Category Archives: News

news: Tens of Thousands Protest in Hong Kong


Tens of Thousands Protest in Hong Kong

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have taken to the streets in Hong Kong to protest Beijing‘s plan to vet candidates for the post of chief executive of Hong Kong in the 2017 elections. Since 1997, when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China, the chief executive has been selected by a 1,200-member election committee with pro-Beijing leanings. Last month, China agreed to allow direct elections in 2017, with the proviso that voters will only be able to choose from a list of pre-approved, almost undoubtedly pro-Beijing candidates. The protesters are demanding the freedom to choose their candidates. More… Discuss

this pressed: BBC News – Banks shut branches over Hong Kong protests


Pro-democracy protestors blocked large parts of central Hong Kong, where many financial firms are located

Standard Chartered and several other banks have suspended some of their operations in central Hong Kong following mass pro-democracy protests.

Bank branches that offer over-the-counter services have been closed, as well as ATMs and cash deposit machines in affected areas.

Some firms have also advised their staff to work from home or go to secondary offices.

Thousands of demonstrators clashed with police, who fired tear gas, on Sunday.

via BBC News – Banks shut branches over Hong Kong protests.

Hospital Garb Could Be Your Own


Hospital Garb Could Be Your Own

Traditional hospital gowns have been the butt of many a joke, but for those who have to don them, they are no laughing matter. Being hospitalized can rob a person of much of his dignity, and while aspects of this are unavoidable, hospital apparel does not have to be one of them. In many cases, researchers say, it is clinically reasonable for patients to wear their own clothing, or at least pants underneath their open-backed gowns, but few take advantage of this because most are unaware that it is an option. More… Discuss

this pressed: Flash – Writers and readers go mobile and social at Wattpad – France 24


28 September 2014 – 07H25

Writers and readers go mobile and social at Wattpad

inShare

AFP

File picture shows visitors browsing e-books for children at the 64th Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, GermanyFile picture shows visitors browsing e-books for children at the 64th Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany

Allen Lau considers himself living proof that love of good writing is alive and well in the age of streaming video and terse text messages.

He offers as further evidence the 32 million people who each month visit online literature social network Wattpad, which he and Ivan Yuen launched eight years ago as an online venue for writers and readers to connect.

“Wattpad is the world’s largest community for reading and writing,” Lau told AFP during a recent visit to San Francisco to meet with investors in the Toronto-based startup.

“We’ve created a mobile and social storytelling experience.”

Of the more than nine billion minutes spent monthly reading at Wattpad, about 85 percent is done using smartphones or tablet computers, according to Lau.

More than a million Wattpad users are writers, who typically upload a chapter at a time while readers tune in the way they might watch episodes of a television series.

“We make story telling very different and unique,” Lau said.

- Readers shape stories -

Readers share feelings, thoughts and criticisms with one another and authors at the social network, sometimes shaping fates of characters or directions of stories.

“Writing and reading have traditionally been very solitary experiences,” Lau said.

“In this case, writers get constant feedback from readers in real time; and from the reader perspective it is almost like watching a TV show with 10 million people all at once.”

Readers are free to wait until books are complete and then binge on chapter after chapter, but that is rarely the case at Wattpad. The most common question fired off at the service was said to be “When will the next chapter be released?”

After Wattpad noticed writers providing links to music videos to listen to as background for reading, the social network added a way to embed YouTube clips.

“It has been so widely used, if you go to YouTube and search ‘Wattpad’ you will find millions of videos,” Lau said.

“The writing is the main actor, but we have supporting characters: video and sound.”

Wattpad sees a quarter of a million chapters uploaded daily, with about 24 hours worth of reading arriving at the service each minute.

Less than half the visits to Wattpad come from the United States, and the service is growing strong in an array of countries including Turkey, Italy, Britain, and Spain.

“Not everyone has an e-book store, a library, or a regular book store, but everyone will be on the Internet and everyone will have a smartphone,” Lau reasoned.

“I am the walking proof that it is rubbish people aren’t reading as much; the Internet is helping people to read and write more.”

- Writers find fame -

The Wattpad mobile application is free, as is access to work uploaded by writers. More than half the stories on Wattpad were written on mobile devices.

Wattpad writers don’t get paid, but exposure at the social network provides opportunities for them to make money.

via Flash – Writers and readers go mobile and social at Wattpad – France 24.

This pressed: Hello, Ello! What you need to know about the new social network stealing users from Facebook – Salon.com


Mark Zuckerberg (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Facebook has been abuzz of late about a curious new phenomenon: People leaving Facebook in favor of a smaller, simpler social media site called Ello. The fervor for Ello took hold this week in light of Facebook’s recent “real names” crackdown – forcing folks to use their legal names on their profiles or be locked out of the service – which has especially affected members of the LGBTQ community.

Though there are other Facebook-alternatives, including Diaspora and Google+, many are now flocking to Ello.

What is Ello?

Ello is an invite-only social network created by Paul Budnitz, along with graphic designers Todd Berger and Lucian Föhr, and creative engineers from Mode Set. By the creators’ own description, Ello is a “simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network.”

