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Showing posts from September, 2013

Australian PM's "Inconvenient Truth"

That the newly elected Australian PM shows a cavalier disregard for the truth, or facts, is nowhere better demonstrated than in his approach to climate change.    It's "crap" according to him.     In the space of a few weeks since being elected Abbott, and his Government, have shown themselves to be scurrilous in their actions with regard to climate change.

Kenneth Davidson, senior columnist at The Age newspaper, takes up the issue....

"But this election campaign entered darker territory. On my reading of history, this was the first post-enlightenment election in which a core policy was based on denial of fundamental laws of science.

Edward Davey, the British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, is quoted in Pushing our Luck - Ideas for Australian Progress, published by the Centre for Policy Development, as saying: ''Two hundred years of good science - teasing out uncertainties, considering risk - has laid the foundation for what we now understan…

Yikes! Global Warming Could Destroy the Lives of 750 Million People in the Short Future

Could there be anything much more devastating that the lives of some 750 million people could be destroyed if we don't do something, sooner rather than later, to arrest climate warming?   Let the facts speak for themselves, as this piece from AlterNet shows.

"Three quarters of a billion people is a lot of people.

And that's how many people, within the next 22 years, will almost certainly run low on water – a necessity of life – in just the regions whose rivers are supplied with water from the glaciers in the Himalayas.

To put that in perspective, 750 million people is more than twice the current population of United States. It's about the population of all of Europe. In the year 1900 there were only 500 million people on the entire planet. Seven hundred fifty million people is a lot of people.

The IPCC – the international body of scientists analyzing global climate change – is releasing its new report in stages over the next week and this early piece was reported on by t…

The US Congress and the GOP. Some "advice"....

As one watches, with more than disbelief, as the US moves to a financial gridlock/shutdown by midnight on 30 September (see here for a full report) - basically caused by in-fighting in the GOP - with more than a tongue-in-cheek, Andrew Borowitz, writing in The New Yorker, suggests some advice the House Speaker might give to his fellow-Americans.

"In a special Sunday radio address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered a health tip to the American people, advising them to delay getting cancer for a year.

“We’re involved in a high-stakes fight over our freedom from centralized government control of our lives,” said Mr. Boehner, speaking on behalf of his House colleagues. “You can do your part by delaying getting cancer.”

He added that heart disease, emphysema, and diabetes were among a laundry list of conditions that would be “patriotic to avoid for a year.”

“If you delay getting any of these things for the next twelve months, together we will win this fight,” he said.

In closi…

Stoned to death...for possessing a mobile phone

Barbaric is the word which comes to mind when one reads that in Pakistan death by stoning, for women who possess a mobile phone, is on the rise.   It is hardly surprising that activists are attempting to outlaw the practice.

"Two months ago, a young mother of two was stoned to death by her relatives on the order of a tribal court in Pakistan. Her crime: possession of a mobile phone.

Arifa Bibi's uncle, cousins and others hurled stones and bricks at her until she died, according to media reports. She was buried in a desert far from her village. It's unlikely anyone was arrested. Her case is not unique. Stoning is legal or practised in at least 15 countries or regions. And campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Women's rights activists have launched an international campaign for a ban on stoning, which is mostly inflicted on women accused of adultery. They are using Twitter and other social medi…

And you call America a rich country?

There are, obviously, some very, very wealthy people living in the USA, but as this CNN Money reports, the financial position for three-quarters of Americans is tight, to say the least.   So much for the tag applied to America as a rich country!

"Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all.

… Last week, online lender CashNetUSA said 22% of the 1,000 people it recently surveyed had less than $100 in savings to cover an emergency, while 46% had less than $800. After paying debts and taking care of housing, car and child care-related expenses, the respondents said there just isn’t enough money left over for saving more.

India: A law securing a right to food

Although there are those sceptical about the new law, India, the country with the second-largest population in the world, has just passed a law giving people the right to food.    Brave move...and to be commended in a world where some 30% of food is wasted.

"The National Family Health Survey for 2005/06 stated that more than 40 percent of Indian children under the age of three are underweight, 33 percent of women aged 15 to 49 have a body mass index that is below normal, and nearly four out of five children aged 6 to 35 months are anemic.

It is for these people that the Indian government recently announced an ambitious $19.5 billion National Food Security Bill. Passed by the legislature in the first week of September, the bill promises heavily subsidized wheat and rice for those who live below the poverty line — about 67 percent of the population.

