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Showing posts from January, 2009

David v Goliath..... 2009 style!

Lilly Ledbetter just wanted what was fair — to earn the same pay as her male co-workers for the same work. She took on Goodyear, her employer in Alabama, and her case went to the Supreme Court. Her years-long battle ends in triumph Thursday with a fair pay act named in her honor in the USA.

A remarkable story, especially in a country which prides itself on fairness and justice - as ex president George W preached to the world.

Read the full story [from AP] in NPR'sweb site. Quite extraordinarily, most Republicans voted against the measure - in 2009 and facing re-election next year!

In China, a Grass-Roots Rebellion

"When Tang Xiaozhao first saw a copy of the pro-democracy petition in her e-mail inbox, she silently acknowledged she agreed with everything in it but didn't want to get involved.

Tang, a pigtailed, 30-something cosmetology major, had never considered herself the activist type. Like many other Chinese citizens, she kept a blog where she wrote about current events and her life, but she wasn't political.

A few days later, however, Tang surprised herself. She logged on to her computer and signed the document by sending her full name, location and occupation to a special e-mail address.

"I was afraid, but I had already signed it hundreds of times in my heart," Tang said in an interview.

Hers is the 3,943rd signature on the list that has swelled to more than 8,100 from across China. Although their numbers are still small, those signing the document, and the broad spectrum from which they come, have made the human rights manifesto, known as Charter 08, a significant marke…

Giving stick to those fat-cats

Maureen Dowd, author and columnist in the NY Times, is acerbic at the best of times.

In her latest column " Wall Street’s Socialist Jet-Setters" she is at her best in not only pouring scorn on the CEO's of major corporations but also adding a dose of wrath:

"As President Obama spreads his New Testament balm over the capital, I’m longing for a bit of Old Testament wrath.

Couldn’t he throw down his BlackBerry tablet and smash it in anger over the feckless financiers, the gods of gold and their idols — in this case not a gilt calf but an $87,000 area rug, a cache of diamond Tiffany and Cartier watches and a French-made luxury corporate jet?

Now that we’re nationalizing, couldn’t we fire any obtuse bankers and auto executives who cling to perks and bonuses even as the economy is following John Thain down his antique commode?

How could Citigroup be so dumb as to go ahead with plans to get a new $50 million corporate jet, the exclusive Dassault Falcon 7X seating 12, after lo…

Noam Chomsky: Neither The US Nor Israel Is A "Genuine Party To Peace."

Writing on Information Clearing House, Noam Chomsky challenges the notion that Israel and the US are really striving for peace in the Middle East:

"Barack Obama is recognized to be a person of acute intelligence, a legal scholar, careful with his choice of words. He deserves to be taken seriously - both what he says, and what he omits. Particularly significant is his first substantive statement on foreign affairs, on January 22, at the State Department, when introducing George Mitchell to serve as his special envoy for Middle East peace.

Mitchell is to focus his attention on the Israel-Palestine problem, in the wake of the recent US-Israeli invasion of Gaza. During the murderous assault, Obama remained silent apart from a few platitudes, because, he said, there is only one president - a fact that did not silence him on many other issues. His campaign did, however, repeat his statement that "if missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order t…

Can You Blame Them?

Hamas insists and has maintained all along that it will make peace with Israel - not necessarily recognise it - if Israel allows border crossings to remain open and returns to the borders as they stood in June 1967.

That Israel has blockaded Gaza is beyond question. The 1.5 million people have been denied every sort of requirement for a decent daily life - food, water, electricity, medicines and even a proper infrastructure. Israel has done much to decimate any infrastructure from roads to bridges to hospitals and government buildings. Against that background other than send rockets into Israel what resource has Hamas really got to get its people out from under the Israeli blockade?

Why the people of Gaza should suffer - bearing in mind that half the population is under the age of 15 - has never been explained by the Israelis. To read, as the NY Times reports, that aid is being stalled at the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt - especially now post Israel's ba…

Johann Hari: Why should I respect these oppressive religions?

