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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 11/01/2009 - 11/08/2009
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Friday, November 06, 2009

Carter, Goldstone and Gaza

once again, one of our foremost truth-tellers comes forward...

Goldstone and Gaza

Published: November 5, 2009

Judge Richard Goldstone and the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict have issued a report about Gaza that is strongly critical of both Israel and Hamas for their violations of human rights. On Wednesday, a special meeting of the U.N. General Assembly began a debate on whether to refer the report to the Security Council.

In January 2009 rudimentary rockets had been launched from Gaza toward nearby Jewish communities, and Israel had wreaked havoc with bombs, missiles, and ground invading forces. Judge Goldstone’s claim is that they are both guilty of “crimes against humanity.” Predictably, both the accused parties have denounced the report as biased and inaccurate.

It is good to remember that Judge Goldstone, from South Africa, is one of the world’s most widely respected jurists, with an impeccable record of wisdom, honesty and integrity. He is a devout Jew and has long been known as a fervent defender of Israel’s right to peace and security.

In April 2008 I personally visited Sderot and Ashkelon, Israeli communities near enough to have been hit by rockets fired from within Gaza. While there, I condemned these indiscriminate attacks on civilians as acts of terrorism, and I consider their condemnation by Judge Goldstone to be justified.

A year later, after the Israeli attack on Gaza, I was able to examine the damage done to the small and heavily populated area, surrounded by an impenetrable wall, with its gates tightly controlled. Knowing of the ability of Israeli forces, often using U.S. weapons, to strike targets with pinpoint accuracy, it was difficult to understand or explain the destruction of hospitals, schools, prisons, United Nations facilities, small factories and repair shops, agricultural processing plants and almost 40,000 homes.

The Goldstone committee examined closely the cause of deaths of the 1,387 Palestinians who perished, and the degree of damage to the various areas. The conclusion was that the civilian areas were targeted and the devastation was deliberate. Again, the criticism of Israel in the Goldstone report is justified.

He has called on the United States, Israel and others who dispute the accuracy of the report to conduct an independent investigation of their own. Hamas leaders have announced that their investigation is under way, but Israel has rejected Judge Goldstone’s request.

Putting this dispute aside, it is important to examine present circumstances and the need to prevent further suffering. The rocket fire from Gaza is now being severely restrained, perhaps because of the certainty of Israeli retaliation, but the punishment of the 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza continues. Now and for the past 10 months, Israel has not permitted cement, lumber, panes of glass, or other building materials to pass their entry points into Gaza. Several hundred thousand homeless people suffered through last winter in a few tents, under plastic sheets, or huddled in caves dug into the debris of their former homes. The weather was warmer when I was there several months later, but the description of suffering through the winter cold was heartbreaking.

Another winter is now approaching, and neither the Israelis nor the international community has taken steps to alleviate the Gazans’ plight. United Nations agencies and leaders in the European community have offered to provide an avenue of channeling funds and building materials directly to the people in need, completely bypassing the Hamas political leaders. These officials, both in Gaza and in Damascus, have assured me that they would accept this arrangement.

There would be no chance for the misuse of such assistance for weapons, military fortifications, or other non-humanitarian purposes.

I was informed recently by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia that he has pledged $1 billion, and other Arab leaders have added an additional $300 million for this purpose. There is little doubt that other nations would also be generous.

Without ascribing blame to either of the disputing parties, it is imperative that the United States and the international community take steps to assure that the rebuilding of Gaza be commenced, and without delay. The cries of homeless and freezing people demand relief.

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981 and is a member of the Elders.

bless jimmy carter...

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Auschwitz-Birkenau: the incredible banality of pure evil

today i visited the auschwitz-birkenau extermination camp... i had visited dachau a number of years ago but the scale and number of the deaths at auschwitz-birkenau were beyond imaginable...


the staggering number of victims...
Auschwitz Concentration Camp was set up for Poles, and Poles were the first political prisoners there. The number of prisoners grew steadily as a result of the constant arrival of new transports. In 1940, nearly 8 thousand people were registered in the camp. Almost all of them were Poles. There were also small numbers of Jews and Germans in the camp. At that time, the latter usually held supervisory functions as capos and block supervisors.

In 1941, over 26 thousand people were registered in Auschwitz (about 15 thousand Poles, 10 thousand Soviet POWs, and more than 1 thousand Jews).

