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Showing posts from March, 2015

Complicity personified

To be seen as a rather brave piece "An Unsettling Complicity" published in The New York Times on complicity of Americans, and other nations, in their conduct and approach in Africa with respect to, amongst other things, supporting autocrats and turning a blind eye to human rights abuses.

"There are parasites of all kinds in poor countries.

One variety is intestinal, the worms that afflict countless children. In a hospital here in Angola, nurses pointed to a little girl named Marcelina, who they said was at risk of dying from anemia caused by worms and malnutrition. She had so many worms she was spitting them up.

The other kind of parasite afflicting Angolan children is the crooked official, often working with Western executives. It’s not a coincidence that Angola is a center for both kinds of parasites.

“Much of the health care budget gets stolen,” Rafael Marques de Morais, an investigative journalist in Angola, told me. “The biggest problem in this country is corruption.”

Rising water...and threatened food supply

Yet another, serious, dimension to climate change.   Rising water in various parts of the world threatening food supply.    Once again, we have been warned.

"Satellite observations show that sea level rise may have been underestimated, and that annual rises are increasing.

A collaborative effort between maritime organisations and space agencies in measuring sea level rise has come to the conclusion that it has been increasing by 3.1 millimetres a year since 1993 – higher than previous estimates.

The evidence is growing from a number of recent studies of the ice caps that sea level rise is accelerating, posing a threat to many of the world’s largest and most wealthy cities − most of which are also important ports.

Many of these in the developing world have little or no protection against rising sea levels. Some in Europe – such as London and Rotterdam − already have flood barriers to protect areas below high tide or storm surge level, but  these will need to be replaced and raised in …

FIrst the FBI recommended encrpytion. Now they want to stop it!

You can't win!   First the FBI recommended encryption.   Now they want to stop it - because, primarily, Apple has trumped the FBI in encrypting iPhones.

"The FBI wants to make us all less safe. At least that’s the implication from FBI director Jim Comey’s push to ban unbreakable encryption and deliberately weaken everyone’s security. And it’s past time that the White House makes its position clear once and for all.

Comey was back before Congress this week - this time in front of the House Appropriations Committee - imploring Congressmen to pass a law that would force tech companies to create a backdoor in any phone or communications tool that uses encryption.

He also revealed the Obama administration may be crafting such a law right now. “One of the things that the administration is working on right now is what would a legislative response look like that would allow us … with court process to get access to that evidence”, he said.

The whole controversy stems from Apple’s decisio…

If the shoe was on the other foot.....

Just imagine the outcry were the major newspapers in Tehran or, say Moscow, to publish an op-ed piece urging the bombing of Israel or some other country.     The West would be outraged.   So, one might rightly ask what The New York Times and The Washington Post are doing publishing op-ed pieces urging that Iran be bombed.   Yet another case of double-standards in the West?

"If two major newspapers in, say, Russia published major articles openly advocating the unprovoked bombing of a country, say, Israel, the U.S. government and news media would be aflame with denunciations about “aggression,” “criminality,” “madness,” and “behavior not fitting the Twenty-first Century.”

But when the newspapers are American – the New York Times and the Washington Post – and the target country is Iran, no one in the U.S. government and media bats an eye. These inflammatory articles – these incitements to murder and violation of international law – are considered just normal discussion in the Land of …

UN condemns Israel

A destroyed ambulance in the city of Shijaiyah in the Gaza Strip
Not for the first time - think, Amnesty International and other prominent human rights organisations - has Israel been the subject of criticism in relation to its actions in with regard to the Palestinians.  This time it's the turn of the UN.   The Israelis will, doublessly true to form, dismiss this latest Report.  

"A new U.N. report reveals that Israel was responsible for the deaths of more Palestinians in 2014 than in the previous half-century. The annual report by U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) states that more than 2,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 17,000 were injured last year in occupied Palestinian territory.

The majority of the incidents occurred in the second half of the year, after the abduction and murder of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir, leading to daily riots and protests in East Jerusalem.

UNOCHA reports that about 4,000,000 Palestinians in …

Journalist?...or Press Agent for the Government?

A credible one-time Washington Post reporter in a piece "Whistleblowers and the Press Heavyweights" on ExposeFacts pointedly asks whether many headline and well known journalists - who have questioned the actions of whistleblowers - are anything more than press agents for the US government.

