Archive for International

Feb
25

A flash of sanity in a weary world

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Willy Wonka: [touching the gobstopper Charlie has just set on his desk] So shines a good deed in a weary world.

Liberals may not be ready to hand her the chocolate factory over it, but on MSNBC’s All In last night, Chris Hayes literally applauded Laura Ingraham for speaking sanity to Fox & Friends star power. Mediaite as the clips:

“I don’t think we should jump every time the freaks with the ACE bandages around their faces put out videos,” Ingraham told the Fox hosts on Tuesday, adding that the U.S. should not be reacting “emotionally” to threats from ISIS, Al-Shabab or other terrorist groups.

“Amen, sister,” Hayes replied, literally applauding Ingraham’s commentary. The host said he was “incredibly gratified” to see Ingraham make the same arguments he’s been making on his show all along, that “everyone needs to keep calm and stay rational in the face of what is obvious emotional manipulation” through use of propaganda.

The ability of those terrorists groups to “murder people they have captured and even make videos of those murders does not correlate in any meaningful way to the actual threat they pose to Americans here in the U.S.,” Hayes reminded his viewers.

Ingraham’s pro-clearheadedness comments bookended her seeming to approve allowing Mall of America shoppers to come packing AR-15s. But I guess Hayes figured, these days you take your sanity where you can find it.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Feb
15

Is it something in the water?

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Is there something in London’s water? From the Not Gonna Happen Here Dept.:

The Conservative party needs to break its dependence on millionaires, the former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke has told the Observer, amid a growing furore over the tax affairs of the party’s donors.

After a week of some of the most intense fighting between the parties in recent years, Clarke said the Conservatives would be strengthened by loosening the hold of rich men on their financial survival.

He called on David Cameron to cap political donations and increase state funding of political parties to put an end to damaging scandals and rows. The Conservatives have been rocked in the past week by a potentially toxic combination of allegations of tax evasion by clients of the HSBC bank, whose chairman, Lord Green, became a Tory minister; tax avoidance by party donors; and leaked details of the secretive black and white fundraising ball.

Meanwhile here in the Colonies, The Man Who Would Be Bush III is looking to lock in Mitt Romney’s network of presidential campaign donors from the “private equity and investment worlds.” It’s a trick Jeb Bush learned from his no-accountability brother, George. Suck all the air out of the GOP candidates’ Green Room room along with the money:

“It’s absolutely a kind of aggressive shock-and-awe strategy to vacuum up as much of the fund-raising network as you possibly can,” said Dirk Van Dongen, the president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and a prolific Romney fund-raiser now helping Bush. “And they’re having a large measure of success.”

On the other side of the pond, however, the conservative Ken Clarke has had the scales fall from his eyes:

“What happens is that the Conservatives attack the Labour party for being ever more dependent on rather unrepresentative leftwing trade union leaders, and the Labour party spends all its time attacking the Conservative party for being dependent on rather unrepresentative wealthy businessmen. In a way both criticisms are true. And the media sends both up.

“The solution is for the party leaders to get together to agree, put on their tin hats and move to a more sensible and ultimately more defensible system.”

As previously noted, Clarke wants to see a cap on political donations. And it’s not just Tories having attacks of common sense:

Announcing that a Labour government would launch an independent investigation into the culture and practices of HMRC [Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs service] with regard to tax avoidance, [Labour leader Ed] Miliband told a Welsh Labour conference in Swansea: “The government’s failure to tackle tax avoidance is no accident. It has turned a blind eye to tax avoidance because it thinks that so long as a few at the top do well, the country succeeds. It thinks that wealth and power fence people off from responsibility. It thinks the rules only apply to everybody else.”

Imagine that.

Could any of this be contagious? Maybe there’s a vaccine they’re not taking in London that Villagers can not take here.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Feb
09

Wait. I got this.

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McClatchy asks an adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry how the Islamic State justifies its blood lust:

They cherry-pick Quranic verses out of context, apply the most rigid interpretations of jurisprudence and excuse just about any brutality by saying they’re waging a defensive jihad on behalf of aggrieved Muslims worldwide, according to Jocelyne Cesari, a renowned scholar of Islam who’s part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s working group on faith and foreign policy.

Swap out “Quranic” with “Bible,” “jihad” with “preemptive war,” and “Muslims” with “Christians” and this could describe death penalty proponents in Texas or torture apologists across America.

See if this doesn’t sound familiar:

Q: What religious grounding does the Islamic State give for its atrocities?

