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Showing posts from July, 2012

Surprise?: CIA's No. 1 counterintelligence threat

Mick Romney, presidential aspirant, is headed for Israel to court the vote of the Jewish folk back home and try and garner support from the some 160,000 voting Americans living in Israel, principally in those illegal settlements in the West Bank. AP reports on how the CIA considers Israel..... As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other U.S. politicians heap praise on Israel, officials say there's another side to America's close relationship with the Israelis.They say the CIA considers the Israelis its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency's Near East Division, the group that oversees spying across the Middle East.CIA officers stationed in Israel report break-ins at their homes and the tampering of sensitive communication equipment. Officials say working in Israel is like operating in Moscow.Such meddling underscores what's widely known but rarely discussed outside intelligence circles: Despite strong ties between the countries, officials …

Who does he (Thomas Friedman) think he is kidding?

It is a sorry reflection on those who read and follow Thomas Friedman, op-ed writer in the New York Times and author, that his take on the world is so America-centric. Bottom line, in the main Friedman is plain wrong in his analysis of the world. Glenn Greenwald, writing on Salon takes Friedman to task . In The New York Times today, Tom Friedman argues that the only thing that could save Syria is if that country is lucky enough to have the U.S. do to it what the U.S. did to Iraq, and in the process, says this:And, for me, the lesson of Iraq is quite simple: You can’t go from Saddam to Switzerland without getting stuck in Hobbes — a war of all against all — unless you have a well-armed external midwife, whom everyone on the ground both fears and trusts to manage the transition. In Iraq, that was America.. ****But Thomas Friedman wants you to know that Iraqis were so very fortunate to have an occupying military force — America — that “everyone on the ground” in Iraq “trusted” …

One tragedy leads to 60,000 being helped

More than a feel-good story! Positive action by the man in the street. Politicians and bureaucrats take note. From CommonDreamsFor her 9th birthday, Seattle's Rachel Beckwith asked friends and family to donate $9 to charity: water so kids her age in Africa would have clean water to drink. She fell short of her $300 goal, but vowed to do better the next year. A month later, Rachel was killed in a car crash. Word spread. This week, a year later, her mom Samantha Paul visited Ethiopia, where sixty thousand people in over 100 villages will drink clean water thanks to $1.2 million donated in Rachel’s name.

Get physical!

The jury is in! Probably never in doubt over the last years, an investigation of the detrimental effects of no exercise have been reported in The Lancet. Get upfrom that couch and go for it. Exercise for your health's sake. BackgroundStrong evidence shows that physical inactivity increases the risk of many adverse health conditions, including major non-communicable diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers, and shortens life expectancy. Because much of the world's population is inactive, this link presents a major public health issue. We aimed to quantify the effect of physical inactivity on these major non-communicable diseases by estimating how much disease could be averted if inactive people were to become active and to estimate gain in life expectancy at the population level.MethodsFor our analysis of burden of disease, we calculated population attributable fractions (PAFs) associated with physical inactivity using conser…

Lesson 101 on what true journalism is

No comment called for......other than to say that the "instruction" to McClatchy journalists could be profitably employed by other newspapers around the world. Are you listening New York Times, Washington Post, Murdoch, et al? To our staff and to our readers: As you are aware, reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg and others are agreeing to give government sources the right to clear and alter quotes as a prerequisite to granting an interview.To be clear, it is the bureau’s policy that we do not alter accurate quotes from any source. And to the fullest extent possible, we do not make deals that we will clear quotes as a condition of interviews.With the government trying to do more of the public’s business in secret, the demands that interviews be conducted off the record is growing. While it puts us at a disadvantage, we should argue strenuously for on-the-record interviews with government officials.When they absolutely refuse, we have only two opt…

Global social unrest because of soaring prices of food?

Let it not be said that climate change cannot have a geo-political effect amongst other things.... Mother Jones reports: Twice in the last five years, rising food prices triggered global waves of social unrest. With drought baking US crops, another round of soaring, society-straining price spikes may happen in coming months.According to researchers from the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), commodity speculation—investors betting on food prices—will amplify the drought's market signals, creating a new food bubble and the crises that follow."The drought is clearly going to kick prices up. It already has. What happens when you have speculators is that it goes through the roof," said NECSI president Yaneer Bar-Yam. "We've created an unstable system. Globally, we are very vulnerable."The ongoing drought, the United States' worst since the Dust Bowl, is expected to last until October and will decimate US harvests. America is the world's …

