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Showing posts from March, 2010

Has Iraq Just Elected a Mass-Murderer?

Mmmm! AlterNet raises more than a thorny and "interesting" question about the recently elected - although now the subject of challenge - Iraqi PM.

"We can’t know whether the new Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, murdered six restrained men in cold blood while a mix of Iraqi and American guards looked on in shock.

What we do know is that Allawi was alleged to have committed the gruesome crime just before the “hand-over” of the government to Iraqi nationals in 2004 (he served as interim prime minister in Iraq’s transitional government). The allegations were made by an award-winning journalist in a major mainstream publication -- Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald -- relying on two sources who confirmed details of the event independently of one another.

We also know that the American media, with few exceptions, killed the story entirely. The few outlets that alluded to the charges did so with such a degree of skepticism -- essentially accepting official denials (and ha…

Israel's modern plague

Jews the world over are just celebrating Passover - the departure of the Jews from Egypt in ancient times and before they spent 40 years in the desert before entering the so-called Promised Land. The "story" of Passover includes the 10 plagues which occurred in Egypt.

Move forward to March 2010, and Akiva Eldar, writing in the Haaretz in "The plague of darkness has struck modern Israelites" tackles the modern plague confronting Israel:

"One of the harshest of the 10 plagues has smitten the children of Israel this Passover, and they are stumbling about in pitch darkness, bumping blindly into anyone in their way as they head toward the edge of the precipice. Warm friends, cool friends, icy enemies: Jordan and Turkey, Brazil and Britain, Germany and Australia - it's all the same.

And if that's not enough, the myopic Jewish state also has gone and collided head-on with the ally that offers existential support. Israel has become an environmental hazard and …

Afghanistan: The heavy, heavy cost

From CommonDreams [reprinted from "Rethink Afghanistan/Brave New Films"]:

"During this economic crisis, when Americans are struggling to make ends meet and when state budgets are facing multi-billion-dollar shortfalls, the U.S. government continues to charge taxpayers $200,000 per minute for the Afghanistan war. For our money, were getting troops dying at twice the rate compared to this time last year; broken, corrupt and incompetent Afghan National Security Forces; and increased risk of suicide terrorism."

How you receive your news....

It's all about the language employed in what we read and hear from the media.

Some examples:

Last Saturday "The Australian" newspaper had Greg Sheridan, the paper's Foreign Editor and Murdoch's "man", who is always more one-eyed than could ever be seen as remotely reasonable or objective, stating that Obama had declared "anti-Israel jihad" on Israel. Eh?
medialens has taken up what it describes as the BBC's one-sidedness:

"When a Thai kibbutz worker was killed in Israel by a rocket launched from Gaza last week, BBC News online gave the incident headline coverage flagged up on its home page. (BBC news online, ‘Rocket fire from Gaza kills man in southern Israel’, 23:42 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8574138.stm)

By contrast, the killing of two Palestinian teenagers, Mohammad Qadus and Osaid Qadus, by Israeli soldiers on Saturday was buried at the end of a short news report on UN Secretary-Gener…

Pilger: It looks like wars looming everywhere

There are many who dislike John Pilger [veteran and much awarded journalist, commentator and film-maker] but when he writes he knows his facts. Whether his prognosis on everything is always right may be a matter of debate.

In his latest piece "Have a Nice World War, Folks" for CommonDreams, Pilger paints a rather grim picture of what he says are possible looming wars:

"Here is news of the Third World War. The United States has invaded Africa. US troops have entered Somalia, extending their war front from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and now the Horn of Africa. In preparation for an attack on Iran, American missiles have been placed in four Persian Gulf states, and "bunker-buster" bombs are said to be arriving at the US base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

In Gaza, the sick and abandoned population, mostly children, is being entombed behind underground American-supplied walls in order to reinforce a criminal siege. In Latin Americ…

13 + 6 [including half-an-hour]

Obama flew to Afghanistan - to pep up the troops and tackle some important issues with President Karzai.

The trip involved an overnight 13 hour flight from Washington to the Bagram Air Force Base. In all the US president was in Afghanistan a total 6 hours.

And those critical issues the 2 presidents canvassed?

