Author Archive: mrdsk

Study: From 2003 to 2011, Half A Million Iraqis Died in the War

Dan Vergano reported in 2013 for National Geographic:

Photo of an Iraqi boy seen through the broken window of a minibus targeted by a roadside bomb in Baghdad Jadida, Iraq.‘On March 19, 2003, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq, beginning a ground war that culminated in the rapid capture of Baghdad and overthrow of the regime led by Saddam Hussein. A coalition-led occupation of Iraq lasted until 2011, marked by repeated bombings, an al Qaeda-linked insurgency, militia warfare, and other bloodshed in the nation of 32.6 million people.

In the new PLOS Medicine journal survey, led by public health expert Amy Hagopian of the University of Washington in Seattle, an international research team polled heads of households and siblings across Iraq. The researchers, including some from the Iraqi Ministry of Health, aimed to update and improve past estimates of the human costs of the war and occupation.

“We think it is roughly around half a million people dead. And that is likely a low estimate,” says Hagopian. “People need to know the cost in human lives of the decision to go to war.”

The survey responses point to around 405,000 deaths attributable to the war and occupation in Iraq from 2003 to 2011. At least another 56,000 deaths should be added to that total from households forced to flee Iraq, the study authors estimate. More than 60 percent of the excess deaths of men, women, and children reported from 2003 to 2011 were the direct result of shootings, bombings, airstrikes, or other violence, according to the study. The rest came indirectly, from stress-related heart attacks or ruined sanitation and hospitals.’

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TV Generals and Precision Bombs: Corporate Media Go to War

Peter Hart writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

‘Want to know what corporate media look like when they’re reporting for duty?

On the most recent CBS‘sFace the Nation (9/28/14), host Bob Schieffer previewed the guests who would be appearing on the show:

We will get the latest on the mission and what it entails from Deputy National Security Adviser Anthony Blinken, retired General Carter Ham, former Pentagon official Michele Flournoy and former Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morell.

So that’s a current government official, a retired general, and retired Pentagon and CIA officials. Now that‘s a diverse line-up.’

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Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF

Damian Carrington reports for The Guardian:

‘The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.’

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What are Theresa May’s new ‘extremism disruption orders’?

Alan Travis writes for The Guardian:

‘“Theresa May will also announce that the Conservative manifesto will contain pledges to introduce banning orders for extremist groups and extremism disruption orders for extremists who spread hate but do not break existing laws.” Conservative briefing note.

The home secretary’s manifesto plan to silence extremists by banning their access to the web and television is cast far wider than the Islamist “preachers of hate” of tabloid headlines. As David Cameron pointed out, the Conservatives now want to look at the “full spectrum of extremism” and not just the “hard end” of that spectrum that counter-terrorism policy has focused on up to now.

The difference is spelled out in the detail of the policy, where it says that it is intended to catch not just those who “spread or incite hatred” on grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake “harmful activities” for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.’

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Your iPhone is now encrypted. The FBI says it’ll help kidnappers. Who do you believe?

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

‘Much of the world has been enthralled by the new iPhone 6, but civil liberties advocates have been cheering, too: Along with iOS 8, Apple made some landmark privacy improvements to your devices, which Google matched with its Android platform only hours later. Your smartphone will soon be encrypted by default, and Apple or Google claim they will not be able open it for anyone – law enforcement, the FBI and possibly the NSA – even if they wanted to.

Predictably, the US government and police officials are in the midst of a misleading PR offensive to try to scare Americans into believing encrypted cellphones are somehow a bad thing, rather than a huge victory for everyone’s privacy and security in a post-Snowden era. Leading the charge is FBI director James Comey, who spoke to reporters late last week about the supposed “dangers” of giving iPhone and Android users more control over their phones. But as usual, it’s sometimes difficult to find the truth inside government statements unless you parse their language extremely carefully.’

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Obama’s Sanctimonious Human Rights Argument Against Cuba

Matt Peppe writes for CounterPunch:

‘Raúl Castro, President of Cuba, said that he wants to start relations with the U.S., but first the U.S. must provide health insurance to all 46 million people who lack it; stop extrajudicial assassinations in sovereign countries through drone attacks; make higher education affordable for all; reform the prison system which has by far the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, with a drastically disproportionate amount of prisoners being minorities; grant Puerto Rico its sovereignty as required by the U.N. Charter, U.N. Declaration on Decolonization, and the popular referendum in Puerto Rico in 2012; halt the economic blockade, which has been ruled illegal for 22 straight years in the U.N.; close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and return the land to Cuba; turn over terrorists living freely in Miami who have bombed Cuban civilian airplanes, hotels and fishing boats; and free the three political prisoners who were investigating these groups to prevent further attacks.

Actually, he said: “We don’t demand that the U.S. change its political or social system and we don’t accept negotiations over ours. If we really want to move our bilateral relations forward, we’ll have to learn to respect our differences, if not, we’re ready to take another 55 years in the same situation.”

President Barack Obama has said Cuba: ”Has not yet observed basic human rights … I and the American people will welcome the time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders, and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions.” But he added: “We haven’t gotten there yet.”’

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Kissinger Drew Up Plans to Attack Cuba, Records Show

Frances Robles reports for The New York Times:

‘Nearly 40 years ago, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger mapped out secret contingency plans to launch airstrikes against Havana and “smash Cuba,” newly disclosed government documents show.

Mr. Kissinger was so irked by Cuba’s military incursion into Angola that in 1976 he convened a top-secret group of senior officials to work out possible retaliatory measures in case Cuba deployed forces to other African nations, according to documents declassified by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library at the request of the National Security Archive, a research group.

The officials outlined plans to strike ports and military installations in Cuba and to send Marine battalions to the United States Navy base at Guantánamo Bay to “clobber” the Cubans, as Mr. Kissinger put it, according to the records. Mr. Kissinger, the documents show, worried that the United States would look weak if it did not stand up to a country of just eight million people.’

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New Afghanistan pact means America’s longest war will last until at least 2024

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

US-Afghan security deal.‘The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday.

Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year’s end, and permits their stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond.”

The entry into force of the deal ensures that Barack Obama, elected president in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, will pass off both the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor. In 2010, his vice-president, Joe Biden, publicly vowed the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan “come hell or high water, by 2014.”’

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American drones ‘killing 49 people for every known terrorist in Pakistan’

Leon Watson reported in 2012 for The Daily Mail:

Bombardment: More than 345 strikes have hit Pakistan's tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years‘Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today. The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.

And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.

The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.’

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3,790 Killed Across Iraq in September

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

‘Antiwar.com has determined that at least 3,790 people were killed across Iraq during September. These numbers include militants, even foreign ones, killed in Iraq. Another 1,949 were wounded. The violence also left 126 dead and 184 wounded across Iraq on Tuesday.’

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Why the Showdown with Islamic Extremists Is the War the Pentagon Was Hoping For

Nicolas J.S. Davies writes for AlterNet:

‘As the U.S. escalates its bombing campaign against ISIS (or IS or ISIL), U.S. officials seem to have found an enemy we can all love to hate and fear.  ISIS beheads hostages, conducts brutal ethnic cleansing and has links to Al-Qaeda.  DC power players have eagerly embraced a small war made to order to restore America’s wounded military pride after the first Iraq debacle.

The contrived nature of the narrative presented by U.S. officials was evident from the outset if one cared to look behind the propaganda screen.  As the U.S. bombing campaign began, German Left Party MP Ulla Jelpke told a  press conference in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) on August 11th that the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar were rescued by the Kurdish PKK, who the U.S. government classifies as “terrorists.”  Refugees told Jelpke that they were saved by “Allah and the PKK,” not by U.S. bombing.’

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The Khorasan Group: The Fake Terror Threat Used to Justify Bombing Syria

Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain write for The Intercept:

Featured photo - The Fake Terror Threat Used To Justify Bombing Syria‘As the Obama Administration prepared to bomb Syria without congressional or U.N. authorization, it faced two problems. The first was the difficulty of sustaining public support for a new years-long war against ISIS, a group that clearly posed no imminent threat to the “homeland.” A second was the lack of legal justification for launching a new bombing campaign with no viable claim of self-defense or U.N. approval.

The solution to both problems was found in the wholesale concoction of a brand new terror threat that was branded “The Khorasan Group.” After spending weeks depicting ISIS as an unprecedented threat — too radical even for Al Qaeda! — administration officials suddenly began spoon-feeding their favorite media organizations and national security journalists tales of a secret group that was even scarier and more threatening than ISIS, one that posed a direct and immediate threat to the American Homeland. Seemingly out of nowhere, a new terror group was created in media lore.’

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Defense Contractors Are Making a Killing

Dan Froomkin writes for The Intercept:

‘Stock prices for Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman set all-time record highs last week as it became increasingly clear that President Obama was committed to a massive, sustained air war in Iraq and Syria.

It’s nothing short of a windfall for these and other huge defense contractors, who’ve been getting itchy about federal budget pressures that threatened to slow the rate of increase in military spending.

Now, with U.S. forces literally blowing through tens of millions of dollars of munitions a day, the industry is not just counting on vast spending to replenish inventory, but hoping for a new era of reliance on supremely expensive military hardware.’

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Does NATO’s Outgoing Head Have Kurdish Skeletons in His Closet?

teleSur reports:

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a news conference in September, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)‘The secret story of how the outgoing head of the most powerful military alliance landed his job “has everything,” according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“It has the Kurds. It has the destruction of an entire TV station. Corrupt deals between intelligence agencies and the judiciary. The corruption of a Scandinavian country, Denmark. And the head of that country, the prime minister, doing a corrupt deal to get his job,” Assange told teleSUR English in an exclusive interview.

Continuing, Assange lamented the “whole thing, signed off, explicitly by Barack Obama.”

The story with “everything” is now a pending case before the European Court of Human Rights, but it begins two years ago, with the prosecution of a Kurdish language television station in Denmark.’

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Hillary Clinton admits role in Honduran coup aftermath

Mark Weisbrot reports for Al Jazeera:

‘In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a review of Henry Kissinger’s latest book, “World Order,” to lay out her vision for “sustaining America’s leadership in the world.” In the midst of numerous global crises, she called for return to a foreign policy with purpose, strategy and pragmatism. She also highlighted some of these policy choices in her memoir “Hard Choices” and how they contributed to the challenges that Barack Obama’s administration now faces.

The chapter on Latin America, particularly the section on Honduras, a major source of the child migrants currently pouring into the United States, has gone largely unnoticed. In letters to Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, more than 100 members of Congress have repeatedly warned about the deteriorating security situation in Honduras, especially since the 2009 military coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. As Honduran scholar Dana Frank points out in Foreign Affairs, the U.S.-backed post-coup government “rewarded coup loyalists with top ministries,” opening the door for further “violence and anarchy.”’

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Seeking Global Role, German Military Stumbles, Prompts Talk of More Defense Spending

Alison Smale reports for The New York Times:

‘In a spectacle that a leading weekly likened to a slapstick movie, Germany’s military, especially its air force, has repeatedly stumbled in recent days as it tried to ratchet up its international involvement by delivering personnel and matériel to forces battling Islamic extremists in Iraq and aid supplies to Africa to ease the Ebola crisis.

By Monday, when the latest failure of Germany’s limited air capabilities became known, politicians were demanding explanations from Ursula von der Leyen, the country’s defense minister, and pondering aloud the possible revision of what has long been a political no-go: raising the budget for defense spending.’

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George Orwell: The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous…

Thought Crime: UK Leadership Wants To Ban Predicted ‘Extremists’ From Social Media, TV, Events

Mike Masnick writes for Techdirt:

Theresa May, the current UK Home Secretary, has announced that, if re-elected, her party (the Conservatives) will push for “extremist disruption orders” which would effectively ban people declared “extremist” (using a very broad definition) from using social media or appearing on TV.

Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives.

They will also be barred from speaking at public events if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy”, under the new Extremist Disruption Orders.

The broad definitions here matter. Part of the plan is to make such rules cover a wide variety of groups and individuals, based on what the government “reasonably believes” they may be up to.’

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September Playlist

Congressman Chaffetz: What if there were twelve people that jumped the White House fence?

France’s far-right sets sight on presidency

How Decentralized Power, Not Democracy, Will Shape the 21st Century

Parag Khanna writes for The Atlantic:

‘[...] Devolution—meaning the decentralization of power—is the geopolitical equivalent of the second law of thermodynamics: inexorable, universal entropy. Today’s nationalism and tribalism across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East represent the continued push for either greater autonomy within states or total independence from what some view as legacy colonial structures. Whether these movements are for devolution, federalism, or secession, they all to varying degrees advocate the same thing: greater self-rule.

In addition to the traditional forces of anti-colonialism and ethnic grievance, the newer realities of weak and over-populated states, struggles to control natural resources, accelerated economic competition, and even the rise of big data and climate change all point to more devolution in the future rather than less. Surprisingly, this could be a good thing, both for America and the world.’

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Spanish Independence Movements and the Recolonization of Southern Europe: Interview with Sister Teresa Forcades

Spain suspends Catalonia independence vote

Americans consume 80% of the world’s supply of painkillers

Michael Zennine reported in 2012 for The Daily Mail:

‘Americans consume 80 percent of the world’s supply of painkillers — more than 110 tons of pure, addictive opiates every year — as the country’s prescription drug abuse epidemic explodes.

