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Showing posts from April, 2016

An askew perspective

It is a sad reflection on Western society - most likely because of what, and how, the media reports news - that something like the death of Prince (undoubtedly sad) is given a prominence far exceeding, if reported at all, all manner of tragedies somewhere in the world.      Robert Fisk writes on the subject "When we mourn the passing of Prince but not 500 migrants, we have to ask: have we lost all sense of perspective?" on The Independent.


"Has something gone adrift within the moral compass of our ‘news’ reporting?  In the past week, 64 Afghans have been killed in the largest bomb to have exploded in Kabul in 15 years.  At least 340 were wounded.  The Taliban set off their explosives at the very wall of the ‘elite’ security force – watch out for that word ‘elite’ – which was supposed to protect the capital.  Whole families were annihilated.  No autopsies for them.  Local television showed an entire family – a mother and father and three children blown to pieces in a mill…

A sad and pathetic State of affairs.......

Credited to Jeff Danziger

Climate change: 97% of scientists agree it's happening

Take this climate change sceptics out there!    A survey has found, as reported on climate new network that 97% of scientists agree that we are suffering from climate change.

"In what should, in a rational world, have been an entirely unnecessary research project, US scientists have once again explored familiar ground and arrived at a familiar conclusion: 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening − and that it is caused by humans.

Since the governments of 195 nations have de facto already accepted this, and collectively vowed at the UN climate conference in Paris last December to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion and contain global warming if possible to a rise of 1.5°C, it might be expected that citizens would need no further convincing. But surveys shows that they do, and particularly in the US.

So John Cook, climate communication fellow at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute in Australia, and colleagues from the …

The silent majority of financially strapped Americans

It is unlikely that the position of the writer of this piece "The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans" in The Atlantic - as that of the large percentage of Americans - is much different, if at all, to the vast majority of citizens in the countries of Europe or in the likes of the UK, Australia or Canada.

"Since 2013, the federal reserve board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense…

Happy Birthday Will

The Cobbe portrait of William Shakespeare hanging in the Shakespeare Found exhibition at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
For a delightful obit on Shakespeare's death  - 400 years ago on 23 April - go here to The New York Times.

A big if....

The politicians - and their inevitable entourage - have all spent the taxpayer's money travelling to New York to sign up to the Paris Climate agreement.....but is it the real deal or simple posturing for the folks back home and lacking a will to put into place a concerted attack on countering climate change?

"The Paris climate agreement, hammered out at last December's COP21 talks and signed Friday by close to 170 nations, is alternately being hailed as "a turning point for humanity" and denounced as "a dangerous distraction."

There's no doubt that the deal "is the capstone of years and years of hard work," as Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) president Ken Kimmell put it on Thursday.

And the magnitude of the ceremonial signing in New York—attended by countries ranging from tiny Palau to major polluters like the U.S. and China—"confirms there's strong global will to act urgently to limit the dire impacts of climate change, by shi…

Hilary won the New York primary, but what an overall loser!

As those outside the USA watch the spectacle of what passes for a presidential election underway in America, in the latest tussle between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton in the New York primary, Hilary won - but the analysis of her support, and how she is perceived, is nothing to cheer about.    To think of Clinton as president of the USA ought to give one cause for concern.  Then again,Trump as Chief Commander and Pres bears no thinking!

"The damage to Clinton from her battle with Sanders is borne out in the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. The longer this race has gone on, the more she has shown vulnerabilities. The top-line number that caught the eyes of so many analysts shows her now in a dead heat with Sanders nationally - ahead of him by just two percentage points, 50-48 per cent.

Those numbers have no influence on the state-by-state results but offer a window into both the success of Sanders in generating enthusiasm and Clinton's inability to capitalise on all…

When in Town: A simple message Obama should give to the Saudis

It's a simple message which Obama should convey to America's ally, Saudi Arabia, whilst visiting the Kingdom....

"Barack Obama has been urged to use his visit to Saudi Arabia to rule out selling controversial cluster bombs to the kingdom amid mounting evidence they have been used against civilians in Yemen.

