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Financial Times betrays Thomas Friedman

By Belén Fernández | Pulse Media | September 5, 2011

Today marks the release of yet another book by Thomas Friedman, the New York Times’ prolific foreign affairs columnist whose articles over the years have exposed such trends as the “collective madness” of Palestinians and the progress in Mexican baby namesto more NAFTA-friendly alternatives than Juan, such as Alexander and Kevin.

Friedman’s latest book, endearingly titled That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, is coauthored by Friedman’s “intellectual soulmate”, the foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum—a longtime staple of Friedman columns and a purveyor of such predictable notions as that “The real threat to world stability is not too much American power. It is too little American power”.

Despite having admitted to an audience in Istanbul that his two previous bestsellers—The World Is Flat and Hot, Flat, and Crowded, marketed as wakeup calls concerning globalization and clean energy, respectively—really “have nothing to do with technology or environment at heart” and are instead “basically cries of the heart to get my country focused on fixing itself”, Friedman managed to advertise That Used to Be Us as “the first book I’ve really written about America” during an interview with Fox’s Don Imus earlier this year.

Slightly more surprising than Friedman’s continuing habit of self-contradiction is a recent less-than-favorable review of the new book on the website of the Financial Times, the institution that in 2005 partnered with Goldman Sachs to bestow upon Friedman the first annual £30,000 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award for The World Is Flat. Friedman responded to the honor by referring to the pair as “two such classy organizations”, before finally conceding two years after the 2008 financial crisis that Goldman Sachs is perhaps in fact “utterly selfish”.

The FT.com review notes that the phrase “that used to be us” was appropriated from a statement by Barack Obama, in which the president lamented that “it makes no sense for China to have better rail systems than us, and Singapore having better airports than us”. FT.com refrains from pointing out that Obama’s complaints in this case are themselves presumably appropriated from Friedman’s own experiences with Chinese trains and Singaporean airports, given the columnist’s de facto position as presidential adviser.

Friedman’s incestuous relationship with centers of capitalist power does not, however, prevent him from being portrayed in the FT.com review as essentially defying reality with his new book by “reinforc[ing] the illusions of [American] exceptionalism” and immunity from historical patterns, and by promoting the “idea that a third-party movement could somehow enable America to avoid the decline that eventually overtakes every great power”.

Friedman will likely remain undeterred in his eternal quest to restore US glory and global domination. However, he may desire a more creative title for his next book than, for example, That Really Used to Be Us: How America Has Fallen Even Further Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.

He might thus consider issuing an anthology of previously published excerpts entitled Thomas Friedman Recycled—which would additionally underscore his unwavering commitment to environmentalism and the notion that reform in the Arab world can be achieved by combining a “geo-green” strategy with the neoconservative strategy of contaminating the earth with depleted uranium munitions.

My book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work will be released by Verso on Nov. 1.

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Islamophobia | Leave a comment

Palmer Panel Needs Little Common Sense

By Richard Lightbown | Palestine Chronicle | September 4, 2011

The report of the UN Panel of Inquiry on the Gaza Flotilla Incident which was finally released on 2 September is an example of how dangerous a thing ‘a little learning’ can be.

Put into an ivory tower in New York far away from the scene of the crime and restricted to what information the Turkish and Israeli governments fed it, the Panel has exhibited a naïve understanding of the situation in Gaza. In a large part this was the result of the Panel’s implicit belief in the Turkel Report. This report by Israel’s commission of inquiry on the incident was the central part of the Israeli submission. While it boasts an impressive pedigree the report is actually a false witness that is intended to deceive. Despite hearing evidence on the adverse impacts of the closure from doctors who worked in Gaza the report ignored or rejected their evidence in favour of an undisclosed late submission from the military coordinator. Testimony by Israeli passengers on the Mavi Marmara of mistreatment of passengers and the honourable treatment of captured Israeli soldiers was ignored; as was testimony relating to the on-going occupation.