ExxonMobill: A private empire

From Harper's Magazine: Measured by revenue, ExxonMobil is the largest corporation on earth. Its operations span the globe, and it behaves like a powerful sovereign, exercising immense influence over the governments of the United States and many other nations in which it has operations. Now two-time Pulitzer Prize–winner Steve Coll has written Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, an in-depth study of the company under its past two CEOs, focusing on how it effectively pursues its own foreign policy and deflects demands for fiscal and environmental accountability. I put six questions to Coll about his book.......***One example of the Q & A: 3. A good deal of your reporting in this book examines ExxonMobil’s aggressive tactics in dealing with scientific studies that have produced conclusions unfriendly to the company. As a general matter, is ExxonMobil’s science honest?I’d say that their scientists are generally honest but their science management policies are not, in…

The super-duper rich hoarders

Being rich is one thing, super rich another. But it is what those super-rich do with their untold wealth which ought to be of concern to governments. One thing is almost certain. The payment of taxes is being avoided. A new report by the Tax Justice Network released Sunday reveals that between $21 trillion and $31 trillion is currently tucked away in global tax havens by the global super-rich--an amount that far exceeds previous estimates. Through exploiting gaps in global tax rules, the global financial elite are managing to hide "as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together" from taxation, leaving the world's poor to carry the burden of global debt through harsh austerity measures.$32 trillion of hidden financial assets in offshore tax havens represents up to to $280 billion in lost income tax revenues.The report pools data from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations and global central banks.In the report, The Price of Offshore Revi…

Shooting aftermath: Cowardly silence

One might have thought that Obama and presidential hopeful Romney might have at least commented on the tragic shooting in Denver. No way, it seems, as Bloomberg reports: The man who runs our country and the man who wants to may have decided that speaking out against weapons of mass murder is just not worth the political hassle. President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney have mostly declined to mention the issue of restricting access to certain types of firearms in the wake of the Colorado massacre that killed 12 Americans. “There are more downside risks than upside gains in talking about it,” said University of Maryland professor Don Kettl. The alleged shooter bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition and four guns in the months before the shooting, all legally.

A volatile Gulf

All too predictably, the war drums are beating again. Not only is the rhetoric in relation to Iran becoming more strident, but the US has put in place a sizeable military presence in the region, notably in and near the Persian Gulf. It is this which brings about an op-ed piece in the Asia Times. The Persian Gulf powder keg may soon explode if the current cycle of mounting tensions continues unabated. Two days ago, a minor incident involving a US refueling warship and an Indian fishing boat off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) resulted in one fatality and three wounded. That the fishermen insist they were fired on without a warning - contrary to the US navy's assertion - gives us a prelude to more ominous developments on the horizon. It seems trigger-happy American sailors see gathering clouds of conflict and are taking preemptive measures that, in this particular case, made a small dent in otherwise amicable US-India relations.*****In this rapidly evolving milieu, t…

Mayor Bloomberg asks a spot-on question

In the wake of the horrendous shooting at a movie theatre in Denver, New York mayor Bloomberg has made more than some pertinent comments, as The Daily Beast reports. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on both presidential candidates to take a harsher stance on controlling guns and violence in light of a shooting at a Colorado movie theater. “Soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country,” said Bloomberg, a longtime advocate of gun-control laws, during a radio interview Friday. “I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop ... In the end, it is really the leadership at a national level, which is whoever is going to be president of the United States starting next January 1. What are they going to do about guns?”

The Internet and you.....

Like or lump it we use the internet regularly. Googling is in our daily vocab. We email and book our vacations using the medium. All of that said, what do we think about the internet as users of it. The Atlantic reports... There is much to love about the Internet. But there is much, as well, to dislike -- and/or to be annoyed by, and/or to resent, and/or to mistrust. In late June, the Q&A community Mancx decided to put numbers to those Internet-borne vexations. The firm conducted a survey of 1,900 American adults -- adults who self-identified, it's worth noting, as people who specifically search for information on the Internet. A group full of shoppers and cat-picture-seekers might have yielded different results.Per Mancx's numbers, however, the Internet as an information source leaves a lot to be desired. A whopping 98 percent of respondents don't fully trust the information available on it. Which is a good thing, overall -- skepticism! -- except that 94…

Two women the start of a (at least modest) "revolution?"

