Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from August, 2008

Uncovering the hidden the power of modesty

"A woman swathed in black to her ankles, wearing a headscarf or a full chador, walks down a European or North American street, surrounded by other women in halter tops, miniskirts and short shorts. She passes under immense billboards on which other women swoon in sexual ecstasy, cavort in lingerie or simply stretch out languorously, almost fully naked. Could this image be any more iconic of the discomfort the West has with the social mores of Islam, and vice versa?

Ideological battles are often waged with women's bodies as their emblems, and Western Islamophobia is no exception. When France banned headscarves in schools, it used the hijab as a proxy for Western values in general, including the appropriate status of women. When Americans were being prepared for the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban were demonised for denying cosmetics and hair color to women; when the Taliban were overthrown, Western writers often noted that women had taken off their scarves.

But are we in th…

Robert Fisk: The 'l" word....again and again!

The redoubtable Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, details what he describes as "whoppers" of lies both the Israelis and Hezbollah put out - as also the US - but which go unchallenged by the media.

"How on earth do they get away with it? Let's start with war between Hizbollah and Israel – past and future war, that is.

Back in 2006, Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers from their side of the Lebanese frontier and dragged them, mortally wounded, into Lebanon. The Israelis immediately launched a massive air bombardment against all of Lebanon, publicly declaring Beirut's democratically-elected and US-backed – but extremely weak – government must be held to account for what Hizbollah does. Taking the lives of more than 1,000 Lebanese, almost all civilians, Israel unleashed its air power against the entire infrastructure of the rebuilt Lebanon, smashing highways, viaducts, electric grids, factories, lighthouses, totally erasing dozens of villages and half-destr…

McCain's Hail Mary Pass.... and the keys to the White House?

A piece in The Nation by William Greider puts into context the choice by John McCain [72 years today] of a VP for his election campaign [aged 44] in a piece "McCain's Hail Mary Pass":

"The news was so stunning I refused to believe it until I saw John McCain on the TV screen announcing his pick for Vice President. There's no need to disparage Sarah Palin. She's seems like a smart, serious person. But what the choice reveals about McCain is devastating with a capital D for Desperation.

Within forty-eight hours, all America will be talking about her. What people will say is, "You mean, if John McCain croaks, she becomes our president?" Gasp, yes. That is what McCain has decided. So much for "experience" and wise judgment as a campaign issue.

The Senator was widely thought to be on the fifty-yard line, nose to nose with Barack Obama. But this selection reveals the Republican campaign strategists knew better. Picking the obscure and under-experie…

America: Lost its Way says former Oz PM

"At the end of the Cold War the United States was supreme and unchallenged, Russia was in decay, poor, disorganised, with ill-equipped military forces. At that time, many people believed the 21st century might have been the time for the human race to advance issues of decency, to establish a more permanent, international peace and really to see that relations between states would be governed by law and not by power. Instead, we have a period of tragic and serious mistakes, a period of prejudice and of refusal to learn from history.

America's leadership was critical to the establishment of the United Nations and to the establishment of a rules-based international system that would outlaw war unless necessary for self defence or sanctioned by the Security Council.

After the end of the Cold War, America could have done so much to continue the advance to an even more effective, rules-based system where law governed relations between states. Instead, today's America has pushed t…

Torture enthusiasts are in the line of British fire

Torture, and all that involves - let alone its legality - is very much topical at the moment. If one were to listen to the Bush White House, and its cohorts, its OK to torture. Needless to say there are many others, notably some seemingly misguided lawyers, who take the position that torture can be justified in certain circumstances. That disgraceful professor of law at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz, is one of those who fall into the latter camp.

Richard Ackland, lawyer, commentator and editor of Justinian, in his weekly op-ed piece in the SMH, puts the question of torture out there and reflects on a English case dealing with the subject - and in the process, rightly, takes a stick to those lawyers who would supported torture.

"Remember that clutch of outspoken and confident lawyers who in last year's torture debates bravely came out for the freedom to torture?

They seemed mostly to be from Melbourne. One was a professional loud mouth, whose name I've forgotten, and ther…

Afghanistan: Disaster upon Disaster!

