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Showing posts from July, 2014

Scientists warn of mass new extinction on our planet

We think we are, and are supposed to be, enlightened and at least moderately educated to know what we are doing.    Not so, our scientists conclude - as we humans drive mass extinction on our planet.

"The planet appears to be at the early stages of its sixth mass extinction, and humans are responsible, a new study finds.

Published last week in the journal Science, the study incorporates scientific literature review and data analysis by a team of international scientists, led by author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford.

Scientists say that the Earth has already sustained five mass species die-offs, the most recent having occurred millions of years ago. But unlike the mass extinction events prior, the one likely underway is caused by human-made climate change and habitat loss.

Over 320 vertebrates have gone extinct since 1500, and today, between 16 and 33 percent of vertebrates are endangered or threatened, the study notes.

Large vertebrate animals (megafauna), which in…

One more good reason for not having the death penalty

Over the years there has been increasing evidence to show that the conviction of someone has been in error or a simple miscarriage of justice - but with the tragic consequence of an innocent being executed for a crime they did not commit.

Now, more evidence, if any was ever needed, emerges to show that a conviction for murder may have been tainted.

"Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said.

The findings troubled the bureau, and it stopped the review of convictions last August. Case reviews resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department, the officials said.

U.S. officials began the inquiry after The Washington Post reported two years ago that flawed forensic evidence involving microscopic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people. Most…

That bunch of useless mediators

No comment called for - as this excellent piece "This is Not a War on Terror; the War Itself is an Act of Terror" by Uri Avnery on CounterPunch speaks compelling for itself...

"A cartoon in Haaretz this week shows Israel and Hamas fighting, and a bunch of mediators dancing in a circle around them.

They all want to mediate. They are fighting each other because each of them wants to mediate, if possible alone. Egypt, Qatar, the US, the UN, Turkey, Mahmoud Abbas, Tony Blair and several more. Mediators galore. Each wants to gain something from the misery of war.

It’s a sorry lot. Most of them pitiful, some of them outright disgusting.

Take Egypt, ruled by a bloodstained military dictator. He is a full-time collaborator with Israel, as was Hosny Mubarak before him, only more efficient. Since Israel controls all the other land and sea borders of the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian border is Gaza’s only outlet to the world.

But Egypt, the former leader of the Arab world, is now a subcont…

It all depends on what sort of dome you have

Credited to Nick Anderson, truthdig

Yikes! - and beware! Google wants to index and optimise your body

We all know that 1984 is well and truly upon us and that nothing is sacred or secure from prying eyes or being recorded and stored somewhere.    Now, the next intrusion may be a step away if Google as its way.   It ought not!

"Google’s new “moonshot” project isn’t a new fancy gadget, but the fanciest gadget of all: the human body.

Announced Friday in The Wall Street Journal, Google’s Baseline Study will aim to define “healthy.” The thinking, as explained by Google X’s molecular biologist Andrew Conrad, is that knowing exactly how a fully functioning human body works might aid in the earlier detection of disease. Google X is the technology giant’s research arm, where Google Glass, driverless cars, and other headline-grabbing projects have been conceived.

By collecting a large set of genetic data—Google plans on starting with 175 people, but will later expand to “thousands”—and applying its considerable computing power to the samples, Google thinks it can identify “biomarkers” that m…

US: Leader in the unfree world

This in a country which prides itself as a bastion of justice and equality!

"On Friday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to allow nearly 50,000 nonviolent federal drug offenders to seek lower sentences. The commission's decision retroactively applied an earlier change in sentencing guidelines to now cover roughly half of those serving federal drug sentences. Endorsed by both the Department of Justice and prison-reform advocates, the move is a significant step forward—though in a global context, still modest—in reversing decades of mass incarceration.

How large is America's prison problem? More than 2.4 million people are behind bars in the United States today, either awaiting trial or serving a sentence. That's more than the combined population of 15 states, all but three U.S. cities, and the U.S. armed forces. They're scattered throughout a constellation of 102 federal prisons, 1,719 state prisons, 2,259 juvenile facilities, 3,283 local jails, and …

The staggering gap between rich and poor

There is an increasing awareness in many countries that the divide between the rich and poor is ever-growing - and no less importantly, that the wealth of the particular country is, in reality, in the hands of a very small number.

