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Showing posts from November, 2014

The GOP and the US Senate show how absurd they are

Wonderment at what people populate the GOP and are members of America's Senate.

"Congressional climate wars were dominated Tuesday by the U.S. Senate, which spent the day debating, and ultimately failing to pass, a bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While all that was happening, and largely unnoticed, the House was busy doing what it does best: attacking science.

H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those pesky scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.

The bill is being framed as a play for transparency: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.

But the White House, which threatened to veto the bill, sa…

Tony Blair: The chameleon is given what award?

Save the Children in America either has blinders on or is simply bog ignorant.    To have given an award to Tony Blair as the Fund just has, has rightly drawn an avalanche of criticism and a large petitition, already, to revoke the award.

"International charity Save the Children is facing uproar, including from internal staff, for granting the "global legacy award" to former UK Prime Minister and Iraq War architect Tony Blair.

The award was given to Blair by the U.S. arm of the organization at a gala in New York City last week. Save the Children, which claims "protecting children from harm" as a key mission, lauded Blair for his alleged role heading anti-poverty initiatives at the 2005 Group of Eight summit in Scotland and for his "continued commitment to Africa."

The move unleashed a torrent of criticism, including a petition, with over 90,000 signatures so far, calling on Save the Children to revoke the award on the basis that Blair is seen by many as…

The new poor

Economists may well say that economies around the world are on the mend, but the realities on the ground seem markedly different.    Just look at Europe and the umemployed - and significantly so amongst young people.   And then there is the increase in poverty in the USA.   All around the world people are losing jobs in manufacturing as robots and lower-costing Asian nations do all manner of work sort at wages a fraction payable in the West.  

A new Report out in the UK shines a spotloght on what are being described as the new poor.   One can readily conclude that what is said to be the situation in England is replicated around the world in Western nations.

"In the 20th century, social reformers who wanted to find out more about “the condition” of the poor didn’t have to look far. In London, they took themselves off to the East End, in Glasgow, to the Gorbals. Of course, Britain had its genteel poor, whose plight was mined by a host of writers, from Trollope to Orwell. Generally, h…

Look what money (ie lobbying) can buy!

Bill Moyers has been a keen observer and commentator on American politics for decades.   

In his latest blog "Dividing the Spoils" on his blog Moyers & company he highlights what lobbying "costs" - and what the "rewards" are.

"Today, gifts to politicians that were once called graft or bribes are called contributions. The Supreme Court has granted corporations the rights our founders reserved for people, and told those corporations they can give just about anything they want to elect politicians favorable to their interests. Diamond and gold snuff boxes are as outmoded as the king’s powdered wig. Now we’re talking cash — millions upon millions of dollars. Quadrupled, quintupled and then some – and it’s not considered corruption.

Consider the new report from the watchdog Sunlight Foundation: From 2007 to 2012, the two hundred most politically active corporations in the United States spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions. And …

Freed - after 42 years in isolation in US prison

And this is justice in the US of A?     Both disgraceful and utterly appalling.

"An appeals court on Friday unanimously overturned the conviction against Albert Woodfox that has kept him in solitary confinement for more than four decades, bringing to an end a long, arduous quest for justice that spanned two prisons, alleged abuse by guards, and deteriorating health.

Calling the case "an important constitutional challenge," the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana ruled 3-0 that Woodfox's 1998 retrial for a previous conviction was marred by racial discrimination and a number of other flaws.

"After more than 40 years of tirelessly pursuing justice through the courts, Albert Woodfox must now be given his freedom," said Tessa Murphy, USA Campaigner at Amnesty International, which has argued Woodfox's case in court for years. "The state should no longer impede justice but stand aside and allow this decision to stand."

Continue reading here.

What? The CEO's of some multinationals get paid more than their corporations pay tax

Only one word for it......scandalous.

"How does a company like Ford, which did $139.4 billion in business last year, qualify for a tax refund?

In an effort to highlight the inequities of the corporate tax code, the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies did a study and found that seven of the 30 biggest corporations in the country paid less in taxes than they did to their top executives.

Ford’s Alan Mulally, for example, took home $23.2 million in the same year that his company got a refund of $19 million from Uncle Sam.

The worst example of this trend, according to The Guardian, was Citigroup:

'Michael Corbat, Citigroup’s CEO had a compensation package that totaled $17.6m.