"Following the late January guilty verdicts in the espionage trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, more proof emerged — if any more were needed — that many elite mainstream journalists abhor whistleblowers and think they should go to prison when they divulge classified information.

One would think that a business that has relied on confidential informants for some of the major investigative stories of this and the previous century would applaud whistleblowers who risk everything on behalf of the people’s right to know what its government is doing in the shadows. But looking back at cases over the last five years, we see the unedifying spectacle of some of the nation’s best-know…

Challenging those 1%

From CommonDreams:

"Activists from around the world will defy the terrorists to attend the World Social Forum in Tunis on March 25, determined to make the occasion a beacon for free speech, justice and equality. I am proud to join the leaders of Greenpeace, ActionAid, Civicus and the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) in highlighting the urgent need to tackle the vested interests of the 1 percent, in order to build a better world for all of humanity.

If you are in the top 1 percent of the global wealth stakes, our economic system works exceptionally well. Since the financial crisis in 2008, most of the wealth created in the world has ended up in your bank accounts. By next year, you could own more wealth than the rest of the world put together.

This is not just a global phenomenon. The growing gap between rich and poor is a reality for seven out of ten people on the planet. Last week the World Bank calculated that ten Africans own more wealth than half the continen…

A case of a "new" colonialism for Africa?

The West - and now China - just don't seem to be able to keep their hands off Africa.   A "new" sort of colonialism is being seen to arise as countries seek to secure the supply of food by eye-ing off Africa as a valuable resource, and source, for that .  What is egregious in all of this is that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is involved in all of this.

"Food sovereignty activists are shining a light on a closed-door meeting between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which are meeting in London on Monday with representatives of the biotechnology industry to discuss how to privatize the seed and agricultural markets of Africa.

Early Monday, protesters picketed outside the Gates Foundation's London offices holding signs that called on the foundation to "free the seeds." Some demonstrators handed out packets of open-pollinated seeds, which served as symbol of the "al…

Canadian PM loses the plot

Robert Fisk doesn't usually venture into writing about matters Canadian, but in his latest piece "If Stephen Harper is serious about criminalising 'barbaric cultural practices', then he should arrest himself for even suggesting it" in The Independent he queries whether the Canadian might not have lost his marbles.

"Is Stephen Harper off his rocker? Forget his trip to Jerusalem last year when the Canadian prime minister said that criticism of Israel was a “mask” for anti-Semitism.
Ignore his utter failure to bring home to Canada al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, whose retrial was staged by the Egyptian government to give him the chance to leave for his country of adoption. Cast aside Harper’s Blair-like contention that the Islamist murders of Canadian soldiers had nothing – absolutely zilch – to do with his decision to send Canada’s F-18 jets against Isis.

Now Harper, the man with the choir-boy good looks whose pro-Israeli policies might win him a seat in the…

Syria 2015

Credited to Al Jazeerah

WHO: World's most widely used herbicide ingredient shown to cause variety of cancers

How very comforting.....not!

"In a determination that could have far-reaching implications for the agro-chemical giants like Dow Chemical and Monsanto, the research arm of the World Health Organization has declared that glyphosate—the key ingredient of widely-used herbicides such as Roundup—should now be categorized as a "probable carcinogen" for humans.

In a report published on Friday in The Lancet Oncology medical journal, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), based in France, announced its findings after a meeting of 17 oncology experts from 11 countries met to review the available scientific research exploring the connection between glyphosate, as well as several organophosphate insecticides, and various human cancers. Though sometimes such chemicals are lumped together as pesticides, glyphosate is technically a herbicide, which targets other plants, not pests.

"Consumers have the right to know how their food is grown and whether their food doll… subversion

We take our media for granted all too often, but as this piece by Chris Hedges (one time New York Times' Bureau Chief in Jerusalem) points out in this piece on truthdig, true journalism is actually being subverted.

A farmer looks skyward as he sits amid his storm-damaged wheat crop in the Indian state of Rajasthan last week.
"The assault of global capitalism is not only an economic and political assault. It is a cultural and historical assault. Global capitalism seeks to erase our stories and our histories. Its systems of mass communication, which peddle a fake intimacy with manufactured celebrities and a false sense of belonging within a mercenary consumer culture, shut out our voices, hopes and dreams. Salacious gossip about the elites and entertainers, lurid tales of violence and inane trivia replace in national discourse the actual and the real. The goal is a vast historical amnesia.

