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Iraq: Security situation now worse than 12 months ago

So much for the much touted "success" of the war in Iraq! - and the withdrawal of allied troops from the country A report just out says that the security situation in the war-ravaged country is worse than 12 months ago.

"Iraq is a less safe place than it was one year ago as security deteriorates, an American watchdog warned on Saturday, just months ahead of a US withdrawal from the country.

The assessment by Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, contrasts markedly from the more optimistic view often voiced by senior US army officers who argue Iraqis can maintain internal security.

Bowen said efforts by the US embassy to train Iraq's fledgling police force would be "challenging."

While the military has been in charge of developing Iraq's policemen, that responsibility is being transferred to the US State Department.

"Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work," Bowen said in the report published on Satu…

Extreme language leads to extreme action

Radio identity, columnist and commentator Mike Carlton, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, makes more than valid points how hate mongers create a hostile environment leads to extreme actions such as those in Oslo last week.

"The gunfire in Norway had barely died away before the usual right-wing media pontiffs were rushing to shout that your Islamic terrorists were up to their evil worst again.

When it became quickly apparent that Anders Behring Breivik was a blue-eyed Norseman and, indeed, a professed Christian, the story changed. The killer was now a lone madman. Shocking business, of course, but perhaps understandable. Glenn Beck, the large lump of talking whale blubber who broadcasts on Rupert Murdoch's American Fox News channel, explained to his audience that the gathering on Utoya Island sounded "a little like the Hitler Youth".

"Who does a camp for kids that's all about politics? Disturbing," he babbled.

That apart, there was consensus among the r…

Obama Administration's "unconscionable" conduct

Not only has Obama to contend with the current debt crisis plus issues such as Afghanistan and Iraq , etc. etc. but the conduct of his Administration in relation to whistleblowers was dealt harsh criticism - "unconscionable" was the word used - by a judge. So much for another of Obama's pledges pre his election of dealing fairly with whilstleblowers. And this from a lawyer and one-time law lecturer!

"The Obama administration's unprecedented war on whistleblowers suffered two serious and well-deserved defeats. The first occurred in the prosecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who was accused of multiple acts of espionage, only for the DOJ to drop virtually all of the charges right before the trial was to begin and enter into a plea agreement for one minor misdemeanor. Today, The Washington Post -- under the headline "Judge blasts prosecution of alleged NSA leaker" -- reports that the federal judge presiding over the case "harshly criti…

Our oceans are in dire straights......and so are all of us

A sobering report on the state of our oceans should give us all pause for thought.

"The world's oceans are faced with an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory, a major report suggests today. The seas are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted, the report says, because of the cumulative impact of a number of severe individual stresses, ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification, to widespread chemical pollution and gross overfishing.

The coming together of these factors is now threatening the marine environment with a catastrophe "unprecedented in human history", according to the report, from a panel of leading marine scientists brought together in Oxford earlier this year by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The stark suggestion made by the panel is that the potential extinction of species, from large fish…

Washington at work!

Credited to Mr. Fish, Harper's Magazine

French threat to securalism

The tragedy in Oslo has ignited discussion about securalism, anti-Muslim attitudes and multiculturism across Europe. France 24 reports on a development in France which raises the critical issue of securalism in that country:

"On Tuesday, France's highest administrative court handed down a final ruling on five cases involving the public use of funds for religious purposes. Religious scholars say the place of Islam in French society is at stake.

In June 2007 an administrative court in western France blocked 380,000 euros the city of Le Mans wanted to use to set up a Halal slaughterhouse. The court ruled that the space was meant for religious practices and, according to France’s 1905 law on the separation of church and state, it could not be built with taxpayer money. Outraged, the city of Le Mans appealed the ruling to France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, arguing that the slaughterhouse served local obligations to ensure public health and hygiene.

On Tu…

No beacon to the world here

Watching the shenanigans and goings-on in Washington from afar leaves one with one conclusion only. Forget about the politics of it all - which one can't! - but all of the politicians fit well into the category of dumb and dumber.

Stephen Walt, writing in "A self-inflicted wound: The budget battle and America's reputation" on his blog on FP, reflects on the situation....