As reported in the legislation, a total of five kilograms of food grains per month will be provided at a fixed price of Rs 1-3 ($0.02 to…

The NSA's snooping now revealed to be even more extensive and invasive

As revelations continue coming from Edward Snowden, so much the greater it now appears that the NSA has been snooping and gathering information on people and now it's social connections.   There is only one word for it - insidious!

"Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor."

Another example of America's poor justice system

From CommonDreams:

"In a rare win for sanity, a Florida appeals court has ordered a new trial for Marissa Alexander, the African-American woman sentenced to 20 years after firing a warning shot into a wall during a dispute with her abusive husband just days after she'd given birth. Alexander described the shot as "the lesser of two evils" after he told her, “Bitch, I’ll kill you” - a clearer statement of intent than George Zimmerman gave Trayvon Martin, not many miles away - but the jury rejected her self-defense argument."

Seymour Hersh takes a stick (a big one) to US journalists and the lying Obama Administration

Talk about taking a stick to US journalists, the Americanmedia generally, editors, The New York Times and the "lying" Obama Administration.

Seymour Hersh - no less than a multi-awarded journalist and writer, including a Pulitzer Prize - in The Guardian.    Ouch!

"Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.

It doesn’t take much to fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the Republican party as “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist”.

He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

Don’t even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends “so much more time carrying water f…

Man-made climate change. Now what will the sceptics and naysayers say?

The much anticipated IPCC Report has just been released - and there is no doubting that climate change is happening and that mankind can, if the will is there (hello ignorant people like Australian PM Tony Abbott - he who has declared climate change "absolute crap") countries can still do something and retrieve the situation we all finds ourselves in.

"Scientists say it's clear human activities are to blame for the earth's warming in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Average surface temperatures up 0.85 degrees since 1880Extremely likely – 95 per cent certainty – humans the dominant cause global of warmingSea levels to rise between 26 and 81 centimetres by 2100World on track for more than 2 degrees – and possibly more than 4 degrees – warming by 2100It is more certain than ever that human civilisation is the main cause of global warming, putting the world on track for dangerous temperature rises, the latest major UN assessment …

AIPAC declares war on Obama

Startling!  Here is an American lobby group, AIPAC - the largest lobby group in the USA together with the NRA - taking on Obama because he, sensibly, is taking tentative steps toward at least "talking" with the Iranians.    It's utter madness that a group should be urging (more like thundering!) no talks - and worse, an attack on a country, Iran.

"Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani have spoken. And they are on the same page. By that I mean not they agree about the issues dividing the two countries but that they are both ready to move forward, to test each other and see if an agreement is possible.

As tentative as all this is, it is a major breakthrough – as anyone who has paid even a little attention over the past 34 years knows.

However, I do not see this process leading anywhere because the Netanyahu government and its lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are determined to end the process and they have the ability to do it.

They intend to use th…

Sensible advice for the weekend & beyond: Put down that mobile....and enjoy life

Can anyone really disagree with the sentiments underlying this advice issued by a tourist authority?

"So fed up are Queensland tourism operators with visitors who are preoccupied with their smartphones they have developed a smartphone code of conduct.

The Smarter Smartphone Code of Conduct will be displayed on everything from coasters, in taxis and on bedside tables in hotels across the Sunshine Coast.

Tourism operators say the code is needed to combat smartphone dependency and help visitors make the "most of the moment".

Also, they've simply had enough of tourists walking around, phone in hand, looking down at their screens.

Their message: put the phone down, take in the view and take time to smell the roses.

A study by Galaxy Research, commissioned by Tourism and Events Queensland, found that 50 per cent of Australians believe they could not live 24 hours without their smartphone, while 65 per cent keep their phone within arms reach all day, every day.

Eighty per cent …

Sociopaths: We're doing just fine, thank you!

Paul Klugman calls them sociopaths.    He explains in his latest op-ed piece "Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted" in The New York Times:

"Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of the American International Group, said something stupid the other day. And we should be glad, because his comments help highlight an important but rarely discussed cost of extreme income inequality — namely, the rise of a small but powerful group of what can only be called sociopaths.

