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Gaza: One Year Later

As many will have read and heard in the last days the Freedom-like March, Gaza Freedom March, has been barred by the Egyptians from entering Gaza from Egypt.

Meanwhile, things in Gaz are dire, to say the least. Adam Horowitz, writing on that so venerable and must-read site Mondoweiss reports on Gaza one year on from Israel's fierce onslaught on Gaza:

"From Mohammad’s summary of "Failing Gaza":

Since the assault ended, leaving 15,000 buildings damages and 5,000 completely destroyed, only 41 trucks of construction materials have been allowed to enter GazaPrior to 2007, and average of 70 truckloads of exports left Gaza everyday. For the past two years, that number has been zero.Only 35 categories of items are allowed into Gaza. That is, only 35 types of products are allowed in to the 1.5 million prisoners.The number of trucks carrying construction materials entering Gaza today is 0.05% of what it was before the blockade. That’s not half a percent-it’s one twentieth of…

Safe travels!

Credit to Mike Keefe, The Denver Post

Announcing the 2009 P.U.-Litzer Prizes

We all know about the annual Pulitzer prizes. Some people are worthy recipients, others questionable.

AlterNet reproduces FAIRS'S own "take" on the annual awards, the P.U.-Litzers. The 2009 list is an interesting one, especially with the benefit of hindsight.

"For 17 years our colleagues Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon have worked with FAIR to present the P.U.-Litzers, a year-end review of some of the stinkiest examples of corporate media malfeasance, spin and just plain outrageousness.

Starting this year, FAIR has the somewhat dubious honor of reviewing the nominees and selecting the winners. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. So, without further ado, we present the 2009 P.U.-Litzers."

Read the complete piece, here, but one example:

"--The Remembering Reagan Award WINNER: Joe Klein, Time

Time columnist Joe Klein (12/3/09), not altogether impressed by Obama's announcement of a troop escalation in Afghanistan, wrote that a president "mu…

The Iranian regime won't last, says critic

Mohsen Kadivar is considered one of the leading religious critics of the Iranian regime. He spent 18 months in the infamous Ervin prison for his beliefs. In recognition of his efforts to reconcile Islam and democracy, Time magazine called him one the world's most important innovators. Currently, the professor, who carries the religious status of ayatollah, or "sign of god," is teaching for a semester at Duke University in North Carolina.

In a Q & A with Spiegel OnLine International [read it in full here] Kadivar predicts the downfall of the current Iranian regime:

"You are right that the Shiite theocracy in its present form has failed -- a fact that few have expressed as clearly as my teacher in the last few months. Incidentally, when Grand Ayatollah Montazeri had his falling out with Khomeini, three months before the supreme religious leader's death in 1989, he said: This state is so different from the one we dreamed of and worked to create. Still, it is not…

Gaza One Year On

Ali Abunimah is the co-founder of The Electric Intifada - and a sober commentator on the Palestinian-Israel conflict. His analysis is usually spot-on.

With the anniversary of Israel's attack on Gaza, writing on Al Jazeera in "Israel resembles a failed State" he records the situation in which Gaza finds itself 12 months on and Israel's standing and situation in all of this:

"One year has passed since the savage Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, but for the people there time might as well have stood still.

Since Palestinians in Gaza buried their loved ones -- more than 1,400 people, almost 400 of them children -- there has been little healing and virtually no reconstruction.

According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year.

Promises of billions made at a donors' conference in Egypt last March attended by luminaries of the so-called "international community" and the Middle East…

Chinese dissident: Lesson for him....and the West

The jailing of leading Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is shameful and only serves to show what sort of country China remains as a Communist State. But, with the West so much in need of "working" with China - for instance, the US is greatly indebted to, and virtually captive, to the Chinese for helping bail out the American economy - it is virtually powerless to do anything about human rights, or the lack of them, in China.

The NY Times reports:

"The harsh sentence handed down on Friday to Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s most prominent campaigners for democracy and human rights, prompted strong rebukes in the United States and Europe, but it also raised fresh questions over whether the West has much leverage over a government that is increasingly self-assured on the world stage.

