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Showing posts from November, 2008

Twisted youth, hatred and terrorism

In the light of the latest terrorist attack in Mumbai and the ensuing carnage, The Guardian / The Observer investigates:

"The intense poverty and extreme religious culture of the southern Punjab have made the region a hotbed for Islamist terror groups. It is, claim the Indian media, the seedbed of last week's slaughter in Mumbai.

Jason Burke travelled to the twin towns of Bahawalpur and Multan, home of alleged killer Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amin Kasab, to discover what impels young men to unleash carnage."

Read the piece "Behind the attacks lies a story of youth twisted by hate" here.

So, where is this "change"?

The voices may still be soft, but many are beginning to question the appointments Obama is making to his Cabinet and inner White House circle - and the "change" which he spoke of so often during the election-campaign, which doesn't seem to be eventuating. There seems much of the same - both in personnel and the policy directions emerging - in place post 20 January next.

CBS News has this piece "Custodians of Empire" by Tom Engelhardt:

"The Obama national security "team" -- part of that much-hailed "team of rivals" -- does not yet exist, but it does seem to be heaving into view. And so far, its views seem anything but rivalrous. Mainstream reporters and pundits lovingly refer to them as "centrist," but, in a Democratic context, they are distinctly right of center. The next secretary of state looks to be Hillary Clinton, a hawk on the Middle East. During the campaign, she spoke of our ability to "totally obliterate" Ir…

The blood in Mumbai. An Indian explains....

Dileep Padgaonkar is a former editor of the Times of India and now edits the bimonthly magazine India & Global Affairs.

It is heartening to read an op-ed piece "Blood in Mumbai" by Padgaonkar in The WashingtonPost as he sheds his undoubted knowledge on the horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai:

"The timing of the assault is equally significant, coming on the eve of elections to five provincial assemblies. Campaign rhetoric has polarized opinion along sharply antagonistic lines, essentially pitting the ruling Congress party, which swears by secularism, against the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

After terrorist attacks in the past, the BJP has denounced the Congress party as being soft on terrorism in an effort to mobilize India's substantial Muslim vote in its favor. The Congress, in turn, attacks the BJP and its affiliates for bashing Muslims in order to consolidate its core Hindu vote. Indians have a peculiar word to describe this state of affairs -- com…

Rupert: Is there no stopping this man?

It is bad enough that he controls Fox News - an oxymoron if ever there was one to ascribe the word "news" to the title - and so-called newspapers like The Sun in the UK and the Daily Telegraph - both best described as rags best suited for wrapping fish and chips - but it is seems Rupert Murdoch covets the Wall Street Journal as part of his News Corp empire and securing the NY Times as well.

The Age reports on a new book about Murdoch:

"Seizing The Wall Street Journal for his News Corp media empire would be an audacious master stroke for Rupert Murdoch - unless he tops it by trying to buy The New York Times Co.

This is what Vanity Fair columnist and newly minted Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff thinks the 77-year-old media mogul will do, regardless of sound business strategy, investors and US government rules about who can own what.

"He really contemplates how he can get The New York Times," said Wolff, author of "The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret W…

Sean Penn talks to Presidents Chavez and Castro

Interesting! Sean Penn, in the company of David Brinkley and Christopher Hitchens visit Venezualan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Raul Castro and interview both leaders.

As Penn writes:

"Among those to whom I said this were historian Douglas Brinkley and Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens. These two were perfect complements. Brinkley is a notably steady thinker whose historian's code of ethics assures adherence to supremely reasoned evidence. Hitchens, a wily wordsmith, ever too unpredictable for predisposition, is a wild card by any measure who in a talk-show throwaway once referred to Chávez as an "oil-rich clown." Though I believe Hitchens to be as principled as he is brilliant, he can be combative to the point of bullying, as he once was in severe comments made about saintly antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan. Brinkley and Hitchens would balance any perceived bias in my writing. Also, these are a couple of guys I have a lot of fun with and affectio…

Twitter shows the way in Mumbai

Blogs will never be able to match the mainstream press, if for no other reason that certainly at the moment, they don't have the resources. But - and it is a big but! - blogs are beginning to show their metal and what they can do. For instance, during the London terror bombings in 2005 it was blogs who were first out with the news.