The traditions, rituals and struggles of the poor and workingmen and workingwomen are replac…

Great Barrier Reef and Amazon rainforest at risk

The politicians are simply not prepared to get off their collective hands and address what is clearly a crisis in our environment caused by climate change.   Conferences, here, there and everything - and lots of talking, but no action.    

"The world’s most prized ecosystems, such as the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, require stronger local management to reduce the enormous global threat posed by climate change, according to an international team of scientists.

In a paper published in the journal Science, the researchers warned that localised pressures such as deforestation, nutrient pollution and poor water quality could exacerbate climate-driven challenges such as heatwaves and ocean acidification.

A study of three Unesco world heritage sites – the Amazon, the Great Barrier Reef and the Doñana wetlands in Spain – found that “stewardship is at risk of failing”, putting the ecosystems at greater risk of collapse due to climate change impacts.

The argument for divestin…

Degrading our work lives

Work is increasingly becoming a dirty word as employers push employees harder and harder, jobs become scarce and technology is making things harder, and not easier.     A depressing read in this piece "The Growing Degradation of Work and Life, and What We Might Do to End It" on truthout.

"Workers are conceptualized as mechanical cogs in a system that transforms inputs into outputs, and a host of managerial control techniques are implemented to force those hired to perform what they are ordered to do in a machine-like fashion."


"When we combine relentless time pressure with the mind-numbing and physically destructive nature of most jobs, we have a recipe for acute human misery."

Dining out.....or should that be Diner Beware?

Aaah, dining out.......the new diner-entertainment as it has come to be described.

"In the 1760s, Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau opened a series of Parisian shops that boasted a curative consommé. Although the main draw was the broth, Roze’s establishments also set a new standard for dining out, with individual tables, service throughout the day, and nice dishware. In her history of dining, Rebecca Spang credits Roze with inventing the modern restaurant.

Today, enterprising restaurateurs can skip the medicinal broth and head straight for the hard data. Economists, psychologists, and marketing professors alike have generated reams of instructive research about restaurants. Take visual cues that influence what we eat: A 2012 study on plate size and color reported, among other things, that diners served themselves about 20 percent more pasta when their plates matched their food [1]. Researchers in France found that when a dark-colored cake was served on a black plate rather than a white…

Never heard of Naypyidaw?

Never heard of Naypyidaw?   Why, the Burmese (now Myanmar) capital.   Only problem is that it seems to be a city bereft of people and motor vehicles....

A 14-lane highway in the centre of Naypyidaw, the capital of Burma
"Driving through Naypyidaw, the purpose-built capital of Burma, it could be easy to forget that you’re in the middle of one of south-east Asia’s poorest countries. On either side of the street, a seemingly endless series of giant detached buildings, villa-style hotels and shopping malls look like they have fallen from the sky, all painted in soft pastel colours: light pink, baby blue, beige. The roads are newly paved and lined with flowers and carefully pruned shrubbery. Meticulously landscaped roundabouts boast large sculptures of flowers.

The scale of this surreal city is difficult to describe: it extends an estimated 4,800 square kilometres, six times the size of New York City. Everything looks super-sized. The streets – clearly designed for cars and motorcades, n…

JIm Crow alive and the Holy Land

Stand up the real Israeli PM! - and the people of Israel as well.   Jim Crow is alive and well, not in the southern States of the USA, but in Israel, the supposed only "democracy" in the region.

"The last days of the campaign sounded an awful lot like the Jim Crow South, when African Americans had officially won the right to vote but still faced massive discrimination.

On election morning, a powerful white official running for re-election urged his followers to get out and vote, warning that minority voters were turning out in large numbers — and those trouble-making civil rights agitators, he complained, were busing them to the polls.

But this wasn’t Mississippi or Alabama circa 1965. It was Israel in 2015.

And the candidate wasn’t some protégé of Bull Connor or George Wallace shouting into a bullhorn. It was Israel’s prime minister writing on his Facebook page.

