Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

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Suddenly it’s okay to show “disturbing images” on American TV

August 24, 2013

cnn“Some of the images we are about to show you are disturbing. They include the dead bodies of women and children,” said the CNN presenter, introducing a report on the situation in Syria.  And then she added: “We wouldn’t normally show you images of this kind, but we felt that this was an important story.”

Hmm.

Does that mean that the “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq, in which thousands of Iraqi men, women and children were murdered in their beds by US and “allied” forces was not, in their opinion, an important story? Because I don’t recall seeing footage of dead and mutilated bodies on that occasion. Or, in fact, throughout their “coverage” of that occupation. Instead, they showed us sanitized images of smartly-dressed US soldiers handing out bottles of water to children.

Nor do I recall seeing the bodies of women and children when the US invaded Afghanistan. Anyone watching only CNN’s coverage of that invasion could be forgiven for thinking that no one was killed or injured. Again, all we saw were images of US and British soldiers going out on patrol and chatting to natives. Where were all the dead people?

Ditto CNN’s “coverage” of the drone attacks currently being carried out by the CIA against “targets” in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Again, none of the mainstream news networks are showing images of the dead and the dying.

And where were the CNN camera teams when hundreds of Gazans were being slaughtered by Israeli forces in 2009 and again in 2012? Again, no “disturbing” images from CNN et al.

But now, suddenly, we’re seeing gruesome images of bodies on every channel!
Because this story, according to CNN anyway, is more important than those other stories, in which up to a million people were killed.

It has nothing at all to do with the fact that those other people were killed by American soldiers and American allies, whereas the bodies they are showing us now are people who were killed by Syrians.

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Norway’s incompetent police were to blame for high death toll in mass killings

July 27, 2011

Right now the people of Norway, and especially the families of those killed, are grieving for the dead, and are more concerned with looking after survivors than with apportioning blame for what happened last week. The mood is one of sorrow more than of anger.

I predict that the mood will change radically in the days and weeks ahead.

It took the police over an hour and a half to reach the island of Utoeya.

I know that if I were a parent of one of the victims of last week’s massacre I would certainly be demanding to know why it took the police so long to take action to save my child’s life.

These young people were calling and texting their families and friends for the best part of two hours while they tried to evade a gunman who was able to pick them off at his leisure. “Where are the police? When are they coming?” were the questions they asked over and over again.

There is NO excuse for this. This was negligence and incompetence on a grand scale. Norway is a rich and well-resourced country. It has a well-equipped police force and emergency services. It isn’t Iraq or Gaza. There is no shortage of police personnel, cars, or helicopters.

It was the delay in getting armed police to the island that gave the madman all the time he needed to systematically hunt down and execute his victims.

Media helicopters were hovering over the island, filming the killings from the air, long before the police arrived (it takes ten minutes to get from Oslo to Utoeya by helicopter). That is an absolute disgrace.

Norway’s Justice Minister Knut Storberget praised the police for their “fantastic” work after the attacks. Fantastic? Hardly. Unless he was using the word in its original sense of “impossible to believe”.

The police themselves have been defending their dismal performance in responding to the attacks. “I don’t think we could have done this (reach the site of the massacre) faster,” Police Chief of Staff Johan Fredriksen told journalists in Oslo. If that’s true, it’s a damning admission.

If the Norwegian police can’t reach the scene of an ongoing crime less than 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the country’s capital city in less than an hour and a half, and if they seriously believe that they did a good job in getting there in that time, they should all resign without delay, including – and especially – Police Chief Fredriksen.

Even assuming they had to go from Oslo (were there no police closer to the scene?), they averaged approximately 12mph (about 19kmph) – less than the speed of the average cyclist – in response to an emergency in which children were being picked off by a lunatic with an automatic weapon.

By any standards this was a dazzling display of stupidity and ineptitude.

It has been argued that the police didn’t expect anything like this to happen, and that they were “wrong-footed”. That might be true (although “flat-footed” would seem to be a more apt description), but it’s not good enough. Their job is to be prepared for all eventualities. Even allowing – generously – for their having been “taken by surprise”, an hour and a half is at least an hour longer than it should have taken them to get to Utoeya island. No matter which way you cut it, this was a pathetic response, and it almost certainly cost the lives of the majority of those killed. Even the gunman himself commented that he was surprised at how long the police took to get there and stop him.

Engine failure is said to have delayed the arrival of one commando police boat by ten minutes. This is a lame excuse to say the least. They had plenty of boats, and there was no shortage of civilian boats – and helicopters – that could have been commandeered.

This was a Keystone Kops response to an emergency situation that called for competence, preparedness and efficiency. Scores of lives were lost on the island of Utoeya as a result of police stupidity and lack of professionalism.

The families of those who were killed or injured have every reason to be angry and to demand a full public inquiry and, in the meantime, the immediate resignation of the Chief of Police and every senior police officer who contributed to this tragedy of errors.

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Cholera kills 300 in Haiti. So where’s the vaccine?

October 27, 2010

The cholera epidemic in Haiti continues to spread. So far, over 3,000 cases have been reported, and almost 300 people have died from the disease.