There are many who maintain that if there were no religions the world might be a better place because we would have avoided many of the wars and conflicts which have beset the world since time immemorial.

In a not dissimilar vein of thinking, Johann Hari, writing in The Independent "Why should I respect these oppressive religions?":

"The right to criticise religion is being slowly doused in acid. Across the world, the small, incremental gains made by secularism – giving us the space to doubt and question and make up our own minds – are being beaten back by belligerent demands that we "respect" religion. A historic marker has just been passed, showing how far we have been shoved. The UN rapporteur who is supposed to be the global guardian of free speech has had his job rewritten – to put him on the side of the religious censors.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated 60 years ago that "a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and …

First Gitmo....and now how about Bagram?

The steps Obama is taking to shutting down Gitmo appear positive. Time will tell if he carries through on his plan.

Closure of Gitmo does not, however, end the problem of prisoners being held by the US - all without having been put on trial or convicted of any offence.

The NY Times reports in "Afghan Prison Poses Problem in Overhaul of Detainee Policy":

"For months, a national debate has raged over the fate of the 245 detainees at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But what may be an equally difficult problem now confronts the Obama administration in the 600 prisoners packed into a cavernous, makeshift prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan.

Military personnel who know Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan. The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers. The Bush administration never allowed journalists or human rights advocates inside."

Looks like the US still has…

Journalists found wanting.....yet again!

Chris Hedges was one-time NY Times Bureau chief in Jerusalem.

Writing "With Gaza, Journalists Fail Again" on truthdig.com he castigates journalists in falling down on the job in relation to their reporting on the recent assault by Israel on Gaza:

"The assault on Gaza exposed not only Israel’s callous disregard for international law but the gutlessness of the American press. There were no major newspapers, television networks or radio stations that challenged Israel’s fabricated version of events that led to the Gaza attack or the daily lies Israel used to justify the unjustifiable. Nearly all reporters were, as during the buildup to the Iraq war, pliant stenographers and echo chambers. If we as journalists have a product to sell, it is credibility. Take that credibility away and we become little more than propagandists and advertisers. By refusing to expose lies we destroy, in the end, ourselves."

And:

"We retreated, as usual, into the moral void of American journ…

Obama's Vietnam?

Professor Juan Cole, noted commentator on the Middle East, writing on Salon, poses the valid and critical question whether Obama's decision to allowing bombing by US forces in Pakistan, opens up Obama's own Vietnam:

"On Friday, President Barack Obama ordered an Air Force drone to bomb two separate Pakistani villages, killing what Pakistani officials said were 22 individuals, including between four and seven foreign fighters. Many of Obama's initiatives in his first few days in office -- preparing to depart Iraq, ending torture and closing Guantánamo -- were aimed at signaling a sharp turn away from Bush administration policies. In contrast, the headline about the strike in Waziristan could as easily have appeared in December with "President Bush" substituted for "President Obama." Pundits are already worrying that Obama may be falling into the Lyndon Johnson Vietnam trap, of escalating a predecessor's halfhearted war into a major quagmire. What …

An unanswerable letter?

Michael Brull, writing on newmatilda in "An Open Letter To The Israeli Ambassador"

"Dear Mr Rotem,

I have to say that the arrogance of your article in The Age, arguing that the paper should not have published a piece by Hamas official Khalid Meshaal left me stunned. Even by the standards of your Government it was quite something. Do you really think that you are entitled, as Israel's ambassador to Australia, to tell The Age who it should and should not be publishing?

And yet, as I read on, you climbed to even greater heights of audacity. You managed to brag about Israel's free press and democratic credentials, while calling on our press in Australia to restrict its freedoms — which coming from you amounts to an order from a foreign administration. Perhaps, as a representative of Israel's Government, you've become used to the idea of restricting critical scrutiny of Israel's actions.?

Of course, the arrogant attitude of your Government towards those who d…

In Pakistan, Radio Amplifies Terror of Taliban

That the Taliban are a bunch of fanatics of the worst kind is confirmed in this article in the NY Timesreporting from Peshawar:

"Every night around 8 o’clock, the terrified residents of Swat, a lush and picturesque valley a hundred miles from three of Pakistan’s most important cities, crowd around their radios. They know that failure to listen and learn might lead to a lashing — or a beheading.

Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed “un-Islamic” activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees — and those they plan to kill.

“They control everything through the radio,” said one Swat resident, who declined to give his name for fear the Taliban might kill him. “Everyone waits for the broadcast.”

Gaza War Pushes Arabs to the Brink

Robert Dreyfuss writing for The Nation reports on the inevitable:

"Anger is boiling over in the Middle East over Gaza, and -- exactly as I predicted -- the result of the war has been to boost radicalism throughout the region, to strengthen the terrorist-inclined fanatics of Hamas, and to enhance the muscle of terrorist-inclined Israelis, including far-right parties such as Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu and, of course, Likud's bombastic Benjamin Netanyahu.

You probably didn't know that the reason the Bush administration, in its last days, reversed course on Gaza is because they feared that US embassies in the Middle East might be stormed by angry crowds if they did nothing. You'll remember that, after weeks of supporting Israel's invasion of Gaza, the United States suddenly reversed course and allowed the UN Security Council to pass a unanimous resolution demanding a ceasefire. (The United States didn't vote yes, but it abstained -- rather than threate…

Israel Screwed Itself Over with Its Gaza Assault; the World Sees It as a 'Blood-Stained Monster'

The Editor's Note to a piece by Uri Avnery on Counterpunch, reproduced on AlterNet:

"In this powerful essay, Uri Avnery writes that Israel's latest assault on Gaza has backfired spectacularly for the country's long-term interests. He writes, "Seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a bloodstained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for [Israel's] long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet."

Avnery also writes that the true purpose of Israel's invasion, "(apart from gaining seats in the coming elections) is to terminate the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the imagination of the planners, Hamas is an invader which has gained control of a foreign country. The reality is, of course, entirely different." Yet, he argues, "Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in k…

Zimbabwe's children become refugees

It is said we live in a civilised world. It is difficult to accept the proposition given the mayhem, bloodshed, wanton destruction and the consequences of some country's leaders around the globe. Think the latest Israeli "episode" in Gaza, Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe to name but a few.

It is a sorry reflection on the world that in it continues to allow a country like Zimbabwe, with its mad President Mugabe, to go to rack and ruin. Cholera is now rampant, people are starving and lawlessness is rife. There simply is no economy. Is it perhaps that because Zimbabwe is in Africa that the world simply averts its eyes? Whatever the reason, one can only feel for the children of the country, as this piece in the IHT highlights:

"With their nation in a prolonged sequence of crises, more unaccompanied children and women than ever are joining the rush of desperate Zimbabweans illegally crossing the frontier at the Limpopo River, according to the police, local of…

And Then They Came For Me

Before he was murdered, Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickrematunge penned his own obituary, an assertion of the significance of free and independent media

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of Sri Lanka's Sunday Leader was murdered in Colombo on 8 January 2009. While Sri Lankan police have not yet apprehended his killers, in this, his final editorial and obituary - as published on newmatilda.com - Wickrematunge makes clear his views on where responsibility lies.

"No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.

I have been in the business of journalism a good long time…

Winners and losers.....and a message to Pres. Obama

Mousa Abu Marzook is deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau.

Writing a piece "A decisive loss for Israel" in Comment is Free in The Guardian, he declares that Israel lost the recent war with the Gazans. He also questions what Israel thinks it might have achieved with its barbaric onslaught.

No less importantly, as news comes today that Obama is sending his special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to the area next week, Marzook has a message for the US President:

"And to President Obama we say: the wave of hope that met your election was heavily dampened by your silence on the Gaza massacre. This was compounded by your pre-election statement siding with the Israeli settlers of Sderot. You would do well to know the history of the places of which you speak. Sderot, which may be known to some as an Israeli town, lies on the ruins of Najd, a Palestinian village ransacked in May 1948 by Zionist terrorist gangs. Villagers were forced from their beds and homes with…

Gideon Levy: Gaza war ended in utter failure for Israel

It couldn't be said more directly or bluntly - as Gideon Levy does in Haaretz:

"Israel's actions have dealt a serious blow to public support for the state. While this does not always translate itself into an immediate diplomatic situation, the shockwaves will arrive one day. The whole world saw the images. They shocked every human being who saw them, even if they left most Israelis cold.

The conclusion is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law. The investigations are on their way.

Graver still is the damage this will visit upon our moral spine. It will come from difficult questions about what the IDF did in Gaza, which will occur despite the blurring effect of recruited media.

So what was achieved, after all? As a war waged to satisfy considerations of internal politics, the operation has succeeded beyond all expec…

Children of Gaza: stories of those who died and the trauma for those who survived

Israel has consistently claimed how its citizens have suffered as a result of Hamas rockets - as they doubtlessly have - and in particular highlighted how children have been bed-wetting because of the rocket-fire. All probably true.

So, it is timely to reflect on how the children of Gaza are doing after some 18 months of a blockade and now after the latest 21 day hammering of the tiny sliver of land called Gaza with 1.5 million people packed into it.

The Guardian reports in detailed and graphic terms the horrendous damage inflicted on Gaza's children. Not rocket throwers! Not Hamas fighters! Not combatants! Just children.

"Only now, after most of the dead have been buried, is the first properly researched reckoning of the toll emerging. What already stands out is the striking cost borne by the children of Gaza, who make up more than half of the 1.5 million people living in this overcrowded strip of land.

The Palestinian death toll after three weeks of Israel's wa…

Israel Has Fewer Friends Than Ever, Even In America

It needs to be remembered that as part of Israel's onslaught into Gaza, it took all steps to ensure that it was on the front-foot in the pr stakes. It tried everything - YouTube, the internet, a female spokesperson to show a softer side to Israel, etc. etc. - but the carnage and death caused by the Israel's barrage, has seen it now facing accusations of having committed war crimes and seen as a rogue State.

Newsweek reports:

"Israel has never been more isolated. Its best friend, the United States, had vetoed 41 Security Council resolutions condemning Israel in the past three decades, but was about to vote for the Jan. 8 resolution denouncing the attack on Gaza when President Bush intervened, at the behest of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Still, in the face of unprecedented global criticism, the U.S. didn't dare veto, but merely abstained. Europe, never Israel's close ally, erupted in near unanimous outrage over Gaza, with fits of anti-Semitic violence in France…

When No News is Bad News

In a piece in The Atlantic "When No News is Bad News" a former managing editor of The Chicago Tribune probes the collapse of the newspaper industry and tries, mostly in vain, to find hope for the future of journalism.

"To give you an idea of the state of journalism today, I probably couldn’t do better than to tell you something about John Crewdson, a big, burly guy just past age 60, with whom I worked when I ran the Washington bureau of the Tribune. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on immigration at The New York Times in 1981, and is one of the premier investigative reporters of his generation.

Twenty years ago, Crewdson revealed (in a Tribune article so expansive it merited its own special Sunday section) that it was in fact a French research doctor named Luc Montagnier who had discovered the AIDS virus, rather than a self-promoting American, Dr. Robert Gallo, who had claimed full credit and been showered with media attention. To investigate the piece, Crewdson spent…

He's out of the loop.....

The pundits warned of it all along. Courting Abbas of the PLO and Fatah was destined to cause its own problems. Now with the latest violence by the Israelis in Gaza, Fatah has almost lost whatever credibility it had.

Patrick Cockburn, who lives in the West Bank, and has been reporting on the area for The Independent for some time, reports in "Fatah fears Gaza conflict has put Hamas in the ascendancy" on the rise of Hamas and the corresponding diminution of Fatah - and the implications for those, like the USA and the EU, who seek to deal with the Palestinians, especially given recent events:

"The Islamic movement Hamas is taking over from Fatah, the party created by Yasser Arafat, as the main Palestinian national organisation as a result of the war in Gaza, says a leading Fatah militant. "We have moved into the era of Hamas which is now much stronger than it was," said Husam Kadr, a veteran Fatah leader in the West Bank city of Nablus, recently released afte…

No humanity here

Israel is forever proclaiming that it wishes no harm to the people of Gaza. Hamas is their target. Israel also claims that it does not prevent humanitarian aid reaching the Gazans.

This report from NPR gives the lie to yet another lie of the Israelis. Aid isn't getting through and the Israelis are actively obstructing it.

"International aid agencies trying to get supplies and personnel from Israel into the Gaza Strip are increasingly frustrated and angry.

Israel eased its blockade of Gaza on Thursday, opening the border, but only under pressure and only to a few organizations.

Aid organizations say they need to get into Gaza to assess needs and relieve colleagues who are exhausted after the three-week Israeli offensive.

But Mike Baily of Oxfam International says for six days since the cease-fire, the Israeli government has given them the runaround.

"We've had every reason under the sun given to us for not going in … security, not the right day, that is was closed…

"to those who cling to power through.. the silencing of dissent"

No comment called for! The article from FPspeaks for itself.....

"On his first day in office, Barack Obama placed calls to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Excellent! What a perfect opportunity to talk to

"those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent"

Hosni Mubarak -- whose regime has spent the last several years locking up Ayman Nour for challenging him in the Presidential election, brutally cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood for the sin of competing in Parliamentary elections, disciplining independent judges who tried to oversee elections, extending Emergency Law, harassing bloggers, torturing and beating political activists, and indicting independent journalists -- no doubt warmly welcomed the discussion of how it felt to "know that you are on the wrong side of history."

Oh, they didn't talk about that? Pity. At least immediately engagi…

Some advise Obama might not want to ignore

Obama has hit the road running! So, let's see whether action translates into positive outcomes.

The Saudis are allies of the US. The US needs Saudi oil. Accordingly, it's a country one doesn't lightly ignore.

The Financial Times reports on a more than timely warning in an op-ed piece in the FT from a Saudi Prince to newly-elected president Obama:

"In an article in today's Financial Times, Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and former ambassador to Washington, says that if the US wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and maintain its strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, it "will have to drastically revise its policies vis-à-vis Israel and Palestine".

Writing days after the end of Israel's three-week Gaza offensive, he says the Bush administration, which supported the onslaught, had left a "sickening legacy in the region". And while Saudi Arabia has so f…

Robert Fisk: So far, Obama's missed the point on Gaza...

"It would have helped if Obama had the courage to talk about what everyone in the Middle East was talking about. No, it wasn't the US withdrawal from Iraq. They knew about that. They expected the beginning of the end of Guantanamo and the probable appointment of George Mitchell as a Middle East envoy was the least that was expected. Of course, Obama did refer to "slaughtered innocents", but these were not quite the "slaughtered innocents" the Arabs had in mind.

There was the phone call yesterday to Mahmoud Abbas. Maybe Obama thinks he's the leader of the Palestinians, but as every Arab knows, except perhaps Mr Abbas, he is the leader of a ghost government, a near-corpse only kept alive with the blood transfusion of international support and the "full partnership" Obama has apparently offered him, whatever "full" means. And it was no surprise to anyone that Obama also made the obligatory call to the Israelis.

But for the people of the …

Israel's Lies

Henry Siegman, director of the US Middle East Project in New York, is a visiting research professor at SOAS, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

He has written a a number of pieces for the London Review of Books. His latest piece "Israel's Lies" analyses the just concluded attack on Gaza by the Israelis. Siegman puts the whole thing into context and asserts that Israel has lied in the whole process it undertook:

"Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defen…

Obama: What a family!

Whilst some things have been revealed about the new president Obama and his wife, little has been written about their respective family histories and backgrounds. It most certainly is diverse, as this IHT article "A family to herald diversity" reveals:

"The president's elderly Kenyan step-grandmother came, bearing a gift of an oxtail fly whisk. Cousins journeyed from the South Carolina town where the first lady's great-great-grandfather was born into slavery, while the rabbi in the family came from the synagogue where he had been commemorating Martin Luther King's birthday. The president and first lady's siblings were there, too, of course: his Indonesian-American half-sister, who brought her Chinese-Canadian husband, and her brother, a black man with a white wife."

Continue reading here.

Wish you were here

A lot has already been written about the momentous event and "story" of Obama becoming US president. There is no denying it on so many levels.

Perhaps one of the best pieces encapsulating how historic it is, and the context in the lifetimes of many of us, comes from Bob Herbert, himself Afro-American, writing his regular op-ed piece in the NY Times [republished in the IHT]:

"And so it has happened, this very strange convergence. The holiday celebrating the birth of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became, in the midnight hour, the day that America inaugurated its first black president.

It's a day on which smiles give way to tears and then return quickly to smiles again, a day of celebration and reflection.

King would have been 80 years old now. He came to national prominence not trying to elect an African-American president, but just trying to get us past the depraved practice of blacks being forced to endure the humiliation of standing up and giving their s…

There's no escaping it. Talk they must - and will!

Hilary Clinton has already said the US won't talk to Hamas. Others, including Israel, maintain the same stance.

Come what may, eventually, there will have to be dialogue, however difficult that might be.

It is refreshing to read that an Israeli writer who lost a son in Lebanon accuses his countrymen of 'cruelty' - as reported in The Independent in "Dialogue with Hamas is only path to peace, urges novelist" - and more particularly exhorts his countrymen to talk to Hamas:

"David Grossman, the renowned Israeli novelist, issued a pained rebuke to his countrymen over the Gaza invasion yesterday and called for the immediate opening of talks with the militant Hamas movement.

Embarking on what he conceded would be a daunting dialogue with Hamas, which refuses Israel's right to exist, "will contribute more to our security than a hundred planes dropping bombs on a city and its inhabitants", the dovish author wrote in a front-page article in the daily …

The Israel Lobby at work.....in Australia

The Israel Lobby knows no bounds - as this rather disturbing piece by a well regarded journalist, author and media commentator in Australia, Margaret Simon reveals on her blog reveals in her piece "The Michael Backman Column: Weird and Unpleasant Happenings at The Age":

"I was out frying other fish yesterday so did not catch up with the controversy consuming The Age newsroom until late afternoon. This morning as I ring around, it is clear that the newsroom remains tense and upset. Staff are rallying around. They fear unfairness.

It’s all about an anti-Semitic column by regular contributor to the business pages, Michael Backman. published last Saturday - and about the bizarre “apology” The Age had on page two yesterday.

The original column has been taken down from the Age website, but is still available on Backman’s own website,

Bad enough. Very bad, in fact. How did such a racist column come to be published? Keep reading, but first some more background.

Yesterday a bizarre a…

Israel wanted a humanitarian crisis

Targeting civilians was a deliberate part of this bid to humiliate Hamas and the Palestinians, and pulverise Gaza into chaos

"The scale of Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip, and the almost daily reports of war crimes over the last three weeks, has drawn criticism from even longstanding friends and sympathisers. Despite the Israeli government's long-planned and comprehensive PR campaign, hundreds of dead children is a hard sell. As a former Israeli government press adviser put it, in a wonderful bit of unintentional irony, "When you have a Palestinian kid facing an Israeli tank, how do you explain that the tank is actually David and the kid is Goliath?"

Despite a mass of evidence that includes Israel's targets in Operation Cast Lead, public remarks by Israeli leaders over some time, and the ceasefire manoeuvring of this last weekend, much of the analysis offered by politicians or commentators has been disappointingly limited, and characterised by false assumpti…

Bringing light into Myanmar's darkness

The world seems to have "forgotten" Mynmar [formerly Burma] post the horrendous floods there and the protest marches principally by monks. The Generals in power have kept a tight clamp on the country's people and those allowed into the country even if only to provide humanitarian aid.

