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Showing posts from March, 2011

Theft by no other name......

A general view over the construction site of the Israeli settlement Har Homa
built on land confiscated from the West Bank city of Bethlehem
September 8, 2006.

If this isn't rampant theft of land in breach of international law, it is hard to think what might be.......

From Ma'an News Agency:

"As Palestinians commemorate Land Day, the anniversary of an uprising against Israel's land confiscation, a report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released a report showing Israel's settlement project is rapidly escalating.

Thirty-five years on from the uprising, in which six young protesters were killed by Israeli forces, Palestinians constitute almost half of the population of the Palestine under the British Mandate, but have access to less than 15 percent of the land, the PCBS report said.

Israel's separation wall has confiscated around 733 square kilometers of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, the report notes. Israel says the wall was built to prev…

In a vice and hard decisions [of his own making] loom for PM

Israeli PM Netanyahu has been able to have things pretty much his own way the last years. The Americans were compliant and Jordan, Egypt and Syria were "safe" in that they created no "issues" for Israel. As for the Palestinians, they could be kept under control given the might of the Israeli's as occupiers of Gaza and the West Bank.

But times have changed - rapidly! - and the PM has now created a vice for himself and his country.

"Hamstrung politically, diplomatically and militarily, Netanyahu has come under growing domestic criticism. The complacency which he has demonstrated with his policy of clinging to a "no war, no peace" status quo risks exacerbating regional instability even more, warned Yossi Sarid, a renowned Israeli opinion-maker.

In a Ha'aretz article entitled "When Israel's politicians sit idle, terrorists step forward", Sarid wrote sarcastically: "Hamas cannot believe the good fortune of Israel doing its bid…

Superinjunctions in the digital age

Crikey, the Australian online magazine [worth subscribing to by the way] has an editorial today on the ever-increasing use of superinjunctions - and how they don't really sit well with and in the digital age.

"Today Crikey features an article by Bernard Keane that would be in contempt of court were it published in the United Kingdom, relating to an extraordinary, and legally novel, form of "superinjunction" that has blocked reporting of a case arising from a financial dispute within the Lumley family. Material relating to the case is freely available online, even if British media outlets are not permitted to say where.

The regular use of superinjunctions to block reporting of inconvenient, damaging or occasionally even simply embarrassing material by companies and prominent individuals has reached scandalous proportions in the United Kingdom, to the extent that MPs are using Parliamentary privilege to breach them.

The merits or otherwise of the individual cases are not…

Syria: The State of Emergency - which started in 1963

Let it not be said that Syria's State of Emergency hasn't been in place for a long time. Since 1963 in fact. That is what many Syrians now want removed or lifted - and which the President did not when addressing the nation today.

David W. Lesch, a professor of Middle East history at Trinity University, is the author of “The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria.”. Writing an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Lesch provides an insight into the Syrian President.

"Will he be like his father, Hafez al-Assad, who during three decades in power gave the security forces virtually a free hand to maintain order and sanctioned the brutal repression of a violent Islamist uprising in the early 1980s? Or will he see this as an opportunity to take Syria in a new direction, fulfilling the promise ascribed to him when he assumed the presidency upon his father’s death in 2000?

Mr. Assad’s background suggests he could go either way. He is a licensed ophthalmologist …

The news shouldn't be one-sided

It's not only NPR which is guilty of not presenting diverse or contrary views to those of the government - the Australian ABC isn't all that good either, nor the BBC - as FAIR details what has been happening in the US.

"If public television's mission is to bring diverse viewpoints to the airwaves, the discussions about the war in Libya on the PBS NewsHour haven't lived up to that standard. Over the past two weeks, the NewsHour has featured an array of current and former military and government officials in its discussion segments--leaving little room for antiwar voices, U.S. foreign policy critics and legal experts."

What Mission?

Credited to R. J.Matson, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Roll Call

1 billion people to face water shortages in 2050

Yes, it might be far off, but if a report on water resources is correct, by 2050 something like 1 billion people will face water shortages in 2050.

"More than one billion urban residents will face serious water shortages by 2050 as climate change worsens effects of urbanization, with Indian cities among the worst hit, a study said Monday.