Health officials say they have stepped up disease prevention measures and are “racing against time”, with medics “administering intravenous drips to patients” etc.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Just this: While the health authorities are supposedly “doing everything possible” to fight this outbreak, there has been no mention at all of what would appear to be the most obvious and simple solution: make the cholera vaccine available to those most at risk.

There are several cholera vaccines, including Dukoral (which can be taken orally).

So why hasn’t the vaccine been made available? Why allow all these people to die if there is a vaccine that can give them instant immunity from the disease?

The vaccine isn’t being made available for the same reason vaccinations are never made available during the early stages of epidemics: they don’t work, and it would quickly become apparent that they don’t work, because the number of cases would continue to rise.

No vaccination program has ever stopped a viral or bacterial epidemic in its tracks (cholera is caused by a bacterium), and the cholera vaccine is no exception.

So here we see yet another epidemic running its deadly course and causing hundreds of deaths while the purported antidote isn’t being made available. We recently saw the same thing with the swine flu vaccine, whose distribution was mysteriously delayed until the disease had already lost its potency.

What is the vaccine supposed to be for, if not to prevent the disease from spreading? What’s the point of spending billions of dollars researching and developing vaccines if they are not going to be used when they are most needed? When hundreds of people are dying from the disease that the vaccination is supposedly able to prevent?

The health authorities know perfectly well that vaccination doesn’t work, and would have no effect on the course of this outbreak. As always, the vaccine will be made available (if at all) when the disease has run its natural course and people are no longer dying from it. Then the health authorities will point to the disappearance of the disease as evidence of the effectiveness of vaccination – as they have with every other infectious disease.

The risk of a cholera outbreak in Haiti has been known for some time, following the earthquake. Back in January Pier Luigi Testa, emergency co-ordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), warned that an outbreak of cholera was to be expected. The authorities had more than enough time to organise a mass vaccination program. In fact this could have been done in just a few days, given that the vaccine can be administered orally, in a drink or on a sugar cube, making it far easier to distribute and administer than vaccines which have to be injected by trained medical personnel.

If the cholera vaccine works, as the manufacturers claim, why hasn’t it been made available to the people of Haiti, or at least to those who are most at risk of contracting this wretched disease?

Update 20 November

It is over a month since the start of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, and the death toll has now reached 1,200 – and still there is no mention of the vaccine. Why not, if, as we are told, it gives protection against the disease? If the vaccine works, why were these people allowed to die?
According to the BBC website today, the outbreak has now spread to Haiti’s largest jail, the national prison in Port-au-Prince, which houses around 2,000 prisoners. Thirty prisoners are infected with the disease, and thirteen have already died. This is a relatively small, isolated group of people. It would take less than a day to vaccinate all the prisoners (the cholera vaccination can be administered orally). Why hasn’t this happened?
The disease has also now spread into neighbouring Dominican Republic.
Again, the medical authorities – including the World Health Organization and the US Center for Disease Control – have endorsed the cholera vaccine, as, of course, have the various companies that manufacture it.
The truth is, vaccines are only ever made available when there is no immediate threat from the disease against which they are supposed to offer protection. They are never made available when they would supposedly save hundreds or thousands of lives – ie, while epidemics are ongoing. That’s because they don’t work; and the fact that they don’t work would be apparent if vaccinated populations continued to become infected.

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Iran’s barbaric treatment of women

July 10, 2010

Sakineh Ashtiani

Sakineh Ashtiani

Mother of two Sakineh Ashtiani was convicted of adultery (she insists that she was tortured into making a confession) and sentenced to death by stoning. She has already been in prison for 4 years and has been subjected to physical punishment (flogging).

Yesterday, in the face of mounting international condemnation, the Iranian government “commuted” Sakineh’s sentence from death by stoning to death by hanging.

Iran has now imposed a media blackout on reporting of the case, but the death sentence is believed to be “imminent”.

You can help save this woman’s life by emailing the Iranian public relations office at:

Info@Ad.gov.ir

and letting them know how you feel about their barbaric laws and their reprehensible treatment of women.

And/or by signing this petition:

http://www.petitiononline.com/Ashtiani/petition-sign.html

If you are on facebook, go to:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Save-Sakineh-Mohammadi-Ashtiani-from-being-Stoned-to-Death-in-Iran/123908540984923?ref=search

You can find out more about this case at:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/10565103.stm

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The social network spy

July 3, 2010

Anna Chapman - Spymistress?

Anna Chapman, one of ten people accused of being part of a Russian spy ring, is being portrayed in the media as a kind of “Mata Hari” figure; a glamorous femme fatale who used her “womanly charms” to insinuate her way into the lives and the homes (and, it is insinuated in the media, the beds) of rich and influential members of American and British high society.

I was particularly interested in her because, like me, she ran – and, as far as I can see, continues to run – a successful real estate portal. Her website – which markets Russian property – is at: www.domdot.ru

I wondered if she had a facebook page (doesn’t everyone, these days?), and, sure enough, it only took me a minute to find her profile here.

