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So that's where the money went

Op-ed columnist for The New York Times, Nicholas D Kristof reflects on the military-related spending by the USA.

"We face wrenching budget cutting in the years ahead, but there’s one huge area of government spending that Democrats and Republicans alike have so far treated as sacrosanct.

It’s the military/security world, and it’s time to bust that taboo. A few facts:

• The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.

• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?

• The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.

• The U.S. will spend m…

Life goes - very happily thank you - for Wall St.

Some bankers may have teetered a couple of years back, but they are riding high, very high, on Wall St. as 2010 ends and they look to 2011.

"The statistics tell the story: From the outset of 2009 to this past summer, Wall Street banks and other financial players—trade groups, insurance companies, real estate brokerages, and more—spent more than $500 million lobbying Congress on financial reform. That's $1.4 million a day. These firms' main goal: undercutting, if not outright killing, tough new regulations to prevent the next financial crisis."

***

"Now, two years after the greatest financial meltdown in generations, a cataclysm still fresh in the minds of many, you'd think Wall Street would shy away from its high-flying, Ferrari-dealer days.

Quite the opposite. In November, the Times reported on its front page that the lavish party days seemed to be back in fashion. Paired with a video showing Ferraris and Lamborghinis roaring through New York City's financi…

Hilary & Co......Enough grandstanding!

The just concluded "trial" - er, well Russian style - and conviction in Moscow of Mikhail Khodorkovsky has drawn almost universal condemnation throughout the West. As it should. But shouldn't Hilary Clinton and Western Governments be looking in their own backyards first before firing off criticism of the Russians?

"But shouldn’t Clinton put a sock in it? The USA is still squatting in Cuba overseeing the continuing festering mess caused by one of the biggest boils on the face of human rights – yes, Guantanamo is approaching a decade of incarcerating men without charge or trial. At least Khodorkovsky had his day in an open court and can appeal.

Instead of sticking her nose in to other country’s courts, perhaps the US Secretary of State would care to look into her own backyard and tell us why one of her soldiers was given a mere nine month sentence earlier this month after shooting unarmed civilians in Afghanistan?

And after he's served his sentence US army medic R…

The Obama Administration is wrong, yet again

One might of thought that in the era of WikiLeaks we are all living in that politicians might be a tad more guarded in issuing statements and making pronouncements which can easily be challenged. Take the recent Obama statements on the situation in Afghanistan. On the whole positive. Others, better equipped to make a judgment-call say otherwise - clearly and absolutely!

"Recent upbeat assessments by the White House on the Afghanistan war have been called into question by analysts and aid groups on the ground, who say the security situation has been getting worse.

Challenging statements this month by US President Barack Obama and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, a security expert who works with aid groups in Afghanistan said Taliban insurgents had been expanding their reach across the country.

''It is our opinion that the situation is a lot more insecure this year than it was last year,'' said Nic Lee, director of the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office.

While US-led fo…

Israel's treatment of Palestinian kids goes from bad to worse

From CommonDreams in relation to a report by an Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem:

"Jerusalem police "systematically violate the law" several times a day in their treatment of Palestinian kids who allegedly throw stones, a report from an Israeli human rights group charges. The routine: wake boys as young as 8 in the middle of the night, haul them in without their parents using violence and handcuffs, hold them for a week, sentence them to months of house arrest, which often means they miss school. Why do they keep doing it? What are their options?"



Top Ten Myths about Afghanistan, 2010

As the war in Afghanistan grinds on, and will do so into 2011 and beyond, Juan Cole, in his Informed Comment, lists the top 10 myths about Afghanistan for 2010. Just one of the 10 is a good example.....making it more than worthwhile reading the other 9.

7. The US presence in Afghanistan is justified by the September 11 attacks.

Fact: In Helmand and Qandahar Provinces, a poll found that 92% of male residents had never heard of 9/11.

For many around the world forget about learning to read and write

It should be the inalienable right of all people, especially children, to have enough food to eat and be properly clothed - and for children to receive at least a basic eduction. Sad to say, and perhaps all top predictably, far too many children around the world are missing out on an eduction.

"Despite widespread commitments on paper to the second Millennium Development Goal - the provision of universal primary education by 2015 - 72 million children remain out of school. More worryingly, 39 million (54 per cent) of these children reside in conflict-affected fragile states (CAFS), where they face multiple pressures in terms of lack of access to basic rights, and an accompanying unwillingness on the part of international donors or even local governments to place an emphasis on providing education.

As a result, one in three children in CAFS do not go to school, compared to one in 11 in other low-income countries, according to data compiled by the UK-based charity Save the Childre…

Re Israel: Aah, the penny is dropping!