Saudi Arabia has decided it will send 2 women contestants to the upcoming Olympic Games. A game-changer for the strictly Muslim nation? - that is, allowing women to complete publicly, let alone in a foreign country. FP comments... For years, human rights organizations hoping to use the Olympics as leverage to challenge Saudi Arabia's restrictive gender policies have looked to the case of apartheid South Africa. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), after all, expelled South Africa in 1970 for its policy of racial discrimination -- a ban that stayed in place for 21 years, until the fall of apartheid in 1991. If the IOC took action against South Africa to help end race-based apartheid there, shouldn't it bar Saudi Arabia from the 2012 London Olympics in protest of gender-based apartheid in the kingdom?The Saudi government moved to pre-empt such consequences this month by announcing that it would allow two female Saudi athletes to compete for the first time ever in the…

Hilary's inept and misdirected foreign policy steps in Egypt

A piece in truthdig on Hilary Clinton's inept visit to Egypt ought to give us all pause that the US continues its misdirected foreign policy toward many countries, Egypt included. Remember that pre the Arab Spring, and all that it brought in its wake in Egypt, the dictator Mubarak was the second-largest recipient of American aid after Israel. Oh Hillary, if only you had listened when I and others explained that any overt interference by the United States in Egypt’s fledgling democracy would be badly received. Meeting Saturday with Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new president, and Sunday with Gen. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Clinton attempted to exercise financial and military influence by demanding that Egypt conform to Washington’s political agenda.This big-footed gesture was met here with angry protests and marches. The convoy transporting Clinton and other U.S. diplomats was pelted with garbage and old shoes as it made its way through …

Reality check on Palestine

A piece on CounterPunch well worth reading as puts into context the situation in which the Palestinians find themselves. For all the huffing and puffing about re-starting negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, it is abundantly clear that not only do the Israelis not want to to talk but that they also seek to use the time to further develop settlements in the West Bank and so entrench its position there. Today, there is no excuse for not knowing the truth about Palestine.  Even taking the disinformation spread in mainstream media, there are enough glimpses one gets of an oppressed people in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem that should compel us to ask questions. This has been considerably aided by the internet.  Where once Israel could manipulate the media narrative, now millions can see videos and read witness accounts of Israel’s occupation in all its terrifying ugliness. Global initiatives, like the daring Free Gaza flotillas, force the mainstream media to r…

Syria: The end of Assad?

Those bombings in downtown Damascus today look ominous given the targets. But does it mean that Assad is nearer to being toppled? Robert Fisk, veteran Middle East correspondent writing his latest op-ed piece for The Indpendent thinks not. They have gone for the jugular now. The brother-in-law of the President, the Defence Minister, a massive bomb close to – or in – the headquarters of the military apparatus run by the President's own brother. Assassinations take time to plan, but this was on an epic scale, to match the bloodbath across Syria.al-Assad's own sister, Bushra, one of the pillars of the Baath party, loses her husband in a massive explosion in the very centre of Damascus. No wonder the Russians talk about the "decisive battle".It won't be a replay of Stalingrad, but the tentacles of the rebellion have now moved towards the heart. And, of course, there are massacres to come. Why else would thousands of Syria's citizens flee to the Yarmouk …

George Shrub on his presidency

George Bush has been interviewed on TV. It's unclear why anyone would be interested in the man, let alone his presidency - bear in mind much considered opinion sees Bush as a war criminal open to be indicted - but Abby Zimmet on CommonDreams has his take on Bush and that interview. George Bush crawled out of his cave for an interview with a right-wing think tank to sell his latest "book" and offered the Bushiest Bush quote ever by way of cogent analysis of his "presidency": "Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful." On the futility of trying to shape a legacy, he added, "I did what I did." Here's what he did. Go over to Democratic Underground.com to see what they think of Bush! It's really tough seeing and hearing him. If, entirely understandably, you can't stomach the whole thing, the "awesome" gem is around the 4-minute mark.

Lily-Pads going gang-busters

US military "Lily-Pads?" Not heard of them? Most people haven't. As this piece on TomDispatch so clearly describes, we will not hear more and more about them, but see them "in action" around the globe. Far from the US Government and military restricting any expansive moves around the world, it is doing quite the opposite. Unknown to most Americans, Washington’s garrisoning of the planet is on the rise, thanks to a new generation of bases the military calls “lily pads” (as in a frog jumping across a pond toward its prey). These are small, secretive, inaccessible facilities with limited numbers of troops, spartan amenities, and prepositioned weaponry and supplies.Around the world, from Djibouti to the jungles of Honduras, the deserts of Mauritania to Australia’s tiny Cocos Islands, the Pentagon has been pursuing as many lily pads as it can, in as many countries as it can, as fast as it can. Although statistics are hard to assemble, given the often-secreti…