From "Not the Same as Being Equal" on truthout.org:

"Despite George W. Bush's claim that he's "truly not that concerned" about Osama bin Laden, the administration is erecting 10 "Wanted" billboards in Afghanistan, offering rewards of $25 million for bin Laden, $10 million for Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and $1 million for Adam Gadahn, an American member of Al Qaeda, now listed as a "top terrorist." That's 10 nice, big, literal signs that the administration is waking up, only seven years after 9/11 and the American "victory" that followed, to its "forgotten war."

When I wrote this piece for TomDispatch in February 2007, I'd been working intermittently since 2002 with women in Afghanistan - women the Bush administration claimed to have "liberated" by that victory. In all those years, despite some dramatic changes on paper, the real lives of most Afghan women didn't change a bit, and many a…

Obama and the Clintons - but the "star" John Kerry

The media is overflowing with reports of the Obama bandwagon pre his acceptance speech today. Much has been written about Bill and Hilary Clinton's addresses to the Democratic Party Convention.

In "Kerry Goes After McCain" The Nation reports, however, that the spotlight ought to shine on previous presidential candidate John Kerry:

"The 2004 Democratic nominee for president – who was bluntly informed by grassroots activists that they did not want him to run again in 2008 – might not have gained a prime-time speaking spot at the convention except for the fact of the Massachusetts senators' early and enthusiastic support of Obama.

But Kerry did more with his time at the podium than Clinton or Biden, who has seemed oddly constrained since his selection as Obama's vice presidential running mate.

Kerry savaged McCain.

'I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who s…

Poverty! A Grim Prognosis

Consistent with previous reports, many expert, from various sources, poverty in the world is said to be much more acute than previously thought.

BBC News reports:

"The World Bank has warned that world poverty is much greater than previously thought.
It has revised its previous estimate and now says that 1.4 billion people live in poverty, based on a new poverty line of $1.25 per day.

This is substantially more than its earlier estimate of 985 million people living in poverty in 2004.

The Bank has also revised upwards the number it said were poor in 1981, from 1.5 billion to 1.9 billion.

The new estimates suggest that poverty is both more persistent, and has fallen less sharply, than previously thought.

However, given the increase in world population, the poverty rate has still fallen from 50% to 25% over the past 25 years."

Sailing into Gaza

From CounterPunch:

"On Saturday, after 32 hours on the high seas, I sailed into the port of Gaza City with 45 other citizens from around the world in defiance of Israel's blockade. We traveled from Cyprus with humanitarian provisions for Palestinians living under siege. My family in Michigan was worried sick.

They are not na├»ve. They knew that Israel could have attacked us — as Israeli forces did in 2003, killing nonviolent American witness Rachel Corrie (Editor’s note: Corrie, also of the International Solidarity Movement, was run over by a bulldozer operated by Israeli Defense Forces during a protest against the destruction of Palestinian homes; an Israeli military investigation ruled the death accidental) and Brit Tom Hurndall (an ISM representative who died nine months after being was shot in the head in Gaza by an IDF sniper; the sniper was convicted of manslaughter) as well as thousands of unarmed Palestinian civilians over the years.

My family members, though, remember th…

Now what, post Georgia?

Newsweek explains and puts into context events in Georgia, where Russia stands in the scheme of things and how we can expect to see the world in at least the foreseeable future:

"The war in Ossetia is all about drawing a line under further NATO expansion—and sending a strong signal to Georgia, Ukraine and Europe that Russia won't be pushed around. And from the moment Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, Russia's neighbors started to take its threats more seriously. The invasion marked the end of Russia's browbeaten, humiliated post-cold-war era and the beginning of a new, more assertive, more imperial Russia. What will Russia's next move be? In Georgia, according to Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of Russia's General Staff, Russia will establish a "security zone along the administrative border of South Ossetia" that will include 18 strongpoints manned by Russian peacekeepers. Just where that border runs will be defined by Russia. On the g…

Israel just keeps on expanding

The Israelis are the first to claim that they don't have anyone on the Palestinian side with whom to negotiate some sort of settlement of the on-going dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians.

True or not, the undoubted fact is that Israel, contrary to international law and repeated calls from many directions not to, keeps on expanding in the building of settlements on the West Bank. Certainly Israel's actions are totally counter to being conducive for the Palestinians to want to sit down and talk with the Israelis.

Prompted by a revelation by Peace Now building and settlement-expansion is up, dramatically, this year from last year, Condi has, with a limp wrist, called on the Israelis to desist.

