Thursday, October 29, 2009

Montrealers deliver a fiery message to Bush: You are persona non grata

They threw shoes – so many shoes that hotel staff had to roll out a laundry bin onto the street to pick them all up, and even then, the bin could barely contain them all.

They chanted: "Bush: Assassin! Terroriste! Criminel!" and then, at the appropriate command, hurled more shoes toward the heavily guarded entrance of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, where George W. Bush was scheduled to speak.

They waved signs: "Don't Duck!" and "1.3 Million Dead Because of Bush" and "Bread Not Bombs for the Children of Iraq." Some of the signs and chants were directed equally at Bush's father. "You are a murderer too!"

And toward the end, they burned George W. Bush in effigy.

[ ... ]

Still, it was an eerie sensation to be standing in a carpeted, well heated hotel (appropriately honoring monarchy) and watching shivering, mostly young protestors mouthing their chants outside, chants which were barely audible. Perhaps the hotel had been built with some kind of special plate glass to insulate guests from the din of everyday life. Robin and I figured that Bush had been ushered in through the back door, because we never saw him. His speech was by invitation only. Even the press had to be invited. The price of admission: $400. About a 1,000 people showed up. Bush reportedly charges up to $150,000 for each appearance.

Deprived of seeing the former president, the protestors outside seemed satisfied that they had delivered a message to him through their signs, which said: You are a War Criminal. And because you are, you are Persona Non Grata in Montreal.

The day before, they ran a full- page ad in the daily Le Devoir endorsed by 48 groups and 440 individuals. It read in part:

"We denounce the invitation from Montreal's business circles to George W. Bush, whose polices were in violation of international law and led to such suffering worldwide. The 'eight momentous years' of Bush in the White House were first and foremost those of two wars of aggression and occupation which continue today, for whom the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan tragically continue paying the price of massive bombings of cities, of 'collateral' massacres of villagers, of carnage and destruction, for rape and other sexual violence, of torture and arbitrary detention."

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Ecuador: The battle for natural resources deepens

A new indigenous uprising began in defense of water sources threatened by open air mining in Ecuador in late September. This time indigenous organizations find themselves up against a government that claims to be anti-neoliberal, a player in the "socialism of the 21st century," and one that has begun a "citizen's revolution."

"What happened in Cochabamba in the fight for water will be dwarfed by what is about to happen in Ecuador. An uprising is coming because it is coming," affirms a convinced Carlos Pérez Guartambel, president of the Azuay Union of Community Water Systems (Unión de Sistemas Comunitarios de Agua del Azuay).1 Pérez is referring to the Water War of Cochabamba, Bolivia, a vast social insurrection that put a stop to the privatization of water and, in April 2000, began a succession of protests that brought Evo Morales to the presidency.

[ ... ]

Humberto Cholango, director of Ecuarunari, the Quichua organization of the sierra, offered some compelling facts during a press conference held on Sept. 24. Forty-five percent of water resources have been privatized through legal concessions, but 55% of it is being used illegally; 1% of those using water resources consume 64% of the water available and 86% of Ecuadorians consume just 13%. "The law does not say anything in regard to these points and the National Development Plan favors the mining companies and flower growers."

The law does not contemplate sanctions for contamination or water quality control. "The human right to water is restricted to access to potable water and domestic uses without considering the rights linked to health, food sovereignty, and culture," adds Buitrón.

For his part, Cholango insisted in the role of the indigenous communities in the construction of water system networks: "We have constructed irrigation canals, consumer water systems, and now, with this Executive Law, they want us to simply be consumers and not actors. Even in article 97, they are trying to exclusively administer and take control of community water systems through the Sole Authority. This is a threat to our water councils." The result, in his opinion, is prioritizing the use of water for mining exploits.

The protests began with roadblocks and demonstrations to force the government into a dialogue and a chance to present their own Water Law inspired by the Sumak Kawsay, the idea of "Buen Vivir" or "Good Living" that is guaranteed in the constitution. President Rafael Correa's response was harsh: "Who do these leaders think they are?" He accused them of being "extremists," of "playing the game of the right," and of being coup mongers, comparing the situation in Ecuador with that of Honduras.

