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Showing posts from July, 2010

Israel shows its ugly side [again]: Ethnic cleansing

There can be no other word for it. Ethnic cleansing. That's what The Guardian has called it too.

Jared Malsin reports:

"Israel sent more than 1,000 riot police to guard bulldozers razing an entire Bedouin village in the Negev desert on Tuesday.

Some 300 people are now homeless following the destruction of the village of Al-Arakib, which has existed since before Israel was founded in 1948.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper has now released a harrowing video of the demolition. The tape shows Israeli police in riot gear scuffling with unarmed villagers while government bulldozers move in to knock down their houses and agricultural buildings."

"The Bedouin of the Negev (Naqab in Arabic) are full Israeli citizens, but some 76,000 of them live in “unrecognized villages” that receive virtually no government services including water, electricity, and sanitation."

The YouTube video clip can be viewed here.

No doubt about it. Things are hotting up

The Guardian reports on what many have suspected, and experienced, this year:

"Global temperatures in the first half of the year were the hottest since records began more than a century ago, according to two of the world's leading climate research centres.

Scientists have also released what they described as the "best evidence yet" of rising long-term temperatures. The report is the first to collate 11 different indicators – from air and sea temperatures to melting ice – each one based on between three and seven data sets, dating back to between 1850 and the 1970s.

The newly released data follows months of scrutiny of climate science after sceptics claimed leaked emails from the University of East Anglia (UEA) suggested temperature records had been manipulated - a charge rejected by three inquiries."

A union not made in heaven

Be alarmed! When one reads that Google is teaming up with the CIA one cannot be anything other than most concerned. Surely no good will come of it!

Wired reports in "Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring":

"The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for…

It all depends on who you are

The US is faced with an ever-increasing issue of race. Witness the Arizona laws, which were to commence tomorrow, now subject to an injunction granted today to the US Federal Government. The totally unwarranted and bigoted attacks on Obama are another manifestation of racism at its worst.

Roger Cohen, in his latest column "The Forgotten American" in The New York Times, highlights an unpleasant side to American politics as he takes up the cause of a Muslim American caught up in the attack by Israel on the Turkish ship, forming part of the flotilla headed for Gaza.

"The Dogans were a quiet family little noticed by their neighbors here in upstate New York. Ahmet Dogan had come to the area from Turkey to study accounting at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

He was a serious student; the Dogans did little entertaining. But when their younger son, Furkan, was born in 1991, the family threw a party and a neighbor recalled a toast “to the first U.S. citizen in the family.…

It's a gusher!

Credited to Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courant

WikiLeaks: Time to Celebrate, Time to Mourn

The reverberations from the leaking of some 92,000 documents by Wikileaks aren't going to go away anytime soon.

truthout has an interesting commentary of the leak given the connection made with Daniel Ellsberg and his leaking of what became known as The Pentagon Papers:

"It's time to celebrate.

It's a big win for Internet-based, indie media that WikiLeaks.org posted its "Afghan War Diary," based on 90,000 leaked US military records detailing a failing war in which US and allied forces have repeatedly killed innocent civilians. This on-the-ground material is vaster than the Daniel Ellsberg-leaked Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War and was much faster in reaching the public.

Thanks to the Internet and new technologies, it's easier than ever for a whistleblower to anonymously leak documents exposing official abuses and deception, easier to copy and disseminate vast quantities of material and easier for journalists and citizens to cull through all the …

The 64 million dollar question. Where is US$8.7 billion?

The 64 million dollar question must surely be......what has happened to US$8.7 billion unaccounted for in Iraq.

truthdig reports:

"The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction says the Pentagon cannot account for $8.7 billion of Iraq’s money. The Department of Defense was supposed to spend the funds, which came from the sale of oil and other assets, on reconstruction, and it may have—it just doesn’t know for sure.

BBC:

The money was in a special fund administered by the US Department of Defense, the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), and was earmarked for reconstruction projects.

But the report says that a lack of proper accounting and poor oversight makes it impossible to say exactly what happened to most of it.

According to the report, the Pentagon is unable to fully account for $8.7bn of funds it withdrew between 2004 and 2007, and of that amount it “could not provide documentation to substantiate how it spent $2.6bn”.

