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Showing posts from November, 2015

Refugees, the Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra and a house....

A good-feel story in an otherwise rather bleak landscape....

"As tensions over the Syrian refugee crisis continue to escalate across Europe, one of the the world’s great orchestras has offered a ray of humanitarian hope. A month ago the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra purchased a disused house in St. Aegyd, Lower Austria for the purpose of housing homeless refugees. The ‘Vienna Philharmonic House’ is the brainchild of the orchestra’s clarinetist Norbert Täubl, who was born in the village. The old inn is large enough to support four families, and will also serve as a meeting place for cultural dialogue and benefit concerts. Chairman Andrew Großhauer said, “With this project we not only send a signal of humanitarian commitment, but also open a space for dialogue and understanding which everyone benefits long term, the community and also our society”.

The plight of Syrian refugees migrating to Europe is an issue close to the hearts of many of the musicians in the Vienna Philharmonic. Ar…

Disaster capitalism writ large

Here is disaster capitalism writ large.    Huge corporations devastating and impacting on "locals" - this time in Brazil.   

"Brazil’s government has announced it will sue mining giants BHP Billiton and Vale for $US5.2bn after the deadly collapse of a dam at an iron ore mine sent 60 million cubic meters of mud and mine waste cascading into the Atlantic ocean and left more than 13 people dead.

Environment minister Izabella Teixeira said a lawsuit would be filed demanding that the companies and the mine operator Samarco, which they co-own, create a fund of 20 billion reais to pay for environmental recovery and compensation for victims.

“There was a huge impact from an environmental point of view,” Teixeira said at a press conference in the capital Brasilia.

“It is not a natural disaster. It is a disaster prompted by economic activity, but of a magnitude equivalent to those disasters created by forces of nature.”

The lawsuit will be filed on Monday, attorney general Luis Inacio…

Obama's disgraceful war on whistleblowers

Yet another example of Obama, the so-called liberal President, saying one thing and doing the opposite.   It is disgraceful, and scandalous, to think what Obama's administration has "done" to whistleblowers.   The latest example is detailed in this piece on Information Clearing House.

"The four USAF military drone operators who recently blew the whistle and exposed the callousness and complete lack of concern for civilian casualties of the US drone assassination programme, (and received very little mainstream media exposure), yesterday found their bank accounts and credit cards all blocked by the US government. 

The effects of that on daily life are devastating. My source is their lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, through the Sam Adams Associates (of which we are both members).
No criminal charges have been brought against any of the men, despite numerous written threats of prosecution. Their finances appear to have been frozen by executive action under anti-terrorist legislati…

The USA in Africa

Yes, the Chinese are spreading their tentacles across the globe  - including in Africa - but so are the Americans.    For what purpose one might well ask.   And to what extent is that US reach into Africa?    TomDispatch provides some answers in "Does Eleven Plus One Equal Sixty?" ....

"In the shadows of what was once called the “dark continent," a scramble has come and gone. If you heard nothing about it, that was by design. But look hard enough and -- north to south, east to west -- you’ll find the fruits of that effort: a network of bases, compounds, and other sites whose sum total exceeds the number of nations on the continent. For a military that has stumbled from Iraq to Afghanistan and suffered setbacks from Libya to Syria, it’s a rare can-do triumph. In remote locales, behind fences and beyond the gaze of prying eyes, the U.S. military has built an extensive archipelago of African outposts, transforming the continent, experts say, into a laboratory for a new…

America's "sickness"

The USA is often viewed and seen through rose-tinted glasses.    However, as the stats in this piece "Signs of a Dying Society" from CommonDreams so vividly demonstrate, it is a society which, for the average American, is far from a "bowl of cherries".

"While Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are vilified for revealing vital information about spying and bombing and torture, a man who conspired with Goldman Sachs to make billions of dollars on the planned failure of subprime mortgages was honored by New York University for his "Outstanding Contributions to Society."

This is one example of the distorted thinking leading to the demise of a once-vibrant American society. There are other signs of decay:

1. A House Bill Would View Corporate Crimes as 'Honest Mistakes'

Wealthy conservatives are pushing a bill that would excuse corporate leaders from financial fraud, environmental pollution, and other crimes that America's great…

Houston....we have a problem with our planet!

Things aren't going well for our planet! - and they don't look like getting better any time soon, unless these talking-heads at the upcoming Climate Conference in Paris do something positive beyond mouthing platitudes.

