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Showing posts from May, 2009

Obama off to the Middle East

With the tone between Washington and Jerusalem changing quite markedly in the last days - with respect to the so-called settlements [some being towns with upwards of 25,000 people] which the Israelis keep on establishing or expanding despite assurances not to and the Oslo agreement - Obama is about to head off to the Middle East. Cairo and Saudi Arabia are the slated stops. It is said that a major speech will be delivered in Egypt - the second-highest recipient of aid after Israel, even if it is a country far from being any sort of democracy!

The Washington Post asked activists, journalists and policy experts what the president should say in his address in Cairo. Below are contributions from Ayman Nour, David Makovsky, Danielle Pletka, Steven A. Cook, Daoud Kuttab, Tamara Cofman Wittes, Martin Indyk, David Pollock and Curtis Cannon, and Aaron David Miller.

Read what the experts say Obama should say here.

The Power of Culture vs. The Culture of Power

From CommonDreams.org:

"For the second time, the Israeli Army has tried to shut down the week-long Palestine Festival of Literature, a self-described "traveling cultural roadshow" touring across the West Bank with internationally known Palestinian and European writers. After armed forces closed down opening night in East Jerusalem's Palestinian National Theater, the French came in to host the events; last night, when troops arrived again, the British did.

"Talking about what literature is and what it means in a fraught political situation is the most honest thing we can do," said British writer Jeremy Harding. "They didn't like that."

Global warming causes 300,000 deaths a year, says Kofi Annan thinktank

What with the world occupied with and directing its attention to the North Koreans, the Middle East, Pakistan and seemingly still fascinated by Obama's every move, the critical issue of climate change, and its consequences, have slipped below the radar of late. It oughtn't, for ignoring it will have, and already has had, dire outcomes in many ways - as a Kofi Annan think tank has found.

The Guardianreports:

"Climate change is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and is affecting 300m people, according to the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming.

It projects that increasingly severe heatwaves, floods, storms and forest fires will be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths a year by 2030, making it the greatest humanitarian challenge the world faces.

Economic losses due to climate change today amount to more than $125bn a year — more than all the present world aid. The report comes from former UN secretary general Kofi Annan's think…

Hold those presses. All is not gloom!

MPS, like many other commentators, has written about the demise of newspapers around the world, principally in the USA. Many newspapers, if not already gone, are said to be teetering on closure.

But, this report on Yahoo! News tells us that newspaper sales have actually grew globally by 1.3 % in 2008:

"Global newspaper sales inched up last year, contradicting gloomy predictions that dailies face extinction, as gains in Africa, Asia and Latin America offset slumps in Europe and the US, an industry group said Wednesday.

Newspaper sales grew 1.3 percent worldwide last year from 2007 to 539 million daily, a rise of 8.8 percent over the past four years, said Gavin O'Reilly, president of the World Association of Newspapers.

"The sector continues to grow," he said at the start of a two-day WAN conference in Barcelona, adding media commentators were making a "mistake" when they predicted the death of daily newspapers.

Dailies in wealthier nations are struggling due…

The Mother of all Corruptions

Is this the evidence and outcome of all that democracy and order - including that Shock and Awe! - which the Coalition of the Willing brought to Iraq?

Patrick Cockburn, in The Independent, reports on what is billed as the mother of all corruptions:

"Iraq plans to arrest 1,000 officials for corruption after a scandal which has forced the resignation of the Trade Minister and is threatening the food supply of millions of Iraqis.

Corruption at the Trade Ministry is an important issue in Iraq because the ministry is in charge of the food rationing system on which 60 per cent of Iraqis depend. Officials at the ministry, which spends billions of dollars buying rice, sugar, flour and other items, are notorious among Iraqis for importing food that is unfit for human consumption, for which they charge the state the full international price.

The scandal first erupted in April when police, entering the Trade Ministry in Baghdad to arrest 10 senior officials accused of corruption and embezzl…

From Bible... to newspapers....to oblivion?

Credit to Pat Oliphant in The NY Times

Two perspectives of Gaza

Two interesting perspectives and background on the position in which Gaza finds itself.

