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Showing posts from September, 2010

Bloggers challenged in Syria

Bloggers are invariably attempting to circumvent censorship and other restrictions where regimes impose them - often harshly. Witness the blogger just jailed in Iran. Bloggers often risk life and limb to continue blogging. And often their efforts do shed light on something a regime certainly doesn't want to see the light of day.

Step up to the plate Syria as another country cracking down on bloggers. The New York Times reports:

"Earlier this month, a graphic video of teachers beating their young students appeared on Facebook. Although Facebook is officially banned here, the video quickly went viral, with Syrian bloggers stoking public anger until the story was picked up by the pan-Arab media.
Related

In a Computer Worm, a Possible Biblical Clue (September 30, 2010)
Finally, the Education Ministry issued a statement saying the teachers had been reassigned to desk jobs. The episode was a rare example of the way Syrians using Facebook and blogs can win a tenuous measure of f…

You gotta be kidding! Celebrating Kissinger?

Christopher Hitchens in his book "The Trial of Henry Kissinger" more than skillfully shredded the credibility of Henry Kissinger, one-time Secretary of State in the Nixon Administration. Hitchens proved, based on documents, that Kissinger could be held accountable for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Indo-China and Chile alone. It is no wonder that Kissinger has been loathe to travel outside the US lest he be arrested as a war criminal.

It therefore comes as a surprise that Hilary Clinton is now going to celebrate Kissinger - as truthdig reports:

"Nothing more symbolizes how the temptations of power can corrupt youthful values and idealism than Secretary Hillary Clinton's invitation to Henry Kissinger and Richard Holbrooke to keynote a major State Department conference on the history of the Indochina war. As an idealistic college student, Clinton protested Kissinger's mass murder of civilians in Indochina. She knows full well that had the int…

All Israelis, except its Arab population, are winners

Jonathan Cook, writing on CounterPunch, makes a more than valid point about the vested interest all Israelis, not only those now trespassing on West Bank land, have in continuing the occupation. It's clearly a win-win situation for all parts of Israeli society - except the 20% who make up the Israeli Arab population / citizens.

"Even if Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, signed away the rights of the refugees, he would have no power to do the same for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, the so-called Israeli Arabs. Peace, as many Israelis understand, would open a Pandora’s box of historic land claims from Palestinian citizens at the expense of Israel’s Jewish citizens.

But the threat to the economic privileges of Israeli Jews would not end with a reckoning over the injustices caused by the state’s creation. The occupation of the Palestinian territories after 1967 spawned many other powerful economic interests opposed to peace.

The most visible constituency are the settlers…

Principles...and principled

The dangers of lurching to the right or intolerance and prejudice taking a hold are all too common.

CommonDreamshighlights one man's principled stand - and a lesson for everyone as anti-Muslim paranoia runs out of control.

"California now has a day honoring Fred Korematsu, who at 23 challenged the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans all the way to the Supreme Court - though he had to wait 40 more years for a reversal of his conviction. A lifelong activist, Korematsu also fought the post-9/11 indefinite detention of "enemy combatants" in Rumsfeld v. Padilla. He won a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, has had several schools named after him including the Fred Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education, and is the subject of a documentary film. More on his life and importance here.

"As historical precedent, (Korematsu's conviction) it stands as a constant caution that in times of war or declared military necessity our institutions must be …

A severe strike [and travesty of justice] against a brave blogger

Many probably haven't even been aware of the plight of an Canadian-Iranian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan. A brave man who has now been convicted to a 19 year sentence - as gulfnews.com reports (including a report from AP):

"Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan was convicted on charges of cooperation with hostile countries, spreading propaganda against the ruling establishment, promotion of counterrevolutionary groups and insulting Islamic thoughts and religious figures."

AP:

"Tehran: An Iranian news website says a court has sentenced a well-known Canadian-Iranian blogger to more than 19 years in prison.

The conservative website, Mashreghnews.ir, which is close to Iran's presidential office, says Hossein Derakhshan was convicted on charges of cooperation with hostile countries, spreading propaganda against the ruling establishment, promotion of counterrevolutionary groups and insulting Islamic thoughts and religious figures.

