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Showing posts from September, 2009

Iran: Talk!

Flynt Leverett is the director of the Iran project at the New America Foundation and a professor of international affairs at Pennsylvania State University. Hillary Mann Leverett is the president of a political risk consultancy. Both are former National Security Council staff members.

Writing an op-ed piece "How to Press the Advantage With Iran" in The NY Times they urge the US to truly engage with Iran about its development of a nuclear capacity - and those rockets just tested. Yes, the world is jittery, and rightly so, but sanctions don't really seem to be the approach to take. Experience has shown that excluding or not talking with, say the Burmese or Hamas, doesn't achieve a thing!

"Tehran's disclosure that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant near the holy city of Qum has derailed the Obama administration’s already faltering efforts to engage with Iran. The United States will now cling even more tightly to the futile hope that internati…

Ignoring realities

Whilst the debate about a proper health insurance scheme and coverage in the US continues, this piece on CommonDreams. org provides no more than compelling hard evidence that America, the so-called richest country in the world, badly needs to do something about the lack of health care for a goodly number of its citizens:

"An estimated 2,000 people without insurance turned up this weekend for a free health clinic in Houston, Texas - home to the highest rate of uninsured people in the country - thus breaking a sorry record for a free clinic. Many of those who started lining up at 5 a.m. have jobs, but can't afford insurance. They came to see more than 700 doctors, nurses and volunteers who came to help, the largest health mobilization since Katrina. This picture, this reality, in this country - it's a travesty."

Dr. Mehmet Oz: "The part that you have to understand about Saturday is that it wasn't in response to a disaster - it was just another day in Houston.&qu…

Crushing Iranian "freedom" and spirit

That the Iranian President can be describing as somewhat loony is not all that difficult. More troublesome is how the Iranian authorities have dealt with those protesting what is generally agreed - at least outside Iran - as a rigged presidential election some months ago. It will be recalled that there was much protesting in the streets by large numbers of Iranians.

The NY Times reports in "Iranian Protester Flees After Telling of Torture" on the experience [horrendous is a word which immediately comes to mind] of one vocal protester:

"When he eagerly joined the mass street protests that followed Iran’s tainted June 12 presidential elections, Ibrahim Sharifi, 24, hoped only to add his voice to the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators demanding that the government nullify the results. He never imagined that he would eventually have a far greater impact, as the only person willing to speak publicly about the brutal treatment he was subjected to in prison, including r…

The real "cost" of democracy

One of the values propounded in support of democracy is the ability of anyone to stand for parliament - or Congress or the Senate in the case of the USA. True!....but only to limited extent.

TomDispatch.computs into context the real cost - a heavy financial commitment - if someone in the US wants to stand for Congress, the Senate and even the presidency. Would you believe?...the cost to the Obama camp for him to become president last year was a staggering US$730 million.

"So you, as a citizen, want to run for a seat in the House of Representatives? Well, you may be too late. Back in 1990, according to OpenSecrets.org, a website of the Center for Responsive Politics, the average cost of a winning campaign for the House was $407,556. Pocket change for your average citizen. But that was so twentieth century. The average cost for winning a House seat in 2008: almost $1.4 million. Keep in mind, as well, that most of those House seats don't change hands, because in the American…

Cheapening the Holocaust

Yes, there is no denying that the Iranian President has been more than offensive by claiming the Holocaust to be "a lie". However, should the Holocaust be invoked so readily as the Israeli PM is wont to do? Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz in "Netanyahu's speech / Cheapening the Holocaust" says not....

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cheapened the memory of the Holocaust in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. He did so twice. Once, when he brandished proof of the very existence of the Holocaust, as if it needed any, and again when he compared Hamas to the Nazis.

If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, Netanyahu cheapens it. Is there a need of proof, 60 years later? Or, the world might think, is the denier right?

And it is doubtful that any historian of stature would buy the comparison the prime minister made between Hamas and the Nazis, or between the London Blitz and the Qassam rockets on Sderot. …

Winners and losers: special global back-to-school edition…

David J. Rothkopf, writing on FP, assesses the winners and losers of the last week - what with the UN meeting and leaders giving their addresses there, the G20 meeting, etc. etc.

