Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Russia calls on US to probe WikiLeaks documents," Daily Star (Lebanon)/AFP, October 29, 2010.

[You won't find this article in the North American free press, but the Daily Star (Lebanon) is a pretty good rag. --jlt]

MOSCOW: Russia called on the US Thursday to carry out a detailed investigation into allegations contained in leaked Iraq war documents published by WikiLeaks.

“The US authorities bear the responsibility to conduct a thorough, independent and transparent investigation of all the reports that have appeared in the media,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

  “We are convinced that such a position will demonstrate the US adherence to the high standards in the human rights sphere that it constantly calls on other countries to observe."

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

"The Hurt Locker producers to sue illegal file-sharers," BBC, June 2, 2010.

[The BBC's bias on this story is clear from the headline. The file-sharers are "illegal" period--not "alleged," no quotation marks. Apparently, no trial was necessary. In the view of Voltage, the media company, new technology makes it easier to commit piracy which is "directly contributing" to the decline in the "film" industry. It seems not to occur to them that new technology is making their 20th century concepts and business models obsolete. -jlt]

Voltage Pictures, the company behind Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, has filed lawsuits against alleged illegal file-sharers of the movie in the US.

  "Suing people for being fans is just quite stupid."
Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi
The Pirate Bay

Internet Service Providers have identified 5,000 net connections which have been involved in sharing the film via peer-to-peer networks.

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Richard Pithouse, "South Africa: Freedom not yet," Pambazuka News, April 29, 2010.

‘Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of a party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all.’

– Rosa Luxemburg, Berlin, 1920

The assumption that political freedom begins and ends with the right to vote runs a real risk of overlooking escalating grassroots repression, the general conflation of the party and the state and the damage that is done to society by the wholly incorrect assumption that the economic realm is separate from the political realm and governed only by technical considerations.

  The general turn towards social conservatism with its sexism, homophobia, ethnic chauvinism and xenophobia are a serious assault on hard won principles that affirm, at least in principle, the equality and sanctity of every person.

Of course it is true that millions of people continue to have to make their lives in the most appalling material circumstances. And it is also true that, by some accounts, we are now the most unequal country in the world. It is outrageous that so many children are being put to bed on empty stomachs in leaking shacks at constant risk of fire and violent eviction. The excesses of private and state power compound that outrage. Gated communities for the rich continue to take the best land while the political elites find it impossible to provide toilets to the poor but can easily mobilise the political will to throw up new stadiums.

But the so obviously bitter realities of economic oppression should not blind us to the fact that political freedom was never completely realised in post-apartheid South Africa. The genuine flowering of political freedom enjoyed by the middle classes and elites after apartheid was never fully extended to the poor. Everyone has been free to vote but there are many communities across the country where there has never been freedom to organise independently of the ANC. There are communities where open opposition to the ANC puts one at the risk of expulsion from the community and there are communities were taking a position against the ANC puts one at real risk of violence.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Debate free trade vs fair trade at The Economist

Fair trade must be threatening someone's bottom line.

Starting today, The Economist is hosting an online debate. The proposition: "This house believes that making trade fairer is more important than making it freer." Two economists, one for and one against present their positions. You can vote or comment after completing a free registration. Read my own comments below.

"Free trade" is a rhetorical term that means whatever you want. Bearing little relation to actual agreements in which special trade relations are spelled out, it most frequently serves to justify or consolidate the power relationships that best serve a threatened international (or bi-lateral) establishment.

At best, it is a convenient analytical fairy tale like the ball that rolls friction-free down an inclined plane. In the real world, the inclined plane may be as good as a road with ruts, potholes and market failures. Reality rarely looks like the the picture you formed when you were listening to experts and policy wonks (or physicists) describing their utopia.

The same is true for the term "fair trade." Where I live, "fair trade" refers only to coffee and chocolate. Probably it will never be used for anything but similar luxury monocultures encouraged by now defunct empires when they were bringing civilization to the heathens. Let's talk about the pillars of real economies in the context of real political and social circumstances.