Now a new report from the UN puts things into sharp focus.   The figures are both startling and appalling.

"Advances in human development risk being erased without a renewed global commitment to eradicating inequality, tackling climate change, and providing basic services, according to the UN's 2014 Human Development Report, Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Enhancing Resilience (pdf), released Thursday in Tokyo, Japan.

While poverty is shown to be in overall decline and gains have been made in health and nutrition, the report states that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest, and that 1.2 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. It also found that more than 2.2 billion people ar…

Israel: If it isn't fascism what is it?

Credited to LeLievre
An op-ed piece in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald almost certain to bring out the Jewish and Israel Lobby excoriating the writer and accusing him all manner of things - but which is honest, searing and above all, needs to be said!
"The images from Gaza are searing, a gallery of death and horror. A dishevelled Palestinian man cries out in agony, his blood-soaked little brother dead in his arms. On a filthy hospital bed a boy of perhaps five or six screams for his father, his head and body lacerated by shrapnel. A teenage girl lies on a torn stretcher, her limbs awry, her face and torso blackened like a burnt steak. Mourners weep over a family of 18 men, women and children laid side by side in bloodied shrouds. Four boys of a fishing family named Bakr, all less than 12 years old, are killed on a beach by rockets from Israeli aircraft.

As I write, after just over a week of this invasion, the death toll of Palestinians is climbing towards 1000. Most are c…

Postscript: Indonesia's presidential election

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world and be Australia's nearest neighbour.....but what happens in the country, save for this or that piece about Bali, rarely gets any real, in-depth, coverage.

Welcome then to a piece "Jokowi's victory is a decisive break with Indonesia's old order" in The Guardian dealing with the recent presidential election.   The piece is written from an Australian perspective and since being published the losing presidential contender intends contesting the result.

"With last night’s official announcement of Jokowi’s win, Abbott and other global leaders may be breathing sighs of relief at having narrowly avoided an awkward diplomatic predicament. However, a Jokowi presidency comes with its own challenges. Emerging from an election in which he was characterised in opposition to the strong, nationalistic Prabowo, Jokowi may also seek to prove himself a formidable leader and challenge the notion that former president Meg…

One vote against (hello USA).....everyone else for!

How the USA believes it can be seen to be anything other than joined at the hip with Israel is hard to fathom.    Even in the face of the onslaught by Israel of Gaza - and massive loss of life, including many, many children and wanton destruction of property - America shows its true colours by not voting to support an investigation of the current warfare between the Israelis and Gazans.  

"The United States was the only country in the world that voted Wednesday against the United Nations investigating human rights violations in Gaza unleashed by Israel's military assault.

Of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council, 29 nations voted to set up a commission to launch an international, independent inquiry, effectively passing the resolution. Seventeen countries abstained, including Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

The inquiry will look at "all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in…

France without the joie de vivre

People may be glued to their TV's watching the Tour de France but things are not all that great in France,  country of cuisine and wine and the good life as it is so often protrayed.

"The TV images of the Tour de France show an idyllic country, but behind the gloss is a nation where fears of decline are prompting people to vote for the far right. A trip along the route of the world's most famous cycling race reveals the deep uncertainty ailing the French.

There is a new word in the French language: La mannschaft. It's the term used to define everything that is enviable on the opposite bank of the Rhine River -- in other words, Germany's success. It's a success that is the product of the collective and is free of any of the egocentrics, self-deluded, bling-bling divas and "general director presidents," as the heads of French companies are called, that can make France so stuffy.

A week ago Monday, on Bastille Day, newspapers across France sighed that it …

Grotesque. Israeli PM plumbs the depths

The man can only be described as amoral.   It is hard to believe that anyone, let alone a PM of a Jewish State - remember, the mantra always trots out about its IDF being the most moral in the world! - could be heard to say what Glenn Greenwald reports in "Netanyahu’s ‘Telegenically Dead’ Comment Is Grotesque but Not Original" on The // Intercept.

"Benjamin Netanyahu, yesterday, on CNN, addressing worldwide sympathy for the civilian victims of Israeli violence in Gaza:

They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.