Tragic as things have been in Mumbai, Twitter has "come of age", as The Guardian describes it, in its reporting from Mumbai - leaving the maintsream media in its wake:

"From the moment the first shots were fired, the internet provided a kaleidoscopic view of events in Mumbai. Using blogs and file-sharing sites, those caught up in the mayhem rapidly provided accounts from the ground as well as links to the best news reports appearing on the web.

One rich source of information was Twitter, which provides text-message-length updates. Its Mumbai thread provided a stream of snippets, not all accurate, from observers on the ground, with deta…

Robert Fisk: 'Nobody supports the Taliban, but people hate the government'

It's strange. President-elect Obama wants to step up military intervention in Afghanistan. On the other hand, things are going from bad to worse - as veteran journalist and author Robert Fisk reports 'Nobody supports the Taliban, but people hate the government' in TheIndependent:

"The collapse of Afghanistan is closer than the world believes. Kandahar is in Taliban hands – all but a square mile at the centre of the city – and the first Taliban checkpoints are scarcely 15 miles from Kabul. Hamid Karzai's deeply corrupted government is almost as powerless as the Iraqi cabinet in Baghdad's "Green Zone"; lorry drivers in the country now carry business permits issued by the Taliban which operate their own courts in remote areas of the country.

The Red Cross has already warned that humanitarian operations are being drastically curtailed in ever larger areas of Afghanistan; more than 4,000 people, at least a third of them civilians, have been killed in …

$7.6 trillion.....and counting!

Words fail....

From CounterPunch:

"$7.6 trillion

That is what Bloomberg reports has been committed on behalf of the American taxpayer to bailout America’s finance system. This includes spending by the Treasury, Federal Reserve and FDIC.

- The amount is equal to half the value of everything produced in the United States last year.

- It is $24,000 for every man, woman and child in America, that is nearly $100,000 for a family of four.

- It's nine times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

- It is enough money to pay off more than half the country's mortgages, but bankruptcies have continued despite the bailout.

We do not even know where all of those funds have gone. The taxpayer is putting up a King's ransom and not being told who is receiving it. We guarantee the debts of banks and are not being told what collateral is provided or who is receiving the funds. Before receiving the bailout funds, Treasury Secretary Paulsen promised transparency. But, Fe…

Rouge IDF

No surprises in a piece which has fallen into Haaretz's hands - that the Israeli Defence Forces have acted in defiance of High Court guidelines:

"The Israel Defense Forces has assassinated wanted men in apparent defiance of High Court of Justice guidelines for such operations, according to operational briefings obtained by Haaretz.

The documents reveal that the IDF approved assassinations in the West Bank even when it could have been possible to arrest the targets instead, and that top-ranking army officers authorized the killings in advance, in writing, even if innocent bystanders would be killed as well.

Moreover, the assassination of at least one member of a so-called "ticking infrastructure" was postponed due to an impending visit by a senior U.S. official.

Finally, Haaretz discovered that contrary to what the state told the High Court, assassinations were subject to only minimal restrictions prior to the court's ruling."

Continue reading the appalling re…

Georgia Without the Spin

All too often the media either misreports world-events or through a Western filter.

The recent Georgia-Russian conflict is a case in point as FP [Foreign Policy] headlines - "It’s time for the West to realize that Mikheil Saakashvili is no saint and that Georgia is not quite an innocent victim."

Charles King explores the issues and explains:

"Last August’s brief war between Russia and Georgia was fought not only on the rolling hills of South Ossetia, but also on a second front in the international print and broadcast media. If Georgia’s military didn’t exactly distinguish itself on the first front, its government, particularly its president, thoroughly dominated the second.

From the earliest hours of the conflict, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili took to the airwaves to appeal for international sympathy and assistance. By and large, his efforts worked and the Western public bought the story line of a small democratic ally being bullied by a rogue superpower. Russ…

Muzzle!