"The United Nations General Assembly meeting is like back-to-school week for the international community. Heads of state gather in New York, disrupt traffic and battle for air time. The feeling has only been enhanced by the satellite meetings that have cropped up in the vicinity of the U.N. (and I don't just mean the festive "Death to the Dictator" brunch that is held daily across First Avenue from the United Nations campus.) The Clinton Global Initiative comes to mind. And then this year, the all that was given an added dollop of bilateral and multilateral schlag thanks to the addition of the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh.

And just like any first week back at school, some people emerged as obvious winners and others were clearly losers who would probably all have to sit together in the geopolit…

Obama: Thisaway or thataway....

The news out of Washington is that the military want to step up the number of troops in Afghanistan. Public opinion doesn't seem to want to see that and notwithstanding Obama having evidently previously been inclined to do so, the White House is apparently having possible second thoughts.

Frank Rich, writing his weekly op-ed piece "Obama at the Precipice" in The NY Times reflects on the cross-roads where Obama finds himself:

"The most intriguing, and possibly most fateful, news of last week could not be found in the health care horse-trading in Congress, or in the international zoo at the United Nations, or in the Iran slapdown in Pittsburgh. It was an item tucked into a blog at ABCNews.com. George Stephanopoulos reported that the new “must-read book” for President Obama’s war team is “Lessons in Disaster” by Gordon M. Goldstein, a foreign-policy scholar who had collaborated with McGeorge Bundy, the Kennedy-Johnson national security adviser, on writing a Robert McN…

Now you can watch climate change

From CommonDreams.org:

"In time for the Copenhagen climate conference, Google has added a series of tools and features to Google Earth to explore global effects of climate change and possible solutions to it. With an introductory video by Al Gore."

The Splendors of War?

A sobering report from The Guardian on the devastating effects of war on those who serve in the military. Not the politicians who make the fateful decisions:

"The number of former servicemen in prison or on probation or parole is now more than double the total British deployment in Afghanistan, according to a new survey. An estimated 20,000 veterans are in the criminal justice system, with 8,500 behind bars, almost one in 10 of the prison population.

The proportion of those in prison who are veterans has risen by more than 30% in the last five years.

The study by the probation officers' union Napo uncovers the hidden cost of recent conflicts. The snapshot survey of 90 probation case histories of convicted veterans shows a majority with chronic alcohol or drug problems, and nearly half suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as a result of their wartime experiences on active service.

Those involved had served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. …

I know whose figures I would rather accept

In the wake of the fury unleashed on the recently published UN Goldstone Report on the Gaza War by Israel and Jewish communities around the world, a reflection on the statistics of the War as released by B'Tselem [an Israeli Peace Group] some weeks ago might be opportune:

"Today (Wed. Sept 9th) Israeli human rights group B'Tselem published its findings on the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. According to B’Tselem’s research, Israeli security forces killed 1,387 Palestinians during the course of the three-week operation. Of these, 773 did not take part in the hostilities, including 320 minors and 109 women over the age of 18. Of those killed, 330 took part in the hostilities, and 248 were Palestinian police officers, most of whom were killed in aerial bombings of police stations on the first day of the operation. For 36 people, B’Tselem could not determine whether they participated in the hostilities or not.

Palestinians ki…

Caution! Typhoon Sarah

It's bad enough to think that Sarah Palin could have ended up a hear-beat away from the US Presidency, but she [or perhaps it's the misguided people at the GOP, who see her as some sort of hope for the 2012 presidential election, who want her to strut a wider stage] has left her safe-haven of Alaska, and the US, and was in Hong Kong the other day.

So was veteran journalist, author and commentator Robert Fisk. He reports of what he describes as Typhoon Sarah in this piece in The Independent:

"Grotesque, unprecedented, bizarre, unbelievable. Sarah Palin was all of that in Hong Kong yesterday. And more. Dressed in a cutesy virgin-white blouse and black skirt with the infamous bee-hive hairdo, she was a blessing to every predicting spectator."

Read on, here.......

Too true [and sad!] to be funny....

