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Showing posts from January, 2012

Saving a life to a real beat!

Wonderful "instruction" video from the British Heart Foundation...

Is America a declining power?

There has been quite a bit of commentary lately - and from informed people too - on whether America is a declining power.    
Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard, in writing on his blog on FP suggests the question is the incorrect one.
"As co-chair of the editorial board of the journal International Security, I couldn't be more delighted by the attention that Michael Beckley's article questioning China's rise (and America's supposed decline) is getting. See here, here, and here. But I fear that people who are seizing on Beckley's article to pooh-pooh fears of U.S. decline -- including our own Daniel Drezner -- are mostly asking the wrong question.

As I've noted elsewhere, the issue isn't whether the United States is about to fall the from the ranks of the great powers, or even be equaled (let alone surpassed) by a rising China. The world may be evolving toward a more multipolar structure, for example, but the United States is g…

The devastating result of challenging the Chinese Government

From Australia's Radio Australia:
In just over two weeks, China's leader-in-waiting, Vice President Xi Jinping, will visit Washington DC to meet President Barack Obama.

For Mr Xi, the trip on February 14 is a chance to bolster his foreign policy credentials and to establish personal ties to another of the world's major powers.

It will also be an opportunity for various campaigners to raise issues related to China, one being the continued detention of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

The group Freedom Now has just filed a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Gao Zhisheng.

Correspondent: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: Jared Genser, founder of Freedom Now and one of Gao Zhisheng's international counsel
GENSER: Gao Zhisheng is a Chinese human rights lawyer interestingly was ranked by the China Daily, the state-run newspaper as one of the top ten lawyers in China about a decade ago, where he had more of a corporate law practice. But over the last deca…

How to alienate many of your citizens

France is no stranger to violence in its streets.    Much of that has been from Muslims and  disadvantaged youth venting their frustration at the government's inability, or lack of will, to tackle myriads of issues confronting Muslims and the young.   By referring to protesters as, in effect, being rabble, the French President has helped things!
Human Rights Watch has highlighted another problem in France in a just-released Report "The Root of Humiliation".
"Most people in France have been stopped and asked by police for proof of their identity—or “contrôle  d’identité”—at some point in their lives.

Anyone can theoretically be asked for proof of identity, and a straightforward stop should
 usually last only a few minutes and involve little more than providing
 one’s identity card or other proof of identity upon demand by a police
 officer.

However, research conducted in and around Paris, Lyon, and Lille in 2011 indicates that the identity check system is open to abuse by …

Grief diagnosis

The death of someone usually results in grieving by family and friends - which if the deceased was someone close, may go on for some time.
A question now under consideration in America is whether 2 months of grieving qualifies someone as being depressed.
Australia's ABC's Radio National Breakfast program takes up the issue: "It is clear that a period of prolonged grief could turn into depression. But should the two conditions be diagnosed and treated in the same way? Next year the American Psychiatric Association will publish a new diagnostic and statistical manual, and a debate has broken out over whether grief should be included in the definition of depression."

Go here to hear an interview with Dr Allen Frances - Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Duke University, and Chair of the task force overseeing the compilation of the new diagnostic manual.











Old story...with a modern twist

Credited to Clement, National Post, Toronto

Now climate change threatens wheat crops

Last Friday the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece by a number of scientists challenging whether there really was climate change as many eminent scientists and science bodies have concluded.    The piece was, presumably, part of the Murdoch stable's stance of denying that the world is experiencing climate change.    Perhaps someone should send Murdoch and his op-ed writers this piece "New Study: Climate Change Threatens World's Wheat Crop.  It could be much more difficult than we thought to feed everyone in a warmer world" on CommonDreams.

"A study released Sunday afternoon finds that wheat crop yields could plunge due, in part, to climate change.

The study, published inNature Climate Change, researchers warn that current projections underestimate the extent to which hotter weather in the future will accelerate this process. Extreme heat causes wheat crops to age faster and reduce yields, the Stanford University-led study shows, underscoring the challe…

The "secret" about Victoria's Secret

First it was Gap, then Apple and now Victoria's Secret - companies who "use" employees in foreign countries to manufacture goods in and under conditions which are utterly appalling.   AlterNet reports about the fantasy world sought to be created Victoria's Secret on the one hand and the devastation caused by them on the other.
"Victoria’s Secret is in the business of selling fantasy. Its elite team of supermodels (called “angels”) are painstakingly selected and considered some of the most beautiful women in the world, and its fashion show is a major television event, this year attracting musical performances from Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj. It is about glamor and exceptionalism, and its marketing is centered inextricably around making women who wear Victoria’s Secret’s lingerie feel equally glamorous and exceptional.

But the company cannot ignore the increasing demand for sustainable products, and so when it began using “fair trade, organic cotton,” the sexy-seeking, …

Getting desperate?

Credited to Rick McKee - staff cartoonist at The Augusta Chronicle

Once again, Obama's rhetoric doesn't match the reality

Obama's message of late has been a populist one - you know, referring to those fat cats on Wall St. and urging a more level playing field in the USA - but, yet again, Obama's words don't match the reality in how he conducts himself.    Justin Elliot in "Wall Street execs are major Obama fundraisers" on Salon details the "story" behind the Obama rhetoric.
"The consensus view of President Obama’s State of the Union address is that it was a “populist pitch” that sought to, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “tap widespread anti-Wall Street sentiment and voter anger about economic disparity without scaring independents.”

That take on the Obama reelection campaign strategy is in line with what we’ve been hearing for months out of the White House, which previewed the concept to the Washington Post as early as October, just as the Occupy movement was getting underway.

The tension or perhaps contradiction with this strategy is that, as I’ve been documentin…

What is he hiding from?

Another excellent op-ed piece by Nicholas D Kristof in The New York Times - republished here in full.

"In a filthy Ethiopian prison that is overridden with lice, fleas and huge rats, two Swedes are serving an 11-year prison sentence for committing journalism.


Martin Schibbye, 31, and Johan Persson, 29, share a narrow bed, one man’s head beside the other’s feet. Schibbye once woke up to find a rat mussing his hair.


The prison is a violent, disease-ridden place, with inmates fighting and coughing blood, according to Schibbye’s wife, Linnea Schibbye Steiner, who last met with her husband in December. It is hot in the daytime and freezing cold at night, and the two Swedes are allowed no mail or phone calls, she said. Fortunately, she added, the 250 or so Ethiopian prisoners jammed in the cell protect the two journalists, pray for them and jokingly call their bed “the Swedish embassy.”


What was the two men’s crime? Their offense was courage. They sneaked into the Ogaden region to investi…

The Public Eye Awards...to corporate villians

There are villians out there - and they aren't necessarily human.    Corporations can be too.   The Public Eye Awards have been given and are reported on here on CommonDreams.

"Brazilian mining giant Vale and UK-based Barclays bank were given the dubious honor of being the top vote-getters in this year's survey asking participants to name the world's most destructive international corporations. The results of the survey are gathered by The Public Eye, an effort organized jointly by the Berne Declaration and Greenpeace Switzerland, and announced annually at an awards ceremony held during the World Economic Forums's gathering in the Swiss town of Davos.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Professor, Columbia University, speaks during the 'Public Eye Awards' on the sideline of the 42nd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland. "With these nominations," he said, "Some of the worst examples of corporate irresponsibility in the last y…

Michael Hastings on his new book

Michael Hastings, now a veteran author at his young age, speaks to Harper's Magazine in a Q & A about his latest book, "The Operators". 4. Your book pays at least as much attention to the Pentagon press corps and its relationship with power as it does to Stanley McChrystal and his team, and you write that after your article ran, you found that you had few problems dealing with military and political figures, but your relations with many of your fellow journalists had been poisoned. Why?The original article contained an implicit criticism of a few of my colleagues, so I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the backlash. They would have ignored the implicit criticisms if they could have, but the story garnered too much attention. All of a sudden Jon Stewart is on the Daily Show saying, “Hey, you other guys suck.” I think that embarrassed a number of folks who weren’t used to being embarrassed. They are accustomed to being the unquestioned journalistic authoriti…

The accountant....who, er, can't count!

Puzzling indeed! truthdig poses a valid question..... Why the Republicans chose Mitch Daniels—the Indiana governor who once thrilled right-wing pundits as a 2012 hopeful—to deliver a rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address is puzzling. His uninspiring remarks surely killed the Daniels fad, revived lately as Republicans fret over the unappetizing choices available in their primaries.By shining the spotlight on Daniels, the Republicans risked losing much more than a political rescue fantasy. He isn’t merely a politician who looks like an accountant; he actually was an accountant—or at least he played one during the Bush years, when he served as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Listening to him drone on about fiscal rectitude just might have reminded voters of the true source of our national problems.“Mitch Daniels ... Isn’t he the former Bush budget director who said the Iraq War would cost $50 billion when it ended up costing $3 trillion? The bureauc…

Gingrich: This man for president?

No comment called for - other than to ponder how anyone can even remotely consider Gingrich a contender for president of the USA let alone take the man seriously. AlterNet reports: Sometimes a political story comes along that is so bananas that even a blogger who trades in snark is rendered speechless. To wit, I present without comment Newt Gingrich's latest campaign promise: to colonize the moon. For America.Via the Miami Herald blog (emphasis added):Gingrich is delivering a speech heavy on space and acknowledged at the outset to being a space geek: "I'm old enough that I used to read missiles and rockets magazine," he said. He's mentioned Romney just once, to say that Romney has poked fun at him for dreaming big about space.He pledged to be a president who would deliver "relentless pressure to be faster... more innovative" in the space industry."By the end of my second term," he said to laughter and cheers. "We will have the first p…

ACTA? It will probably affect you.....

Never heard of ACTA? Most people haven't, but its implications and the effect on how we all use the internet could be both widespread and detrimental. CommonDreams reports: While there was massive attention last week to online anti-piracy bills -- SOPA in the House and the PIPA in the Senate -- ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, has received scant media attention yet poses a tremendous threat to online freedom.RT reports on how the ACTA treaty will work:Under this new treaty, Internet Service Providers will police all data passing through them, making them legally responsible for what their users do online. And should you do something considered "breach of copyright" like, for instance, getting a tattoo of a brand logo, taking a photo and posting it somewhere, you may be disconnected from the Internet, fined or even jailed.This, of course, threatens the entire founding idea of the Internet – the free sharing of information. But ACTA doesn't stop ther…

America: No equal justice before the law

Glenn Greenwald, constitutional lawyers and writer / blogger on Salon often writes on legal issues. He does so again in his latest piece and concludes that this basically what so-called justice in the US comes down to: The Rules of American Justice are quite clear:(1) If you are a high-ranking government official who commits war crimes, you will receive full-scale immunity, both civil and criminal, and will have the American President demand that all citizens Look Forward, Not Backward.(2) If you are a low-ranking member of the military, you will receive relatively trivial punishments in order to protect higher-ranking officials and cast the appearance of accountability.(3) If you are a victim of American war crimes, you are a non-person with no legal rights or even any entitlement to see the inside of a courtroom.(4) If you talk publicly about any of these war crimes, you have committed the Gravest Crime — you are guilty of espionage – and will have the full weight of the American…

So, which country has the greatest press freedom?

Many will be surprised to learn that despite what Americans might think, according to a Report just out from Reporters Without Borders freedom of the press is not the best in the USA. To the contrary? So, what does the Report find? So much for the land of the free: the U.S. fell more than two dozen slots in the annual Reporters Without Borders press-freedom index, down from 20th in 2010 to 47th in 2012. Finland and Norway topped the list for the second year in a row as other European nations and the U.S. took hits for their brutal treatment of reporters covering global protests. The U.S.’s long fall was primarily related to the 25 journalists being arrested and, in some cases, beaten by police while covering Occupy Wall Street. The report also mentioned the Obama administration’s intense efforts to keep large amounts of government information secret. But the U.S. wasn't the only target: RWB chided the U.K. for its protection of law-breakers in the News of the World scandal and …

Hey! Haven't we been here before?