An explanation on the application of the Geneva Conventions to the blockade was rejected in favour of an opinion by Prof Rosenne that was written in 1946, three years before the Geneva Conventions were adopted. Testimony that all commercial sea traffic to Gaza has been prohibited since the beginning of the occupation in 1967 seems to have fallen on deaf ears or empty heads. Much of Turkel is based on written testimony, hearsay evidence and evidence from secret sources that cannot be verified.

It is also self-contradictory, as on a number of points relating to allegations of the use of firearms by passengers, which is a major theme of the report for which no dependable evidence has ever been produced. This report is a major work of misinformation yet it was accepted by the UN Panel without question.

Regrettably the Panel also exhibited its own bias towards Israel. (But after all the vice-chair Alvaro Ulribe was a major purchaser of Israeli arms while President of Columbia, and he is a recipient of the American Jewish Committee’s ‘Light Unto The Nations’ award. The conflict of interest was never explained.) When asserting that Israel has a need to defend itself by imposing the blockade the Panel made a number of references to the firing of rockets from Gaza. While these terror attacks against civilians are very real they do not occur in a vacuum. Yet the report contains no mention of the everyday shooting attacks against Palestinian farmers and fishermen, no mention of the routine bulldozing of crops and buildings and no censure of the widespread attacks on medical facilities and personnel during the war of 2008/9. In fact Gazans get very little mention in this report at all, despite being central to possibly the most important contemporary human rights struggle on the planet and an essential consideration for understanding what the struggle to defeat the blockade is all about.

In condemning flotilla organizers for indulging in a “dangerous and reckless act” the report refers to the offer to transfer all the cargos to Ashdod for onward transport to Gaza. Admittedly this was subsequently done with much fanfare for some of the goods taken from the flotilla. What is not clear is whether the prefabricated buildings and construction materials, amounting to more than half of the total cargos, was ever transferred to Gaza. What has been reported is that at least one truckload of goods was dumped in landfill in the Negev, that new computers intended for educational use in Gaza were stolen as were substantial amounts of cash intended for charitable causes, while mobility scooters were delivered without their batteries. Previous cargoes from the Spirit of Humanity and the Tali have similarly been lost. The Panel was naïve to put its faith in the goodwill of the Israeli authorities while rushing to condemn the flotilla organizers for recklessness.

It is on such unsafe assumptions and false points that the Panel’s endorsement of the legitimacy of the blockade is based. In expressing his dissenting opinion at the end of the report Mr Özdem Sanberk declared that “common sense and conscience dictate that the blockade is unlawful”. Common sense however is not always a very common commodity.

In considering the composition of the flotilla the panel is critical of the number of passengers travelling with such a humanitarian flotilla; seemingly unaware of the importance of publicity to humanitarian activity. This complaint also overlooks the importance of solidarity to the people of Gaza in their enclosure, and fails to acknowledge that many of the passengers were carrying large sums of money for charitable causes along with personal presents and good wishes for orphans and individuals. The importance of this psychological assistance should not be undervalued or belittled.

Although the authors of the report seem to be poorly informed on some matters of the raid, such as the change of course by the Mavi Marmara after the attack began (when the ship turned to go due west at full speed and might reasonably have been allowed to depart the area without capture) they are generally more accurate with their descriptions and assumptions in this section. One might reasonably ask why they did not question the fact that Israel has never released infrared footage taken at the time when the first helicopter arrived over the ship (when commandos are accused of firing on passengers from the helicopter before rappelling onto the ship), but they have at least faced up to the evidence they have seen. Thus the criticism of the level of violence used by the commandos is robust, and this is an unimportant point. Israel had been forced to gamble its public image on this report and it will not be pleased with comments such as “The loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force by Israeli forces [...] was unacceptable.” Later the report adds “There was significant mistreatment of passengers by Israeli authorities [...]. This included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance.” The US and Israel had tried to get the UN Human Rights Council to pull its excellent investigation in favour of the UN Panel. This report was seen as a safer option than the thorough professional body that was assembled in Geneva. In that assessment they have been correct, but even so the perpetrators have been strongly criticised. Despite this being the work of amateurs (and in places incompetent bunglers) it is not a whitewash. Israel cannot hide behind this report and it cannot proudly show it off to the world community. For that minor piece of justice we should be grateful.