By sentencing Mr. Liu to 11 years in prison for subversion, the Chinese government sent a chilling message to advocates of political reform and free speech. Mr. Liu, 53, a former literature professor who…

Yes, we can ... but so far, Obama hasn't

Illustration: Simon Letch.

"Less than 12 months into his presidency, Barack Obama is confronting an excruciating paradox. He is on the brink of being the first US president to deliver comprehensive reform of America's health-care system, a radical change for which he clearly had a mandate, and yet his popularity with voters has plummeted. He is increasingly regarded with either disappointment or downright distaste by legions of supporters who this time last year were still bathed in the euphoria of "yes we can".

What has gone wrong?

The past 11 months have been marked by Obama's seeming timidity, his vacillation (particularly the very public attenuated policy review process about whether to send more troops to Afghanistan) and his failure to stand up and tell people what it is he wants. (He has never articulated a precise description of the bottom-line requirements of the health-care plan he wants).

In other words, he has failed to lead.

This has surprised and infuri…

Xmas cheer....or is there something to cheer?

Credit to R. J. Matson - The NY Observer & Roll Call

How to misremember Andrei Sakharov

Scott Horton, writing on Harper's Magazine, makes a number of points relating to the 20th anniversary of the death of that great Russian Andrei Sakharov:

"The twentieth anniversary of Andrei Sakharov’s death was not forgotten in Russia. But it’s distressing to note how it was remembered. A television special ran on Russian state television celebrating Sakharov’s life—but the Sakharov it celebrated was the father of the hydrogen bomb and a key contributor to the military technology of the former Soviet Union, not the tireless advocate of “peace, progress, and human rights.” Fedor Lukyanov, a prominent foreign affairs journalist, wrote in the daily Gazeta that Sakharov’s ideas about human rights had been “discredited.”

Continue reading here - also for an insight into Russia today and that never-far-away-from-the-news Vladimir Putin.

Plants and Animals Race for Survival as Climate Change Creeps Across the Globe

It might be Xmas Day - and celebrated as such in some countries around the world - but there is no celebrating for our planet.

Things are dire! There are no other words for it, whatever the naysayers might claim about climate change and warming.

The Guardian reports on grim things are:

"Global warming creeps across the world at a speed of a quarter of a mile each year, according to a new study that highlights the problems that rising temperatures pose to plants and animals. Species that can tolerate only a narrow range of temperatures will need to move as quickly if they are to survive. Wildlife in lowland tropics, mangroves and desert areas are at greater risk than species in mountainous areas, the study suggests."

How some people celebrate Xmas

Credit to Pat Bagley of The Salt Lake Tribune

No cheer here!....nor in the forseeable future

With Xmas there is supposed to be good cheer. Many would say that the GFC is slowly a thing of the past. But, all is not rosy in the garden. In fact, the prognosis on the economic front going into the new year is quite shaky in many countries around the world.

The Washington Post reports:

"The recession's jobless toll is draining unemployment-compensation funds so fast that according to federal projections, 40 state programs will go broke within two years and need $90 billion in loans to keep issuing the benefit checks.

The shortfalls are putting pressure on governments to either raise taxes or shrink the aid payments."

And:

"Currently, 25 states have run out of unemployment money and have borrowed $24 billion from the federal government to cover the gaps. By 2011, according to Department of Labor estimates, 40 state funds will have been emptied by the jobless tsunami."

In the very same edition of The Washington Post a piece "Ireland's deep budget cuts…

Iranian President: Noisy.... but not so strong

The news out of Iran is far from encouraging. Protests yes, repressive action to curb any challenges to the regime. There is unrest amongst the populace. And then there is that ever-looming deadline about Iran's nuclear efforts and plans.

The Washington Post reports on how whilst the Iranian President might be loud and forthright that he may not be that strong as he thinks:

"Mahmous Ahmadinejad of Iran says that the government over which he presides is "ten times" stronger than it was a year ago. Therefore, Mr. Ahmadinejad announced Tuesday, the Islamic Republic will defy the Obama administration's year-end deadline for accepting a U.N.-drafted proposal to trade Iran's enriched uranium stockpile for less dangerous nuclear fuel. Iran is "not afraid" of the sanctions that the United States and its allies may have in store, Mr. Ahmadinejad boasted, adding: "If Iran wanted to make a bomb, we would be brave enough to tell you."

