Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The right wine

The Israeli Embassy in Athens sent three bottles of wine to Theodoros Pangalos, Socialist member of the Greek Parliament.

Mr. Pangalos returned the bottles with the following letter:

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

Allow me to thank you for the three wine bottles you sent me for the holidays. My best wishes to your family, to members of your embassy and a good and happy New Year. Good health and progress for all.

 Unfortunately, I have noticed that the wine you offered me was produced on the Golan Heights. I have always known since my childhood years that one should neither commit nor accept the proceeds of robbery. I, therefore, cannot accept this gift and must send it back to you.

 As everybody knows, and according to International Law and numerous decisions of the International Community, your country continues to illegally occupy the Golan Heights belonging to Syria.

I take this occasion to express my hope that Israel may achieve security inside recognized borders and that terrorist activities against its territory, be it by Hamas or others, will be contained and prevented; and I also hope that your government will cease its practice of collective punishment such as was practiced on a total scale by Hitler and his armies.

Actions as those being taken at present by the Israeli army in Gaza remind me of the Holocaust suffered by the Greeks of Kalavrita, Doxato, Distomo and certainly also that perpetrated in the Warsaw Ghetto.

 With these thoughts, permit me to express my best wishes to yourself, the citizens of Israel and the entire region.

 Athènes, 30/12/2008

~ All4Syria ~

Pakistan's gun market

~ The Vice Guide to Travel > Pakistan ~

Hail of sendoffs to the 'commander in thief'

Bye Bye Bushie

Inspired by the absolute incompetancy and promulgation of outright lies by G. W. Bush and his cronies, the Pants On Fire Band gathered on a frigid New England Winters Eve to warm your hearts with a rousing farewell to the most nefarious of American administrations.


This is the video I did for Brian Ray (guitarist for Paul McCartney) for his song "Comin' Up Roses" with his input.

Bye Bye Bush

Recorded November 22th, 2008 at Hallenbecks General Store in North Hollywood, California. Including Andrea Louise, Larry Treadwell, Joseph of Windows to Sky and Berit Jordahl.

Bye, Bye, Bush! (We're No Longer with Stupid)

Bruce Newman and Kirk Williams at Violet Crown Art Festival 10/11/08

Bush Is Finally Gone!

Ok,once again I find myself saying "I am not a raciest".

What was the question, George?

Bye Bye Bush

Celebrate, Obama! Bye Bye, Bush!

YAHOOOOO! Celebrating the Obama victory!

Bye Bye Bush

A rag tag group of images torn from the world wide web, a forgotten song, a whole lot of seething rage over the course of our nation, some Dick Cheney, some shame, a want to do better adds up to awesome.



Bye Bye W

This is a song I wrote to celebrate the end of the Bush Era. I encourage video remixes, covers, and sing-a-long responses! Let's celebrate!!

George Bush good bye song for you

Dixie Chicks Tribute - Stand Still, Look Pretty

Bringing money down to earth

CURWOOD: As America considers ways to pick up the pieces of our smashed up economy, a former venture capitalist suggests that fast money helped to derail it. Woody Tasch says any fix must include slow money-- investments and returns at the pace of sustainable business development.

For slow money think slow food. The slow food movement pushes healthy, sustainable local food, in contrast to fast food that mostly comes frozen on a truck, and takes profits out of communities. Woody Tasch is chairman of Investor's Circle, a network of sustainable investors and author of the new book, "Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered".

TASCH: We need slow money quickly. You know, the truly insane thing would be at this point in time, knowing what we know about the planet and knowing what we know about the weak underbelly of global capitalism, it would be complete insanity to just try to hit the reset button, put a little bit more regulation in place, pump a lot of money into the system and hope for a different outcome. You know, the relationship between our species and the planet is now coming to the fore in obvious ways. And we have to take some of our capital and bring it down to earth, slow it down, invest it in healthy relationships between enterprise and the biosphere.

CURWOOD: How slow are we talking about here? I mean, what's the rate of return on this kind of investment?

TASCH: Five percent. The approach here is to go squarely at the gap between philanthropy and venture capital, which is a gap which leaves tens of thousands of small local first sustainable enterprises without access to risk capital. And there are actually tens of thousands of these enterprises all across the United States, businesses like the White Dog café in Philadelphia or Butterworks Farm up in Vermont. Cow Girl Creamery in California. Wholesome Harvest in Iowa. So a whole host of small food enterprises that are not in business to try to become global corporations, but are in business to create thriving, profitable small enterprises that enrich their communities and leave the planet better for future generations.

CURWOOD: So, venture capital, and that's the business that you used to be in, you would get –what, 20 or 30 percent return?

TASCH: Well, the venture capitalist shoots for you know five or ten times his or her money if a few years. So the actual rates of return are phenomenal when you do the arithmetic they can be 100 percent, 200 percent, 500 percent.

CURWOOD: There's a point in your book when you talk about what venture capitalists told you in response to various sustainability proposals that you brought to them over the years. I'd like to tick off a few. "I have a moral obligation to my investors to minimize risk and maximize returns." "It won't be big enough." There's another that says, "I want to live in a community that has ten companies with a hundred employees each, but I want to invest in a company that has a thousand employees for that one company." How do you change that way of thinking?

TASCH: It's not easy. [Laugh] I sometimes ask investors to ponder the following question. What would the world be like if we invested 50 percent of our assets within 50 miles of where we lived? And when you say that to a group of investors, you get a blank look at first, and then maybe a chuckle or two, and then they say, "of course, that's ridiculous, what a stupid question." And then it starts percolating a little bit and they begin registering how profoundly disconnected their lives as citizens are from their lives as investors. Investing is all about sending your money into markets, into cyberspace, into complex intermediation. And the fact that at the same time, the places where we live are being degraded, this is a very basic disconnect.