Joseph Goebbels, November 16, 1941, essay in Das Reich, addressing Germany sympathy for German Jews forced to wear yellow stars:

The Jews gradually are having to depend more and more on themselves, and have recently found a new trick. They knew the good-natured German Michael in us, always ready to shed sentimental tears for the injustice done to them. One sud…

At last! The ugly truth is out for all to see

It has been a constant complaint that the media have portrayed and skewed the news in favour of Israel - even in the wake of a horrendous pounding of Gaza with significant numbers killed, mainly civilians and a large percentage of those, children.

Israel has been able to dominate the air-waves in all manner means - use of the Israel Lobby to pressure the media, using PR spokes-people well-versed in English, having an American as the ambassador to the USA, utilising the media to good effect, etc. etc.

No more! - as this piece from The Independent explains.

"The Gaza atrocities are now being reported on a constant basis by eyewitnesses, be they professional correspondents representing major media organisations, or amateur locals under fire. Because all you need is a mobile phone and a Twitter account.

It is those devices which brought us heart-rending images – some too horrific to be shown on television – of children with their limbs or half a head blown off. Children covered in sh…

More than a salutary warning from Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden sat down with the Editor of The Guardian in Moscow the other day - and his warnings bear being heard, loud and clear, and acted upon.

"The NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has urged lawyers, journalists, doctors, accountants, priests and others with a duty to protect confidentiality to upgrade security in the wake of the spy surveillance revelations.

Snowden said professionals were failing in their obligations to their clients, sources, patients and parishioners in what he described as a new and challenging world.

"What last year's revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe. Any communications should be encrypted by default," he said.

The response of professional bodies has so far been patchy.

A minister at the Home Office in London, James Brokenshire, said during a Commons debate about a new surveillance bill on Tuesday that a code of practice to protect legal professional privilege…

USA: Not such a free and welcoming country at all......

Credited to Mike Luckovich

Israel shows its true (appalling, disgraceful and immoral) colours!

What can one say when a country, the fourth most militarised in the world, just goes out and belts into Gaza without any due regard to life and limb?     Forget about unconscionable!   It's totally immoral.   But it's not even in Gaza or the West Bank alone that the IDF shows its true colours.   See the report below on what only be described as vindictive and appalling conduct in relation the US teenager detained and extensively bashed by Israeli authorities.

A round up of some of the latest on the conflict....

From (as of last Friday) The Electronic Intifada:

"The death toll from Israel’s assault on Gaza continues to rise rapidly.

At least 61 people, at least 12 of them children, were killed on Friday alone, the second day of Israel’s ground invasion of parts of the Gaza Strip, and the twelfth and bloodiest day since Israel began bombarding the territory with airstrikes and land-based and naval artillery.

Eight members of a single family, the youngest six months old, were …

America no genuine or real mediator

How on earth anyone can believe that the USA can play a useful role in mediating any sort of settlement between the Palestinians and Israel defies logic.

But 2 examples of where America stands in the whole issue....

First, this from International Middle East Media Center...

"Following a similar resolution passed last week by the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate voted Thursday night to support Israel’s ongoing invasion of the Gaza Strip.

No dissenting vote was cast, and no mention was made of the hundreds of Palestinian civilians, most of whom are women and children, that have been killed by Israel in the past ten days.

Senate Resolution 498 was authored by Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), with additional support by Ben Cardin (D-MD) and son of former Republican party politician Ron Paul, Rand Paul (R-KY)."


And then this is this tactless display by none other than Obama - nailing the White House's position to the mask good and proper!:

"This past Monday, I atte…

Shooting down of Flight MH17: Lawlessness in the skies

As we fly around the skies with scant thought of the risks surrounding us - there seems to be more concern about security pre-boarding than what safety precuations airlines take as to where they fly over - the focus of safety in our skies is brought into sharp focus with the tragedy of the Malaysian aircraft seemingly shot down with a total loss of life.    Two immediate questions arise, apart from ascertaining the perpetrator of the horror.   Who has access to equipment with the capacity to down an aircraft? -  and no less importantly, why are so-called responsible airlines flying into zones which clearly ought to be avoided?