First, a NY Times report "Misery Hangs Over Gaza Despite Pledges of Help":

"Dozens of families still live in tents amid collapsed buildings and rusting pipes. With construction materials barred, a few are building mud-brick homes. Everything but food and medicine has to be smuggled through desert tunnels from Egypt. Among the items that people seek is an addictive pain reliever used to fight depression.A smuggler digging a tunnel at the border of Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Everything but food and medicine has to be smuggled in.Four months after Israel waged a war here to stop Hamas rocket fire and two years after Hamas took full control of this coastal strip, Gaza is like an island adrift. Squeezed from without by an Israeli and Egyptian boycott and from within by their Islamist rulers, the 1.5 million people here are cut off from any productivity or hope.“Right after the war, everybody…

Gaza War: Amnesty International Report in

Debate has raged, and allegations and counter accusations traded, about the Gaza War a few months back. Essentially whatever the Palestinians or a variety of NGO's have accused Israel of has been steadfastly denied by the Israelis. An almost reflect response from Israel has been that it was defending itself from rocket attacks.

Haaretz reports on Amnesty International's report on the Gaza War. It is republished here, in full, lest it be said that by only reproducing part, there has been some selectivity from the Haaretz piece.

"A new Amnesty International report has accused Israel of repeatedly violating the laws of armed conflict during the three-week Israel Defense Forces offensive in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009.

The report claims that 1400 Palestinians died in the offensive - including 300 children - and that 5000 people were wounded.

The Amnesty report accuses IDF soldiers of violating the laws of armed conflict over and over again by …

Those pesky North Koreans.....

Those pesky North Koreans - part of George W's so-called "axis of evil" - have tested a nuclear bomb and fired some rockets. Now the UN is contemplating what to do.

The North Koreans' actions are not be lightly dismissed. But is it a real threat about which the world ought to panic? Stephen Walt, professor in International Relations at Harvard, writing in "On North Korea's nuclear and missile tests" on his blog as part of FP, analyses the situation:

"North Korea's nuclear and missile tests are hardly good news, but they don’t justify going into full panic mode. We already knew that North Korea had a nuclear weapons capability, and though this latest test seems to have been slightly more powerful than the initial one, it doesn’t imply a qualitative shift in the strategic environment. North Korea's defiance is annoying, perhaps, but it’s not like the act of testing a nuclear weapon tells us something new about their regime. And let&#…

So much for human rights

The Israelis have for a long time complained that the UN Human Rights Council is extremely selective in what it investigates or reports on.

They may well have a point given the decision by the Council not to investigate the recent action of both sides in the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. It is even worse! The Council congratulated the Government on its success in concluding the war as it did.

The Guardian reports:

"Sri Lanka last night scored a major propaganda coup when the UN human rights council praised its victory over the Tamil Tigers and refused calls to investigate allegations of war crimes by both sides in the final chapter of a bloody 25-year conflict.

In a shock move, which dismayed western nations critical of Sri Lanka's approach, the island's diplomats succeeded in lobbying enough of its south Asian allies to pass a resolution describing the conflict as a "domestic matter that doesn't warrant outside interference&…

War Games with the Press

Increasingly the Americans can be seen as preaching to everyone how they ought to behave - free elections, rule of law, etc. etc. - but not following their own edicts. A case of good ol' double-standards!

Not for the first time the way the US has dealt with the press, especially in the light of the recent Saberi case in Iran, is raised again - this time by lawyer Scott Horton writing on Harper's Magazine.

"Recently, Iranians arrested and tried a young North Dakota-reared journalist named Roxana Saberi. She was accused of espionage and held under harsh conditions. The Obama administration cried foul, and newspapers around the United States raged against the Iranians and their abuse of the denizens of the Fourth Estate. The objections were well taken and had commendable effect, as Saberi’s sentence was reduced, and she was freed and allowed to return to the States. But there’s another country whose treatment of journalists might put even Iran to shame: the United States. …

One helluva a priest: A holy mission to reveal the truth about Nazi death squads

It would not be an exaggeration to say that priests of the Catholic Church are pretty much on the nose around the world - of course, the Church hierarchy itself not having helped things by closing a blind eye to or pushing under the carpet the illegal practices of so many priests by "circulating" them from parish to parish - but this story of one priest in The Independent reflects a very positive side of at least one member of the Catholic clergy.

