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Showing posts from March, 2014

Climate change: The warning is dire!

MPS has often published pieces, from various sources, about the issues we are already face, and likely to encounter, as a result of climate change.

Today comes news of an authoritative report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which paints a dire situation facing us all if we don't do something to arrest climate change

"The negative effects of climate change are already beginning to be felt in every part of the world and yet countries are ill-prepared for the potentially immense impacts on food security, water supplies and human health, a major report has concluded.

In the most comprehensive study yet into the effects of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that global warming could undermine economic growth and increase poverty.

The IPCC found that the negative impacts of climate change have already extended beyond any potential benefits of rising temperatures and that they …

The fallout from what the politicians forget

Politicians, of all political persuasions, and around the world, are quick to go into war or enter into a military skirmish - seemingly forgetting the fallout.    There is obviously the immediate clear human and financial cost.   But forgotten is the legacy of that war or military skirmish - as the Americans are now facing with those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and have returned home.   As this report from The Washington Post so clearly reveals the human cost of both wars has been, and will continue to be, horrendous.

"More than half of the 2.6 million Americans dispatched to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with physical or mental health problems stemming from their service, feel disconnected from civilian life and believe the government is failing to meet the needs of this generation’s veterans, according to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The long conflicts, which have required many troops to deploy multiple times …

Things are bad when you have to sell the silver!

Many countries in Europe are going through hard times.   Greece, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal to name a few.    Leaving aside large numbers of people being unemployed - the figures for young people are truly staggering - the economies of these various countries are unable to sustain themselves without being bailed out, or, as this piece in The New York Times details, selling off valuable paintings, in order to raise funds.    However, not so fast say the people of Portugal.

"Across much of Continental Europe, the euro crisis did in just a few years what political parties in Britain and the United States had been hacking away at for decades: shrink the size of government. That is true perhaps no more so than here in Portugal. Since the onset of the crisis, the government has shed assets including Portugal’s airport management company, a highway operator and the national postal service.

But when it came to selling off a collection of works by the Catalan artist Joan Miró, it was…

Who's an ally? Who's a friend? Who's a despot? And when?

Funny isn't it?    Depending on how the wind is blowing at the time - and, more importantly, political expediency - some countries are viewed as despots (and sharply criticised for being so) until such time that they are, even if only temporarily, an ally and friend all of a sudden.      Glenn Greenwald, in "US Takes a Break From Condemning Tyranny to Celebrate Obama’s Visit to Saudi Arabia" on The//Intercept takes up the subject.

"Selecting the year’s single most brazen example of political self-delusion is never easy, but if forced to choose for 2013, I’d pick British Prime Minister David Cameron’s public condemnation of George Galloway. The Scottish MP had stood to question Cameron about the UK’s military support for Syrian rebels. As is typical for Western discourse, criticizing western government militarism was immediately equated with support for whatever tyrants those governments happened to be opposing at the time: “Some things come and go,” proclaimed the Pr…

Books: e-book, p-book, a bookshop near you (?) KIndle or iPad?

The plight of the book industry is well known.     And bookshops are closing down.   Yet, more people than ever are reading books.    e-book or p-book?   There are a multiple of issues - all canvassed and discussed in this piece in The Guardian "Kindle v Glass, apps v text: the complicated future of books".

"How many e-book consumers realise that some publishers, writers and distributors know an awful lot about their reading style? They have knowledge about how far into the book you’ve reached, when you get bored, which characters you like and those you don’t. Amazon, Apple and Google, along with countless large publishers, embrace the idea of providing products that readers are apparently craving.

It’s yet another way that our digital footprint is commercialised, marketed and analysed. Nothing is private anymore. Curling up on the couch with an e-book is not a solitary act but instead a way for corporations to learn about your habits and then sell you items you’ll think …

Yep, Barrack needs help - from someone, somewhere!

