Archive for International

Mar
22

Brussels attacked

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This post is already out of date.

Reuters cites a Belgian Public Broadcaster VRT in reporting that a suicide attack rocked the airport in Brussels this morning killing 13 and severely injuring 35 as of this writing. The blasts hit just before 8 a.m. local time. Several news outlets report that explosions also occurred at the Maalbeek Metro station near the EU buildings in Brussels. No deaths reported there at this time. Others say 10 killed at Maalbeek. Early reports tend to be inaccurate.

The security presence at London’s Heathrow airport has been stepped up. France has deployed an additional 1,600 police to its borders.

From Reuters’ live news blog:

The Belga agency said shots were fired and there were shouts in Arabic shortly before the blasts at the airport. Pictures on social media showed smoke rising from the terminal building through shattered windows and passengers running away down a slipway, some still hauling their bags.

The blasts at the airport and metro station occurred four days after the arrest in Brussels of a suspected participant in November militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Belgian police had been on alert for any reprisal action.

British Sky News television’s Alex Rossi, at the airport, said he heard two “very, very loud explosions”.

“I could feel the building move. There was also dust and smoke as well…I went towards where the explosion came from and there were people coming out looking very dazed and shocked.”

The Independent has this report (5:55 EDT):

Witnesses said the airport blasts happened shortly before 8am local time (7am GMT) in the departure hall near the check-in desks for American Airlines and Brussels Airlines.

Little over an hour later, another explosion was reported at the Maalbeek (Maelbeek) station, near the European Council headquarters and other EU buildings. The capital’s entire public transport system was being shut down.

Our prayers for the victims and the people of Brussels.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : International
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Mar
21

Whatever floats your boat

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At a time when Americans are waiting for (and expecting) fistfights to break out at political rallies, thank God for the Brits. At least they’ve retained their sense of humor.

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has a new polar research vessel designed and ready for construction at a shipyard on the River Mersey. The new ship “will deliver world-leading capability for UK research in both Antarctica and the Arctic.”

But it needs a name. Something noble and historic. Perhaps the name of a legendary British explorer like Shackleton or something lofty and poetic like Endeavour?

The NERC announced the online voting contest to name the nearly $300 million boat to be launched in 2019 recently, and the leading vote-getter so far is the simple but silly “Boaty McBoatface.”

It’s never a good thing to take yourself too seriously. Especially on Monday.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Mar
14

The quality of mercy

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King Midas with his daughter - Walter Crane [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

King Midas with his daughter – Walter Crane
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

David Atkins comments on a piece from the National Review that displays the nihilist greed of the Midas Cult in the ghastliest terms I have yet seen. Atkins writes:

The establishment Republican ideology prioritizes capital above all else. For them, the market does not exist to serve people: people exist to serve the market. Unregulated capitalism can never fail; it can only be failed by those too lazy, useless and unproductive to serve and profit by it. It is a totalizing ideology as impractical as state communism but lacking the silver lining of its species-being idealism; as impervious to reason as any cult religion, but lacking the promise of community, salvation or utopia; as brutal as any dictatorship, but without the advantage of order and security. Worst of all, it blames its victims for its failure to provide solutions to their needs.

Too strong, you think? Consider this excerpt from the NRO piece in which Kevin Williamson condemns Trump’s supporters as apostates from the one, true faith — his (emphasis mine):

It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. … They failed themselves.

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Mar
11

Short Attention Span Theater

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After several years of delays, Short Attention Span Theater will again resume production on Repatriation Tax Holiday 2.

Robert Reich flagged District Studios’ announcement yesterday on Facebook:

I’ve spent the last day in Washington, where Democrats are quietly gearing up to negotiate a “tax amnesty” for American-based global corporations that have parked some $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits abroad (mostly in tax havens) to avoid paying their U.S. taxes. The U.S. corporate tax rate is 35 percent, but Obama is ready to offer 14 percent if they’ll bring the profits home; Republicans want 10 percent; some Democratic senators are willing to go even lower (Barbara Boxer is teaming up with Rand Paul to offer 6.5 percent). Corporate lobbyists are swarming over Capitol Hill, suggesting if they don’t get a great deal they might not just keep the profits abroad but even move their corporations abroad (like Pfizer is doing).
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Mar
09

Bonana fanna fo Fump

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It’s the blame game this morning as fingers point to who is to blame for the rise of Trump and Trumpism. Eric Boehlert of Hillary-friendly Media Matters examines how the media’s obsession with Donald Trump has yielded millions in free air time for the billionaire:

We seem to have entered unchartered territory where campaign coverage, at least Trump’s campaign coverage, is based on what’s popular (or what makes money for news outlets), and not based on what’s newsworthy. Casting aside decades of precedent, campaign journalism seems to have almost consciously shifted to a for-profit model.

