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Showing posts from October, 2014

"The Nation" interviews Edward Snowden

The "man of the moment" - on more than one level - Edward Snowden, engages in a Q & A with "The Nation" magazine....

"On October 6, Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel and contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen (professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton) sat down in Moscow for a wide-ranging discussion with Edward Snowden. Throughout their nearly four-hour conversation, which lasted considerably longer than planned (see below for audio excerpts), the youthful-appearing Snowden was affable, forthcoming, thoughtful and occasionally humorous. Among other issues, he discussed the price he has paid for speaking truth to power, his definition of patriotism and accountability, and his frustration with America’s media and political system. The interview has been edited and abridged for publication, compressing lengthy conversations about technological issues that Snowden has discussed elsewhere.

The Nation: It’s very good…

Jim Crow alive and well in the USA

A shocking indictment of the GOP in America and a sorry reflection on the state of play for Afro-Americans in America.

"Election officials in 27 states, most of them Republicans, have launched a program that threatens a massive purge of voters from the rolls. Millions, especially black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters, are at risk. Already, tens of thousands have been removed in at least one battleground state, and the numbers are expected to climb, according to a six-month-long, nationwide investigation by Al Jazeera America. 

At the heart of this voter-roll scrub is the Interstate Crosscheck program, which has generated a master list of nearly 7 million names. Officials say that these names represent legions of fraudsters who are not only registered but have actually voted in two or more states in the same election — a felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison. 

Until now, state elections officials have refused to turn over their Crosscheck lists, some on grounds that these …

Who needs "friends" like the CIA?

Assuming even only half of what John Pilger reveals in this piece from Information Clearing House about the activities of the CIA in relation to the Whitlam government in Australia in the early 1970's one has to be more than concerned and troubled.

"Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had "reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution". Whitlam ended his nation's colonial servility. He abolished Royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported "zones of pe…

America's richest 400 are worth what?

The head reels and one cannot help but wonder why the really, really rich in the USA just don't get it - that is, that the profligate untold wealth of the truly wealthy doesn't cause envy but rather anger at the ever-increasing divide between rich and poor in the country.   Just reflect on the numbers in this piece on Counterpunch.

"In the supposedly classless society of the United States, the wealthiest Americans are doing remarkably well.

According to Forbes, a leading business magazine, the combined wealth of the 400 richest Americans has now reached the staggering total of $2.3 trillion.  This gives them an average net worth of $5.7 billion–an increase of 14 percent over the previous year.

With fortunes far beyond the dreams of past kings and potentates, these super-wealthy individuals enjoy extraordinary lifestyles.  Larry Ellison, the third wealthiest man in the United States (with $50 billion, an increase of 22 percent) reportedly has “15 or so homes scattered all aro…

Is Egypt going the way of Syria?

Professor Juan Cole on his blog infomed COMMENT, raises details troubles in Egypt which ought to give us all pause for concern. Is Egypt shaping up to be another Syria?  Bear in mind, for instance, that Egypt is the second largest recipient of aid in the Middle East after Israel.

"The Arabic newspaper Ilaf reports that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has declared a state of emergency for 3 months in parts of the province of North Sinai after two attacks by Muslim radical groups in that province left 30 Egyptian soldiers dead. Ilaf says that al-Sisi is blaming Egypt’s intelligence services for not forestalling these attacks.

Egypt’s government also closed the border checkpoint with Gaza at Rafah from Saturday on, until further notice. Egypt’s government blames Hamas in Palestinian Gaza for radicalizing the clans of the Sinai.

These steps came after a car bomb attack on an army checkpoint near El Arish in North Sinai that killed at least 30 troops, in which a large quantity of…

Reckon IS is bad? Check out these "good guys"

What is there to say?     Read this piece fromglobal post- and shake your head.   Do not be surprised by any blow-back.....

"Executing hundreds of prisoners without trial. Arbitrarily arresting villagers along sectarian lines. Hanging bodies from power lines to instill fear in the local community. Gunning down dozens of civilians as they gather to pray.

If this sounds like a checklist for the Islamic State, or IS, try looking across the front line at one of the United States’ key allies on the ground. While the world is focused on the IS terror threat, the US-trained and backed Iraqi government forces and their band of ruthless Shia militia groups have been carrying out atrocities of their own against Sunni civilians, on a scale that in some ways parallels their “terrorist” counterparts.

“Atrocities are being committed on both sides [by government-backed Shia militias and IS],” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser. “The crimes being commi…

A re-run of the GFC

Sobering, and frightening, piece on CounterPunch about what the writer predicts will be a re-run of the GFC.

"A full six years after the global financial crisis, not only have governments failed to rethink the way we organise our economic systems, but politicians across the world have pressed forward with an obsolete political agenda that has paved the way for yet more financial chaos. The failure of our elected representatives to adopt a just and sustainable alternative to neoliberal capitalism has also set the scene for years of increased hardship and popular unrest that will inevitably follow any future economic crash.

The very real prospect of a repeat of the 2008 meltdown is now widely accepted in the mainstream media, and the many possible factors that could trigger it are readily discussed in policy circles. As the International Monetary Fund makes plain in its latest World Economic Outlook report, for example, the risk of a worldwide recession is of particular concern – esp…

Stephen Walt's message to Canadian PM Harper: Stay Calm & Carry On

The reaction to the 2 outrages in Canada these past days has been predictable.   Turn up the heat on these supposed "terrorists", introduce draconian legislation and alleged safeguards against a repeat of the incidents, etc. etc.    Of course, missing in all of this is any proportionality.   Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard, reflects on the whole overall situation in his latest posting on his blog on FP - and has a message for Canadian PM Harper.   Stay calm and carry on!

"The attack on the Canadian Parliament building on Wednesday raises familiar questions about how democratic leaders should respond to such events. The death of a Canadian soldier demands a respectful mourning, but the broader issue is how this event should be understood and how Canada's government and society should react. Will the attack be met with calm resolution -- as one might expect after a damaging flood, a destructive tornado, or a tragic fire -- or will the fact…

Bill Moyers: Challenge corporate control

It would be hard to describe veteran US broadcaster and commentator Bill Moyers as radical or even all that progressive in his thinking.   Yes, here he is on the eve of his retirement coming out with a statement which would likely surprise the Moms and Dads out there in America.

"The greatest challenge we face in America toda is to stop the buying and selling of our poltiicians and political process by corporations and the rich.  You may have seen the story earlier this week: For the first time ever the Vatican rented out the Sistine Chapel to a corporation—Porsche—for guests who paid $8,000 a head to attend a concert there.  For the first time a corporate donor determined who could be invited to that sacred place.  That's what has happened to democracy.  Either we reverse Citizens United and insist democracy is about equal representation, or we might as well close up shop.'

Go here, on CommonDreams, to read the complete piece about Moyers and a Q & A with him.

All too true!

Credited to Nick Anderson, truthdig

Stopping the waste of food

This article, from the food coach newsletter, addressing food waste in NSW (Australia) probably reflects much the same as where you live - assuming that it is in a Western country.

"In NSW alone, food waste is the single largest component of household bins. It equates to approximately $2.5 billion worth of edible food a year and frankly, after hearing only last week that there are over 2 million people in NSW who seek food relief each year, I find this figure chilling. How can we throw away food so mindlessly when there are people out there who can't afford to feed their families from one week to the next?

The effect on the environment is also worth being reminded of. When wasted food is thrown away it breaks down in landfill and together with other organic materials it becomes the main contributor to the production of methane - a gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide is at trapping heat in the atmosphere. If we could reduce food waste by 66 % the greenhouse gas savi…

Canadian attacks: Should Canadians be surprised?

The "them" and "us" syndrome continues unabated - as also the double standards.    Without in any way condoning or excusing the attacks on 2 Canadian soldiers in Quebec the other day (the piece was written before the attack in Ottawa this morning) Glenn Greenwald, writing on The //Intercept wonders why the Canadians are surprised about the attacks given their 13 years of being at war against Muslims.

"In Quebec on Monday, two Canadian soldiers were hit by a car driven by Martin Couture-Rouleau, a 25-year-old Canadian who, as The Globe and Mail reported, “converted to Islam recently and called himself Ahmad Rouleau.” One of the soldiers died, as did Couture-Rouleau when he was shot by police upon apprehension after allegedly brandishing a large knife. Police speculated that the incident was deliberate, alleging the driver waited for two hours before hitting the soldiers, one of whom was wearing a uniform. The incident took place in the parking lot of a shopping …

The evil which was Blackwater

Jeremy Scahill, author and documentary maker of "Dirty Wars" and several other books, writes in "Blackwater Founder remains free and rich while his former employees go down for murder" on The // Intercept on the conviction of former Blackwater employees for offences committed in Afghanistan 7 years ago.

"A federal jury in Washington, D.C., returned guilty verdicts against four Blackwater operatives charged with killing more than a dozen Iraqi civilians and wounding scores of others in Baghdad in 2007.

The jury found one guard, Nicholas Slatten, guilty of first-degree murder, while three other guards were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter: Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard. The jury is still deliberating on additional charges against the operatives, who faced a combined 33 counts, according to the Associated Press. A fifth Blackwater guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, had already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and cooperated with prosecutors in the case aga…

Whistleblowers. And where are the journalists?

An op-ed piece "Australia's war on whistleblowers must end" in The Guardian today - whilst partially Australian centric - deals with the issue of whistleblowers (very much in the news in Australia) and the failure of journalists to fulfill their role in challenging government and supporting whistleblowers.  

"Amidst all the fury over angry ideologues concerned that their bigoted conservative values are under attack lie the importance of whistle-blowing without fear or favour. It’s a global problem that’s being led by Nobel Peace Prize winner himself, US president Barack Obama. His administration is publicly supportive of disclosure while prosecuting countless people including the New York Times’ James Risen and perfecting the selective leak to cosy reporters. It’s a particular problem with national security journalism, where the vast bulk of writing is left to stenographers of the bloated intelligence and military apparatus.

Effective whistleblower legislation in dem…

Poll Finding: USA biggest threat to world peace

An international poll found that the United States is ranked far in the lead as “the biggest threat to world peace today,” far ahead of second-place Pakistan, with no one else even close.

Noam Chomsky writes on telesur:

"On October 14, the lead story in the New York Times reported a study by the CIA that reviews major terrorist operations run by the White House around the world, in an effort to determine the factors that led to their success or failure, finally concluding that unfortunately successes were rare so that some rethinking of policy is in order.  The article went on to quote Obama as saying that he had asked the CIA to carry out such inquiries in order to find cases of “financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.” So he has some reluctance about continuing such efforts.

There were no cries of outrage, no indignation, nothing.

The conclusion seems quite clear.  In western political culture, i…

Ouch! US$7 billion spent on counter-narcotics sees record crop in Afghanistan

Ouch!    So much for throwing money (no less than US$7 billion) at a problem - and wasting it in the process.   A well-intentioned program, maybe, with no positive outcome at all.

"Opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan are at a record high, though the U.S. government has spent over $7 billion to stop it, a federal watchdog states in a new report.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder and US AID head Rajiv Shah, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko writes: "Despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counternarcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013."

"As of June 30, 2014, the United States has spent approximately $7.6 billion on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan," the letter states.

"Despite the significant financial expen…