"Global temperatures are continuing to climb to fresh records, adding to the urgency of curbing greenhouse gas emissions that are the primary cause, the World Meteorological Organisation says.

Preliminary agency figures show that for the first 10 months of 2015, average sea and land surface temperatures were 0.73 degrees above the 1961-90 average of 14 degrees. They were about 1 degree warmer than the 1850-1899 period used as a proxy for the pre-industrial era.

The past five years were also the hottest on record, beating the previous five years, and showing "a continued sustained warming trend" since the mid-1970s. (See chart below.)
The planet is racing towards another global heat record.

"This is all bad news for the planet," WMO secretary-…

State of Terror

  A memorial in New York City to victims of the Paris attacks. If the United States suffers terrorist killings similar to those in France, a state of national anxiety well might cripple American democracy.
This piece "State of Terror" by Chris Hedges (one time NYT Bureau Chief in Jerusalem) on truthdig is sobering - yet is a perfect analysis of where the world sits right now as it confronts widespread terrorism attacks, sabre-rattling in all manner of ways and a variety of parties and governments scrambling to contain or remove the threat of terrorist violence.
"It is nearly certain that we will endure, sooner rather than later, another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil. The blundering of our military into the Middle East; the failed states that have risen out of the mismanagement and chaos of Iraq and Afghanistan; the millions of innocents we have driven from their homes, terrorized or slaughtered; the bankrupt puppet regimes we have equipped and trained tha…

Corruption (2)

A different "element" of corruption and influence to that in the post Corruption (1) - as reported by The New York Times in "Afghan Leaders Try to Halt Exodus, but Pleas Ring Hollow".....

"President Ashraf Ghani took a stage here last week and urged the crowd of young people before him not to join a huge exodus from Afghanistan, despite rising insecurity and economic hardship.

The gates of Western nations are closed on us, Mr. Ghani said. “Our dignity, our respect is in Afghanistan.”

To many Afghans, though, that rang hollow.

That is not only because Mr. Ghani’s path to power and prominence was paved abroad, as he lived and worked in the United States for much of his adult life. The addresses of the families of a majority of his government’s senior officials read like an atlas of world capitals, near and far — just not Kabul.

“How will they understand our pain?” said Mohamed Abas, 19, a roadside mechanic in Kabul, as he took a break from his lunch of fries and brea…

Corruption (1)

This piece "Home, Sweet Kleptocracy" from speaks for itself...

"A top government official with energy industry holdings huddles in secret with oil company executives to work out the details of a potentially lucrative “national energy policy.” Later, that same official steers billions of government dollars to his former oil-field services company. Well-paid elected representatives act with impunity, routinely trading government contracts and other favors for millions of dollars. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens live in fear of venal police forces that suck them dry by charging fees for services, throwing them in jail when they can’t pay arbitrary fines or selling their court “debts” to private companies. Sometimes the police just take people’s life savings leaving them with no recourse whatsoever. Sometimes they steal and deal drugs on the side. Meanwhile, the country’s infrastructure crumbles. Bridges collapse, or take a quarter-century to fix after a natural…

More terrorism in Paris?...than elsewhere?

We are all too captive to how the media reports on what is happening afar.    Take the latest outrage in Paris.    As this piece "People Click on Stories About Paris But Not Beirut? It’s More Than Geography and Apathy" on CommonDreams so clearly makes the point, coverage of the terrorism perpetrated in Paris has far outweighed what was reported about similar dastardly acts which occurred in Beirut, Baghdad, Turkey or in Africa.

"I’m seeing some push-back from journalists over criticism that Paris was covered more than Beirut. Places like Beirut are covered, journalists respond, but people just aren’t as interested in those stories (it’s about “proximity”). Yes, if we count clicks and views, I’m sure Paris gets more interest. But much of the push-back ignores the totality of international coverage — in other words, coverage when violence strikes and when it doesn’t strike — and a consideration of why people aren’t interested.

It’s logical that readers are more likely to be…

Does anyone, anywhere, like ISIS? No!

For all the rabid, bigoted and downright ignorant anti-Muslim and anti-Syrian rhetoric spewing forth from many - including the GOP Presidential hopefuls - this Pew Research shows that ISIS doesn't have the sort of following people might have imagined.

"Recent attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have once again brought terrorism and Islamic extremism to the forefront of international relations. According to newly released data that the Pew Research Center collected in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations, people from Nigeria to Jordan to Indonesia overwhelmingly expressed negative views of ISIS.