At the same time, Citigroup qualified for a $260m tax refund from the IRS, thanks to a special waiver that enabled it to capture the full tax benefits of buying unprofitable businesses. This could be a tax gift that keeps on giving, as the bank has been on a tear to keep earning mo…

Another war waiting to happen?

Professor Juan Cole is a keen observer and commentator on Israel and the Middle East.    His assessment where things are headed post the terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem the other day? 

"Observers of the evolution of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians have long argued that there are only two likely outcomes of the alternating violence and diplomacy between the two sides that has gone on nearly 70 years now. One is a “two-state solution” wherein Israel accepts a rump Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. That possibility has by now been more or less forestalled because of the massive land theft and colonization drive of Israeli squatters on Palestinian land in the West Bank. (The UN General Assembly partition plan of 1947, whatever one thinks of its legitimacy, awarded the West Bank to Palestine). The other is a “one-state solution” wherein Israel bestows Israeli citizenship on the stateless Palestinians. There is no obvious path to such a decision…

Jerusalem, the Occupation and the so-called "peace process"

That the "peace process" between the Palestinians and Israelis is nothing of the sort is beyond question.    There are those who still believe a peaceful solution to the intractable issue is possible - but they must be living under a bushel!    And as for a two-State solution? - that is now virtually impossible.

There can be no doubting that the appalling attack, and barbaric slaying, of worshipers in a synagogue in Jerusalem, yesterday, needs to be condemned without equivocation.    Without in any way condoning yesterday's killings, any observer of what has been happening as part of the Occupation by the Israelis will not be surprised that "something" was "going to give" sooner or later - and will continue to do so.  

Consider the position of the Palestinians, as detailed in this piece "John Kerry conducted a theatre of the absurd in Amman" on Middle East Eye....

"US Secretary John Kerry met in Amman with King Abdullah, PM Netanyahu, and…

The Super Rich and their gross selfishness

What an indictment of many of us around the world (at least those with means) - as this piece on CommonDreams so clearly shows - but especially the super rich.

"If the mainstream media made the effort to analyze and report the facts, the whole country would know about a level of selfishness that has spiraled out of control since the economists of the Reagan era convinced the wealthiest Americans that greed is good for everyone. Here are four extreme examples of that selfishness.

1. Ebola's Not Worth the Money If Only Africans Get Infected

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr. Margaret Chan recently stated: "Ebola emerged nearly four decades ago. Why are clinicians still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure? Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D incentive is virtually non-existent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay."

So we turn to philanthropy. But rich dono…

Slavery? In 2014?

Hard to believe, but yes, widespread slavery, across the globe, still exists today.

"Modern-day slavery remains ubiquitous across the world, with an estimated 35.8 million people trapped under forced servitude or ownership of some kind, according to a report released Monday by the Australian anti-slavery NGO Walk Free Foundation.

The estimate marks a significant increase since the organization's 2013 report's count of 29.8 million. "We believe that the majority of this increase is due to the improved accuracy and precision of our measures," states The Global Slavery Index 2014 (pdf).

"There is an assumption that slavery is an issue from a bygone era. Or that it only exists in countries ravaged by war and poverty. These findings show that modern slavery exists in every country." —Andrew Forrest, Walk Free Foundation.
"From children denied an education by being forced to work or marry early, to men unable to leave their work because of crushing debts th…

Tomas Young’s Last Letter to Bush, Cheney

No background information or commentary necessary.    From Information Clearing House....

"The courageous journey of seriously wounded Iraq War veteran, Tomas Young, ended this past Monday, nearly eleven years after he was ambushed in a wholly exposed military truck. He passed away in Seattle while being lovingly cared for by his wife Claudia.

Tomas did not go quietly, despite his being paralyzed from the chest down, excruciating pain, comas and reliance on caregivers. He became an anti-war peace activist, addressing convocations and responding to as many interview requests as his agonized condition could tolerate."

*****

"It was on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War that, near death and in hospice, Tomas Young sent a “Last Letter” to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Here are some of his searing words from that letter, which, of course, neither the two war criminals nor their taxpayer-funded staff bothered to even acknowledge.

“I write this letter on behalf of husbands and…

Snooping on a grand scale

Be horrified - and ask why it is necessary at all.     The ever-increasing intrusion into our lives as we all go about our daily "ordinary" business ought to be resisted.  

"US government-owned airplanes that can cover most of the continental United States are covertly flying around the country, spying on tens of thousands of innocent people’s cellphones. It sounds like a movie plot, but in a remarkable report published on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal exposed that these spy planes are part of an actual mass surveillance program overseen by the Justice Department (DOJ). And it’s been kept secret from the public for years.

