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Daniel Ellsberg: Comparing Vietnam to Afghanistan

No comment called for....

From FDL The Seminal:

"One thing I’ve learned in my long life: There is a value gained by experience that cannot be gleaned from the writings of others, no matter how intellectually advanced those may be.

Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of The Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, gives in this YouTube clip his experience-produced gems of wisdom about the Afghan War that I hope President Obama takes foremost in consideration in making the critical, history making decision before him now. Must 58,000 of our soldiers die, over 100,000 be wounded, multitudes of Afghans be killed, wounded and made refugees before reality dawns on the decision makers? What does it tell us of those who refuse to learn from history’s lessons?"

Go here to watch the video.

Student expelled to Gaza Strip - by force

As if it isn't bad enough that the Israelis prevent the free movement of Palestinians - those wretched border crossings and checkpoints - and limits access to water to the Palestinians and even school books and materials to enter Gaza, now it resorts to actually expelling Palestinians, by force, to Gaza.

The Independent reports on what can only be described as appalling and disgraceful behaviour by the Israelis - and certainly not in any way reflective of the sort of country which proclaims, as a Jewish State, that it is a "light unto the Nations".

"A Palestinian student has been handcuffed, blindfolded and forcibly expelled to the Gaza Strip by Israeli troops just two months before she was due to graduate from university.

Berlanty Azzam, 21, who was studying for a business degree at Bethlehem University, said she was coming home in a shared taxi from a job interview in Ramallah on Wednesday when soldiers at the "Container" checkpoint took her identity ca…

And you call this a civilised world?

Daniel Goldhagen broadens the indictment he leveled in his book "Hitler’s Willing Executioners" in his latest book, "Worse than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity".

In what appears to be a searing, and depressing, book - as reviewed on Tablet - the reviewer writes, in part quoting Goldhagen:

“The number of people who have been mass murdered [in the 20th century] is, conservatively estimated, 83 million,” he writes early on. “When purposeful famine is included, the number becomes 127 million, and if the higher estimates are correct the total number of victims of mass murder may be 175 million or more.” This means than between 2 and 4 percent of all deaths in the last century were due to genocidal violence—and that is not including deaths in “ordinary” warfare."

And we claim that we live in a civilised world!........and then there is the now familiar refrain at the end of WW2 "never again".

History repeating itself [again!]

Glenn Greenwald makes a compelling point with respect to the Afghan War in his latest piece on Salon:

"I'm traveling still today, but I wanted to note an amazing Op-Ed that was referenced in a book I'm reading: the Op-Ed is by Nikolai Lanine, published in The Toronto Globe and Mail in November, 2006. Lanine was drafted into the Russian Army at the age of 18 and spent several years as part of the Russian occupying force in Afghanistan. Thereafter, he moved to Canada, and in 2006, his wife's first cousin, a medic in the Canadian Army, was killed in Afghanistan. Lanine wrote this column after attending his funeral, and recounted what he and his comrades in the Russian Army believed they were doing in Afghanistan:

I identified with the Canadian soldiers at the funeral mourning the loss of their friend. Like them, I went to Afghanistan believing in "fighting terrorism" and "liberating Afghans." During my first mission, we were protecting refugees esca…

Obama: Twelve months on, the star falls back to earth

There is more than criticism of Obama in the US. He is now constantly the butt of pure unadulterated bile, vitriol and plain lies.

But how is he doing as his first 12 months in office approaches? The Independent's David Usborne gives his analysis and assessment:

".......... President Obama, who seems, one year on from his election, to be hovering in the view of most Americans between competent and fumbling, notwithstanding the high esteem in which he is still held abroad and, of course, in the minds of the Nobel committee.

What is certain is that the almost-mad expectations placed on Obama that unusually warm night in Chicago's Grant Park when he delivered his victory speech last November, have given way now to a general unease about his performance in office. For sure, he has mostly avoided calamity. Not getting the Olympics for Chicago doesn't count. Nor is his administration in disarray or anything close to it. (Mr Clinton had barely arrived in office before he…

Another Report [this time Amnesty International], another condemnation!

The criticisms of Israel for a whole host of reasons continue unabated. If it's not the Goldstone Report its Care International, Oxfam, the UN, Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International.

Needless to say Israel dismisses them all. Basically, according to the Israelis, the Reports on whatever by these well-respected organisations are baseless or simply wrong. All of them?

Now the next Report, this time from Amnesty International [again] has just hit the desk - critical of Israel's restrictions on Palestinians of access to water.

The Independent reports in "Israel accused of denying Palestinians access to water":

"Israel is accused today of denying the West Bank and Gaza access to adequate water through a "total" and "discriminatory" control that enables its own people to consume four times as much as the Palestinians.

