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Showing posts from March, 2012

That recent massacre in Afghanistan......

From Information Clearing House:

"What really happened on the night of March 11 when 17 Afghan civilians were massacred in Kandahar province?

Many Afghans, including some of the survivors that night, believe more than one U.S. soldier was present in the two villages where the killings took place.

With unprecedented access to Afghan military investigators, Yalda Hakim travels to the villages where the massacre took place and interviews survivors of the attack, as well as Afghan guards at the US military base that housed the alleged gunman.

US soldier Robert Bales is in custody, facing charges of mass murder, but Afghan investigators suspect there may have been at least one other killer involved."






The cost of investigating Rupert's illegal activities

The Brits should be rightly outraged that their police force is not only being tied down in investigating the illegal activities of News Ltd. and the divergence of resources from other policing activities, but the cost to taxpayers.     The latest estimate is £40 million.  There really can be no stopping now that the cat is out of the bag! 
"The cost of the Metropolitan police investigations into phone hacking and other alleged illegal activity by journalists is set to rise to £40m and tie up 200 police officers – about seven times the number investigating paedophiles in London, the Leveson inquiry has heard.

Kit Malthouse, Boris Johnson's deputy mayor for policing and crime in London, disclosed the figures to the inquiry on Thursday as he issued a robust defence of his review of the level of police resources tied up in the investigations, amid concern that this would be to the detriment of the detection of "serious and heinous crimes" such as murder, rape and paedo…

The Thieves of Burma

Myanmar - formerly Burma - is riddled with corruption.    That's the view of Transparency International.   With an upcoming election, in which Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is a candidate, Christian Caryl writes from Yangon in FP about Burma.
"Burma is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, which is saying a lot. In the most recent Corruption Perceptions Index published by the watchdog group Transparency International, Burma's rank was 180. The only countries that ranked worse were Somalia and North Korea.

This will not come as news to Aung San Suu Kyi's voters. They encounter petty bribery on an everyday basis, but the culture of sleaze here goes way beyond that. For decades, Burma's military leaders divided up this country's astonishing national wealth among themselves, reducing the rest of their compatriots to poverty. On YouTube you can watch a leaked video of the wedding of the daughter of top general Than Shwe (pictured above, and covered i…

Double-speak at its best

When will the world wake up?     Those who unquestionably accept what they read or hear which emanates from Israel are living in a bubble.  Double-speak, amongst many other things, are a regular thing.      Just one example as highlighted in this piece from The Passionate Attachment:
"The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner reporting from Jerusalem on March 20th described Israeli government rage at a comment made by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton relating to the killing of three Jewish children in Toulouse France on the previous day. Ashton decried the killing but then tied it in to equally unfortunate deaths of children in other places, including Gaza. Her comment caused Netanyahu to explode, saying he was “infuriated” by the “comparison between a deliberate massacre of children and the defensive, surgical actions” of the Israeli Defense Forces hitting “…terrorists who use children as a human shield.” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman quickly joi…

US Supreme Court considers. The people pay hefty health premiums

The much-watched trial in the US Supreme Court on what has become known as Obamacare can be put into sharp focus when one reads this report on CNNMoney on the actual cost to Americans of having health insurance.     Of course that ignores the over 50 million people without any health-cover.     It's hard to fathom why the heated resistance to seeing everyone covered, fairly, for health.   Other countries have done it....and survived!
"Three days of Supreme Court arguments have left the fate of the 2010 health care reform law uncertain. What is certain, however, is that health care costs are continuing to eat away at consumers' budgets.
The cost to cover the typical family of four under an employer plan is expected to top $20,000 on health care this year, up more than 7% from last year, according to early projections by independent actuarial and health care consulting firm Milliman Inc. In 2002, the cost was just $9,235, the firm said.