[…]

Writing at The Observer, Ryan Holiday suggested a new paradigm is in play this campaign season:

Politicians have always sought to manipulate the public. What’s changed is that media is now not only a willing co-conspirator, they are often the driving force behind the manipulation. No longer seeing itself as responsible for reporting the truth, for getting the facts to the people, it has instead incentivized a scrum, a wild fight for attention in which anything that attracts an audience is fair game. And as long as theirs is the ring where the fight goes down, they’ll happily sell tickets to as many as will come.

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Mar
05

Strip mining the human landscape

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350px-Chino_copper_mineDylan Ratigan’s August 2011 on-camera meltdown is as close as reality has ever come to Howard Beale’s Network rant remembered in Digby’s sidebar.

What made it a powerful moment was he was right:

Tens of trillions of dollars are being extracted from the United States of America. Democrats aren’t doing it, republicans aren’t doing it, an entire integrated system, banking, trade and taxation, created by both parties over a period of two decades is at work on our entire country right now.

Elias Isquith at Salon this morning interviews Les Leopold, Labor Institute executive director and president, about his new book “Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice.” Ratigan called what is happening “being extracted.” Leopold calls it “financial strip mining,” and a far cry from what free marketeers and neoliberals taught would happen from lower taxes and fewer regulations:
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Feb
23

An “existential sense of betrayal”

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Democratic leaders have finally figured out that “The Bern” has “tapped into the zeitgeist of college-age voters, a key demographic for the party in a presidential election year,” Politico reported yesterday. In spite of Hillary Clinton’s momentum coming out of her Nevada caucuses win on Saturday, Sanders’ unexpected strength and fundraising ability has Democrats studying his message and trying to figure out how to incorporate it into their own:

… Democrats, particularly in the House, are actively strategizing about how they can reach the young, white voters who propelled Sanders to victory in New Hampshire and a near win in Iowa. And if Sanders can rocket out of obscurity to challenge a political heavyweight like Clinton, they admit it would be wise for Democrats to try and incorporate his most successful messages.

“I think Bernie Sanders has a very positive message,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared at a recent party meeting in Baltimore, echoing comments she’s made elsewhere. “It’s about fairness, it’s about opportunity. … I’m very proud of the way Sen. Sanders has expanded the universe of young people especially interested in the political process.”

Still, the progressive love for Sanders is something of a catch-22 for House Democrats. The majority of Democrats in the House are liberal but the party needs to win support from blue collar and moderate voters to retake seats in swing districts.

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Feb
12

Can You Blame Them?

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Via Raw Story:

In a video uploaded to YouTube, a gathering of workers at an Indianapolis air conditioning manufacturing plant are stunned and enraged when told they’ll soon be out of work because the company is moving their jobs to Mexico.

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Jan
31

If it’s good enough for Denmark and Sweden….

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Border crossing between Russia and Norway near Kirkenes
By Elmar78 (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bernie Sanders is fond of citing examples from Europe of the benefits of democratic socialism. Denmark and Sweden, for example. Yet Sanders’ conservative critics sneer at America taking policy cues from Europe. Except when they do. Like now.

Denmark approved a controversial plan to pay for the upkeep of asylum seekers by confiscating valuables in excess of about $1,500:

The bill has been widely criticised by human rights groups.

The prospect of refugees having possessions seized has drawn comparisons to the confiscation of valuables from Jews during World War Two.

The government has said that items of sentimental value, such as wedding rings, will be exempt. It also raised the amount refugees will be allowed to keep from 3,000 kroner to 10,000 following objections.

Sweden and Finland announced plans last week to join Norway in deporting tens of thousands of people seeking asylum from war in the Middle East. They are poised to begin the kind of wholesale deportation of immigrants that Donald Trump has proposed for the United States.

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Jan
29

Elizabeth Warren indicts “shockingly weak” enforcement

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Photo by Tim Pierce (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],via Wikimedia Commons.


If justice means a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but it means nothing more than a sideways glance at a CEO who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars, then the promise of equal justice under the law has turned into a lie. – from Rigged Justice

In the first of what she promises will be annual reports on enforcement, Sen. Elizabeth Warren this morning released Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy. Calling the Obama administration’s enforcement against corporate criminals “feeble,” Warren’s report cites 20 criminal and civil cases from 2015 in which authorities punished corporate crimes – where they were enforced at all – with a slap on the wrist. Prosecutors took only one of these cases to trial. She follows up with an op-ed in the New York Times, writing, “These enforcement failures demean our principles.” The report begins:

Much of the public and media attention on Washington focuses on enacting laws. And strong laws are important – prosecutors must have the statutory tools they need to hold corporate criminals accountable.  But putting a law on the books is only the first step.  The second, and equally important, step is enforcing that law.  A law that is not enforced – or weakly enforced – may as well not even be a law at all.

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