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Showing posts from December, 2013

Vacationers spoil (ruin?) a country........like in Bali

It is that time of the year when many people around the world have taken off to foreign parts to enjoy a break from work.   For those living in cold climates the lure of warmth in far away places, like Bali, is not only enticing but the opportunity to experience the exotic.  But what about the locals?  

In the op-piece in The Guardian the writer poses the question of who invited us to Bali - and details the cost to the local community arising from an invasion of tourists.

"This summer, many of us are heading overseas. Australians are the world’s largest spenders on international travel on a per capita basis. In 2012, one in three of us headed overseas.

After New Zealand, the most popular destination is Indonesia, or rather Bali. Close to a million Australians will visit Indonesia this year, many in the summer holiday peak. They form the largest single group of overseas tourists to Bali, accounting for around 25% of foreign arrivals.

Is tourism creating a problem?

Bali is a relativel…

The stark realities of inequality in America

The figures cited in this piece, on inequality in the USA, on Information Clearing House are likely replicated, in one way or another, in many Western nations.    If so, they represent a real threat to society, generally, and to those he seek to lord over the general populace - using their power, influence and financial means to do so. 

"Anyone reviewing the data is likely to conclude that there must be some mistake. It doesn't seem possible that one out of twenty American families could each have made a million dollars since Obama became President, while millions American families' net worth has barely recovered. But the evidence comes from numerous reputable sources.

Some conservatives continue to claim that President Obama is  unfriendly to business, but the facts show that the richest Americans and the biggest businesses have been the biggest beneficiaries of the massive wealth gain over the past five years.

1. $5 Million to Each of the 1%, and $1 Million to Each of th…

Drones - as detailed by an insider

Heather Linebaugh served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whether Heather is a whistleblower in the mould of Edward Snowden is hard to say, but what she writes in this op-ed piece in The Guardian about drones ought not be ignored by politicians or the people - you and me - on whose behalf, allegedly, these drones are being deployed.

"Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" And: "How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Or even more pointedly: "How many soldiers have you seen d…

Dare we wonder about what awaits us?

Credited to Martin Sutovec, Cagle Cartoons, Slovakia

Journalism. Robust or not?

With few exceptions journalists are viewed poorly.     Much of what is published is of a poor standard and often no more than a PR handout re-packaged.

Antony Loewenstein writing in The Guardian in "My wishlist for journalism in 2014" throws out a challenge to journalists for the upcoming year.

"So in 2014, reporters have a choice: to either continue being regarded as untrustworthy pariahs (a recent Gallop poll in the US confirmed this belief amongst the general population), or as investigators on power. In this spirit, here are my suggestions for reporters to regain trust – so that all of us finally remember what adversarial journalism looks like in a robust democracy."

Meanwhile, at the other end of the world, one journalist most worthy of admiration, Glenn Greenwald, rightly rebukes an interviewer on MSNBC and explains what a journalist does and is.


No, it's not a Happy New Year!

Credited to Patrick Chappatte at The International New York Times

Murdoch's WSJ hits a new low

There isn't much positive one can say about the Murdoch press anywhere in the world, but to print the sort of tripe the Wall Street Journal just has, must be a new low for even the Sun King's newspapers.    AlterNet reports in "WSJ Op-Ed Bemoans the End of White Rule in America".

"There are a lot of problems in Washington, D.C these days, but not many solutions to them. Inefficiency, an allergy to cooperation, and stiff resistance to pragmatism have all ground the federal government to a stand-still. But one op-ed contributor to the Wall Street Journal knows what the real problem is: not enough rich, white men.

In Saturday’s paper and online, author Joseph Epstein  mourns the collapse of what he describes as the “genuine ruling class, drawn from what came to be known as the WASP establishment,” (WASP, the commonly-held acronym for White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant). Instead, he argues, we are living in a meritocracy, governed not by an elite subset of the uppermost c…

Four sound reasons why there will be another intifada

Here we are with the longest ongoing occupation, in at least in modern history - namely, Israel over Palestine and Gaza -  and yet the world, despite whatever talk there is, does nothing to see a resolution of what is a totally untenable situation.     The longer this all goes on and Israel tightens the screws in all manner of ways on the Palestinians and Gazans, only an ostrich could perceive that it will continue indefinitely - without some sort of blowup.    It is precisely the point made in this op-piece in The New York Times predicting another intifada.    