Credited to Steve Sack, Cagle Cartoons, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Bigotry is OK says Australian Attorney General

To think that the man has a law degree, is a QC (whether politically awarded or otherwise) and is the first law-officer in Australia, its Attorney General.   George Brandis, the man in question, comes out and says in Parliament, no less, that bigotry is OK.    Startling! - and shameful.    The man ought to be relieved of his position in the Government.

"Whether it's in their treatment of asylum seekers, their policy of secrecy or their intention to amend the Racial Discrimination Act, it seems that the Abbott government is intent on destroying Australia's moral compass.

Attorney-General, George Brandis, defending the Government's intention to repeal s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, told the Senate Monday that “people have the right to be bigots”. It appears that in George Brandis's world view, bigots are the persecuted minority whose rights need to be staunchly defended.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to do an act that "is r…

Obamery on Putin

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, on what he calls the "Obamery" of the man in the White House.    This time it's about Putin.....

"As a student of linguistic garbage, I marvelled at last week’s Obamery. The world concentrated on his interview with a tin-pot San Diego channel – President Obama uses small-town media to avoid giving massive and boring interviews to The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN and other crippled giants of American journalism.

So it was that we learnt, via Obama-speak, that “we are not going to be getting into a military excursion [sic] in Ukraine.” But it was not this Chamberlain-like determination which caught my eye. It was Obama’s follow-up threat to Vladimir Putin – totally ignored by the press or, when it was recorded at all, reported  without comment – that fascinated me.

“What we are going to do,” quoth Obama, “is mobilise all our diplomatic resources to make sure that we’ve got a strong international correlation that sends …

Australia's last century Stolen Generation still "alive" today

It was to Australia's shame that there were last century numerous and widespread cases of aboriginal children being taken - the "Stolen Generation" as they have become known - from their mothers.    

Shockingly, as John Pilger reveals in this piece "Another stolen generation: how Australia still wrecks Aboriginal families" in The Guardian, in a so-called enlightened nation and a country chastened by the revelations of last century's Stolen Generation, it is still going on today.

"Today, the theft of Aboriginal children – including babies taken from the birth table – is now more widespread than at any time during the last century. As of June last year, almost 14,000 Aboriginal children had been "removed". This is five times the number when Bringing Them Home was written. 

More than a third of all removed children are Aboriginal – from 3% of the population. At the present rate, this mass removal of Aboriginal children will result in a stolen g…

The "black swan" of cybercrime

Obvious need for concern and vigilence (and more!) - rampart, seemingly unchecked, cybercrime.

"Cybercrime is a systemic risk and could be the next black swan event, the head of Australia's corporate regulator says.

Advancements in technology had led to a "significant growth" of cybercrime and had an estimated global cost of $110 billion a year, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission chairman Greg Medcraft said on Monday.

Mr Medcraft, who was opening the regulator annual conference in Sydney, said each cyber attack was estimated to cost an Australian firm about $2 million."


"Earlier this month, a report by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers found that financial services companies were more at risk from cybercrimes compared to their counterparts in other industries. About 39 per cent of financial services firms surveyed by PwC said they were victims of cybercrimes, in contrast to 17 per cent for other companies."

From bad to worse in Syria

Aleppo - Syria
Eric Margolis, writing on his own web site:
"Today, Syria is in ruins. It joins Afghanistan and Iraq who also defied the will of the United States, and paid the price. Three years into the war, the Assad government appears to be slowly winning the conflict, aided by Iran, Russia, and, to a modest degree, Hezbullah.
While Damascus gains military momentum, Syria’s western-backed rebel factions are rent by confusion and rivalries. They are unable to come up with representative leadership. Meanwhile, increasingly radical Islamists – perhaps 100,000 – have taken over much of the fighting. These wildmen are a loose cannon that frightens their Western patrons even more than Damascus. No one is able to control organize them.

Ironically, these jihadis should be enemies of the West while the secular Assad regime an ally. Hatred of Iran does funny things.

The United States showed its frustration with the war it began, but cannot win, by just breaking diplomatic relations with Syri…

Baghdad: Once a great a basket case

If the forces which invaded Iraq thought that the country would be "liberated", then, as we all now know, absolute mayhem has been wrought on the Iranians and the country. 