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Video: 'Let's Go Greek, Let's Go Wild'

Capitalism is suffocating us all around the world.
In the United States, we have hope.
In Greece, they have social revolt.

Editorials worldwide pillory Bush one final time

Editorial writers around the world have been taking their final printed whacks at George W. Bush, accusing the president of tarnishing America's standing with what many saw as arrogant and incompetent leadership.

Some newspaper editorials, for all their criticism, suggested historians might just be kinder later on than those now writing first drafts of history. A success often cited by those seeking a silver lining was the United States' freedom from further homeland attacks following September 11.

Bush's successor, Barack Obama, will be sworn in as the 44th U.S. president on Tuesday.

"A weak leader, Bush was just overwhelmed in the job," said Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung under a headline: "The Failure." "He confused stubbornness with principles. America has become intolerant and it will take a long time to repair that damage."

Editorials hit out at Bush for two unfinished wars, for plunging the economy into recession, turning a budget surplus into a pile of debt, for his environment policies and tarnishing America's reputation with the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Bush was given credit in some editorials for defending the United States against terror attacks after September 11, 2001.

Israel was most complimentary, of his intentions if not necessarily of his achievements.

"Of all the U.S. presidents over the past 60 years, it is hard to think of a better friend to Israel than George W. Bush," the Jerusalem Post daily wrote during Bush's final visit.

Last week columnist Caroline Glick wrote Bush "recognizes Israel and the U.S. share the same enemies and they seek to destroy us because we represent the same thing: freedom. But Bush never learned how to translate personal views into policy."

Canada's Toronto Star was categorical in its condemnation.

"Goodbye to the worst president ever," it declared. "Bush was an unmitigated disaster, failing on the big issues from the invasion of Iraq to global warming, Hurricane Katrina and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."

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Violent clashes at Athens demo

Greek riot police have fired tear gas to break up clashes in Athens between anarchists and extreme right-wingers who were holding an anti-immigration rally.

Police intervened after scores of youths wearing motorcycle helmets and armed with sticks pelted each other with stones, bottles and flares.

The violence broke out when about 100 anarchists mounted a counter-protest during a demonstration against illegal immigration in the Aghios Panteleimon district of central Athens, which has a large immigrant population.

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Riots expose roots of anger on EU's edges

Standing in the X-ray room of the gleaming private clinic he opened last year, Leons Platacis is an incongruous champion for youths who rioted in Latvia last week, part of a wave of European protests.

The Latvian businessman, who set up the clinic with his doctor wife, said it is managing to grow despite increasingly cautious banks, whose refusal to lend created a cash squeeze that has forced him to lay off five of his 20 staff.

But he is frustrated. Not only with the bankers -- now mainly the offshoots of large Scandinavian parents -- but also the government of the Baltic state, forced last year to accept a 7.5 billion euro ($9.94 billion) IMF and EU rescue package.

Platacis and others like him in European Union countries from Greece to Bulgaria show how the economic crisis has dashed hopes for prosperity among the middle-classes and young people, compounding resentment of governments already exposed by perceived nepotism, arrogance and corruption.

"We now have a situation like at the end of the Soviet period," he told Reuters, gesticulating as nurses outside escorted visitors along the freshly decorated hallways.

"It is them and us. We are not a united society with a clear vision and leaders we can trust."

The Latvian capital was one of several where youths last week went on the rampage after a peaceful protest against the center-right government, in power since the start of 2008.

Platacis said he disagreed with their actions but understood their motives.

Riots in the Bulgarian capital on Wednesday followed Latvia's on Tuesday, and on Friday police in Lithuania used tear gas as people threw stones and bottles at parliament to protest against higher taxes and lower spending.

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Bulgaria starts importing gas from Greece

Bulgaria, hard hit by a Kiev-Moscow gas row, will start importing up to 2.5 million cubic metres of gas per day from Greece on Monday, the Bulgarian economy ministry said.

The two countries' gas companies reached an agreement earlier on Monday and Bulgaria will receive gas from Greece for a period of seven days, which could be shortened or extended, the ministry said in a statement.

"At 16.00 (1400 GMT) today, the gradual gas deliveries from Greece to Bulgaria begin," the statement said.

The gas will come from a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal near Athens and be shipped through the transit pipeline which usually carries Russian gas to the Balkans, said Atanas Saikov, who is on a special crisis council at the economy ministry.

Bulgaria, almost fully dependent on Russian gas, has been left without any deliveries since Jan. 6 and is under pressure to secure supplies as its stocks are running out, dozens of factories have shut down and anger among Bulgarians is mounting.

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Brandeis student witnessed Athens riots

There were smashed storefronts, burning roadblocks made of dumpsters and canisters of flash grenades. A crowd of 5,000 pushed through the streets of Athens, wrecking everything in its path. It was Dec. 6, 2008. After years of minor violence and rising tensions between Athenian citizens and the police, Athens was rioting, and I was in the midst of it.

I studied abroad in Athens, Greece during the fall semester. My apartment was located in central Athens, the Pangrati neighborhood, near the old Olympic Stadium.

When I heard that riots had broken out in Athens, I was shocked but somehow felt compelled to watch. On the first night everything shocked me. I saw shattered glass on every block and storefront after storefront smashed. Even the rock throwing was exciting-I guess that would be the word-to see. Greeks often use public protest and riots similar to the way that Americans use petitions and complaints, and what I saw confirmed it.

