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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 03/21/2010 - 03/28/2010
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Something very interesting out of the UAE

the guys sitting on top of that much money don't just suddenly have their gliders go down in a lake and disappear... there's a really rotten smell coming from this story and i ain't buyin' a word of it...
The United Arab Emirates state news agency says the head of Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund — the world's largest — is missing after his glider crashed in Morocco.

The official Emirates News Agency said that Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan's glider went down in a lake in Morocco on Friday. The pilot of the aircraft was rescued in good condition, but authorities continued the search for Al Nahyan.

Al Nahyan is the managing director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. He is also the younger brother of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the leader of the United Arab Emirates.

if abu dhabi, dubai and the uae hadn't recently taken such a giant financial drubbing, a story like this would still raise significant doubts but, given recent developments, the odor is overpowering...

and you gotta believe ahmed's disappearance has some connection to the drama that's being played out between dubai and abu dhabi...

Dubai said on Thursday it would recapitalize Dubai World DBWLD.UL and repay property unit Nakheel's bonds in full, with $9.5 billion of aid in a debt offer that would promise creditors all their money back in up to eight years.

The Dubai government said $5.7 billion in funds from a previous loan made by Abu Dhabi would provide the lion's share of the funding, and that Dubai would add around $4 billion of its own resources.

Analysts had expected Abu Dhabi to step in with more cash.


Abu Dhabi gave Dubai $10 billion late last year in a two-part bailout made up of $5 billion from Abu Dhabi-linked banks in November and another $5 billion from the government.


British historian Christopher Davidson said Dubai's indebtedness to Abu Dhabi may dent its political clout in the UAE. The constitution divides power between the two emirates equally, with decisions on substantive issues requiring the support of both. The smaller emirates have less sway.


"One concern is that is nobody knows the full extent of the debt of Dubai," Davidson said. "Abu Dhabi can't sign a blank cheque, it doesn't have unlimited resources itself. It can't underwrite Dubai completely."

these people don't play nice and a great deal goes on that's shrouded in family secrecy... there have been a lot of enemies made, most of whom were either bought off or summarily disposed of...

i posted on this back in april of last year...

A video tape smuggled out of the United Arab Emirates shows a member of the country's royal family mercilessly torturing a man with whips, electric cattle prods and wooden planks with protruding nails.

A man in a UAE police uniform is seen on the tape tying the victim's arms and legs, and later holding him down as the Sheikh pours salt on the man's wounds and then drives over him with his Mercedes SUV.

In a statement to ABC News, the UAE Ministry of the Interior said it had reviewed the tape and acknowledged the involvement of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, brother of the country's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed.

"The incidents depicted in the video tapes were not part of a pattern of behavior," the Interior Ministry's statement declared.

but hey...! it's all in the family, right...?

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Iceland may become investigative journalism haven spurred by surveillance campaign against Wikileaks

if this can be pulled off, it would be major cool...

here's some of the scoop... read more at raw story...

In an extraordinary editorial, the whistleblower site WikiLeaks has demanded that the United States "stop spying" on its operations.

"Over the last few years, WikiLeaks has been the subject of hostile acts by security organizations," founder Julian Assange writes. "We've become used to the level of security service interest in us and have established procedures to ignore that interest. But the increase in surveillance activities this last month, in a time when we are barely publishing due to fundraising, are excessive."

On Tuesday evening, followers of the WikiLeaks Twitter feed were startled to read, "WikiLeaks is currently under an aggressive US and Icelandic surveillance operation." This was followed a few minutes later by "If anything happens to us, you know why: it is our Apr 5 film. And you know who is responsible." A succeeding message warned, "We have airline records of the State Dep/CIA tails. Don't think you can get away with it. You cannot. This is WikiLeaks."

Friday's editorial finally fills in the background of those cryptic messages. Assange apparently believes that his group is under close surveillance by US intelligence because of its planned release of "a classified U.S. military video showing civilian kills by U.S. pilots" under the command of General David Petraeus.

Most of the incidents that he cites, however, have occurred in Iceland, where WikiLeaks representatives have been holding discussions with members of the Icelandic parliament about the possibility of turning that nation into a haven for investigative journalism.

we need more people like assange out there, particularly as our super-rich elites and their government stooges move to grab more and more control over information flow...

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You can say a lot of things about China

both positively and negatively, but you can't deny the country never hesitates to invest in its future...
A new high-speed rail link between two inland Chinese cities has cut travel times so dramatically that all competing air services on the route have been suspended, state media said.

The suspension of flights between the industrial city of Zhengzhou and Xian, home of the Terracotta Warriors, came just 48 days after the express train began operations, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

The 505 km (314 miles) line, on which trains run at a top speed of 350 km per hour, has cut the travel time between the two cities from more than six hours to less than two, the report said. By contrast, flying takes just over an hour. Xian's airport is located at least an hour away by road from the city.

Before the new line opened, Joy Air, one of the domestic airlines flying the route, managed to sell an average of more than 60 percent of seats for the route, Xinhua said.

Zhengzhou airport confirmed that all flights to and from Xian had now stopped, the report added.

China is spending billions of dollars on a network of high-speed rail links, including one from Beijing to the country's financial capital Shanghai, posing a challenge to airlines which had profited from China's vast size and slow roads and trains.

By 2012, China would have more than 13,000 km of high-speed lines, Xinhua said.

"By then, 60 percent of China's domestic air market will be affected by the high-speed railways," Liu Chaoyong, general manager of China Eastern Airlines, was quoted as saying.

meanwhile, we in the u.s. continue to dither about amtrak subsidies, tolerate one of the most sub-standard inter-city bus systems in the world and pump endless rivers of cash into highway systems that only breed dependency on the automobile and discourage any investment in public transportation... is the u.s. a great country or what...?

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The big telecoms and ISP's really do care for the common good? HA!

in an editorial dated 21 march, the wapo opined that...
" is curious that the FCC's newly released National Broadband Plan faults the market for failing to 'bring the power and promise of broadband to us all'..."

i responded that i didn't find it "curious" at all, given that the massive telecom and isp providers in the u.s. have been milking their customers for many years, charging higher and higher access fees with precious little increases in speed with the result that the u.s. ranks a humiliating #29 in the world in download speeds...

choosing to not cite such statistics, the wapo went on to make the false claim that...

[B]roadband networks have been built with billions of dollars from companies in the private sector with a legitimate right to extract profit from well-placed investments. These initiatives -- and yes, the profit motive -- have resulted in remarkable leaps in a few short years.

and then added this disclaimer...
It is useful to continue to mark America's standing in these matters in comparison to that of other nations. But it is hard to see in this field the signs of gross market failure.

now i notice that, since i read the editorial, the wapo has deigned to add a bit of disclosure to the piece...
(Disclosure: The Washington Post Co. has interests in broadcast and cable television and businesses that depend on the Internet, all of which could be affected by FCC action.)


i don't think the washington post has ever met a greedy corporation it didn't like... taking precious op-ed space to attempt to convince the citizenry that u.s. corporations have our best interests at heart, particularly with the slow-motion financial train wreck that's still in progress, is disingenuous at best...

fortunately, we now have this to show us just how much of a shit for the common good these large corporations really do give...

One of the nation's biggest telecommunications providers urged the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday not to assert its authority over Internet services, a challenge that comes as the agency embarks on a 10-year effort to greatly expand broadband access across the country.

Verizon Communications said that the FCC's power over high-speed Internet services is "at best murky" and offered recommendations to Congress that could take away much of the agency's power.

ya gotta love verizon... they don't want anybody tellin' 'em what to do or interfering in any way with their ability to suck the last dime out of their customers' pockets...

i can't speak for the advantages and disadvantages of re-classifying the internet as a common carrier... i do know that, for all practical purposes, at least where i'm concerned, it already is... i rarely use any other means of communication and that's not to mention the myriad other functions my laptop serves... in my view, the internet should be treated as the primary means of communication and as an inherent right, much as telephones and television are, both technologies that have already been largely subsumed by internet technology...