As for Baghdad, this sad report in The Daily Star records what has become of this once-time great city.

"As recently as the 1970s, Baghdad was lauded as a model city in the Arab world. But now, after decades of seemingly endless conflict, it is the world’s worst city.

That is, at least, according to the latest survey by the Mercer consulting group, which when assessing quality of life across 239 cities, measuring factors including political stability, crime and pollution, placed Baghdad last.

The Iraqi capital was lumped with Bangui in the conflict-hit Central African Republic and the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, the latest confirmation of the 1,250-year-old city’s fall from grace as a global intellectual, economic and political center.

Residents of Baghdad contend with near-daily attacks, a lack of e…

Climate: The message couldn't be clearer

As has already been often said on this blog, the message to us all about the change in our climate, and the effect that will have us all, is ignored at our peril.

"The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) says there is a “small but real” chance that a warming climate will cause sudden and possibly unalterable changes to the planet.

This echoes the words used in its 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said climate change might bring “abrupt and irreversible” impacts.

In a report, What We Know, the AAAS makes an infrequent foray into the climate debate. The report’s significance lies not in what it says, which covers familiar ground, but in who is saying it: the world’s largest general scientific body, and one of its most knowledgeable.

The AAAS says: “The evidence is overwhelming: levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea leve…



"A new report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the “Right to Food” took aim at the entire basis on which food is produced and distributed on a global scale. Reflecting the type of progressive analysis of our food system from experts like Vandana Shiva and Michael Pollan, report author Olivier De Schutter called for an undermining of large agribusinesses and an infusion of democratic control.

Although the report’s recommendations are revolutionary, news of its release went largely unreported in the major U.S. media.

De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, spent six years visiting more than a dozen countries and concluded that the world’s entire food system should be rebuilt, starting with the promotion of local, sustainable farming so that ordinary people have control over what they can grow and eat. This certainly does not sound radical to those of us in U.S. cities where there has been a rapid expansion of farmers markets …

Remember Afghanistan.....and its women

As is often the case, things happen in one country not long thereafter the world, and media,  then passes on to the next issue or newsworthy item.   So it is with Afghanistan  - now, mostly, out of the news unless there has been a bombing or some terrorist act.

Remember how the West has forever been asserting that the war in Afghanistan has benefited its women?     This piece from The Guardian recently would suggest that it hasn't been all that positive.

"President Hamid Karzai's government has let down Afghan women, according to the new EU ambassador to Kabul, who singled out the failure to end prosecution of rape victims and other abused women for "moral crimes" as a particular "disgrace".

Franz-Michael Mellbin said that despite huge practical improvements in areas from maternal mortality to the number of girls in schools, Afghanistan was still one of the worst places to be a woman and a frontline in the global battle for women's rights.

Mellbin, who…

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters comes out swinging

Many a person, without the profile, would love to be able to say, so publicly, what Roger Waters ,of Pink Floyd, has....

"Confronting recent criticism of his support for Palestinian rights and the BDS movement in two furious, personal, open letters, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters rips the "crude pattern" of equating his and others' criticisms of "the policies of this government of Israel" with anti-Semitism, viewing it as perhaps "a reaction to the fact that BDS is gaining ground, day by day and year by year, all over the world." Arguing that dehumanization of the other is "the root of all injustice and oppression" and that "the tree of fear and bigotry bears only bitter fruit," Waters cites the death of his father fighting the Nazis in Italy to chide critics - especially those penning poisonous pieces about Waters' "anti-Semitic stench" - with, "Do not presume to preach to me, my father's son, about anti…

Different perspectives on the Ukraine, Crimea, Putin, etc.

Some perspectives on the events in the Ukraine, Crimea, Putin and the way the world ought to view and deal with it all.

From The Economist:

"“IN PEOPLE’S hearts and minds,” Vladimir Putin told Russia’s parliament this week, “Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia.” He annexed the peninsula with dazzling speed and efficiency, backed by a crushing majority in a referendum (see article). He calls it a victory for order and legitimacy and a blow against Western meddling.