AFP reports in "Rice criticises settlements but sees progress in Mideast talks":

"In the report published on Tuesday, the Peace Now group said the Israeli housing ministry "initiated 433 new housing units during the period of January to May 2008, compared to jus…

Darling, it's over: Has technology made it impossible to have an affair?

Put the travails around the world to one side for a moment and reflect on how technology has apparently impacted the ability of those in a relationship to "play around" without being detected.

Yet again technology impacts on our daily lives - as The Independent explains - perhaps in ways we hadn't considered, let alone wanted:

"Mobile phones, BlackBerrys, emails, social networking... Never before has it been so easy to cheat on a partner. But has technology made it simply too difficult for philanderers to cover their tracks? With evidence suggesting that fewer people are undertaking long-term extramarital love affairs, Nick Harding peers beneath the sheets and asks: is it the end of the road for the adulterer?"

And:

"In today's world, to function as an effective member of 21st-century society, we have to engage with a bewildering array of electronic gadgets, few of which we fully understand. We stomp digital footprints all over the place, and the unforesee…

The Three Dumbest Neocon Predictions Since the Disaster in Iraq

Although the threats of an attack on Iran are, at least for the present, seemingly receding, the fact that the neocons are still active "out there" can't be ignored.

AlterNet analyses the neocon's "record":

"Now that the Beijing games have wound up, we can get on to a sporting event with real significance: a Neocon Olympics to decide the most grossly wrong, stupid prediction by a Neocon pundit post-Iraq. Of course, it's a very rich field. Being totally wrong about absolutely everything is the Neocons' job, and they've been working overtime on it. Their proudest moment had to be in the lead-up to the Iraq war when Kenneth Adelman assured America that democratizing Iraq would be "a cakewalk." Indeed, early Neocons like Adelman and Richard Perle (who predicted that Iraq would settle down "at the first whiff of gunpowder") set the bar for disastrously wrong predictions so high that some have suggested that the trophy be retire…

The Big Question: Will Iraq disintegrate if the United States withdraws its troops?

In the light of reports that the US will withdraw its troops from Iraq in 2011 The Independent has a timely piece on what that will mean in the now war-torn country. Not to be overlooked is that the invasion started nearly 5 1/2 years go - remember Shock and Awe? - and that millions of people have left the country.

Read the answers to the Big Question, here.

Afghanistan: Pouring fuel on already troubled waters

"The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind forward with their terrible human toll, even as the press and many Americans play who gets thrown off the island with Barack Obama. Coalition forces carried out an airstrike that killed up to 95 Afghan civilians in western Afghanistan on Friday, 50 of them children, President Hamid Karzai said. And the mounting bombing raids and widespread detentions of Afghans are rapidly turning Afghanistan into the mirror image of Iraq. But these very real events, which will have devastating consequences over the next few months and years, are largely ignored by us. We prefer to waste our time on the trivia and gossip that swallow up air time and do nothing to advance our understanding of either the campaign or the wars fought in our name.

As the conflict in Afghanistan has intensified, so has the indiscriminate use of airstrikes, including Friday’s, which took place in the Azizabad area of Shindand district in Herat province. The airstrike was carried ou…

The Olympics through Arab eyes

Village Voices writes:

"Millions around the world were glued to their television screens watching their favourite athletes at this year's Beijing Olympics, which just closed. What did Arab bloggers have to say about the world's premier sporting event and their country teams? Following are a few reactions........."

Read some interesting blogs from around the Middle East here.

Check out US presence worldwide

Mother Jones has an interesting visual [map, actually] pin-pointing where the US is present around the globe - here.

"In fact, our research shows there are relatively few places on the planet where the US military isn't active in some way. American soldiers regularly rotate in and out of key locations on humanitarian and training missions. From weapons to cash to attendance at US military conferences, from researching tropical diseases to extending host-nation runways to building ports, the Pentagon is there to help—in exchange for a little help from our friends: overflight and basing rights, port privileges, and legal immunity for the troops. (See "How to Stay in Iraq for 1,000 Years.")

Where the US military doesn't tread, it funds. Indeed, humanitarian and military aid from the United States have proved most useful in coaxing foreign countries to give us what we ask for. It's no accident that 22 percent of US foreign aid, as Joshua Kurlantzick reports in our…

A very dire warning

"The prospect of global wars driven by climate change is not something often discussed publicly by our political leaders.