The leader of Washington’s closest Middle East ally — the storied “only democracy in the Middle East” — was pushi…

Iraq's woes. Thank you George Bush, Dick Cheney & acolytes

A surprising op-ed piece "Iraq's woes stem from Bush administration's toppling of Sunni rule" in Australia's The Age newspaper  by an avowed and well known Conservative commentator on whose to blame for the crisis in  Iraq.   Stand up George Bush, Dick Cheney and their acolytes Tony Blair and John Howard!

"But the overriding point here is that American neoconservatives, like most supporters of the decision to invade Iraq, still can't acknowledge the taproot of today's disaster: the toppling of Sunni rule that led to the Shiite ascendancy in Baghdad." 

"But the unintended consequences of the war were not just the costs in blood, treasure and prestige for the US, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths of Iraqi civilians."


"Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The Iraqi state, as the world has known it since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago, is coming apart. Portraits of Iran's late ayatollah…

Drip.....drip, drip.....and then no more!

Residents in Bangalore wait to collect drinking water in plastic pots for their households on March 18, 2015
Water!   We all need it, but if this latest Report from the UN is correct we are facing an extraordinary water crisis only 15 years away.    Of course, in some places in the world there is already a severe shortage of water or water fit for human consumption.

"Without reforms, the world will be plunged into a water crisis that could be crippling for hot, dry countries, the United Nations warned Friday.

In an annual report, the UN said abuse of water was now so great that on current trends, the world will face a 40-percent "global water deficit" by 2030 -- the gap between demand for water and replenishment of it.

"The fact is there is enough water to meet the world's needs, but not without dramatically changing the way water is used, managed and shared," it said in its annual World Water Development Report.

"Measurability, monitoring and implementati…

One "winner"....and one even bigger winner!

The Israelis may be delighted at seeing Netanyahu re-elected as their PM - as also the Jewish Diaspora given the commentary out of the USA - but as this op-ed piece in The New York Times explains the likely winners in all of this will be the Palestinians.      

"If anyone doubted where Benjamin Netanyahu stood on the question of peace, the Israeli prime minister made himself clear just before Tuesday’s election, proclaiming that there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch. Then he decided to engage in a bit of fear-mongering against Palestinian citizens of Israel in hopes of driving his supporters to the polls. “The right-wing government is in danger,” Mr. Netanyahu announced on Election Day. “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.”

But Mr. Netanyahu’s victory is actually the best plausible outcome for those seeking to end Israel’s occupation. Indeed, I, as a Palestinian, breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that his Likud Party had won the l…

Bibi sinks everything!

All indications are that Bibi Netanyahu will likely return to office as Israel's PM post the election yesterday.     Never mind that he has trashed the idea of a Palestinian State or even talking to the Palestinians.    And then he has also shown his true colours in his racist comments about Arabs voting in the election.  Professor Juan Cole, at informed COMMENT, reviews the situation.   

"On Sunday, in a rare public display of his unhinged paranoia, he opined that foreign governments were sending money into Israel to his rivals, conspiring with “leftists” to unseat him. Famously, Netanyahu’s campaign is the one with the foreign money– that of Sheldon Adelson and other sketchy American billionaires.

But whether he gets another term or not, Netanyahu will be remembered for the damage he did to US interests, and those of Israel itself.

1. Netanyahu scuttled the George Mitchell peace process initiated by President Obama when he first took office in 2009. He pledged a freeze of squ…

Syria 5 years on.....

Last Sunday marked the fifth year of the Syrian conflict.    The country is truly devastated.   However, having excoriated the Syrian President Assad all the years - remember the accusation of using chemical weapons on his own people a few years back? - now the politicians in the West are talking of siding with Assad against the more evil IS.      Nothing like a moral compass!

"As the civil war in Syria entered its fifth grim year on Sunday, humanitarian agencies say the world has abandoned or forgotten those suffering there. The numbers are hard to absorb: Roughly 220,000 killed; over 10 million or nearly half of the country's population displaced and in need of aid, about half of them children; and an estimated 4.6 million living under siege or in hard-to-access areas, including hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

Among those most painfully held hostage by the war are about 20,000 trapped residents of Yarmouk, just south of Damascus, which was long Syria's larg…

"Working" in a HR gibberish environment - or face the sack!

There is just no doubting what gibberish (aka rubbish!) and absolute nonsense the HR people will come up with.....

