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Showing posts from June, 2011

Rape in Libya? Er, what about some evidence?

The media, as also politicians, are all too quick to jump onto the bandwagon to accuse a country, political leader or opponent, or anyone for that matter, of all sorts of diabolical things. The only problem is that very often there is no evidence to support the allegation.

Take the recent hyper-ventilation by both the media and politicians accusing the Gadhafi regime of engaging in mass rape of women. MediaLens uncovers that the claim is without foundation.

"In the Independent on June 24, Patrick Cockburn reported a vital development countering official propaganda on Libya: 'Human rights organisations have cast doubt on claims of mass rape and other abuses perpetrated by forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, which have been widely used to justify Nato's war in Libya.'Nato leaders, opposition groups and the media have produced a stream of stories since the start of the insurrection on 15 February, claiming the Gaddafi regime has ordered mass rapes, used …

$3.7 trillion.....and counting

The critical question to be asked is this......for all the money the USA has spent on going to and being in wars, a staggering $3.7 trillion to date - and see below for what president Obama said the figure was - what has America gained? Peace anywhere? Less threats from terror or terrorism? More secure pipelines to oil? A better world all round and for the American people?

"When President Barack Obama cited cost as a reason to bring troops home from Afghanistan, he referred to a $1 trillion price tag for America's wars.

Staggering as it is, that figure grossly underestimates the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury and ignores more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The final bill will run at least $3.7 trillion and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion, according to the research project "Costs of War" by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies.

In the 10 y…

Buying underwear may shape not only women but a mini revolution

First the women of Saudi Arabia changelled their inability to drive, now what to those in the West seems incomprehensible - being able to purchase underwear, not from male employees in shops, but women saleswomen.

"On the "ladies' level" at the Kingdom Centre shopping mall in the Saudi capital, winds of change for Saudi women are blowing among the racks of bras. Gender barriers are falling among the body-shapers and panties. In what Saudi activists argue is one of several potentially momentous moves this spring and summer to ease some of the toughest strictures in the world upon women, Saudi Arabia says that it is remaking employment regulations -- so that women clerks can wait upon female customers in lingerie stores.

Never mind that it took changes in the labor law in 2005-2006, a boycott and online campaigns by Saudi female activists, and, ultimately, personal intervention by King Abdullah himself this month to counter fatwas regarding lingerie clerks, simply so…

A different strategy to violence

Rami G Khouri is a respected commentator on The Daily Star in Beirut and well regarded in the Middle East and beyond.

He reflects on a change of strategy by Palestinians from violence against Israel.

"While the Arab world is experiencing a historic series of citizen revolts against nondemocratic governments, something equally significant is happening among Palestinians in their struggle with Israel and Zionism. Very slowly, almost imperceptibly, Palestinians seem to be making a strategic shift in their mode of confrontation with Israel, from occasional military attacks toward a more nonviolent and political confrontation.

This development seems to be driven by two factors: that various kinds of armed struggle against Israel, by Palestinians or Arab armies, have had little or no impact on changing Israeli policies; and, that nonviolent political protests are more in keeping with the spirit of the moment in the Arab world, where unarmed civilians openly confront their oppressors an…

Read and ignore at your (our] peril

Nothing really to add to this blunt and direct piece from TomDispatch:

"Let’s see: today, it’s a story about rising sea levels. Now, close your eyes, take a few seconds, and try to imagine what word or words could possibly go with such a story.

Time’s up, and if “faster,” “far faster,” “fastest,” or “unprecedented” didn’t come to mind, then the odds are that you’re not actually living on planet Earth in the year 2011. Yes, a new study came out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that measures sea-level rise over the last 2,000 years and -- don’t be shocked -- it’s never risen faster than now.