For the authors of this report there is little to be pleased about. Their ultimate goal has been described as “positively affect[ing] the relationship between Turkey and Israel, as well as the overall situation in the Middle East”. This was always a difficult call. Nevertheless some amelioration of the diplomatic situation might have been hoped for. The immediate aftermath to the release of this report has seen a strong reaction in Turkey to the refusal of the Israeli Government to apologise for the deaths and injuries to Turkish citizens. Turkey will now downgrade its diplomatic and economic relations with Israel and seems intent on dramatically upgrading its support for the people of Gaza. From its declarations so far it would seem that Mr Erdoðan’s government has little time for the recommendations of the Panel that the blockade should be respected and that humanitarian missions should follow established procedures in consultation with the Government of Israel. Maybe he is right given that respect for these procedures has only seen a long term decline in conditions in Gaza. Perhaps a little more common sense from the Panel may have helped the realpolitik of confronting harsh realities in Gaza as a means to aiding prospects for peace in the region.

~

- Richard Lightbown is a writer and researcher. He has previously written reviews on the UN Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission report and the Turkel Commission Report Part 1.

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | Leave a comment

Politics behind UK hosting Israeli concert

A prominent political activist says the annual Proms concert in London has hosted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for clearly political reasons.

Press TV – September 5, 2011

In an exclusive interview with Press TV, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a member of Beethovians for Boycotting Israel (BBI), says that Western governments and media listen to the Israel regime but ignore the Palestinian people.

Press TV: Please tell us about the event. 40 people, pro-Palestinian protesters, arrived at the Royal Albert Hall, what took place?

Wimborne-Idrissi: Organized with a lot of planning in advance by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, BRICUP – that’s the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine – and people in the Boycott Israel Network (BIN), people arrived prepared for heightened security because, although the Prom’s organizers said that the decision to invite the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra is purely musical, it was clearly a political decision.

They sent out letters to ticket holders telling them that bags will be searched, no flags will be allowed in. They were obviously quite aware of what they’ve done.

We expected it to be harder than it actually turned out to be. We all had tickets in different parts of the hall in a number of small groups. There was about nine or ten groups, altogether, one of them very large.

This large group made the first intervention. What we did was we had prepared in advance a song adapting the tune of Beethoven’s very famous Ode to Joy. And what we sang was, “Israel and your occupation…” and we went on from there with some words which people can find online, on some of the reports.

And we sang this in a quiet moment on the first piece while unveiling a slogan reading “free Palestine”. So, on some of the reports you’ll read there’s a lot of confusion about this. But this is actually what happened.

And we kept on singing our four lines of text over and over again while the audience reacted, people snapped the letters of the slogan out of our hands, people started to push us. And, gradually, the Royal Albert Hall security staff made their way over to us. They did their job, they weren’t aggressive. They said come on you’ve made your point, please go.

Gradually, because of the pushing and the shoving, and the angry response of the audience, we made our way out and we went out still singing. And we went out and joined the public protests outside and continued singing there as well. So that was the first intervention.

Then after that, that piece was finished and the next piece began. We started again on a rather beautiful violin concerto.

Press TV: What do you think you’ve succeeded in doing? What was this boycott intended to do?

Wimborne-Idrissi: What we’ve intended to do was give Palestinians a voice.

The reason that the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC) and PACBI – the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – have called for a South African apartheid-style campaign of boycotts because nobody listens to the Palestinians, nobody listens to the victims in this struggle.

Israel has the ear of Western governments, newspaper editors, you name it…

Press TV: Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, thank you very much for that. And people can look up your protest on YouTube.

So, as with cricket, now with classical music.

