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Showing posts from August, 2013

As if a disability wasn't bad enough

People with disabilities have enough to contend with in dealing with their daily lives and whatever "handicap" they have.    It is therefore sad, and depressing to read, as this piece in The Independent reveals, that 12 months after the Paralympics in London, the disabled still face hostile or threatening behaviour.

"The vast majority of disabled people in Britain feel there has been no improvement in attitudes towards them a year after the Paralympics and many feel stigmatised as “benefit scroungers” while suffering hostility and abuse, a leading charity has warned.

Campaigners said the sea change in perceptions of people with disabilities generated by the London 2012 Games has been eroded by misleading rhetoric from politicians and within the media about welfare payments and a crisis in living standards for the disabled caused by spending cuts.

Twelve months to the day after the opening ceremony for the Paralympics, the host city for the Games – which thrust athletes su…

The realities of war

From CommonDreams:

"From Syria, amidst the horrific pictures of bodies, the media's persistent drumbeat for war and the carefully amoral rhetoric by U.S. officials comes a small, real, heart-wrenching reality check: A video of the moment a father finds his son, whom he thought was killed, after a chemical attack. This is the truth of what happens, notes Charles Pierce, when "we make war in a place without going to war in a place." There are several versions of the video. In this longer one, the child's devastated father appears about a minute into it.

"When you make war in a place, actual people die actual deaths. Fathers get killed. Children get killed. School buildings and hospitals fall down all around the people inside them. The message you are sending with your missiles gets just a trifle muddled. Make no mistake. If we strike, we will be making actual war in Syria. Ordinary Syrians will not see our missiles as "bomb-o-grams," telling them w…

An Australian election

Australians go to the polls next Saturday - confronted with the choice between 2 appalling main political parties.    The electioneering to date has been shallow and insulting to the electorate.    Most people are bored with the whole process and turned off by it.    In the final analysis a few marginal seats and swinging voters will determine who gets the PM's mantle.  

Don Watson, one-time speech writer for a former PM, and a wit and acerbic commentator, sums up the election perfectly in The Monthly in what the incoming PM might say on the night of the election and having been declared winner.

"Relax and be comfortable again. I'm not going to worry you with any fancy stuff. I have my limitations, but so have you. That's why I'm here. You have elected yourselves, you see, and you can't get a more fair dinkum democratic outcome than that."

The US joining forces with al-Qa'ida in Syria?

Robert Fisk is a veteran journalist in the Middle East of considerable standing and knowledge of the region.    Fisk writes for The Independent.    In his latest op-piece "Does Obama know he’s fighting on al-Qa’ida’s side?" he posits how if the US goes into Syria that it will, possibly unwittingly, become an ally of al-Qa'ida, the very people who attacked the Americans on 9/11.

"If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida.
Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.

The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achieve…

Zip evidence of the Syrian Government using chemical weapons

Drowned out in all the hype and PR about how the Syrians need to be brought to book for their use of chemical weapons the other day - haven't been there before with bold and unsubstantiated allegations before when it related to Iraq? - no less a newspaper than the conservative Wall Street Journal reports that there is no evidence to support the allegations made against President Assad and his government.    

More problematic is the critical question.  Will the revelation stop those propounding an attack on Syria in their tracks?

"The Wall Street Journal has confirmed what many suspected, that the West's so-called "evidence" of the latest alleged "chemical attacks" in Syria, pinned on the Syrian government are fabrications spun up from the West's own dubious intelligence agencies.

The Wall Street Journal reveals that the US is citing claims from Israel's Mossad intelligence agency fed to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a repeat of the fabr…

Your app is doing what?

As if all the snooping going on by governments isn't bad enough, reflect on this new technology - that is, apps - on your smart phone.    All rather scary....

"Adapting to a new technology is like a love affair, said Ellen Ullman, a software engineer and a writer of essays and novels about the human element of computing. The devices, apps and tools seduce us, she said, and any doubts or fears we had melt away.

“It’s naïve confidence in the digital environment,” Ms. Ullman said. “People come to trust it because one, it’s fun, and two, it’s convenient.”

But we cannot rely on the makers of new technology to think about the moral and privacy implications, she said. “There is not a lot of internal searching among engineers,” she said. “They are not encouraged to say, ‘What does that mean for society?’ That job is left for others. And the law and social norms trail in dealing with the pace of technical changes right now.”

Take, for instance, Google Now. It is the most visible of an e…

As the West prepares to attack (something/someone in) Syria....

It is clear from all news reports out today that the West is poised to undertake some sort of attack on Syria.  What, or whom, is unclear.

A round up of pieces from around the world on the subject of attacking Syria:

From The Washington Post:

"An imminent U.S. strike on Syrian government targets in response to the alleged gassing of civilians last week has the potential to draw the United States into the country’s civil war, former U.S. officials said Tuesday, warning that history doesn’t bode well for such limited retaliatory interventions.

The best historical parallels — the 1998 cruise missile strikes on targets in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan — are rife with unintended consequences and feature little success.

“The one thing we should learn is you can’t get a little bit pregnant,” said retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was at the helm of U.S. Central Command when the Pentagon launched cruise missiles at suspected terrorist sites in Afghanistan and weapons facilities in Sadda…

The most liveable cities in the world

It is hard to know whether cities actually go out to "win" the annual award, by The Economist, as the most liveable city in the world, but Australia has again fared handsomely in the 2014 awards (just announced) with Melbourne said to be the most liveable city in the world.

"Melbourne remains the most liveable location of the 140 cities surveyed, followed by the Austrian capital, Vienna. Vancouver, which was the most liveable city surveyed until 2011 lies in third place. Over the past six months only 13 cities of 140 surveyed have experienced changes in scores, although 28 cities (20% of those surveyed) have seen changes over the past year. In some cases these are positive improvements in liveability driven by infra¬structural development or easing instability. But in most cases liveability changes in recent years have been driven by civil unrest, with the Arab Spring, European austerity and Chinese discontent all contributing."

"The concept of liveability is s…

A sober proposition. Talk, not war, in relation to Syria

As the Brits, the USA and France consider some sort of action in Syria - triggered by the recent use of chemical weapons in the on-going war - Patrick Coburn, veteran reporter in the Middle East, suggests in a piece in The Independent, that talks would be the preferable course than some sort of military intervention.

"While the world has been focusing on the horrors in Damascus over the past week, anti-government rebels have been carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Syrian Kurds in the north-east of the country, forcing 40,000 of them to flee across the Tigris into northern Iraq in less than a week. So many are trying to escape in what the United Nations says is the biggest single refugee exodus of the war that the pontoon bridge across the Tigris they were using is near collapse and has had to be closed, trapping tens of thousands of terrified Kurds inside Syria.

The sense of urgency among foreign powers generated by the present crisis should be used to launch the …

Band together, and support, the making of an important documentary

This book has just been released in Australia - and is already being designated a best seller.
This is how MUP, the publisher, describes the book:

"Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar.
Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives dr…

Syria and the West. A realistic appraisal

Is all the latest "noise" by the West about the most recent outrage in Syria - the use of chemical weapons -  feigned outrage?    An analysis, such as that the Australian intellectual, Scott Burchell, would suggest so.

"How genuine is the West’s concerns about the use of chemical weapons in Syria five days ago? Not very, I suspect.

To illustrate my pessimism, how did the West respond to Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against the Kurds of Halabja on 17 March, 1988 when over 5,000 people were poisoned. Outrage, condemnation, missile attacks? The opposite.

First, Washington disingenuously blamed Iran – knowing exactly who was actually responsible. They then continued to shower Saddam with “$5 billion in food credits, technology, and industrial products, most coming after it began to use mustard, cyanide, and nerve gases against both Iranians and dissident Kurds” (historian Gabriel Kolko). After the attack on Halabja Saddam was further rewarded by George Bush 1 wit…

Italy: Whose country is it? Former PM holds it hostage

Now here is arrogance, or bravado, at its best!      If the Mafia engaged in such conduct one can readily image the outrage.   Now it's the former Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi - not someone with an unblemished record - who is seeking to hold Italy hostage.

"Vote me out of jail, or I will bring the country down with me. This, essentially, is the message Silvio Berlusconi—four-time prime minister, owner of the country’s three main commercial TV channels, criminal defendant many times over—has just sent to the Italian government, one that clarifies at last the exact nature of what is at stake in Italy at the present moment: is this a modern state where the rule of law prevails or is it the fiefdom of an institutionalized outlaw? At present there is no way of saying which vision will carry the day.

After a dozen trials, many of which have gone through all three levels of Italian justice (primary trial, appeal, counter appeal), after making ad personam laws to have his crimes de-p…

When the CIA came one night....

The contrasts are stark.  Bradley Manning is sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for being instrumental in letting us know what illegal activities our governments are engaged in.    On the other hand those not only authorising, but responsible for, the illegality of renditioning are off scott-free.   Not even charged!

Read this account, on CounterPunch, of one case of renditioning - and ponder the travesty of what has occurred here and no one brought to account, let alone some sort of "justice" and compensation afforded to the victim.

"They came for Jabour at night. He was ordered by the men to turn around and face the wall, while his hands were cuffed and his legs shackled. A blindfold was fastened to his head. He was led from his cell in an Islamabad jail to a waiting van.

Jabour was then driven to an airport and marched into a bathroom, where his blindfold was removed. He was confronted by a group of Americans, talking to each other in sign language.

A doctor approac…

Talks doomed to fail

Whether what is written about how the current Palestinian-Israel "peace" talks are going in this piece from The American Conservative is correct, what makes it 'interesting" is the take of the former US ambassador to Israel.

"Recently an Arab newspaper published purportedly leaked documents indicating what the Palestinian Authority has agreed to already. It’s hard to discern whether the leak is accurate, but it asserts that in order to sit down for talks, the PA has already agreed to accept Israel’s territorial grabs around Jerusalem, and the seizure of the water reserves under the Israeli side of the “separation wall” and beneath the large settlements planned and sited so as to deny a Palestinian state’s contiguity. Many Palestinians would call the enclaves they would receive around the large Israeli settlements and connecting infrastructure “bantustans” and they would be right.

Perhaps this kind of negotiating result is inevitable between a party as weak as t…

Quelle horreur. France a second-tier European country?

My-oh-my!    Even that the subject should come up for discussion.    France slowly becoming a second-tier country in Europe?      Quelle horreur!

"For decades, Europeans have agonized over the power and role of Germany — the so-called German question — given its importance to European stability and prosperity.

Today, however, Europe is talking about “the French question”: can the Socialist government of President François Hollande pull France out of its slow decline and prevent it from slipping permanently into Europe’s second tier?

At stake is whether a social democratic system that for decades prided itself on being the model for providing a stable and high standard of living for its citizens can survive the combination of globalization, an aging population and the acute fiscal shocks of recent years.

Those close to Mr. Hollande say that he is largely aware of what must be done to cut government spending and reduce regulations weighing down the economy, and is carefully gauging th…

Yet again, USA double-standards on display

The US is forever lecturing other countries how they ought to conduct themselves. Sanctity of the subject, the rule of law, etc etc.   And the US itself?   Aah.....a different value-system, and double-standards at play, as this piece "Flouting International Rejection of Weapons, US to Supply Saudi Arabia With Cluster Bombs" on CommonDreams so clearly shows.    Despicable conduct!

A child who was a victim of a cluster bomb in Lebanon as he was walking with his family and their goats. It took one of these unexploded "bomblets" for him to lose his leg and have his other leg and hand badly injured. (Photo: Cluster Munition Coalition/cc/flickr)
"The U.S. is set to build and send 1300 cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, the Department of Defense announced this week.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have refused to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits use and transfer of the weapons noted for their harm to civilian populations years after they are dropped as u…

Obama White House: Tampering with the news

An insight, and interesting revelation, of how the Obama White House - the occupant of whom, falsely, claims transparency - seeks to manipulate the news

"President Obama frequently claims that he’s leading “the most transparent administration in history,” as he asserted last February during a Google Plus “Fireside” Hangout.

But that self-administered pat on the back is belied by The Washington Post’s recent account of how the president’s spin doctors allegedly tried to rewrite quotes from reporter Barton Gellman’s interview with the National Security Agency’s chief compliance officer. The interview was conducted for Gellman’s blockbuster story on the NSA’s persistent unauthorized  surveillance since 2008 of thousands of Americans’ phone calls and emails, and the super-secret agency’s apparent policy of covering up its improper domestic spying.

At a time when Obama communications specialists seem to have grown accustomed to attempting to make reporters accessories to White House …

A sad reflection on America's media

As if one could say that any of the major news networks having anything going for them - especially the downright awful Fox News - there is a fear about the "arrival" of Al Jazeera to America.   

Credited to Matt Davies

Egypt in August 2013

The ongoing terrible strife and upheavals in Egypt has, presently, been over-shadowed by the mayhem in Syria. 

From Tikkun:

"That America continues to provide military assistance and more than a billion in military aid to the Egyptian military while Obama dithers about calling the situation a “coup,” that Zionists (both Christian and Jewish) have pushed for the U.S. to continue to aid this Egyptian military, and that Israel overtly supports the military (along with Saudi Arabia and other reactionary regimes)—even after the massacres of thousands of nonviolent Muslims protesting the coup—all this should be a source of shame for every American and every Jew.

In the piece below, Uri Avnery, the most respected Israeli peace leader, provides precisely the nuance that is mostly absent from the “lamestream” media."

Egypt: Cry, Beloved Country

 "I DIDN’T want to write this article, but I had to.

I love Egypt. I love the Egyptian people. I have spent some of the happiest days of my…

Collateral injustice

Punchy, and pointed, piece on CommonDreams in relation to the Bradley Manning verdict.

"Manning got 35 years. Those whose crimes he exposed - Bush, Cheney, Rice et al - got book deals, speaking tours, slimy freedom. The Center for Constitutional Rights on this "frontal assault on the First Amendment: "We fear for the future of our country." Here's the original Collateral Murder video as a reminder of Manning's "crime."

"It is a travesty of justice that Manning, who helped bring to light the criminality of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators of the crimes he exposed are not even investigated.  Every aspect of this case sets a dangerous precedent for future prosecutions of whistleblowers – and we fear for the future of our country in the wake of this case."

History will treat Bradley Manning kindly!

The New Yorker's John Cassidy has a piece reflecting on the Bradley Manning verdict.   He makes 3 salient key points.  One of them:

"3. Even if President Obama doesn’t pardon Manning, history will.

Well before the sentence came down, supporters of Manning were busy campaigning to get him freed. There were demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere, bumper stickers, and online petitions—one of which Daniel Ellsberg, the former Department of Defense official who leaked the Pentagon Papers, helped to organize. In the wake of the verdict, more protests were planned, including a rally outside the White House on Wednesday night. Amnesty International asked President Obama to release Manning and called on the U.S. government to “turn its attention to investigating violations of human rights and humanitarian law” he helped to uncover.

It seems unlikely in the extreme that these efforts will lead anywhere. Obama has insisted all along that Manning’s case was a matter for the military aut…

Australia's own Gitmo

The world rightly condemns the Americans for detaining over 150 people at Gitmo without just cause.   Many have been there for years - upwards of 5 years.

Australia stands up there with its close ally, the USA.    The UN Human Rights Committee has issued a damning report on Australia's detention of refugees.

"Australia has been found guilty of almost 150 violations of international law over the indefinite detention of 46 refugees in one of the most damning assessments of human rights in this country by a United Nations committee.

The federal government has been ordered to release the refugees, who have been in detention for more than four years, ''under individually appropriate conditions'' and provide them with rehabilitation and compensation.

Consistent with Australia's treaty obligations, the government has been given 180 days to assure the committee that it has acted on the recommendations and taken steps to prevent ''similar violations in future…

It's us folks! 95% certainty that humans have caused global warming

It will be interesting to see what the sceptics now have to say - when a draft UN Report has determined that they are 95% certain that we humans have caused global warming.    Of course, even if the Report will have been issued under the auspices of the UN, that is to say that its members will get off their collective hands and take positive steps to stop the ever -increasing climate changes we are experiencing around the world.

"It is all but certain that human activity has caused a steady increase in global temperatures over the past 60 years, leading to warmer oceans and an acceleration in sea-level rise, according to findings in the most recent climate change report by an international panel of scientists.

In a draft summary of the fifth climate assessment since its creation in 1988, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that continued greenhouse gas emissions “would cause further warming” and induce changes that could “occur in all regions of the globe . . …

We are all in trouble when the authorities enter newspaper offices....

There has been much consternation about the detention of Glenn Greenwald's partner at Heathrow for 9 hours.    Miranda is not a journalist and there has been no suggestion of him being under suspicion of being a terrorist.    

The editor of The Guardiantakes up the story - and, importantly, details how the authorities sought to heavy the newspaper because of its publication of the Edward Snowden material.    All very troubling indeed and of grave concern!   Let's not point a bone at totalitarian States so quickly.

"The detention of Miranda has rightly caused international dismay because it feeds into a perception that the US and UK governments – while claiming to welcome the debate around state surveillance started by Snowden – are also intent on stemming the tide of leaks and on pursuing the whistleblower with a vengeance. That perception is right. Here follows a little background on the considerable obstacles being placed in the way of informing the public about what t…

And the Americans and Brits expect anyone to trust them!

The nefarious activities of the USA are once again revealed.   This time, just released documents reveal that the USA and Britain were instrumental in the overthrow of the then democratically elected Iranian government back in August, 1953.     And the US and Brits expect foreign governments to trust anything the Americans and Brits say or do?

"Sixty years ago this week, on Aug. 19, 1953, the United States, in collaboration with Britain, successfully staged a coup in Iran to overthrow democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh that a newly declassified CIA document reveals was designed to preserve the control of Western companies over Iran’s rich oil fields.

The U.S. government at the time of the coup easily had manipulated Western media into denigrating Mossadegh as intemperate, unstable and an otherwise unreliable ally in the Cold War, but the real motivation for hijacking Iran’s history was Mossadegh’s move to nationalize Western-controlled oil assets in Iran. Acc…

Isn't this all too familiar

We have all been there....meetings, for this and that.  Meetings ad nauseam!  And then there all those emails......

"There is a never-ending supply of business gurus telling us how we can, and must, do more. Sheryl Sandberg urges women to “Lean In” if they want to get ahead. John Bernard offers breathless advice on conducting “Business at the Speed of Now”. Michael Port tells salesmen how to “Book Yourself Solid”. And in case you thought you might be able to grab a few moments to yourself, Keith Ferrazzi warns that you must “Never Eat Alone”.

Yet the biggest problem in the business world is not too little but too much—too many distractions and interruptions, too many things done for the sake of form, and altogether too much busy-ness. The Dutch seem to believe that an excess of meetings is the biggest devourer of time: they talk of vergaderziekte, “meeting sickness”.

Which of these banes of modern business life is worse remains open to debate. But what is clear is that office worke…

The latest threat to journalists..... and, yes, their partners

Two "stories" which highlight how journalists, and even their quite unconnected partners, can be caught up in the "new" approach to what constitutes terrorism, etc.

Exhibit #1:

"In an act of blatant escalation against press freedom, UK officials held David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, at Heathrow Airport under a controversial Terrorism Act for 9 hours, the maximum allowed under law before police must release or formally arrest a "suspect." Miranda was finally released after police confiscated all his electronics, including cell phone and laptop - a move prompting Greenwald to compare them,  unfavorably, with the Mafia.

"If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further...Every time the U…

Syrian refugees on the march....literally

The carnage in Syria continues.....and with it the consequences.   In this instance, it is an unparallelled flow of refugees from Syria into Iraqi Kurdistan.    The fallout of all of this is incalculable.

Meanwhile, the aid agencies are caught up in trying to deal with the refugee problem, whilst the world sits on its hands and does nothing!

"Thousands of refugees from Syria are pouring over the border into Iraqi Kurdistan, the UN refugee agency says.

Up to 10,000 crossed at Peshkhabour on Saturday, bringing the total influx since Thursday to 20,000. The UN says the reasons are not fully clear.

The UN agencies, the Kurdish regional government and NGOs are struggling to cope, correspondents say".


"Some 150,000 Syrian refugees are already registered in Iraq, of the nearly two million said to have fled Syria in total since the uprising began."

The tragic consequences (in Texas) of fracking

Fracking is all the go, with untold benefits, its proponents would have us believe.    This piece from The Guardian is a salutary lesson in how one ought to resist fracking in the neighbourhood - or bear the tragic consequences, as this town in Texas has.

"Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.

"The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes," she said, blinking back tears. "I went: 'dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind."

Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as run…

Misplaced propaganda goes awry

In an attempt to counter the increasing vocal criticism of Israel's actions, both internal and in relation to the West Bank and Gaza, as one part of its PR (propaganda?) armoury Israel set up a social media network - with unfortunate consequences, although not surprising, given the overt racism of Israelis.

"Israel's propaganda wars are not, it seems, going well. It was bad enough when they started paying “covert units” of students to post pro-Israel messages on social media - much like similar campaigns in China, Russia and other freedom-loving regimes - without revealing the posts were part of a government effort, after already coming under fire for IDF soldiers' military porn postings. Now Israeli officials have gagged the head of that covert PR campaign, part of Israel's public diplomacy arm of the prime minister’s office, after he posted a series of offensive racist rants on his own Facebook page. Sample posts from Daniel Seaman: In response to a Palestinian …

And this is the "victory" in Iraq George Bush spoke of?

That grinning ignoramus, George Bush, may have have declared "victory" in Iraq back in May 2003, but the country had been going backwards and is now faced with sectarianism on a vast scale.    Even worse, the sovereign State appears on the verge of collapse.

"Across the country, the sectarianism that almost tore Iraq apart after the American-led invasion in 2003 is surging back. The carnage has grown so bloody, with the highest death toll in five years, that truck drivers insist on working in pairs — one Sunni, one Shiite — because they fear being attacked for their sect. Iraqis are numb to the years of violence, yet always calculating the odds as they move through the routine of the day, commuting to work, shopping for food, wondering if death is around the corner.


The drastic surge in violence — mainly car bombs planted by Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate against the Shiite majority, and the security sweeps in majority-Sunni neighborhoods that follow — has lent a new sense…

Western hypocrisy exposed in Syria

Good piece in The Guardian on the conflict in Syria and the all-too obvious hypocrisy of the West.

"Meanwhile, foreign fighters are flooding into Syria – and they’ve become some of the fiercest and most successful insurgents against the Assad regime. US officials talk of the country becoming an extremist haven. Blue-eyed jihadists from Europe recently told Foreign Policy that they were committed to establishing an Islamic state inside the nation. Abu Salman (not his real name) said that, “They [the United States] only give weapons to the worst groups ... These groups operate inside the Free Syrian Army, but they even don't fight for democracy, they just steal money”.

