Archive for International


The wages of dissatisfaction

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Thomas Piketty told Le Monde he believes inequality is a major motivation for Middle Eastern terrorism and that Western nations share blame for it:

Piketty writes that the Middle East’s political and social system has been made fragile by the high concentration of oil wealth into a few countries with relatively little population. If you look at the region between Egypt and Iran — which includes Syria — you find several oil monarchies controlling between 60 and 70 percent of wealth, while housing just a bit more than 10 percent of the 300 million people living in that area. (Piketty does not specify which countries he’s talking about, but judging from a study he co-authored last year on Middle East inequality, it appears he means Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. By his numbers, they accounted for 16 percent of the region’s population in 2012 and almost 60 percent of its gross domestic product.)

Piketty’s argument that terrorism rooted in inequality is best countered economically has not gained much traction in the U.S., writes Jim Tankersley at the Washington Post. That is in part because measuring inequality in the region is hampered by low-quality economic statistics.

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Blame by what mechanism?

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On Saturday, the government’s program for bulk collection of phone records ended, sorta:

The language in the US Justice Department statement is far from inspiring, written in bland legalese, but it still represents an important victory for the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The statement, dated 28 November 2015, says: “Final temporary reauthorization of the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata data program in the US expires.”

But only sorta, says Marcy Wheeler:

Just a tiny corner of the phone dragnet will shut down, and the government will continue to collect “telephony metadata records in bulk … including records of both U.S. and non-U.S. persons” under EO 12333. Hypothetically, for every single international call that had been picked up under the Section 215 dragnet and more (at a minimum, because NSA collects phone records overseas with location information), a matching record has been and will continue to be collected overseas, under EO 12333.

They’re still collecting your phone records in bulk, not to mention collecting a great deal of your Internet records in bulk as well. BREAKING.

What interests me here is how a former government official (and a former George W. Bush press secretary) can blame Snowden somehow for the Paris attacks. Glenn Greenwald took to the pages of the L.A. Times last week to counter that claim:

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The Running Imam

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More tales of the drone wars.

Citizen, now you can do your part to fight international terrorism from the comfort of your own MQ-9 Reaper drone console. Citing “lack of appropriately cleared and currently qualified MQ-9 pilots,” the Air Force is now hiring civilian contractors to fly the patrols in “global hot spots,” reports the L.A. Times:

For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls “combat air patrols,” daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence.


Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.

So that’s comforting. Still:

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The iCondemn® for Republicans

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Donald Trump’s brand of 21st-century McCarthyism rolls on unchecked by a Republican party fearful of taking him on, and giving tacit approval through its silence.

When challenged, Trump doubles down, citing vague sources he fails to name. He has a “pretty good source.” He is “hearing … from other people” something no one else has heard. Trump got “hundreds of calls” from people who imagined they saw what he imagined he saw. James Downie writes at the Washington Post:

It’s all eerily similar to a claim made by a U.S. senator in Wheeling, W.Va., 65 years ago: “I have here a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party.” Sen. Joe McCarthy never revealed where he got that list; the number changed from 205 all the way down to seven, and he never provided any concrete evidence. But, as Trump knows, McCarthy’s lack of evidence was no hindrance to tapping into the fears of a portion of the U.S. electorate. In those days, communists were coming for you; now, Muslims and immigrants are, and in both cases, the U.S. government won’t stop them. The message remains: Be afraid. The more that people buy into the message, the worse off America is.

Dana Milbank has no sympathy for Republican cowardice in not calling down Trump: Read More→

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Had enough of you!

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Salon’s headline is more satisfying than the text, but Bill Curry’s prescription for Democrats not being Republican punching bags on foreign policy again after the Paris attacks cuts to the heart of it:

Democrats have been losing the national security debate for years. Most aren’t any good at it. Some don’t even try. Few have the courage or conviction to challenge failed doctrines. So they crouch in the cellar praying the storm will soon pass. If this one doesn’t, its blood-dimmed tide may sweep a Republican into the White House and the country into a limitless, trackless war. To keep that from happening Democrats must find the courage and skill to lay out a clear, credible alternative to the reflexive militarism of the past. As things stand, they aren’t even close.