The shortage threatens sanitation in some of the world's fastest-growing cities but also poses risks for wildlife if cities pump in water from outside, said the article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study found that under current urbanization trends, by mid-century some 993 million city dwellers will live with less than 100 liters (26 gallons) each day of water each -- roughly the amount that fills a personal bathtub -- which authors considered the daily minimum.

Adding on the impact of climate change, an additional 100 million people will lack what they need for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and toilet use.&…

10 days of US "involvement" in Libya = US$550 million bill

It's obviously easy to spend money at the Pentagon - when the President gives the green light.

Politico reports on what the Pentagon has already spent after only 10 days into the US being part of the military involvement in Libya.

"The Pentagon says it has spent $550 million on U.S. military operations in Libya since efforts to protect civilians from Muammar Qadhafi’s regime began 10 days ago.

Details of expenditures on the Libya mission show the Defense Department spending more than 60 percent of the $550 million on bombs and missiles, Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Kathleen Kesler told POLITICO. The rest of the costs, she said, “are for higher operating tempo of U.S. forces and deployment costs.”

The total — the first official tab released by the Pentagon — reflects costs incurred in the mission between March 19 and March 28. It doesn’t include day-to-day military costs like troop salaries and the upkeep of ships that the Pentagon would have had to pay regardless of the actio…

An analysis of the Obama speech.

Stephen Walt, Professor of International Relations at Harvard, in his blog on FP has an excellent analysis of the Obama speech to the American people on how / why the US is involved in the military action in Libya.

"The president is tiptoeing through a mine-field of conflicting imperatives, seeking to justify a war that he has launched even though there are no vital strategic interests at stake. And make no mistake: it is a war. When your forces are flying hundreds of sorties, and firing missiles and dropping bombs on another country's armed forces, it is Orwellian to call it anything else.

It is a war being fought for humanitarian objectives -- and there's nothing inherently wrong with that -- but the president's somewhat tortured parsing of the reasons for his action betrays an awareness that he's on shaky ground. And notice that almost all of his justifications were anticipatory in nature: we went to war to prevent a potential bloodbath in Benghazi, to prevent e…

Who are those "rebels" they refer to in Libya?

As military action in and in relation to Libya continues - where will it all end one might legitimately ask - reference is constantly made to the "rebels" fighting the Gadhafi regime. But who are these "rebels?". Veteran journalist Jon Lee Anderson, writing in The New Yorker, has some answers.

"President Obama, who is torn between the imperatives of rescuing Libyan innocents from slaughter and not falling into yet another prolonged war, described the same rebels rather differently: “people who are seeking a better way of life.”

During weeks of reporting in Benghazi and along the chaotic, shifting front line, I’ve spent a great deal of time with these volunteers. The hard core of the fighters has been the shabab—the young people whose protests in mid-February sparked the uprising. They range from street toughs to university students (many in computer science, engineering, or medicine), and have been joined by unemployed hipsters and middle-aged mechanics, me…

Look who is helping block the web in the Middle East

Perhaps not really surprising, but American companies are assisting regimes in the Middle East to block use of the internet. But doesn't that fly in the face of US foreign policy?

"As Middle East regimes try to stifle dissent by censoring the Internet, the U.S. faces an uncomfortable reality: American companies provide much of the technology used to block websites."

****

"According to a forthcoming report from OpenNet, ISPs in at least nine Middle East and North African countries have used "Western-made tools for the purpose of blocking social and political content, effectively blocking a total of over 20 million Internet users from accessing such websites."

This doesn't look or smell like a democracy to me!

Israel and its supporters are forever banging-on about it being the only democracy in the Middle East. In many material respects, nothing could be further from the truth. Each day sees Israel move further and further to the right and adopt tactics which smack of the McCarthy era in the USA.

The latest "outrage" is reported on by veteran journalist Uri Avnery in a piece "Who is Annexing Whom?" on CounterPunch:

"In a rare late-night session, the Knesset has finally adopted two obnoxious racist laws. Both are clearly directed against Israel’s Arab citizens, a fifth of the population.

The first makes it possible to annul the citizenship of persons found guilty of offences against the security of the state. Israel prides itself on having a great variety of such laws. Annulling citizenship on such grounds is contrary to international law and conventions.