"The White House described the talks as "very productive" and "businesslike," and included discussions of about "governance, merit-based appointments of Afghan officials, and corruption," according to reports from the ground" - as TPM reports.

But all those important points of discussion took 30 minutes. Yes, half-an-hour!:

"In Afghanistan today, Obama met with Karzai one-on-one for about a half hour" - TPM.

Need for a Nope

Trust Maureen Dowd to go where others might fear to tread!

In her latest op-ed piece "A Nope for Pope" in The New York Times she tackles the Catholic Churchs' now critical issue of its failure - and evidently that of the current Pope - to deal with rampant molestation of boys by various Church clergymen:

"Yup, we need a Nope.

A nun who is pope.

The Catholic Church can never recover as long as its Holy Shepherd is seen as a black sheep in the ever-darkening sex abuse scandal.

Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed “God’s Rottweiler” when he was the church’s enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.

The church has been tone deaf and dumb on the scandal for so long that it’s shocking, but not surprising, to learn from The Times’s Laurie Goodstein that a group of deaf former students spent 30 years try…

Global warming solves the problem!

No comment necessary - save that sceptics of Global Warming might care to take note.

From FP:

"From Africa to the Himalayas, everyone's worried about global warming's potential to drive world conflict. But what about the disputes it will solve? A long-running argument between India and Bangladesh over a small island in the Bay of Bengal has just been resolved: the island's not there anymore:

New Moore Island [also known as South Talpatti] in the Sunderbans has been completely submerged, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said.

"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Hazra."

Jamie Oliver's wake up call

He is taking on the USA, but what renowned Brit chef Jamie Oliver has to say in addressing Americans applies with equal force to many countries around the world.

AlterNet has published an address by Oliver to TED. An extract:

"Diet-related disease is the biggest killer in the United States, right now, here today. This is a global problem. It's a catastrophe. It's sweeping the world. England is right behind you, as usual.

I know they were close, but not that close. We need a revolution. Mexico, Australia, Germany, India, China, all have massive problems of obesity and bad health. Think about smoking. It costs way less than obesity now. Obesity costs you Americans 10 percent of your health care bills. 150 billion dollars a year. In 10 years, it's set to double. 300 billion dollars a year. And let's be honest, guys, you ain't got that cash."

Read the complete talk here - and watch the video too.

Madame Secretary Speaks!

Credit to Mr Fish on Harper's Magazine

Afghanistan: All that money for nought

"America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster. More than $322 million worth of invoices for police training were approved even though the funds were poorly accounted for, according to a government audit, and fewer than 12 percent of the country's police units are capable of operating on their own. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department's top representative in the region, has publicly called the Afghan police "an inadequate organization, riddled with corruption." During the Obama administration's review of Afghanistan policy last year, "this issue received more attention than any other except for the question of U.S. troop levels," Holbrooke later told NEWSWEEK. "We drilled down deep into this."

The worst of it is that the police are cent…

It's all a matter of perspective

Credit to Mike Lester, Rome News-Tribune

Chomsky: Globalization Marches On

Noam Chomsky in The NY Times [reproduced on CommonDreams] on globalisation's relentless onwards march:

"Shifts in global power, ongoing or potential, are a lively topic among policy makers and observers. One question is whether (or when) China will displace the United States as the dominant global player, perhaps along with India.

Such a shift would return the global system to something like it was before the European conquests. Economic growth in China and India has been rapid, and because they rejected the West's policies of financial deregulation, they survived the recession better than most. Nonetheless, questions arise.

One standard measure of social health is the U.N. Human Development Index. As of 2008, India ranks 134th, slightly above Cambodia and below Laos and Tajikistan, about where it has been for many years. China ranks 92nd-tied with Belize, a bit above Jordan, below the Dominican Republic and Iran.

India and China also have very high inequality, so more than a…

Bibi sent packing

The news of how the Israeli PM was treated by Obama when Netanyuha visited the White House has an irony to it. The defiant PM [watch him at the AIPAC Conference earlier this week] given the cold shoulder by Israeli's "rock solid" [remember, Hilary's words?] friend.

