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Showing posts from January, 2014

Laying the groundwork for war in those Syrian "Peace" Talks?

If the authors of this piece on truthout are even half right, we are destined to see war erupt in Syria beyond that already underway there.   Of course in the meantime, there are cities which have been bombed, people starving, areas of cities eradicated (see a Human Rights Watch report here) and over a million people in refugee camps outside Syria.       And what is the world doing?         
"The Geneva II conference, which claims to be seeking to end the war in Syria, seems designed to fail and instead to provide an excuse for military intervention by the United States and its allies. Human rights activist Ajamu Baraka describes the negotiations as an "Orwellian subterfuge" designed to provide justification for war and a lot of facts support his view.

The negotiations are destined to fail because of the way they have been set up and the preconditions the United States and its allies in the Syrian opposition have made - demanding that President Bashar al-Assad agree to le…

You wouldn't want to be a child in the West Bank

The true nature of the Israelis - the country which so very falsely claims to have the most moral army in the world - is revealed in the way children apprehended in the West Bank have been dealt with.    Disgraceful!

"Palestinian children detained in 2013 by Israeli military forces faced violence in the hands of their captors at shocking rates, a new report finds.

Three out of four Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank last year were forced to endure physical violence during their arrests and interrogations, reveals the Defense for Children International-Palestine in a study released Thursday

Furthermore, night arrests jumped to 56.1 percent from 45.2 in 2012, according to 98 affidavits by children between the ages of 12 and 17 that were analyzed by DCI-Palestine. Israeli forces held children in solitary confinement for an average of ten days in 21.4 percent of all cases.

DCI-Palestine's findings follow a year-end review by the Public Committee Ag…

The state of the Union isn't all that good

President Obama has delivered his annual State of the Union speech to Congress.    It was all upbeat - not surprisingly.     But, in a piece in Rolling Stone "27 Shocking Numbers That Reveal the True State of the Union" the real state of the Union is put much more soberly.    It's not such a pretty picture in America in 2014.

"In tonight's State of the Union speech, we're likely to hear a lot about the nation's continuing recovery from the Great Recession, and about President Obama's determination to run an executive end-run around obstructionist Republicans in order to kick the economy into a higher gear.

But as the nation pauses for this annual moment of reflection on our fiscal and social health, too many leading indicators get short shrift. Here are 27 statistics – on unemployment, inequality, the drug war, defense spending, climate change and more – that underscore the troubled reality of America in 2014:

1. New income generated since 2009 that has…

Are these (plutocrat) guys for real?

Reading the latest outburst from a billionaire about how he feels he is put upon makes one shake one's head - and Paul Krugman in The New York Times take up the matter.

"Rising inequality has obvious economic costs: stagnant wages despite rising productivity, rising debt that makes us more vulnerable to financial crisis. It also has big social and human costs. There is, for example, strong evidence that high inequality leads to worse health and higher mortality.

But there’s more. Extreme inequality, it turns out, creates a class of people who are alarmingly detached from reality — and simultaneously gives these people great power.

The example many are buzzing about right now is the billionaire investor Tom Perkins, a founding member of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Perkins lamented public criticism of the “one percent” — and compared such criticism to Nazi attacks on the Jews, suggesting …

"Misusing" the Holocaust

Today, 27 January, is International Holocaust Rememberance Day.    All too sadly the word "holocaust", and imagery from it, is bandied about far too often - something the writer of this op-ed piece "The Holocaust is not your metaphor to use in modern political debates" in The Guardian addresses.

"Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated annually on 27 January on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Designated by the UN General Assembly, the day honours the victims of the Nazi era.

In thinking about what it actually means to honour the victims, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the best ways to do this is to continue reminding ourselves that those victims were individual human beings. This should seem obvious, right? And yet, the victims of the Holocaust continue to be appropriated as political metaphors and dehumanised in the process.

Specific examples can be both well-meaning or purposefully disrespectful. Take …

One place where crime does pay.....handsomely!

"What do you give a Wall Street CEO who has presided over a decade of fraud and criminality, who directly supervised a unit which lost $6 billion through incompetent and illegal trading, and whose reign of crime and mismanagement has cost his institution $20 billion in the last year alone – a figure which undoubtedly would’ve been much larger in a less morally compromised regulatory environment?

If you are the Board of Directors of JPMorgan Chase, you give him a raise.

Let’s not mince words: Jamie Dimon’s bank is, as we said last May, the scandal of our time. The crimes committed during Dimon’s time in senior management include bribery, mortgage fraud, investor fraud, consumer fraud, credit card fraud, forgery, perjury, violation of sanctions against Iran and Syria, violation of laws prohibiting the bilking of active-duty service members … shall we continue?"