The reality is that Mr Putin is a force for instability and strife. The founding act of his new order was to redraw a frontier using arguments that could be deployed to inflame territorial disputes in dozens of places around the world. Even if most Crimeans do want to join Russia, the referendum was a farce. Russia’s recent conduct is often framed narrowly as the start of a new cold war with America. In fact it poses a broader threat to countries everywhere because Mr Putin has driven a tank over the exist…

A dire warning about the consequences of climate warming

The politicians are, in the main, sitting on their collective hands.   Only in countries like China, faced with pollution on a widespread and diabolical scale, are there now attempts to wrestle with the effects of climate change and widespread pollution.
Wake up call time!   If what is reported in this piece "Official prophecy of doom: Global warming will cause widespread conflict, displace millions of people and devastate the global economy" in The Independent is even half right, then things are looking grim for all of us down the track.
"Climate change will displace hundreds of millions of people by the end of this century, increasing the risk of violent conflict and wiping trillions of dollars off the global economy, a forthcoming UN report will warn.

The second of three publications by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due to be made public at the end of this month, is the most comprehensive investigation into the impact of climate change ever underta…

The Americans pay mega corporations (a la Google, etc) for their money

There is definitely something rotten in the State of Denmark!    What is detailed in this piece from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism simply seems wrong and inequitable - except for the corporations making money hand-over-fist.     Just last week the small amount of tax paid by Apple in Australia on billions of dollars of sales came to light.

"In recent years, America’s technology giants have increased profits to epic levels. So you’d think this good fortune would prove a boon to the fragile American economy.

In theory, a river of tax dollars from America’s cash-rich technology firms ought to contribute towards a significant reduction of the US $17.5 trillion debt mountain.

Only it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Today, the 1,067 biggest non-financial firms in the United States, according to Moody’s the credit rating agency, have amassed cash and liquid investments totalling $1.48 trillion – a sum equivalent to the entire economy of Spain.

Of this $1.48tn corporate cash mounta…

Yes folks..... today is International Day of Happiness

As you go about your daily routine do remember that today, 20 March, has been designated International Day of Happiness - seriously!

"The United Nations has declared that March 20 each year will be the International Day of Happiness - and it wants everyone to join in the fun.

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution proclaiming the new commemoration that adds to an already packed UN calendar of international days - from world poetry day to world migratory bird day.

"The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal," said the resolution, which was passed by consensus in the 193-member assembly.

The resolution calls on all member states "to observer the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness activities."

Securing happiness day was part of a diplomatic campaign by the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan which already has its own gross national happiness index.

Many governments now say that new elements, …

A sorry reflection on the media

Credited to Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle

Amazon's 21st century (almost) sweatshops

Many admire behemoths like Amazon (and Walmart) for providing great service to their millions of customers - and making a lot of money in the process.   But at what cost to the company's employees?

"Amazon and Walmart are prime examples of how in the early twenty-first century, state-of-the-art information technologies can be used to re-create the harsh, driven capitalism of the pre–New Deal era. With their reliance on tens of thousands of workers to shift goods in stores and warehouses, the two corporations depend heavily on a steady supply of unskilled labor very much in the manner of early-twentieth-century industrial sweatshops. But in their capacity to track employee performance, to speed it up, to measure it against targets, managers at Walmart and Amazon are empowered in ways that their predecessors of a century ago could only dream of."

Read the full Salon piece here.

Inequality a "hot" discussion-point

There has, around the world of late, been much discussion about the ever-growing gulf between the rich and poor, how the rich are cornering in excess of 90% of a country's wealth, more and more people being unable to get a job, increasing inequality in society, etc. etc.

A piece in The Washington Post cites the what it says are 10 reasons for inequality being a "hot" topic.   The stats in the USA are in all likelihood replicated in other Western nations.