The report says Derakhshan can app…

Cyber-virus: A new way of declaring "war" on Iran?

Viruses [aka malware] are something all computer-users are used to. They can mostly be dealt with.

But a virus, Stuxnet, doing the rounds around the world has thrown up an intriguing question. Has there been a specific target? - a state-sponsored attack directed to the Iranian nuclear facility - as The Independent reports in "Has the West declared cyber war on Iran?":

"The worm, designed to spy on and subsequently reprogramme industrial systems running a specific piece of industrial control software produced by German company Siemens, has now been detected on computers in Indonesia, India and Pakistan, but more significantly Iran; 60 per cent of current infections have taken place within the country, with some 30,000 internet-connected computers affected so far, including machines at the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, due to open in the next few weeks.

Yesterday Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran's Information Technology Company, warned that nearly four months aft…

Big Brother surfing your internet connection

Photo credited to Reuters

The creep of government into everyone's daily use of the internet continues. The pretext is always said to be the threat from terrorism and crime. It's a dubious and questionable argument, all things considered. Then again, there is the ever usual tussle of freedom as against the wider issue of security for a community.One can be confident in saying that if the US adopts what is reported below that other countries will follow.

CommonDreams [republishing an Associated Press article] reports on the latest threat to snooping into our use of the internet and communication in general:

"Broad new regulations being drafted by the Obama administration would make it easier for law enforcement and national security officials to eavesdrop on Internet and e-mail communications like social networking Web sites and BlackBerries, The New York Times reported Monday.

Broad new regulations being drafted by the Obama administration would make it easier for law…

Still there. Guantanamo revisited

Gitmo, that blot on America, continues - seemingly, without end, notwithstanding Obama having promised closing the facility down within 12 months when he took office.

The New York Review of Books has a review of a 2 books on Guantanamo, one entitled "The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law".

"President Bush himself ultimately recognized that the image of Guantánamo was disastrous for American foreign policy, and admitted that he would have liked to close the prison there. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the only Cabinet official to serve in both the Bush and Obama administrations, agrees. President Obama, on his second day in office, vowed to close the prison within one year. Yet more than a year and a half later, Guantánamo remains open, with no end in sight. One hundred seventy-six men remain imprisoned there, without trial and in most cases without criminal charges. Many if not most have been the victims of torture and cruel and degrading treatment at…

Hamas and Fatah reconciliation? Possible? Essential?

With Israel, fairly predictably, having lifted the so-called freeze of construction of settlements in the West Bank - which it didn't really anyway - where the so-called Peace Talks will go is any one's guess. The omens aren't good. There is certainly a lot of double-speak, particularly coming from the Israel government.

Max Strasser, writing on FP's blog raises a critical question - the possible reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah:

"Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based leader of Hamas, said today that the best response to the end of Israel's 10-month "settlement freeze" would be a reconciliation with rival Palestinian faction Hamas.

DPA reports:

Meshaal argued that internal reconciliation would make the Palestinians more powerful in negotiations, calling it a national necessity and the best way to react to the 'Zionist intransigence.'

Meshaal does have a point. A leadership that represents only half of the Palestinian people, and basically acts…

Obama's secret assassination program

One can't help but agree with lawyer and blogger on Salon, Glenn Greenwald, that the Obama Administration has reached a nadir when it invokes "state secrets" in resisting a law suit in which ex-judicial assassination by the CIA is being challenged:

"At this point, I didn't believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record. In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki's father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims. That's not surprising: both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality. But what's most notable here is that one of t…

Delhi, September 2010

Credited to Cameron [Cam] Cardow, Canada

UN: Food crisis upon us

As if the world hasn't enough issues to contend with, the UN has just issued a warning that the globe is facing a food-crisis. Imagine if that is the situation in so-called wealthy countries, how the people of poor nations will fare.

