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Showing posts from June, 2015

Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

In a world - certainly in the Western part of it - which strives to look good and where vanity abounds, a lot of fruit and vegetables don't end up on our shop's shelves because they don't look good.      In the meantime, a lot of fruit and vegetables literally go to waste.    A new campaign in France seeks to arrest this desire to both sell and people only willing to buy "perfect" fruit and vegetables.   Welcome "Inglorious Fruit and Vegetables!"

"Not all carrots look alike, but you wouldn’t know it from scanning the shelves of your local supermarket.

Supermarket chains often display only the most perfectly shaped apples, potatoes and other produce for their shoppers. The rest may get cooked for the store’s prepared foods or, more often, tossed out with the garbage.

“Most consumers buy their fresh products based on aesthetic criteria: If the product looks good, then it must taste good,” said Patrice DeVilliers, the photographer of a campaign by Marcel…

2014 Gaza War: UN Report in and both Israelis and Palestinians don't escape criticism

The reaction of the Israelis has been predictable - when is it otherwise? - but the Report by the UN Human Rights Council makes for troubling reading.   And Israel is far from off the hook.  Not that the Palestinians / Gazans are!

"There can be no surprise that the UN Human Rights Council’s independent investigation of Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer found evidence of massive and systematic war crimes.

Its report, published Monday in Geneva, says investigators were “able to gather substantial information pointing to serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups.”

“The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come,” the chair of the investigation commission, Justice Mary McGowan Davis told media, adding that “there is also ongoing fear in Israel among communities who come under regular threat.”

Despite the “balanced” language that is no…

Just think what one could do with $14 trillion

It probably won't come as a surprise to those with an eye on world events, that the amount of money spent on war in 2014 came in at $14 trillion.     Just imagine what positive things could be done and achieved if that sort of money - or even a fraction of it - were to be diverted to something work on a cure for cancer and disease, alleviating poverty, feeding the hungry, etc. etc.

If "global violence were to decrease by 10 percent uniformly, an additional US$1.43 trillion would effectively be added to the world economy.” 

A new report released Friday said that the global cost of war was soaring as it was US$14 trillion in 2014. 

The report by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) also claimed that conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were responsible for most of the deaths in the world. 

According to the report, Syria remained the least peaceful place on Earth, followed by Iraq and Afghanistan, with the United States contributing violence in all thre…

World Refugee Day

The last weeks have seen much coverage in the media about refugees around various parts of the world - especially the many thousands crossing the Mediterranean from Africa, those losing their lives doing so and the dilemma facing Europe how to cope with the large number of people.   

Today, 20 June, is the UN's designated World Refugee Day.  

The figures relating to refugees - as at the end of 2011 and heaven knows what they stand at today - are staggering:

"An estimated 43.3 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution.

Among refugees and people in refugee-like situations, children constituted 46 per cent of the population.

876,100 individual applications for asylum or refugee status were submitted in 171 countries or territories.

The number of internally displaced persons, benefitting from UNHCR’s protection and assistance activities, was 15.5 million.

UNHCR identified some 3.5 million stateless people in 64 countries. However, the actual number…

America.....and those guns!

Another day in the USA.....and yet another shooting resulting in the death of 9 people.     And what is America doing about it?    Nothing!

A plaintiff cry from an unlikely source........Jon Stewart of Daily Show fame.

"Jon Stewart's The Daily Show hit a rare emotional note on Thursday, in the wake of a South Carolina shooting which left nine people dead.

 With just six weeks to go until he retires, the satirist stared down the camera and declared he had no jokes.

Instead, the 52-year-old delivered a monologue on America's enduring problem with both racism and gun control.

"I didn't do my job today, and I apologise. I've got nothing for you in terms of jokes," Stewart said.

"I've got nothing for you in terms of jokes and sounds because of what happened in South Carolina.

"Maybe if I wasn't nearing the end of my run or this wasn't such a common occurrence, maybe I could have pulled out of the spiral, but I didn't.