"Although high-octane rhetoric on health care seems to overshadow all other political discussions in U.S. politics, income inequality and economic opportunity have crept up in speeches and policy proposals from the White House, Congress, state government, local government and academics."


One of the 10 reasons:

"32.3 million

There are more than 72 million kids in America. Forty-five percent of them -- 32.3 million -- live in low-income families."

Read the full piece here.

Crimea. Where to next for the Russians?

The take-over - or however it is be characterised - of Crimea by the Russians seems to have been wrapped up today.    Leaving aside the strident voices in the USA and Europe calling for action against Russia (whatever that is supposed to be is never spelt out) what does incorporation of Crimea as part of Russian mean? - and what are its implications?

Hugh White is professor of strategic studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU.   He writes in The Age on events in Crimea and what it means for the Russians and Europe.

"Russia's use of force to compel Crimea's defection from Ukraine behind the fig leaf of last weekend's referendum marks a new phase in the history of Europe.

President Vladimir Putin has defied the principles of international order on which post-Cold-War Europe was supposed to be built, and forced the Europeans to think seriously about their own security for the first time in 25 years.

This seems to have come as a surprise to most Europeans, bu…

Syria. A people in crisis and a country ruined

A road in Deir Ezzor - in January.
3 years on from start of the conflict which has consumed Syria and its people - in the process seeing untold numbers of people killed and maimed and over a million refugees now located in neighbouring countries - this piece in The New York Times graphically details the immensity of the situation in Syria and how its people now find themselves.
"Day after day, the Syrian civil war has ground down a cultural and political center of the Middle East, turning it into a stage for disaster and cruelty on a nearly incomprehensible scale. Families are brutalized by their government and by jihadists claiming to be their saviors as nearly half of Syrians — many of them children — have been driven from their homes.

At the start of the fourth year since Syrians rose up in a peaceful movement that turned to arms after violent repression, a snapshot of the country presents the harsh truth that Syria’s descent is only accelerating, with nothing to check it.

The g…

No more gender-specific books for children

Sure to raise the ire of many....and applauded by others.  

"Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of. And boys? They’re made of trucks and trains and aeroplanes, building blocks, chemistry experiments, sword fights and guns, football, cricket, running and jumping, adventure and ideas, games, farts and snot, and pretty much anything else they can think of.

At least, that’s the impression that children are increasingly given by the very books that are supposed to broaden their horizons.

An online campaign called Let Books Be Books, which petitions publishers to ditch gender-specific children’s books, has met with mixed success recently. Last week, both Parragon (which sells Disney titles, among others) and Usborne (the Independent Publisher of the Year 2014), agreed that they will no longer publish books specifically titled “for boys” or “for girls”. Unfortunately, Michael O’Mara, which owns Buster Books, pledged to continue segregating young readers …

Wake up call! NASA's sober warning

The naysayers are forever challenging the vast body of scientists, and professional bodies,warning about climate change, the evolving crisis in the lack of water available to everyone in the world and a looming food shortage.      One would hope that this rather dire warning from no lesser august body than NASA would not be readily dismissed and ignored.

"A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite …

US in the dock for abuses of human rights

For the nation forever lecturing others how they ought to conduct themselves as democracies and the sanctity of the rule of law, the USA, for once, found itself in the dock - in relation to a variety of matters - at a UN Human Rights Commission hearing in Geneva.    Perhaps the White House ought to take note of the criticisms levelled against it and remember that saying about people in glass houses......

"The US came under sharp criticism at the UN human rights committee in Geneva on Thursday for a long list of human rights abuses that included everything from detention without charge at Guantánamo, drone strikes and NSA surveillance, to the death penalty, rampant gun violence and endemic racial inequality.

At the start of a two-day grilling of the US delegation, the committee’s 18 experts made clear their deep concerns about the US record across a raft of human rights issues. Many related to faultlines as old as America itself, such as guns and race.

Other issues were relative newc…

A disproportionate amount of wealth

No doubt many will claim that it is only envy which drives people to criticise how the wealth of a nation is "owned" - but can one really, really justify a situation such as that in Great Britain?