The Guardianreports:

"The world may be on the brink of a major new food crisis caused by environmental disasters and rampant market speculators, the UN was warned today at an emergency meeting on food price inflation.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) meeting in Rome today was called last month after a heatwave and wildfires in Russia led to a draconian wheat export ban and food riots broke out in Mozambique, killing 13 people. But UN experts heard that pension and hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds and large banks who speculate on commodity markets may also be responsible for inflation in food prices being seen across all continents.

In a new paper released this week, Olivier De Schutter, the UN's special rapporteur on foo…

Talk v reality

Obama has been a considerable disappointment as he, and his Administration, continue many of the Bush Administration worst policies, especially with regard to human rights. In some instances, Obama has even been worse. Go here to see the ACLU's assessment.

And then there is this in relation to Bagram as reported the other day by AlJazeera.

So, is this Obama double-speak when he addressed the UN? - as The Washington Post reports:

"In his own address to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, Obama outlined a leading role for the United States in promoting human rights and democracy around the world, laying out a new foreign policy initiative that his advisers said will guide his diplomacy in the years ahead.

Making his second annual speech before the world body, Obama spoke more directly than he has previously about the importance of human rights and democracy in ensuring a stable world economy and global security. His words evoked those of his predecessor, George W. Bush, whose…

Volcker: Taking no prisoners

Paul Volcker is not only well-respected but almost a financial guru-legend in his own lifetime in the USA. So, to ignore his blistering attack on the entire financial system in America ought not be ignored - especially as the rest of the world is so much dependent on the financial well-being of the USA.

The Wall Street Journal Reports:

"Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker scrapped a prepared speech he had planned to deliver at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on Thursday, and instead delivered a blistering, off-the-cuff critique leveled at nearly every corner of the financial system.

Standing at a lectern with his hands in his pockets, Volcker moved unsparingly from banks to regulators to business schools to the Fed to money-market funds during his luncheon speech.

He praised the new financial overhaul law, but said the system remained at risk because it is subject to future “judgments” of individual regulators, who he said would be relentlessly lobbied by banks and po…

A global perspective of Israel’s Conscience

From FP:

"The Israeli writer David Grossman's new novel To the End of the Land, which was published in the United States this week, has generated the kind of buzz that publicists dream about. Paul Auster likened Grossman to Flaubert and Tolstoy and declared the book a work of "overwhelming power and intensity." Novelist Nicole Krauss was even more emphatic. In a long blurb, she gushed, "Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same.... To the End of the Land is a book of this magnitude."

It's easy to snicker at the breathlessness of such praise (and many did), but it testifies to the reverence with which Grossman is regarded in liberal circles in America and Europe. Though much of his recent fiction (most of which has been translated from Hebrew into English and published widely abroad) deals with quotidian topics like marriage and adultery, drugs, love, and life as a teenager, Grossman i…

Killing off nature

Talk about Rome burning while Nero fiddles!

The world is letting nature wither........and the UN has called on countries to do something to stop the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems.

BBC News reports:

"But the main message - from the UN and activists alike - is that governments must urgently increase efforts to protect biodiversity and ecosystems.

"Biological diversity underpins ecosystem functioning and the provision of ecosystem services essential for human well-being," says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a document setting out the reasons why he called for the day's discussions.

"Its continued loss, therefore, has major implications for current and future human well-being... The maintenance and restoration of natural infrastructure can provide economic gains worth trillions of dollars a year."

The argument is that nature provides "ecosystem services" that humanity uses - such as pollination of agricultural crops by insects. If this is lost, …

Saying it like it is....and should be

Elizabeth Gilbert's well-selling book, Eat, Pray, Love is now a movie - and destined to set off a stampede of travellers to Italy, India and Bali. With Julia Roberts the star of the movie it will guarantee the success its success at the box office notwithstanding some mediocre already in.

One eatery in Ubud, Bali has already put its stamp on what the real situation is for visitors to that establishment - Eat, Pay, Leave.

It all depends who says and does it

At The Daily Dish Andrew Sullivan in a piece "The NYT And Torture: The Double Standard Deepens" picks up on how The New York Times has written about Eileen Nearne in an obit - as compared to how the Times usually writes about what can only be described as torture.