Credit to truthdig.com

Lost [literally!] without Translation

This is indeed a comforting revelation! Not! The USA's GAO [Government Accountability Office] reports on the significant deficiency of Foreign Service employees to speak another language:

"About a third of Foreign Service officers in jobs that require language skills don't have the proficiency required to do their jobs, hurting America's ability to advocate its interests around the world, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

The report, which has not yet been released, but was obtained by The Cable, spells out the consequences of having a Foreign Service that in many cases can't communicate with local officials or populations, relies too heavily on local staff for critical functions, and can't respond to bad press when it appears in foreign languages.

Substandard skills were found in people holding 31 percent of the approximately 3,600 jobs that require a certain level of language proficiency, known as language-designated positi…

So, where is the threat?

"Forgive me for being confused, but exactly what are the clear and present dangers facing the State of Israel? According to Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations Gabriella Shalev, her government’s main goal at this week’s UN General Assembly meeting is to show the world how dangerous Iran is.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to give what his aides say will be a “dramatic” speech to the UN on Thursday, Shalev said the Iranian threat would be the main focus.

“We know Iran is a dangerous country,” Shalev said on Monday. “We stress and we emphasize that Iran is not only a threat to Israel, it’s a global threat.”

Israeli diplomats, Shalev added, would meet with their Australian counterparts and officials from other countries, to make them understand “the challenges Israel is facing in a very crucial time”.

Perhaps Shalev should leave time in her schedule to make sure Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak also understands exactly what those challenges are…

One small step to save newspapers?

Perhaps there is still some hope in salvaging those newspapers still around!

FromtoledoBlade.com:

"Saying he is a "big newspaper junkie," President Obama expressed hope on Friday that newspapers can find their way through the financial crisis most are now mired in.

In an Oval Office interview with editors from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade, the President talked about the vital role journalism and newspapers play in American society.

"Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these different new media and how to make sure that it's paid for, is really a challenge," Mr. Obama said. "But it's something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy."

Across the country, newspapers are struggling to maintain readership and advertising revenue that has been lost to the Internet. Thousands of journalists have been laid off, and over the last …

Afghanistan: Let's get some facts straight

Ann Jones is the author of Kabul in Winter (Metropolitan, 2006) and writes often about Afghanistan for TomDispatch and the Nation. War Is Not Over When It's Over, her new book about the impact of war on women, will be published next year.

As those countries - notably the US - with troops in Afghanistan debate what is to be done as things go from bad to worse - and a prognosis that it will get even worse - Jones has a piece and analysis on TomDispatch.com "Meet the Afghan Army - Is It a Figment of Washington's Imagination?" well worth reading:

"The big Afghanistan debate in Washington is not over whether more troops are needed, but just who they should be: Americans or Afghans -- Us or Them. Having just spent time in Afghanistan seeing how things stand, I wouldn't bet on Them.

Frankly, I wouldn't bet on Us either. In eight years, American troops have worn out their welcome. Their very presence now incites opposition, but that's another story. It&#…

Middle East: Reality check time!

Obama and the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers are to meet in New York today - where they are all attending a UN meeting. From the pronouncements being made, the meeting will be no more than a photo-op.

Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard and co-author of the best-selling book The Israel Lobby, writing in The Washington Post, has some sobering observations in an op-ed piece "Settling for Failure in the Middle East" about where things are at in the Middle East:

"Like so many of his predecessors, President Obama is quickly discovering that persuading Israel to change course is nearly impossible.

Obama came to office determined to achieve a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. His opening move was to insist that Israel stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem -- a tough line aimed at bolstering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and persuading key Arab states to make conciliatory gestures toward Isr…

No other word for it!..... It's a scourge

The fact that racism and bigotry has reared its ugly head in the US - principally directed toward Obama - is more than troubling. Some of the language has been so bigoted and intemperate that it is hard to reconcile it with a civil society, let alone that we are in 2009 after all.

Bob Herbert, writing his weekly op-ed column "The Scourge Persists" in The NY Times takes up the issue:

"I have no patience with those who want to pretend that racism is not an out-and-out big deal in the United States, as it always has been. We may have made progress, and we may have a black president, but the scourge is still with us. And if you needed Jimmy Carter to remind you of that, then you’ve been wandering around with your eyes closed."