Earlier in the week, there was that report on the state of the oceans produced by a panel of leading marine scientists. Now, close your eyes and try again. Really, this should be easy. Just look at the previous paragraph and choose “unprecedented,” and this time pair it with “loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory,” or pick “far faster” (…

A tragic legacy (400,000 traumatic brain injuries) of the Afghan and Iraqi Wars

The politicians can posture as much as they like, but it is the military and those associated with them who actually bear the brunt of decisions made by those very politicians. Witness the "results" of war. Death and destruction and as this piece on AlterNet highlights, for the Americans over 400,000 traumatic brain injuries for its vets from the Afghan and Iraqi wars.

"We are facing a massive mental health problem as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a country we have not responded adequately to the problem. Unless we act urgently and wisely, we will be dealing with an epidemic of service related psychological wounds for years to come." -- Bobby Muller, President Veterans for America

"The multiple nature of it [multiple tours and longer deployments] is unprecedented. People just get blasted and blasted and blasted." -- Maj. Connie Johnmeyer, 332nd Medical Group

According to official Defense Department (DOD) figures, 332,000 soldiers …

Horror of horrors! The French are drinking less wine

Who would have thought that the nation which savours good food and wine, France, is now seeing a drop in wine consumption.

"Researchers fear the culture of wine drinking is being lost in France, with younger generations less likely to savour a bottle over food and more prone to drink simply for pleasure.

They are also less aware of its cultural significance to France.

Just 16.5 per cent of the French population are now regular wine drinkers, according to research from the ESC Pau research centre and Toulouse 1 Capitole University.

Regular consumption over meals has been replaced by the French drinking wine occasionally rather than frequently, often on nights out."

Whistle-blowers: Obama no better than Bush

The lawyer-president in the White House - who ought to know better - is no different, if not worse, than George Bush. Despite all the hype about open government and during the election campaign saying that he would treat whistle-blowers differently, as Glenn Greenwald highlights in this piece "Climate of Fear: Jim Risen v. the Obama administration" on Salon, the White House through the Department of Justice is pursuing a New York Times journalist.

One would have thought that the Valerie Plame saga, and how WikiLeaks has shown up governments with all their secrecy, might have taught Obama something. It doesn't look like it.....and in the process of pursuing the journalist there is always the angle of intimidation lurking in the background.

"The Obama DOJ's effort to force New York Times investigative journalist Jim Risen to testify in a whistleblower prosecution and reveal his source is really remarkable and revealing in several ways; it should be receiving …

US forgets about international law, let alone human suffering

Little needs to be added to this piece from The Electronic Intifada - other than to say that it again highlights the cosy relationship of America to Israel before all else. No wonder the US is on the nose in the Middle East. Small trifles like international law seems not to bother the US Administration.

"In comments yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to lay the ground – indeed almost provide a green light – for an Israeli military attack on the upcoming Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which will include the US Boat to Gaza.

Among the passengers aboard the American boat will be 87-year old Kindertransport survivor Hedy Epstein, and author and poet Alice Walker. In all it is expected that about 10 ships, carrying 1000 people from over 20 countries will take part.

Here’s what Clinton said in remarks at the State Department on 23 June:

Well, we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. Just this week, the Isr…

"Living" in a Failed State

We hear talk of a failed State. But what does it mean?

FP investigates:

"Every failed state, to borrow a formula from Tolstoy, is failed in its own way. For some countries, instability is a chronic condition; for others, a single catastrophe can undo years of hard-earned progress. Teasing apart and quantifying the various factors that have contributed to state failure over the past year is a difficult job, and the Fund for Peace has again met the challenge with its Failed States Index (FSI).

What the index can't do, however, is put into relief the human tragedies behind the statistics. A lack of public services isn't merely a source of national shame -- it's often a cause of unnecessary disease and death. A national government that lacks popular legitimacy isn't just fodder for revolution -- it's an injustice that sometimes expresses itself through cruelty and repression. As an abstraction, ethnic conflict sounds bad, but it only barely suggests the traumas of …

So, who is gonna be leaving?