"These days, life appears to be going along as normal for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Appearances can be deceptive, however. Prior to the 1987 intifada, too, things appeared to be normal — until they exploded, much to everyone’s surprise. But no one should be surprised if a new intifada erupts in the next few months. Many experts, even those within the Israeli security apparatus, like the former Mossad chief,…

"Mission accomplished" says Snowden to The Washington Post

Like or loath him - or even consider him a traitor - but the man of the moment during 2013 has to have been Edward Snowden.     The reverberations brought about by his revelations of widespread snooping (much of it plainly illegal) has been extensive around the world.    

The Washington Post has just secured an interview with Snowden in which he says his "mission" has been "accomplished".

"During more than 14 hours of interviews, the first he has conducted in person since arriving here in June, Snowden did not part the curtains or step outside. Russia granted him temporary asylum on Aug. 1, but Snowden remains a target of surpassing interest to the intelligence services whose secrets he spilled on an epic scale.

Late this spring, Snowden supplied three journalists, including this one, with caches of top-secret documents from the National Security Agency, where he worked as a contractor. Dozens of revelations followed, and then hundreds, as news organizations ar…

dronesplain, v

This piece from CommonDreams speaks loudly and clearly for itself....

Amidst the ongoing uproar over the latest disaster wrought by U.S. drones - the Yemen wedding party and the surreal gift of weapons to the families of its victims - a young journalist and son of Afghan refugees is creating a website to list the thousands of innocent victims and thus "give them a voice." Likewise moved, artist Katie Miranda has created the graphic novel "Tear Gas In The Morning" and graphic testimony to the insane things pundits actually say in the form of "dronesplain" - the act of "condescendingly excusing or justifying drone strikes on impoverished areas of the 3rd world (usually followed by an abdication of responsibility for civilian deaths and/or the gift of blood money or weapons to the victims' family."
"The bottom line in the end is - whose four-year-old gets killed? What we're doing is limiting the possibility that four-year-olds here will …
Credited to RJ Matson, Cagle Cartoons

Post Bangladesh, US flouts its own advice in relation to products sourced from overseas

As is so often the case, the US lectures everyone else but doesn't follow its own advice to others.  In this instance, it relates the Americans themselves sourcing products manufactured in countries where conditions for factory workers are appalling.    Just reflect on the relatively recent carnage at a factory in Dacca, Bangladesh.

The New York Times takes up the story....

"One of the world’s biggest clothing buyers, the United States government spends more than $1.5 billion a year at factories overseas, acquiring everything from the royal blue shirts worn by airport security workers to the olive button-downs required for forest rangers and the camouflage pants sold to troops on military bases.

But even though the Obama administration has called on Western buyers to use their purchasing power to push for improved industry working conditions after several workplace disasters over the last 14 months, the American government has done little to adjust its own shopping habits.

Labor…

Unequality in the spotlight

To not recognise an ever-growing gulf between the haves and have-nots is to court an issue that sooner or later is going to boil up.    Europe is already faced with many problems brought about by the economic crisis which has befallen many countries there.     But other countries - the US, Britain and Australia to name but a few - are also facing the same issue.

Bill Keller, writing in "Inequality for Dummies" in the The New York Times - of all newspapers - tackles the position in which America finds itself. 

"For starters, economic inequality is manifestly real, growing and dangerous. The gulf between the penthouse and the projects is obscenely wide. Obama cited some of the startling numbers: The top 10 percent of Americans used to take in a third of the national income. Now they gobble up half. The typical corporate C.E.O. used to make 30 times as much as the average worker. Now the boss makes 270 times as much as the minion. Many factors have led to this trend, includi…

Obama sinks!

Obama is doing poorly in the polls......and deservedly so.    This piece from CounterPunch explains how and why Obama is doing so badly.