The same issue in 2 countries - Britain and the USA. Curbing freedom of speech where it involves Israel.

First, Ralph Nader writing on CounterPunch in "Don't Suppress Carter (or the Opportunities for Middle East Peace)":

"Now that the season of electoral expediency is over, Barack Obama owes Jimmy Carter an apology.

At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the Party denied Jimmy Carter the traditional invitation to speak that is accorded its former presidents.

According to The Jewish Daily Forward, “Carter's controversial views on Israel cost him a place on the podium at the Democratic Party convention in late August, senior Democratic operatives acknowledged to the Forward.”

Silencing Carter, who negotiated the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, involved behind the scenes tensions between supporters of the hard-line AIPAC lobby and those Democrats who argued both respect and free speech to let Carter join Bill Clinton on the stage and address a nationwide…

Noam Chomsky: The Elections, the Economy, and the World

World-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky discussed the meaning of President-Elect Barack Obama’s victory and the possibilities ahead for real democratic change at a speech last week in Boston. It was his first public appearance since the election. Chomsky has been a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a half-century and is the author of dozens of influential books.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now fame interviewed Chomsky on the election, the economy and the world generally.

Listen to or read the interview here - on Information Clearing House.

Election Win Worth Nought

Now, how to reconcile this?

Both the Americans and Israelis called for Palestinian elections. No one has challenged that the elections were other than properly conducted or fair - and that Hamas was the "winner".

Oops! Not the Party the US and Israel wanted. Now Hamas is viewed as a terrorist organisation even if the legitimately elected Government in Gaza.

It is therefore more than odd that the Americans , who are forever espousing freedom and democratic values to everyone in the world should prosecute a group in the US which sent financial aid to Hamas.

NPR reports:

"A Muslim charity and five of its former leaders have been convicted in Dallas of giving more than $12 million to support the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was found guilty of all 108 charges."

Read the full report here.
Democracy is on the cusp of coming to Iraq - or so the PR machine, principally American driven, tells us.

Suadad Al-Salhy writes from the Baghdad Bureau of the NY Times. His "take" on the agreement between the US and Iraq which the Parliament is due to consider - as he reports from inside the Parliament - makes for interesting reading:

"It seems like 70% of the Iraqi MP’s have no idea what is in the agreement. This is clear from the complaints and criticisms that I hear when I am listening to their questions in the press room of the parliament building, and on the television coverage when I get home.

For example some criticize the agreement for not giving the Iraqi government the right to search equipment and material being imported into Iraq. But the last draft DOES give the Iraqi government the right to verify the contents of containers coming into the country, if they have security concerns.

Another one said the agreement does not give Iraq guarantees that the next ad…

Salute to courageous journalists

In an editorial, the Washington Post gives a well-deserved "pat on the back" to some truly courageous journalists:

"Plainclothes Ugandan police officers descended yesterday on the newsroom of the weekly newsmagazine the Independent, seizing computer documents and attempting to deliver an arrest warrant to managing editor Andrew M. Mwenda. "Unluckily, I was out of Uganda," Mr. Mwenda told us. Unluckily? "Yes. I do not want them to think I am running away."

No one is likely to entertain that confusion. Mr. Mwenda, who is in the United States to receive an International Press Freedom award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, founded the Independent when government pressure constrained his freedom as political editor of Uganda's largest daily newspaper. In his new post, Mr. Mwenda said, he has reported on paramilitary groups that detain civilians, take them to illegal detention centers and torture them. He has criticized President Yoweri Museven…

WMD's Found

Columnist [in the NY Times] and author Thomas Friedman isn't one of MPS's favourites. His inconsistency on many topics, especially on invading Iraq, are well known.

That said, on a day when the US Government has again raced to the rescue of another major corporation - this time, Citigroup - and Obama has announced his economic team, Friedman writes in his weekly NY Times column:

"As one banker remarked to me: “We finally found the W.M.D.” They were buried in our own backyard — subprime mortgages and all the derivatives attached to them".