The US President’s visit came amid increasing tension between the two allies over America’s ever-closer relationship with Iran, as well as the potential release of documents purportedly linking Saudi officials to the 9/11 terror attacks.

White House officials said Mr Obama and Gulf leaders were set to discuss “deeper cooperation” in the fight against Isis alongside broader talks over ways to “resolve regional conflicts”.

But the President has also come under pressure to use the opportunity to raise a range of issues with the Saudi human rights record – not least its indiscriminate Yemeni bombing campaign.

Speaking to The Independent, representatives for Human Rights Watch, …

Don't worry Bernie.....!

Credited to Jeff Danziger

Foreign garment workers: Room for improvement

We are all guilty of purchasing clothing without really the "background" to its manufacture.    The tragedy in Bangladesh 3 years ago when 1136 garment workers  at a factory were killed in a horrendous fire, highlighted the exploitation of foreign workers.    So, what is the situation now?....

"Since she was 12, Jessica has been spinning cotton in the fabric mills of southern India, mostly to be used in the clothes of Western fashion brands.

Now in her late teens, Jessica is not only struggling with health issues caused by the constant inhalation of cotton fibres. But she's fighting to receive the full lump sum payment her family was promised for years of bonded labour.


Fabric mill workers in Tamil Nadu in India. Many are underpaid and overworked.

Jessica's story is typical of some 300,000 young women in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where they've been lured with promises of money and safe accommodation but instead been abused and exploited.


"I st…

Euphemisms

As he suggests in his piece on TomDispatch.com, Tom Engelhardt rightly highlights how we have become almost "numb" - inured might be a better word! - to a variety of euphemisms to cover a number of actions in which the military are engaged in various conflicts.

"Since 9/11, can there be any doubt that the public has become numb to the euphemisms that regularly accompany U.S. troops, drones, and CIA operatives into Washington’s imperial conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa?  Such euphemisms are meant to take the sting out of America’s wars back home.  Many of these words and phrases are already so well known and well worn that no one thinks twice about them anymore.

Here are just a few: collateral damage for killed and wounded civilians (a term used regularly since the First Gulf War of 1990-1991).   Enhanced interrogation techniques for torture, a term adopted with vigor by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of their administration (“techniques” tha…

The prospect of Syria being constantly unstable

It is not hard to wonder what is to become of Syria - a country now involved in an internal war, much of the country collapsed as "working" State and millions of people have left it.

An op-ed piece in The New York Times paints a bleak picture for the country.....

"Negotiations over Syria’s future restarted in Geneva last week amid cautious optimism that the regime and the opposition may finally be ready to discuss a deal. Russian and American diplomats are talking about shared goals, and both countries finally seem willing to strong-arm their clients to the table. Opposition groups and their sponsors say they have achieved levels of unity that will enable them to force concessions from the government, and for the first time they have admitted in public that they’re willing to work with some regime figures.

But all of this misses the central point: Syria, one of the most important states in the Arab world, has cracked up, and no peace settlement can put it back together.

Des…

And you wonder why the Donald Trump-type politicians gain traction!

Is it any wonder that people around the world are protesting in one way or another about climate change, inequalities in society in one form or another, so called free-trade agreements, unemployment the rich controlling far too much, etc. etc?    The likes of a Donald Trump are readily finding support for they challenge the powers-that-be and the status quo with all in inequities.

Take this example #1:

"In a massive protest attempting to raise awareness of and spark outrage about America's corrupt campaign finance system and crumbling democracy on Monday, marches and sit-ins organized by Democracy Spring drew national attention and celebration on social media — though, unsurprisingly, they garnered little coverage in the mainstream.

Democracy Spring is an amalgamation of many high-profile progressive groups and public figures, and its stated goal is to organize in opposition to a political system that has permitted the wealthy few to "dominate the 'money primary' t…

Who "controls" whom?

The next phase of Google trying to intrude into our lives comes into existence today ....and it's hideous!

