Monday, February 23, 2009

No Limbaugh Zone

British Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed to be released today

Binyam Mohamed, the Guantánamo detainee and former British resident, is due to be released on Monday.

Oh no! Obama gets more hits...

Suspend military aid to Israel, Amnesty urges Obama after detailing US weapons used in Gaza

• White phosphorus shells traced back to America
• Activists call for arms embargoes on both sides

by Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem

Relatives mourn a Palestinian man killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza
Relatives mourn a Palestinian man killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza, last month.

Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel's extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles.

In a report released today, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel.

The human rights group said that those arming both sides in the conflict "will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated".

The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a current 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.

"As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme director. "To a large extent, Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers' money."

For their part, Palestinian militants in Gaza were arming themselves with "unsophisticated weapons" including rockets made in Russia, Iran and China and bought from "clandestine sources", it said. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 4,000 injured during the three-week conflict. On the Israeli side 13 were killed, including three civilians. Amnesty said Israel's armed forces carried out "direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate". The Israeli military declined to comment yesterday.

Afghan public opinion turning against presence of US forces

KABUL: The additional 17,000 soldiers that the US is preparing to send to Afghanistan will face a well-armed Taliban insurgency and an unarmed but equally daunting foe: public opinion.

In interviews across Kabul last week, Afghans said that instead of helping to quell the violence, more foreign forces will exacerbate the problem.

The comments echoed a recent survey by the BBC and the American ABC News that found that although 90 per cent of Afghans oppose the Taliban, fewer than half view the US favourably, a sharp drop from a year ago, and a quarter say attacks on US troops can be justified.

People interviewed spoke with anger and suspicion about the US-led coalition forces - questioning their motives and bitterly complaining about civilian casualties, home invasions and other alleged abuses.

"Bringing in another foreign army is not going to help," said Ibrahim Khan, 40, a truck driver. "They always come here for their own interests, and they always lose. Better to let everyone sit down with the elders and find a way for peace."

The wingnut

Jailing Kids for Cash

by Amy Goodman

Hillary Transue was sentenced to three months in juvenile detention.
Transue made a web page mocking her assistant principal.

    As many as 5,000 children in Pennsylvania have been found guilty, and up to 2,000 of them jailed, by two corrupt judges who received kickbacks from the builders and owners of private prison facilities that benefited. The two judges pleaded guilty in a stunning case of greed and corruption that is still unfolding. Judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan received $2.6 million in kickbacks while imprisoning children who often had no access to a lawyer. The case offers an extraordinary glimpse into the shameful private prison industry that is flourishing in the United States.

    Take the story of Jamie Quinn. When she was 14 years old, she was imprisoned for almost a year. Jamie, now 18, described the incident that led to her incarceration:

    "I got into an argument with one of my friends. And all that happened was just a basic fight. She slapped me in the face, and I did the same thing back. There [were] no marks, no witnesses, nothing. It was just her word against my word."

    Jamie was placed in one of the two controversial facilities, PA Child Care, then bounced around to several other locations. The 11-month imprisonment had a devastating impact on her. She told me: "People looked at me different when I came out, thought I was a bad person, because I was gone for so long. My family started splitting up ... because I was away and got locked up. I'm still struggling in school, because the schooling system in facilities like these places [are] just horrible."

    She began cutting herself, blaming medication that she was forced to take: "I was never depressed, I was never put on meds before. I went there, and they just started putting meds on me, and I didn't even know what they were. They said if I didn't take them, I wasn't following my program." She was hospitalized three times.

    Jamie Quinn is just one of thousands that these two corrupt judges locked up. The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center got involved when Hillary Transue was sent away for three months for posting a Web site parodying the assistant principal at her school. Hillary clearly marked the Web page as a joke. The assistant principal didn't find it funny, apparently, and Hillary faced the notoriously harsh Judge Ciavarella.

    As Bob Schwartz of the Juvenile Law Center told me: "Hillary had, unknown to her, signed a paper, her mother had signed a paper, giving up her right to a lawyer. That made the 90-second hearing that she had in front of Judge Ciavarella pretty much of a kangaroo court." The JLC found that in half of the juvenile cases in Luzerne County, defendants had waived their right to an attorney. Judge Ciavarella repeatedly ignored recommendations for leniency from both prosecutors and probation officers. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard the JLC's case, then the FBI began an investigation, which resulted in the two judges entering guilty-plea agreements last week for tax evasion and wire fraud.

    They are expected to serve seven years in federal prison. Two separate class-action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the imprisoned children.

Zionist Logic

By Malcolm X (Omowale Malcolm X Shabazz)

Taken from The Egyptian Gazette -- Sept. 17, 1964

The Zionist armies that now occupy Palestine claim their ancient Jewish prophets predicted that in the "last days of this world" their own God would raise them up a "messiah" who would lead them to their promised land, and they would set up their own "divine" government in this newly-gained land, this "divine" government would enable them to "rule all other nations with a rod of iron."

If the Israeli Zionists believe their present occupation of Arab Palestine is the fulfillment of predictions made by their Jewish prophets, then they also religiously believe that Israel must fulfill its "divine" mission to rule all other nations with a rod of irons, which only means a different form of iron-like rule, more firmly entrenched even, than that of the former European Colonial Powers.

These Israeli Zionists religiously believe their Jewish God has chosen them to replace the outdated European colonialism with a new form of colonialism, so well disguised that it will enable them to deceive the African masses into submitting willingly to their "divine" authority and guidance, without the African masses being aware that they are still colonized.