The projected increase marks the fifth …

A woman dies. Racism alive and well

More than symbolic, that in this week of the US Supreme Court hearing argument on the validity of "Obamahealth" and the shooting, a couple of weeks ago, of the young Afro-American Trayvon Martin, in Florida, now this.....
"The horrific story of Anna Brown, a black, homeless, 29-year-old St. Louis woman and mother of two who after refusing to leave a hospital because her legs hurt so much was arrested for trespassing, handcuffed, dragged into a jail cell and left moaning on the floor, where she died of blood clots minutes later. Police thought she was on drugs. She wasn't. Can anyone possibly argue there is not underway in this country a gender, color and class war, though not the one the right wing envisions?"
Go here to read the whole story.

Global warming: At the tipping point

Whatever the naysayers and others in that camp of doubters and sceptics might say - ostriches is a word which comes to mind! - the scientists are agreed.    Global warming is on and if something isn't done to remedy the situation, it may be irreversible.

"The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday. 

Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably. 


As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests.


"This is the critical decade. If we don't get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines," said Will Steffen, executive director of the Au…

The losers.... and the very big winners

It's no wonder that the Occupy Wall Street has taken root in a lot of places around the world - or like movements protesting the ever-increasing divide between the 99% and the 1% of the population.  Exhibit #1 on the figures in the USA from this piece "The Rich Get Even Richer" in IHT Global Opinion.

"New statistics show an ever-more-startling divergence between the fortunes of the wealthy and everybody else — and the desperate need to address this wrenching problem. Even in a country that sometimes seems inured to income inequality, these takeaways are truly stunning.

In 2010, as the nation continued to recover from the recession, a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in the country that year, compared to 2009 — $288 billion — went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in income. That delivered an average single-year pay increase of 11.6 percent to each of these households.

Still more astonishing was the extent to which the …

The ongoing plight of women in Afghanistan

It was supposed to be - so the powers that be of the countries which invaded Afghanistan informed all and sundry - that the "removal" of the control of the Taliban in Afghanistan would see the lot of the womenfolk improve.   There has undoubtedly been progress, as reported from time to time - but far from enough, as Human Rights Watch reports in "Afghanistan: Hundreds of Women, Girls Jailed for ‘Moral Crimes’" today.
"The Afghan government should release the approximately 400 women and girls imprisoned in Afghanistan for “moral crimes,” Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. The United States and other donor countries should press the Afghan government under President Hamid Karzai to end the wrongful imprisonment of women and girls who are crime victims rather than criminals.

The 120-page report, “‘I Had to Run Away’: Women and Girls Imprisoned for ‘Moral Crimes’ in Afghanistan,” is based on 58 interviews conducted in three prisons and three ju…

Targeting children

Yet another aspect of the deplorable, inhumane, scandalous and indecent way in which Israelis treat Palestinian children - as Abby Zimet reports in "Arrested, Traumatized, Shot: No System To Be Part Of" on CommonDreams:



"A heartbreaking report from Save the Children and East Jerusalem YMCA Rehabilitation Program on the more than 8,000 Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation who have been arrested, handcuffed, blindfolded, detained and often brutalized in Israeli prisons, usually for throwing stones - and that doesn't include those caught in the assaults on Gaza. An estimated 90% suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unsurprisingly, there is little help for them."

Video with YMCA Rehabilitation Program Director Nader Abu Amsha.


Barbaric death penalty

The death penalty still survives around the world as Amnesty International reminds us.   The US remains the only Western nation - civilised? - where it still exists.
"Most countries do not put criminals to death. Only 20 out of 198 carried out executions last year. That number has dropped by more than a third over the past decade. Many nations have abolished the death penalty and more are abolitionist in practice.

"We are determined that we will see the day when the death penalty is consigned to history," said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.

At least 676 people were executed across the globe last year for crimes including sorcery, sodomy and murder, according to a new annual report from the group. Executions rose steeply in the Middle East and North Africa, up almost 50% compared to the previous year.