Nine people were killed…

The plight of the Iranian people - thanks to the Americans and its allies

Thanks to the Americans, and its pliant acolytes (think of the UK and Australia) the havoc wreaked on Iraq as a consequence of the so-called Iraq War (remember the catch-cry "shock and Awe" when Iraq was invaded) has been incalculable.     This piece from CommonDreams puts the whole catastrophe into context.

"Iraq’s dismal health situation is testimony to the invasion of the country by foreign forces, including now the takeover of important parts of its territory by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Iraqi people have been the subject of mass executions, rape, torture and, in addition, the destruction of the country’s infrastructure. The international community has been mostly deaf to the needs of Iraqis, who have undergone difficulties much greater than during the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization Director-General stated recently, “The situation is bad, really bad, and rapidly getting worse,” as she launched a ne…

NASA warning: World running out of water

Now here is something to be concerned about.   It's bad enough that many have predicted that we will in years to come see wars erupt as countries feud about the supply and accessibility to water, but now we have a dire warning, from no lesser authority than the NASA, that the world is headed toward running out of water.

"The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.

Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this i…

The bluffer's guide to Magna Carta

All the information you need to know about Magna Carta - 800 years old this week.

From Australia's ABC....

"It's the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, but what is it and who cares?

You do, because you never know when someone might try to engage you in casual natter about it and you don't want to be caught out.

RN's resident bluffer Zoe Norton Lodge tells you all you need to know. You'll be equipped to convince all around that you're totally up-to-speed."

Just imagine if someone other than the Americans had done this

The US just can't help itself!    Double standards at its best.   Just imagine the outcry from the White House and many of the strident members of Congress (looking at you John McCain - and others) had another country engaged in what is reported in the piece, from CommonDreams(relying on a report in The Guardian) below.

"After the Central Intelligence Agency was given authority to begin torturing suspected terrorists in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, newly published documents show that one of the corresponding crimes to that program, according to experts, was a gross violation of medical ethics that allowed the agency to conduct what amounted to "human experimentation" on people who became test subjects without consent.

Reported exclusively by the Guardian on Monday, sections of a previously classified CIA document—first obtained by the ACLU—reveal that a long-standing policy against allowing people to become unwitting medical or research subjects rem…

Whadda you know! Israel declares itself innocent - yet again!

So much for Israel's IDF allegedly being the most moral army in the world - and the country itself having a proper judicial system and Rule of Law.   Yet another example of Israel declaring itself innocent of a crime witnessed by many independent people.

"The Israeli military announced Thursday it has exonerated itself for killing four children on a beach in Gaza during last summer's seven-week military assault on the besieged strip, prompting expressions of outrage and demands for justice from family members and international journalists who witnessed the attack.

"There is no justice in the internal investigation," declared Mohammed Bakr, father of 11-year-old Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, who was slain in the bombing along with his cousins Ahed Atef Bakr (10), Zakariya Ahed Bakr (10), and Ismail Mahmoud Bakr (9).

"We are counting on the [International Criminal Court] and human rights," added the bereaved father. "We are not afraid and we are confident we w…

A plea for Greece

If the reports coming out of Greece, and Europe, are correct, the Greek economy remains in trouble and European countries want Greece to repay its huge debts.    Something will have to give, especially as there is talk of Greece leaving (or is that being kicked out?) the EU.

To the rescue - well, of sorts! - come some well-respected economists arguing for Greece.....

"In an essay published on Friday morning in the Financial Times, 26 of the world’s most renowned economic minds proclaimed their solidarity with Syriza, Greece’s ruling anti-austerity party.

The article’s authors—a group that includes Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty, Marcus Miller and former Prime Minister of Italy Massimo D’Alema—summarized their message as a “plea for economic sanity and humanity.”  Arguing that the fate of the European Union depends on the ability of Greece and its creditor institutions to compromise, they demanded that the European Union provide “forbearance and finance to promote structural reform …

Those Murdochs!!!!