Yet Mr. …

This is what we are fighting for and with?

U.S. Marines training the fledgling Afghan National Army have their seemingly hopeless work cut out for them, with Afghan nationals often more focused on their chai and hashish than the task at hand. Video from The Guardian here.

"I think if they introduced drug testing to the Afghan army we would lose probably three-quarters to maybe 80, 85 percent of the army," says one U.S. soldier".


The image of 2009!

Civilians stand behind the barbed-wire perimeter fence of the Manik Farm refugee camp near Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. (Photograph: David Gray / Reuters)

The photo probably best describes the human crisis which so dominated 2009.

The Guardian explains, in detail, in "Blocking of Aid Worsened 2009 Humanitarian Crises, Group Says - Trapped civilians in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Sudan cut off from aid deliberately, says Médecins sans Frontières":

"The withholding of government aid to trapped civilians in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Sudan contributed to the worst humanitarian emergencies of 2009, a medical group said today.

Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) also pointed to a fall in funding for the treatment of diseases such as sleeping sickness and HIV/Aids as part of its annual list of worst humanitarian crises for the past year.

"There is no question that civilians are increasingly victimised in conflicts and further cut off from lifesaving assistance, often deliberately," said…

Copenhagen: Naomi Klein's Postscript

Leave it to Naomi Klein to succinctly "explain" in a piece "For Obama, No Opportunity Too Big To Blow" in The Nation what went wrong in Copenhagen and who is to blame:

"Contrary to countless reports, the debacle in Copenhagen was not everyone's fault. It did not happen because human beings are incapable of agreeing, or are inherently self-destructive. Nor was it all was China's fault, or the fault of the hapless UN.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but there was one country that possessed unique power to change the game. It didn't use it. If Barack Obama had come to Copenhagen with a transformative and inspiring commitment to getting the U.S. economy off fossil fuels, all the other major emitters would have stepped up. The EU, Japan, China and India had all indicated that they were willing to increase their levels of commitment, but only if the U.S. took the lead. Instead of leading, Obama arrived with embarrassingly low targets and the hea…

The Middle East List for 2009

It seems to have almost become a tradition for newspapers, journals and the media generally to run lists at the end of a calendar year of this or that.

FP [Foreign Policy] is no exception. It has published its Middle East List for 2009. "Interesting" people have made it - but most not surprisingly. They have certainly been instrumental in framing the "news" in the region.

Read the full article, here, but some examples:

"Fan Favorite: Neda Soltan and the Iranian Green Revolutionaries. They may not have won (at least not yet), but the courageous protests which swept Tehran after the fraudulent "victory" of Mahmoud Ahmedenejad captured the world's attention. Neda Soltan became the international symbol of the protests, a focal point for the brave and resourceful -- and seemingly largely uncoordinated -- efforts of thousands upon thousands of ordinary Iranians. It's too early to know whether they will become the Chicago Cubs of the Middle …

A reflection of a sorry state of affairs in the US?

Credit to Mike Keefe of The Denver Post

Reporting....sometimes with a high price attached

It is troubling when one reads that reporters - who after all are only doing their job, especially reporting to "us" - are subjected to harassment, and worse - imprisonment.

CPJ [Committee to Protect Journalists] reports on the state of play in 2009:

"Freelancers now make up nearly 45 percent of all journalists jailed worldwide, a dramatic recent increase that reflects the evolution of the global news business, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, CPJ found a total of 136 reporters, editors, and photojournalists behind bars on December 1, an increase of 11 from the 2008 tally. (Read detailed accounts of each imprisoned journalist.) A massive crackdown in Iran, where 23 journalists are now in jail, fueled the worldwide increase.

China continued to be the world’s worst jailer of journalists, a dishonor it has held for 11 consecutive years. Iran, Cuba, Eritrea, and Burma round out the top five jailers from among the…

A passionate and earnest plea

Ex-president Jimmy Carter has for years canvassed peace in the Middle East. Since the Gaza War last December-January, he has taken up the cause of the Gazans - many living in dire circumstances. The world hasn't wanted to know.... which will, one day, come back to bite those who have averted their gaze and been so one-eyed in supporting Israel's quite unconscionable and inhumane actions.