A: They say they’re in survival mode. They believe that conditions for Muslims today are a danger to your soul as a Muslim. They don’t see their jihad as an attack; they see it as defensive jihad.

Wait. I got this. “We fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” Preemptive jihad. Who’da thunk that strategery would have become so popular?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jan
27

Peek-a-boo, we spy you … again

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Data visualization of Facebook relationships by the third-party app MyFnetwork. (Courtesy Kencf0618 via Wikimedia Commons)

Via a 2011 slide presentation leaked by Edward Snowden, The Intercept provides more details on how spy agencies are “building haystacks to search for needles.” By intercepting unencrypted data relayed from smartphone ads and apps to analytics firms and advertisers, British and Canadian spy agencies can compile detailed profiles of individual smart phone users. Advertisers typically collect this information to answer usage questions:

How often does a particular user open the app, and at what time of day? Where does the user live? Where does the user work? Where is the user right now? What’s the phone’s unique identifier? What version of Android or iOS is the device running? What’s the user’s IP address?

But since the data sent from apps is often unencrypted, it represents “a major privacy threat” exploitable by spy agencies. This particular spy program was/is code-named BADASS:

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Jan
24

The Dickens, you say?

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As Digby said yesterday, they will never quit trying to dismantle the social safety net. Both here and abroad, it seems, we’ve gotta keep those “takers” from taking. They are somehow keeping our “Makers” from making. (Genuflect here.)

It seems the British have set up a system of sanctions to keep the eligible jobless from receiving help. And, boy howdy, you thought Fox News’ obsession over the grocery shopping habits of Americans receiving SNAP benefits was Dickensian. Check out the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the land of Dickens:

“A Ukip parliamentary candidate named Lynton Yates this week suggested banning benefit claimants from driving: “Why do they have the privilege to spend the tax payers [sic] hard earned money on a car, when those in work are struggling to keep their own car on the road?” Ukip’s communications people said that Yates’s suggestions were “not Ukip policies and they will not form part of the Ukip manifesto”, and the media rejoiced in the week’s example of the party’s supposed fruitcakery – though at the time of writing, Mr Yates was still Ukip’s choice for the East Midlands seat of Charnwood.

But the problem isn’t his, or Ukip’s, alone. After all, in the sense that he proposed stripping “benefit claimants” of something most people take for granted, Yates’s plans merely sat on the outer edge of what now passes for mainstream thinking. When the state makes it clear that the poor and unfortunate are not to have spare bedrooms, and embraces the idea of stopping them buying booze and fags and shredding their entitlements if they have more than two kids, is it really such a leap to deny them non-public transport too? For all its inanity, there is a sadism at the heart of the Yates idea that is not a million miles away from the cruelties increasingly built into the benefits system: cruelties most of us would not put up with for a minute, but which are visited on thousands of people every week.

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Jan
23

Are we not Ubermen?

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Those using the Gregorian calendar count the years since the birth of Christ as Anno Domini, A.D. Bullshit is probably a lot older. But given that it’s a new millennium, maybe it’s time we started counting the years in A.B. “One of the most salient features of our culture,” as Aaron Hanlon quotes philosopher Harry Frankfurt at Salon, “is that there is so much bullshit.”

Case in point. In its obsession with turning everything on this planet into the Precious (other planets will come later), the Midas cult has turned its sights on sleep because “sleep is the enemy of capital.” Thus, sleep must be abolished. From caffeine-laced Red Bull to topical sprays to marshmallows, “perky jerky,” and military experiments with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), Newsweek  looks at how we are waging the war on sleep:

For those looking to sleep less without drugs or military tech, there’s the “Uberman” sleep schedule: 20 minute naps taken every four hours. That’s just two hours of sleep in every 24 hours. Uberman is based on the theory that while humans experience two types of sleep, we only need one of those to stay alive. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the stage in which we dream, and it also has been shown in lab tests to be critical to survival: Rodents deprived of REM sleep die after just five weeks. Then there is non-REM sleep, which itself is broken down into four separate stages. One of those is short wave sleep (or SWS). Scientists aren’t really sure what function SWS serves, and Uberman advocates argue that it may not be critical to survival at all.

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Jan
17

Please Don’t Flog The Bloggers

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Why, how Enlightenment of them:

The case of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes has been referred to the Supreme Court by the king’s office, the BBC has learned.

Blogger Raif Badawi’s wife said the referral, made before he was flogged 50 times last Friday, gave him hope that officials would end his punishment.

A second round of lashings was postponed for medical reasons.

The punishment of Badawi, who was also fined and sentenced to 10 years in prison, caused international outcry.