"Father Patrick Desbois is a man desperately racing with death. By his own calculations he has six, perhaps seven years at the outside in which to complete his work: a task, which until the reaper renders it impossible some time in the not-too-distant future, is at once unimaginably chilling in nature and nightmarishly ambitious in scale. For the 53-year-old French priest, with an easy laugh and shining eyes, has made it his holy mission to recall for the world the slaughter enacted by the Nazi mobile death squads, the feared E…

Former Interrogator Rebukes Cheney

"Dick Cheney says that torturing detainees has saved American lives. That claim is patently false. Cheney's torture policy was directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of American servicemen and women.

Matthew Alexander was the senior military interrogator for the task force that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and, at the time, a higher priority target than Osama bin Laden. Mr. Alexander has personally conducted hundreds of interrogations and supervised over a thousand of them.

"Torture does not save lives. Torture costs us lives," Mr. Alexander said in an exclusive interview at Brave New Studios. "And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool...These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse....literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives."

From CommonDreams.


The Long Goodbye? The Book Business and its Woes

"Humanity has read, hoarded, discarded and demanded books for centuries; for centuries books have been intimately woven into our sense of ourselves, into the means by which we find out who we are and who we want to be. They have never been mere physical objects--paper pages of a certain size and weight printed with text and sometimes images, bound together on the left--never just cherished or reviled reminders of school-day torments, or mementos treasured as expressions of bourgeois achievement, or icons of aristocratic culture. They have been all these things and more. They have been instruments of enlightenment.

Once the invention of movable type and various commercial advances in the early modern era enabled printers to sell books to anyone who could and would pay for them (no longer reserving them for priests and kings), they became irresistibly popular: their relatively sturdy bindings gave them some permanence; the small-format ones were portable and could be read anywhere; …

Was anything really achieved?

The Americans have just "celebrated" Memorial Day.

Whilst the debate continues in the USA about torture, the release of photos, Obama not pursuing those who engaged in illegal acts during the Iraq War, etc. etc. there are those who are questioning not only the monetary cost of the war, but what was actually achieved - or put another way, were there any real tangible benefits for either the Americans or Iraqis.

Two pieces highlight critical "issues" relating to the Iraq War. First, Cindy Sheehan, writing on truthout.org in "The Day of the Dead" questions what, if anything, was achieved by the War:

"I was on an airplane flying to Orange County from Sacramento to attend the al-Awda Conference, which is a Palestinian Right's Conference (al-Awda translates to "The Returning"), when the pilot's voice filled the cabin to make an announcement that I think went unnoticed by most of my fellow passengers, but I heard it.

"As the plane w…

So what is preventive detention?

Glen Greenwald, former constitutional lawyer, and now prestigious writer / blogger for Salon, dissects in a piece "Facts and myths about Obama's preventive detention proposal" what Obama, in a turn about, means when he says the US will allow for preventive detention.

"In the wake of Obama's speech yesterday, there are vast numbers of new converts who now support indefinite "preventive detention." It thus seems constructive to have as dispassionate and fact-based discussion as possible of the implications of "preventive detention" and Obama's related detention proposals (military commissions)."

For instance:

"It's important to be clear about what "preventive detention" authorizes. It does not merely allow the U.S. Government to imprison people alleged to have committed Terrorist acts yet who are unable to be convicted in a civilian court proceeding. That class is merely a subset, perhaps a small subset, of who the…

Israel: Sanity in the madhouse?

That Israel - and perforce the rest of the world - is in for some "interesting" times in the forseeable future is almost an oxymoron. The Israelis, hell-bent on going their own way, are sticking their heads in the sand and not taking Obama all that seriously when he says that a peace deal must be struck with a Two State solution part of it.

No sooner had the Israeli PM returned from the US last week than all sorts of issues have arisen.

