Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2013

No beacon for anyone to see

The Americans are forever lecturing other countries how they must ensure the prevalence of the Rule of Law and other democratic principles. 

Thing is, though, the Americans are hardly a beacon to others to follow.     Read this piece "The Harrowing Tale of Ahmed Abu Ali" on CounterPunch and be agog, and aghast, at the so-called American justice system in action.   

The man in question has been convicted and sentenced to life.    The conviction is clearly plain wrong! - as independent experts have repeatedly asserted.    But reflect on how the prisoner, behind bars, is being treated now.

"Ahmed is currently incarcerated in an isolation cell at the Supermax prison in Colorado. He is being held under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), which restrict his contact with people, limit certain “privileges,” including, but not limited to: correspondence, visits, media interviews and telephone use, and require screening of his reading material. Under these measures, he was ev…

Obama comes nowhere near emulating Mandela

Obama has always declared that Nelson Mandela is someone has sought to emulate.    In fact, Obama is presently in South Africa, although because of the failing health of Mandela Obama won't be meeting the 94 year old warrior and political giant.

In this piece on Mondoweiss Mark Ellis says, with examples, that Obama can't hold a candle to Mandela, let alone to be seen to have emulated him.

"It isn’t every day that a visit by the President of the United States to an African country is upstaged, especially America’s first African American President. In South Africa this is exactly what’s happening and for good reason.

The main reason is that the founding father of the new South Africa, Nelson Mandela, is in his last days. There’s more.

As Mandela’s life and Barack Obama’s political life comes to closure comparisons are inevitable. Obama cut his political teeth on Mandela and South Africa’s anti-Apartheid struggle. He reveres Mandela as a driving force in his life.

Reverence is …

Horrors of horrors! It's not really French cuisine

For the world cuisine and fine wines go together with France like a horse and carriage.  

Sad to say it now seems that a goodly number of restaurants in France aren't really engaged in cooking, in the true sense, at all.      Quelle horreur!

"Daniel Fasquelle wants the world to know the dirty secret in the kitchens of many French restaurants: they don't cook their own food.

The French parliamentarian is pushing a law to restrict the use of the label "restaurant" to establishments that prepare their food from scratch. He reckons many of France's eateries wouldn't cut it because they reheat industrially prepared foods.

If you've ever wondered why French classics such as a "moelleux au chocolat" or a "tarte tatin" tastes suspiciously the same in Paris restaurants, it's probably because it is. About a third of French restaurants say they use industrial food, and Fasquelle and other officials fear declining standards at th…

So, what is real journalism about?

It is a sad fact of life that attack seems to be the norm if someone goes out there.    Take Glenn Greenwald, the lawyer-journalist, who now writes for The Guardian, and has been in the forefront in exposing the Edward Snowden "story" - and especially the nefarious activities of the US National Security Agency.

Greenwald has been exposed to vilification and trying to "expose" something about his background.    Relevance?   Absolutely none!    The question of what true journalists are supposed to be doing is thereby raised.   It is a topic taken up in this piece "Hey, MSM: All Journalism is Advocacy Journalism" in Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi.  

"All journalism is advocacy journalism. No matter how it's presented, every report by every reporter advances someone's point of view. The advocacy can be hidden, as it is in the monotone narration of a news anchor for a big network like CBS or NBC (where the biases of advertisers and corporate backer…

Murder trial witness: Shameful conduct all round

Many will recall the shooting-death of a young un-armed Afro-American, Trayvon Martin, by a white older man, George Zimmermann, in Florida last year.   At first, the police did nothing!   Probably as a result of pressure from the public, Zimmerman was charged - and is now on trial.

Read this piece on CommonDreams (and watch a video clip) and reflect on the shameful way the defence is attacking a crucial witness - not that she is trial - and how this young woman is being characterised and portrayed in the news reports and social media.    Shameful, is the word which immediately comes to mind.

"Talk about worlds colliding. For the last two days, the trial of George Zimmerman became an ugly spectacle wherein the confounding nexus of race, class and gender came together in sometimes excruciating, sometimes hilarious encounters between condescending old white guy and defense attorney Don West and Rachel Jeantel, the 19-year-old friend on the phone with Trayvon Martin right before he w…

What surveillance the NSA is undertaking

ProPublica has a handy synopsis through a Q & A about what surveillance the NSA is now undertaking.

"There have been a lot of news stories about NSA surveillance programs following the leaks of secret documents by Edward Snowden. But it seems the more we read, the less clear things are. We've put together a detailed snapshot of what's known and what's been reported where.

What information does the NSA collect and how?

We don’t know all of the different types of information the NSA collects, but several secret collection programs have been revealed:

A record of most calls made in the U.S., including the telephone number of the phones making and receiving the call, and how long the call lasted. This information is known as “metadata” and doesn’t include a recording of the actual call (but see below). This program was revealed through a leaked secret court order instructing Verizon to turn over all such information on a daily basis. Other phone companies, including AT&am…

A tourist's perspective

The moon rises over the Temple of Poseidon as the sun sets in Cape Sounion, 60 km east of Athens
From The Sydney Morning Herald

Going to war: The tragedy of the foot-soldiers....and who the politicians forget about

It is easy enough for a politician to declare war or, as is so often the case, to become an ally in some war going here, there or anywhere - likely because an ally has, effect, called on the friendship between the 2 nations, to seek help in the military conflict.

All too sadly it is the soldiers who bear the brunt of the fighting.  Either on the battlefield or when they get home after their tour of duty.

There can be only extreme sadness (and more than a degree of anger) when reading this piece from Gawker.

"Daniel Somers was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit. In 2004-2005, he was mainly assigned to a Tactical Human-Intelligence Team (THT) in Baghdad, Iraq, where he ran more than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee, interviewed countless Iraqis ranging from concerned citizens to community leaders and and government officials, and interrogated dozens of insurgents and terrorist suspects. In…

True journalists?......or just part of Government PR

It is all too true that as we see newspapers closing down and the media generally dumbing-down that truly independent journalism is getting harder and harder to find.    Take the examples Jeff Cohen highlights in this piece "If U.S. Mass Media Were State-Controlled, Would They Look Any Different" on CounterPunch.

"The Edward Snowden leaks have revealed a U.S. corporate media system at war with independent journalism. Many of the same outlets – especially TV news – that missed the Wall Street meltdown and cheer-led the Iraq invasion have come to resemble state-controlled media outlets in their near-total identification with the government as it pursues the now 30-year-old whistleblower.

While an independent journalism system would be dissecting the impacts of NSA surveillance on privacy rights, and separating fact from fiction, U.S. news networks have obsessed on questions like: How much damage has Snowden caused? How can he be brought to justice?

Unfazed by polls showing …

The starting point to keeping Americans safe......

Interesting and thought-provoking piece "Terror v. Surveillance? Keeping Americans Safe in Two Simple Steps" on CommonDreams on two steps which Americans could adopt in going a considerable way to ensure their safety from attack.

"Let me be clear: I do not want to die in a terrorist attack. But before I am bullied into accepting intrusive government surveillance that is open to politicized abuse, I have another question: Are there other ways we could reduce the risk of U.S. citizens, at home or abroad, being targeted by terrorists? Two possibilities come to mind.

First, stop creating new terrorists. Critics of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have long argued that those destructive conflicts have deepened resentment against the United States. People in those countries who previously had no reason to attack U.S. military personnel or civilians are understandably unhappy with aggressive wars that destroy their homes and kill their people.

For example, in the new …

Changing issues and priorities in the Middle East

Dr Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian by birth, is the author of Married to Another Man: Israel's Dilemma in Palestine.   She is also a University lecturer in the United Kingdom.

She writes in "The Palestinians' last option: A struggle for equal rights" on Al Jazeera on the changes underway in the issues and priorities for the people of the Middle East.

"Once upon a time, Palestine was the Arab world's unifying cause. Justice for the Palestinians was considered a basic pre-requisite for regional stability and peace, and it was an idea that had global resonance. Today, the picture is different and the Palestinian cause has been falling off the political agenda ever since the onset of the Arab Spring, the Syrian conflict, and Israel's success in placing Iran's nuclear programme at the centre stage.

This month, a study by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies confirms this slide. A survey of over 20,000 respondents in 14 Arab countries revealed a wides…

Stepen Walt: Reflections on all that surveillance

As coincidence will have it, Stephen Walt - professor of international relations at Harvard - attended a conference, in Europe, on the internet - a conference arranged pre the Snowden hub-bub.   He writes about the conference in his latest posting on his blog at FP.

"The conference was planned long before L'affaire Snowden, so the timing was really remarkably fortuitous. As you might expect, there was a lot of discussion about what Edward Snowden's disclosures would mean for the broader question of Internet governance, privacy, social media, and politics more generally. There was a pretty broad consensus that the revelations about NSA surveillance and cyber-espionage had done a lot of damage to the U.S. position on a lot of cybersecurity issues, at least in terms of the United States' ability to lead the world toward some sort of a legal regime. As many people have already noted, how can Washington complain about Chinese hacking, global cybercrime, and all sorts of ot…

America - The not-so wealthy country

The image of the USA is often of riches and wealth.   It is far from the reality.     It is a society riven with a wide gulf between ultra-rich and the other end of the spectrum.    The middle class is disappearing at a great clip, in large measure accelerated by the GFC.

The latest stats on the welfare of the USA makes for sober reflection.  

"Results of a new survey show just how close to the financial edge the majority of Americans are.

76% of respondents don't have enough savings to cover six months of expenses in case of an emergency, financial news site reported Monday its monthly survey which forms its Financial Security Index.

27% of the respondents reported having no emergency savings at all.

In terms of comfort level of savings, the findings show that those who feel less comfortable outnumber those who feel more comfortable two to one.

With millions of Americans lacking healthcare, the chance that a health emergency could wipe out any possible savings and b…

Syria and the changing face of the Middle East

Things are not good in Syria - and, indeed, the Middle East is changing post the so-called Arab Spring.  But to what extent?

Hugh White is professor of strategic studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU.   He writes in an op-ed piece "It's folly for the West to try to shape Syria's future" in The Age.......

"Today we are probably seeing the end of the Sykes-Picot era. Across the Middle East the artificial states created on the ruins of the post-Ottoman Middle East are coming apart as the secular, authoritarian regimes that held them together collapse. It happened first in Iraq, then in Egypt, now in Syria, and soon most probably in Jordan. 

All this tells us something important about what's happening in Syria. This is not a unified people rising up as one against their oppressor. It is a patchwork country of mutually hostile communities coming apart at the seams along communal and religious lines as the secular authoritarian regime collapses.


Young and isolated

We read of the plight of unemployed people in various countries in Europe and high unemployment in the USA and elsewhere, but often overlooked are the young people.   In some countries, such as Spain and Greece, the unemployment rate for those under 25 can often be as high as 50%.

What is to happen to these young people, many of them tertiary educated?   No hope for the future - and the prospects of taking up a life in another country not all that easy.   In addition the whole social fabric of society is being altered.   

It's a subject taken up in this op-ed piece "Young and Isolated" in The New York Times.

"But often overlooked are what the sociologists Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb in 1972 called their “hidden injuries” — the difficult-to-measure social costs borne by working-class youths as they struggle to forge stable and meaningful adult lives.

These are people bouncing from one temporary job to the next; dropping out of college because they can’t figure o…

Iran and Israel: Peas in a pod?

As you read this piece "Iran and Israel are similar, after all" from Haaretz - a liberal daily newspaper with a tie-in to the IHT - remember it was written in Israel.

"Iran and Israel are more similar than either of their regimes would be willing to admit. They are similar historically, similar in their tension between religious extremism and freedom, similar in their dramatic struggles between the public’s desire for change and the opposition of calcified elements of the regime.

Those who seek to belittle what happened in the Iranian election are trying to hide the sun with their hands. Whatever happens in the future, the fact that a sweeping majority voted for change, and that the regime didn’t play games with the results, is significant. Those who try to claim there’s a formal, deterministic answer to the question of who makes the decisions don’t know what they’re talking about. In the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is formally the one who decides, but in reality, par…

Two journalists. One who knows what a journalist does.....and the other, clueless

From The Nation a revelation of how a dumb so-called journalist interviews one of the best about Edward Snowden and leaking.    

"Unfortunately, this history is sometimes lost on contemporary Washington.

So it was that, when Glenn Greenwald appeared Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to discuss his reporting on leaks detailing National Security Agency programs that monitor phone calls and digital communications, he was asked whether he was the bad guy.

NBC's David Gregory initially asked Greenwald to discuss the whereabouts of Edward Snowden, a source of the leaks. Greenwald recounted the reported details of Snowden's transit from Hong Kong and spoke at length about his own reporting on the NSA and violations of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. He returned, repeatedly, to the fundamental issues that are at stake, arguing that Snowden "learned of wrongdoing and exposed it so we could have a democratic debate about the spying system, do we really want to put people …

Michael Hastings: truthdig Truthdigger of the Week

No comment called for.     A deserved honour....

"Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating." 

"Michael Hastings, the American journalist whose 2010 article on Gen. Stanley McChrystal led to the officer’s resignation as head of the coalition forces in Afghanistan, died in a fiery car crash when his Mercedes collided with a palm tree at high speed early Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. We was 33 years old.

Hastings has been described throughout the press as having been a “fearless” reporter. After earning a journalism degree at New York University, he began his career as a reporter for Newsweek, for which he covered the Iraq War during the deadliest years of that conflict. His successes enabled him to be…

Mmmm! Is the FBI in there somewhere?

It is hardly surprising that there are doubts about the manner in which Michael Hastings died - especially given what Slate has now revealed.

"Journalist Michael Hastings wrote an email to his colleagues hours before he died last week in which he said his “close friends and associates” were being interviewed by the FBI and he was going to “go off the radar for a bit.” The 33-year-old journalist said he was “onto a big story,” according to KTLA that publishes a copy of the email that Hastings sent at around 1 p.m. Monday June 17. Hastings died at around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in a fiery one-vehicle car crash. Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, who knew Hastings from Afghanistan, supplied a copy of the email to the network.

“It alarmed me very much,” Biggs, who was blind-copied on the email, said. “I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me.” The FBI has denied Hastings was under investigation. But WikiLeaks published a me…

IDF women reveal all.....

From Forward:

"There’s another story that the media would do well to highlight. This is the one in which young Israeli women are speaking out, candidly and courageously, about their experience enforcing the occupation as part of an Israeli initiative called Breaking the Silence (BTS). Last month BTS launched a campaign focused on testimonies from female soldiers. These testimonies present a very different face and voice of Israel’s female combatants. Watch and listen to people like Dana, Inbar, Tal, Gil and Yael, explain why they are speaking out. Then take the time to listen to some of their stories to understand better the experiences that drove them to do so.

Listen to Dana talk about the first time she was ordered to conduct a body search of a Palestinian woman (actually two), during an operation in which soldiers invaded and tossed a Palestinian home in the middle of the night. Not, it turned out, because they expected to find anything – just to show who was boss. Hear her d…

A wider definition of what constitutes leaking

It would seem from this piece "Obama’s crackdown views leaks as aiding enemies of U.S."on McClatchy that the Obama White House was into hardening what constitutes leaking before Edward Snowden arrived on the scene.

"Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material…

It is inevitable there will be talk

Say what you will, eventually even those opposed to one another have to sit down and talk.   Just look at the USA.    After countless years of refusing to speak with the Taliban that is exactly what is now to happen.    And Hamas?    That looks increasingly likely, as Paul McGeough suggests in this piece in The Sydney Morning Herald "Peace talks call for a truly even hand".

"The US is now ready to talk to the Taliban, after months of diplomatic spadework by Qatar. And the Emir would be entitled to ask Obama: what would it take for Washington to talk to Hamas? Did someone say bring in the diplomatic jack-hammers?

Unlike the Taliban, which stole government in Afghanistan, Hamas was fairly elected as the governing party of the Palestinian occupied territories in 2006.

The Taliban is responsible for the deaths of more than 3300 US and allied troops, about 10,000 Afghan security personnel and thousands of Afghan civilians. By contrast, the US Congressional Research Service att…

Irony at its best.....and being dumb to boot

Trust the ever-vigilant writer for The New Yorker, Andy Borowitz, to pick up the ultimate irony - aside from a display of dumbness at its best.

"The United States government charged former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden with spying on Friday, apparently unaware that in doing so it had created a situation dripping with irony.

At a press conference to discuss the accusations, an N.S.A. spokesman surprised observers by announcing the spying charges against Mr. Snowden with a totally straight face.

“These charges send a clear message,” the spokesman said. “In the United States, you can’t spy on people.”

Seemingly not kidding, the spokesman went on to discuss another charge against Mr. Snowden—the theft of government documents: “The American people have the right to assume that their private documents will remain private and won’t be collected by someone in the government for his own purposes.”

“Only by bringing Mr. Snowden to justice can we safeguard the most precious of American ri…

Noam Chomsky: US creating terrorists

Noam Chomsky comes out swinging about Obama's tactics in conducting attacks on terrorism a la the extensive use of drones.    As Chomsky rightly concludes, killing off people via drone is almost a guarantee to creating more terrorists.

"Continuing his streak of fiercely criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy and civil liberties record, pre-eminent left-wing scholar Noam Chomsky told GRITtv that this administration is “dedicated to increasing terrorism” throughout the world via its own “terrorist” drone strikes in foreign lands.

Speaking with GRITtv host Laura Flanders about the National Security Agency snooping scandal, Chomsky remarked that “the Obama administration is dedicated to increasing terrorism; it’s doing it all over the world.”