Friedman's piece, in full here, is worth reading.

Kabul 30 years ago, and Kabul today. Have we learned nothing?

Robert Fisk is without question the expert on the Middle East. Who else can boast having lived in Beirut for upwards of 30 years and having met all the main "players" including the infamous Bin Laden.

Many people don't like Fisk - probably because his home-truths are too close to the bone!

Writing in The Independent, Fisk assesses where things are at in Afghanistan. It doesn't make for happy reading, especially when one reflects on the fact that Obama plans on sending even more US forces into the already war-torn country.

"As the Americans and British suffer ever greater casualties, their officers boast of the increasing prowess of the ANA. Infiltrated though they are by the Taliban, America and other Nato states are providing them with newer equipment and training new battalions to take on the guerrillas outside the capital. Back in January of 1980, I could take a bus from Kabul to Kandahar. Seven years later, the broken highway was haunted by "mujahedin&…

For World's Sick, Care Via E-Mail

Read a remarkable "story" of making a real difference - via email!

The Washington Post reports:

"The Swinfens run the Swinfen Charitable Trust, a telemedicine charity that uses e-mail to link sick people in poor, remote or dangerous parts of the world with hundreds of medical specialists in some of the world's finest hospitals.

Doctors in about 140 hospitals and clinics in 39 nations use the organization to seek help for patients requiring specialized care beyond their capabilities. Through the trust, they can be put in e-mail contact -- often within hours -- with one or more of the 400 specialists who work without pay as part of the trust's network.

Doctors in distant areas, including Afghanistan, Antarctica and the Solomon Islands, e-mail photos (many taken with digital cameras supplied by the Swinfens), X-rays, test results and case notes. The information is reviewed by specialists, who respond by e-mail to help make diagnoses and recommend treatments.

The only th…

Wrong person for the Job?

A piece in the Washington Post on the apparently imminent appointment of Hilary Clinton as Secretray of State in the Obama Administration:

"There is possibly no person President-elect Barack Obama considered for secretary of state who is more reliably pro-Israel than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the woman to whom he appears likely to give the job sometime after Thanksgiving.

During the Democratic primary campaign, Clinton said the United States could "obliterate" Iran if it launched a nuclear attack on Israel. She said the United States should not negotiate with Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, unless it renounced terrorism. "The United States stands with Israel, now and forever," Clinton told AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, at its conference in June.

Yet Clinton is also the former first lady who famously broke with her husband's administration in 1998 and said Palestinians should have a state of their own. Ten years later, the co…

No Welcome Mat Here

As the US tries to stitch up some sort of security pact with Iraq, the "locals" don't seem so keen for Uncle Sam to stay in their war-ravaged country.

Maintaining a presence in Iraq is vital for the US if it wants to protect, as best it can , some sort of security for an ongoing supply of oil. A complete withdrawal doesn't seem on the cards. Why else would the US have built the biggest embassy it ever has [see here] if it didn't want a permanent presence in Iraq?

McClatchy reports in "Sadr followers protest Iraqi-U.S. pact in huge rally":

"Tens of thousands of followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtadaal Sadr packed a central Baghdad square Friday, where they protested a U.S.-Iraq security agreement and likened Prime Minister NourialMaliki to fallen dictator Saddam Hussein.

Sheik Abdul HadialMohammadawi read a nationalistic speech on behalf of Sadr urging a rejection of any pacts with the U.S., charging that approving one would infringe on Iraqi…

And the Killing still goes on....

IPS reports on the ongoing scourge of landmines being used by various countries - and how the funds available to eradicate them is falling:

"Ten years after an international ban on the use of landmines was agreed, the weapons still claimed thousands of lives during 2007, a new report has calculated.

Even though only two countries -- Burma and Russia -- continue to use landmines, deaths and injuries are still being caused by those set during a large number of conflicts around the world, and that have never been deactivated.

According to the annual Landmine Monitor report, landmines and other 'explosive remnants of war' such as grenades, mortars and cluster bombs killed 5,426 people last year.