"The UK’s five richest families have accumulated more wealth than the whole of the bottom 20 per cent of the population, with the gap between rich and poor continuing to grow, according to research published today.

The handful of billionaires – which includes property investor Charles Cadogan and Sports Direct boss Michael Ashley – have amassed a combined wealth of £28.2bn, more than the poorest 12.6 million people in Britain, according to Oxfam.

The charity said the findings were “deeply worrying”, and that such inequality was a “sign of economic failure”. The study is released ahead of Wednesday’s Budget.

Using figures from Forbes magazine’s latest list of billionaires, the study also warns that the UK’s wealthiest 0.1 per cent have seen their income grow nearly four times faste…

European air traffic over 24 hours

Technology shown to full effect...

"Some 30,000 flights criss-cross Europe’s airspace on a typical summer day. In this video, you can watch them all in just under two minutes.

Air traffic is a frequent subject for visualization, but the folks at NATS, responsible for handling much of the air traffic control in Great Britain and elsewhere, know the delicate dance better than just about anyone. To give us a sense of what keeps them busy day to day, they put together this stunning video. Running at 1,440 times regular speed, the viz is striking as pure laser light spectacle. But the closer you watch, the more fascinating details you’ll find.

The clip combines UK radar data from June 21 of last year and flight plan data from the rest of the continent from July 28. To start, notice how planes come over from North America, not in one busy throng but instead in orderly rows, like they’re cruising in lanes on some great invisible highway. As we zoom in on England, we see some aircraft joini…

Yes....who is spying on whom?

Credited to Patrick Chappatte, International New York Times

Obama's "lost control of his own government"

Obama increasingly disappoints.     He sounds good - mostly!   What is lacking, and sadly so, is action and decisiveness.    As for a one-time lawyer and law professor taking any steps to see even the fundamentals of the rule of law apply both in America and abroad, forget it!      As this piece from Esquire asserts, Obama has "lost control of his own government".

"It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that, in one very important way, the president has lost control of his own government. The current constitutional crisis between the CIA and the Senate committee tasked with investigating its policies regarding torture during the previous administration has only one real solution that is consonant with the rule of law. Either CIA director John Brennan gets to the bottom of what his people were doing and publicly fires everyone involved, or John Brennan becomes the ex-director of the CIA. By the Constitution, this isn't even a hard call. The Senate has every lega…

The six Goliaths who control the media

IDF doing its utter and disgraceful worst......yet again!

"One more God-awful chapter in the ongoing God-awful narrative that is Israeli occupation: Israeli forces attacked two teenage Palestinian cousins and soccer players, Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, shooting them repeatedly in the feet and legs - ten bullets into Jawhar, two into Adam - before unleashing attack dogs and finally beating them in what critics call another egregious targeting of Palestinian athletes in a place where "soccer is politics." Israeli officials said the boys, who were heading home, according to differing accounts, from either soccer practice or visiting a friend, were about to throw a bomb; the victims denied the claim to reporters. Doctors says it is likely neither youth will ever play competitive sports again; it's unclear if they will be able to walk. The attack is the latest in what critics charge is a years-long, systematic Israeli campaign against Palestinian soccer players in a bitterly divided land where …

Westernising the message to make the suffering understandable

From truthdig:

"A video that has gone viral shows, in second a day shots, how a civil war like Syria’s would affect a British girl over the course of a year. The video, created by international NGO Save the Children, was released as the Middle Eastern country marks its third year embroiled in a conflict that has killed thousands of children and forced millions to seek refuge away from home.

At the end of the little over a minute and a half it takes to watch this powerful clip, you’ll be hit with a poignant reminder."

First signs of Spring?

Credited to Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle

Confirmed! NSA's metadata does reveal almost everything about us

Despite the denials by the NSA, and government officials, Stanford University researchers have now confirmed what was always thought to be the case - personal informationis gathered up by NSA as part of the metadata obtained by it.