But according to one of America's top military analysts, governments in the US and UK are already being briefed by their own military strategists about how to prepare for a world of mass famine, floods of refugees and even nuclear conflicts over resources.

Gwynne Dyer is a military analyst and author who served in three navies and has held academic posts at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and at Oxford and he says there is a sense of suppressed panic from the scientists and military leaders he spoke to for his latest book, "Climate Wars".

Thus Dyer was introduced and then interviewed on The World Today on ABC Radio National.

If the following isn't a grave and dire warning then it is difficult to imagine what is:

"Dyer: Actually I spent the past year doing a very high speed self-education job on climate change and I think I probably ta…

Iraq: The hidden toll

The Americans are said to be moving to their military leaving Iraq sometime in 2012. Obviously McCain and Obama are positioning themselves on what their respective withdrawal plans are. Meanwhile the pr machine is putting it out there that the "surge" in Iraq has shown positive results in the war-torn country. But has it?

Greg Mitchell, writing on The Huffington Post, reflects on the casualties in Iraq - but no less importantly [but largely "hidden"] the death by suicide of veterans back in America post service in Iraq:

"When the U.S. military death toll in Iraq dropped to 13 last month it received wide attention. But now, midway through August, the toll this month has already topped the July rate. Meanwhile, two more Iraq vets have killed themselves here at home.

A U.S. marine killed by gunmen in Fallujah west of Baghdad on Thursday became the 15th American to die in August. A troubling seven had died in noncombat incidents. The 15 tally tops July by t…

The New Old Age

Times are ever-changing - in a variety of ways. One significant change, thanks to medical science and better nutrition and the like, is that people are living longer. That poses a challenge to and gives rise to a host of issues for children of aging parents.

The NY Times has now devoted a "space" to the the whole topic of aging parents, as it explains here:

"Thanks to the marvels of medical science, our parents are living longer than ever before. Adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population, and most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. That burden falls to their baby boomer children, 77 million strong, who are flummoxed by the technicalities of eldercare, turned upside down by the changed architecture of their families, struggling to balance work and caregiving, and depleting their own retirement savings in the process.

In The New Old Age, Jane Gross explores this unprecedented intergenerational challenge and shares t…

The Long Silence.....and an Awakening

"For many years, now decades, I have been silent as a Jew about Israel’s relationship to, and treatment of, the Palestinian people and my place as an American Jew in that equation. Recently, I looked back at the Jews who I have known personally, as friends and acquaintances, and examined how their views about Palestinians and Israel have affected me and deepened my silence. "

And:

"I think writing this piece has been a kind of purging for my years of silence regarding Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As Israeli settlements expand in the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip continues, I can no longer remain silent."

Howard Lisnoff is an educator and freelance writer. His piece, in part above, appeared on CounterPunch. Read the full piece here.

Beyond gold medals

"China is on track to displace the U.S. as the winner of the most Olympic gold medals this year. Get used to it.

Today, it's the athletic surge that dazzles us, but China will leave a similar outsize footprint in the arts, in business, in science, in education."

So begins an op-ed piece "Beyond gold medals" by Nicholas Kristof in the IHT.

And:

"Now the world is reverting to its normal state - a powerful Asia - and we Westerners will have to adjust. Just as many Americans know their red wines and easily distinguish a Manet from a Monet, our children will become connoisseurs of pu-er tea and will know the difference between guanxi and Guangxi, the Qin and the Qing. When angry, they may even insult each other as "turtle's eggs."

Great Games, Great Bills

Now that the Olympiad is drawing to a close, what is one to make of it all? There are many considerations and reflections to be had.

Associate Professor Victor Matheson [of economics at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts] puts forward his views on the Games and what they mean, overall, to China and the world, in an op-ed piece in IHT:

"For the past two weeks, the world's attention has been focused on China, and the country has used the Olympic Games as an opportunity to announce its arrival as a major political and economic power. At a cost of $40 billion, however, the Beijing Olympics represent the most expensive coming-out party in history, and the question remains whether China will earn a decent return on its investment.