The United States was the only Western country to carry out an execution last year, though death sentences are rarer than a decade ago. Sixteen stat…

Europe: Axe falls on the arts

Austerity measures in Europe are wreaking their toll on cultural institutions.    Cutting back on funding cultural icons will see us all being losers - not only the citizens of the particular country seeing cutbacks.
"European governments are cutting their support for culture, and American arts lovers are starting to feel the results.
In Italy, the world-famous opera house La Scala faces a $9 million shortfall because of reductions in subsidies. In the Netherlands, government financing for arts programs has been cut by 25 percent. Portugal has abolished its Ministry of Culture.

Europe’s economic problems, and the austerity programs meant to address them, are forcing arts institutions there to curtail programs, tours and grants. As a result, some ensembles are scaling down their productions and trying to raise money from private donors, some in the United States, potentially putting them in competition with American arts organizations."



Myanmar 2012

From The Boston Globe's The Big Picture:

"Is the recent political thaw in Myanmar genuine? Democratic elections are coming to the long-reclusive southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, formerly Burma. A long military dictatorship has nominally ended, and the regime has signed peace treaties with several ethnic separatist insurgencies. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's long house arrest is over, and she is campaigning for a seat in Parliament in the upcoming April 1 vote. Western investment is beginning to mass, which may ultimately be the reason the country is finally opening its doors. Other speculation on the thaw points to the incompetent emergency response to Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which left as many as 140,000 dead and sowed deep dissatisfaction with the government. Whatever the reasons for the unprecedented opening, the isolated and impoverished Burmese people are eager to reconnect with and catch their more developed neighbors in ASEAN, the Association of South East As…

Wanna have sum "fun" (aka influence) with the Brit PM?

Credited to The Independent

Race in the USA

The hope that with the election of Obama in the USA racism would be a thing of the past was clearly misguided.    Witness this piece "The New Jim Crow" from TomDispatch.

"Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his oath of office, pledging to serve the United States as its 44th president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have been celebrating our nation’s “triumph over race.”  Obama’s election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America.

Obama’s mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that “the land of the free” has finally made good on its promise of equality.  There’s an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for you.  If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you.  Trust us.  Trust our rules, laws, cust…

Women in Afghanistan

It is often said by the invading forces in Afghanistan that one objective in going into the country was to help the plight of women under the rule of the Taliban.    The results are mixed as the special report on GlobalPost highlights.

"In the decade since the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban government in Kabul, many positive changes have taken place in Afghanistan, particularly for women. There are many oft-cited statistics to illustrate this, including: the 2.7 million girls now in school, the 68 women currently in parliament, a female provincial governor, a female cabinet minister, and advocacy groups all over the country working to better the lives of Afghan women.

But GlobalPost has spent several months unearthing other facts and previously untold stories of women and girls caught in the labyrinth of Afghan’s corrupt and failing judicial system. These facts and the stories behind them do not bode so well for the future of Afghanistan’s women:

*Violenc…

Reflections from a visit to Iraq

Luke Wilcox is the Development and Communications Director for the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project. Luke has also worked with The Advocates for Human Rights, the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center, and  Washington Office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Luke was a Katherine Davis Fellow for Peace in 2010 and graduated from Boston University with an M.A. in International Relations and speaks Arabic.  He writes about his visit to Iraq "Witnessing Our War and Its Consequences" on CommonDreams:
"While the US military withdrawal in December marked a symbolic end to almost 9 years of war and occupation, it’s not “over” for the people I met. They, their children, and future generations of Iraqis (as well as Americans) will live with the consequences of the war on Iraq.

In Iraq, at least 100,000 civilians died from 2003 to 2011 as a result of the war. Some estimates put the number at over 1 million. Approximately 4.7 million Iraqis were displaced by the war…

Ah yes......those Apple shares!