"Stanford University researchers have confirmed what civil liberties advocates have warned since the NSA scandal broke: metadata surveillance is a window to highly sensitive personal information, including medical issues, financial history, and even marijuana cultivation.

Two Stanford graduate students proved this by doing the snooping themselves. Since November, they have surveyed the phone records of 546 volunteers and consulted Yelp and Google Places directories to determine how much sensitive personal information metadata can reveal. Participants installed a “MetaPhone” app on their Android phones to enable the surveillance.

"The degree of sensitivity among contacts took us aback," wrote researchers Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler in an …

A Magna Carta for the www?

With all the revelations about how the NSA, and other government agencies, have been engaged in widespread snooping - even the US Senate believes that the CIA engaged in surveillance on them - now comes a call from the founder of the internet for a Magna Carta for the web.

"The inventor of the world wide web believes an online "Magna Carta" is needed to protect and enshrine the independence of the medium he created and the rights of its users worldwide.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee told the Guardian the web had come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence and that new rules were needed to protect the "open, neutral" system.

Speaking exactly 25 years after he wrote the first draft of the first proposal for what would become the world wide web, the computer scientist said: "We need a global constitution – a bill of rights."

Berners-Lee's Magna Carta plan is to be taken up as part of an initiative called "the web we want", whic…

A loud and clear "internal" protest

The Israelis are forever accusing everyone of being against them - neighbouring countries, some European States, Muslim countries and even Jews outside Israel critical of the countries actions in relation to its Arab citizens and the West Bank and Gaza.    

Now, comes protest from inside the country, sending a clear and loud message to the Israeli government.    It's something we don't hear about that much outside of Israel and certainly not reported by the pro-Israel media, a la The New York Times, etc.

"If necessary, I will go to jail."

Those are the words of 17-year-old Dafna Rothstein Landman, one of 60 and counting Israeli youth who signed an open letter sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend declaring their refusal of compulsory service in the Israeli military — the biggest wave of conscientious objection the country has seen since 2008.

Under the banner of Shministim — Hebrew for 12th graders — the group of conscientious objectors cond…

The time for food democracy has come!

It is clear that something needs to be done to ensure the sustainability of the food supply to the peoples of the world - and also at a cost which people can afford.   No less important is to ensure that the supply and source of all our food is not in the hands of multi-national conglomerates.....who have, in the process of becoming bigger and bigger, in effect, forced farmers off their lands.

Step up to the plate food sovereignty and food democracy - which the UN has just now addressed (in a Report) as an issue which needs to be dealt with.

"The current global food system needs to be "radically" and "democratically" changed in order to alleviate global hunger and serve human rights over the profits of major agribusiness corporations, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

“At the local, national and international levels, the policy environment must urgently accommodate alternative, democratically-mand…

Not the best start to the honeymoon....

From today's TravelMole....

"A groom forced a Delta Air Lines flight to divert to the Cayman Islands after he got into a 'drunken row' with his new wife en route to their honeymoon.

The situation got so bad that the crew, flying from Atlanta to Costa Rica , opted to make an emergency landing on Grand Cayman Island, reports Reuters.

And after the man was taken into custody, the bride stayed on the aircraft to continue to the Costa Rican capital of San Jose."

Modern-day Romeo & Afghanistan

Sad story out of Afghanistan about a young woman and man - who have never heard about Shakespeare because, apart from anything else, they can't even read - whose lives pretty well presently mirror that of Romeo and Juliet.   

"She is his Juliet and he is her Romeo, and her family has threatened to kill them both.

Zakia is 18 and Mohammad Ali is 21, both the children of farmers in this remote mountain province. If they could manage to get together, they would make a striking couple.

She dresses colorfully, a pink head scarf with her orange sweater, and collapses into giggles talking about him. He is a bit of a dandy, with a mop of upswept black hair, a white silk scarf and a hole in the side of his saddle-toned leather shoes. Both have eyes nearly the same shade, a startling amber.

They have never been alone in a room together, but they have publicly declared their love for each other and their intention to marry despite their different ethnicities and sects. That was enough to m…