Monday, 13 December 2010

148 states call for transparency over depleted uranium use in UN vote

http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/a/364.html

148 states have supported a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling on state users of depleted uranium weapons to reveal where the weapons have been fired when asked to do so by affected countries.
8 December 2010 - ICBUW

The resolution was passed by a huge majority, with just four countries opposing the text. As with previous UN resolutions in 2007 and 2008, the UK, US, Israel and France voted against. The number of abstentions was down on previous years after Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Luxembourg and Slovenia voted in favour. Nevertheless, abstentions were still registered by Australia, Canada, Denmark and Sweden amongst others. The Russian Federation also abstained, while China declined to vote.

UN logo The resolution was triggered by growing concern over the US’s failure to release information on the whereabouts of at least 400,000kgs depleted uranium munitions used in Iraq. Question marks also remain over whether the weapons have been used in Afghanistan, Somalia and Chechnya. Research by ICBUW has shown that the rapid release of targeting data after conflicts is crucial in reducing avoidable civilian exposures; recommendations that national authorities monitor soil and water contamination and, where necessary, decontaminate sites, are also reliant on this data.

The UK, US and France maintain that it is up to the users of the weapons to release this data at a time and in a manner of their own choosing. While the UK has shared information on their use of the weapons in Iraq in 2003 with UN agencies, the US has made no effort to do so. It is now 19 years since the first major use of depleted uranium in Iraq.

In a joint statement explaining their position during the first round of voting at the First Committee, the UK, US and France wrote: “[Operative paragraph 6] requests that states that have used depleted uranium in armed conflict to provide information about its use. We have serious doubts on the relevance of such a request, according to IHL [International Humanitarian Law]. We consider that it is up to each state to provide data at such a time and in such a manner as it deems appropriate.”

The attempt by these countries to try and conflate the resolution with IHL has been challenged by legal specialists, who pointed out that it is not a question of whether it is appropriate under IHL but rather whether the request in itself is reasonable. It is clear that 148 states felt that it was.

Contaminated hotpot, Hadzici, Bosnia
Gamma radiation at 40x background from decay products from a 30mm depleted uranium round under tarmac 15 years after it was fired, Hadzici, BiH.

Reacting to the vote, an ICBUW spokesperson said: “It is abundantly clear that even the most conservative mitigation measures are made much more difficult by the failure of states to promptly identify where the weapons have been used.

"The US, UK and France’s ongoing apparent policy of non or limited disclosure is outrageous and at odds with their legal obligations to protect civilians and the environment during and after conflict.

"The feebleness of their attempted justification for their position makes clear that they have few concerns over the long-term impact of these munitions on civilians, and are instead solely interested in protecting their toxic and outdated weapons. This is the strongest level of support for a resolution on this issue yet and we believe it reflects a growing impatience with the users of these weapons.”

On learning of the results, UK campaigners reacted angrily, accusing the UK government of hypocrisy and of ignoring the wishes of its own parliament. In the run up to the vote, 90 Members of Parliament had signed a motion calling on the government to support the resolution, while representatives from all the main UK parties had written to the press to highlight the text.

A spokesperson for the UK Uranium Weapons Network said: “The UK’s decision to vote against the resolution is extremely disappointing. Sites contaminated by land mines, cluster munitions or depleted uranium all represent a post-conflict hazard to civilians.

"All these sites require remedial work and, as a vast majority of states recognise, including those states that have had to endure the impact of these weapons, this work is impossible without full transparency over where the weapons have been used.”

As with previous years, the resolution was submitted by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. In addition to the general call for transparency, it also recognised the importance of implementing recommendations by UN agencies to help mitigate the hazards from depleted uranium. Discussion over the long-term impact of these weapons is ongoing but the World Health Organisation and International Atomic Energy Agency both call for sites to be marked, and where necessary decontaminated. The United Nations Environment Programme has called for a precautionary approach to the use of the weapons due to ongoing uncertainties about the environmental behaviour of uranium contamination.

Resolutions passed in 2007 and 2008 accepted the potential risk from depleted uranium weapons and called for more focused research on affected states. This research has been hindered the lack of transparency from users.

The full list of abstainers is as follows: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Micronesia, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Rep of Korea, Rep of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Sao Tome and Principe, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, TFYR Macedonia, Turkey and Ukraine. A full voting record can be downloaded below:
Attachments

*
A/65/55 voting results for Effects of ammunition and armour containing depleted uranium
297 Kb - Format pdf
UNGA
Full results of 2010 Un resolution vote on DU

Thursday, 9 December 2010

WikiLeaks cables: Shell's grip on Nigerian state revealed

The US embassy cables

WikiLeaks cables: Shell's grip on Nigerian state revealed

US embassy cables reveal top executive's claims that company 'knows everything' about key decisions in government ministries

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* David Smith in Lagos
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 8 December 2010 21.34 GMT
* Article history

Nigerian oil, Shell: Despite billions of dollars in oil revenue, 70% of people in Nigeria live below the poverty line. Photograph: George Osodi/AP

The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

The company's top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew "everything that was being done in those ministries". She boasted that the Nigerian government had "forgotten" about the extent of Shell's infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.

The cache of secret dispatches from Washington's embassies in Africa also revealed that the Anglo-Dutch oil firm swapped intelligence with the US, in one case providing US diplomats with the names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting militant activity, and requesting information from the US on whether the militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles.

Report from the frontline

Report from the frontline

(Well, 'frontline' is rather an inflation of the reality, which was that I simply spent half an hour in Trafalgar Square – rather than a week in, say, Gaza, Helmand, Falluja or any other genuine frontline.)

There were very many students protesting about the LibCon attack on higher education.