"According to Reuters:

Two U.S. officials said Washington strongly suspected the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was downed by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile fired by Ukrainian separatists backed by Moscow.

There were no survivors from Thursday's crash, which left wreckage and bodies scattered across miles of rebel-held territory near the border wit…

Of course they could help themselves!

If it weren't so tragic what is happening to the Gazans as Israel relentlessly pounds the area, a piece of black humour from Mark Steele writing "Of course there are going to be casualties when Gazans selfishly insist on living in civilian areas - There’s no helping some people is there?" in The Independent.

"Here’s a way to make life safer in the Middle-East. As the Israelis insist they’re “making huge efforts to avoid civilian casualties,” we should improve the standard of “avoiding civilian casualties” lessons in the Israeli region.

Presumably, at the moment, a teacher says, “Can anyone give me one way of making a huge effort to avoid civilian casualties?” Then a student, eager to impress, says, “What about bombing a block of flats, sir?”

Then the teacher says ‘Excellent. But to make extra sure, you need to reduce the entire block to a heap of smoking rubble, and demolish the nearby hospital as well. I  don’t see how anyone could make a huger effort than that.”

Thei…

Australia takes a giant step backwards

If proof was ever needed that Governments are stupid - and those that lead it even more so - than stand up Australia as #1 candidate for being not only dumb, but dumber!   The village idiots have won out - supported by the likes of the way-past it man, Rupert Murdoch.   He who derided "windmills" and things like that associated with climate change as "rubbish".

"Australia on Thursday scrapped its carbon tax, a move denounced by critics as a monumental step backwards on climate action that amounts to "inter-generational theft."

After lengthy debate, the Senate voted Thursday 39-32 to repeal it following its passage in the House of Representatives earlier this week.

The charge of roughly 25 Australian dollars per ton of carbon dioxide was put into effect under the previous administration of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. A report this month from the Australian National University found that the tax worked, helping to reduce between 11 and 17 million tons …

Wars and military conflicts: Kids now targetted

War, however it is conducted and whomever it involves, causes death, injury, mayhem and destruction, usually nowadays on a widespread scale.

All too sadly, as this piece "The New Way of War: Killing the Kids" from The New Yorker highlights, it is children - innocents, remember? - who are the significant victims of conflicts, be they called wars or military actions.

"Children have accounted for increasingly large chunks of those deaths. In 1995, UNICEF reported that roughly two million kids had been killed in wars over the previous decade—more children than soldiers. “Children are not just getting caught in the crossfire, they are also likely to be specific targets,” Gra├ža Machel, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, declared in the first U.N. “Children in War” report, in 1996. She went on:

When ethnic loyalties prevail, a perilous logic clicks in. The escalation from ethnic superiority to ethnic cleansing to genocide, as we have seen, can become an irresistibl…

Is Israel now like Europe in 2014?

As Israel continues, unconscionably - in breach of the Geneva Convention, international law and just basic decency and humanity - another strand of Israeli's behaviour is increasingly coming under the microscope.

First, this from Tablet:

"Consider recent events in Israel and the West Bank. Over the last few years, settler extremists have executed hundreds of so-called “price tag” attacks, predominantly but not exclusively against Arab targets, burning down mosques, destroying property, vandalizing cemeteries, and torching homes. When three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in June, expressions of anti-Arab racism on social media spiked, with 35,000 joining a Facebook group called “The People of Israel Demand Revenge” before it was deleted. When the teens were found dead, angry mobs marched through Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs,” and beating up those unlucky enough to stumble across their path. The ugly spectacle culminated in the apparent revenge killing of Arab teenager …

Organic food comes out tops

A definitive study is in.....and concludes what many have been saying for years.   Organic is better for you


"A meta-analysis of 343 previously peer-reviewed studies from all over the world has found that organic crops contain more antioxidants and fewer pesticides than their non-organic counterparts, according to reporting in the Guardian.

The research, conducted by an international team of scientists led by UK professor of ecological agriculture Carlo Leifert, is published in the British Journal of Nutrition. It shows that the increased levels of antioxidants (between 18-69 percent) could have significant impact on human nutrition.