This piece, "Bibi's Bluster", in Newsweek the other day, captures well and encapsulates the issues confronting Israel, the US and the rest of the world:

"Meanwhile, the central problem persists: Israel rules more than 3 million Palestinians who will never become citizens of Israel and yet do not have their own state. As they multiply, Israel's status as a democracy becomes more and more complex; the country looks more and more like an island of rich Israelis set in a sea of Palestinian serfs. If gradually the two-state solution becomes impossible to implement—because of Israeli settlements, Palestinian rejectionism, whatever—Israel's own Arab population will threaten the state&#…

Izzy Award Winner: "We're At a Ground Zero Moment to Save Real Journalism"

Jeremy Scahill will be know to readers of his international best-selling books and as a journalist writing for, amongst others, The Nation and AlterNet. He also appears on Democracy Now.

From AlterNet:

"The winner of the second annual Izzy Award, named after muckraking journalist I.F. Stone, discusses independent media and this critical moment in journalism."

An example of the Q & A:

"Byard Duncan: What does it mean to be an "independent journalist?"

Jeremy Scahill: I would define an independent journalist as someone that's totally un-embedded when it comes to their relationship with the powerful. In other words, you don't get into bed with any political party. I'm not a Democrat; I'm not a Republican. I'm a journalist. It means that you don't get in bed with the military, with the CIA, or wealthy corporations, and you don't compromise your journalistic or your personal integrity in the pursuit of anything, including a story.

I bel…

Speech....and the threat to it

The discourse in America on the now passed health bill - as well as on other topics - has been virulent and in many respects unhinged. The language and actions employed by many, much of it goaded on by the right-wing and the GOP, has been downright offensive and over the top.

The subject of how people express themselves is the subject of Bob Herbert's latest op-ed piece "An Absence of Class" in The New York Times:

"Some of the images from the run-up to Sunday’s landmark health care vote in the House of Representatives should be seared into the nation’s consciousness. We are so far, in so many ways, from being a class act.

A group of lowlifes at a Tea Party rally in Columbus, Ohio, last week taunted and humiliated a man who was sitting on the ground with a sign that said he had Parkinson’s disease. The disgusting behavior was captured on a widely circulated videotape. One of the Tea Party protesters leaned over the man and sneered: “If you’re looking for a handout, y…

Troubles in the Church [again!]

Credit to Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Update: See this report in The New York Timestoday:

"Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal."

The 10 Most Outrageous Right-Wing Freakouts Over the Health Care Bill

"The Monday after Congress passed historic health care legislation was a dark day for the right wing. Wouldn’t you be upset if you were doomed to live in a communist dystopia? Is there even a point in living once Nancy Pelosi kills every baby in America and your grandmother?

And by "upset," we mean certifiably insane. Here are the 10 most awesomely overwrought right-wing freakouts spurred by the passage of a bill that promises to extend coverage to tens of millions of the uninsured and curb some of the most inhumane abuses of the insurance industry."

So begins a piece on AlterNet - in which it details 10 responses to the passing of the health bill.

The only thing left to do is shake one's head!

The good-oil on Google and China

Google and China seem to be headed on a collision course - now that Google is no longer going to censor its search engine.

The background is well detailed in Andrew Lih's [currently USC Annenberg Journalism professor and director of new media] blog:

"Google announced today in a blog post that it has redirected visitors headed for google.cn to google.com.hk.

So earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn. Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong.

As someone based in both Beijing and Hong Kong for significant periods in the 2000s and has been asked to comment on Google-China previously, here’s a backgrounder with some basic questions I’ve answered for reporters about the issue."

Continue reading here.

Tony [The Pong] Blair

The audacity and greed of former Brit PM Tony Blair knows no bounds.

Having fought the revelation of Blair's pursuit of earning income from questionable sources - and lost - the British MailOnLine [that is, The Daily Mail] editorialises:

"Secret contracts, shady oil deals, foreign multinationals, Middle Eastern rulers and a former prime minister whose cosy relationship with the U.S. was bought with the blood of British soldiers.

Not, sadly, the plot of a racy novel but the true story of Tony Blair after Downing Street (though don’t expect to read it in his impending £4.6million memoirs).