Despite their success on the playing fields, the event has been an economic disaster for the Chinese. The anticipated influx of tourists has not materialized, and despite "selling every ticket" many venues are half full. Indeed, Beij…

The Blogging Revolution

"Across the world, young generations are challenging tired state media by writing online about politics, sex, drugs, relationships, religion, popular culture and especially Angelina Jolie. From Egyptian activists opposed to female circumcision to outspoken, pro-Western women in Cuba, people are being empowered by new technology to create spaces away from the prying eyes of meddling authorities.

The rise of the online community means the relationship between the state and its people is shifting radically. Individuality is emerging in societies that routinely shun such behaviour and repressive regimes are not pleased."

The Review section of today's Australian newspaper publishes an interesting piece on blogging, and its "impact" around the world - especially in countries with repressive regimes - written by author Antony Loewenstein relating to his book to be released [MUP] next week "The Blogging Revolution" [go here and here]

Capturing, and working with, the shifting ground

Especially interesting as it comes from a Jewish publication, Forward this week has a thought-provoking Editorial on how America, and the West, have to understand that the Islamic world is changing - and it ought to be "captured" and worked with before it's too late:

"A major shift is under way in the politics and power balance of the Islamic world, and it calls for a fundamental change in American and Western strategic thinking. Handled well, the shift holds out the possibility of a lasting thaw in the tensions that now dominate relations between the West and Islam. But if it is mishandled or ignored, the likely result will be a continuation of the current, dangerous spiral downward. Right now, it appears that our leaders — Republicans and Democrats alike — are missing the warning signs."

And:

"For all that, the fundamentalists’ upward trend could present America and the West with an opportunity if not to win, then to change the rules of the game. We could…

There are better options

Yes, there are better options than tackling Iran as the Israelis want to - says Daniel Levy in an op-ed piece in Haaretz:

"Israel's response to the Iranian challenge has been out of synch with developing realities for some time. Recently though, it has become dangerously counter-productive, anchored as it is in denial. As Israel intensifies its role as threatener-in-chief, and clings to a "more sticks, bigger sticks" line, events all around are moving on.

The supposed logic behind Israel's escalating threats, suggesting it is ready to go it alone militarily, is threefold. It pressures Iran, thereby increasing international leverage in negotiations; a nervous world feels compelled to up sanctions and deliver results; and the path is smoothed to international acceptance of possible future Israeli action. Except that the logic (always a tenuous one) is now being repudiated on all three fronts.

Iran apparently views the threats as a reason to pursue more vigorously, …

This man for President?

Strange as it seems to outsiders - read, non-Americans - John McCain is leading Obama in opinion polls in the US. Perhaps its the scare campaign underway about Obama or the fact that Obama is not white. Whatever, it must be a concern that McCain is seriously in contention to become President.

Leaving aside that he is now the subject of ridicule that he doesn't even know how many homes he has - he ventured the suggestion, 4, when it's actually, 7 - that the man is ill-equipped to lead any country, let alone the US, emerges from this piece in The Nation "MCain's Warped Worldview":

"The world according to John McCain is one in which America is triumphant at home and abroad thanks to the Bush legacy, rolling to victory internationally and mastering its domestic economic problems. If daily news, like reports of the ten French soldiers killed by a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and the US government's imminent nationalization of much of the American mor…

The Anger, the Longing, the Hope

Uri Avnery writing on Gush Shalom, reflects on the just deceased Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish - and pays the man a moving tribute - and no less importantly, on the general state of play between the Israelis and Palestinians:

"One of the wisest pronouncements I have heard in my life was that of an Egyptian general, a few days after Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem.

We were the first Israelis to come to Cairo, and one of the things we were very curious about was: how did you manage to surprise us at the beginning of the October 1973 war?

The general answered: "Instead of reading the intelligence reports, you should have read our poets."

I reflected on these words last Wednesday, at the funeral of Mahmoud Darwish.

During the funeral ceremony in Ramallah he was referred to again and again as "the Palestinian National Poet".

But he was much more than that. He was the embodiment of the Palestinian destiny. His personal fate coincided with the fate of his …

Farewell my beautiful Zimbabwe: how paradise turned to poverty

A poignant article in The Independent by Justine Shaw, a woman originally from Zimbabwe, now living with her family in Australia, on how her former home-country, Zimbabwe, has turned from a paradise to a land of poverty.