Stan Brabant, a spokesman for Handicap International, which launched the report in Brussels Nov. 21, described this finding as "very scary". The true number of lives lost is likely to be considerably higher.

Nonetheless, he noted that steady progress has been made in reducing …

A Wartime Presidency, on Two Fronts

Anthony H. Cordesman is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Hi is often called in as an expert commentator on TV and radio.

In an extensive analysis - in a piece in the NY Times, here - on what confronts President-elect Obama on assuming office with regard to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the prognosis is far from a happy one.

"The Afghan and Pakistani economies have effectively collapsed, and Afghans face food shortages this winter. Monthly spending on operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan will likely rise to as much as $5 billion, from around $2 billion today, or we will face defeat.

Even if the United States fully withdraws from Iraq in 2011, as Mr. Obama and the Iraqi government say they would like, we will remain on something very like a war footing there throughout the next presidency. While the combat burden on our forces will decline, withdrawal will be as costly as fighting. It will take large amounts of luck (and patient American prod…

A lame-duck economy - and George W moving on.....

George W is banging on about free markets at the APEC Conference presently underway in Peru.

That he still doesn't get it is obvious. His economy is tanking - in no small measure because of free market forces in the US and a totally de-regulated economy - and world-wide everyone is waiting on Obama to get into the White House in 2 months time.

Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman, writing his regular column in the IHT:

"Everyone's talking about a new New Deal, for obvious reasons. In 2008, as in 1932, a long era of Republican political dominance came to an end in the face of an economic and financial crisis that, in voters' minds, both discredited the Republican Party's free-market ideology and undermined its claims of competence. And for those on the progressive side of the political spectrum here in the U.S., these are hopeful times.

There is, however, another and more disturbing parallel between 2008 and 1932 - namely, the emergence of a power vacuum at the height …

The Honeymoon is Looking a Bit Wan

The Dow Jones might have experienced a spike on Friday on the news of who the probable Obama appointee for Treasury Secretary will be, but more and more the same old and tired faces are emerging as part of Team Obama.

Alexander Cockburn, writing on CounterPunch, puts the whole appointment "business" into context and reflect on how many young people who worked for Obama are becoming wan at those being anointed as part of the Obama cabinet or inner-circle.

"Two years without a single leak and suddenly, last week, Obama’s operation was like a sieve. That’s what happens when you pick up the phone and call one of the Clintons. Or, to put it another way, that’s what happens when someone claims you, the president elect, picked up the phone and called Mrs Clinton to ask whether she’d like to be secretary of state.

Out the window goes the sense of purposeful strides towards a new-look Administration. In comes a dreadful feeling that somehow we’ve slipped a dimension in the space-ti…

Another Black Eye for the Bush Administration’s Detention Policy

Scott Horton writing on Harper's Magazine on the vexed and ongoing scandal which is Gitmo, and those detained there without trial, highlights the questionable way how 6 detainees were "captured" in the first place and their detention for 7 [yes, 7!] years:

"For years, lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees have dreaded getting notice from the District Court in Washington that their case had been assigned to Judge Richard J. Leon. A conservative Republican appointed to the bench by George W. Bush in 2002, Judge Leon was seen as an almost reflexive supporter of the Bush Administration’s positions with respect to Guantánamo. But today things changed. Leon took up the habeas corpus petitions of six Guantánamo detainees on remand from the Supreme Court following its landmark decision in Boumediene–a decision in which the Court had reversed Judge Leon. In his opinion for the Court, Judge Kennedy had stressed that the system crafted by the Bush Administration was “fraugh…

Damn the world....and justice and decency

Ignoring the plight of beseiged and blockaded Gazans will only see an "explosion" of one sort or another. Of course, in the Arab world seeing the West look away from Israel's flagrant actions - and let's not forget the silence from the Obama camp! - will only serve to make it even harder to have an honest broker seeking a solution to this ongoing crisis and scandal.

