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Showing posts from January, 2015

Proposed surveillance on a grand scale

We are all under threat!   Not only from misguided terrorists, but from our own governments hell-bent on snooping on citizens in all manner of ways.    The latest revelation.....

"Federal agencies tried to use vehicle license-plate readers to track the travel patterns of Americans on a much wider scale than previously thought, with new documents showing the technology was proposed for use to monitor public meetings.

The American Civil Liberties Union released more documents this week revealing for the first time the potential scale of a massive database containing the data of millions of drivers, logged from automatic license plate readers around the US.

As President Obama’s nominee for attorney general prepared for a second day of confirmation hearings in Washington, senior lawmakers also called on the US Justice Department to show “greater transparency and oversight”.

Further documents released by the ACLU on Wednesday show that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials in Ph…

There is only one Sarah (Palin)

Credited to Mike Luckovich, Atlanta-Journal-Constitution

Take that Henry (Kissinger)!

We are all know about revisionism - especially rampant amongst Holocaust deniers.     But as for applying revisionism to the likes of Henry Kissinger?

CodePink tried a citizen's arrest of the ex US Secretary of State, resulting in a sharp rebuke from Senator John McCain.  A piece on Alternet, reflects on Kissinger's record and why one can, quote properly, characterise him as a war criminal.   The late Christopher Hitchins many years in a book about Kissinger tabulated the great Henry's egregious actions.

"A very angry Senator John McCain denounced CodePink activists as “low-life scum” for holding up signs reading “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes” and dangling handcuffs next to Henry Kissinger’s head during a Senate hearing on January 29. McCain called the demonstration “disgraceful, outrageous and despicable,” accused the protesters of “physically intimidating” Kissinger and apologized profusely to his friend for this “deeply troubling incident.”

But if Senator McCain wa…

The Saudis and ISIS. A case of tweedledumb and tweedledee?

Paul McGeough, Chief foreign correspondent for the Fairfax Press, has been covering and writing about the Middle East for many years.

In his latest piece for The Age, he not only shows our hypocrisy about condemning ISIS whilst looking on Saudi Arabia as an ally, when the actions of both are pretty much the same.

"We're all braced for another grotesque video clip from the fundamentalist nutters of the so-called Islamic State, because they've released a primer on the likely beheading of two Japanese hostages – unless Tokyo will hand over a $US200 million ransom in the coming days.

IS's video production values are sickeningly creepy – the prisoners in orange jumpsuits; their would-be executioner in black, wielding a knife and spewing bile.

But in matters of jurisprudence, the Saudis are every bit as sickening as IS. They share the same Saudi-sponsored, ultra-conservative strain of Sunni Islam. And they think alike on crime and punishment – they both want to kill, kill, k…

12 years (without charge) in Gitmo. America's disgrace!

"The heartrending documentary “Waiting for Fahd,” tells the story of CCR client Fahd Ghazy, a Yemeni national unlawfully detained at Guantánamo since he was 17 and who is now 30. Through moving interviews with his beloved family in Yemen, “Waiting for Fahd” paints a vivid portrait of the life that awaits a man who, despite being twice cleared for release, continues to languish at Guantánamo, denied his home, his livelihood, and his loved ones because of his nationality."

A personal appeal from Fahd Ghazy to the viewers of “Waiting for Fahd”

No, Paris wasn't the worst attack on journalists

Whilst everyone is still hyperventilating about the tragic events in Paris last week, a sober appraisal from Media Lens.

"In The Times, the perennially apocalyptic David Aaronovitch wrote:

'Yesterday in Paris we in the west crossed a boundary that cannot be recrossed. For the first time since the defeat of fascism a group of citizens were massacred because of what they had drawn, said and published.'

The Guardian took a similar view:

'Wednesday's atrocity was the... bloodiest single assault on western journalism in living memory.'

But, in fact, the bloodiest attack on journalism in living memory, at least in Europe, happened on April 23, 1999 when Nato bombed the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television, killing 16 people. The dead included an editor, a programme director, a cameraman, a make-up artist, three security guards and other media support staff. Additional radio and electrical installations throughout the country were also attacked. The New Yor…

Those "friends" of solidarity in Paris

The media has been hyper-ventilating about the horrendous events in Paris - and the politicians engaged in trying to be seen as "doing" something - but in the meantime a host of so-called world leaders flew into Paris as a sign of solidarity with the French.

But are these friends be seen as good, wholesome and decent leaders?     Er, no!     Guy Rundle backgrounds the attendees in a piece on Crikey (behind a paywall):

"Were you to plot a perfect satirical novel of the contemporary world, you might end it with a mass public march, led by a series of oligarchical leaders holding a banner saying "Freedom and Democracy" -- at the end of which everyone who participated would be arrested because they may well be enemies of such freedom and you can't be too careful.

We are well on the way to that. Yesterday in Paris there was a march for "free speech", occasioned by the evisceration of a satire/outrage magazine whose repeated focus gag was piss-takes of …

If you're an American......

The horrific events in Paris this week, once again bring to the fore the issue of weapons - be they guns or whatever - being so readily accessible to people.

Given the propensity for Americans to continue their love affair with the right to bear arms, and then, in all manner of ways, the grim stats in this piece on TomDispatch ought to give pause for thought - and dare one suggest restrictions being introduced in relation to the gun laws?