For nearly two years, Mr Blair has been trying to suppress the truth about his advice to a South Korean company that was working on an oil deal in Iraq, and to the Kuwaiti government.

Now Whitehall’s business appointments committee has insisted on transparency, but Mr Blair still won’t explain exactly what services he is providing.

This is deeply troubling. Mr Blair’s greatest commercial asset is h…

Thankfully, resistance continues in Iran

Yesterday [Saturday, 20 March] marked the Iranian New Year.



"I want to share with you a film of a crowd gathered last night in the shrine of the Persian poet Hafez seeing the Iranian New Year in Shiraz. They can be heard chanting “An Iranian would rather die and live under subjugation” and “yah Hossein- Mir-Hossein".

A new one! A web page for you, me......and everyone

This must be a first. A web page for every citizen.

That is what the British government is set to reveal - as The Independent reports in "Every citizen to have a webpage under new public services plan":

"Everyone in the country is to be given a personalised webpage for accessing Government services within a year as part of a plan to save billions of pounds by putting all public services online, Gordon Brown is to announce.

The Prime Minister has previously hailed the potential for the internet to slash the costs of delivering services by reducing paper forms, face-to-face contact with officials, postage, phone calls and building costs.

He is now set to use a speech on Monday to unveil plans to give every voter a unique identifier allowing them to apply for school places, book GP appointments, claim benefits, get a new passport, pay council tax or register a car.

Within another three years, the Times reported, the secure site would include a Facebook-style interactive ser…

Oh Sarah.....

Credit to [the brilliant] Pat Oliphant at The NY Times

On the day that the US Congress, finally, passed Obama's health insurance Bill - even if watered down to meet this and that objection to the original - it is worth remembering that Sarah Palin, the GOP's VP candidate in 2008, claimed a while back that what President Obama wanted in his reform of health insurance for all Americans, would lead to death panels - that is, panels which would decide who was to live or die! Yep!

Iraq: Delayed democracy

The elections have concluded in Iraq.

The outcome looks like being a disaster - as Fawaz Gerges [a professor of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science] points out in this piece in The Guardian'sComment is Free:

"Although Iraq's second parliamentary elections since the US-led invasion represent a milestone, they will neither resolve the country's existential crisis nor bring it closer to genuine democracy. Results released by the inept Independent High Electoral Commission show little change in political attitudes and loyalties. On the whole, Iraqis did not vote according to party or ideology. Sect, ethnicity, and tribe trumpeted other loyalties, including the nation.

For the foreseeable future, Iraqi politics will be toxically fragmented along sectarian, ethnic, and personality lines, though fear of all-out civil war is unwarranted. A week after the balloting, prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's Sta…

Er, perhaps not All the News That's Fit to Print!

The New York Times prides itself, and publishes under the banner "All the News That's Fit to Print".

Not so quick! Perhaps not....as Laura Flanders queries in a piece on The Nation:

"So non-news led the news at the Times and they weren't alone. Makes you wonder about the Grey Lady's slogan: "All the News that's Fit To Print." Can anyone give me a definition?"

Read Flander's piece here.

An Act Which Could Set U.S. on Path to Military Dictatorship

Anything extreme is dangerous! All too sadly the last years have seen belligerency, anger and irrational and responses [often without any thought as to there consequences] to a range of things.

The so-called threat of and from terrorism has resulted in many countries introducing legislation which curb, and severely so, previously "sacred" rights of citizens. America has seen extremely "severe" Acts.

Now, read this piece from AlterNet, and be concerned.......very concerned! This Act could ensnare anyone, American or not, anywhere in the world.

"On March 4th, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced a bill called the "Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010" that, if passed, would set this country on a course to become a military dictatorship.

The bill is only 12 pages long, but that is plenty of room to grant the president the power to order the arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment of anyone -- includi…

Who pulls the [real] strings?

Credit to Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Iraq: A sobering [7th] anniversary

March 20 sees the 7th anniversary of the Iraq War - the Shock and Awe as the Coalition of the Willing launched an all-out attack on Baghdad.

Iraq still spins out of control in many material respects even with the "removal" of Saddam. And, of course, even now, no one has found those WMD's used as the basis for the War.