The Irish Sun reports in "Israel continues starvation of Gazans despite UN pleas" :

"In what the UN has described as collective punishment, the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip continues.

Notwithstanding 56% of the 1.5 million Gazan population consists of children, Israel has shut down access to the region refusing to allow desperately needed food trucks to reach their destination.

UN food agencies in Gaza that have had their food supply cut by the Israeli blockade say they are facing a "humanitarian catastrophe."

World media continues to ignore the desperate situation, Israel ho…

Robert Fisk: Once more fear stalks the streets of Kandahar

On a day where there more reports of Obama's aim to increase the US presence in Afghanistan - surely a move to see the Americans sucked into a vortex like in Iraq - Robert Fisk, someone who knows the region, writing his regular column in TheIndependent, reflects on the state of things in Kandahar.

"Across Kandahar, there is great anger. At the government's corruption, at the Nato occupation and their killings. Little is said of the Taliban. But who condemns those who are winning the war? Taliban officials now speak with near-courtesy of the Tadjiks and Uzbeks and Hazaras who were their sectarian enemies in the awful years of Taliban rule. "If they are against the occupation, they are all friends now," one of the wisest local residents said. There is a new vein of nationalism within the Taliban. "Twenty per cent of the population here are Shias and their mosques were turned into Sunni places of worship by the Taliban during their rule. But now the Shias are a…

World confronts a choice between chaos and order

Times are a'changing.......

FT.coms columnist Philip Stevens in "World confronts a choice between chaos and order" writes on a new US National Intelligence Council's Report on the position of the US in the future - and what it means in practical terms as Obama steps up to the plate as the newly elected president of America.

"It seems only yesterday that scarcity was the story. Energy and commodity prices were heading into the stratosphere. The oil was running out, food shortages loomed, Russia was resurgent and China was marching into Africa amid a scramble for dwindling resources.

Now? Prices everywhere are falling as recession bites. Investment banks have disappeared; and the global credit system is on life-support. The big threat is deflation rather than inflation. The oil price has slumped, wiping the smirk from authoritarian leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

When Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination for the presidency he…

No hands went up!

From marcustoday:

"Regret of the Day – The heads of GM, Ford and Chrysler flew from Detroit to Washington yesterday to front House and Senate committees in an attempt to get $25bn from the Government’s $700bn TARP bailout. There are 24 daily commercial flights on the route from Detroit to Washington. They all flew in private jets. A committee representative said “Its like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo…I mean couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class, or jet pooled or something to get here?”. “I am going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial. I’m going to ask you to raise your hand if you’re planning to sell your jet…and fly back commercial”. “Let the record show no hands went up”. “I’m not an opponent of private flights by any means, but the fact that you flew in on your private jets at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars just for you to make your way to Washington is a bit arrogant before you…

This Is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama's White House

This is the change which shaped the mantra of Obama's election campaign?

Obama may have reached almost Messiah status and many around the world pinned their hopes on an Obama Administration resulting in a change from the 8 terrible Bush years, but AlterNet notes in its piece "This Is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama's White House" that things may not be all that different at all:

"The prospect of Obama's foreign policy being, at least in part, an extension of the Clinton Doctrine is real. Even more disturbing, several of the individuals at the center of Obama's transition and emerging foreign policy teams were top players in creating and implementing foreign policies that would pave the way for projects eventually carried out under the Bush/Cheney administration. With their assistance, Obama has already charted out several hawkish stances. Among them:

-- His plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan;

-- An Iraq plan that coul…

Overload!

Too much news and information around? Ergo, fatigue?

Columbia Journalism Review has an analysis on the effect of so much news and information being available:

"In 2007, as part of the third round of strategic planning for its digital transformation, The Associated Press decided to do something a little different. It hired a research company called Context to conduct an in-depth study of young-adult news consumption around the world. Jim Kennedy, the AP’s director of strategic planning, initially agreed to the project because he thought it would make for a “fun and entertaining” presentation at the annual meeting. It turned out to be more than that; the AP believed that the results held fundamental implications for the role of the news media in the digital age. Chief among the findings was that many young consumers craved more in-depth news but were unable or unwilling to get it. “The abundance of news and ubiquity of choice do not necessarily translate into a better news envi…

2 people.....larger problem for the future!

