Monthly Archives: February 2015

Murder In Moscow

On Friday evening, Boris Nemtsov was shot and killed on a bridge near Red Square in central Moscow. You might be asking yourself “Who is Boris Nemtsov, and why is this news?” It’s a long story.

Boris Nemtsov. Photo by Dhārmikatva (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Boris Nemtsov. Photo by Dhārmikatva (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Boris Nemtsov first gained notice here in the West in the early 1990s. A former research fellow at the Gorky Radio-Physics Research Institute, his first taste of activism was in 1986 through organizing a protest movement to stop the building of a nuclear power plant in his area.

In 1989, he ran for the Soviet Congress of People’s Deputies on a reform platform, which proposed such radical ideas for the time as a multi-party democracy and private enterprise. He lost that election, but ran for the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Republic representing Gorky (now known as Nizhny Novgorod) in 1990 and won by defeating 12 other candidates for the seat.

He became a member of the  “Reform Coalition” of the Parliament, and became a friend and supporter of Boris Yeltsin, who was impressed with Nemtsov’s work on agricultural reform and the liberalization of foreign trade. He was a vocal supporter of Yeltsin during the 1991 coup attempt that brought about the end of the Soviet Union, and was rewarded for his loyalty by being appointed Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region. Continue reading

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UN Reveals ‘Credible and Reliable’ Evidence of US Military Torture in Afghanistan

Published on Thursday, February 26, 2015 by Common Dreams

New report finds U.S.-backed Afghan government still committing widespread torture

UNAMA Human Rights Director, Georgette Gagnon (left), and Special Representative Nicholas Haysom. Photo: Photo: UNAMA/Fardin Waezi

UNAMA Human Rights Director, Georgette Gagnon (left), and Special Representative Nicholas Haysom. Photo: (Photo: UNAMA/Fardin Waezi)

The United Nations revealed Wednesday it has “credible and reliable” evidence that people recently detained at U.S. military prisons in Afghanistan have faced torture and abuse.

The UN’s Assistance Mission and High Commissioner for Human Rights exposed the findings in a report based on interviews with 790 “conflict-related detainees” between February 2013 and December 2014.

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Bibi’s Blunders

Next Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before a joint session of Congress. We wrote a piece the day after his speech was announced.

Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In it, we discussed what made this speech different. From the breach of protocol with the end run around the White House in arranging and announcing the speech to the very real concerns over the House of Representatives essentially outsourcing our foreign policy and giving an international stage to Netanyahu right before elections in his own country, we explained why this was a terrible idea.

We followed that with a second piece a couple weeks later, asking how Congress could invite a leader to speak before them as a friend and trusted ally, when that leader’s military and police killed over 500 innocent children in Gaza over a period of 50 days.

With the speech now less than a week away, we thought we’d take a look at what else has happened with the “Republican Senator from Israel” recently. Continue reading

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Protests in Algeria intensify as shale-gas drilling continues

The ongoing anti-shale gas protests in southern Algeria look increasingly like a head-to-head confrontation between the Algerian government and a well-organised, conscious population.

Algerians protest shale gas drilling, tensions build as government ignores them. Image via Twitter.

Algerians protest shale gas drilling, tensions build as government ignores them. Image via Twitter.

By RACHIDA LAMRI , Published 02-13-15 in OpenDemocracy

Despite the ongoing anti-shale gas protests in the province of Ain Salah in the great Algerian south, the Algerian government is pressing ahead with its shale gas development plans, according to Mr. Said Sahnoun, head of state-owned oil company Sonatrach.

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MOA: Protests, Perceived Threats and Terrorism

When world headlines hit close to home, Americans and their media have a tendency to view things from a myopic point of view and fail to grasp everything worth considering.

People fleeing Westgate Mall. Photo: blog.people.com

People fleeing Westgate Mall. Photo: blog.people.com

Most recently, the terrorist group al-Shabaab has directly threatened western malls, naming the Mall of America as one of the targets they wish to see attacked in the style of the Westgate Mall tragedy in Nairobi, Kenya in September, 2013.