Credited to Mike Luckovich, truthdig

Israel shows its inhuman and undemocractic side

An Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, is "lost" in battle, not kidnapped as the Israeli claim, 5 years ago. He hasn't been released - despite alleged negotiations with Hamas - and one has to wonder whether that is a result of Shalit being a convenient pawn and good PR vehicle.

Gideon Levy, writing his latest op-ed piece "A society is judged by the way it treats its prisoners" in Haaretz, highlights the plight of Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Inhumane treatment and being imprisoned without trial - in the only democracy in the Middle East? as it is always touted.

"About 5,400 Palestinian prisoners are now in Israeli prison, of which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have had a bitter taste over the years. It's not a matter of "thousands of murderers," as people like to portray it. Only some have been convicted of murder; some of their acts were particularly horrific. Two hundred and twenty have been imprisoned without trial, and there …

We are what we eat...and get!

We ought to be alive to what we eat......and what are doing to our bodies.

"More than 350 million people in the world now have diabetes, an international study has revealed. The analysis, published online by the Lancet on Saturday, adds several tens of millions to the previous estimate of the number of diabetics and indicates that the disease has become a major global health problem.

Diabetics have inadequate blood sugar control, a condition that can lead to heart disease and strokes, as well as damage to kidneys, nerves and the retina. About three million deaths a year are attributed to diabetes and associated conditions in which blood sugar levels are disrupted.

The dramatic and disturbing increase is blamed by scientists on the spread of a western-style diet to developing nations, which is causing rising levels of obesity. Researchers also say that increased life expectancy is playing a major role.

Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for about 85-95% of cases, …

Audacity of Hope

Muna Khan is the Editor of Al Arabiya English.

He writes about the vessel, Audacity of Hope, due to sail for Gaza. The trip is already fraught with issues......not the least the position taken by the US Administration with respect to the voyage.

This piece, if nothing else, is an insight into how the Arab world views America's complicity with Israel in suppressing the Palestinians and Gazans in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel itself.

"None of “us crazy Muslims” as so many of our beloved commentators enjoy pointing out are surprised by America’s alliance with Israel on a host of issues but the audacity of it still surprises. The US flotilla to Gaza is just another example of it.

Ironically the boat is called The Audacity of Hope, perhaps in an effort to pay homage to Barrack Obama’s career, and even remind him of his forgotten promises. The boat carries 50 citizens, many of them notable intellectuals and writers like Naomi Klein and Alice Walker.

The Audacity of Hope will join …

Australia's shame

There can be little that isn't shameful about how Australia's indigenous population has been treated since the arrival of the white man - and the appalling position they still find themselves in 2011.

An all-party Federal Parliamentary Committee released a Report on the plight of the aboriginal community last week - as op-ed columnist Mike Carlton deals takes up in his latest column in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Last Monday night, a report with the rather clunky title of Doing Time - Time for Doing: Indigenous Youth in the Criminal Justice System was tabled in Federal Parliament.

Its contents were anything but clunky. They were horrifying. Aboriginal Australians are being thrown into prison at a greater rate than ever before, in every state and territory. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of black males in custody increased by 55 per cent, and the number of black females by 47 per cent.

Far too many of them were and are kids. The report found that: "The detention rate f…

Afghanistan: Nothin' has really changed

Sobering report on the "condition" of society in Afghanistan, and how it operates. Seems like nothin' much has changed after all these years of a NATO presence in the war-ravished country, the billions of dollars "invested" and all the human tragedy - for both Afghans and Western troops.

"The farmer picking apples in the outskirts of Kabul must pay the Taliban $33 to ship out each truckload of fruit. The governor sends in armed men to chase workers off job sites if the official bribes aren’t paid. Poor neighborhoods never get their U.N.-provided wheat, long since sold on the black market.