In his latest piece "Gaza must be rebuilt now" - this time on Comment is Free in The Guardian - he writes:

"In summary: UN resolutions, Geneva conventions, previous agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, the Arab peace initiative, and official policies of the US and other nations are all being ignored. In the meantime, the demolition of Arab houses, expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Palestinian recalcitrance threaten any real prospect for peace.

Of more immediate concern, those under siege in Gaza face another winter of intense p…

It's more than just extra military destined for Afghanistan

Jeremy Scahill has written extensively, and authoritatively, on Afghanistan and the contractors being "employed" there on the American payroll.

In his latest writing, for CounterPunch in "The US Currently Has 189,000 Personnel in Afghanistan - Stunning Statistics About the War That Everyone Should Know", he provides some of the figures, and cost, of all that ever-growing band of contractors:

"In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows the Bush administration out of the privatized water. According to a memo[PDF] released by McCaskill’s staff,

“From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000.”

At present, there are 104,000 Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan. According to a report this week from the Co…

Frank Rich of The NY Tines: Tiger Woods is Person of the Year

Before you either gaffaw or reel back in horror about the nomination of Tiger Woods as Person of the Year by veteran op-ed columnist at The New York Times Frank Rich, read his- very sound and sober - reasoning very for the choice:

"As we say farewell to a dreadful year and decade, this much we can agree upon: The person of the year is not Ben Bernanke, no matter how insistently Time magazine tries to hype him into its pantheon. The Fed chairman was just as big a schnook as every other magical thinker in Washington and on Wall Street who believed that housing prices would go up in perpetuity to support an economy leveraged past the hilt. Unlike most of the others, it was Bernanke’s job to be ahead of the curve. Yet as recently as June of last year he could be found minimizing the possibility of a substantial economic downturn. And now we’re supposed to applaud him for putting his finger in the dike after disaster struck? This is defining American leadership down.

If there’s been a c…

The truths they ignored in Copenhagen

Johann Hari, writing in The Independent, takes a stick to those who attended the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen for what they chose to ignore:

"So that's it. The world's worst polluters – the people who are drastically altering the climate – gathered here in Copenhagen to announce they were going to carry on cooking, in defiance of all the scientific warnings.

They didn't seal the deal; they sealed the coffin for the world's low-lying islands, its glaciers, its North Pole, and millions of lives.

Those of us who watched this conference with open eyes aren't surprised. Every day, practical, intelligent solutions that would cut our emissions of warming gases have been offered by scientists, developing countries and protesters – and they have been systematically vetoed by the governments of North America and Europe.

It's worth recounting a few of the ideas that were summarily dismissed – because when the world finally resolves to find a real solution, we will…

Tom Friedman, museum exhibit

Heaven knows why anyone takes notice of Thomas Friedman, columnist in The NY Times and author. So much of what he has written about - and pontificated on - has been discredited.

Glenn Greenwald, lawyer turned blogger and writer, in his latest piece on Salon takes a sharp and definitive scalpel to Friedman:

"Tom Friedman, The New York Times, yesterday:

'A corrosive mind-set has taken hold since 9/11. It says that Arabs and Muslims are only objects, never responsible for anything in their world, and we are the only subjects, responsible for everything that happens in their world. We infantilize them.'

Tom Friedman, over and over and over, for the last two weeks, on Afghanistan:

'I feel like we're like an unemployed couple who just went out and decided to adopt a special needs baby.'

The person who has spent weeks depicting Afghanistan as a "special needs baby" is now lecturing us about the "corrosive mind-set" of "infantilizing" Musl…

The real Person of the Year

It is probably because Time is American-centric that it has chosen Ben Bernanke as its Person of the Year. But is he really?

There is much to be said for David Rothkopf's choice of person of the year - as he explains, here, on his blog on FP:

"While Obama has undoubtedly made the biggest difference on the global stage this year, the most enduring image may be that of the tragic end of Neda. Iran could be the transcendental force in the Middle East, the country that could be the lynchpin to a new era of understanding and progress. No country in the region seems better suited to democracy or a role on the international stage. But it won't be until the voices of its people are heard.

Neda symbolized the promise of those people and revealed the Ahmadinejad regime and the ayatollahs who are the true puppet masters to be the blood-stained enemies of their own country they really are. History is not made by leaders ... as Gandhi knew ... but by the people they follow. Although…

America's real priorities - arms or the environment

The point is validly and easily made - as recorded on Democracy Now!:

"Bolivian President Evo Morales recently arrived in Copenhagen for the UN climate summit. In a press conference Wednesday, Morales said, “The budget of the United States is $687 billion for defense. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity, they only put up $10 billion. This is shameful.”

Copenhagen: Yeah to the protestors

Some 34,000 people are gathered in Copenhagen at the UN Climate Change Conference.

As matters presently stand the signs of anything even remotely productive, let alone worthwhile, coming out of the meeting, seems remote. The politicians seem stricken with one thing or the other to come up with a proposal all can agree on.

In an piece "It's the Protesters Who Offer the Best Hope for Our Planet" in The Independent, Johann Hari reflects on the seemingly impotent politicians and bureaucrats and salutes the protesters - who are attempting to keep the conference participants on track.

"Privately, government negotiators admit there's no way the negotiations will end with the deal scientists say is necessary for our safety. Indeed, it looks possible that this conference won't deepen and broaden the Kyoto framework, but cripple it. Kyoto established a legally binding international framework to measure and reduce emissions. The cuts it required were too small, and…

And this is what you call justice?

From The Notion on The Nation:

"Donald Gates spent the last 28 years in prison, convicted of a rape and murder he said he didn't commit.

Yesterday, he was released from jail by the same judge who originally sentenced him to 20 years to life, as new DNA evidence pointed to a different man.

Gates is now 58 years old, and for his three lost decades the government gave him some winter clothes, $75, and a bus ticket to Ohio. He had to pay his $35 cab fare to get from jail to the bus station.

The FBI analyst who testified against him was discredited--along with 13 other analysts--by a Justice Department review in 1997 for having "made false reports and performed inaccurate tests," according to the Washington Post. The judge has now ordered a review of every conviction in which this analyst testified.

Given the 1997 review, what the hell took so long?

And how many more men and women sit in jail awaiting DNA testing?

Even worse, how many innocent people have wrongly been put to de…

Climate Change: When Politics take over

Sarah Palin is such a cold-eyed skeptic about the Copenhagen summit on climate change that it’s no surprise she would call on President Barack Obama not to attend. After all, Obama might join other leaders in acknowledging that warming is a “global challenge.” He might entertain “opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” He might even explore ways to “participate in carbon-trading markets.”

These quotes are from non other than Sarah Palin herself.

"They’re from an administrative order Palin signed in September 2007, as governor of Alaska, establishing a “sub-Cabinet” of top state officials to develop a strategy for dealing with climate change.

Back then, Palin was governor of a state where “coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, retreating sea ice, record forest fires, and other changes are affecting, and will continue to affect, the lifestyles and livelihoods of Alaskans,” as she wrote. Faced with that reality, she sensibly formed the high-level working group to chart a c…

The beckoning silence: Why half of the world's languages are in serious danger of dying out

Of the 6,500 languages spoken in the world, half are expected to die out by the end of this century. Now, one man is trying to keep those voices alive by reigniting local pride in heritage and identity.

The Independent reports, here.

Court Refuses to Hear Gitmo Torture Case Claiming Detainees Are Not "Persons"

This is somewhat amazing! - but then again, knowing the constitution of the US Supreme Court, perhaps not that surprising after all.

AlterNet publishes the following news release from the Center for Constitutional Rights in piece "Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Gitmo Torture Case Claiming Detainees Are Not 'Persons'"

"Today, the United States Supreme Court refused to review a lower court's dismissal of a case brought by four British former detainees against Donald Rumsfeld and senior military officers for ordering torture and religious abuse at Guantánamo. The British detainees spent more than two years in Guantanamo and were repatriated to the U.K. in 2004.

The Obama administration had asked the court not to hear the case. By refusing to hear the case, the Court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a statute that applies by its terms to all "persons" did not apply to detainees …

How newspapers censor the Palestinian side of the story

Let it not be said that there isn't an Israel Lobby and every effort made by the Israelis to slant the "news" in their favor.

Mondoweiss [a blog well worth reading - daily] has the inside running - that is, from a recently published book by Emma Williams "It’s Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street", on how newspapers, in effect, censor the Palestinian "story" getting out there:

"In London a senior editor admitted he had been "brought to heel" by his management, and financially he couldn’t risk his position by including unacceptable–to management–balance. A radio journalist told me in Jerusalem: "When I do a Palestinian story, my editors are all over me. They tell me I must have an Israeli story to balance it, but when I do an Israeli story, there is no such request." Sometimes the journalists applied the silencing themselves: "That editor’s visit," said a Times correspondent, "was a waste of bloody t…

The Land Mines Obama Won't Touch

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs on PBS.

They write [as reprinted on CommonDreams] in "The Land Mines Obama Won't Touch" in the light of his Nobel Peace prize:

"After Nobel's death, events turned grim, as if to mock him further. The arms race exploded beyond anything he could have imagined. From the coupling of science and the military came ever more ingenious weapons of destruction that would take even more lives in ever more horrible ways.

One of the most insidious was the land mine, that small, explosive device filled with shrapnel that burns or blinds, maims or kills. Triggered by the touch of a foot or movement or even sound, more often than not it's the innocent who are its victims -- 75 to 80 percent of the time, in fact.

As a weapon, variations of land mines have been around since perhaps as early as the 13th century, but it was not until World War I t…

It's one view of things in the world!!!

Rather than slip into the shadows post the Bush Administration leaving office, former VP Cheney just can't help himself on wanting to be heard everywhere. Many would query Cheney's view of what the US is to the world....

"Well, I think most of us believe and most presidents believe and talk about the truly exceptional nature of America. Our history, where we come from, our belief in our Constitutional values and principles. Our advocacy for freedom and democracy and the fact that we’ve provided it for millions of people all over the globe and so unselfishly. There’s never been a nation like the United States of America in world history. And, yet when you have a president that goes around and bows to his host and proceeds to apologize profusely for the United States, I find that deeply disturbing. That says to me there’s a guy who doesn’t fully understand or share that view of American exceptionalism that I think most of us believe in"..


Racism alive and well in Europe

Spiegel OnLine International reports in "New Report Finds Racism Prevalent Across Europe" on a disturbing report by the EU on racism in its member countries:

"For minority groups living in Europe, everyday pursuits like shopping or visiting the doctor are often soured by discrimination. According to a new EU-wide report, racism is deeply entrenched -- and, more worryingly still, often goes unreported.

For many of Europe's ethnic minorities and immigrants, racism and discrimination is a sad fact of day-to-day life, according to a report published on Wednesday by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

Europe, whose citizens once fled in droves in favor of a more promising future elsewhere, has gradually emerged as a magnet for immigrants. But the experience of its ethnic minorities and newcomers is often far from rosy, according to the new survey. Among a raft of sobering facts, it found that on average, every second Roma and more than a third of the Sub…

War and Peace....literally - and not by Tolstoy!

Credit to Mike Luckovich

Lights and Rights

The message is loud and clear!

What is "interesting" is how the first day of the Jewish festival of Hanukah and International Rights day was marked - well, at least by some - in Israel.

CommonDreamsreports:

"Happy first night of Hannukah and International Human Rights Day, which thousands of Israelis marked for the first time by marching in Tel Aviv. Protesting the erosion of democracy in Israel, the march drew Arab rights' advocates, feminists, environmentalists, migrant workers and gay and lesbian activists."

They will breach the latest wall

When will the Americans, and others, learn? Walls, and restrictions on people, will be breached in one way or another.

Ann Wright, is a retired US Army Reserve Colonel and a former U.S. diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in as a US diplomat in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.