"Remember the 1990s? Back in those days, the U.S. was recognized as the world's sole superpower. Our economy was booming, we ended the decade with a budget surplus, and there was a widespread sense around the world that the United States really had its act together. True, we had some pretty bitter partisan politics, misguided polices like "dual containment" were helping pave the way for 9/11, and corrupt financiers were busy sowing the seeds for the 2007 meltdown, but most of the world had the impression -- rightly or wrongly -- that the United States knew what it was doing. Peopl…

Anti-Muslim feelings evident on both sides of the Atlantic

"Breivik is no loner. His violence was brewed in a specific European environment that shares characteristics with the specific American environment of Loughner: relative economic decline, a jobless recovery, middle-class anxiety and high levels of immigration serving as the backdrop for racist Islamophobia and use of the spurious specter of a “Muslim takeover” as a wedge political issue to channel frustrations rightward."

****

"Breivik has many ideological fellow travelers on both sides of the Atlantic. Theirs is the poison in which he refined his murderous resentment. The enablers include Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, who compared the Koran to “Mein Kampf” on his way to 15.5 percent of the vote in the 2010 election; the surging Marine Le Pen in France, who uses Nazi analogies as she pours scorn on devout Muslims; far-rightist parties in Sweden and Denmark and Britain equating every problem with Muslim immigration; Republicans like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich a…

Up close and cuddly with Rupert and his minions

As yet another scandal erupts involving the now defunct News of the World (see here), The Independent reveals how close and cuddly British cabinet ministers were with those in the Murdoch camp. Too close and the information shared / provided hardly the sort of thing politicians ought to be sharing with anyone, let alone the likes of the Murdoch press.

"The extraordinary access that Cabinet ministers granted Rupert Murdoch and his children was revealed for the first time yesterday, with more than two dozen private meetings between the family and senior members of the Government in the 15 months since David Cameron entered Downing Street.

In total, Cabinet ministers have had private meetings with Murdoch executives more than 60 times and, if social events such as receptions at party conferences are included, the figure is at least 107.

On two occasions, James Murdoch and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were given confidential defence briefings on Afghanist…

An appropriate sagely dictum

Credited to Cameron (Cam) Cardow, Canada

A visit to the beach is criminal?

The state of play in Israel's occupation of the West Bank is demonstrated in this piece "Where Politics Are Complex, Simple Joys at the Beach" in The New York Times. The piece only serves to highlight, not for the first time, how outrageous the occupation continues to be apart from a flagrant breach of international law.

"Skittish at first, then wide-eyed with delight, the women and girls entered the sea, smiling, splashing and then joining hands, getting knocked over by the waves, throwing back their heads and ultimately laughing with joy.

Most have never seen the sea before.

The women were Palestinians from the southern part of the West Bank, which is landlocked, and Israel does not allow them in. They risked criminal prosecution, along with the dozen Israeli women who took them to the beach. And that, in fact, was part of the point: to protest what they and their hosts consider unjust laws.

In the grinding rut of Israeli-Palestinian relations — no negotiations…

Blair: From chameleon to misguided ex-pollie on a gravy train

Tony Blair never had much to offer - certainly not insight into anything let alone a capacity to understand what is going on in the world. And, of course, there has been Blair's gravy train since leaving office as the British PM.

Blair has just landed in Australia to speak there:

"It is against this backdrop that former British prime minister Tony Blair is this week visiting these shores, and for $1000 a ticket (recently slashed to $495 in Brisbane and Perth) you can receive his lessons in leadership and "values-based" foreign policy."

There is only one problem. Any analysis of Blair shows him up as the chameleon who always was and with nothing to really offer by way of an appraisal of anything. An op-ed piece "Blair's credibility crushed by the wheels of his gravy train" in The Age provides a background.

Poll shows troubles brewing in Egypt

Things are not looking too good in Egypt as elections loom there. The ramifications of what is happening and looming could have profound effects on the region and Egypt's alliances with the West.

"With two months remaining until early parliamentary elections, a new Newsweek/Daily Beast poll shows clearly and unambiguously that the political climate in Egypt is moving in a new direction that is inimical to American and allied interests—notwithstanding the billions of dollars in aid that the United States continues to provide.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamist group, is poised to win the largest share of the vote in parliamentary elections; the man who appears to have a clear shot at the presidency, Amr Moussa, has made his name criticizing Israel; and a large majority of respondents favor amending or revoking the cornerstone of regional stability, the Camp David Accords."

12 ways in which Rupert Murdoch has had a detrimental effect on the media

If the Murdochs thought their appearance before a UK Parliamentary Committe last week would see the turmoil surrounding the Murdoch media empire behind them, they have been mistaken. Apart from the whole affair being an ongoing, unfolding "story", the analysis of News Limited and others in the Murdoch stable continues unabated.

From WhoWhatWhy:

"Rupert Murdoch has had a profound influence on the state of journalism today. It’s a kind of tribute, in some sense, that the general coverage of his current troubles has reflected the detrimental effect of his influence over the years. Right now, the media, by and large, are focusing on tawdry “police blotter” acts of the very sort that have historically informed Murdoch’s own tabloid sensibility, while the bigger picture gets short shrift.

To be sure, the activities and actions of Murdoch’s that dominate the public conversation at the moment are deeply troubling, leaving aside their alleged criminality. Still, what is really …

A lesson in diplomacy

An op-ed piece in Haaretz which ought to be read by each Israeli cabinet minister:

"On Monday, Barak Ravid revealed to readers of this newspaper that the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem was considering punishing the Palestinians for their declaration of statehood by scrapping the Oslo Accords.

This "threat" is akin to a fellow saying he'll cut off his own nose to spite someone else's face. If the Oslo Accords did not exist, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have had to invent them.

The document, and in particular the section that confiscates 60 percent of the Palestinians' land in the West Bank (Area C ) and grants Israeli settlers exclusive access to it, should be placed in a safe by the right-wing and guarded by an elite army unit. And this is why this childish "threat," which has been hovering in the air ever since Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman first waved it at European Union Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton a month ago, is no…

Whichever way you look at it, it is a disaster

The present spectacle of Democrats and Republicans playing chicken in relation to the US debt issue, is hardly edifying. Boys at play with ramifications for Americans, and the world at large, if these dilettantes don't fix the problem up.

Robert Reich, former Labour Secretary in the Clinton Administration and now a professor of public policy writes about the woes in Washington:

"We now live in parallel universes.

One universe is the one in which most Americans live. In it, almost 15 million people are unemployed, wages are declining (adjusted for inflation), and home values are still falling. The unsurprising result is consumers aren’t buying — which is causing employers to slow down their hiring and in many cases lay off more of their workers. In this universe, we’re locked in a vicious economic cycle that’s getting worse.

The other universe is the one in which Washington politicians live. They are now engaged in a bitter partisan battle over how, and by how much, to reduce …

Afghan judges accuse USA of war crimes

The West traditionally paints a picture of "them" (ie the bad guys) and "us" (the good guys). When Western forces are accused of some sort of war crime or offence in a foreign country, it is almost invariably portrayed as an isolated incident or the odd "bad apple" in the military who caused the problem - and a simple "sorry" delivered up . Sometimes, monetary compensation might be forthcoming.

truthout has a piece on the views of 6 Afghan judges - all women and who are versed in international law and have visited the United States - who accuse the Americans of war crimes. It makes for sobering reading and reading the "voices" from the other side.

"I recently sat down for 90 minutes to speak with six Afghan judges, all of them women, and an English-Dari interpreter, a man. They spoke to me as individuals. They aren't preparing any investigations or indictments. The relevance of their being judges is that they know …

What? The NY Times actually critcised Israel?

Uri Avnery writes from Israel onCounterPunch:

"It is because of this that a few lines, which appeared this week in the New York Times, caused near panic in Jerusalem.

The NYT is, perhaps, the most “pro-Israel” paper in the whole world, including Israel itself. Anti-Semites call it the Jew York Times. Many of its editorial writers are ardent Zionists. A news story critical of Israeli policies has almost no chance of appearing there. No mention of the Israeli peace movement. No mention of the dozens of demonstrations in Israel against Lebanon War II and the Cast Lead operation. Self-censorship is supreme.

But this week, the NYT published a blistering editorial criticizing Israel. The reason: the “Boycott Law”, passed by the right-wing Knesset majority, which forbids Israelis to call for a boycott of the settlements. The editorial practically repeats what I said in last week’s article: that the law is blatantly anti-democratic and violates basic human rights. The more so, since it come…

Murdoch's "crew" still just don't get it

Wendy Bacon is a professor of journalism at the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney.

From reading Bacon's excellent op-ed piece in The Sydney Morning Herald, it seems that News Limited, despite all that has been happening in the Murdoch "world" simply still doesn't get it.

"On Thursday, with News Corporation awash in allegations of criminality and failed corporate governance, I sent an email to John Hartigan, the chief executive of its Australian arm, News Limited.

Hartigan was in damage control. He had hastened to reassure local audiences that illegal practices such as phone hacking were not used in Australia and, in order to make sure of this, that he would carry out an independent internal audit of editorial spending.

But that missed a vital point. While no one was suggesting that phone hacking was occurring in our far-from-competitive media scene, News is a vertically and horizontally global media company.

This mea…

An Aussie perspective on Rupert the ex Aussie

Mike Carlton is a journalist, broadcaster and commentator.

Writing his weekly column in the Sydney Morning Herald he reflects on Rupert Murdoch, once one of Ozs' citizens before she shipped off the US to take up citizenship there.

"The disappointing thing about the Murdoch horror crisis is that there's no sex. Or not yet, anyway. The closest we've come to even the faintest whiff of traditional British raunch is a slumber party, for heaven's sake, thrown by Gordon Brown's wife at Chequers in 2008. Wendi Deng, Elisabeth Murdoch and the Wicked Witch of Wapping, the flame-haired Rebekah Brooks, were invited to ''bring their pyjamas'' and sleep over.

How feeble. Fans of scandal in the British establishment will think longingly of the fabulous Profumo Affair of the swinging '60s, when these things were done properly. John Profumo, a Tory secretary of state for war, was accused of bonking the delicious Christine Keeler, a party chick who'd b…

The Nation reveals CIA's secret sites in Somalia

Veteran journalist Jeremy Scahill, writing in The Nation, again triumphs in revealing something the CIA would rather none of us knew about - it's secret sites in Somalia.

"Nestled in a back corner of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport is a sprawling walled compound run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Set on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the facility looks like a small gated community, with more than a dozen buildings behind large protective walls and secured by guard towers at each of its four corners. Adjacent to the compound are eight large metal hangars, and the CIA has its own aircraft at the airport. The site, which airport officials and Somali intelligence sources say was completed four months ago, is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access. At the facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted…

The wider picture to the Murdoch scandal: Killing off the craft of journalism

Each day sees a new revelation about the shenanigans of the Murdoch media group, especially its newspapers. Lost in all the reporting about who did what, etc. etc. is the issue of what the Murdoch newspapers have "done" to the one-time craft of journalism.

"With guilty pleasure, the mainstream media have been serving us a virtual buffet of reasons to despise Rupert Murdoch's evil media empire. Amid this fetid mess, however, it shouldn't be forgotten that beneath every media mogul, however rotten, is an enterprise of real people—a culture of workers who represent the embattled and tragic state of journalism today.

The ethical breaches at issue clearly reflect top-to-bottom corruption. Yet more importantly, the underlying criminality lies in a vulgar laissezfaire corporate culture in which honesty and critical thought are dismissed as an impediment to commercial success.

The alleged hacking and bribery are just extreme symptoms of an ailment metastasizing through…

Decency and humanity dictate we all do something

If this a civilised world in which we all live, we cannot stand by and see the massive scale of starvation unfolding in the Horn of Africa without doing something positive to alleviate the suffering of millions of people.

"The United Nations is to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the response to Horn of Africa drought, which it says has already killed tens of thousands of people.Famine was declared in two regions of Somalia on Wednesday – the first time this has occurred since 1992 – with 3.7 million people needing urgent humanitarian assistance.

A further 8 million people require food in neighbouring countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia.The UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation said the meeting at its Rome headquarters on Monday would be attended by its 191 member countries, as well as NGOs, other UN organisations and the regional development bank. France, the current president of the G20 group of leading economies, called the meeting.

Topping the agenda will be discus…

Those Murdochs sure know how to "do" poor taste and sleaze

Shake your head in wonderment at this....

"If you thought the outrage over the phone-hacking scandal was starting to die down, The Times of London, one of Rupert Murdoch's own papers, may have brought it straight back into the spotlight.

An editorial cartoon published Thursday morning in the paper with the title "Priorities" shows starving people in Somalia saying "We've had a bellyful of phone-hacking ... " It's causing quite a firestorm on Twitter. You can access the newspaper's site here, but you won't be able to get past the pay wall without a subscription.

The paper has not yet returned calls for comment.