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Some info on the buying of elections by our corporatocracy

moveon's right... transparency alone won't cut it...
Democrats in Congress have proposed a bill intended to stop the flood of corporate money into elections. This is an incredibly urgent issue since the Supreme Court legalized unlimited political spending by big corporations.

Unfortunately, this bill would require most corporations to only report how many millions they spend. History shows that transparency alone won't stop big corporations from buying our elections.

We put together this chart make the point. If enough people understand why a "transparency-only" plan won't work, we can convince Congress to push for a stronger bill, like the Fair Elections Now Act.

the moveon chart...

(click on chart for larger image)

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The "recovery" marches on

to a new record low...
Sales of newly built U.S. single-family homes fell for a fourth straight month to a record low in February, a government report showed on Wednesday, heightening fears of renewed weakness in the housing market.

The Commerce Department said sales fell 2.2 percent to a 308,000 unit annual rate from an upwardly revised 315,000 units in January.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected new home sales to edge up to a 320,000 unit annual pace from January's previously reported 309,000 units.

The data came on the heels of report on Tuesday showing existing home sales fell for a third straight month in February and a jump in the supply of houses on the market.


Sales have barely responded to the extension and expansion of a popular tax credit, which boosted purchases in the second half of 2009, raising concerns over the fragile housing market's recovery just as a key pillar of support is being dismantled.

The Federal Reserve will end purchases of mortgage-related securities next week, which had lowered the cost of home loans to record lows.

just wait 'til commercial real estate collapses...

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Netanyahu visits Obama while flipping off the U.S. yet again

you can't tell me israel's timing isn't carefully calculated...
Israel Approves Controversial New Building Plan As Netanyahu Visits Obama

The Jerusalem municipality has approved 20 new apartments for Jews in east Jerusalem, the city said Wednesday. The move could stir a new diplomatic crisis with the United States just as Israel's leader is in Washington on a fence-mending visit.

The Obama administration views Israeli building in east Jerusalem, the part of the city claimed by Palestinians as their future capital, as disruptive to Mideast peacemaking efforts. Israel, which captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, insists the city cannot be divided and says it has the right to build anywhere.

The differences over east Jerusalem erupted into a crisis earlier this month when Israel announced during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden that it plans to build 1,600 new apartments for Jews in east Jerusalem.

Israel has apologized for the poor timing of the announcement but rejected calls to cancel the project. In Washington this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a pro-Israel audience that Israel was determined to keep building in all of Jerusalem -- a statement quickly rejected by the White House.

Netanyahu met twice with President Barack Obama on Tuesday in an attempt to defuse what has become the countries' worst spat in decades. But Wednesday's announcement by Jerusalem city officials threatened to derail any progress.

The new project -- funded by Jewish American millionaire Irving Moskowitz, a longtime patron of Jewish settler groups -- calls for tearing down part of an old hotel, the Shepherd, and building 20 apartments and a three-level underground parking lot instead.

Word of the approval was leaked to an Israeli Web site minutes before Netanyahu met with Obama at the White House on Tuesday.

a bit more on the settlements...
The building and populating of Jewish settlements within Palestinian inhabited areas of East Jerusalem, as well as the construction of the Separation Wall that divides Palestinians residing in Jerusalem from those living outside the city, in the West Bank, are integral elements of Israel's attempt to fragment the Palestinian population in Jerusalem.

Israeli non-profit associations, such as Elad and the Ateret Cohanim, have been responsible for the settlement construction on lands confiscated by the Israeli government, with the substantial financial support of foreign tycoons, including, most notably, American millionaire Irving Moskowitz.

a little bit more on irving moskowitz...
Dr. Irving I. Moskowitz (born 1928, New York City) is a Florida-based businessman and philanthropist, who built a fortune running hospitals and legal gambling in California. He is the founder of the eponymous "Moskowitz Foundation" which claims to help victims of natural disasters. The foundation raises funds for contentious Israeli settlements in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem projects through its "charity" bingo hall in Hawaiian Gardens, California.