"If you buy, consistently, organic fruits and vegetables...you get one to even two extra servings of antioxidants from those organic foods compared to if you bought conventional brands," said Charles Benbrook, a Washington State University researcher and the lone American co-author of the paper."

Is Rupe now another village idiot in the News Ltd. stable?

It has always been a puzzle why anyone should be interested in the views of Rupert Murdoch, save that as far as politics go his newspapers - despite what he says - do take strong political stands reflecting the views of the "owner".    Of course News Limited is a public company, not the personal fiefdom of the Rupert Murdoch, but that doesn't seem to faze anyone.

Now Rupert shows himself to be like one of his high profile columnists, Andrew Bolt - often described as the village idiot.  

"In an interview on Sky News on Sunday, Mr Murdoch spoke candidly about climate change, Australia's political environment and its relationship with China.

He said climate change should be treated with ''much scepticism''.


Climate prevention: Australians should not be building windmills and "all that rubbish".


If the temperature rises 3C in 100 years, ''at the very most one of those [degrees] would be man-made,'' he said. ''If the se…

The challenge from shifting populations

The peoples of the world are on the march - to go and live in cities.  

Already now more than half of us live in cities.  A United Nations report just released says the world is facing a challenge as more and more people gravitate to cities.

"More than half of humanity now lives in cities, and even more will soon. The world will have to confront how to make cities more fit for human habitation.

Those are the conclusions of a report released Thursday by the United Nations, raising new challenges including cholera, classrooms and food production.

If China urbanized most rapidly in recent decades, it is now India’s turn, thanks to a large bulge of young people in its population. Between now and 2050, India is projected to add 404 million people to its cities. The Indian capital, Delhi, became the world’s second most populous city in 2014, more than doubling its population since 1990 to nearly 25 million. Mumbai is the other Indian megalopolis among the world’s 10 most populous cities, w…

Chomsky on the USA committing "supreme international crimes"

The USA has a totally misguided - and some would say, ignorant and ill-informed - view of the world and it's right, and no one elses, to try and order and fashion things as it sees appropriate.   Only problem is, as Noam Chomsky points out in this piece on AlterNet, the Americans engage in "supreme international crimes".

"The front page of The New York Times on June 26 featured a photo of women mourning a murdered Iraqi.

He is one of the innumerable victims of the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) campaign in which the Iraqi army, armed and trained by the U.S. for many years, quickly melted away, abandoning much of Iraq to a few thousand militants, hardly a new experience in imperial history.

Right above the picture is the newspaper's famous motto: "All the News That's Fit to Print."

There is a crucial omission. The front page should display the words of the Nuremberg judgment of prominent Nazis - words that must be repeated until they penetrate g…

The world we live in.....

Credited to Bob Englehart, Cagle Cartoons, The Hartford Courant

Profligate waste.... and folly and stupidity to boot

What can one say?  Despair and frustration immediately comes to mind when reflecting on misguided and irresponsible politicians, and their military "people"  who make dumb decisions......

"Last week, just days before its long-planned, much-hyped international debut at a U.K. airshow, the entire fleet of the endless boondoggle known as the F-35 II Lightning, or Joint Strike Fighter, has been grounded after one caught fire on a runway, the latest in a years-long series of disasters almost every time it's tried to leave the ground. The plane's current pricetag of $398.6 billion equals a cost of about $49 billion a year since work began in 2006 on a project now seven years behind schedule and estimated to cost over $1 trillion when done. No doubt entirely coincidentally and in no way connected to the fact that the project is still alive, its maker Lockheed has spread its jobs, suppliers and contractors across almost every state, thus ensuring broad support in a Con…

The NSA one hell of a dangerous organisation!

Thanks to the Snowden revelations we already know that the USA's NDA is a dangerous organisation.  We now learn from this piece "The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control" in The Guardian, even more inciduous and dangerous than we might have thought.

"William Binney is one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA. He was a leading code-breaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War but resigned soon after September 11, disgusted by Washington’s move towards mass surveillance.

On 5 July he spoke at a conference in London organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and revealed the extent of the surveillance programs unleashed by the Bush and Obama administrations.