For those who don’t recall, A.I.G. is a giant insurance company that played a crucial role in creating the global economic crisis, exploiting loopholes in financial regulation to sell vast numbers of debt guarantees that it had no way to honor. Five years ago, U.S. authorities, fearing that A.I.G.’s collapse might destabilize the whole financial system, stepped in with a huge bailout. But even the policy makers felt ill used — for example, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, later testified that no other …

The plight of children in Syria

On the very day that Save the Children sends out an urgent plea to the world for assistance for the hungry of Syria (go here) Archbishop Desmond Tutu takes up the plight of children in war-torn Syria.    The world is rightly concerned about the use of chemical weapons in Syria - but that of itself doesn't address the ongoing slaughter and physical destruction in the country.  

"Since the war started in Syria, the country has slowly disintegrated. More than one-third of hospitals have been destroyed, according to the World Health Organisation. According to Save the Children, 3900 schools have been destroyed, damaged or are occupied for non-educational purposes since the start of the conflict.

Syria today is no place for a child and, outrageously, more than 1 million have already been forced to flee with their families to camps and host communities in neighbouring countries. Those are the lucky ones - thousands upon thousands have already been killed. Where is the outrage?

And e…

America's ever-widening gulf between the haves and have-nots

As an outsider one is left with an impression that there is something akin to a class-war underway in America.    The GOP is certainly relentlessly taking a stick to anything which seems to help the poor, sick and disadvantaged.   

In this piece from CommonDreams, Abby Zimmet shines the spotlight (well and truly!) on the hypocrisy of one GOP member of Congress.

"The GOP House's slashing $40 billion in food stamps for 48 million Americans suffering from "food insecurity" - the current tragi-comic euphemism for being hungry - is heinous enough, but it becomes just the tip of the brutal iceberg when seen in a broader context best exemplified by North Dakota's Rep. Kevin Cramer - who answered a constituent challenging him with the Bibilical quote, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat," and whose district has received $10.4 billion in agricultural subsidies, the most of anyone in the country. Such gross hypocrisy, coupled with what the New Yor…

Angela Merkel: 8 years later and now +4

Angela Merkel has just "won" the recent German election - even if with which party she will enter into some coalition remains to be resolved.

Who is this seemingly rumpled and less than less charismatic woman?     Roger Cohen, writing in "Merkel the Great" on IHT, reflects on the Prime Minister who after being in office for 8 years has just "won" a further 4 year term.

"Merkel is a phenomenon. She has captured something in the zeitgeist. In this look-at-me age of image traffickers and spin merchants, she is the sobering antidote. She works hard and is humble. “Power to the Imagination,” went the slogan of the 1968 revolutionaries in Europe. The chancellor is the diametric opposite of that. She is a study in predictability. In the words of Rainer Stinner of the ousted Free Democratic Party, she is “the ultimate incrementalist.” For a post-ideological age, that works.

This Germany does not indulge in experiments. It is stable and rich, with its 5.3 perc…

Not so fast! Perhaps Assad didn't use that sarin gas

Robert Fisk, writing in "Gas missiles 'were not sold to Syria'" The Independent, on the doubts now emerging about whether Assad did, in fact, use that sarin gas recently, which everyone has accused him of.

"In a country – indeed a world – where propaganda is more influential than truth, discovering the origin of the chemicals that suffocated so many Syrians a month ago is an investigation fraught with journalistic perils. Reporters sending dispatches from rebel-held parts of Syria are accused by the Assad regime of consorting with terrorists. Journalists reporting from the government side of Syria's front lines are regularly accused of mouthing the regime's propaganda. And even if the Assad regime was not responsible for the 21 August attacks, its forces have committed war crimes aplenty over the past two years. Torture, massacre, the bombardment of civilian targets have long been proved.

Nevertheless, it also has to be said that grave doubts are being ex…

There is really only one option on Iran

So very typically, the Israelis, and their acolytes AIPAC in America, are goading the USA to attack Iran before its nuclear capacity is further developed.

Not so fast!..... now that the recently installed Iranian President has been making some conciliatory overtures to the Americans

Kenneth M. Pollack, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and National Security Council official, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author, most recently, of “Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb and American Strategy.”     Pollack has written an op-ed piece for The New York Times.   According to him there is really only one option.   Talk with and to the Iranians.

"This week, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, will address the United Nations General Assembly. His message is likely to be a sharp change from the adolescent belligerence of his hard-line predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Rouhani is a genuine reformer — but his desire to move Iran in a new direction should not b…

How an Australian Jewish-atheist became a German citizen

Rather intriguing piece by Antony Loewenstein, published in The Guardian, on how he, a Jewish-atheist Aussie, became a German citizen.