AS always Robert Fisk right on the money in his latest op-ed piece in The Independent.Turning round a story is one of the most difficult tasks in journalism – and rarely more so than in the case of Iran. Iran, the dark revolutionary Islamist menace. Shia Iran, protector and manipulator of World Terror, of Syria and Lebanon and Hamas and Hezbollah. Ahmadinejad, the Mad Caliph. And, of course, Nuclear Iran, preparing to destroy Israel in a mushroom cloud of anti-Semitic hatred, ready to close the Strait of Hormuz – the moment the West's (or Israel's) forces attack.Given the nature of the theocratic regime, the repulsive suppression of its post-election opponents in 2009, not to mention its massive pools of oil, every attempt to inject common sense into the story also has to carry a medical health warning: no, of course Iran is not a nice place. But ...Let's take the Israeli version which, despite constant proof that Israel's intelligence services are about as efficient a…

Iran: The real beneficary of sanctions. The Revolutionary Guards

The West may think it smart to impose sanctions on Iran because it continues to develop a nuclear capability, but as this piece in SpiegelOnLin points out the real beneficiaries of the embargo are Iran's Revolutionary Guards. That aside, if Israel and other countries can have nuclear weapons - and in the case of Israel keep on threatening Iran - why shouldn't the Iranians be allowed to have nuclear capacity? In any event there is still no evidence to contradict the Iranians who keep on saying they are developing their nuclear capacity for peaceful purposes. The EU has banned oil imports from Iran to try and pressure the regime into making concessions over its controversial nuclear program. But even though the Iranian economy is suffering, Tehran is refusing to give ground. Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Guards are profiting from the sanctions.,/blockquote> The so-called oil weapon has been part of the arsenal of international power politics ever since the 1970s. In 1973, …

Gingrich isn't a debater! He is a racist pure and simple

Forget about Gingrich being a debater. He is no more than a racist pandering to the lowest common denominator. He is also a man withour scruples or a sense of propriety. And let's not forget the inabilty to be truthful. Counterpunch puts things into context about Gingrich and the GOP. South Carolina. It’s going to be the state that keeps on giving to President Barack Obama. I’m not talking votes; I’m talking hate. Newt Gingrich’s primary win has the pundits praising his “debating skills,” but the less prudish among us can be clear: Gingrich’s skills aren’t rhetorical; they’re racial. He’s feeble at striking down his opponents’ arguments; what he’s great at is digging up his audience’s racial rage. It worked for the former Speaker in South Carolina; it’ll work against the Democrats all year.,War with Washington, the “best food stamp president,” a slap down of the one African American moderator (“First, Juan…) Newt Gingrich had the GOP crowd on its feet in Myrtle Beach last …

Iraq: "Mission Accomplished". Definitely Not!

If the West had some sort of pipe-dream of deposing Saddam in Iraq to then see the country stabilised, the were way of the mark and track. It is barely a month since the main contingents of military pulled out of Iraq - and the country is seemingly falling apart in all manner of ways. CommonDreams reports........ The human rights situation in Iraq is worse now than it was a year ago, Human Rights Watch argues in a new report out Sunday.Human Rights Watch says it uncovered a secret Iraqi prison where detainees were beaten, hung upside down and given electric shocks to sensitive parts of their bodies. The group based its claims on the testimony of detainees themselves. The group says the forces who control the facility report to the military office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.From the report:BAGHDAD – Iraq cracked down harshly during 2011 on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating, and detaining activists, demonstrators, and journalists, Human Rights Watch s…

Attacking Iran: The drums are sounding louder and louder

With an election year in the USA and the GOP candidates for President falling over themselves to be seen as arch supporters of Israel and the need to attack Iran, this report from Israel National News,whilst not surprising, should be of concern to all right-thinking people. All the indications are that Israel under "cover" of the politics in the USA will attack Iran sooner rather than later. Some pundits suggest next month as most likely for a variety of reasons. The fall-out, in all manner of ways, from any sort of attack on Iran cannot begin to be evaluated. Israeli officials told visiting USS Chief Joint of Staffs Martin Dempsey that it would give President Barack Obama no more than 12 hours notice if and when it attacks Iran, The London Times reported Sunday.The Netanyahu government also will not coordinate with the United States an attack on the Islamic Republic, according to the report, the latest in a number of suposed scenarios concerning cooperation or lack…

Waste of a precious resource.....food!

Travelling in the USA it is more than dismaying to see the waste of food. Waste of water - huge glasses of water which are, in the main, not drunk, or at least very little, when served with meals - and piles of food left on plates. The meals themselves are, in the first place, far too large. It is no wonder that obsesity is rife. It is distressing to think that whilst people in many places around the world are dying of starvation, or go to bed each day hungry, the world is generally wasting an enormous amount of food.....as this piece from the IHT so clearly details. Last week, the British retailer Marks & Spencer introduced a new packaging strip aimed at making strawberries shipped in from overseas last two days longer. Eventually, the company hopes to use the technology on all types of berries. Marks & Spencer says that because its strawberries will stay fresh longer, consumers can reduce food waste at home.This is a modest initiative, but it is the latest in a diff…

An anniversary of a shameful and horrific decision

Lest we forget and as was said at the end of WW2 "never again". Sad to say carnage, the ravages of war and genocide continue, unabated, to this day. From Spiegel International: Germany somberly marked the 70th anniversary of the infamous Wannsee Conference on Friday, with the country's president saying the meeting that laid out plans for the Holocaust still caused "anger and shame."At the same villa on the shore of Berlin's Wannsee lake where the original meeting took place, now a museum, President Christian Wulff told an audience that even though many years have passed, Germany should never be allowed to forget its responsibility for the genocide of some 6 million European Jews. "Therefore it is important and a national task to keep the memory alive," he said.On Jan. 20, 1942, high-level members of the Nazi party and other bureaucrats met at the villa to orchestrate large-scale plans for the extermination of Jews. At the time, hundreds o…

No marriage made in heaven in Afghanistan

The writing has been on the wall for some time - at least for those observers of what is really going on in Afghanistan - but it now seems that there are real tensions between the administration in Afghanistan and NATO forces, as this report in The Guardian so clearly spells out. Mutual mistrust and contempt between local and foreign forces in Afghanistan that often borders on hatred is one of the main reasons why Afghan troops increasingly turn their guns on their Nato comrades, a damning report has found.The research, commissioned by the US military, said American soldiers enrage their Afghan colleagues with what the report describes as extreme arrogance, bullying and "crude behaviour".It also heavily criticised as "profoundly intellectually dishonest" the Nato claims that the killing of alliance troops by Afghan soldiers is extremely rare.The data suggests incidents such as the killing on Friday of four French soldiers "reflect a rapidly growing systemic h…

Call for Israel to be pressured, not Iran

Writing on CommonDreams a professor of law suggests that it is Israel, not Iran, which ought to be pressured from its seeming intent to attack Iran. Iran is not a threat to Israel’s security. Iran has not attacked any country in some 200 years. In 1953, the CIA engineered a coup that replaced a democratic government in Iran with the vicious Shah. He ruled Iran with an iron hand for 25 years, wreaking torture and terror on Iranians while keeping Iran open to Western investment. When I visited Iran in 1978 as a human rights observer, there were dozens of U.S. corporations in downtown Tehran. One year later, the chickens came home to roost. The Iranian revolution overthrew the Shah, replacing him with a tyrannical theocracy that continues to violate the rights of the Iranian people. But that does not mean that Iran, if it does obtain nuclear weapons, will attack Israel. The Iranian government knows that Israel and the United States would retaliate with unimaginable military force that w…

Web darkness

The "protest" presently underway by various webs sites, such as Wikipedia, by going offline for 24 hours is to be both commended and supported. The legislation under consideration by the US Congress has consequences for all users of the www. The latest would seem to be that some legislators are backing off from their initial support for the legislation. Perhaps people-power can work! Electronic Frontier explains what it is all about: In addition to going after websites allegedly directly involved in copyright infringement, a proposal in SOPA will allow the government to target sites that simply provide information that could help users get around the bills’ censorship mechanisms. Such a provision would not only amount to an unconstitutional prior restraint against protected speech, but would severely damage online innovation. And contrary to claims by SOPA’s supporters, this provision—at least what’s been proposed so far—applies to all websites, even those in the U…

It's State-sponsored terrorism! Period!

Call it an assassination if you want, but the murder of Iranian nuclear scientists is State-sponsored terrorism by Israel, the USA or whichever country was involved. Period! The Guardian's op-piece puts the killings of Iranian's scientists into proper context. On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn't armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter's nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee."On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead," br…

Reality check! Facts on the ground......

Anyone who thought a 2 State solution was still possible between the Israelis and Palestinians has been oblivious to facts on the ground in the West Bank. As this piece from Tikun Olam clearly shows the realities are that the expansion of the so-called settlements makes a 2 State solution well-nigh impossible. Yisrael HaYom published today one of the more stark and telling statistics about the ‘success’ of the Occupation: in 2011, 722,000 Israelis lived beyond the Green Line, including in settlements and East Jerusalem.  This was a 5% increase over 2010.  That means that 1 in every seven Israelis lives outside of 1967 borders and explains why the country is rapidly becoming a unitary state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.  Bibiton and the settlers themselves are overjoyed with this development because it means they can continue pursuing their Apartheid Jews-only State.In that case, it becomes critical to begin thinking, indeed demanding that if Israel refuses to end the Occupa…

America.....not so much the land of the free

Perhaps it's government hype, or what was at one time in the past, but as this piece on Information Clearing House so clearly shows, the USA is not a land with as much freedom as its citizens might think. Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own — the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent …

War!

A blunt and very direct piece from CommonDreams: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calls the video of U.S. Marines urinating on dead Afghans "utterly deplorable"; a Marine commander calls it "wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history."But Gawker's Hamilton Nolan calls it a crock.In a furious screed, he blasts the "outrage contest" underway, the "unceasing industrial strength violence being carried out in our names" that most of us ignore most of the time, and the hypocrisy of politicians who "sit in office chairs and start wars and wave flags as young men and women go off to kill and die" - and are never brought to account for their "monstrous, monstrous crime against humanity.""Do you know what is worse than having your dead body urinated upon? Being killed. Being shot. Being bombed. Having your limbs blown off. Having your house incinerat…

Journalists. Reporters, commentators or merely stenographers?

Perhaps unwittingly, the Public Editor of The New York Times has opened out a question which has exercised many critical of the media for quite some time now. Are journalists "reporting" or merely stenographers of what they are told - often by Governments more than willing to manipulate the "news" or what the public wants to know? One thing is for certain. The public, who are entitled to be informed, need the likes of WikiLeaks - because you certainly can't governments, nor journalists for that matter, to tell us what we clearly are entiteld to know. Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon takes up the issue..... The New York Times‘ Public Editor Arthur Brisbane unwittingly sparked an intense and likely enduring controversy yesterday when he pondered — as though it were some agonizing, complex dilemma — whether news reporters “should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.” That’s basically the equivalent of pondering in a medical…

The manifold ramifications and layers to Gitmo 10 years on

Harper's Magazine publishes a piece by Scott Horton on the manifold ramifications of Gitmo 10 years on from its establishment. It is re-published here, in full, as the impact of Gitmo cannot be over-emphasised. Of course, there is now the explosive video of US marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters. Great for building any sort of rapport with Muslim nations, notably Afghanistan. On January 11, 2002, the first prisoners from the Bush Administration’s “War on Terror” were landed at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, a forty-five-square-mile enclave at the eastern end of Cuba that America secured in a 1903 treaty and has held ever since. Today marks the tenth anniversary of U.S. detention operations there. In the intervening years, the prison population swelled, with a total of 779 prisoners having been held there at some point. Some 600 were released (mostly by the Bush Administration), and of the 171 still held there, a majority have actually been cleared for release. These e…

Newt condemns Romney for speaking......French?

