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Showing posts from May, 2011

Obama speaks. Does anyone care in the Middle East

Obama, with an eye on the electorate and more particularly the Israel Lobby in the US, has spoken on the American position on the Middle East. It's basically the usual platitudes and empty rhetoric - just better "packaged" than George Bush would have.

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, suggests that where it matters, in the Middle East, Obama's words have basically meant naught.

"This month, in the Middle East, has seen the unmaking of the President of the United States. More than that, it has witnessed the lowest prestige of America in the region since Roosevelt met King Abdul Aziz on the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake in 1945.

While Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu played out their farce in Washington – Obama grovelling as usual – the Arabs got on with the serious business of changing their world, demonstrating and fighting and dying for freedoms they have never possessed. Obama waffled on about change in the Middle East – and about America's…

The (record) figures for carbon emissions in 2010 are in

Germany has just announced that it will shut down its nuclear power plants by 2022. Meanwhile, debate rages around the world about carbon emissions, climate change, the increased severity of tornadoes and weather conditions and the cost of curtailing damage to the environment.

Now The Guardian reports:

"Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency.

The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially "dangerous climate change" – is likely to be just "a nice Utopia", according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions.

Last yea…

Being up there as #1....well, at least for the time-being

Professor Stephen Walt reflects in a piece "Why American leaders like being #1" on his blog on FP on the seemingly endless desire of America's leaders to be #1 - but for how long?

"All told, this has not been a good month for war criminals, international terrorists, and tyrannical despots. To be specific: Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, Ratko Mladic has been captured in Serbia, Muammar Qaddafi's forces are gradually wilting (and it's hard to imagine that the Qaddafi family will ever be regarded as legitimate again), and the protests against the Assad regime in Syria continue despite repeated acts of repression.

Which tells you why it's nice to be the leader(s) of a great power. When you're the head of a relatively weak group like Al Qaeda, you have to stay hidden and hope you don't get found. If you're a fugitive from justice from a weak country like Serbia, you don't have much choice but to hide out. And if you're the ruler of…

Brits in the Arab Spring: Talk about being on both sides!

Hard to believe, but here are the British on both sides of what has become as known as the Arab Spring.

"Britain is training Saudi Arabia's national guard – the elite security force deployed during the recent protests in Bahrain – in public order enforcement measures and the use of sniper rifles. The revelation has outraged human rights groups, which point out that the Foreign Office recognises that the kingdom's human rights record is "a major concern".

In response to questions made under the Freedom of Information Act, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that British personnel regularly run courses for the national guard in "weapons, fieldcraft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training". The courses are organised through the British Military Mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, an obscure unit that consists of 11 British army personnel under the command of a bri…

It's all in the angle

Credited to Steve Benson, Slate

Salad Slaves

As those in Europe eat their vegetables and fruit they might wish to pause and consider the slaves - yes, slaves! - who have toiled to get that food to the supermarkets in Europe.

"Supermarkets all over the world are always keen to promote the wholesome healthy image of fruit and vegetables.

But an investigation on this Sunday’s Dateline reveals an unwholesome story of virtual slavery for the people processing the crops for European supermarkets.

They’re migrants from Africa and Eastern Europe, many of them illegal, who are being exploited just a short distance away from the popular tourist area of the Costa del Sol in Spain."

Go here to view a doco on SBS Australia and an additional FactFile.

One brave Oz MP stands up and speaks out

From Hansard [the official transcript of the Australian Parliament] one member of Parliament (Ms Parke) addresses the Chamber on something where most others fear to tread or won't even speak up at all.

"While the death of Osama Bin Laden brought an understandable analysis of its effect on Islamic extremism, there continues to be inadequate recognition of the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now in its 63rd year, remains both a powerful rallying cause for such extremist groups and the source of general grievance for Muslims worldwide. In recent years, the Pentagon and US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates have noted that the absence of Middle East peace is having a negative effect on US national security interests in the region.

The failure to resolve the long-running conflict also impacts on Australia’s national security, from its relevance to our military involvement in Afghanistan to the reality of its impact on our near neighbour Indonesia, the world’s most populou…

No wonder they want [er, need?] to let them out

If a picture says a 1000 words this one does. This a prison in California - so overcrowded that even the US Supreme Court has intervened.

"On May 23, 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled that conditions in California's prisons violated the constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" and affirmed a lower court's order that the state drastically reduce its inmate population.