"Online technology’s urgent emails, calendar updates and videoconferences may propel business, but the system at times seems to suck energy from our personal lives.

The answer, according to Google, is more technology.

On Wednesday, the company is introducing new features to its popular calendar that will enable people to program in their aspirations for times when they don’t have work or meetings scheduled.

Google’s algorithms will then seek appropriate gaps in a schedule in which stuff like exercise or discussing life with one’s spouse might be appropriate. While this means putting more of ourselves inside the machine, Google argues that its method is more efficient.

“It’s a tool to help us against ourselves, and all the short-term things we agree to do in our calendar,” said Dan Ariely, a university professor, best-selling author and Google employee who worked on the new to…

Bravo! Moving to save food.....

More than a commendable, sensible, and not before time, move...

"One of the world’s biggest hotel chains has announced it will plant vegetable gardens at many of its hotels as part of a plan to cut food waste by a third.

AccorHotels, which includes the Pullman, Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis chains, intends to “reduce food waste by 30%, in particular by sourcing food locally”, chief executive Sebastien Bazin said on Tuesday.

The French group, which generates 25-30% of its revenue by serving 150 million meals a year, will first work out how much food it is wasting.

Its restaurants will be required to weigh and record food that is thrown away in order to best determine how to cut waste.

With up to one third of food produced being wasted, according to estimates by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, there is ample room for businesses to save money while also helping reduce hunger and greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming and transport.

Amir Nahai, who leads Accor’s…

Trump's terrifying rise

Janet Daley, op-ed writer for The Telegraph in London, takes a blow torch to Donald Trump.     The title to her piece "Would Donald Trump’s supporters like to travel in an airliner flown by an amateur?" provides more than a clue where the writer is coming from.    Do read the op-ed piece.  It is rather sobering if nothing else.

More than worthwhile is reflecting on the concluding paragraphs of Daley's piece....

"Wherever this ends, it has given us a warning about the fragility of civilised democratic life and the tireless appeal of demagoguery. Maybe that’s a warning that needs to be repeated regularly because high-minded intellectuals are constantly being caught out. In Italy, in the 1930s, they were saying: “This can’t be happening here. This is the country of Dante and Michelangelo.” In Germany, they were saying: “This can’t be happening here. This is the country of Goethe and Beethoven.” I’m sure in America now, there are reasonable people saying: “This can’t be h…

One way of looking at it!

Credited to Paresh Nath, Cagle Cartoons, The Khaleej Times, UAE

The Pentagon's eye-popping spending....and waste!

Only a gigantic bureaucracy could get away with spending of such dimensions - and the amazing waste involved in part of that ginormous spend.   Think US Pentagon.....

"From spending $150 million on private villas for a handful of personnel in Afghanistan to blowing $2.7 billion on an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work, the latest revelations of waste at the Pentagon are just the most recent howlers in a long line of similar stories stretching back at least five decades.  Other hot-off-the-presses examples would include the Army’s purchase of helicopter gears worth $500 each for $8,000 each and the accumulation of billions of dollars' worth of weapons components that will never be used. And then there’s the one that would have to be everyone’s favorite Pentagon waste story: the spending of $50,000 to investigate the bomb-detecting capabilities of African elephants. (And here’s a shock: they didn’t turn out to be that great!) The elephant research, of course, represents …

Climate Change: Severe damage to the Great Barrier Reef

One has to wonder what it will take to wake up the politicians - and perhaps the general population otherwise occupied trying to make a living - to the untold, and possibly irretrievable damage being done to our planet by climate change.  Take Australia's famed Great Barrier Reef as but one example of what is being "done" to it....

"An extensive aerial survey of damage to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef—the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem—has revealed that mass coral bleaching is severely affecting more than 50 percent of its length and leaving patches of damages elsewhere. Scientists say climate change and a strong El NiƱo year have caused higher temperatures to stress coral, which puts it in danger of death. Terry Hughes, head of Australia’s coral bleaching task force, said this is the worst bleaching event to have hit the Great Barrier Reef by far. Hughes noted that this year’s damage is three to four times worse than previous episodes—in 1998 or 2002—adding t…

The 1% who corrupt democracy

An excellent analysis and commentary in The Guardian - "The 1% hide their money offshore – then use it to corrupt our democracy" - of what the Panama Papers really mean.