We might, for example, debate instead about bread and housing--ah housing. America's non-Islamic allies will have plenty of time to reflect on the the price they are paying for the fantasy that all Americans have a right to home ownership in a free, globalized economy supported by a poorly regulated derivatives market.

We might discuss what an oil market undefended by NATO and the US Marines might look like. Or how about nuclear technology? or the weapons trade? How much better will the world be when we have free trade in nuclear weapons?

Or babies?

The market that best fits the free trade model is the traffic in narcotics. It is highly competitive, private (or so we are led to believe) and manifestly lacking in any effective government regulation. Is that some kind of ideal?

Unfortunately, a debate frames issues as two-sided. Here in Canada, the two-sided debate has been over for several decades. If you want to understand the real contention, you will have to leave the simplistic gaming metaphor and posit additional positions made up of those who support--or at least are willing to tolerate--the idealized, frictionless version of free trade, but for whom the real world version is 100% unacceptable for a variety of specific reasons.

Free trade is not free. It is usually packaged as the front end of a comprehensive anti-labour, neoliberal ideology--anemic government, toxic deregulation, corrupt privatization and anorexic social services. I am not a nationalist, but it is fitting to note that the price of this glorious utopia is national sovereignty and all that goes with it. Forget the "country" your grandparents fought for.

Free trade (in the form of the Canada-US FTA and subsequently NAFTA) has dramatically increased Canada's dependence on the US--a circumstance that for some, including myself, is a more significant security issue than terrorism.

"National treatment" for companies trading in water is a deal-breaker here in the BC Interior where much fresh water comes from.

Or bread. The notion that farmers will happpily "compete" against heavily subsidized European, American and Canadian agribusiness is a delusion the rich Western world would do well to get over.

The neoliberal version of unregulated corporate dominance has had a thirty year run to make its case. Time to break up anything that's still too big to fail and vote for a change.

I'm for the motion as the best of a poor set.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Gush Shalom removes Intercosma from settlement boycott list," April 27, 2010.

Press Release

Gush Shalom removes the cosmetics company "Intercosma" from the settlement boycott list. We checked and can affirm that the company departed from the Atarot Industrial Zone on the West Bank. We call on the Israeli companies still in the Occupied Territories to follow the example.

The Gush Shalom Settlement Boycott Team decided to remove the name of the cosmetics company "Intercosma" from its list of settlement products, following confirmation that the company finally left the Atarot Industrial Zone on the West Bank.

  The periodic inspection carried out at Atarot by field workers of the Coalition of Women for Peace, our partners in the struggle against the settlement industries, found that Intercosma truly maintains no further presence there.

"We oppose all settlements in the Occupied Territories and all industries facilitating these settlements' growth, which are a violation of International Law as well as a major obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. We are in particular opposed to the Atarot Industrial Zone, whose main purpose is to drive a wedge between the Palestinians in Ramallah and those in East Jerusalem," says Adam Keller, the Gush Shalom Spokesperson.

When Gush Shalom started compiling its boycott list some fifteen years ago, Intercosma had both its manufacturing plant and its management in a 3,700 sqare metres structure at Atarot, and it was put on the blacklist of companies whose products Gush Shalom calls upon consumers in Israel and worldwide to avoid. At the beginning of the Second intifada in 2001, when the Atarot area became a virtual battleground, the company moved the factory to Beit Shemesh and then to Ashdod. It did, however, keep possession of the Atarot structure and established there "a distribution center", so "Gush Shalom" maintained the boycott campaign against this company. Last year, however, "Intercosma" finally closed down the distribution center and sold the Atarot building.

"As there are many cases of fraud, designed particularly to deceive the European Union customs authorities, we check it out before removing companies from our boycott list. However, in the case of Intercosma we became convinced that this was indeed a genuine and complete disengagement from the Occupied Territories.

The sale of Atarot land was specifically declared by Intercosma in its annual report published on 31 December 2009, an official report in which any false statement would constitute a serious criminal offense by the company directors. Moreover, the periodic inspection carried out at Atarot by field workers of the Coalition of Women for Peace, our partners in the struggle against the settlement industries, found that Intercosma truly maintains no further presence there. We are therefore happy to take the company off our boycott list and make this fact known to our supporters in Israel and worldwide.

We call upon all companies still located in the Occupied Territories to follow the Intercosma example - for business considerations. Directors should realize that a company which is helping to block the way to peace is not stimulating peace-seeking Israelis to purchase its products, and that violating International Law would narrow their access to international markets. Investing in settlements in Occupied Territory is simply bad business."

Contact: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson 054-2340749

Dalit Baum, Coalition of Women for Peace ("Who profits" project) 054-7767651

Annual Intercosma report with reference to the departure from Atarot:
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Emily J Kirk, John M Kirk, and Norman Girvan, "Selective Commendation, Selective Indignation," Counterpunch, April 16-18, 2010.

[We might be well-advised to ask Cuba for help with the Canadian health care system. -jlt]

The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti caused some 230,000 deaths, left 1.5 million homeless, and has directly affected 3 million Haitians—1/3 of the population. On March 31, representatives of over 50 governments and international organizations gathered at the United Nations Haiti Donor Conference to pledge long-term assistance for the rebuilding of Haiti. At the conference, Cuba made arguably the most ambitious and impressive pledge of all countries—to rebuild the entire National Health Service. While the efforts of other government have been praised, those of Cuba, however, have largely been ignored in the media.

  At CNN, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the Miami Herald...politically biased “infotainment” has won out.


Hence in absolute terms the monetary value of Cuba’s contribution is almost 4 times that of France, 12 times that of Germany, and almost twice that of Canada. Indeed, excluding the U.S., Cuba’s contribution is more than the rest of the G7 [i.e., rich] countries combined, as well as 35% more than the contribution of the World Bank ($479 million). In all, 59 pledges were made from governments, regional blocs and financial institutions [including Venezuela, which pledged more than double the US. But that isn't the focus of this story. -jlt]

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Uri Avnery, The Big Gamble, Gush Shalom, April 10, 1010.

I MET Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister, two weeks ago, and was again impressed by the calm and modesty he radiates.

Generally, I meet him at demonstrations, such as those at the Bil’in fence. This time, too, there was no opportunity for more than a perfunctory handshake and a few polite words.

We appeared together at the Land Day event in a small village near Qalqilyah, whose name is known only to a few: Izbat al-Tabib. The village was established in 1920, and the occupation authorities do not recognize its existence. They want to demolish it and transfer its extensive lands to the nearby Alfei Menashe settlement.

We were surrounded by a large group of respectable personalities – the heads of neighboring villages and officials of the parties that belong to the PLO – as well as the inhabitants of the village. I could speak to him only from the rostrum. I entreated him to strengthen the cooperation between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli peace camp, a cooperation that has weakened since the assassinations of Yasser Arafat and Faisal Husseini.

  Fayyad is a man of compromise. He would have reached a modus vivendi with Hamas long ago, if the US had not imposed a total veto.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Amy Goodman, "Holding corporations accountable for apartheid crimes," Truthdig, January 12, 2010.

[This will be interesting to follow. Does "too big to fail" really mean, "above the law"? -jlt]

A landmark class action case is under way in a New York federal court, with victims of apartheid in South Africa suing corporations that they say helped the pre-1994 regime. Among the multinational corporations are IBM, Fujitsu, Ford, GM and banking giants UBS and Barclays. The lawsuit accuses the corporations of “knowing participation in and/or aiding and abetting of the crimes of apartheid; extrajudicial killing; torture; prolonged unlawful detention; and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Attorneys are seeking up to $400 billion in damages.

  Not one multinational company accepted the invitation to speak at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The late anti-apartheid activist Dennis Brutus, who died just weeks ago, is a listed plaintiff. Back in 2008, he told me that “for [the corporations], apartheid was a very good system, and it was a very profitable system.” As the U.S. observes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, marks the first anniversary in office of the first African-American president and ponders the exposure of a racial gaffe spoken by Sen. Harry Reid, the issue of race is front and center, making this case timely and compelling.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Şener Aktürk and Mujeeb R. Khan, "How Western anti-Muslim bigotry became respectable," Zaman, January 3, 2010.

