harry Stein sits nose-to-screen, squinting at the fuzzy digits in column after column on faded microfilm, searching for clues to a mystery: Who was Auschwitz inmate 185403?

The number was tattooed on the left forearm of one of the thousands who were processed through Auschwitz, shipped off to Buchenwald concentration camp, and never seen again.

Male? Female? Old? Young? Jewish? Christian? Reason for arrest? The list Stein is scrutinizing says nothing. There's only that number.

More than six decades after the Nazi Holocaust ended, historians such as Stein are still struggling with a gargantuan task — to make a semblance of order among hundreds of thousands of dead by finding, at least, their names.

There is no central cat…

Arabs fear US and Israel, not Iran

AlterNetrepublishes this piece from IPS News:

"U.S. and Israeli hopes of forging of a Sunni Arab alliance to contain Iran and its regional allies may be misplaced, at least at the popular level, according to a major survey of six Arab countries released last week.

The face-to-face survey of a total of 3,850 respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates found that close to 80 percent of Arabs consider Israel and the United States the two biggest external threats to their security. Only six percent cited Iran.

And less than one in four Arabs believe Iran should be pressured to halt its nuclear programme, while 61 percent, including majorities in all six countries, said Tehran had the right to pursue it even if, as most believe, the programme is designed to develop nuclear weapons."

Howard v Obama: What US bloggers say

From today's Crikey [on subscription only - worth getting by the way]:

"Howard v Obama: what the US blogs say

When Obama's President, We're Bombing Australia: Is there a reason Howard’s so upset about Barry, considering that all the Democrats running for president are running against the Iraq War — including the usually bloodthirsty but ever-adaptable Hillary. Not even Republicans are in line with Bush’s crazy bullsh-t these days ... One reason might be that Howard noticed Barry’s complexion; John Howard’s government doesn’t care much for the dark-skinned folk -- especially dark-skinned Muslim folk, and we all know Barry was raised in a madrassa by his mom, Mama bin Laden ... John Howard’s not exactly a smarty jones. -- Wonkette

President Bush, however, has not spoken with Prime Minister Howard of Australia since Jan. 9, the White House maintains, with a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to dispute suggestions that Bush had put his good friend from Sydney and ally in the war …