27 Feb 2010

Julius Malema: Genius, clown or fat cat?

The controversial leader of the African National Congress's youth wing divides opinion, for some he is a symbol of the corruption for which the ANC is becoming notorious.

While the comparisons with another youthful political party leader in Romania stop here, there are many comparisons that can be made about countries sharing a painful and never-ending transition to democracy.

Read the rest of the article by clicking on the title to find comparisons to your own national conundrum...

26 Feb 2010

Court lifts ban on criticism of MI5 in Binyam case

The Court of Appeal has said wording criticising MI5 in a judgement over former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed can be published.


Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the "repeat and strenuous attempts to cover up" any "complicity in torture" was "shameful".

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said the "whole affair had been bedevilled by attempts to block the truth" and echoed calls for an inquiry into "all aspects of the UK's alleged involvement in human rights abuses like rendition, secret detention and torture".

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal said that Mr Mohamed should be told what MI5 knew about his ill-treatment at the hands of the CIA in Pakistan in 2002. The judgement revealed MI5 officers were aware that Mr Mohamed had been deprived of sleep, threatened, shackled and left in so low a mental state that he was on suicide watch.

During the judgement it emerged that the government's top lawyer on the case had lobbied the court to remove one paragraph relating to MI5's wider human rights record. Lawyers for Mr Mohamed, the media, and legal pressure groups protested, saying it was an attempt to manipulate three of the most senior judges in the land.

On Friday, in an unusual decision, Lord Neuberger agreed to reveal his original wording - and also his final opinion on MI5's record.

'Final word'

The paragraph explains how MI5 had stressed to Parliamentarians that they "operated in a culture that respected human rights and that coercive techniques were alien to the service's general ethics, methodology and training."

Lord Neuberger's final paragraph goes on: "Yet in this case that does not seem to have been true: as the evidence shows, some Security Services officials appear to have a dubious record relating to actual involvement, and frankness about any such involvement, with the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed when he was held at the behest of US officials."

The judge then says that while the good faith of the foreign secretary was not in doubt, a question mark now hung over some of the legal statements he had made, based on MI5 advice.

"Not only is there some reason for distrusting such a statement given that it is based on Security Services advice and information because of previous, albeit general, assurances in 2005, but also the security services have an interest in the suppression of such information."

25 Feb 2010

Turkish military at uncomfortable crossroads

There has never been much love lost between the Turkish military and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002.

The generals believe the AKP has a hidden agenda to subvert the country's secular system.

The AKP, for its part, sees the military as standing in the way of democratic reforms essential to Turkey's attempt to join the European Union.

But a string of allegations about coup plots by the military - and this week's arrest and formal indictment of seven senior military officers, including four admirals, a general and two colonels - have brought these tensions to a new level.

They raise fundamental questions about whether peaceful cohabitation is possible between the staunchly secular military and a governing party with Islamist roots.

And for Turkey's Western allies, they raise troubling questions about where the country could be heading.

Ataturk's legacy

Opinion polls routinely confirm that in a country where politicians are widely seen as corrupt and self-serving, the armed forces are Turkey's most trusted institution.

But for the role of the army after World War I - when under the leadership of the republic's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it won the independence struggle - modern Turkey would not exist.

Moreover, the generals and their allies in the bureaucracy, the judiciary and the media, see the armed forces as the ultimate guardian of Ataturk's legacy.

The army has intervened to overthrow elected governments three times since 1960 - four, if one includes the so-called "post-modern coup" of 1997, in which it forced from office the country's first Islamist prime minister.

To wage a war of attrition against the AKP, which has already won two convincing election victories, could simply ensure it wins a third.

There is no credible political rival on the horizon.

Besides, the current chief of the Turkish general staff, the widely respected Gen Ilker Basbug, says coups are a thing of the past.

Still clinging to its traditional role as guardian of the nation, but aware the tide of history is moving against it, the Turkish military finds itself at an uncomfortable crossroads.

Castro laments death of hunger-striking dissident

Cuba's leader Raul Castro "laments" the death of a detained activist who had been on hunger strike for nearly three months, its foreign ministry says.

It marks a rare expression of sorrow by the country's leadership, often rebuked over its human rights record.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in hospital in Havana on Tuesday, 85 days after he began refusing food, sparking criticism of Havana from the US and EU countries.

The 42-year-old was arrested in 2003 in an crackdown on opposition activists.

But the Cuban president said neither Mr Tamayo nor anyone else on the island had been tortured.