One exception was Pakistan, where a majority offered no definite opinion of ISIS. The nationally representative surveys were conducted as part of the Pew Research Center’s annual global poll in April and May this year.

In no country surveyed did more than 15% of the population show favorable attitudes toward Islamic State. …

The news, and views, tailored to CNN's perspective

We all know Fox News isn't news at all - just a right-wing, bigoted and totally disreputable network peopled by presenters who could, in the main, be rightly described as ignorant.

CNN is better in some respects, but as this Glenn Greenwald piece on The Intercept details, if a presenter doesn't evidently toe the CNN line, she / he may be in trouble - as happened in the case here.    By the way, forget about true journalism in all of this.

"CNN yesterday suspended its global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, for two weeks for the crime of posting a tweet critical of the House vote to ban Syrian refugees. Whether by compulsion or choice, she then groveled in apology. This is the original tweet along with her subsequent expression of repentance:

This all happened after The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple complained that her original tweet showed “bias.” The claim that CNN journalists must be “objective” and are not permitted to express opinions is an absolute joke. CNN journal…

Beware Paris (and Sinai, Lebanon and Mali) aftermath and fallout......

Never is no questioning that the events in Paris, Sinai, Lebanon, and now Mali, are beyond horrific.   Barbarity and wanton disregard for life and limb.    But, we all need to be on guard that Governments do not react in ways, and with the effect, in no way connected to the carnage and ramifications of what occurred in Paris, etc.

"The aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks has now devolved into a dark and dishonest debate about how we should respond: let’s ban encryption, even though there’s no evidence the terrorists used it to carry out their crime, and let’s ban Syrian refugees, even though the attackers were neither.

It’s hard to overstate how disgusting it has been to watch, as proven-false rumors continue to be the basis for the entire political response, and technology ignorance and full-on xenophobia now dominate the discussion.

First, there’s the loud “we need to ban encryption” push that immediately spawned hundreds of articles and opinions strongly pushed by current an…

Yikes!......Who would want to eat that?

The world has gone mad.   Yes, the sustainability of many species, such as certain varieties of fish, are under threat......but do we really want to eat genetically engineered food?

A genetically engineered salmon from AquaBounty Technologies, rear, with a conventionally raised sibling roughly the same age "Federal regulators on Thursday approved a genetically engineered salmon as fit for consumption, making it the first genetically altered animal to be cleared for American supermarkets and dinner tables.

The approval by the Food and Drug Administration caps a long struggle for AquaBounty Technologies, a small company that first approached the F.D.A. about approval in the 1990s. The agency made its initial determination that the fish would be safe to eat and for the environment more than five years ago.

The approval of the salmon has been fiercely opposed by some consumer and environmental groups, which have argued that the safety studies were inadequate and that wild salmon populat…

"Fazel is free now, God gave him a visa'"

If you want to read a tragic "story" about an asylum seeker in Australia, and the disgraceful and shameful way in which this poor man was dealt with by the authorities - leading to his suicide - go no further than this piece in The Age newspaper.

"Of more than a dozen deaths of asylum seekers in mainland and offshore detention centres and in the community in recent years, including the brutal killing of Reza Barati, a case can be made that Chegeni's is the most troubling.

Why? Because his incarceration in centres across the detention network spanned four years (and five immigration ministers from Labor and Coalition governments) and defied repeated advice that this was the last place he should be."

Read the full piece here.

Ignoring the downtrodden and vanquished

Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, in his blog, Informed Comment, makes more than a telling point in his post "Whether Jewish Refugees in ’30s or Syrians today, USA Falls Short of own Ideals" about Americans are "ignoring" people in peril  (think the current flood of refugees fleeing Syria) - and not for the first time!

"More than half of US governors have abruptly announced that they will not welcome Syrian refugees. Governors cannot actually tell people in America where they can live.

Germany, a country of 80 million, will take in 800,000 refugees this year, many of them Syrians. That is 1 percent of their population. It would be like the USA taking in 3 million refugees in one year.

The US takes in 70,000 refugees a year. Last year it accepted about 400 Syrian refugees.

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003, which led to the creation of roughly 4 million Iraqi refugees out of the then some 26 million I…

Families 2015: Stressed, Tired and Rushed

The results of a survey, as reported in The New York Times,  undertaken in the United States by the Pew Research Centre in relation to getting a snap-shot of families in 2015, will not come as a surprise to anyone....

