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globeI do love me some infographics.  Go to Vision of Humanity to see all the stats and the overall peace rankings for countries of the world.  Care to guess to see if yours is on the list?  I’ve got the top 10 most peaceful countries and the bottom 10 of that same scale below the fold.

 

“We are living in the most peaceful century in human history; however the 2014 Global Peace Index shows that the last seven years has shown a notable deterioration in levels of peace.”

So begins this year’s peace index, an annual report released by the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace. The study ranks 162 countries (covering 99.6% of the world’s population) according to a complex set of indicators that gauge the absence of violence and political instability. These include a nation’s level of military expenditure, its relations with neighboring countries and the percentage of the population held in prisons.

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The chickens of western colonialism are coming home to roost.

Excerpt from “The Guns of August” – by Matthew Stevenson via Counterpunch

 

“Doubts about the sincerity of Americans in Iraq probably began when President Ronald Reagan dispatched his former national security advisor Robert C. “Bud” McFarlane to Tehran in 1986 with a cake and a Bible and proposed swapping arms for American hostages in Lebanon.

 

Until that moment, in the long war between Iran and Iraq, Saddam was our man, a bulwark against Shiite expansion in the Gulf, a non-fundamental (i.e., someone not adverse to girls or gin) Muslim willing to do the West’s bidding.

 

Bud’s cake and Bible alerted Saddam to the fickleness of Western support, and he repaid the favor in 1990 when he invaded Kuwait and let his troops drive all those looted Mercedes back to Baghdad.

 

The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait led to the first Gulf War and Saddam’s alleged death threat against President George H.W. Bush, cited in 2003 when his son, President George W. Bush, decided to overthrow Saddam’s regime.

 

Driving Saddam into a hole near Tikrit (where he was captured and later hanged) wasn’t the hard part of the blitzkrieg. The biggest challenge was deciding who should run Iraq once Saddam was swinging from the gallows.

 

Remembering the Mesopotamia, Churchill had faced the same conundrum in 1921, and at the Cairo Conference he went with an invented, cereal-box monarchy, an air campaign to subdue rebels, and a cadre of loyal Sunnis to keep the majority Shiite population on their knees.

 

In one form or another, that unholy coalition lasted until the 2003 American invasion, when the Bush administration decided to turn the country over to the Shiite majority.

 

Never mind that such a government would align Iraq more closely with Antichrists in Tehran.

 

*   *   *

 

By suppressing the Sunnis, the U.S. hoped to keep al-Qaida sympathizers in Iraq away from the oil fields. Under this partition, Shiites would get the government, the U.S. would get the oil, and Sunnis, especially those with Osama bin Laden posters on their kitchen walls, would get the shaft.

 

The problem with this division of Iraqi spoils is that it required the Bush administration to disband the Iraqi army and Saddam’s Baathist party infrastructure, two centers of power not solely identified with either Sunni or Shiite interests.

 

At the same time (mid-2000s) the U.S. army withdrew its forces into frontier stockades.  Iraq fell into anarchy until Gen. David Petraeus took time out from his amorous counter-insurgencies and paid Sunni warlords, especially in western Iraq, some $300 million to fight on the American side.

 

The rent-an-army surge worked until the Obama administration stopped payment on the Petraeus incentive compensation and left it to the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to explain to the opposition the fine print of the American victory, what in the Vietnam War President Nixon called “peace with honor.”

 

Speaking of peace with honour; the IS is bringing neither to the region as this Vice News clip illustrates.

 

lawnmow    Some results of the latest Israeli raid :

 

* Destroyed tunnels, most often used to smuggle into Gaza household items that Israel, in violation of international law, prevents from being imported.

* Massacred nearly 2,000 people, including hundreds of children as young as newborns; injured thousands more.

* Destroyed hundreds of homes, leaving thousands of men, women and children homeless.

* Destroyed power plants, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity or running water.

* Destroyed factories that produce such dangerous items as pretzels, cheese and biscuits.

* Targeted and murdered journalists.

Israeli officials have stated that, in Gaza, they periodically need to ‘mow the lawn’, meaning to destroy infrastructure, and bomb that beleaguered area back as close to the Dark Ages as possible. So one might add that to a list of Israel’s ‘accomplishments’.

Ah, the benefits of collective punishment continue to accrue for Israel.

“There are, however, some unintended results to this latest genocidal bombing of Palestinians.

* Unexpected international criticism of Israel. While this hasn’t been universal, Israel has seen ambassadors recalled, and even the U.S., which provides Israel with a blank check to do whatever it pleases on the world stage, has dared to timidly issue criticism of its puppet-master. It’s unfortunate that it took the repeated bombings of United Nations schools, which were being used to house thousands of Palestinians driven from their homes, for the U.S. to dare to speak up to Israel, but at least some mild criticism was expressed. The resignation of Sayeeda Warsi, a senior minister in Britain’s Foreign Office, who accused Prime Minister David Cameron’s government of taking a ‘morally indefensible’ approach to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, is also a striking statement against Israel.

* International demonstrations in support of Palestine. Even Israel has seen thousands of its own people protesting the carpet-bombing of the Gaza Strip. London has seen tens of thousands of demonstrators demanding that the British government stop supporting Israel.

* The social media storm that slammed into Israel. Apartheid Israel last ‘mowed the lawn’ in Gaza two years ago. At that time, Twitter had approximately 20 million users. Today, it has over 120 million, and Twitter users have spread around the globe graphic pictures and information that the news media didn’t dare report. This, at least in part, resulted in huge demonstrations in front of London’s BBC headquarters, causing that organization to announce it would review its policies to see if it was, in fact, reporting in a manner biased towards Israel.

* Greater motivation for the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement. As people see graphic photos of young children playing on a beach being targeted and blown to bloody bits by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists, someone basically apathetic becomes motivated.

* Further overall isolation of Israel from the international community. This may not actually be a separate category, since those listed above all contribute to it. The demonstrations, cancellations of Israel-sponsored events, the growing BDS movement and the increasing awareness, thanks in large part to social media, of Israel’s horrific crimes, cannot forever be ignored by the governments of the people who show their opposition to Israel by supporting these actions.

Perhaps some good has come out of this tragedy after all.

“Although the U.S. will oppose it every step of the way, the U.N. looks poised to investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel. Its findings will probably not be surprising, since the U.N. has issued more resolutions critical of Israel than it has of all other nations combined. But until the citizenry awakens from its public-relations induced sleep, and sees that the U.S. is financing genocide, nothing will change. There is evidence from the last few weeks that perhaps a large crack in the wall of U.S. and Israeli public relations has appeared. Those shocked by Israel’s crimes must widen it.”

Just doing what I can to make the crack a little wider.

[Source: Counterpunch]

 

 

Shootingplanes

 

Compare and contrast with recent events.

 

“A civilian jet airliner shot down by US Navy surface to air missiles on 3 July 1988 as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz at the end of the Iran–Iraq War. The aircraft, an Airbus A300B2-203 operated by Iran Air, was flying from Bandar Abbas, Iran, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While flying in Iranian airspace over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on its usual flight path, it was destroyed by the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, perished.”

 

The captain of the ship that killed 290 innocent people was given a high military decoration by the United States of America “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” during his period in command.

[Source:Counterpunch]

 

That is all.

The US is doing it again.

“In February, the US mounted one of its “colour” coups against the elected government in Ukraine, exploiting genuine protests against corruption in Kiev. Obama’s national security adviser Victoria Nuland personally selected the leader of an “interim government”. She nicknamed him “Yats”. Vice President Joe Biden came to Kiev, as did CIA Director John Brennan. The shock troops of their putsch were Ukrainian fascists.

For the first time since 1945, a neo-Nazi, openly anti-Semitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital.  No Western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism in the borderland through which Hitler’s invading Nazis took millions of Russian lives. They were supported by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), responsible for the massacre of Jews and Russians they called “vermin”. The UPA is the historical inspiration of the present-day Svoboda Party and its fellow-travelling Right Sector. Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok has called for a purge of the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” and “other scum”, including gays, feminists and those on the political left.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato Enlargement Project. Reneging on a promise made to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand “one inch to the east”, Nato has, in effect, militarily occupied eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucasus, Nato’s expansion is the biggest military build-up since the Second World War.

A Nato Membership Action Plan is Washington’s gift to the coup-regime in Kiev. In August, “Operation Rapid Trident” will put American and British troops on Ukraine’s Russian border and “Sea Breeze” will send US warships within sight of Russian ports. Imagine the response if these acts of provocation, or intimidation, were carried out on America’s borders.”