"Mugabe has crippled Zimbabwe, reducing most of its people to beggars or barterers and black marketeers. The ultimate irony is that, whether by accident or design, it has taken 28 years for them to prove the racist detractors correct when they prophesied that the incoming Zanu-PF government would be incapable of governing the country."

China Nabs Another Gold Medal: Government sets new record for jailing Olympics protesters

Ken Silverstein, writing on Harper's Magazine, on China's latest addition to its medal tally:

"The New York Times reported yesterday that the Chinese government had refused to allow a single demonstration in any of the official “protest zones” it had created for the Olympic games. Now two elderly woman have been sentenced to a year of “re-education through labor” for seeking a permit to demonstrate.

'The women, Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, had made five visits to the police this month in an effort to get permission to protest what they contended was inadequate compensation for the demolition of their homes in Beijing…Although it is unlikely that women as old as Ms. Wu and Ms. Wang would be forced into hard labor, many of those sentenced to [re-education] often toil in agricultural or factory work and are forced to confess their transgressions.'

Two other rights advocates from southern China “have not been heard from since they were seized last week at the P…

Friends in high places....and being true to journalism

Glenn Greenwald writing in Salon in "Journalists and their good friends in the White House"
addresses the question of reporters and their contacts - say at the White House - and how that impacts on their ability to be journalists in the truest sense of the word:

"The Washington Post's White House reporter, Michael Abramowitz, was asked yesterday during a chat to name some of his "favorite people who work at the White House but who are not in the spotlight," and Abramowitz happily and easily offered a long list:

"I like your question. One of the things you find in covering the White House is that many of the staff are extremely friendly and dedicated, and it's fun to get to know some of them. The truth is reporters tend to hang out with the people in the [White House] press office, so the names I might give you tend to be lower-level press aides, like Carlton Carroll, Stuart Siciliano and Pete Seat -- and spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore. They are extremel…

McCain: Senator, Grow Up!

Like it or not the rest of the world is drawn to being "participants" in the presidential election process presently underway in the US. Whoever is elected to the White House is most likely to impact world events in the 4 years of that president's term. So, it's going to be either Obama or McCain.

Keith Olbermann, never shy in calling a spade a shovel, more than takes on McCain on his pronouncements about the war in Iraq:

"Though victory in Iraq is finally in sight," you told the V-F-W today, Senator McCain, "a great deal still depends on the decisions and good judgment of the next president. The hard-won gains of our troops hang in the balance. The lasting advantage of a peaceful and democratic ally in the heart of the Middle East could still be squandered by hasty withdrawal and arbitrary timelines. And this is one of many problems in the shifting positions of my opponent, Senator Obama."

The shifting positions of Senator Obama?

S…

Sailing to Gaza

Gaza has, in effect, been under siege from the Israelis for years. Only fairly basic items are allowed into the area. Not even school supplies can get through: Haaretz article here.

Meanwhile, a boat-load of people are sailing from Cyprus to Gaza in an endeavour to break the Israeli's blockade of Gaza. Information Clearing House in a piece "Sailing to Gaza" backgrounds some of the participants, including this one:

"Another is Professor Jeff Halper. He has lobbied and travelled far and wide as head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition. Seeing temple after temple of the family taken apart by swing shovels as one vicious arm of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the remnants of Palestine has turned his determination from steel to diamond.

'''The mission is to break the Israeli siege, an absolutely illegal siege which has plunged a million and a half Palestinians into wretched conditions: imprisoned in their own homes, exposed…

How Hilary Lost It!

With Obama on the cusp of naming his proposed VP - and some suggesting it might be Hilary Clinton - TheAtlantic.com in a piece "The Front-Runner’s Fall" reveals how Hilary conducted her campaign for the Democratic presidential candidate:

"Hillary Clinton’s campaign was undone by a clash of personalities more toxic than anyone imagined. E-mails and memos—published here for the first time—reveal the backstabbing and conflicting strategies that produced an epic meltdown."

Read the piece, here.

Missiles and money

Wanna know why the Americans are so intent in placing missiles in countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia? - and why the Russians don't like them at its doorstep? Foolhardy, stupid US policies and money - lots of it - are the reason, according to George Monbiot writing in The Guardian in "The US Missile Defence System Is the Magic Pudding That Will Never Run Out":

"So why commit endless billions to a programme that is bound to fail? I’ll give you a clue: the answer is in the question. It persists because it doesn’t work.