The Israeli Zionists are convinced they have successfully camouflaged their new kind of colonialism. Their colonialism appears to be more "benevolent," more "philanthropic," a system with which they rule simply by getting their potential victims to accept their friendly offers of economic "aid," and other tempting gifts, that they dangle in front of the newly-independent African nations, whose economies are experiencing great difficulties. During the 19th century, when the masses here in Africa were largely illiterate it was easy for European imperialists to rule them with "force and fear," but in this present era of enlightenment the African masses are awakening, and it is impossible to hold them in check now with the antiquated methods of the 19th century.

The World's Smallest Puzzles

Internet Will Devour, Transform, or Destroy Your Favorite Medium

Written by Cory Doctorow

Let me start by saying that I like newspapers. And let me say further that, no matter how much I like them, they just might not have a future.

The Internet chews up media and spits them out again. Sometimes they get more robust. Sometimes they get more profitable. Sometimes they die.

It's a scary thought, especially if you're personally attached to an old medium like movies, books, records, or newspapers.

But just because an industry is socially worthy, it doesn't follow that it is commercially viable. Today, besides newspapers, three other media are thrashing over their futures in a networked world, and as with newspapers, the rhetoric is mostly of the nonproductive "But I like it!" and "It's good for society!" variety, with not enough thought given to whether these media are commercially viable in the Internet age.

In this report, we will take a closer look at the "media-morphosis" taking place across traditional media -- and what that tells us about the future.

The imminent collapse of the American newspaper industry has spawned entire gazeteers' worth of high-minded handwringing about the social value of newspapers and the social harm that their disappearance will unleash. It's probably all true. I love the smudgy old devils, from the headlines to the funny pages.

Newspapers are fundamentally an advertising-supported medium. Advertisers place ads in newspapers because they believe these ads will sell more products for them. The price of an ad is set by four factors:

  • How many people will see the ad? The more, the merrier.
  • Who is likely to see the ad? Are they the sort of people who are likely to want to buy what the ad is selling? Or is it so cheap to reach people with the ad (via skywriting, say), that it doesn't matter if a lot of uninterested people will see it? (After all, "most" people in a given group might not care for your stuff, but there's always an off-chance that there's one or two customers mixed in with the no-sales.)
  • What are the special characteristics of the medium? Can you bind a perfume strip into it? Click on it to go straight to a purchase-page? Turn left at the sign and buy a submarine sandwich? (A lot depends on the beliefs the advertiser has about the factors that contribute to purchase decisions in the medium. If you believe that perfume strips sell the hell out of perfume, you'll buy ads with perfume strips.)
  • What is the competition for reaching the same group of people with the same kind of ad? How many other venues afford you, the advertiser, the same opportunity as this one?

What happened to newspapers is easy to understand: There are more and better ways for an advertiser to deliver ads of similar quality to the "spendiest" newspaper readers, most of them on the Internet.

Karzai is US stooge says Afghan deputy president

Afghanistan's president and vice-president accused each other of being US stooges during a recent cabinet meeting which degenerated into a furious row, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

Celebration orgy

75% of ex-Bush officials can't get hired

By GottaLaff

Gee, who wouldn't want to hire someone who was connected to known liars, frauds, and criminals?
While the market for job-seekers in the United States might be sour, for most it isn't as impenetrable as it is for the nearly 3,000 former members of the Bush administration.

Between 70-75 percent who are looking for full-time work still haven't found new jobs, according to a Saturday report by the Wall St. Journal.

"That 'is much, much worse' than when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton left the White House," Carlos M. Gutierrez, who served as Bush's commerce secretary, told the paper. [...]

The think tanks "lack interest in hiring high-profile Republicans when Democrats control the White House and Congress," said the Journal. "Mr. Bush's low approval ratings at the end of his term don't help, said Leonard Pfeiffer IV, a Washington recruiter for nonprofits."
In that case, I'm sure that the former Bushies will more than appreciate, support, and take full advantage of, President Obama's tax cuts. In the meantime, maybe they can spend some of their spare time volunteering at homeless shelters before, say, enlisting in the military.

Exxon Valdez Spill Approaches 20th Anniversary

The Tragic Saga Began Long Before the Accident

by Meg White

This is the first in a series addressing the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The 20th anniversary of the biggest, deadliest oil spill in our nation's history is coming up next month. It will no doubt be a somber occasion. But for those who were most affected, remembering what came before and after the Exxon Valdez oil spill may be more painful than the anniversary of the disaster itself.

The captain of the Exxon Valdez, a man described in later court documents as a "relapsed alcoholic," was in his quarters when he should have been piloting the ship, and the men he assigned to take his place weren't properly rested. The ship obtained special permission to exit the Prince Williams Sound through the inbound shipping lane. The ship came too close to shore and was grounded on the Bligh Reef, a well-known obstacle in the area, just after midnight on March 24, 1989.

Immediately after the spill, delays and mishaps interfered with the clean-up. The fishermen and the townspeople of Cordova, Alaska, who relied on the waters for their very existence, were worried. But the president of Exxon assured them they would all be taken care of. He even called the incident a blessing in disguise for Alaskans.

"You won't have a problem. I don't care if you believe that or not. That's the truth. You have had some good luck and you don't realize it. You have Exxon and we do business straight. We will consider whatever it takes to keep you whole. Now that's -- you have my word on that," Exxon President Dan Cornett told a crowd of Cordovans gathered in concern after the disaster (watch a video excerpt of that meeting here).

The opposite turned out to be the case; in reality it was more of a fleecing in the disguise of disaster. For the past two decades, Exxon has dragged its corporate feet in court while Alaskans have struggled to cope with the aftereffects of the spill. Communities such as Cordova still report cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome, along with continuing increases in divorce, bankruptcy, and suicide rates.

The situation is sad and frustrating. But perhaps the most difficult part of all is that the fishermen, along with environmentalists and other community members, saw it coming all along.

I survived the bush administration


You're still here and he's Gone! Show the world you are still alive! Black ink printed on a white unisex American apparel tee.