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Showing posts from September, 2011

The "other" Nobel

Yes, you read that correctly!   There are alternative Nobels - just awarded yesterday.  BBC News reports:
"Chinese solar power pioneer Huang Ming is one of four winners of the 2011 Right Livelihood Awards, sometimes also called the alternative Nobel prize.

Mr Huang was honoured for developing "cutting-edge technologies for harnessing solar energy".

Also honoured were Chadian human rights activist Jacqueline Moudeina, Spain-based farmers' advocacy group Grain and US midwifery educator Ina May Gaskin.

The awards are granted by a Sweden-based foundation.

They were founded in 1980 by Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull to recognise work he felt was being ignored by the Nobel Foundation.

In a statement, the Right Livelihood Awards Foundation said this year's winners "turn the spotlight on solutions to global wrongs".

Mr Huang received the honorary award while the other three won 50,000 euros (£43,000; $68,000) each.

Ms Moudeina was cited "for her …

Your mood.....by the hour!

Mining technology has provided some intriguing info......our mood over the 24 hour day.

"However grumpy people are when they wake up, and whether they stumble to their feet in Madrid, Mexico City or Minnetonka, Minn., they tend to brighten by breakfast time and feel their moods taper gradually to a low in the late afternoon, before rallying again near bedtime, a large-scale study of posts on the social media site Twitter found.

Drawing on messages posted by more than two million people in 84 countries, researchers discovered that the emotional tone of people’s messages followed a similar pattern not only through the day but also through the week and the changing seasons. The new analysis suggests that our moods are driven in part by a shared underlying biological rhythm that transcends culture and environment.

The report, by sociologists at Cornell University and appearing in the journal Science, is the first cross-cultural study of daily mood rhythms in the average person using s…

Drones as part of war

Reading this piece "As the Drone Flies" by Ralph Nader on counterpunch highlights how the nature and extent of war is changing - and with potential diabolical ramifications. 
"The fast developing predator drone technology, officially called unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, is becoming so dominant and so beyond any restraining framework of law or ethics, that its use by the U.S. government around the world may invite a horrific blowback.

First some background. The Pentagon has about 7,000 aerial drones. Ten years ago there were less than 50. According to the website longwarjournal.com, they have destroyed about 1900 insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal regions. How these fighters are so clearly distinguished from civilians in those mountain areas is not clear.

Nor is it clear how or from whom the government gets such “precise” information about the guerilla leaders’ whereabouts night and day. The drones are beyond any counterattack—flying often at 50,000 feet. But the Air Forc…

Your mobile [aka cell] funding war in the Congo?

Women in the Congo live under the threat of rape by armed gangs who take over mines and sell precious metals to electronics firms




 From The Telegraph [UK]:

"Insurgents in the central African state are earning up to £118 million every year by selling four so-called “blood minerals” that are vital in making electronic goods.

Warlords take over the mineral mines by systematically raping women and murdering men, and now a pressure group is asking British consumers to sign a petition demanding a ban on the use of metals sourced from Congo."



****


"The worldwide demand for gold, tantalum, tungsten and tin for use in mobiles, laptops, MP3 players and games consoles is driving up the price for the metals and making them a highly-prized commodity for rebels in mineral-rich Congo.

Rape is used by the rebels to drive out mine owners because, in the words of Amnesty International, "rape is cheaper than bullets".


Almost 5.5 million people are estimated to have been killed since th…

With almost 7 billion of us.....a global agenda for the future

There isn't all that much positive which can be said about the United Nations, but its Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, raises the critical issue that the world must have an agenda to tackle the world's problems as we approach the birth of the 7 millionth amongst us.
"Late next month, a child will be born – the 7th billion citizen of planet Earth. We will never know the circumstances into which he or she was born. We do know that the baby will enter a world of vast and unpredictable change – environmental, economic, geopolitical, technological, and demographic.

The world’s population has tripled since the United Nations was created in 1945. And our numbers keep growing, with corresponding pressures on land, energy, food, and water. The global economy is generating pressures as well: rising joblessness, widening social inequalities, and the emergence of new economic powers.