These are some of the elements, large and small, that together form the elaborate organized crime environment Afghans contend with daily. And despite the hoped-for success of the U.S. military surge and President Barack Obama’s claims of significant progress, Afghanistan’s resemblance to a mafia state that cannot serve its citizens may only be getting worse, according to …

No apple for Apple here

Ah, politics and pressure! How else to explain Apple's shameful double-standards in taking off one App from its Apple Store - that's one for the Palestinians - but allowing what is clearly a propaganda Israeli one to remain.

ThinkProgress reports in "Apple Bans Palestinian Activist App From iTunes, But Allows Israeli Government Propaganda App":

"Earlier this week, Apple announced that it would pull an iPhone app published by a group of Palestinian activists calling for a third intifada (Arabic for uprising). The banning of the app came after complaints from the Israeli government and allied activists. In explaining the decision, an Apple spokesman said it violated “the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people” — likely because it protested Israeli policies and helped organize protests against that country’s military presence.

Yet Apple does not seem to be giving similar treatment to an app published by the Israeli Ministry of Affairs (MF…

The state of play in the USA

As an outsider the more one reads and sees about America, one is left with a strong impression of the rich getting very much richer whilst the rest are going sideways or backwards. No less importantly one cannot help get the feeling that Washington is oblivious to the plight of many Americans and that any turn-around of the economy is a long way off, if ever. The landscape in the wealthiest country in the world has changed.

This op-ed piece in The New York Times - published here in full - would seem to reflect the mood in the US.

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

James Baldwin penned that line more than 50 years ago, but it seems particularly prescient today, if in a different manner than its original intent.

Baldwin was referring to the poor being consistently overcharged for inferior goods. But I’ve always considered that sentence in the context of the extreme psychological toll of poverty, for it is in that way that I, t…

Whither being distracted

As you settle into the weekend reflect on this op-ed piece by Johann Hari in The Independent addressing how we are finding it easier and easier to be distracted - and not to be able to escape with or to something like curling up with a good book in piece and quiet.

"The book – the physical paper book – is being circled by a shoal of sharks, with sales down 9 per cent this year alone. It's being chewed by the e-book. It's being gored by the death of the bookshop and the library. And most importantly, the mental space it occupied is being eroded by the thousand Weapons of Mass Distraction that surround us all. It's hard to admit, but we all sense it: it is becoming almost physically harder to read books.

In his gorgeous little book The Lost Art of Reading – Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, the critic David Ulin admits to a strange feeling. All his life, he had taken reading as for granted as eating – but then, a few years ago, he "became aware, in an apartment …

Justice? It all depends on who you are

We all know that no justice system is perfect, but here is an example, from CommonDreams, not of a tale of two cities, but two men from different sides of the tracks. Ponder both the offence with which both men were charged, who the "losers" were in the final result and the outcome sentence-wise.

"Consider Paul Allen, 55, a former mortgage CEO who defrauded lenders of over $3 billion. This week, prosecutors celebrated the fact they got him a 40-month prison sentence. Consider Roy Brown, 54, a hungry homeless man who robbed a Louisiana bank of $100 - the teller gave him more but he handed the rest back. He felt bad the next day and surrendered to police. He got 15 years. Justice in America has a ways to go."

Over at Salon, Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer, takes up the situation which has arisen above in a piece "The definition of a "two-tiered justice system".

Three key words: WikiLeaks, Libya, Oil

MediaLens follows up on 3 words, "WikiLeaks", "Libya" and "oil".

"Interesting" results.....

"'Libya has some of the biggest and most proven oil reserves — 43.6 billion barrels — outside Saudi Arabia, and some of the best drilling prospects.'

So reported the Washington Post on June 11, in a rare mainstream article which, as we will see, revealed how WikiLeaks exposed the real motives behind the war on Libya.

So what happens when you search UK newspaper archives for the words 'WikiLeaks', 'Libya' and 'oil'? We decided to take a look."

Continue reading here.

A timely message?

