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Showing posts from February, 2013

A dubious honour

Credited to Matt Bors, Truthout

Some Bank!!!!

The Pope has now retired as of today.     Now the "fun" will begin as to who his successor will be.    All too sadly, the Church, and many of the cardinals who will be voting for the new Pope, have a lot to answer for. 

AlterNet reveals one dimension to the Vatican - it's Bank.   Not one that one would readily want to become of.

"It’s a place where angels fear to tread; where criminals, frauds and mysterious corpses turn up as regularly as rats in the metro. The Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank, was set up in 1942 by Pope Pius XII to manage the vast Vatican finances. Often referred to as the world’s most secret bank, the operation is run by a CEO and overseen by five cardinals who report directly to the Pope.

The bank’s official role is to safeguard and administer property intended for works of religion or charity. The actual activities of the bank are somewhat different. They include money laundering for narcotics traffickers, bribe…

Torturing with impunity

Israel repeatedly claims to be a democracy.    It isn't - as many instances clearly demonstrate.    Torture is just one of many infractions of international law  - humanity and decency, let alone behaving lawfully - in which Israel engages.    Staggeringly, some 700 Palestinians have been tortured in Israeli "captivity between 2001 and 2011, and whilst complaints have been lodged, not one investigation has been undertaken by the Israeli authorities.

"Six days after Arafat Jaradat was arrested by the Israeli army and the Shin Bet, he was dead. Between the date of his arrest - February 18 - and the day of his death - February 23 - his lawyer Kamil Sabbagh met with Arafat only once: in front of a military judge at the Shin Bet's Kishon interrogation facility.

Sabbagh reported that when he saw Jaradat, the man was terrified. Arafat told his lawyer that he was in acute pain from being beaten and forced to sit in stress positions with his hands bound behind his back.

When it…

Brands to avoid

They are well-known brands - but behind the way they operate there are a host of concerns.      Perhaps it's time to switch brands?


"The world's largest food and beverage companies may be profitable, but according to Oxfam International their practices are helping to destroy not only the natural resources that support a global food system but the lives of the people they depend on most: their employees and their customers.

In a new effort called Behind the Brand, part of their ongoing GROW campaign to fix the broken food system, Oxfam has singled out the ten largest food processing companies—Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, Pepsico and Unilever—to make a singular statement about the failure of these behemoths to fulfill their social and environmental responsibilities."

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"The ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign also released this list of ways that the "Big 10" fail to meet their commitments:

W…

It's official! "No progress" in Afghanistan

Remember all the politicians and those military assuring us that there has been "progress" - whatever that actually means! - in Afghanistan.   There will have been many who would have been re-assured by that information and seen the withdrawal of NATO forces, at the very least, partly justified.   Good PR or a genuine mistake? - when we read, today, that there hasn't, in fact, been "progress" in Afghanistan at all.   If anything, to the contrary!

"American officials, when looking to quickly illustrate progress in Afghanistan, have in the past few months highlighted a 7 percent drop last year in what they call “enemy-initiated attacks.” Fewer attacks, the reasoning went, meant Afghans were safer and the Taliban were weaker.

The problem: There was no decline. The numbers were wrong.

The American-led NATO coalition said Tuesday that it had discovered a clerical error in its reporting and that the number of enemy-initiated attacks — defined as attacks with guns,…

Now let's hear the real story behind the movie Argo

The movie Argo may have swept the Oscars but by all accounts it is not an accurate account of what actually happened.    The movie comes with more than a dose of good ol' American propaganda.

"During the Iranian Revolution of 1979 militant students took 90 people hostage at the American embassy in Tehran. But a group of six embassy staff managed to escape, and the story of how they made it home has now been told in the Hollywood film Argo. After several months in hiding, sheltered by Canadian diplomats, the group posed as a film location scouting team to make it out of the country. The elaborate CIA led escape plan only came to light many years later when classified documents were released by the American government. 

"Matthew Bannister meets Mark Lijek and his wife Cora, and Zena Sheardown, the wife of the late John Sheardown who was the Canadian First Secretary in Tehran."  

Go to the BBC here.

Iran: How abour some diplomacy instead of threats and blackmail?

Professor Stephen Walt, in his latest blog entry "On Iran, try backscratching, not blackmail" on FP, suggests that the US Government's approach to Iran is not only wrong but counter-productive.   Moreover history has taught us that blackmail doesn't work.

"If someone threatened to punish you unless you did something you didn't want to do, how would you respond? Unless the threatened punishment was really horrible you'd refuse, because giving into threats encourages the threatener to make more demands. But what if someone offered to pay you to do something you didn't want to do? If the price were right you'd agree, because that act of cooperation on your part sends a very different message. Instead of showing that you can be intimidated over and over, it simply lets people know that you're willing to cooperate if you are adequately compensated.

This simple logic has thus far escaped most of the people involved with U.S. policy towards Iran. Tod…

Reality check on the US of A: Facts and figures

Those living outside America have a "vision" of the country which really does not accord with the facts.    This piece, on AlterNet, lays bare some startling facts and figures about the US of A.

But two of 9 examples:

"2. Half of us are poor or barely scraping by.

The latest Census Bureau data shows that one in two Americans currently falls into either the “low income” category or is living in poverty. Low-income is defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level. Adjusted for inflation, the earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have dropped from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000. Earnings for the next 20 percent have been stuck at $37,000.

States in the South and West had the highest proportion of low-income families, including Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina, where politicians are eagerly shredding the social safety net.

3. Unhappy meal.

46.7 million Americans must now use food stamps in order to get a meal, and many aren’t ol…

That's a hell of a lot of money to listen to waffle

Staggering!   To hear recently retired Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, her fee will be a reported US$200,000 per speaking engagement.

"Now that she's out as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton isn't going to be hurting for money, thanks to speaking fees of more $200,000 per speaking appearance, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The fee puts Clinton in the upper echelons of the speaking industry. Those who make six figures per speech include Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush; those who make more than $200,000 include Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Clinton (see this chart for reference).

The fee will be more than Clinton's annual salary as Secretary of State, which was $186,000.

Politico's Playbook reported on Monday that Clinton would hit the speaking circuit this spring, and that "Secretary Clinton will likely do some speeches for no fee for causes she champions, and expects to occasionally donate her fees for charitable purposes."

"Inviting" a Third Intifada

What is it with the Israelis?    Are they so stupid?  - or is it arrogance? - that they believe subjugating. mistreating and humiliating the Palestinians in all manner of ways, is not going to lead to trouble.  Like a Third Intifada!    The death of a Palestinian, in custody, who appears to have been severely bashed (ie tortured) is almost certain to cause some sort of protests.   So, what do the Israelis do?    They use their enormous fire-power against unarmed Palestinian civilians.


"An autopsy on the body of Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old father of two, showed that he died of "extreme torture" in Israeli custody and did not have a cardiac arrest, the Palestinian Authority Minister of Detainee Affairs said Sunday.

Arafat Jaradat, a father of a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, worked as a gas station attendant and his wife, Dalal, is pregnant.
Thousands of Palestinians prisoners are holding a hunger strike Sunday after the death of Jaradat and protests have erupted…

Illusion v Reality

The Italians go to the polls today.    It looks like it will be a tight contest - and, surprisingly, that Berlosconi is in contention.    And after his appalling record - personally and in the Courts!

It all seems like illusion versus reality, as The New York Times's reporterin Italy - having lived there for 32 years - says......

"It takes a certain talent to live in happy denial, to slide toward the edge of a precipice and be perfectly relaxed about it. Of all the talents that Italians are renowned for, such nonchalance is perhaps their greatest. Their economy is in deep recession; more than one in three young adults are unemployed; they are unable to compete economically with their neighbors; yet they continue as if nothing were happening, or as if a small glitch in the dolce vita could be fixed with the wave of a wand.

In particular, whether in awe or horror, they continue to be enchanted by the pied piper Silvio Berlusconi, the former and perhaps future prime minister and …

Watching Syria die.......

Watching a country die seems an appropriate way in which to view what is happening in Syria.   And yet the world does nothing even if there have been widespread deaths (in excess of (60,000 according to the UN) and now some 700,000 plus refugees living outside the country - most in appalling conditions.   

"After the first world war Syria was hacked from the carcass of the Ottoman empire. After the second, it won its independence. After the fighting that is raging today it could cease to function as a state.

As the world looks on (or away), the country jammed between Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Israel is disintegrating. Perhaps the regime of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, will collapse in chaos; for some time it could well fight on from a fortified enclave, the biggest militia in a land of militias. Either way, Syria looks increasingly likely to fall prey to feuding warlords, Islamists and gangs—a new Somalia rotting in the heart of the Levant.

If that happens, millions of …

Forget about the employees being human beings

Tesco, in the UK, stands condemned for treating its employees as this piece in AlterNet explains.  Electronic Tracking Bands.  No wonder there is stress in the workforce and people are simply unable to cope.

"The human body, with its need for rest, nutrition and hydration, is such an inefficient tool for capitalist production. But while machines are unlikely to replace human workers anytime soon, new technologies can deftly strip workers of their humanity!

The Irish Independent reports that grocery giant TESCO has strapped electronic armbands to their warehouse workers to measure their productivity, tracking their actions so closely that management knows when they briefly pause to drink from a water fountain or take a bathroom break. These unforgivable lapses in productivity impact workers' performance score, which management then apparently uses to terrify them into working faster.

"The devices give a set amount of time for a task, such as 20 minutes to load packets of s…

Prisoner X. A lot of explanations called for

The "story" has riveted the public in Australia.  Then again the "story" surrounding the so-called Prisoner X - an Australian who is said to have suicided in an Israeli prison where prisoners were said to be so closely monitored to prevent suicide - has captured attention around the world.    There are a lot of explanations called for - not that they will likely ever emerge.     Spiegel OnLine International weighs in to the story.

"An Israeli agent commits suicide in his prison cell. Was he a traitor? The mysterious case of "Prisoner X," reported to be Australian-born Benjamin Zygier, provides an insight into the workings of the Mossad.

The Milan office building exudes elegance with its stucco facade, brass name plate, concierge service and expensive wooden furniture inside. There's nothing to suggest that the firm based here, which specializes in the sale of satellite communications technology, is a front for the Israel foreign intelligence servi…

Being choked by waste

Trash, rubbish - call it what you will.    It's everywhere and ever-growing.  It's a real problem, and one which will effect us, if not already, in all manner of ways.

"The appalling evidence mounts. A new scientific study urges that our omnipresent plastic debris - 280 million tons produced last year, less than half recycled, 370 species suffering its effects and another possible 33 billion tons produced by 2050 - be declared "hazardous." You think? Another report from the U.N. and World Health Organization says over 800 man-made chemicals, including BPA, found in everyday products, including plastic, are becoming “a global threat that needs to be resolved,” with widespread resulting health problems. All this, ahead of Midway, an extraordinary, Kickstarter-funded film by photographer Chris Jordan that documents the deaths of tens of thousands of baby Laysan Albatrosses each year on the Pacific Island of Midway Atoll - over 2,000 miles from the nearest continent …

Chinese hacking explained

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have recently asserted that they were hacked - by the Chinese.    It would seem that there is substance to the allegation.    But how do the Chinese do it?       Mother Jones comes to to rescue to explain it all.



"On Monday, an American cybersecurity firm called Mandiant released a report accusing the Chinese government of systematically hacking into American computer networks and targeting state secrets, weapons programs, businesses, and even the nation's gas pipelines. The New York Times vetted the story and concluded that a growing body of evidence "leaves little doubt" that these attacks are originating from a secret Chinese army base. Adam Segal, senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (an organization that, in the past, has also been targeted by hackers that appeared to be China-based), tells Mother Jones that this "raises the pressure on the increasing drum beat on the US to do so…

Five regrets

We have all heard of the tale that people on their death-bed say they wish they had not worked so hard or spent more time with their children.

In this piece from The Guardian, reprinted on AlterNet, a palliative-care nurse records what she says are 5 regrets people have looking back at their lives and facing imminent death.

"There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called  Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called  The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision tha…

ATM for climate deniers

There are many people out there - many with substantial funds at their disposal - resisting the overwhelming evidence that we are all confronted by climate change and the consequences of it.    Worse still, these deniers are, secretly, funding opposition to moves to "do" something about climate change.     Democracy Nowreveals all.....

"While the secretive Donors Trust has given millions to a variety of right-wing causes, denying climate change appears to be its top priority. An analysis by the environmentalist group Greenpeace reveals Donors Trust has funneled more than one-third of its donations — at least $146 million — to more than 100 climate change denial groups over the past decade. In 2010, 12 of these groups received between 30 to 70 percent of their funding from Donors Trust. We’re joined by Suzanne Goldenberg, U.S. environment correspondent for The Guardian, who has written a series of articles detailing the ties between Donors Trust and opponents of climate …

Come 23 February, it will be 1000 days.....

No comment required other than to record what a disgrace the whole Bradley Manning "affair" is and what an appalling so-called justice system which sees Manning still in jail, without any trial, 1000 days from when he was arrested.

"PFC Bradley Manning has been in jail awaiting trial for nearly 1,000 days for exposing war crimes, corruption, and widespread abuse. When he returns to court in Fort Meade, MD, for a pretrial hearing from February 26 to March 1, Judge Denise Lind will rule on the defense’s motion to dismiss charges for lack of a speedy trial."

Read more here.


You may not realise it, but you might be eating junk

Scary - and troubling!

"Could you be addicted to junk foods and not even know it? That’s a likely possibility, according to a major exposé on the addictiveness of junk food. The cover story for the most recent New York Times Magazine takes an in-depth look at the ways the junk-food industry ensures that you will get hooked on its “convenient” and “inexpensive” products. Foods, it should be noted, that will lighten your wallet while expanding your waistline.

“The public and the food companies have known for decades now—or at the very least since this meeting [of food company CEOs] —that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiraling out of control?” Michael Moss writes. “It’s not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer and a give-the-people-what-they-want attitude on the part of the food manufacturers. What I found, over four years of research an…

The Oscars.......and Israel and Palestine

Amy Goodman, of "Democracy Now" fame writing on truthdig about the upcoming Academy Awards and 2 documentaries in contention for an Oscar.

"The Academy Awards ceremony will make history this year with the first-ever nomination of a feature documentary made by a Palestinian. “5 Broken Cameras” was filmed and directed by Emad Burnat, a resident of the occupied Palestinian West Bank town of Bil’in, along with his Israeli filmmaking partner Guy Davidi. What does a Palestinian farmer wear on the red carpet in Hollywood? We were almost prevented from knowing, as Burnat, his wife and 8-year-old son were detained at Los Angeles International Airport and threatened with deportation. Despite his formal invitation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, it took the intervention of Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore, who now sits on the Academy Board of Governors, followed by Academy attorneys, for Burnat and his family to gain e…

US domestic politics dictates its foreign policy

“IT is not going too far to say that American foreign policy has become completely subservient to tactical domestic political considerations.”

So begins an op-ed piece by Roger Cohen in IHT's Global Opinion.   He goes on....

"This stern verdict comes from Vali Nasr, who spent two years working for the Obama administration before becoming dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In a book called “The Dispensable Nation,” to be published in April, Nasr delivers a devastating portrait of a first-term foreign policy that shunned the tough choices of real diplomacy, often descended into pettiness, and was controlled “by a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisers.”

Nasr, one of the most respected American authorities on the Middle East, served as senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan until his death in December 2010. From that vantage point, and later as a close observer, Nasr was…

It pays to be big for crooks to get away with criminal conduct

Another good example of fat-cats, with influence and money behind them, getting away with admittedwidespread illegal and criminal conduct.      Not one head has rolled!   In the end the long-suffering shareholders will shoulder the loss.    RollingStone reveals all.....

"The deal was announced quietly, just before the holidays, almost like the government was hoping people were too busy hanging stockings by the fireplace to notice. Flooring politicians, lawyers and investigators all over the world, the U.S. Justice Department granted a total walk to executives of the British-based bank HSBC for the largest drug-and-terrorism money-laundering case ever. Yes, they issued a fine – $1.9 billion, or about five weeks' profit – but they didn't extract so much as one dollar or one day in jail from any individual, despite a decade of stupefying abuses.

People may have outrage fatigue about Wall Street, and more stories about billionaire greedheads getting away with more stealing oft…

Advice on how to "kick off" an attack on Iraq

Here we are almost 10 years after the Coalition of the Willing waged war on Iraq. 

An "interesting" revelation by a mercenary on Vice on how his advice was sought on how to "kick off" an attack on Iraq.

"Simon Mann is a British mercenary, most famous for his failed 2004 coup attempt against Teodoro Obiang, president of Equatorial Guinea. An ex-Special Forces soldier, Simon cofounded the private military company Executive Outcomes, which at its height in the mid-90s ran two African wars and used oil money to fund a full-on air force and thousands of private soldiers."

****

"Weren’t you also asked to help kick start the Iraq War in 2002?

Yes. Someone who said he was friends with the American neocons asked me to come up with ideas to get the war kicked off. The first was to pick an Iraqi city away from Baghdad, go there with a rebel force made up of 6,000 Iraqi émigrés, take the city, then say, “Yah boo” to Saddam. That would have forced him to come get u…

A literary festival may be more than just about books

It seems, if this piece "A New Front in the War on Terror" from truthdig,is correct, that literary festivals are more than just about books, learned discussions and meeting a galaxy of authors - many craving to inter-act with their adoring readers.

"There is a new front on the war against terrorism: the international literary festival. The Jaipur festival presented 260 authors, many from nations that are enemies more than drinking buddies—or are, as speaker Reza Aslan said about the United States toward Pakistan, in “incredibly schizophrenic” relationships. The authors spoke to 130,000 attendees, about half local Rajasthanis (Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state), a quarter from greater India, and the rest from the wider world, as estimated by co-director and author William Dalrymple. There was no brawl, other than one perceived insult over caste that was quickly forgiven. For five sunny days, people came together for a remarkable single purpose, to share ideas, lis…

Ronald Reagan doesn't cut it

To outsiders Americans seem to put their presidents on a pedestal - be they good, bad or indifferent.  

thinkprogress has "done" a ranking of US presidents and finds that at least 5 are more than wanting.    One of them Ronald Reagan, poster-boy for so many in the GOP.

"President Reagan ushered in the misguided era of massive deficits, bloated military spending and tax cuts for the very rich that America still struggles to this day to put to an end. Yet Reagan wrongly receives credit for the economic boom that began a few years into his presidency due to events entirely outside of his control. When Reagan took office, America faced double-digit inflation rates matched with a sharp spike in unemployment.   Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker, a Carter appointee, chose to break the first problem by exacerbating the second — driving up interest rates in a successful effort to break inflation. 

When Volcker finally took the brakes off the economy and ended the recession he cre…

No comparison!

Credited to Mike Luckovich, truthdig

Hunger strikers and illegally detained people

A potentially dangerous situation looms in Israel.    Israel not only presently has hunger-strikers on its hands, but the country which, monotonously, beats its own drum about being a democracy, is detaining over 4,000 Palestinians, many without having been through any judicial process.   BBC News reports.

"Protests have been held in the West Bank in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails.

The Middle East Quartet (UN, US, EU and Russia) has recently issued warnings about the condition of the strikers.

The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was "following with concern" the deteriorating health of four Palestinian hunger strikers."

****

"As of December 2012, Israel held 4,517 Palestinians in its jails.

Of these 1,031 are being held until the conclusion of legal proceedings, 178 are in administrative detention (without charge or trial) and 170 are under 18 years of age.

The issue of prisoners is an emotive one for Palestinians…

NYT: Re-wriitng the headline. Why?

Thankfully people like FAIR keep an eye out for tweaking or fiddling with the news.....

 "Non-violent protesters came up with a novel way to protest Israeli plans to build more settlement colonies in the occupied West Bank: They occupied the land themselves. The Bab Al Shams tents went up on Friday on privately owned Palestinian land  in what Israel designates as the E1 part of the West Bank. Israel's announcement of a plan to build new colonies in that part of the West Bank was especially controversial.

The New York Times reported the news on Saturday. But the most remarkable thing is what they did with the headline.

The headline on the earliest versions of the story was "Palestinians Set Up Camp in Israeli-Occupied West Bank Territory." Such acknowledgments of the West Bank as "occupied" territory are relatively rare in corporate media, as Seth Ackerman pointed out in Extra! (1/01).



But then, as Ali Abunimah wrote (Electronic Intifada, 1/12/13),  at some p…

Guerilla war looms in Mali

If one were to accept what one reads in the press and hears and sees in the media, the "war" in Mali has been won due the French dispatching their troops there.    All too sadly, if this report in The New York Times is correct, a guerilla war may now be looming in the already war-torn country.

"The battle for Mali is not over. Remnants of the militant forces that once controlled major towns have not simply burrowed into their rugged, mountain hideaways far to the north. They also appear to have taken refuge in smaller villages nearby, essentially pulling back to less-contested ground after the French-led intervention to oust them, residents and experts say.

That infiltration, in a string of neighboring villages along the Niger River, is what enabled last Sunday’s attack in the heart of Gao, a town of about 86,000 whose reconquest was a pivotal part of the French offensive last month. For hours, bullets flew as jihadists from around Gao pinned down French and Malian force…

Solitary confirment: For 15 years?

The Americans are always telling the world what an enlightened and just country they are....  

Well, then, incacerating a man for 15 years in solitary confinement?  See below.  The issue is especially relevant as the Australian Government questions how an Aussie, living in Israel, came to suicide in an a maximum security prison - in solitary confinement with his every move, including hear-beat, monitored every 60 seconds

"After more than fifteen years held in solitary confinement in one of the nation's most high security prisons, Ramzi Yousef, convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, says that even as a convicted terrorist his treatment is inhumane and unconstitutional.

In documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Yousef's lawyers say that one and a half decades in a seven-by-eleven foot cell with almost no human contact, has led to "severe psychological trauma" and left him with "no hope or prospect of any remedial condition.…

Britain sells arms to brutal Sri Lankan regime

It comes as no surprise that governments, wherever they may be, are so poorly regarded.    And it is no wonder that governments detest the likes of a WikiLeaks or newspapers revealing things they would rather keep from the light of day.   Case in point.  The Independent has revealed that the British Government has been selling arms and ammunition to the brutal and repressive Sri Lankan regime.

"Britain is selling millions of pounds worth of small arms and ammunition to Sri Lanka despite the country’s dire human rights record, The Independent can disclose today.

Figures taken from the Government’s own database show how the authorities in Colombo have gone on a buying spree of British small arms and weaponry worth at least £3m.

Some of the items sold to Sri Lanka include pistols, rifles, assault rifles, body armour and combat shotguns – despite the Foreign Office still classifying the South Asian nation as a “country of concern” for rights abuses.

The sales indicate how far President …

Oscars: Why let the truth get in the way of a good yarn

At the moment 3 movies are doing the rounds and 2 are in contention for Academy Awards.    The fact that they "deal" with real live events but do not contain the actual facts doesn't seem to trouble many people - except Maureen Dowd, writing her regular op-ed piece ("The Oscar for Best Fabrication") in The New York Times.

"I saw “Argo” with Jerry Rafshoon, who was a top aide to President Carter during the Iranian hostage crisis, when six Americans escaped and were given sanctuary for three months by courageous Canadian diplomats.

We were watching a scene where a C.I.A. guy can’t get through to Hamilton Jordan, Carter’s chief of staff, to sign off on plane tickets for the escaping hostages, so he pretends to be calling from the school where Jordan’s kids go.

“Hamilton wasn’t married then and didn’t have any kids,” Jerry whispered, inflaming my pet peeve about filmmakers who make up facts in stories about real people to add “drama,” rather than just writing th…

Simple letter.....simple message

No comment called for.....  

From The New York Times's Letters to the Editor:

"I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion in “A Court to Vet Kill Lists” (news analysis, front page, Feb. 9) that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens.

Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.

I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threate…

The tragic legacy of the West's invasion of Iraq

One of the tragic legacies of the West's invasion of Iraq... 

Re-published from Antony Loewenstein's blog:

"Australian film-maker David Bradbury and Australian writer and activist Donna Mulhearn are currently in Iraq witnessing the devastation that the West has bought in the last decade. Here’s a message from Bradbury in the city of Fallujah:

"Met two very interesting women doctors today. Dr Samira is the doctor at the frontline of birth defects here at Fallujah hospital. We saw one little chap this morning – Hassan – born two days ago with a small head. His birth defects don’t allow the brain to grow properly and therefore mental retardation and convulsive fits will be his future. Doctors will operate but problematic. They don’t even have a specialist ultra sound machine here that would allow doctors to diagnose in early pregnancy birth anomalies in the womb. That would give the doctors a big start to assemble and prepare a specialist team for the birth so they can …

2012 World Press Photo winner

"The international jury of the 56th annual World Press Photo Contest has selected a picture by Paul Hansen of the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter as the World Press Photo of the Year 2012. The picture shows a group of men carrying the bodies of two dead children through a street in Gaza City. They are being taken to a mosque for the burial ceremony while their father’s body is carried behind on a stretcher. Two-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and his older brother Muhammad were killed when their house was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike. Their mother was put in intensive care. The picture was made on 20 November 2012 in Gaza City, Palestinian Territories.
The jury gave prizes in nine themed categories to 54 photographers of 32 nationalities from: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Palestinian Territories, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, South Afr…

Iraq lurches toward civil war

Thanks to the Coalition of the Willing invading Iraq, 9 years later it very much looks like that act of war could be leading to a civil war.    All the signs point to one as Sunnis and Shias "fight" it out.    When one reflects on it, Saddam may have been a terrible man and tyrant, but the country was basically peaceful and things like education for woman was an accepted fact.    And most certainly the country wasn't racked by various communities engaged in deadly conflict with one another.

"All indicators are pointing to a looming sectarian civil war on Iraq’s horizon. It is possible to avoid this civil war, but so far, the country’s leaders are not willing to compromise, and outside parties show little interest in stopping it. They should care more than they do: if not resolved, a bloody civil war in Iraq will fuel the rising conflict  among Sunni-Shia across the Middle East — now in Lebanon and Syria — with the potential of spreading into other countries and invi…

What is good for the goose is good for the gander?

Credited to David Fitzsimmons, Cagle Cartoons, The Arizona Star

A medal for what?

Hard to believe this is true.     What this report from CommonDreamsdoes show is how priorities have been re-ordered to a perverse degree.

"The Pentagon has created a new Distinguished Warfare Medal to be awarded to drone "pilots" and other cyber warriors who push a button in a building somewhere to target someone, often innocent, always unknown, many miles away, thus honoring for the first time what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called "the extraordinary actions that make a true difference in combat operations." In an Orwellian twist, in military hierarchy the medal will rate above the Bronze Star, given for heroic acts performed under fire by those who are, like, actually there."

Journalists under attack.....and worse

Being a journalist has always had its perils, especially in war zones or even conflict.     And no more than now, as a report by Committee to Protect Journalists clearly shows.

"The imprisonment of journalists worldwide reached a record high in 2012, driven in part by the widespread use of charges of terrorism and other anti-state offenses against critical reporters and editors, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found.

In their accounting of the quality of press protections across the world, the CPJ's report, Attack on The Press: Journalism on the Front Lines, found an alarming international trend of government overreach and repression of journalistic freedoms with those in the United States not at all immune from the abuses of state power.

The report shows that 232 journalists found themselves behind bars because of their work in 2012, an increase of 53 from the previous year and the highest since CPJ launched its annual global study in 1990."

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"Some of the …