A Dr Gideon Polya, a lecturer in Australia, has written a letter to countercurrents.org with stats succinctly detailing what the War wrought:

"Dear Sir,

It is the 7th anniversary of the illegal and war criminal invasion of Iraq by US, UK and Australian forces on 20 March 2003. What has been the human cost?

As of 20 March 2010 post-invasion violent deaths in Occupied Iraq total 1.4 million (according to the eminent US Just Foreign Policy).

Post-invasion under-5 infant deaths total 0.8 million and post-invasion non-violent excess deaths (avoidable deaths, deaths that did not have to happen) total 1.1 million (based on 2006 revision data from the UN Popula…

Eh? Wiklileaks.org a security risk?

You have to wonder whether the Pentagon intends making himself a bigger laughing-stock than it already is.

The New York Times reports on Wikileaks.org being regarded as a security risk by the Pentagon. And who reported on that initially? None other than Wikileaks when it published the Pentagon report!

"To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks.org, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret.

The Pentagon assessed the danger WikiLeaks.org posed to the Army in a report marked “unauthorized disclosure subject to criminal sanctions.” It concluded that “WikiLeaks.org represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, OPSEC and INFOSEC threat to the U.S. Army” — or, in plain English, a threat to Army operations and information.

WikiLeaks, true to its mission to publish materials that expose secrets of all kinds, published the…

You might have to pass on sushi for that meal

Sad to say even if the Japanese love their sushi - as do many others around the world - as things presently look, because the Atlantic Bluefin tuna faces extinction, we may all have to content ourselves with sushi off our collective menus.

BBC News reports on a proposed ban of international trading in the Atlantic Bluefin tuna having been rejected at a UN conference this week:

"A proposal to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is a sushi mainstay in Japan, has been rejected by a UN wildlife meeting.

Thursday's decision occurred after Japan, Canada and many poor nations opposed the measure on the grounds it would devastate fishing economies.

Monaco tabled the plan at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Stocks have fallen by about 85% since the industrial fishing era began.

Monaco argued that the organisation responsible for managing the bluefin fishery - the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic …

Into the terrifying world of Pakistan's 'disappeared'

Remember all those, mainly men, who simply disappeared in Argentina without trace years ago? - and the mothers and wives who maintained a vigil and protested to try and ascertain what had become of their loved ones?

Well, the same is happening in Pakistan post 9/11 - thanks to the Americans' actions in the strife-torn country.

Robert Fisk explains in this report from Pakistan in The Independent:

"If you want to know how brutally Pakistan treats its people, you should meet Amina Janjua. An intelligent painter and interior designer, she sits on the vast sofa of her living room in Rawalpindi – a room that somehow accentuates her loneliness – scarf wound tightly round her head, serving tea and biscuits like the middle-class woman she is. And although neither a soldier nor a policeman has ever laid a hand on her, she is a victim of her country's cruel oppression. Because, five years ago, her husband Masood became one of Pakistan's "disappeared".

It is a scand…

Rachel Corrie's Memory, Israel's Image

Neve Gordon is an Israeli activist and the author of Israel's Occupation.

In this week when the Middle East dominates the news in the light of the spat between Israel and the US - heaven knows whether after all the noise something positive comes out of it - and more questions than usual are being asked about why America should "embrace" Israel so wholeheartedly, Gordon writes in The Nation about the 7th anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie [now a lightning rod], a law suit being pursued by her parents in Israel and the morality of Israel's actions, specifically in the Corrie case, and more widely.

"Seven years ago today, Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a Caterpillar D9R Israeli bulldozer while nonviolently protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah, Gaza Strip, along with other members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Now her parents, sister and brother are suing the State of Israel and the defense minister, claiming wrongful…

Stress: The Antidote

Feeling a little stressed?

The National Trust in the UK has been handing out fresh air captured in jam jars at English country spots to stressed out city workers in an attempt to get them to visit the great outdoors. It filled 100 jars. The National Trust study claims 72% of people said seeing the sea was the quickest and most effective stress reliever, followed by a walk in the countryside (66%), contact with fresh air (59%) and feeling sand between their toes (33%).

The camera doesn't lie!