Go read the full article on counterpunch.org.

 

ShorterSCOTUS

 

Update:  Highlights from dissenting judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg [page 60 of the Document].

1. “Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”

2. “Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”

3. “Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community.”

4. “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage”

5. “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.”

6. “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”

7. “Even if one were to conclude that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga meet the substantial burden requirement, the Government has shown that the contraceptive coverage for which the ACA provides furthers compelling interests in public health and women’s well being. Those interests are concrete, specific, and demonstrated by a wealth of empirical evidence.”

8. “The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.”

9. “Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, or according women equal pay for substantially similar work?”

10. “The Court does not even begin to explain how one might go about ascertaining the religious scruples of a corporation where shares are sold to the public. No need to speculate on that, the Court says, for ‘it seems unlikely’ that large corporation ‘will often assert RFRA claims.’”

[Source]

—–

Update 2: Dr. Jen Gunter an OB/GYN’s take on the ruling:

As an OB/GYN I see six disastrous consequences of this decision:

1) The idea that religious beliefs of some are more important that the religious beliefs of others. Any woman wanting to use one of the 4 methods of contraception listed obviously doesn’t share the same beliefs as the closely held corporation who employs her. Why are her beliefs less important? Why can her place of employment push their religious beliefs (because a place of employment now has the rights of an individual) into the exam room? The First Amendment rights of women seeking health care are less important that the First Amendment rights of a corporation. Thank you Justice Alito for putting us in our place.

2) Legislating a belief over science. The 4 methods of contraception that Hobby Lobby takes issue with are Plan B, Ella, and the two IUDs, ParaGard and Mirena. We call these methods contraceptives not abortifacients because in science, unlike the Supreme Court, we like facts and facts tell us that these methods do not cause abortion (which is by definition the disruption of a pregnancy that is already implanted, no matter how early). But even if we take the evangelical definition of pregnancy (the wandering fertilized egg) we know for sure Plan B has no effect because it biochemically impossible for a progestin in that dose (or probably any dose) to prevent pregnancy by any definition, scientific or otherwise. The bulk of the medical evidence suggests that the two IUDs in the United States do not prevent a fertilized egg from implanting and the same goes for Ella. We can’t say with 100% accuracy because there is no easily accessible test to tell us that a fertilized egg is wandering aimlessly around the upper reproductive tract and so the information comes from indirect methods like studying the mechanisms of action in lab and animal models and studies that have looked at the time of the cycle that the method is used. Science is fact and apparently facts don’t matter to the Supreme Court. Good to know.

3) A slippery slope for other contraceptives. If you believe the untruth that Plan B (a progestin) causes abortion (by any definition, evangelical or scientific) then all hormonal contraceptives should be excluded for sexually active women as they all contain progestins. Quick start pill taking (starting the birth control pill the day you get them versus waiting for your period) is very common and improves compliance, however, if you share the magical belief that progestins could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting then all oral contraceptives have to go, otherwise every time a woman starts her pills mid cycle a baby might die (never mind the possibility of escape ovulation). Hey, if you want to pervert science you can go down any rabbit hole.

4) A slippery slope for other medical practices that infringe on religious beliefs. Vaccinations, psychiatric care, blood transfusions, and infertility care are all opposed by some religions. While Alito wrote that this decision is “very specific” meaning that it only applies to these four contraceptives in this specific situation, it is somewhat naive (or obtuse or insulting, depending on your perspective) to think that other groups might also have”sincerely held religious beliefs.” Justice Ginsberg voiced concerns about these broader implications in her dissent, after all there is real money to be saved in carving out health care based on what a religion allows. Since case-law is integral to the US legal system what is to stop a closely held corporation owned by a Jehovah’s Witness from suing to exclude transfusions and organ transplants? If the court were to say “no” to a Jehovah’s Witness corporation (as Alito’s statement implies) they would be saying that only evangelical Christian beliefs are important and only a woman’s reproduction deserves to be controlled.

5) That contraception isn’t really health care. This legislation fuels the belief that contraceptives are, to paraphrase that wordsmith Rush Limbaugh, “slut pills.” It perpetuates the idea that sex is wrong or only for procreation, when sex is a normal part of life and people who have active sex lives tend to be healthier and live longer. In addition, the benefits of contraception in the health and longevity for women is undisputed. According to the World Health Organization “Women’s and adolescents’ right to contraceptive information and services is grounded in basic human rights. Paying for contraception is no different from paying for vaccinations, diabetes care, or an appendectomy.

6) Restricting access to IUDs increases the risk of unplanned pregnancies and thus paradoxically the rate of abortion. As an IUD costs about $900 (or as Ginsberg pointed out, about a month’s salary for a minimum wage worker). IUDs are by far the most effective method of contraception and they have been shown to reduce the rate of abortions.  Fewer IUDs means more methods with higher failure rates.

The message from the five male justices of the Supreme Court who felt it was within their purview to opine on women’s health care yet ignore medical facts (which I hope was presented as evidence) is chilling. The religious beliefs of privately held corporations are definitely not insubstantial, but the rights of women most certainly are.

 

labor-union    The rights we enjoy today in Canada as workers and professionals were not given to us.  It was through determined, bloody at times, never-say-die, collective struggle that our rights as workers were imposed on the capitalist class.  Power never makes concessions – struggles for basic working benefits must be fought for and taken.  The price for humane working conditions can be as high as death or as in the case of Cleaning Workers Union in Greece, permanent disfigurement.

“Vassilis Kikilias, didn’t lose time. Less than an hour after he took office, riot police cracked down on a protest of the cleaning staff of the ministry of finance.

The protesters are more than 500 women of all ages and national backgrounds who were cleaning tax offices, the ministry of finance and customs services until a ministerial decree, fired them all indiscriminately and permanently.

The austerity rationale behind the decision was spurious because these women were not a fiscal burden – quite the contrary. The privatisation of cleaning services has increased the amount spent in order to keep public working spaces decently clean.”

Ah, there we go, the popular myth that privatization is solution to all problems in the public sector.  It usually isn’t when it comes to saving money as privatized services cost more and treat their employees badly; less pay, less benefits, less job security.  Embrace job insecurity! It is but one of the lovely intrinsic features of privatization of society and a necessary feature of the capitalist paradigm.

“The fate of these 500 women is nothing new in Greece; for years now, and especially since the financial crisis, workers have had to take to the streets to reclaim their rights.”

“Overall, privatising services and reverting to temporary contracts for workers has been associated with slavery-like conditions of labour exploitation.”

We must never forget the blood price paid by earlier generations to erect the bulwarks of labour protections against the capitalist tide.  People fought and died for what we consider “normal” working conditions.

“Kouneva, a trained historian, emigrated to Greece from Bulgaria in 2001, because of the financial troubles many countries in Eastern Europe were going through at the time.

In 2003 she was hired as a janitor by private company OIKOMET, which had a contract with the Athenian railway service. Seeing the conditions in which her colleagues were working (low and infrequent pay, lack of insurance, mistreatment), Kouneva entered the janitors union of Athens and soon became one of its leading figures.

From that moment on, she didn’t stop protesting working conditions, struggling for the rights of cleaning staff, who were often ignored by the main trade unions.

She ignored threats against her life and never regretted her decision to continue the fight for labour rights.

One night in December 2008, Konstantina Kouneva was attacked by two men while walking back home in downtown Athens. They threw sulfuric acid on her face and forced her to drink the rest in what could have been a fatal attack.”

What was her crime? Protesting for decent working conditions.  People need to realize the coercive power capital holds and guard against it regaining the sort of destructive influence observed in Greece.

“This doesn’t change the significance of the cleaners’ story: Fired from governmental institutions some of these women will be hired back at half of their original salaries, no insurance in some cases, and incapable to fight employer blackmail as employees.

This is what the austerity programme is all about.

A lot has been written about the high unemployment figures in Greece due to the crisis but there’s another aspect that affects the working population. Salaries drop, conditions worsen and the negotiating power of workers is annihilated.

500 women are continuing the struggle Konstantina Kouneva paid for with her health, fighting hard to keep the gates that lead to the precarious underclass, closed .

Despite the fact that they have already won their litigation against the Greek state, they are being constantly attacked by conservative politicians, the mainstream media, and riot police. Just recently they were brutally beaten again while trying to reach the finance ministry and demonstrate for, yet another day.”

People fighting for their lives while conservatives, the media and of course the police try to crush them.  This was commonplace here in North America not long ago and the conservative capitalist forces of today are doing their very best to erase the memory of workers popular struggle so they can continue to chip away at the hard fought rights and benefits we enjoy today.

[Source]

 

 

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