And:

"But the fact that a black man is now in the White House has so unsettled much of white America that the lid is coming off the racism that had been simmering at dangerously high temperatures all along. Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow with …

Robert Fisk: Everyone seems to be agreeing with Bin Laden these days

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, goes out on a limb by drawing some parallels between what Obama and Osama are saying, although the message isn't quite the same. That said, there is a sober analysis of what is "happening" in Afghanistan and the dire state of things there.

"Obama and Osama are at last participating in the same narrative. For the US president's critics – indeed, for many critics of the West's military occupation of Afghanistan – are beginning to speak in the same language as Obama's (and their) greatest enemy.

There is a growing suspicion in America that Obama has been socked into the heart of the Afghan darkness by ex-Bushie Robert Gates – once more the Secretary of Defence – and by journalist-adored General David Petraeus whose military "surges" appear to be as successful as the Battle of the Bulge in stemming the insurgent tide in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.

No wonder Osama bin Laden decided to address "the Am…

Iran: A mad president with a restless populace

It is not difficult to conclude that the Iranian President has "lost the plot" or perhaps is even mad to a certain degree. Leaving aside any corruption which tainted the recent elections which saw his return to office, his oft-repeated statements about the Holocaust have been a litany of falsehoods.

The president has even exceeded his previously made wild statements by yesterday declaring the Holocaust a "myth". That is not revisionism! That is plain dumb - or ought one say "mad?".

Whether these outlandish pronouncements are intended to garner popular support is hard to say - for yesterday has again seen demonstrations on a wide scale in Iran against the regime.

Global Voices has a direct on-the-ground up-to-date report on the protests in Iran, yesterday, with photos and video clips - bearing in mind that foreign reporters are not permitted to go out on the streets to cover any protests.

"On September 18, Iranian protesters wearing green in…

The shoe-thrower with a message

The almost now notorious shoe-thrower - remember? that George Bush news conference in Baghdad and him ducking as a shoe was hurled at him - has been released from jail and provided his reasons for doing what he did.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, the reporter cum shoe-thrower writes in Comment is Free "Why I Threw the Shoe" in the The Guardian :

"I am not a hero. But I have a point of view. I have a stance. It humiliated me to see my country humiliated; and to see my Baghdad burned, my people killed. Thousands of tragic pictures remained in my head, pushing me towards the path of confrontation. The scandal of Abu Ghraib. The massacre of Falluja, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City, Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land. I travelled through my burning land and saw with my own eyes the pain of the victims, and heard with my own ears the screams of the orphans and the bereaved. And a feeling of shame haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless."

Is the WWW melting our brains?

Salon has a piece on a topic which has been exercising many minds for quite some time now. Is the internet melting our brains? Many would say yes......but there is another compelling argument against that too.

"By now the arguments are familiar: Facebook is ruining our social relationships; Google is making us dumber; texting is destroying the English language as we know it. We're facing a crisis, one that could very well corrode the way humans have communicated since we first evolved from apes. What we need, so say these proud Luddites, is to turn our backs on technology and embrace not the keyboard, but the pencil.

Such sentiments, in the opinion of Dennis Baron, are nostalgic, uninformed hogwash. A professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Baron seeks to provide the historical context that is often missing from debates about the way technology is transforming our lives in his new book, "A Better Pencil." His thesi…

A professor in a parallel universe

MPS has never been a fan of rabid Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. His credibility on a whole range of levels, especially in relation to anything referable to Israel, is more than questionable - and certainly racist insofar as it relates to Palestinians, or Arabs generally.

Evidence of Dershowitzs' strident responses to things Israel-connected, is clearly demonstrated in this startling [nay, astounding!] comment on the recently released Goldstone UN Report on the Gaza War:

"Richard Goldstone—the primary author of a one-sided United Nation’s attack on Israeli actions during the Gaza war—has now become a full fledged member of the international bash-Israel chorus. His name will forever be linked in infamy with such distorters of history and truth as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Jimmy Carter. The so-called report commissioned by the notorious United Nations Human Rights Council and issued under his name is so filled with lies, distortions and blood libels that it…

A New Year......with a powerful message!