"John F Burns pens a wonderful obit today on the remarkable British spy in France, Eileen Nearne, in 1944 who was tortured by the Nazis. Somehow, Bill Keller let the following paragraph slip through the copy-edit cracks:

As she related in postwar debriefings, documented in Britain’s National Archives, the Gestapo tortured her — beating her, stripping her naked, then submerging her repeatedly in a bath of ice-cold water until she began to black out from lack of oxygen.

"Tortured"? Doesn't that break the NYT rule that such techniques are only referred to as "harsh interrogation techniques"? Has the policy changed? Or are we seeing an explicit decision by its editors to use different terms fo…

Assassins? - or terrorists?

It's all a matter of definition - and who is attaching the label. The revelation that the CIA has had some 3000 assassins out there in the field raises the question. Legitimate action or nothing more than terrorist behaviour?

The Independent reports on what is revealed in Bob Woodward book Obama's Wars:

"The US Central Intelligence Agency is running and paying for a secret 3,000-strong army of Afghan paramilitaries whose main aim is assassinating Taliban and al-Qa'ida operatives not just in Afghanistan but across the border in neighbouring Pakistan's tribal areas, according to Bob Woodward's explosive book.

Although the CIA has long been known to run clandestine militias in Afghanistan, including one from a base it rents from the Afghan president Hamid Karzai's half-brother in the southern province of Kandahar, the sheer number of militiamen directly under its control have never been publicly revealed.

Woodward's book, Obama's Wars, describes thes…

Those settlements: Seeing as it is on the ground

We always read about the Israeli settlements in the West Bank - in reality not a rag-tag of homes or caravans - but Peace Now, an Israeli peace group, decided to go up in a plane and take photographs of how those settlements actually look like on the ground.

The New York Times reports:

"Local leaders often take visitors to Jewish settlements occupying the high ground of the northern West Bank to lookout points from where, on a clear day, they can see the glass towers of Tel Aviv, the shimmering waters of the Mediterranean and the contours of Israel’s heavily populated coastal plain.

The aim is to underline the strategic dangers that the leaders say would be inherent in any Israeli withdrawal from the area to make way for a Palestinian state.

In an effort to illustrate the other side of the argument, Peace Now, the leftist Israeli group that advocates a two-state solution and monitors settlement activity, took a planeload of Israeli members of Parliament, reporters and photographers o…

New Woodward book reveals Obama's battles

Bob Woodward, of All the President's Men fame, the book which helped bring down Richard Nixon as part of Nixon's Watergate criminal activity, has a new book, Obama's Wars, to be released in the next days, this time dealing with Obama.

The New York Times has seen a preview copy of the upcoming book and provides this revealing statement:

"Beyond the internal battles, the book offers fresh disclosures on the nation’s continuing battle with terrorists. It reports that the C.I.A. has a 3,000-man “covert army” in Afghanistan called the Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, or C.T.P.T., mostly Afghans who capture and kill Taliban fighters and seek support in tribal areas. Past news accounts have reported that the C.I.A. has a number of militias, including one trained on one of its compounds, but not the size of the covert army."

Ignorance isn't bliss - or misguided comfort or satisfaction

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history.

Writing on Information Clearing House, he follows on in an analysis of the first paragraph of his piece "The “Right Thing” in Iraq? A Depressing Statistic":

"Fox News recently reported that 58% of U.S. residents believe that the U.S. “did the right thing” in going to war in Iraq. This reflects the fact that most have been persuaded that combat is over, the troops having succeeding in toppling a dictator and establishing a democracy.

I don’t know how accurate the statistic is, but my gut feeling is that it’s probably pretty accurate. And profoundly depressing. Have people forgotten that this war was fought, not for such reasons, but to destroy Saddam Hussein’s (alleged) weapons of mass destruction and end his (supposed) cooperation with al-Qaeda?"

The US in a state of decline?

TomDispatchdiscusses a survey undertaken by NBC News/Wall Street Journal - including the question whether the US is in decline. Take a step back! ......a staggering 65% answered in the affirmative.

"Compare two assessments of the American future:

In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in which 61% of Americans interviewed considered “things in the nation” to be “on the wrong track,” 66% did “not feel confident that life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us.” (Seven percent were “not sure,” and only 27% “felt confident.”) But here was the polling question you’re least likely to see discussed in your local newspaper or by Washington-based pundits: “Do you think America is in a state of decline, or do you feel that this is not the case?” Sixty-five percent of respondents chose as their answer: “in a state of decline.”

Meanwhile, Afghan war commander General David Petraeus was interviewed last week by Martha Raddatz of ABC News. Asked w…

Not too many cigars around there

Credited to Nate Beeler, The Washington Examiner

Climate change: Spiking the sceptics

Anthony Giddens is former director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, a fellow of King's College, Cambridge and the author of The Politics of Climate Change. Martin Rees is president of the Royal Society, London. He was this year's BBC Reith lecturer.

Writing in an op-ed piece "Torpor on emissions must end" in The Age, they say:

"It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the core scientific findings about human-induced climate change and the dangers it poses for our collective future remain intact. The most important relevant fact is based on uncontroversial measurements: the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is higher than it has been for at least the last half-million years. It has risen by 30 per cent since the start of the industrial era, mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels. If the world continues to depend on fossil fuels to the extent it does today, carbon dioxide will reach double pre-industrial levels within the…

The scourge and dangers of outsourcing

The shadowy world of government-outsourced companies is again highlighted in Australia with the suicide, yesterday, of a detainee in a Detention Centre operated by a private company Serco. Accountability by governments - or corporations for that mater - for these outsourced companies is rare. To make matters worse whilst little is known about the companies to whom a variety of work, including quasi-military, is outsourced, their activities are wide-spread.

It's a subject taken up by Jeremy Scahill in a piece in The Nation, when looking at the infamous and ubiquitous private security company, Blackwater:

"Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to do…

Those Middle East talks: What Israel is really after

The Israeli PM may be mouthing all sort of positive-sounding platitudes about what he is looking for in the current so-called peace talks presently underway with the Palestinians, but as AlJazeera reports, the Israeli Foreign Minister has clearly spelt out certainly where he is at:

"Israel's foreign minister has said that a future peace deal with the Palestinians should centre around redrawing his country's borders, proposing to exclude some of the country's 1.3 million Arab citizens.

Avigdor Lieberman told reporters on Sunday that Israel's future borders should incorporate Jewish settlements, while placing Arab villages in Israel on the Palestinian side.

"Our guiding principle in negotiations with the Palestinians must not be 'land for peace' but an exchange of territories and populations," he said."

Time to "pull the plug"......

Who hasn't felt bedevilled by the onslaught of emails and being contactable 24/7 - or been irritated by being with others who simply can't, or won't, concentrate on the conversation at hand without constantly looking at their mobile, Blackberry or iPhone. This piece in the Sydney Morning Herald shows how things have got totally out of hand.

"At a recent business dinner, half the table checked emails or phone text messages during a lull in the event. At a meeting the next day, some attendees couldn’t go an hour without checking their phone. How pathetic to have a phone on silent, sitting on your lap, under the table.

I shouldn’t be surprised: a recent US survey found a quarter of all internet users think its okay to be online during sex. Slightly more said it’s okay to be “plugged in” during their honeymoon, and 8 per cent think it’s alright to surf the web during religious services.

Someone should set up Cyberholics Anonymous: “My name is John. I’m 45 years old, sleep …

No.... Iran is not a nuclear threat

The Christian Science Monitor could not be accused of being other than a very conservative newspaper.

So, it's somewhat surprising to see this op-ed piece by Scott Horton [lawyer - and who also writes for Harper's Magazine] which proclaims that Iran does not pose the nuclear threat now made out so often.

