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Showing posts from November, 2010

Robert Fisk: Blood and war-mongers

We all know, but tend to push to the back of our minds, the cost of war - human and financial.

Robert Fisk puts it all into sharp focus in relation to the conflicts in the Middle East in his latest op-ed piece in The Independent:

"Since there are now three conflicts in the greater Middle East; Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/"Palestine" and maybe another Lebanese war in the offing, it might be a good idea to take a look at the cost of war.

Not the human cost – 80 lives a day in Iraq, unknown numbers in Afghanistan, one a day in Israel/"Palestine" (for now) – but the financial one. I'm still obsessed by the Saudi claim for its money back after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Hadn't Saudi Arabia, King Fahd reminded Saddam, financed his eight-year war against Iran to the tune of $25,734,469,885.80? For the custodian of the two holy places, Mecca and Medina, to have shelled out $25bn for Saddam to slaughter his fellow Muslims was pretty generous – although a…

Gaza: Israelis continue the big lie

Israel maintains that it has lifted the blockade on Gaza. It's a lie - as some 21 aid groups claim that the position of the Gazans remain dire.

The Washington Post reports - as does the BBC - on what is happening on the ground:

"Business and construction in the Gaza Strip remain stifled half a year after Israel announced it would ease its three-year-old blockade of the needy, war-ravaged Palestinian territory, a report by several aid groups said Tuesday.

The groups accused Israel of ducking promises to ease the blockade's effects on civilians, a pledge it made under pressure after a deadly Israeli commando raid in May on an international flotilla protesting the restrictions. The report said Israel is allowing in more food and some building materials but is dragging its feet on major construction projects.

"We aren't seeing an easing of the blockade compared to Israel's declared aims," said Karl Schembri of Oxfam, among the 21 groups behind the report. O…

One record not to boast about

The Afghan War drags much so that the Nato forces have now broken a record - one not be proud of - as Glenn Greenwald explains in his latest op-ed piece for Salon.

"Even for the humble among us who try to avoid jingoistic outbursts, some national achievements are so grand that they merit a moment of pride and celebration:

US presence in Afghanistan as long as Soviet slog

'The Soviet Union couldn't win in Afghanistan, and now the United States is about to have something in common with that futile campaign: nine years, 50 days.

On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition will have been fighting in this South Asian country for as long as the Soviets did in their humbling attempt to build up a socialist state.'

It seems clear that a similar -- or even grander -- prize awaits us as the one with which the Soviets were rewarded. I hope nobody thinks that just because we can't identify who the Taliban leaders are after almost a decade over there that this somehow calls into …

The Great Man

It would be remiss of this blog not to highlight that this is the 100th anniversary of Gustav Mahler's death.

There are many Mahler "tragics" out there - well served with oodles of recordings of the great composer's works.

Some months ago DG and Decca established a specific web site dedicated to the 100th anniversary. Check out the Dream Mahler cycle as DG and Decca have dubbed it, here.

Wikileaks: Aah, what if things were the other way around?

Investigative journalist Michael Hastings - he who "exposed" General McChrystal's all too candid views on a variety of subjects, including of his president - asks in his twitter post:

"Thought experiment: if [Wikileaks' Julian] Assange had exposed thousands of secret docs from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, etc, would we consider him a hero or villain?"

Damn publishers.....or publish and be damned?

The release of the documents by Wikileaks and their publication by a number of newspapers - principally Der Spiegel, the New York Times and The Guardian - has once again ignited the debate about the responsibilities of newspapers in publishing such material.

The answer is very straight-forward according to Simon Jenkins writing in "US embassy cables: The job of the media is not to protect the powerful from embarrassment" in The Guardian:

"Is it justified? Should a newspaper disclose virtually all a nation's secret diplomatic communication, illegally downloaded by one of its citizens? The reporting in the Guardian of the first of a selection of 250,000 US state department cables marks a recasting of modern diplomacy. Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing's snake-oil salesmen claim. No organisation can treat digitised communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.

Anything said or d…

Cancun: Another talk-fest?

They, the politicians and flunkies, are all off to Cancun this week to yet again discuss climate change and what to do about it.

Johann Hari, writing in The Independent, puts it bluntly:

"Why are the world’s governments bothering? Why are they jetting to Cancun next week to discuss what to do now about global warming? The vogue has passed. The fad has faded. Global warming is yesterday’s apocalypse. Didn’t somebody leak an email that showed it was all made up? Doesn’t it sometimes snow in the winter? Didn’t Al Gore get fat, or something?