US politics, because of the failure by both Republicans and Democrats to deal with the problems of campaign finance, is rotten from head to toe. But under Bush, the corruption has acquired Nigerian qualities. Federal government is a vast corporate welfare programme, rewarding the industries that give millions of dollars in political donations with contracts worth billions. Missile defence is the biggest pork barrel of all, the magic pudding tha…

Home after 5 years in Gitmo

Josh White writing in The Washington Post:

"I've covered the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2004 as military correspondent for The Post. Jumah al Dossari first caught my attention in October 2005, when I heard the story of his gruesome suicide attempt during a visit from his lawyer. Then known as Detainee #261, Dossari clearly was making a public plea for help. Though the U.S. military has said many times that all detainees at Guantanamo are treated humanely and that Dossari had been getting the help he needed, detention in Guantanamo apparently became more than he could bear. His wish to die humanized the desperation of many detainees held indefinitely at the facility.

U.S. officials maintained for years that Dossari was a dangerous terrorist who had been arrested after going to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against U.S. forces. Dossari also spent some time in the United States and allegedly tried to recruit terrorists with fiery sermons, someth…

Perils of an Israeli Transition

It isn't all that often that US newspapers - or newspapers anywhere for that matter - at least challenge Israel and its actions. The NY Times has been reticent to even criticise Israel.

It is therefore interesting that in this US election year the Times does editorialise in "Perils of anIsraeli Transition"on what Israel ought to be considering in a new PM post Ehud Olmert's departure:

"History is unlikely to be kind to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. He disastrously mismanaged the 2006 Lebanon war. And now, besmirched by financial scandals, he has announced plans to leave office as soon as a successor can be confirmed.

Mr. Olmert does, however, understand that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is vital for Israel’s security. We hope that his successor does as well and brings a greater sense of urgency to the negotiations.

There has always been a wide gap between what Mr. Olmert understands about the need for a peace settlement and what he has done…

The Chinese censorship foreigners don't see

Rebecca MacKinnon was one of the founders of Global Voices and now has her own blog RConversation. As she lives and works in Hong Kong her "beat" is very much what is going on in China.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal Asia under the headline "The Chinese Censorship
Foreigners Don't See" she instances that there is more than just what has become known as the "Great Firewall of China":

"Beijing's Internet censorship hit global headlines recently, when foreign journalists in town to cover the Olympics discovered their access to well-known overseas Web sites was blocked. Yet while the government has now unblocked some of those sites, those journalists shouldn't think the broader problem is solved. Censorship of ordinary Chinese people's electronic communications within China has changed little. Visiting reporters just aren't noticing because these forms of censorship relate to Chinese-language content they're not familiar with,…

Obama: The Candidate people still don't know?

Frank Rich, in his weekly op-ed column in the NY Times, reflects on the US presidential candidate he says is still not know to the general populace:

"As I went on vacation at the end of July, Barack Obama was leading John McCain by three to four percentage points in national polls. When I returned last week he still was. But lo and behold, a whole new plot twist had rolled off the bloviation assembly line in those intervening two weeks: Obama had lost the election!

The poor guy should be winning in a landslide against the despised party of Bush-Cheney, and he’s not. He should be passing the 50 percent mark in polls, and he’s not. He’s been done in by that ad with Britney and Paris and by a new international crisis that allows McCain to again flex his Manchurian Candidate military cred. Let the neocons identify a new battleground for igniting World War III, whether Baghdad or Tehran or Moscow, and McCain gets with the program as if Angela Lansbury has just dealt him the Queen of Hea…

Olympics: Welcome to the "no-fun Games"

John Taylor was the Australian ABC's China correspondent from 2002 to 2006. He returned to Beijing for the Olympics - and reports on the Radio National's Correspondent's Report:

"Welcome to the no-fun Games, the dirty Games, the repressive Olympics, the One Party party. You could go on and on like that.

China has invested billions of dollars in this international set piece to show the world it's back, and to be reckoned with. But it's not going as the Communist officials planned.

The weather has been all over the place. The pro-Tibetan protests have kept on coming. The venues aren't full. And the joy that was so evident on the streets of Sydney eight years ago just isn't here.