In 1973, the U.S.-backed military junta invaded the National Polytechnic University in Athens after students began to protest the regime. The invasion caused many student casualties. Since then, most Greek citizens have been suspicious of the Greek justice system. Furthermore, police and army forces are still forbidden to enter university or school campuses.

Police do not go in certain neighborhoods in Athens, such as Exarheia (adjacent to the Polytechnic) for fear of being attacked by mobs of students and anarchists. It is not uncommon for the police to be drawn into the neighborhood by false phone complaints only to be pelted by bottles or rocks.

The country had not seen rioting on this scale since 1985, when 15-year-old Michalis Kaltezas' murder by police sparked months of violent riots.

On Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008, the police shot and killed Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a teenager who came from an affluent family and attended a private school. The official report states that the police were provoked and that the boy and a mob of young Athenians threatened to attack them. Witnesses later revealed that he had not actually attacked the police and was not killed by a ricochet, as was previously presumed, but by one of the police officers' direct shots. After the boy was killed in Exarheia, the neighborhood became the epicenter of much of protesting and rioting.

The riots started Sunday morning after insurgents marched from Exarheia to the police headquarters. There, they were confronted by riot police, who tried to disperse them.

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AI: Prominent human rights lawyer murdered in Moscow

A prominent human rights lawyer was shot dead in the centre of Moscow on Monday. Stanislav Markelov had been preparing to appeal against the early release of a Russian former colonel sentenced for the murder of a Chechen girl. A journalist from the newspaper Novaya Gazeta has died from wounds sustained in the same attack.

Amnesty International, who worked with Stanislav Markelov on several cases, strongly condemned the murder.

"Stanislav Markelov is yet another victim – very possibly murdered for his professional and courageous work to defend human rights," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International expressed sympathy for the family of Stanislav Markelov and urged the Russian authorities to investigate the murder promptly, fully and objectively.

"Stanislav Markelov's murder is a despicable crime. The Russian authorities must take decisive steps to show that such crimes will not be tolerated. Silencing those who defend human rights and work to uphold the rule of law is absolutely unacceptable," Nicola Duckworth said.

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AI: Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza civilian areas

The Israeli army used white phosphorus, a weapon with a highly incendiary effect, in densely populated civilian residential areas of Gaza City, according to indisputable evidence found an Amnesty International fact-finding team which reached the area last Saturday.

When white phosphorus lands on skin it burns deeply through muscle and into the bone, continuing to burn until deprived of oxygen.

Amnesty International's delegates found still-burning white phosphorus wedges all around residential buildings on Sunday. These wedges were further endangering the residents and their property; streets and alleys are full of children playing, drawn to the detritus of war and often unaware of the danger.

The carrier shells which delivered the wedges were also still lying in and around houses and buildings. Some of these heavy steel 155mm shells have caused extensive damage to residential properties.

"Yesterday, we saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army," said Christopher Cobb-Smith, a weapons expert who is in Gaza as part of the four-person Amnesty International team.

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Today in solidarity we're all Palestinians: History of Israeli terror killings

World outrage continues over Israeli war crimes and Washington's complicity. Gazans are now immortalized. Hamas is more popular than ever and remains resolute despite everything the IDF threw against it.

Democrats and Republicans share equal guilt. They fund Israeli state terror, are partnered in its aggression, and have collaboratively planned, supported, and/or agreed to it for the past 41 years. Continuity under Obama is assured. The current Gaza carnage is the worst since 1967. In spite of its "unilateral" ceasefire, sporadic Israeli attacks continue. The IDF merely redeployed. Gaza remains under siege, and human suffering is overwhelming and unrelieved.

Since December 27, Israel conducted terror bombings, tank and naval vessel shellings, and assault troop slaughter on the ground. Illegal weapons were used. Neighborhoods are burning and in ruins. Horrific wounds are reported. Civilians were willfully massacred. They comprise 80 - 90% of the casualties according to human rights organizations and medical authority reports. All 1.5 million Gazans were targeted. They still are. There's no place anywhere to hide.

Sporadic fighting continues after Israel's January 17 announcement. Earlier, Israeli Radio reported that more reservists were activated and that IDF operations were in "phase three." Forces on the ground pushed deeper into Gaza where they remained up to now. Attacks on neighborhoods and refugee camps intensified. Death and injury tolls mount. They approach 7000 but exclude potentially hundreds of unidentified bodies under rubble.

A Brief History of Israeli Terror Killings Since 1946

Gaza is full-scale war but just the latest bloodstained episode in Israel's six-decade reign of terror against Palestinians. This section reviews others since 1946, two years before the establishment of a Jewish state. The list is long, way-incomplete, very disturbing, and shows what Palestinians have endured for over 60 years. Their ordeal continues in the West Bank and Gaza under siege, still attacked, and, as always, betrayed by the dominant media.

The King David Hotel July 22, 1946 Bombing

The Menachem Begin-led Irgun planned and conducted the massacre of 92 Brits, Arabs and Jews, wounding 58 others. As head of the Jewish Agency, David Ben-Gurion approved the operation. It was to destroy British-gathered evidence that its leaders colluded with the Haganah, Palmach, Irgun and Stern gangs in a wave of terrorist crimes and killings. Bombing the King David Hotel was the most notorious and followed a pattern before and since of brutal Israeli state terrorism.