The second is more sophisticated. It allows communities of less than 400 families to appoint “admission committe…

The politicians decide. The troops suffer [badly!]

One has to wonder whether politicians really think about the consequences when they decide to declare war or even just send troops into an area of conflict - let alone ever get to appreciate what suffering the decision has caused to the troops.

This piece "Aftershock: The Blast That Shook Psycho Platoon" on propublica should be compulsory reading for George Bush, Blair and Howard - the main protagonists for the Iraq War - and now Obama.

"More than 2 million troops have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Tens of thousands have returned with a bedeviling mix of psychological and cognitive problems. For decades, doctors have recognized that soldiers can suffer lasting wounds from the sheer terror of combat, a condition referred to today as post-traumatic stress disorder. They also have come to know that blows to the head from roadside bombs -- the signature weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan -- can result in mild traumatic injuries to the brain, or concussion…

The collapse of globalisation

Chris Hedges is a one time Bureau Chief in Jerusalem of The New York Times. He has been awarded a Pulitzer and now writes for truthdig.

To say the least, Hedges paints a gloomy picture in his latest piece for truthdig. He asserts that globalisation has collapsed - and the facts he presents to support his argument are not without merit.

"Adequate food, clean water and basic security are already beyond the reach of perhaps half the world’s population. Food prices have risen 61 percent globally since December 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund. The price of wheat has exploded, more than doubling in the last eight months to $8.56 a bushel. When half of your income is spent on food, as it is in countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia and the Ivory Coast, price increases of this magnitude bring with them malnutrition and starvation. Food prices in the United States have risen over the past three months at an annualized rate of 5 percent. There are some 40 million …

Libya: Obama explains....and it remains obscure

Obama has, at last, spoken publicly on why the US has been "involved" in the military activities in relation to Libya.

Unfortunately, he hasn't made things any clearer, as AlJazeera explains:

"Obama spoke on the eve of a 35-nation conference in London to tackle the crisis in the North African oil-exporting country and weigh political options for ending Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

Obama's challenge was to define the limited purpose and scope of the US mission in Libya for Americans preoccupied with domestic economic concerns and weary of costly wars in two other Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US took the initial lead in the Western-led military action against Gaddafi, before NATO agreed to take over the operations. Obama said the US will transfer control to NATO on Wednesday.

Obama said once that transfer occurs, the risk and cost to American taxpayers will be reduced significantly.

But Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, said Oba…

After 63 years, what's left?

From Scoop in "81 Reasons Why Gaza has the right to Self Defense":

"If the international community has abandoned its responsibilities towards Palestinians, and particularly towards Gaza, as the above examples over the last 63 years plus this map of Palestinian territories so graphically illustrate, what else is left to Gaza but self-defense?"

*****

"Seventy-nine of them can be found in United Nations Security Council Resolutions “directly critical of Israel for violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international terrorism, or other violations of international law.” (1)

Number 80 can be found in the Goldstone Report (2), the recommendations of which have yet to implemented some 18 months after its submission to the Human Rights Council, and Paragraph 1912 of which stresses “all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in ad…

Nuclear radiation: 'The greatest public health hazard'

"A pediatrician, [Helen] Caldicott came from her native Australia to become an instructor on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, where she specialized in the treatment of cystic fibrosis at the Children's Hospital Medical Center. She soon helped revive the moribund Physicians for Social Responsibility, a health organization dedicated to halting the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

While she was president, from 1978 through 1984, the group grew to 23,000 physician members and in 1985 shared in a Nobel Peace Prize with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. "We led the nuclear weapons freeze movement with many other professional groups," she said. "I think we helped to end the Cold War."

CNN conducted a Q & A with Caldicott. Sample:

"CNN: Is it possible to have a safe nuclear power plant?

Caldicott: No. They are very complicated machines containing the energy released when an atom is split: Einstein…

Torture: What George Bush really wanted and was after

There is little which Governments can hide which doesn't, eventually, see the light of day by one means or the other.

Remember the reason George Bush gave to justify torture? Well, it was a lie, as this piece in truthout reveals.

"Bush administration officials have long asserted that the torture techniques used on "war on terror" detainees were utilized as a last resort in an effort to gain actionable intelligence to thwart pending terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests abroad.

But the handwritten notes obtained exclusively by Truthout drafted two decades ago by Dr. John Bruce Jessen, the psychologist who was under contract to the CIA and credited as being one of the architects of the government's top-secret torture program, tell a dramatically different story about the reasons detainees were brutalized and it was not just about obtaining intelligence. Rather, as Jessen's notes explain, torture was used to "exploit" detainees…

Child slavery? In 2011?

We pride ourselves as living in an enlightened and civilised world. All sadly, leaving aside that we are continually engaged in wars at some spot in the world, we still have widespread hunger around the globe - and slavery! Yes, slavery, including that of children.

In a piece "Victims of Child Slavery Learning to Fight Back" on Spiegel OnLine International on child slavery in Nepal, this:

"In Nepali, the word kamalari means "hardworking woman." But these aren't women being sold off and forced to work; they're children between the ages of five and 15, thin-armed girls forced to work 14-16 hours a day in the households of families, fully at the mercy of their owners and exposed to their moods and their beatings. About one in 10 of the girls is sexually abused.

Aid organizations estimate that 10,000 girls work as kamalari in Nepal. As long ago as 1956, the United Nations declared that forms of child labor and bonded labor were slavery and should therefor…

The drum-beats for another war

Informed commentary asserts that it isn't a question of if, but rather when, Israel yet again unleashes a war against Gaza. The last one (Operation Cast Lead) just over 2 years ago saw a mighty Israeli force pitted against a pitiful collection of basically defenceless people - and hence the large causalities suffered by the Gazans, especially children.

Meanwhile, those with a sober voice are suggesting that Israel should be alive to its position in the world, the region, what is happening inside Israel - as it veers dangerously to the Right - and events as they have been unfolding.

First up Gideon Levy writing in "Israel's dissidents are saving the country" in Haaretz:

"In the new high-tech world, there is no longer a difference between what is written and what is said from here or from there. In the new world, which is mainly hostile to Israel, there is significance to alternative voices coming out of Israel, voices other than the official, threatening and …

All the new words [with some surprises] in the Oxford English Dictionary

From Mashable:

"Before you take to the comments to ream us out about the above headline: “OMG,” “LOL” and the symbol for “heart” have all been added to the Oxford English Dictionary Online.

According to the OED‘s site, the newest edition of the dictionary (which comes out online today) revises more than 1,900 entries and includes a ton of new words — including the neologisms above.

So what do OMG and LOL mean to the OED? In the electronic realm, they’re merely shorthand for surprise and mirth. In the real-world space — according to the OED’s blog post — “The intention is usually to signal an informal, gossipy mode of expression, and perhaps parody the level of unreflective enthusiasm or overstatement that can sometimes appear in online discourse, while at the same time marking oneself as an ‘insider’ aufait with the forms of expression associated with the latest technology.”

So, we’re going with irony rather than pre-teen sincerity here, huh, OED? Fair enough.

The OED also reveals tha…

A Q & A on Law of Wars issues in Libya

"The following Questions and Answers (Q & A) address aspects of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) governing the armed conflict between the government of Libya and the international coalition, and between Libya and Libyan opposition armed groups. The purpose is to provide legal guidance on the fighting, including to the parties to the conflict and those with the capacity to influence them. This Q & A does not address the justifications or the legitimacy of resorting to war by any party."

From Human Rights Watch.....go here for the Q & A.

Who is "delegamitising" whom?

This is what it has come to.....as Israel, swings ever-more to the Right, and takes on even those Jews who question its actions in relation to the Palestinians, Occupation and Israel's own Arab population.

From Tikun Olum:

"After the IDF’s intelligence unit, Aman, came up with the bright idea to create a special unit to investigate, monitor and spy on Diaspora groups opposed to the Occupation (enemies now known by the catchy phrase, “delegitimizers”), I thought the only proper response was to step up proudly and say: “I am one.” Not a delegitimizer in the terms they employ since they falsely claim that delegitimizers wish Israel’s destruction. That’s not the kind of delegitimizer I am. I delegitimze Occupation as do all the groups they’ll be harrassing. So Michael Levin and I came up with this poster which we hope you will share, promote, circulate via social media, etc.

Let’s tell the generals, spooks, inquisitors and ideologues that we want to be first on the list to be in…

As another Middle Eastern country erupts, inside Syria

From Global Voices Online:

"Massive protests broke in several cities in Syria today in response to calls for a “Friday of Dignity” after a brutal governmental crackdown left dozens of protesters dead in the southern city of Daraa and nearby villages.

Today the world was mesmerized by videos of Syrian protests many though would never happen, especially after an earlier call for protest on 5 February failed to bring anyone to the streets. The following video was taken in Hama–where in 1982 the Syrian Army massacred around 10,000 people to squash a Muslim Brotherhood uprising–and you can hear protesters chanting “Freedom!” and “we sacrifice our souls and blood for Daraa.”

Not the sort of Rising Sun you would want

Biggest corporation in the US [if not the world] pays zero tax - plus benefits

Hard to believe, but it obviously "pays" to be the USA's, and perhaps even, the world's largest corporation - because then you can arrange "things" so that you end up paying zero tax. Yes, you read that correctly!

"Something to think about as tax day nears: General Electric is so good at doing their taxes, the government pays them. In 2010, the company reported global profits of $14.2 billion, $5.1 billion of which came from the U.S. But using a combination of offshore accounts and aggressive lobbying for tax breaks, GE managed to not only pay no taxes, but get a benefit of $3.2 billion. GE spent $200 million on lobbying in the last decade. At one point, when a generous tax break was about to expire, the head of GE's tax team met with Representative Charles Rangel, then chairman of the ways and means committee, and begged for an extension on one knee. Supposedly it was a joke, but GE got its extension, and Rangel got a $30 million gift for New Yor…

Hey! Has anyone asked what Arab Street thinks?

A thought-provoking piece from the Columbia Journalism Review - reflective of what an editor at the Sydney Morning Herald responded, just before the invasion of Iraq, when asked why the newspaper wasn't publishing anything of what the Iraqis thought about the whole situation in Iraq, that it hadn't ever occurred to her.

"On Wednesday, I went to hear Ayman Mohyeldin, the Cairo correspondent for Al Jazeera English, speak at the office of the Committee to Protect Journalists. His subject was the risks and realities of covering the Mideast, and at one point he was asked to reflect on the current situation in Libya. In his answer, he said something that stunned me: The vast majority of Arabs support the no-fly zone.

Despite all their suspicions about Western intervention in the region and all their doubts about U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, “nobody in the Mideast would denounce the U.S. military intervention in Libya,” Mohyeldin said. Muammar Qaddafi had baldly stated hi…

Obama faithfully follows in Bushs' footsteps - and more!

No comment need be added to Glenn Greenwald's excellent piece on Salon. How Obama, even exceeds George Bush in abrogating rights of the individual. So much for the lawyer-lecturer Obama - plus yet another broken election promise.

"One of the central pledges of Barack Obama's campaign was that -- as he put it early in his presidency -- the Bush administration had gone wildly wrong because it "established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable -- a framework that failed to rely on our legal traditions and time-tested institutions; that failed to use our values as a compass." Instead, he implored, we must fight Terrorism only "with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process, in checks and balances and accountability." Thus, he thunderously vowed, "We must never -- ever -- turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake."

The number of instances in which Obama has v…

The Israel-Palestine conflct: It's defintely not all one-sided

The horrific killing of an Israeli-settler family cannot be condoned on any account. It is but a manifestation of the violence which Israeli's inflict on Palestinians - and, on occasion, vice versa.

Jewish Voice for Peace puts the subject-matter in some context.

"Any act of violence, especially one against civilians, marks a profound failure of human imagination and causes a deep and abiding trauma for all involved. In mourning the nine lives lost in Gaza and the one life lost in Jerusalem this week, we reject the pattern of condemning the deaths of Israelis while ignoring the deaths of Palestinians. We do not discriminate. One life lost is one life too many--whether Palestinian or Israeli.

Within the context of 44 years of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, in the past two years (January 31, 2009 to January 31, 2011, starting just after Operation Cast Lead), over a thousand Palestinians have been made homeless by home demolitions, hundreds …

A Q & A with the “Simone de Beauvoir of Egypt”

White-haired and feisty, the 80-year-old Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi has been protesting against various Egyptian regimes for decades. A medical doctor by training and a prolific author by disposition, she has tackled difficult topics such as prostitution, female genital mutilation and discriminatory family laws in nearly fifty works of fiction and non-fiction. The Nation spoke to the “Simone de Beauvoir of Egypt” before a speaking engagement in New York.

A sample of the Q & A:

"What do you think of how the international media covered the protests?

Well, the big media is capitalist, so it serves the interests of big corporations, and that is why they lie. There were a lot of lies and rumors about the revolution in Egypt, and the role of women in our society. In the United States, it was very bad. I was censored in America, by Christiane Amanpour. She censored everything she didn’t like, which shows there is no real democracy here.

How did that manifest itself in the news c…

Your plastic whatever doing untold damage

Who can't be appalled and horrified when reading this latest news - "Plastic Particles Circulating Endlessly in World's Oceans" on CommonDreams - about what we are doing to our environment and the creatures on it. We seem hell-bent to do untold unthinking damage - and then it will be too late to retrieve an intolerable situation.

"That plastic bottle or plastic take-away coffee lid that has 20 minutes of use can spend decades killing countless seabirds, marine animals and fish, experts reported here this week.

On remote Pacific island atolls, diligent albatross parents unknowingly fill their chicks' bellies with bits of plastic that resemble food. The chicks die of malnutrition, and when their bodies decay all those plastic bottle tops, disposable lighters, and the ubiquitous bits of plastic detritus get back into the environment in a cruel perversion of 'recycling'.

There is now so much plastic in the oceans it is likely that virtually every seab…

A real warm, and close up, welcome to the USA

Are there no bounds to the "welcome" visitors might expect on arrival to the USA? Then again, with this latest piece of news of what might await one on entry to America, people might re-direct their travels elsewhere.

From the Barr Code on ajc:

"In a breathtaking statement delivered in an official court proceeding, the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claims authority to strip search every airline passenger; and to begin such a practice without even soliciting comment from the public.

This outrageous statement recently was delivered to the American people by a DHS lawyer in arguments before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is considering a challenge to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) nude body scanner devices. The suit was brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

Currently TSA, which is a component of DHS, claims authority to subject passengers to either an intrusive hand searc…

A better digital library than Google's

Robert Darnton is a professor and the director of the Harvard University Library.

He writes in an op-piece in The New York Times that there is a better digital library than that Google wants to establish.

"On Tuesday, Denny Chin, a federal judge in Manhattan, rejected the settlement between Google, which aims to digitize every book ever published, and a group of authors and publishers who had sued the company for copyright infringement. This decision is a victory for the public good, preventing one company from monopolizing access to our common cultural heritage.

Nonetheless, we should not abandon Google’s dream of making all the books in the world available to everyone. Instead, we should build a digital public library, which would provide these digital copies free of charge to readers. Yes, many problems — legal, financial, technological, political — stand in the way. All can be solved."

****

"That’s why what we really need is a noncommercial option: a digital public libra…

Now that's clear as mud!

David J Rothkopf writing in "Thanks for clarifying that: The known unknowns of the WH's Libya policy" on FP's blog:

"Where's Donald Rumsfeld when you need him? Once upon a time, the irrepressible former Defense Secretary insured his enshrinement in Barclay's Familiar Quotations with the line:

'There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.'

It was hilariously convoluted. As it happens, it also made some sense if you parsed it. Which puts it leagues ahead of the clarification offered by the White House's Ben Rhodes today concerning what America's policy in Libya actually is. In short, what he said was: "I know we said we were for regime change but we're actually not for it except of course for the fact that it is our primary objective.&quo…

Gadhafi: From pariah to friend... back to foe

No wonder that politicians are beside themselves about what WikiLeaks has been revealing - when you read this "gem". Initially a terrible man who the US bombed, Gadhafi became an ally until recently, when again reverted to being a pariah.

"Following a meeting in Tripoli between Libyan leader Colonel Qaddafi, his son Muatassim and a United States Congressional delegation led by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman on 14 August 2009, the American embassy classified diplomatic cable to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton highlighted the close working relationship both nations enjoy to combat the Global War on Terrorism.

The American embassy classified cable, released by WikiLeaks, quotes Senator Lieberman, the Chairman of the US Senate’s highly important Homeland Security Committee as calling Libya “an important ally in the war on terrorism.”

Lieberman in his discussion with the Libyan leader and his son further noted that “common enemies sometimes make better friends. Th…

No "Jasmine Revolution" for the Chinese

The Chinese are back at their old "game". Troubling report out of China from Amnesty International about how the authorities are cracking down on use of the internet in China. No "Jasmine Revolution" for China's 1.4 billion people!

"Online calls for China to stage its own ‘Jasmine Revolution’ following protests in the Middle East and North Africa has prompted the heaviest wave of arrests of Chinese activists for several years, Amnesty International has said.

More than 100 activists, many of them active on Twitter and blogging networks, have been detained, subjected to monitoring and intimidation by the security forces, or have gone missing since late February.

“The authorities are not only detaining seasoned dissidents; they are trying to silence a whole new generation of online activists” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific.

“The Chinese authorities must end their repression of calls for peaceful political …

Consistency clearly missing

MPS isn't the only one to comment on the West's inconsistency in its dealings, and actions, in relation to the nations of the Middle East. At the present time, Libya is in the sights of mainly the French, the UK and USA. Then again, as a letter-writer to The Age asked yesterday, where was Australia, and the world, as the Sri Lankan government-forces pummelled and attacked its Tamil people?

At truthdig, Robert Scheer asks a like pertinent question.

"But this time, in the glaring light of the democratic currents sweeping through the Mideast, the contradictions in supporting one set of dictators while toppling others may prove impossible for the U.S. and its allies to effectively manage. The recognition, widely demanded throughout the region, that even ordinary Middle Easterners have inalienable rights is a sobering notion not easily co-opted. Why don’t those rights to self-determination extend to Shiites in the richest oil province in Saudi Arabia or for that matter to P…

The Sun King wouldn't want any of these applicants

Aah.... .unusually, a newspaper, albeit a small one, spells out what sort of journalist it is looking for. Refreshing - and rare!

"We want to add some talent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative team. Every serious candidate should have a proven track record of conceiving, reporting and writing stellar investigative pieces that provoke change. However, our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede.

We do a mix of quick hit investigative work when events call for it and mini-projects that might run for a few days. But every year we like to put together a project way too ambitious for a paper our size because we dream that one day Walt Bogdanich will have to say: “I can’t believe the Sarasota Whatever-Tribune cost me my 20th Pulitzer.” As many of you already know, those kinds of projects can be hellish, soul-sucking, doubt-ind…

Fukushima Daiichi : A disaster waiting to happen

The Japanese have an appalling record in the way their nuclear facilities have been operated and supervised - let alone what information has been revealed to the public.

As the world watches with more than baited breath about the current problem with the FukushimaDaiichi nuclear facility in Japan, The Guardian reveals this "Japan Nuclear Firm Admits Missing Safety Checks at Disaster-Hit Plant":

"The power plant at the centre of the biggest civilian nuclear crisis in Japan's history contained far more spent fuel rods than it was designed to store, while its technicians repeatedly failed to carry out mandatory safety checks, according to documents from the reactor's operator.

The risk that used fuel rods present to efforts to avert disaster at the FukushimaDaiichi plant was underlined on Tuesday when nuclear safety officials said the No 2 reactor's storage pool had heated to around boiling point, raising the risk of a leakage of radioactive steam.

"We can…

A bookshop without its owner / manager - as Israel acts appallingly

From Mondoweiss [compulsory reading if one wants to keep abreast of what is happening in Israel and issues surrounding its treatment of its Arab population and Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank].

"Editor's note: A petition campaign has begun on behalf of Munther Fahmy, who runs the book store at the American Colony Hotel in occupied East Jerusalem. Israel is seeking to deport him. Fahmy sent us the following note about his case:

"I was born in Jerusalem in 1954 and therefore when the Israelis had conquered Jerusalem in 1967, I was given, as the rest of the Arab population in East Jerusalem, an Israeli ID resident card. In 1975 I left Jerusalem to continue my university education in the USA. Graduation, starting a business, marriage, having a child years later in 1994-95 and intoxicated with prospects of peace after the signing of the Oslo agreement, I flew home and was told at the airport in Tel-Aviv that my Jerusalem ID was revoked and the only way I …