"Politicians, lobbyists, and propagandists have spent nearly two decades pushing the lie that Iran poses a nuclear weapons threat to the United States and Israel. After a brief respite in the intensity of the wolf cries over the past two years, the neoconservative movement has decided to relaunch the “Must Bomb Iran” brand.

In mid-August, for example, after The New York Times quite uncharacteristically ran a piece diminishing the supposed danger of Iranian nukes, the story was misrepresented in newspapers and on TV stations across the country in the most frightening terms. As MSNBC’s news reader put it that afternoon: “Intelligence sources say Iran is only one year away from…

Eh? It's the rich who are angry?

Hard to believe, but Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner for Economics, writing his regular op-ed column for The New York Times, reveals that it's the rich who are angry because they see the tax benefits the Bush Administration put in place - and which so much favoured the wealthy - disappear.

"Anger is sweeping America. True, this white-hot rage is a minority phenomenon, not something that characterizes most of our fellow citizens. But the angry minority is angry indeed, consisting of people who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away. And they’re out for revenge.

No, I’m not talking about the Tea Partiers. I’m talking about the rich.

These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can’t find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they’ll never work again.

Yet if you want to find real political rage — the kind of rage that ma…

Remember the Millenium Conference? How are those goals faring?

It seems a while ago - at the turn of this century actually - when many nations met and committed themselves to some goals on a broad range of topics. Laudable goals of tackling poverty, disease, ignorance and inequality.

So, now the UN is convening another meeting this month to evaluate how the goals are being achieved. Sadly, it's not a very encouraging score-card, as AP reports:

"But recent reports show that the world's poorest countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have made little headway in eradicating poverty. Africa, Asia and Latin America have seen a lack of progress in reducing mother and child deaths, boosting access to basic sanitation, and promoting women's equality.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty said some goals will likely be met, but the poorest are going to be left out, partly because so many governments are not accountable to their people."

And, no less importantly, this is the status of some of the goals:
Overall the…

Is there anyone out there who hasn't got this message?

Credited to Ted Goff

An apology well made

"Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.

That’s reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I’m going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs."

So begins an op-ed piece by regular columnist in The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof. He makes more than valid points about totally misguided demonising of Muslims which is so rampant in the US at the moment - and elsewhere too. As Kristof writes:

"In my travels, I’ve seen some of the worst of Islam: theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school i…

Social Networking. Killing off social interaction?

There is no escaping the internet - at work and certainly in the realm of social networking. The uptake of Facebook and Twitter, amongst others, to "keep in touch" has been phenomenal, especially amongst young people.

But what is all of this doing to what might be described to true social discourse and interaction? It's a subject taken by Melinda Blau in a piece in Psychotherapy Networker [reproduced on AlterNet]:

"In 2000, a mere 46 percent of Americans were online (mostly by dial-up), compared with 80 percent today (mostly by broadband). No one connected wirelessly back then. Today 6 in 10 of us do, a 55 percent increase since 2009. Back then, only half of us had mobile phones; now 85 percent do. Social media sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn, didn't exist a decade ago. No one walked around with netbooks, Kindles, Blackberrys, or iPhones; no one Skyped or Tweeted or used Foursquare to let their networks know where they were. Indeed, the conver…

Connecting the [internet] dots

The iPad seems to have started a revolution. If the stats in this piece from Salon are even half right, then the way we all communicate is going to radically change very soon.

"The market research firm iSuppli reports that "the number of worldwide subscriptions for wireless services is expected to reach 5 billion this month." That's equal to 73.4 percent of the world's population.

Best Buy's CEO told the Wall Street Journal that "internal estimates showed that the iPad had cannibalized sales from laptop PCs by as much as 50 percent."

Apple finally started officially selling the iPad in China, the world's hottest and biggest market for wireless devices. Press reports indicate that the launch is a huge success. Apple may end up selling as many as 12 million iPads in 2010.