She writes in "Making an American 'Impenetrable Underground Wall' the Laughing Stock of the World—Leave It to the People of Gaza" on CommonDreams:

"No doubt at the instigation of the Israeli government, the Obama administration has authorized the United States Army Corps of Engineers to design a vertical underground wall under the border between Egypt and Gaza.

"In March, 2009 the United States provided the government of Egypt with $32 million in March, 2009 for electronic surveillance and other security devices to prevent the movement of food, merchandise and weapons…

How well-infomed will she, and you, be?

The Washington Post has just appointed a new Bureau Chief to its Jerusalem office. Nothing too significant about that - except the credentials of the appointee, her background and lingual skills, or rather, lack of them.

Politico reports:

"Zacharia has worked in Jerusalem with Jerusalem Report and Reuters, and in Washington as a correspondent over the past 10 years with the Jerusalem Post, New Republic, and Bloomberg"

And, more importantly:

"Janine is as comfortable in the Middle East as she is in Washington, having begun her career in Jerusalem as a correspondent for the Jerusalem Report and Reuters. She speaks fluent Hebrew and has some knowledge of Arabic."

How well-informed can this correspondent be? - and you the reader for that matter? - when this correspondent's perspective of what is happening in the Middle East is learned from her position in Jerusalem, reading Hebrew, and barely able to read or understand anything written or spoken in Arabic.

3 deaths at Gitmo raise chilling questions

Scott Horton, writing in Harper's Magazine, again reveals "news" which rarely attracts the MSM:

"On June 10, 2006, the Pentagon announced that three prisoners held at Guantánamo’s Camp Delta had committed suicide. But senior Bush Administration officials quickly went one step further: violating the normal rules of decorum, they unleashed intense verbal abuse against the deceased. Prison commander Rear Admiral Harry Harris said, “This was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetric warfare committed against us.” Senior Bush State Department official Colleen Graffy called the deaths “a good PR move” and “a tactic to further the jihadi cause.” An investigation was prepared by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that backed up these claims, but it was only released in fragmentary form months later. Were these aggressive comments and an almost incomprehensible NCIS report intentionally obscuring very different facts?

Now an exhaustive study by faculty and stud…

Some "military intelligence!"

From CommonDreams [and believe it's true!]:

"During an inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq war, a British MP said an Iraqi taxi driver was the source of the bogus claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. This guy may or may not have overheard something about missiles in the back of his cab - two years earlier. This was the evidence for going to war. Surreal."

Alice in Wonderland alive and well

"Leave it to the State Department to soft-pedal religious extremism in the Middle East. Oh not in, say, Iran or Saudi Arabia. In the most recent edition of the department’s annual Report on International Religious Freedom, both are designated “Countries of Particular Concern,” members of a select group chastised for their extreme intolerance. Which is as it should be.

But where is State’s acknowledgement of the happenings – from the absurd to the inhumane – in another, nearby country, where religious chauvinism has reached depths equaling those among any of its neighbors? I’m talking, of course, about the State of Israel – a place unfit, it seems, for any “particular concern” from Hillary & Co.

Certainly, the Report reports on Israel. But to avoid grouping the Jewish State with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and similarly intolerant countries, its authors resort to language one can only describe as Carrollian, leading readers through a looking glass in which words, as Humpty Dumpty would …

Damaged goods...in a real bunker!

Credit to Daryl Cage on MSNBC.com

Afghanistan: The wider and real toll

Obama has decreed another 30,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan. Other countries are also committing to sending more personnel of one description or another.

Being involved in war obviously carries risks with it - serious injury and even possible death. There are also much wider ramifications, as this op-ed piece "A Fearful Price" by Bob Herbert in The NY Times reveals:

"There was an article in The Times on Monday about a new study showing that the eight years of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan were taking an emotional toll on the children of service members and that the difficulties increased the longer parents were deployed.

There is no way that the findings of this study should be a surprise to anyone. It just confirms that the children of those being sent into combat are among that tiny percentage of the population that is unfairly shouldering the entire burden of these wars.