As scholars who work on the centuries-old Islamic presence in Europe and the continent’s first post-Holocaust genocide against, not coincidently, the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we were deeply disturbed but not surprised that an ostensibly tolerant and pluralistic Western democracy like Switzerland would vote by a margin of 57 percent to ban the religious symbol of 400,000 of its Muslim residents because they felt “threatened” by the grand total of four minarets that exist there.

  While secularism and constitutional safeguards for religious freedom are seen as hallmarks of the post-Enlightenment West, Europe and the West have traditionally been far more hostile to religious-cultural pluralism than Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu and Islamic societies, which historically viewed religious and cultural heterogeneity and pluralism as the natural order of things.

The Swiss referendum was the tip of an iceberg reflecting both deep and age-old historic prejudice against a Muslim presence on the continent as well as a recent concerted ideological campaign to construct Muslims as the “other” on the part of rightwing racist movements in Europe and their fellow travelers in the neo-conservative and Southern Evangelical movements in the US. While secularism and constitutional safeguards for religious freedom are seen as hallmarks of the post-Enlightenment West, Europe and the West have traditionally been far more hostile to religious-cultural pluralism than Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu and Islamic societies, which historically viewed religious and cultural heterogeneity and pluralism as the natural order of things. This historic reality explains to a large degree why, in contrast to Europe, such religious diversity survived into the modern era in these societies, albeit not always harmoniously. Indeed, the famous thesis of the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne was that the very notion of “Christendom” or “the West” first emerged from the ruins of classical civilization in opposition to northern pagans and southern Muslim and Jewish infidels whose presence in Europe was actually coterminous with the spread of the Holy Roman Empire and Church in large areas of the continent.

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Şener Aktürk is a postdoctoral fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and a visiting lecturer in the department of government at Harvard University. Mujeeb R. Khan is affiliated with the department of political science at UC Berkeley and has published widely on Muslim-Western relations including in “East European Politics and Societies.”
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Robin Forestier-Walker, "Trouble brewing in Tajikistan," Al Jazeera, July 16, 2009.

Mirzo Ziyoyev's battle-hardened lieutenants watched us closely from the fields of his farmstead, as we drove up in our four-wheel drive vehicle.

We had come to the Rasht valley, a geographical area that includes several smaller valleys, to meet the former military chief of staff of the Tajik Islamist opposition.

Although welcomed as guests and given tea and bread, as is the custom, we did not have an invitation.

  Intelligence sources believe IMU fighters who fought for the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks on the US, later relocated to the Pakistani tribal areas.

Ziyoyev's men told us he was not available for comment, and we were politely given the signal to leave.

As we pulled away from the village it was becoming clear that things were not well between the powerful former warlord and the powers that be in the capital Dushanbe.

A week later, on July 11, Ziyoyev was dead.

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Mark Weisbrot, "Who's in charge of US foreign policy," The Guardian, July 16, 2009.

The coup in Honduras has exposed divisions between Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

  It turns out that two of the Honduran coup government's top advisers have close ties to the US secretary of state.

The current stand-off in Honduras, in which the coup government headed by Roberto Micheletti is refusing to allow the return of elected president Manuel Zelaya, is raising questions about who is in charge of US foreign policy for the hemisphere.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pepe Escobar, "Kashmir: Ground zero of global jihad," Asia Times, July 17, 2009.

[Further evidence that US/NATO "strategy" in Afghanistan is really "shooting in the dark."

If our leaders know why the war on terror is being fought, where and against whom, they aren't letting on. It's a war of retaliation for 9-11, joined by NATO because of the Three Muskateer clause in the NATO treaty, one of the treaties that the US takes seriously, or expects others to take seriously.