So begins a piece on Campaign for America's Future.    Continue reading here.


Credited to Signe Wilkinson, truthdig

Freedom around the world decreases

Surely more than depressing!     From truthdig's "People Are Less Free for the 8th Straight Year, Report Finds".

 "Freedom House has released its annual report on authoritarianism and found that people around the world are less free than they were a year ago.

The NGO has come to the same conclusion eight years in a row.

Here are some takeaways from the 2014 report (which looks back on 2013):

Findings of the 41st edition of Freedom in the World, the oldest, most authoritative report of democracy and human rights, include:

Fifty-four countries showed overall declines in political rights and civil liberties, compared with 40 that showed gains.

For the eighth consecutive year, Freedom in the World recorded more declines in democracy worldwide than gains.

Some leaders effectively relied on “modern authoritarianism,” crippling their political opposition without annihilating it, and flouting the rule of law while maintaining a veneer of order, legitimacy, and prosperity.

Corporations waking up! Climate change will affect them

It is probably fair to say that countries have been very slow - draggingh their heels might be a better way of putting it! - in addressing climate change.   Too hard, and seemingly, a public not interested enough to try and force governments to address the issue.

Now, it looks like major corporations, with an eye to their bottom line, are taking an "interest" in climate change and how it affects them.

"Coke reflects a growing view among American business leaders and mainstream economists who see global warming as a force that contributes to lower gross domestic products, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains and increased financial risk. Their position is at striking odds with the longstanding argument, advanced by the coal industry and others, that policies to curb carbon emissions are more economically harmful than the impact of climate change.

“The bottom line is that the policies will increase the cost of carbon and electricity,” said Roger Bezdek, an…

The power, control and money the super-rich have......

As politicians and the super-rich engage in yet another talk-fest in Davos they ought to carefully reflect on the ever-growing disparity between the rich and poor (see yesterday's post here on MPS on the survey by Oxfam on those who control wealth).   

The subject is taken up by Paul Krugman in an op-ed piece "The Undeserving Rich" in The New York Times.    Although the situation he writes of appies to America, it can be said that it is  mirrored in most other countries in the West.

"The reality of rising American inequality is stark. Since the late 1970s real wages for the bottom half of the work force have stagnated or fallen, while the incomes of the top 1 percent have nearly quadrupled (and the incomes of the top 0.1 percent have risen even more). While we can and should have a serious debate about what to do about this situation, the simple fact — American capitalism as currently constituted is undermining the foundations of middle-class society — shouldn’t be …

A divide destined to cause unrest...if not more!

There is something afoot in the world which is destined to bring about civil unrest...if not more!     The divide between the haves and the have-nots - and an ever-increasing loss of a middle class - can only spell a critical issue in democracries around the world.    For a very, very small number of people to control the wealth is simply no good!   Discontent and frustration in the populace - as history has repeatedly shown - will lead to some sort of "trouble".

"The 85 richest people on the planet have accumulated as much wealth between them as half of the world’s population, political and financial leaders have been warned ahead of their annual gathering in the Swiss resort of Davos.

The tiny elite of multibillionaires, who could fit into a double-decker bus, have piled up fortunes equivalent to the wealth of the world’s poorest 3.5bn people, according to a new analysis by Oxfam. The charity condemned the “pernicious” impact of the steadily growing gap between a small…

Surely everyone's prayer! Ridding oneself of all those unread emails.....

This piece "Inbox overflowing? How to survive a deluge of email" in relation to the onslaught of emails and how to deal with an ever-increasing pile of unread ones, ought to resonate with everyone....
"On December 31, I had 46,315 unread emails in my inbox. On my first day back to work in the new year, I had zero.
No, I didn't spend two weeks replying to all those messages. I deleted them - without reading a single one - and declared what is known as email bankruptcy.

People feel the need to include 10 other people on an email just to let them know they are being productive at work.

Am I a bad guy for ignoring those emails? Or are the senders somehow at fault? Probably a bit of both.

For the first time in history, long-distance communication is essentially free. Sure, old-fashioned letters are nice. But few of us need paper and postage stamps for correspondence. We no longer count the minutes on long-distance telephone calls, worrying about the bill. And we certainly d…

And this from a country which says it wants peace?

From CommonDreams.    No comment called for.....

"Israel has uprooted, cut down or otherwise willfully destroyed over a million Palestinian olive and citrus trees in the name of "security." Many Palestinians continue to fight the occupation by replanting them, or trying to. Incredible video of a group of Gaza activists in the so-called buffer zone, which contains almost half the area's arable land, scrambling to plant scrappy seedlings while being bombarded by Israeli tear gas and, finally, live ammunition. Shame."