"Over the past 72 hours, you have seen our political establishment operating at a level of panic rarely equalled in postwar history. Britain’s prime minister has had yanked out of him some of his most intimate financial details."

****

"Because at root, the Panama Papers are not about tax. They’re not even about money. What the Panama Papers really depict is the corruption of our democracy.

Following on from LuxLeaks, the Panama Papers confirm that the super-rich have effectively exited the economic system the rest of us have to live in. Thirty years of runaway incomes for those at the top, and the full armoury of expensive financial sophistication, mean they no longer play by the same rules the rest of us have to follow. Tax havens are simply one reflection of that reality. Discussion of offshore …

Those who are potentially vulnerable (even dying) to climate change

We regularly read about climate change and the effect, on land, agriculture, the oceans, glaciers flora and fauna and the availability of water.   Now a new report asserts that many people will be vulnerable to the effects of our changing climate - deaths and hospitalisation.

"Global climate change will lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths and hospitalizations by 2030, a new federal report released Monday predicted, spurring the Obama administration to announce a series of new initiatives aimed at lessening that impact.

“This isn’t just about glaciers and the polar bears; it’s about the health of our family and our kids,” said Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, one of eight U.S. agencies that contributed to the report. “To protect ourselves and future generations, we need to understand the health impacts of climate changes that are already happening and those we expect to see down the road.”

The report, the result of three years of research by n…

Are we being really that smart?

Something to reflect on over this weekend.    These stats about how Australians use their smartphones - doubtlessly replicated around the world - must make one ask whether we are absolutely hooked to these ubiquitous mobile devices.

81% use a smartphone31% are addicted to their smartphone or tablet30% say it negatively affects their sleep23% spend more time on their smartphone or tablet than talking to their partner or friends

Donald and the USA

Credited to Arend van Dam at cagle.com

Gimme a coffee!!!

Now you know....

Nothing compares to the rush of excitement that comes with that first sip of coffee for the day.

Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day by hundreds of millions of people across the globe. That's 1,562,500 cups every minute.



GOP (and Fox News) reap what they sowed

Some will gloat that it couldn't have happened to a more unworthy couple - America's GOP and Fox News.   It might have, at one time, been seen as an alliance made in heaven, but things haven't turned out that way.     Salon explains in "Spreading hate has backfired on right-wing media: How Fox News unwittingly destroyed the Republican Party"...

"The Republican Party is in a pickle.

The Party itself despises its own two leading presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. This is a remarkable oddity just in itself. But there is good reason for it. Both of these candidates are so extreme and disastrous that they will almost certainly never be able to win a national election for the Republican Party.

But much worse, if and when one of these candidates does become the Republican Party’s nominee, the GOP could very well be torn asunder into factions. This could devastate the party for years or even decades to come.

The Republicans, however, have no one to blam…

What we "learn" from those Panama Papers

The revelations arising from the now notorious Panama Papers are breathtaking - but perhaps not all that surprising.   This piece, "The Panama Papers: Oozing Slime" from counterpunch, puts some context and background to what we are now learning...

"The Panama Papers, containing info on thousands of shell companies set up to avoid taxes and hide assets for over four decades from 1977 to 2015, are all about millionaires and billionaires and the politically connected “sticking it to” average citizens of the world by hiding money from fellow countrymen’s taxation policies and/or theft of state funds and laundering money. It is outrageously heinous and deserving of criminal incrimination and/or tarring and feathering whilst run out of town on a rail. It also begs the question of how many more rich pillagers are out there.

Already, major worldwide figureheads, like the PM of Iceland, have fallen. “As much as $21 trillion in global wealth is hidden behind largely-untraceable sh…

Video: Israel demolishing a Bedouin village

From Mondoweiss - Israel's supposed "most moral army in the world", the IDF, engaged in immoral, and according to international law, illegal action....