Alas, the biosphere doesn’t read Vogue. Nobody thought to tell it that global warming is so 2007. All it knows is three facts. 2010 is globally the hottest year since records began. 2010 is the year humanity’s emissions of planet-warming gases reached its highest level ever. And exactly as the climate scientists predicted, we are seeing a rapid increase in catastrophic weather events, from the choking of Moscow by gigantic unprecedented forest fires…

Duh! Is this cloud-cuckoo territory or what?

Shake your head in astonishment!

Daily Kos reports:

"Earlier this month, it was reported that one of the largest U.S. government contractors in Afghanistan was being fined nearly $70 million for having "knowingly and systematically overcharged the U.S. government." But just two months after a whistleblower revealed the Louis Berger Group's deliberate and systematic overcharging, the U.S. Agency for International Development awarded the company a new joint contract worth $1.4 billion. That seemingly large fine turned out to be but a minor business expense.

The one part of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan that is going very well is the contracting. Not the results of the contracting, the money being made off it. Less than two weeks ago came this news:

'U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, has ordered a dramatic expansion in contracting. Other than asking a brigadier general to investigate problems with military contracts, …

The art of "negotiating"

Credited to Matt Bors

First reactions to those WikiLeaks leaked documents

It looks like those with an avid interest in politics are going to be fed a continuous diet of documents from the latest WikiLeaks just released documents for the next days. The US evidently tried its darndest to stop the no avail.

The Guardian's News Blog, here, already has got a roundup of reactions to the released documents and what they have revealed so far. One example, from Reuters:

"Roger Cressey, a partner at Goodharbor Consulting: "This is pretty devastating. The essence of our foreign policy is our ability to talk straight and honest with our foreign counterparts and to keep those conversations out of the public domain. This massive leak puts that most basic of diplomatic requirements at risk in the future. Think of relations with Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan, governments who we need to work with us in defeating al Qaida. Their performance has been uneven in the past, for a variety of reasons, but this kind of leak will seriously hinder…

World Bank Run Day

The "little" people are hitting back - at the banks. Hooray say the folk who have, and still are, suffering because of banking practices which largely caused the GFC. And of course now the banks are riding high again with their large profits and bonuses for their executives.

AlterNet explains World Bank Run day to you:

"A spectre is haunting Europe." Its not the revolution that Karl Marx supposed would come about. Nor is it Parisian students and workers taking to the streets as in May 1968. It is the vision of hordes of Europeans striking back at those who caused the 2008 financial crash. This time, organizers are calling for the use of a new weapon, one available to any of us with a bank account. It is the simple act of removing all of our money from the banks, and doing so in mass on the same day - December 7th.

While it is hard to know who first thought of this marvelous act of political theater, it has begun to take serious traction in France and is now spread…

Score to Obama in the Middle East? Impotent

Tablet puts Obama into context in relation to his and the USA's efforts in the Middle East......with a "rating" of impotence.

"Ben Smith’s story on the situation in Israel is a must-read—it’s the product of a week in the region, and it is quite insightful. Bottom line: Basically everyone on all sides agree that President Obama’s vigorous efforts to move the peace process forward have failed—at best, farcically; at worst, tragically.

The American president has been diminished, even in an era without active hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. His demands on the parties appear to shrink each month, with the path to a grand peace settlement narrowing to the vanishing point. The lack of Israeli faith in him and his process has them using the talks to extract more tangible security assurances—the jets. And though America remains beloved, Obama is about as popular here as he is in Oklahoma. A Jerusalem Post poll in May found nine percent of Israelis consider Obama…

Take your pick.....

Credited to Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

"Interesting" question: Who's winning the terror "war"?

In a piece "Death by a Thousand Cuts" on FP, the question is posed of who is winning the "fight" between terrorists, a la Al Qaeda, and Western countries. One thing is for sure. With little cost people like the Taliban are forcing Western countries, especially the USA, to spend astronomical amounts attempting to secure themselves from terrorist attacks.

"Two Nokia phones, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200. That is all what Operation Hemorrhage cost us… On the other hand this supposedly 'foiled plot', as some of our enemies would like to call [it], will without a doubt cost America and other Western countries billions of dollars in new security measures."