The British Secretariat of the Palestine Government and British Army HQ kept offices in the hotel. Attackers disguised as milkmen, planted explosives in milk containers, placed them in the basement and left. At the time, the action shocked the civilized world and outraged the British leadership and House of Commons.

Other Israeli Terrorist Incidents against Palestinians

-- Tira, December 11, 1947 - five Palestinians were killed and six injured;

-- a village outside Haifa, December 12, 1947 - 12 Palestinians killed;

-- a village outside Tel Aviv, December 14, 1947 - 18 Palestinians killed and 100 injured;

-- al-Khias, December 18, 1947 - the paramilitary   Haganah killed 10 Palestinians, most inside their homes;

-- Haifa, December 30, 1947 - six Palestinians killed and 42 wounded;

-- Jerusalem, December 30, 1947 - Irgun terrorists threw a bomb from a speeding car killing 11 Palestinians and two Brits;

-- Balad Esh-Sheikh, December 31, 1947 - the Haganah killed 60 Palestinians, most inside their homes;

-- Jaffa, January 4, 1948 - the Stern Gang killed up to 30 and wounded 100 in a truck bombing;

-- the Semiramis Hotel, Jerusalem, January 4, 1948 - the Haganah bombed the hotel killing 25 civilians;

-- Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, January 7, 1948 - 17 Palestinians killed;

-- Tireh, February 10, 1948 - seven Palestinians killed and five injured;

-- on a bus from Safad, February 12, 1948 - five Palestinians killed and five injured;

-- Sa'sa', February 14, 1948 - 60 Palestinians killed, mostly in their homes;

-- Qisarya, February 15 - 20, 1948 - 25 Palestinians killed;

-- Haifa, February 20, 1948 - six Palestinians killed and 36 wounded;

-- Haifa, March 3, 1948 - the Stern Gang blew up the Salameh Building killing 11 Palestinians and wounding 27;

-- al-Husayniyya, March 12 and 16 - 17 - the Palmach twice raided the village killing 15 and wounding 20 in the first attack; killing 30 in the second one;

-- Jews blew up a train near Benjamina on March 31, 1948 killing 25 Palestinians and wounding 61;

-- al-Sarafand, April 5, 1948 - 16 Palestinians were killed and 12 wounded, most when a house was mortared;

-- Dier Yassin, April 9, 1948 - the Menachem Begin-led Irgun slaughtered well over 120 Palestinian men, women and children in a bloody rampage; The New York Times reported 254 killed on April 13; 53 orphaned children were dumped like trash along the wall of the Old City; homes were dynamited with inhabitants inside; people were shot at close range, including children; the massacre marked the beginning of what followed during Israel's "War of Independence:" depopulating 531 towns and villages; 11 urban neighborhoods; massacring or displacing 800,000 Palestinians; and committing  countless rapes and other atrocities;" remember Dier Yassin; it, too, is immortalized;

-- Tel Litvinsky, April 19, 1948 - Jews killed 90 Palestinians;

-- Tiberias, April 19, 1948 - Jews blew up a home killing Palestinians inside;

-- Ayn al-Zaytun and nearby villages, May 1 - 4, 1948 - 27 Palestinians killed;

-- Acre, May 18, 1948 - Israeli troops killed over 100 Palestinians;

-- al-Kabri, May 20, 1948 - Israeli forces killed villagers and machine-gunned children who survived;

-- al-Tantura, May 22 - 23, 1948 - Israeli troops killed over 200 villagers, mostly unarmed young men shot in cold blood;

-- on May 26, 1948, David Ben-Gurion formed the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from the Haganah;

-- Lydda, July 11 - 12, 1948 - the IDF killed several hundred civilians, including 80 machine-gunned inside the Dahmash mosque;

-- Elot, late July, 1948 - the IDF arrested 46 young men; on August 3, several were found dead, and 14 of those arrested were shot in cold blood in an olive grove - in full view of the villagers;

-- Suqrir, August 29, 1948 - the IDF killed 10 villagers;

-- Hula, Lebanon, October 24 - 29, 1948 - the IDF machine-gunned 50 villagers;

-- al-Dawayima, October 29, 1948 - the IDF killed up to 200 villagers;

-- Majd al-Kurum, October 30, 1948 - the IDF slaughtered 20 or more villagers in cold blood;

-- Saliha, October 30, 1948 - IDF forces blew up a house killing 94 Palestinians;

-- Sa'sa', October 30, 1948 - hundreds of Palestinians were slaughtered in cold blood; the entire village was expelled;

-- Nahf, October 31, 1948 - a brutal massacre was carried out of unknown numbers;

-- Khirbat al-Wa'ra al-Sawda, November 2, 1948 - the IDF killed 14 villagers;

-- Beit Jala, January 6, 1952 - seven Palestinians were slaughtered in cold blood;

-- Jerusalem, April 22, 1953 - the IDF killed 10 Palestinians;

-- Bureji Refugee Camp, August 28, 1953 - the IDF killed  20 Palestinians and wounded 62 others;

-- Qibya, Jordan, October 14, 1953 - Ariel Sharon's infamous Unit 101 killed 70 villagers;

-- Nahalin, Jordan, March 28, 1954 - the IDF killed nine Arabs and wounded 19;

-- Gaza City, April 5, 1956 - IDF shelling killed 56 and wounded 193;

-- Kafr Kassem, October 29, 1956 - the IDF killed about 50 men, women and children;

-- the Suez War, October 29 - November 7, 1956 - the IDF executed about 273 Egyptian soldiers and civilians in cold blood;

-- Khan Yunis, November 3, 1956 - the IDF killed dozens of civilians in cold blood;

