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Showing posts from February, 2016

The FBI takes on Apple. Apple has to win!

There are millions of people around the world who almost idolise Apple, the brand per se and the whole Apple ethos and ecosystem.  Then there are others who adopt the tall poppy syndrome about the wealthiest company in the world.   But all that is immaterial as Apple takes up the challenge of safeguarding the security and integrity of its iPhones.  An analysis in this piece "Like Your Privacy? Then Get Behind Apple’s Battle to Save It" from truthdig (given the importance of the subject re-published here in full) is well-worth reading.

"John Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA and two years in a federal prison for blowing the whistle on the agency’s use of torture. He served on John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee for two years as senior investigator into the Middle East. He writes and speaks about national security, whistleblowing, the prison-industrial complex, and foreign policy, and is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and winner of the…

Take that Donald....

Ouch!   Rolling Stone's take on Donald Trump, his chances of getting that presidency and America's electoral "system" (!)......

"The pundits don’t want to admit it, but it’s sitting there in plain view, 12 moves ahead, like a chess game already won: President Donald Trump. A thousand ridiculous accidents needed to happen in the unlikeliest of sequences for it to be possible, but absent a dramatic turn of events – an early primary catastrophe, Mike Bloomberg ego-crashing the race, etc. – this boorish, monosyllabic TV tyrant with the attention span of an Xbox-playing 11-year-old really is set to lay waste to the most impenetrable oligarchy the Western world ever devised. It turns out we let our electoral process devolve into something so fake and dysfunctional that any half-bright con man with the stones to try it could walk right through the front door and tear it to shreds on the first go. And Trump is no half-bright con man, either. He’s way better than average.…

Apple, Siri.....and the FBI

Credited to Chappette, New York Times

Beware Coca-Cola's "message"

There seems to be no end to which multinationals will go - especially those selling food or drink products - in seeking to mislead the public.    The name of the game is to divert the message from what it ought to be - a la a health warning - to something which benefits the manufacturer.     Take Coca-Cola as a good example.

"Coca-Cola is bankrolling a campaign to focus the discussion about obesity in Australia on exercise and away from diet as the solution to the health epidemic.

Last August, Coca-Cola's global boss promised to publish all financing of health groups and research globally after revelations of its activities by the The New York Times.

Within six weeks it disclosed that the soft drink giant had given $US21.8 million ($30.5 million) to fund research and $US96.8 million to fund what it calls "health and wellbeing partnerships" in the United States.

More than six months later, no such disclosures have been made in Australia."

Continue reading here.

Greek heroes

Far from home: Syrian refugees disembark from a flooded raft on a beach at Lesbos last October (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters)
The realities of what the people of Greece are facing on a daily basis - the flood of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East landing on their shores - is clearly detailed in this piece in The Nation.     One would have to conclude that the people of Lesbos are real heroes.......not the pious politicians standing on their soap-boxes.

"Stratis Valiamos, 40, is a fisherman from Sykamnias, a village on this Greek island that is at the epicenter of Europe’s refugee crisis. Valiamos and other fishermen now routinely abandon their daily work to rescue people stranded in the Aegean, hauling rickety wooden ships crammed with hundreds of refugees off the rocks and towing them to port. They dive in the sea fully dressed to save drowning people of all ages. “Every time I go to sea, I know something’s going to happen,” Valiamos says. “This has been going on fo…

Is the Saudi Arabia Kingdom headed for a downfall?

We have an image of Saudi Arabia of heat, lots of sand, a wealthy country, a major oil supplier and a regime of sheiks who "run" the Kingdom.   Not to be forgotten in all of this is that the Saudis are allies of the Americans and that country's allies.    But, a question now increasingly being asked is whether the Kingdom can continue to exist as is.

"For half a century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the linchpin of U.S. Mideast policy. A guaranteed supply of oil has bought a guaranteed supply of security. Ignoring autocratic practices and the export of Wahhabi extremism, Washington stubbornly dubs its ally “moderate.” So tight is the trust that U.S. special operators dip into Saudi petrodollars as a counterterrorism slush fund without a second thought. In a sea of chaos, goes the refrain, the kingdom is one state that’s stable.

But is it?

In fact, Saudi Arabia is no state at all. There are two ways to describe it: as a political enterprise with a clever but ult…

Just another day in America's crazy Presidential election process

Guy Rundle, who writes for Australia's on line crikey, reports on the last 48 hours' odd and extraordinary "happenings" in the US Presidential race.......

"In the past 48 hours alone, we had:

Donald Trump serve a libel threat, cease-and-desist letter on Ted Cruz, for an ad that consists entirely of footage of Trump saying he is pro-choice on abortion;

Cruz holding a presser saying that he would take the suit, and might even run the case himself, taking evidence from Trump himself;

Jeb tweeting a picture of a gift he was presented with -- a gun, engraved with his name. The picture was labelled "America";

Rubio laughing at an audience member yelling "Waterboard Hillary!"