Thus begins the lead article in the latest issue of Inspire, the English-language online magazine produced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the jihadi group's Yemen branch, whic…

The US economic outlook? Grim!

Some pundits are suggesting that the latest economic news out of the USA is encouraging - that is, the signs are of an improvement from the myriad of issues like weak consumer spending, etc. On the other hand there are some economists who say that it is only a matter of time before the US will be confronted with the same sort of issues which Japan did many years ago and now Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Economics Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman, who writes a regular op-ed piece for The New York Times, says that it is only a matter of time before America is confronted with an economic "blood bath".

"Former Senator Alan Simpson is a Very Serious Person. He must be — after all, President Obama appointed him as co-chairman of a special commission on deficit reduction.

So here’s what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: “I can’t wait for the blood bath in April. ... When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’…

Next WikiLeaks "dump" imminent

No wonder the Obama Administration has warned about an imminent "dump" of documents by WikiLeaks, if they are the sort of documents to be rumoured to be released.

The Raw Story reports in "WikiLeaks release to feature corruption among world leaders, governments".

"The Obama administration on Wednesday warned that the next release of documents from whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks could damage relations between the US and foreign governments. Now, a report from Reuters offers an explanation as to why that may be.

According to "sources familiar with the State Department cables held by WikiLeaks," the imminent document dump will include reports from US diplomats on corruption within foreign governments and among world leaders.

Reuters reports that governments in Europe and Asia feature prominently in the document release, with Russia and Afghanistan being mentioned by name. However, there were no specifics reported as to the nature of the corruption allegat…

Food...but not for all

Food, the stuff of life, isn't as readily available as we might think.

IPS reports:

"While many U.S. residents prepare for their annual Thanksgiving feast Thursday, one in six are at risk of hunger – including a quarter of all children in the country.

Globally, 925 million people, or a little less than 15 percent of the world population, is undernourished. Ironically, Washington's efforts to alleviate hunger abroad may be more successful than at home, analysts say.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's estimate last week that 49 million U.S. residents, including 17 million children, lacked adequate food at some point during 2009 came about a week before the annual post-harvest celebration of Thanksgiving, during which many U.S. kitchens are filled with the bounties expected by residents of such a wealthy country. But not everyone can expect those bounties, it turns out.

The number of "food insecure" households in the U.S. jumped in 2008 due to the economic crisi…

Where the money (lots) went

From War is Business, some truly staggering figures on who is spending what for whom.....

"$10.9 billion was the value of military training and sales agreements executed in fiscal year 2000 by the Pentagon’s global arms delivery service, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

$31.6 billion was the sum of the agency’s business in fiscal year 2010, which concluded at the end of September. The DSCA just released the new figures.

$4.7 billion of that total comprised training and equipment for the Afghan military and police services. (Eager recruits, pictured.)

$4.0 billion worth of hardware went to Israel, the DSCA’s top buyer.

$2.6 billion went to Egypt.

$463 million is the latest official tally of US aid to Pakistan for flood relief.

$250 million is how much China has pledged for flood relief. Swaths of Pakistan’s Sindh province are expected to remain underwater for months."

Two-state solution, R.I.P

This piece by professor Stephen Walt on his blog on FP says it all....succinctly!

"Yesterday the Israeli Knesset voted 65-33 to approve the so-called referendum law, which requires a national referendum on any subsequent withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. According to Israeli journalist Dimi Reider, the new law:

Conditions any Israeli withdrawal from any of its territory -- into which Israel, alone in the world, includes the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem -- on passing a nation-wide referendum. To overrule the law, the Knesset would need a privileged majority of 80 out of 120 parliamentarians."

In other words, you can kiss the two-state solution good-bye. (For a similar appraisal of the new law, see Mitchell Plitnick here.) Given the current (and likely future) state of politics within Israel, this law in effect gives a veto to the hard-line settler faction. Even in the unlikely event that Netanyahu agreed to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state and a capital …

Wrong ally, wrong candidate for anything

She's done it again. The heroine of many Americans, Sarah Palin, has again shown that to even consider her fit for any political office, in particular the presidency or vice-presidency of the USA, is scary indeed!

"Sarah Palin's foreign policy skills have again been questioned after the possible future president of the United States referred to North Korea as "America's ally".

Speaking to Fox News presenter Glenn Beck on his radio show, Mrs Palin said the US should support North Korea in a conflict started on Tuesday when the Kim JongIl-led nation bombed a small South Korean island without provocation.