These trends link the fate and future of today’s seven billion people as never before. No nation alone …

Climate change wreaks havoc

As is so typical the media has hardly given any coverage to the fact of scientists saying the widespread floods in Pakistan are a result of climate change - let alone the devastation caused to the local populace.

"Environmentalists are blaming climate change for the unprecedented massive monsoon rains in Pakistan, which so far this year have affected eight million people, claiming 350 lives and damaging 1.3 million homes.
Over the past month, the country's southern region has received the highest monsoon rains ever recorded, local metrological experts confirm.

In August, the southern parts of the country received 270 percent above-normal monsoon rains. And in September, the monsoons rains were 1,170 percent above normal, says Dr. Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, Adviser Climate Affairs.
The Sindh province, where six million acres of land were inundated in current floods, had experienced severe drought conditions before the monsoon season and had not received any rainfall at all during th…

Iraq pretty much still a basket case

Iraq is now off, as it were, off the air and radar.    The media and politicians are concentrating on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and other "hot" spots.    
The public might be forgiven in thinking that things have battened down in Iraq.    The International Crisis Groupwould suggest otherwise. "By 2009, a combination of factors allowed the state to reassert itself. The U.S. surge (2007-2009) was an important initial factor in improving security, but insofar as institutions were concerned, the rebuilt security forces sufficiently enhanced safety to enable officials to go back to work without protection or assistance from the U.S. military. Today judges are protected by interior ministry forces. The Council of Representatives (parliament) is reliant solely on local police and private contractors for its security. The state has resumed most of its functions.

Despite this improved environment, public services continue to be plagued by severe deficiencies, notably widespr…

Some "world" Tony Blair inhabits

For an ex PM Tony Blair is doing very nicely, thank you.    No less than 7 homes, etc.   
"Since resigning in June 2007, Tony Blair has financially enriched himself more than any previous ex-prime minister. Reporter Peter Oborne reveals some of the sources of his new-found wealth, much of which comes from the Middle East.

On the day Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister, he was appointed the official representative Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East. By January 2009 he had set up Tony Blair Associates - his international consultancy - which handles multi-million-pound contracts in the Middle East. It is so secretive we don't know all the locations in which they do business.

Dispatches shows that at the same time as Blair is visiting Middle East leaders in his Quartet role he is receiving vast sums from some of them. If Blair represented the UK government, the EU, the IMF, the UN or the World Bank, this would not be permitted.

He would also have to declare his financial inte…

What goes around.....

Reading this piece from CommonDreams it is hardly surprising that what the Americans have been doing - and not doing! - at Gitmo has come back to bite its own citizens.




"What the coverage of American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal getting released from prison in Iran often leaves out: When they complained of their treatment, how often their guards cited the "comparable conditions" facing detainees in Guantanamo and CIA prisons around the world. Their full statements here.


"In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay. They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world, and the conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S. We do not believe that such human rights violations on the part of our government justify what has been done to us. Not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an exc…

DIY internet coming your way

Technology just keeps on changing and challenging us on a daily basis.....
The internet has the potential to be used to positive effect as also for repressive purposes.   Just reflect on this piece "Fear of Repression Spurs Scholars and Activists to Build Alternate Internets".
"Computer networks proved their organizing power during the recent uprisings in the Middle East, in which Facebook pages amplified street protests that toppled dictators. But those same networks showed their weaknesses as well, such as when the Egyptian government walled off most of its citizens from the Internet in an attempt to silence protesters.

That has led scholars and activists increasingly to consider the Internet's wiring as a disputed political frontier.

For example, one weekend each month, a small group of computer programmers gathers at a residence here to build a homemade Internet—named Project Byzantium—that could go online if parts of the current global Internet becomes blocked by…

Targetting and profiling

Scary stuff.....even in the country of the free and the brave and a Constitution which is "generous" in interpreting what constitutes free speech.    It looks like profiling and targeting one group of the population for scrutiny is alive and well in New York.
"What prevents government from singling out a religious or political group for heightened, invasive surveillance and coercive recruitment into the ranks of state informants? In the Big Apple, the answer seems to be, not much.