"It may be a new low in human resources gibberish.

But the fun crowd at retailer Cotton On have told staff they need to "keep it real" or face the sack.

A leaked copy of Cotton On's code of conduct tells its staff it is "unacceptable" when working with colleagues or customers, to be anything but "fun" and "keeping it real". No ifs or buts. Failure to do so can result in being fired on the spot.

Less well defined in the document is what "keeping it real" means. The Online Slang Dictionary tells us that to "keep it real" is to "stay true to one's self; to resist the temptation to be fake". One claim is that the origins of the phrase emerged out of hip-hop culture in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Employment lawyers, no doubt, would enjoy an unfair dismissal case in the Fair Work Comm…

The cost (in food, etc) caused by climate change

Now another university weighs in in support the argument that climate change will have an effect on us all - the cost of food, being one of them.    And yet the politicians continue to sit on their hands.

"Future generations may have to make do with more expensive and poorer quality produce, including meat and dairy, because of the impact of climate change, according to new research.

A study of the impact of climate change on 55 foods grown in Australia, found the quality of beef and chicken may plummet, and carrots could change taste for the worse.
The report by researchers at the University of Melbourne said Australia’s dry deserts will become hotter, heavy rain will increase in areas like NSW and cyclones will become less frequent but more intense in the north.

It found those predictions will impact agricultural production and force farmers to adapt to changing conditions. That could mean cattle farmers switch to more heat-tolerant, but lower eating-quality, cows and winemakers wi…

CNN: News broadcaster or propagandists?

One might have thought that with all the false information circulated about Iraq before war was declared on Saddam, that the media would be sober in its reporting of political matters - and certainly engaged in propaganda or be war-boosters.     Not CNN! - as this piece "CNN is Beating the Drums of War" on Information Clearing House.

"President George W. Bush’s national security advisor, Condi Rice, warned Americans that Saddam Hussein’s (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction could result in a mushroom cloud going up over an American city. No such threat existed. But today a very real threat exists over all American cities, and the national security advisor does not notice.

The threat issues from Washington and arises from the demonization of Russia and its leadership.

Wolf Blitzer (CNN, March 13) used the cover of a news program to broadcast a propaganda performance straight out of the Third Reich or perhaps from George Orwell’s 1984. The orchestration presented Russia…

Australia's continues its shameful conduct.....

The UN has severely criticised the Australian Government for its treatment of asylum seekers.    The Australian Human Rights Commission has done likewise.    In typical fashion of the present Government all criticism has been peremptorily brushed off and the PM (bover boy #1) attacked the critics.

The conditions on Christmas island, where many asylum seekers are actually behind bars, are said to be appalling.    Oh no... says the Government.  Just read this exchange between the head of the Human Rights Commission and the public servant in charge of dealing with asylum seekers.   Public service double-speak at its worst.  Shameful!

"TRIGGS: … Is it acceptable to have children, held on Christmas Island, in shipping bunkers, containers, on stony ground, surrounded by phosphate dust, in that heat, with no education, at the moment, an acceptable environment into which to send children?

CORMACK: We operate within the policy of the government of the day. We put in place measures that recog…

Google's CEO lays out the reasons for retiring.....

It's a familiar reason given by a CEO, or senior company officer, for retiring - he/she wants to spend time with their family.  

What's "interesting" in the case of Google's CEO retiring, is the way, and the reasons, spelt out by him in an email to staff....

"After nearly 7 years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google to spend more time with my family. Yeah, I know you've heard that line before. We give a lot to our jobs. I certainly did. And while I am not looking for sympathy, I want to share my thought process because so many people struggle to strike the right balance between work and personal life.

This story starts last fall. A very early morning last September, after a whole night of climbing, looking at the sunrise on top of Africa - Mt Kilimanjaro. Tamar (my wife) and I were not only enjoying the summit, but on such a clear day, we could see in the distance, the vast plain of the Serengeti at our feet, and with it the calling of all the potential a…

We shall overcome?

Credited to Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

The CIA campaign to steal Apple's secrets

And the politicians wonder why we don't trust them.  The revelation, via Edward Snowden documents - published on The // Intercept - that the CIA has been engaged in a concerted effort to steal Apple's secrets is truly breathtaking.   

"Researchers working with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept.