A co-host of Beck asked Mrs Palin how she would handle the diplomatic stand-off that had developed since the deadly bombing.

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"Obviously, we've got to stand with our North Korean allies. We're bound to by treaty ... " she said.

She was promptly corrected by the interviewer before continuing.

"Eh, yea…

Crying "terrorism", not "wolf"

The assault on and of airline passengers in the USA continues....and will do so in other countries too as they introduce such absurd so-called security measures at airports.

Glenn Greenwald takes up the subject in his latest piece on Salon, and rightly concludes that governments have adopted the cry of "terrorism" to do almost anything to justify this or that - be it things like the x-ray body scans or full body searches at airports or the abrogation of civil rights.

"The public fury over the new TSA airport security measures intensified this week, with harrowing stories of a breast cancer survivor forced to show her prosthetic breast and a male passenger whose urostomy bag leaked urine all over him when it was roughly manhandled by airport agents during a "patdown." So what does the Federal Government do to address this growing public anger? That's easy: the playbook is well established:

White House: Terrorists Have Discussed Use of Prosthetics to Conceal …

Eh? Spillcam? Vuvuzela?

The verdict is in on what the new or buzz words for 2010 are. Needless to say one of them is the now Sarah Palin "invention" of "refudiate".

The Washington Post puts us in the picture about the 2010 new words.....and how and why.

"Spillcam" and "vuvuzela" were the top words of 2010, reflecting the global impact of the months-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the noisy South African horns at the World Cup soccer tournament, according to a survey released on Sunday.

"Refudiate" -- a word coined by politician Sarah Palin in a cross between refute and repudiate -- also made the top 10, according to the annual Global Language Monitor survey.

The Texas-based survey uses a math formula to track the frequency of words and phrases in the English-speaking world of more than 1.58 billion people.

It declared that President Hu Jintao of China and Apple's new iPad were the two top names of the year on a list that also featured "Chilea…

A timely letter to OZ MP's

The Zionist Lobby in Australia, like its US counterparts, has, once again, arranged a trip to Israel for MP's and journalists. This isn't a educational-type tour. It's unashamed propaganda building. Why else would the tour not embrace the "visitors" going to Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank? - let alone meeting with leading Arab and Palestinian people.

The group Australians for Palestine have written a timely and more than appropriate letter to the upcoming MP visitors:

"Dear Senator/Member of Parliament,

The reported visit of 17 ministers, members and senators of the Australian Parliament to Israel as part of a 40 member delegation in December is a cause for serious concern. That the visit is being arranged and is partly funded by the privately owned Australia Israel Leadership Forum (AILF) and that many of those going are known Israel supporters, already brings into question the value of a trip so one-sided. As far as we have been able to ascertain…

"Peace" talks....but not with the real mccoy!

The might of the NATO forces on show in Afghanistan...or perhaps not.

Sit back and puzzle about our great political and military leaders - as The New York Timesreports:

"For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or…

Brave good soldiers! They used children as human shields

Israel's judicial and military system yet again shows how appalling it is - despite all the chest-beating and boasting about the IDF being the most moral army in the world, Israel being a democracy and applying the Rule of Law.

Abby Zimmet explains in CommonDreams:

"Though the Goldstone Report cited them for committing war crimes, two Israeli soldiers who used a nine-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield - forcing him to open bags they thought held explosives during the assault on Gaza - each got three-month suspended sentences today, and slight demotions. Israeli lawmakers promptly appealed for a pardon, even though the practice is said to be common. Noted the boy, Majed Rabah, now 11, "If an Israeli child was exposed to the same thing, the whole world would have turned against us. But when it's a Palestinian child, nothing happens." Wise child.

''It's over!'' shouted the soldiers after the sentence was handed down. ''Now all we wa…

Afghanistan: 3 connecting points

Leaders of NATO nations, together with some others, met in Lisbon at the weekend to discuss, as one topic on the agenda, whither Afghanistan. Leaving to one side that it was really no more than a photo-op for the leaders and that they could have saved a lot of time and money in not attending in the first place - given that the meeting was for one day only and almost certainly officials before the meeting had thrashed out what was going to happen anyway - bottom-line it was agreed that everyone is going to hang in there in Afghanistan until at least 2014.

The Afghans will be thrilled, especially when one has regard, by way of background, this report from Reuters:

"Afghans in two crucial southern provinces are almost completely unaware of the September 11 attacks on the United States and don't know they precipitated the foreign intervention now in its 10th year, a new report showed on Friday.

