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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

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September 2011

AJE : Meltdown

In the first episode of Meltdown, we hear about four men who brought down the global economy: a billionaire mortgage-seller who fooled millions; a high-rolling banker with a fatal weakness; a ferocious Wall Street predator; and the power behind the throne.

The crash of September 2008 brought the largest bankruptcies in world history, pushing more than 30 million people into unemployment and bringing many countries to the edge of insolvency. Wall Street turned back the clock to 1929.

But how did it all go so wrong?

Lack of government regulation; easy lending in the US housing market meant anyone could qualify for a home loan with no government regulations in place.

Also, London was competing with New York as the banking capital of the world. Gordon Brown, the British finance minister at the time, introduced ‘light touch regulation’ – giving bankers a free hand in the marketplace.

All this, and with key players making the wrong financial decisions, saw the world’s biggest financial collapse.

Meltdown is a four-part investigation that takes a closer look at the people who brought down the financial world. It can be seen on Al Jazeera English from Tuesday, September 20, at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2000; Wednesday: 1200; Thursday: 0100; Friday: 0600; Saturday: 2000; Sunday: 1200; Monday: 0100; Tuesday: 0600.

Click on image

Mourning, outrage, disbelief over woman’s mutilation in Syria

By Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
September 23, 2011 — Updated 2031 GMT (0431 HKT)
Zainab Alhusni, 19, turned up beheaded and dismembered after Syrian security forces whisked her away.
Zainab Alhusni, 19, turned up beheaded and dismembered after Syrian security forces whisked her away.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • “They killed the rose Zainab,” protesters’ placards say
  • Zainab Alhusni’s death is called “appalling” by the United Nations
  • The woman was seized to get at her brother, many say

(CNN) — A young woman whisked away by Syrian security forces to coax the surrender of her activist brother turned up beheaded and dismembered, activists and human rights groups say, yet another high-profile display of cruelty in the conflict-wracked nation.

Nineteen-year-old Zainab Alhusni stepped away from her Homs residence last month to buy groceries.

Her family never saw her again until security forces returned her mutilated corpse, two opposition activist groups operating inside Syria and Amnesty International told CNN.

As reports of the torture sparked outrage across Homs and the rest of the world, amateur video surfaced of dozens of woman protesting the death.

“They killed the rose Zainab,” their placards said.

“If it is confirmed that Zainab was in custody when she died, this would be one of the most disturbing cases of a death in detention we have seen so far,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The case also drew the antipathy of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which characterized the incident as “appalling” and as one example of the “targeting and attacking of families and sympathizers of the protesters by security forces.”

The ferocious Syrian government crackdown against dissenters began in mid-March when anti-government protests unfolded. The number of people killed over the past six months has reached at least 2,700, according to the U.N. human rights office. Some activist groups put the toll at around 3,000.

Zainab’s brother Mohammed Alhusni — a prominent opposition activist praised by colleagues for leading anti-government protests and treating the wounded — had been evading authorities for weeks when his sister disappeared, said the Homs Quarters Union, an activist group.

“The secret police kidnapped Zainab so they could threaten her brother and pressure him to turn himself in to the authorities. The government often uses this tactic to get to activists,” a union media coordinator told CNN.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an activist group, said security forces called Zainab’s family to trade her “freedom for her pro-democracy activist brother’s surrender,” LCC said.

Mohammed Alhusni was eventually slain on September 10, when security forces fired on demonstrators in Homs.

When the family retrieved Mohammed’s body from a Homs military hospital, medical officials told relatives about another unclaimed body with the label “Zainab Alhusni” that had been kept in a hospital freezer for some time.

Days later, Zainab’s family received the woman’s headless and limbless corpse, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Amnesty International and the Homs Quarters Union said.

The Homs Quarters Union provided a video to CNN showing the pale trunk of a female body beside a detached head with long black hair among dismembered limbs.

Authorities forced Zainab’s mother to sign a document saying both Zainab and Mohammad had been kidnapped and killed by an armed gang, Amnesty International said in an online statement.

Syrian authorities could not be reached for comment on the Alhusni case. The Syrian government has maintained that armed gangs with foreign agendas, not the regime, are responsible for the violence that has plagued the Arab country for months.

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video, the claims, or the death toll because the government has repeatedly denied requests for journalists to report inside Syria.

Video hard to watch here

Nobody Can Predict The Moment Of Revolution ( Occupy Wall Street )

[youtube http://youtu.be/OwWInp75ua0?]

Nobody mentions  the billions dished out to Israel

Livestream here

Obama: America’s ‘first Jewish president’?