In for long-haul economic pain

Readers of this blog will have seen postings in relation to the US economy. All too sadly, it is big country with a huge economy - but a sick one. The knock-on effect of that will almost certainly be felt in many countries around the globe.

The latest op-ed piece "Long Term Economic Pain" by Bob Herbert in The New York Times makes for depressing reading. It looks like things look grim for an ever-growing number of people in America - and will remain so for many years to come.

"The pain coursing through American families is all too real and no one seems to know what to do about it. A rigorous new analysis for the Rockefeller Foundation shows that Americans are more economically insecure now than they have been in a quarter of a century, and the trend lines suggest that things will only get worse.

Rampant joblessness and skyrocketing medical costs are among the biggest factors tearing at the very fabric of American economic life so painstakingly put together in the ea…

Saying it loud and clear

UK PM David Cameron won't win any plaudits from the Israel Lobby, but in comments made by him whilst visiting Turkey he has become the first leader of a Western country to describe the situation in relation to Gaza - "a prison camp".

The Guardian reports:

"David Cameron's forthright description of Gaza as a "prison camp" – and its implied criticism of Israel – has struck a chord with many Conservatives but infuriated some commentators.

During a state visit to Turkey, the prime minister stoked up the rhetorical pressure on Benjamin Netayahu's government without a balancing comment apportioning any blame for the siege of Gaza to Hamas, which controls the territory".

Wikileaks keeps on delivering.....with more to come

Not surprisingly the furore surrounding the latest Wikileak's "exposure" of the war-effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan yet again highlights how politicians hide the facts and truth from the public.

In all the hubbub following the publication of some 92,000 odd documents, what seems to have been generally missed by the media is the revelation by Wikileak's founder, Julian Assange, that more documents are in the pipeline to be released. The Guardian reports:

"The Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, said today that the organisation is working through a "backlog" of further secret material and was expecting a "substantial increase in submissions" from whistleblowers after one of the biggest leaks in US military history.

Speaking in London after his website published more than 92,000 classified military logs relating to the war in Afghanistan, Assange said that he hoped for an "age of the whistleblower" in which more people would c…

Ouch!

Australians are headed to an election on 21 August. The "contest" is between the Labour Party's new leader - now Australia's first-ever woman Prime Minister, having ousted Kevin Rudd - and the Liberal Party's leader, aka dubbed "The Mad Monk" given that he started out a seminarian many years ago.

An all too now commonplace TV debate between the leaders took place on Sunday night.

Journalist, author and political commentator Mungo MacCallum, writing for the on-line publication Crikey, summed up the debate and candidates as follows:

"Never has the prime ministership of Australia been contested by such a pair of abject, craven, weak-kneed, whey-faced, chicken-hearted, lily-livered, jelly-bellied milksops. And what a lead up to the so-called Great Debate: the Wimp versus the Wuss."

Ouch! Welcome to elections Oz-style......

Giving a green light to war?

As if there aren't enough horrendous conflicts around us at the moment, US Republicans are seeking to effectively give Israel the green light to attack Iran. Apart from the bloodshed and mayhem such an attack would cause, one can safely assume that the Middle East would almost literally explode. How smart a move by the GOP!

The Huffington Post reports in "Resolution Green-Lighting Israeli Strikes on Iran Introduced by House Republicans":

"Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced a measure that would green-light an Israeli bombing campaign against Iran. The resolution, H.Res. 1553 (in full below), provides explicit support for military strikes against Iran, stating that Congress supports Israel's use of "all means necessary" against Iran "including the use of military force". US military leaders have warned that strikes could be catastrophic to US national security interests and could engulf the Middle East in a "…

Hard to Fathom. Resurrecting George Bush

For non-Americans living outside of the USA, it is often difficult to follow, let alone understand, the American political system and those who people it. The personalities, and politicians also seem odd, open to influence and poor in quality. To name but a few, think George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Sarah Palin. And then there are those Tea Partyers. What is one to make of them?

Given the appalling 8 years of George Bush'sincumbency of the White House - can anyone think of anything positive he did whilst he was in office? - Paul Krugman , writing in The New York Times, reports on attempts by the GOP to resurrect Bush.

"For a couple of years, it was the love that dared not speak his name. In 2008, Republican candidates hardly ever mentioned the president still sitting in the White House. After the election, the G.O.P. did its best to shout down all talk about how we got into the mess we’re in, insisting that we needed to look forward, not back. And many …

America, capitalism at a cross-roads and how the rich get richer

If you want to read some stark figures on where America's economy - such as it is - stands, look further than this revelatory piece on The Nation by no lesser a person than an independent US Senator:

"The American people are hurting. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, life savings and their ability to get a higher education. Today, some 22 percent of our children live in poverty, and millions more have become dependent on food stamps for their food.

And while the Great Wall Street Recession has devastated the middle class, the truth is that working families have been experiencing a decline for decades. During the Bush years alone, from 2000-2008, median family income dropped by nearly $2,200 and millions lost their health insurance. Today, because of stagnating wages and higher costs for basic necessities, the average two-wage-earner family has less disposable income than a one-wage-earn…

The toxic legacy of war, Part II

Yesterday's post about the aftermath of the Vietnam war and that people in Vietnam are still suffering medically, was almost prescient - for today The Independent reports on the devastating legacy of the attack on Fallujah as part of the Iraq War:

"Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.

Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. In…

Not really leaving Iraq

The Americans are said to be leaving Iraq by next year. Well, not exactly, if this report "State Dept. planning to field a small army in Iraq" in McClatchy is correct:

"Can diplomats field their own army? The State Department is laying plans to do precisely that in Iraq, in an unprecedented experiment that U.S. officials and some nervous lawmakers say could be risky.

In little more than a year, State Department contractors in Iraq could be driving armored vehicles, flying aircraft, operating surveillance systems, even retrieving casualties if there are violent incidents and disposing of unexploded ordnance.

Under the terms of a 2008 status of forces agreement, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, but they'll leave behind a sizable American civilian presence, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world, and five consulate-like "Enduring Presence Posts" in the Iraqi hinterlands.

Iraq remains a battle zone, and the Americ…

A "war" which continues

As war rages in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, to name but a few, the Americans, and its allies are often accused of killing and maiming innocent locals.

It bears remembering what happened in Vietnam in the war there - and that it is still reverberating, as Al Jazeera reports:

"When Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, visited Vietnam on Thursday she extolled the country's "unlimited potential" and strong trade relations with the US. But the words must have rung hollow for Ngyuen Ngoc Phuong, who has seen his potential destroyed by American chemical poisoning.

Phuong, 19, was born long after the US cut and run from the Vietnam war, evacuating its last remaining personnel by helicopter from the roof of its Saigon embassy in 1975.

But the results of that war, which officially ended 35 years ago, affect every aspect of Phuong's life.

The young man has severe physical deformities, and like an estimated three million Vietnamese, he suffers from exposure to…

An issue: The problem with judging a blog by its commenters

It might be wishful thinking, but one would have hoped that anyone attacking a blogger would at the very least get his or her facts right.

Stephen Walt, no lesser person than a professor of International Relations at Harvard, in his latest post on FP takes on those who have criticised him, and others, for being anti-semitic or anti-Zionist for the simple reason that they query the Israel Lobby's influence in US politics and whether it is in the interests of America to be so-one sided in its support for Israel.

"Smith therefore has to resort to a new and bizarre form of "guilt-by-association." He attacks the four of us-and me in particular-by looking at some of the anonymous reader comments that appear in response to some of our posts. He finds that a few of those individuals who comment make some extreme statements, which he uses to argue that we are deliberately fostering anti-Semitism on our blogs. In other words, we must be anti-Semites because a handful of peopl…

Whatever democracy the Palestinians had is dying

Almost a desperate cry from a well-known, respected and sober moderate Palestinian.

Mustafa Barghouthi is secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He was a candidate for the Palestinian presidency in 2005.

He writes in a piece "The Slow Death of Palestinian Democracy" on FP:

"Palestinian municipal elections were supposed to be held last week. Instead, they were canceled. A statement released by the Palestinian Authority claimed the cancellation was "in order to pave the way for a successful end to the siege on Gaza and for continued efforts at unity" between Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and the government in the West Bank.

The cancellation of this election was an unjustified, unlawful, and unacceptable act. It damages democratic rights and makes a mockery of the interests of the Palestinian people.

But this is far more than an internal Palestinian issue. The only lasting peace between Isr…

More from "our" Sarah.....

From CommonDreams:

"Ever since Sarah whatzername tweeted that peaceful Muslims should "refudiate" the heart-stabbing Ground Zero mosque and what's the big deal 'cause Shakespeare made up new words too, delighted Tweeters have been having a grand old time with the likes of “Revenge is a dish best served with moose” and “To be, or... also, to... that’s, y’know?” Many more at Shakespalin.

"But soft, what light from yonder window breaks? It is the East, and I can see Russia from my front porch."

Bushisms now have competition. Palinisms.

The thought of even the prospect of an illiterate in the White House is enough to give one the shivers, but at least one would hoped that she could speak English. Sarah Palin, she from Alaska, and seemingly a twit and a presidential aspirant, seems to be competing with George Bush in her mangling of the English language.

The Age reports:

"The word ''refute'' was one of the most misused in the English language even before Sarah Palin came along.

Now the possible next president of the US has taken incorrect use of the verb to a new level by mangling it into a whole new word - ''refudiate''. At first, she appeared embarrassed by the linguistic slip, but she later chose to celebrate her inventiveness by comparing herself to literary giants William Shakespeare and, er, George Bush."

Continue reading here. Just take a deep breath as you do.

Corporate Media Discover Private Spies. In Other News, No WMD in Iraq

The Nation's top-notch journalist - as well as being a highly rated author - Jeremy Scahill, reports on what is making big news in the USA - the Washington Post's article on the outsourcing by America or intelligence and security operations:

"Stop the presses and call the government spokespeople back from Martha's Vineyard.

The corporate media have discovered that the United States is radically outsourcing national security and sensitive intelligence operations. Cable news channels breathlessly report on the "groundbreaking," "exclusive" Washington Post series, Top Secret America, a two-year investigation by Dana Priest and William Arkin. No doubt there is some important stuff in this series. Both Arkin and Priest have done outstanding work for many years on sensitive, life-or-death subjects. And that is one of the main reasons why this series has, thus far, been incredibly disappointing. Its greatest accomplishment is forcing a discussion onto corpo…

$2000 - with nowhere to go!

That America's economy is in dire trouble - and will be faced with a burden as more and more people retire without adequate monies to fund their retirement - emerges from this more than startling article "The Retirement Nightmare: Half of Americans Have Less Than $2,000 Banked for Their Golden Years" on AlterNet:

"The days of quietly retiring with a nest egg built up from years of savings from a long career on the verge of disappearing. For tens of millions of Americans, facing rising costs, shrinking incomes and growing debts they already have disappeared.

"One out of three working Americans does not have retirement savings beyond Social Security, and about 35% of those over 65 rely almost totally on Social Security alone," Dallas Salisbury, president of the Alliance for Investor Education and the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) , explained to AlterNet. "Of the remaining two-thirds of working Americans that have some retirement savings, 27 …

The Burqa: Whilst Europe debates, Syrian University decides

Whilst the debate rages in Europe about restricting women wearing the full Arab full face veil, or burqa, BBC News reports that a Syrian University, somewhat startlingly perhaps, has decided that the full face veil is out - that is, banned.

"Female students wearing a full face veil will be barred from Syrian university campuses, the country's minister of higher education has said.

Ghiyath Barakat was reported to have said that the practice ran counter to the academic values and traditions of Syrian universities.

His ruling, published on the All4Syria website, was said to be in response to requests from students and parents.

The issue of full face veils has caused controversy in other countries."

Qualitative Military Edge - and who calls the shots

This post on Mondoweiss reveals a rather startling piece of legislation passed by the US Congress - which raises the critical question of who calls the shots as between Israel and the USA:

"On October 15, 2008, just three weeks before the US presidential election, George Bush signed into law the Naval Vessel Transfer Act which had been sponsored by one of Israel’s most loyal supporters in the US Congress, Rep. Howard Berman.

The new law, which from its title might have been assumed to relate primarily to the sale of ships from the US Navy to foreign governments, actually had a much more important purpose: to place every American president under a legal obligation to ensure that Israel maintains its military dominance over the Middle East.