Writing on behalf of the court's five-vote majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that this unprecedented measure had become the only way to remedy the "serious" and "uncorrected" constiutional violations against inmates in the state's correctional facilities, particularly the sick and mentally ill. "For years the medical and mental health care provided by California’s prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and has failed to meet prisoners’ basic health needs. Needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result,&quo…

A brave and humane act to follow

Haaretz has an editorial Israel's PM and his Government ought to heed.

"Egypt's decision to open the Rafah crossing to people raised great apprehension in Israel, as expected. The immediate concern is that the opening of the crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt will allow Hamas and other groups to bring in an unlimited supply of weapons.

Ostensibly, that's a persuasive claim, though four years of closure haven't prevented the passage of weapons into Gaza or the manufacture of missiles there, nor have they prevented terror attacks on Israel. Reports by defense officials that Hamas has amassed large quantities of advanced missiles are proof of that. Meanwhile, Cairo has hastened to make clear that goods will not be allowed through the crossing, and it may be assumed that Egypt is not encouraging the stockpiling of weapons in Gaza.

Along with security concerns, Israel's fury seems to stem from the fact that the opening of the crossing scuttles its vengeful…

A 50th birthday worthy of celebration

"Amnesty International is marking its 50th anniversary with the launch of a Global Call to Action designed to help tip the scales against repression and injustice, with events held in almost 60 countries in every region of the world.

The anniversary comes against the backdrop of a changing human rights landscape, as people across the Middle East and North Africa courageously confront oppression, tyranny and corruption – often in the face of bloodshed and state violence.

With these protests dramatically demonstrating the need for international solidarity on human rights, Amnesty International’s new Global Call to Action includes a digital “Earth Candle” – a significant online breakthrough that allows activists for the first time to see an overview of the organization’s worldwide actions, and how their own actions add to this force for change.

This is accompanied by a new drive – “Be one more, ask one more, act once more” – that aims to achieve a huge collective impact worldwide. It u…

Tobacco companies: Time to stop these parasites

Troubling but not surprising - the shenanigans and miscreant conduct of the tobacco companies.

"More than half a century after scientists uncovered the link between smoking and cancer – triggering a war between health campaigners and the cigarette industry – big tobacco is thriving.

Despite the known catastrophic effects on health of smoking, profits from tobacco continue to soar and sales of cigarettes have increased: they have risen from 5,000 billion sticks a year in the 1990s to 5,900 billion a year in 2009. They now kill more people annually than alcohol, Aids, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

On Tuesday, people around the globe will mark World No Tobacco Day – a distant hope.

The West now consumes fewer and fewer of the world's cigarettes: richer countries have changed – from smoking 38 per cent of the world total in 1990, they cut down to 24 per cent in 2009. Meanwhile, the developing world's share in global cigarette sales has increased sha…

Can there be life after Oprah?

Credited to Joe Heller, Wisconsin -- The Green Bay Press-Gazette

Significant winds of change in Egypt

It is hard not to remember all the demonstrations in Egypt earlier this year - especially all those people massed around the clock, for days at an end, in Tahrir Square.

So, where are things at months later? The Independent has an update "New dawn, same old problems: Egypt wakes up to fresh uprising".

"Egypt opens its border with the Gaza Strip today in a radical move that upends the 30-year-old alliance between the US, Israel and Egypt under the rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

The Egyptian foreign minister has described the blockade of 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza as "disgusting". Soon Egypt will reopen diplomatic links with Iran.

Unprecedented changes are also happening at home. Last week the Egyptian prosecutor charged Mr Mubarak with the premeditated killing of protesters, corruptly accepting as a gift a palace and four villas at Sharm el-Sheikh, and involvement in promoting a corrupt deal supplying gas to Israel. The once all-powerful Mr Mubarak has …

A big yawn....and it's too late

Whilst the last week has seen acres of analysis of the Obama and Netanyahu speeches on Israel and the conflict with Israel it would appear that it evoked little interest in the Arab world.

Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University and the author of six books on Middle Eastern history, including "Palestinian Identity", and "Resurrecting Empire". Khalidi is a former advisor to Palestinian negotiators at the Madrid and Washington peace talks and is the editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies.

He writes on Salon in "How Obama enables Israel's worst impulses" -

"The old Arabic proverb has it that the dogs bark but the caravan goes on. President Obama's comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his speeches last week at the State Department and then at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) produced a great deal of sound and fury in Washington. However, the sense I had being in Bei…

Arab Spring: Women at the forefront

From "Women Rise to the Challenge in the Arab Spring" on

"The scene would have had most Americans readjusting their television sets—or their preconceived notions about Arab society. In the April sun, throngs of protesters washed over the streets of the southern Yemeni city Taiz, most clad head-to-toe in black, their eyes steely with determination. The crowd was festooned with bright baseball caps and signs bearing English slogans such as, “We want a new Yemen without Saleh” in seeming defiance both of the autocratic regime and of society’s expectations.