The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the “Jamboree,” where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

By targeting essential security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple’s devices, the researchers have sought to thwart the company’s attempts to provide mobil…

Getting the whole world on line

Parade watchers take pictures on their mobile phones in New Delhi
 An interesting editorial in The New York Times dealing with getting the whole world on line...

"Years before big technology companies like Google and Facebook began talking about using balloons, drones and cellphones to provide Internet access to billions of people in developing countries, leaders like President Bill Clinton were talking about bridging the “global digital divide.” And while progress has been made in recent years, most of the world’s 7.2 billion people still do not have access to the Internet.

The good news is that most of humanity now lives within reach of wireless networks. About half of the world’s population, or 3.6 billion people, had cellphone service last year, up from 2.3 billion people in 2008. And one-third of all people used mobile networks to connect to the Internet last year. Two main forces have made this possible: rising incomes in developing countries and cheaper wireless devices and s…

Play soccer!.....blow the deaths and injuries building the stadium

There has been considerable controversy about FIFA decision to award the World Cup for 2022 to Qatar.    Too hot and just not a suitable venue has been the persistent criticism.    Worse still, however, is the huge toll of workers (mainly foreign) toiling to build the stadiums and living in abject poverty as well.      FP reports on an ongoing outrage....

"Let no one accuse FIFA of being afraid to take risks. Soccer’s global governing body was well aware of the potential problems of hosting a World Cup in Qatar: the summer heat, the lack of infrastructure, the reluctance of fans to travel to the Middle East — indeed, all of these were noted in FIFA’s risk assessments. But even though hundreds of workers had already died in the country’s construction boom before it was granted the tournament, Qatar 2022 has kicked the emirate’s construction-fueled killing machine into high gear. Can anyone stop it?

Migrant workers in Qatar, who live in dusty labor camps and have few rights, have bee…

There is sure money in armaments

One industry never fails to make money - the armaments manufacturers.    And it is the usual suspect countries profiting the most from the sale of armaments to others.   CommonDreams provides the numbers in this piece "US Weapons Exporters Lead World in War Profiteering".....

"U.S. weapons exporters lead the world in profits from the booming military arms and equipment business, driven by rising tensions and conflict around the world, according to a new report from London-based analysts.

The annual study by IHS Inc.—which looks at military markets in 65 nations, excluding small arms, munitions, and surveillance programs—finds that the United States is behind one-third of all equipment and weapons exports world-wide.

This is no small amount: in 2014, global "defense" trade surpassed $64.4 billion, the report finds.

"Defense trade rose by a landmark 13.4 percent over the past year," said Ben Moores, senior defense analyst at IHS Aerospace, Defense and Sec…

Still behind the the times....

Credited to Mike Luckovitch, truthdig

Five Eyes are hard at work......snooping!

"Near the heartland of New Zealand’s renowned wine country, there is a place that visitors are not allowed to go. The peculiar large white domes that protrude from the earth in the Waihopai Valley are surrounded by razor wire and shrouded in secrecy.

But now, newly revealed documents from the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden shine a light on what is behind the security perimeter. The buildings there are crammed with sophisticated NSA spying technology, used by New Zealand to sweep up text messages, emails, phone calls, and other communications in bulk across the Asia-Pacific.

The documents, revealed Saturday by the Sunday Star-Times in collaboration with The Intercept, show how closely New Zealand has worked with the NSA to maintain surveillance coverage of the region. The files also offer an unprecedented insight into the Waihopai base, exposing how it’s been integrated into a global eavesdropping network.

The spying station intercepts data from satellites, and…

Climate change: Women farmers lead the way

From CommonDreams:

"I give you a message from my heart," she says, "let's move forward and work together for the benefit of everyone. And especially for those who work in the fields, as we are the ones who suffer the most."

That is the voice of Arminda, a farmer and agro-forestry advocate from Bolivia, who is among a number of women farmers and activists featured in a campaign video by Oxfam International which celebrates female voices from around the world who are raising the alarm about climate change, organizing their communities in response, challenging others to recognize their wisdom, and pressuring local and national officials to follow their lead.

According to Oxfam, the small group of brave women in the film is just a sample of the thousands of others who are standing up to the ravages of climate change – and to the governments and big businesses who are allowing runaway global warming to destroy the world.