On Sept. 30, the police fired shots against indigenous Shuar in the Amazonian province of Morona Santiago. According to a communiqué from Ecological Action, Bosco Wizuma, a bilingual professor, was killed when he joined a group of 500 that blocked the bridge spanning the Upano River. It seems that it was a "trap" because the leaders were called to a dialogue "in order to distract the leadership and the local media."

There were dozens of wounded, including several police. President Correa quickly changed the discourse and called for the dialogue: "Welcome brothers. This government is for all of you, the indigenous people, the Carondelet Palace [Presidential Palace] is yours." This was perhaps the only way to defuse the conflict that threatened the stability of his government. In effect, although the uprising did not originally have the strength of other indigenous actions, professors and members of other social sectors began to join the movement. And when there is a death, anything is possible.

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Israelis targeting grassroots activists

Israeli authorities are increasingly targeting and intimidating non-violent Palestinian grassroots activists involved in anti-occupation activities who are drawing increased support from the international community.

Several weeks ago masked Israeli soldiers stormed the home of Ehab Jallad from The Jerusalem Popular Committee for the Celebration of Jerusalem as the Capital of Arab Culture for 2009.

"Around 3am the soldiers started kicking and banging on the door and threatened to break it down if I didn't open immediately. My young daughters were terrified as they didn't know what was happening," recalls Jallad, a young Palestinian architect from Jerusalem.

"The soldiers then proceeded to ransack my home before confiscating my laptop, several computers, files with my contacts and my ipod. When I asked them why they were doing this and told them I wanted to call my lawyer, they told me to shut up and threatened to beat me up," Jallad told IPS.

This is just the latest incident in which the Israeli authorities have arrested and taken Jallad in for questioning over his organisation of cultural events marking East Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture. Jallad has also been monitoring the protests outside Al-Aqsa Mosque during the last few weeks.

"The Israeli officer questioning me said he knew I was in contact with the media but stated this would not help. He further warned me that I was being monitored, and if I continued with my activities my family and I would be subjected to further raids and harassment," said Jallad.

The same morning that Jallad was arrested Israeli security forces raided a warehouse used by Jerusalem community groups and cultural events organisers.

"They vandalised material we use for cultural events and confiscated other material," Jallad told IPS.

To date Jallad has not been charged with anything. But a war between Palestinians and Israeli continues unabated over Israel's continued Judaisation of East Jerusalem.

This has involved the expulsion of Palestinian residents from their homes in the eastern sector of the city and the expropriation thereof to make way for Israeli settlers.

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U.K.: Councils to get asset seize power

Local councils are to get the power to seize the assets of minor offenders under government moves next week.

The Proceeds of Crime Act - brought in to target organised criminals could be used against housing benefit fraudsters and other less serious offenders.

The Police Federation has expressed concern that "intrusive powers" are to be given to people who are not police.

But the Home Office said seizing "ill-gotten gains" was a key part of the fight against all kinds of crime.

The move, which is being pushed through next week by Home Secretary Alan Johnson, is set out in a Statutory Instrument, which means it will not be debated by MPs.

Paul McKeever, of the Police Federation, told The Times: "The Proceeds of Crime Act is a very powerful tool in the hands of the police and police-related agencies and it shouldn't be treated lightly."

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The Rise of the Neuronovel - by Marco Roth

From n+1 magazine:

The last dozen years or so have seen the emergence of a new strain within the Anglo-American novel. What has been variously referred to as the novel of consciousness or the psychological or confessional novel—the novel, at any rate, about the workings of a mind—has transformed itself into the neurological novel, wherein the mind becomes the brain. Since 1997, readers have encountered, in rough chronological order, Ian McEwan's Enduring Love (de Clérambault's syndrome, complete with an appended case history by a fictional “presiding psychiatrist” and a useful bibliography), Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn (Tourette's syndrome), Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (autism), Richard Powers's The Echomaker (facial agnosia, Capgras syndrome), McEwan again with Saturday (Huntington's disease, as diagnosed by the neurosurgeon protagonist), Atmospheric Disturbances (Capgras syndrome again) by a medical school graduate, Rivka Galchen, and John Wray's Lowboy (paranoid schizophrenia). And these are just a selection of recently published titles in “literary fiction.” There are also many recent genre novels, mostly thrillers, of amnesia, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder. As young writers in Balzac walk around Paris pitching historical novels with titles like The Archer of Charles IX, in imitation of Walter Scott, today an aspiring novelist might seek his subject matter in a neglected corner or along some new frontier of neurology.