To its credit, the IHT reports on how those who have stepped out of line have been dealt with and an organisation seeking to help them:

"By the time he had contracted tuberculosis, Htay Aung, a dissident jailed for seven years in Myanmar, was incapable of telling prison guards about his condition. He had already lost his voice from the years of exposure to the cold concrete floor that prisoners slept on.

So Htay Aung decided to announce his illness in a more graphic form. He coughed up enough blood to fill a small cup. "When the guard came around I showed him," said Htay Aung, who has now recuperated but whose voice remains raspy. "They transferred me to the leprosy ward.…

Israel may face war-crimes case for alleged atrocities

As the people of Gaza assess the horrendous pounding Israel inflicted on them - leaving aside the loss of life and injury - calls are growing for Israel to be prosecuted for war crimes. Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, there seems more than strong prima facie evidence that Israel should be brought to account for its actions.

The SMH reports in what doesn't make for "pretty" reading but serves to show the brutality of Israel's actions:

"The sight of her dead four-year-old son's blood splashed on a breeze-block wall was enough to start Zinad Samouni sobbing.

But the 35-year-old Palestinian mother of eight then composed herself to give the most complete allegation yet of atrocities committed by Israeli forces when they occupied the village of Zeitoun on the outskirts of Gaza City.

Standing in the wreckage of her home, she described the cold-blooded shooting of her 46-year-old husband, Atiyeh, and her son, Ahmed, in an incident that could form the core …

Good speech......pity about the cofffee though!

Well, the Obama inauguration speech is in! Good, but not brilliant, sober, and no catchy phrases to readily remember in the future.

So, who writes all Obama's speeches? One Jon Favreau. Who?

The Guardian backgrounds the 27 year old who helps frame Obama's speeches - and the process behind it - and in relation to the inaugural address writes:

"Favreau then went away and spent weeks on research. His team interviewed historians and speech writers, studied periods of crisis, and listened to past inaugural orations. When ready, he took up residence in Starbucks in Washington and wrote the first draft. The end result will be uttered on the steps of the Capitol".

Gaza was demolished in three weeks. Rebuilding it will take years

There is something quite perverse in all of this.

First, most of the West effectively allowed Israel carte blanche to bomb Gaza for 3 weeks without any sort of restraint or even calls to cease and desist. The devastation as the world now sees has been horrendous - leaving aside the loss of life and disruption to people's lives. Now the West is considering massive aid to assist the re-building of Gaza - and in times when the world's economic crisis is severe and money is in short supply. Where is the logic, let alone any sense, in any of this?

The extent of what Gaza faces is explained by Patrick Cockburn - who has been reporting from the Middle East for considerable time - in this piece from The Independent:

"The rebuilding of Gaza after the Israeli bombardment already faces unique problems and is likely to be the most difficult reconstruction project in the world. This is because of the sheer scale of the devastation, the economic siege of the Palestinian enclave by …

Gaza: Latest analysis and commentary

*** John Mearsheimer, co-author of the best-selling book, The Israel Lobby, writing in "Another War, Another Defeat" in The American Conservative:

"There is also little chance that people around the world who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will soon forget the appalling punishment that Israel is meting out in Gaza. The destruction is just too obvious to miss, and too many people—especially in the Arab and Islamic world—care about the Palestinians’ fate. Moreover, discourse about this longstanding conflict has undergone a sea change in the West in recent years, and many of us who were once wholly sympathetic to Israel now see that the Israelis are the victimizers and the Palestinians are the victims. What is happening in Gaza will accelerate that changing picture of the conflict and long be seen as a dark stain on Israel’s reputation.

The bottom line is that no matter what happens on the battlefield, Israel cannot win its war in Gaza. In fact, it is pursuing a…

Author sells 7 books.....gets 3 years jail

Why would anyone want to visit Thailand if the experience of an Australian author is anything to go by?

BBC News reports on what ought to be regarded as an outrage on just about every level one can think of:

"Australian writer Harry Nicolaides has been sentenced to three years in a Thai jail for insulting the monarchy.