In August, the Associated Press’s Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman reported that the NYPD, with training and support from the CIA, has developed an extensive network of informants, long-term undercover officers and agents provocateurs targeting New York’s Muslim communities.

A so-called “Demographic Unit” and a “Terrorist Interdiction Unit” within the New York Police Department (NYPD) deployed “mosque crawlers” and “rakers” to trawl Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities to “rake the coals, lookin…

It's pretty obvious who is calling the tune.....and blow the Palestinians

IPS puts the speech of Obama, in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict, to the UN General Assembly the other day, into context  - with the Palestinians yet again clearly not on the US radar.     My, what the support of the Israel Lobby and the need for prospective Jewish voters at next year's presidential election can do!   One might have thought that Obama would have been a tad more astute in not trying to further alienate the Arab world.    One thing is clear.     The Americans cannot sit at any negotiating table and be seen as anything like neutral or even-handed. 
"The right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could not be more pleased.

Not only did the allegedly most "anti-Israel" president ever repeat, for the nth time, that "America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable," but also made crystal clear that Washington will veto any Palestinian application to the U.N. Security Council for statehood in his sp…

Blair: Deserving of no credibility

Why on earth governments and corporations listen to Tony Blair, let alone seemingly throw large sums of money at him is a puzzle.  He is a chameleon, show-pony and obviously has little understanding about conflict of interest, what is appropriate in the circumstances in which he finds himself or being above seeing to it that his interests (financial) are well served.
"Roman Polanski might want to start working up a sequel to The Ghost Writer. The British press is ravenously anticipating the airing on Monday of a TV documentary that will unearth new details about the business activities of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. What's been revealed so far is enough to raise eyebrows.

The former prime minister operates a “Byzantine” network of businesses and charities, The Sunday Telegraph reports, brokering deals for major banks and other heavy-hitters throughout the Middle East and in Africa, even as he retains statesman-like status in attempts to broker peace in the region. Blair&…

Working at Amazon....is, litrerally, like working in a jungle

Who would have thought that the sort of conditions employees are experiencing at Amazon - yes, the "big" Amazon which so dominates commercial "life" on the web - in 2011.   And just look at what Amazon does for when employees get ill on the job?   Incredible!
The Morning Call reports:
"Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.

During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stre…

Google and the War for the Web

Is there anyone out there who doesn't resort to Google or "Googling" something?    

The web search engine is engaged in a war to maintain its dominance.      But look at what Google is doing to ensure its place on your computer - and everyone elses for that matter.    The Huffington Post reports on the goings on in Washington.

"You can't swing a dead cat video in Washington lately without hitting a lobbyist, consultant, attorney or adviser on retainer to Google or one of its tech rivals. Google, whose top executives have long been a bottomless cup of campaign coffee for Democrats, is finally entering its bipartisan phase, theatrically hiring Republican operatives and broadcasting the news through insider Washington publications, pumping air into a K Street tech bubble.

The shift in political strategy comes as Google faces a serious antitrust threat, punctuated by a high-profile hearing on the company held Wednesday afternoon in the Senate. But Google's inves…

Borders' employees final word!

Borders, the book stores, are no more.   In the process of wrapping up the business, the employees have made their frustrations known....







The Arc of Instability

Scary reading.....and the implications even more so.    

"It’s a story that should take your breath away: the destabilization of what, in the Bush years, used to be called “the arc of instability.”  It involves at least 97 countries, across the bulk of the global south, much of it coinciding with the oil heartlands of the planet.  A startling number of these nations are now in turmoil, and in every single one of them -- from Afghanistan and Algeria to Yemen and Zambia -- Washington is militarily involved, overtly or covertly, in outright war or what passes for peace.