Credited to MIke Lester, Rome News-Tribune

Analysing those withdrawal from Afghanistan figures

FAIRpoints up how the media haven't done their homework in reporting the Obama line on the number of military to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

"Barack Obama's June 22 announcement of a phased troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was often portrayed as a major step towards ending the war, with many outlets neglecting to accurately explain the pace of escalation that has happened under his watch.

When Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. had about 34,000 troops in Afghanistan. Obama has initiated two major troop increases in Afghanistan: about 20,000 additional troops were announced in February 2009, followed by the December 2009 announcement that an another 33,000 would be deployed as well; other smaller increases have brought the total to 100,000. Much of the media conversation portrays the announced withdrawal schedule as a removal of all the surge troops--"the withdrawal of the entire surge force by the end of next summer," as the New York Times put it (6/23/11)--w…

Shedding light on corporations and government togetherness

Valid points made in this piece "5 WikiLeaks Revelations Exposing the Rapidly Growing Corporatism Dominating American Diplomacy Abroad" on AlterNet on how government and large corporations, in effect, essentially are in each others pocket and basically on the same page in many areas.

"One of the most significant scourges paralyzing our democracy is the merger of corporate power with elected and appointed government officials at the highest levels of office. Influence has a steep price-tag in American politics where politicians are bought and paid for with ever increasing campaign contributions from big business, essentially drowning out any and all voices advocating on behalf of the public interest."


"In this context of corporate government corruption, one of WikiLeaks' greatest achievements has been to expose the exorbitant amount of influence that multinational corporations have over Washington's diplomacy. Many of the WikiLeaks US embassy cables …

Say that again! The withdrawal from Afghanistan is what?

President Obama today announced his plans for withdrawing US military personnel from Afghanistan. But is it really a plan which bears close examination let alone credibility? Phyllis Bennis writing in "In Afghanistan Speech, Obama Offers Token Troop Withdrawals While Maintaining the "War on Terror” Mindset" on AlterNet thinks not!

"President Obama’s speech tonight violated one of his most important campaign promises: to “end the mind-set that leads to war.”

To the contrary, his announcement of a token shift of 10,000 soldiers leaving by the end of 2011, and maybe another 23,000 in another year, makes clear that his claim tonight that “the tide of war is receding” remains untrue. The enormous current deployment of 250,000 U.S. and allied military forces (100,000 U.S. troops, 50,000 NATO troops and 100,000 Pentagon-paid contractors) in Afghanistan continues, and reflects not an end but an embrace of the mind-set of war, even with this small shift of soldiers. Th…

Credit-crunch? Not for many (many more) post the GFC.

The Guardian publishes a report on the wealthy....and perhaps not at all surprisingly more people are so-called rich than before the GFC. Bottom line, the rich are on the march, upwards, whilst the rest of us are languishing, going sideways or backwards at a great clip.

One has to wonder how long people will sit back and watch what is happening to their lack of good fortune. Witness some of the European countries where already people are increasingly taking to the streets to protest about their jobs, income and pension-entitlements. All of this doesn't augur well for the future.

"We are not all in this together. The UK economy is flat, the US is weak and the Greek debt crisis, according to some commentators, is threatening another Lehman Brothers-style meltdown. But a new report shows the world's wealthiest people are getting more prosperous – and more numerous – by the day.

The globe's richest have now recouped the losses they suffered after the 2008 banking …

The cure lies in breast milk

"What if nutritionists came up with a miracle cure for childhood malnutrition? A protein-rich substance that doesn’t require refrigeration? One that is free and is available even in remote towns like this one in Niger where babies routinely die of hunger-related causes?

Impossible, you say? Actually, this miracle cure already exists. It’s breast milk.

When we think of global poverty, we sometimes assume that the challenges are so vast that any solutions must be extraordinarily complex and expensive. Well, some are. But almost nothing would do as much to fight starvation around the world as the ultimate low-tech solution: exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life. That’s the strong recommendation of the World Health Organization.