"According to a new Washington Post-ABC poll, Barack Obama now ranks among the least popular presidents in the last century. In fact, his approval rating is lower than Bush’s was in his fifth year in office. Obama’s overall approval rating stands at a dismal 43 percent, with a full 55 percent of the public “disapproving of the way he is handling the economy”. The same percentage  of people “disapprove of the way he is handling his job as president”.  Thus, on the two main issues, leadership and the economy, Obama gets failing grades."

*****

"All told, Obama has been bad for the economy, bad for civil liberties, bad for minorities,  bad for foreign wars, and bad for health care. He has, however, been a very effective lackey-sock puppet for Wall Street, Big Pharma, the oil magnates, and the other 1% -vermin Kleptocrats who run the country …

The most successful leader in the Middle East in 2013?

Every year various publications nominate the person of the year.   Time is well know for doing it - even if its choices are often odd, like this year.    The Pope as against one significant newsmaker? - Edward Snowden.   That aside, writing in The Independent, veteran Middle East correspondent, Patrick Coburn analyses the various players in the region and comes up with his nomination the most successful leader in the Middle East this year.

"Unfortunately, the most successful leader in the Middle East this year is surely Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu D'ua, the leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, which changed its name this year to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Isis) and claims to be the sole al-Qaida affiliate in Syria as well as Iraq. The US says al-Baghdadi is based in Syria and is offering $10m to anyone who can kill or capture him.

One of the most extraordinary developments in the Middle East is that 12 years after 9/11 and six years after "the surge" …

The ugliness and brutality in Syria

Weep as you read what is happening in Syria - whilst the world tries to work out who ought to sit at a conference table (the US doesn't want Iran!) before anyone even steps in to try and stop the carnage underway in Syria.     The world stands condemned for standing idly by as Syria is torn apart and its people suffer - either in the country itself or outside it as refugees.

"The civil war in Syria has been unusually deadly for children, a likely result of government forces shelling civilian neighborhoods, and a campaign of government kidnappings has “disappeared” an unknown number of civilians, according to two fresh reports about the brutal battle for control of the country.

In the first report, the Oxford Research Group put the number of dead children in the Syrian conflict at 11,420, or about 10 percent of the known death toll. The vast majority of the children age 17 or younger were killed by government artillery shells and rockets striking residential neighborhoods. But …

No way!

Credited to Signe Wilkinson, truthdig

18 good reasons why 2013 was bad for Obama

If Obama were to be given a Report Card for 2013, it would doubtlessly be a fail.    And deservedly so.    He continues to be a President who arrived in the White House with much fanfare and high hopes from many, but has failed to deliver on just about every front, local and international.    It is almost hard to think of a really positive thing Obama has done in his 5 years in office.    If the polls are anything to go by, his rating with Americans is almost worse than that of George Bush at the same time in his presidency.

"US President Barack Obama gave an end-of-year press conference Friday, and it likely — much like his entire year — didn't go as he planned.

After brief opening remarks, the president's very first question came from Julie Pace of the Associated Press. "Has this been the worst year of your presidency?" she asked. It all went downhill from there.

Truth is, it has been a rough year for Obama, whether you support him or not. Here's a look at th…

Who is perfect is in the eyes of the beholder

What is to there to say that this campaign is just perfect - in a world where we far too often idolise vacuous people as being perfect.

"A terrific video from a terrific campaign by Pro Infirmis, a Swiss-based group that advocates for the acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities. Featuring a pageant winner, film critic, athlete, blogger and actor, and much grace."



A thought! Amnesty for Snowden

The revelations about NSA "misconduct" continue.      The depth and extent of the snooping appears to know no bounds, as today's revelations "N.S.A. Spied on Allies, Aid Groups and Businesses" in the New York Times show.  

Meanwhile, what some will see as bordering on a treasonable suggestion.   An amnesty for Edward Snowden?

"Why should Edward Snowden be given amnesty? The question keeps coming up, though it can be hard to hear the answers amid the outbursts it provokes. That is a shame, because there are really two separate cases for why Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who passed a huge stash of secret documents to reporters, should be allowed to come back to America from Russia, where he has been since the summer, without facing time in jail. The first might be summed up as the good he has done for America; the second as the benefits he can still offer the government. A problem is that those who support one case may be put off, or e…

Freed Gitmo detainee speaks......