This past week has seen the release of the UN report on the Gaza War. Both Hamas and the Israelis are the subject of criticism - although, for perhaps rather obvious reasons, Israel attracts the greater condemnation for a variety of breaches of humanitarian and international law.

Predictably, the Israelis have gone into over-drive to attack the Report and its authors and counter the serious allegations levelled against it.

As Israelis and Jews around the world celebrate their New Year - followed by the Day of Atonement in 10 days time - they may do well to reflect on this more than timely and powerful piece by Gideon Levy in Haaretz:

"There's a name on every bullet, and there's someone responsible for every crime. The Teflon cloak Israel has wrapped around itself since Operation Cast Lead has been ripped off, once and for all, and now the difficult questions must be faced. It has become superfluous to ask whether war crimes were committed in Gaza, because authoritative a…

A remarkable woman

Sophie McNeill is a freelance video journalist whose work airs on SBS TV's Dateline program. Her report on the plight of Afghan women, Afghanistan's shame, aired on 16 August [ and can be viewed here].

She writes in a piece on newmatilda.com about a truly remarkable woman working in Afghanistan to assist young women:

"I came to Herat to visit the only women's shelter in Western Afghanistan.
Hidden away in an anonymous building a few blocks from the centre of town, the shelter is crammed with women and children who have fled to escape abusive husbands or family members. The afternoon I visit the shelter it is nearly full, with around 40 women and their children making use of the temporary accommodation. The exact location of the shelter is a well kept secret; many of the women are scared their husbands will track them down and harm them or their children.

Many of the women are shy and obviously traumatised. They sit cross-legged on the frayed carpet, drinking tea and makin…

The warning couldn't be more dire....

Multi-award winning journalist, author, commentator and film-maker John Pilger makes a grim prediction in a piece "For Britons, The Party Game Is Over" on Information Clearing House that if PM Brown of the UK doesn't address the issues all over the place in Afghanistan - not the least the growing number of deaths and injuries of British military personnel - things could get very nasty in Britain's streets a la the bombings in July 2005.

"The establishment of a permanent US/Nato presence in a resource-rich, strategic region is the principal reason for the war. The British are there because that is what Washington wants. Preventing the Taliban from storming our streets is reminiscent of President Lyndon B Johnson’s plaint: “We have to stop the communists over there [Vietnam] or we’ll soon be fighting them in California.”

There is one difference. By refusing to bring the troops home, Brown is likely to provoke an atrocity by young British Muslims who view the war as …

"The problems are worse than they were in 2007 before the crisis."

No comforting words from Joseph Stiglitz! - who, as former chief economist at the World Bank, told Bloomberg News that "in the US and many other countries, the too-big-to-fail banks have become even bigger."

In fact, as reported in The Telegraph, Stiglitz says "The problems are worse than they were in 2007 before the crisis."

Read the sobering piece, here, on where the GFC is right now, and after doing that reflect on this salient fact......since the 1990, the top 20 institutions in the US have gone from controlling 35 % of assets to 70% of assets.

Afghanistan: The numbers are truly awesome

Tom Engelhardt, writing on TomDispatch.com tries to put the Afghanistan war into some perspective - especially the truly monumental cost of it all.

"Here may be the single strangest fact of our American world: that at least three administrations -- Ronald Reagan's, George W. Bush's, and now Barack Obama's -- drew the U.S. "defense" perimeter at the Hindu Kush; that is, in the rugged, mountainous lands of Afghanistan. Put another way, while Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we've been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation."

Some sample stats as collated by…

Who says money doesn't speak?

Congressman Joe Wilson may, or may not, have intended to attract attention to himself, but when he shouted out that Obama was a liar as Obama was addressing the Congress on health-care reform, he certainly is now notorious. But, then, our friend Joe may have a vested interest in health-care and seeing it continuing as it is.