"As a Jew born in Australia in 1974, I never imagined that Germany’s long shadow would envelop my adult life. In 2011, I became a German citizen while maintaining my Australian passport, due to a 1954 German law that allowed Jews to re-instate citizenship removed by the Nazis during their reign. I wanted citizenship for a few reasons, not least to honour my family that Germany once rejected, and to have the option of working freely across the European Union."

Kissinger revealed at his worst

MPS shares the view of many that Henry Kissinger, one-time US Secretary of State is no more than a war criminal.

New documents have come to light in recent times which only serve to re-enforce the fact of Kissinger's criminality.

John Pilger takes up the subject in a piece on truthout.

"The most important anniversary of the year was the 40th anniversary of September 11, 1973 - the crushing of the democratic government of Chile by Gen. Augusto Pinochet and Henry Kissinger, then US secretary of state. The National Security Archive in Washington has posted new documents that reveal much about Kissinger's role in an atrocity that cost thousands of lives.

In declassified tapes, Kissinger is heard planning with President Richard Nixon the overthrow of President Salvador Allende. They sound like Mafiosi thugs. Kissinger warns that the "model effect" of Allende's reformist democracy "can be insidious." He tells CIA director Richard Helms, "We will not …

Two very different worlds

Whoever said America wasn't a country of contrasts?

From CommonDreams:

Situation #1:

"Amid "renewed assaults" on vital social programs, a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows little improvement in the rate of poverty and rate of those with health insurance coverage.

According to the agency's annual report on poverty, health coverage and income, 46.5 million people lived at or near poverty level (15%), while 48 million people (15.4%) had no health coverage in 2012."

Situation #2:

"Greed, thy name is Walton. In the wake of Wal-Mart's successful bullying of D.C. into rejecting a living wage that would have cost them pennies relative to their $100 billion - or more wealth than the entire bottom 40% of the country that helped them make it - Bloomberg details how America's richest family stays that way through a complex network of technically legal but morally sketchy loopholes allowing them to hoard their money and avoid taxes meant to preven…

Now what?

One of the topics which comes up for discussion in the on-going attempted resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is what is going to happen when there are more Arabs-Palestinians than Israelis in Israel and the occupied territories.

Well, according to a piece in The Forward (remember, this is a Jewish publication) the situation has been reached.

"Comparing the annual Rosh Hashanah population report from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, released September 2, with the midyear (July 1) population figures for the West Bank and Gaza in the CIA World Factbook, it turns out that Jews are now (as of Rosh Hashanah) outnumbered by Arabs under Israeli sovereignty by a grand total of 50,827. So the question is no longer whether or when the Jewish state will feature a minority ruling a majority. The question now is what to do about it.

Here are the numbers:

Palestinian Arabs, West Bank: 2,676,740

Palestinian Arabs, Gaza Strip: 1,763,387

(Total Palestinians, Israeli military-admini…

What America and its allies have wrought in Afghanistan

A boy, injured during a NATO air strike, lies on a hospital bed in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, February 20, 2011. Reuters/Stringer It will really never be possible to assess the true and widespread devastation wrought on the Afghanis by the allied forces as they have fought in the country for 12 years now.
The Nation has a piece which seeks to make more than an educated guess at the tragedy which has befallen Afghanistan.
"When an American soldier dies in Afghanistan, his death is not anonymous. The tragedy of that loss is mourned, and his life is remembered and celebrated. In many cases, the death is covered prominently in local and state media, often for several days. The Pentagon dutifully records the loss, medals are delivered, a ceremonial flag is presented to survivors, and the Defense Department pays the soldier’s family $100,000 in compensation, plus back pay, insurance, housing allowances and more.

But when an Afghan dies in the war—especially an Afghan civilia…

Australia's new PM: Climate change vandal

David Suzuki is an internationally known and award winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster.

He takes to task Australia's just newly elected PM - a man who has described climate change as "absolute crap" and in his first days in office has already gone about dismantling government bodies set up to deal with climate change and advice government on the issue.   
This piece, from The Sydney Morning Herald, carries a warning to everyone on our planet, wherever they might live.  It looks like the new Australian Government has gotten itself a "crap" leader who will decimate much in the country by denying climate change.

"But if the melting polar ice cap, and the devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Sandy was not enough to force governments into serious action, I guess I can hardly expect a little mountain pine beetle to do it.

From what I can see, it's a similar story in Australia. Half the coral on the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared …

Obama miscues......again!

For a non-American it is hard to gauge the mood in America, let alone in the corridors of power in Washington.    However, it does seem, to an "outsider" that not only has Obama lost his mojo (if he ever had one!) but that he is often wrong-footed and miscues.   

The normally acerbic Maureen Dowd, in her latest column in The New York Times, hits the correct note in her criticism of Obama.

"On the most deadly day here since Sept. 11, 2001, with the capital reeling over the sadly familiar scene of a mass shooting by a madman, the chief executive stepped to the microphones and captured the heartbreak.

It wasn’t the chief executive of the nation. It was Dr. Janis Orlowski, the chief operating officer of MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where three of those injured were being treated.

“There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate,” she said, her voice stoic but laced with emotion. On the day when she announced only hours earl…

They've been here before......and doubtlessly will be again

Credited to Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune

Reason to be cynical about the Syrian chemical weapons "timetable"

One might not necessarily like him, nor the views he puts forward, but there are few who can hold a candle to the experience and expertise of Robert Fisk's "involvement" of and in the Middle East now for 30 years plus.   Fisk lives and work from Beirut.   Where hasn't he been or whom hasn't he met?   

So, his latest op-ed piece "There is something deeply cynical about this chemical weapons ‘timetable’" in The Independent needs to be viewed more than just the scribblings of your average pundit.

"What on earth was going on in Washington and Geneva last week? I’m not trying to cheapen the unspeakable tragedy of Syria, nor the apparent common sense that suddenly gripped world leaders on Saturday when the US and Russia agreed a framework for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, but the Obama administration is still getting weirder and weirder.

First – and let’s remember the narrative of events – Obama last year was really, terribly, awfully wor…

The new man in Iran. Where is he taking the country.

An interesting piece "Rouhani: The new friendly face of Iran - or is he?" in The Independent on the new man in Iran.    It details something of the person, where he seems to be headed and wants to "do" with the West - and the pressures he faces inside the country from its real leaders.

"Most ordinary Iranians are mightily sick of the anti-Western verbiage that has been the soundtrack to their lives for more than 30 years. But they are also sick of juggling two jobs to pay for food and of seeing family members die in hospital wards starved of vital cancer medicines by savage sanctions. By launching a charm offensive with the West and exchanging letters with Barack Obama over Syria – a contact which may produce the extraordinary outcome of the first bilateral talks between Iranian and American leaders since before the Islamic revolution – Rouhani speaks to his own people too.

An urbane and sophisticated man who has travelled (he studied for a time in Britain), R…

It was "Financial Terrorism"

It was 5 years ago this week that Lehmann Bros. went belly up.    And then we all had to endure the GFC with its myriad of consequences.     Many, many people suffered then - and still are.

In this piece from CounterPoint the writer asserts - with some justification it would seem - that the collapse of Lehmans was nothing other than "financial terrorism".

"The Lehman Brothers default on September 15, 2008, was the biggest incident of financial terrorism in US history. When Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke convened an emergency meeting with leading members the US Congress  and their aides on September 18, 2008, they had already developed a “break the glass” strategy for extorting $700 billion dollars from US government to make up for the losses on trillions of dollars of toxic “subprime” assets that were at the center of Wall Street’s massive predatory lending swindle.

The plan was to precipitate a financial catastrophe so immense that…

As for Edward Snowden....Take that America and Obama!

Edward Snowden has been described as all sorts of things by many Americans, including president Obama.

It looks like across the Atlantic the Europeans take a more robust and liberal of view of things.     The EU wants to award him a human-rights prize - whose previous recipients have included Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Former National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden is in top running for the Sakharov Prize, a prestigious human rights award handed out by the European Parliament and whose past recipients include Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Snowden, currently living in Russia with temporary asylum status, was nominated for the honor by the European Green Party.

"Edward Snowden has risked his freedom to help us protect ours and he deserves to be honored for shedding light on the systematic infringements of civil liberties by U.S. and European secret services," declared Rebecca Harms and Dany Cohn-Bendit, leaders of the left-leaning…

How gun-toting things play out in the USA...especially if you are an Afro-American

As the US confronts yet another multiple shooting incident in Washington DC (the figures for gun deaths in America are truly alarming - 35 daily, of whom 8 are children) this piece in The Nation reflects how the US has become a gun-toting society.    And being Afro-American a real danger!