The revelations about what is going on at Gitmo continue.    One thing is certain.     What goes on at Gitmo is disgraceful and a disgrace and reflects poorly on the Americans - the very people who are, forever, preaching to the world about the rule of law and democratic principles.

"Upon his return to Sudan after 11 years of incarceration at the hands of the U.S. military in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a frail 52-year-old Ibrahim Idris declared at a Thursday press conference in Khartoum that detainess at the prison "have been subjected to meticulous, daily torture with punishment," with 'double' the abuse for those who participated in the hunger strike.

“We were helpless…on an isolated island, surrounded by weapons,” he stated, his voice described as soft and weak in numerous media reports.

Idris returned to Sudan on Thursday with fellow detainee and 51-year-old Sudanese citizen Noor Othman Mohammed—who was reportedly unable to attend the press conference because he was…

The creative thinker ignored by the mainstream media

"An odd aspect of modern American life is that even with 24-hour news and its roster of blathering pundits, many creative thinkers with valuable insights are blacklisted from mainstream media, perhaps most notably Noam Chomsky who turned 85 on Dec. 7, as Jeff Cohen reflects."

So begins a piece on Consortiumnews.com.     The point is more than well made.   Is it that Chomsky speaks and writes of things too close to the bone?

"This month, Noam Chomsky turned 85 – and he’s the subject of a new animated movie focused on his scientific and social philosophies. He has actually seen this movie, unlike other works about him: “I can’t stand watching myself.”

He’s one of the world’s best-known intellectuals and one of the least vain. Or elitist. Put him in a roomful of a thousand social activists (not uncommon surroundings for him) and you’ll see him attempt to meet each of them, one-by-one, until he’s physically removed to rush to the airport or next appointment.

Standing at a podiu…

Fracking? A substantial health risk on every level!

Needless to say big business in various parts of the world - almost with Government complicity - are pushing fracking.   You know the line!    It's harmless, good for the economy and local communities, etc. etc.     But we've all heard the same by now tired "story" in relation to any variety of things.  And in the end the populace has suffered in one way or another

This piece "Study: Chemicals Linked to Cancer, Birth Defects in Water Near Fracking Hotspots", on CommonDreams, reports on the latest assessment of fracking.   Bottom line?    No good on any level.

"The controversial oil and gas extraction process known as "fracking" employs dangerous chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, and infertility that then contaminate ground and surface water and may expose populations near sites to direct health risks.

So finds a study released Monday in The Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology, in which U.S. scientists analyzed surface and gro…

Second worst year on record for jailed journalists

Nothing need be added by way of comment to this appalling state of affairs.....

"Turkey, Iran, and China accounted for more than half of all journalists imprisoned around the world in 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. In its annual census, CPJ identified 211 journalists jailed for their work, the second worst year on record after 2012, when 232 journalists were behind bars.
Intolerant governments in Ankara, Tehran, and Beijing used mostly anti-state charges to silence a combined 107 critical reporters, bloggers, and editors. Turkey and Iran retained their distinctions as the worst and second worst jailers for two years in a row, despite each having released some prisoners during 2013. The number detained by China held steady. (Read detailed accounts of each imprisoned journalist here.)

Journalists in Turkish jails declined to 40 from 49 the previous year, as some were freed pending trial. Others benefited from new legislation that allowed defendants in lengthy p…

Vitamins? A scam says medico group

For all those spending their precious monies munching their way through vitamins and like heath supplements you might want to think again - in the light of what the Annals of Internal Medicine has to say about the vitamin industry.

"The multi-billion dollar vitamin industry is a major scam, if you believe a new editorial published by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In an article published this week, the journal said that dietary supplements and vitamins don’t do any good and that they are a waste of money.  Based on three studies, the editorial states that taking those pills does nothing to prevent cardiovascular disease, a heart attack or cancer.  The journal also says that multivitamins don’t prevent mortality or improve cognitive functions in men who are older than 65.


“The message is simple,” the editorial states.  “Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.”

The message is a shot across the bow at the lucra…

UN slammed for its lack of humanitarian aid

It's bad enough to read or hear of tragedies of one sort or another befalling people somewhere in the world, but more than troubling to read of the UN being slammed by no lesser organisation than Doctors without Borders for the UN's lack of humanitarian assistance to those in the Central African Republic.

"In an open letter issued last week, Doctors with Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) slammed the United Nations for what they say is a gross failure to respond with any "adequate humanitarian reaction" to the spiraling humanitarian crisis and the glaring needs of the over 700,000 forcibly displaced people in the Central African Republic (CAR).

"The only actions undertaken by UN aid officials have been the collection of data related to the fighting and a few assessments confirming the need for an immediate response," wrote MSF International President Dr. Joanne Liu. "Repeated evaluations in the face of glaring needs [...] have not led to any co…

Mandela: A mixed economic legacy?

Putting to one side the eulogising of the man, The New Yorker has a sober assessment of what sort of legacy Mandela has left behind.

"But his legacy is more mixed than some of the eulogies suggested. Almost twenty years after he became its President, South Africa is effectively a one-party state, ravaged by high levels of inequality, corruption, and crime. Inside the country, a lively debate is taking place about the path on which Mandela placed it, and whether other courses might have been available.

From the left, there are suggestions that Mandela, in reaching a political agreement with the apartheid regime, gave too much away to the white élites, leaving in place a grossly inequitable economic system that excluded the majority of the indigenous population from sharing in South Africa’s vast mineral wealth. From the disillusioned center, there are complaints that the great leader, once he became President, in 1994, showed little interest in administering the country, allowing hi…

They don't know what Snowden took!

Startling honest revelation out of Washington.   For all the billions spent on the NSA and the whole security apparatus and countless hours spent trying to find out what Snowden actually took away with him, the authorities don't know!

"Investigators remain in the dark about the extent of the data breach partly because the N.S.A. facility in Hawaii where Mr. Snowden worked — unlike other N.S.A. facilities — was not equipped with up-to-date software that allows the spy agency to monitor which corners of its vast computer landscape its employees are navigating at any given time.

Six months since the investigation began, officials said Mr. Snowden had further covered his tracks by logging into classified systems using the passwords of other security agency employees, as well as by hacking firewalls installed to limit access to certain parts of the system.

“They’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of man-hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don’t know all o…

Newtown: 12 months on.....zip done to curb gun violence

Today marks the first anniversary of the terrible shooting in Newtown in the USA.    And have the Americans done anything about the scourge of widespread use and availability of guns in their country?    Nope!    Not even the devastating events which took place in Newtown have woken up the Americans.    

"1,500 state gun bills have been introduced in the year since the Newtown massacre and, of those, 109 are now law, according to The New York Times. Seventy of the enacted laws loosen gun restrictions, while just 39 tighten them. And, though largely symbolic, some 136 bills nullifying federal gun regulations were sponsored in 40 states. In Colorado, two pro-gun control lawmakers were booted from office in historic recalls and a third stepped down in anticipation of a similar fight. 

The nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, which promotes government openness and transparency, reviewed lobbying, spending and policies at the state and federal level over the years and, along nearly every met…

Here comes John Kerry for the umpteenth time.......

Uri Avnery, in Israel, reflects in "(Un)holy River - Israeli Palestinian "Peace Talks" Based on a False Premise" on the upteenth visit of US Secretary of State to Israel - and how fruitless the whole process of seeking peace with the Palestinians, when the Israelis won't countenance a two-State solution that everyone keeps banging on about.

"So here comes John Kerry again, for the umpteenth time (but who is counting?) to make peace between us and the Palestinians.

It is a highly laudable effort. Unfortunately, it is based on a false premise. To wit: that the Israeli government wants peace based on the two-state solution.

Unwilling – or unable – to recognize this simple truth, Kerry looks for a way around. He tries approaches from different directions, in the hope of convincing Binyamin Netanyahu. In his imagination he hears Netanyahu exclaim: “Now, why didn’t I think of that?!”

So here he comes with a new idea: to start by solving Israel’s security problems an…

Remember Gitmo? The authorities don't want you to!

Aah, Government at its worst - even post WikiLeaks and Snowden.  Keep away matters of public relevance from them or in the shadows.     

Not only has the US been disgraced in relation to Gitmo - and everything associated with it - but now it wants to keep information in relation to Gitmo under wraps.