First, this madness, as reported by Akiva Elder in Haaretz in "Words of the living God":

"Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin is considered an honest man who speaks his mind. That is cause for great concern.

In speaking last week to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee - and through it, the greater public - he put forth a position that indicates a serious flaw in strategy and logic. Diskin said that as long as Hamas rules Gaza, an effective diplomatic process does not stand a chance.

What does the Shin Bet head propose? &q…

Vice-like grip - after no "real" victory

The Sri Lankan government may be jubilant at having crushed the Tamil Tigers - at what horrendous cost! - and the UN Secretary-General has counselled the Government that it must address the rights of the Tamils by getting them out of those camps and allowing them to return to their homes, but things aren't that straight-forward.

"The Tigers have been defeated but don't expect dissenting voices to be welcome in Sri Lanka any time soon, says Sri Lankan journalist Sunanda Deshapriya in an interview with newmatilda.com".

To reflect on how things stand now in Sri Lanka, but one example from the Q & A:

"In recent times it seems as though it has been very dangerous to report anything that wasn't going along with the Government line, though. Has that situation now changed? Do you expect it to change?

No, I don't think so. The President has said there are only two types of people: one group of people who support their motherland, the others who are traitors to th…

The Morphing of Obama

Two pieces strongly conclude that Obama, whatever he was and said before his election, is morphing into a continuation of the Bush-Cheney White House.

First, Alexander Cockburn in The First Post "Obama: From Anti-war Law Professor to Warmonger in 100 Days":

"How long does it take a mild-mannered, anti-war, black professor of constitutional law, trained as a community organiser on the South Side of Chicago, to become an enthusiastic sponsor of targeted assassinations, 'decapitation' strategies and remote-control bombing of mud houses at the far end of the globe?

There's nothing surprising here. As far back as President Woodrow Wilson, in the early 20th century, American liberalism has been swift to flex its imperial muscle and whistle up the Marines. High-explosive has always been in the hormone shot.

The nearest parallel to Obama in eager deference to the bloodthirsty counsels of his counter-insurgency advisors is John F. Kennedy. It is not surprising that brigh…

Whose is the enemy here?

Credit to Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner

Hitler's European Holocaust Helpers

That Hitler and the Nazis were responsible for the most horrendous genocide resulting in the organised killing of Jews [some 6 million] and Gypsies and many others cannot be denied. To that must be added that the Germans unleashed what became known as World War 2. The deaths in Russia, alone, were huge.

Spiegel OnLine International has opened an interesting subject - how many other countries were "helpers" of the Nazis?

"The Germans are responsible for the industrial-scale mass murder of 6 million Jews. But the collusion of other European countries in the Holocaust has received surprisingly little attention until recently. The trial of John Demjanjuk is set to throw a spotlight on Hitler's foreign helpers."

And:

"Of course only Hitler and his entourage or the army could have stopped the Holocaust. But this doesn't invalidate the argument that without the foreign helpers, countless thousands or even millions of the approximately six million murdered J…

A UN First

Agence France Presse reports [as republished on CommonDreams] a "first" for the UN - which will doubtlessly have more than "interesting" consequences and outcomes:

"A UN human rights inquiry on Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip five months ago will hold public hearings, the inquiry's head Richard Goldstone said Wednesday, marking a first for the United Nations.

Goldstone said the four-member mission was ready to hold hearings outside the region in Geneva if necessary, especially to hear Israeli witnesses who might not be able to enter Palestinian territory.

"That way we would cover all fields," he told journalists after a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

UN officials said it would be the first time that a UN inquiry held such public hearings, as Goldstone applied his experience as a former judge and investigator in post-apartheid South Africa.

An Israeli official said last month that Israel would refuse to cooperate with the probe…

Death of newspapers = more deaths on Death Row

As if the demise of newspapers wasn't bad enough, The NY Times reveals in "Death Row Foes See Newsroom Cuts as Blow" a singularly unfortunate by-product - lesser and lesser investigations of people wrongly sentenced, many of whom are on death row. Newspaper people have regularly been involved in the investigations together with lawyers.