A misdirected $10 million grant

Being exceedingly rich, and being very, very generous in gifting some of those billions away, doesn't mean the donation has been appropriately directed. A case in point - as taken up by CommonDreams: In a decision outraging campaigners for food sovereignty and agroecological approaches, the Gates Foundation has awarded a $10 million grant to develop genetically modified (GM) crops for use in sub-Saharan Africa.The grant is for the John Innes Centre in Norwich, which hopes to engineer seeds for corn, wheat and rice that will fix nitrogen (take nitrogen from the air) so that the crops would not need fertilizers.  But GM Freeze, which campaigns against GM food, crops and patents, says that "nitrogen fixing wheat and other cereals have been promised by the GM industry for several decades" and that other, non-GM methods are the solution. Pete Riley, campaign director GM Freeze, adds that "GM is failing to deliver."This approach sets up a highly profitable scenari…

Fraud! It's everywhere. But where are the gatekeepers?

Hardly a day goes by without the revelation, somewhere in the world, of widespread fraud or illegal behaviour one or other large corporation. In the process often billions of dollars are written off. In other instances, we only learn of the misdeeds after the government and the offender have agreed on a suitable monetary penalty - often too, going into billions or millions of dollars. Naomi Klein takes up the issue in a piece in The Guardian:Last fall, I argued that the violent reaction to Occupy and other protests around the world had to do with the 1%ers' fear of the rank and file exposing massive fraud if they ever managed get their hands on the books. At that time, I had no evidence of this motivation beyond the fact that financial system reform and increased transparency were at the top of many protesters' list of demands.But this week presents a sick-making trove of new data that abundantly fills in this hypothesis and confirms this picture. The notion that the e…

Those who think they are VIPs

At a time when there seem to be more and more high-flyers being caught cheating, lying and acting illegally - and others making squillions notwithstanding the GFC - Paul Klugman in his latest op-ed piece in The New York Times takes a stick to those who perceive themselves as VIPs. Simply put, they are not! “Is there a V.I.P. entrance? We are V.I.P.” That remark, by a donor waiting to get in to one of Mitt Romney’s recent fund-raisers in the Hamptons, pretty much sums up the attitude of America’s wealthy elite. Mr. Romney’s base — never mind the top 1 percent, we’re talking about the top 0.01 percent or higher — is composed of very self-important people.Specifically, these are people who believe that they are, as another Romney donor put it, “the engine of the economy”; they should be cherished, and the taxes they pay, which are already at an 80-year low, should be cut even further. Unfortunately, said yet another donor, the “common person” — for example, the “nails ladies” — just…

Iraq: $ billions unaccountably) squandered

The powers that be were warned that money would be symphoned off, and simply "lost" in the Iraq War. Now it's been confirmed. And they wonder why the public is sceptical of the politicians and military - and those goading war - when there is so little accountability let alone the fallout of war - physical and material loss. US News and World Report reports: After years of following the paper trail of $51 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars provided to rebuild a broken Iraq, the U.S. government can say with certainty that too much was wasted. But it can't say how much.In what it called its final audit report, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Funds on Friday spelled out a range of accounting weaknesses that put "billions of American taxpayer dollars at risk of waste and misappropriation" in the largest reconstruction project of its kind in U.S. history."The precise amount lost to fraud and waste can never be known,&…

Propaganda and the media in 2012

John Pilger may be accused of a lot of things, but he is a veteran journalist, author, commentator and one of the most awarded journalists in the world. A gad-fly? Most certainly...because his message is always loud and clear and doubtlessly discomforting to the powers that be. From Information Clearing HouseThe title of this talk is Freedom Next Time, which is the title of my book, and the book is meant as an antidote to the propaganda that is so often disguised as journalism. So I thought I would talk today about journalism, about war by journalism, propaganda, and silence, and how that silence might be broken. Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented. It is a history few journalist talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertis…

The dangers of Romney's foreign-policy views

It is apparently an open secret that Mitt Romney, US presidential aspirant, is an admirer of former VP Dick Cheney. That ought to give us pause for concern as Adam Smith points out in a piece on FP. As Romney considers possible running mates, it's worth remembering that he pointed to Dick Cheney as the "kind of person I'd like to have" working with him. Likewise, the policies that Romney has advocated -- like indefinitely leaving our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example -- are continuations of the Bush-Cheney doctrine, version 2.0.t's no secret that Cheney was the driving force behind the Bush administration's failed foreign policies: starting the war in Iraq with no plan to finish it, bullying our allies around the world, and watching while Iran and North Korea moved forward with their nuclear programs because the Bush White House couldn't bring the international community together to confront these threats.Out of Romney's 24 special adviso…

A losing PR battle

On his blog, Informed Comment, Juan Cole has some use­ful tips that will be ig­nored by the Zion­ist es­tab­lish­ment. For them, bel­liger­ence and ac­cus­ing any crit­ics of anti-Semi­tism is a way of life. All the while, Is­rael is com­mit­ting a very pub­lic form of sui­cide: 1. Giv­ing the fin­ger to any ‘peace process’ 2. Hypocrisy 3. Dis­re­gard for the rule of law 4. Puni­tive Poli­cies to­ward non-com­bat­ants 5. Vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional law Cole con­cludes:Is­raeli poli­cies are no more off lim­its to crit­i­cism than are Ar­gen­tin­ian or In­done­sian ones, de­spite what the coun­try’s re­mark­ably thin-skinned and in­tol­er­ant par­ti­sans often al­lege. And, when the cho­rus of crit­i­cism is com­ing from An­gli­cans, Pres­by­te­ri­ans, the UK For­eign Of­fice, the Aus­trian Sen­ate, and UN­ESCCO, that is a pretty wide set of world in­sti­tu­tions not eas­ily pi­geon-holed as mere big­ots. Maybe it is time for the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment to re­con­sider the se…

Romney: And he wants to be President?

Mmmm! Mitt Romney wants to be President of the USA. Credentialled to be so? Doubtful. It's obvious that Abby Zimmet, writing on CommonDreams doesn't think so.....
Another WTF moment from the racist arrogant creep that is Mitt Romney, who responded to the NAACP's booing when he said he'd repeal the Affordable Health Care Act by saying - later, to another more friendly crowd and thus not to the faces of the people he was insulting - that they were mad 'cause they want "more free stuff from the government," just like those obnoxious women who want health care and students who want an education, and anyway nothing is really free, except of course the hundreds of millions of unearned dollars he has stashed in off-shore accounts because who wants to pay taxes anyway? To some, his extraordinary comments showed he has devolved from a spineless weasel to a race-baiting spineless weasel. Sure, why not. Either way, just wow."Remind them of this, if th…

Intelligence agencies just can't help themselves

It is insidious and becoming increasingly widespread. Intelligence agencies in countries around the world, in effect, snooping on private exchanges between people not accussed of anything - other than simply using the internet or their mobile phone. The Age newspaper, in Australia, reports on how that country's intelligence operatives now want to widen their powers. It's all a slippery and dangerous slope! The telephone and internet data of every Australian would be retained for up to two years and intelligence agencies would be given increased access to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter under new proposals from Australia's intelligence community.Revealed in a discussion paper released by the Attorney-General's Department, the more than 40 proposals form a massive ambit claim from the intelligence agencies. If passed, they would be the most significant expansion of the Australian intelligence community's powers since the Howard-era reforms foll…

Levy Report: Illegal findings apart from being blind, deaf and dumb

The Levy Report issued in Israel the other day finds and asserts that there is no occupation by Israelis of Palestinian land and that Israelis have the right to the settlements they have, and continue, to build in the West Bank. It's plainly arrant nonsense and runs counter just about all the experts in international law who have concluded that Israel is acting illegally in the way it has allowed settlements to be established in the West Bank. Bear in mind that these so-called "settlements" are often in reality, towns with something like 60,000 inhabitants. The New York Times has,quite strongly for that newspaper, editorialised on the findings of the Levy Report: Palestinian hopes for an independent state are growing dimmer all the time. Israel is pushing ahead with new settlements in the West Bank and asserting control over new sections of East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their capital. Meanwhile, peace talks — the best guarantee of a durable solu…

Hilary Clinton: A great Secretary of State?

Prompted by an op-ed piece in The New York Times the other about the rock-star like standing of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard, blogging on FP puts the proposition to the test. Is Hillary Clinton a great secretary of state? A puff-piece in the New York Times Magazine a couple of weeks ago referred to her as a "rock star diplomat," and quotes Google chairman Eric Schmidt calling her "the most significant Secretary of State since Dean Acheson." (Hmm. . . has Mr. Schmidt ever heard of some guys named Dulles, Kissinger, and Baker?). I'm neither a fan nor a foe of Ms. Clinton, but one can't really call her a great secretary at this point, through no fault of her own.First the positives. There's no question that Clinton has been terrifically energetic, as well as a loyal team player. In this sense, Obama's decision to appoint her has worked out brilliantly, due in no small part to her w…

Medals for what? Directing drones?

Leave aside the insidiousness of drones and the damage they have, and continue, to inflict, but to think that the Pentagon is considering awarding those who "drive" those drones from the comfort of their seats far away from any action out on the field, with some award for bravery, is truly bizarre. Glenn Greenwald takes up the subject in his latest op-ed piece on Salon.The effort to depict drone warfare as some sort of courageous and noble act is intensifying:The Pentagon is considering awarding a Distinguished Warfare Medal to drone pilots who work on military bases often far removed from the battlefield. . . .[Army Institute of Heraldry chief Charles] Mugno said most combat decorations require “boots on the ground” in a combat zone, but he noted that “emerging technologies” such as drones and cyber combat missions are now handled by troops far removed from combat.The Pentagon has not formally endorsed the medal, but Mugno’s institute has completed six alternate designs fo…

The forgotten ongoing sufferers from the GFC

When ones reads about the extra-ordinary money being raised by the Obama and Romney camps in order to fight the upcoming US presidential election or how, seemingly many Americans, live a really high-life - that 1% so often spoken about - those who got caught in the GFC appear to have been forgotten. The Wall Street fat-cats are doing fine, thank you, and really no one has been brought to account for their, often illegal, actions leading to the GFC. The Washingon Post highlights how there are still significant numbers in the American populace continuing to suffer, perhaps forever, from the fallout of the GFC.The implosion of the subprime lending market has left a scar on the finances of black Americans — one that not only has wiped out a generation of economic progress but could leave them at a financial disadvantage for decades.At issue are the largely invisible but profoundly influential three-digit credit scores that help determine who can buy a car, finance a college education or…

What's Christian?

Australia, like many other nations, is facing so-called people smugglers trying to get refugees fleeing from countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, into the country. It is invariably via leaky and unsafe boats departing from Indonesia or somewhere close by in that region. All too tragically people have been lost at sea. How to overcome these boatloads of people has become a hot political issue in Australia. The leader of the Federal Opposition, a Tony Abbott, is an openly devout Catholic. His policy position is to turn the boats back and perhaps to even not go to the aid of a boat in distress. Pure and simple, no matter what the consequences. Forget about whether that is in breach of international law. Tackled with the question how he, Abbott, a religous man, could advocate his policies when they were so apparently "un-Christian" his response was very straight-forward. Those trying to enter Australia, illegally according to him, were "un-Christian" in th…

Taking action in a world awash with arms

Leaving aside the cost of arms being sold around the world - let alone the "waste" of money in manufacturing them in the first place when the money, and resource, could be directed to better use - one has to wonder why so many arms are needed anyway. And whty do so many countries need all those armaments? The New York Times in an editorial details the whole issue and steps being taken to limit all those armaments. "The world is awash in conventional weapons, like tanks, firearms and aircraft, with the market valued at $40 billion to $60 billion a year. Far too many of these arms are fueling conflicts and atrocities in Syria, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond. They have been used to kill countless innocent civilians, and they will be used against countless more if the international community does not find a way to keep them out of the hands of unscrupulous regimes, militants and criminals.The United Nations is trying to do just that. Last Monday,…

Cybercrime going gang-busters

We live in a "new" world. Cybercrime is upon us and destined to get even bigger, says the head of the USA's Cyber Command. FP takes up the story.... The loss of industrial information and intellectual property through cyber espionage constitutes the "greatest transfer of wealth in history," the nation's top cyber warrior Gen. Keith Alexander said Monday.U.S. companies lose about $250 billion per year through intellectual property theft, with another $114 billion lost due to cyber crime, a number that rises to $338 billion when the costs of down time due to crime are taken into account, said Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, in remarks Monday at the American Enterprise Institute."That's our future disappearing in front of us," Alexander said, quoting industry numbers to estimate that $1 trillion was spent globally last year on dealing with cyber espionage and cyber crime.But the r…

Is the internet driving us all crazy?