It was only a few months ago that demonstrations exploded across the Maghreb and the Middle East. If you trace the sweep of the revolutionary contagion, a trendline emerges: The seedbed of the revolt, Tunisia, may have lacked democracy but was fairly advanced in providing equal rights for women. The next domino to fall, Egypt, could not have toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak without the support of women activists wh…

A newspaper......written by hand?

Newspapers being published are dropping off like flies and here we have what might the last newspaper in the world ........written by hand no less!

Showing rare devotion to the craft of journalism, lifelong staffers at The Musalman in Chennai, India, have been publishing a daily newspaper penned in Urdu calligraphy since 1927. The kicker? No one has ever quit the paper, laboring until death and often passing their responsibilities down to their next of kin.

A turning-point which we ignore at our peril

Anyone even remotely concerned about the environment and our globe, must read this compelling piece by Johann Hari in The Independent. It's more than a timely call that the world has reached a tipping-point from which there may be no return.

"Sometimes, there are hinge-points in human history – moments when we have to choose between an exuberant descent into lunacy, and a still, sober voice offering us a sane way out. Usually, we can only see them when we look back from a distance. In 1793, the great democrat Thomas Paine said the French Revolution shouldn't betray its principles by killing the King, because it would trigger an orgy of blood-letting that would eventually drown them all. They threw him in jail. In 1919, the great economist John Maynard Keynes said the European powers shouldn't humiliate Germany, because it would catalyse extreme nationalism and produce another world war. They ignored him. In 1953, a handful of US President Dwight Eisenhower's adv…

NY Times editorialises: The Mideast Peace Process: Washington Makes Things Worse

The New York Times, with a wide Jewish readership in New York, is always tempered in what it writes about the Israel - Palestinian conflict - and if anything, the position put is heavily weighted toward Israel.

Therefore today's editorial is somewhat out of character.

"Only a few minutes after President Obama finished his carefully balanced speech on the Middle East last week, Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers began twisting his words to suggest that he was calling for an epochal abandonment of Israel.

“President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,” said Mitt Romney. Tim Pawlenty wrongly said Mr. Obama had called for Israel to return to its 1967 borders, which he called “a disaster waiting to happen.” Rick Santorum said Mr. Obama “just put Israel’s very existence in more peril.”

Others went even further. Representative Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee, a former presidential candidate, said Mr. Obama had “betrayed Israel.” The worst line came from Represent…

Yikes! Uncle Sam can attack anyone worldwide

The US has just passed a wide-ranging piece of legislation which allows for it to attack anyone, or any country anywhere in the world, engaged in terrorism. The ACLU reports:

"The House today passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains a dangerous provision that authorizes a worldwide war against terrorism suspects and against nations suspected of supporting them. The bill includes several additional troubling provisions, including one that would needlessly delay the implementation of the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and another blocking all federal criminal trials of suspected terrorists who are not U.S. citizens. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly opposes the authorization for worldwide war and many other provisions in the bill."

Continue reading here. Scary stuff!

Killed off in full public view

If the American Congress thought that by giving the Israeli PM such an enthusiastic reception to his speech - and in the process poking their own President in the eye! - there was a benefit to be gained for Israel and America, then, as Bernard Avishai writes on his blog Bernard Avishai Dot Com they could not have been further from the truth.

"But Congress's enthusiasm for its slyness may also mark the moment the rising Arab world, including what will rise in the streets of Palestine and on the borders of Israel, dismisses America as a misguided empire. The speech may eventually prove a world-historical photo-op as damaging in its way as Abu Ghraib; the moment to despair, once and for all, of America's once-promising young president being seen as even-handed.

This reaction of Congress may also mark the moment when intellectuals across Europe and Latin America--also on American campuses, for that matter--claim absolute proof that America's Middle East diplomacy is bought-…

5 years on the financial scene in America is far from rosy

The hard facts almost 5 years after the GFC hit everyone, almost everywhere.It doesn't make for pretty reading when especially when considers that the US is supposed to be the beacon in the capitalist world.

"The current capitalist global crisis began with the severe contraction in the housing markets in mid-2007. Therefore welcome to Year Five. This inventory of where things stand may begin with the good news: the major banks, the stock market, and corporate profits have largely or completely “recovered” from the lows they reached early in 2009. The US dollar has fallen sharply against many currencies of countries with which the US trades and that has enabled US exports to rebound from their crisis lows.

However, the bad news is what prevails notwithstanding the political and media hypes about “recovery.” The most widely cited unemployment rate remains at 9 % for workers without jobs but looking. If instead we use the more indicative U-6 unemployment statistic of the US Labor …

They're off!

Credited to M. Wuerker, Politico

Hey, look who's to the Right

Leaving aside the cringe-factor of PM Natanyahu's speech to Congress a couple of days - and the absurd hyper-venting enthusiasm of his audience - a poll done in Israel one day after the PM's speech throws up more than some "interesting" stats and facts.

"In the morning following Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress, a poll published by the Israeli daily Maariv indicates that while Netanyahu enjoys considerable support among Israelis, the public is far more inclined than its prime minister to make concessions to the Palestinians.

According to a Teleseker-Maariv poll, conducted last night, a clear majority of 57 percent of Israelis would have wanted Netanyahu to say “yes” or “yes, but” (figures break 10 percent “yes”, 47 “yes, but”) to the path to a two-state solution outlined in President Obama’s speech.

(As pollster Dahlia Scheindlin wrote on this site, such figures correspond to previous polls, which show, for most part, the support…

Internet censorship to come to Turkey

Politicians just can't help themselves. Keeping their grubby hands off the internet - that is, censoring it - is just too tempting.

Step up to the plate Turkey, which will in August impose a censorship regime in relation to the internet.

"When my wife Diane and I arrived in Istanbul on May 12—the sixth stop on our multi-country adventure—an email awaited from Diane's sister Cynthia, who is always on the lookout for a good laugh. It contained a link to a YouTube video of the late British comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, the former a cop who has pulled over the latter for playing a Beethoven piano piece too fast. Cook wore a bobby's helmet and for some reason carried a trumpet, so the sketch looked funny–but there was no sound.

We had encountered this censorship before, in China and Vietnam, and I was under no illusion that Turkey was a democratic paradise. Still, the silence was ominous, a harbinger of a greater clampdown due to take effect on August 22. On that…

Uncle Sam has your personal data - for 15 years!

Presumably all under the guise and rationale of security and the fight against terrorism, the US is storing all details about foreign passengers entering the US for 15 years. Yes, all info about your address, credit card, etc. etc. This is Big Brother 1984 gone mad!

"The personal data of millions of passengers who fly between the US and Europe, including credit card details, phone numbers and home addresses, may be stored by the US department of homeland security for 15 years, according to a draft agreement between Washington and Brussels leaked to the Guardian.

The "restricted" draft, which emerged from negotiations between the US and EU, opens the way for passenger data provided to airlines on check-in to be analysed by US automated data-mining and profiling programmes in the name of fighting terrorism, crime and illegal migration. The Americans want to require airlines to supply passenger lists as near complete as possible 96 hours before takeoff, so names can be…

Natanyahu and that speech to the US Congress

The speech by the Israeli PM to the US Congress has drawn much comment. That it was shameful and that the US members of Congress and the Senate lapped it all up says much for the politicians - no doubt, petrified to upset, however minor, the Israel Lobby, especially with an election coming up in 2012.

Jeffrey Goldberg on Bloomberg:

"If I were a Palestinian (and, should there be any confusion on this point, I am not), and if I were the sort of Palestinian who believed that Israel should be wiped off the map, then I would be quite pleased with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance before Congress this morning.

I would applaud Netanyahu for including no bold initiatives that would have suggested to the world that Israel is alive to the threat posed by its seemingly eternal occupation of the West Bank.

In fact, I would make support for Netanyahu the foundation stone of my patient campaign to dismantle the world’s only majority-Jewish country. I would support not only Netan…

Money galore....for armaments

People are starving in various parts of the globe and our atmosphere is polluted. WE are fighting climate change. America's middle class is struggling. Europe's middle class, certainly in some countries, is finding economic strictures hard going. So, where do the politicians spend money? - and lots of it! Why armaments of course!

"Despite the vast rivers of blood and treasure poured into wars over the centuries, the nations of the world continue to enhance their military might.

According to a recent report from the prestigious Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures grew to a record $1.63 trillion in 2010. Middle East nations alone spent $111 billion on the military, with Saudi Arabia leading the way.