The paradox is that while this seems so cheap and obvious — virtually instinctive — it’s also rare."

So begins a piece by op-ed writer Nicholas D Kristof for The New York Times as he swings through Africa on what might almost be called hi…

7 billion people.....and counting

Whilst debate continues about the state of our planet, and amongst other things, how we are going to be able to feed and maintain the peoples of our globe, a UN Report tells us that we will "hit" 7 billion people on this planet some time later this year. Equally startling is where the people of the world are located.

"Somewhere in the world - Asia would be a good bet - a pregnant woman is carrying a baby destined to be the planet's seven billionth human being.

The historic baby is due to be born on October 31, the United Nations Population Division predicts.
Bookmakers have made Asia the hot favourite for the symbolic arrival, possibly for no better reason than that the sun rises in the east, giving Asian mothers a head start.

If they are right, another reasonable bet would be that the baby will grow up to be part of another historic demographic shift and live in a city.

By mid-2022 there will for the first time be more people living in Asia's urban areas than in…

Trying for press freedom in Egypt

In some respects post Mubarak has seen the military crack down on freedoms such a for the media. Then again there are hopeful signs of a change of direction from the censorship which prevailed throughout the Mubarak regime.

The Nation has a revealing piece "After Mubarak, Fighting For Press Freedom in Egypt":

"Despite the crackdown, there is a burgeoning movement for press freedom in Egypt. Many of the revolutionary youth who helped lead the eighteen-day uprising are looking to create new, independent outlets in the post-Mubarak media landscape. The publication El Gornal recently printed its second issue, intentionally breaking Egyptian law prohibiting publishing newspapers without official permission. An independent media center called Mosireen (Arabic for “We insist”) has opened its offices in downtown Cairo, advocating for citizen journalism—so ubiquitous during the uprising, with protesters using cell phone cameras to document the revolution—and providing servi…

Google wraps it up with the British Library

Google has done it this time wrapping up a deal with the British Library to scan a huge collection of books for eventual availability on line.

cnet news reports:

Google Books has an ambitious mission statement: "Google Books is an effort to make all of the knowledge contained within the world's books searchable online."

That's a tall order, but the company will make a dent in it with a new agreement to scan 250,000 books from the British Library.

The books, pamphlets, and periodicals are all out of copyright and come from between 1700 and 1870. This is a nice companion project to the British Library's new 19th Century Books app that will eventually put thousands of old books on your iPad.

To put it in perspective, these books were generated during some famous events you may have heard of, including the French Revolution, the invention of rail travel, and the end of slavery. Google will foot the cost for this mammoth digitizing effort.
The digitized bo…

Stark contrasts indeed

On the very day that the US Supreme Court dismissed a class action brought by Walmart employees, just reflect on the stark contrast between what the executives of that company earn as against that of its employees.

"Robson “Rob” Walton, Walmart chairman, has a net worth of about $19.7 billion. And he's only number 9 on the list of 2010's top 20 richest Americans.

Walmart workers, meanwhile, make around $8.75 an hour—about $18,000 a year. They'd have to work over a million years to approach what the chairman of Walmart Stores is sitting on. Alice and Jim Walton each have about $20 billion, and Christy Walton has $24 billion.

Last year Jonathan Turley noted that the CEO of Walmart, Michael Duke, makes his average employee's yearly salary every hour.

A new report by the Washington Post on “Breakaway Wealth” contains new research by economists Jon Bakija, Adam Cole and Bradley T. Heim, who analyzed tax returns from the top 0.1 percent of earners in the U.S. That top pe…

Things may not go better in China with a Coke

Who would have thought that a fizzy drink might stand in the way of China's economic growth? Emulating the West may not be in China's best interests.....

"More than 92 million Chinese live under the cloud of diabetes. It is also why Beijing's grand visions for flotillas of aircraft carriers and fleets of stealth fighters could ultimately be crushed by a simple can of fizzy drink.