From Newsweek reproduced on The Daily Beast: Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on the mind are at least as old as hyperlinks. But even among Web skeptics, the idea that a new technology might influence how we think and feel—let alone contribute to a great American crack-up—was considered silly and naive, like waving a cane at electric light or blaming the television for kids these days. Instead, the Internet was seen as just another medium, a delivery system, not a diabolical machine. It made people happier and more productive. And where was the proof otherwise?Now, however, the proof is starting to pile up. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorder…

Time to get Afghanistan's house (a la corruption and transparency) in order

Donor companies at one of the interminable meetings held so frequently - this one last weekend - pledged some $10 billion in aid for Afghanistan to "cover" for the inevitable withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. But as the Chairwoman of Transparency International writes in a piece in the IHT the war-torn country must first eradicate corruption and ensure that there is transparency in what government officials do. The major donors and Afghan government officials meeting in Tokyo on Sunday to discuss future aid to Afghanistan have to face up to a bitter truth: As much as $1 billion of the $8 billion donated in the past eight years has been lost to corruption. All governments in Tokyo must show that business as usual cannot continue Turning off the aid taps is not an option. This would hurt the poorest, increase instability and likely lead to illicit flows taking the place of donor funding. Donors and the Afghan government need an enforceable plan to tackle the iss…

Inequality in stark detail

A piece on CommonDreams provides some startling stats on how unequal things are. A sample: The United Nations estimates that $30 billion per year is needed to eradicate hunger. Several individuals have more than this amount in personal wealth.There are 925 million people in the world with insufficient food. According to the World Food Program, it takes about $100 a year to feed a human being. That's $92 billion, about equal to the fortune of the six Wal-Mart heirs.One Final Outrage...In 2007 a hedge fund manager (John Paulson) conspired with a financial company (Goldman Sachs) to create packages of risky subprime mortgages, so that in anticipation of a housing crash he could use other people's money to bet against his personally designed sure-to-fail financial instruments. His successful gamble paid him $3.7 billion. Three years later he made another $5 billion, which in the real world would have been enough to pay the salaries of 100,000 health care workers.As an added insu…

Israel's continuing disgraceful actions. Confiscating water.

If there is anything to comment on with regard to the actions of the Israelis how they "administer" the West Bank and Gaza, it is how egregious they are, how obscene, disgusting and inhumane and that they know no bounds. The latest travesty to befall the Arab population in the West Bank - as reported by the venerable Gideon levy writing in Haaretz - is confidcating water. Avi confiscates water containers that serve hundreds of Palestinian and Bedouin families living in the Jordan Valley.The containers are these people's only water source. In recent weeks, Avi has confiscated about a dozen containers, leaving dozens of families with children in the horrific Jordan Valley heat, to go thirsty.The forms he takes pains to complete, in spiffy style, say: "There is reason to suspect they used the above merchandise for carrying out an offense." Avi's bosses claim the "offense" is stealing water from a pipe. This is why the containers are seized - wi…

No lessons learned on Iran

Once again the war drums are beating. There is a palpable itching by Israel and the US, in particular, to take on Iran because it seeks to establish a nuclear capacity. We all ought to be alarmed....as, indeed, the USA. It seems, as this piece from Information Clearing House so clearly highlights, the Americans haven't learned anything from their previous action in relation to Iran. Although U.S.-led Western allies are flexing their muscles by sending battleships to the Persian Gulf, Washington’s own war game exercise, the Millennium Challenge 2002 (with a price tag of $250 million), underscored its inability to defeat Iran. Oblivious to the lesson of its own making, by sending more warships to the Persian Gulf the U.S. is inching toward a full-scale conflict. The inherent danger from a naval buildup is that, unlike during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the forces in the Persian Gulf are not confined to two leaders who would be able to communicate to stop a runaway situation. N…

Whither the USA?

Harold Evans, one-time editor of The Times in London, is now Reuter's editor-at-large. Reflecting on a new book written by a former advisor to Bill Clinton, in a piece on The Daily Beast Evans considers the position of the USA in the world in 2012 - and where things are headed. In the vicinity of July 4, it’s probably imprudent to mention that America has lost its dominant position of world leadership, according to a renowned scholar of geopolitics, Zbigniew Brzezinski. He is as sturdily patriotic as anyone, but as a Cold Warrior, presidential adviser, and foreign-policy professor at Johns Hopkins, he has seen too much to follow the drum.He went against the grain of elite opinion in the 50s by predicting that the Soviet Union was doomed to break up, and break up along nationalist lines; he foresaw the danger of allowing Ayatollah Khomeini to control the Iranian revolution and urged military action to forestall him; in the late 70s, he forecast the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. …