He continued: “Obama is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists, maybe in history: the drone assassination campaigns, which are just part of it [...] All of these operations, they are terror operations.” Drone strikes are “te…

And you thought Skyping was safe

Just hop onto Skype for a quick chat with nary a thought that it might be subject to Government surveillance.     Think again!

"New details have emerged on ties between U.S. intelligence and the nation’s largest technology firms.

The New York Times reports the online communications giant Skype created a secret program to explore ways of providing the government with easy access to customers’ information. Dubbed "Project Chess," the program was established to navigate the legal and technical obstacles to enabling government monitoring of Skype calls and chats.

In another new development, the New York Times has also revealed the former chief security officer for Facebook, Max Kelly, has been working for the National Security Agency since leaving Facebook in 2010."

US Congress at work

Credited to Mike Luckovich

A case of deja vu in France?

The food and wine is exemplary and the French display a flair in all manner of ways, but things aren't good in the country.   

"France’s Third Republic lasted 70 years, but it is most remembered for its disastrous performance between the 20th century’s two world wars when a succession of governments — no fewer than 34, to be exact — stubbornly refused to recognize a changing world.

Its failure to adjust, first to the Depression, then to German rearmament, not only highlighted the weakness of an entrenched, self-serving ruling class, but also created a void that, by the 1930s, was filled by extremists of left and right.

Historical parallels are always risky, but it is nonetheless alarming to hear echoes of the Third Republic in France today. Within Europe, France appears to have lost its place as an equal partner to Germany, a disturbing development since for over half a century the Franco-German entente served as the principal pillar of European stability.

But France’s real prob…

A really dud Big Mac!

This has to rank as the height of outlandish behaviour by an employer....and none less than good ol' McDonalds, supposedly an employee-friendly employer.   Rats!!!

"In the years since the financial crisis struck in 2008, it’s often been pointed out that gains for bankers have gone hand in hand with losses for workers. But few cases provide a better example of just how direct that relationship can be than that of Natalie Gunshannon, who says her employer put her in a situation that forced her to pay fees to one of the big banks just to access her wages.

Gunshannon, of Dallas Township, Penn., filed a class action lawsuit this week against a McDonald’s franchise where she worked, claiming that she and other workers were paid not through check or direct deposit, but through a pre-paid JPMorgan Chase debit card. Along with her card, her lawsuit alleges, she received a list of fees she’d incur when she used it: $1.50 for ATM withdrawals; $5 for over-the-counter cash withdrawals; $1 …

Why shouldn't we be concerned?

The almost reflect response by politicians when challenged about eavesdropping or accessing things like calls made, is to exclaim that anyone who hasn't done anything wrong has nothing to fear.  Of course that's not really an answer to the invasion of privacy.

It's all well to have criticised the old Soviet's prcatices of invasions of privacy, or those of the Stasi in Eastern Germany - and  those in other countries - but the latest revelations via Edward Snowden, published in The Guardian, again shows how extensive and all-pervading snooping has been.     We need to be vigilant about all of this and protest loudly and clearly.   Bottom line it's illegal activity carried out in the name of the State.

"Britain's spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, …

The ultimate compliment......from Dick Cheney!!!

With the FBI now admitting that it has deployed drones over America - yes, you read that correctly - the nature and extent of surveillance in the USA (and doubtlessly elsewhere) becomes even more worrying.

When the ultimate slime, Dick Cheney, comes out attacking Edward Snowden, as Snowden says, that is is the "highest honour".

"When Dick Cheney slithered out of his cave Sunday to call Edward Snowden a traitor - a claim, given its slimy source, Snowden promptly called "the highest honor you can give an American" - it was only the latest in an ongoing, vengeful, bizarre and often irrelevant campaign of vitriol by politicians, pundits and much of the mainstream press against a guy who, regardless of his personal flaws, strengths or story, has indisputably "done something brave and worthwhile." And the best commentary pushes past the distracting, mud-slinging, name-calling, Up-Close-and-Personal debris to capture that kernel of truth.

"Few Americans…

Cementing apartheid

It is the now all-too often mantra of the Israelis, and its supporters, that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.    Good PR line!    Just not true though.   There are already laws in place which are discriminatory and apartheid in nature.      This editorial from Haaretz discusses a proposed new law - which on any reckoning is definitely apartheid in action with a capital A!

"If anyone thought that the wave of anti-democratic legislation that had characterized the previous Knesset would stop with the end of its term, a decision by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday demonstrates that this government and Knesset apparently plans to go its predecessors one better in oppressing minorities and codifying discrimination against them.