"First it was the force-feedings, genital searches, and transfers to solitary confinement. Then came the media blackout.

In its latest bid to deprive Guantánamo Bay inmates of what Algerian prisoner Ahmed Belbacha has called their "sole peaceful means" of protest, the U.S. military announced it will stop providing information to the press about the ongoing hunger strikes within this notorious offshore prison.

"The hunger strike has been the only way the prisoners can effectively protest and force world attention back on Guantánamo Bay," said Omar Farah, staff attorney for Center for Constitutional Rights, in an interview with Common Dreams. "The government has tr…

Sobriety in US foreign policy?

Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard, reflects on what might well be perceived, at least by some, as a new sobriety in US foreign policy.   He explains on his blog on FP.

"FP colleague Dan Drezner has a good post up on the recent Council on Foreign Relations/Pew poll of U.S. attitudes toward foreign policy, which shows a wholly unsurprising decline in American enthusiasm for a really active international role. No, Virginia, this isn't a sign of growing "isolationism," because Americans clearly still believe in engaging the rest of the world and aren't advocating a retreat to "Fortress America." But it is a sign of diminished interest in trying to "pay any price and bear any burden," and it marks a (possibly temporary) convergence in elite and public attitudes on this question. After all, this is a year when the president of the highly internationalist CFR published a book calling for the United States to focus more att…

That's China for you!

Credited to Adam Zyglis, Cagle Cartoons, The Buffalo News

Obama: Not a good Report Card

Nailing it to the wall in one!      Obama, at least according to the writer of this piece"How History Will Remember Obama (Hint: Not Well)"on truthdig, scores badly on his Report Card.

"Barack Obama decided to run for president in 2007 and won, as the man who would end George Bush’s Iraq war. He did so up to a point (see above) but enlarged the one in Afghanistan, following the generals’ advice about which he had little choice, having been, in civilian life, a community organizer and teacher. Since then, he has followed the beat of the drum in the Middle East and South Asia, bombing Libya and enthusiastically offering to bomb Syria. He has inaugurated drone assassinations (not something endorsed in international law) and perpetuated Guantanamo imprisonment (ditto). He has opened a new era in America of governmental secrecy and persecution of dissidents, matters in which the United States was, in the past, considered to have an edifying record.

The wars that he has not end…

Shooting the messenger

In a piece on truthdig, former NY Times Bureau Chief in Jerusalem, Chris Hedges, reflects on the main players in the leaking of information - WikiLeaks, Assange, Manning and Snowden - and how each is viewed.  

"The most crucial point about the leaks from Assange, Manning, Hammond and Snowden is that they expose egregious crimes by the state and a concerted attempt by the government to mask and lie about its criminal activity. We have a legitimate right to be informed about these crimes. And those who live in foreign countries have a legitimate right to know about the crimes we have carried out and are carrying out against them. But we live in a state where the rule of law no longer functions. We live in a state where those who commit crimes are the persecutors and those who expose them are the persecuted. This is the nature of all totalitarian states. Manning, Assange, Snowden and Hammond, whatever their differences, function as our prophets. They are the voices crying out in the…

A timely letter to the UN

Martin Amis, Arundhati Roy, Tom Stoppard, Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Richard Ford, Henning Mankell, Günter Grass, Michael Ondaatje, Ian McEwan, Orhan Pamuk and scores of notable writers from around the world join together and step up to the plate and write to the UN.

"In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device, your email, your social networking and internet searches. It can follow your political leanings and activities and, in partnership with internet corporations, it collects and stores your data, and thus can predict your consumption and behaviour.

The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.

This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void thro…

Is Obama Mark II of Bush about that weaponry in Syria?

Sy Hersh, again, at his best in calling out Obama seemingly in the same league as George Shrub (remember those non-existent WMD's) in accusing the President of Syria of using chemical weapons against his own people.   Not so quick!  emptywheelexplains.....

"Sy Hersh has a long piece in the London Review of Books accusing the Obama Administration of cherry-picking intelligence to present its case that Bashar al-Assad launched the chemical weapons attack on August 21.