Badawi established Liberal Saudi Network, a now-closed online forum that sought to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia in 2008.

Ah! Can’t have that. Nope.

(Cross-posted from
Hullabaloo
.)

Categories : International, Media, News
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Jan
15

Did we mention the stonings?

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On a local Facebook political page the other day, a resident conservative was fear mongering about Islam and posted the address of the local Islamic Center as evidence of something somehow threatening. It’s next door to an office where I spend a lot of time. Nice people, I replied, you should drop by sometime. And they are.

Sadly, given the Charlie Hebdo attacks and other recent events, Islam’s fundamentalists are much higher profile. I feel for myth neighbors. It’s like mentioning America and every time having someone bring up Timothy McVeigh or the Westboro Baptist Church. Having lived and worked within a few miles of Bob Jones University in South Carolina, religious fundamentalism is a topic of some interest to explore in detail when there is more time. But right now, Christian fundamentalists are not what’s news. This is:

Al-Qaeda-linked militants have publicly executed a woman accused of adultery in northwestern Syria, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in total 14 people had been executed for alleged adultery or homosexuality in the war-torn country since July, half of them women.

It released a video showing fighters from Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, tying up a woman and shooting her in a square in the town of Maaret Masirin in the province of Idlib.

Stonings. Did we mention the stonings? And it’s not just Syria:

Raif Badawi, the Saudi liberal convicted of publishing a blog, has been told he will again be flogged 50 times on Friday – the second part of his 1,000-lash sentence which also includes a 10-year jail term.

The US, Britain and other western governments had all called for the punishment to be dropped but there has been no sign of any diplomatic action against Riyadh. Amnesty International on Wednesday urged the UK government to challenge Saudi Arabia, which has ignored all protests over the case.

Badawi will be given 50 more lashes outside a mosque in his home city of Jeddah unless a Saudi prison doctor determines he is not yet fit to face the punishment owing to injuries sustained last Friday. If nothing changes, he will be flogged every Friday for the next 19 weeks.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK director, wonders why British authorities are so vocal about the Charlie Hebdo attacks, yet “tone everything down” when it comes to the Saudis. U.S. authorities, too, we might add.

Why is it that people who talk about faith the most seem to understand it the least?

(Cross-posted from Hullabloo.)

Categories : International, Religion
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Jan
14

Teach your cronies well

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The U.S. press dutifully spent the last two days focused on why the White House did not send any high-level officials to join other world leaders at this weekend’s Charlie Hebdo photo-op in Paris. Meanwhile, few registered that 2,000 people died in Nigeria over the weekend at the hands of Boko Haram. Twenty died and many more were injured when a maybe ten year-old suicide bomber attacked a Nigerian market. Matt Schiavenza of the Atlantic notes that the story appeared on page A8 of Saturday’s New York Times. The massacre of civilians made page A6. Schiavenza explains why:

The main difference between France and Nigeria isn’t that the public and the media care about one and not the other. It is, rather, that one country has an effective government and the other does not. The French may not be too fond of President Francois Hollande—his approval ratings last November had plunged to 12 percent—but he responded to his country’s twin terror attacks with decisiveness. Not so Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan. Since assuming the presidency in 2010, Jonathan has done little to contain Boko Haram. The group emerged in 2002 and has consolidated control over an area larger than West Virginia. And it’s gaining ground. Perversely, the seemingly routine nature of Nigeria’s violence may have diminished the perception of its newsworthiness.

Jonathan’s failure to confront Boko Haram, of course, is nothing new. Nigeria has long been cursed with a corrupt, ineffective government, one perennially unable to translate the country’s vast oil wealth into broad-based prosperity. During his campaign for re-election—Nigerians go to the polls on February 14—Jonathan has vowed to tackle his country’s problem with graft. …

You know, one way to read that is, Goodluck Jonathan means to tackle his country’s lack of broad-based prosperity with more graft—just as the corrupt, ineffective government the U.S. is cursed with has taught him by example. With the Republican congress and GOP-controlled state legislatures misleading the way, we’ll all be saying “Je suis Nigeria” in no time.

The upside? Maybe the world press will start ignoring our mass killings.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo. h/t Josh Holland)

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Jan
11

Apologies excepted

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News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch tweeted this on Friday about the Charlie Hebdo attacks:

Murdoch’s sweeping indictment of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims drew its own round of apologies for Murdoch from other Australian men, conveniently aggregated by the Independent, including this none-too-subtle rebuke:

As Vox observed, a ritual apology is expected of the Muslim world after every incident resembling the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris:

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Categories : International, News, Religion
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