The Journal explained that the US Marshals Service, a sub-agency under DOJ’s control, has a small fleet of Cessna airplanes that are currently armed with high-tech surveillance gear called “dirtboxes” – essentially fake cell towers tricking your phone into connecting to them – that can vacuum the identifying information and location of ten o…

Trade (ie, money) trumps principle

The Chinese President is in Australia - an attendee at the just completed G20 Meeting.   

The President today addressed the Australian Parliament.    Crikey makes the more than valid point that the invitation ought not to have been extended by the Australian Government.     

"When Chinese President Xi Jinping enters the House of Representatives chamber this afternoon to address a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, many Australians will be wondering why he's there. This is a chamber in which men and women elected by Australians debate and make decisions about what they believe is best for Australia and for the people who have voted for them. It is a chamber in which, no matter how much we disagree over key public policy issues, those issues are resolved, for better or worse, without bloodshed, violence or persecution.

The President may have difficulty understanding such concepts. The government he leads rules not through democracy but through the power of the Chinese mil…

How America Built the Infrastructure for Disastrous, Permanent War in the Middle East

No comment necessary!     This piece from AlterNet makes all the points succinctly.    The way the USA by engaging in wars and being active militarily in the Middle East, has created a problem for which the world is now "paying" in a myriad of ways - and heavily!  

"With the launch of a new U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), the United States has engaged in aggressive military action in  at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens.

As in prior military operations in the Greater Middle East, U.S. forces fighting IS have been aided by access to and the use of an unprecedented collection of military bases. They occupy a region sitting atop the world’s largest c…

Our press gets less and less free

Something those of us who value news and the proper reporting of it.........less press freedom.   Why?   The New Yorker set out to find out in "Why the Press Is Less Free Today."

"In the worldwide movement away from democracy, perhaps the most vulnerable institution is the free press, and the most disposable people are journalists. If they’re doing their job right, they can have few friends in powerful places. Journalists become reliably useful to governments, corporations, or armed groups only when they betray their calling. They seldom even have a base of support within the general public. In some places, it’s impossible to report the truth without making oneself an object of hatred and a target of violence for one sector of society or another.

In recent years, reporting the news has become an ever more dangerous activity. Between 2002 and 2012, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (C.P.J.), five hundred and six journalists were killed worldwide, as opposed…

One brave and worthy whisteblower

The major banks around the world have been engaged in illegal conduct in various ways.   Many have been fined with heavy monetary sums.   Yet, no executives have been charged.   It's clear who is in charge.   Then along comes one insider ready to blow the whistle....

"Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it's not exactly news that the country's biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That's why the more important part of Fleischmann's story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.

She was blocked at every turn: by asleep-on-the-job regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a court system that allowed Chase to use its billions to bury her evidence, and, finally, by officials like outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. "Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way," Fl…

UK PM caught out in Oz!

Here was the UK PM being lauded, today, by Australia's PM for being the man who had put the UK back on track economically - and in turn extolling the virtues of all the wonderful things his Conservative government has done for the British economy.    Perhaps because he was far away from the Mother country or suffering jet-lag did the Brit PM "forget" an inconvenient fact, as revealed today in The Independent.

"The United Kingdom has the seventh highest debt among members of the G20, according to analysis by Australian price comparison website finder.com.au .

Britain's debt stands at $2.3 trillion (£1.47 trillion) which is 91.1 per cent of GDP. In absolute terms that ranks the UK seventh, just ahead of China.

However, the Asian economic superpower's productivity is such that its $2.1 trillion debt is barely a fifth of its GDP. Only Japan, Italy and France were worse by percentage.

Concerns over the UK's debt burden are exacerbated as half of G20 countries, wh…

"Conflict Kitchen" - where there is no freedom of speech!

Of course we all know - as the Americans are forever telling us all - that the US has almost unfettered right of free speech guaranteed under its Constitution.    But, to a point, it seems, when words or actions are pro-Palestinian or claimed to be anti-Israel.   No better example of how the insidious pro-Israel Lobby exerts pressure in all manner of means is seen in this piece on the "Conflict Kitchen"Mondoweiss.

"Pittsburgh may be known for its steel mill past and its high-tech present, but is now emerging as the seat of a lively debate concerning Palestinian food, free speech, and criticism of Israeli policies.