Among notable Zionist activities, is the foundation help to Shinlung immigration to Israel. The family also established the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism in 2008.

meanwhile, all the movers and shakers as well as the mover and shaker wannabes in the middle east both in and out of the region should really stop and consider how fortunes in that part of the world have shifted over the centuries...

here's a youtube clip, courtesy of juan cole, that shows the amazing number of empires that have come and gone in the middle east over the past 5,000 years...

let's hope that the pair obama seems to have grown over the health care debate carries over to netanyahu and israel...

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Britain decides to do a little Israel ass-kicking

good on the uk...
Britain is to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged UK passports by the killers of a senior Hamas official in January.

The foreign secretary, David Miliband, will make a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, blaming Israeli intelligence for the cloning of passports belonging to British citizens. The documents were carried by an assassination team that killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.

British officials said Miliband would "request" the immediate departure of an Israeli diplomat. They said they "expect the request will be honoured".

"We think they mucked around with our passports, and we believe that requires consequences," an official said.

diplomat expulsion is a time-honored means to show serious displeasure between one country and another...

meanwhile, in the u.s...

Netanyahu: 'Jerusalem is not a Settlement; It’s Our Capital’

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu challenged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strong anti-united Jerusalem stand and told a cheering American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) crowd Monday night, “Jerusalem is not a settlement; it’s our capital.”

He pointed out that Israel has made constant to the concessions to the United States and Palestinian Authority but drew the red line at Jerusalem, reasoning that building houses for Jews in all of united Jerusalem “in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.”

"constant concessions"...? oh, puh-l-e-e-e-eze... israel has done nothing of the kind... i just posted this map, courtesy of professor cole, a few days ago... it's obviously time to post it again...


just look at all those "concessions"...

professor cole also has a good post up about just how wrong netanyahu is to claim that israel has a many thousand year claim to jerusalem...

Netanyahu mixed together Romantic-nationalist cliches with a series of historically false assertions. But even more important was everything he left out of the history, and his citation of his warped and inaccurate history instead of considering laws, rights or common human decency toward others not of his ethnic group.

in his penchant for accurate historical reporting and careful consideration of the law, cole goes on to cite ten reasons why netanyahu is dead wrong...

when are we going to accept that, as far as the israeli government is concerned, the only policy that's acceptable is the total eradication of the palestinians...? when is the international community going to accept that, far from being the victim, israel is now the victimizer...?

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Edging closer to Pascua

a week from today semana santa - holy week - begins and argentina will be essentially shut down as will many latin american countries and other catholic countries around the world... as in the u.s., the stores are pushing pascua - easter - candy, hawked by cute cartoon bunnies sporting the traditional easter colors of dominant green and white...

meanwhile, here's a slightly different take on the season...

In this photo taken Jan. 30, 2010 in Houston and provided
by Jack Potts, a photograph by his 10-year-old son Jackson
Potts II depicts a nightstick-wielding policeman beating a child.
The image has sparked religious controversy and was excluded
from an exhibit depicting the Stations of the Cross. To Jackson,
a talented 10-year-old Houston photographer, and some art
lovers, the disturbing image is simply religious symbolism.
Jackson's younger brother Diedrich, 7, played the fallen
Christ-child role.

(Jackson Potts II/AP Photo)

evidently, the photo came a bit too close to the truth for some...
Jackson shot the photograph for an exhibit depicting the Stations of the Cross, but the show's organizers rejected it, sparking a controversy some say is overshadowing remembrance of Jesus' final hours during the season of Lent.

yes, it's disturbing but that's the point, isn't it...? senseless, inhuman violence directed at the innocent is SUPPOSED to be disturbing...

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