What makes so many writers try their hands and brains at the neuronovel? At the most obvious level, the trend follows a cultural (and, in psychology proper, a disciplinary) shift away from environmental and relational theories of personality back to the study of brains themselves, as the source of who we are. This cultural sea change probably began with the exhaustion of “the linguistic turn” in the humanities, in the 1980s, and with the discredit psychoanalysis suffered, around the same time, from revelations that Freud had discounted some credible claims of sexual abuse among his patients. Those philosophers of mind who had always been opposed to trendy French poststructuralism or old-fashioned Freudianism, and the mutability of personality these implied, put forth strong claims for the persistence of innate ideas and unalterable structures. And in neuroscience such changes as the mind did endure were analyzed in terms of chemistry. By the early '90s, psychoanalysis—whether of a Lacanian and therefore linguistic variety, or a Freudian and drive-oriented kind—was generally considered bankrupt, not to mention far less effective and more expensive than the psychiatric drugs (like Prozac) that began to flow through the general population's bloodstream. The new reductionism of mind to brain, eagerly taken up by the press—especially the New York Times in its science pages—had two main properties: it explained proximate causes of mental function in terms of neurochemistry, and ultimate causes in terms of evolution and heredity.

[ ... ]

In 1949, Lionel Trilling could write, “A specter haunts our culture—it is that people will eventually be unable to say, 'They fell in love and married,' let alone understand the language of Romeo and Juliet, but will as a matter of course say 'Their libidinal impulses being reciprocal, they activated their individual erotic drives and integrated them within the same frame of reference.'” The joke is now quaint; the possibility of an orthodox everyday Freudianism turned out to be no more ultimately threatening than the other specter Trilling was alluding to. Today people, or a certain class of university-educated ones, are likelier to read books like The Female Brain than to consult any psychoanalytic writer on female sexuality, and to send emails like this almost serious one I received from a friend:

In advance of your date in Brooklyn, there are one or two things to know and one or two things to get ready to do! First we should hope that N is post-menstrual and therefore on an estrogen up. Day twelve of the menstrual cycle would be best. Testosterone will be kicking in with a bit of androgen on top of the estrogen, making N somewhat aggressively sexual. Of course she will also be speeding toward ovulation and will be at her verbal and intuitive best. So, use a condom and do a lot of looking in her eyes (girls are prewired at birth for mutual gazing, unlike boys). Give her a lot of face. Her capacity to read emotions and her need to evaluate the facial expressions of those around her will be at a peak (setting in motion circuits established during estrogen flushes in utero and the massive estrogen marination which took place during infantile puberty and hyped-up during adolescence).

So: smile!

In this language, one now needs more words than ever to say “They fell in love,” and we haven't even got past the first minute of the first date.

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3,000 NHS staff get private care

THE National Health Service has spent £1.5m paying for hundreds of its staff to have private health treatment so they can leapfrog their own waiting lists.

More than 3,000 staff, including doctors and nurses, have gone private at the taxpayers' expense in the past three years because the queues at the clinics and hospitals where they work are too long.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information act show that NHS administrative staff, paramedics and ambulance drivers have also been given free private healthcare. This has covered physiotherapy, osteopathy, psychiatric care and counselling — all widely available on the NHS.

“It simply isn't fair to have one service for staff and another for everyone else,” said Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, who obtained the figures.

“If the NHS has to circumvent their own waiting lists the system isn't working well enough. It's an admission by the NHS that their own system isn't able to respond to the mass of people desperate to get back to work.”