That the candidates for the GOP nomination as candidate in America's presidential election later this year are a diverse and unimpressive bunch with few credentials, if any, to have them "installed" in the White House, has only been confirmed, yet again, with ths jibe by Newt Gringich about Mick Romney - as The Daily Beast reports: Well, Newt just lost the French vote. In a bizarre online ad titled “The French Connection” that’s sure to go viral—for all the wrong reasons—Gingrich’s campaign emphasizes the similarities between Massachusetts politicians Mitt Romney and John Kerry. The ad hits on Romney’s record as a governor who donated to Democrats, as a moderate, and then suddenly shifts gears in its final moment. “He’ll say anything to win,” the narrator says. “And just like John Kerry, he speaks French too.” What follows is not for the faint of heart—a 2002 video of Romney speaking about the Winter Olympics in French.

Aah, the French!

MPS is travelling and enjoying wonderful unseasonal winter weather - days of sun and people in the parks and even eating outdoors at restaurants - in the ever-enchanting city, Paris. Yes, the French do how to "do" things with style and flair. However, their politics are another thing altogether, as John Vinocur details in his op-ed piece for The International Herald Tribune. What kind of country would France be if it abandoned its 35-hour work week (it actually kills jobs), set up an affirmative action program for its Muslim immigrants (featuring a zero-tolerance framework for their assimilation), and scaled back its ambitions for Europe as a global political force to more attainable goals?Roughly 100 days before voting in an elimination round April 22, and then in a final ballot on May 6, the French presidential election campaign so far involves back and forth on possible variations in French comfort — tinkering with, adjusting and applying new coats of paint to fami…

Iran: Dumb "diplomacy" [!]

Where to begin? Do the Israelis and Americans really think that bumping-off Iranian nuclear scientists is the path to restraining or inhibiting the Iranians from having their own nuclear capability? If so, it's plain dumb and the consequences for everyone in the world, not only in the Middle East, far from positive. Apart from possible military action, a blockade of the Strait of Hommus would send oil prices skyward. Just what the world needs as economies teeter in all manner of ways. Mondonweiss takes up the issue..... Does the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist on the streets of Tehran earlier today endanger a former Marine who was lately convicted in Tehran of spying? Even the Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, Thomas Erdbrink, is reporting that it does.And if it turns out that Israel killed that scientist, as its officials have hinted triumphantly, what does this mean about the danger to American lives flowing from Israeli militarism? What does this …

The Mama of all Big Brothers

Forget about 1984! The project the FBI presently has underway will dwarf any thoughts of 1984. AlterNet reports on what should be concern to all those "caught" in what the FBI is doing - and proud of it! And this under a so called "liberal" US President. The FBI claims that their fingerprint database (IAFIS) is the "largest biometric database in the world," containing records for over a hundred million people. But that's nothing compared to the agency's plans for Next Generation Identification (NGI), a massive, billion-dollar upgrade that will hold iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.Ambitions for the final product are candidly spelled out in an agency report: "The FBI recognizes a need to collect as much biometric data as possible within information technology systems, and to make this information acc…

The people "on the other side" the Americans ignore

Anyone reading American newspapers or viewing its TV news - in itself an oxymoron! - will have seen that any reporting on wars, be they in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever, only record things from an American perspective. Like, how many casualties or deaths the US suffered. Those on the "other side" of the conflict? Rarely, if ever, mentioned. It's a subject, somewhat surprisingly published in The Washington Post taken up in this piece: As the United States officially ended the war in Iraq last month, President Obama spoke eloquently at Fort Bragg, N.C., lauding troops for “your patriotism, your commitment to fulfill your mission, your abiding commitment to one another,” and offering words of grief for the nearly 4,500 members of the U.S. armed forces who died in Iraq. He did not, however, mention the sacrifices of the Iraqi people.This inattention to civilian deaths in America’s wars isn’t unique to Iraq. There’s little evidence that the American public gives m…