Credited to Cam Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen

A blight on all Australians

That Australians still tolerates refugees being imprisoned - often in locations far away from cities or even decent-sized towns - is a disgrace and a blight on all Australians.      The effect on just about all those imprisoned is trauma if not self-harm and suicide.      Politicians of all persuasions, apart from the Greens, stand sorely condemned for their callous and uncaring response to the on-going issue of imprisoned asylum-seekers.

"According to the International Detention Coalition (IDC), Australia currently holds 528 children in secure and remote facilities. Last week it released its Captured Childhoods report at the 19th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The authors spent two years listening first-hand to the stories of children and parents from all over the world who have experienced or been impacted by immigration detention. 

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen responded with a statement that that the 'Federal Government is continuing to m…

Just think about all that nuclear "stuff" out there......

An abandoned middle school, part of the contaminated area surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in Pripyat, Ukraine, March 17, 2011. The ghost town which once had a population of about 50,000 people, was given a few hours to evacuate in April 1986 as radiation streamed into populated areas after an explosion at the reactor. (Photo: Joseph Sywenkyj / The New York Times)
Well overdue time to reflect on all that nuclear stuff out there.....and the repercussions, imminent and prospective.   truthout provides the lowdown in "400 Chernobyls: Solar Flares, Electromagnetic Pulses and Nuclear Armageddon".
"There are nearly 450 nuclear reactors in the world, with hundreds more being planned or under construction. There are 104 of these reactors in the United States and 195 in Europe. 

Imagine what havoc it would wreak on our civilization and the planet's ecosystems if we were to suddenly witness not just one or two nuclear meltdowns, but 400 or more! How likely is it t…

Ugly....and double-standards

This piece on +972requires no comment other than to re-iterate the points made in the article.    Ugly and double-standards are two words which spring to mind.

"Last Monday, a mob of Beitar Jerusalem football fans rioted at the Malcha Shopping Center. Notorious for their racism, the fans’ chants often include “MAH-vet l’araVEEM” – death to Arabs.

As Haaretz reports, hundreds of  Beitar hooligans swarmed into the mall following a game at the nearby Teddy Stadium. They “hurl[ed] racial abuse at Arab workers and customers and chanting anti-Arab slogans, and filled the food hall on the second floor.” Then they mobbed three Arab women eating with their children in the food hall, yelling epithets and spitting on them. Some Arab men employed as cleaners came to the women’s rescue; they had only their broomsticks as weapons, but succeeded in chasing the hooligans away – albeit temporarily. But then… 

… a few minutes later [the Beitar fans] returned and assaulted them. “They caught some of …

Can an automated article win a Pulitzer?

My oh my!    Now even the writing of articles is being automated.     Hence a piece on Slate with the apt title "A Robot Stole My Pulitzer!" "Can technology be autonomous? Does it lead a life of its own and operate independently of human guidance? From the French theologian Jacques Ellul to the Unabomber, this used to be widely accepted. Today, however, most historians and sociologists of technology dismiss it as naive and inaccurate.
Yet the world of modern finance is increasingly dependent on automated trading, with sophisticated computer algorithms finding and exploiting pricing irregularities that are invisible to ordinary traders.

Meanwhile, Forbes—one of financial journalism’s most venerable institutions—now employs a company called Narrative Science to automatically generate online articles about what to expect from upcoming corporate earnings statements. Just feed it some statistics and, within seconds, the clever software produces highly readable stories. Or, as …

If you hadn't already noticed, things are hotting up

The world's weather people have spoken.      To mark World Meteorological Day (on 23 March) this from the World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva:

"The World Meteorological Organization’s Annual Statement on the Status of the Global Climate said that 2011 was the 11th warmest since records began in 1850. It confirmed preliminary findings that 2011 was the warmest year on record with a La Niña, which has a cooling influence. Globally-averaged temperatures in 2011 were estimated to be 0.40° Centigrade above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14°C.