Credited to Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons

Red Cross hedges on what it did in Haiti

As if Haiti's people haven't suffered enough, along comes the Red Cross to seemingly help.    But did it?      Questions have been raised about money collected for Haitian relief and what became of it.   To date the Red Cross has hedged answering.   A severe challenge it's integrity and standing!

"Haitian journalists grilled an American Red Cross official Wednesday about the group’s Haiti program, but the official declined to provide any new details of how it spent nearly $500 million donated after the 2010 earthquake.

The Red Cross called a press conference, held at the Le Plaza Hotel in downtown Port-Au-Prince, in response to ProPublica and NPR’s story published last week revealing a string of Red Cross failures in Haiti.

The American Red Cross official at the press conference was repeatedly interrupted by Haitian reporters frustrated that he would not give specifics on its spending:

The official, Walker Dauphin, criticized our story for making “misleading allegations” …

A big stick, but......

As if there aren't enough conflicts and spats going on around in various parts of our world, here comes the US putting troops into Eastern Europe as some form or deterrent or warning to the Russians.    Wise move?   Likely not, as Putin will almost certainly ramp up his placement of troops close to the borders of Eastern Europe.   And then?

"In a significant move to deter possible Russian aggression in Europe, the Pentagon is poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries, American and allied officials say.

The proposal, if approved, would represent the first time since the end of the Cold War that the United States has stationed heavy military equipment in the newer NATO member nations in Eastern Europe that had once been part of the Soviet sphere of influence. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine have caused alarm and prompted new mil…

Racism and bigotry at its worst

"In this video, Irish lawmaker Richard Boyd Barrett reads out some of the more shocking, violent and racist statements recently made by Israeli ministers and military officials.

Boyd Barrett was speaking in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the parliament of the Republic of Ireland, yesterday during questions to Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny about his visit to Paris earlier this year. Kenny had taken part in a staged photo opportunity with other heads of state and government following the killings at Charlie Hebdo.

“The world was of course utterly appalled by the killing of 12 innocent people, 10 of whom were journalists, at Charlie Hebdo earlier this year,” Boyd Barrett, a deputy for the People Before Profit Alliance, begins. “I have to ask the Taoiseach about the attendance of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the demonstration he joined in the aftermath of those killings.”

After he finishes reading out the statements, Boyd Barrett asks: “These are the offici…

Double standards writ large

Aah, power, fame and good connections!   Make sense of this....

"Senators, generals, ambassadors, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the owner of The Atlantic were in the roster of powerful voices who wrote to a federal judge to ask him to go easy on former CIA director and retired general David Petraeus, who admitted to giving classified information to his mistress and biographer.

Petraeus pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information and was sentenced to two years probation and a $100,000 fine. The punishment stands in contrast to far harsher penalties sought for whistleblowers and leakers in less prominent positions.

The letters, released by a federal court in North Carolina today, attest to Petraeus’s good character, and many ask that he not face jail time.

Among the current and former lawmakers who wrote in was former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who has pushed for strict anti-leak legislation and who said in 2010 that the…

Obama pours oil onto already troubled waters

When only will the USA learn?   Throwing the military into, or at, conflicts isn't a solution to whatever war or military action underway.  

"In a move anti-war critics and foreign policy experts are certain to call simply an extension of a policy that has proved a failure, the New York Times reports the Obama administration is planning to build a new military base in the western part of Iraq and send additional ground troops in an attempt to turn the tide against Islamic State (ISIS) forces who have continued to take and hold ground on sides of the Syrian border in recent weeks.

After recent advances by ISIS that allowed them to capture the city of Ramadi in Iraq's Anbar Province, the Pentagon is talking openly about sending what it calls "additional trainers" to bolster the Iraqi army in the Sunni-dominated region that skirts Syria.

As the Times reports:

 In a major shift of focus in the battle against the Islamic State, the Obama administration is planning to es…

2 years on, Edward Snowden writes......