Here are some of the banners that appealed to me …

I liked this one for the way it reflected young people’s affection for this time of year (“All I want for Xmas is REVOLUTION”):










I liked this one for the way it reflected the text-generation’s gift for brevity (“F**k Fees”):





















I liked this one for its succinct summary of Nick Clegg’s character (“Liar. Thief. Judas.”):





















By now I was feeling quite chilly, so I decided to look for the police’s ‘kettle’ area. I naturally assumed that that would be where they were serving tea and coffee. I thought this might be the kettle area:
















… but I couldn’t see any serving booths that might house kettles.

I was very disappointed when an activist explained to me that a kettle area had nothing to do with hot beverages, but was a tactic whereby the police sought to emulate the practices of police forces in South American dictatorships.

That’s all for now, readers.

Rippon Gupta for Channel Rippon News, signing off ‘til next time!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Noam Chomsky: WikiLeaks Cables Reveal "Profound Hatred for Democracy on the Part of Our Political Leadership"

November 30, 2010

HILARY CLINTON: I think that it should not be a surprise to anyone that Iran is a source of great concern, not only in the United States. What comes through in every meeting that I have- anywhere in the world- is a concern about Iranian actions and intentions. So, if anything, any of the comments that are being reported on allegedly from the cables confirm the fact that Iran poses a very serious threat in the eyes of many of her neighbors and a serious concern far beyond her region. That is why the international community came together to pass the strongest possible sanctions against Iran. It did not happen because the United States said, "Please, do this for us!" It happened because countries- once they evaluated the evidence concerning Iran’s actions and intentions- reached the same conclusion that the United States reached: that we must do whatever we can to muster the international community to take action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state. So if anyone reading the stories about these, uh, alleged cables thinks carefully what they will conclude is that the concern about Iran is well founded, widely shared, and will continue to be at the source of the policy that we pursue with like-minded nations to try to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Secretary to Hillary Clinton yesterday at a news conference. I wanted to get your comment on Clinton, Netanyahu’s comment, and the fact that Abdullah of Saudi Arabia- the King who is now getting back surgery in the New York- called for the U.S. to attack Iran. Noam Chomsky?

NOAM CHOMSKY: That essentially reinforces what I said before, that the main significance of the cables that are being released so far is what they tell us about Western leadership. So Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu surely know of the careful polls of Arab public opinion. The Brookings Institute just a few months ago released extensive polls of what Arabs think about Iran. The results are rather striking. They show the Arab opinion holds that the major threat in the region is Israel- that’s 80. The second major threat is the United States- that’s 77. Iran is listed as a threat by 10%.

With regard to nuclear weapons, rather remarkably, a majority- in fact, 57–say that the region would have a positive effect in the region if Iran had nuclear weapons. Now, these are not small numbers. 80, 77, say the U.S. and Israel are the major threat. 10 say Iran is the major threat. This may not be reported in the newspapers here- it is in England- but it’s certainly familiar to the Israeli and U.S. governments, and to the ambassadors. But there is not a word about it anywhere. What that reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership and the Israeli political leadership. These things aren’t even to be mentioned. This seeps its way all through the diplomatic service. The cables to not have any indication of that.

When they talk about Arabs, they mean the Arab dictators, not the population, which is overwhelmingly opposed to the conclusions that the analysts here- Clinton and the media- have drawn. There’s also a minor problem; that’s the major problem. The minor problem is that we don’t know from the cables what the Arab leaders think and say. We know what was selected from the range of what they say. So there is a filtering process. We don’t know how much it distorts the information. But there is no question that what is a radical distortion is- or, not even a distortion, a reflection–of the concern that the dictators are what matter. The population does not matter, even if it’s overwhelmingly opposed to U.S. policy.


full interview here: http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2010/11/30/noam_chomsky_wikileaks_cables_reveal_profound

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Why does Palestine receive more attention and outcry than the DR of Congo?

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* Why does Palestine receive more attention and outcry than the DR of Congo?

Posted by Anton [User Info] [Email User] on November 25, 2010, 1:05 am

I'm not saying Israeli colonialism isn't worthy of a lot of attention by the way- just curious.

Post a Response

o Good question.

Posted by rippon [User Info] [Email User] on November 25, 2010, 1:57 am, in reply to "Why does Palestine receive more attention and outcry than the DR of Congo?"

Yes, good question.

I too have wondered about DR Congo - not, why don't we hear more about it in mainstream media?, but, why don't we hear more from left-wing media?

Moreover, why don't we hear more about other military occupations?

For example, I understand that the Sinhalese occupation/control of Tamil territories in Sri Lanka is quite analogous to Israel-Palestine.

For another example, surely we should hear more about the military occupation of Kashmir.

Post a Response

+ As a Canadian - Israel's crimes are very extravangantly supported by my government

Posted by emersberger [User Info] [Email User] on November 25, 2010, 3:17 am, in reply to "Good question."

as they are by numerous rich countries and that alone justifies making Israeli crimes a very high priority.

Another thing, related to the first, is that Israel's defiance of international law is off the charts. Steve Shalom recently noted

http://www.zcommunications.org/anti-semitism-and-the-israel-palestine-conflict-by-stephen-shalom

" Israel has been criticized, condemned, and censured by the Security Council -- including by the United States -- more than any other country in the world: for its military attacks on its neighbors, for its annexation of territory, for its refusal to apply the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Territories, for refusing to withdraw its troops, for taking hostages, for deporting civilians, for seizing a civilian airliner, and on and on. [For details, see Appendix.]

Is there a double standard? Absolutely. But the double standard is in Israel's favor. Why? Because no other nation with such a record of violations of international law and of the resolutions of the Security Council and other UN bodies has been as immune as Israel from Security Council sanctions....




# Covering DRC

Posted by fugazi [User Info] on November 25, 2010, 6:40 am, in reply to "As a Canadian - Israel's crimes are very extravangantly supported by my government"

I have been to DRC recently. It is not a functioning country. Why is there little coverage coming out of it?

1. It is French speaking, little seems to get translated.
2. It is a huge country with little infrastructure. See this account of driving from Zambia to Kinshasa:
http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/ride-tales/democratic-republic-congo-lubumbashi-kinshasa-53285
3. It is extremely corrupt and fairly dangerous. If your seen with a camera it will be confiscated, and you need to pay a bribe to get it back. Taking any picture requires paying a bribe before you can do so.
4. There are at least 3 foreign armies occupying different parts of DRC, Kinshasa does not control most of the DRC.
etc etc etc etc etc..... ;-(

Post a Response

o "They're White Just Like Us . . . "

Posted by Ken Waldron [User Info] [Email User] on November 25, 2010, 9:24 am, in reply to "Why does Palestine receive more attention and outcry than the DR of Congo?"


My friends daughter who is currently ay Oxford tells me the Israeli's students there claim this too:



"They're White Just Like Us . . . "

03/16/2010

"They're white just like us and the people they're killing . . . are Arabs."

This bit of erudition came, with a shrug of the shoulders, at the end of the first session of the newly-formed Russell Tribunal on Palestine. It was not a part of the official record because it was stated in the anteroom, just off the auditorium of the elegantly-appointed Barcelona Lawyers Building where the Tribunal was held. The person making this comment was not an official expert witness--but he was a European who understood the mindset that made Europeans complicit, not only in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people, but also in Israel's impunity.

http://www.gp.org/cynthia/display.php?ID=34

Friday, 19 November 2010

alternatives to the cuts

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A message from the Glasgow Media Group

Posted by The Editors [User Info] on November 19, 2010, 9:16 am

Received yesterday via email.

Eds

==

Hello. Here are two links that we would like to share with you which recently appeared in the Daily Finance UK. Please pass these links on to as many people as you can. It is important to offer other alternatives to the cuts that have recently been introduced by the Government.

Glasgow Media Group are also running on twitter and facebook where your support again would be appreciated and remember you can also visit our website http://www.glasgowmediagroup.org

Regards,

Glasgow Media Group.

Professor Greg Philo's proposal to pay off the national debt via a one-off tax on the wealthiest 10% of the population which appeared in the Daily Finance UK on the 11th November 2010. A YouGov poll indicated that 74% of the population would favour this one-off tax.

http://www.dailyfinance.co.uk/2010/11/11/one-off-wealth-tax-backed-by-74/


Part one of Daily Finance UK interview with Professor Greg Philo on his wealth tax proposal.

http://www.dailyfinance.co.uk/2010/11/15/greg-philo-on-his-wealth-tax-proposal/

One of the World's Best Kept Secrets Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti

One of the World's Best Kept Secrets:
Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti

http://www.counterpunch.org/kirk04012010.html

By EMILY J. KIRK and JOHN M. KIRK

Media coverage of Cuban medical cooperation following the disastrous recent earthquake in Haiti was sparse indeed. International news reports usually described the Dominican Republic as being the first to provide assistance, while Fox News sang the praises of U.S. relief efforts in a report entitled "U.S. Spearheads Global Response to Haiti Earthquake"-a common theme of its extensive coverage. CNN also broadcast hundreds of reports, and in fact one focused on a Cuban doctor wearing a T-shirt with a large image of Che Guevara--and yet described him as a "Spanish doctor".
...
...
A representative of the World Council of Churches to the United Nations made the telling comment that "humanitarian aid could not be human if it was only publicized for 15 days".[19] Today Cuba, with the support of ALBA and Brazil, is working not to build a field hospital, but rather a health care system. And, while international efforts have been largely abandoned, the Cuban staff and Cuban-trained medical staff will remain, as they have done for the past 11 years, for as long as necessary. This is a story that international media have chosen not to tell-now that the television cameras have gone. Yet it is an extraordinary story of true humanitarianism, and of great success in saving lives since 1998. Moreover, in light of Cuba's success in providing public health care (at no cost to the patients) to millions of Haitians, this approach to preventive, culturally sensitive, low cost and effective medicine needs to be told. That significant contribution to this impoverished nation, and Cuba's ongoing commitment to its people, clearly deserve to be recognized. Until then it will sadly remain as one of the world's best- kept secrets.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

BBC's Paul Wood in Afghanistan: "How is this a legitimate way to fight?"

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* BBC's Paul Wood in Afghanistan: "How is this a legitimate way to fight?"

Posted by The Editors [User Info] on November 17, 2010, 8:43 am

No, he's not confronting a Nato commander, but a Taliban commander.

The YouTube video linked below is a Paul Wood piece broadcast on BBC News at Ten on Monday, 15 November, 2010.

He interviews a "middle-ranking Taliban commander in Kabul" and asks the reasonable question:

"When you plant roadside bombs to kill the Americans, often you kill many, many civilians. How is this a legitimate way to fight?"

How often has the BBC reporter asked any NATO commander the following question?

"When you drop bombs to kill the Afghans, often you kill many, many civilians. How is this a legitimate way to fight?"

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rke9OoUmv6M

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A previous royal wedding.

From the archives

Posted by The Editors [User Info] on November 16, 2010, 3:43 pm, in reply to "Re: In case you didn't hear the News!!: The engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton "

From our February 11, 2005 alert:

On ITN's main lunchtime news today, anchor Andrea Catherwood reported that 22 people had been killed in Iraq in two attacks on a mosque and a bakery. The report lasted exactly 22 seconds - one second per victim. Only the basic facts were given and the carnage was not included in a summary of the day's major stories at the end of the programme.

The 22 seconds were followed by a 5 minute 30 second report on the planned wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles - a story also covered ad nauseam yesterday. This included some six interviews, a straw poll of public opinion, and a discussion of constitutional issues surrounding the marriage.

ITN had no time to mention that three children had been killed in the attack on the Iraqi mosque alongside 40 people wounded. It had no time to mention that no less that 50 Iraqi security personnel have been killed in three massive suicide bombings this week in the wake of Iraq's fraudulent elections on January 30. You would not know from media reporting that this has been one of the country's worst weeks for violence. A police officer in Salman Pak, a town fast becoming a focus of the conflict, said:

"We have never seen such fighting." ('Eleven dead in Iraq bakery attack,' Jenny Booth, Times Online, February 11, 2005)

************************************************

The stuff above is all about an ITN news programme.
Well, I've watched the BBC's news programme today, and the BBC have made ITN look remarkably creditable - for devoting only 5.5mins to a royal engagement. Today the BBC devoted their +entire+ 25mins to a royal engagement so that there was +no+ time left for any news.

Great news: Royal Wedding announced.

Prince William will marry Kate Middleton next year.

This news has really made my day, giving me a warm glowing feeling inside.

In a world so afflicted with injustice and with so many ominous signs for the future, such wonderful news serves to remind us of how lovely life can be if we choose to look on the brighter things, e.g. a happy affluent couple making a commitment to each other.

And this is why it's appropriate for the BBC to devote their entire news programme to this happy event - which affects all of us if we embrace the mood and share in the happiness.

Yesterday it was announced that David Cameron wishes to instigate a scheme whereby academics measure the happiness level of the nation (because there is more to life than GDP). Well, today, that level will be soaring to new heights!

Monday, 15 November 2010

The myth of BBC 'balance'

Here's an interesting piece of anecdotal evidence that confirms the thesis that 'BBC balance' is a myth.
**********************************************

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* email from a teacher: Reporting of Student 'Violence'

Posted by The Editors [User Info] on November 15, 2010, 4:12 pm

We received this email yesterday from a teacher.

Eds

==
Subject: Reporting of Student 'Violence'

Hi,

I’m a teacher at a sixth form college in Oldham, a fairly deprived area of the country with a number of students who are particularly upset about the government’s plans for higher education. I teach Politics and History, and we do a lot of source work. I was so struck by the reporting of the student protests, in particular the reporting of the BBC, that I postponed teaching the exam spec for a while and did some source analysis. Providing students with the first 200 words (to the nearest sentence) of articles from a) BBC news website and b) the World Socialist Web Site, students –who were not told the sources – compared and contrasted the material, deciding which was the most informative, the least biased etc. [see attachments] The vast majority concluded the second one (from WSWS) was the most objective, relaying the relevant facts and looking at the bigger picture (motivations for the protests, who was involved, responses of people in the city etc.) and that the first article was simply regurgitating quotes from the PM and the police – sensationalizing the violence whilst ignoring the real issues.

They were really appalled at the lack of context in the BBC article – and some even compared it to reporting of the Israel Palestine conflict where the historical oppression of the Palestinians is almost universally omitted. Students then had to guess where each article came from – 17 of 19 students thought the first extract – actually from the BBC – was from the Daily Mail, one from the Telegraph and another (as he’d already read it!) knew it was from the BBC. 11/19 thought the second article – from the overtly politicized WSWS – was from the BBC because it was ‘balanced’ and gave ‘facts rather than opinion’, the remainder thought it was from the Guardian. Needless to say they were shocked and will be treating Auntie Beeb with a little more suspicion in future.

Thought you’d be interested to know how young people react to issues like this. I’ve encouraged them to write – politely – to the BBC questioning their reporting. Keep up the good work guys, and an alert on the reporting of the protests might be an idea – the framing of the debate, shifting it away from issues and legitimate debate – is something the media, in particular the BBC, seems to frequently choose to do. They’re blaming this ‘radical minority’ for making violence the talking point- but at no point dothey note that they are the ones who’ve chosen to concentrate on it. Richard Madely’s comments on BBC2 this morning, as well as yesterday morning, have been particularly appalling.

Jack

Saturday, 13 November 2010

HBO, 'True Blood' series 3: "Global warming, perpetual war, toxic waste, child labour, torture, genocide"

Hollywood displays a nugget of political awareness (again).

The American HBO tv network produces some excellent stuff. ‘The Wire’ is the most obvious example – perhaps the best television I have ever seen in my whole life (and I’m not young!).

‘The Wire’ was extremely politically astute.

Hollywood output does sometimes include nuggets of political truth.

‘Avatar’ is an obvious example – it basically allegorises the Iraq invasion: mass-killing of indigenous people by American marines and mercenaries, at the behest of their capitalist masters who wish to gain control of the natural resource (‘unobtainium’ on Pandora = oil in Iraq).

It is interesting, though, that, when in direct competition against each other at the Oscars, ‘The Hurt Locker’, which distorts the truth (‘the Americans in Iraq are heroes’), beat ‘Avatar’, which presents the truth (‘the Americans in Iraq are villains’), to all the awards.

But back to HBO …

I have been watching another series of theirs: ‘True Blood’

In the third season, there is the arch vampire villain, Russell Edgington.

Edgington is, in essence, a fascist, with megalomaniacal dreams of conquering humans and leading the vampire race himself.

He is a renegade from the American Vampire League and his project is to overthrow The Authority (the vampires' ruling council, politburo, or whatever) to achieve the freedom he needs for achieving his aims.

Vampires, apparently, grow stronger with age. Thus, Edgington is very powerful because he is very old, 3000 years.

He has a number of compelling monologues. This is what he says when speaking to another vampire (Eric Northman, much younger, at about 1000 years old, I think):

“We could conquer humans in a matter of days. Throughout history I have aligned myself with, or destroyed, humans in power +hoping+ to make a dent in mankind’s race to oblivion. What other creature actively destroys its own habitat? Do you remember how the air used to smell, how humans used to smell, how they used to taste? Preening little fool that he was, Adolf was right about one thing: there +is+ a master race. It’s just not the human race.”

At the end of another episode, Edgington hijacks a humans' television newscast (by suddenly appearing on set, plunging his hand into the newsreader's back and ripping out part of his spinal column), and demands that the cameras be kept rolling so that he can deliver his speech to humanity:

"The AVL [American Vampire League] wishes to perpetrate the notion that +we+ [vampires] are just like you [humans]; and, I suppose, in a few small ways we are: we’re narcissistic; we care only about getting what we want, no matter what is costs, just like you. Global warming, perpetual war, toxic waste, child labour, torture, genocide – that’s a small price to pay for your SUVs and your flatscreen TVs, your blood diamonds, your designer jeans, your absurd garish McMansions: futile symbols or permanence to quell your quivering spineless souls.

But no, in the end, +we+ +are+ +nothing+ like you; we are …, huh, hah hah, … immortal, because we drink the +true+ blood, blood that is living, organic and human.

... "

Russell Edgington is a psychopath, but he speaks a great deal of truth. Moreover, he illustrates well the adage that it takes a crook/psychopath/madman to recognise one of his kind. And it is well-documented that the forces that overwhelmingly shape our world, e.g. the unaccountable corporations and the political leaders (e.g. Bush, Blair), pursue psychopathic policies.

'True Blood' is indeed a little daring (for Hollywood) in its left-wing political stance. In one of the early scenes in episode 1 of series 1, the character Tara Thornton is seen reading 'The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism' by Naomi Klein.

Greenspan admits Iraq was about oil, as deaths put at 1.2m

guardian.co.uk
The Observer
Greenspan admits Iraq was about oil, as deaths put at 1.2m

Peter Beaumont and Joanna Walters in New York
The Observer, Sunday 16 September 2007

The man once regarded as the world's most powerful banker has bluntly declared that the Iraq war was 'largely' about oil.

Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987 and retired last year after serving four presidents, Alan Greenspan has been the leading Republican economist for a generation and his utterings instantly moved world markets.

In his long-awaited memoir - out tomorrow in the US - Greenspan, 81, who served as chairman of the US Federal Reserve for almost two decades, writes: 'I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.'

In The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, he is also crystal clear on his opinion of his last two bosses, harshly criticising George W Bush for 'abandoning fiscal constraint' and praising Bill Clinton's anti-deficit policies during the Nineties as 'an act of political courage'. He also speaks of Clinton's sharp and 'curious' mind, and 'old-fashioned' caution about the dangers of debt.

Greenspan's damning comments about the war come as a survey of Iraqis, which was released last week, claims that up to 1.2 million people may have died because of the conflict in Iraq - lending weight to a 2006 survey in the Lancet that reported similarly high levels.

More than one million deaths were already being suggested by anti-war campaigners, but such high counts have consistently been rejected by US and UK officials. The estimates, extrapolated from a sample of 1,461 adults around the country, were collected by a British polling agency, ORB, which asked a random selection of Iraqis how many people living in their household had died as a result of the violence rather than from natural causes.

Previous estimates gave a range between 390,000 and 940,000, the most prominent of which - collected by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and reported in the Lancet in October 2006 - suggested 654,965 deaths.

Although the household survey was carried out by a polling organisation, rather than researchers, it has again raised the spectre that the 2003 invasion has caused a far more substantial death toll than officially acknowledged.

The ORB survey follows an earlier report by the organisation which suggested that one in four Iraqi adults had lost a family member to violence. The latest survey suggests that in Baghdad that number is as high as one in two. If true, these latest figures would suggest the death toll in Iraq now exceeds that of the Rwandan genocide in which about 800,000 died.

The Lancet survey was criticised by some experts and by George Bush and British officials. In private, however, the Ministry of Defence's chief scientific adviser Sir Roy Anderson described it as 'close to best practice'.

Alan Greenspan claims Iraq war was really for oil

From The Sunday Times
September 16, 2007
Alan Greenspan claims Iraq war was really for oil
Graham Paterson

AMERICA’s elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil.

In his long-awaited memoir, to be published tomorrow, Greenspan, a Republican whose 18-year tenure as head of the US Federal Reserve was widely admired, will also deliver a stinging critique of President George W Bush’s economic policies.

However, it is his view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says.

Greenspan, 81, is understood to believe that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the security of oil supplies in the Middle East.

Britain and America have always insisted the war had nothing to do with oil. Bush said the aim was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and end Saddam’s support for terrorism.

my message to 'contact Nick Clegg'

You and Vince Cable are the most repugnant men in British politics, more sickening even than Tony Blair and his sincerity.

I voted LibDem but now feel embarrassed and ashamed for supporting you, someone who has plumbed new depths in dishonesty, mendacity, hypocrisy and all-round moral depravity. You +ought+ to be ashamed, but you are clearly so self-serving that shame is outside your range of feelings.

You deserve to be annihilated electorally, and in other ways too, e.g. your life turns to sh*t, you sink into depression and, for the country’s benefit, you remove yourself from our society (e.g. top yourself).

Friday, 12 November 2010

Israel seals deal for new fighter plane

NEWS IN BRIEF
November 10, 2010

http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3828

Israel has recently sealed a deal to purchase 20 F-35 Joint Striker Jets from Lockheed Martin. The contract, the largest purchase ever made by the state of Israel, is covered by a US military aid package. The F-35 is expected to replace the F16 as Israel's main attack weapon. Israeli F-16s were used in attacks on civilian targets, including police stations, government buildings and hospitals, during Israel's massacre in Gaza in January 2009.