-- Rafah Refugee Camp, November 12, 1956 - the IDF slaughtered over 100 Palestinians;

-- Nuqeibi, Syria, March 16 - 17, 1962 - IDF artillery and aircraft killed at least 30 unarmed villagers;

-- Samu, Jordan, November 13, 1966 - the IDF destroyed 125 houses, a school, clinic and 15 houses in a nearby village killing 18 and wounded 54 in cold blood;

-- the Six-Day War, June 5 - 11, 1967 - IDF forces preemptively and without cause attacked Egypt, Syria and Jordan; they massacred as many as 2000 helpless or captured Egyptian soldiers; killed about 340 Syrian villagers in the Golan Heights and displaced more than 300,000 Palestinians who fled to the Jordan River's east bank along with others to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria;

-- the USS Liberty incident, June 8, 1967 - Israeli forces attacked and killed 34 Americans and wounded 171 in international waters; a Department of Defense inquiry whitewashed it as a case of "mistaken identity" despite clear knowledge it was a willful attack on a US naval intelligence vessel;

-- Rafah Refugee Camp, June 1967 - the IDF killed 23 Palestinians and buried them in a mass grave;

-- following the Six Day War, June 1967, 56 Palestinians were shot in cold blood trying to cross the Jordan River to the West Bank;

-- February 21, 1973, the IDF shot down Libya Airlines Flight 114 killing 106 passengers, including one American;

-- Hebron, February 25, 1994 - Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 praying Palestinians;

-- the First (1987 - 1992) and Second (2000 - 2005) Intifadas - thousands of Palestinians were killed and injured during IDF rampages against them;

-- the 1982 Lebanon invasion and occupation; 18,000 Lebanese and Palestinians were killed, including 3000 massacred in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps;

-- Jenin, 2002 - the most infamous of numerous massacres during the Second Intifada; the IDF invaded the city and refugee camp; cut them off from outside help; destroyed hundreds of buildings; buried many alive in them under rubble; cut off power and water as well as food and other essential to life supplies; refused to allow in help, including medical aid; and killed and wounded dozens of Palestinian civilians; some accounts cite hundreds as Israeli forces swept up bodies and buried them to avoid an accurate count;

-- the summer 2006 33-day (Second) Lebanon War - the IDF inflicted mass terror attacks and destruction throughout the country; around 1300 were killed; many more were wounded; one million (or one-fourth of the population) were displaced; and most vital infrastructure was destroyed to bring the country to a halt;

-- the June 2006 Operation Summer Rain against Gaza; all border crossings were closed isolating the Territory and preventing essential to life supplies from getting in; air strikes and shellings were used; three main bridges were destroyed; the main water pipe for the Nusairat and al-Boreji refugee camps as well as the Strip's only power plant supplying 80% of the Territory's electricity; the IDF moved into Gaza and took control;

-- the assault followed a series of bloody Israeli attacks: a weekend beach shelling killing eight Palestinians, including seven members of one family; 32 others were injured, including 13 children; a highway missile attack killing 11 and injuring 30; another missile attack killing three children and wounding 15;

-- during the same period, the IDF conducted around 50 incursions into Palestinian West Bank communities; farmland was razed; homes were raided; dozens taken into custody, including children; on June 29, nearly the entire Hamas leadership was arrested, including eight cabinet ministers, 25 PLC members from the Change and Reform Party, and other Hamas officials.

Palestinians have endured all of the above and far more for over 60 years, 41 under occupation:

-- many thousands of Palestinians were killed, injured, imprisoned, and tortured; since 1967, over 700,000 have been incarcerated; the great majority are tortured; many are held uncharged in administrative detention; anywhere from 10 - 12,000 Palestinians or more remain in prison at all times;

-- rampaging military incursions occur repeatedly throughout Occupied Palestine; in November 2007 alone, 786 West Bank raids were conducted; several Palestinians were killed; dozens wounded; and around 400 arrested; in addition, public and private properties were damaged; crops destroyed; land seized; curfews imposed; and free movement was and remains severely restricted;

-- in addition, settlement expansions seize West Bank land; the Separation Wall is taking another 10%; Palestinians have few rights, and since Hamas won a January 2006 PLC majority none at all in Gaza; desperation now plagues them with the Territory under siege, and approaches disaster since Israel launched late December terror bombings and ground and offshore attacks.

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Jurek Nems: great photography


Last Ethiopian troops leave Somalia's capital

The last Ethiopian troops left Somalia's capital on Thursday after a two-year deployment and Islamist militiamen took control of the bases, fueling fears they could try to expand their power in this lawless Horn of Africa nation.

Ethiopia's prime minister said he could not predict what would happen when his troops leave Somalia completely, but he expected the extremist Islamic group, al-Shabab, and others to try to seize control.

Al-Shabab, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaida, says it wants to establish an Islamic state in Somalia.

"It would be strange if the Shabab and others did not try to capitalize on the fact that a significant proportion of the peacekeeping operation in Somalia was leaving and to try to fill in whatever vacuum they feel there is," Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told journalists in Addis Ababa.

"But at the moment, what will happen next is an open question," Meles said.

However, Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein told journalists he was confident Mogadishu is safe. And by sunset Thursday, Mogadishu residents reported a day without violence. It was unclear whether this was a lull in this week's fighting or an indication of longer-term tranquility for the capital's residents.

The African Union said over the weekend that the government and its Islamic allies have about 10,000 troops, but they are poorly equipped and require logistical support.