"One of the grimmer small events of recent American life occurred just as 2014 was ending.  A mother had her two-year old toddler perched in a shopping cart at an Idaho Wal-Mart.  He reached into her purse, specially made for carrying a concealed firearm (and a Christmas gift from her husband), found his mother’s pistol in it, pulled it out, and shot and killed her.  And she wasn’t the only victim of a child who came upon a loaded weapon.  Between 2007 and 2011, at least 62 children 14 or younger died in similarly nightmarish accidents with load…

Je Suis Charlie

Republished from the blogger Antony Loewenstein's blog today:

"Yesterday’s massacre in Paris at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is shocking and unforgettable. The publication may have been frequently racist against Muslims and a whole host of “enemies” but the right to offend is a key attribute in a democracy. This doesn’t mean we have to applaud editors and writers who trade in racial stereotyping.

As a journalist, such an attack affects me deeply. The only response is standing up for what we believe and stating it strongly and frequently. We will not be silenced. We will write. We will speak out. We will continue to tell the truth. We will reject the onslaught and say that talking honestly about Islam, Palestine, Israel, terrorism and the “war on terror” is vital.

My friend George Burchett, currently based in Vietnam and the son of famed journalist Wilfred Burchett, penned the following today and it seems apt for the moment:

Charlie was a good friend from my hi…

Yep, airlines want to make you suffer

Anything! - yes, anything - to increase the bottom line.    Oh, as for providing service?.....forget it!

"In 2013, the major airlines combined made about $31.5 billion in income from fees, as well as other ancillaries, such as redeeming credit-card points. United pulled in more than $5.7 billion in fees and other ancillary income in 2013, while Delta scored more than $2.5 billion. That’s income derived in large part from services, such as baggage carriage, that were once included in ticket prices. Today, as anyone who travels knows well, you can pay fees ranging from forty dollars to three hundred dollars for things like boarding in a “fast lane,” sitting in slightly better economy-class seats, bringing along the family dog, or sending an unaccompanied minor on a plane. Loyal fliers, or people willing to pay a giant annual fee, can avoid some of these charges; others are unavoidable.

The fees have proved a boon to the U.S. airlines, which will post a projected twenty-billion-dolla…

Writers.......and surveillance

We should all be concerned when one reads that writers are increasingly troubled by surveillance impacting on their freedom to write as they see fit.

"A survey of writers around the world by the PEN American Center has found that a significant majority said they were deeply concerned with government surveillance, with many reporting that they have avoided, or have considered avoiding, controversial topics in their work or in personal communications as a result.

The findings show that writers consider freedom of expression to be under significant threat around the world in democratic and nondemocratic countries. Some 75 percent of respondents in countries classified as “free,” 84 percent in “partly free” countries, and 80 percent in countries that were “not free” said that they were “very” or “somewhat” worried about government surveillance in their countries.

The survey, which will be released Monday, was conducted anonymously online in fall 2014 and yielded 772 responses from fict…

Paying a very heavy price for so-called progress

Those of us in the West seem to believe that bringing "progress" to less developed peoples and countries is "good" and beneficial for them.   In part, true!      But there is a very dark and distressing side to that supposed progress too.

"Indigenous peoples suffer the greatest suicide risk among cultural or ethnic groups worldwide. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men ages 25 to 29 have a suicide rate four times higher than the general population in that same age group in Australia, according to the country’s Department of Health.

In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death, behind accidents, for American Indian and Alaska Native men ages 15 to 34, and is two and a half times higher than the national average for that age group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Among the indigenous in Brazil, the suicide rate was six times higher than the national average in 2013, according to a study released in Octo…

Gaza headed in only one direction

Roger Cohen, a regular columnist on The New York Times, is Jewish and has certainly shown his pro-Israel proclivities in past columns.    It is therefore more than refreshing to read his latest column for the Times in which he makes a grim prognosis for Israel  - in a word, war! - if it doesn't do something, and soon, to redress the very real issues in Gaza.

"There is another war waiting to happen in Gaza. The last one changed nothing. Hamas rockets are being test-fired. A Palestinian farmer has been shot dead near the border. Tensions simmer. The draft Security Council resolution at the United Nations, championed by the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, seeking a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank by 2017, amounts to an elaborate sideshow. The real matter of diplomatic urgency going into 2015, for the Palestinian people and the world, is to end the lockdown of Gaza.

“People are mad, frustrated, they have nothing to lose,” Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to the Hamas Ga…

This is what you call a "responsible conclusion?"

The politicians can blather on as much as they like, but the realities for the people of Afghanistan is that 2014 was the worst for them for civilian casualities, killed or wounded.   The details.....

"On the cusp of 2015, the people of Afghanistan pass another grim milestone: this calendar year saw the greatest number of civilians killed and wounded on record.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the devastation faced by Afghan civilians is the worst it has been since the global body began making reports in 2009. Civilian casualties overall are up 19 percent from 2013, rising to 33 percent among children.

By November, 3,188 civilians had been killed and 6,429 wounded, according to UNAMA records, bringing the total number to 9,617—a number that has since climbed even higher.

A majority of these killings and woundings are a result of "ground engagements between parties to the conflict, improvised explosive devices, and suicide and complex att…