After the president’s speech to the UN, our senior analyst wonders why US leaders continue to pander to a foreign power.
Marwan Bishara Last Modified: 22 Sep 2011 18:23
Barack Obama has become even more pro-Israel than George W Bush, analyst argues [GALLO/GETTY]

Obama is the “the first Jewish President”. That’s the title of New York magazine’s lead article, written by John Heilemann and quoting a major Obama fundraiser.

Listening to Obama speak at the United Nations on Wednesday many would nod in agreement, not less in Palestine and the Arab world.

The US president has embraced the rejectionist Israeli position on the question of international recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

But that’s not a Jewish position. It’s a radical Zionist position. Many Jews, including US and Israeli Jews, do not embrace such extremist views.

But the fact that Obama surpassed his predecessor George W Bush, the most radical supporter of Israel among all US Presidents, has left everyone in Israel dumbstruck. The latest Zionist US president sounded like Israel’s own founding fathers.

Never have they heard a US president read straight from the papers of the Israeli government.

Propaganda passes for history

That he would underline, not undermine, his own words uttered in Cairo a year and a half ago about the need for Israel to stop its illegal settlements in Palestine.You would think after six decades of dispossession, four decades of occupation and two decades of peace processes that President Obama would recognise a political and moral discrepancy that needs fixing.

That he would underline, not undermine his own projection – read promise – from the same podium last September of a Palestinian state within a year, meaning this week.

That he would underline, not undermine, his own rhetoric about freedom in the Arab region.

Or that he would underline, not undermine, his own opening emphasis about a peace based on withdrawal, not more of the same logic of war.

Alas, President Obama undermined his entire “change we can believe in” slogan.

His narrative is inspired by the worst of Israel’s official propaganda. Indeed, much of it is cut and pasted from their playbook.

He spoke of historical “facts” that have long been repudiated by Israeli historians, and of truths that are nothing more than one sided interpretations of a political situation.

Obama claimed that the Arabs launched wars against Israel. But, in actual fact, Israel is the aggressor, launching or instigating wars in: 1956, 1967, 1982, 2006 and 2008. Only the 1973 war was launched by Arabs, but only to recuperate occupied territories after the US and Israel rejected Anwar Sadat’s peace overtures.

He underlined the work of Israelis in forging a successful state in their “historic homeland”. But most of the world, and certainly the Arab world, saw Israel’s inception as a colonial project with theological pretexts.

Serbia also believes that Kosovo is the birth place of its nation; should they be allowed to forge a successful state of their own, an exclusively Serbian state in that territory?

Should each and every occupied people search from accommodation with their occupiers without interference from the international community? Is that how African and Middle Eastern nations gained their independence from European colonial powers?

Should a whole people go on living under occupation until their occupier is satisfied with the conditions for surrender?

It’s politics, stupid

Every other commentator in town would like to remind you not to expect much action from a US president on Israel during an election year.

As Heilemann illustrates in his article, Obama’s career was built on his relationships with generous Jewish contributors in Chicago.

Indeed, the guy who brought the most money to the Democratic party over the last several decades became Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel. Today, he’s the mayor of Chicago.

But it’s not only about money. It’s also about crucial support in Congress over urgent domestic issues that could make or break the Obama presidency. And the Israeli lobby, AIPAC, can make the president’s life miserable over the course of the next year.

Now, I understand all of that. But what I don’t understand is why it is accepted as a fait accompli! As the nature of politics! Take it or leave it!

If this is the case, then let’s at least call a spade a spade; and out the US administration(s) for being what so many seem to say it is: Not Jewish or Zionist, rather hypocritical.

It speaks of justice but pursues unfair policies; speaks of repression, but promotes its own interests at any cost. It preaches freedom but supports occupation; speaks of human rights but insists on entrusting the wolf, and only the wolf, with the hen house.

The joke is on everyone

Why should the Palestinians be held victims to US politics while being held hostage to Israeli politics for the last six decades. Why should most Israelis continue to live in a garrison state incapable of normalising relations with their neighbors?

Why should Americans watch as their politicians are held hostage to a foreign power and its influential supporters?

The pro-Israeli Jewish lobby, J Street, commented on the alarming pandering to Israel not only among Democrats but also Republicans, saying: “There’s no limit, it seems, to how far American politicians will go these days in pandering on Israel for political gain.”

While there has been strategic logic for the US support for Israel in the past, Washington’s current pandering makes little sense.

Washington has long used its influence with Israel as strategic leverage to reign in Arab leaders. Only Washington can restrain Israel in war and wring concessions in diplomacy, Arab leaders once reckoned.

But the dictators who either exploited Palestine to garner popular support at home, or bartered it in return for Western favours, belong to the past.

Today’s Arabs are bitter and angry at US-Israeli complicity in Palestine and they won’t be as easily bounded or bribed as their fallen dictatorships.

Marwan Bishara is Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst. He was previously a professor of International Relations at the American University of Paris. An author who writes extensively on global politics, he is widely regarded as a leading authority on the Middle East and international affairs.

Libya: Mazin Qumsiyeh – “Western powers have interests in Libya,”

[youtube http://youtu.be/Ro6Fde6kB7g?]

Family rejects Syria ‘spy confession’

[youtube http://youtu.be/TIqUZJWtZM8?]
A clip on al Jazeera English showing the family of the “Israeli spy” that Syrian television paraded on air. Apparently he was instrumental in the killing of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbullah’s man, a few years back. I think the Syrian claims are nonsense on stilts, as are all their on-air “confessions”. Somebody should tell them that these things went out of fashion around the time that Stalin died.

source

Fathers And Son- My personal disillusionment story

A rare glimpse from inside the prison: father and son al-Abdallah

When Bashar al-Assad came to power, Mohammad al-Abdallah believed things in Syria would finally change for good. Ten years later, he tells the story of a personal disillusionment.

By Mohammad al-Abdallah


Bashar Al-Assad has now been in power for 10 years. To me, that period equates to the length of time that members of my family and I have spent in Syrian prisons.

From the initial hope that accompanied his ascendance to the country’s presidency to this bitter realization a decade later, Syrians have undergone spiraling feelings of disappointment.

When Assad succeeded his father, Hafez, like many other Syrians I was hopeful that an era of change was dawning. We hoped that the new millennium would bring to an end the dark years of the father’s ruthless rule, when prisoners of conscience could die from torture in detention. But the years that followed showed me how misplaced my optimism was.

In the first year of Assad’s presidency, the Syrians experienced briefly the euphoria of change. The country witnessed an overwhelming number of forums of discussion, planning democratic reform. However, this period, which came to be known as the “Damascus Spring”, was swiftly crushed by the authorities. As the whole world was shaken by the terrorist attacks of 11 September in New York, the Syrian government was busy arresting opponents to the ruling Baath regime. Ten of Syria’s most prominent intellectuals were thrown behind bars for peacefully calling for reforms.

Still, many hoped that they would be released soon. They thought the arrests were the making of the autocratic old guards of the regime. They believed that the young president, who wanted to implement reform and change, would eventually grow stronger and defeat the conservatives.

The Iraq War As Alibi

In the years that followed, we realized that nothing had changed. The calls for democracy and freedom of expression continued to be stifled. Yet Assad was still able to convince the Syrians that he was a reformist president who needed more time to accomplish his vision.

The fall of Saddam in Iraq had strong repercussions in Syria.

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 gave him another alibi to delay the implementation of reforms. The so-called existential threat against the Syrian establishment after the crumbling of the Baath regime in Iraq allowed the president to justify the prolongation of oppression on the internal front.

Two years later, a dramatic regional development extended this policy. With the 2005 assassination of Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, widely blamed on Damascus, Syria officially entered a phase of international isolation. Western powers forced the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international tribunal into the killing of Hariri placed the regime under a sword of Damocles.

It was in this context, in my opinion, that the president showed his tyrannical face. That year was a dramatic time for Syrians, and mainly for my family. My father was arrested in May 2005 for his activities in the Atassi forum, the only space for political discussion that had survived the crackdown on forums in 2001.

A Family Under Arrest

I also went to prison a few months later for merely lobbying for the release of my father. I was released by a military court after a month in detention.

My father was also set free six months after his arrest thanks to a presidential amnesty. I naively believed this would be the end of our ordeals. Little did I know.

Less than half a year later, Assad decided to end the phase of relative tolerance for political dissidents. The secret services were given a green light to crush human rights activists. The message was clear to the Syrians: if you keep on raising your voices, you will end up in jail.

Subsequently, 2006 turned out to be one of the gloomiest years for civil society – and my family, in particular. In one week, all the men in my family were arrested and kept in unknown locations.

My brother was arrested with seven of his college classmates for running an online forum. Five days later, the security services arrested my father and me in two separate raids.

An aerial view of Sednaya Prison (by Google Earth)

It took me five weeks to find my father in the Sednaya military prison near Damascus. He had not been aware of my arrest. My brother was also in the same prison; each of us was on a different floor. I was in a nasty cell two floors underground, my brother was on the floor above me and my father was on the second floor.

After my reunion with my father, we asked to see my brother but the prison insisted that he was not in the same detention centre.

My father and I spent 18 days together in this jail before security agents dressed in civilian clothes transferred us to the Adra prison. There I met 10 other activists who were detained for signing the Damascus-Beirut declaration, a joint statement by Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals calling for the improvement of relations between the two neighboring countries.

I was finally convinced that nothing had really changed between the times of the father and those of the son. We were still living in a dictatorship.

New Waves Of Crackdown

While some analysts might argue that the invasion of Iraq and the assassination of Hariri put the regime at risk and pushed Assad’s government to adopt a hawkish, defensive posture, the relaxation of relations with the west since 2007 proves that this line of analysis is flawed.

As French and US officials poured into Damascus, Assad felt reassured that his regime was no longer in danger. Civil society expected a release of prisoners and reforms to finally ensue. Nothing of the sort happened. New waves of crackdown on activists followed as the US and Europe watched in silence.

After the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, Syria became internationally isolated.


Following my release with my father after six and-a-half months in prison, I tried in vain to visit my brother in jail. Defendants tried by the State Security Court have no right to visits by family or even a lawyer before they are sentenced.

Without seeing my brother, I had to leave for Lebanon where I finished law school. All along, something inside was telling me that I would not go back home.

During my exile in Lebanon, I heard that my father, along with 11 other political dissidents, had been arrested again. This marked the point of no return for me. I applied for refugee status at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, in Beirut. For me the word refugee sounded strange. I had never thought before that my country would push me to become one.

Ironically, despite all the ordeals of human rights activists in Syria, I see the first lady, Asma al-Assad, with her camera-friendly looks, telling the western world that the government is trying “to open more space for civil society.” I don’t know why, but every time I see her photogenic face, I remember my mother lying in a hospital bed suffering from kidney disease, heart problems and cancer. She is alone in her hospital room while her husband is in jail, her son is in another prison and her eldest is in exile.

Recently, Assad celebrated his first decade in power. A month earlier, my family was preparing to celebrate for other reasons. On June 17, my father was supposed to be set free after 30 months in prison. The government, however, decided to keep him instead in the same jail where he is facing again the same charges that had led to his imprisonment for a total of four years after three different trials. The charges are the “broadcast of false information that threaten to weaken the national sentiment”.

Can those who argue that Assad is a true reformer look me and my family in the eyes and say so?

Mohammad al-Abdallah is a Syrian human rights activist and writer living currently in Washington DC.

The original article is available at The Damascus Bureau @ http://www.damascusbureau.org/?p=1129

Troy Davis’ Last Words Before He Was Put To Death



By Bossip Staff

September 22, 2011 “Bossip” —  As he lay dying in a Georgia prison, Troy Davis had a few words to say to his alleged victim’s family.

Strapped to the lethal-injection gurney, Davis lifted his head and looked at the MacPhail family, and said, “The incident that night was not my fault, I did not have a gun. … I did not personally kill your son, father and brother. I am innocent.”

He then said for “those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls.”

When Davis addressed members of the MacPhail family who witnessed the execution, they said nothing, but did not look away.

SMH. While he remained hopeful that those protesting on his behalf yesterday might be successful in convincing the state of Georgia to spare his life, Troy Davis revealed to his supporters that he had made peace with his fate.


Troy’s final letter to his supporters.

To All:

I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.

As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.

I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist.

So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.

I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing,

“I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!”

Never Stop Fighting for Justice and We will Win!

Initial Development Trailer: Some of My Best Friends Are Zionists

I haven’t see this till now; apparently it’s been up on Vimeo for three months, a trailer for a documentary-in-progress on Jews escaping the blinders of Zionism, by Bruce Robbins and Jeff Boyar. Initial Development Trailer: “Some of My Best Friends Are Zionists.” I want to believe scholar Robbins is a tipping-point figure. Has he held forth against Zionism before?

The trailer features Judith Butler, Alisa Solomon, Tony Kushner, James Schamus, and Jerry Koenig of the Forward. Also Columbia’s Robbins, and Alan Sokal who I gather was once a star in the neoconstellation. Now I wonder why Koenig’s common-sense awareness in my headline, quoted below, is not reflected in the Forward every week?

Bruce Robbins of Columbia: going to Israel was worse than he had imagined; he saw the wall encircling the Palestinians and thought of the Warsaw Ghetto. Robbins focuses on the water supply, and the horrifying fact that all the Palestinian buildings have water tanks, because the Palestinians in occupation have no control over their water.

Schamus: Ideologies are malleable. Yes he grew up with Zionism, but the whole deal with an ideology is that you get to abandon it or move on…

“Something’s terribly wrong here and Israel has much to account for in this…” says Tony Kushner.  And the accusation that by saying as much you are going to destroy Israel– “This is bullshit.”

“It’s gone so far afield now, I don’t know… we’ve made decisions not to visit the country because it would be so uncomfortable” — Jerry Koenig, the advertising director for the Forward.

Butler: You cannot produce a state based on the rights of some refugees and create, in 1948, another 750,000. So: honor the rights of all refugees.

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