Now here is a real test for the Americans

The Americans have been hot to trot in trying to "get" Julian Assange. Comments made by politicians have painted Assange as the worst-of-the-worst and some have even gone so far as to suggest he be assassinated. Now, with the revelations of the Israeli PM having been involved in criminal activity vis-a-vis the USA some years back, will the same politicians stand up and demand Netanyahu be extradicted to America? From antiwar.com : On June 27, 2012, the FBI partially declassified and released seven additional pages [.pdf] from a 1985–2002 investigation into how a network of front companies connected to the Israeli Ministry of Defense illegally smuggled nuclear triggers out of the U.S.* The newly released FBI files detail how Richard Kelly Smyth — who was convicted of running a U.S. front company — met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel during the smuggling operation. At that time, Netanyahu worked at the Israeli node of the smuggling network, Heli Trading Company.…

The whole country to blame for Japan's nuclear disaster

Much will be written and analysed about the nuclear disaster which befell Japan last year following the earthquake, but a significant side-bar to the findings of a Report on the accident at the nuclear facility, warrants close attention. It is highlighted in a interview and report on ABC Australia's Radio National PM program: Well Mark this is a very interesting point because the report does blame a lot of people but it also blames Japanese culture for this disaster. It states on page one of the report that this disaster quote "was made in Japan".It says its fundamental causes are to be found in the engrained conventions of Japanese culture and I'll quote again "our reflexive obedience, our reluctance to question authority, our devotion to sticking with the program, our groupism, and our insularity", unquote. So there you go, it basically blames Mr Naoto Kan, the then prime minister, the secrecy of TEPCO, the utter failure of nuclear regulators but it a…

Climate change: Well-organised hoax?

There are still some - all too sadly people with a voice who are listened to - who assert that climate change is a hoax. Try telling that to the people of Colorado who recently experienced horrendous bushfires, or the people of Croatia suffering with endless days of temps of 40 degrees (and not much less than 30 at night time) some 8-10 degrees above the norm. Bill McKibben, take up the issue of whether climate change is a hoax, on The Daily Beast: Please don’t sweat the 2,132 new high temperature marks in June—remember, climate change is a hoax. The first to figure this out was Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who in fact called it “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” apparently topping even the staged moon landing. But others have been catching on. Speaker of the House John Boehner pointed out that the idea that carbon dioxide is “harmful to the environment is almost comical.” The always cautious Mitt Romney scoffed at any damage too: “Scientists will fig…

WikiLeaks strikes again. This time it's Syria

People might have thought that revelations of governments' actions and those opposed to them might have ended a while back because of all the hubbub associated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but WikiLeaks has struck again. This time it relates to Syria. If what Assange says is correct what we are about to read will cause embarrassment all round in government and commercial circles. Watch this space as they say! Beginning this morning, the international media organization and whistleblower group WikiLeaks began publishing what they are calling the "Syria Files" – more than two million emails from Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies, dating from August 2006 to March 2012.According to Wikileaks, the email data "derives from 680 Syria-related entities or Beginning this morning, the international media organization and whistleblower group WikiLeaks began publishing what they are calling the "Syria Files" – more than two …

Look at who's watching you twitter

Twitter to your hearts content, but as this a piece on CommonDreams reports, you might want to know that you are subject to being watched - with the USA the biggest offender. The release of a 'transparency report' by microblogging and social media company Twitter reveals that the US government is by far the most aggressive, and most successful, in seeking and obtaining private user information compared to other world governments.Twitter's transparency report reveals the US government was the most successful in extracting information. (Photograph: Iain Masterton/Alamy) In the report, released late Monday, the US government is shown to be responsible for nearly 80% of all requests of Twitter user data. Of those US government requests, according to Twitter, 75% resulted in disclosure of "some or all" of the information related to the account.Twitter says it notifies affected users of requests for their account info "unless we’re prohibited by law."The tra…

Yet another positive for the iPad

There can be little doubt that the iPad has been taken up with a vengeance by all manner of people. It's more than a convenient alternative to a laptop...... Now researchers have concluded that use of an iPad by senior citizens can have positive benefits for the user. The Age reports: Sharing photos online using iPads can reduce loneliness in elderly people who are socially isolated, a new study has found.Researchers at Melbourne University believe the trial is among the first to assess how technology can ease social isolation in Australia's ageing population.The university's Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society created an iPad app that allowed a small group of people aged in their 80s and 90s to chat online and share photos.Computing and information systems associate professor Frank Vetere said the study produced promising results with some participants forming relationships in the real world."As a result of being in the study some of them have become good…