Mr Zapata, who was declared a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International, had been refusing food in protest at jail conditions and died in the capital's Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital.

Amnesty said "a full investigation must be carried out to establish whether ill-treatment may have played a part" in his death.

24 Feb 2010

Americas bloc excluding US and Canada agreed

Latin American and Caribbean nations have agreed to set up a new regional body without the US and Canada.

The new bloc would be an alternative to the Organisation of American States (OAS), the main forum for regional affairs in the past 50 years.

23 Feb 2010

German Church leader Kaessmann admits drink-driving

The head of Germany's Protestant church has admitted drink-driving, after she was charged with passing a red light while three times over the legal limit.

Bishop Margot Kaessmann, a divorced mother of four children, was appointed as the church's first female leader last year.

After she was arrested in Hanover, at the weekend, she told Germany's Bild newspaper: "I am shocked at myself that I could have made such a grave error."

Soon afterwards, she did the decent thing and resigned, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8534761.stm

Not something that we're used to see in the post-socialist, (relatively) young democracies!

22 Feb 2010

Maneaua rromaneasca exportata in Bulgaria

aoooleuuu, sa moaraaa dusmanii meeeei, draghi izreteli! auzi la fata asta nevinovata ce spune: pop-folk!? guritza englezoaica, curveturile astea platinate canta manele! pa spargatorii astia de greva infometati ii bagarati in Uniune! leka f...cking noci: political correctness gone berserk! and that's the BBC of all people!

21 Feb 2010

Archaeology and the struggle for Jerusalem

The latest large archaeological excavation in Silwan's City of David site is a hive of activity. Archaeology students from the world over are digging, dusting and displaying ancient artefacts found here

The land here is privately owned by Elad, an Israeli association that also funds Jewish settlement building across occupied East Jerusalem.

Yonatan Mizrahi runs alternative, critical tours around the City of David and across Silwan. As a former archaeologist for the Antiquities Authority who worked in East Jerusalem, he told me he saw first hand how Israel and Jewish-interest groups sometimes use archaeology as a political tool.

Mr Mizrahi says archaeology is about learning about the past but that individuals then choose how to interpret the past. "One religion or another may look at an excavation site and say - that land is ours," Mr Mizrahi said.

But he qualified this by saying even if archaeologists were to find a big sign, reading 'Welcome to King David's Palace', that wouldn't give Jewish Israelis the right to claim East Jerusalem today.

"Just like if the Vatican found something here, it wouldn't give the church the right to take ownership of this land. The bottom line is that Palestinians are the majority in East Jerusalem," Mr Mizrahi said.


However, that hardly stops Israel adding insult to injury by announcing new West Bank shrines to heritage list

Finally, Israel's prime minister has just announced yet another controversial plan to add two major religious sites in the West Bank to the country's national heritage list.

Close to 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements, illegal under international law, built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem.

The gunfighter's dilemma

Imagine the scene - you're standing in the deserted street of a ramshackle wild west town, Colt 45 strapped to your thigh, the music of Ennio Morricone floating on the air.

Somewhere off to the right a shutter bangs in the wind. Tumbleweed skitters by. Up ahead a grim-faced man dressed all in black (if it's a poncho you're in real trouble) stands ready to draw his six-shooter.

What happens next will decide whether you live or die. Should you go for your gun, or wait for him to make the first move?


Reacting to your opponent's movement turns out to be significantly faster than the conscious decision-making process involved in choosing to draw your gun.

"In our everyday lives some of the movements we make come about because we decide to make them, while others are forced upon us by reacting to events," he says.

As a general strategy for survival, these reactive responses seem pretty useful, he says. "It could mean the difference between life and death when you are trying to avoid an oncoming bus."


Being one of those who did (true, only partially!) avoid an oncoming (double-decker) bus, I'd recommend this article as a good Sunday morn' read

Kipling's Indian legacy

Plans for a museum in Rudyard Kipling's Mumbai home commemorating the writer have been shelved following concerns that a memorial to the renowned imperialist and chronicler of the British Raj would be politically unpalatable. But is it time for Indians to reappraise him?

BBC's Andrew Walker reassesses the Indian-born writer's reputation, both in India and the UK.

20 Feb 2010

Go Home, Yankee! Go Home!

It's time to take a united stand against America and its world-wide, "international community" of stooges! Forget your favourite soap-operas, your football matches, your social networks and every other "panem et circensis", make-believe device allowing the neocolonial globalization's agents to prosper!...