Precipitation extremes, many of them associated with one of the strongest La Niña events of the last 60 years, had major impacts on the world. Significant flooding occurred on all continents, whilst major droughts affected parts of east Africa and North America. Arctic sea ice extent fell to near record-low levels. Global tropical cyclone activity was below average, but the United States had one of its most destructive tornado seasons…

A true sign of the times!

Credited to Bill Schorr, Cagle Cartoons, truthdig

Promoting a lie.... to kids

GM food is a risk.  The jury seems pretty well unanimous on that.    That hasn't deterred companies like Monsanto, Dow and Dupont still being out there peddling their message that all is good in the GM "world".   Now kids are being targeted with material in effect claiming GI food is cool.


"Monsanto, Dow, Dupont and friends may have reached a new low by bringing their genetically engineered lies into the classroom via their new Look Closer at Biotechnology, an activity book/fairy tale that tells kids about "all the wonderful ways" that biotechnology grows more food, helps the environment and improves our health, none of which is true, but anyway....Brought to you by the Council for Biotechnology Information (sic), a corporate mouthpiece whose sole aim is to make more money for these guys.

"Hi Kids! This is an activity book for young people like you about biotechnology - a really neat topic. Why is it such a neat topic? Because biotechnology is helping …

Yet another assault on privacy and freedom of movement

It won't be long before other governments around the world follow suit, but the USA - that supposed bastion of freedoms of all sorts - has extended the time during which information may be held on citizens even if there is no known connection to anything to connect that person with terrorism.    And this under a so-called liberal President.   Just imagine a Republican regime in office!
"The Obama administration has approved guidelines that allow counterterrorism officials to lengthen the period of time they retain information about U.S. residents, even if they have no known connection to terrorism.

The changes allow the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the intelligence community’s clearinghouse for terrorism data, to keep information for up to five years. Previously, the center was required to promptly destroy — generally within 180 days — any information about U.S. citizens or residents unless a connection to terrorism was evident.

The new guidelines, which were approv…

Israel shoots the messenger......yet again!

If you don't like what they say simply condemn and ignore them.  Israel has perfected the routine.    Needless to say it fails, miserably, in addressing the issue at hand.    This piece "Israel won't co-operate with UN mission on settlements" from The Age newspaper explains.

"Israel has described as ''hypocritical'' a decision by the United Nations Human Rights Council to launch an investigation into the impact of its settlement construction on the human rights of Palestinians. 

About 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in areas Israel captured in a 1967 war.


Palestinians say the continued expansion of settlements, considered illegal by the International Court of Justice, denies them a viable state, making a ''two-state solution'' all but impossible to achieve. Israel says the status of settlements should be decided in peace negotiations.

The 47-member council decided late on Thursda…

Fox News stoops even lower. Yes, it's possible

Simply shake your head at this (from CommonDreams).....
"Outrage and actions still growing in the wake of the Florida murder of Trayvon Martin: a new police chief and prosecutor, possible civil rights and grand jury charges, much angry commentary, a Million Hoodie March in New York and a Change.org petition that has now garnered over a million and a half signatures, many bearing poignant comments. LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates assembled for a powerful 'We Are Trayvon Martin' photo, and Samuel Jackson shot a short angry video about blame. Over at Fox News, though, readers have declared Martin "a little thug ghetto monkey." Just wow.
Who are these people?"

Libya = Mess

The NATO forces who went into Libya have moved on, the world seems well satisfied with the outcome, especially the death of Gadhafi, the media hardly reports from the country anymore - and the country has been left in a mess.
"One year after the U.S., Britain, and France began their war in Libya, the harmful consequences of Western intervention are readily apparent. The internal disorder and regional instability that the West's assault created were foreseen by many critics. And yet, Western governments made no meaningful efforts to prepare for them. No one planned to stabilize Libya once Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown, and the National Transitional Council (NTC) rejected the idea of an outside stabilization force, which has left Libya at serious risk of fragmentation and renewed conflict. Intervention "on the cheap" may be more politically palatable in the West because of the low cost to Western nations, but it can still be quite destructive for the countries affect…

Israel curtails Palestinian access to water

Israel's actions know no bounds.   Now it's limiting Palestinians to access water in the West Bank.
"Israeli settlers have taken over dozens of natural springs in the West Bank, limiting or preventing Palestinian access to much-needed water sources, a United Nations report said on Monday.
The report produced by the UN's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at least 30 springs across the West Bank had been completely taken over by settlers, with Palestinians unable to access them at all.