But unending wars of revenge don't play well on the evening news and revenge never was quite the point anyway. So efforts to portray it as a war to liberate Afghan women, or a nation-building war, or a war to extend the writ of the corrupt Afghan puppet government outside the capital continue.

There have been short-lived efforts to portray the war as a school-building, well-drilling form of social work that only coincidentally entails calling in an air strike on a wedding or a village. The violence enters into it because we can't have countries offering themselves up as havens for terrorists--even though the 9-11ers came from Saudi Arabia, met in Germany and trained in the US. Pick a purpose you can support. Any purpose will do.

At least we know it's a war against the Taliban. Some kind of Taliban. Last year it was not the old-time Taliban, but the neo-Taliban, or the bad Taliban--not, of course, the good Taliban. Actually, it's not a war against the Taliban at all. The Taliban was at one time a bunch of nationalist redneck students with no foreign policy to speak of and no capacity whatever for constituting a threat to the US or Canada or NATO or even their own neighbors.

We have helped to change all that with our shooting in the dark. However, the real enemy is--or was--Al Qaeda--though that grouping may not exist any more. Osama bin Laden is dead, or might be dead, or insignificant anyway as long as we keep firing in the dark. The guys on the other side have goals and they change their OODA loops so fast that "Rethinking Afghanistan" has become a permanent posture on this side of the divide.

Two years ago, we knew that this war was in Afghanistan. But now we're worried that the real enemy is the Pakistani Taliban from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (mainly Waziristan), or now it's the Swat Valley and the Northwest Frontier Province. Of course regular foot soldiers can't be expected to keep fighting when they don't know where the fight is or who it's against. So we send drones in to Pakistan so the feudal democrats who replaced Musharraf can pretend they don't know about it. Western leaders have some difficulty remembering that this is someone else's home and that the people the drones are taking out elect representatives to the local government.

Drones may provide the best reason probably anyone could think of why the Taliban should get a foreign policy and soon. Nothing you can do against one drone will inconvenience the guy in Missouri who is flying against you. The Red Baron can't come to the phone right now, but you can leave a message. Your call is important to him.

Seriously, if you want to put an end to drone attacks on your neighbours, you will have to get some box cutters to your people in Missouri. That means having people in Missouri. And it shoves the nationalist redneck Taliban into the loving arms of the internationalist Al Qaeda. We are fighting the shadows of our own self-fulfilling misconceptions.

Pepe Escobar is not easily fooled by the spectacle of shooting in the dark--nor by the rhetoric intended to give the impression that we know very well what we are doing thank you very much. This is Escobar's interview with Arif Jamal who thinks the real war on terror has been in Kashmir all along. The NATO/US public version of events will have difficulty making it seem that they knew this all along.

The catch is that Kashmir/Jammu is another Israel/Palestine, i.e., another combustible regional pivot this time with two nuclear armed enemies, another remnant of the mess the European empires (the British in this case) left behind the last time they were driven out.

There is no guarantee that the inability to learn from experience won't be terminal. Likely Goliath will never be wise, or even smart. But his enemies have learned that with a little attention to detail, they can hurt him and make him spend a ton of money on stuff that only makes him more enemies. It's messy, but it's a strategy, and you don't need very good domestic policy to make it work. -jlt]

Arif Jamal is arguably the leading Pakistani expert on the jihad in Kashmir. He is the author of Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir, a groundbreaking, gripping account of the interminable, key conflict between India and Pakistan, based on interviews with hundreds of militants over the years.

The book is essential reading for understanding, among other issues, how the United States-friendly Pakistani army trained nearly half a million jihadis; how United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) money ended up financing the jihad in Kashmir; and how closely interconnected is the situation in Kashmir with the endless turmoil in Afghanistan and the global jihad.

  ...even former ISI officers tend to deviate from the given script and spin out of control.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Emily Chung, "Bell reveals internet throttling details to CRTC," CBC, July 15, 2009.

Bell Canada slows certain types of downloads to as little as 1.5 to 3 per cent of their advertised speed during 9½ hours of the day, but not to the same extent during the entire period, company executives revealed to Canada's internet regulator Tuesday.

The details of the way the company throttles — selectively slows down — peer-to-peer (P2P) file transfers will soon be posted on the company's website, Jonathan Daniels, Bell's vice-president of regulatory law, said at a hearing Tuesday before the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission.

  ...peer-to-peer file transfers are reduced to a speed of 256 kilobits per second between 6 p.m. and 1 a.m. in Ontario and Quebec. That is a 98.5 per cent reduction from the maximum advertised speed...

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Tyler Hamilton, "$26B cost killed nuclear bid," Toronto Star, July 14, 2009.

[The new Conservatives, in line with traditional neoliberal dogma, are looking to privatise AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd), the nation's nuclear manufacturer. We need to recite the Follies of Privatization yet another time. Shall we begin with prisons? or the new security contractor armies? -jlt]

The Ontario government put its nuclear power plans on hold last month because the bid from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the only "compliant" one received, was more than three times higher than what the province expected to pay, the Star has learned.

Sources close to the bidding, one involved directly in one of the bids, said that adding two next-generation Candu reactors at Darlington generating station would have cost around $26 billion.

It means a single project would have wiped out the province's nuclear-power expansion budget for the next 20 years, leaving no money for at least two more multibillion-dollar refurbishment projects.

  AECL is virtually worthless if it fails to secure the Ontario contract.

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Queen's Park Bureau Chief Robert Benzie picks up the story, "'Good news' in stalled reactor plan" (Toronto Star Jul 15 09). =>Recommend this Post

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Henry Aubin, "Mini-fluorescent light bulbs and mercury vapor," Montreal Gazette, July 14, 2009.

I used to think I was making a better world for my grandchildren by using compact fluorescent bulbs. Now I'm not so sure.

It's not that I doubt the claim that they use a quarter as much energy as regular incandescent light bulbs and last many times longer. Nor is it that I don't applaud their utility in fighting climate change: The Washington-based Worldwatch Institute says that if everyone in the U.S. alone were to replace traditional bulbs with the corkscrew fluorescent sort it would reduce greenhouse gas as much as taking 30 million cars off the road.

  "Do not use a vacuum to clean up the initial breakage, as it will spread the mercury vapour and dust throughout the area and may contaminate the vacuum."

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Connie Woodcock, "Hydro lights us up," Sun, July 15, 2009.

[In a weakly regulated market, distinguishing between poor judgement and fraud becomes increasingly difficult. What foreign adventures will this innovative new money pay for? If the government doesn't serve the people, who does it serve? When the government turns a blind eye, where can people turn? -jlt]

Smart meters will increase bills dramatically for many Ontarians

Christine Acres and her fiance own a small automotive repair shop in Gloucester, near Ottawa.

Their Ottawa Hydro bill used to be about $200 every two months, sometimes higher and in bad winters -- more than $300. Their shop uses lighting, a small computer and some air tools but a few years ago, they got rid of the pop machine to cut back. Last year they paid a total of $1,438 for their electricity supply.

Then along came Ottawa Hydro with a new smart meter for them in May. Suddenly, their Hydro bill was more than double the highest bill they had ever paid -- $800 for two months.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mazin Qumsiyeh, Gaza under seige and more," July 11, 2009.

[Mazin Qumsiyeh calls himself a bedouin in cyberspace. I have reproduced the whole of his newsletter. You can subscribe to it here => -jlt]