Nicolaides wrote a novel four years ago, which contained a brief passage referring to an unnamed crown prince. It sold just seven copies.

He admitted the charge of insulting the royal family, but said he was unaware he was committing an offence. Thailand's monarchy is sheltered from public debate by some of the world's most stringent "lese-majeste" laws."

And:

"But he is just one of a growing number of people being investigated and charged under Thailand's draconian "lese-majeste" law, as the police and army try to suppress what they fear is a rising tide of anti-monarchy sentiment.

More than 3,000 websites have now been blocked,…

Not in our name it wasn't!

There have many rallies around the world against Israel and in support of the poor people of Gaza who have had to endure 3 weeks of constant bombardment - apart from the 18 months blockade preceding it.

It has been heartening to see the response of many Jews, both individually and collectively, in attacking Israel's actions - and not be beholden to organisations claiming to speak for their respective Jewish communities. At one rally, in Melbourne Australia, Peter Slezak, co-founder of Australia's IAJV [Independent Australian Jewish Voices], spoke clearly of how Israel's conduct ought to be viewed:

"We have a responsibility to turn our moral concern into meaningful action, because it is here, in the West, that the fate of Palestine is decided. We must find ways to counter the barrage of deceit that prevents people from understanding what is going on and reacting to it as human beings.

History is being re-written even as it happens. So, it is a lie that Israel is defen…

One man's mission....with a win-win outcome

What one man can do to achieve a positive and beneficial outcome......

Op-ed columnist in the NY Times Nicholas Kristof explains in his latest piece "Win a Trip You Won’t Forget" how his one modest step to try and do something positive has had an effect on a large scale....

"A few years ago, soon after I returned disconsolate and shellshocked from a trip to Darfur, I found New Yorkers burning with moral outrage.

The spark wasn’t genocide, war or poverty, but rather homelessness — of a red-tailed hawk nicknamed Pale Male. Managers of a Fifth Avenue apartment building had dismantled his nest.

Fury! Television cameras! And public pressure that led to a solution for rebuilding the nest.

I wondered how some of that compassion for a hawk could be rechanneled to help human beings like those I had just seen dying in Darfur. The potential is vast: just imagine if we felt the same sympathy for the 25,000 children who will die today of poverty as we do for, say, a lost and terrified pu…

Israel's latest outrage comes to light

Another dimension to the quite obvious strategy Israel developed over 6 months before attacking Gaza is revealed in an article in the SMH:

"Israel deliberately blocked the United Nations from building up vital food supplies in Gaza that feed a million people daily before the launch of its war against Hamas, according to a senior UN official in Jerusalem.

In a scathing critique of Israeli actions leading up to the conflict, the UN's chief humanitarian co-ordinator in Israel, the former Australian diplomat Maxwell Gaylard, accused Israel of failing to honour its commitments to open its border with Gaza during several months of truce from June 19 last year.

"The Israelis would not let us facilitate a regular and sufficient flow of supplies into the Strip," Mr Gaylard said.

The chief spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yigal Palmor, said the claims were "unqualified bullshit".

"At no time was there a shortage of food in Gaza over the past t…

Worst. President. Ever.

As Obama is about to be sworn in as President of the US, Scott Horton, writing inHarper's Magazine reflects on the outgoing president:

"Bush’s Karl Rove-directed legacy tour is over and the votes are in: he leaves office as the most disliked president in American history. The final New York Times-CBS News poll is out, and Bush scores a 22 percent approval rating. Of course this polling process is only seventy-odd years old. Some of his predecessors might have done worse—James Buchanan, for instance, or possibly Warren G. Harding. But Bush has reason for cheer–he beat Dick Cheney, who scored a 13 percent approval rating, still above Cheney’s low-water mark—at least he cracked double digits.

Cheney still has his boosters in the media, however—at least two of them, Stuart Taylor and Evan Thomas. They worked on the cover story for the last Newsweek. Like its subject, the story was deceptive and darkly insinuating–truly a missive from the Dark Side."

Over at The Huffington Post,…