An Amnesty International report paints a picture of many Palestinian families struggling – and often failing – to secur…

Newspapers' Readership Drop Isn't All Bad News

The "news" for newspapers has almost invariably been bad. Dying has been the operative word - if not dead already, as in many American cities.

The latest audit figures for the circulation of newspapers in the US doesn't give one heart that the world of newspapers is going to improve any time soon. Just to the contrary!

However, the Atlantic Wire has a take on how falling circulations might just turn out to be a positive:

"The Audit Bureau of Circulations reports that newspaper circulation in America has dropped 10.6% from last year, dragging newspaper audiences to their lowest point since World War II. On cue, bloggers are once again heralding the death of newspapers. (This familiar cry gains potency when you see how far circulation has fallen over twenty years.) But there's reason to believe that sinking readership may be less a death knell than part of the industry's evolving business strategy. Newspapers may be better off printing fewer copies for …

Chomsky....at the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco

He's over 80 and has written or contributed to 95 books. At one time he was the most cited living academic, a Vietnam activist and a thorn in the side of Reagan. Today he is also critical of 'the left' with dire warnings.

Noam Chomsky is as astute and interesting as ever. Fortunately the ABC [Australia] in its BackgroundBriefing program had an interview with Chomsky recorded at the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco.

Go here to either listen or download the audio.

An inside view of Sri Lanka and its Tamils

"When Muthu Kumaran returned to Sri Lanka in February 2007, he had hoped, even expected, that his Tamil people were about to win independence.

An Australian citizen and civil engineer, he wanted to be there when a Tamil state was established, freed from majority Sinhalese rule, and he wanted to lend his expertise in water management, too.

Instead, the father of two from Sydney's west would endure the brutal reality of the Sri Lankan government's final push to wipe out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the militant Tamil Tigers.

Kumaran was not only swept up in the renewed hostilities of a 25-year civil war, he was also detained in one of the notorious internment camps that are still home to nearly 300,000 Tamils.

He returned to Australia in the first week of August this year, having managed to buy his way out of the largest military-run camp in Sri Lanka, at Manik Farm. And with so many Tamils still detained in their homeland, and the Rudd government wrestling with how be…

Eureka! A positive newspaper story

The "news" about newpapers - or rather, their death or the slow decline toward extinction - continues daily.

How gratifying, then, to read of a newspaper which is proving so very positive on many levels. The LA Times reports in "Dalit women find their voice through a newspaper":

"Indian tribal and so-called untouchable women, overcoming social hurdles, write and run their own weekly newspaper in northern India. Their own stories are as compelling as their reports."

And:

"The pen, it's sometimes said, is mightier than the sword. For these women, it's also a ticket to respect.

Khabar Lahariya, or "News Waves," is India's first newspaper written, read and run by tribal women and those from the Dalit, or so-called untouchable, caste.

While most readers know only of the politics, crime or education news in the 8-page weekly, each of the writers has a story of her own about struggling against life's harsh challenges.

Many of the dozen…

Who is the true owner of antiquities?

The on-going tussle between the Brits and the Greeks about the return from the British Museum of the Elgin Marbles continues to rage - with no sign of any resolution.

Of course one country holding on to the artifacts or historical things of another is not new, nor the resistance to return the item held. With the opening of another landmark museum in Berlin, a dispute has broken out between Egypt and Germany, as The NY Times reports in "When Ancient Artifacts Become Political Pawns":

"As thousands lined up to catch a glimpse of Nefertiti at the newly reopened Neues Museum here, another skirmish erupted in the culture wars. Egypt’s chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, announced that his country wanted its queen handed back forthwith, unless Germany could prove that the 3,500-year-old bust of Akhenaten’s wife wasn’t spirited illegally out of Egypt nearly a century ago.

“We’re not treasure hunters,” Mr. Hawass told Spiegel Online. “If it’s proven clearly that the work was not …

Worthy praise for a notable winner

Amira Hass, an Israeli Jewess, has for years lived in and reported from Gaza and fearlessly criticised Israel for its actions. Her journalism and integrity has been without peer.

She has been now, rightly, been honoured with the International Women's Media Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Guardianeditorialises:

"Only Amira Hass could have received the International Women's Media Foundation lifetime achievement award by saying her life as a journalist had been a failure. By her standards maybe, but then she sets them high. If her aim is to stop successive Israeli governments lying about what they do in the occupied territories, then it is true that the language laundromat, as she once put it, keeps on turning. But make no mistake, the Haaretz columnist fully deserves this award. She is the only Israeli journalist to have lived in and reported from Gaza and Ramallah for much of the last two decades. In describing the effects of the occupation on the lives of Pale…

Fox certainly doesn't qualify as a news organisation

The Sun King, Rupert Murdoch, might fancy himself as a media mogul or baron [why is it that politicians care what he says or thinks about anything?] but one thing is for certain - his Fox News doesn't remotely qualify as a news organisation.