TomDispatch in "The Washington Influence Machine" backgrounds the "largesse" [that is, financial donations] Wilson garners:

"Congressman Joe ("You lie!") Wilson is undoubtedly not completely ignorant about how our health care system actually works. After all, in the course of his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, he's received $244,196 in contributions from the health-care profession -- and that doesn't even count another $86,150 from the pharmaceutical industry or the $68,000 that came in from hospitals and nursing homes. In fact, if you go to the page at that organization's OpenSecrets.org w…

A Peaceful Struggle

"A few weeks ago, in the dead of night, dozens of Israeli soldiers with painted faces burst violently into my home. If only they had knocked, I would have opened the door. They arrested me. My wife, Lamia, was left alone with our four children. My youngest, 3-year-old Khaled, woke up to the image of Israeli soldiers with painted faces who were taking his father away. He has not stopped crying since. A few nights ago he woke up in terror, sobbing: "Daddy, why did you let the soldiers take me?" That's the way our children sleep--in a constant state of fear.

Many Americans know that the Obama administration has been pushing the Israeli government to accept a freeze on settlement construction. What is not commonly known is that even as Israel negotiates with the United States, it has been taking steps, including my arrest, to crush the growing Palestinian nonviolent movement opposing Israel's construction of settlements and the wall on Palestinian land in the West Ba…

Strategic ethnocentrism

Stephen Walt, writing on FP, reflects on his own, and those of others, who continue to fail giving Africa the attention it deserves:

"Howard W. French has written a fascinating and disturbing review essay in the latest New York Review of Books. It is an assessment of three recent books on the cataclysmic war that has been taking place in Central Africa, and here's the passage that reached out and grabbed me:

'The protracted and inconclusive conflict that followed has become what Gérard Prunier, in the title of his sprawling book, calls "Africa's World War," a catastrophic decade of violence that has led to a staggering 5.4 million deaths, far more than any war anywhere since World War II. It also has resulted in one of the largest -- and least followed -- UN interventions in the world, involving nearly 20,000 UN soldiers from over forty countries.'

I was aware of this conflict, of course, but as I read French's essay, I realized that I knew very little …

Yes Sir.....We Do Want the Truth!

Can there be any gain-saying this editorial in the Columbia Journalism Review - about what we expect from journalists:

"General William Tecumseh Sherman, like a number of military leaders through history, despised journalists. Tom Curley, president and CEO of The Associated Press, noted in a recent speech that a reporter once appealed to Sherman in the name of truth, but didn’t get far. “We don’t want the truth told about things here,” Sherman replied. “That’s what we don’t want. Truth? No sir!”

Sorry, General, but yes we do. When a democracy goes to war, its citizens need to know how it is going and what is being done in their name. They have a right to as close an approximation of truth as journalists can deliver, given the limitations. The right to bear witness is part of what you fight for.

We have two wars on now, and not enough truth. The chief impediment is the media’s own situation—the vicious advertising recession and the economic upheaval. Going to war is costly and many n…

Gaza War: UN Report in

The Independent reports on the UN's Report on its investigation of the Gaza War earlier this year. Needless to say, the Israelis have already dismissed the findings. On another level, it is "interesting" how basically little coverage this important Report has garnered worldwide in the media.

"Israel targeted "the people of Gaza as a whole" in the three-week military operation which is estimated to have killed more than 1,300 Palestinians at the beginning of this year, according to a UN-commissioned report published yesterday.

A UN fact-finding mission led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone said Israel should face prosecution by the International Criminal Court unless it opened independent investigations of what the report said were repeated violations of international law, "possible war crimes and crimes against humanity" during the operation.

Using by far the strongest language of any of the numerous reports criticising Operation Cast…

Point of No Return

Two facts converge to make a two-State solution almost impossible - as an op-ed piece on ynet.news.com [an Israeli web site] compellingly argues:

First, "Half a million people. Half a million Jewish Israelis are living beyond the Green Line, the Israel-Jordan border prior to1967. A total of 200,000 reside in areas defined by Israel as part of the greater Jerusalem and annexed. Another 300,000 live in the rest of Judea and Samaria (or the West Bank.)"

Second, "The evacuation of 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and their absorption in Israel cost taxpayers NIS 10 billion. Those interested in turning back time and evacuating Israelis from the areas beyond the 1967 borders would have to invest NIS 600 billion for that end. An unreal figure." NIL 600 billion equates to a staggeringly approximate US$140 billion.