"Children are much more likely than not to grow up in a household in which their parents work, and in nearly half of all two-parent families today, both parents work full time, a sharp increase from previous decades.

What hasn’t changed: the difficulty of balancing it all. Working parents say they feel stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The survey found something of a stress gap by race and education. College-educated parents and white parents were significantly more likely than other parents to say work-family balance is difficult.

The data are the latest to show that while family structure seems to have permanently changed, public policy, workplace structur…

The Americans arm (of all countries) the Saudis - again!

One might have thought that the Americans would have paused for thought.....but no, there they go again - in breach of their own law - in agreeing to supply the Saudis with more armaments.

"The Pentagon announced on Monday that the U.S. has approved a $1.29 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, despite widespread mounting evidence of the country's mass atrocities and possible war crimes in neighboring Yemen.

The U.S. State Department on Friday approved the sale of over 10,000 bombs, munitions, and weapons parts produced by Boeing and Raytheon. This includes 5,200 Paveway II "laser guided" and 12,000 "general purpose" bombs. "Bunker Busters," also included in the deal, are designed to destroy concrete structures.

"The proposed sale augments Saudi Arabia's capability to meet current and future threats from potential adversaries during combat operations," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Defens…

The world mourns

Credited to Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune. Cagle Cartoons

Three US Administrations later.....

Nothing changes.....   This piece, "Remaking the Middle East: How the US Grew Tired and Less Irrelevant" from CommonDreams  shows out that each of the last 3 American Administrations, have, in reality, not been all that different one from the other.   What is also evident is that the US has become increasingly "irrelevant" in the Middle East despite having poured untold millions of dollars and manpower into the region. 

"If one is to fairly examine US foreign policies in the Middle East, for example, comparing the conduct of the last three administrations, that of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, one would find that striking similarities are abundant. In principle, all three administrations’ foreign policy agendas were predicated on strong militaries and military interventions, although they applied soft power differently. 

In essence, Obama carried on with much of what W. Bush had started in the Middle East, although he supplanted his country’s …

RIP National Geographic?

Many will know, and have cherished, the National Geographic down the years.   What would many waiting rooms do without them?

Now that Rupert Murdoch has taken over the National Geographic (how that all come about? - and why would he want it?) the first cold winds are already evident at the mag.   Cutting staff #1!

"It's as bad as many of us feared. In spite of happy talk like, "Oh, his son will be running it and he's different," "Rupert wouldn't destroy an asset like Nat Geo," etc., the axe fell on Tuesday.

The memo went out, and November 3rd 2015 came to the National Geographic office. This was the day in which Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox took over National Geographic. The management of National Geographic sent out an email telling its staff, all of its staff, all to report to their headquarters, and wait by their phones. This pulled back every person who was in the field, every photographer, every reporter, even those on vacation had to show u…

6,900 page Report justs sits there......not to be opened!

Is this bureaucracy, or Government, gone mad, or what?    It certainly is a dereliction of duty and responsibility - and lack of accountabilty - on the part of the US Administration and the public service.

"Multiple government agencies are doing their best to ignore a 6,900-page elephant in the room: a mammoth report, authored by the Senate Intelligence Committee, detailing the horrors of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program.

A New York Times’ article published today reveals an absurd and scandalous state of affairs in the executive branch. Last December, the Senate released a summary of the torture report to the public and sent the full report to several government agencies, with the explicit instructions that it be used “to help make sure that this experience” — of torture, secret detention, and CIA deception — “is never repeated.”

Despite the Senate’s clear intent at the time, the Justice Department has prohibited government agencies from even opening the full torture report. Yes,…

Tony Blair: Headed to the International Court in the Hague? - and handcuffs?

A piece in Global Research does a pretty full analysis of why former Brit PM, Tony Blair, could be headed to a trial in International Court in The Hague - and, possibly, even handcuffs.   It sounds rather dramatic but the piece concludes this way.....

"So is Charles Anthony Lynton Blair, QC. finally headed for handcuffs and a trial at The Hague? Ian Williams, Senior Analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus, New York, has a view. He believes:

… it’s increasingly serious enough to be worrying to him. And I think Tony Blair is rapidly joining Henry Kissinger and Chilean Dictator Salvador Allende and other people around the world.