As AlterNet says in "8 Reasons Fox Is Not a News Organization":

"PR for the GOP? Yes. Platform for right-wing hatemongers? Definitely. But a news organization? Definitely not."

And:

"Since Obama's election, the cable channel's hosts and paid analysts have launched a full frontal assault on the president, smearing his nominees, calling him a racist and suggesting that his administration was trying to persuade disabled veterans to off themselves."

The First Visual Proof of the Horrors of Modern Wafare

There are plenty of photos of what the Allies found at concentration camps at the end of WW2, the invasion of Normandy, the trenches in France in WW1, but rarely "proof" of the manifestations of war.

The Nation in "A Witness to Total War" provides an intriguing insight into what is described as the "first visual proof of the horrors of modern warfare":

"When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the only American, and in fact the only neutral filmmaker in the country, was Julien Bryan. He arrived in Warsaw in early September with a cache of roughly an hour's worth of 35mm motion-picture negative. Given open access to the city by the mayor, he filmed day and night for two weeks, documenting Warsaw's destruction and Germany's inexorable advance. Back in New York he assembled the footage into a ten-minute newsreel called Siege. Released in February 1940, the film became for many viewers their first glimpses into Nazi tactics, the first vi…

Cyber Resistance

It is probably something those not serving in the military haven't even thought about, but cyberspace and technology provides a means, not previously available, for communication across borders and around the world. It also provides for what is described as "cyber resistance".

truthout sheds light on this newish phenomenon:

"If technology has transformed warfare into a spectacle of shock and awe, its contribution to the cause of dissent has been no less remarkable. It has enabled solidarities across borders and facilitated networks and forums dedicated to impartial communication of ground realities beyond the sanitized projection of mainstream news. True, technological advances have not brought an end to either occupation, but it has certainly helped alternative voices and views to be heard.

During the Vietnam War, over 100 underground newspapers, run by soldiers themselves, sprouted across the United States. The modern version of this has taken root within the Inte…

Didn't you know.....coffee and tea are security risks

The Israelis are forever proclaiming what a moral army they have [the best in the world they boast] and how peace loving they are, etc. etc. Just not humane that's all!

Hard to believe, but as part of the blockade of Gaza coffee and tea hasn't been allowed into the territory - because, wait for it, they are security risks. Yes, you read that correctly.

Now - in a sign of generosity? - coffee and tea will be allowed in. Ma'an News Agency reports:

"Israel has decided to allow coffee and tea into the besieged Gaza Strip starting on Thursday, a Palestinian official said.

Nasser As-Sarraj, undersecretary of the Ministry of National Economy said that Palestinian authorities received word from Israel of the change in policy, which apparently removes coffee and tea from a list of banned items.

Israel bans imports of hundreds of specific items into Gaza as a part of its blockade of the territory which began in June 2007. The government says the materials are banned for secur…

Yes, 1.02 billion people hungry in the world

In a world so full of riches - that is, those lucky enough to be in the "right" countries and able to share the spoils - and which spends staggering sums in military hardware and on wars [think Iraq and Afghanistan], it is startling to read that 1.2 billion people have been hungry this year.

The NY Times reports in "Experts Worry as Population and Hunger Grow":

"Scientists and development experts across the globe are racing to increase food production by 50 percent over the next two decades to feed the world’s growing population, yet many doubt their chances despite a broad consensus that enough land, water and expertise exist.

The number of hungry people in the world rose to 1.02 billion this year, or nearly one in seven people, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, despite a 12-year concentrated effort to cut the number.

The global financial recession added at least 100 million people by depriving them of the means to buy enough food…

Conscience.....and guts!

To take on the Israeli Government and Army by refusing to do compulsory military service takes guts - especially if a woman. Many of those who have resisted doing military service have been imprisoned. Increasing numbers are defying the authorities. Many of the objectors compare Israel's actions to those of the erstwhile South African Government's apartheid regime.

Some objectors have, in fact, visited South Africa. Mondoweiss publishes a piece by one of the objectors to military service:

"The explosive reaction to our stay in South Africa is explained by the fact that Israelis are allergic to talk of South Africa. The spectre of Apartheid haunts the Israeli elite because they know that this is what exists, in modified form, in the occupied territories. Shulamit Aloni, our former education minister, said that Israel is “practicing its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population.”

Michael Ben-Yair, a former attorney-general of…

You can stick it!

"We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all."

Mmmm! Comment made by a Goldman Sach executive at a conference in London......as explained in this piece on CommonDreams:

"Having received billions in bailouts, Wall Street is now primed to make so much bonus money, thus offending so many people, that the White House will reportedly order their executives to take up to 90 percent cuts in their pay in order to fend off the lynch mobs forming. Even so, an executive at Goldman Sachs - which has set aside $16.7 billion, an increase of 46 percent over last year, to pay its employees $527,192 each - had the gall to tell the rest of us to stuff it. Brian Griffiths was speaking at a London panel discussion. Its topic: "What is the place of morality in the marketplace?"

Inching closer to the truth

One would hope that the old adage that the truth will eventually be out, will hopefully come to pass with regard to revealing, in full, the CIA's renditioning and torture practices - but not in the US, but via the decision in an English court case.

Scott Horton explains in "CIA Efforts to Keep Torture Secrets Suffer a Key Loss in British High Court" in Harper's Magazine:

"Britain’s High Court issued a decision on Friday directing that classified information shared by the CIA with British intelligence services concerning the torture and mistreatment of a former Guantánamo prisoner be made public. The case involves a 31-year-old Ethiopian, Binyam Mohamed, who was seized and held in the CIA’s extraordinary renditions program in Pakistan and Morocco before his transfer to the prison at Guantánamo. He was charged with conspiracy, with the charges apparently resting on statements by Abu Zubaydah, a prisoner now acknowledged to have been tortured by U.S. government offic…

Afghanistan vs. Vietnam War Rages on in the Media

It's certainly a debate, raging or not, about what to do about Afghanistan. Stay the course, whatever that might be, or ramp things up? Obama is said to be debating what to do about US forces in the war-torn country.

Vanity Fair reports on a debate raging in the media about whether the Vietnam war should be compared to what is happening in Afghanistan:

"Is Afghanistan the new Vietnam? President Obama says no, but a rising chorus of critics seems to think otherwise. An entire page of yesterday’s op-ed section in the New York Times was dedicated to plucking policy and counterinsurgency lessons from America’s bloody years in Southeast Asia, and even Gordon M. Goldstein’s book about failed policy in Vietnam, Lessons in Disaster, is being passed around the White House these days. As popular support has sagged, nearly every media outlet has run a version of the Is-Afghanistan-Obama’s-Vietnam? story."

Point made!

Credit to Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Time to work on Plan B

To say the least to read this piece by Stephen Walt [professor of international relations at Harvard] on his blog on FP - not 10 months into the Obama presidency - is depressing. For all the rhetoric and hype surrounding Obama much has been said but action has been sadly lacking. In fact, there is a growing disillusionment with Obama.

"If I were President Obama (now there's a scary thought!), I'd ask some smart people on my foreign policy team to start thinking hard about "Plan B." What's Plan B? It's the strategy that he's going to need when it becomes clear that his initial foreign policy initiatives didn't work. Obama's election and speechifying has done a lot to repair America's image around the world -- at least in the short term -- in part because that image had nowhere to go but up. But as just about everyone commented when he got the Nobel Peace Prize last week, his foreign policy record to date is long on promises but short…

A plea for our planet......home for all of us

Chris Hedges, former NY Times Bureau chief in Jerusalem, is hardly your rabid young lefty marching to the barricades.....

In his latest piece for truthdig "A Reality Check From the Brink of Extinction" he paints a grim picture for the world if something isn't done to curb corporations and what they do to cause climate change and warming as we are already seeing it happen. And it will only get worse.

"The latest studies show polar ice caps are melting at a record rate and that within a decade the Arctic will be an open sea during summers. This does not give us much time. White ice and snow reflect 80 percent of sunlight back to space, while dark water reflects only 20 percent, absorbing a much larger heat load. Scientists warn that the loss of the ice will dramatically change winds and sea currents around the world. And the rapidly melting permafrost is unleashing methane chimneys from the ocean floor along the Russian coastline. Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times…

Shackled.....during birth?

The Americans are forever "lecturing" others about democracy, the rule of law and a decent society for all people of the country.

What to make then of what must, surely, be regarded as a barbaric practice still on the statute book in 40 of the US States? The NY Times explains in an editorial:

"The practice of keeping female prisoners in shackles while they give birth is barbaric. But it remains legal in more than 40 states, and advocates of prisoners’ rights say it is all too common. A federal appeals court has now found that the shackling of an Arkansas inmate may have violated the Constitution — but the margin was uncomfortably close."

Children imprisoned

That the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza is widespread and manifests itself in many different ways is nothing new, but this piece "Children of the Occupation" from The Nation reveals just one more aspect of the occupation which is truly horrendous......the imprisonment of children:

"According to a recent report by Defense for Children International (DCI), "The ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities is widespread, systematic and institutionalised." During interrogation children as young as 12 are often subject to solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and painful shackling for long periods of time. One boy was told, "I will shoot you in the head if you don't confess and stick your head in a bucket full of water until you choke and die." Another yielded after a knife was held to his neck. One 15-year-old, after being shot and arrested, was deceived into signing a confession written in H…

Where climate change is deadly real

We all know that some countries are already being being affected by climate change. Sceptics may scoff, but as this report on CommonDreams so graphically explains, the effects of climate change and global warming can be serious......deadly in fact!

"To document the drastic effects of global warming produced by the world's richest people on the world's poorest people, British punk artist Jamie Hewlett went with Oxfam members to Bangladesh - which is 80% floodplain, makes up 10% of south Asia but sees 90% of its water pass through to the sea. Hewlett drew and photographed the island flood villages of Char Atra, where people, mostly women, are learning to survive ever-worse monsoons and floods for months at a time. Pictures and more here. Hewlett describes kids drawing houses washed away and swimming to school with books on their heads. We in the West cannot know what it's like, he says, but he's trying.

"The flood's their bogeyman. But they deal with it. …

One dominant issue, one dominant country

Turkey revoked an invitation to Israel to join in military exercises a few days ago. It cited Israel's actions in Gaza for doing so. What did the US do? It pulled out! Pathetic as that obviously is, the message to countries in the region is clear. Israel and the US are tied together at the hip and America will, forever, have difficulties in being seen as an honest broker in any peace negotiations.

Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard,in his blog on FP, tries to put the whole thing into perspective:

"Israel's defenders often claim that it is a major strategic asset for the United States, but Israel's pariah status within the region reduces its strategic value significantly. It explains why Israel could not participate in the 1991 or 2003 wars with Iraq, and why it is difficult for Arab governments who share Israel's concerns about Iran to openly collaborate with Israel or United States to address that issue. And make no mistake: T…

Totally out of wack!

Hard to come to grips with this financial "scene" in the US....as Democracy Now reports:

"The Dow Jones Industrial Average has topped 10,000 for the first time in a year, as JPMorgan Chase reported massive profits in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that major US banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year—a record high. But on Main Street, foreclosures are also at record levels, and the official unemployment rate is expected to top ten percent."

Democracy Now spoke to former bank regulator William Black, author of "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One" - which can be heard here.

That Prize "exposed"

Credit to Cagle

A [misnomer] "peace" process going nowhere

There has been so much talk about Middle East peace talks - all said to be part of some process! - but in reality it's all a myth. Good for news headlines and great for the Israelis who continue growing settlements and pushing back any settlement whilst, in effect, nothing is happening to resolve the ongoing conflict.

Obama may have got his Nobel Peace prize - although hard to see for what - but next week he will hear from his Secretary of State and Special Envoy to the Middle East that any peace process [a misnomer in any event] is actually regressing - as The Washington Post reports:

"A political crisis for the Palestinian Authority and growing doubts about American mediation have deeply undercut chances that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will resume in the near future, according to officials and analysts on both sides.

After nine months of shuttle diplomacy by U.S. special envoy George J. Mitchell, the gap between Israeli and Palestinian leaders appears to have grown, an…

Actually who are we fighting in the Taliban?

As things go from bad to worse in Afghanistan a very pertinent question is asked in a piece on CounterPunch - who, actually are the Taliban "we" are fighting?:

"With US and NATO commanders on the battlefield of Afghanistan calling for more troops, how best to defeat the Taliban is being hotly debated by Washington’s policy-makers and their media pundits. Yet, nowhere are the types of questions posed by Arundhati Roy (the acclaimed Indian novelist and social activist) on a recent visit to Pakistan to be heard in the mainstream US discourse. Clarifying the purpose of her trip during an address at the Karachi Press Club, she stated, “I’m here to understand what you mean when you say Taliban…Do you mean a militant? Do you mean an ideology? Exactly what is it that is being fought?”

The reason that such questions are not frequently addressed in the US mainstream seems patently clear. The answers require one to move beyond the atrocities of ‘9/11’ and such pat ideas as the ‘thre…

The obstacles to peace

There is always talk of those settlers in Israel. The impression conveyed, or the image, is of a disparate group of people [probably in ramshackle housing or tents or caravans] out there somewhere on Palestinian land. The reality, some 300,000 people, is quite different. In the occupied territories there are fully developed and built-up towns of up to 60,000 people.

Middle East Report Online provides a background to these so-called settlers [in reality, occupiers]:

"At first glance, it is hard to explain the success of the West Bank settlers. Numerically, excluding the 200,000 settlers in illegally annexed East Jerusalem, they constitute just 4 percent of Israel’s population, and are often resented by the rest for the disproportionate share of the national wealth they consume. A mere 1 percent live in the heartland of the putative Palestinian state, east of the separation barrier that Israel has built in the West Bank. Of these, thousands, most of them secular, have expr…

UN: Millions will starve as rich nations cut food aid funding

World full of riches and rich people and countries. So one might imagine......except the UN reports, and warns, that the cut back in funding for food aid will result in millions of people starving. Just reflect on that alongside the obscene sums spent on armaments around the world.....

The Guardian reports:

"Tens of millions of the world's poor will have their food rations cut or cancelled in the next few weeks because rich countries have slashed aid funding.

The result, says Josette Sheeran, head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), could be the "loss of a generation" of children to malnutrition, food riots and political destabilisation. "We are facing a silent tsunami," said Sheeran in an exclusive interview with the Observer. "A humanitarian disaster is unrolling." The WFP feeds nearly 100 million people a year.

Food riots in more than 20 countries last year persuaded rich countries to give a record $5bn to the WFP to help avert a gl…

Old-fashioned paper v technology

MPS being at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival - a real treat! - has, predictably in discussions and panels raised the thorny question of what life does the book, as we know it, still have in it. With devices like the Kindle and iphone, etc now available - and Apple said to release a Tablet early next year - many are suggesting that what has been the traditional way to read a book, is on the way out.

Jane Sullivan, writing on the National Times in "The future of books"makes it very clear where she stands:

"One of my favourite whizz-bang gadgets is a thing called the Book. No, not iBook, e-book, m-book or anything like that. Just a handy-sized collection of bound pages and type. It looks and feels good, it responds to touch. I can take it anywhere and be transported in an instant to an astounding virtual world."

And:

"I can’t begin to get my head around what might happen in a thousand years, but I know one thing about now. We human beings are devices wired f…

The same culprits at it again

"Let’s be clear: Those who demanded that America divert its troops and treasure from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 and 2003 — when there was no Qaeda presence in Iraq — bear responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan that ensued. Now they have the nerve to imperiously and tardily demand that America increase its 68,000-strong presence in Afghanistan to clean up their mess — even though the number of Qaeda insurgents there has dwindled to fewer than 100, according to the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones.

But why let facts get in the way? Just as these hawks insisted that Iraq was “the central front in the war on terror” when the central front was Afghanistan, so they insist that Afghanistan is the central front now that it has migrated to Pakistan. When the day comes for them to anoint Pakistan as the central front, it will be proof positive that Al Qaeda has consolidated its hold on Somalia and Yemen."

So writes op-ed columnist for The NY Times Frank Rich…

Well overdue apologies called for

Who can forget all the arrows fired at the Clintons during their 8 years in the White aside?- and that was without the tawdry Lewinsky affair.

Now it seems that much of the flak was simply not true.

Joe Conason explains in a piece " Time for the media to fess up" on Salon:

"Better late than never" isn't always true, but public candor from people and institutions that have misled us for many years can be refreshing -- and sometimes even liberating.

Prodded by recent events -- including publication of "The Clinton Tapes," historian Taylor Branch's fascinating account of his contemporaneous private conversations with President Bill Clinton; the unwholesome reappearance of healthcare reform nemesis Betsy McCaughey; and perhaps even the death of retired New York Times Op-Ed columnist William Safire -- certain media myth-makers of the Clinton era have suddenly uttered startling acknowledgments and even a grudging confession or two.

At this late date, it is s…

Deal with it!

The seemingly ongoing "struggle" between the West and Islam needs to be seen in context. There isn't one, but even if there is, Muslims now make up one quarter of the world's population - as a Demographic Report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reveals. Muslims can't simply be ignored!

"A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world today, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion.

While Muslims are found on all five inhabited continents, more than 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the Middle East and North Africa. However, the Middle East-North Africa region has the highest percentage of Muslim-majority countries. Indeed, more than half of the 20 countries and territories1 in that region have populations that are approximately 95% Muslim or greater.

More than 300 million Muslims, or one-fifth of …

'Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife' by Francine Prose

"Last week, a video went up on YouTube that shows the only motion picture images ever taken of Anne Frank. It's just a quick glimpse, a few seconds of film.

A newlywed couple leaves an Amsterdam apartment building. People hover on the sidewalk, watching them go. Then the camera pans upward -- and there, gazing down from a balcony, is Anne Frank.

The date is July 22, 1941. She's 12 years old. It's a year before she and her family will go into hiding, less than four years before she will die of typhus at Bergen-Belsen in the waning days of World War II. We watch her watching, watch her look back over her shoulder, quick and coltish, as if in response to someone inside."

So begins a piece and book review on Anne Frank in The LA Times - who would, had she lived, turned 80 this year.

Read the full piece here.

One very odd Prize winner

In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."

Based on that criteria there is no way that Obama remotely qualified for the Nobel Peace Prize. Track record?- nil! Prospectively? - maybe!

The Nation makes the points well about the surprising choice:

"Obama doesn't deserve the prize, yet.

Yes, the president has said he wants a world free of nuclear weapons, but as Jonathan Schell wrote in our pages, he has a long way to go before that vision becomes reality. That path must include the US Senate ratifying the comprehensive test ban treaty, and even a full court press from the White House can't guarantee that will happen this fall.

Then there's the matter of Obama's multilateralism and partnering with the UN. As Naomi Klein pointed ou…

"Where did we get the gall to decide the fate of another people?"

Gideon Levy, an op-ed writer for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has been a strident critic of Israel's policies in relation to the Palestinians, the West Bank and Gaza. MPS would describe him as almost being Israel's conscience! Be that as it may, in his latest piece "Only gall and nothing more" he raises a very critical question...."where did we get the gall to decide the fate of another people?"

As he writes:

"About an hour's drive from us, the unbelievably cruel reality continues. Everything is done there in the name of us all, supposedly, and in the name of security, supposedly. And here among us there is either distorted discourse or non-discourse.

Nothing will change as long as this state of affairs continues. A recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs draws a shocking picture of what is happening in Gaza. For example, 75 percent of its inhabitants, more than 1 million people, are suffering from nutritio…

Bombing Iran is the answer?

Let's hope that calmer heads prevail than the result of the Pew's Research Centre poll, as IPS reports in "Public Sceptical and Hawkish on Iran":

"Despite strong support for diplomatic engagement with Iran, most U.S. citizens believe such efforts will ultimately fail and that Washington should be prepared to use military force to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, according to a new poll released here Tuesday by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press.

Sixty-one percent of the 1,500 respondents interviewed by Pew said it was "more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action" than to "avoid military conflict", according to the survey, which was conducted over a five-day period ending Monday.

At the same time, 63 percent of respondents - an increase of nine percent since last time Pew posed the question, in 2006 - said they approved of Washington negotiating directly…

Mmmm!!!!

Credit to Daryl Cagle at MSNBC.com

Justice hidden from sight - justice denied

The US will stand forever condemned by its critics if it doesn't make a clean breast of the torture that was carried out, officially, over the last years. Just the facts seeing the light of day would be a good start! It isn't gonna happen - as Glen Greenwald, lawyer and now op-ed writer for Salon, explains in "A Historian's Account of Democrats and Bush-Era War Crimes":

"The American Propsect's Adam Serwer notes that, yesterday, Sen. Joe Lieberman successfully inserted into the Homeland Security appropriations bill an amendment -- supported by the Obama White House -- to provide an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act's mandates by authorizing the Defense Secretary to suppress long-concealed photographs of detainee abuse. Two courts had ruled -- unanimously -- that the American people have the right to see these photographs under FOIA, a 40-year-old law championed by the Democrats in the LBJ era and long considered a crowning jewel in t…

Losing the plot!

Hard to believe this, but read to what the Israeli ambassador to the UN had to say [in The New Republic] about the UN Goldstone report on the Gaza War:

"The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves. If a country can be pummeled by thousands of rockets and still not be justified in protecting its inhabitants, then at issue is not the methods by which that country survives but whether it can survive at all. But more insidiously, the report does not only hamstring Israel; it portrays the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents--as Nazis. And a Nazi state not only lacks the need and right to defend itself; it must rather be destroyed."

Is this hyperbole, fear-mongering, going over the top or has this man, and the country he represents, lost the plot?

The answer is pretty clear, isn't it?

"Imagine that the situation in Afghanistan were exactly what it is today -- a corrupt government in Kabul with dubious legitimacy, the Taliban gaining strength, al Qaeda's leaders still hiding out in northwest Pakistan, etc. -- except that the U.S. military wasn't there. And then ask yourself: would you be in favor of sending 100,000 or so American soldiers to fight and die there?"

Who is asking this important question? None other than Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard, in his latest piece on his blog on FP. He considers where things are at and questions whether the decision of Obama to stay the course as things stand now can succeed.

"My views on this subject are clear, so feel free to discount what follows. But I doubt we would be having a serious debate about sending a large number of troops to Afghanistan if we weren't there already. Instead, we would be treating Afghanistan the same way we treat most failed states. We'…

Robert Fisk: A financial revolution with profound political implications

If what Robert Fisk [veteran journalist, author and commentator on the Middle East] says in his latest piece in The Independent is correct, the dynamics of politics, especially as it effects the Middle East and its relationship with the US, is destined to change.

"The plan to de-dollarise the oil market, discussed both in public and in secret for at least two years and widely denied yesterday by the usual suspects – Saudi Arabia being, as expected, the first among them – reflects a growing resentment in the Middle East, Europe and in China at America's decades-long political as well as economic world dominance.

Nowhere has this more symbolic importance than in the Middle East, where the United Arab Emirates alone holds $900bn (£566bn) of dollar reserves and where Saudi Arabia has been quietly co-ordinating its defence, armaments and oil policies with the Russians since 2007.

This does not indicate a trade war with America – not yet – but Arab Gulf regimes have been growing incre…

That Report stopped! Now we know.....

If this report from the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv [reproduced by Norman Finkelstein on his web site] is correct, then we now know why the PA backed off - or otherwise agreed to - the UN Goldstone Report on the Gaza War going forward.

The PA would appear sorely condemned for its duplicitous role in events surrounding the Gaza War:

"A Palestinian press agency claims that the surprising decision by Palestinian Authority officials to postpone the discussion of the Goldstone report in the UN Human Rights Council is the result of an Israeli threat. According to a report by Shihab, the Palestinian Authority refused Israel’s demand that it withdraw its support for the harsh report, which Israel considered one-sided. Following this, Israeli figures showed the PA a series of tapes in which Palestinian Authority officials could be heard urging Israel to continue the operation in Gaza. Israel threatened to reveal the material to media outlets as well as to the UN and this, in turn, resul…

Images......and the Nobel Prize

On rare days in Zambia, the Zambezi River runs quietly, revealing a swimming hole at the top of Victoria Falls. Annie Griffiths Belt of National Geographic took this photo at sunset — and she calls it "one of the most beautiful" she has ever taken.

Annie Griffiths Belt's life and work have been transformed by the breakthroughs in fiber optics and digital data transmission made by this year's winners of the Nobel Prize in physics.

Read all about this remarkable photographer, here, who has harnessed technology to aid her in her work, in this piece on NPR.

The other ticking clock in Iran

All the news is directed to the threat emanating from Iran if it acquires a nuclear capacity. But, there is another threat ticking away in Iran which cannot be ignored.......missiles.

FP reports:

"The recent revelations about Iran's nuclear program -- centering on an enrichment facility buried in a mountain near the holy city of Qom -- have almost certainly intensified the sense of urgency among policymakers in Jerusalem. Even though the news has triggered a new round of high-stakes diplomacy (including an unusual bilateral meeting between Americans and Iranians), you can bet that Israeli military planning for an attack on the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities has moved into overdrive. Yet there's another ticking clock the Israelis are worried about that hasn't been in the headlines quite so much.

For years now, Tehran has been working hard to acquire sophisticated Russian antiaircraft missiles that would make it far tougher for Israeli planes to stage a succ…

Iran, Israel, and the Muzzled US Press

Faramarz Farbod is a native of Iran and teaches politics at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA, USA.

In a more than relevant piece "Iran, Israel, and the Muzzled US Press" on CommonDreams, Farbod reflects on Iran, the Middle East in general and Israel in particular - and asks more than pertinent questions, including how it is that Iran attracts sanctioning for not abiding by UN resolutions [whereas Israel does not] and why is it that the West, the US in particular, simply does not talk about Israel's nuclear arsenal.

"Iran must comply with United Nations resolutions," declared President Obama. Iran is "as defiant as ever" says a chorus of corporate employees otherwise known as mainstream journalists. Really! Is Iran defiant for testing missiles for its military? What military in the world fails to test missiles? Is Iran defiant for reporting the construction of a "secret underground" uranium enrichment plant at least a year in advance of In…

Er, not really "the worst of the worst"

Who can forget the rhetoric of the Bush Administration proclaiming that those held at Gitmo were "the worst of the worst?"

The facts, of course, were always different - as this piece from Harper's Magazine makes so very clear:

"For seven years, the Bush Administration told us that the prisoners held at Guantánamo were the “worst of the worst.” These are the kind of people who would chew through the hydraulic cables of a jet to try to bring it down, a breathless General Richard Myers once noted at a 2002 press conference. No one ever disputed that there were some dangerous figures at Guantánamo, particularly after President Bush decided on the eve of the 2006 midterm elections to move those held in CIA black sites to the naval station in Cuba. But was this true of the majority of the prisoners?

There was an odd discord between the rhetoric of the Bush Administration and their conduct. They continued to talk about the “worst of the worst,” and they relaunched it as a tal…