19 January 2017

Lindsay Lohan: America’s next jihadist?

Middle East Eye

The Washington, DC-based newspaper and website The Hill self-identifies as “the premier source for policy and political coverage, reporting on every aspect of the business of Washington and the campaign trail... delivering solid, non-partisan and objective reporting".

Indeed, only a very serious and objective publication would have recently opted to run an opinion piece by Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, titled “Lindsay Lohan may have made her worst life choice yet".
Predictably, the disastrous choice involves Lohan’s alleged conversion to Islam, which Spencer argues she has undertaken with no regard for the fact that “so many converts to Islam end up as jihad terrorists” bent on committing “mass murder".
Listed examples include John Walker Lindh and Adam Gadahn - the latter killed in a US drone strike - who “discovered Islam through rap music and black grievance theater (neither were black, but both wished they were)".
In addition to the risk of turning to terrorism as compensation for black envy, it seems, conversion to Islam also entails numerous other hazards. Spencer poses the critical question of whether Lohan is “prepared to venture out in public with everything covered except her face and hands” - a requirement, as we all know, of every Muslim female in the world.
In short, it’s unclear whether The Hill’s editors were, in fact, conscious at the time Spencer’s rant was authorised for publication on 17 January. However, retroactive warning bells apparently went off, and the piece was subsequently removed, eliciting the complaint from Spencer that “the Left-fascists at The Hill have caved in to pressure from Leftist and Islamic supremacist neo-brownshirts.” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

05 January 2017

Blackwater founder returns to save Europe from refugees

Middle East Eye

Starting the new year off with a bang, the Financial Times has just published a dispatch by Erik Prince, notorious founder and former CEO of the private security contracting firm Blackwater, the outfit responsible for projects such as the 2007 Nisour Square massacre of Iraqi children and other civilians.

The company has undergone a series of rebranding efforts over the years as an apparent means of distancing itself from overtly toxic connotations.
Prince’s Financial Times bio discreetly identifies him as simply “a former US Navy SEAL [and] executive chairman of Frontier Services Group,” a Hong Kong-headquartered entity.
According to its website, FSG offers “security and logistics services in frontier markets”.
In an investigation by The Intercept, Prince’s activities at FSG were reported to include endeavouring to sell weaponised crop dusters in Africa as part of “what one colleague called his ‘obsession’ with building his own private air force”. As with many of Prince’s operations, a facade of legality has often proved elusive.
Suffice it to say that the Financial Times isn’t racking up huge points on the ethical front by promoting a man whose modus operandi has essentially been to make a killing off of killing. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

29 December 2016

2016 and the truth behind fake news

Al Jazeera English

The legacies of the year 2016 include the introduction into the popular lexicon of the term "fake news".
To be sure, "fake" is a more than apt description for media content fabricated by Macedonian teenagers looking to exploit the United States market for sensational nonsense.
Ditto for "news" items such as the alleged campaign by Democratic congresspersons in Florida to implement Islamic law - a fiction regurgitated by president-elect Donald Trump's nominee for national security adviser.
But as The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald recently pointed out, "The most important fact to realise about this new term" is that "those who most loudly denounce Fake News are typically those most aggressively disseminating it".
Indeed, the ongoing hullabaloo in US mainstream media over the notion that the Russians hacked the election in Trump's favour via a sinister campaign of mass disinformation would itself appear to be a strong contender for the "fake news" category. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

21 December 2016

Presidential Pardons and the United States’ Unpardonable Crimes

TeleSUR English

Over recent decades, the United States has strived to perfect the art of the double standard in the international arena, with impressive results. For example, it is now known that when other countries allegedly meddle in the internal affairs of sovereign nations it’s called meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, but when the U.S. does it it’s called freedom and democracy promotion.

When other people commit terrorism it’s called terrorism; when the U.S. commits terrorism, on the other hand, it’s called collateral damage, an accident, unfortunate — or freedom and democracy promotion.
It should come as no surprise, then, that a surplus of hypocrisy is also on display in jailing patterns in the U.S., where the highest incarceration rate in the world continues to disproportionately punish Black people and where crimes resulting in life sentences have include shoplifting three belts.
Despite regularly lambasting Cuba and other locales on the issue of political prisoners, the U.S. has its own fair share of prisoners of conscience — some of whom are now occupying a bit more media space than usual on account of the denouement of Barack Obama’s term and the countdown on opportunities for presidential pardons.
Among the most visible prisoners is, of course, Chelsea Manning, sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison for transferring classified government documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
So much for freedom. READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

06 December 2016

Article 522: Letting rapists off the hook in Lebanon

Middle East Eye

The Turkish government, in keeping with its established reputation as a shameless violator of human rights and decency, recently made unfavourable headlines yet again with what international media have termed a “child rape bill” that would have pardoned men convicted of statutory rape provided they marry their victims.

Following protests in Turkey, the measure has been withdrawn but not eliminated. The BBC quotes a female Turkish parliamentarian as defending the bill on these grounds:
“It is about giving normality to young women who have been married underage due to cultural norms, other norms, and now find themselves with their children suffering because their husbands are in prison… One of the examples is when the woman is 15 and the man is 17 [when they marry].”
But while such cases can’t be written off as irrelevant, they certainly don’t justify the institutionalisation of impunity - particularly when a get-out-of-jail-free card is apparently already available in many cases of rape. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

02 December 2016

Lebanon’s very own apartheid wall?