Arms sales have also reached record heights. SIPRI's Top 100 of the world's arms-producing companies sold $401 billion in weaponry during 2009 (the latest year for which figures are available), a real dollar in…

Save money, let 'em eat cake!

AlterNetputs into sharp context what the GOP plan on doing to save money as part of budgetary measures. In effect attack the most vulnerable in society. Reduce aid for food, etc. Charming!

"Hunger and starvation is no excuse to welch off the Federal Government.

That's the Republican response, in any event, to how to deal with the budget deficit. While Republicans defend billions of dollars in subsidies for Big Oil and propose further tax cuts for the wealthy, they see food aid for hungry people here and around the world as a bad idea. Bug Guvmint should get out of the business of keeping people from starving. Now isn't that special:

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are targeting domestic nutrition programs and international food assistance as they try to control spending in next year's budget.

In a bill released Monday, Republicans proposed cutting $832 million - 11 percent from this year's budget for the Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food f…

Peace (if it ever had any chance) dead in the water

It is hard to know what was worse. The Israeli PM's speech to the US Congress - or those who listened to his talk and gave him 31 standing ovations. Netanyahu killed off any chance of peace with the Palestinians any time soon and the response of the US legislators ensured that the Arab world will see the Americans as anything but honest brokers.

Haaretz has this piece well worth reading in the circumstances.

"The tension didn't kill us before the speech and we managed to survive it, too. We'll live to see how Israel manages to manage despite its prime minister. Yesterday's speech to Congress was a surrealistic performance in Orwellian style. He's the representative of a county that for 44 years has denied its Palestinian neighbors' freedom, an occupier boasting as if he was a liberator, speaking about freedom and reaping the rewards.

That same man, who wouldn't agree to another short settlement construction freeze, is promising to be "generous.…

DSK: What money will probably buy

If this report in the New York Post is correct, there is no other word for it other than that it stinks. And a matter of contempt to "buy" off a critical prosecution witness?

"Friends of alleged hotel sex fiend Dominique Strauss-Kahn secretly contacted the accusing maid's impoverished family, offering them money to make the case go away since they can't reach her in protective custody, The Post has learned.

The woman, who says she was sexually assaulted by the disgraced former head of the International Monetary Fund, has an extended family in the former French colony of Guinea in West Africa, well out of reach of the Manhattan DA's Office.

"They already talked with her family," a French businesswoman with close ties to Strauss-Kahn and his family told The Post. "For sure, it's going to end up on a quiet note."

Prosecutors in Manhattan have done their best to keep the cleaning woman out of the reach of Strauss-Kahn's supporters, …

Sticking it to the Americans

The Israeli PM comes to Washington, takes on the President and then preaches to the converted and one-eyed supporters of Israel at AIPAC. Netanyahu speaks of peace but all his actions, and those of his government, are totally the opposite. There is no one, apart from the Israelis, who agree with Israel's building of so-called settlements in the West Bank - occupied territory. In fact the development of the settlements and cities is totally contrary to international law. Of course, Netanyahu now says that the facts on the ground prevent Israel returning to the borders as they existed in 1967 pre the Six Day War. But who created that situation, deliberately of course, in the first place?

But to stick it to the Americans, just before the Israeli PM ventured off to America, approval was given to build more settlements.

"On the 26th of September 2010, the 10 months settlement moratorium came to an end. Since then, the settlers have managed to “catch up” with the con…

Two state solution of a different kind!

Credited to Mike Luckovich, truthdig

No L-plated women drivers here... or at all!

It is hard to believe, let alone reconcile, that in this modern day and age women are not permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia.

"Saudi Arabia is the only country that bars women from driving. But the topic remains a highly emotional issue in the kingdom, where women are also not allowed to vote, or even work without their husbands’, or fathers’, permission. For religious puritans, the ban on women driving is a sign that the government remains steadfast in the face of a Western onslaught on Saudi traditions. A political cartoon here once depicted car keys attached to a hand grenade."

As they say, watch this space to see how the tussle between the women and the authorities plays out.

The problem with Syria

"American policy toward Syria presents mainly a record of failure. One strain of that policy has sought unsuccessfully, through diplomatic engagement, to coax Assad to instigate internal reforms; weaken Syria’s alliances with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas; and broker a peace with Israel. As recently as 2008, Assad told an American diplomat that he was “a few words away” from an agreement with Israel. He never delivered. Washington has also sought to pressure Assad through sanctions imposed by the Syria Accountability Act of 2003, and by covertly funding democratic campaigners, in a program that was initiated under George W. Bush. That didn’t work, either. The Damascus Declaration activists publicly rejected American support, and the covert program, recently exposed by WikiLeaks, endangered some of the people it was designed to help.