Chapman gives her favourite quotation as “Trust no one”, while her “Likes and Interests” are listed as: “Corrections officer, Federal Bureau of Investigation”.
Under “Books” she has “Agatha Christie Novels”, and under “Movies” she’s written “Spy Games”.
For “University” she’s written “Jail”.

Quite the wit for a person in her predicament, facing, we are told, the possibility of life in prison. You’d think she’d be too busy getting water-boarded by the CIA and rehearsing her story with her defense lawyers to take the time to add jokey comments to her facebook page.

Could it be because she knows perfectly well that she isn’t going to spend more than a wet day in jail and is looking forward to a stellar career as a highly-paid TV talk-show guest (or even host)? I’ll give you odds of 100-1 that this savvy spy will be back in Moscow in time for Christmas, where she will be feted as a heroine and a sex symbol.

But hold the fone, Joe! Isn’t Chapman charged with being a dangerous spy? An enemy of the state? In which case how come she’s still at liberty to access the Internet to update her social network profile? Not to mention run a business in Russia? Surely she could be sending all kinds of information and secret messages to all kinds of people in the Kremlin?

Given the high level of security that has prevailed in the US in recent years – in which people have been locked up in solitary confinement just for “looking foreign” or taking part in peaceful public protests – isn’t it a bit odd that Ms. Chapman – or, to use her real name, Anya Kuschenko – is being allowed so much freedom of movement?

And why doesn’t the US president have anything to say about this whole business? So far he has made no comment other than to express the hope that the uproar would not damage the friendship and trust that has developed between the US and Russia.

Friendship and trust, eh?

If Obama bends any further backwards to appease Vladimir Putin, he’ll qualify for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records in the Limbo Dancing category.

It seems to me that there’s something decidedly fishy going on when the FBI catches a network of Russian spies operating in the United States, and it is the Russian president who expresses his outrage!

The (commie?) plot thickens…

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Where did global warming go?

January 20, 2010

According to a report on the BBC website today:

Climate body admits glacier error
A top UN panel gave the wrong date for Himalayan glacier melt, but says it does not change the picture of man-made climate change.

Wasn’t the original claim that these glaciers were melting as a result of global warming? “Climate change” is a different animal altogether, and can include a whole range of factors (radioactive particles in the air, deforestation, oceanic pollution etc.) that have nothing at all to do with the global temperature rising as a result of human-produced CO2 emissions.

In recent months, the term “global warming” seems to have fallen into disuse by most MMGW adherents – and by the media – and the much more ambiguous term “climate change” is increasingly being used instead.

“Climate change”, of course, covers just about every contingency. If the earth warms up, that would be climate change. If a new ice age arrives, that would be climate change too.

As the climate has been changing periodically since the beginning of the earth’s history, it’s a pretty safe bet that it will continue to change in the future. Predicting “climate change” is a bit like backing every horse in a race.

So what happened to global warming? Does the abandonment of this term by MMGW adherents signal a private acceptance on their part that the much-heralded warming might not actually happen? After a decade in which global temperatures have gone steadily down and global ice is still at normal levels; and particularly after one of the coldest winters on record – not to mention the revelation that senior members of the IPCC manipulated data and resorted to blackmail and threats to prevent MMGW sceptics from publishing their views – claims of an impending rise in the temperature are beginning to strain people’s credibility.

Perhaps it’s my imagination, but it looks to me as if the goalposts in this game are on the move, and that pretty soon they’ll be telling us that “it’s not just warming that’s the problem”, and accusing sceptics of putting too much emphasis on “one particular aspect of climate change”.

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Five days later, and still no air-drops to Haiti

January 18, 2010

Still no help for Haiti's earthquake victims

Five days after the Haiti earthquake struck, victims are still waiting for international help to arrive. People who were rescued from collapsed buildings are now dying from infections that could be easily treated with the antibiotic drugs stacked in crates just a hundred miles away.
The US military and air force have so far been unable to reach the earthquake zone to deliver these desperately needed medical supplies to the small island in what it likes to call its “own back yard”.
By contrast, the US Army and Air Force has no trouble at all dropping massive bombs and missiles with “surgical precision” on villages in Afghanistan and before that in Iraq – huge countries thousands of miles away from the US.
If only their medical aid delivery system was even half as efficient as their missile delivery system. But, of course, that would mean saving civilian lives instead of killing civilians, at which they’ve had so much more practice.
To make matters worse, the US military, which is in control of Port-au-Prince’s international airport, has been denying landing permission to relief flights from other countries. Brazil and France have lodged an official ­protest with Washington after US military aircraft were given priority, forcing non-US flights to divert to the Dominican Republic. The Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières have also complained about diverted flights.
It appears that the US wants the earthquake relief effort to be seen as a predominantly US initiative – even if this means preventing aid teams from other countries reaching those in need.
The assumption of control by the US military is also fueling suspicions that the US may be taking advantage of the disaster, and the chaos it has caused, to effectively take over Haiti. France’s cooperation minister, Alain Joyandet, criticised the US by saying that aid efforts were supposed to be about helping Haiti, not “occupying” it.

Update 19 Jan: Today, seven days after the earthquake struck, the US military finally began airdrops of food and water into Haiti.