The number of health service employees sent to private healthcare facilities has more than doubled in the past three years.

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The shocking truth about HIV and AIDS (trailer for House of Numbers film)

In this exclusive trailer for the groundbreaking new film, House of Numbers you'll hear interview outtakes with some of the most knowledgeable (and controversial) people on the subject of AIDS. The most shocking quote of all? When Nobel Prize Winner and co-discoverer of HIV, Luc Montagnier, says that AIDS can be cured with nutrition.

Tibet: Murder In The Snow [trailer]

The War Against Preterrorism

The War Against Preterrorism: The 'Tarnac Nine' and The Coming Insurrection
by Alberto Toscano

I. The Case*

On 11 November 2008, twenty French youths are arrested simultaneously in Paris, Rouen, and in the small village of Tarnac (located in the district of Corrèze, in France's relatively impoverished Massif Central region). The Tarnac operation involves helicopters, one hundred and fifty balaclava-clad anti-terrorist policemen and studiously prearranged media coverage. The youths are accused of having participated in a number of sabotage attacks against the high-speed TGV train routes, involving the obstruction of the train's power cables with horseshoe-shaped iron bars, causing material damage and a series of delays affecting some 160 trains. Eleven of the suspects are promptly freed. Those who remain in custody are soon termed the 'Tarnac Nine', after the village where a number of them had purchased a small farmhouse, reorganised the local grocery store as a cooperative, and taken up a number of civic activities from the running of a film club to the delivery of food to the elderly. In their parents' words, 'they planted carrots without bosses or leaders. They think that life, intelligence and decisions are more joyous when they are collective'.[1]

Almost immediately, the Minister of the Interior, Michèle Alliot-Marie, brushing aside Republican legal niceties, intervenes to strongly underline the presumption of guilt and to classify the whole affair under the rubric of terrorism, linking it to the supposed rise of an insurrectionist 'ultra-left' (ultra-gauche), or 'anarcho-autonomist tendency' (mouvance anarcho-autonome), filling in the vacuum left by the collapse of the institutional Left (the PCF). Invoking anti-terrorist legislation, the nine are interrogated and detained for 96 hours; four are subsequently released. The official accusation is that of 'association of wrongdoers in relation to a terrorist undertaking', a charge that can carry up to 20 years in jail; what's more, the accused might be detained for as long as two years before their case goes to trial. On December 2, three more of the Tarnac Nine are released under judiciary control, leaving two in jail, at the time of writing (early January 2009): Julien Coupat and Yldune Lévy.

Giorgio Agamben and Luc Boltanski, among others, write editorials decrying the disproportion and hysteria of this repressive operation.[2] A petition is circulated by Eric Hazan, radical publisher and friend of Coupat, signed by Badiou, Bensaïd, Butler, Rancière, Žižek and several others.[3] In Tarnac (a village proud of its role in the Resistance, and represented by a communist mayor for four decades) a combative committee of support is set up, conveying a virtually unanimous show of solidarity of the villagers with the arrested; other committees and protests emerge in Bruxelles, New York, Moscow, and elsewhere.

In what has been called 'the greatest operation of intoxication of opinion carried out by a [French] government in decades',[4] the attention of the media focuses on Coupat, personally charged with 'directing a terrorist group'. The time-honoured reactionary motif is that of the child of the bourgeoisie who betrays his class and drifts into violent idealism. Some journalists refer to him as the égaré de l'ESSEC, after the elite business school where Coupat obtained his first degree. Readers of the press are soon apprised of Coupat's DEA dissertation on Guy Debord at the EHESS, where he worked closely with Luc Boltanski (the latter thanks him in The New Spirit of Capitalism), of his involvement in the journal and collective Tiqqun, and of his alleged authorship of the book L'insurrection qui vient (The Coming Insurrection) signed by the 'Comité Invisible'.[5] This tract (on which more below) – which Hazan, its publisher at La Fabrique, refuses to ascribe to him[6] – turns out to be one of the main planks in the aspersions and accusations with which Alliot-Marie and various elements of the French state saturate the media. She even avows that the aim of this operation is to send a 'message', dissuading those who might be tempted to take the path of Coupat and his comrades. In rather flagrant contradiction with both the tenor of L'insurrection and what may be surmised about the modus operandi of the Tarnac commune, he is painted as the charismatic ring-leader.