Quote from the past (1938):
"There is in existence already a considerable body of literature in English and other European languages on the history of the British mandate in Palestine. But it has to be used with care partly because of the high percentage of open or veiled propaganda, and partly because the remoteness of the indispensable Arabic sources has militated against real fairness, even the works of neutral and fair-minded historians...Zionist propaganda is active, highly organised and widespread; the world Press, at any rate in the democracies of the West, is largely amenable to it; it commands many of the available channels for the dissemination of news, and more particularly those of the English-speaking world. Arab propaganda is, in comparison, primitive and infinitely less successful: the Arabs have little of the skill, polyglottic ubiquity or financial resources which make Jewish propaganda so effective. The result is, that for a score of years or so, the world has been looking at Palestine mainly through Zionist spectacles and has unconsciously acquired the habit of reasoning on Zionist premisses. ...No lasting solution of the Palestine problem is to be hoped for until the injustice is removed. ...To those who look ahead, beyond the smoke-screen of legend and propaganda, the way to a solution is clear: it lies along the path of ordinary common sense and justice. " From The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement by George Antonius Intl Book Centre (1938, reprinted 1985)

If it was in any other situation this smuggled video would be all over the news. This is a video of the "Spirit of Humanity" ship under attack in open sea in International waters by an occupying army that claims it is not an occupying army.
Activists in many part of the world do things to protest. A Houston, TX campaign featuring billboards around the city referred residents to its website
and this action was met by the Zionists putting up their own billboards "Save Gaza from Hamas" (as if it is Hamas who is blockading people. Meanwhile another patient died in Gaza due to the siege with the death toll reaching 349 due to the Israeli blockade

The largest ever US humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza left the US July 4th and is now gathering in Egypt to head across the border into Gaza on Monday, July 13. They are encountewring delays and the Egyptian government representatives have stopped over 100 of the estimated 200+ activists from reaching the border. Activists are now sleeping at the Suez canal (see

Action: US citizens can set-up a meeting with congressmen and senators during the summer recess (see )
Also write to media, inundate list and commentary sections on websites (e.g. Twitter and Facebook) with information demanding action.

The United Nations demanded Wednesday that Israel implement a five-year-old ruling of its International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague that deemed most of the West Bank apartheid wall illegal and affirmed illegality of settlement and infrastructure construction in the occupied West Bank. And according to the Christian Science Monitor "Risking Israel's ire, US takes 1,350 Palestinian refugees" (these are some of the thousands of 1948 refugees who were living in Iraq peacefully until the US invasion when they were driven out and stayed in limbo at borders between Iraq and Syria with no place to go).

Last week's email mentioned how we miss departed friends and activists. Many of you emailed with their own memories on people they miss. I reflect on how intellectual contributions by people like Edward Said made a difference in the way we think. I reread some of his articles and we see that they are relevant today (here is one for example that shows how little has changed since 1998:

Israel has started to quietly sell refugee property to private individuals. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab minority rights in Israel has issues details reports and press releases on the subject of these basic violations of rights.

Action: The Palestine Freedom Project Speakers Bureau is pleased to a the Fall 2009 North American speaking tour of Ghada Karmi, author of In Search of Fatima and Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine. Karmi is a powerfully eloquent speaker, a renowned commentator, who deals critically and honestly with the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. To celebrate the 2nd edition of her memoir, Karmi will be speaking across North America from September 24 - October 10, 2009. We invite you to read about her work, and if you are interested, to host a lecture and book signing in your community. For details, please visit

.(in Spanish) Interview in spanish about the Pope's visit to occupied Palestine (with Nicole Safie)
Una de las vocas mas lucindas de la cause palestina. Al Damir (Fundacion Paestina, Bethlehem-Chile), Vol 71, June 2009, p. 20-21

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
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Sisule F. Musungu, "Obama's Africa Policy - A response to the Ghana speech," Ideas in Development, July 11, 2009.

It was another eloquent and powerful speech. That was President Barack Obama’s speech, laying out his Africa policy, delivered to the Parliament of Ghana today morning. In the main, Obama outlined four key planks of the United States of America’s (U.S.A) policy on Africa during his administration. The four planks are:

* Good governance.
* Supporting development that provides opportunity for more people.
* Strengthening public health.
* Addressing conflict.

If this were the only big things in the speech, it would have been disappointing. Reading through the whole speech, however, a range of other big topics come up as well. In this post, I offer my response, focusing on some of key issues I consider important in the speech.