As a result of the inclusion of Auschwitz in the process of the mass extermination of the Jews, the number of deportees began to soar. About 197 thousand Jews were deported there in 1942, about 270 thousand the following year, and over 600 thousand in 1944, for a total of almost 1.1 million. Among them, about 200 thousand people were selected as capable of labor and registered as prisoners in the camp.

In this same period, from 1942 to 1944, about 160 thousand Poles, Gypsies, Byelorussians, Ukrainians, French, and others were registered as prisoners and given numbers. There were also more than 10 thousand people, mostly Poles, Soviet POWs, and Gypsies, not entered in the camp records or given numbers.

The mass deportation of Jews to Auschwitz that began in 1942 radically changed the makeup of the prisoner population. After three months of deportation, in mid-1942, Jews already made up the most numerous ethnic group, and their share of the population rose steadily from about 46% in June 1942 to about 68% at the peak of the camp’s population, in August 1944. A total of about 400 thousand prisoners were registered: 195 thousand non-Jews and 205 thousand Jews.




1.1 million


140-150 thousand


23 thousand

Soviet POWs

15 thousand


25 thousand


Approx. 1.3 million
































Approx. 400,000

here's a video clip i took today at auschwitz...

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U.S. extraordinary rendition takes a hit in Italian courts

why should the italians have a stronger sense of justice than u.s. courts...?
An Italian court sentenced 23 former CIA agents to up to eight years in prison yesterday for their role in the abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect in the first trial relating to “extraordinary renditions”.

The Americans were all tried in absentia, but the verdicts were hailed by human rights campaigners as a victory that could open the way to further prosecutions. Two agents of the Italian military intelligence agency Sismi were sentenced to three years each.

None of the convicted CIA agents is in Italy, and successive Italian governments have refused to ask for their extradition. Robert Seldon Lady, the former CIA station chief in Milan, was given an eight-year sentence while 22 other agents received five years each. Classed under Italian law as “fugitives”, all were represented by Italian lawyers who had little or no contact with their clients.

at least SOMEONE thinks there should be accountability for extraordinary rendition... too bad it's italy and not our own courts...

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Eugene Robinson on the desperate slowness of Obama's "change" "change

and i think the jury is still out on whether we're witnessing any real "change" at all or whether, in fact, we ever will...
Like many people who desperately want to see the country take a more progressive course, I quibble and quarrel with some of President Obama's actions. I wish he'd been tougher on Wall Street, quicker to close Guantanamo, more willing to investigate Bush-era excesses, bolder in seeking truly universal health care. I wish he could summon more of the rhetorical magic that spoke so compellingly to the better angels of our nature.

But he's a president, not a Hollywood action hero.

yeah, ok, eugene... i concede he's not a hollywood action hero, but.............. when our country has been brought as low as it has to the extent that people - and i'm one of them - have begun to despair of it's ever being made right, maybe an action hero is what we need...besides, when i see obama deliberately continuing some of the very worse abuses of the previous administration, it's very hard for me to hold on to any hope for this president...

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Abdullah's withdrawal


from al jazeera...

juan cole...
Matthew Green of the FT, reporting from Kabul, suggests that Abdullah Abdullah may still be open to a post in Hamid Karzai's cabinet. That outcome is not impossible given Afghanistan's mercurial politics. But it seems to me unlikely, since Abdullah is accusing his rival in the country's presidential contest, Hamid Karzai, of having attempted to steal the Aug. 20 election, and of running interference for corrupt members of the electoral commission. The reason Abdullah gave for pulling out of the race, that the elections were not going to be conducted transparently, is more of a thunderous condemnation than a coy offering of himself as a cabinet member. Still, Euronews also notes that Abdullah has not ruled out playing a role in a national unity government.

i chatted online this morning with a couple of afghan friends... the consensus seems to be that abdullah pulled out because he knew he was going to lose... one friend said that she was planning to vote for karzai even tho' she hates him just to keep abdullah from winning... the other friend said he wasn't planning to vote at all nor did he vote in the first round... he just sees it as choice between two different piles of shit...

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

All Saints' Day by Night at Powązki Cemetery, Warsaw

we took a walk through warsaw's powązki cemetery this evening and, i must say, it was quite a sight... it was ablaze with candles and packed with people... some of the graves of the famous were literally aflame... i've never seen anything quite like it... here's a link to an article and some photos of this unusual all saint's day celebration...
Poles celebrate the All Saints' Day in unusually solemn way. The cemeteries and graveyards are decorated with candles, flowers and wreaths through the day and they shine through the night.

here's my video of the scene taken earlier this evening...

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