NATO leaders gathered in Lisbon for a summit on Friday where the transition from for…

Bah Facebook! Enough already!

Drowning in email, social networking, linking with others and being tied to the laptop and mobile phone? It's gonna get worse.....

Richard Harper, writing in The Observer, laments the trend of where we are heading with Facebook announcing this:

"Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder and CEO, announced that his company was to launch a new email messaging system. He wasn't seeking to elbow in on free email services. This service would be "something different". Traditional email is made for intermittent exchanges of content, he explained, whereas this new messaging medium will support "ongoing conversations".


"The issue here is how different communications technologies afford different sorts of ways of being in touch. Take another example: when I post on my Facebook account, I mostly do not want an instant response. All I am doing is raising a flag to describe what I am thinking or doing, hoping that at some later time friends might …

The horrifying prospect that "she" might really run in 2012

It's hard to believe that anyone could take Sarah Palin seriously, but a lot of Americans do. Just reflect on these facts in Frank Richs' latest column "Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha" in The New York Times - and his sober assessment of Palin, the GOP and the Democrats.

"Palin is on the top of her worlds — both the Republican Party and the media universe. “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” set a ratings record for a premiere on TLC, attracting nearly five million viewers — twice the audience of last month’s season finale of the blue-state cable favorite, “Mad Men.” The next night Palin and her husband Todd were enshrined as proud parents in touchy-feely interviews on “Dancing With the Stars,” the network sensation (21 million viewers) where their daughter Bristol has miraculously escaped elimination all season despite being neither a star nor a dancer. This week Sarah Palin will most likely vanquish George W. Bush and Keith Richards on the best-seller list wi…

GM salmon and farming practices generally

The debate continues.....GM salmon or not? The US authorities are said to be on the cusp of deciding, possibly this coming week, whether to allow GM salmon. It looks like the US FDA may not consider all the things it ought to in deciding whether to grant the OK for GM salmon.

IPS reports:

"It would be the first GM animal approved for human consumption, and there are fears that the review process is overlooking key ripple effects of approving the fish.

These ripple effects are both positive, such as public health benefits, and negative, such as environmental degradation, say researchers.

The debate over the salmon, which would be raised on fish farms and which contains inserted genes from two other species of fish that allow it to grow faster and require less feed than conventional salmon, has focused on whether the fish would pose a hazard to human health or, were it to escape into oceans or rivers, to wild salmon populations.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is charged with…

"The Beast" and NATO

The just concluded NATO Conference in Lisbon was designed to be environmental friendly - that is, to promote clean energy and electric cars - amongst other things.

So, what do the Americans do in ferrying Obama around Lisbon? Everything contrary to the spirit of the conference, as Agence France-Presse reports [as reproduced on CommmonDreams]:

"The Portuguese hosts of Friday's NATO summit hoped to use the event to promote clean-energy and electric cars, but all eyes were on US President Barack Obama's diesel-guzzling "Beast" instead.

President Barack Obama steps out of his eight-ton armored behemoth of a limousine and is welcomed by his Portuguese counterpart Anibal Antonio Cavaco Silva (C) in Lisbon on Friday. The Portugese hosts of Friday's NATO summit hoped to use the event to promote the clean-living electric car, but all eyes were on Obama's diesel-guzzling "Beast" instead.

Doubtless he didn't intend the Beast's roar to drown out h…

No blarney here! The woes of the Irish

The Irish may have sought to show a brave face to the outside world and stave off intervention of the EU to bail it out of its economic woes, but as this piece in the New York Times by Irish writer John Banville so clearly highlights, the country is in dire straits:

"It is the figures, mainly, that cow us into silence. It is estimated that the banking debt of this nation, which has a population of only 4.6 million, may be substantially more than 100 billion euros. That is 100,000 millions and rising. When we were at school it amused our science teachers to dazzle us with astronomical statistics — so many myriads of light years, so many zillions of stars — but the numbers that we are being forced to count on our too-few fingers now have nothing to do with the fanciful dimensions of outer space. They represent precisely the breadth and depth of the financial hole into which we have toppled headlong.