To be clear, Hersh does not say that Assad did not launch the attack. Nor does he say al-Nusra carried out the attack. Rather, he shows that:

At some unidentified time since the beginning of the Civil War, Assad had discovered and neutralized wiretaps on his inner circle, leaving US intelligence blind to discussions happening among his top aidesSensors planted to detect any movement of Assad’s CW immediately had not been triggered by the August 21 attackBy June, some intelligence entity had concluded that an Iraqi me…

The over-policing (and criminalisation) of America

Troubling analysis of how over the last years, especially post 9/11, America has seen an escalation of policing in all spheres of activity.     Scary stuff! - and if it is underway in America take it as almost read that it will come to a neighbourhood near you.

"By now, the militarization of the police has advanced to the point where "the War on Crime” and “the War on Drugs” are no longer metaphors but bland understatements.  There is the proliferation of heavily armed SWAT teams, even in small towns; the use of shock-and-awe tactics to bust small-time bookies; the no-knock raids to recover trace amounts of drugs that often result in the killing of family dogs, if not family members; and in communities where drug treatment programs once were key, the waging of a drug version of counterinsurgency war.  (All of this is ably reported on journalist Radley Balko’s blog and in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.) But American over-policing involves far more than the widely repor…

The dire straights in which Syrians find themselves

That the people of Syria are suffering is beyond question.      Leaving aside that the world seems to continue with blinkers on with respect to the ongoing plight of Syrians, perhaps the latest report on the crisis from the International Red Cross might wake people up.

"Nearly two years of civil war in Syria has produced a regional humanitarian disaster. More than two and a half million Syrians, of an overall population of over 22.5 million, have been uprooted from their homes, including almost 600,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries, and an estimated four million Syrians are in dire need of assistance."

***

"Refugees provided harrowing accounts of life and conditions inside Syria: brutal killings and targeted attacks, arbitrary arrests and torture, abductions and disappearances of loved ones, horrific sexual violence, unrelenting bombings, destruction of infrastructure, the evisceration of medical services, dwindling supplies of food, water and electricity, the in…

Big shoes to fill

Credited to Clay Bennett

That antibiotic may become useless in time......

Scary stuff.    We might rely on antibiotics to "save" us whenever some sickness or other hits us, but we are now being warned that there effectiveness may be limited - or diminishing to an extent that they may become useless.  

Mother Jones looks at where things are at and puts the position as it applies in the USA.

1. In the United States alone, 2 million people each year contract serious antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 die from them.

These figures come from a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on antibiotic resistance that, for the first time, uses a blunt classification scheme to identify "urgent," "serious," and "concerning" threats from drug-resistant bacteria. The CDC currently lists three "urgent threats": drug-resistant gonorrhea, drug-resistant "enterobacteriaceae" such as E. coli, and Clostridium difficile, which causes life-threatening diarrhea and is often acquired in hospitals. Clostr…

Mandela: What you won't read in the obits and tributes

There is no need here to join the acres of newsprint and media coverage relating to Nelson Mandela's death.     That said, CommonDreams approaches the obits and tributes this way, including various Mandela quotes over the years, which CommonDreams says won't be published now.

"Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday at age 95, was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who served as President of South Africa from 1994-1999.

During the 1950's, while working as an anti-apartheid lawyer, Mandela was repeatedly arrested for 'seditious activities' and 'treason.' In 1963 he was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela served 27 years in prison before an international lobbying campaign finally won his release in 1990.

In 1994, Mandela was elected President and formed a Government of National Unity in an attempt to diffuse ethnic tensions. As President, he established a new constitution and in…

NSA gathers 5 billion records a day!

Take a deep breath........The NSA has been collecting data to the extent of 5 billion records a day.

"Every new revelation about the global reach of the National Security Agency underscores that the extremism of the surveillance state has reached gargantuan proportions. The Washington Post just reported that the NSA “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” Documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden have forced top officials in Washington to admit the indefensible while defending it. One of the main obstacles to further expansion of their Orwellian empire is real journalism.

Real journalism is “subversive” of deception that can’t stand the light of day. This is a huge problem for the Obama administration and the many surveillance-state flunkies of both parties in Congress. What they want is fake journalism, deferring to government storylines and respectful of authority even when it is illegitimate.

In motion now, on both…