After reviewing the data, one can only conclude that by the end of the decade, every human being on the planet will own a tablet computer. OK, maybe not everyone. But even making…

It's not all that difficult to apologise and show contrition

Perhaps something of a paradox that as the Pope visits Great Britain - with all the itself historic issues that throws up - on this Day of Atonement, for Jews, the question of how the Catholic Church has dealt with the widespread molestation of minors, male and female, is front and centre of discussion. Where is the absolute contrition? Why is the Pope so concerned about the pain he and the Church have suffered? But, what about the victims?

Roger Cohen, writing for the IHT [also published by The New York Times] and born in the United Kingdom, takes up the subject of the Pope's visit to Great Britain and atonement - or the lack of it......

"And yet, this man who found himself in the Hitler Youth in his teens, as required then of young Germans, and whose own conduct in handling an abuse case while archbishop of Munich and Freising has raised questions about his forthrightness — this churchman with such ample opportunity to see the darker sides of man’s soul has proved arid…

Atonement....from a different perspective

Jews the world over today celebrate Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. Nothing all that special about that, except that Ira Chernus,writing a piece "This Yom Kippur, We Must Atone for the Sins of Israeli Policy" on AlterNet suggests that Jews ought to incorporate atoning for the sins which the Israelis have meted out to the Palestinians.

"Until a very few years ago, though, Israel’s policies triggered virtually no guilt in synagogues across the U.S. It was all too easy to assume that communal solidarity and mutual responsibility meant supporting the Israeli government, no matter what it did, and standing firm against any Palestinian demands for self-determination. Now the climate of American Jewish opinion is rapidly changing, complicating that crucial question: “What sins? Precisely what should we, as a community, feel guilty and atone for?”"

And:

"And the holy day this year finds a surprisingly wide variety of opinions is in the air. More and more U.S. Jews …

Intolerance at its worst

Not only has France now outlawed the burqa but relentlessly literally driven out and expelled some of its Romas back to Roumania.

The EU has roundly condemned Frances' actions. Rightly so.

In FP David Rothkopf comments in "France's real threat from within":

"By a vote of 246 to 1 the French Senate voted Tuesday to excise the word's liberté, égalité, and fraternité from the country's soul. With the vote to ban the wearing of burqas in public, France took a step back into the Dark Ages. Furthermore, the country revealed a deep seated insecurity about the strength of its culture… while at the same time weakening that culture by reinforcing intolerance.

It is estimated that fewer than 2,000 Muslim women in France would be affected by this law. This only underscores the degree of fear driving French lawmakers. Do they really believe these 1,900 or so women can actually undermine thousands of years of national culture or threaten France's national identit…

Census: More Americans poor than ever

Let it not be said that America isn't a land of extremes. Untold riches in the hands of a relatively few. Profligate spending by the rich. Just think of the recent wedding of Chelsea Clinton.

But, as this piece on McClatchy reveals, the number of poor in America is growing:

"The withering recession pushed the number of Americans who are living in poverty to a 51-year high in 2009 and left a record 50.7 million people without health insurance last year, the Census Bureau announced Thursday.

The 43.6 million Americans who were poor in 2009 — up from 39.8 million the year before — was the most since poverty estimates were first published in 1959. The national poverty rate of 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008, was the highest since 1994."

Bad Wars Aren't Possible Unless Good People Back Them

Gad-fly Mike Moore at Michael Moore.com takes an axe to the American liberal press for its blind and un-swerving and uncritical support for the Bush Administration mounting the Iraq War:

"We invaded Iraq because most Americans -- including good liberals like Al Franken, Nicholas Kristof & Bill Keller of the New York Times, David Remnick of the New Yorker, the editors of the Atlantic and the New Republic, Harvey Weinstein, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and John Kerry -- wanted to.

Of course the actual blame for the war goes to Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz because they ordered the "precision" bombing, the invasion, the occupation, and the theft of our national treasury. I have no doubt that history will record that they committed the undisputed Crime of the (young) Century.

But how did they get away with it, considering they'd lost the presidential election by 543,895 votes? They also knew that the majority of the country probably wouldn't back them in such a …

The [forgotten?] 176 men still at Gitmo

The media has passed on from "covering" Gitmo. Whatever the reason, there are still 176 men detained there - most of them for many years already and seemingly no prospect of being released anytime soon either.