What had previously been a matter of foreign policy, suddenly became law — law written to meet the interests of a foreign government.

Israel’s regional hegemony is legally enshrined in the concept of Israel’s “Qualitative Military Edge” (QME). The U…

Those who grovel....and why

Robert Fisk, in his latest op-ed piece for The Independent, explains who is grovelling - and why:

For example:

"Which brings us, of course, to the Grovel of the Week, the unctuous, weak-willed, cringing figure of Barack "Change" Obama as he strode the White House lawn with Netanyahu himself. For here was the champion of the underdog, the "understanding" president who could fix the Middle East – finding it "harder that he thought", according to his spokesman – proving that mid-term elections are more important than all the injustice in the Middle East. It is more than a year now since Netanyahu responded in cabinet to Obama's first criticisms with the remark: "This guy doesn't get it, does he?" (The quote comes from an excellent Israeli source of mine.) Ever since, Netanyahu has been McChrystalling Obama on a near-weekly basis, and Obama has been alternatively hissing and purring, banning Netanyahu from photo calls, but then – as those…

An attempt to eradicate the latest sort of war......

As if the world doesn't already have conflicts of one sort or another, one of the latest, cyberwar, is the subject of attempts to prevent it occurring.

The Washington Postreports:

"A group of nations -- including the United States, China and Russia -- have for the first time signaled a willingness to engage in reducing the threat of attacks on each others' computer networks.

Although the agreement, reached this week at the United Nations, is only recommendations, Robert K. Knake, a cyberwarfare expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, said it represents a "significant change in U.S posture" and is part of the Obama administration's strategy of diplomatic engagement.

Among other steps, the group recommended that the U.N. create norms of accepted behavior in cyberspace, exchange information on national legislation and cybersecurity strategies, and strengthen the capacity of less-developed countries to protect their computer systems.

When the group last met in …

Not a vote of confidence in sight

One might have hoped that Obama, he of little experience and expertise in leadership or governing anything, might have surrounded himself with experts.

Roger Cohen, writing his op-ed column "Winners and Losers" in The New York Times, isn't that confident that Obama's "people" have the requisite experience, especially as Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State, has been partially side-lined.

"You’ve got to salute Hillary. She’s got guts to go with that razor-sharp mind. It’s a heck of a job being secretary of state when the White House puts a tight collar around the big issues — Afghanistan, Iran, Israel-Palestine and Iraq — and you’re left with Nagorno-Karabakh, disputed Ottoman crimes of World War I and, if you’re lucky, U.S. bases on Okinawa.

The situation might be slightly less troubling if the boys in the White House — and they are overwhelmingly boys — were foreign-policy heavyweights. They’re not. Indeed, I’m told Henry Kissinger refers to them as “t…

Does water = a Human Right?

It is almost an oxymoron to say that water is a vital resource critical for the survival of mankind. But is it a human right to have access to water? It's a subject and right many are fighting to have enshrined comparable to the Declaration of Human Rights. IPS[Inter Press Service] reports:

"A long outstanding proposal to recognise the right to water as a basic universal human right is threatening to split the world's rich and poor nations.

Opposition to the proposal is coming mostly from Western nations, says Maude Barlow, a global water advocate and a founder of the Canada-based Blue Planet Project.

"Canada is the worst. But Australia, the United States and Great Britain are also holding up the process," she said.

"I am loath to see this as a North-South issue, but it is beginning to look like it," Barlow told IPS.

If the draft resolution is eventually adopted by the 192- member U.N. General Assembly, "it would be one of the most important …

Why the media silence on Sri Lanka's descent into dictatorship?

The question posed in the headline to this post, is spot on. Why indeed? Sri Lanka, much like Israel, is given a leave-pass by the media. It ought not to. It's a corrupt and dictatorial regime. What has been done to the Tamils is a crime. No other word for it.

Edward Mortimer, writes on the subject in comment is free on The Guardian:

"It is now over a year since the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, claimed victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But war is still being waged on the "paradise island" – by the government, against the country's journalists.

Last week alone saw one media outlet receive a threatening letter and the head of another charged with fraud by the supreme court after publishing stories critical of the government. And two international NGO workers involved in protecting journalists had their visas revoked.