Now, he’s got to consult international lawyers as well as travel agents, before he travels anywhere, because there’s said, (may be) prima facie case for his prosecution either in British courts or foreign courts under universal jurisdiction or with the International Criminal Court, because there is clear evidence now that he is somebody who waged an illegal war of…

You bet!

Credited to Clay Bennett at Chattanooga Times Free Press

What privacy?

The State increasingly snoops and intrudes into our lives.   It shouldn't be allowed to do so!  Period.    Reflections on where we are in all of this in this op-ed piece "Privacy is starting to seem like a very 20th-century anomaly" in The Guardian.

"Medieval villagers couldn’t afford to be too proud. In Montaillou, home to some 200 souls, people would often sleep several to a bed. That meant that they were constantly picking up lice. No matter: in 14th-century France, delousing was a just another opportunity to socialise. A woman called Raymonde Guilhou, the historian Emmanuel Le Roy LaDurie tells us, publicly deloused her lover, who also happened to be a priest. She performed the same task for his mother, “in full view of everybody in the doorway of the ostal [house], retailing the latest gossip as she did so”.

It’s probably fair to say that Guilhou didn’t have many secrets. The village was her entire world, and that world in turn knew everything about her: family t…

The Displaced

In all the crisis-spots around the world, nearly 30 million children worldwide have been driven from their homes by war and persecution. Media coverage has lately focused on the Syrian dimension of this tragedy (in part because of the fate of one refugee child, Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned crossing the Mediterranean in September). But these 30 million girls and boys are from all over — Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Honduras, El Salvador, Myanmar, Bangladesh.

The New York Times has a feature "The Displaced" which warrants reading.     We are the poorer for not seeing these "displaced" children are not in the positions they find themselves.

TPP slammed

The TPP. It's now been released publicly.   And its' been already slammed from all quarters.   Read what CommonDreams "reports" in "'Worse Than We Thought': TPP A Total Corporate Power Grab Nightmare" as the reaction in the USA to the TPP.

"Worse than anything we could've imagined."

"An act of climate denial."

"Giveaway to big agribusiness."

"A death warrant for the open Internet."

"Worst nightmare."

"A disaster."

As expert analysis of the long-shrouded, newly publicized TransPacific Partnership (TPP) final text continued to roll out on Thursday, consensus formed around one fundamental assessment of the 12-nation pact: It's worse than we thought.

"From leaks, we knew quite a bit about the agreement, but in chapter after chapter the final text is worse than we expected."
—Lori Wallach, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
"From leaks, we knew quite a bit about the agreement, …

Iraq War: Those who stand condemned

With the death of Ahmed Chalabi this week - the "man" so much behind the scenes manipulating what became the Iraq War (remember Shock & Awe as Baghdad was bombed?) - an editorial in Crikey, today, pitches the right note on who should be held accountable and stand condemned for getting the US and its compliant allies - stand up Britain's PM Blair and Australia's PM Howard, the principal supporters - into the mess of the Iraq War, and how it has now fanned out across the Middle East.

"The death of Ahmed Chalabi of a heart attack, aged 71, is another mark that the era of the Iraq War is receding into the past, even as the consequences of it continue to shape our present.

Chalabi was for decades a largely self-appointed leader of the Iraqi resistance in exile, but what he became was a client -- a creation of the West, permitted to reverse engineer the appearance of a resistance movement with generous funds. Chalabi needed the West to go to war against Iraq, and af…

UK heads towards the "Surveillance State"

The Brit government has introduced legislation to its Parliament directed to empowering its agencies to what might be described as its spy powers.       The reaction?      Read this piece "New Bill Edges UK Towards 'Surveillance State'"from CommonDreams which rounds up responses from a variety of responsible bodies.

"As the Guardian reports, the legislation requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to keep a record of every website every citizen has used for up to a year. It also "[m]akes explicit in law for the first time security services' powers for the 'bulk collection' of large volumes of personal communications data," and it has a "[n]ew 'double-lock' on ministerial authorization of intercept warrants with panel of seven judicial commissioners given power of veto. But exemptions allowed in 'urgent cases' of up to five days."

Glyn Moody adds at Ars Technica UK:

Another major element of the Investigatory Powers B…

There is something radically wrong here.....

It is all very well for an American newspaper - in this case The New York Times - to editorialise about how the Europeans ought to address the deluge of refugees flooding into the EU countries (especially when America's shouldering the "burden" is so minuscule) but what the editorial does put forward can't really be argued with.