The Westgate Mall was chosen by al-Shabaab because of its striking resemblance to western-style shopping malls across Europe and America. They now stage this threat against western malls because it is the most significant thing they are known to have accomplished, so they cling to that horror for legitimacy and as a way of getting their name back in the news when all the media attention lately has been focused on Daesh. Mall of America was named because it symbolizes American materialism and is located where there is a substantial Somalian population, which is targeted by al-Shabaab for recruitment of followers. Based on the coverage we saw during the time the story broke, we would say al-Shabaab feels quite victorious without having to even fire a shot. Continue reading

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The American credibility trap

American politicians’ attempts to look ‘credible’ when talking about Russia are hypocritical, self-serving and self-defeating. If they really want Russia to change its policies, they need to act smarter, not tougher.

Written by James Kovpak. Published 02-16-15 in openDemocracy.

It began with someone on Twitter giving me a heads up, saying that the Russian media would be replaying it on a loop for at least a year. ‘It’ referred to a recent CNN interview with Barack Obama in which, according to the Russian link my follower had provided, Obama ‘admitted’ that the US was behind the February 2014 ‘coup’ in Ukraine. When I checked the latest headlines online, sure enough it was one of the top stories of the day. The Russian press was having a field day. If John McCain’s visit to Maidan hadn’t already provided enough ammunition to Russian state media, Obama’s ‘admission’ had now armed them as surely as Russia’s ‘humanitarian convoys’ armed the separatists in the Donbas.
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We Wish It Were A Small World, After All

If you have ever wondered how children see the world, wonder no more. But listen to the message and then wonder why things have to be so complicated.

The only comment we wish to make is that this remarkable child would not be possible were it not for parents that focused on his different abilities. Their way of letting Grant perceive his world truly shows what good parenting is all about. Grant speaks for himself in such a way that we need make no comment regarding him.

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Lawmakers Nationwide Launch Concerted Assault on Women’s Rights

Published on Friday, February 20, 2015 by Common Dreams

“As an increasing number of states pass the same type of restriction on abortion, the anti-choice community is able to declare that the policy is gaining momentum,” says Tara Culp-Ressler. (Photo: Karol Olson/flickr/cc)

An array of anti-choice legislation is being rolled out in state houses around the country, putting women’s health at risk and illustrating how Republican gains in the 2014 elections have exacerbated the fight over reproductive rights.

Already, 57 percent of American women of reproductive age live in states that are considered ‘hostile’ or ‘extremely hostile’ to abortion rights, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world.

That percentage could go up if recent proposals are enacted into law.

In Ohio, for example, lawmakers this week introduced a bill that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.

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Why Extremism Can Not Be Labeled

Image via Internet.

Image via Internet.

The discussion in the news media in the past few days has been regarding President Obama’s comments, the name of the terrorist group known as IS, ISIL, ISIS or Daesh, and whether this is a “religious” group or “just” extremists.

The majority of US mainstream media does not grasp the complexity of this terror organization. Unwilling to think outside the box of predisposed personal biases toward their own faiths, they can not grasp that Muslims are facing the same complication within Islam when  Daesh claims their name.

As we have pointed out in a past article, attempting to put simple labels on complex ideologies is not only dangerous, it is misguided and, when coming from media outlets, is also unethical. Continue reading

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Steel The Oil

On February 1, more than 5,000 oil workers at nine facilities went on strike in the first nationwide oil workers strike since 1980. The United Steelworkers of America (USW) represents 30,000 workers in more than 230 refineries, oil terminals, pipelines and petrochemical facilities in the United States. 65 of the refineries provide two-thirds of the oil in the US.

Photo: RAM-1  https://twitter.com/RMatthews7923

Photo: RAM-1 (@RMatthews7923) via Twitter

The strike isn’t about pay; it’s about safety and working conditions. The issues include excessive overtime, staffing levels, the contracting out of jobs, and health and safety concerns. Continue reading

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