22 April 2017

The Earth versus capitalism

Al Jazeera English

During one of numerous failed attempts to establish himself as an environmentalist, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman enthusiastically reported in 2010 that - in honour of Earth Day on April 22 - the United States Navy had test-flown a fighter jet "powered by a 50-50 blend of conventional jet fuel and camelina aviation biofuel made from pressed mustard seeds".
Armed with this and other bits of trivia, Friedman concluded that the US military was thus in fact on the front line of the battle for a clean Earth.
Never mind that, mustard seeds or not, the US Defense Department remains one of the top polluters on the planet.
To be sure, the neoliberal media's toxic alignment with military and corporate agendas produces lucrative returns for those involved.
And as long as the arms industry and other pillars of the international capitalist order remain healthy, the long-term health of Earth and its inhabitants matters little. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

14 April 2017

Non-crime and punishment at the American University of Beirut

Middle East Eye

On 24 March, Reuters reported an announcement by US federal prosecutors that the American University of Beirut (AUB) had agreed to pay $700,000 to the US government for allegedly assisting three entities linked to Hezbollah.
The photograph of the AUB entrance that accompanies the article on the Reuters website initially came equipped with a caption explaining that this was “where Dean Kevlin, an American senior member of staff, went missing on Thursday”.
In short, all sorts of alarming news - until the powers that be at Reuters realised that the Kevlin in question had in fact disappeared (briefly) in 2001, after which the caption was amended accordingly.
Notorious Islamophobe Daniel Pipes meanwhile chimed in with a nanny-nanny-boo-boo on Twitter: “[AUB] has long coddled extremists. Now, this cost it a pretty $700K fine.”
What, then, was this Very Important Crime committed by the university? READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

05 April 2017

A different kind of war in America's 'backyard'

Al Jazeera English

Back in 1954, the United States orchestrated a coup d'etat against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz, whose transgressions had included a less than totally obsequious approach to the American banana company United Fruit, predecessor of Chiquita Brands International.
As usual, the US knew what was best for the nations located in its self-proclaimed "backyard".
Civil war descended on Guatemala six years after the coup, and ensuing decades played host to acts of genocide (pdf) committed by US-backed forces, with more than 200,000 people ultimately killed or disappeared.
Elsewhere in Latin America, the US nobly pursued its mission to make the world safe for capitalism by extending support to right-wing death squads and dictators.
Nowadays, of course, the communist bogeyman can no longer be hyped as an existential hemispheric threat, and friendly Latin American regimes have ceased dropping suspected leftists from airplanes.
Nevertheless, the US has continued to preside over punitive manoeuvres - some subtler than others - to ensure that it remains in business in the "backyard".
These range from endorsing right-wing coups to funding murderous police forces and other security outfits to agitating on behalf of US agribusiness agendas - thereby obliterating any notion of a separation of corporation and state.
Have we really come that far since 1954? READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

03 April 2017

‘Maps of Exile’: Europe's ongoing denial over cause of refugees' flight

Middle East Eye

During a brief visit last year to the Italian city of Naples, I witnessed a sidewalk scene involving three African men selling purses and three conspicuously armed Italian law enforcement officials.
The latter trio was in the midst of guaranteeing public safety by confiscating bundles of purses and taunting the visibly distressed Africans with them, as a crowd of tourists looked on.
Indeed, across Europe these days, the forcible denial of migrant dignity appears to have been subsumed into the list of on-the-job duties for security personnel.
Dehumanising treatment is facilitated by the pejorative rhetoric of Europe’s ruling classes; eternal Italian political fixture Silvio Berlusconi, for example, once complained that parts of Milan were looking too much like Africa. A dutifully xenophobic media furthermore labours to encourage existential fears in the minds of European audiences. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.