The Conflict Kitchen is a take-out eatery that only serves food from countries with which the United States is in conflict. The restaurant began serving Palestinian food on October 6. On November 8, restaurant co-director Jon Rubin received a letter containing a death threat. As a result, Mr. Rubin temporarily closed the Conflict Kitchen."

****

"In 2012,…

Veteran's Day US style

Credited to Nick Anderson, truthdig

College debt......crushing a Generation

The untold ramifications of college debt as seen in the US are truly frightening.    It is crimping economic growth in America.    It is also yet another manifestation of the ever-increasing divide between haves and have-nots.

"When will students and recent college graduates shake off the burden of increasingly higher student debt and demand a system that serves them instead of making them servants?

The amount of personal debt being accrued by college students in the nation's private and public colleges continues to rise at shocking rates with current graduates of four-year schools exiting with a national average of nearly $30,000 in loans to repay, according to a new report released Thursday.

Using available data from private non-profit and public schools in all fifty states for the 2013 academic year, the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) found that the level of debt varies from state to state, but that of the nearly 70 percent o…

Australia's shameful Guantánamos

This weekend Australia hosts the G20 Conference.    It's no more than a talk fest with some 20 so-called leaders coming to Australia for a two-day gab-fest - and some 7000 flunkies of one description or another there too, Brisbane (the host city) in effective lock down and the Australian tax payer footing a bill of something in the order of half a billion dollars.

Whilst some Australians may bask in some sort of glory in having the likes of Obama in Oz for 48 hours, the focus on Australia by the world ought to be on its truly shameful treatment of asylum seekers

“Australia’s ‘boat people,’ immigrants who arrive in fishing vessels and makeshift boats, have been made scapegoats for the country’s racial and cultural anxieties,” she writes. “By demonizing asylum seekers as lawbreakers and terrorists, Australia’s politicians are able to use xenophobia as an effective wedge issue, while maintaining a politically correct veneer of support for multiculturalism on other issues.”

The most eg…

Remotely controlled bombs.... targetted at a specific person

As if war isn't bad enough, and even more so with the ever-increasing use of drones, now we read of bombs coming on stream which can remotely target something - or a specific person.     Isn't it time to call a halt to war being seen as just a "game" a la that on one's computer or iPad or iPhone?

"Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield. But now, some scientists say, arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill.

As these weapons become smarter and nimbler, critics fear they will become increasingly difficult for humans to control — or to defend against. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a swi…

Warfare: Today's health emergency

As the world watches the unfolding tragedy of what is Ebola, this piece "Modern War: A True Modern Medical Emergency" on CommonDreams details how modern warfare is creating a totally different medical emergency.   It is something all of us, wherever we live, will have to deal with.

"For some years now, prominent doctors, medical organizations and institutions such as Partners in Health (PIH) have been talking about the  critical importance of "life on the ground" factors that influence health. And even more importantly, they have been initiating and implementing projects based on a holistic, human rights approach and encouraging others to do the same.  PIH has been promoting support for international covenants that guarantee health as a human right,  understanding that the health of individuals and communities is directly impacted by other guaranteed rights: adequate housing, education, food, social security, decent work, and "the right to the highest stan…

That stinking job sitting at an office desk

The New Yorker has a piece on how to deal with sitting at a desk in a job one would rather not be doing....   The piece describes what it suggests as "office safety tips".

For example:

"Follow the 20/20/20 Rule

Every twenty minutes, take a break from looking at your computer screen by going to the bathroom and staring at yourself in the mirror. Mutter something about how you’re wasting your twenties for twenty seconds, or until you start to weep. Excessive crying will only further dry out your eyes, though, so make sure to cut yourself off."

101 on net neutrality

One might have hoped that the world wide web - aka www - would be open and equal to all those who use it.   Er, not quite so.  In fact, some are seeking to make it non-neutral.   On the day when Obama calls for US regulators to ensure net neutrality, The New York Times explains in a 101 piece what net neutrality means as much as the loss of it.

"The same kind of business model that has created a boom in content for cable television customers can create a more fertile environment for an explosion of creativity on the Internet, goes this logic.

It would also give your Internet provider considerably more economic leverage. It would, in the non-net-neutrality world, be free to throttle the speed with which you could access services that don’t pay up, or block sites entirely, as surely as you cannot watch a cable channel that your cable provider chooses not to offer (perhaps because of a dispute with the channel over fees)."

How many Muslim countries has the US (and its allies) bombed or occupied since 1980?