A useless conference in the making

Credited to Patrick Chappette, International NY Times

Readers are being rewarded!

Newspapers are dying!    It's a fact!   But, as Tom Engelhardt explains in a superb piece "The Golden Age of Journalism? - Your Newspaper, Your Choice" on his TomDispatch there is a positive in all of that.    We, the reader, are now afforded a cornucopia of choices in what we want to read - from anywhere in the world and whatever the source.     The point Engelhardt makes is that we are, in reality, richer for what is now on offer.
"In terms of journalism, of expression, of voice, of fine reporting and superb writing, of a range of news, thoughts, views, perspectives, and opinions about places, worlds, and phenomena that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about, there has never been an experimental moment like this.  I’m in awe.  Despite everything, despite every malign purpose to which the Internet is being put, I consider it a wonder of our age.  Yes, perhaps it is the age from hell for traditional reporters (and editors) working double-time, online and off, for news…

Oh dear. No wonder the Americans live in a bubble!

Not altogether surprising news but troubling all the same.    In the main, Americans live in a bubble insolated from, and not interested in, what happens outside their world.    And this from the so-called leader of the free world!    Inter Press Service reports in "Major Parts of World Ignored by U.S. TV News in 2013".

"If people outside the United States are looking for answers why Americans often seem so clueless about the world outside their borders, they could start with what the three major U.S. television networks offered their viewers in the way of news during 2013.

Syria and celebrities dominated foreign coverage by ABC, NBC, and CBS – whose combined evening news broadcasts are the single most important media source of information about national and international events for most Americans. Vast portions of the globe went almost entirely ignored, according to the latest annual review by the authoritative Tyndall Report.

“Palestine has virtually disappeared from th…

The "real" Sharon

Credited to Mondoweiss

Now hear this climate-change deniers

The realities on the ground - this time in Australia.

"Forget the Polar Vortex. Australia is very hot. Australia is so hot its Bureau of Meteorology issued a special statement documenting the "highly significant" heat wave, even worse than last year's, with record-breaking 122 degree readings that necessitated adding new colors to its weather maps. It's so hot a new website, Scorcher, has been set up to track the heat wave. And walls of wildfires deemed "catastrophic" are decimating the countryside, having already hit a nuclear research facility containing two reactors. And up to 100,000 bats have fallen dead from the sky, and parrots, kangaroos and other wildlife are collapsing and dying from the heat, and the country's new conservative climate-change-denying prime minister has remained strangely mute despite a report following last summer's then-record-breaking heat wave that conclusively linked it to climate change, and you are not advised t…

And it calls itself a genuine partner in seeking peace?

Israel has done it again!     As already rumoured would be the case, Israel awaited the departure of John Kerry from the so-called peace dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, and has now announced that it will build more housing in the occupied territories.    One has to ask how Israel's actions should, once again, be seen as nothing more than thumbing its nose at the whole peace process and the rest of the world - and doing everything to establish facts on the ground which will ensure that a peace agreement which gives the Palestinians enough land to establish a viable country is almost impossible to accomplish.

"Israel on Friday published tenders for 1,400 new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region to push peace efforts with the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have warned in the past that any further expansion of Israeli settlements on land they seek for a state could derail U.S.-brokered pe…

The state of play in the Middle East

Veteran journalist and author, Robert Fisk, writing his latest op-ed piece for The Independent details the latest state of play in the Middle East - including its ironies - and who is doing what to whom, and with whom.

"And so, for the first time in recent history, it seems that the “war against terror” – and specifically against al-Qa’ida – is being fought by Middle East regimes rather than their foreign investors.

Sure, American drones still smash into al-Qa’ida operatives, wedding parties and innocent homes in Pakistan. But it’s General al-Sisi of Egypt, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran – even powerless President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon – who are now fighting “terrorists”.

It shows how powerful the bad guys have become that mutually antagonistic dictators and satraps can gang together against America’s enemy. This is “Arab unity” as we have never seen it before. The Ottoman Empire lives again. But wat…

Perhaps don't have that mouthful

Obesity is becoming an increasing scourge around the world - including in countries where it was previously unheard of.     All too sadly we will all end up paying a "price", in one way or another, for people being obese.  

"The extent of the world's obesity epidemic has been thrown into stark relief as a report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) puts the number of overweight and obese adults in developing countries at more than 900 million.

Future Diets, an analysis of public data about what the world eats, says there are almost twice as many obese people in poor countries as in rich ones. In 2008, the figures were 904 million in developing countries, where most of the world's people live, compared with 557 million in industrialised nations.

"The growing rates of overweight and obesity in developing countries are alarming," said the report's author, ODI research fellow Steve Wiggins. "On current trends, globally, we will see a huge i…

What do you now say climate change deniers?