With the advent of the camera, it has been much harder to "cover up" facts on the ground. Rarely does the camera lie - and it is an almost perfect "recorder" of events in a truly visual, immediate and true setting.

Abbey Zimet, on CommonDreams, pays tribute to Charles Moore, who in the south of America, documented the state of play in relation to the divisions between whites and blacks:

" Moore, a Southern gentleman who passionately documented - and some say spurred on - the civil rights movement has died at 79. His photographs were collected in "Powerful Days: The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore."

Over at The Independent they too pay tribute to Moore in "Charles Moore: Making history through the lens".

From Bill Eppridge, a Life magazine colleague of Moore's:

So sad.

Many of us knew him very well.

A true Southern Gentleman.

A fine Journalist.

Thoughtful, incisive, compassionate,

An Artist."

The Pope fairly and squarely in the firing line

It isn't a matter of being anti-Catholic or against the Pope, but the news out of Germany on how the now-Pope dealt with a child-molester puts him squarely in the firing line as having, as so many others in the Church, swept child-molestation under the carpet.

The Daily Dish reports in "How Is The Pope Different From Cardinal Law?"

"A priest is discovered to have been actively molesting children. His superior is notified in 1980. One of the things he is told of is the priest's forcing an 11 year old boy to perform oral sex on him. The superior does not contact the police. He approves a transfer of the priest to a different city, where the priest is required to undergo therapy but is also subsequently able to resume his work with access to children. Six years later, the priest is again found guilty of abusing children. This time, he serves a sentence, but he is subsequently allowed to resume work as a priest, with the church authorities hiding his past from future …

No Ink, No Paper: What's The Value Of An E-Book?

The growing popularity of e-books has raised a difficult question in the publishing marketplace that used to have an easy answer: What's a book worth?

Because they cost less to produce, consumers think e-books should be cheap. But publishers are afraid that if the price goes too low, they may never recover from the diminished expectations.

Say what you will, the Kindle, Nook and the forthcoming Apple iPad will revolutionise how we read books. Bottom line, will the ebook "kill" publishing as we know it? Publishers are concerned, as they well might be.

npr explains:

"The growing popularity of e-books has raised a difficult question in the publishing marketplace that used to have an easy answer: What's a book worth?

Because they cost less to produce, consumers think e-books should be cheap. But publishers are afraid that if the price goes too low, they may never recover from the diminished expectations.

Some observers wonder if the publishers' pricing strateg…

Afghanistan: Another Nato botch with tragic consequences

Leaving to one side for the moment that the media, apart from the TimesOnLine, has simply avoided publishing anything of this - and one has to ask why? - it appears that yet another travesty has occurred in Afghanistan when Nato forces killed some civilian women, including 2 who were pregnant.

"A night raid carried out by US and Afghan gunmen led to the deaths of two pregnant women, a teenage girl and two local officials in an atrocity which Nato then tried to cover up, survivors have told The Times.

The operation on Friday, February 12, was a botched pre-dawn assault on a policeman’s home a few miles outside Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, eastern Afghanistan. In a statement after the raid titled “Joint force operating in Gardez makes gruesome discovery”, Nato claimed that the force had found the women’s bodies “tied up, gagged and killed” in a room.

A Times investigation suggests that Nato’s claims are either wilfully false or, at best, misleading. More than a dozen surviv…

Accessing the Eichmann Files....Now!

An interesting question! Why are the Germans not prepared to release the files on Eichmann post WW2? What is there to hide?

SpiegelOnLine reports on an attempt to gain access to the files:

"Fifty years after Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann's arrest by the Israeli Mossad in Argentina, basic details about his 15 years as a fugitive remain a government secret. The files kept by Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, remain classified today -- allegedly for reasons of national security. A German journalist is now suing in a federal court for the release of the files.

Fifty years have passed since Adolf Eichmann's arrest, but the German foreign intelligence agency, the BND, is still hoping to prevent the release of files detailing his post-war movements. A Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig is currently examining almost 4,500 pages of secret documents on Eichmann, a leading architect of Hitler's plans to murder Europe's Jews. The court is soon…

More than a bad doggie

Credit to Daryl Cargle, MSNBC

It is reported [for example, here, here and here] that relations between Israel and the US are stretched - to say the least. Not surprising when one brings sober thinking to it.