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | Leave a comment

Settlers Outfitted with Military Training, Equipment Thanks to US Tax-Deductible Donations

By Mikaela Levin | Alternative Information Center | 05 September 2011

News about the Israeli military arming and training the settlers raised international and Israeli attention last week and set off alarms amongst anti-occupation activists. This reinforcement of the well-known army-settler alliance is part, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, of Operation Summer Seeds, the military name given to Israel’s preparations for “mass disorder” that Israeli authorities believe could follow UN recognition of a Palestinian state later this month. So who are these settlers in the frontline of an eventual Israeli armed reaction to possible Palestinian protests?

They are normally part of groups called Rapid Response Teams, at least one of which exists in each settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory. Some of the teams are connected to the electric fence system, so they can react immediately to a breach in the military designed perimeter of their settlement. They are supposed to withdraw when Israeli soldiers arrive at the scene.

These first-response “guards” are volunteer civilians, mostly army reservists under the command of a chief security officer, who is a public servant and the official link with the Israeli military. Though some international media portray these groups as being formed following the second Intifada, these types of militias actually go back even before 1948, with the Defense Committees of the kibbutzim and later of Israel’s small towns, villages and settlements.

In the occupied Palestinian territory most male adult settlers can carry guns and some even choose rifles, but the Rapid Response Teams are something different. They receive their M-16 rifles from the Israeli army while training and other specialized equipment comes from NGOs like Mishmeret YESHA. This nonprofit organization manufactures and distributes armored vests, ballistic helmets and special communications equipment and trains the “civil guards” and Yeshiva students in the use of arms and “counter-terrorism” tactics in improvised shooting ranges.

The only condition of Mishmeret YESHA is that it does not work with settlements or institutions that employ or include Palestinians. “There is no sense in training a rapid response team in a settlement or an institution where you have a bunch of Arabs walking around gathering information”, stated the founder, Israel Danziger, to the Jerusalem Post in 2008.

The money to finance Mishmeret YESHA’s training and equipment comes primarily from private donations. In 2004 alone, the Central Fund of Israel raised nearly US $107,000 for Mishmeret’s efforts and the Israel Independence Fund, an organization registered in New York, has Mishmeret listed amongst its most important projects.

For example, it costs $68,000 to sponsor the equipping and training of a Rapid Response Team for a whole settlement. If this is too much for the American or Israeli family budget in these times of economic crisis, they can sponsor a sole member of the team for $5,000. The list of prices goes down to $250 for a ballistic helmet.

These ‘sponsorships’ are considered as donations under American law and as such, are tax deductible – even if the money is used to buy rifle shoulder rests, a telescopic lens or infra-red binoculars. This is the case of the Nablus-area settlement of Elon Moreh and its nonprofit organization Friends of Elon Moreh, based in Passaic Park, New Jersey. According to its webpage: “Aside from the basic army equipment, the team needs special equipment which can help them in emergency situations”. The team, as a picture shows, is composed of 20 young adults, all religious, dressed in military-green and blue, armed with M-16, radios and armored vests.

This experience was considered so successful by the settlers and their American donors that they decided to export it to the forests of upstate New York. Kitat Konenut is devoted to prepare Jewish communities in the US for an eventual “anti-Semitic outbreak”. As the Jerusalem Post published three years ago, the organization charges $400 for a ten day training in the Catskills woodlands, on the property of a Jewish supporter. Some of the instructors are Israeli military veterans, who teach the young Americans to be ready for all kinds of threats, from a knife fight to “urban warfare”.

There is no other documented case in the United States of a foreign civilian armed force being equipped and trained publicly by American society through “donations”, which on top of everything benefit from tax deductions. And it is even rarer that in this age of the War on Terror and home-grown terrorism, the American authorities allow their citizens to openly train in urban warfare tactics. Yet additional proof of the special American-Israeli relationship.

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 4 Comments

Obama Orders Sweeping Sanctions and Regime Change in Syria Without Congress

Activist Post | September 5, 2011

Once again President Obama has used the authority vested in him in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act to impose sweeping sanctions against a sovereign nation without Congressional approval.