As the media feeding frenzy progresses, some of the ideological and investigative background surfaces in the press (the intelligence agency which reports directly to the Ministry of the Interior, the Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur [DCRI], the 'French FBI' which replaced the famous Renseignements géneraux [RG] in July 2008, seems rather prone to leaks, managed or otherwise). It appears that Coupat had long been an object of observation by the section of the RG tasked with monitoring the left. One of their reports, which notes Coupat's work in Tiqqun and participation at Actuel Marx's third Marx International conference in 1998, in a panel with a number of Bourdieusian sociologists, even describes him as a 'critical metaphysician'[7] – one of several ironic indications in this whole affair of the passing acquaintance of French spooks with the world of philosophy and political theory. Increasingly, he is tagged as a leading light in an ominous and diffuse political agitation, vaguely designated as 'anarcho-autonomist', which eschews the domains of organisation, political representation and regulated conflict for the sake of direct action and irrecuperable opposition to capitalism. Unsurprisingly, for a case steeped – however 'tragicomically', to borrow Agamben's apt adjective – in the new language of security and the 'war on terror', the Tarnac affair has a trans-Atlantic component: the FBI had contacted their French counterparts to signal an allegedly illegal crossing from Canada into the US by Coupat and his companion Lévy, and the discovery, in a rucksack left at the border, of a picture of the recruiting office in New York's Times Square which would later be the object of a small bomb attack, together with written documents from North American anarchists.[8] The broader context of the whole operation is the theorem, dear to Alliot-Marie and the security apparatus of the Sarkozy government, of the mounting threat of an anti-capitalist, anti-statist and anti-systemic radicalization of youth in France and across Europe which cannot be contained in the usual avenues of social conflict. The revealing title of a report on this putative phenomenon by the DCRI is accordingly: 'From the anti-CPE conflict to the constitution of a pre-terrorist network: Perspectives on the French and European ultra-left'.

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"CIA prevented prisoner deaths to prolong torture"

From Russia Today :

The CIA took measures to make sure their tortured prisoners did not die – in order to continue further torturing, according to human rights lawyer John Sifton.

President Obama has cut a swathe through the Bush-era National Security Program, forcing the CIA to close its secret overseas prisons and banning harsh interrogation methods.

RT spoke to Human Rights lawyer John Sifton about the kind of abuses which took place.

Read more

“In the military there were a large number of deaths with the CIA,” he said.

“It engaged in horrendous abuses, they appear to have taken precautions to prevent people from dying. This might sound humane, but in fact it's sickening, as they were torturing them at the same time trying to maintain their health so that they could continue.”

"A Woman Among Warlords": Afghan democracy activist Malalai Joya defies threats to challenge US occupation, local warlords

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Afghanistan, we're joined here in our firehouse studio by Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan's leading democracy activists. In 2005, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of warlords and their cronies in government. She has just written her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out. It was written with Derrick O'Keefe.

I welcome you to Democracy Now!, Malalai. When you hear in all the US media “bloodiest month of the eight-year war,” of course they're talking about US soldiers killed in Afghanistan. How does that make you feel? How do we know how many Afghans have died over these last eight years?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, first of all, thanks for this interview. And let me say in the beginning, on behalf of my people, condolences to those American mothers who lost their sons recently in Afghanistan and also these eight years, and other moms that belongs to these NATO countries, as their government unfortunately these eight years, they waste the blood of their soldiers in Afghanistan and their taxpayers' monies by supporting these warlords, these drug lords and these terrorists who are like a photocopy of Taliban—means that mentally same, only physically has been changed after 9/11 and they come in power.