Hillary running an ad with footage from a meeting where an eight-year-old girl says she's worried that her parents may be deported, and Hillary nuzzles her and says, "Let me do the worrying";

Team Cruz running an ad that "shows" Rubio and Obama shaking hands on…

Hillary Clinton should-to-shoulder with Netanyahu

As the US Presidential campaign becomes more weird by the day, it is troubling to see the positions taken by the various candidates on different subjects.  As Glenn Greenwald points out in this piece "Hillary Clinton, With Little Notice, Vows to Embrace an Extremist Agenda on Israel" on The Intercept, Hillary Clinton's position on Israel is troubling.  Cosying up to the likes of right-winger Israeli PM Netanyahu?

"Former President Bill Clinton on Monday met in secret (no press allowed) with roughly 100 leaders of South Florida’s Jewish community, and, as the Times of Israel reports, “He vowed that, if elected, Hillary Clinton would make it one of her top priorities to strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance.” He also “stressed the close bond that he and his wife have with the State of Israel.”

It may be tempting to dismiss this as standard, vapid Clintonian politicking: adeptly telling everyone what they want to hear and making them believe it. After all, is it even physi…

The damage technology (and military attack) can wreak

The last post here on MPS dealt with issues surrounding technology in the times we live.    This piece, "U.S. Had Cyberattack Plan if Iran Nuclear Dispute Led to Conflict" from the International New York Times, details a rather frightening dimension to war - or potential military "attack" in its broadest sense - in the 21st century.

"In the early years of the Obama administration, the United States developed an elaborate plan for a cyberattack on Iran in case the diplomatic effort to limit its nuclear program failed and led to a military conflict, according to a coming documentary film and interviews with military and intelligence officials involved in the effort.

The plan, code-named Nitro Zeus, was devised to disable Iran’s air defenses, communications systems and crucial parts of its power grid, and was shelved, at least for the foreseeable future, after the nuclear deal struck between Iran and six other nations last summer was fulfilled.

Nitro Zeus was part o…

Locked....and "getting into" an iPhone

The challenges of technology in 2016.   We all hope, perhaps fondly, that our mobile devices, laptops and computers are secure from being accessed by anyone - government or otherwise.     

A situation has arisen in California where the police have sought to access an iPhone - perhaps with good cause - giving rise to a challenge to whole issue of accessibility, and by whom.      The New York Times reports in "Judge Tells Apple to Help Unlock San Bernardino Gunman’s iPhone":

"A judge in California on Tuesday ordered Apple to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the assault in San Bernardino that killed 14 people in December.

The ruling handed the F.B.I. a potentially important victory in its long-running battle with Apple and other Silicon Valley companies over the government’s ability to get access to encrypted data in investigations. Apple has maintained that requiring it to provide the “keys” to its technology would compromise the security of t…

US $7 billion later.....

So much money have the Americans poured into Afghanistan that one becomes almost goggle-eyed at the numbers.    Take the US $7 billion to help the Government combat Afghan farmers growing poppy (aka opium) seeds.    All pretty much a waste of money it seems....

"The United States spent more than $7 billion in the past 14 years to fight the runaway poppy production that has made Afghan opium the world’s biggest brand. Tens of billions more went to governance programs to stem corruption and train a credible police force. Countless more dollars and thousands of lives were lost on the main thrust of the war: to put the Afghan government in charge of district centers and to instill rule of law.

But here in one of the few corners of Helmand Province that is peaceful and in firm government control, the green stalks and swollen bulbs of opium were growing thick and high within eyeshot of official buildings during the past poppy season — signs of a local narco-state administered directly b…

Even Thomas Friedman declares the two-State solution dead

You know things are dire when even Thomas Friedman - New York Times columnist and Israel-booster - declares, what the well-informed have been saying for a long time now, that the two-State solution between the Israelis and Palestinians is dead.      Juan Cole, on his informed COMMENT does an analysis in "Israel: Friedman of the NY Times surrenders to One-State Solution, sees ME Apocalypse".

"Tom Friedman of the New York Times has completely given up on a two-state solution, forthrightly abandoning the polite fiction that there will ever be a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and ridiculing American presidential candidates for speaking as though it were still a possibility. In fact, he proclaims, with an eye for the glaringly obvious, the peace process is dead: 

“The next U.S. president will have to deal with an Israel determined to permanently occupy all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, including where 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians …

Flint's water....depending on the brand!

Credited to Nick Anderson, truthdig

A global crisis on the horizon?

Whilst the price of oil tumbles, China's economy isn't traveling all that well and share markets are seemingly in meltdown, this piece "Toxic Loans Around the World Weigh on Global Growth" from The New York Times paints a sobering picture of what looks like a possible global crisis emerging again.