Conclusion? - according to ynet.news.com:

"Half a million Jews beyond the Green Line constitute the point of no return. The talk about a “constructio…

Yee Gods......they're baaaaaaaack!

Stephen Walt, professor of International Law at Harvard, on his blog atFP, decries what he sees as the neo-con elements - or at least those ever-present militarists in the US - back with their shrill voices:

"When I started blogging back in January, one of my early posts questioned the belief that Obama's election had ended talk of military action against Iran. I though this view was "almost certainly premature," because I didn't think a rapid diplomatic breakthrough was likely and I knew that advocates of a more forceful approach would soon come out of the woodwork and start pushing the new administration to get tough with Tehran.

Well, I hate to say I told you so, but ... Right on cue, Wednesday's Wall Street Journal had an op-ed from former Senators Dan Coats and Chuck Robb and retired Air Force general Chuck Wald, recommending that Obama "begin preparations for the use of military options" against Iran's nuclear facilities. They argue that k…

Vale a true [life-saving] hero

Almost certainly most people would not have heard of a true hero - Norman Borlaug, who died yesterday.

The LA Timesprofiles the man:

"Norman Borlaug, the father of the "Green Revolution" who is widely credited with saving millions of lives by breeding wheat, rice and other crops that brought agricultural self-sufficiency to developing countries around the world, died Saturday in Texas. He was 95.

Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and was hailed by Time magazine in 1999 as one of the 100 most influential minds of the 20th century, died at his home in Dallas from complications of cancer, a Texas A&M University spokeswoman said."

That's that then!

"The Palestinians expect a complete halt to building; it is now clear that this will not happen. Jerusalem is not a settlement and the building [there] will continue as normal."

This pronouncement by PM Netanhayu, as reported by Haaretz, seems to close [nay, slam!] the door to any meaningful talks with the Palestinians, let alone any sort of resolution.

Welcome to the "world" of the Israeli Government and its obscure view of securing peace with the Palestinians!

A Tenth Birthday Bash for Bloggers

Hard to believe, but blogging has just celebrated it's 10th birthday. What would the world be without all those bloggers out there? Many would say, better off! That would be a harsh judgment.

The Guardian reports:

"For Blogger, the web service that enabled anyone who could type to publish online, is 10 years old this month. On 1 September, there was a party in San Francisco to mark the moment, attended by - among others - Blogger's founder, Evan Williams (who later founded Twitter), and the journalist Scott Rosenberg, who has just published "Say Everything" (sayeverything.com), an absorbing book on the phenomenon that Blogger enabled."

And:

"Blogging is thriving. In virtually every area of human interest, the diversity and quantity of fact and opinion available online dwarfs what was available in the print era. In the old days the News of the World had a ludicrous slogan: "All Human Life Is Here", a promise on which no publication cou…

The GFC isn't over by any stretch of the imagination

Stock markets might be on an upward trend, but cooler heads are counselling that the GFC, as it has come to be known, hasn't really passed yet.

"The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 60, talks to SPIEGELabout Wall Street's unwillingness to learn lessons from the financial crisis, the future of the global economy and his ideas for a new role for the IMF as a global financial safety net."

There are many who see the bad ways of the past returning. truthdig reports in "Nothing has Changed on Wall Street":

"A year after Lehman Brothers went under—taking a big chunk of the economy with it—the deregulation and lax oversight that enabled the crisis are still a problem. According to this New York Times report, things might even be worse."

Sri Lanka: No let up for the Tamils

The Sri Lankan government, in both its actions and public declarations, seems to have taken a leaf out of the book of the Israelis. Harsh treatment of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka and then peddle PR to the world which doesn't remotely equate to the truth.

With what are said to be some 280,000 Tamils detained in rudimentary camps - in appalling conditions - The Guardian reports:

"The camp, say former inhabitants, is packed, with two or three families sharing a tent or tin shack. There are complaints of stinking, overflowing toilets, water shortages and inadequate healthcare. Journalists are rarely given access and those inside Manik Farm are not allowed to cross its fortified perimeter. The government says it has to use extreme measures because hiding in the civilian population are LTTE soldiers.