It is an undeniable fact that the Israel Lobby is so strong in the USA, as also elsewhere, that allegiance and unquestioning loyalty and support for Israel is a given. So, are the comments below from a usual supporter of Israel - no lesser figure than the editor of The New Yorker - to be taken as a sign of frustration with Israel and that steadfast support being shaken?Take it as read that Remick will be accused as "a self-hating Jew".

David Remick in an interview with Yediot:

"Do you see a certain change in the US Jewish community?

A new generation of Jews is growing up in the US. Their relationship with Israel is becoming less patient and more problematic. They see what has happened with the Rabbinical Letter [proscribing rental and sale of property to Arabs -- DR], for example. How long can you expect that they’ll love unconditionally the place called Israel [sic]? You’ve got a problem. You have the status of an occupier since 1967. It’s been happening for so long th…

Snow = chaos for those living in a parallel universe

"What we are witnessing on either side of the Channel is the double whammy of a debt-ridden public sector making cuts wherever it can and a bonus-addicted private sector making cuts wherever it’s profitable — with the resultant disaster foisted on a general public now so cowed and coddled and fearful and risk-averse in the age of terror and technology that an inch or two of snow sends everyone into a blind panic.

Add to that dismal stew a pinch of global warming, which some people, including Matthews, apparently took to mean the end of European winters, and you end up with the current farce. Europe, thy name is pitiful. When the budgetary cuts really bite next year, all bets are off."

So writes Roger Cohen, op-ed writer for the IHT and The New York Times as he reflects in his latest column "Snow! Hit the Panic Button" on how London and Paris airports ground to a halt because of severe snow conditions the other day. How was this allowed to happen? he asks. Hasn…

America no longer a country of optimism

Oh dear, with all the hype surrounding the lead up and then Obama taking office, it seems that whatever optimism was out there has evaporated so badly to the extent that people are now less optimistic than they were in surveys taken during the Great Depression. All of this doesn't augur well not only for the USA but also the rest of the world.

An op-ed piece from Reuters:

"Optimism is so deeply embedded in the American national psyche that it withstood the Great Depression in the 1930s and a string of recessions since then. But in the era some economists call “the new normal” in America, optimism is fading.

So say public opinion polls that ask Americans how they see the future, theirs and their country’s. One recent survey, by the respected Pew Research Center, found that depression era Americans were more optimistic about economic recovery in the near future than people questioned in a Pew poll this October, when only 35 percent said they expected better economic conditions in…

McCarthyism, and more, thrives in Iran

From The Daily Beast a report on growing McCarthyism in Iran. The "free" world - well, overlooking what WikiLeaks has thrown up - should be appalled by what is happening in Iran and protest loud and clear. It seems to be a country almost certainly headed to some sort of uprising by the populace. Bear in mind the very large proportion of the population is under the age of 30.

"When world-renowned filmmaker, Jafar Panahi, was sentenced to six years in prison earlier this week, the verdict reverberated both inside and outside Iran.

Not only did authorities in Tehran hand down an exceptionally harsh sentence, they also decreed that the 50-year-old Panahi will be banned from filmmaking, screenwriting and traveling abroad for the next 20 years. According to his relatives, Panahi has also been banned from talking to the media.

Along with Panahi, Muhammad Rasoulof, another filmmaker involved with Panahi’s movie, was also sentenced to six years in prison."

An analysis of the response to the WikiLeaks

Trust Glenn Greenwald, lawyer and blogger at Salon, to "do" a thoughtful analysis on the WikiLeaks and the response.

"As revealing as the disclosures themselves are, the reactions to them have been equally revealing. The vast bulk of the outrage has been devoted not to the crimes that have been exposed but rather to those who exposed them: WikiLeaks and (allegedly) Bradley Manning. A consensus quickly emerged in the political and media class that they are Evil Villains who must be severely punished, while those responsible for the acts they revealed are guilty of nothing. That reaction has not been weakened at all even by the Pentagon's own admission that, in stark contrast to its own actions, there is no evidence -- zero -- that any of WikiLeaks' actions has caused even a single death. Meanwhile, the American establishment media -- even in the face of all these revelations -- continues to insist on the contradictory, Orwellian platitudes that (a) there is N…

No winners here

Rannie Amiri, an indpendent Middle East commentator, writing on CounterPunch records who he thinks the people of the year were in the Middle East. It doesn't make for happy reading.

The 2010 Middle East People of the Year are:

"The Palestinians in Gaza, desperate to let the world know that nearly two years after the end of the 2008-2009 war, the cruel embargo on the territory persists; the siege by air, land and sea continues; and the impoverished population is still held captive in their land.

The Bahraini Shia, the island’s indigent and marginalized majority, ruled by the wealthy Sunni al-Khalifa royal family who routinely orders an imported security service to round up and torture democracy and human rights advocates. Excluded from government, the public sector and law enforcement by overt sectarian discrimination, they have risked life and limb to protest their disenfranchised state.

The Egyptians, who have suffocated under a repressive U.S.-backed regime that has governed …

The overlooked and under-appreciated heroes of 2010

As some in the world sit down to celebrate Xmas cheer and the new year is around the corner, what better way than reflect on those who in 2010 were overlooked for what they did or perhaps seen as under-achievers. Well, Johann Hari, writing in The Independent has taken on the task.....

"Who did we under-appreciate in 2010? In the endless whirr of 24/7 corporate news, the people who actually make a difference are often trampled in the stampede to the next forgettable news-nugget like Lady Gaga's meat-dress. So in the final moments of this year, let's look at a few people who deserved more of our attention."

Continue reading here to see Hari's list.

Afghanistan Report: The things not said or questioned

Stephen Walt, writing his blog on FP, rightly points to the things left unsaid or unanswered in the Obama Administration's recent report and assessment of the war in Afghanistan.

"But what's missing in all this role-playing was a clear and convincing statement of costs and benefits. For all the talk of defeating al Qaeda (which isn't in Afghanistan any more), or preventing "safe havens," the administration scrupulously avoided the question of whether the money spent, lives lost, and presidential time consumed is worth it in terms of advancing core American interests. While parsing the evidence that it is making progress, the administration carefully avoids the question of whether the resources devoted to achieving something that might be defined as "success" are worth spending. Similarly, it avoids asking whether the costs of disengagement would be all that significant; it simply assumes that getting out would lead to catastrophe. So it just repeats…

A retrograde step. Obama does it again

For a man who campaigned as he did for the presidency - and in the process was sharply critical of the Bush Administration's policies - and as a lawyer to boot, Obama has turned out to be a great disappointment . In many respects he is worse than George Bush. We now learn that Obama is going to permit indefinite detention without trial. Two words for it - disgraceful and scandalous!

"The Obama administration, ProPublica's Dafna Linzer first reported, is about to issue an executive order that gives shape, contour and future life to indefinite detention for Guantánamo detainees. The order will provide for the continual detention of several dozen detainees – who will have access lawyers in order to periodically contest their detention.

On one level, we shouldn't be surprised. In what has become a signature method of the Obama administration, the bad news was trotted out as an idea well ahead of time. In May of 2009, President Obama let it be known that indefinite d…

On the road......

MPS is hitting the road.....and subject to not being snowed in somewhere, plane delays and all the rest of the fun which goes with travel [take the body scans at US airports as but one example] MPS will continue posting regularly from around the globe - and, perhaps, with a foreign flavor to boot.

Islamophobia in 2010

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Beast, the Nation, the Huffington Post, the Independent Film Channel, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English, and other publications. He is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute and author of the bestselling book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party (Nation Books).

He takes up the subject of what he describes as an islamophobic crusade in a piece on TomDispatch:

"Nine years after 9/11, hysteria about Muslims in American life has gripped the country. With it has gone an outburst of arson attacks on mosques, campaigns to stop their construction, and the branding of the Muslim-American community, overwhelmingly moderate, as a hotbed of potential terrorist recruits. The frenzy has raged from rural Tennessee to New York City, while in Oklahoma, voters even overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure banning the implementation of Sharia law …

The latest Q & A with the man of the moment, Julian Assange

A Q & A with Julian Assange, now holed up, on restricted bail, in a mansion in freezing London.

A typical Q & A:

"Do you see yourself as a journalist or crusader?

I see myself predominantly as a publisher. That's quite an interestingly play, but has been done in the US. Removing the political protection that journalists afford one another and the legal protection that the First Amendment affords publishers throws up the question: "Am I a journalist or what?" That is not really the question as far as law is concerned. The law is interested in "am I a publisher or not". And without doubt, I am a publisher and editor. I still do some writing. I have been promoted up into managing other people. Hence, the best description would be publisher and editor-in-chief."

Continue reading here.

Obama: His year in the Middle East

Juan Cole, expert in Middle East affairs, writing on truthdig, assesses Obama's successes and failure in the Middle East during 2010:

"This was the year, then, that Iran again won the struggle for influence in Iraq; the year the Israelis sabotaged a revived peace process; the year Iran went on thumbing its nose at the international community with regard to its nuclear enrichment program; and the year that the government in Afghanistan lost a good deal of its credibility. Obama should get credit for good intentions, and talking directly to the major principals. But he appears never to have appreciated the lessons taught by Jimmy Carter at Camp David in 1978, which is that a big geopolitical breakthrough can be accomplished only if the president inserts himself directly into the negotiations and lays his own political capital on the line. Obama has seemed relatively distant from these pressing Middle East issues, and farmed some of them out to subordinates. They are not the sort…

No knowledge base there

It is always frightening to realise how inward looking Americans can be. And, all too sadly - no doubt because they are so poorly served by the media, across the board - most Americans are lamentably ignorant about what is happening outside their own borders.

The New York Timesreports on the latest survey by the Pew Research Centre on what Americans are having "served up"to them news-wise:

"As the Obama administration conducted an Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review this month, the news media did too, and the coverage came peppered with question marks.

The same week that ABC News scheduled a series of segments titled “Afghanistan: Can We Win?,” Katie Couric of the “CBS Evening News” devoted six minutes to a special report, “Can This War Be Won?”

A recent headline atop New York magazine repeated a question asked by dozens of opinion writers this year — and last year, and the year before — “Why Are We in Afghanistan?”

The questions reflect the complex nature of the Afghan…

2011 isn't looking too good for 100 US cities

If you thought that things are looking up in the American economy, think again. A financial pundit predicts that up to 100 American cities could go bust in 2011.

"More than 100 American cities could go bust next year as the debt crisis that has taken down banks and countries threatens next to spark a municipal meltdown, a leading analyst has warned.

Meredith Whitney, the US research analyst who correctly predicted the global credit crunch, described local and state debt as the biggest problem facing the US economy, and one that could derail its recovery.

"Next to housing this is the single most important issue in the US and certainly the biggest threat to the US economy," Whitney told the CBS 60 Minutes programme on Sunday night.

"There's not a doubt on my mind that you will see a spate of municipal bond defaults. You can see fifty to a hundred sizeable defaults – more. This will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of defaults."

Human Rights Watch: On Israel's discriminatory and harsh policies

The Israelis will in their customary manner take a stick to the latest Human Rights Watch Report on its treatment of the Palestinians - but it cannot be ignored by any fair-minded person in the way it details the widespread discrimination and harsh treatment meted out to the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"Israeli policies in the West Bank harshly discriminate against Palestinian residents, depriving them of basic necessities while providing lavish amenities for Jewish settlements, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report identifies discriminatory practices that have no legitimate security or other justification and calls on Israel, in addition to abiding by its international legal obligation to withdraw the settlements, to end these violations of Palestinians' rights.

The 166-page report, "Separate and Unequal: Israel's Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories," shows that Israel ope…

The dangers of being a blogger

The life of a blogger can be downright dangerous if he or she is in the "wrong" country. William Fisher, writing on truthout, highlights the plight, some of it more than severe, of some bloggers in various countries around the world.

"Nay Phone Latt's treatment (in Burma) is emblematic of a deadly virus sweeping across the world and spreading its pathogens to any place where an authoritarian, totalitarian government holds power. These despots have quickly learned the contemporary Internet social networking techniques used by their subjects and have moved in with a heavy hand to suppress these free expressions."

Read the complete piece here.

The genie is well and truly out......

Credited to Patrick Corrigan, The Toronto Star

Obama takes on board more mercenaries than Bush

Obama is a puzzle. Here is the one-time law professor who promised all manner of things in the election campaign - and in the process was more than critical of George Bush for most of his actions - and now we learn that he, Obama, has outsourced more counter-insurgency work than even Bush did. More of the Blackwaters of this world!

"Without much notice or debate, the Obama administration has greatly expanded the outsourcing of key parts of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency wars in the Middle East and Africa, and as a result, for its secretive air war and special operations missions around the world, the U.S. has become increasingly reliant on a new breed of specialized companies that are virtually unknown to the American public, yet carry out vital U.S. missions abroad."

It looks more and more like apartheid, says an Israeli

Nothing new in people accusing Israel having an apartheid regime in place. How else to describe roads for the exclusive use of Israelis? - and not Palestinians - and laws which actively discriminate against non-Israelis or don't confer the same benefits as those available to Israeli citizens.

From an op-ed piece in Forward, a Jewish publication out of the USA, by an Israeli military historian:

"Keeping all these facts in mind — and provided that Israel maintains its military strength and builds a wall to stop suicide bombers — it is crystal-clear that Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank. Strategically speaking, the risk of doing so is negligible. What is not negligible is the demographic, social, cultural and political challenge that ruling over 2.5 million — nobody knows exactly how many — occupied Palestinians in the West Bank poses. Should Israeli rule over them continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an …

Your mobile may be transmitting your private info

Nothing is secure anymore despite all the technology out there said to protect one from preying eyes or downright hacking of data bases.

Now The Wall Street Journal reports in "Your Apps Are Watching You" that iPhones and Androids may be sharing their secrets with third parties.

"Few devices know more personal details about people than the smartphones in their pockets: phone numbers, current location, often the owner's real name—even a unique ID number that can never be changed or turned off.

These phones don't keep secrets. They are sharing this personal data widely and regularly, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

An examination of 101 popular smartphone "apps"—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone's unique device ID to other companies without users' awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone's location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other…

They just don't get it! And then there is the blinker-appoach

Officialdom just doesn't get it. In an age of easy access to media, and now the dimension of the Wikileaks, one might have thought that government personal, politicians and officials, have realised that obfuscation and evasion is simply not acceptable. The public won't accept it any more.

Of course in the situation of the State Department briefing in this clip, it is obvious that the USA simply doesn't want "to go there" - that is, address a very touchy subject relating to Israel. Watch and squirm.

You will empathise

Assuming severe weather isn't going to disrupt your travel plans this holiday season this piece by Stephen Walt on his blog on FP - and not writing on politics this time - will resonate with anyone who has had to negotiate airports and flying in general, especially in the US.

"Jet travel still strikes me as slightly miraculous, and despite having visited over forty countries, I still get a certain gee-whiz feeling whenever I'm headed for the international terminal at Logan airport (even though the terminal itself is nothing for Boston to boast about).

As you've probably noticed, however, the Powers That Be are doing their best to destroy that pleasant tingle of anticipation. Just when you thought they couldn't find another way to make air travel more annoying and degrading, somebody comes up with a new method to drive us crazy. So having just flown twelve-plus hours from Boston to Kuwait (via London), I'm going to indulge in a short rant: the Top Five Things th…

Reality check!

Credited to Mr Fish, Harper's Magazine

And you thought you were safe!

From CommonDreams a piece which should not assure you that you are safe as you travel this holiday season. It's all smoke and mirrors.

"TSA screeners at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport were apparently too busy checking out the neighborhood junk to notice a guy's loaded .40 caliber handgun in his computer bag, which he inadvertently carried onto his flight. Officials said after the incident screeners got "remedial instruction" - presumably, as in: "This is a gun." Recent tests show that screeners miss most of this stuff. Are we feeling safe yet?"

Freedom! Just don't protest, even if you are a kid

The fall-out post 9/11 continues. Politicians still don't get it! You can't simply label everything terrorism, or the like, and try and prevent protests about this or that, however peaceful - unless your not democracy that is. It seems that even kids are are being warned off protesting, as Johann Hari explains in this piece in The Independent:

"So now we know. When our politicians complained over the past few decades, in a low, sad tone, that our young people were “too apathetic” and “disengaged”, it was a lie. A great flaring re-engagement of the young has take place this year. With overwhelmingly peaceful tactics, they are demanding policies that are supported by the majority of the British people – and our rulers are trying to truncheon, kettle and intimidate them back into apathy.

Here’s one example of the intimidation of peaceful protest by the young that is happening all over Britain. Nicky Wishart is a 12-year-old self-described “maths geek” who lives in …

Two humanitarians make a plea to end child marriages

Two stalwarts for humanity, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson, make a plea to end child marriages. The argument is not only compelling but unassailable.

"Sadly, millions of girls worldwide have little or no choice about when and whom they marry. One in three girls in the developing world is married before she is 18 - one in seven before she is 15. The reasons vary: custom, poverty and lack of education all play a part. Boys are married young, too, but a far greater number of girls are affected and it has a much more devastating impact on their lives.

Because they are young, child brides are relatively powerless in their families and often lack access to health information. This makes them more vulnerable to serious injury and death in childbirth - the leading cause of death in girls aged 15 to 19 in the developing world.

We know that empowering girls is one of the most effective ways to improve the health and prosperity of societies. Child marriage perpetuates poverty by…

Oh yeah?

Credited to Lindsay Foyle, New Matilda

Do yourself a favour and subscribe to New Matilda. For an alternative and well-worth reading pieces with an analysis of things going on in the world you will find few better mags.

Depends on who you listen to: Obama v The Red Cross

Listen to Obama today and the message is that things are pretty well OK and on track in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, the International Red Cross has a different take, as The Age reports:

"Security in Afghanistan has deteriorated to its worst point since the overthrow of the Taliban nine years ago and is preventing aid groups from reaching victims, the International Committee of the Red Cross says.

''The sheer fact the ICRC has organised a press conference is an expression of us being extremely concerned of yet another year of fighting with dramatic consequences for an ever-growing number of people in … almost the entire country,'' said Reto Stocker, the head of the Red Cross in Kabul.

By every measure that the Red Cross tracks, the situation has worsened for civilian casualties, internal displacement and healthcare - all of it ''against the background of a proliferation of armed actors'', Mr Stocker said."

The WikiLeaks stir a hornet's nest

The ramifications and implications of the still on-going WikiLeaks continue. Who controls what? And if there are controls in place in relation to the web, why should there be and who ought to be the arbiter? Where does free speech come into all of this?

"The most important legacy of the WikiLeaks affair will almost surely be the rapidly escalating cyberwar that the group’s renegade disclosures have sparked. If you think you’re unaffected by unseen “battles” fought with keystrokes instead of bullets, you’re wrong.

At stake are issues of free speech, censorship, privacy, piracy, sovereignty and corporate power. We may know what we think about these concepts, but applying real-world logic to the Internet leads to unacceptable conclusions—such as sympathy for the goons in Iran or China who suppress anti-government political speech. This is, of course, out of the question. Which means sympathy for WikiLeaks nihilists who don’t deserve it."

****

"When Iranian protesters…

Watching Fox News makes one stupid

On one level not surprising but yet there is a stat which proves that watching Fox News makes one more stupid.

"Yet another study has been released proving that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation.

So the more you watch, the less you know. Or to be precise, the more you think you know that is actually false. This study corroborates a previous PIPA study that focused on the Iraq war with similar results. And there was an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that demonstrated the break with reality on the part of Fox viewers with regard to health care. The body of evidence that Fox News is nothing but a propaganda machine …

Immoral and inhuman

Cesar Chelala, MD, PhD, is an international public health consultant and an award-winning writer on human rights and foreign policy issues.

Writing in "Palestinian Children Vs. the IDF" on CommonDreams Chelala tackles head-on the often-repeated and now almost a mantra of the Israeli Defence Force how it is the most moral army in the world.

"The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is among the strongest armies in the world. According to Israeli Defense Minister EhudaBarak, it is also one the most moral ones. One wouldn't know that for its treatment of Palestinian children. On December 13, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) stated that the Israeli military and police were violating Israeli law by detaining Palestinian children, some as young as seven years old, and interrogating them. This last denunciation follows an equally serious one of Palestinian children being sexually abused by Israeli police officers.

"They [the police] hit me and dragged along the …

The forgotten man

In all the hubbub about Wikileaks, the cables and Julian Assange, one person seemingly overlooked, and even forgotten, is the person said to have leaked all the material to WikiLeaks in the first place, Bradley Manning. Where is he and what has happened to him?

Glenn Greenwald reports on Salon on the utterly appalling - no, disgraceful! - condition in which Manning finds himself with no charges having been preferred against him.

"Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months -- and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait -- under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning's detention, ultimately …

Visa, Mastercard and Paypal help support illegal Israeli settlements

Now that Visa, Mastercard and PayPal have entered the political fray by stopping payments to WikiLeaks - not an illegal organisation to be remembered - they will need to justify how they facilitate funds being directed to organisations which are illegal and help fund the development of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Crikey reports on where the funds go with direct examples.

"Visa, Mastercard and PayPal all enable donations to be made to US-registered groups funding illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank in defiance of international law.

It appears at least one of the major credit cards also enables donations to an extremist Jewish group that has placed a bounty on the lives of Palestinians.

All three have in the last week ceased enabling donations to WikiLeaks. Neither Mastercard nor Visa have explained the basis for their decision to do so. PayPal has backed away from its initial claim that the US State Department told PayPal WikiLeaks had broken the law after t…

WikiLeaks led revolution

John Pilger is no stranger to conflicts around the world and exposing what governments do - and mostly don't tell there citizenry.

As one of the most awarded journalists, commentators and film-makers in the world, Pilger is uniquely placed to challenge the shibboleths of what we know as day-to-day journalism

"That mindset that only authority can really determine the 'truth' on the news, that's a form of embedding that really now has to change," said Pilger, who has covered conflicts in Vietnam and Cambodia, written books and made several acclaimed documentaries.

"There's no question about the pressure on it to change coming from the internet and coming from WikiLeaks -- it will change," he added in the interview ahead of Tuesday evening's broadcast of his new film.

"That is the canker in all of this, it's the compulsion to quote, not necessarily believing the authority source. But then once you quote it and you put it out on the wires o…

Experts on Afghanistan write to Obama

The Telegraph publishes a timely letter from experts on Afghanistan to President Obama:

"To the President of the United States: Mr. President, We have been engaged and working inside Afghanistan, some of us for decades, as academics, experts and members of non-governmental organisations. Today we are deeply worried about the current course of the war and the lack of credible scenarios for the future. The cost of the war is now over $120 billion per year for the United States alone.

This is unsustainable in the long run. In addition, human losses are increasing. Over 680 soldiers from the international coalition – along with hundreds of Afghans – have died this year in Afghanistan, and the year is not yet over. We appeal to you to use the unparalleled resources and influence which the United States now brings to bear in Afghanistan to achieve that longed-for peace.

Despite these huge costs, the situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has m…

Chinese to the fore - in Europe

How situations can develop that no one had thought of. With Europe's economic woes, especially in Portugal, Spain and Greece, China is stepping up to the plate to extend it's influence, and financial clout, in the EC.

Spiegel OnLine International reports on how China is seizing on Europe's debt problems to expand its influence on the continent with large-scale investments and purchases of government bonds issued by highly-indebted states. The strategy could push Europe into the same financial dependency on China that is posing a dilemma for the US.

"The cash-strapped southern Europeans are increasingly looking to Beijing to solve their budget woes. But it is difficult to ascertain which countries are being supported by the Chinese state capitalists through government bond purchases.

The investment managers at the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) devise their strategies behind the walls of a nondescript large office building in Beijing. They rarely make pu…

Michael Moore: Why he supports Julian Assange

Let it not be said that Julian Arrange hasn't garnered an impressive array of people to stump up bail monies for him in those legal proceedings presently underway in London. One of them is Michael Moore, he of movie fame, and otherwise, for exposing all sorts of dirty-pool in the USA.

He writes in "Why I'm Posting Bail Money for Julian Assange" on Information Clearing House why he has been been prepared to put his money where his mouth is.

"WikiLeaks deserves our thanks for shining a huge spotlight on all this. But some in the corporate-owned press have dismissed the importance of WikiLeaks ("they've released little that's new!") or have painted them as simple anarchists ("WikiLeaks just releases everything without any editorial control!"). WikiLeaks exists, in part, because the mainstream media has failed to live up to its responsibility. The corporate owners have decimated newsrooms, making it impossible for good journalists to do t…

A sober and accurate assessment of Afghanistan

The Afghan War grinds on.....with an enormous cost in life and limb as well as in pure dollar terms.

Obama is undertaking a strategic review which it is said will be made public in the next days. Almost predictably it will contain many positives and few negatives. If only that were the true position.

Patrick Cockburn writing on CounterPunch highlights the billions of dollars of aid just poured down the drain.

"But the most extraordinary failure of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is that the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars has had so little impact on the misery in which 30 million Afghans live. Since 2001 the US alone has provided $52 billion in aid, two thirds for security and one third for economic, social and political development.

Despite this some nine million Afghans live in absolute poverty while a further five million, considered ‘not poor’, try to survive on $43 a month.“Things look alright to foreigners but in fact people are dying of starvation in Kab…

Will the real America stand up!

Credited to Nate Beeler, The Washington Examiner

A what? An election in Egypt?

Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is a journalist was most recently worked for Al Jazeera English and The New York Times.

He reports on The Huffington Post on the so-called elections in Egypt and what it all means. As you read the piece ponder why it is that American taxpayers fund the corrupt and disgraceful regime to the tune of billions of dollars.

"Dejavu. An election in the Middle East marred by voter intimidation, fraud, and a series of sobering violent incidents - except this time, this isn't an enemy state but rather the United States' closest ally in the region, Egypt.

With a 9.4 percent unemployment rate, inflation in the double digits, and a stagnant government masquerading as a democracy, the country is quietly moving towards collapse, an eventuality that would be extremely dangerous for the region and U.S. interests.

In an attempt to secure Egypt's support of U.S. policy in the region, in particular regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the U.S. sends more tha…

A truly unholy alliance

CommonDreams' Abby Zimet reflects on an alliance which is less than holy....

"As if it wasn't bad enough: a story about Israel's multiple demolitions of Al-Arakib, a Bedouin village in the Negev desert, and a project to establish a forest there by the Jewish National Fund and GOD-TV, an extremist, evangelical, dominionist, anti-Semitic, End Times-preaching, conspiracy-believing broadcasting network. Rich Jews only need apply to new housing planned there. But wait – aren't Jews barred when End Times come? More importantly, is there anything or anyone the Israeli government won't do or ally with to disposses the Palestinians of what is rightly theirs?"

To the point....Period!

Credited to Peter Broelman, New Matilda

Blatant racism

It's hard top reconcile anyone of the cloth, whatever their denomination, manifesting anything akin to religious or racial intolerance. Sad to say a significant number of rabbis in Israel have shown that they are well and truly prejudiced, as Aljazeera reports.

"Hundreds of Israeli rabbis have signed a religious edict forbidding Jews from renting or selling homes or land to Arabs and other non-Jews. The public letter instructs Jews to "ostracise" those who disobey the order, which is widely viewed as an attack on the country's Palestinian citizens.

When the decree was announced on Tuesday, it had been signed by 50 rabbis, many of who are employed by the state of Israel as municipal religious leaders. Despite sharp public criticism, another 250 rabbis have added their names to the proclamation.

It is the latest battle in the ongoing religious campaign against non-Jews.

A similar edict was issued in the city of Safed less than two months ago, when over a dozen rabb…

Cancun....and the children who will suffer if we don't arrest climate change

The Cancun Climate Change conference has ended - yet another talk-fest?- and who knows whether anything positive will have come out of it. Unlikely not!

There is another dimension, a tragic one, arising out of climate change, as Jen Phillips explains in this piece "How Children Suffer From Climate Change" on Mother Jones:

"As MoJo's Kate Sheppard discusses here, a new report by international humanitarian organization DARA finds that climate change could kill up to 5 million people in the next 10 years—and most of them are children under the age of 5 in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This predicted increase in mortality isn't due to Hollywood-style tsunamis or apocalyptic winters. Instead, the killers are much more ordinary: malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition.

Of course, one way to help the planet—and the families most impacted by the planet's health—is to bear fewer kids in the first place. As Julia Whitty wrote in "The Last Taboo," overpopu…

Without Shame

Writing on CommonDreams under the headline "Without Shame", Abby Zimet rightly highlights the disgraceful antics of the GOP.

"Not to be believed: Senate Republicans blocked a bill to provide up to $7.4 billion in health care benefits to 9/11 rescue workers who ran into burning buidlings because first they want their tax breaks for rich people. It happened the same day as a funeral for a cop who died of lung cancer from working at Ground Zero. That makes 30 deaths. These people are scum."

The world moves on from Pakistan's flood disaster

Thanks to the The Irish Times, here, we are reminded that those devastating floods in Pakistan last August are still effecting many, many people in the already blighted country.

"The world’s attention has moved on since August, when the UN calculated that the total affected by Pakistan’s floods – up to 20 million people – amounted to a number greater than the Asian tsunami, the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir and this year’s earthquake in Haiti combined. The World Bank has put the estimated cost of flood recovery at $9.7 billion (€7.3 billion). Foreign donors have so far contributed just under half of the $2 billion the UN asked for in September, the largest-ever appeal by it for a natural disaster.

In the last month, the UN and its partners have delivered food to six million people in the worst-hit regions. Emergency shelter materials have been distributed to 4.7 million people, and more than seven million have been provided with basic healthcare."

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Most Americans "Are Ignorant"

Ouch! Former Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, in an interview with Spiegel, says his fellow countrymen are ignorant. Nothing new in that but worth reflecting on as we revel in reading all those Wikileaked documents.

Information Clearing House has the interview, here. An example of the Q & A:

"SPIEGEL: As National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, you tried to prepare Americans for a more multipolar world -- one with a stronger China and a weaker US. Americans did not like that idea and Carter was voted out of office after one term.

Brzezinski: That concept is now very much a reality when you look at the rise of countries like China and India.

SPIEGEL: And the American decline. Are Americans aware of that trend or does the fate of Carter await President Barak Obama should he openly address the issue?

Brzezinski: I am very worried that most Americans are close to total ignorance about the world. They are ignorant. That is an unhealthy condition in a c…

Telling the powers that be how it really is

Jeremy Scahill is The Nation magazine's national security correspondent. He has over the years garnered a formidable first-class reputation for his writing. He today testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the US's shadow wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.

The Nation has his evidence in full, here, but one extract:

"As the war rages on in Afghanistan and--despite spin to the contrary--in Iraq as well, US Special Operations Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency are engaged in parallel, covert, shadow wars that are waged in near total darkness and largely away from effective or meaningful Congressional oversight or journalistic scrutiny. The actions and consequences of these wars is seldom discussed in public or investigated by the Congress.

The current US strategy can be summed up as follows: We are trying to kill our way to peace. And the killing fields are growing in number.

Among the sober question that must be addressed by the Congress: What impact…