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Showing posts from April, 2015

The Vietnam War - as viewed in America and Vietnam

Nguyen Qui Duc, a former journalist in the United States, runs an arts space in Hanoi.

Today marks 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War - and Duc writes in The New York Timeson how the then seemingly never-ending war is viewed in America and, by contrast, in Vietnam.





"To this day, the Vietnamese government celebrates its victory on April 30, and throughout the country grand official celebrations have been orchestrated for this year’s 40th anniversary. Yet few Vietnamese are paying attention, and for those who are, the regime’s attempt to glorify its past only seems to underline its failures at present.

In America, I used to have to explain that “Vietnam” wasn’t just a war, but a country with a history, a culture and a people. Here the Vietnamese accuse me of being obsessed with the war — the American War, as they call it. It’s true that for me and many Americans, “Nam” is still on in some ways, with stubborn questions about what went wrong then and how the same mistakes are s…

Pity the workers

No, the world has still not learnt from the tragedy which befell the garment manufacturing workers in Bangladesh.    The Nation reports in "Here Are All the Ways People Are Dying at Work".

"This week, Workers’ Memorial Day reminded us that the leading cause of death at work isn’t factory fires, mine collapses, or machinery accidents—though it is all those things. The main reason workers die is because those in power look the other way.

Global Worker Watch’s labor death map presents a chilling snapshot of an everyday calamity: A nameless laborer is crushed by falling soil at a construction zone in Qatar. Days later, five men die in a van crash as they speed down a foggy California road, en route to the seasonal migrant grape harvest. Meanwhile in Bangladesh, 13 perish in a plastics factory fire. Then comes a young workers’ sudden death at a Chinese iPhone supplier plant reportedly due to exhaustion. All that within the first five weeks of the year.

Even more tragically, ea…

America's claim to exceptionalism

It is hard to think of another country which assume to itself exceptionalism - but that is what the US is doing.     It is a policy without merit and fraught with a mass of issues.

"President Barack Obama stood behind the podium and apologized for inadvertently killing two Western hostages - including one American - during a drone strike in Pakistan. Obama said, “one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional, is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.” In his 2015 state of the union address, Obama described America as “exceptional.” When he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly in 2013, he said, “Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional.”

"American exceptionalism reflects the belief that Americans are somehow better than everyone else. This view reared its head after the 2013 leak of a Department of Justice White Paper that describes circu…

Aaah, for the good ol' days.....

Credited to Patrick Chappatte, Le Temps, Switzerland, Cagle Cartoons

The hazards of being a journalist

We may want to have news available to us 24/7, but those who bring it to us - that is, the journalists - are facing ever-increasing danger to life and limb.

"The ascendance of militant extremists and criminal gangs who abduct and kill reporters, combined with rising government repression in the cause of counterterrorism, has created the biggest threat to journalism in recent times, a press advocacy group said in an annual report on Monday.

The report, “Attacks on the Press,” by the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the menace was especially acute for freelancers, or independent journalists, whose resources and training are often limited, and who may have no established news organization to help them when they get into trouble.

“Journalists are being caught in a terror dynamic, in which they are threatened by nonstate actors who target them and governments that restrict civil liberties including press freedom in the name of fighting terror,” Joel Simon, executive director of th…

The New York Times stands condemned

Baltimore, in the USA, has been rocked by street violence and protests arising from the death, yet again, of a black youth at the hands of the police.

FAIRcatches The New York Times out on the way it has reported the situation in Baltimore.....

"For readers who turned to today’s New York Times site (4/28/15) this morning for news of the ongoing Baltimore protests following the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, they found a terrifying tale of rioters throwing cinder blocks at firefighters trying to put out arson fires, as the city was beset by people with “no regard for life.”

Whose tale was it, though? Here’s the first six citations from the Times story:


“police said”
“police said”
“police also reported”
“police said”
“state and city officials said”
“police acknowledged”


Not until the 12th paragraph does the paper get around to quoting someone who isn’t a police or government official. (UPDATE: At shortly after noon, the Times edited its story to include a quote near the top from a…

America: How the rich get richer....and richer

If you are an American - and most likely the same situation applies equally to other Western nations - this piece from Information Clearing House on how the rich have become richer - and richer! - will be an eye-opener, even if not a surprise.

"Since the official end of the last recession in June 2009, the wealthiest 1% households in the USA have captured 91% of all the net income gains, according to university studies based on US income tax records. At the same time, median family real incomes have consistently fallen 1%-2% every year since 2009 in the US—and that’s at the median income level. For those below the median, the real income decline has been even greater. That’s almost 100 million households of ‘production and non-supervisory workers’ in the US, trying to survive on stagnant or falling wage incomes for the past six years.

How has this extreme inequality come about? How is it that wage incomes have been stagnant during a so-called ‘economic recovery’ since 2009, while …

$24 trillion later....and our sea food is at risk

For all those out there who love eating fish.......a danger sign from no less than the World Wide Fund for Nature.

“The ocean feeds us, employs us, and supports our health and well-being, yet we are allowing it to collapse before our eyes. If everyday stories of the ocean’s failing health don’t inspire our leaders, perhaps a hard economic analysis will." -- Marco Lambertini of WWF

****

"The untapped riches in the world’s oceans are estimated at nearly 24 trillion dollars – the size of the world’s leading economies, according to a new report released Thursday by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Describing the oceans as economic powerhouses, the study warns that the resources in the high seas are rapidly eroding through over-exploitation, misuse and climate change.

“The ocean rivals the wealth of the world’s richest countries, but it is being allowed to sink to the depths of a failed economy,” said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International.

“As responsible s…

Europe from one American's perspective.....

Aaah, Europe!    Exoctic on one level (Parisian cafes, wonderful food, old churches and loads of history to look back at) and fraught with major issues (such as major unemployment and some economies not travelling well at all) on another.     An "interesting" perspective on Europe by columnist, Roger Cohen, in "Long Live Europe" on the New York Times, Roger Cohen.....

"There’s an American cottage industry specialized in Europe’s woes: a feckless Continent whose defense spending is never adequate; a monetary union that is irretrievably flawed; a land of welfare that breeds unemployment; a place of resurgent hatreds that led Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, to observe this year that Europe “looks more like 1933 than 2015.”

Nope, Europe looks more like 2015, a borderless market of more than half a billion people between whom war has become impossible, so attractive to much of humankind that thousands die trying to get into it, a Continent…

A policy out of whack with reality....

Not for the first time do we see, especially in relation to the Middle East, foreign policy and approaches of various nations totally out of whack with reality.   Take the EU's stance in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict......

"In a letter calling on European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to promote and implement a 2012 plan to mark produce and products for the European marketplace from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, 16 EU foreign ministers stated that what they are requesting is “an important step in the full implementation of EU longstanding policy in relation to the preservation of the two-state solution”.
If that’s what they truly believe, the 16 who signed the letter – they included the foreign ministers of Britain and France but not Germany – are clearly out of touch with reality because the two-state solution has long been dead, killed by Israel’s on-going colonisation and ethnic cleansing by stealth.

There are, of course, two other possible exp…

Hilary Clinton - the Hawk

Whatever now presidential candidate Hilary Clinton might be saying about her views on this or that - foreign policy in particular - as this piece on CounterPunch clearly details Clinton is a hawk through and through.

"Announcing her latest campaign for the presidency, Hillary Clinton declared she was entering the race to be the champion for “everyday Americans.” As a lawmaker and diplomat, however, Clinton has long championed military campaigns that have killed scores of “everyday” people abroad, from Iraq to Yemen. As commander-in-chief, there’s no reason to believe she’d be any less a hawk than she was as the senator who backed George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, or the Secretary of State who encouraged Barack Obama to escalate the war in Afghanistan. If her nomination is as sure a thing as people say, then antiwar organizing needs to start right away.

Hillary has already won the support of those who continually agitate for war. “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Robert …

One man, one gyrocopter v $600 billion annual spend on defence

What does the American taxpayer get for a $600 billion spend on defence?  Not much, it seems.....    It all seems rather comical.

"The US military machine spends around $600 billion a year on national defense, but somehow it couldn’t stop a Florida mailman from landing his airborne protest right on the Capitol lawn. Doug Hughes arrived in a slow-moving, light-weight gyrocopter that he flew right past all the elaborate checkpoints and high-tech security monitors. His message to members of Congress: you and your institution are utterly corrupted by political money and we, the people, are coming after you.

“I’m just delivering the mail,” the Florida postal worker said with a touch of whimsical humor. “This isn’t my regular route.”

The guardians of national security said they saw him coming on their radar screens but thought he was probably a flock of geese. Stand-up comics should have fun with that.

But I expect Hughes’s imaginative assault on politics-as-usual will scare the crap out …

Those ever-insidious multinational tobacco companies

Not content having poisoned more than millions through the sale of their cigarettes and now faced with increasing limitations around the world on the advertising of tobacco products (or printing dire warnings on cigarette packets - or even plainly packaged packs) the giant multinational tobacco companies are looking to sell their cancer-laden products in poor nations around the world.    Disgraceful!

"Facing greater restriction in the USA and other industrialized countries, international tobacco companies are increasingly marketing their products in developing countries, particularly among women and adolescents.

As many developed countries around the world, including the UK, introduce tighter restrictions on tobacco sales, the billionaire and former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, has told the BBC of his determination to combat the spread of smoking in poorer countries. “We are in this to help countries that cannot defend themselves against an industry that is trying to kill…

Farming around the world: Another case of Davd v Goliath

It is more than troublesome that every day we see examples of what might be seen as David v Goliath or big business trying to "squash" the little guy.    Yet another example of this is exemplified in this piece "The World Bank and the Battle for the Future of Farming" on CommonDreams. 



"There is a battle raging over the future of farming on this planet, and the front line, this week, is at the Spring Meetings of the World Bank in Washington, DC. 

There are two visions. They are often portrayed as being about differences in technical approaches but are, in truth, far more fundamental. This is a battle over nothing less than the structure of global power and the sustainability of life on this planet.

In one corner are the World Bank and its financial backers, primarily rich country governments, multinational agriculture corporations and large private foundations. Their vision is one in which farming is seen, first and foremost, as a mega-industry, primarily conce…

Europe's missing honesty, moral indifference and shame

Almost no day passes without hearing of the death of people, fleeing Libya and other countries in the region, attempting to cross the Mediterranean to mainly Italy.    And the European response to this ongoing tragedy?  Shamefully little!   There are estimates of some 30,000 people perishing this year if the present tide continues. 

"When you hear on the news that “about 400 migrants are feared to have drowned when their boat capsized”, is there not something that jars? Of course there is. It is the hypocrisy wrapped up in the word “feared”. The response of many people listening, I would suspect, is instinctive horror, but laced with indifference. There is certainly no rush to offer resettlement.

The prevailing view seems to be that this new generation of boat people has calculated the risk, and it actually seems not a bad risk. So far this year, 10,000 people have arrived in Italy; 900 are believed to have died. So someone who embarks on a boat, however leaky the hull, however s…

So much for the Allies' claimed success in Iraq!

The Americans are back in Iraq - and today the Australian Government announced the deployment of another 300 troops to the war-torn country.

But for all the Allies' much touted claimed success in Iraq the facts seem to be quite the opposite - as this report from The New York Times makes so very clear.

"Colonel Schwemmer was stunned at the state in which he found the Iraqi soldiers when he arrived here. “It’s pretty incredible,” he said. “I was kind of surprised. What training did they have after we left?”

Training stopped, and the army did little more than staff checkpoints. Then, last year, four divisions collapsed overnight in Mosul and elsewhere in northern Iraq under the determined assault of Islamic State fighters numbering in the hundreds or at most the low thousands, and the extremists’ advance came as far as this base.

An army that once counted 280,000 active-duty personnel, one of the largest in the world, is now believed by some experts to have as few as four to seve…

Yemen isn't the Saudi's only war

Whilst the Saudis are actively involved in the present conflict in Yemen - and the West turns a blind-eye to other "wars" the Saudis are waging - Riyadh is carrying on a war not only against its Shia population but bloggers, journalists and any people seen as dissenters.

"The Saudi war on Yemen has understandably come to dominate the headlines since it began in late March 2015. The international scope of the conflict – nominally including the participation of nearly a dozen Gulf countries – coupled with the obvious political and geopolitical implications, all but assured that nearly all mention of Saudi Arabia in the news would be in the context of this war. However, there is another war being waged by Saudi Arabia, this one entirely within its own borders.

While Riyadh viciously, and illegally, bombs the people of Yemen, it also continues to wage a brutal war of repression against its own Shia population. A significant minority inside Saudi Arabia, the Shia community ha…

The cameras are trained on the right people

Credited to Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Cagle Cartoons

The world ignores the annihilation of Yarmouk

The world just doesn't want to face reality, ignores facts before its eyes or allows politics to dictate it actions - or inaction.    Whatever the reasoning, to witness the annihilation of the people of Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus, is a blot on the world and its supposed enlightened humanity.   The "picture" of what is happening in Yarmouk, as detailed in this piece on The Guardian, is beyond horrendous.

"Yarmouk, once a bustling southern suburb of Damascus of 200,000 people, has been starved for two years in a relentless siege by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which has also blocked water supplies for months, a tactic that activists say constitutes the use of water as a tool of war.

Now the remaining 18,000 residents, many of whom suffer from ailments ranging from malnourishment to liver disease and illnesses linked to consuming tainted water, are mired on the frontline of the latest offensive by the terror group Islamic State, which has seized the majority of …

Yemen: An unwinnable war

One has to wonder what the ultimate objective of the US is, and principally Saudi Arabia as one of the countries in the Middle East, with regard to the war in Yemen.     It is a question also posed by the writer, from the Cato Institute, of this op-ed piece "Bombing Yemen Won’t Help It" in The New York Times - who also postulates that the war is unwinnable.

"Yemen’s volatile civil war has been depicted as merely a battleground between Sunni Arab countries and Shiite Iran for dominance in the Middle East.

The Houthis, northern tribal rebels who have waged a prolonged insurgency against the Yemeni government, took the capital, Sana, in September and have continued to seize territory since, drawing near to the southern port city of Aden, forcing President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee and prompting a Saudi-led military intervention last month. But in fact, the conflict in Yemen is local, not regional. And the Saudi-led, American-backed bombing campaign is doomed to failur…

The dangerous fallout from fracking

Perhaps not surprisingly, big business likes fracking.  It's good for the bottom line.   And government authorities and agencies have done little to examine the effects of fracking - other than, here too, to consider how it can raise money for the State. 

All too sadly - and experience hasn't taught us to closely examine and question what is being done allegedly in our interests - there are considerable dangers flowing from fracking.  CommonDreams reports in this piece "Fracking Boom Accompanied by Rise of Silent, Deadly Carcinogen in Homes: Study"

"Researchers in Pennsylvania have discovered that the prevalence of radon, a radioactive and carcinogenic gas, in people's homes and commercial buildings that are nearer to fracking sites has increased dramatically in the state since the unconventional and controversial gas drilling practice began in the state just over a decade ago.

"By drilling 7,000 holes in the ground, the fracking industry may have chang…

Return to Sender

As published in The Nation:

Ralph Nader’s new book, Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001–15, is a twofer: a spiritual exercise in citizen participation and a counterfactual history lesson in what might have been if only our government had hewn to democratic first principles and priorities over the last fifteen years. In the two letters that follow we see both sides. Imagine what the Middle East would be like today if we hadn’t invaded Iraq. Imagine if President Obama were to spend time highlighting the importance of the civil service, the contributions of low-wage workers and the importance of the Centers for Disease Control. If only our last two presidents had listened to Nader and others like him who speak not only truth but good sense to power, we might not be in the state we’re in.
—Dan Simon

* * *

January 2, 2014

Dear President Bush,

A few days ago I received a personalized letter from your Presidential Center that included a solicitation card for donations that…

France: Unprecedented surveillance powers sought

On one level it is understandable that France is anxious to avoid the appalling attacks it encountered in Paris a few months ago - or those in Toulouse a while back - but like so many countries reacting to so-called terrorist attacks, the French Government intends to bring into force laws giving wide surveillance powers, including in relation to the internet.   Needless to say that has brought forth substantial criticism from a variety of well-regarded organisations (such as Reporters Withour Borders) and human rights organisations.    

"Privacy International, Amnesty International, FIDH, the French League for Human Rights and Reporters Without Borders are alarmed by the expansive surveillance powers to be granted to surveillance agencies contained in a Bill transferred to the French parliament on Friday.

Under the new law, French intelligence agencies would be empowered to hack into computers and devices and spy on the communications of anyone who makes contact with a person und…

The "deal" with Iran

Needless to say Israeli PM Netanyahu has slammed the deal just concluded with Iran, but any sober-thinking person would have to welcome the agreement struck with Iran.     There are no guarantees in life, but to believe that all the world's actions must pivot around what suits Israel, or what it would want, is plain fanciful.

An early response to the agreement on Foreign Policy in Focus...

"Hardliners in both the United States and Iran opposed the agreement, but so far it appears that the pro-war faction in the U.S. Congress (mainly though not only Republicans) poses a far greater threat to the survival of the accord than the hawkish factions in Iran — especially since Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has continued to support the nuclear negotiators.

For some of the U.S. opponents, the issue is purely partisan. They want President Obama to fail, and they’ll oppose anything he supports.

For many others, military intervention and regime change remain the first choic…

Obama is no anti-war President....

The GOP may accuse him of being anti-war President but the facts show that Obama is far from being so.    Just look at the tally, as Trevor Timm has done in this piece "If this is what an anti-war presidency looks like to you, you're detached from reality" in The Guardian.

Nothing sums up the warped foreign policy fantasy world in which Republicans live more than when House Speaker John Boehner recently called Obama an “anti-war president” under which America “is sitting on the sidelines” in the increasingly chaotic Middle East.

If Obama is an anti-war president, he’s the worst anti-war president in history. In the last six years, the Obama administration has bombed seven countries in the Middle East alone and armed countless more with tens of billions in dollars in weapons. But that’s apparently not enough for Republicans. As the Isis war continues to expand and Yemen descends into civil war, everyone is still demanding more: If only we bombed the region a little bit hard…

The plight of South Sudan

South Sudan is the newest country in the world, having only come into existence as a State in 2011.  It is a country beset with a myriad of problems.    It is obvious, as this piece from AlJazeera makes so clear - and it is an eye-opener - that the country would be in even greater dire straights than it already is were it not for the material assistance provided to the people by the UN and its various agencies.  

"Since fighting broke out in December 2013, killing tens of thousands of people in the months ahead, the nation has been torn apart by brutal conflict, the recruitment of children to fight and evidence of horrific mass rape.

Over 100,000 people continue living in protection of civilian camps in five states, some fearing for their safety. Displacement of civilians has been extensive, something I've witnessed in Wai in Jonglei state and Ganyiel in Unity state.


I heard from countless men, women and children who expressed anger at the inability or unwillingness of the war…

There goes the soil.....and our food supply

No, soil isn't a sexy subject!   But we absolutely need good soil if we are to secure the supply of food for us all.   All too sadly the cultivation and nurtuting of soil has been neglected by the vast number of farmers and governments have been neglectful in ensuring that there is good soil.

"Imagine a wonderful world, a planet on which there was no threat of climate breakdown, no loss of freshwater, no antibiotic resistance, no obesity crisis, no terrorism, no war. Surely, then, we would be out of major danger? Sorry. Even if everything else were miraculously fixed, we’re finished if we don’t address an issue considered so marginal and irrelevant that you can go for months without seeing it in a newspaper.

It’s literally and – it seems – metaphorically, beneath us. To judge by its absence from the media, most journalists consider it unworthy of consideration. But all human life depends on it. We knew this long ago, but somehow it has been forgotten. As a Sanskrit text writte…

US delivers up arms and money to the Egyptians. Forget about human rights, etc. etc.

The US just can't get it right! - and, yet again, put double-standards on show.  Here we have an Egyptian regime which is so tainted by its lack of human rights and how it came into office - and, essentially, isn't a democracy - and here we have the Obama Administration promising arms and money to the country.     Needless to say the usual suspects, including Israel's Right, support the move.     Glenn Greenwald, writing on The // Interceptcomments.....

"Yesterday, the Egyptian regime announced it was prosecuting witnesses who say they saw a police officer murder an unarmed poet and activist during a demonstration, the latest in a long line of brutal human rights abuses that includes imprisoning journalists, prosecuting LGBT citizens, and mass executions of protesters. Last June, Human Rights Watch said that Egyptian “security forces have carried out mass arrests and torture that harken back to the darkest days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.”

Today, the White…