Garrisoning the planet is just part of it.  The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence services are also running covert special forces and spy operations, launching drone attacks, building bases and secret prisons, training, arming, and funding local security forces, and engaging in a host of other militarized activities right up to full-scale war.  But while you consider this, keep one fact in mind: the odds are that there …

Exploding a myth! Junk food isn't less expensive

It seems the canard that junk food is cheaper than so-called regular food simply doesn't stack up factually.
The New York Times reports in "Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?":
"The “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli ...” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”

This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple…

The world's top executioners

With the execution of Troy Davis still fresh in mind, one would not have thought the US would be too pleased to share the company of some of the world's top executioners.

FP reports....."This week's execution of Troy Davis has provoked an international outcry and renewed debate in the United States over the death penalty. With the fifth-most executions per year of any country, America finds itself on a list with some of the world's worst human rights abusers."

Time's running out......

Credited to Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Loose tongue sets back health-care

A none-too bright politician sets back health-care, on a wide scale, through her simpleton and stupid words.     And this woman wants to be president of the USA? 
"During a debate last week for Republican presidential candidates and in interviews after it, Representative Michele Bachmann called the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer “dangerous.” Medical experts fired back quickly. Her statements were false, they said, emphasizing that the vaccine is safe and can save lives. Mrs. Bachmann was soon on the defensive, acknowledging that she was not a doctor or a scientist.

But the harm to public health may have already been done. When politicians or celebrities raise alarms about vaccines, even false alarms, vaccination rates drop.

“These things always set you back about three years, which is exactly what we can’t afford,” said Dr. Rodney E. Willoughby, a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the committee on infectious diseases of the American Ac…

Flawed process leads to dud outcome

"The Palestinian Authority's bid to the United Nations for Palestinian statehood is, at least in theory, supposed to circumvent the failed peace process. But in two crucial respects, the ill-conceived gambit actually makes things worse, amplifying the flaws of the process it seeks to replace. First, it excludes the Palestinian people from the decision-making process. And second, it entirely disconnects the discourse about statehood from reality.

Most discussions of the UN bid pit Israel and the United States on one side, fiercely opposing it, and Palestinian officials and allied governments on the other. But this simplistic portrayal ignores the fact that among the Palestinian people themselves there is precious little support for the effort. The opposition, and there is a great deal of it, stems from three main sources: the vague bid could lead to unintended consequences; pursuing statehood above all else endangers equality and refugee rights; and there is no democratic manda…

The loose cannon speaks

There is no doubting that the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a loose cannon.   Some of his statements have been, to say the least, outrageous.    However, to ignore the man, and his country - or, as happened today for many countries to walk out of UN as the president addressed the General Assembly - is plain daft.     Perhaps engaging with the man might get at least some accommodation with Iran and its leader.
Nicholas Kristof did sit down with Ahmadinejad whilst the president is in New York.
"Before sparks began flying between me and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, he began my interview with an unusual olive branch: “I would like to, with your permission, greet all of your readers as well as Web viewers and wish all of them the success and blessings of the Almighty.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad is a complex, even bizarre, figure. A firebrand with a penchant for making explosive public statements, he is small in person, subdued and very soft-spoken. Even when I pushed him h…

Aah.....its depends on who is doing it!

MediaLens, once again, highlights how things are reported.    If "they" do something it's "terrorism".   If "we" do it, it's "counter-terrorism".
"A defining feature of state power is rhetoric about a ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ role in world affairs. Errors of judgement, blunders and tactical mistakes can, and do, occur. But the motivation underlying state policy is fundamentally benign. Reporters and commentators, trained or selected for professional ‘reliability’, tend to slavishly adopt this prevailing ideology.

Thus, on the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an editorial in the Independent on Sunday gushed about ‘Bush's desire to spread democracy as an end in itself’. It was, the paper said, ‘the germ of a noble idea’. There was  ‘an idealism’ about Blair’s support for Bush. The drawback was that the execution of the righteous vision had been ‘naive, arrogant and morally compromised by torture and the abrogation of the very v…

How to lose hearts and minds

This is either plain dumb or inept.   But whatever, if the Coalition forces in Afghanistan are seeking to have the local populace on side, this report on what the military is doing in the already strife-torn country is certainly not going to help.
"U.S. Special Operations Forces have been increasingly aiming their night-time raids, which have been the primary cause of Afghan anger at the U.S. military presence, at civilian non- combatants in order to exploit their possible intelligence value, according to a new study published by the Open Society Foundation and The Liaison Office.

The study provides new evidence of the degree to which the criteria used for targeting of individuals in night raids and for seizing them during raids have been loosened to include people who have not been identified as insurgents.

Based on interviews with current and former U.S. military officials with knowledge of the strategic thinking behind the raids, as well as Afghans who have been caught up in th…

Robert Fisk: Why the Middle East will never be the same

Leaving to one side the manoeuvring in NY surrounding the application by the Palestinians being granted Statehood - Obama's address to the General Assembly can only leave one speechless! - veteran journalist, author and commentator, Robert Fisk, ventures the view that what is happening in and surrounding the Middle East will see the region change forever.
"But we are now talking of much greater matters. This vote at the UN – General Assembly or Security Council, in one sense it hardly matters – is going to divide the West – Americans from Europeans and scores of other nations – and it is going to divide the Arabs from the Americans. It is going to crack open the divisions in the European Union; between eastern and western Europeans, between Germany and France (the former supporting Israel for all the usual historical reasons, the latter sickened by the suffering of the Palestinians) and, of course, between Israel and the EU.

A great anger has been created in the world by decad…

More of the same in Burma

Although there have been suggestions of there being an amelioration of the oppressive regime in Burma, it would seem not all that much.  
"Burma will continue to be a major source of refugees until the needs of people with no choice but to flee their homeland are addressed. This would require some serious changes in Burma.

Ongoing military attacks targeting civilians, in violation of international law, must stop. Since March over 50,000 men, women and children have fled their homes because of military attacks in Kachin and Shan States in northern Burma. They join half a million displaced persons in eastern Burma who are hiding in the jungle for extended periods of time in appalling conditions because it is not safe for them to return home.

The systematic and widespread violation of human rights by the Burmese army and authorities also must stop. These include, but are not limited to: the rape of ethnic women and girls; the use of villagers as slave labour; the destruction or confis…

Georgia executes Troy Davies

Against a background of it being understood that the Parole Board of Georgia split 3-2 in denying Troy Davis' application to stay his execution, Davis was executed a few hours ago.

This is the letter Amnesty International has just sent out worldwide:

"I've been down here at death row, and we just heard the horrific news.

After a torturous delay of more than 4 hours, the state of Georgia has just killed Troy Anthony Davis.

My heart is heavy. I am sad and angry. The state of Georgia has proven what we already know. Governments cannot be trusted with the awful power over life and death.

Today, Georgia didn't just kill Troy Davis, they killed the faith and confidence that many Georgians, Americans and Troy Davis supporters worldwide used to have in our criminal justice system.

Wende, on our Abolish the Death Penalty Campaign team, met with Troy Davis yesterday to convey the support that he has had from all of you. He asked us to deliver this message back to you:

"The str…

Waste

Here there are millions of people around the world who barely have something to eat - let alone fresh water either - and this piece reveals the abject wastage of food in America.    Not that there are likely many other countries in the West which are not much better.
"Every day, America wastes enough food to fill the Rose Bowl. Yes, that Rose Bowl--the 90,000-seat football stadium in Pasadena, California. Of course, that's if we had an inclination to truck the nation's excess food to California for a memorable but messy publicity stunt.

As a nation, we grow and raise more than 590 billion pounds of food each year. And depending on whom you ask, we squander between a quarter and a half of all the food produced in the United States. Even using the more conservative figure would mean that 160 billion pounds of food are squandered annually--more than enough, that is, to fill the Rose Bowl to the brim. With the high-end estimate, the Rose Bowl would almost be filled twice over.

So what people of which countries are supporting the Palestinian bid for Statehood at the UN

Interesting poll undertaken by the BBC on what people, in which countries, support the upcoming bid for Statehood by the Palestinians at the UN .     Despite all the politicians in the USA, more than obscenely, falling over each other to covet favour with the Jewish vote in opposing the Palestinian move, 45% of Americans agree with the proposal.
"Despite the drumbeat of negativity heard virtually every day in the American media from the Obama-Clinton-Ross crowd, Americans support by a strong plurality independence for Palestine.  A BBC global poll of 19 countries including the U.S. found that overall 49% backed statehood and 21% opposed.  In the U.S. it was 45% for and 36% against.   In France, Germany and Britain, support was over 50% and opposition ranged from 20-28%.  Overall, 30% of all respondents said either their country should abstain or could not give a definitive answer.  Unfortunately, one country missing from the poll appears to be Israel.  I’d love to know the number…

Tomorrow, Georgia Murders Troy Davis

From The Nation a plea - and despair - in relation to the barbarity of executing a man in Georgia, in America, who on any objective assessment appears innocent of the crime he has been convicted of and sentenced to death.   On any view, there must be considerable doubt about the original conviction.
"It’s with shock that I report that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday denied clemency for Troy Anthony Davis. The 42-year-old Davis is now due to be executed tomorrow, Wednesday September 21, at 7 pm. For those unfamiliar with the case, let’s be clear: Davis’s execution is little more than a legal lynching. This is a demonstrably innocent man that the state is about to execute in the premeditated manner of a murder.

The facts speak for themselves. Back in 1989, nine people testified that they saw Troy Davis kill Officer Mark MacPhail. Since that time, seven have recanted their testimony. Please allow me to repeat: of the nine people who testified that Troy killed Offi…

To be ignored at our peril

On reading this piece from The Guardian, can anyone, seriously, question climate change and its devastating consequences?

"More than 30 million people were displaced last year by environmental and weather-related disasters across Asia, experts have warned, and the problem is only likely to grow worse as climate change exacerbates such problems.

Tens of millions more people are likely to be similarly displaced in the future by the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, floods, droughts and reduced agricultural productivity. Such people are likely to migrate in regions across Asia, and governments must start to prepare for the problems this will create, the Asian Development Bank warned.

The costs will be high – about $40bn is the likely price for adapting and putting in place protective measures, from sea walls to re-growing mangrove swamps that have been cut down, and that can help to protect against the impacts of storm surges.

But the problem is already taking eff…

Pilger on the state of things.....

From the ABC [Australia] on John Pilger, award-winning journalist, author, film-maker and commentator, speaking at the Byron Bay Writers Festival recently:
"The world, according to expat Australian journalist, author and filmmaker John Pilger, is a consistently dark and disappointing place. Delivering the keynote address at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, Pilger takes aim at various Australian and world political leaders on the left and the right.

George W Bush was a "criminal on a magnitude we can't imagine". The military is at the centre of American government. Barack Obama is nothing more than a brand. And, no more than a "cigarette paper" separates the major Australian political parties.

"The rulers of the United States at every level are so far to the right, so extreme from the views of the population, that any kind of formal democracy, that is those elected representing the people, has virtually ended," is how Pilger sees it. But, he saves so…

The impending one-sided vote

Neve Gordon is an Israeli activist and the author of Israel's Occupation.    Yinon Cohen is Yerushalmi Professor of Israel and Jewish Studies, Department of Sociology, Columbia University, New York.
They write in relation to the upcoming vote at the UN for Palestinian statehood.....
"The US has never considered using its veto power to stop Israel from carrying out unilateral moves aimed at undermining peace.

Instead, the US has frequently used its veto to prevent the condemnation of Israeli policies that breach international law. Now the Obama Administration wants to use the veto again, with the moral justification that unilateralism is misguided. But the real question is: Why is unilateralism bad when it attempts to advance a solution, yet warrants no response when unilateralism threatens to undermine a solution?

President Obama should keep in mind that the Palestinian appeal to the international community might very well be the last chance for salvaging the two-state solution…

Take an autumnal Parisian stroll

Place des Vosges, in Paris, in its autumnal finery.......

The Best Places in the World for Women

The Daily Beast [from Newsweek] has done the research, here, and reveals where in the world the best place is to be woman.

"We examined five measures that affect women’s lives. Of 165 countries, these 10 earned top marks in factors from health care to political power. We graded each country on 5 factors, using a scale of 1 to 100

JUSTICE
Laws protecting women from domestic violence, adolescent marriage and marital rape, and also women’s access to land and bank loans


HEALTH
Includes rates of maternal death, HIV, and infant mortality, and also access to safe abortions and skilled health workers


EDUCATION
Education level, literacy, and gender parity in schools


ECONOMICS
Includes percentage of women in the labor force, gender pay gap, access to all industries, ability to climb the ladder


POLITICS
Share of women in government, including senior positions"


Palestine: UN Recognition? etc.

The UN will later this week consider whether Palestine should be granted status as a State in its own right.    
Not surprisingly, the main players have gone into over-drive as has commentary here, there and everywhere.     
Gideon Levy in "Israel does not want a Palestinian state. Period." in Haaretz:
"Yesterday, a coalition of Israeli peace organizations published a list of 50 reasons for Israel to support a Palestinian state. Assuming that you only accept five of them, isn't that enough? What exactly is the alternative, now that the heavens are closing in around us? Can anyone, can Peres or Netanyahu, seriously contend that the regional hostility toward us would not have lessened had the occupation already ended and a Palestinian state been established?

The truths are so basic, so banal, that it hurts even to repeat them. But, unfortunately, they're the only ones we have. And so, a simple question to whoever will be representing us at the UN next week: Why not…

Seconds anyone?

Credited to Randy Bish, Pittsburgh, PA -- the Tribune-Review

Oh, that is why we are in Afghanistan

In what seems a war with no end in sight, Glenn Greenwald in "Major discovery: a purpose of the war in Afghanistan" in Salon examines a report just published in The Washington Post and concludes that the war would seem endless if the premise of the Post's article is correct.
"To summarize: our invasion and occupation is what enables the Taliban to recruit massive numbers of Afghan teenagers into their cause.  And now, we have to stay until we either kill all the people who hate us and want us gone from their country or propagandize deradicalize them into meekly accepting our presence.  Once there are no more Afghans left who want us gone, then we can leave.  For those of you who have been cynically claiming that this war has no discernible purpose other than the generalized benefits of Endless War for political officials and the Security State industry, now you know.

(Of course, the goal of ridding Afghanistan of all those who want to fight us will never happen preci…

iPad, is that a fly in my soup?

Oh, where are we headed?   From the LA Times:
"The quest for efficiency and maximum profits has led some restaurateurs to do away with wait staff and enable customers to place orders through tablet computers installed at their dining table. The trend toward automation is not new. Major supermarkets began using self-checkout machines years ago. But new devices such as the iPad are expanding the practice to other industries.

One wonders how many jobs will be lost in the switch to automation. Also, what businesses, if any, will pass the additional profits made from eliminating staff on to remaining employees, or to reduced prices for their customers?"

Insidious racial profiling

Reproduced from truthdig, without any real commentary here, this report ought make us reflect on where we have gone in the years since 9/11.   It's dangerous and communities will ultimately "pay" for racial profiling and plain ol' bigotry.
"Every week, Truthdig recognizes an individual or group of people who spoke truth to power, blew the whistle or stood up in the face of injustice. You can see past winners here, and make your own nomination for our next awardee here.

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, FBI and Homeland Security officials took extra security measures because, as one official told the Associated Press, “The public would rather us err on the side of caution than not.” Unfortunately for nonwhite Americans who chose to travel that day, that meant being subjected to blatant racial profiling. Shoshana Hebshi, our Truthdigger of the Week, was one such victim, but she had the presence of mind to remember the details and later the courage to blog about her…

Obesity = Huge costs all round

All communities where obesity is rife will bear the cost - and already are now.   Just think of hospital beds occupied by people - depriving others from their use -  whose obesity has gotten them into some sort of medical fix.
"Half of Americans will be obese in 2030 according to one of four recently published studies about obesity in the medical journal The Lancet. The main culprits are overeating and a lack of exercise; in other words, the obesity epidemic can be attributed to some extent to our modern way of life, with food (especially processed and prepared) readily available and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

Currently, about 32 percent of men and 35 percent of women in the US are obese. Obesity is due to replace tobacco as the “single most important preventable cause of chronic non-communicable diseases,” notes Reuters,and it’s projected to cause an extra 7.8 million cases of diabetes, 6.8 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and 539,000 cases of cancer. Other he…

Spin and unttruths....which the media allows to go unchallenged

Yet again FAIRis on the money for the media not at least challenging VP Biden's good feel statements when commemorating 9/11 the other day.
"Al-Qaeda, bin Laden, never imagined that the 3,000 people who lost their lives that day would inspire 3 million to put on the uniform and harden the resolve of 300 million Americans. They never imagined the sleeping giant they were about to awaken.

-- Vice President Joe Biden at September 11 commemoration (9/11/11)

Actually, that's precisely what bin Laden imagined: Al-Qaeda's central strategy was to draw its Western foes into economically ruinous wars in Muslim lands (Extra!, 7/11). But I suppose it would be bad form for journalists to raise this fact as the U.S. commemorates a decade of war and economic decline."





Another match into the Middle East fire

As if things weren't already combustible enough in the Middle East, as this piece "The Land of Gas and Honey" in FP explains, a new dimension has been added to the equation with Israel having discovered oil and gas fields in Israel.

"Mother Nature's distribution of oil and gas resources around the world suggests she has a mischievous sense of humor. In the Persian Gulf, South China Sea, and Caspian Sea, large fields lie in disputed zones between unfriendly neighbors.

Now we must add another hot spot to that list. New, giant, natural gas finds promise to transform the energy security and economy of Israel and, perhaps, its neighbors. But these treasures could hardly have been better placed to stir up trouble, complicating three of the world's most intractable conflicts: between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel and Lebanon, and Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The recent sharp deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations makes disputes over gas even more fraught wi…

So what if they die

It is hard to believe that we are in 2011 and reading about what occurred in the USA - a supposedly enlightened country.     Indifferent and outrageous.  Gob-smacking actually!    
"Back in 1980, just as America was making its political turn to the right, Milton Friedman lent his voice to the change with the famous TV series “Free to Choose.” In episode after episode, the genial economist identified laissez-faire economics with personal choice and empowerment, an upbeat vision that would be echoed and amplified by Ronald Reagan.

I’m referring, as you might guess, to what happened during Monday’s G.O.P. presidential debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”

And the cr…

The sacredness of marriage....until it's inconvenient

Hypocrisy reins supreme!   Marriage for life?   Sacred?  Yes, subject to certain conditions....
"Republican icon and religious leader Pat Robertson is very, very pro-marriage.  It is a sacred institution that needs to remain exclusive to heterosexuals and unmarred by divorce, just like in the Bible.  You know, til death do you part.

Unless, of course, you’re married to someone with Alzheimer’s disease.  Than you should just ditch your spouse.  After all, he or she is “already gone” so it’s like your partner is already gone.

That’s the advice that he gives on his show, anyway.  And an added benefit?  Divorcing your spouse means you’re off the hook for those medical bills, since the government will just take care of it."


Watch the video, here, and remember, this is what keeping marriage “sacred” looks like.



In the calm of post 9/11, why did they attack?

"...... one was that the claim that the U.S. was being attacked because, as the president put it, they hate our freedoms was completely untenable. They hated our policy. In fact, it would be more accurate to say we hate their freedoms. There’s plenty of documentation about that, going back to the 1950s. Shortly after the president’s speech, the Pentagon had a study of this, and they concluded, yes, it’s not that they hate our freedoms, it’s they hate our policies."
Noam Chomsky being interviewed on Democracy Now, here.