In most instances, the report said, "Palestinians have been deterred from accessing the springs by acts of intimidation, threats and violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers."
The report said an OCHA survey carried out in 2011 identified a total of 56 springs that were under total or partial control of Israeli settlers, most in the part of the West Bank known as Area C, which is under full Israeli civil and military control.

"Springs have remained the …

Supporting "our boys! Oh yeah?

The catch-cry is the same the world over.   "Our boys" - that is, those in the military - must be supported above all else.    They are the ones who sacrifice their lives for "our" country, etc. etc.   You've heard it again and again!     So, what to make of this by the GOP in the USA?
"This week, which marks the 9th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, let us note one of many crimes committed by the recently released GOP budget written by Rep. Paul Ryan: In the nearly 100-page document, the word "veteran" does not appear. But veterans are there: They face $11 billion in cuts.

"For those of us who served, in many ways, yesterday is today. And today, we read that the GOP doesn't even talk about veterans in their budget."

Pause to reflect on the fact that it was George Shrub, aka President Bush, he of the GOP, who sent the military into Iraq and Afghanistan - with all the casualties that have followed.

Water!

Water!  We all need it, rich or poor and wherever we might live out there in the big, wide world.     It is already evident in certain areas of the world that nations are doing whatever they can to secure the ready accessibility to water.   As but one example, think Israel in cornering the supply of water in the Jordan Valley.

Two reports out today again highlight the critical importance of water, for a variety of reasons, political and otherwise.

First, from "No Water, No Food" on Dawn.com:

"Water is a basic necessity of life, yet it remains inaccessible for a large part of the world’s population. At present, almost one fifth of the global population (about 1.2 billion people) live in areas which are water scarce and a quarter live in developing countries that face water shortages. Globally the situation is getting worse due to the increase in population and the need for more water for agriculture, industry and household use to meet the needs of the increasing populati…

Caught, and suffering, either way

Credited to Mike Luckovich, truthdig

The hazzards of being a journalist.....and "exposing" a Government

Journalists are increasingly in the firing line as they seek to report what governments don't want revealed, and even more, if challenged.     CPJ - the Committee to Protect Journalists - is forever championing the cause of journalists and exposing what has happened to them around worldwide.   Case in point....Umar Cheema in Pakistan.

"Umar Cheema, a reporter with Islamabad's The News, was abducted in September 2010 by unknown assailants who stripped, beat, and photographed him in humiliating positions. Cheema's unwillingness to stay silent about his abduction and the abuses he suffered has drawn wide attention to the nationwide issue of anti-press violence in Pakistan.

Almost immediately after he was released, Cheema went on television to tell the world of the abuses and humiliation he endured at the hands of "men in police commando uniforms." He said his captors asked why he continued with his critical reporting--was he trying to discredit the government a…

No Turkish delights for the country's reporters

"Turkey has sparked international criticism over its treatment of journalists who dare to criticize the government, with many jailed on terrorism charges. The recent release of prominent reporters may signal change, but more than 100 journalists are still imprisoned in the country, more than in China or Iran."

From SpiegelOnLine:

"Non-governmental organizations like Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch had long criticized Turkey for its repression of journalists, but a line was crossed with Sik and Sener's arrests".