 With Sunday recognized by the United Nations a…

Those policy wonks.....almost always getting it wrong!

TomDispatch addresses and highlights an issue almost overlooked daily.  Those policy wonks, in think tanks and elsewhere, forever making pronouncements and being given air-time in the media, sprouting on and on about various critical issues, notably the issues in the Middle East - and invariably wrong, again and again!

"In our era in Washington, whole careers have been built on grotesque mistakes.  In fact, when it comes to our various conflicts, God save you if you’re right; no one will ever want to hear from you again.  If you’re wrong, however... well, take the invasion of Iraq.  Given the Islamic State, that creature of the American occupation, can anyone seriously believe that the invasion that blew a hole in the heart of the Middle East doesn’t qualify as one of the genuine disasters of our time, if not of any time? In the mad occupation that followed, Saddam Hussein’s well-trained army and officer corps were ushered into the chaos of post-invasion unemployment and, of cours…

Australia goes back into Iraq

Australia's PM - not the brightest tack in the tool-shed and a US booster - has, with his Cabinet, committed Australian troops to return to Iraq.     That it is foolish doing so is almost beyond question - as all informed commentary says!       Perhaps below, from Crikey, captures the situation pitch-perfect!

International Women's Day. Angelina's story.....

Sunday 8 March is International Women's Day.  

This report from Oxfam provides a rare insight to the life of a woman in South Sudan - the world's newest nation (only established in 2011) and where Oxfam provides aid for a staggering 400,000 people.

"Following decades of conflict, women in South Sudan have become the backbone of their communities since a large number of men were killed, or were separated from their families. Women stepped in to fill roles that had traditionally been held by men. They have been taking care of their homes and families, the sick and the wounded, as well as managing agricultural production.

Women in South Sudan have borne a heavy price for the country’s numerous conflicts, and are the unsung heroines in the country’s turbulent history.

This is Angelina’s story.

“My mother died when I was a teenager, in between all the running, because there was no one to treat her illness. Between all the fighting, it was difficult to get her to a hospital.”


Climate: Call for Humanity to Rise Up Against 'Collective Shrug of Fatalism'

The editor of the Guardian has thrown out a challenge and acknowledged failing to have his newspaper give a greater prominence to climate change.  He has taken the first steps to remedy that......

"Alongside an announcement by The Guardian's editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger on Friday in which he said climate change stands out as perhaps the single most important issue now facing humanity—one he says his outlet could have done a more aggressive job of covering in recent years—the newspaper has kicked off a new series of special coverage on global warming by publishing an excerpt from author and activist Naomi Klein's latest book, This Changes Everything, alongside a sneak-peek of the documentary film by the same name directed by Klein's husband, Avi Lewis.

According to sentiments shared by Rusbridger and expressed in both the film and the book, Klein and Lewis argue climate change, if properly understood, "could become a galvanising force for humanity" if a more…

Facism, politicians and lies.....

There are many who do not like John Pilger - even if he is probably the most awarded journalist in the world, apart from an exemplary author and documentary maker.  That said, one may not like Pilger, but his arguments are soundly based, and the facts he relies on, almost irrefutable. 

In his latest piece "Why the Rise of Fascism is Again the Issue", on CounterPunch, he catalogues the rise of fascism and is heavily critical of the media in how it reports world events.   Of course, politicians do not escape his criticism.

"Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – 69 countries – have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of America’s modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed and their economies stripped of all protection, their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as “sanctions”. The British historian Mark Cu…

Bibi: A "vile" man

Jennifer Loewenstein (a human rights activist and faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) in writing about the visit of Israeli PM Netanyahu to Washington, and addressing the Congress, calls him a "vile" man.   She is right!   But she also, again rightly, excoriates the West for allowing Israel to conduct itself as it has for decades now.  Let her explain, in this piece, on truthdig, why....

"All speculation aside, what strikes me as the most obvious piece of information to re-emerge from the tempest now brewing in Washington is that Benjamin Netanyahu is an unscrupulous, scheming, vile man who has taken the meaning of “chutzpah” to new heights in his display of unseemly and undiplomatic behavior. That no world leader has yet demanded that he and his regime be made to answer for its brutally criminal, scandalous policies time and again compels us to recognize how grievously weak and flawed the ‘international community’ is, and by …