Edward Snowden is seen by many as close to being a hero.....others as nothing other than a low-light and traitor.      Whatever one's position, there can be no doubting that he has shaken up spy agencies around the world, shown us how we are all being spied on and how duplicitous politicians are.

Now, 2 years on from when the whole "thing" exploded on the scene, Snowden writes an op-ed piece "The World Says No to Surveillance" for The New York Times (published here in full).....

"Two years ago today, three journalists and I worked nervously in a Hong Kong hotel room, waiting to see how the world would react to the revelation that the National Security Agency had been making records of nearly every phone call in the United States. In the days that followed, those journalists and others published documents revealing that democratic governments had been monitoring the private activities of ordinary citizens who had done nothing wrong.

Within days, the United S…

CIA's torture methods detailed

And this from the country forever preaching about democratic values and the necessity for other countries to follow the Rule of Law....

"Anyone who had the time to read the summary of the 6,700-page report by Senate investigators on the federal government’s program of torturing detainees captured after the Sept. 11 attacks knew, or at least suspected, that there was more to the sickening story.

This week, a Reuters report added to those suspicions with newly declassified statements from Majid Khan, a high-value prisoner who had been affiliated with Al Qaeda, was captured in 2003 and has been held at Guantánamo Bay since 2006.

Over more than seven years of conversations at Guantánamo with his lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Mr. Khan described even more torture and abuse than is contained in the Senate report. Although the details of his account, as documented in notes by his lawyers, could not be independently confirmed, they corroborate many of the findings of the…

Canada: A plainly stupid proposed hate crime law

That PM Harper is a one-eyed Israel booster is nothing new, but the anti-hate crime he proposes to bring in in Canada borders on the stupid, and as Robert Fisk writes - in this piece in The Independent - most likely counter-productive.

"I’ve never been keen on boycotts. The one against Italy for invading Abyssinia didn’t work. Nor did the arms blockade on Spain. I’m still not sure that boycotting South Africa really brought down apartheid. I rather suspect that the old racists simply realised they were hopelessly outnumbered by the blacks of South Africa and that the game was up.

And I’m still unconvinced that boycotting Israel, even though it frightens the  right-wing crazies in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, will achieve a two-state solution, human rights for Palestinians, etc. I’m free to refuse to buy products from Jewish colonies in occupied Arab land (I do not buy them), but, when I visit Israel, I stay at the King David Hotel in west Jerusalem, visit the Tel Aviv gallery…

40 reasons why America's jails are full of Afro-Americans and poor people

Every 35th person in the USA is either in jail or on probation - and most of those are Afro-American and / or black.

40 reasons for this being so are detailed in this piece on CommonDreams:

"The US Department of Justice (DOJ) reports 2.2 million people are in our nation’s jails and prisons and another 4.5 million people are on probation or parole in the US, totaling 6.8 million people, one of every 35 adults.  We are far and away the world leader in putting our own people in jail.  Most of the people inside are poor and Black.  Here are 40 reasons why.

One.  It is not just about crime.  Our jails and prisons have grown from holding about 500,000 people in 1980 to 2.2 million today.  The fact is that crime rates have risen and fallen independently of our growing incarceration rates.

Two.  Police discriminate.  The first step in putting people in jail starts with interactions between police and people.  From the very beginning Black and poor people are targeted by the police.  Police d…

Stark warning! Food, water, health and life under threat

The warning couldn't be more stark and direct.....from the UN no less.

"Echoing the protests of civil society organizations and social movements around the world, a panel of United Nations experts on Tuesday issued a stark warning about the threats that secret international "trade" agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pose to the most fundamental human rights.

"Our concerns relate to the rights to life, food, water and sanitation, health, housing, education, science and culture, improved labor standards, an independent judiciary, a clean environment and the right not to be subjected to forced resettlement," reads the statement, whose ten signatories include Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of person with disabilities and Ms. Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

In particular, the officials raise the alarm about the "investor-state dispute settlement" sys…