It's not that they haven't tried. I reckon the authorities have tried as hard as they can to make sure Beijing looks and is as good as it can. But I don't think the officials get it because of who and what they are: unelected, and unaccountable, except to each othe…

"Live Richly"

The sub-prime mortgage debacle continues to take its toll, not only in the US, but worldwide. The ramifications are huge, most especially for those individuals who borrowed to buy a home - now, most probably already re-possessed or likely to be some time soon.

"Live Richly" was the catch-cry of the banks in the US as they persuaded those who could probably least afford it, to borrow monies well beyond their capacities.

The IHT explores and explains how the whole thing has both imploded and exploded:

"Live Richly"

That catchy slogan, dreamed up by the Fallon Worldwide advertising agency, was pitched in 1999 to executives at Citicorp who were looking for a way to lure Americans to financial products like home equity loans. But some in the room did not like it. They worried that the phrase would encourage people to live exorbitantly, says Stephen Cone, a top Citi marketer at the time.

Still, "Live Richly" won out. The advertising campaign, which cost about $1 b…

Pravda's message to George W

As the US steps up the rhetoric about Russia's actions in Georgia, Pravda has a piece "Mr Bush, Enough!!" in which the writer comes out swinging, in effect saying that people in glass houses ought not be throwing stones. However "strong" the language, Pravda does have a point, or two, to make. The US has been caught in and with double standards:

"So you have the colossal audacity, Mr. Bush, to “warn” Russia to pull back? As the wanton, perverse war criminal under whose watch the world saw the crime known as “shock and awe” committed, I’d say you were well out of your mind to suggest that Russia should pull back.

What’s a little shock and awe among inferior people we want to rob and destroy, eh?

What do human beings need an infrastructure for?

Why do they need clean water? Why do they need electricity?

What’s a little torture?

What’s a little regime change? Don’t recall when that was a goal of yours?

What’s a little deviant, perverted sexual experimentatio…

McCain more dangerous than Bush

"The brief, bloody Georgia war provided another example of John McCain’s reckless views on foreign policy and what he’ll do if he becomes president.

He’s Bush but worse. Forget the moderate image, promoted by an admiring media. Forget the so-called straight talk and independence. With the Russian-Georgian war winding down, McCain has firmly established himself as an old-fashioned Cold Warrior and a supporter of the huge oil companies that have a big stake in Georgia and the rest of the Caucasus.

President Bush talks to the Russians. McCain seems to long for the Iron Curtain days of those long decades of conflict with plenty of brinkmanship, saber rattling and possibly a trip to the edge of war.

Bush chatted with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during the Olympics, even while Russian troops were invading Georgia. Engagement with the Russians is alien to McCain. For example, he urged Bush to boycott a meeting of the Group of Eight, composed of major industrial nations, in St. Petersburg…

Searching for love in the midst of war

The consequences of the invasion of Iraq continue to reverberate in so many ways. It all serves to show that the Coalition of the Willing were totally clueless in even remotely considering what the fall-out from their illegal invasion might lead to. The SMH reports in "Internet becomes Iraq's new matchmaker":

"Young Iraqis in Baghdad are surfing the internet to search for partners to tie the knot as violence and sectarian tensions take their toll on more traditional forms of socialising.

Dating has fallen victim to the insecurity that has reduced the capital to a sullen network of rival neighbourhoods, leaving little space for men and women to meet other than in cyber chat rooms."

And:

"According to a 2006 study by the World Health Organisation and the Iraqi health ministry, 49.3 per cent of Iraqi men and 47.5 per cent of all women are either single or divorced."

The forgotten people?

Whilst the US and Russia exchange barbs and some sort of French-driven truce has been established between Georgia and Russia - questionable whether it has been effective one might add - the LA Times reports that there are some 100,000 people caught up in the conflict still awaiting aid and that their plight is grim. So much for the politics....but the people are the ones to suffer!

"They squat in abandoned buildings, crash in rickety schoolhouses or sleep under bushes and trees. They stumble into the city wooden-faced and traumatized, children in tow, with little or nothing but the clothes they were wearing when they fled their houses.

Tens of thousands of Georgians have been forced from their homes by days of fighting and Russian occupation, leaving this small country suddenly swamped in a major humanitarian crisis. Georgia is now packed with homeless and panicked families in desperate need of shelter, clothes, food and medicine. This week's cease-fire has not ended the suff…