Middle East Eye

News recently emerged in Lebanon that the army had begun constructing a “security” wall - complete with watchtowers - around the perimeter of Ain al-Hilweh, the country’s largest Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of the city of Sidon.
Although the Lebanese government is, for sectarian reasons, not extremely into counting the residents of its country - the last national census was conducted in 1932 during the French mandate - more than half a million Palestinian refugees are estimated to be present, many of them in Lebanon’s 12 official refugee camps.
Over recent years, the Palestinian population of Lebanon has expanded on account of the civil war in neighbouring Syria and the absorption of Palestinian refugees from that country, who have thus been rendered refugees twice over.Although the Lebanese government is, for sectarian reasons, not extremely into counting the residents of its country - the last national census was conducted in 1932 during the French mandate - more than half a million Palestinian refugees are estimated to be present, many of them in Lebanon’s 12 official refugee camps. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

30 November 2016

Darwin’s Mistake

Jacobin

The late Alexander Cockburn, reflecting on the work of decorated New York Times foreign affairs columnist and neoliberal warmonger extraordinaire Thomas Friedman, once observed: “Friedman’s is an industrial, implacable noise, like having a generator running under the next table in a restaurant. The only sensible thing to do is leave.”
But while generators at least serve a rather obvious function, the same can’t usually be said of Friedman, who has just spewed out his latest unnecessarily humongous book Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.
In the nearly eight hundred pages that comprise my electronic version of the manuscript, there is approximately one glimmer of hope: the point at which Friedman remarks that this is “maybe my last book.”
The title Thank You for Being Late is a reference to Friedman’s realization that when his Washington, DC breakfast companions are a few minutes tardy, he can use the time not only to people-watch and eavesdrop on neighboring conversations but also to have ideas. Who knew?
The gist of the book — a product, apparently, of Friedman’s conscious decision to occasionally slow down and think in the age of accelerations — is that the world is becoming a very different place thanks to technology, globalization, and climate change, and that we must adapt to the new reality in order to succeed.
As for why anyone would require seven hundred–plus e-book pages to make this point, it’s safe to assume that one cannot accrue $75,000 speaking fees if one’s book is only one sentence long.
To his credit, for many of these pages Friedman manages to avoid generator-under-the-next-table mode in favor of the far more tolerable generator-in-the-next-room mode. Whole paragraphs are devoted to innocuous, non-aneurysm-inducing subjects such as cow-milking robots, the number of lemur species on the island of Madagascar, the definition of “telex” according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and the dimensions of Bigbelly garbage receptacles with built-in solar panels.
Things get more annoying as Friedman produces typically grating lines like “Attention, Kmart shoppers” and “This ain’t no cloud, folks!” — the latter being the reason we must henceforth refer to “the cloud” in cloud computing as “the supernova.” READ MORE AT JACOBIN.

26 November 2016

Fidel Castro in context

Al Jazeera English

As of the year 2006, Fidel Castro, Cuba's revolutionary leader who has died aged 90, had reportedly been the subject of no fewer than 638 assassination plots by the CIA. 
The Guardian newspaper notes that these had ranged from mundane bombing and shoot-'em-up schemes to more ludicrous proposals, such as one involving "a diving-suit to be prepared for him that would be infected with a fungus that would cause a chronic and debilitating skin disease". 
At first glance, of course, it may seem odd and overreactive that a global superpower would engage in neurotic efforts for over half a century to take out the leadership of an island nation smaller than the US state of Pennsylvania. 
But has it really just been a simple case of neurosis-for-the-sake-of-neurosis? READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

24 November 2016

Zumba-Thons and Other Non-Solutions to Violence Against Women

TeleSUR English

Since 1999, the United Nations has observed Nov. 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Hillary Clinton took the concept and ran with it during her service as U.S. Secretary of State, proclaiming on Nov. 25, 2011, that “empowering women and girls is already a priority of the United States, but we need more countries to step up and take on this challenge.”
According to Clinton, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was an occasion to remember “the horrific acts of violence against women that take place every day around the world and pledge to recommit ourselves to changing attitudes and ending all forms of violence against women and girls.”
Judging from the U.N. website and fundraising toolkit, violence against women can be counteracted by “orang[ing] the world”— orange being the color selected by the U.N. Secretary General’s UNiTE To End Violence Against Women campaign. Suggested activities range from tweets and Instagram posts containing the hashtag “#orangetheworld” to fundraising events such as a “Zumba-thon, Spin-a-thon, Bowl-a-thon, or other a-thons.”
Never mind that a more straightforward way of reducing “horrific acts of violence against women” might be to terminate devastating military assaults by Clinton’s own country — not to mention those of other countries like Israel, whose shameless slaughter of women as well as children and men is relentlessly endorsed by the U.S. 
Needless to say, the recent election of a decidedly anti-human U.S. head of state doesn’t bode well for the so-called “orange world.” READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

16 November 2016

Israel: The world’s number one ‘master of disaster’

Middle East Eye

In recent days Israeli media has been aflutter with reports that their country has received an unprecedented distinction from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the public health arm of the United Nations. Apparently, this confirms Israel’s position as superstar among nations.
On 13 November, the Times of Israel blared the headline: “UN ranks IDF emergency medical team as ‘No. 1 in the world’”. The Ynetnews website followed suit with “WHO: Israel’s field hospital best in world”, while the Jewish Telegraphic Agency opted for “Israeli army medics named world’s best in disaster relief.”  
The website of Israel’s i24news television channel announced: “Israeli field hospital ranked best in the world by WHO.”
Purged of fanfare, the essence of the story is this: Back in 2013, the WHO developed a classification system for foreign medical teams responding to sudden onset disasters (earthquakes, for example), in order to help ensure preparedness and quality of services as well as facilitate better organised deployment of personnel and equipment in accordance with the situation at hand. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.