In the months after September 2008, when the Irish government, after a night-long cri…

Call for reality check

Bob Herbert, writing his latest op-ed piece "Hiding From Reality" in The New York Times, paints a bleak picture of the state of affairs in the US of A- and how it is time for a wake-up call and reality check where things are at in America. The piece makes for sobering reading and make one wonder what Obama, or for that matter anyone, can do to effectively put a stop to the rot enveloping the USA on a many levels:

"The human suffering in the years required to recover from the recession will continue to be immense. And that suffering will only be made worse if the nation embarks on a misguided crash program of deficit reduction that in the short term will undermine any recovery, and in the long term will make true deficit reduction that much harder to achieve.

The wreckage from the recession and the nation’s mindlessly destructive policies in the years leading up to the recession is all around us. We still don’t have the money to pay for the wars that we insist on fighting…

Point made! Period!

Credited to John Trever, New Mexico, The Albuquerque Journal

Paywall? Or not?

"With newspapers scrambling just to break even, the issue of pay walls is hotly debated. Everyone wants to make money by providing content, but the general public is still resistant to paying for content on the Internet, especially if it's available elsewhere for free.

In the first-ever episode on Editor & Publisher of The Webby Debates, Financial Times managing editor Robert Shrimsley (pro-paywall) and Guardian editor Janine Gibson (anti-paywall) spar over the merits and pitfalls of this controversial issue.

Iraq: Chronicling the War

The news nowadays is mostly about the war in Afghanistan - as if the war in Iraq is now done and dusted. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Spiegel OnLine International reports in "Taking Stock of the Iraq Invasion":

"With its invasion of Iraq, the United States rid the Iraqi people of a tyrant. But it also broke the law and destroyed tens of thousands of lives. With the release of close to 400,000 Iraq logs by WikiLeaks and the coming publication of George W. Bush's memoir, it is time to take stock of a war that was catastrophic for Iraq and America's standing in the world.

In early October, there were 500 unidentified bodies in the Baghdad city morgues. According to one doctor, just as many bodies are being delivered to morgues today as in 2007. At least 630 people were shot to death with silenced pistols in the last three months alone. Although most were guards at checkpoints, the victims also included politicians and their relatives, as well as a televi…

By no stretch of the imagination is this justice

Glenn Greenwald, lawyer and regular contributor to Salon, comments on the verdict and consequences of the just concluded trial of Ahmed Ghailani in New York. True it is that all but one of the some 280 charges were thrown out by the jury, but the effect of being convicted on just 1 charge, in reality, makes little difference in the scheme of things - as Greenwald explains.

"A federal jury in New York yesterday returned a guilty verdict against accused Terrorist Ahmed Ghailani on one count of conspiracy to blow up a government building, a crime which entails a sentence of 20 years to life, but acquitted him on more than 280 charges of murder and conspiracy relating to the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Last month, the federal judge presiding over the case, Lewis Kaplan, banned the testimony of a key witness because the Government under George Bush and Dick Cheney learned of his identity not through legal means but instead by torturing Ghailani (and a…

Chinese netizens

It's a contradiction on many levels. In the West newspapers are closing down at rate of knots. The debate continues whether bloggers can fill the void. Many don't see that "serious" blogs can offer an alternative to mainstream newspapers.

Look to China, and things are quite different to what we would imagine - as the Columbia Journalism Review records in "Chinese Chess Mate":

"The resourceful ways that Chinese netizens have responded to the social injustices that surround them and to the limitations of their country’s carefully censored press, and indeed the sheer pace of change in this world, highlight one of the fundamental complexities of characterizing the situation of expression in China. For instance, it is becoming ever clearer that China’s online community is providing a more robust example of the full potential and sheer relevance of what we call the “citizen journalist” than exists in many rich, liberal societies. This, despite the fa…

From Pultizer Prize-winning author... to actor

From The New Yorker:

"Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who covers international affairs for The New Yorker. But he has also been, in recent years, a man of the stage. After releasing his book “The Looming Tower,” Wright elaborated on his reporting experiences in a one-man play, “My Trip to Al-Qaeda.” (Watch a video excerpt.) The play premiered at the New Yorker Festival four years ago and went on to play Off Broadway, at the Culture Project. This fall, the show became the subject of a documentary on HBO.

Now Wright is back onstage, with a new one-man play inspired by “Captives,” his piece about the crisis in Gaza, which ran in the magazine last fall. The play is called “The Human Scale".

In the video below, Wright talks to WNYC about the how he got from journalism to theatre, and about his main aspiration for the show: to reveal the “human scale” of Israel-Palestinian conflict in the midst of so much anger."