The situation has been deteriorating for some time. According to Amnesty International at least 14 …

You know Amazon.......and then again, maybe you don't

From the Grit TV on The Nation:

"Since its launch 15 years ago Amazon has grown to be, by some measure, the largest bookseller in the world. According to its founder Jeff Bezos, this ascent has been achieved by giving customers what they want: convenience, wide choice and low, low prices.

Of course everyone likes the availability of two million books on the site. And who could complain about discounts of 50% or more on bestsellers? But look beneath the surface and a less rosy picture emerges. It turns out that the way Amazon does business can be seriously damaging for the health of publishers, authors and, yes, those beloved customers too."

Who's vacationing where?

Credited to Mike Lester, Rome News-Tribune

Shining a light onto what the world has hitherto ignored

Although the plight of the Gazans has been on-going for years now, politicians and the media have largely ignored the plight of Gaza's people - 1.5 million of them trapped, under siege by the Israelis, in one of the smallest and densest areas in the world.

The New York Times deserves no congratulation for its coverage of the Israel-Palestinian / Gaza conflict - it has been poor and often one-sided pro-Israeli - but a feature piece on Gaza in today's paper [including the IHT] may, for the first time, be a wake up call to Americans about what is really going on in the Middle East.

"The Palestinians of Gaza, most of them descended from refugees of the 1948 war that created Israel, have lived through decades of conflict and confrontation. Their scars have accumulated like layers of sedimentary rock, each marking a different crisis — homelessness, occupation, war, dependency.

Today, however, two developments have conspired to turn a difficult life into a new torment: a thr…

The Sleaze Factor.....everywhere in the world

Hardly a day passes without a politician, somewhere in our globe, being accused of some misconduct, corruption or misbehaviour.

As FP notes:

"From Angola to Uzbekistan, Haiti to Zimbabwe, in far too many countries around the world, blatant official corruption not only goes unpunished -- it's the norm. But while we normally associate bribery, cronyism, and extortion with fragile developing states, the leaders of some of the world's most stable and prosperous democracies have recently been investigated on criminal charges. Is this a case of those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, or does it mean that we're getting better at catching powerful crooks?"

Continue reading, here, to see a tabulation of who is doing what, and in what country.

Obama fudges it again. The Health Bill isn't anything of the sort!

truthdig explains that Obama's health care reform is nothing of the sort.

"A close reading of the new health care legislation, which will conveniently take effect in 2014 after the next presidential election, is deeply depressing. The legislation not only mocks the lofty promises made by President Barack Obama, exposing most as lies, but sadly reconfirms that our nation is hostage to unchecked corporate greed and abuse. The simple truth, that single-payer nonprofit health care for all Americans would dramatically reduce costs and save lives, that the for-profit health care system is the problem and must be destroyed, is censored out of the public debate by a media that relies on these corporations as major advertisers and sponsors, as well as a morally bankrupt Democratic Party that is as bought off by corporations as the Republicans.

The 2,000-page piece of legislation, according to figures compiled by Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), will leave at least 23 millio…

Gitmo, Nazi concentration camps and complicit medicos

At the end of WW2 the world was shocked - although news had already gotten out much, much earlier, but being ignored - to learn that Nazi doctors had undertaken medical experiments on inmates of concentration camps. Given the Hippocratic oath taken by medicos the not unnatural question asked was how doctors could have allowed themselves to become complicit, and active, participants in the often ghastly experiments being undertaken.

Fast forward to 2010 - and medicos are again in the firing-line. This time it relates to Gitmo. Scott Horton, writing on Harper's Magazine, reports:

"In a comprehensive recent study, Physicians for Human Rights alleges that healthcare professionals experimented on human subjects in order to hone the torture techniques authorized by the Bush Administration. The Department of Justice’s retracted torture memoranda advise that doctors should be involved at every stage in the application of torture techniques—to provide a defense against criminal…

It's the same question again and again. Why is everyone in Afghanistan?

Tom Engelhardt on TomDispatch.com not for the first time, poses the question - what is everyone in Afghanistan for?