“At least 80% of fibre-optic cables globally go via the US”, Binney said. “This is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about wh…

Reality! Day 4 of Israel's bombing of Gaza

Facts, on the ground, speak for themselves - how Israel is totally out of control, and despite all the PR about its bombing beingtargetted and that warnings are issued to Gazans about this or that bombing, that one can only describe what is happening as horrific and wanton destruction and death and injury for it's own sake!

"Where shall I start? How shall I start?

Shall I start with the numbers which keep increasing and changing? 90 people killed, mainly civilians. 600 injured. 140 demolished homes. Or should I start by mentioning all the different areas of the Gaza Strip that have been constantly hit, day and night. Nonstop. If it is only about numbers, then let me tell you all about thousands of Palestinian children who are terrified night after night, day after day by the sounds of the Israeli shelling. The children have deep feelings of insecurity when it is dark. And no shelters.

Yesterday a six-story building where my relatives live in Khan Younis was hit and leveled to th…

J'accuse! An Israeli lawmaker calls for genocide of the Palestinians

We are in 2014!    Obviously not for some, as this astounding and breathtaking call for genocide of the Palestinians - by no lesser a person than an Israeli lawmaker - so clearly shows.

"A day before Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khudair was kidnapped and burned alive allegedly by six Israeli Jewish youths, Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked published on Facebook a call for genocide of the Palestinians.

It is a call for genocide because it declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justifies its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

It is a call for genocide because it calls for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

If Shaked’s post does not meet the legal definition of a call for genocide then nothing does.

Shaked is a senior figure in the Habeyit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party that is part of Israel’s ruling coalition."




Continue reading here.

Sri Lanka: Serial human rights offender

It's bad enough that Australia is plumbing the depth of morality, humanity and breaches of international law by intercepting Sri Lankans asylum seekers at sea and returning them to Sri Lanka (see here), but Sri Lanka is itself a serial human rights offender.

"The direct return of 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to the Sri Lankan navy signals the Australian government’s willingness to plumb new moral depths in its obsession with stopping the boats, regardless of the human cost. These actions expose the individuals involved to significant risks of serious harm, including torture.

Sri Lanka is a refugee-producing country. Historically, 90% of Sri Lankan asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia have been found to be refugees. Even in 2012/13, when the number of Sri Lankan boat arrivals reached its peak, a majority of arrivals were found to be refugees.

Earlier this year, the UN Human Rights Council launched a war crimes inquiry into Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war. The civil war ende…

One (Chinese) view of Sarkozy

Credited to Luojie, Cagle Cartoons, China Daily, China

Snooking on a grand and illegal way

First, this from The Intercept:

"The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies."

And then there is this from Democracy Now:

"In a Democracy Now! exclusive, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange joins us from Ecuador’s Embassy in London. It is the first time a U.S. news program has gone inside Assange’s place of refuge, where he has entered his third year in political asylum while he faces investigations in both Sweden and the United States. In the United States, a secret grand jury is investigating WikiLeaks for its role in publishing a trove of leaked documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as classified State Department cables. In Sweden, Assange is wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct, though no charges have been filed…

Obama, the spectator?

One would have thought that someone said to be of Obama's intelligence would have been an involved and actively engaged President.    Far from it!    To date, during his second term, he has seemingly become what this piece "The World’s Most Important Spectator" on The London Review of Books suggests, a "spectator" president.

"The first year and a half of Barack Obama’s second term has been preternaturally unlucky. The stymied enrolments for his healthcare plan, the multiple errors of computer co-ordination that forced people to wait days or weeks in front of blank screens, marred the new faith in government the plan had been intended to affirm. Just when, around the end of April, the trouble seemed to be halfway resolved, with millions finally insured and several deadlines put off, there emerged stories of faked records of treatment and months-long waiting lists at Veterans Hospitals. It was another failure of managerial competence, in another branch of go…

Don't monkey around with this guy's iPhone

From TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog):

"Forget Photoshop, what you're looking at is the real deal -- a Japanese Snow Monkey just chllin' in some water using an iPhone. The photo above (used with permission) was taken by the talented and award winning Dutch photographer Marsel van Oosten at the Jigokudani Monkey Park in Japan.