Christopher Hitchens: Why America will come to regret the craven deal Obama is offering Netanyahu.

Well-known commentator Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate, takes a stick to Obama and Hilary Clinton in relation to their offer to Israel to stop the on-going development of settlements for 90 days. Talk about grovel!

"Now we read that, in return for just 90 days of Israeli lenience on new settlement-building (this brief pause or "freeze" not to include the crucial precincts of East Jerusalem), Netanyahu is being enticed with "a package of security incentives and fighter jets worth $3 billion" and a promise that the United States government would veto any Palestinian counterproposal at the United Nations. Netanyahu, while graciously considering this offer, was initially reported as being unsure whether he "could win approval for the United States deal from his Cabinet." In other words, we must wait on the pleasure of Rabbi Yosef and Ministers Atias, Yishai, and Lieberman, who have the unusual ability to threaten Netanyahu from his right wing.


Sorry're not equal 2010! Women aren't, and won't be for years, entitled to equal pay for equal work. Astounding, but read on from The Nation:

"Women fell two votes short on Wednesday to coming closer to getting paid the same as men for the same work. Senate Republicans decided that equal pay for women should not even be considered, as they blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act from moving to the floor.

The bill, which will not be brought up again in this Congress, faces more of an uphill battle in the next one, with Republicans gaining control of the House and more seats in the Senate.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would have updated the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes, strengthening incentives to prevent pay discrimination and prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages, according to the American Association of University Women, which has been pushing for its passage for 10 years. It also would have requi…

Mom blogger alleges sexual assault by the TSA

The whole x-ray body-scan or close pat-down at American airports is looking more and more absurd and aggravating- and increasingly the subject of ire from fliers.

First up, this, from a well-known blogger American Mom:

"A prominent "mommy blogger" has described in humiliating detail how she was violated by a US airport security official who touched her genitals while executing the controversial new "enhanced pat-down" procedure.

Her account of the incident, which she retold in excruciating detail in a blog post, has become another cause celebre in what many Americans see as a mounting catalogue of violations of their civil liberties.

Erin Chase, a blogger and author who has become a minor celebrity though her book on frugal recipes, The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook, was screened at Dayton International Airport, Ohio, last Friday.

She was forced to leave her child in the pram and subject herself to a hands-on screening by a female officer from the Transportation Security …

Israel: Calculating food intake for Gazans.... just above starvation

Is there any word other than inhumane and horrendous [especially in this day and age!] to describe what many have known? - but Media Lens now details about Israel's calculated policy to determine just what minimum food is to enter Gaza so that people don't actually starve to death.

"Israel has been forced to reveal what Palestinians and other observers on the ground have known for a long time: that the blockade of Gaza is state policy intended to inflict collective punishment, not to bolster Israeli “security”.

An Israeli human rights group has won a legal battle to compel the Israeli government to release three important documents. These outline state policy for permitting the transfer of goods into Gaza prior to the May 31 attack on the peace flotilla in which nine people were killed by Israeli forces. The group, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, is demanding Israeli transparency. Meanwhile, Israel refuses to release documents on the current version of blocka…

Peace activist makes a call on Iran

The U.S. peace activist Tristan Anderson has given his first interview since being critically injured when Israeli soldiers fired a high-velocity tear gas canister directly at his head in 2009. Anderson was taking part in a weekly nonviolent protest against Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank. On Sunday, he helped unfurl a banner calling for the release of his friends Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two U.S. hikers who remain imprisoned in Iran.

Anderson and the recently freed American hiker Sarah Shourd also sat down for a joint interview on Democracy Now!

Oh what fun it is to travel!

With full see-through body scan x-rays being introduced at airports around the world - or otherwise be confronted with a full physical body search - travel has become even more unpleasant.

CommonDreams takes up the issue and the case of one man who wasn't to be cowed by the process.

"Much buzz over the video made by John Tyner, a 31-year-old software engineer who refused to undergo a full-body scan at the San Diego airport, then refused what he calls the requisite "groping by a government official" - as in, "If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested" - all the while using his iPhone to record the encounter with increasingly hostile security agents. Now some legislators may ask Congress to reconsider the use of the scanners. All just in time for the busy travel season and next week's National Opt Out Day. Because, organizers say, "You should never have to explain to your children, 'Remember that no stranger can touch or see your priva…