Speaking on a phone that had been smuggled into the camp, one civilian being held in Manik Farm, who did not want to be named, said two families had "been taken away and not …

The Human Face of War - all too often forgotten

Last Friday week, a NATO airstrike on two hijacked fuel trucks killed at least 90 people in Afghanistan. The Guardian, determined not to let the story pass into the ether of forgotten wartime reporting, managed to interview the families of some of the strike’s victims in a moving exposé of the incredible pain of war.

"At first light last Friday, in the Chardarah district of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, the villagers gathered around the twisted wreckage of two fuel tankers that had been hit by a Nato airstrike. They picked their way through a heap of almost a hundred charred bodies and mangled limbs which were mixed with ash, mud and the melted plastic of jerry cans, looking for their brothers, sons and cousins. They called out their names but received no answers. By this time, everyone was dead."

Continue reading here.

It's all a matter of priorities

Credit to Tony Auth in The NY Times

Race rears its ugly head

Two commentators address what has till now been the elephant in the room or at least in the background - Obama and his race! It has reared its head in the most ugly of manifestations in the US over this past Summer - and as late as last week when Obama addressed the US Congress.

First, Naomi Klein writing in The Guardian:

"Americans began the summer still celebrating the dawn of a "post-racial" era. They are ending it under no such illusion. The summer of 2009 was all about race, beginning with Republican claims that Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama's nominee to the US Supreme Court, was "racist" against whites. Then, just as that scandal was dying down, up popped "the Gates controversy", the furore over the president's response to the arrest of African American academic Henry Louis Gates Jr in his own home. Obama's remark that the police had acted "stupidly" was evidence, according to massively popular Fox News host Glenn Beck,…

A Question to Israel! How to explain this........

Israel has consistently maintained the blockade on Gaza in order to, it claims, prevent weapons or material getting into the occupied territory which might be then deployed in attacks on Israel.

How to explain this then? School materials not being allowed into Gaza. Has anyone ever heard of school books and supplies constituting some sort of dangerous weaponry?

IRIN [humanitarian news and analysis a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] reports in "OPT: Gaza schoolchildren lack basic equipment":

"Some 1,200 students at al-Karmel High School for boys in Gaza City returned to class on 25 August without history and English textbooks, or notebooks and pens - all unavailable on the local market.

Severe damage to the school - caused during the 23-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip which ended on 18 January - has yet to be repaired. Al-Karmel’s principal, Majed Yasin, has had to cover scores of broken windows with plastic sheeting.

“The …

Some sticky mess alright!

Credit to Daryl Cagle, MSNBC

What Did Happen to Mohamed al-Hanashi?

Naomi Wolf writes on Project Syndicate:

"Mohammed al-Hanashi was a 31-year-old Yemeni citizen who was held at Guantánamo Bay without charge for seven years. On June 3, while I was visiting Guantánamo with other journalists, the press office there issued a terse announcement that al-Hanashi had had been found dead in his cell – an “apparent suicide.”

Because my commercial flight was canceled, I got a ride back to the United States on a military transport. I happened to be seated next to a military physician who had been flown in to do the autopsy on al-Hanashi. When would there be an investigation of the death, I asked him? “That was the investigation,” he replied. The military had investigated the military.

This “apparent suicide” seemed immediately suspicious to me. I had just toured those cells: it is literally impossible to kill yourself in them. Their interiors resemble the inside of a smooth plastic jar; there are no hard edges; hooks fold down; there is no bedding that one can…

One or Two States?.......Just "do" Something

A timely piece from Crikey on the endless subject of Israelis building more settlements and whether we will ever see a Two State solution - or is it an inevitable one State? - to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

"US President Barack Obama has consistently stated that he imagines a two state solution in the Middle East, with viable Jewish and Palestinian nations alongside each other. Israel, in a clear sign of who runs the show, announced last week that it intended to continue building colonies in the West Bank, in direct violation of international law and US wishes. The White House expressed "regret". The Israelis know how to stall for time; they’ve been doing it for decades.

This is one reason why a leading global figure such as writer and activist Naomi Klein is now calling for a boycott of the Israeli state. She told an interviewer recently it was vital for the world to counter propaganda that "promotes the image of a normal, happy country, rather than an…