"Opponents of the death penalty looking to exonerate wrongly accused prisoners say their efforts have been hobbled by the dwindling size of America’s newsrooms, and particularly the disappearance of investigative reporting at many regional papers.

In the past, lawyers opposed to the death penalty often provided the broad outlines of cases to reporters, who then pursued witnesses and unearthed evidence.

Now, the lawyers complain, they have to do more of the work themselves and that means it often doesn’t get done. They say many fewer cases are being pursued by journalists, after a spate of exonerations several years ago based on the …

An unimaginable imprisonment

The Sri Lankans have clearly taken a leaf out of the book of other countries - think Israel and the USA as but two examples - in detaining people.

What the Government has done to the Tamils has been barbaric and inhumane - at the same time simply ignoring pleas from various countries and organisations to desist, show restraint and act according to international law.

The Guardian reports in "Quarter of a million Sri Lankans face two years in camps":

"Many of the quarter of a million people held in internment camps in Sri Lanka face up to two years behind razor wire, a government official said today.

Despite international concern over conditions inside the camps, the defence ministry spokesman, Lakshman Hulugalle, said Sri Lanka was not prepared to let the UN dictate terms over the length of time people could be held.

A UN spokesman, Gordon Weiss, said he was "shocked" at the revelation, which ran counter to previous government assurances.

"It was our understa…

An insight into muzzling...

Muzzlewatch has an interesting piece in "JINSA advocates censorship, military strikes on “partisan” media outlets".

How's this? - quoting from the JINSA:

"Today, the United States and its allies will never face a lone enemy on the battlefield. There will always be a hostile third party in the fight, but one which we not only refrain from attacking but are hesitant to annoy: the media."

What?

Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press

Veteran blogger [and lawyer] - now on Salon - Glenn Greenwaldwrites:

"Eric Boehlert has just released a truly superb, illuminating and entertaining new book: Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press. As the title suggests, the book examines the impact which the blogosphere has had on both journalism and political activism, and it is, in my view, by far the best book yet to examine the rise of political blogs. Boehlert is my guest today on Salon Radio to talk about the issues raised by this new book.
In order to dispel stereotypes and myths propagated about bloggers (mostly by establishment journalists eager to demonize what they perceive as their competitors), Boehlert focuses on 8-10 bloggers, and writes in detail about their background and what brought them to blogging."

Go here on Salon to read a partial excerpt from what sounds like a fascinating book.

Rogue Diva of Doom

Maureen Dowd might have had her troubles this past week being caught out in a bit of plagiarism, but that hasn't stopped her coming out swinging, and at her acerbic best, in her column "Rogue Diva of Doom" in The NY Times.

"Cheney has replaced Sarah Palin as Rogue Diva. Just as Jeb Bush and other Republicans are trying to get kinder and gentler, Cheney has popped out of his dungeon, scary organ music blaring, to carry on his nasty campaign of fear and loathing.

The man who never talked is now the man who won’t shut up. The man who wouldn’t list his office in the federal jobs directory, who had the vice president’s residence blocked on Google Earth, who went to the Supreme Court to keep from revealing which energy executives helped him write the nation’s energy policy, is now endlessly yelping about how President Obama is holding back documents that should be made public.

Cheney, who had five deferments himself to get out of going to Vietnam, would rather follow a blowh…

Israel's last chance?

It is worth publishing in full, and reading, Gideon Levy's latest op-ed piece "A friend of Israel" on Haaretz:

"It's already clear: the U.S. president is a great friend of Israel. If Barack Obama continues what he started this week, he might prove to be the friendliest president to Israel ever. Richard Nixon saved Israel from the Arab states in 1973, and Obama is about to save Israel from itself. Nixon sent us arms and ammunition at a critical time, and Obama is sending us, at a time no less critical, the substance of a complete peace plan, a plan that would save Israel.

All that remains is whether Obama stays determined and decisive, as he was earlier this week. In one move he changed Washington's madness and the attitude toward the Israeli occupation. Now we will see if he succeeds in altering the same madness in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It's a long road, and Obama began well.