So, this eight years, about less than 2,000 Talib has been killed, more than 8,000 innocent civilians has been killed. That's why, day by day, we believe that this is not war on terror, this is war on innocent civilians, as they even do massacre in Afghanistan, what they did on May, that—in Farah province, more than 150 civilians has been killed, most of them women and children. Even they used white phosphorus and cluster bomb. And also, 200 civilians on 9th of September in Kunduz province has been killed, again most of them women and children. You can see the website of Professor Marc Herold, this Democrat American man that—to know better about war crime in Afghanistan they impose on our people.

And at least today's reporters in have to know that even by presence of thousands troops in Afghanistan, there is no security in Kabul. How—but around Afghanistan, while the government has no control, now my people are sandwiched between two powerful enemies: from the sky, occupation forces bombing and killing innocent civilians—as I said, these troops themselves are the victim of this wrong policy of their government; on the ground, Taliban and these warlords together continue to deliver fascism against our people.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the latest news, Malalai Joya, about the brother of Hamid Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the New York Times revealing today that Ahmed has been on the CIA payroll for much of the past eight years. Who is he?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, my people call him “Small Bush” in Kandahar province, this brother of Hamid Karzai. But he's—this is not the first time that New York Times wrote. Recently also, I wrote that he's a famous drug trafficker. And many others who have high posts in Karzai's government, sometimes his ministers, expose each other that they—for persons who had high posts in Karzai government, they are drug traffickers. And the government says stop planting of opium, but the governor commanders of the same province is drug traffickers. This eight years, $36 billion the government of Afghanistan received, while they themselves give report. Most of this money went into pocket of warlords, drug lords, [inaudible] lords, these donors and officials themselves. And at least this example should be in of that right now. Even some important media is writing and sometimes exposing these drug lords and these warlords in Afghanistan, that right now I say that, for example, brother of Hamid Karzai is receiving millions of dollars through dirty business of opium.

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Roadrunner supercomputer maps HIV family tree

Physicist Tanmoy Bhattacharya and HIV researcher Bette Korber are creating an evolutionary genetic family tree based on samples taken by the international Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology consortium, in order to compare the evolutionary history of more than 10,000 sequences from more than 400 people with HIV.

If they can identify common features of the virus as it is transmitted, researchers might be able to create a vaccine that recognizes the virus before the body's immune system reacts to--and mutates--it.

What already sounds like a lot of data, however, could balloon further, hence the importance of Roadrunner. "We are at the cusp of being able to obtain more than 100,000 viral sequences from a single person," Korber said. "For this new kind data to be useful, computational advances will have to keep pace."

Roadrunner, developed by IBM for the Department of Energy (and occupying about 6,000 square feet at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico), first broke the petaflop barrier (which means it performed more than one million billion calculations per second) in May 2008. It may soon be known for helping develop a "specially designed" HIV vaccine...

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Buy Nothing Day, November 27

By Phil Edmonds, OpEd News

This article was co-written with Greg Gerritt.

On November 27th – the busiest day in the American retail calendar and the unofficial start of the international Christmas-shopping season – thousands of activists and concerned citizens in 65 countries will take a 24-hour consumer detox as part of the annual Buy Nothing Day, a global phenomenon that originated in Vancouver, Canada. This is a day where we challenge ourselves to switch off from shopping and tune into life.

Kalle Lasn, co-founder of the Adbusters Media Foundation, which was responsible for turning Buy Nothing Day into an international annual event, said, “Our headlong plunge into ecological collapse requires a profound shift in the way we see things. Driving hybrid cars and limiting industrial emissions is great, but they are band-aid solutions if we don't address the core problem: we have to consume less. This is the message of Buy Nothing Day.”

One may ask: “instead of buying nothing on November 27th, shouldn't we be spending more so as to save our economy?” Attempts to shore up our present economy are futile. Our globalized consumer-orientated economic system is crumbling and the signs for global catastrophes are already here, as our planet's natural resources are plundered, Can we face it? Can we really face the reality that this is so?

So what can we do? It will take vision and experimentation to develop new economies based on localization, where much of what we buy is produced locally, and of course, we have to consume much less. On November 27th, join people from sixty five countries by buying nothing and sending a clear message that over-consumption is one of the main causes for our planetary crisis.