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Coming next to kill us in our beds: pigs

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Oops, wrong terror. Daesh sleeper agents hiding among refugees is the least of our worries:

Medicine’s final line of defence against deadly disease has been breached, raising the spectre of a global epidemic, scientists say, after finding bacteria resistant to last-resort antibiotics.

The discovery could herald a virtual return to the Dark Ages, with doctors unable to control common germs like E. Coli, rolling back centuries of medical progress.

We could be headed for a period when even the smallest infections could prove lethal, say reports:

… British scientists have discovered that pigs and meat sold in China are infected with bacteria carrying a new gene which makes them resistant to these rearguard antibiotics.

The MCR-1 gene is in a part of the DNA which can be easily copied and transferred between bacteria leading experts to conclude that ‘pandemic resistance is inevitable.’ The mutated forms were also found in 1322 hospitalised patients in China and is thought to have already spread to Laos and Malaysia.

British scientists and health experts described the discovery as ‘worrying,’ ‘disturbing’ and ‘alarming.’

It gets better:

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Wingnut Memento

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What does a Memento remake look like in 2015?” asks The Verge. You remember Memento, Christopher Nolan’s 2000 neo-noir film about Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) who is hunting down his wife’s killer? Shelby lost his ability to form new, short-term memories in the same attack and so hangs onto “clues” by tattooing them on his body and scrawling notes on Polaroid photographs. Shelby’s condition makes him easy prey for people who would manipulate him to their own ends. Shelby winds up killing the wrong man. He had already killed his wife’s killer. Then he immediately forgot.

It’s a shame, isn’t it, that tattoos aren’t more popular with Republican politicians? They are still struggling with the blowback from when after September 11 they killed the wrong country and created Daesh in the process. It took Barack Obama to get Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden played the war hawks like a fiddle. Now it’s Daesh’s turn. They know just which buttons to push, too, and they pushed them last weekend in Paris. Republicans responded as predictably as Pavlov’s dog.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to shut down mosques.

Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz (whose father was a Cuban refugee) wants to stop resettlement of Syrian refugees.

Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush thinks we should let in only proven Christians.

Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich wants to fund a new, government agency to promote Judeo-Christian values around the world. (There might be a slight upholding-the-constitution problem with that, but these are stone killers we’re talking about, right?)

House Republicans want to bar women and children fleeing death at the hands of Daesh from entering the United States.

Here’s a memento that won’t help them remember how well things worked out last time:

Maybe a mug with “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” on it?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Cowards and the cowardly cowards who lead them

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A lot of pant-wetting in the Home of the Brave yesterday as fear of #SyrianRefugees swept the intertubes.

It didn’t matter that all the attackers identified as of yesterday were French or Belgian nationals. It didn’t matter that
the Syrian passport found near the body of one of the Paris suicide bombers was a fake. Serbian police arrested a man Saturday with the same passport information except for the photo:

… according to the Serbian daily Blic, the existence of the second passport with the same data means “it is likely that the two men separately purchased false Syrian passports at the same forger in Turkey”.

Whatevs. Half the governors in the country yesterday (all Republicans but one) showed the rest of the world what Americans are made of:

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Anonymous Declares War on ISIS

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From Esquire:

The hacktivist group Anonymous has declared all-out cyberwar against the so-called Islamic State. A video, posted to YouTube November 14—one day after the attacks in Parisfor which the terror group has claimed responsibility—features a man in a Guy Fawkes mask announcing, in French, that “war is declared.”

The informal hacker vigilante collective has been conducting “operations” against ISIS and its network of online agents for months, but the announcement appears to signal a new era in this regard. “Expect massive cyber attacks,” the masked speaker declares, “We will launch the biggest operation ever against you.?”

I guess this is their French version of Hans & Franz: We are here to f*ck you up.

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Their dead don’t matter

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One-hundred twenty-nine people died and over 350 were injured in ISIS attacks in Paris last week. The world recoiled in horror. Cities across the world lit buildings in the French colors and held vigils. In Beirut last week, 43 died and over 200 were wounded in suicide attacks claimed by the Islamic State. Plus in Baghdad, 26 died and dozens more were wounded. ISIS claimed responsibility there too. The world took little notice.

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