In a single move he shrank the fearmongering of Benjamin Netanyahu and his mou…

“He’s a ruthless little bastard. You can be sure of that.”

Mmmm! For all his faults, and being a crook to boot, Richard Nixon was at least able to size up Donald Rumsfeld.

Jeff Sparrow, writing in Crikey, details the nefarious and astounding antics of Rumsfeld as revealed in a recent GQ article:

“He’s a ruthless little bastard. You can be sure of that.”

So said Richard Nixon, a man who knew something about ruthlessness and bastardry, about Donald Rumsfeld back in 1971.

GQ today provides a fascinating glimpse of the man at work. In the early days of the Iraq war, Rumsfeld was responsible for regular briefings known as Worldwide Intelligence Updates, often personally delivered to the White House.


Continue reading here.

Intimidation and Interrogation in Tel Aviv

One has to wonder. Here is Israel for ever beating its own chest about what a democracy it is - indeed, the only one in the Middle East it claims, as do its supporters.

Increasingly, the country's strong-arm tactics, both internally and externally, must surely give pause to even its most ardent fans. But then to challenge and question immediately attracts the label of "self-hating Jew", "anti-semite" or "anti-Zionist".

Read this troubling piece "Intimidation and Interrogation in Tel Aviv" on CounterPunch with grave concern:

"It is simple: even if you are as convinced as I am of being innocent, of being on the right side of the law; even if you have nothing to hide – now the police has picked you up as if you belonged to a dangerous underground network, now you have been interrogated by a man whose questions were formulated and asked as if you were a felon, now your computer has been confiscated as if it carries texts that encode …

Pakistan: Yet another devastating war

Mustafa Qadri is newmatilda.com's Middle East and South Asia Correspondent. He has reported widely from Israel and Palestine, London and Pakistan. He used to be a lawyer specialising in public international law and has worked at the Australian Attorney-General’s Department representing the Government in native title claims and international crime treaty negotiations. You can see more of his work at mustafaqadri.net.

Qadri, together with Tahir Ali write in "Thousands Displaced By War In Pakistan":

"During the past week the Pakistan Army has undertaken its largest ever operation against Taliban forces in the Swat valley and lower Dir districts — parts of the Malakand Tribal Agency where it had earlier reached a controversial peace agreement with pro-Taliban activists.

The army assaults have had a devastating impact on village communities. The UN estimates that 500,000 or more have fled their once quiet, scenic mountain homes which are now part of the deadly frontline of…

"My Son Is a Murderer" -- The Gut-Wrenching Realities Facing Military Moms

On AlterNet Author Susan Galleymore shares her dramatic encounters with mothers who living in Mid-East war zones and American military moms:

"In 2004, Susan Galleymore traveled 7,472 miles from Alameda, Calif., to deliver a message to her Army Ranger son stationed on a military base in Iraq's Sunni Triangle.

"Don't do anything you'll regret or be ashamed of because it will haunt you for the rest of your life," she told him.

The devastation and despair she witnessed, and the stories she heard in taxis and coffee shops along the way made her realize how disconnected Americans are from the realities of war and occupation -- even those of us who like to think we are well-informed.

She decided that she couldn't return to California and continue life as usual.

Over the next few years, she traveled to Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria to interview mostly mothers about their personal stories and everyday struggles.

She couldn't go to Afghanistan because she…

Bibi's Goal on Palestinians: Endless, Pointless Negotiations

It is fairly apparent where the Israeli PM stands in relation to granting the Palestinians any sort of nationhood. Hang in there and, perhaps, in time, it might happen! But not now!

Any support for being cynical and knowing where the PM stands? He has form. The Israel Policy Forum's Mideast Peace Pulse tells all:

"You want to know what Prime Minister Netanyahu is up to? Here it is, from the New York Times on June 27, 1992. The Likud prime minister then was Yitzhak Shamir who had just been defeated by Yitzhak Rabin."Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was quoted in a published interview today as saying he wanted to drag out peace talks with the Palestinians for a decade while vastly increasing the number of Jewish settlers in Israeli-occupied territories."Had he held on to his office instead of being defeated this week in Israel's national election, Mr. Shamir reportedly said, ' I would have conducted negotiations on autonomy for 10 years and in the meantime…

Sadly, all too true!