On August 18th, 2011, Obama signed Executive Order 13582: Blocking Property of the Government of Syria and Prohibiting Certain Transactions With Respect to Syria, which authorizes the seizure of all Syrian-owned property and interests in property in the United States. It also bans exports of U.S. services to Syria, the import of petroleum from Syria, and any new investment in Syria or those who support them.

The following actions are now prohibited:

(a) new investment in Syria by a United States person, wherever located;

(b) the exportation, re-exportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any services to Syria;

(c) the importation into the United States of petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin;

(d) any transaction or dealing by a United States person, wherever located, including purchasing, selling, transporting, swapping, brokering, approving, financing, facilitating, or guaranteeing, in or related to petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin; and

(e) any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a United States person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited by this section if performed by a United States person or within the United States.

The sweeping unilateral sanctions also permit the President to seize property without notice of those who sponsor or provide material assistance to Syria. In the case that such a person should have Constitutional protections, Obama declared “there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination” because of his powers during a national emergency.

At the time of the signing, the White House called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” indicating an official policy of regime change in Syria.

This action follows Executive Order 13572 from April called Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to Human Rights Abuses in Syria which gave Obama the broad power to seize assets of Syrians suspected of being complicit in human rights abuses.

Previously, President Obama bypassed Congress when he imposed sanctions and seized property from the Libyan government by Executive Order 13566 in February of this year. Less than a month later, the United States and NATO began policing the no-fly zone in Libya, also without debate in the Congress.  Now the U.S. and NATO are engaged in a civil war in Libya where billions are being spent, again without Congressional approval or oversight.

These new sanctions, along with recent EU sanctions, combined with calls for regime change in Syria, seem to be following the same pattern as the Libya invasion. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that if Syrian President al-Assad resists, he will be forced out one way or the other. It’s also apparent that Obama believes he needn’t consult Congress or abide by the Constitution about these matters because of powers vested in him under national and international emergency. If the pattern is any indication, America may be headed for another undeclared war.

September 5, 2011 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Wars for Israel | Leave a comment

Climategate Inquiry described as “willfully obtuse” while Berkeley Earth begins all new paleo-climate study

Climategate ‘hide the decline’ explained by Berkeley professor Richard A. Muller

Comment by climatologist Dr. Judith Curry http://bit.ly/fhKca7

Visit the blog of a man who uncovered ‘hide the decline’ as first and filled FOIA requests, Steve McIntyre. We wouldn’t know about this without him, credit where credit is due: http://climateaudit.org/

Link to the whole presentation http://bit.ly/7WGU02.

Link to the study “Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature” (BEST) Muller is leading http://www.berkeleyearth.org/

~

Current critique by Steve McIntyre:

David Holland, the professional engineer who submitted the FOI which prompted Phil Jones to initiate what can only be described as a conspiracy to destroy documents related to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, has repeatedly asked:

why did Jones take such a large professional risk by asking other scientists to destroy documents?

A correlative question for the other scientists (Briffa, Mann, Wahl, Ammann) is why they agreed to co-operate with Jones in this bizarre enterprise. These questions are not just Holland’s. They are important questions that deserve an answer.

But despite multiple so-called “inquiries”, Holland’s questions about Jones’ email deletion “enterprise” remain unanswered. Indeed, it would be more accurate to say that, as far as the inquiries are concerned, they remained unasked. Instead of unravelling the conduct of Jones and his Team, the “inquiries” have been wilfully obtuse, both refusing to ask the salient questions and determining the matter on empirical findings that were either blatantly untrue or unsupported by the evidence that they collected.

In the UK, Muir Russell was commissioned by the University of East Anglia to inquire about the emails, but didn’t even ask Jones whether he deleted the emails. Muir Russell “explained” to the Parliamentary Committee that, if he had done so, he would have been asking Jones to admit misconduct. That a panel commissioned to inquire about misconduct should refuse to grasp the nettle of actually inquiring about misconduct is unfortunately all too typical of these sorry events. Muir Russell’s subsequent report then contained findings on email deletion that were blatantly untrue and known to be untrue to hundreds, if not thousands, of readers who’ve followed these events. In particular, even though Jones’ email initiating the deletion enterprise was marked re “FOIA” and was a direct response to Holland’s FOIA request, Muir Russell obtusely reported that there was no pending FOI request at the time of Jones’ deletion email. This sort of willful obtuseness and/or incompetence was one of a number of factors that resulted in the Muir Russell “inquiry” exacerbating, rather than diminishing, the polarized attitudes in this field.

In today’s post, I’ll review the recent National Science Foundation Office of the Inspector General (NSF  OIG) report as it pertains to Jones’ document destruction enterprise, together with the Penn State Inquiry Committee that it reviews. Like Muir Russell, both the Penn State Inquiry Committee and the NSF OIG neglected to consider obvious and fundamental questions about Mann’s participation in Jones’ document destruction enterprise and arrived at empirical conclusions that were unsupported by the inadequate record that they had collected.

Although the defects in the Penn State Inquiry Committee’s handling of Mann’s participation in Jones’ email destruction enterprise are or should be obvious to any Inspector General (and had been pointed out long ago at Climate Audit), the recent report of the Inspector General condoned Penn State’s mishandling of these matters… full article

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Explanation and interpretation of “hide the decline”

Realclimate describes the issue as follows:

Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

Steve McIntyre has quite a different intepretation:

Despite relatively little centennial variability, Briffa’s reconstruction had a noticeable decline in the late 20th century, despite warmer temperatures. In these early articles [e.g. Briffa 1998], the decline was not hidden.

For most analysts, the seemingly unavoidable question at this point would be – if tree rings didn’t respond to late 20th century warmth, how would one know that they didn’t do the same thing in response to possible medieval warmth – a question that remains unaddressed years later.

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | Leave a comment

WordPress Suspends ‘Stop NATO’ news site

Anti-war.com – September 02, 2011

WordPress suspended the Stop NATO site from posting any new material earlier today, with this announcement:

“Warning: We have a concern about some of the content on your blog. Please click here to contact us as soon as possible to resolve the issue and re-enable posting.”

Repeated efforts to contact them have produced no result.

A year ago Military Times threatened the Stop NATO e-mail list with legal action and, after contacting them and assuming the matter resolved, they got Yahoo Groups to threaten to shut down the list and even cancel my personal e-mail account.

Material on the WordPress site has been backed up, and everything posted to date is still accessible, but it’s not certain for how long.

As everyone familiar with both the site and the list know, no incitement to violence or other illegal action, no attempt to solicit money and no derogatory statement toward any demograhic group have ever appeared on either the mailing list or the news site.

The sole “crime” of which both are guilty is of being anti-war and anti-militarist.

Yours for peace,
Rick Rozoff

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | 3 Comments

Ahmadinejad Launches Tajik Power Plant, Lashes West

Al-Manar – September 5, 2011

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched the first turbine of Tajikistan’s 220-megawatt Sang Toodeh II Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant.

President Ahmadinejad attended the launching ceremony along with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and other high-ranking officials from both countries on Monday, IRNA reported.

The Iranian president traveled to Tajikistan on Sunday for an official two-day visit.

Ahmadinejad lashed out at global powers for interfering in domestic affairs of Asian and African countries. “We believe it is against the interests of the nations, their dignity and prosperity,” he said at the opening ceremony of the station.

“This is a project of mutual friendship and brotherhood, we’re happy with Tajikistan’s success,” Ahmadinejad said in televised remarks. “Our cooperation is aimed at peace and stability in the region.”

The Sang Toodeh II project can greatly help Tajikistan in its industrial and agricultural sectors and in meeting its energy needs, according to Iran’s Foreign Ministry.

Iranian Sangab Company began construction of the power plant in 2006 in the southwestern Khatlon province.

Iran has invested around USD 180 million in the project, along with Tajikistan’s $40-million investment, and is expected to carry out management of the plant for 12 years. Tajikistan’s national power company will then take over the management from Iran.

Rahmon has described the project as “Iran’s biggest gift” to the Tajikistani nation.

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | Leave a comment

Hamas MPs: Migron demolitions aimed at misleading public opinion

Palestine Information Center – 05/09/2011

RAMALLAH — The demolition of three homes in the Jewish Migron settlement north of Jerusalem was designed to mislead world public opinion, Palestinian MPs from the Hamas party said in a joint statement.

Israeli forces dismantled three homes in the settlement outpost built over Palestinian Mukhamas village east of Ramallah city under orders of the Israeli Supreme Court. Settlers responded to the demolition by setting fire to a mosque in Qusra village south of Nablus.

The Hamas MPs in Ramallah downplayed the settlement evacuation, saying the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the removal of the entire outpost a while back and not just a few buildings that would be restored after a short period.

What is required is to evacuate all of the settlements and the departure of Israel from all Palestinian localities in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and occupied Jerusalem, and the territories occupied in 1948, the statement says.

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Illegal Occupation | Leave a comment

Israeli police close ‘Hamas-financed’ East Jerusalem school

Ma’an – September 5, 2011

JERUSALEM — Israeli police on Sunday closed a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem claiming it was linked to Hamas, locals and police said.

Local sources said the Ahmad Samih Khalidi school in Abu Tor received a notice from the Jerusalem police that the building would be sealed until Oct. 4 at the earliest under anti-terrorism measures over suspicions the school was used for “pro-Hamas activities.”

A spokesman for Jerusalem police told Ma’an the school was closed because it was “financed by Hamas.”

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | Leave a comment

Jewish settlers burn mosque in Nablus village

25th attack on Muslim or Christian places of worship in West Bank since 2010


Palestinian Authority officials say settlers were responsible for torching a mosque
near Nablus and spraying “Mohammad is a pig” in Hebrew on Monday morning.
[MaanImages]
Palestine Information Center – 05/09/2011

NABLUS — Jewish settlers torched the first floor of Nurain mosque in Qasrin village, south of Nablus city, at dawn Monday, local sources said.

They said that the villagers on Monday morning woke up to the scene of the first floor of their mosque burnt with anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racist slurs written in Hebrew on its walls.

Hundreds of village inhabitants rushed to the mosque in a show of rage at the act and demanded international condemnation of the repeated Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people, land, and holy shrines.

Several other mosques in southern Nablus were targeted by Jewish settlers over the past few months.

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | 8 Comments

How Walmart Trains Managers

By Adrian Campbell Montgomery – Labor Notes – 08/31/2011

The brave Walmart workers who belong to OUR Walmart say fear is the main thing stopping their fellow retail workers from organizing. As an assistant store manager at Walmart, I saw how managers were trained to put that fear into hourly workers’ heads.

When I was hired four years ago, new assistant managers had to complete eight weeks of training. We got a $500 prepaid credit card for meals and were thrown into a hotel, with weekends off to go home.

I thought we would get a crash course in Walmart history and then get into learning the computer systems, the policies, how to schedule people. I was far off track. I was now in an eight-week indoctrination into how Walmart is the unsurpassed company to work for, and how to spot any employee who was having doubts. I was supposed to be happy at all times.

The training was done at “Stores of Learning.” The assistant managers were new hires to Walmart, like me, or about one-third had been promoted from within.

Training activities included the Walmart cheer. Every morning, as store associates do, we would participate in the cheer. A few people stood up to read the daily numbers, then break out into a chant—“Give me a W-A-L-M-A-R-T,” with the rest of the people in the room shouting back the same letter. Back then, Wal-Mart still had a hyphen, so between the L and the M they would yell, “Give me a squiggly!” and everyone would do a butt wiggle.

Whenever it was my turn to lead, let’s just say I was less than thrilled, an early warning system for upper management on who was not Walmart material.

You, Too, Can Rise

Most days we watched videos of the CEO telling us what a good choice we’d made to come to Walmart. Other videos showed folks who are now top management in Bentonville, Arkansas, but started out as a cashier when they were young.

We were all given Sam Walton’s book to read: Sam Walton: Made in America. We were allotted 15 to 30 minutes a day for silent reading, or instead you could help out in the store. I was one of the few that chose to fetch carts in the parking lot or help throw freight around in the back. Since the Store of Learning was also going to be the store I would work at, I wanted to take the opportunity to get to know the workers and other managers. I wanted to see if anybody could tell me what an assistant manager’s role was, considering there wasn’t much of that going on in the classroom.

We had a week-long schedule of anti-union sessions. They didn’t call them that, but essentially it was how to spot uprising employees.

We had an entire day devoted to word phrasing, looking at how employees use words and what key words to look for. A computer test consisted of a “what’s wrong with this picture?” game. You were shown the area near a time clock, and different handmade and computer-made signs. One sign said “Baby shower committee meeting Jan. 26, 8 pm.” Another said “Potluck Wednesday all day in break room.” Which one of those signs should raise alarms with management?

“Baby shower committee.” Because of the word “committee,” a manager would have to find the person who made the sign, find out why they used that word, then determine if the action got a warning or a write-up. If it was the store manager who found the sign, a write-up was almost guaranteed. They called it unlawful Walmart language, unbecoming a Walmart employee—words like “committee,” “organize,” “meeting.” Even “volunteer” was an iffy word, and they would raise an eyebrow at “group.”

The anti-union training was the biggest part of our reading and training material. We watched videos about why unions are bad and how proud Walmart was for not allowing unions into its system. I let all that go in one ear and out the other. I felt that if I gave those videos even five minute’s worth of attention, I was betraying my union parents.

We did get a day and a half of loss-prevention training; how to spot shoplifters, what happens if you catch an employee stealing, and routine loss-prevention. They brought in a loss-prevention district manager whose 30-minute talk was to put the fear of Sam Walton in us. He told the class that if he found out we let anything fall through the cracks, he would show up at the store with a pink slip in hand.

Nothing from that eight weeks of brainwashing was geared to help you do your job as an assistant manager. Essentially it was more of a police academy, training the managers to be police officers for Walmart. We were being trained to put fear into the hourly workers’ heads. Step out of line, and you lose your job.

After graduating (they held a makeshift ceremony), I had no clue what exactly my job was. I had to learn from the other assistant managers in my store how to operate the scanner, how to schedule my departments, and the other operational items that weren’t covered in the training. The only thing I learned was how to fake being happy around customers and my subordinates.
Segregation

The trainers told us that assistant managers are only allowed to hang out or go to break or lunch with other assistant managers, not with hourly associates, not with co-managers, not the store manager. Once I was on the job, half the time I went to a diner with another assistant manager. If I stayed in for lunch, I would turn my walkie-talkie off, sit in the break room with the associates, and talk with them. That was frowned upon.

One day of training was about attire. There were separate rules for dress policy according to job title. Assistant managers and higher have to wear a collared blue shirt. No collar, no job.

Hourly people get a little more free play and are not required to wear a collar shirt. Management has to wear khakis; hourly can wear jeans. I heard one trainer say, “Well, the hourly folks probably can’t afford khakis, even with their discount.”

How anti-union is Walmart? I wore a UAW jacket that my mom had bought for me. When I wore it into the store, the store manager broke into my locker and took it. He said it would encourage others, and I was written up for conduct unbecoming a Walmart employee. I called Human Resources, but I got nowhere. Walmart says they have an open-door policy, but like OUR Walmart members have testified, it’s closed to most of us.

Prior to my employment with the largest retailer in the world, I worked for a union-friendly Midwest competitor, in the same management position. The differences were amazing. It was nothing for me as a manager to go out for a few beers with my people. At the competitor, the hourly workers are union. As a manager, it’s a breeze to write out your weekly schedules when you follow the contract!

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | Leave a comment

   

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