"When they went on the air this weekend, CNN anchor Don Lemon and comedy legend Bill Cosby, known not only for their day jobs but also for their unrelenting critiques of black culture, may not have been aware of the killing of Jonathan Ferrell. The 24 year-old former football player at Florida A&M University was shot and killed by Officer Randall Kerrick of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in Charlotte, North Carolina, this past Saturday. Ferrell had been a car crash and then ran to the nearest house to find help. The woman inside answered the door, believing it to be her husband on the other side. When she realized it wasn’t, she immediately closed the door, hit her panic alarm and callled…

Syria: The time to talk is now

Lord Williams of Baglan is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Chatham House and a former UN envoy in the Middle East.

The Lord writes in an op-piece in The Independent on the agreement just reached between Russia and the US in relation to Syria's chemical weapons.  But, now what?   Talks are called for, says the Lord, because the present resolution on chemical weapons does nothing to stop the ongoing carnage - human and physically - in Syria.

"An international accord on Syria’s chemical weapons is hugely welcome. But its effect on the war is likely to be negligible, as less than 2 per cent of deaths are attributable to chemical weapons. The strategic balance within that war will remain grossly unequal given the regime’s arsenal of heavy armour, aircraft and missiles. Rightly, there has been international indignation at the use of chemical weapons, but almost no comment on the first known use of ballistic missiles by a government against its own people.

The time for real diplomac…

5 stages of climate denial on display ahead of the IPCC report

There are some - probably properly characterised as bog-ignorant - who still deny that the world is confronted with climate change.   Think the likes of the ever-noisy Sun King (time for him to set to the sidelines or go away altogether!) and Australia's newly-elected PM Tony Abbott.

This piece in The Guardian places denial into 5 stages.

"The fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is due out on September 27th, and is expected to reaffirm with growing confidence that humans are driving global warming and climate change. In anticipation of the widespread news coverage of this auspicious report, climate contrarians appear to be in damage control mode, trying to build up skeptical spin in media climate stories."


"The good news is that we still have time to avoid a catastrophic outcome. The more emissions reductions we can achieve, the less the impacts of climate change will be. The challenge lies in achieving those greenhouse gas emissions …

Wanna become a US citizen? The "odd" test to become one!

Oh dear!    It looks like the US authorities can't even get their test for applicants for citizenship right.    Encouraging! - especially if US security is of the same "standard".

From ProPublica:

"Last month, I became an American citizen, a tremendous honor and no easy accomplishment, even for a Canadian. After living here for 12 years, I thought I knew everything. Then I learned how we mint Americans.

After years of steep filing fees and paperwork (including one letter from Homeland Security claiming that my fingerprints had "expired"), it all came down to a test. I passed, and, my fellow Americans, you could, too -- if you don't mind providing answers that you know are wrong.

Friends told me I didn't need to study, the questions weren't that hard. But I wanted to and so for months I lugged around a set of government-issued flashcards, hoping to master the test. I pestered my family and friends to quiz me. Sometimes I quizzed my sources. I lear…

"True progress and justice" for Afghan women still "elusive"

With the media now concentrating on Syria, the ongoing appalling situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan has almost been ignored.    All too sadly, things are getting worse in Iraq - to the point of the collapse of the nation-State perilously close - and Afghanistan remains in a spiral of violence.  The women of Afghanistan are still not much advanced from where they were years ago - and certainly not post 9/11.

"Atrocities against the women of Afghanistan is still business as usual.

Amazingly, Afghan women’s rights have been extolled as one of the great, perhaps only, successes of America’s longest war. But the reality is very different; true justice and progress for Afghan women in Afghanistan remains painfully elusive.

Time and time again during my five years working in Afghanistan, I have witnessed how the abysmal justice system in Afghanistan remains weighted in men’s favor. There have been so many instances where women in Afghanistan are treated as guilty until proven innocent…

Latest NSA snooping revelation: Now it's banking and credit card transactions

There just don't seem to be any bounds to what the USA NSA won't snoop on.    Der Spiegel reveals yesterday that the NSA has been monitoring international money transactions via banking and credit cards.

"The National Security Agency (NSA) widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions, according to documents seen by Spiegel.