Credit to Jeff Danziger in The NY Times

Unconscionable, Still

No comment called for! The piece on CommonDreams.org speaks for itself - and again highlights the inhumanity and indecency of the Israelis:

"Three British medics on a humanitarian mission to set up a cardiac surgery unit in Gaza have begun a hunger strike at the Egyptian border after weeks of having been denied access to the beleaguered area. Working with Palestine International Medical Aid, the medics also planned to train medical students and doctors at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

Speaking of Gazans suffering from heart disease and other ailments, cardiac surgeon Omar Mangoush said, "They can't get here, they can't get to Israel. If it's this hard for us to get in, how difficult is it for the Palestinians to get out?"

Sri Lanka: No "victory" there! Just to the contrary!

There is much evidence to suggest that the Sri Lankans in their relentless and barbaric attack on the Tamil Tigers took a leaf out of the book of the Israelis. The world stands condemned in averting its gaze from witnessing a slaughter of so many innocent people of all ages. Even leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the long-ongoing dispute in Sri Lanka, anyone with any degree of acumen would recognise that notwithstanding the Sri Lankan government crowing that he has defeated the Tamils, that peace will not be restored to the war-torn country.

Farah Mihlar works for Minority Rights Group International. She writes in an op-ed piece "Neither side has any reason to celebrate" in The Independent:

"Today is a momentous day. I should be celebrating, like most Sri Lankans. I grew up as a Muslim in Colombo in fear of the deafening blasts of the Tamil Tiger suicide bombings. The Tigers ethnically cleansed 60,000 Muslims from their territory. Their campaign was horrif…

Weighing up Obama

There seems no stopping newly minted president, Obama, making questionable appointments to various positions which could as easily have been made by the Bush / Cheney "team".

The latest appointment to attract flak is that of the new Army chief in Afghanistan. The Telegraph in the UK reports:

"The general chosen by Barack Obama to run the war in Afghanistan permitted abusive treatment and interrogation of detainees in Iraq, according to human rights investigators.

Soldiers have described beatings, psychological torture and other physical mistreatment at a camp near Baghdad where General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of US Joint Special Operations forces in Iraq, was frequently seen.

A tall Irish-American with a deceptively gentle manner, Gen McChrystal was named last week as the next head of Afghan operations. He is currently operations director for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The investigation into human rights abuses was led by Marc Garlasco, himself a former Pent…

"The Producers" comes to Berlin

It could have been very, very tricky! - given Germany's past.

But, the show "The Producers" opened to acclaim in Berlin this past week.

Spiegel On Line International reports:

"It took eight years for Mel Brooks' runaway Broadway musical success to come to Germany, but "The Producers" is finally opening in Berlin. It received standing ovations at the public preview on Friday night."

And:

"It was clear that bringing "The Producers" to Germany would raise eyebrows, and it took ages before it got adapted for the German stage. In New York, the Broadway hit garnered 12 Tony Awards and broke all records. Productions were staged everywhere from Finland to Australia, even packing the house in Tel Aviv. The Hollywood remake in 2005 was no different. But it remained problematic for the Germans."

Continue reading here.

Beholden to the Big Powers: Israel, Gaza and the UN

"MediaLens is a response based on its conviction that mainstream newspapers and broadcasters provide a profoundly distorted picture of our world. It is convinced that the increasingly centralised, corporate nature of the media means that it acts as a de facto propaganda system for corporate and other establishment interests. The costs incurred as a result of this propaganda, in terms of human suffering and environmental degradation, are incalculable."

That is the way the group describes itself. In its latest report it deals with the UN's investigation into Israel's attack on and in Gaza:

"On December 27, 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a massive assault on Gaza. 22 days later, around 1,400 Palestinians, including over 300 children, and 13 Israelis were dead; about 5,000 Palestinians were wounded. Israeli forces bombed and shelled schools, medical centres, hospitals, ambulances, United Nations buildings (including UN schools), power plants, sewage pla…