The Guardian's Deputy Editor Katharine Viner (@KathViner) tweeted a link to a photo of the cartoon this morning and asked what people thought of it.And boy, did she get a response. From regular citizens in the U.S. and UK, to politicians, media specialists and PR folks, the responses are rolling in at a mile a minute.

The responses gen…

If it weren't so serious it would be downright comical

One does have to wonder sometimes - about diplomacy, so-called, and how Governments spend (correction- squander) tax-payer's money.

Over to Tom Englehardt, at TomDispatch,who explains what Uncle Sam has been up to of late. And this by a country spending big yet up to its eye-balls in debt and across the country cutting back on essential services. It borders on the comical, if it weren't so serious.

"In the method, there is madness; in the comedy, nightmare; in the tragedy, farce.

And despite everything, there’s still good news when it comes to what Americans can accomplish in the face of the impossible! No, not a debt-ceiling deal in Washington. So much better than that.

According to Thom Shanker of the New York Times, the U.S. military has gathered biometric data -- “digital scans of eyes, photographs of the face, and fingerprints” -- on 2.2 million Iraqis and 1.5 million Afghans, with an emphasis on men of an age to become insurgents, and has saved all of it in the …

A wake up call from no-lesser-a-person than a President

"I forgive if you have never heard of my country.

At just 8 square miles, about a third of the size of Manhattan, and located in the southern Pacific Ocean, Nauru appears as merely a pinpoint on most maps — if it is not missing entirely in a vast expanse of blue.

But make no mistake; we are a sovereign nation, with our own language, customs and history dating back 3,000 years. Nauru is worth a quick Internet search, I assure you, for not only will you discover a fascinating country that is often overlooked, you will find an indispensible cautionary tale about life in a place with hard ecological limits.

Phosphate mining, first by foreign companies and later our own, cleared the lush tropical rainforest that once covered our island’s interior, scarring the land and leaving only a thin strip of coastline for us to live on. The legacy of exploitation left us with few economic alternatives and one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, and led previous governments to make unwis…

The war in Iraq: Pushing it out of our memories

A piece "1 Million Dead in Iraq? 6 Reasons the Media Hide the True Human Toll of War -- And Why We Let Them"
in AlterNet raises an important question. Why is the Iraq War, and all its consequences, being pushed into the background of people's memories.

"As the U.S. war in Iraq winds down, we are entering a familiar phase, the season of forgetting—forgetting the harsh realities of the war. Mostly we forget the victims of the war, the Iraqi civilians whose lives and society have been devastated by eight years of armed conflict. The act of forgetting is a social and political act, abetted by the American news media. Throughout the war, but especially now, the minimal news we get from Iraq consistently devalues the death toll of Iraqi civilians.

Why? A number of reasons are at work in this persistent evasion of reality. But forgetting has consequences, especially as it braces the obstinate right-wing narrative of “victory” in the Iraq war. If we forget, we learn nothing.

Let justice be done!

Credited to Cameron Cardow, Canada

Whatever democracy there was knocked for a six

Who said that Israel was a true democracy? - in fact, the only one in the Middle East. Seems not though.

"It was a Palestinian legislator who made the most telling comment to the Israeli parliament last week as it passed the boycott law, which outlaws calls to boycott Israel or its settlements in the occupied territories. Ahmed Tibi asked: “What is a peace activist or Palestinian allowed to do to oppose the occupation? Is there anything you agree to?”

The boycott law is the latest in a series of ever-more draconian laws being introduced by the far right. The legislation’s goal is to intimidate those Israeli citizens, Jews and Palestinians, who have yet to bow down before the majority-rule mob.

Look out in the coming days and weeks for a bill to block the work of Israeli human rights organizations trying to protect Palestinians in the occupied West Bank from abuses by the Israeli army and settlers; and a draft law investing a parliamentary committee, headed by the far right, with …

Italy the latest economic basket-case?

In a piece in Spiegel OnLine, the Italian PM, with all his warts and all - including the latest case against him - is exposed as having let the country drift into economic chaos.

"Il Cavaliere -- a sinner caught in the act. Not just the Milan court, but all of Italy must once again confront the buffooneries of its aging prime minister -- and this at a time when the country is in economic difficulties serious enough to threaten its very survival, and when the future of Project Europe depends in part on whether the third-largest economic power in the euro zone is being run decently and with sound judgment.