Any foreign power hoping to promote peace, stability, and democratic inclusion in the Middle East must account for the Israeli-Palestinian divide, the Su…

Iraq: Military in

It's one way to fudge the figures and hype the PR about how the US military is being withdrawn from Iraq. "Good news" for the folks at home - you know, bringing "the boys" back and the war in Iraq has been won, etc, etc. - and it fits in tidily with the US presidential elections next year. Only problem is that contractors will be taking over from the military.

"A U.S. Army helicopter brigade is set to pull out of Baghdad in December, as part of an agreement with the Iraqi government to remove U.S. forces. So the armed helicopters flying over the Iraqi capital next year will have pilots and machine gunners from DynCorp International, a company based in Virginia.

On the ground, it's the same story. American soldiers and Marines will leave. Those replacing them, right down to carrying assault weapons, will come from places with names like Aegis Defence Services and Global Strategies Group — eight companies in all.

All U.S. combat forces are scheduled…

Words and action not matched

The Boston Globe pulls together a number of stats to show, clearly, how Obama's words are not reflected in actions or deeds. The US calls for peace in the Middle East yet is plying untold monies into the region - whilst, also, at the same time turning a blind eye to the myriad of issues in Saudi Arabia such as the appalling status of women.

"On the same day President Obama pressed again for peace in the Middle East, the Associated Press reminded us that the United States cannot help itself from flooding the region with the instruments of war, reporting that the nation is “quietly expanding defense ties on a vast scale’’ with Saudi Arabia.

How vast? The part that has been highly publicized is the new $60 billion arms sale made to the Saudis because of the ongoing threat of Iran. The deal sends Saudi Arabia 84 new F-15s and upgrades to 70 F-15s. It also sends them about 180 Apache, Black Hawk, and Little Bird helicopters, as well as anti-ship and anti-radar missiles. In offici…

Those pull-out sections might just save the newspaper industry!

Credited to Cameron (Cam) Cardow, Canada

Autocratic regimes take on tech-savvy opponents. War in cyberspace

Much has been made of how social networking, a la Twitter and Facebook, was instrumental in relation to the so-called Arab Spring. It has been exaggerated but there is no doubting that dissidents and opponents to the various dictatorships and regimes employed the net to circumvent might otherwise have means of opposition.
Now the regimes are hitting back as The Washington Post reports.

"For weeks, Syrian democracy activists have used Facebook and Twitter to promote a wave of bold demonstrations. Now, the Syrian government and its supporters are striking back — not just with bullets, but with their own social-media offensive.

Mysterious intruders have scrawled pro-government messages on dissidents’ Facebook pages. Facebook pages have popped up offering cyber tools to attack the opposition. The Twitter #Syria hashtag — which had carried accounts of the protests — has been deluged with automated messages bearing scenes of nature and old sports scores.

“There is a war itself going on i…

Let's hear it from French women on the DSK scandal

French women are well known for being chic and sophisticated. Not all, mind you, but that is the reputation.

So, what do French women think of what is now dubbed as the DSK scandal? Global Voices Online provides an insight into what French women bloggers are writing.

"French feminist bloggers and women bloggers writing on women's issues, have gained a larger audience and a new respect in France in the aftermath of the Domininique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) scandal. They were the first and very few voices reminding that there was a woman involved, possibly a victim, and they drew attention to the biased and sexist coverage of the French media.

Meet a few French feminist bloggers, blogging from different perspectives but all laboring online against prejudices and the French perception of sexual harassment and crimes."

Continue reading here.

Ahh, so that's where the [my?] money goes......

Rhetoric 10. Substance and positive help 0

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, provides his take and assessment of the Obama speech the other day - which was said as intending put the USA's position in relation to the Middle East.

"It was the same old story. Palestinians can have a "viable" state, Israel a "secure" one. Israel cannot be de-legitimised. The Palestinians must not attempt to ask the UN for statehood in September. No peace can be imposed on either party. Sometimes yesterday, you could have turned this into Obama's forthcoming speech to pro-Israeli lobbyists this weekend. Oh yes, and the Palestinian state must have no weapons to defend itself. So that's what "viable" means!

It was a kind of Second Coming, I suppose, Cairo re-pledged, another crack at the Middle East, as boring and as unfair as all the other ones, with lots of rhetoric about the Arab revolutions which Obama did nothing to help. Some of it was positively delusional. "We have broken the Taliban…