The information from the American foreign intelligence agency, acquired by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that the spying is conducted by a branch called "Follow the Money" (FTM). The collected information then flows into the NSA's own financial databank, called "Tracfin," which in 2011 contained 180 million records. Some 84 percent of the data is from credit card transactions.
Further NSA documents from 2010 show that the NSA also targets the transactions of customers of large credit card companies like VISA for surveillance. NSA analysts at an internal conference that…

The scandalous waste of food....and causing GHG emissions to boot

Scandalous is the only word which comes to mind when one reads the amount of food being wasted globally - and that that helps to increase GHG emissions.

"The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food wastage across the world – totalling 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually – is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions after China and the USA.

The FAO estimates the direct cost to producers of food that goes to waste is currently US $750 billion annually, a figure that excludes wasted fish and seafood.

But the FAO says the waste not only causes huge economic losses but is also doing very significant damage to natural resources – climate, water, land and biodiversity.

It says its report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, is the first study to analyse the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective.

The authors say: “Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced …

A two-State solution: Illusion personified

Informed commentary has for a long time said that a 2 State solution between the Israelis and Palestinians is now well-night impossible.    It's an illusion that interested parties cling to.   Reality is, as this piece "Two-State Illusion" in The New York Times so articulately spells out, that it won't happen.

"All sides have reasons to cling to this illusion. The Palestinian Authority needs its people to believe that progress is being made toward a two-state solution so it can continue to get the economic aid and diplomatic support that subsidize the lifestyles of its leaders, the jobs of tens of thousands of soldiers, spies, police officers and civil servants, and the authority’s prominence in a Palestinian society that views it as corrupt and incompetent.

Israeli governments cling to the two-state notion because it seems to reflect the sentiments of the Jewish Israeli majority and it shields the country from international opprobrium, even as it camouflages re…

Americans seeking advice from whom? A war criminal?

Hard to believe that anyone, let alone anyone who has values and any sense of decency, would want to consult, and seek the advice, from Henry Kissinger - he, who can, rightly, be accused of being a war criminal.     Just read Christopher Hitchin's book "Kissinger".

"Forgive this being late: It took a day or so for the bile to stop rising at the spectacle of John Kerry "consulting" about Russia and Syria with Henry Kissinger on, as it happened, the 40th anniversary of the coup in Chile that toppled Salvador Allende and led to the long brutal reign of Pinochet - the coup Kissinger orchestrated, because global capitalism simply could not be threatened with democratic socialism, at any cost, nor can it still. How to tabulate or systematize Kissinger's crimes? What heads the list of evils? The over six million, largely civilian victims of his bombing of Vietnam, the most massive bombing campaign - 3.7 million tons or nearly twice that of World War ll - in w…

Creepy! Using money (lots of it!) to change the political landscape

It's all rather creepy that there are people out there with money - conservatives with lots of moolah - are using it in an attempt to change the political landscape, some of it quite dramatically.

"Everybody knows that wealthy conservatives, led by the infamous Koch brothers, have been funneling oceans of cash into the political process. Now, Politico reports, we have a sense of how much, and how it works.

The political news site got its hands on an IRS filing by the shadowy Freedom Partners group that reveals the nonprofit organization—until now known only to a few Washington insiders—doled out $236 million last year “to shape political and policy debate nationwide.”

The 38-page IRS filing amounts to the Rosetta Stone of the vast web of conservative groups — some prominent, some obscure—that spend time, money and resources to influence public debate, especially over Obamacare.

The group has about 200 donors, each paying at least $100,000 in annual dues. It raised $256 million …

USA: Double-standards on show (yet again!) plus illegal and unwarranted conduct

It is no secret that the Israel Lobby in the USA has had a significant effect on shaping US foreign policy - to America's detriment, and likely the rest of the world too.   For example, how else could Israel continue with its illegal occupation without America's support, even in the face of UN resolutions and a decision of the International Court of Justice.

Double-standards are again on display today.     The US Secretary of State has be vocal and forceful in demanding that Syria deliver up its chemical weapons.   Now that Syria has said it will allow international supervision of those weapons, that is still not good enough for John Kerry.      Has John Kerry sought to bring Israel to book? 

So, where does Israel sit in relation to chemical weapons?     It hasn't even been prepared to sign up to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and its Convention (see here for details of the Convention).

And then, yesterday, we learn  - see the piece in The Guard…