Corporatism has tied our hands in its global financial network, while its nuclear NATO bodyguards send drones to punish the non-believers in the Washington Consensus... Meanwhile, the Evil Empire and its hundreds and hundreds (seven, eight hundred, maybe more!) military bases around the world http://www.motherjones.com/military-maps keep fomenting this paranoid and never ending New Cold War... on Terror, this time!

This Emperor is naked and it's Time to Change its haphazardly-assembled "international community"... It's time to get the corporate privatisation winners - that have been aided and abetted to rob these former adversaries, in exchange for their unquestioned loyalty to the "free" market - worried! More Green Zones for the nouveau riche? Anyway, it's time to denounce their newspeak, cultist religions: marketing, management, personal development, "positive thinking"...

For this is the root cause of our moral and financial impoverishment... our future mortgaged on shallow slogans: get rich now or die trying!... For this is why we're unable to fathom anything else beyond this uni-polar world, irreparably damaged environmentally and devoid of social justice!

Remember Gramsci's "passive revolution"! Resist and reclaim your civility! Reverse globalization!

18 Feb 2010

It's Groundhog Day: Gordon Brown says UK is prepared in Falkland Islands!

The UK has made "all the preparations that are necessary" to protect the Falkland Islands, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said.

However, the Ministry of Defence has denied reports that a naval taskforce is on its way to the Falklands.

Argentina has brought in controls on ships passing through its waters to the islands over UK plans to drill for oil.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague told the BBC the Royal Navy's presence in the region should be increased.

The Sun [tabloid] newspaper reported that up to three ships were to join the islands' regular patrol vessel.

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt understands the destroyer HMS York and the oil supply tanker RFA Wave Ruler are in the area, as well as HMS Clyde, which is permanently based there.

However, the MoD said Britain already had a permanent naval presence in the South Atlantic as well as more than 1,000 military personnel on the islands.


The long-awaited reply came later:
Queen of England, the empires are over!

Moreover, Argentina rallies regional support over Falklands


Latin American and Caribbean leaders have backed Argentina's claim over the Falklands, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said.

At a regional summit in Cancun, Mexico, a document has reportedly been drafted giving Argentina unanimous support.

It comes a day after a British oil company began drilling for oil off the islands, a move Argentina objected to.

The UK's defence minister said the government would take whatever steps necessary to protect the Falklands.

Argentina and Britain went to war over the South Atlantic islands in 1982, after Buenos Aires invaded the archipelago.

The conflict ended with UK forces wresting back control of the islands, held by Britain since 1833.

UK calls in Israeli ambassador over Dubai Hamas murder

The British government has called in the Israeli ambassador to discuss the use of fake UK passports by the alleged killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai.

Gordon Brown has also ordered an inquiry into the passports, which bear the names of six British-Israelis who are not the men pictured.

Dubai police believe 11 "agents with European passports" killed Palestinian militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January. Israel said there was no evidence to link its secret service.

Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, refused to issue any formal denial in line with a "policy of ambiguity" on security matters.

He told Israeli Army Radio: "There is no reason to think that it was the Israeli Mossad and not some other intelligence service or country up to some mischief."

While you read the rest of this BBC article upon clicking on the title, it may be useful to consider the utter disregard for international legal rules http://untreaty.un.org/ilc/ilcintro.htm shown here yet again

17 Feb 2010

The Long History of Israel's 'covert killings'

The Islamic movement Hamas claims that the death of one its senior commanders, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, is the latest in Israel's history of assassinating individuals it believes to have been behind attacks on its citizens.

16 Feb 2010

US jobless numbers hide scale of problem

Like all developed economies, the US has arrived at its method of counting the unemployed over many years and via some controversial choices.

As a consequence, the headline unemployment rate, the one that's still stubbornly close to 10%, is in fact a rather narrow measure.

To be counted in that oft-reported tenth of the labour force you have to be out of work, and have actively looked for a job in the past four weeks.

It's the four weeks requirement that cuts out a lot of people who would undoubtedly like a job, if there were any jobs to be applied for, much less secured.

Don't worry, the Bureau does count those people - it just doesn't count them in the official unemployment rate, the one that gets reported first and most frequently by journalists battling for space and air time.

Instead, they get defined as things like "marginally attached" or "discouraged" workers. This allows the Bureau to offer "alternative measures of labour underutilisation", which, to the untrained ear, sounds like awful gobbledygook and unemployment by another name.

And if you take the widest of these measures, which in plain English counts everyone who doesn't have a full time job, and blames that on economic reasons (as opposed to blaming it on being sick, old, or in training) then America's "labour underutilisation" rate went past 17% at about the time its "unemployment" rate hit 10%.

A rate of 17% presents everyone with a picture of an American economy where more than one in six people who want a job, can't get one.

Read the rest of the article by the BBC's business reporter, John Mervin, by clicking on the title...

Women at war: Sexual violence in the US military

Helena Merriman reports on a woman whose experience of sexual assault, while serving in the US Air Force in Afghanistan, turned her into a campaigner for the welfare of service women. Read more about sexual violence going unpunished in the US military by clicking on the title.

13 Feb 2010

Cut working week to 21 hours, urges think tank

The working week should be cut to 21 hours to help boost the economy and improve quality of life, a left-wing think tank has said.

The New Economics Foundation claimed in a report the reduction in hours would help to ease unemployment and overwork.

The think tank said people were working longer hours now than 30 years ago even though unemployment was at 2.5 million.

The foundation admitted people would earn less, but said they would have more time to carry out worthy tasks.

They would have better scope to look after children or other dependents, there would be more opportunity for civic duties, and older people could even delay retirement, it said.

10 Feb 2010

(UK) Government loses Binyam Mohamed torture appeal & the US voices its disappointment

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has lost a bid to prevent the disclosure of secret information relating to the alleged torture of a UK resident.

Moreover, The White House has since expressed its "deep disappointment" at this UK court ruling that information on the alleged torture of a UK resident had to be disclosed. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8509787.stm

6 Feb 2010

Global Power and Global Government: Evolution and Revolution of the Central Banking System

by Andrew Gavin Marshall


Humanity is on the verge of entering into the most tumultuous period in our history. The prospects of a global depression, the likes of which have never been seen before; a truly global war, on a scale never before imagined; and societal collapse, for which nations of the world are building totalitarian police states to control populations; are increasing by the day. The major global trend forecasters are sounding the alarms on economic depression, war, a return to fascism and a total reorganization of society. Through crisis, we are seeing the reorganization of the global political economy, and the transformation of capitalism into a totalitarian capitalist world government. Capitalism has never stayed the same through its history; it has always changed and will continue to do so. Its changes are explained and analyzed through political-economic theory, both mainstream theory and critical. The changes are undertaken over years, decades and centuries. The next phase of capitalism is one in which the world moves to a state-controlled economic system, much like China, of totalitarian capitalism.

The global political economy itself is being reorganized into a world government body, consisting of one center of global power where the socio-political-economic power of the world is centralized in one institution. This is not a conspiracy theory; it is a reality. Nor is this a subject confined to the realm of “internet conspiracy theorists,” but in fact, the concept of world government originates and evolves throughout the history of capitalism and the global political economy. Mainstream and critical political-economic theory has addressed the concept of world government for centuries.

The notion of a world government has such a long history, as the forces driving the world into such a structure intertwine with the history of the modern global political economy itself. The purpose of this report is to examine the history of the global political economy in taking steps toward forming a world government, in both theory and practice.

How did we get here and where are we going?... click on the title to read the rest of the Global Research article


Origins of the American Empire: Revolution, World Wars and World Order
Global Power and Global Government: Part 2

by Andrew Gavin Marshall
Controlling the Global Economy: Bilderberg, the Trilateral Commission and the Federal Reserve
Global Power and Global Government: Part 3

by Andrew Gavin Marshall


2 Feb 2010

What a Post-American World means for Europe

by Steven Hill


Obama is probably the best leader America can produce; yet even he can’t deliver because the American political system, rooted in its 18th century origins, is too antiquated and backward. This situation will not change anytime soon due to the difficulties of amending the US Constitution.

So the US will remain by far the largest per capita polluter in the world; it will continue to foot drag over re-regulation of the global financial system that it caused to melt down; it will resist badly needed domestic reform that would make it a manufacturing nation again instead of remaining a debtor nation; America’s leaders will continue to refuse to give families and workers the support and security they deserve; and they will continue to spend money the nation can ill afford on military escapades in the Middle East, as Obama prods Europe to join him in his folly. This is Obama’s America.

But Obama’s failures only continue the American slide that began at the start of the decade. A gradual shift in geopolitical power has been occurring, which some have called the ‘post-American world’. Even US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has acknowledged that American primacy is over and the world is suddenly multipolar. The United States is still a strong power, but this shift has been a shock to Americans, some of whom are still in denial.

So what should be Europe’s strategy in this post-American world? [...]

To find out, just click on the title!