The case of one couple, the Khurds, in East Jerusalem, highlights the critical wider issue of how settlers are taking over East Jerusalem - and how a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians of what is to become of Jerusalem is fraught with many obstacles.

Jonathan Cook, writing in CounterPunch in "Who Will Stop the Settlers?", explains:

"The middle-of-the-night eviction last week of an elderly Palestinian couple from their home in East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers is a demonstration of Israeli intent towards a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Mohammed and Fawziya Khurd are now on the street, living in a tent, after Israeli police enforced a court order issued in July to expel them.

The couple have been living in the same property in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood since the mid-1950s, when East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control. The United Nations allotted them the land after they were expelled from their homes in territory that was se…

Sarah Palin’s failure set to reap her $7m book deal

Sarah Palin is riding high despite being the failure she is, and has been, on so many levels.

TimesOnLine reports:

"She failed to save John McCain from presidential election doom, but Sarah Palin, the Republican senator’s controversial running mate, may yet emerge as the saviour of the American publishing industry. Literary agents are queueing up to sign her to a book deal that could earn her up to $7m.

With Barack Obama’s election victory certain to generate dozens of volumes from politicians, strategists and journalists – and with another shelfload of memoirs expected from members of President George W Bush’s administration – Palin’s personal account of her tumultuous introduction to national politics is widely regarded as the book most likely to repay a multi-million-dollar advance.

“She’s poised to make a ton of money,” said Howard Rubenstein, New York’s best-known public relations adviser.

“Every publisher and a lot of literary agents have been going after her,” added Jeff Klein …

Food Security

It will be recalled that earlier this year saw riots in various countries where the populace protested at the lack of availability of food. At the time wiser heads advised that the world faced a world-wide shortage of food supplies, especially in poorer countries.

Today's news shows a dimension of the concern by at least one country, South Korea. It has purchased land in Africa as a means whereby it can establish what is being described as food security.

Afrik.com reports in "South Korea gets African land to safeguard food security":

"Daewoo Logistics of South Korea has secured farmland in Madagascar to grow food crops for Seoul, in a deal that diplomats and consultants said was the largest of its kind.

The company said it had leased 1.3m hectares of farmland – about half the size of Belgium – from Madagascar’s government for 99 years. It plans to ship the maize and palm oil harvests back to South Korea. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The pursuit of for…

Obama: Dual loyalties

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds.

Writing post the Obama "win" on CounterPunch he makes some more than valid observations on what we are likely to see in Obama White House in relation to how America will "deal" with Israel and the Middle East:

"History will record the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign to have been one in which American Arabs and Muslims were politically marginalized, ostracized and disparaged like no time before. Contrary to initial expectations, those bruised sensibilities are unlikely to find in President-elect Barack Obama the salve so desperately needed.

The first hint of future disappointment came with the realization that although his background and upbringing inspired malicious rumors and innuendos, he did little if anything to rebuke their bigoted nature. After winning the presidency, the decision to employ the services of the Israel-firsters was a tell-tale sign the wounds will be left to fester.&qu…

Water: Trickling down by 2080

Associated Press reports [as reproduced on CommonDreams] on a report which ought to be of concern to everyone who values the availability of water:

"Half the world's population could face a shortage of clean water by 2080 because of climate change, experts warned Tuesday.

A little girl collects water from a leak in a pipe in a camp for displaced people, Monday, Nov. 17, 2008 in Kibati just north of Goma in eastern Congo. Half the world's population could face a shortage of clean water by 2080 because of climate change, experts warned Tuesday. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)Wong Poh Poh, a professor at the National University of Singapore, told a regional conference that global warming was disrupting water flow patterns and increasing the severity of floods, droughts and storms _ all of which reduce the availability of drinking water.

Wong said the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that as many as 2 billion people won't have sufficient access to clean water b…