More than an "interesting" question is posed in this piece from The // Intercept.   How many Muslim countries has the US bombed or occupied since 1980?     The answer (read on to find out) lends more than support for why the US - and its allies - are so reviled in the Middle East and elsewhere by Muslims. 

"Barack Obama, in his post-election press conference yesterday, announced that he would seek an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) from the new Congress, one that would authorize Obama’s bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria—the one he began three months ago. If one were being generous, one could say that seeking congressional authorization for a war that commenced months ago is at least better than fighting a war even after Congress explicitly rejected its authorization, as Obama lawlessly did in the now-collapsed country of Libya.

When Obama began bombing targets inside Syria in September, I noted that it was the seventh predominantly Muslim country that had …

Berlin 25 years later......

Anyone who lived through the tumultuous events leading to the Berlin Wall coming down  back in 1989 will find it hard to forget the image of people scrambling through it from the East to the West.

As Berlin celebrates the Wall coming down 25 years ago, there had not only been a partying but also sober reflection of the Wall itself, how East Germany "operated" and the deaths of people attempting to escape a truly dreadful regime.



"For most of Germany, Nov. 9 is a day to celebrate not just the opening of the wall but what came after: integration of East and West and the rise of a united and prosperous Germany that now helps lead Europe.

But for some Germans it also summons memories of the East Germany that was a state of informers and suspicions, public rigidity and private despair — none more so than the families and friends of those killed at the Berlin Wall, for whom the anniversary of its fall is tarnished by tragedy, pocked with the holes where a child, a spouse or sibl…

Iraq, the US committing more troops there, Obama and weasel words

So, here we are with Obama committing another 1500 troops into Iraq.    Remember, this is the country which the Coalition "saved" from Saddam Hussein!     Read this piece from CommonDreams and reflect on the entire mess which is Iraq - and everything associated with the war there - and Obama's weasel words.    No wonder the man has little credibility.....as the voters of America so clearly showed for him and his Party in the election this last week.

"President Obama’s announcement that he will send 1500 more troops to Iraq was made on a Friday, a day usually reserved in Washington for the release of bad or embarrassing news that officials hope won’t still be fresh enough for Monday’s newspapers and so will quietly sink.

That these troops will be sent with Iraq soldiers to al-Anbar Province belies the administration’s repeated denial that it will put boots on the ground. There will soon be 3000 US troops in Iraq. They will be at the scene of battles, embedded with Iraq…

CNN & Fox News: This passes for critically important news?

No wonder people are ignorant.   FAIRhighlights how 2 major news (?) networks recently "reported" on an IPCC Report on climate change.   Utterly appalling - and irresponsible.


"The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounds the usual alarms, but that doesn't mean it got much attention from TV news. The typical reports were rip-and-read summaries, like this one from ABC World News (11/2/14):

And from the UN tonight, a dire warning about climate change. Scientists claiming that unless we make some serious changes, the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could soon lock the Earth in a, quote, "irreversible course of global warming."

But Fox News, you might not be surprised to hear,  has a different way of doing the very same kind of report. During a news break on the show Sunday Morning Futures (11/2/14), hosted by Maria Bartiromo, Fox's Eric Shawn told viewers:

In other news, climate change is happening, attributin…

Amnesty International accuses Israel of war crimes during recent Gaza war

Given the incidents already widely previously reported by various sources it is hardly surprising that Amnesty International has now found that Israel committed war crimes in its actions in Gaza during the recent war.    Reflect on this too.   Israel criticises Amnesty for not having evidence to support its allegations - BUT, then again, Israel Amnesty denied access to Gaza.  

"Amnesty International has accused the Israeli military of committing war crimes over the summer in its attack on Gaza, noting eight instances in which the army targeted houses full of families without warning.

In its report published Wednesday, Amnesty also called on Israeli and Palestinian officials to give the International Criminal Court (ICC) authority to investigate crimes committed in occupied territories.

The report, Families Under the Rubble: Israeli Attacks on Inhabited Homes,  charges Israeli forces with "callous indifference" to human life for carrying out a series of attacks with large …

A truly remarkable 105 year old

Great Britain has its own Oscar Schindler, now an incredible 105 years of age.   From Australia's ABC radio program Correspondent's Report.....

"ELIZABETH JACKSON: For most of us raising a family, forming productive happy relationships, not harming too many people along the way, could be the measure of a successful life.

Not many of us get to save lives, but Sir Nicholas Winton did, and thousands owe their existence to him.

And, at 105, the man dubbed the 'British Schindler' has been honoured in the UK for saving mainly Jewish children just before the outbreak of World War Two.

Philip Williams tells his story.

(Brass band playing)

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Five years after qualifying for a telegram from the Queen for his 100th birthday, Nicholas Winton was in the Czech capital Prague being presented with the nation's highest honour.

(Official announcement in Czech)

Back in 1938, he made a decision that would change his and thousands of other people's lives. Instead of ta…

Mon dieu! Those French wines are under threat

One more dimension to climate change.    France's wine industry, as that of other European countries, under real threat.

"Extreme weather is becoming more common in all of France's wine-growing regions. Heavy rains and hailstorms frequently come on the heels of summer heat waves and dry periods. Winters and nighttime temperatures are so mild that the plants are never able to rest. Few winegrowers continue to deny these tangible phenomena.

On the other hand, it isn't easy to perceive that the last three decades have been the warmest in the last 1,400 years. It's hard to comprehend that the average annual temperature has increased by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), that the Atlantic and the Mediterranean are warming almost imperceptibly, and that days are getting just slightly warmer. Human beings lack the natural sensors to detect such changes, but grapevines have them. The vines are suffering from ongoing stress, say some vintners. Vineyards are in turmoi…

America's very flawed election

Read all the things which were "wrong" about the just completed election in the USA and ponder whether this is the bastion of democracy or a third world country.     No other word for it.....shameful!

"As Americans rushed to the polls on Tuesday, voting rights watchdogs reported that this election day marked the most "unfair, confusing, and discriminatory election landscape" in fifty years.

Voters nationwide reported a slew of problems, including: long lines; broken machines; voter intimidation and misinformation; a lack of foreign language assistance; missing and misspelled names from registration; and general misinformation over registration, polling place locations, and identifications required.

"Every election day should be a celebration of democracy but instead what we are hearing today from too many polling places around the country is that voters are having problems casting their ballots," said Barbara Arnwine, President and Executive Director of…

IPPC issues "final word" on climate change. The time to act is now!

The message couldn't be more blunt or direct....

"We must reduce global carbon emissions and we must do it now, concludes a landmark report released in Copenhagen on Sunday by the United Nations climate science body, the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Said to be the official word on climate change from the world's top climate scientists, the final summary report (pdf) underscores three major facts about climate change: it’s man-made and already having dangerous impacts across the globe; if the world community acts now, warming can still be kept below the politically agreed upon "safe" limit of 2 degrees Celsius; the ability to secure a safe climate future is not only possible but also economically viable.

"In the starkest terms ever used, the scientific community is looking world leaders directly in the eye and demanding that they wake up," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in a statement following the report's release…

Distaster which is Afghanistan 2014

The mess, the untold cost in lives (both in deaths and injuries and ongoing mental issues) and hardware.....that is Afghanistan today.

TomDispatch.com puts the hard facts into context...

"........when the Bush administration launched America’s second Afghan war in October 2001, whether it knew it or not, it was prescribing for itself a taste of the medicine it had given the Soviets back in the 1980s.  Think of it as the worst possible version of do-it-yourself doctoring.  Now, another 13 years have passed.  We're three and a half decades beyond Brzezinksi’s urge to Vietnamize the USSR in Afghanistan and that Central Asian country is a basket case.  The Taliban insurgency is back big time; the Afghan army and police are taking horrific casualties, and you can bet that, with one eye on the collapsed Iraqi army the U.S. trained and armed, there are plenty of anxious people in the Pentagon when it comes to those Afghan security forces into which the U.S. has sunk at least $60 bill…

A disparity not to be countenanced

The ever-increasing divide between rich and poor is sure to spell trouble in years to come.    Even bankers and informed commentators say so.    Just reflect on these stats recently released by Oxfam.

"The number of billionaires in the world has more than doubled to 1,646 since the financial crisis of 2009, with inequality reaching new extremes, according to a new Oxfam report on inequality.

The combined wealth of today’s billionaires has grown by 124 percent in the last four years to $5.4 trillion, says the report published as part of Oxfam’s "Even It Out campaign".

The 85 richest people saw their fortunes increase by around $240 billion over the past year, and own as much as the poorest half of the world’s population – the equivalent of $668 million per day or almost half a million dollars per minute.

While the number of super-rich is skyrocketing, one million women have died in childbirth due to lack of basic health care, and 57 million children do not receive any form o…