Behind the name “Rights of Those Who Contribute to the State Law,” hides one of the most dangerous bills ever approved by the ministerial committee. The bill would permit favoring someone who served in the Israel Defense Forces …

Meanwhile.......climate change is ongoing apace

Virtually all governments, worldwide, are sitting on their hands, effectively doing nothing - perhaps the odd muttering that something ought be done - as the globe is increasingly confronted with climate change.    Each day brings news of some weather-related aberration, somewhere in the world.

"If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much tha…

World Refugee Day

Today is World Refugee Day.

The figures are startling and terrible.    So many refugees.... and their plight a blot on the world's inability to properly deal with and properly address the problem.

"The UN says 7.6 million people became refugees in 2012, with the total number now higher than at any time since 1994.

A report from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that Syria is "a major new factor" driving up refugee numbers.

The report says 55% of all refugees come from five countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Syria.

It also found that developing countries now hosted 81% of the world's refugees, 11% more than a decade ago.

"These truly are alarming numbers. They reflect individual suffering on a huge scale and they reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them," said UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres.

Mr Guterres said that the figure of 7.6 million…

Michael Hastings postscript

Perhaps it is paranoia or just that the nefarious goings-on by Government agencies is so topical, but this below, today, post the tragic death of Michael Hastings (see yesterdays posting on MPS) said to have been as a result of a speeding vehicle.

"WikiLeaksVerified account


Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him."

If it weren't so very serious this would be funny!

Things aren't going well in Afghanistan whatever the PR machines crank out to try and tell us otherwise.    The military - leaving behind an army of contractors, advisers, etc -  who ought not be in the country anyway, are hurtling for the exits.

In the context of the USA now considering an involvement in Syria, this tongue-in-cheek piece by Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker is quite comical were the situation not so serious.

"Supporters of the United States’ twelve-year quagmire in Afghanistan cheered the news today that the U.S. would strive to achieve a seamless transfer of that quagmire to Syria, effective immediately.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sought to reassure those who were concerned that the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan signalled a wavering of the nation’s commitment to being mired in open-ended military muddles.

“I can tell you, right here and right now, that the U.S. is every bit as determined to engage in an ill…

The Australian Government Snoop Patrol: Once Every Two Minutes, 24/7, Anyone’s Data

If this report from the active snooping going in Australia is even half right, just imagine what is happening in the USA, the UK and elsewhere.    Scary and something the general populace should simply not tolerate let alone countenance.

"It happens all the time – roughly 800 times a day, on last year’s records.

Somewhere in Australia, a government bureaucrat – no-one especially senior; say, a Centrelink agent – fills in a form, gets a signature from someone else in the department, and becomes authorised to check out a member of the public’s phone records (which numbers that person has called, how long they spoke, and where they were when they placed the call), and then their email history (who they’ve emailed, and when, and the IP addresses used). No warrant required, no notice given.

It’s all legal – and has been happening since 2007.

In fact it happened more than 300,000 times in 2011-12. It may have happened to you – and in most cases, you wouldn’t know.

Australia’s welfare agenc…

One-man protest......proliferating

First there were the recent widespread protests in Turkey.    Now it's being emulated in Brazil.  People are simply not prepared to readily accept whatever their political "masters" dish out to them.

Back to Turkey and the now well-known Taksim Square in Istanbul.   A man to be admired.....

"'Standing man' protests are going viral across Turkey in a silent show of resistance amidst violent government raids on the country's expanding uprisings.

It started with one man who stood silently in Turkey's embattled Taksim Square Monday, facing the Ataturk Cultural Center which is cloaked in Turkish flags and images of Kemal Ataturk.

Performance artist Erdem Gunduz stood with his hands in his pockets in the ground zero of clashes, defying government orders to clear the park of protesters, part of the violent crackdowns led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that have left four dead and over 7,500 injured.

When reporters asked him why he stood, Gunduz respond…

Michael Hastings: Loss of helluva momumental journalist

Journalists are not the most popular of people or liked by the general populace.  However, occasionally, along comes a journalist who stands out of the pack.... by miles.    One such journalist was Michael Hastings.  He was what most journalists should aspire to - but don't!   His work, at age 33, was already legendary at the time of his tragic death, in a car accident, yesterday.

Nothing better describes Michael - who MPS had the good fortune to meet and spend time with a few years ago - than this tribute in Rolling Stone:

"Michael Hastings, the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has learned. He was 33.

Hastings' unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, "The Runaway General," captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House. The maelstro…