"By all accounts, the Afghan War could hardly be going worse today. Counterinsurgency, the strategy promoted by General McChrystal but conceived by General Petraeus, is seemingly in a ditch, while the Taliban are the ones surging. Around that reality has arisen a chorus of criticism and complaint, left, right, and center.

Failure breeds critics, you might say, the way dead bodies breed flies. Or put another way, it's easy enough to criticize a failing American project, but what about a successful one? What if Petraeus really turns out to be the miracle general of twenty-first century American war-making -- which, by the way, only means that he needs to "blunt" the Taliban surge (the modern definition of "winning," now that victory is no longer a part of the U.S. war-making lexicon)?"

And:

"In a sense, the same question mark appeared…

Things aren't all that rosy in the US of A

America has always been seen as a land of contrasts. Big, geographically and numerically, strong militarily, it has been viewed as a country with innovative people and as an economic powerhouse. A lot of very rich people......and poor too. A rather bleak snapshot of the real America emerges in a piece "The Worst of Times, the Best of Time" by Andrew Cockburn on CounterPunch - suggesting all is not well in the land of the free and the brave:

"It’s the worst of times. America is plunging back into Depression. Only one out of every two Americans of working age has a job. Forty years ago that would have been okay. Dad went to the factory. Mom stayed at home to mind the kids. These days, just to keep the show on the road, mom and pop both work and the kids get daycare.

Start looking for work now and on average it will take till next April for you to find something. Across the last two months, more than a million Americans simply gave up seeking employment, even as benef…

The news, CNN, the Israel Lobby and double standards

IPS reports on a storm which has erupted in relation to how the news is reported and the double-standards which apply. Take a bow CNN:

"CNN's firing of Octavia Nasr, the editor responsible for the network's Middle East coverage, over a Twitter post in which she expressed her sadness over the death of a Lebanese cleric has set off a firestorm of debate about what the decision says about CNN's fairness in reporting on the region.

On Sunday, Nasr wrote, "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah... One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot," on her Twitter account, which is followed by over 7,000 readers."

Glenn Greenwald, at Salon says:

"First, consider which viewpoints cause someone to be fired from The Liberal Media. Last month, Helen Thomas' 60-year career as a journalist ended when she expressed the exact view about Jews which numerous public figures have expressed (with no consequence or even controversy) about Palest…

You are what you eat. But what about the farmers?

"Interest in how our food is grown has been rekindled in recent years, with particular focus on sustainable agriculture."

So begins a piece on civil eats which discusses what sustainable agriculture means - especially as the world needs to be able to feed every growing numbers of people.

The US National Research Council (NRC) has considered the question and as civil eats says:

"The NRC report sidesteps the debate about what sustainable agriculture is by arguing that the “pursuit of sustainability is not a matter of defining sustainable or unsustainable agriculture, but rather is about assessing whether choices of farming practices and systems would lead to a more or less sustainable system as measured by the four goals.” It argues the “inherently subjective” nature of characterizing sustainable agriculture and underscores the degree to which different groups emphasize different goals of sustainable agricultural systems, which the NRC frames as:

Satisfying human food, fiber,…

All the rotteness that Gitmo stands for just won't go away

From CommonDreams:

"A federal judge has ordered the release of another Yemeni captive at Guantanamo, the 37th time a detainee has won in court against the U.S. government - which has now lost 75% of its cases. The news of the release of Hussein Almerfedi is part of McClatchy's terrific "Guantanamo: Beyond the Law" series, featuring detainee interviews, photos, graphics and stories with headlines like "We Got the Wrong Guys," "I Guess You Can Call It Torture," and "Due Process is Legal Mumbo-Jumbo."

Judge Paul Friedman's ruling instructs the Obama administration to "take all necessary and appropriate steps to facilitate the release of petitioner forthwith.''

It's always the same story. The rich get richer and the poor poorer

This news from Inter Press Services will hardly surprise, but it makes for sobering reading:

"Times are tough for workers in the U.S. where a recession has a stranglehold on much of the economy, but life is perfectly rosy for those at the top.

The riches of the wealthiest North Americans grew by double digits in 2009, primarily from interest their money earned when it was invested in the stock market and elsewhere, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group.