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Chomsky: Undermining Gaza

DOSSANI: The Israeli government and many Israeli and U.S. officials claim that the current assault on Gaza is to put an end to the flow of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. But many observers claim that if that were really the case, Israel would have made much more of an effort to renew the ceasefire agreement that expired in December, which had all but stopped the rocket fire. In your opinion, what are the real motivations behind the current Israeli action?

CHOMSKY: There's a theme that goes way back to the origins of Zionism. And it's a very rational theme: "Let's delay negotiations and diplomacy as long as possible, and meanwhile we'll 'build facts on the ground.'" So Israel will create the basis for what some eventual agreement will ratify, but the more they create, the more they construct, the better the agreement will be for their purposes. Those purposes are essentially to take over everything of value in the former Palestine and to undermine what's left of the indigenous population.

I think one of the reasons for popular support for this in the United States is that it resonates very well with American history. How did the United States get established? The themes are similar.

There are many examples of this theme being played out throughout Israel's history, and the current situation is another case. They have a very clear program. Rational hawks like Ariel Sharon realized that it's crazy to keep 8,000 settlers using one-third of the land and much of the scarce supplies in Gaza, protected by a large part of the Israeli army while the rest of the society around them is just rotting. So it's best to take them out and send them to the West Bank. That's the place that they really care about and want.

What was called a "disengagement" in September 2005 was actually a transfer. They were perfectly frank and open about it. In fact, they extended settlement building programs in the West Bank at the very same time that they were withdrawing a few thousand people from Gaza. So Gaza should be turned into a cage, a prison basically, with Israel attacking it at will, and meanwhile in the West Bank we'll take what we want. There was nothing secret about it.

Ehud Olmert was in the United States in May 2006 a couple of months after the withdrawal. He simply announced to a joint session of Congress and to rousing applause, that the historic right of Jews to the entire land of Israel is beyond question. He announced what he called his convergence program, which is just a version of the traditional program; it goes back to the Allon plan of 1967. Israel would essentially annex valuable land and resources near the green line (the 1967 border). That land is now behind the wall that Israel built in the West Bank, which is an annexation wall. That means the arable land, the main water resources, the pleasant suburbs around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the hills and so on. They'll take over the Jordan valley, which is about a third of the West Bank, where they've been settling since the late 60s. Then they'll drive a couple of super highways through the whole territory — there's one to the east of Jerusalem to the town of Ma'aleh Adumim which was built mostly in the 1990s, during the Oslo years. It was built essentially to bisect the West Bank and are two others up north that includes Ariel and Kedumim and other towns which pretty much bisect what's left. They'll set up check points and all sorts of means of harassment in the other areas and the population that's left will be essentially cantonized and unable to live a decent life and if they want to leave, great. Or else they will be picturesque figures for tourists — you know somebody leading a goat up a hill in the distance — and meanwhile Israelis, including settlers, will drive around on "Israeli only" super highways. Palestinians can make do with some little road somewhere where you're falling into a ditch if it's raining. That's the goal. And it's explicit. You can't accuse them of deception because it's explicit. And it's cheered here.

DOSSANI: In terms of U.S. support, last week the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a cease fire. Is this a change, particularly in light of the fact that the U.S. did not veto the resolution, but rather abstained, allowing it to be passed?

CHOMSKY: Right after the 1967 war, the Security Council had strong resolutions condemning Israel's move to expand and take over Jerusalem. Israel just ignored them. Because the U.S. pats them on the head and says "go ahead and violate them." There's a whole series of resolutions from then up until today, condemning the settlements, which as Israel knew and as everyone agreed were in violation of the Geneva conventions. The United States either vetoes the resolutions or sometimes votes for them, but with a wink saying, "go ahead anyway, and we'll pay for it and give you the military support for it." It's a consistent pattern. During the Oslo years, for example, settlement construction increased steadily, in violation of what the Oslo agreement was theoretically supposed to lead to. In fact the peak year of settlement was Clinton's last year, 2000. And it continued again afterward. It's open and explicit.

To get back to the question of motivation, they have sufficient military control over the West Bank to terrorize the population into passivity. Now that control is enhanced by the collaborationist forces that the U.S., Jordan, and Egypt have trained in order to subdue the population. In fact if you take a look at the press the last couple of weeks, if there's a demonstration in the West Bank in support of Gaza, the Fatah security forces crush it. That's what they're there for. Fatah by now is more or less functioning as Israel's police force in the West Bank. But the West Bank is only part of the occupied Palestinian territories. The other part is Gaza, and no one doubts that they form a unit. And there still is resistance in Gaza, those rockets. So yes, they want to stamp that out too, then there will be no resistance at all and they can continue to do what they want to do without interference, meanwhile delaying diplomacy as much as possible and "building the facts" the way they want to. Again this goes back to the origins of Zionism. It varies of course depending on circumstances, but the fundamental policy is the same and perfectly understandable. If you want to take over a country where the population doesn't want you, I mean, how else can you do it? How was this country conquered?

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'Electronic calculation is not the same as wisdom. Confusing them is dangerous'

From Dominic Lawson: I blame computers for this crisis

So we taxpayers are called upon to provide another £100bn or so (no one quite knows, least of all us) – and the cry goes up once again: who is to blame for the banking crisis?

The most obvious answer is: the bankers themselves. On the day that the Government injects yet more cash into Royal Bank of Scotland's smouldering hulk of a balance sheet, perhaps there is some weird patriotic pride to be had in the fact that Newsweek has ignored all the notable American candidates to name Sir Fred Goodwin, chief executive of RBS from 2000 to October 2008 as "The World's Worst Banker".