That’s enough drugs to give every single American 64 Percocets or Vicodin. And pain pill prescriptions continue to surge, up 600 percent in ten year, thanks to doctors who are more and more willing to hand out drugs to patients who are suffering.

As more people get their hands on these potentially-dangerous drugs, more are taking them to get high. Their drug abuse leads to 14,800 deaths a year — more than from heroin and cocaine combined.’

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The Havoc of the Unrestrained Drug Industry

Ralph Nader writes for CounterPunch:

‘It is remarkable what very profitable drug companies—as they merge into fewer giant multinationals—continue to get away with by way of crony capitalism. Despite frequent exposure of misdeeds, the army of drug company lobbyists in Washington continues to gain political influence and rake in corporate welfare at the expense of taxpayers. The drug industry goes beyond crony capitalism when it then charges Americans the highest drug prices in the world.

Here is a short list of the honey pot produced by the lobbying muscle of the $300 billion a year pharmaceutical industry. It receives billions of dollars in tax credits for doing research and development that it should be doing anyway. Some companies reaped billions of dollars in revenues when they were granted exclusive rights to market a drug, such as Taxol, developed by the government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH). These corporations turn around and gouge patients without any price controls or royalties to NIH.

The pharmaceutical industry spends far more on marketing and advertising to physicians and patients than what it spends on research and development. More drug industry funds go to influencing politicians to prevent the implementation of price restraints on its staggering markups.’

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GlaxoSmithKline Fined $488.8 Million for ‘Massive Bribery Network’ in China

Kaijing Xiao reports for ABC News:

‘China has fined the British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) $488.8 million (3 billion Yuan) for a “massive bribery network” to get doctors and hospitals to use its products. Five former employees were sentenced to two to four years in jail, but ordered deported instead of imprisoned, according to state news agency Xinhua today.

The guilty verdict was delivered after a one day closed door trail in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province. The fine was the biggest ever imposed by a Chinese court.

The court gave Mark Reilly, former head of GSK Chinese operations, a three-year prison sentence with a four-year reprieve, which meant he is set to be deported instead of serving his time in a Chinese jail. His co-defendants received two to four years prison sentences with reprieves.’

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How Capitalists Control Mass Movements

Stephanie McMillan writes for CounterPunch:

payumcmill‘We really need to understand the methods used by NGOs to undermine radical political organizing efforts and divert us into political dead ends. The People’s Climate March is a good case study because it’s so blatant.

In South Florida, we saw the exact same process after the BP oil spill. Once the NGOs came in to the organizing meetings and were given the floor, all potential resistance was blocked, strangled, and left for dead. NGOs will descend on any organizing effort and try to take it over, dilute it, and bring it eventually to the Democratic Party. We can also see an identical set-up with the established labor unions and many other organizations.

If organizers are being paid, usually they are trapped in this dynamic, whether or not they want to be. While combining a job with organizing to challenge the system sounds very tempting and full of potential, it’s overwhelmingly not possible. They are two fundamentally incompatible aims, and those funding the job definitely do not have the aim of allowing its employees to undermine the system — the very system that allows the funders to exist, that they feed off of.’

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‘Black box’ car insurance will turn down your radio and monitor your texts

Kyle Caldwell reports for The Telegraph:

‘Your car could soon start cutting off your phone calls, silencing the radio and monitoring the weather via intelligent windscreen wipers as insurers step up their hi-tech efforts to turn us into better drivers and cut the number of accidents.

Every driver in Britain could be monitored by their insurer’s tracking technology within the next decade, experts have predicted. Those who refuse could face higher premiums or be denied cover altogether.

So-called “black box” or “telematics” technology is becoming more popular because it enables good drivers to get discounts on their insurance. The boxes are especially favoured by young drivers, who would often pay far more under conventional underwriting.’

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Totalitarianism, American Style

Chris Hedges recently spoke during a panel discussion in New York:

‘We have undergone a transformation during the last few decades—what John Ralston Saul calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. We are no longer a capitalist democracy endowed with a functioning liberal class that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. Liberals in the old Democratic Party such as the senators Gaylord Nelson, Birch Bayh and George McGovern—who worked with Ralph Nader to make the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the OSHA law, who made common cause with labor unions to protect workers, who stood up to the arms industry and a bloated military—no longer exist within the Democratic Party, as Nader has been lamenting for several years. They were pushed out as corporate donors began to transform the political landscape with the election of Ronald Reagan. And this is why the Democrats have not, as Bill Curry points out, enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s.

We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” By this Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent.’

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