But the world, as has recently become apparent, thinks that it is not . Berlusconi's Italy is debt-ridden, shouldering a burden worth €1.85 trillion, more than twice as much as Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined. In the next 12 months alone, €300 billion of that debt will have to be refinanced -- more than the €250 billion in the euro-zone bailout fund. Last week, confide…

Neocons fume about that pesky Gazan flotilla

If the subject-matter weren't so very serious one would have to laugh, out loud, at the reaction of neocons like Alan Dershowitz, at the attempt by peace activists to sail a number of boats into Gaza - thereby highlighting the plight of 1.5 Gazans.

"My co-passengers and I of the U.S. Boat to Gaza have now gone from “High-Seas Hippies,” according to the right-wing Washington Times, to participants in a flotilla full of “fools, knaves, hypocrites, bigots, and supporters of terrorism,” says Alan Dershowitz in his usual measured prose.

Poor Alan, he seems upset at our audacity not only to hope for humane treatment of the 1.6 million Gazans, who currently live under a cruel blockade, but to force the issue. To stop our boat before it could leave Greek waters, Israel’s Likud government gave itself a self-inflicted black eye and again brought the oppression of Gazans to worldwide attention.

This time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government did not even have to kill people to …

10 Questions for Rupert Murdoch.....which Brit MP's won't ask

Stop the War Coalition has framed 10 questions which ought, properly, be directed to Rupert Murdoch when he appears at Westminster this morning.....but are unlikely to be asked.

"What was it about the relationship with Murdoch that made Tony Blair feel it was appropriate to take a phone call from a newspaper proprietor just hours prior to the most momentous decision a prime minister can make: ordering the country's armed forces to war?"

Read the 10 questions here - such as the first one:

"In 2002-3 all of your 127 newspapers around the world, with a combined circulation of 40 million a week, supported the Iraq war. We now know you were often in direct contact with the then prime minister Tony Blair, who you said at the time was "extraordinarily courageous and strong" and who had "shown great guts" in planning the war on Iraq. How much coordination was there between Downing Street and News International on the media presentation of what was widely r…

2 movies: Harry Potter and Sarah Palin

One might have thought that in the light of all the Murdoch bru-hah-hah in the UK - and possibly in the USA - that Fox News would now be a tad circumspect in how it reports things. Don't believe it!

CommonDreams reports:

"In this weekend's movie news, the new Harry Potter film made a record $168.55 million. Sarah Palin's film made close to $75,000. Nonetheless, Fox News' headline on the subject crowed, "Palin Film Opens Strong, Theaters Packed." Weird huh?"

A sign of America's economic plight?

Credited to David Fitzsimmons,Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Too many of us on this planet?

"In 1997 Salman Rushdie wrote to the six billionth world citizen, due to be born that year: “It has proved impossible, in many parts of the world, to prevent the human race’s numbers from swelling alarmingly. Blame the overcrowded planet at least partly on the misguidedness of the race’s spiritual guides. In your own lifetime, you may well witness the arrival of the nine billionth world citizen. (If too many people are being born as a result, in part, of religious strictures against birth control, then too many people are also dying because [of] religious culture.)” In 2011, or early 2012 at the latest, we are expecting the arrival of the 7 billionth world citizen. He or she has a 70 percent chance of being born into a disadvantaged family in a poor country. Should we be preparing a welcome or an apology?'

So concludes a piece "Too Much Life on Earth" in the IHT [originally in Le Monde Diplomatique] by George Minois, a historian and the author, most recently, of “Wei…

The workplace has changed. Deal with it!

Thomas Friedman, op-ed conrtributor to The New York Times and commentator and author isn't someone MPS very much ever agrees with. His notions on some things, especially foreign affairs, are often off-beam. That said, in one his lastest columns Friedman identifies how the workplace has changed, forever, and we had all better get used to it. What Friedman raises is to be it bluntly, rather scary.

"Indeed, what is most striking when you talk to employers today is how many of them have used the pressure of the recession to become even more productive by deploying more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, robotics — anything they can use to make better products with reduced head count and health care and pension liabilities. That is not going to change. And while many of them are hiring, they are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people — people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technolog…

Israel girding itself for an attack on Iran in September?

Let us all hope that this report in The Jerusalem Post turns out not to be correct - that Israel is planning an attack on Iran this coming September.