The idea that fewer than 1 percent of Americans are being called on to fight in Afghani…

UN warns of rising tensions as refugees flood into cities

"From the slums of Kabul to the shanties of Damascus, more than half of the world's refugees are now scraping by on tiny strips of land in increasingly overcrowded, overburdened cities.

Rather than living in rows of neatly pegged white canvas UN tents set up in fields as the public might imagine it, aid officials have revealed that more than 50 per cent of the planet's 10.5 million refugees are now battling to get by in urban areas. Cities also contain more than 20 million internal refugees and displaced people.

"We need to abandon the outmoded image that most refugees live in sprawling camps of tents," said Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "What we are witnessing is that more and more refugees live in cities. The rights of refugees travel with them wherever they flee and they are entitled to the same protection and services in cities and towns that they have traditionally received in camps."

The Independent reports on a problem th…

A Letter [with the real facts] from Kabul

Michael Shank is the communications director for US Congressman Michael Honda.

Writing in The Nation, he portrays what is really going on in Kabul - and not air-brushed as governments and media have. As Obama commits another 30,000 military to Afghanistan, the Shank's piece makes for sober reading.

"Returning to Washington this week, after a whirlwind tour in Afghanistan, I am dizzy, not from delight but from the overwhelming disconnect between rhetoric stateside and reality Asia-side. Thankfully, my boss, Congressman Michael Honda, chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus's Afghanistan Taskforce, is trying to penetrate this rhetoric and advocate that reality. But it is not an easy job, especially in a town where sound bites often usurp sound analysis. This week, as I drafted talking points for the Congressman in preparation for an interview with the Wall Street Journal, I stumbled, not on words but on emotion. What I had just experienced in Afghanistan was so fa…

Calling the shots in Washington...from Israel

"There is an amazing story in Ha'aretz today on the "pro-Israel" litmus test that determines who is permitted to serve in the United States government. Here's the sort of lede you're not likely to read in the New York Times or Washington Post:

"Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community."In the case of Obama's government in particular, every criticism against Israel made by a potential government appointee has become a catalyst for debate about whether appointing "another leftist" offers proof that Obama does not truly support Israel."Truly amazing, this piece by Stephen Walt - taking up on a piece in Haaretz - writing his blog on FP.

One Voice .......almost everywhere

In an unprecedented consensus, 56 newspapers in 45 countries around the world are publishing one front-page editorial on the urgent need to address climate change now.

"The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it."

Not all countries have seen the editorial published. Australia is one of them.

For those interested in the one-voice editorial, newmatilda has published it, here.

What is good for the goose.....!

Credit to Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah

The man who smuggled himself into Auschwitz

When millions would have done anything to get out, one remarkable British soldier smuggled himself into Auschwitz to witness the horror so he could tell others the truth.

Believable? Yes, as this report on BBC Magazine shows.

Damnable Dick Cheney

James Fallow, writing on The Atlantic Monthly, makes out a justified case against former VP, Dick Cheney:

"The former vice president, Dick Cheney, has brought dishonor to himself, his office, and his country. I am not aware of another former President or Vice President behaving as despicably as Cheney has done in the ten months since leaving power, most recently but not exclusively with his comments to Politico about Obama's decisions on Afghanistan. (Aaron Burr might win the title, for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, but Burr was a sitting Vice President at the time.) Cheney has acted as if utterly unconcerned with the welfare of his country, its armed forces, or the people now trying to make difficult decisions. He has put narrow score-settling interest far, far above national interest."

Read the full piece here.

Why they hate the US: How many Muslims has the US killed?

Stephen Walt, writing his blog on FP:

"Tom Friedman had an especially fatuous column in Sunday's New York Times, which is saying something given his well-established capacity for smug self-assurance. According to Friedman, the big challenge we face in the Arab and Islamic world is "the Narrative" -- his patronizing term for Muslim views about America's supposedly negative role in the region. If Muslims weren't so irrational, he thinks, they would recognize that "U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny." He concedes that we made a few mistakes here and there (such as at Abu Ghraib), but the real problem is all those anti-American fairy tales that Muslims tell each other to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions."

And:

"Here's my back-of-the-envelope analysis, based on estimates deliberately chosen to favor the United States. Specifically, I have taken the low e…