Credited to Nick Anderson, truthdig

"We" made things worse in Afghanistan

What a shocking indictment.    Despite all the hoopla surrounding what the war in Afghanistan was for, and what was being achieved, plus the huge human and financial cost of it all - for both the invading forces and the Afganis - now this...

"Despite the promises of a better future for Afghans following the ouster of the Taliban and more than twelve years after the original invasion, humanitarian organizations operating in the country say that a crisis of childhood malnutrition and starvation has quietly continued and is now "worsening."

United Nations figures show that malnutrition among Afghan children has increased more than 50 percent since 2012, with doctors blaming the instability and violence caused by the U.S.-led occupation as the key reason.

According to a new New York Times investigation, most doctors and aid workers in Afghanistan "agree that continuing war and refugee displacement" are key factors in the rising rate of reported malnutrition in child…

Retirement not a realistic option - let alone a prospect

When one reads of people in Great Britain, although employed, unable to afford food, and then this piece on CounterPunch about how the financial situation in the US is such that retirement is not a possibilty for countless people, one knows that capitalist "system" is not  working.

"Millions of older Americans say they will never be able to retire. They simply don’t have the savings. According to CNN, “Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings…50% have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all….” (“76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck“, CNN Money)

“No savings at all”?

That’s right. So retirement is out of the question. A sizable chunk of the adult population is going to punch a clock until they keel-over in the office parking lot and get hauled off in the company dumpster. And those are the lucky ones, the so called baby boomers. By the time we get to the millennials it’ll be ev…

A timely letter to George Bush

Ralph Nader has written George Bush a letter...

"Dear Mr. Bush:

A few days ago I received a personalized letter from your Presidential Center which included a solicitation card for donations that actually provided words for my reply. They included “I’m honored to help tell the story of the Bush Presidency” and “I’m thrilled that the Bush Institute is advancing timeless principles and practical solutions to the challenges facing our world.” (Below were categories of “tax-deductible contributions” starting with $25 and going upward.)

Did you mean the “timeless principles” that drove you and Mr. Cheney to invade the country of Iraq which, contrary to your fabrications, deceptions and cover-ups, never threatened the United States? Nor could Iraq [under its dictator and his dilapidated military] threaten its far more powerful neighbors, even if the Iraqi regime wanted to do so.

Today, Iraq remains a country (roughly the size and population of Texas) you destroyed, a country where over a m…

Why the p-book trumps an e-book

The debate about the advantages of ebooks over the conventional book continues - although, hearteningly, sales of e-books have slowed down quite a bit.     

In an op-ed piece "How Do E-Books Change the Reading Experience?" in The New York Times Mohsin Hamid and Anna Holmes, both writers, reflect on e-books and what they conclude are, in the final analysis, the advantages of the the printed book.

"Time is our most precious currency. So it’s significant that we are being encouraged, wherever possible, to think of our attention not as expenditure but as consumption. This blurring of labor and entertainment forms the basis, for example, of the financial alchemy that conjures deca-billion-dollar valuations for social-networking companies.

I crave technology, connectivity. But I crave solitude too. As we enter the cyborg era, as we begin the physical shift to human-machine hybrid, there will be those who embrace this epochal change, happily swapping cranial space for built-in p…

More definitve confirmatiom of the dangers of climate change

There are the usual naysayers (see post) or those who are simply ignorant and ostriches, but a new study just released confirms, yet again, and from a different perspective, that we are facing dangers of severe climate change.

"New research by a team of scientists looking at the impact of cloud behavior on planetary climate change says that "the worst" and "catastrophic" predictions offered by previous studies on the rate of global warming this century are much more likely than the less severe scenarios offered by others.

According to Dr. Steven Sherwood, lead author of the study and a specialist in climate and cloud formations at the University of New South Wales in Australia, cloud patterns in an increasingly warming world are likely to exacerbate global temperature increases overall, not mitigate warming as some models have suggested.

"This study breaks new ground twice," Sherwood explained in an interview with the Guardian. "First by identifyi…

A truly worthy truthdigger

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

One of the world’s earliest computer geniuses, a British man whose work helped save humanity from fascism, was persecuted to death by the homophobic authorities of his era. This Christmas Eve, thanks to popular pressure and the authority of Queen Elizabeth II, justice to his memory and legacy has been served in the form of a royal pardon."

Before it became one of the world’s most feared and despised institutions, the signals wing of the British intelligence service chiefly intercepted and decoded secret Axis communications during the Second World War. Its work began Sept. 4, 1939, the day after the U.K. declared war on Germany, when 27-year-old Princeton mathemati…

A really late delivery

Credited to John Darkow, Cagle Cartoons, Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri