Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Weekend Edition

Friday, October 20th, 2017

TTD: Trump/Tillerson doctrine

Friday, October 20th, 2017

by B. R. GOWANI

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson CARICATURE/Mehmood Tabrizi

the end of “American century”
unacceptable unacceptable unacceptable …
China’s emergence as a great power
unacceptable unacceptable unacceptable …

reasons behind the above reality
undiscussable undiscussable undiscussable …

what will the United States do?
troublemaking troublemaking troublemaking …

how?
by teaming up with India

Tillerson invoked
Truman/Nehru meeting
Trump/Modi hug

Nehru/Modi are in class/self-respect/knowledge/policies/national interest miles apart
Nehru stayed away from the US
Modi, like Trump, is a vengeful person
but unlike Trump, Modi is not transparent
so the evil in his heart is not readily visible

but remember the meetings/slap of
Truman/Liaquat
Eisenhower/Ayub
Kennedy/Ayub
Johnson/Ayub
Zia/Reagan
Bush/Musharraf

Nehru kept India away from the US claws
most Pakistani leaders/military found warmth/loans/arms
in the pockets of the United States leaders

Pakistan got destroyed
now its India’s turn
but India is too huge
so not only India
but the entire South Asia and China will suffer
the Trump/Tillerson hatred of China

Trump/Tillerson Doctrine or TTD
will prove more poisonous than DDT

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Rohingya refugees fall from Burma’s pan of terror into Lanka’s fires of hate

Friday, October 20th, 2017

THE SUNDAY TIMES


Modern Day Sinhala Chivalry: Monk mob threatening Rohingya women and children who sought Lanka’s alms of temporary refuge

‘Sinha-le’ mob surrounds Mount’s UNCHR safe house where 16 children, 7 women and 7 men fleeing Myanmar violence were kept till repatriated

Forget their race, forget their creed and forget that they were born as Muslims in the land of Buddhist Burma, now Myanmar. Just hold them in your hearts for awhile as human beings, as victims of circumstances beyond their control, as innocent sufferers of another’s wrong, a nation’s crime, who must now cry in pain and bleed with grief; and storm heaven and verily raise the question, ‘ why me, why us, what grievous wrong have we and our children done on this earth this birth to deserve this terrible fate?

On April 30th, the Sri Lanka Coast Guard craft patrolling the Indian Ocean waters off Trincomalee found 16 children, 7 women and 7 men huddled aboard a fishing boat. They belonged to a race known as the Rohingyas, a minority tribe successive Myanmar Governments had refused to recognize as an indigenous race, persecuted them without pause, and had now unleashed a systematic campaign of terror which the UN had condemned as ‘ethnic cleansing’.

They were the innocent civilian casualties caught up in a conflict not of their own making: forced to flee their burning villages in fear of their lives and their children’s lives, abandon their homes in fright to face a dark fearful future unknown. And carried with them naught but the only wealth they possessed: their lives and their children. They had endured the terror in their ghettoes of fear, where danger sprung from every government sewer and the swish of the machete slash could be heard cracking the silence of the night, followed by the death wail of a neighbour being hacked to death.

They had braved the perils of the sea, faced the tempests that brew in the Bay of Bengal and dared the gulfs to swallow them purely to flee the Myanmar Government’s military crackdown against their indigenous race; and seek refuge on some safe shore. Perhaps, they never even intended to come to Sri Lanka and had set their sails to some other shore; but, merciless fates, as they sometimes mockingly do to those in dire straits, may have directed some foul wind to blow their fishing boat to bob adrift off Trinco’s coast when the coast guard naval vessel arrived to their timely rescue.

The Sri Lankan Navy handed these unfortunates to the Mirihana detention camp. The Colombo office of the United Nation Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR) soon intervened and obtained a court order and secured their release. They were then taken and placed in a UNCHR safe house in Mount Lavinia pending repatriation to a third country.

The Sunday Times for more

The future belongs to blasphemers

Friday, October 20th, 2017

by COUNCIL OF EX-MUSLIMS OF BRITAIN

International Blasphemy Day has just past. Watch this inspiring video made by ex-Muslims in various countries: The Future Belongs to Blasphemers.

Also see the world’s first group bodypaint captured by both ground and drone in solidarity with ex-Muslims.

Some will ask why we must celebrate blasphemy when it is “hurtful” and “offends”.

The answer is simple:

Because people can be killed for blaspheming and human life is more important than hurt sensibilities and offence.

As the Jordanian atheist, Mohammed Al Khadra said at the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, “Where are your priorities? While we die, you are all thinking about Islamophobia?”

Islamophobia is a political term used to scaremonger people into silence; it imposes de facto blasphemy and apostasy laws where none exist. Where such laws exist, there are no accusations of “Islamophobia” but rather imprisonment, persecution and execution.

Another speaker at the July conference, Zineb El Rhazoui, who survived the attack on Charlie Hebdo because she was back in Morocco says “the right to blasphemy [marks] the boundary between barbarism and civilisation.”

As the new edition of CEMB’s publication: “The Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam” shows, it is especially dangerous for ex-Muslims living under Sharia.

CEMB is organising a protest at the Pakistani and Iranian embassies in London on 10 November to highlight a number of cases facing the death penalty such as that of Sina Dehghan, Soheil Arabi and Ayaz Nizami.

We are also campaigning for activists like Iraqi atheist Karrar Al Afsoor who has fled to Greece where he is being detained in awful conditions.

Despite the targeted persecution and slaughter of freethinkers, though, it is we who are still being blamed for the threats we receive and even when we are murdered – like the woman whose rape is blamed on the length of her skirt.

We are outrageously even compared to Nazis for marching for LGBT and ex-Muslim rights at Pride in London by “progressives” who prefer to side with Islam and Islamism than with dissenters. [As an aside, Pride in London is still deciding whether to allow CEMB back at Pride next year given complaints(!) by the homophobic East London Mosque. CEMB has called on Pride to do the right thing.]

Spokesperson Maryam Namazie exposed the hypocrisy, double standards and racism of lower expectations at the 40th convention of the Freedom from Religion Foundation when she accepted the Freedom from Religious Fundamentalism award.

Thankfully, there are many who continue to support our work and the right to freedom of conscience and expression. This support has meant a great deal to us and enabled us to continue the important work we do.

Please continue to support us via donations (no matter how small), volunteering your skills (we especially need help with film editing and graphic design), as well as attending our protests and events. Sadia Hameed and Maryam are speaking at a number of events in Belgrade, Cambridge, Koln, Massachusetts, Melbourne, Nottingham, Pennsylvania and Rome.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain for more

Wheels and deals: Trouble brewing in the House of Saud

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

by PEPE ESCOBAR

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on September 20, 2017, shows King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud speaking during a ceremony welcoming the Saudi national football team to the Royal Palace in Jeddah. PHOTO/AFP Saudi Royal Palace

Saudi women being allowed to drive is a smokescreen – Salafi-jihadism is alive and well inside the Kingdom. What’s more, another coup may be along shortly

Suddenly, the ideological matrix of all strands of Salafi-jihadism is being hailed by the West as a model of progress – because Saudi women will finally be allowed to drive. Only next year. Only some women. And still subject to many restrictions.

What’s certain is that the timing of the announcement – which comes after years of liberal American pressure – was calculated with precision, arriving only a few days before House of Saud capo King Salman drops in for a chat at Trump’s White House. The soft power move was coordinated by the 32-year-old Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, the Destroyer of Yemen; the king merely added his signature.

The diversionary tactic masks serious trouble in the court. A Gulf business source with intimate knowledge of the House of Saud, having held a number of personal meetings with members, told Asia Times that “the Fahd, Nayef, and Abdullah families, the descendants of King Abdulaziz al Saud and his wife Hassa bin Ahmed al-Sudairi, are forming an alliance against the ascendancy to the Kingship of the Crown Prince.”

No wonder, considering that the ousted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef – highly regarded in the Beltway, especially Langley – is under house arrest. His massive web of agents at the Interior Ministry has largely been “relieved of their authority”. The new Interior Minister is Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, 34, the eldest son of the governor of the country’s largely Shi’ite Eastern Province, where all the oil is. Curiously, the father is now reporting to his son. MBS is surrounded by inexperienced thirty-something princes, and alienating just about everyone else.

Former King Abdulaziz set up his Saudi succession based on the seniority of his sons; in theory, if each one lived to the same age all would have a shot at the throne, thus avoiding the bloodletting historically common in Arabian clans over lines of succession.

Now, says the source, “a bloodbath is predicted to be imminent.” Especially because “the CIA is outraged that the compromise worked out in April, 2014 has been abrogated wherein the greatest anti-terrorist factor in the Middle East, Mohammed bin Nayef, was arrested.” That may prompt “vigorous action taken against MBS possibly in early October.” And it might even coincide with the Salman-Trump get together.
ISIS playing by the (Saudi) book

Asia Times’ Gulf business source stresses how “the Saudi economy is under extreme strain based on their oil price war against Russia, and they are behind their bills in paying just about all their contractors. That could lead to the bankruptcy of some of the major enterprises in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabia of MBS features the Crown Prince buying a US$600 million yacht and his father spending US$100 million on his summer vacation, highlighted on the front pages of the New York Times while the Kingdom strangles under their leadership.”

Asia Times Online for more

Competitive advantage not God-given – as US and Japan know

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

By HENRY KRESSEL

Sony employee Suzuyo Suzuki displays the MD Walkman MZ-E55 (left) and a mini-disc at the company’s headquaters in Tokyo, on September 7, 1998. PHOTO/ AFP / Toru Yamanaka

Technologist and author Henry Kressel reflects on the reasons for nations losing their industrial dominance. The story of electronics, he says, shows that innovation, driven by corporations but supported by governments, is key to competitive longevity

I spent the first 20 years of my career in the research and development laboratories of the RCA Corporation, then one of the leading electronics companies in the world and led, for many years, by a great visionary in David Sarnoff.

In addition to developing color television, RCA Laboratories’ inventions included flat panel displays, lasers of all kinds, solid state imaging devices, CMOS chip technology and communications systems including microwave and optical systems. These innovations helped build industries with close to a trillion dollars of current annual revenues that are the foundations of the digital world.

But few of these electronic infrastructure products are now made in the United States and in none has the US maintained world leadership. For example, the flat panel industry that serves practically all electronic products yields over US$100 billion of annual revenues – from factories in Asia. And 73% of all color television sets are now produced in China. In chips, two world leaders are now in Taiwan and South Korea, respectively, with China rapidly developing its own industry.

There is a sobering lesson here: Industrial competitive advantage is a fragile thing. The US used to lead these industries because they were invented in the US, supported by major corporate resources focused on innovation and also indirectly supported through Federal research and development funding of universities and major corporate laboratories.

In an ideal world, each country leverages its competitive advantage by producing and exporting what it competes best at, in terms of cost and quality, in an open interchange of goods and services. In this ideal world, consumers benefit and businesses can prosper because they operate on a large world market. But this is all happy classroom theory. We are not living in an ideal world of free trade because country leaders game the system through industrial subsidies and legal restrictions that bolster favored industries by limiting competitive imports and promoting their own exports.

Sure, some competitive advantages are based on geography and result in low-cost agricultural or mineral products. But when it comes to electronic products, competitive advantage is totally man-made.

Asia Times for more

As Google fights fake news, voices on the margins raise alarm

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

by DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI

GRAPHIC/Minh Uong/The New York Times

When David North, the editorial chairman of the World Socialist Web Site, noticed a drop in the site’s traffic in April, he initially chalked it up to news fatigue over President Trump or a shift in political consciousness.

But when he dug into the numbers, Mr. North said, he found a clearer explanation: Google had stopped redirecting search queries to the site. He discovered that the top search terms that once brought people to the World Socialist Web Site were now coming up empty.

“This is not an accident,” Mr. North said. “This is some form of deliberate intervention.”

Accusations that Google has tampered with search results are not uncommon and date back to the earliest days of its search engine. But they are taking on new life amid concerns that technology behemoths are directly — or indirectly — censoring controversial subjects in their response to concerns over so-called fake news and the 2016 presidential election.

In April, Google announced an initiative called Project Owl to provide “algorithmic updates to surface more authoritative content” and stamp out fake news stories from its search results.

To some, that was an uncomfortable step toward Google becoming an arbiter of what is and is not a trustworthy news source.

“They’re really skating on thin ice,” said Michael Bertini, a search strategist at iQuanti, a digital marketing agency. “They’re controlling what users see. If Google is controlling what they deem to be fake news, I think that’s bias.”

Despite Google’s insistence that its search algorithm undergoes a rigorous testing process to ensure that its results do not reflect political, gender, racial or ethnic bias, there is growing political support for regulating Google and other tech giants like public utilities and forcing it to disclose how exactly its arrives at search results.

Most people have little understanding of how Google’s search engine ranks different sites, what it chooses to include or exclude, and how it picks the top results among hundreds of billions of pages. And Google tightly guards the mathematical equations behind it all — the rest of the world has to take their word that it is done in an unbiased manner.

The New York Times for more

The Trump presidency or how to further enrich “the masters of the universe”

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

by NOAM CHOMSKY & DAVID BARSAMIAN

Cartoon/Peter Brookes/The Times, London/Rashmee

[This interview has been excerpted from Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy, the new book by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian to be published this December.]

David Barsamian: You have spoken about the difference between Trump’s buffoonery, which gets endlessly covered by the media, and the actual policies he is striving to enact, which receive less attention. Do you think he has any coherent economic, political, or international policy goals? What has Trump actually managed to accomplish in his first months in office?

Noam Chomsky: There is a diversionary process under way, perhaps just a natural result of the propensities of the figure at center stage and those doing the work behind the curtains.

At one level, Trump’s antics ensure that attention is focused on him, and it makes little difference how. Who even remembers the charge that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Clinton, depriving the pathetic little man of his Grand Victory? Or the accusation that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower? The claims themselves don’t really matter. It’s enough that attention is diverted from what is happening in the background. There, out of the spotlight, the most savage fringe of the Republican Party is carefully advancing policies designed to enrich their true constituency: the Constituency of private power and wealth, “the masters of mankind,” to borrow Adam Smith’s phrase.

These policies will harm the irrelevant general population and devastate future generations, but that’s of little concern to the Republicans. They’ve been trying to push through similarly destructive legislation for years. Paul Ryan, for example, has long been advertising his ideal of virtually eliminating the federal government, apart from service to the Constituency — though in the past he’s wrapped his proposals in spreadsheets so they would look wonkish to commentators. Now, while attention is focused on Trump’s latest mad doings, the Ryan gang and the executive branch are ramming through legislation and orders that undermine workers’ rights, cripple consumer protections, and severely harm rural communities. They seek to devastate health programs, revoking the taxes that pay for them in order to further enrich their Constituency, and to eviscerate the Dodd-Frank Act, which imposed some much-needed constraints on the predatory financial system that grew during the neoliberal period.

That’s just a sample of how the wrecking ball is being wielded by the newly empowered Republican Party. Indeed, it is no longer a political party in the traditional sense. Conservative political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have described it more accurately as a “radical insurgency,” one that has abandoned normal parliamentary politics.

Much of this is being carried out stealthily, in closed sessions, with as little public notice as possible. Other Republican policies are more open, such as pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, thereby isolating the U.S. as a pariah state that refuses to participate in international efforts to confront looming environmental disaster. Even worse, they are intent on maximizing the use of fossil fuels, including the most dangerous; dismantling regulations; and sharply cutting back on research and development of alternative energy sources, which will soon be necessary for decent survival.

Tom Dispatch for more

A tale of many “Stans” – a journey through Central Asia

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

by RAZI AZMI

Kazakhstan’s capital city Astana PHOTO/Dawn

Having said all that by way of an introduction, my purpose here is to describe my recent journey through the five Stans or, to be more accurate, four Stans: namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

How many Stans are there? Many more than you think. Quite a few international travel agencies advertise tours to The Stans. Usually it is to “The Five Stans”, namely, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, all located in what is called Central Asia.

This region, which comprised of a number of derelict, feuding khanates and emirates at the time, was conquered by tsarist Russia and annexed to the Russian empire in the second half of the 19th century. As a consequence, all five became a part of the Soviet Union (USSR) and remained so until it went bust in 1991.

Depending on time and cost factors, some tours go for fewer than the five Stans, or combine them with Iran (to the south) and/or Xinjiang (to the east). Xinjiang, the western-most province of China, was historically known as Eastern Turkestan.

Some travelers extend their tour to include Azerbaijan, to the west of the Stans, across the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan has nearly everything in common with the five Stans, except the suffix “stan”.

If there is any logic to the suffix “stan”, then Azerbaijan should have been named Azeristan. Turkey should be Turkestan, being on the western extremity of the Turkic-speaking lands. One may even argue that Iran ought to be Iranistan, for “stan” is a part of the Persian vocabulary more than of any other.

Four of the five Stans, as well as Azerbaijan and the Uighur people of Xinjiang speak a dialect of the Turkish language. Tajkistan is the sole exception, where the language (Tajik) is a variant of Persian, like Dari in Afghanistan.

Now, what is a Stan? “Stan” (or sthan) is an Indo-European word meaning a place of living, a habitation or a location. It is a very common suffix with place names in the languages of Central and South Asia.

Besides the famous Five Stans mentioned above, there are, sorry to say, the infamous two, namely, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both of which, unfortunately, are in the news presently not as excellent travel destinations, as they should be, but rather as places to avoid.

And, of course, there is Hindustan, officially and generally known as India or Bharat. Nevertheless, the current Hindutva-driven BJP government there is making every effort to vindicate the name Hindustan. And, within Hindustan, on the border with Pakistan, there is the state (province) of Rajasthan.

The Russian Federation, or what remains of the former Soviet Union, includes the territorial units of Daghestan, Tatarstan and Bashkorostan. Balochistan is a province of Pakistan. Just to the west of it, in Iran, there is a province by the name of Baluchestan and Sistan.

Waziristan, Baltistan, Kohistan and Kafiristan are geographical or administrative units in northern Pakistan, while the Cholistan Desert occupies a large area in the central region of the country.

Thinking Aloud for more

Agribusiness seizes Brazilian power

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

by Vanessa Baird


It’s open season for Brazil’s oligarchs as they plunder, riding roughshod over the rights of indigenous people and small family farmers.

‘No,’ says the man behind the large locked and chained gate. ‘There is nobody you can talk to here.’

He seems sad. The whole place seems sad.

We get chatting and, after a while, he lets me into the grounds of the Museu do Indio – Rio de Janeiro’s indigenous museum.

‘If you had come here in March, there would have been people to speak to. But it’s been closed since then,’ he says. ‘It’s supposed to be for repairs, but the repairs have been abandoned.’

After a while he lets slip that staff haven’t been paid either.

It all begins to fall into place. The museum, which exists to educate the city folk about indigenous culture, and to celebrate it, is run by the Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI) – the government agency for the protection of indigenous people.

But since the coup there is little interest in protecting indigenous people or their rights. Quite the contrary: indigenous people are seen as a nuisance; an obstacle standing in the way of profits and a particular, self-serving notion of progress.

FUNAI has come under sustained attack by the Temer government. In May, its outspoken director, Antonio Costa, was sacked for refusing to appoint to posts friends of ministers who had no interest in indigenous protection. The agency is being starved of funds.

We sit down in a deserted room and Xmaya Kaká Fulni-ô agrees to give an interview.

He comes from Pernambuco in the northeast of Brazil; he is an ambassador for his Fulni-ô community and sells its handicrafts.

Xmaya is deeply worried about what is happening in the rural areas. The government, he says, is failing in its duty to protect its indigenous citizens. That’s putting it mildly. The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), an NGO associated with the Catholic Church, has been monitoring the escalation of violence towards indigenous people and peasants. This year has seen a marked increase in rural killings, 48 in the first seven months of 2017.

New Internationalist for more