Andy Worthington has for years been involved with the prisoners at Gitmo and written about the prison and the people in it: see previous posts on this blog.

Worthington is now planning on 8 detailed pieces focusing on the remaining prisoners, as he explains here on his blog:

"Over the next month, in an attempt to focus attention more closely on Guantánamo, and on the remaining prisoners who are held there, I’ll be publishing an eight-part series of articles (in conjunction with Cageprisoners, for whom I work as a Senior Researcher), telling, for the first time, the stories of the 176 men who are still held.

The series begins with the stories of 20 men described by the US authorities as part of the “Dirty Thirty,” seized crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in Dece…

Where did she come from?

Has the US spawned Palin Mark II?

The latest GOP candidate - from the Tea Party - seems even more incredible than Sarah Palin. If that is possible!

Professor of Literature at University of America in Washington DC, Charles Larson, writing on CounterPunch provides a pen-portrait of the newest candidate on the American scene, Christine O'Donnell:

"Where do Conservatives find these candidates? That is the troubling question that we wake up to the morning after the final state primaries. Christine O’Donnell—newly anointed as the GOP candidate for the senate in Delaware this fall—actually makes Sarah Palin look like a genius. True, she did have the support of the sometime Governor of Alaska, but you have to ask yourself why. Was this blessing simply because Palin realized that O’Donnell would make her look smart for a change?

O’Donnell, who may be the weirdest (read the most naive) person ever to be listed on a ballot for such high office, is, apparently, exactly what the Tea Par…

Afghanistan: An election farce

Jason Thomas was regional manager for the Central Asia Development Group, implementing a USAID program in south-east Afghanistan.

With so-called elections coming up in Afghanistan this weekend, Thomas, writing an op-ed piece published in The Age, describes them as a farce - given the corruption of President Karzai, his cronies and the Afghan regime.

"The Afghan parliamentary elections this weekend should be a proud moment for the troubled nation. Yet democracy in Afghanistan is wasted because of President Hamid Karzai's refusal to tackle corruption. The fact is, the Taliban are out-governing the Karzai government, whose warlord and elite cronies continue to run their own corrupt fiefdoms in the provinces."

***
"United States and Australian troops are not only fighting the Taliban, but also combating rampant corruption, thuggish Afghan National Police and a population that welcomes foreigners with open arms for as long as it is of value to them."

Questioning how healthy or beneficial the food we eat is

Perhaps it won't come as a surprise to some, but most people will be appalled to learn that the food we eat may not, despite what is touted for it, be all that good or healthy for us.

CommonDreams[republishing a Reuters piece] reports on a the sway and influence the food industry in the US has over the Food & Drug Administration - and the direct effect for we, the consumers.

"The food industry is jeopardizing U.S. public health by withholding information from food safety investigators or pressuring regulators to withdraw or alter policy designed to protect consumers, said a survey of government scientists and inspectors.

A study released on Monday by the Union of Concerned Scientists found one-in-four of those surveyed have seen corporate interests forcing their agency to withdraw or modify a policy or action designed to protect consumers during the past year.

Pressure to overhaul the food safety system has grown following several high-profile outbreaks involving lettuce, pep…

Iraq: The Legacy of those "Days of Awe"

With much fanfare the USA withdrew its combat troops from Iraq at the end of last month.

Never mind that the place is still totally dysfunctional, has had no Government for some 6 months, bombings continue in Baghdad and elsewhere and the American presence in the country remains substantial.

But there is more than that - as Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, writes in a piece "Iraq's Ignored Victims" in the New York Review of Books:

"President Obama announced on August 31 that the main force of US troops has left Iraq, leaving about 50,000 Americans to help maintain the peace and support the Iraqi army and police. This was good news for American servicemen, their families, and the nation. But this departure should not be accompanied by a withdrawal of our support for the Iraqi people, particularly the millions of Iraqis who have fled their homes and who continue to live in limbo both inside Iraq and in other countries. During a recen…