At least a few hundred Australians are involved, causing growing sectarianism in Sydney between Sunni and Shia communities. I’ve spoken to many local Muslims who say the blindness being displayed on both sides – Assad backers ignoring the vast crimes perpetuated by his forces and rebel backers denying the extent …

And you thought that Google's GMail afforded you privacy!

Think again if you thought that Google afforded you privacy when using GMail.

"Gmail users have no “reasonable expectation” that their emails are confidential,  Google has said in a court filing.

Consumer Watchdog, the advocacy group that uncovered the filing, called the revelation a “stunning admission.” It comes as Google and its peers are under pressure to explain their role in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance of US citizens and foreign nationals."


"According to Google: “Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS [electronic communications service] provider in the course of delivery.”

An ever-widening chasm

One has to ponder how the world is going to address the ever-increasing chasm between the rich and the poor and the haves and have-nots.    Take the position in the USA as detailed in this piece "Our Growing Racial Wealth Gap" in truthout - save for the dimension of the Afro-American community - and the landscape in America is replicated in many Western nations around the globe.

"The vast chasm between the richest one percent of Americans and everyone else continues to widen, and researchers have found that when you factor race into the equation, the economic gap is even more pronounced.

A recent Urban Institute report finds that the racial wealth gap — measured as the difference in wealth accumulated by white Americans and black and Latino Americans — is the largest it has ever been since the Federal Reserve started tracking it. In 1983, for every dollar held by the average black or Latino family, the average white family had five. In the aftermath of the financial mel…

Question Mark: Anatomy of an Al Qaeda “Conference Call”

It will be recalled that the USA the other day closed down some 22 of its missions overseas because of some perceived threat to them and American citizens.      What was the basis for doing so?   Dubious information it seems - and not for the first time.    Ken Silverstein reports in The Atlantic.

"Two years ago, following the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, a number of journalists wrote dramatic accounts of the Al Qaeda leader’s last moments. One such story, co-authored by Eli Lake in the Washington Times, cited Obama administration officials and an unnamed military source, described how bin Laden had “reached for a weapon to try to defend himself” during the intense firefight at his compound, and then “was shot by Navy SEALs after trying to use a woman reputed to be his wife as a human shield.”

It was exciting stuff, but it turned out to have been fictitious propaganda concocted by U.S. authorities to destroy bin Laden’s image in the eyes of his followers. Based on…

Are they really on the path?

Credited to Patrick Chappatte, IHT

Cairo - 14 August, 2013

The story out of Cairo is incredible.    At the time of this blog-posting The New York Times reports that 525 were killed, with 3700 injured, in Cairo yesterday.

6 photos show the nature and extent of the carnage.

Go here to see the other 5 photos - from GlobalPost

The New York Times Editorial Board's take (here) on events in Egypt and how the USA has, and ought to respond to one of its allies - in fact, the second highest recipient of its aid.

Robert Fisk takes a big stick to Secretary of State Kerry

Take the only way to describe how veteran Middle Eastern journalist and author, Robert Fisk, excoriates Secretary of State John Kerry in his latest piece in The Independent.   Worth reading the entire piece....

"Has John Kerry no shame? First he cuddles up to both Palestinians and Israelis and announces the renewal of a “peace process” which the Palestinians don’t trust and the Israelis don’t want. Then Israel announces that it will build 1,200 new homes for Jews – and Jews only – on occupied Palestinian land. And now Kerry tells the Palestinians – the weak and occupied Palestinians – that they are running out of time if they want a state of their own.

Any other “statesman” involved in any other dispute who told an occupied people that if they didn’t make peace their occupiers would steal even more of their land, would be regarded as an outcast, a fellow thief, a potential criminal. But no. John Kerry announces that illegal Jewish colonies – or “settlements” as he likes…