***

"More than 100 journalists are still awaiting trial in Turkish prisons -- more than in China or Iran. To make matters worse, the AKP government further tightened the anti-terrorism legislation in 2006. These arbitrary laws are used to target government critics on the left and the right, but especially Kurdish journalists suspected of being sympathizers with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In a large-scale operation …

Falling into and out of war

Bill Keller, writing in "Falling In and Out of War" in IHT Global Opinion engages in some navel-gazing about the role of the media, and the public media generally, giving due consideration to and evaluating any case for a war - especially, at the present time, the case being beaten up for an attack on Iran.

"When you’ve been wrong about something as important as war, as I have, you owe yourself some hard thinking about how to avoid repeating the mistake. And if that’s true for a mere kibitzing columnist, it’s immeasurably more true for those in a position to actually start a war.

So here we are, finally, messily winding down the long war in Afghanistan and simultaneously being goaded toward new military ventures against the regimes in Syria and Iran. Being in the question-asking business, I’ve been pondering this: What are the right questions the president should ask — and we as his employers should ask — when deciding whether going to war is (a) justified …

The overwhelming evidence about climate change

A view of the Runge reservoir in the town of Runge, some thirty-seven miles north of Santiago on February 3, 2012. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
With a good part of the world experiencing climate quite out of kilter with what should be the case over recent time, Bill McKibbin, writing in The Nation, puts climate change into context.
"The National Weather Service is kind of the anti–Mike Daisey, a just-the-facts operation that grinds on hour after hour, day after day. It’s collected billions of records (I’ve seen the vast vaults where early handwritten weather reports from observers across the country are stored in endless rows of ledgers and files) on countless rainstorms, blizzards and pleasant summer days. So the odds that you could shock the NWS are pretty slim.

Beginning in mid-March, however, its various offices began issuing bulletins that sounded slightly shaken. “There’s extremes in weather, but seeing something like this is impressive and unprecedented,” Chicago NWS meteorologist …

Israelis > Iranians > Israelis. People to people power. Restoring sanity?

If only a venture such as this, reported here, on CommonDreams, could achieve what politicians can't or won't.    People to people power?

"In an increasingly popular Facebook campaign initiated by an Israeli family, Israeli and Iranian citizens are expressing mutual respect and a hope for peace between the two countries.

The campaign was started by an Israeli couple, graphic designers Ronnie Edri and Michal Tamir, who began posting poster-messages on Facebook expressing love for Iranians in a bid to "cut across the growing anxiety and fear over the possibility of an Israel-Iran war, and address Iranian citizens directly".

A group of Iranians reciprocated with a response solidarity campaign stating, "We love you, Israeli people! The Iranian people do not like war with any country," via a poster uploaded to Facebook.

The posts have gathered hundreds of followers and responses on Facebook."



Yet another wave of refugees

There were refugees galore from the fighting in Iraq.    They ended up in both Lebanon and Jordan as also Syria.    Now, with the onslaught of the people of Homs, and elsewhere in Syria, people are again on the march.   
"Officially, there are around 12,000 Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon, but the true number is likely to be far higher. The borders between the countries are traditionally porous, and although it has become harder to cross, towns and villages in Lebanon have reported recent sharp increases in number of refugees arriving.

In Tripoli. Lebanon's second city, you see minivans on Syrian number plates laden with possessions and packed full of people. No seat goes spare. Local community leaders say that refugees have been arriving in their hundreds, looking for places to stay. The money they bring will not last forever, and for some it has already run out.

The refugees may have escaped the conflict, but they have not left it behind. They speak of people, business…

Staggering and sobering stats

The facts speak for themselves.
Fromreason.com:
"U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ suspected early March murder of 16 Afghan civilians is cast by the military-industrial-congressional-media complex as the isolated madness of a single American soldier. In fact, victims in the village of Kandahar are just the latest among six million who have perished in America's wars-of-choice in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and now the Central Asian graveyard of empires, Afghanistan.

That sobering estimate of death comes from John Tirman, executive director of the MIT Center for International Studies, and author of The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars, whose arguments were recently summarized in The Washington Post essay, “Why Do We Ignore the Civilians Killed in American Wars?”