"Israel will probably attack Iran in September, a former CIA officer who spent 21 years in the Middle East, including in Lebanon and Syria, has told a Los Angeles radio show.

While Robert Baer didn’t reveal the sources behind his prediction, he referred to former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s warnings of an Israeli attack on Iran as “no bluff.”

Baer told the KPFK Radio on Tuesday recent comments made by Dagan that an Israeli attack on Iran could lead to a regional war, “tell us with near certainty that [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is planning an attack, and in as much as I can guess when it’s going to be, it’s probably going to be in September, before a [UN General Assembly] vote on the Palestinian state.”

Netanyahu is “also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict – and in fact, there’s a warning order inside the Pentagon …

What Rupert really thinks and feels - without the spin doctors

The Indpendent, rightly, puts into context what Rupert really thinks and feels about the enveloping scandal surrounding his newspaper world. Forget about the more recent alleged hand-wringing, full page apologies in newspapers, etc. etc. That's the spin doctors at work.

"It was the oddest of comments. In his first significant remarks since the News of the World scandal broke, Rupert Murdoch had this to say: "The damage to the company is nothing that will not be recovered. We have a reputation of great good works in this country. I think he [James] acted as fast as he could, the moment he could. When I hear something going wrong, I insist on it being put right." He added that News Corporation, the giant US media group which owns News International in the UK, had handled the crisis "extremely well in every possible way", making only "minor mistakes".

Then, when asked by the interviewer on his own newspaper The Wall Street Journal, whether he …

Yes, what did happen to Obama the one-time presidential aspirant?

Paul Krugman, in his latest op-ed piece in The New York Times starts with a pertinent question:

"What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?"

Krugman goes on to detail proposals being considered in Washington to staunch America's debt crisis which would have a widespread effect, some devastating, in the USA.

"More broadly, Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice!

I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as …

Rupert Murdoch: "Blood on his Hands"

In a piece "Murdoch has Blood on his Hands" on War is a Crime, David Swanson asserts that Rupert Murdoch's crimes go beyond all the scandal involving hacking and illegal activity now being so vividly revealed on a daily basis. Murdoch, from behind a desk, has been a rabid supporter of war....and he reminds us of what veteran journalist John Nichols has written in The Nation:

"When the war in Iraq began, the three international leaders who were most ardently committed to the project were US President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. On paper, they seemed like three very different political players: Bush was a bumbling and inexperienced son of a former president who mixed unwarranted bravado with born-again moralizing to hold together an increasingly conservative Republican Party; Blair was the urbane “modernizer” who had transformed a once proudly socialist party into the centrist “New Labour” project; H…

East Africa: Worst famine in decades

East Africa's worsening famine is one of the largest humanitarian crises in decades. Tens of thousands of Somali refugees are flooding camps in Ethiopia and Kenya - at a rate of more than 3,000 new arrivals per day - in search of food after several seasons without rain killed livestock and destroyed crops in Somalia.

You might wanna know about and meet ALEC

As the Obama Administration struggles with Congress in relation America's budgetary problems - that is, massive debt and an economy which is poor, if not in bad shape - The Nation reveals details of ALEC. Never heard of them? Most people haven't either unless an insider. Americans ought to fear this third force hiding behind money and promoting ideals and philosophies inimical to the general welfare of Americans.

"Founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and other conservative activists frustrated by recent electoral setbacks, ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics. Inspired by Milton Friedman’s call for conservatives to “develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available,” ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically…

A simple message from an Orthodox Jew

The message from an orthodox Jew in Israel, Jerry Haber, is clear and simple....

"For some time I have had a dream about a community, a coalition, a big tent that includes within it all those constituencies who cry out to end the occupation now. Yes, I know, there already is a US Campaign to End the Occupation, and they do good work. Read about them here. But I am thinking of something else

I am thinking of people of all colors, races, creeds, ethnicities, sexual orientation – and of varying, even opposing ideologies. Under this tent are committed anti-Zionists who believe that a Jewish ethnic state is a bad thing; others who don’t think that Jews have right to national self-determination in Palestine; Palestinians who would, if they could, liberate all of Palestine from Zionist hegemony, and liberal Zionists, who believe that Israel, for all its flaws, offers promise to the Jewish people, the world, and, yes, even to the Palestinians. What unites these constituencies is the convic…