[video from earlier uncommercials]

Buy Nothing Day isn't just about changing our habits for one day, but about starting a lasting lifelong commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.

Here in Providence, we observe Buy Nothing Day for the thirteenth year in a row by holding a life-affirming winter coat exchange on the State House lawn, directly across from Providence Place Mall from 10AM-2PM. In case of inclement weather, the exchange will take place at St. Patrick's School, 244 Smith St. Those who have winter coats to give can just drop them off; those needing a winter coat can pick one up. Coat exchanges also take place in Pawtucket, Newport, Wakefield, and Woonsocket. Volunteers are needed at all the sites.

Gordon Brown to 'buy off' Germany and France to get President Blair

The Prime Minister is now actively campaigning for Mr Blair to get the post.

Number 10 believes that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, will add her support to the move if she is allowed to choose a German for the other new role created by the Lisbon Treaty, the high representative for foreign affairs.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, would be offered the chance to select a politician to take on one of the top economic portfolios, possibly the EU trade commissioner's role currently held by Britain.

A senior Number 10 official said: “We believe the French and Germans are holding out for the best possible deal they can get out of this situation. But we think Merkel will agree if she gets the foreign job [to give to her choice] and Sarkozy will also be after a significant position.”

Mrs Merkel has until now been noticeably cool on the prospect of Mr Blair getting the presidency.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, has been at the forefront of a change of policy regarding Mr Blair's ambitions this week. He has begun to lobby hard for his appointment with a series of statements urging EU leaders to grasp the nettle and allow the big figure like Mr Blair who could “stop the traffic” in Washington and Beijing, to take on the role.

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Dakka Marrakchia

Shocking 1929 postcard of the executed Afghani 'Bandit King'

As the situation in modern Afghanistan (and Pakistan) continues to deteriorate, I cannot help but remember one of the most extraordinary postcards in my collection. It shows the dead body of the so-called "Bandit King" of Afghanistan, Habibullah Kalakani, after he was killed on the 13th of October 1929, almost exactly 70 years ago.

Habibullah Kalakani, a Tajik from northern Afghanistan became ruler of Afghanistan in January 1929 after leading a revolt against King Amanullah Khan. Amanullah's modernizing policies were said to have offended large numbers of Afghans, including his own Pathan tribesman who initially joined Kalakani.

His rule, however, was troubled. Amanullah managed to escape to Kandahar. His general Mohammed Nadir Khan, supposedly with help from the British, led a revolt against Kalkani and surrounded the capital, Kabul. Kalakani escaped to his village. When Nadir Khan's troops came after him, villagers are said to have stoned him. He is said to have later surrendered to Nadir Khan, who had him executed in Kabul.

Perhaps this postcard sheds some light on the matter. Pathans referred to him insultingly as Bacha Saqqao, or "son of the water-carrier." He was also called the Bandit King by the British.

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Pakistani journalist claims life under threat following U.S agency expose

From Sify News :

A Pakistani journalist claims to have been receiving life threats from a U.S agency for critically writing against the Obama administration and for reporting its secret operations in the country.

Fears of being harassed has him to use a pseudo name, ,S.F.A. Shah, who now fears for his life after breaking the story of the presence of Blackwater (now Xe Worldwide) in Peshawar along with Creative Associates International Inc (CAII).

He had published names of the investigation and operational heads of the agency and had unmasked the nexus of BW, FBI and CIA. He had also investigated the activities of the US Consulate in Peshawar including details of their activities, phone numbers and the dozens of houses rented in lavish localities for the purpose of torturing, kidnapping, detention and so on, The Nation reports.

Now a report has revealed how he was hounded out of his home and was later approached by the CIA. He also revealed that the agency tried to recruit him into spying on some Imams of mosques through their man Stephen Cash who used to investigate Afghan refugees and some Pakistanis in the NWFP.

He revealed how on Cash's reports, people were picked up including Afghan refugees.(ANI)


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