Dumb and dumber

To claim that the US is really "great" on foreign policy is an oxymoron. Often driven by ignorance and expediency, or vested interests, in most situations the interests of the USA are, in the end, poorly served. The latest idiocy follows from Congress having embargoed aid to the Palestinians. Why? Because they had the temerity to seek Statehood at the UN. The fallout is reflected in this report from Yahoo News. Ramallah: It's quiet time on Palestinian Sesame Street.The iconic children's program, known as "Sharaa Simsim" in Arabic, has been put on hold for the 2012 season because of a funding freeze by the U.S. Congress.Sharaa Simsim is one of many U.S.-funded Palestinian programs suffering after Congress froze the transfer of nearly $200 million to the U.S. Agency for International Development in October. The suspension aimed to punish the Palestinians for appealing to the United Nations for statehood.The funding suspension — affecting hospitals…

The Coalition of the Willing's deplorable "legacy" in Fallujah

There may be a certain degree of satisfaction all round that most military are now out of Iraq - and totally misplaced boasting about the success achieved in going into the country - but there is a legacy and dark side to the war, as AlJazeerareports: While the US military has formally withdrawn from Iraq, doctors and residents of Fallujah are blaming weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous used during two devastating US attacks on Fallujah in 2004 for what are being described as "catastrophic" levels of birth defects and abnormalities.Dr Samira Alani, a paediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, has taken a personal interest in investigating an explosion of congenital abnormalities that have mushroomed in the wake of the US sieges since 2005."We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine," Alani told Al Jazeera at her office in the hospital, while s…

The appalling state in which Afghanistan finds itself

The Americans, and their Allies, may be withdrawing from Afghanistan, but as this piece from CounterPunch so graphically details, they are leaving behind a country which can only best be described as a basket case. Kabul sprawls like an injured lion. Its population has increased four-fold to 4.5 million over the past ten years. War refugees, fleeing the countryside for the relative safety of the citadel, find themselves in permanent slums (“Kabul Informal Settlements” in the bureaucratic argot). These slums (such as Chamane Babrack, Bagrami, Parwan Du, and Charahi Qambar) sit on hillsides or on the edges of Kabul, bursting with people whose lives have been measurably worsened by the ongoing conflict. The UN’s High Commission on Refugees and the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation squabble over definitions: which family has been displaced by war, and who is an economic migrant. These distinctions mean little to the 5.7 million people who have been displaced by the insecurity …

Oops! The Dome of the Rock just "disappeared"

FromCommonDreams: Israel’s military rabbinate recently gave out educational packets to soldiers in honor of Hanukkah, or “The Festival of Jewish Heroism,” in which Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is shown bathed in holy light, but miraculously scrubbed clean of the Dome of the Rock, a major Islamic holy site. The IDF called criticism of the editing "ridiculous and biased." How do you make a people disappear? Let us count the ways.

Declaring war! On Harry Potter?

One ought not underestimate the intelligence of the Chinese, but to try and censor, as the authorities now want to do, whatever in this day and age of widespread technology - and with so many people to "cover" - just seems plain dumb. Surely restricting this or that will come to no good in the end. Yet, the Chinese now want to restrict so-called Western influences creeping into the country. Stephen Walt comments on FP: Chinese President Hu Jintao waded into the culture wars yesterday, but not the same culture war that has distorted American politics. No, Hu's worried that Western powers are waging a cultural war against China, and that advanced Western weaponry like Lady Gaga, Harry Potter, and the Transformers franchise are eating away at the cultural foundations of Chinese unity. According to various news sources, he has called upon Communist Party leaders to expand China's own cultural output and achieve a global cultural influence "commensurate with …

What money can buy! Politicians to start with......

Perhaps not surprising, but the figures revealed in this piece by Tom Dispacth on TomDispacth.com.au.com.au - a blog well worth following and supporting - clearly confirm the money being poured into Congress by large corporations and vested interests, let alone the effect and outcome of such grand largesse. Of course, as always, it's the average American citizen who "pays" and is the loser..... Startling numbers of Americans are “underwater” -- homeowners and students alike -- and so, for that matter, is Congress, even if in quite a different way.  In these last years, it’s been flooded with money.  Millionaires, including at least 10 centimillionaires, now make up nearly half of our representatives there, and as a group, they have been growing ever richer as Americans grow ever poorer.  Bad times?  Never heard of them.  Congress’s median net worth rose by 15% between 2004 and 2010 -- and this news, in a recent front-page New York Times piece, hardly caused a stir.Of…