There are many other candidates for blame, however. The economists' own favourite villain is the former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan. Actually it's "Sir" Alan Greenspan: Gordon Brown made sure that he got a KBE too, before it dawned that the owlish American was not, after all, the world's wisest life-form.

Then there is the nexus between the property business and politicians – the former having speculated colossally on the latter's belief that there were votes to be had in keeping that market inflating into infinity. These are also good people to kick as you contemplate your ever-diminishing pension.

Yet with all these human targets, there is one often overlooked candidate for blame which is not constructed of carbon (and which will not feel any pain when you kick it). This is the silicon microchip. The astonishing growth in the calculating power of computers is a wonderful thing, enabling us to do things we would never have dreamed of even a decade ago. Electronic calculation, however, is not the same thing as wisdom; and there are great dangers in confusing the one with the other.

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Surveyed scientists agree global warming is real

Human-induced global warming is real, according to a recent U.S. survey based on the opinions of 3,146 scientists. However there remains divisions between climatologists and scientists from other areas of earth sciences as to the extent of human responsibility.

 Against a backdrop of harsh winter weather across much of North America and Europe, the concept of rising global temperatures might seem incongruous.

However the results of the investigation conducted at the end of 2008 reveal that vast majority of the Earth scientists surveyed agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

The study released today was conducted by academics from the University of Illinois, who used an online questionnaire of nine questions. The scientists approached were listed in the 2007 edition of the American Geological Institute's Directory of Geoscience Departments.

Two questions were key: Have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures?

About 90 percent of the scientists agreed with the first question and 82 percent the second.

The strongest consensus on the causes of global warming came from climatologists who are active in climate research, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role.

Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 percent and 64 percent, respectively, believing in human involvement.

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Venezuela: The revolution will not be televised

THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED DIRECTED AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY KIM BARTLEY AND DONNACHA O'BRIAIN IRELAND, 2003 74 MINUTES IN SPANISH WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES HUGO CHAVEZ ELECTED PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA IN 1998, IS A COLORFUL, UNPREDICTABLE FOLK HERO, beloved by his nation's working class and a tough-as-nails, quixotic opponent to the power structure that would see him deposed. Two independent filmmakers were inside the presidential palace on April 11, 2002, when he was forcibly removed from office. They were also present 48 hours later when, remarkably, he returned to power amid cheering aides. Their film records what was probably history's shortest-lived coup d'état. It's a unique document about political muscle and an extraordinary portrait of the man The Wall Street Journal credits with making Venezuela "Washington‚s biggest Latin American headache after the old standby, Cuba."

Gaza rationalized by US media

The brain, Your Honor, will take the witness stand

Every courtroom is a laboratory of human nature, where jurists clinically question our memory, behavior, sanity and sense of responsibility. Exploring the anatomy of justice, though, researchers have started taking testimony from the brain itself to better understand the origins of a fair verdict.

No one really knows how millions of microscopic brain cells can weigh objective legal notions of right and wrong. But last month, researchers at Vanderbilt University for the first time identified distinctive strands of neural tissue active when, like a judge or juror, we think about crime and punishment. In an experiment at the frontier of law and philosophy, the researchers used a brain scanner to examine the impartial judgments at the heart of our legal system, recording how brain cells behave when assessing criminal responsibility and meting out sentences.

"We take decision-making for granted, like breathing," says Vanderbilt law professor Owen Jones, who conducted the experiment with Vanderbilt neuroscientists Rene Marois and Joshua Buckholtz. "If you want a world in which judicial and jury decisions are fair, unbiased, sensible and reasonable, then we ought to understand a little bit about how it actually happens."

As a first step, they measured how our brain cells behave as we decide whether to punish someone accused of a crime when we have no personal stake in enforcement. The researchers tested 16 volunteers in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine. The fMRI monitored the blood flow and oxygen demand associated with neural activity as each subject made two distinct legal judgments about blame and punishment in 50 hypothetical scenarios ranging from simple theft of a music CD to rape and murder.

No one part of the brain stands in judgment of others, they found. Instead, at least two areas of the brain assess guilt and assign an appropriate penalty. An area associated with analytical reasoning, called the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, became very active, they reported. But the decision process also electrified emotional circuits.

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Photo essay: Jewish Holocaust and Gaza

The grandchildren of Jewish holocaust survivors from World War II are doing to the Palestinians exactly what was done to them by Nazi Germany.

[ ... ]

The classic propaganda machine - you will find the picture in black and white in all American and some other western countries' history books, encyclopedias, libraries and museums. This photo depicts a young Jewish boy with his hands up while Nazi troops point their guns at him an his family in order to expel them from their homes. (It's meant to make you sympathise with the victims and support their cause for justice and homeland.

~ to view photo essay click here ~

Warning that UK is on brink of depression

Britain is facing an economic depression, one of Scotland's most prominent businessmen has warned, as the government prepares to announce its last-ditch attempt to shore up confidence in the banking industry.

Sir George Mathewson, a former chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland and chairman of the Scottish Government's economic advisory council, said that economic conditions would worsen.

He also attacked Gordon Brown and Labour for their key policy moves during the crisis: the VAT cut, recapitalisation of the banks and the £20 billion guarantees of loans to small business.

In his bleak assessment, Sir George said: "Right now it's depression we should be really worried about because that causes real, personal suffering for a lot of people."

Asked if this was a real risk, he said: "Oh yeah, of course it is."

He also warned that injecting more capital into banks would not revive the economy.

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German banks: $300B more in writedowns?