Africa’s future is up to Africans

Though this is a self-evident truth, the state of Africa requires that one keeps repeating the refrain. The key message from Obama was, however, not the plain meaning of the phrase. He made a crucial point about pointing fingers. Those who wrong Africa must be held responsible but Africa must also stop looking outside for the cause of all the continent’s major problems. We must take responsibility for our failures not just within the national borders but in international diplomacy and engagement. If African governments send cronies or incompetent Ambassadors to negotiate trade, for example, they should not expect improved terms of international trade. If positions not grounded in reality are taken in climate change, intellectual property, health, refugees issues and migration, human rights etc we should not expect any better. As Obama argues, Africa will be what we make it.

  The emerging issues regarding intellectual property and access to adaptation technologies will need to be tackled pragmatically.

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"Leaner GM emerges from bankruptcy," BBC, July 10, 2009.

[BBC correspondent says, "It's easy to dismiss, even ridicule these changes. But they're more than purely cosmetic." He can say that again. Now the US Government owns 61% of GM. While the World Bank and IMF strain at gnats in Africa and Latin America, it's nice to know Uncle Sam can still swallow elephants. Humanitarian aid isn't just for the poor you know.

Meanwhile the price of oil continued its roller-coaster ride, falling to below $60 on Friday.

The BBC joined the National Post and the CBC in presenting Canada's worst economic performance in 18 years as "fewer jobs lost than expected." Dale Orr said, " would have been much better had the jobs been full-time." He was referring to the "better than expected" result: last month Canadians lost 47,500 full-time jobs and gained 40,100 part-tmers. Happy days.

Just a week ago, American job losses were "worse than expected." -jlt]

General Motors (GM) says it has emerged from bankruptcy protection after creating a "new GM" made up of the carmaker's best assets.

GM chief executive Fritz Henderson said it was the beginning of a "new era".

  "they still need to put a product out there that everyone is excited about purchasing."

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Heather Scofield, "Ricardian Equivalence makes comeback," Globe and Mail Report on Business, July 6, 2009.

A long-forgotten theory suggesting that stimulus spending is doomed to failure draws attention nearly 200 years later.

Stimulus is supposed to be the key to recovery, and governments around the world are embracing it as never before.

But a long-forgotten theory dating back almost 200 years is increasingly weighing on the minds of policy makers: Ricardian equivalence.

Named after the writings of David Ricardo in the early 1820s, the theory suggests that stimulus spending is doomed to failure because taxpayers tend to save their stimulus dollars rather than spend them.

  “People see today's stimulus as tomorrow's tax hike.”

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Roger Pulvers, "Double standards fly high when it comes to bombing of civilians," Japan Times, July 5, 2009.

Sad to say, every generation for the past century has known its own war — wars that have touched so many millions through the loss or traumatization of relatives, friends or fellow citizens.

"My war" was America's in Indo-China, centered on Vietnam. Abhorrence of what my country, the United States, was doing to the region caused me, and many in my generation, to choose the life of an expatriate.

But it wasn't until years later that I came to realize exactly how masterly criminal the prosecution of that war was. I didn't know that Laos, for instance, is the country on which more bombs were dropped per capita than on any other in history. Between 1964 and 1973, 90 million cluster bomblets were rained on Laos in approximately 500,000 missions. Up to a third of those didn't detonate; and, as a result, there are now about 25 million of them lying around in that country unexploded.

  If anything, civilians are brought together by terror bombing, their resolve reinforced.

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"Scores killed in China protests," BBC, July 6, 2009.

[This is not a new conflict. There is a history of violence on both sides. Why now? Is the Beeb playing a role in this, do you think? -jlt]

Violence in China's restive western region of Xinjiang has left at least 140 people dead and more than 800 people injured, state media say.

Several hundred people were arrested after a protest, in the city of Urumqi on Sunday, turned violent.

  The Xinjiang government blamed separatist Uighurs based abroad for orchestrating attacks on ethnic Han Chinese.

  Most of the violence is reported to have taken place in the city centre, around Renmin (People's) Square, Jiefang and Xinhua South Roads and the Bazaar.

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