The deal had stalled over negotiations as to whether the jets could be fitted with Israeli-made missiles and electronic warfare systems. Lockheed refused, saying that the package was a “closed deal”. This stipulation will ensure that the IAF is reliant on the global arms trade for weapons components over the coming years. However, as a sweetener, it has been pledged that some Israeli-made weapons systems will be installed on future F-35 purchases.

Other companies working on the project are expected to include Pratt and Whitney in Connecticut and General Electric in Ohio.

Links: www.israel-palestinenews.org/2010/10/israel-seals-unprecedented-weapons.html www.dsca.osd.mil/PressReleases/36-b/2008/Israel_08-83.pdf
www.defenseindustrydaily.com/israel-plans-to-buy-over-100-f35s-02381/

financial crisis fallacy

Regarding the financial crisis, I have often heard this analogy made to support the policy of slashing public spending:

****It is like any household that has to balance its budget: it is unsustainable for your household debt to be more than 100% of the household’s income; therefore, the family must cut down on luxuries.****

But, if anything, this analogy (assuming it’s even appropriate) would, contrary to what’s intended, seem to boost the case for +increasing+ public spending. I’ll explain …

Household debt is typically so massive as to dwarf income – an illustration: for any ordinary household, you could have income of £50K/year and a mortgage of £500K over 25 years. That means that, for a decade or so, the debt/income ratio could be in the range 1000% to 500% (say).

Then, by the logic of the public-spending-slashers, the parents should say, ‘We should not send any children to university. The money that would have been spent on tuition fees and maintenance should, instead, go to reducing the debt. Also, we should buy the least amount of, and cheapest, clothes and food possible – again, to help reduce the debt. Also, we should consider +selling+ the house and find a tiny flat instead – again, to help reduce the debt.’

But that’s plainly nonsense. A good house, good education, good clothes and food are crucial investments to a better, more productive future. Of course it’s better if the family had no mortgage debt burden, but the proposed measures are simply irrational panic that ignores the long-term, bigger picture: people in squalid overcrowded accommodation, with poor diet and poor education, are in no position to cultivate their skills, improve their lot and contribute to the economy.

Cohen: “The attempted Arab invasion of Israel in 1967 … ”

  • Posted by rippon on November 12, 2010, 2:58 am

    Have finally got round to Nick Cohen’s ‘What’s Left?’

    On p21, he writes: “The attempted Arab invasion of Israel in 1967 had proved to be a spectacular miscalculation when the Six Day War ended in a stunning Israeli victory and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.”

    I can’t remember all the bits and pieces I’ve read over the years, but the impression I had was that the reality was the reverse of what Cohen writes (“attempted Arab invasion”).

    Even Wikipedia says: “The Six-Day War has been characterized as a preemptive war,[d] an "inadvertent war", and an action designed to preserve the credibility of Israel's deterrence strategy, among other things.”

    [Anyway, as I gradually make progress through Cohen’s book, I might come back here again to seek comments.]

    • Cohen and glib self justification

      Posted by Neil on November 12, 2010, 3:13 am, in reply to "Cohen: “The attempted Arab invasion of Israel in 1967 … ”"

      Cohen, as with similar commentators and so many throughout MSM and academia, spends time and energy exclaiming erroneous generalisations that wilfully obfuscate and misrepresent the facts to accord with their worldview.

      This is done effortlessly as the generalisations are spun around current and recent events; a whole fantasy world of self justification can be manufactured as much for the benefit of the individual, such as Cohen in this case, as for edification of their readers.

      Regards,
      Neil

    • Re: Cohen: “The attempted Arab invasion of Israel in 1967 … ”

      Posted by David Bracewell on November 12, 2010, 5:25 am, in reply to "Cohen: “The attempted Arab invasion of Israel in 1967 … ”"


      Menahem Begin: "In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with
      ourselves. We decided to attack him." Chomsky - Fateful Triangle

      Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's Chief of Staff in
      1967 : "I do not think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to The Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He
      knew it and we knew it.", Le Monde 1968.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

'unprecedented financial crisis'

The graphs here are interesting:

http://ukpublicspending.co.uk/uk_national_debt

They show that the current public debt (around £0.8 trillion) is nothing exceptional, which suggests that the lefties are right when they assert:

The notion that we are facing an 'unprecedented financial crisis' is plain false, and this falsehood is being deliberately promulgated simply as a tactic by right-wing ideologues to sate their desire for slashing what they have always hated - the public sector.

To put the Debt issue into context ....





Wednesday, 10 November 2010

They should have trashed the LibDem offices.

The LibDems, not the Tories, are the real villains.

If anything, the Tories deserve respect for being true to their class-war credentials. They detest the working-class, and they’re not afraid to show it, e.g. hiking tuition fees beyond the reach of the contemptible masses.

The LibDems, though, have revealed themselves to be pure prostitutes at heart, selling any pretence of principle for the privilege of being able to forage on crumbs (e.g. condescending artificial – but, crucially, well-remunerated – posts, e.g. ‘Deputy Prime Minister’, ‘Businsess Secretary’) falling from the Tories’ high table of power.

The LibDems really are a grubby, repugnant bunch, more sickening even than Blair and his sincerity.

The Tories, at heart, have absolutely no problem with the protestors’ actions today. They believe in class-war, and they will find it invigorating to see the battle-lines being clarified like this. They can now exploit this as an excuse to really let the police off the leash.

However, the LibDems, at heart, believe in nothing and, at heart, are cowards. If their offices had been trashed, then, in stark contrast to the Tories, shivers would have coursed through their bodies, looking for a spine to run down.

US prepares permanent Iraq occupation

10 November 2010

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates signaled Tuesday that the US is preparing to scrap a 2011 deadline for withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq, setting the stage for a permanent military occupation of the oil-rich country.

“We’ll stand by,” Gates told reporters. “We’re ready to have that discussion if and when they want to raise it with us.” The defense secretary, a holdover from the Bush administration, reiterated Washington’s formal position that while the “initiative clearly needs to come from the Iraqis; we are open to discussing it.”

The reality is that the Obama administration is presently exerting intense political pressure aimed at breaking an eight-month-old deadlock in the formation of a new Iraqi government so that it can have a US client regime capable of taking the “initiative” of asking American troops to stay.

US efforts have intensified in the aftermath of the midterm elections as part of a broad further turn to the right in both US foreign and domestic policies.

Last August, the Obama administration had celebrated the withdrawal of a single Stryker brigade from Iraq, proclaiming that its members were the last combat troops deployed in the country and that the US combat mission had ended.

The reality is that nearly 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq, the bulk of them with the same combat capabilities as the brigades that have been withdrawn. The US Air Force remains in control of Iraqi airspace and the US Navy controls its coastlines.

Obama sought to exploit the drawdown of US forces from their peak of 170,000—many of them redeployed to the “surge” in Afghanistan—for political purposes, claiming in the run-up to the elections that the Democratic president had fulfilled his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq.

This was a patent fraud. The timetable for the troop drawdown and the December 2011 final withdrawal was set not by Obama, but rather by a Status of Forces Agreement negotiated between the Bush administration and the US puppet government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad.

The Obama administration is now moving to abrogate this Bush era treaty in order to secure an indefinite US military grip over Iraq.

The immediate impediment to this plan is the absence of a government in Baghdad to sign a new agreement. Eight months after the election last March, the country’s rival political factions have been unable to cobble together a viable coalition.

The principal political factions convened a meeting Monday in the northern Kurdish capital of Irbil to discuss a power-sharing arrangement, but no deal was immediately forthcoming. Both Maliki and his principal challenger, the former prime minister and CIA asset Iyad Allawi, reiterated their claims to the prime minister’s office.

Iraqi political sources reported that Washington has demanded that a deal be worked out quickly. “We’ve been under tremendous pressure by the Americans … in clearly asking President [Jalala] Talibani to step down,” a Kurdish official told Jane Araf of the Christian Science Monitor. Both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have personally called in recent days to demand the resignation, he said.

The aim is to allow Allawi to assume the presidency and Maliki to remain as prime minister in a national unity government. Thus far, however, the Kurdish parties have shown no desire to surrender the office, which they see as an instrument for blocking any incursion on their semi-autonomous control of the north of the country.

Iraq has faced growing violence, posing the threat of a new eruption of sectarian civil war. Bombings Monday claimed the lives of at least 22 people in the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The killings come little more than a week after the massacre of 58 Iraqi Christians killed in the storming of the church where they had been taken hostage and a series of bombings in Baghdad’s Shiite areas that killed at least 70.

As the political stalemate drags on, the discussion within the US military and foreign policy establishment has increasingly pointed toward the continuation of the US occupation.

The State Department last week released an audit warning that Iraq would continue to need the deployment of US troops to maintain stability after 2011 and warning that it would be too dangerous to turn over the defense of US interests in the country to civilians. According to the Associated Press, the State Department document echoed warnings by defense analysts and former diplomats that “hard-won security gains could crumble if US forces leave on schedule.”

The report cast doubt on the ability of State Department personnel—in the absence of US military occupation forces—“to conduct their work in an environment in which 95 percent of the Iraqi population holds unfavorable or ambivalent views of the United States.”

Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, spoke along similar lines last week, declaring: “I worry that what we’re seeing is a transition from a military lead to no lead. Simply put, the capacity does not exist on the civilian side to take on the vast array of roles and missions that the military has so ably performed in Iraq.”

While preparing to extend the US military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, the Obama administration is also expected to issue a review of its Afghanistan policy next month that will prescribe “staying the course” in the current military surge that has driven up both civilian casualties and the death toll among US troops.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell last week reiterated the position of the military and of the White House that the July 2011 deadline that Obama announced for beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan would not spell even the beginning of the end of the US war there.

The date, he said, would only mean that US commanders would assess in what parts of the country they could “begin to transition increasing security responsibility” to Afghan puppet forces. These would not include the provinces where US troops are now doing the most killing and dying, such as Helmand, Kandahar and Kunar, the spokesman said.

Brought into office thanks in large measure to a wave of antiwar sentiment in the American population, Obama is continuing the wars and occupations that he inherited from the Bush administration, while ratcheting up US military threats against Iran, increasing the danger of a new and potentially far more catastrophic war.

This policy reflects the consensus position within the American ruling elite in support of using military force as a means of offsetting the crisis and decline of American capitalism through wars of aggression aimed at securing US hegemony over the energy rich Persian Gulf and Central Asia.

Reactionary and unpopular measures already planned, but held back until after the election, are being put into motion, preparing an escalation of the carnage caused by American militarism. The Republicans winning control of the House of Representatives has only served to drive the administration’s policies, both foreign and domestic, even further to the right.

The struggle to end the ongoing US occupations and wars, and to prevent the outbreak of a far bloodier conflagration, can be waged only by the working class mobilizing its independent political strength against both major parties, the Obama administration and the profit system that they defend.

Bill Van Auken

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/nov2010/pers-n10.shtml

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

UK does not have a spending crisis; it has a tax avoidance crisis.

Yes, Britain's open for business – the sort of business that doesn't pay tax

I don't know if Vodafone avoided paying billions. But slashing staff at the Revenue clearly benefits our richest companies

Did Vodafone avoid £6bn of tax? As protesters gathered outside its shops last week, both the company and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs dismissed the claim as an urban myth. That, for the media, was the end of the story. But in accepting this account journalists made an unsafe assumption: that Vodafone and Revenue & Customs are on opposing sides in the tax battle. Over the last few years the government tax office appears to have been mutating into a subsidiary of the corporate avoidance industry.

It's arguable that the UK government does not have a spending crisis; it has a tax avoidance crisis. Official accounts suggest that the tax gap amounts to £42bn. Richard Murphy of Tax Research has demonstrated that this figure cannot be correct, as it contradicts other government statistics. He estimates that avoidance now amounts to £25bn a year, evasion to £70bn, and outstanding debts to the tax service to £28bn: a total of more than £120bn.

That's roughly three-quarters of the budget deficit. It's equivalent to 80% of the UK's revenue from income tax. By comparison benefit fraud, which both the government and the rightwing press emphasised in order to justify the cuts, amounts to £1.1bn a year. No one would claim that all this missing money could be recovered. But even if only 20% were clawed back, the most damaging cuts could be reversed.

So the government is frantically seeking to close the tax gap? You're joking, of course. The comprehensive spending review will cut the revenue service by 15%. It had already been hacked to bits by New Labour. In 2005 Gordon Brown merged the Inland Revenue with Customs and Excise to create HMRC. Between them they had 99,000 staff. Since the merger this has fallen to 68,000. Some of the staff cuts were the result of sensible efficiencies. Others attacked the service's core functions. The money it spends on fighting tax avoidance, for instance, has fallen from £3.6bn in 2006 to £1.9bn today.

Many of the crises HMRC has suffered since then – such as the recent pay as you earn fiasco – are the result of Labour's cuts. A parliamentary report found that people working for the revenue had the lowest morale of any civil servants. HMRC is hopelessly outclassed by corporate ruses: the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Lord (Matthew) Oakeshott compares it to "a fat policeman chasing a speeding Ferrari". Now its staff will be cut again: to 56,000 by 2015. The government announced that an extra £900m would be spent on tackling tax avoidance. It turned out that this was magic money: nothing but a reallocation of funds HMRC already possessed.

This cut, in the midst of an economic crisis, looks like madness. It's like cutting your household bills by deciding to stop commuting to work. While the government's new strategy for reducing benefit fraud, according to the Association of Revenue and Customs, is likely to harvest £3 for every £1 it spends; money invested in HMRC to deal with tax avoidance and evasion brings in £60 for every £1 spent.

Seen as a means of reducing the deficit, the policy makes no sense. It becomes explicable only when you understand it as a response to political opportunity, another application of the shock doctrine. The Tories have seized the chance afforded by the economic crisis to free corporations and the very rich from their obligations to society.

It's not as if they were oppressed in the first place. The last Conservative government cut corporation tax from 52% to 33%. In 1999 Brown cut it again, to 30%. This, he boasted, was "now the lowest rate in the history of British corporation tax, the lowest rate of any major country in Europe and the lowest rate of any major industrialised country anywhere". Labour then cut it again, to 28%. George Osborne has promised to reduce the rate to 24%.

Murphy points out that, thanks to tax avoidance, the effective rate of corporation tax is now 21%. If current trends continue it will be 17% by 2014. This means that big business will soon pay tax at a lower rate than small companies (which can't afford sophisticated avoidance strategies) and at a lower rate than basic income tax. The richest companies in the UK will surrender less of their income than the poorest workers.

Some companies pay less than others. A recent edition of the BBC's File on 4 found, for instance, that the chemist chain Boots, after relocating to a post office box in Switzerland, has legally cut its tax bill from more than £100m a year to about £14m. That's roughly 3% of its profits.

If you expect HMRC to come out fighting, you'll be disappointed. In August its permanent secretary, Dave Hartnett, told the Financial Times: "We are sometimes too black-and-white about the law." From now on, the FT reported, the tax service "will adopt a less combative approach to resolving tax disputes with businesses"; this would be "welcomed by businesses critical of the Revenue's uncompromising approach to litigation and also chime with the coalition's 'open for business' message".

Workers at the Revenue tell me that some offices have been instructed not to chase business debts of less than £20,000, but are still expected to send threatening letters to people who've accidentally been given an extra £200 in tax credits. "The whole system is falling apart. It's predicated on allowing big business to get away with billions, while pursuing the poorest."

So did Vodafone wriggle out of paying up to £6bn in tax? We'll never know. But we do know that even the company appears to have been surprised at how little it got away with paying: it set aside £2.2bn to settle its case with the Revenue but had to pay only £1.25bn. Private Eye makes a strong case for another £5bn which, it says, the company legally avoided by channelling about €18bn through a subsidiary in Luxembourg, where the money was taxed at less than 1%. HMRC agreed that the arrangement could continue without further challenge, raising the alleged shortfall to the UK to £6bn.

HMRC's inability or unwillingness to pursue big tax avoiders means that taxation shifts from the rich to the poor. As corporate payments fall, either the poor must pay more or services must be hit even harder. Regardless of the exact amount Vodafone avoided, the protesters are right to picket its shops (and they might have a go at Boots while they're at it). We are living in a country where the poor bail out the banks, while the rich keep their billions intact.A fully referenced version of this article can be found at George Monbiot's wesite: http://www.monbiot.com/

Monday, 8 November 2010

War Crimes: Israeli government documents show deliberate policy to keep Gazans at near-starvation levels

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=21799


War Crimes: Israeli government documents show deliberate policy to keep Gazans at near-starvation levels