"Israeli forces have demolished every home in the Bedouin village of Khirbet Taha in the northern West Bank district of Nablus during three separate demolitions since the start of the year.

Unlike most Bedouin villages, the residents in Khirbet Taha own their own land. However that land falls in Area C, territory in the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control.

The village’s only school was also destroyed, leaving children to study in a dilapidated 100-year-old mosque — the only structure left standing in the village.

According the United Nations, Israel has demolished half as many Palestinian buildings in the first few months of 2016, as they had in all of 2015. In February alone, the UN found that more Palestinians homes were destroyed than any other month since 2009, when the organization began its documentation.…

A soccer game.....at the cost of lives and human rights

Not for the first time has the Qatari government been the subject of trenchant criticism for the way workers on the stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup have been treated.  

truthdig reports on the latest news - and yet another critical report - on that front....

"According to the report, migrant workers have endured major human rights violations while building stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The BBC reports:

Amnesty said every migrant it had interviewed had reported abuses of one kind or another, including being:

required to pay fees of up to $4,300 to recruiters in their home country to get a job in Qatar

deceived over the type of work and the pay on offer, which was sometimes half as much as they were promised

threatened for complaining about their conditions

One metal worker from India who worked on the Khalifa stadium refurbishment told Amnesty he was threatened by his employer when he complained about not being paid for several months.

“He just shouted abuse at me and said tha…

Pick your message

Credited to Signe Wilkinson

Israeli society on trial

A reflective piece on CounterPunch, by is a Doctor of Psychology/ Behavioral Neuroscience on what he sees as Israeli society at an important crossroad, and in effect, on trial....

Last Thursday, March 24th, an Israel defense force (IDF) soldier was filmed executing a wounded Palestinian man alleged to have carried out a stabbing attack against IDF soldiers in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron. The videographer responsible for the filming is Imad Abu Shamsiya, a Palestinian shoemaker who has since received death threats and intimidation from extreme right-wing Israeli settlers with the prospect of a potential lawsuit. Though the incident is part of a wave of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians carried out by Israeli soldiers, this particular case is different. Here, the film unambiguously shows that the wounded Palestinian man did not present a danger to his surrounding. Quite shockingly, not only does the film implicate the executioner; it also shows his IDF comrades as complet…

Hilary takes the money (lots of it) and swerves sharp right in relation to Israel

See a politician face an election and then add in backers with very deep pockets supporting that candidate, and, not surprisingly, you see that politician's position, on whatever subject, change - and often dramatically.   Just take Hilary Clinton as #101 as a case in point...

"Take two. Back in 1999, before neutrality on Israel/Palestine was deemed radically treasonous by America’s billionaire presidential anointers, Hillary Clinton actually spoke warmly of Palestinian aspirations. On a visit to the West Bank, she shocked pro-Israel enforcers by kissing the cheek of the Other, Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha, who had denounced Israel’s military domination of the Palestinians. The kiss was essentially diplomatic behavior by the then-first lady, but it rattled the enforcers, already skittish about Clinton after her shocking use of the actual word “Palestine” and her endorsement, a year earlier, of an independent state of that name."

But, then, we have this today....

"Soon Cl…

First Obama undermined press freedom. Now he wants Trump curbed!

Hypocrisy on show!   Despite what he said when he came into office about press freedom and openness in government, Obama's action have seen his actions acting quite to the contrary.    But, now that Trump is gaining the sort of traction he has been, the good 'ole Pres., in a great case of hypocrisy, is calling on the press to bring Trump to account.  This piece in The Guardian explains...

"On his first day on the job, way back in January 2009, Obama issued a memorandum declaring that his administration was “committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government … and establish a system of transparency”. This was one of his campaign promises. Seven years later, the president has fallen well short of this vow, and many journalists see his administration as the least transparent of all.

The Freedom of Information Act (Foia), signed into law in 1966, is meant to give citizens access to information about the government agencies their taxes support. Less than two …