As you might imagine, there's an interesting story behind this incredible photo of a Snow Monkey, which are otherwise known as Japanese macaques."


Continue reading here.

The cost to Palestinian children of the ongoing Occupation

With news that Israel is apparently preparing for yet another assault on Gaza - to what end and for what good purpose remains obscure - it pays to reflect on the statistics which Professor Juan Cole details, on his Informed Comment blog, post the awful kidnapping of 3 Israeli teenagers only to be followed by the horrendous revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager.

"The news that Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khdeir, age 16, was kidnapped from his father’s shop in East Jerusalem and then doused with gasoline (including in his mouth) and then set on fire and burned alive (presumably by militant Israeli squatters on Palestinian land) is just as creepy as last week’s horror story about the killing of three Israeli youth by, presumably, Palestinian militants (though there is no evidence Hamas in specific was behind it).

Then the Israeli police compounded things by arresting Abu Khdeir’s cousin Tareq, an American who whose trip to Palestine was a reward for earning straight A’s. Israeli pol…

More than a timely reminder

From the time to remember department - and a timely reminder, courtesy this piece from CommonDreams....

"Change Happens (If Much Too Slowly) Dept: Civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) tweeted out his long-ago, self-assured mugshot Monday to commemorate his 1961 release from Mississippi's notorious Parchman Penitentiary after serving 37 days for "disorderly conduct" - that is, using a restroom labelled "white." A founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and leader of the Selma to Montgomery March, Lewis has been arrested about 45 times - most recently last year for demanding immigration reform - on behalf of civil rights, which he calls "getting into good, or necessary trouble," for which we thank him."

An unforgiveable toll

Leaders of countries - and politicians in general - are quick to declare a war or that someone or something ought to be attacked.    The Iraq and Afghan Wars are good recent examples of misguided politicians - think George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard and their cohorts - starting off wars resulting in devastation of countries, and its peoples, whilst inflicting a huge physical, emotional and monetary burden on the country declaring.

This piece, with utterly appalling stats, from CounterPunch brings into sharp focus the heavy responsibility the likes of Bush, Blair and Howard  - apart from being war criminals - bare for the devastating consequences on their own people for going to war.

"Despite the July 4 tributes, millions of US soldiers and veterans are in serious trouble.

Twenty two veterans kill themselves every day according to the Veterans Administration.   A study by the Los Angeles Times found veterans are more than twice as likely as other civilians to commit suicide.  S…

The dark side of the internet in the future

We all use the internet without all that much consideration of all its pluses and minuses.    Perhaps post Wikileaks and the Snowden revelations we are a little more wary of how secure things are.   

This piece "They Have Seen the Future of the Internet, and It Is Dark" from The New York Times on a survey of what the future holds for the internet ought not give us much confidence that "life goes on" in the way we interact with the internet and our vulnerabilities to it.

"The Pew Research Center, one of the better-known think tanks, on Thursday published the third in a series called “Digital Life in 2025.” Even taken as a snapshot of today and not the world to come, the report, titled “Net Threats,” is pretty dark reading.

Pew’s Internet Project, in collaboration with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, surveyed 1,400 high-profile technology thinkers. Collectively, the experts posited new government crackdowns on online freedoms, greater surveillanc…

Gideon Levy: Israel doesn't want peace

Gideon Levy has never held back in expressing a forthright view about the Israel's occupation of the West Bank, the attacks on Gaza, the inequalities in Israelis society (that is, between Jews and Arabs) and the "lie" about Israel seeking a peace with the Palestinians.

He once again challenges the alleged desire of Israel to have peace with the Palestinians in his latest op-ed in Haaretz.   Levy is right - as "history" has shown those who look past the Israel and Jewish Lobby PR machine - and events in Israel, the West and Gaza in the last days make one fear that another intifada is in the offing.

"Israel does not want peace. There is nothing I have ever written that I would be happier to be proved wrong about. But the evidence is piling up. In fact, it can be said that Israel has never wanted peace – a just peace, that is, one based on a just compromise for both sides. It’s true that the routine greeting in Hebrew is Shalom (peace) – shalom when one leaves …