"Beneath the surface of the global financial system lurks a multitrillion-dollar problem that could sap the strength of large economies for years to come.

The problem is the giant, stagnant pool of loans that companies and people around the world are struggling to pay back. Bad debts have been a drag on economic activity ever since the financial crisis of 2008, but in recent months, the threat posed by an overhang of bad loans appears to be rising. China is the biggest source of worry. Some analysts estimate that China’s troubled credit could exceed $5 trillion, a staggering number that is equivalent to half the size of the country’s annual economic output.

Official figur…

Hillary Clinton touts support of a war criminal

The late Christopher Hitchens wrote a devastatingly critical book of Henry Kissinger.....chapter and verse on the nature and extent of his criminality when in office as the US Secretary of State.    Now Hilary Clinton looks to him to support her candidacy for US President.    A war criminal as a supporter?    This piece from The Nation spells out, in detail, the "cost" of Kissinger's criminality.

"Clinton just can’t quit him. Even as she is trying to outflank Bernie on his left, Hillary Clinton can’t help but stutter the name of Henry Kissinger. Last night in the New Hampshire debate, Clinton thought to close her argument that she is the true progressive with this: “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time.”

Let’s consider some of Kissinger’s achievements during his tenure as Richard Nixon’s top foreign policy–maker. He (1) prolonged the Vietnam War for five pointless years; (2) illegally …

Do you really want that Nescafe coffee or that Nespresso machine?

Aaah, Nestlé.    The company flogging (there is no other word for it) powdered milk, especially to mothers in Africa, when they could breastfeed their newborn infants, is again caught in the spotlight of conduct which deserves condemnation.

But first, the "good" news, as reported in "Nestlé admits slavery in Thailand while fighting child labour lawsuit in Ivory Coast" in The Guardian....

"It’s hard to think of an issue that you would less like your company to be associated with than modern slavery. Yet last November Nestlé, the world’s largest foodmaker and one of the most recognisable household brands, went public with the news it had found forced labour in its supply chains in Thailand and that its customers were buying products tainted with the blood and sweat of poor, unpaid and abused migrant workers.

By independently disclosing that Nestlé customers had unwittingly bought products contaminated by the very worst labour abuses, the company said it was moving …

The travesty of Julian Assange's arbitary detention

The situation of Julian Assange is again in the news - see here.  

John Pilger, veteran journalist, author, commentator and documentary maker has always been a champion of Assange's cause.    He writes about the latest development in "Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter"on CounterPunch.

"The Assange case has never been primarily about allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden —  where the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne,  dismissed the case, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape”, and one of the women involved accused the police of fabricating evidence and “railroading” her, protesting she “did not want to accuse JA of anything” — and a second prosecutor mysteriously re-opened the case after political intervention, then stalled it.

The Assange case is rooted across the Atlantic in Pentagon-dominated Washington, obsessed with pursuing and prosecuting whistleblowers, especially Assange for having exposed, in WikiL…

So much for gratitude and thanks....

Now here is a great example - not! - of gratitude and thanks by the USA.

A New York Times Editorial explains in "An Unpaid Debt to Afghan Interpreters"...

"Last fall, Congress made a change to the rules of a resettlement program for Afghan interpreters who risked their lives by working for the American government. To be eligible for an American visa, applicants would have to demonstrate that they had worked for the United States for at least two years, rather than one. There was no reason to think the new requirement would affect the roughly 10,300 people who already had pending applications.

But the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, in a baffling move, decided to apply the new rule retroactively. Immigration lawyers fear that it could disqualify thousands of applicants, including some who have been waiting for a visa for years.

This is unfair, and reflects the callous disregard bureaucrats involved in the program have shown toward Afghan interprete…

Scandal: Flint's water problem

This piece "10 Things They Won't Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy. But I Will" by Michael Moore from The Huffington Post , needs no elaboration or comment - other than to say that it shows corruption and scandalous behaviour writ large.

"News of the poisoned water crisis in Flint has reached a wide audience around the world. The basics are now known: The Republican governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the free elections in Flint, deposed the mayor and city council, then appointed his own man to run the city. To save money, they decided to unhook the people of Flint from their fresh water drinking source, Lake Huron, and instead, make the public drink from the toxic Flint River.

When the governor's office discovered just how toxic the water was, they decided to keep quiet about it and covered up the extent of the damage being done to Flint's residents, most notably the lead affecting the children, causing irreversible and permanent brain damage. Citizen activ…

Dumping the Trump?

Credited to Nick Anderson, truthdig

The flood of refugees continues

The world's media may have passed on to reporting on a "new" topic, but the flood of refugees, principally from Syria, into Europe continues unabated.

"The perilous flight of refugees continues, with some 67,000 asylum seekers traveling to Europe last month. Meanwhile, the European Union and international donors are poised to increase their aid to one desperate group: Syrians displaced by war."

From The New York Times - with reportage and relevant photos, here.