What this statistic shows is that long before the country has even flirted with being a fully developed economy, its health profile is starting to look ominously American.

As the economy has grown, ever-increasing numbers of Chinese are eating more, drinking more, driving more and sitting more. Data from makers of soft drinks suggests that sales in the more affluent parts of the country have risen fivefold in the past decade. In lower-income provinces, the increase has been even more pronounced. Cases of the disease are soaring, and show little sign of reaching a plateau.

The population is …

Oceans in deep (yes, truly) trouble

The sceptics about climate change and global warming, etc. etc. may just have to accept, however begrudgingly, that our world is confronted with a crisis. Witness this piece from Yahoo News [sourced from Agence France-Presse] about the strife our oceans are in and what confronts us with that being the case.

"Pollution and global warming are pushing the world's oceans to the brink of a mass extinction of marine life unseen for tens of millions of years, a consortium of scientists warned Monday.

Dying coral reefs, biodiversity ravaged by invasive species, expanding open-water "dead zones," toxic algae blooms, the massive depletion of big fish stocks -- all are accelerating, they said in a report compiled during an April meeting in Oxford of 27 of the world's top ocean experts.

Sponsored by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), the review of recent science found that ocean health has declined further and faster than dire forecasts only a fe…

Fighting corruption post the Arab Spring

A timely piece from Foreign Affairs, the Council on Foreign Relations' publication, on fighting corruption post the Arab Spring. As it happens the Tunisian President referred in the piece was to just today sentenced to 35 years imprisonment: see here.

"From Tunisia to Yemen, the corruption of Middle Eastern regimes has played a significant role in motivating the Arab Spring. Former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his family now face trial in absentia for, among other crimes, money laundering and drug trafficking. Meanwhile, Egyptian courts have charged former President Hosni Mubarak with corruption and sentenced in absentia his former finance minister, Youssef Boutros-Ghali, to 30 years in prison on charges of corruption and embezzlement of public money. Frustration with cronyism and corruption is a key grievance of those protesting in the streets in Libya, Syria, and Yemen as well.

These corrupt leaders have managed to stash much of their collected wealth abr…

An open letter to China: Release Ai Weiwei

Hats off to members of the Australian creative community for signing up to a letter to the Chinese Ambassador in Australia about the disappearance of artist and activist Ai Weiwei:

"To Chen Yuming, Chinese Ambassador to Australia,

We write to you today in relation to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

As you may know Ai was detained on 3 April 2011 at Beijing airport by Chinese police. His studio was then sealed off and his staff and wife interrogated. All this occurred without any given reasons or charges lain.

When on 7 April the Chinese ministry announced that he had been arrested for alleged economic crimes no proof was given and no official charge made.

His studio was then searched again and on 9 April his accountant, driver Zhang Jingsong and studio partner Liu Zhenggang disappeared. Ai Weiwei’s assistant Wen Tao has also been missing since Ai’s arrest on 3 April.

It has now been 78 days since the disappearance of Ai. 9 May was the date that Ai should have been released unless there is an…

It's war...or not!

Professor Stephen Walt makes a valid point on his blog on FP about whether the US is at war, or not, with regard to the offensive being undertaken by a number of, but not all, NATO forces in Libya.

"Not that FP has suddenly become joke central, but there's an old joke that runs like this:

An accountant, a social scientist and a lawyer are seated in a room. A guy walks in and asks them: "how much is 2 + 2?" The accountant whips out a calculator, pencils and paper, scribbles for awhile, and then says: "The answer, sir, is 4." The social scientist grabs her laptop, fires it up a few minutes, and then says "Well, as you know this is not an exact science, but I can say with a 95% level of confidence that the answer is between 3 and 5."

The lawyer, meanwhile, gets up, looks under all the chairs, checks in the closet, opens the door to the room and looks both ways down the hall. Then he comes back, sidles up to the guy who asked the question, and whispers: