Monday, March 17, 2008

'We are dreamers'

" ... Some prophecy points to disaster, hopelessness and the annihilation of mankind. But other prophecies create a vision of joyful transformation through quantum leaps into love and light. We are dreamers and we create physical reality through the thoughtforms we hold. As things stand now, the human race is dreaming a hell. But as individuals and as a collective humanity it is our potential to dream of paradise and to create the kingdom of heaven on our Mother Earth. Could it be that the pain in our hearts caused by the hell we have created will spur us on into visions and creations of a world formed in love? ... "

~ from Rainbow Dream Vision of Hope ~



US Vets, Active-Duty Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan Testify About the Horrors of War

From Winter Soldier hearings at Democracy Now :

...JON MICHAEL TURNER: On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed killed. This man was innocent. I don't know his name. I called him “the fat man.” He was walking back to his house, and I shot him in front of his friend and his father. The first round didn't kill him, after I had hit him up here in his neck area. And afterwards he started screaming and looked right into my eyes. So I looked at my friend, who I was on post with, and I said, “Well, I can't let that happen.” So I took another shot and took him out. He was then carried away by the rest of his family. It took seven people to carry his body away.

We were all congratulated after we had our first kills, and that happened to have been mine. My company commander personally congratulated me, as he did everyone else in our company. This is the same individual who had stated that whoever gets their first kill by stabbing them to death will get a four-day pass when we return from Iraq.

There was one incident, where we got into a firefight just south of the government center about 2,000 meters. We had no idea where the fire was coming from. And the way our rules of engagement were, pinpoint where the fire is coming from and throw a rocket at it. So, at that being said, we still didn't know where the fire was coming from, and an eighty-four-millimeter rocket was shot into a house. I do not know if there was anyone in it. We do not know if that's where the fire was coming from. But that's what was done.

Please go to the next image. This man right here was my third confirmed killed. As you can see, he was riding his bicycle. Later on in the day, we went ahead, and we had CBS's Lara Logan with us, but she was with the other squad, and so she wasn't with us. So, myself and two other people went ahead and took out some individuals, because we were excited about the firefight we had just gotten into, and we didn't have a cameraman or woman with us. With that being said, any time we did have embedded reporters with us, our actions would change drastically. We never acted the same. We were always on key with everything, did everything by the books. The man on the bicycle, he was left in the street for about ten minutes until we realized that we needed to leave where we were. And his body was dragged about ten feet to the right of him, where his body was thrown behind a rock wall and his bicycle was thrown on top of him.

Another thing that we used to do a lot was recon by fire, where we would go ahead and try to start a firefight if we felt threatened in any way, shape or form. There was one particular incident where we were working with the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Special Forces in downtown Ramadi, and with our squad and the Iraqi Army there was also lieutenant colonels, majors, first sergeants and sergeant majors—sorry, sergeants major. With that being said, the Iraqi Army would go into the house, kick in the doors and then go ahead and shoot. And there were loud bursts of machinegun fire. We thought we were taking fire, but then we later found out that it was them...

Musical Innerlube: The Police - Synchronicity II

'The greatest loss of wealth to people of color in modern U.S. history'

"The U.S. economy is in big-time trouble and Africans are bearing the brunt of the crisis at this point, although a lot of people are going to pay prices. It's much more than what people understand. And one reason it's more is that a lot of what's happening to African people is not being reported as something that's happening to African people.

"You hear in general terms about people losing homes to sub-prime mortgages, etc. [Black Agenda Report] reads that 'the sub-prime lending debacle should cause massive rethinking among those who have long proclaimed that the route to black equality is through wealth accumulation'.

"It talks about how the 'catastrophic losses inflicted on blacks and Latinos in the U.S. at the hands of predatory lenders has resulted in the greatest loss of wealth to people of color in modern U.S. history'. It says that 'banks and other lending institutions trap blacks and Latinos in predatory lending schemes as a matter of policy'

[ ... ]

"And it leads to other kinds of contradictions, contradictions of deeper poverty and a deeper scramble for resources that are not there, in our communities in particular, where it's been so badly hit. It means more police, more police violence and things like that. And then there's Barack Obama.

"The U.S. has to use whatever means it can to secure resources around the world. It has to engage in escalated struggle against China and the European Union and other forces out there. And there's Barack Obama.

"That's a serious contradiction that we are confronted with, because they're going to have to do terrible things to African people. They already are doing terrible things to African people. And Barack Obama doesn't have a program any better than Hillary Clinton's when they're dealing with the mortgage situation. And he won't even say that something is happening to African people here.

"That's why Africans ourselves are not aware that this is something that's specializing in attacking us, because nobody will talk about the implications. Nobody will say, 'this is the summation – look where people are losing their homes; look where it's happening', right? That's a serious problem that we are confronted with.

"A greater problem is that people do not understand the nature of the system itself. People are looking at Barack Obama because he looks like us and assuming that somehow this is a great thing that all these people voted for Barack Obama.

"Part of a whole counterinsurgency policy all over the world has been for the government to kill off revolutionaries, and at the same time they're killing off revolutionaries, to raise up these other kinds of organizations as false solutions. So when struggle gets real serious, they kill off, murder leaders and then raise up these substitute organizations that pretend to be standing for something. They killed Dadan Kimathi in Kenya, who headed the Kenyan Land Freedom Army and then raised up Jomo Kenyatta. They did that stuff all over the world and created these phony organizations..."

~ from Barack Obama and the Crisis of U.S. Imperialism ~

Greece: Workers to stage another general strike Wednesday, March 19

While rats rummage through growing piles of garbage on Athens streets:

"A general strike on Wednesday by the country's two largest private and public sector union groups, GSEE and ADEDY, is expected to bring the country to a halt.

Bank workers have said they are striking today and tomorrow and will be joined by lawyers who will stay away from work for the whole week.

Journalists, engineers, petrol station employees, doctors, pharmacists, bakers and teachers will also take part in Wednesday's general strike.

Power workers also said they would continue their strike and were expected to make an announcement late yesterday or this morning on upcoming protest action."

~ from Municipal employees extend protest as police guard landfill ~


Unions say the government's reform plans would curtail employee rights, especially those of women, who can now retire at 50 on a full pension if they have underage children. Unionists also insist the shaky pension system could survive for years if employers were made to pay their contributions. One of the worst offenders is the state, which owes pension funds some €10 billion (US$15.6 billion).

~ from Municipal employees extend strike as protests over pension reform escalate ~

'Nuclear energy is about as safe, sustainable and "efficient" as Ariel Sharon near a Palestinian'

God help us, but it's chaos in the making, a complete ethnic cleansing of the “other” — and in this case the other would be all of life itself — more specifically humans — who, according to pop science, have been roaming our planet for about 100 000 years.

Which is precisely the minimum period of time required for radioactive waste to become inert …

[ ... ]

To begin with, the only element “depleted” in depleted uranium (DU) is the the fissionable uranium. It remains a highly toxic substance derived from natural uranium that has been enriched to produce nuclear reactor fuel; it's 1,8 times as dense as lead and is a 'free' commodity used in the industrialised world, specifically the arms industry.

Uranium is a known carcinogen and is already radioactive when mined from the ground. The rock containing the uranium is carefully crushed and the uranium ore is extracted, the remaining sand is also highly radioactive and is known as uranium tails, or tailings. This contains radon-220, polonium-210, radium-226, thorium-230, radon gas and radon progeny, among other supercharged toxic materials.

Polonium-210 was allegedly used by the Russian government to poison Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-intelligence agent who detailed Russia's oppression and subjugation of Chechens, including the exploitation of their natural resources. In a matter of days the Polonium debilitated his body through multi-system dysfunction. In less than 12 days, his major organs had shut down. His skin had begun to rot and his brain was no longer capable of cognitive function. Within 21 days he was dead.

[ ... ]

Radon-220 is the highly cancerous radioactive gas released underground during the mining and extraction process. It's a by-product of uranium ore and an alpha emitter and there is no possible way to prevent Radon-220 from being diffused into the atmosphere. When inhaled, it irradiates the cells of the lungs causing aggressive malignant cancers. Radon-220 has a half-life of 75 000 years.

Radium-226 is a calcium analogue and key component of uranium dust and is released into the atmosphere through the mining process and the uranium tailings. It is absorbed via inhalation, water tables, air, soil and food chains, deposits itself in the body via the GI tract or the gut and is then circulated through to various organs, notoriously known for targeting bones and causing highly malignant, fatal forms of osteogenic cancer. Radium-226 has a half-life of 1 600 years.

Thorium-230 is also a member of the uranium tailings club, with a half-life of 80 000 years, Thorium is another extremely toxic substance that leaches into water tables, is absorbed and recirculated by winds and settles into the atmospheric level, contaminating rain, etc.

~ from No-nuke age all over again? ~

Crusade of Surge and Siege

from Part Three, The Fires of Imperialism :

We must see through the eyes of peoples we do not understand and are completely ignorant of, of peoples we have been conditioned through ceaseless propaganda to disdain and oftentimes hate. We must, in order to see into resurrected Crusades, know the unknown, so that we cease to fear what is foreign and alien. We must contemplate life as it currently exists for the people of the region, not the life we are made to believe in, nor the hazy reality imagined in our minds. For the sake of the millions now dead and dying, for the sake of the dispossessed and the suffering, the maimed and mentally destroyed, we must have an understanding of life in the Middle East, life inside the fires of imperialism.

We must, in order to comprehend the catastrophe befalling the peoples of the Middle East, imagine ourselves as people living under tyranny, under occupation, under oppression and modern day colonialism, in lands where the devil's excrement abounds, where it makes blind monsters of men, where conflicts are born from the interpretations of fables and mythology, where theological differences succeed in both dividing and conquering, and where western colonialism has and continues to inflict great damage on millions of Arabs and Muslims.

If we are to understand the suffering and oppression of the Arab and Muslim people of the Middle East, we must confront the Empire and its omnipresent grip over the region; a powerful nation with omnipotent control over lands whose resources are needed to run the engines of hegemonic power; a hegemonic Goliath that methodically and calculatedly rules over dozens of little David's by proxy, intimidation and through puppets. Indeed, to fully understand the 21st century's version of yesteryear's crusades, we must journey to the lands where greed and petroleum mix, where neoliberal capitalism and market colonialism fuse, where economic genocide and hegemonic drive intermingle and where the grand pieces of the global chess match collide.


Depleted uranium turns earthworms into glowworms

A report published in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring found that worms in the Dumfries testing ground had significant traces of poisonous uranium isotopes in their bodies.

Worms are a crucial part of the ecosystem, aerating the soil and aiding the nutrient uptake of plants. If they are contaminated, it suggests the wider environment is tainted.

The report said: "Many of the soil samples from the Dundrennan Firing Range had uranium concentrations and isotopic signatures indicative of contamination with DU. Furthermore, plants and earthworms collected from above and within contaminated soils respectively also had uranium isotopic signatures strongly influenced by DU, indicating that DU was indeed assimilated into biological tissues."

More than 6000 DU shells have been fired into the Solway Firth at Dundrennan, amounting to more than 20 tons of nuclear waste. The tests have been linked to increased rates of cancer and leukaemia in the area.

Opposition to their use is hardening, after a vote at the United Nations General Assembly, won by 136 states to five, required states to submit files on the health implications of DU. Britain was one of the states to vote against it.

~ more... ~

Ancient Athens and Modern America

What made Thucydides relevant for Hobbes in the 17th century, what makes him relevant today, is the likelihood that the destabilized Greek world of Athens is a model of future destabilization. Like the Athenians of the fifth century B.C., we stand on the brink of the greatest commotion that ever happened. “To hear this history rehearsed,” Thucydides explained, “shall be perhaps not delightful.” Nonetheless, this history gains its immortality because it instructs future peoples what they might expect from runaway liberty.

There are moments in history when the world descends into madness. Everything is changed forever, and much is lost. In describing his time, Thucydides wrote: “For neither had there ever been so many cities expunged and made desolate … nor so much banishing and slaughter, some by the war and some by sedition….” When society itself is disrupted, even nature appears to rebel. Earthquakes occurred, together with an unusual number of eclipses; and there were horrible outbreaks of plague. “All these evils entered together with this war,” Thucydides stated.

Can wars of this kind happen again? Yes. Such wars will happen, again and again, until history itself comes to an end. At the outset of great troubles we seldom suspect the horrible path we have entered upon. We rarely see the danger, and the abyss opening at our feet.

[ ... ]

Athens and America are not the same. But lessons applying to one may apply to the other. Once men break with tradition, venturing upon a colossal political experiment, they lose the ability to navigate. They lose their sense of proportion, their sense of right and wrong. It is always dangerous to mistake where you are, to lack the means for recognizing error, to believe that immediate success – or successes earned to date – indicate some newfound path to collective happiness.

~ more... ~

The £20bn food mountain: Britons throw away half of the food produced each year

Britain is throwing away half of all the food produced on farms, according to the starkest estimate yet of the amount of edible produce we waste.

About 20m tons of food is thrown out each year: equivalent to half of the food import needs for the whole of Africa. Some 16m tons of this is wasted in homes, shops, restaurants, hotels and food manufacturing. Much of the rest is thought to be destroyed between the farm field and the shop shelf.

The total bill to the nation is estimated to be more than £20bn. The issue has come to the fore as supermarkets fight off criticism over billions of plastic carrier bags handed out free each year.

Lord Haskins of Skidby, a former government adviser on rural affairs and chairman of Northern Foods, said yesterday that tackling the mountain of food wasted in this country every year would help to preserve the environment and go some way towards feeding an expanding global population in the face of unprecedented food shortages.

In a move that illustrated the problem last week, Japan pledged more than 300m yen in food aid for Burundi, in Africa, where malnutrition runs at 44 per cent. The food thrown away in the UK last year would meet the equivalent of Burundi's shortages more than 40 times over.

~ more... ~

World Court Makes a Difference, Despite Skeptics

"We're a security system. We're not some kind of global supreme court," he said.

On March 11, 2003, this "security system" began its work. Eighteen judges were named and, several days later, the chief prosecutor was appointed.

Moreno-Ocampo's job is to investigate each case before it goes to the judges. He only steps in when a country's highest court cannot or does not want to punish a war crime, a crime against humanity or an act of genocide.

Individuals, not states, are tried and prosecuted in the International Criminal Court -- though only if they come from a country that has ratified the court's protocol or committed the crime in a country that has signed it. So far, that has only happened with cases from Congo, Uganda and the Central African Republic. Otherwise, the UN Security Council has to commission an investigation, which was the case in Darfur.

[ ... ]

Despite its achievements, the International Criminal Court has continually had to defend itself against skeptics. Above all, the US. President George W. Bush has rejected ratifying the court's protocol because he fears that Americans could also be brought to trial.

China, Russia and India also haven't ratified it. Despite the absence of support from these important countries, Kirsch is optimistic.

~ more... ~

'Can thousands of small dams solve Africa's power crunch?'

In the gorgeous Ruwenzori mountains of western Uganda, on a ridge above a fast-moving creek, a young man leans against a mango tree, a machete dangling from his arm. It is his job to guard one of the funkiest, tiniest dams in the world.

It's a hunk of concrete, about four meters across, that interrupts a natural waterfall, diverting water into a large reservoir. That pool drains into a rusted steel pipe that runs along the creek and then drops sharply into a white stucco-covered bungalow the size of a walk-in closet. Inside the bungalow, a turbine generator capable of producing 60 kilowatts churns out electricity, which is carried via underground wires to the Kagando Christian Hospital, 3 kilometers away.

The zany contraption is the hospital's chief source of electricity, and it is incredibly reliable—five years have gone by since a turbine blade needed replacing. The entire system cost less than US $15 000.

~ more... ~

'The first painter to systematically portray the mistreatment of human beings at the hands of the state'

" ... The film is loosely based on events from the life of Francisco Goya, probably the greatest of the painters who stood on the threshold of the modern era. For modern audiences, Goya's graphic depiction of human brutalization—the so-called “black paintings”—have achieved an iconographic quality. Goya was arguably the first painter to systematically portray the mistreatment of human beings at the hands of the state. His images are horrific, nightmarish and unforgettable. Forman's film gives us Goya as a peripheral character; on the other hand, Goya's artistic work is the focus of the film. It's greater mission is to give us a glimpse of the world that led Goya to create the “black paintings,” to put them in a social, political and moral context.

Goya was concerned with man's inhumanity towards man. But there are two sets of horrors in particular that hover in the background of the “black paintings.” The first is the brutality inflicted on the Spanish people by the French (Napoleonic) invasion and conquest and then by the Peninsular War, as British forces drove the French out. But the second, which forms the film's proper focus, is the work of the Holy Office, better known as the Spanish Inquisition. As the film opens, senior officials of the Inquisition are examining copies of prints by Goya which portray the work of the Inquisition in its proper barbarity. There is discussion about how to strike against Goya, but also recognition that as the painter to the king, he is a protected person. A discussion follows about technique. Under pressure from reformers, some of the more infamous practices of the Inquisition had been suspended. But the threat presented by the French Revolution in fact led to the reinstitution of torture practices in 1792. ... "

~ from The Question Behind 'Goya's Ghosts' ~

[ more recommended reading from Harper's: Thucydides on the Destructive Qualities of the Thirst for Power ]

Musical Innerlube: Grand Master Flash & the Furious Five

...with The Message (classic Hip Hop)

Schindler celebrated in Jewish march

In Poland, hundreds of Jews have commemorated the German businessman who saved many Jews from the Holocaust.

On the the 65th anniversary of the destruction of the Krakow ghetto, a march has taken place between the site of the former ghetto to the suburb of Plaszow; once the scene of a German labour camp.

The occupying Germans gunned down many ghetto residents and herded its survivors into the Plaszow labour camp, prior to sending them to the gas chambers.

~ more... ~

'A machine like Clinton's feeds on the negativity'

I've never bought the pre-championship palaver that the Republicans were itching keen to face Hillary Clinton in the fall, that her mere presence in the race would energize their white-dumpling demoralized base into mobilizing into peasant mobs ready to storm Frankenstein's castle. The party's true savants had underestimated Hillary when she first ran for Senate and saw Rick Lazio's ears get pinned to the mat, and were unlikely to duplicate that error. I believe that they're far more wary of the Clinton machine than the Obama phenomenon because a phenomenon can be pricked or pop of its own accord, leaving behind a melting irridescence, whereas a machine like Clinton's feeds on the negativity thrown at it, a juggernaut nightmare designed to keep the opposition guessing over every move and plunge Andrew Sullivan into clammy angst ("I woke up in a cold sweat early last Wednesday").

~ from
Beware of White Men Bearing Gifts ~

Tibetan Intifada?

Holding on to political power is the one task the Chinese Communist Party is purpose built to accomplish. One of its critical arenas has been Tibet, which has endured invasion, occupation, the deaths of perhaps a million of its citizens and a brutal, fifty-year effort to fragment Tibet's political, ethnic, and cultural identity.

The CCP will attack Tibetan dissent with a grim combination of determination, desperation, and relish, and deploy every police, military, political, propaganda, informational, and diplomatic resource it possesses, even as the government struggles to maintain the smiley face China Rising facade for the Olympics and the international community.

The question that is roiling the Chinese government and, perhaps, the Dalai Lama's government in exile in Dharmsala, is whether this represents a change in tactics, a new upsurge in militancy, and/or a challenge to the leadership of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan affairs.

~ more... ~

Warlords turn to ivory trade to fund slaughter of humans

In Chad, Janjaweed militia from Sudan killed 100 elephants in one afternoon; in Kenya, Somali warlords armed with rocket-propelled grenades killed four wildlife rangers during a bloody raid on herds in the Tana Delta; in Democratic Republic of Congo, a whole host of rebel groups have turned the country's dwindling elephant population into a new cash crop.

The fight to protect Africa's elephants has just got more dangerous. Across the continent, armed groups linked to civil wars and conflicts are using the illegal ivory trade to fund their activities. Groups like the Janjaweed, responsible for carrying out countless atrocities in Sudan's western Darfur region, are now the "greatest problem for the protection of elephants in Africa", according to Michael Wamithi, the head of the elephant programme for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw).

"Small groups of people used to kill elephants and take their ivory for purely commercial reasons," he said. "Now it is a very different thing. It is organised and it is funding these dangerous groups." In one incident in Chad's Zakouma National Park a gang of more than 30 Janjaweed men on horseback killed more than 100 elephants in a single attack.

"It was a targeted operation, very well planned," Mr Wamithi said. "To kill that many elephants in one go takes a lot of organisation. We have not seen attacks like this before."

~ more... ~

Gates cautious about Russia talks

It is up to the Russians to show they are not pursuing a "sham game" to thwart U.S. efforts to establish missile defense sites in Europe, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday.

Speaking to reporters en route to the Russian capital from Washington, Gates said he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saw some prospect of progress on long-stalled negotiations over U.S. proposals to establish missile defense sites in central Europe. But he did not sound particularly optimistic.

"I wouldn't get too enthusiastic at this point," he said.

Gates was joined a short time later by Rice, who traveled separately. Setting a tough tone even before arriving, Gates questioned the sincerity of the Russian government's objections to missile defense.

"My view is we've put a lot on the table" in recent negotiations, Gates said. "Now it's time for them to reciprocate."

Gates and Rice were to meet President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Dmitry Medvedev on Monday in advance of daylong talks Tuesday with the Russian defense and foreign ministers. The sessions come five months after a similar engagement in Moscow that produced no discernible progress toward agreement.

Gates said he and Rice were bringing no new missile defense proposals to the talks, which will cover a wide range of topics, including cooperation against terrorism, future arms control talks and economic relations.

~ more... ~

China stops issuing visas for Tibet

Foreign visitors will no longer be able to visit Tibet after the withdrawal of visas by China.

Hundreds of tourists have already left Tibet and those remaining have been asked to pack and leave within days.

The announcement follows the overflow of the Tibetan protest against Chinese rule into the neighbouring province of Sichuan, where Tibetan protestors have taken to the streets for the second day in a row.

Seven people are believed to have died in the resulting demonstrations.

In the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, there have also been renewed disturbances.

Chinese troops opened fire on a demonstration in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on Friday.

While the Chinese authorities say that only ten people died in the shooting, the Tibetan government-in-exile is claiming that 80 people died.

Beijing has given an ultimatum to the demonstrators to end the protests by noon on Monday and report to the police.

~ from BigNews Network ~

Court Upholds Navy Sonar Ban Off S. Calif.

The Navy must abide by limits on its sonar training off the Southern California coast because the exercises could harm dozens of species of whales and dolphins, a federal appeals court ruled.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday night rejected the Navy's appeal of restrictions that banned high-powered sonar within 12 nautical miles of the coast and set other limits that could affect Navy training exercises to begin this month.

Also on Friday, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a similar ban for that state's coastline.

In the California case, the appellate judges let stand most of a lower court injunction that set the limits, but altered two restrictions that the Navy argued could harm the readiness of its ships for combat.

Conservation groups that had sued to block the Navy's use of high-powered sonar said the decision was a victory for their side.

~ more... ~

Anti-depressants as effective as sugar pills?

" ... A consortium of UK, US and Canadian researchers used Freedom of Information legislation to force the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give it all the clinical trials, published and unpublished, for a range of commonly used latest-generation antidepressants, the SSRIs. (The FDA holds all the trials, published and unpublished, on a particular drug. Drug companies have to supply the trials in order to get the drug licensed.)

The researchers analysed all the trials and published the results of their analyses in PLoS Medicine, a free, open-access non-profit science journal. The drugs they looked at were fluoxetine (Prozac), venlafaxine (Effexor), paroxetine (Aropax), and nefazodone (Serzone, which is no longer prescribed in Australia).

They found that for mild and moderate depression, the antidepressants were statistically no better than a placebo. They did produce a slight improvement over placebo but the improvement was so small it couldn't be considered significant, they concluded.

Only in people with severe depression was the improvement over placebo large enough to be able to say the drugs worked.

Implications

The fact that the drug companies suppressed the studies showing they didn't work, is another in a string of scandals besetting the pharmaceutical industry. (The last was the Cox-2 inhibitors scandal, in which the makers of arthritis drugs Vioxx and Celebrex were accused of deliberately withholding evidence that their drugs were linked to heart disease. They face massive lawsuits.) ... "

~ more... ~

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