Millionaires in the U.S. and Canada saw their wealth increase 15 percent in 2009, to a total of 4.6 trillion dollars, the report found.

Worldwide, 11 million - or less than 1 percent of all households - were millionaires in 2009. They owned about 38 percent of the world's wealth or 111 trillion dollars, up from about 36 percent in 2008, according to Boston Consulting Group.

About 4.7 million millionaires live in the U.S., four percent of the population and more than anywhere else in the world. Japan, China, Britai…

The NY Times: The free-content dimishes

The New York Times was one of the first to go on line and then some time afterward, charge an annual fee for accessing all newspaper content on line. Then the Times dropped the fee and it has, to date, basically all been free.

Now comes news that there are going to be limits to what is available gratis on line or by way of download to an iphone or ipad. It's the "world" of charging for online content that Murdoch is seeking to follow. The Times admits it is a tentative step. Of course, the $64 million question is whether reading newspapers on the likes of an ipad will save newspapers from extinction - or very substantial diminution.

"Time has decided to dive head first into an issue that has bedeviled many a news organization before it: how to wean online readers off their addictions to free content.

Time began taking content from its current issue off its Web site this week, a move that is meant to drive readers to newsstands and Time’s iPad applications.

Richa…

New Commander. New [immoral] motor mouth

And Obama thought he had a problem with General McChrystal!

Reading this piece by Joshua Keating on FP, one does have to wonder about the US military hierachy:

"Defense Secretary Robert Gates is currently announcing the appointment of Gen. James Mattis to replace Gen. David Petraeus as commander of U.S. Central Command. Slate's John Dickerson has more on the 41-year Marine officer's background. Of course, the CENTCOM job became available after Petraeus was moved to Afghanistan to take over for Gen. Stan McChrystal after some ill-advised comments in a Rolling Stone magazine profile. So it's interesting that Petraeus' replacement is, himself, known as something of a loose cannon. Here he is in 2005:

"Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot," Mattis said, prompting laughter from some military members in the audience. "It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling.

"Y…

Graduate....with a 1:70 chance to what?

Every university graduate aspires to making a success of his or her career path.

As a sign of what is wrong with countries which mindlessly encourage large numbers of students to attend university - coupled with the GFC and stretch economies anyway - The Independent reports on what must be seen as a depressing prospect for university graduates, let alone students working their way toward a degree.

"Graduates without a top-level degree pass will see their chances of getting a job this summer almost vanish, it was forecast today.

With record numbers seeking employment, the vast majority of employers are closing the door to any candidates with lower than a 2:1 degree pass.

Experts reckon around 500,000 graduates will be seeking a job this summer. The 420,000-strong class of 2010 will be competing against thousands left unemployed as a result of the recession from last year's graduates and some who have been without a job for two years.

They are facing a situation where 69 candidate…

Where have all the flowers gone......

We all need to be concerned. Very concerned.

The Guardian reports in "Over 25% of flowers face extinction – many before they are even discovered":

"More than one-in-four of all flowering plants are under threat of extinction according to the latest report to confirm the ongoing destruction of much of the natural world by human activity.

As a result, many of nature's most colourful specimens could be lost to the world before scientists even discover them, claims the research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The results reflect similar global studies of other species groups by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which estimates that one-in-five of all mammals, nearly one-in-three amphibians and one-in-eight birds are vulnerable to being wiped out completely. Later this year the results of a huge global analysis of all the world's estimated up to 400,000 plants by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is due to be publi…

We knew it all along. It's a land grab, pure and simple

As PM Netanyahu and President Obama meet in Washington right now, a just released report in Israel confirms everything that people in the know have been saying for years - and the Israeli government has been denying. Israeli settlers, with the agreement and connivance of their government, have been grabbing Palestinian land in the West Bank.

The Independent reports:

"Jewish settlers, who claim a divine right to the whole of Israel, now control more than 42 per cent of the occupied West Bank, representing a powerful obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state, a new report has revealed.

The jurisdiction of some 200 settlements, illegal under international law, cover much more of the occupied Palestinian territory than previously thought. And a large section of the land has been seized from private Palestinian landowners in defiance even of an Israeli supreme court ruling, the report said, a finding which sits uncomfortably with Israeli claims that it builds only on state land.