German banks face further losses totalling billions of euros because they have only written off a fraction of their non-performing securities linked to American mortgages and student loans, according to a survey of 20 major German banks conducted by the German central bank and banking watchdog BaFin.

All the country's top commercial banks and the publicly owned regional banks known as Landesbanken took part in the survey which revealed that the banks hold so-called "toxic" securities totalling just under €300 billion ($398 billion), of which only a quarter has been written off.

They hold the remainder in their books at values that are now illusory. The government expects the banks to make further writedowns as a result, which should lead to further big losses for the banks. That in turn means that even more banks are likely to require government cash injections in the near future.

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Israel expects army officers to be prosecuted for war crimes

The Israeli government is preparing defenses for a “wave of international lawsuits” expected over its offensive in Gaza.

The government believes Israeli army officers and soldiers will be sued over actions in the 21-day old offensive which began on December 27.

A number of human rights organizations, and the International Red Cross, have already indicated they are looking at breaches of international law. The whole question of the legality of the Gaza War is also being examined.

Amnesty International has written to the United Nations Security Council calling for the establishment of full accountability for crimes committed in the Gaza conflict and for deployment of human rights monitors.

In the letter, Amnesty says it wants the Security Council to “take firm action to ensure full accountability for war crimes and other serious abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the Israeli army to establish a task force comprising operational, intelligence, and legal experts, to assemble information, documentation, and footage of military operations during the offensive, which will assist in the defence of officers against legal actions expected to be filed by a number of international bodies.

The task forced named “Incrimination Team” is presently examining all footage taken by the Israeli army of the Gaza operation since it began.

Israeli Attorney General Menahem Mazuz warned the government earlier this week a “wave of international lawsuits” was expected.

"We need to be prepared for the potential lawsuits that will be filed against senior officers," a defense official told The Jerusalem Post. "The team will review the footage and intelligence information and formulate arguments that can be used to defend against claims that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza." The footage collected by the team was filmed by regular combat soldiers who received special training on how to film and document military operations under combat conditions.

What will hamper legal actions brought on by international groups is that virtually the only footage and documentation of the violence in Gaza will be that produced by the Israeli army. Israel has banned the entry of journalists, TV camera crews, and photographers from Gaza, a decision that preceded the commencement of the offensive. The Israel High Court has ruled the ban illegal and ordered the government and army to allow news media to enter the Strip. The court order has not been complied with.

Israel is accused of bombing schools, including some run by the United Nations, mosques, government buildings, and homes. Hundreds of civilians, including women and children have been killed by bombs, artillery shelling and tank fire. Israel has also staged a blockade of the Strip for eighteen months which has restricted the provision of food, medical supplies, water, oil, and other commodities. Much of the area has been without electricity for several months. The blockade has plunged Gaza into a depression.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said in a statement that the pledges 193 states have made to protect the lives and development of children "have been blatantly violated during this crisis."

~ more... ~

Systemic economic crisis: The sequence of global insolvency begins

In 2007, LEAP/E2020 announced that US banks and consumers were both insolvent. More than a year ago, our team estimated that USD 10,000-billion worth in « ghost-assets » would vanish in the crisis. Both announcements came in complete opposition with the common opinion of that time; however they proved perfectly justified in the months after. In the same line, LEAP/E2020 today estimates that a new sequence of the fourth phase (so-called « decanting phase ») of the unfolding global systemic crisis has began: the sequence of global insolvency.

The heavy consequences conveyed by the global insolvency are anticipated in this GEAB N°31, of which this announcement presents an excerpt meant to put clearly what is at stake in this new sequence of the crisis. GEAB N°31 also details the 20 "ups and downs" of the year 2009 according to the LEAP/E2020 team : fifteen upward trends and fourteen downward trends, as many decision- abnd analysis-support instruments for all those worried or intrigued by the coming year.

Contrary to what political leaders and their central bankers seem to believe worldwide, the problem of liquidity that they are striving to solve by means of historic interest rate drops and unlimited money creation, is not a cause but a consequence of the current crisis. It is in fact a problem of solvency which is digging « black holes » where liquidities disappear, whether we call these holes bank balance sheets (1), household debt (2), corporate bankruptcies or public deficits. In consideration of the fact that a conservative estimation of these “ghost-assets” reaches already USD 30,000-billion (3), our team considers that the world is now facing a situation of general insolvency affecting in the first place the most indebted countries and organizations (public or private) and/or those depending most on financial services.

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Al Qaeda bungles arms experiment

An al Qaeda affiliate in Algeria closed a base earlier this month after an experiment with unconventional weapons went awry, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Monday.

The official, who spoke on the condition he not be named because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said he could not confirm press reports that the accident killed at least 40 al Qaeda operatives, but he said the mishap led the militant group to shut down a base in the mountains of Tizi Ouzou province in eastern Algeria.

He said authorities in the first week of January intercepted an urgent communication between the leadership of al Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda's leadership in the tribal region of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan. The communication suggested that an area sealed to prevent leakage of a biological or chemical substance had been breached, according to the official.

"We don't know if this is biological or chemical," the official said.

The story was first reported by the British tabloid the Sun, which said the al Qaeda operatives died after being infected with a strain of bubonic plague, the disease that killed a third of Europe's population in the 14th century. But the intelligence official dismissed that claim.

AQIM, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, maintains about a dozen bases in Algeria, where the group has waged a terrorist campaign against government forces and civilians. In 2006, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on foreign contractors. In 2007, the group said it bombed U.N. headquarters in Algiers, an attack that killed 41 people.

~ more... ~


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