Whata place to buy a book

This must surely rank as the most beautiful bookstore in the world.......an old movie theatre.

boingboing reports:

"Bueno Aires's Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid used to be a beautiful movie palace. Saved from the wrecker's ball, it is now one of the most majestic bookstores I've ever clapped eyes upon, a veritable temple to books.

Marilyn sez, "El Ateneo Grand Splendid in downtown Buenos Aires is a spectacular bookstore that retains all the glamour of its former life as a 1920s movie palace, with a original balconies, painted ceiling, ornate carvings and crimson stage curtains. Photo by Bob Krist for National Geographic Traveler. The Guardian named El Ateneo as one of the top ten bookshops in the world (along with Secret Headquarters):'Where else can you sit in a theater box and leisurely read a volume of Neruda, or sip a cortado where Carlos Gardel once performed?'"

Good Health....for some!

For those living outside America, watching the ongoing debate about health-care reform is "interesting" and oft-times plain puzzling. How can a supposedly enlightened wealthy country in this, the 21st century, allow some 42 million of its citizens to have no medical insurance and / or go broke paying medical bills? - or in many instances, simply not being able to afford medical care at all.

An "interesting" insight into the American health insurance "system" comes via this piece by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship on CounterPunch:

"Living in these United States, there comes a point at which you throw your hands up in exasperation and despair and ask a fundamental question or two: how much excess profit does corporate America really need? How much bigger do executive salaries and bonuses have to be, how many houses or jets or artworks can be crammed into a life? After all, as billionaire movie director Steven Spielberg is reported to have said, when…

Debt = Equals Going Backwards for Poor Nations

That poor nations get the raw end of the stick isn't new! Whenever politicians in the West speak piously of spending money in, say, Africa, it inevitably ends up as a good photo-op but the monies promised rarely come through.

Read this from Share the World's Resources and you will readily see how poor nations are forever in debt - and unable to spend money on critically important things like healthcare, education, etc.

"Between 1970 and 2002, the continent of Africa received some $540 billion in loans. However, a U.N. study showed that, despite repaying some $550 billion in principal and interest over the same period, there was still some $295 billion outstanding.

In 2005, as a result of its outstanding debt, Kenya was obliged to spend as much on the servicing of its debt as it allocated to health, water, roads, agriculture, transport and finance combined. Indonesia, whose debt was largely run up by previous dictators, used up almost 25 percent of its budget on debt serv…

Israel's "democracy" on show: Hundreds of children in jail

Israel is always touted as the only democracy in the Middle East. If so, it is difficult to think of any democracy, anywhere, which imprisons hundreds of children, as young as 12, without trial for days on end - for throwing stones!

The Guardian / The Observer reports today in "Jail ordeal of hundreds of Palestinian children arrested for throwing stones":

"With more than 300 Palestinian children being held in Israeli prisons, human rights groups and Palestinian officials are increasingly concerned about the actions of the Israeli military.

The Israeli group B'Tselem said that security forces had "severely violated" the rights of a number of children, aged between 12 and 15, who had been taken into custody in recent months.

The family of one 13-year-old boy from Hebron who was arrested on 27 February by a military patrol and detained for eight days have brought a legal case against the authorities. The teenager, Al-Hasan Muhtaseb, described how he had been …

Noam Chomsky: Iran pursuing nuclear weapons out of fear

What do you reckon? Has Noam Chomsky got more than a valid point about Iran's development of nuclear power?

The Harvard Law Record reports:

"Even the most radical conservative can agree with Noam Chomsky on at least one thing. “No one in their right mind wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons.” But to Chomsky, nonproliferation requires reciprocal action, rather than international condemnation. Chomsky's reputation as a prolific author of books on subjects including linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, political science, and media might lead one to believe that his views stem from esoteric theoretical arguments, but Chomsky takes a pragmatic view of international relations. His conclusion is that Iran is developing nuclear weapons out of a rational fear for its national safety because of the systematically threatening posture of the United States and Israel.

Speaking at Harvard's Memorial Church on Saturday, March 6th, Chomsky critiqued the foreign policy o…

Yep, Clinton and Obama are to blame for 9/11 and terrorism!

Yes, you read the banner-headline correctly.

The madness of American politics has thrown up that Karl Rove & Co., and others like them, are now revising "history" to claim that there were no terrorist acts on US soil during George Bushs' time in the White House. Eh? 9/11? Nope, that was Bill Clinton's fault. And there has been terrorism on American soil during Obama's time as president. You missed it? It was the shooting at Fort Hood.

Frank Rich, writing his regular op-ed piece in The New York Times scratches his head in "The New Rove-Cheney Assault on Reality":

"The opening salvo, fired on Fox News during Thanksgiving week, aroused little notice: Dana Perino, the former White House press secretary, declared that “we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.” Rudy Giuliani upped the ante on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in January. “We had no domestic attacks under Bush,” he said. “We’ve had…

Iran: Women take a step backwards post the Occupation

The Coalition of the Willing may congratulate themselves on what they believe they achieved in Iraq by overthrowing Saddam, but the women of Iraq have a very different opinion. Their position in the country has markedly deteriorated - and that leaves aside the lack of security and many other critical issues.

Inter Press Services explains:

"Under Saddam Hussein, women in government got a year's maternity leave; that is now cut to six months. Under the Personal Status Law in force since Jul. 14, 1958, when Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy, Iraqi women had most of the rights that Western women do.

Now they have Article 2 of the Constitution: "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation." Sub-head A says "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam." Under this Article the interpretation of women's rights is left to religious leaders - and many of them are under Iranian influence.

&qu…

Lotsa noise....no action!

Credited to Daryl Cagle, MSNBC.com

A World Without Signs?

Does the advent of GPS mean we'll no longer need them?

It's a question posed in a piece on Slate:

"In the summer of 2008, a satellite navigation specialist named Colin Beatty fired up a 27-slide Power Point presentation titled "Could personal navigation systems herald the demise of much fixed signage?" Perhaps out of deference to his audience—Beatty was presenting to the Sign Design Society, Britain's leading association for environmental graphic design—the tone was somewhat measured. (Note Beatty's use of could and much.) But Beatty, who founded his satnav consultancy CBil 23 years ago, had bad news for the sign world: He believes the advent of geolocational technology will eventually kill the sign.

Sign designers tend to sniff at predictions of their obsolescence. Satellite navigation technology has been around in one form or another since the 1960s, though consumer applications have gained ground only in the last decade. We can now find personal navigati…

Lest we forget: The world's conflicts in photos

"Iran: Objecting to incumbent President Ahmadinejad's victory in the 2009 presidential election, millions of Iranians took to the streets in support of opposition candidate Mir Hossein-Mousavi, who they thought had legitimately won the election, and in protest of what they thought to have been Ahmadinejad's electoral fraud. The electoral protests, which were soon collectively referred to as the "Green Revolution", marked the most significant event in Iranian politics since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But unlike the regimes that were unseated as a result the color revolutions" that swept across Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine during the first half of the decade, the Iranian regime showed no reservations about using force to quash the protesters. Here, a protester wearing a symbolic green wristband covers his face after an altercation on Dec. 27, 2009 with the Basij, a praetorian guard that doubles as a thuggish internal security service."

FP has a photo es…

McCarthyism 2010 style

There is disturbing evidence of McCarthyism creeping into the body-politic in many countries. Israel is one of the more prominent ones. So, it is in the US - where what this piece "The New McCarthyism" on creators. com shows. It is troubling and dangerous trend, the consequences of which should be well-enough known from when Joe McCarthy was riding high in America in the 1950's.

"The national madness known as "McCarthyism" began 60 years ago in Wheeling, W.V., when Joseph R. McCarthy held up a scrap of paper that supposedly listed the names of 57 State Department officials he said were actually Communists and traitors.

Eventually, America learned that the Wisconsin Republican's famous list was a fabrication, that he was a liar and a demagogue as well as an alcoholic — and that his authoritarian appeals to fear were worse than useless in defending our security. But by then, McCarthyism's self-serving and fundamentally unpatriotic promoters had…