****
"With an exceptionalist view of our own goodness, Americans ignore the genocidal carnage unleashed on the world in the decades since the good war was fought by America’s greatest generation.…

Iraq War 9 years on......Lessons learned?

This week marks the ninth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by the so-called Coalition of the Willing.    Remember all the hype about WMD's, the imminent threat of Saddam launching whatever, etc. etc.    All nothing more than fiction as we now all know - and the politicians who got the world into the mess stand sorely condemned.    And of course the Iraqis are still suffering.   Any lessons to be learned?

"This month marks the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Regardless of your views on the wisdom of that decision, it's fair to say the results were not what most Americans expected. Now that the war is officially over and most U.S. forces have withdrawn, what lessons should Americans (and others) draw from the experience? There are many lessons that one might learn, of course, but here are my Top 10 Lessons from the Iraq War.

Lesson #1: The United States lost. The first and most important lesson of Iraq war is that we didn't win in any meaningful sense …

Hate speech and its tragic aftermath

The tragic shootings in Toulouse - not only at the Jewish school but also of the Arab-Caribbean soldiers the other day - again brings to the fore that hate-speech, and everything that goes with it, has its consequences, and in this case, awful ones.
This excellent op-piece from The Guardian puts things into context....perfectly!
"Over the past few years of recession and regression, it has become a trite truism of European politics that you can't go wrong going to the right. Politicians across the continent have found a new magic formula for electoral success and survival by playing on fears of foreigners and particularly of Islam – the wink and a nod that says that immigration has been the root of our social and economic decline. This is by no means an exclusively rightwing vice. Anyone who has heard the Dutch Labour party recently will have difficulty putting light between them and the demagogue Geert Wilders.

Until today, they might have tried to argue that there was no harm…

The real weight of war

Credited to David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star

No names, no interest, no concern

This piece / commentary from AlJazeera certainly highlights the way the West reflects on its actions in the Middle East - and more importantly, its response.....
"In the days following the rogue US soldier’s shooting spree in Kandahar, most of the media, us included, focused on the “backlash” and how it might further strain the relations with the US.

Many mainstream media outlets channelled a significant amount of  energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three were women."




See also Glenn Greewald…

How Goldman Sachs cares?

Credited to Brian Fairrington, Cagle Cartoons, truthdig

The real Artist

The movie "The Artist" has seemingly enchanted audiences everywhere and garnered awards all over the place.    That it is a silent movie in black and white makes the popularity of the movie even more noteworthy.     
The New York Review of Books looks at the movie and the person who really effected the transition from silent movies to talkies.
"Now that The Artist has whetted our interest in the silent film and the revolutionary impact of sound, it may be time to reconsider the career of the man who made the conversion to sound the basis of a whole new kind of movie, Fred Astaire. The Artist suggests quite accurately that the definitive event of the new sound era was the arrival of the film musical. Sound meant music; music meant jazz. But the technological transition was slow. After the first feature-length sound movie, The Jazz Singer (1927), which starred Al Jolson, it was six years before the advent of the Jazz Dancer proved that talking and even singing mouths were …

Boycotting those wretched settlements might save Israel

When The New York Times publishes an op-ed piece such as that by Peter Beinart, perhaps - just perhaps - the tide of opinion in the USA is shifting, even if only slightly.     It certainly is time for the world to wake up to the almost unquestionable fact that something will give in the Palestinian-Israel conflict if it isn't resolved and that a two State solution is effectively no longer possible giving the "facts on the ground".
"To believe in a democratic Jewish state today is to be caught between the jaws of a pincer.

On the one hand, the Israeli government is erasing the “green line” that separates Israel proper from the West Bank. In 1980, roughly 12,000 Jews lived in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem). Today, government subsidies have helped swell that number to more than 300,000. Indeed, many Israeli maps and textbooks no longer show the green line at all.

In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called the settlement of Ariel, which stretche…