"It’s not a mystery why Abdul Rahman Haroun wanted to flee Sudan. The mystery is how this 40-year-old man from a rural village managed to reach Europe, get all the way to Calais in the north of France, then over the security fences and past police officers guarding the mouth of the Channel Tunnel and steer clear of 100-mile-an-hour trains to finally reach Britain.

The problem is that Mr. Haroun arrived in the custody of police officers who caught him before he emerged from the tunnel. So for three months he has been in Elmley Prison in southeast England awaiting trial and wondering what he did wrong. In that time, he has become a symbol of…

Syria: Combat troops in and out

Credited to Daryl

US taxes at work (not!)

Here we have politicians in the USA - no differently to elsewhere in the world - on the one hand calling for reductions in welfare spending and loudly proclaiming that budget blowouts must be curtailed, yet on the other hand failing, abjectly, to ensure that taxpayer dollars are wisely spent and administered.     The Hill provides a classic case of waste and total lack of accountability, let alone bring someone to account.

"The Pentagon spent $43 million on a compressed natural gas station in Afghanistan that should have cost about $300,000, according to a special inspector general report released Monday.

“One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation, or outcome,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carte…

Daily life under ISIS detailed

A revelatory book details what life under ISIS is really like.   Not pretty reading!

"Before Obama’s few dozen brave Spartans put their little bootees on the soil of the tiny bit of Syria that the Kurds hold, not far from Qamishli, they should learn a bit about Isis from the work of a Syrian historian. They would find that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Isis “caliph” is not only a keen football fan but in his youth created a soccer team for mosque regulars and even joked that he was Iraq’s Maradona.

They would discover that he communicates with his officials through mobiles, WhatsApp and Skype SMS, speaks English and demands that all paper intelligence reports be printed on a single piece of A4 – which is pretty much what Churchill demanded of his bureaucrats in the Second Word War – and also demands that citizens work a six-day week. There’s an Isis postal system in his Syrian capital of Raqqa and if you want to write to Baghdadi (original family name Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri) you…

Thousands of pollution at its worst

Witnessing, and experiencing pollution at its absolute worst is the lot of many people in a number of Asian nations - affected by burning off in Indonesia.

"Millions of acres of pristine, irreplaceable and invaluable Indonesian forest has been reduced to smouldering blackened ash, as 100,000 fires rage through the island region.

The sheer size and scale of the fire crisis is difficult to properly comprehend. Some of these fires have been burning since August, torching forest eons old and blanketing Papua, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and countless islands of Indonesia in thick grey hazy smoke.

The World Resources Institute reports a staggering 127,000 fires have been reported in the region in 2015, the majority sparking and taking off in recent months.

Earlier in October, Indonesia's Forestry Ministry reported 4.2 million acres of forest had been burnt out, a figure which is sure to have risen since first reported.

Carbon emissions from the fires, at their peak, surpassed emissions bel…

Time for the world to "Reaffirm its Humanity"

The warning could not be more dire, direct and blunt.    The UN and Red Cross make a plea to the world.....

"Citing nearly unprecedent levels of conflict and instability across the world, the heads of both the United Nations and the International Red Cross on Saturday issued a rare joint call warning that nations and global leaders must dramatically step up efforts to scale back wars and miltary actions that are causing massive human suffering while ripping apart families, communities, entire nations, and regions.

"Rarely before have we witnessed so many people on the move, so much instability, so much suffering," said Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "In armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere, combatants are defying humanity’s most fundamental norms. Every day, we hear of civilians being killed and wounded in violation of the basic rules of international humanitarian law,…

And this is a supposed civilised society?

Whilst Israel is smack of the Middle East, it's preference would be to be seen as a European nation - with all that entails.    Sad to say, for all the touting of its supposed values, a "moral" army, democratic principles and the Rule of Law etc. etc. the sad truth is that it is quite the opposite - as this piece "Israel, the Media and the Anatomy of a Sick Society" from CounterPunch not only reports on but analyses as well.

"The video of 13 year old Palestinian Ahmed Manasrah bleeding to death on the pavement of an East Jerusalem neighborhood has been described as “shocking,” “disturbing,” and “painful to watch.” The callous verbal abuse and insults from Israelis watching the child writhe in agony are variously characterized as “heartless” and “cruel”; and indeed they are. “Die you son of a whore. Die! Die!” the Israeli onlookers can be heard shouting in the video which has since gone viral on social media.

While there has been much discussion of this vide…