(Back in March, the Daily Dot reports, the team was working pro-bono.)

via Hello, Ello! What you need to know about the new social network stealing users from Facebook – Salon.com.

news: It’s a Vast World After All


It’s a Vast World After All

The world’s population currently stands at 7.2 billion and is projected to rise to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion by the end of this century. Earlier estimates had forecast a leveling off of world population around 2050, but higher-than-expected birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa mean the number of people on the planet will likely continue to rise instead. In Africa alone, the population is expected to rise from the current 1 billion to between 3.5 and 5.1 billion by 2100. More… Discuss

this pressed: Thousands of undocumented immigrants skipped mandated follow-up appointments



Thousands of undocumented immigrants skipped mandated follow-up appointments

.

this pressed: For Oil and Gas Companies, Rigging Seems to Involve Wages, Too – ProPublica


The seal of the United States Department of Labor

The seal of the United States Department of Labor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Oil and Gas Companies, Rigging Seems to Involve Wages, Too – ProPublica.

This pressed: Children of Immigrants – NYTimes.com


Children of Immigrants – NYTimes.com.

When people meet me, they want to know what culture I come from or where my family is from. They want to put me in a box or assign me a label. So the question of ‘what are you’ has always made me feel defensive of who I am and how I’m presented in the world. — Shirley Acuna, 22, Peruvian-American

today event/celebration: Autumnal Equinox


Autumnal Equinox

English: The Earth at the start of the 4 (astr...

English: The Earth at the start of the 4 (astronomical) seasons as seen from the north and ignoring the atmosphere (no clouds, no twilight). Português: A Terra no início das 4 estações (astronômicas) como vista do norte e ignorando a atmosfera (sem nuvens, sem crepúsculo). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator twice a year: on or about March 21 (Vernal Equinox) and again six months later, on or about September 22 or 23 (Autumnal Equinox). On these two occasions, night and day are of equal length all over the world. In the Northern Hemisphere, September 22 or 23 is the first day of autumn. Autumnal Equinox Day is a national holiday in Japan, observed on either September 23 or 24 to celebrate the arrival of autumn and to honor family ancestors. More… Discuss


Flood of Syrian Refugees Crossing into Turkey

In just the past few days, well over 100,000 Syrians have fled into Turkey, and many tens of thousands more may soon follow. The recent influx—the largest in such a short period since the start of Syria’s civil war more than three years ago—is being driven by Islamic State advances in the heavily Kurdish area of Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arab. The surge is straining resources already stretched to the limit by the 1.3 million Syrian refugees that had made their way into Turkey prior to this. More… Discuss

MUST Listen-Read: Podcast: How Insurers Are Charging You More for Your Generic Drugs – ProPublica


“The Affordable Care Act bans insurance companies from discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions. But some policy experts say insurers could be doing just that by forcing people with chronic illnesses to pay more for their drugs.

ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein explains that insurers have long used a tiered pricing system to steer consumers away from expensive brand name medications. But according to a recent editorial in the American Journal of Managed Care, several prominent health plans are taking this tactic one step further and charging higher co-payments for some generic drugs.”

this pressed: Podcast: How Insurers Are Charging You More for Your Generic Drugs – ProPublica


Podcast: How Insurers Are Charging You More for Your Generic Drugs – ProPublica.

EXCERPTS:  The Affordable Care Act bans insurance companies from discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions. But some policy experts say insurers could be doing just that by forcing people with chronic illnesses to pay more for their drugs.

ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein explains that insurers have long used a tiered pricing system to steer consumers away from expensive brand name medications. But according to a recent editorial in the American Journal of Managed Care, several prominent health plans are taking this tactic one step further and charging higher co-payments for some generic drugs.”

this pressed: Obama hits at companies moving overseas to avoid taxes – The Washington Post


The Obama administration took action Monday to discourage corporations from moving their headquarters abroad to avoid U.S. taxes, announcing new rules designed to make such transactions significantly less profitable.

via Obama hits at companies moving overseas to avoid taxes – The Washington Post.

Mussorgsky “Pictures at an Exhibition” arr: Stokowski: great compositions/performances


Mussorgsky “Pictures at an Exhibition” arr: Stokowski

Banana Peels and Pork Strips Earn Ig Nobel Honors


Banana Peels and Pork Strips Earn Ig Nobel Honors

The winners of this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes have been announced, and included among them are a team studying the slipperiness of banana peels, another investigating the ability of pork strips to stop nosebleeds, and yet another gauging how reindeer react to humans in polar bear suits. The aforementioned honorees took home the physics, medicine, and arctic science prizes, respectively. The award in public health went to a team investigating whether it is mentally hazardous to own a cat, while the psychology award went to a team that found that night owls tend to be more psychopathic than early risers. Prizes were also awarded in several other categories. More…

Seattle Genetics: Blood Cancer Awareness Month


Seattle Genetics: Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

this pressed: House Majority’s Last-Ditch Effort to Undermine Public Protections, Award Corporate Giveaways | Center for Effective Government


About the Author:
Katie Weatherford is a Regulatory Policy Analyst for the Center for Effective Government’s Regulatory Policy team. Her work focuses on the regulatory and rulemaking processes that impact public health, safety, and the environment.

House Majority’s Last-Ditch Effort to Undermine Public Protections, Award Corporate Giveaways | Center for Effective Government.

From EUROPARL: Nigel Farage: Stop playing wargames with Putin – Video source: EbS (European Parliament)


Nigel Farage: Stop playing wargames with Putin

Palestinian Christians


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Palestinian Christians are Palestinians who belong to one of a number of Christian denominations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, including Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglican, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholic (Eastern and Western rites), Protestant, and others. In both the local dialect of Palestinian Arabic and in classical or modern standard Arabic, Christians are called Nasrani (a derivative of the Arabic word for Nazareth, al-Nasira) or Masihi (a derivative of Arabic word Masih, meaning “Messiah“).[1] In Hebrew, they are called Notzri (also spelt Notsri), which means “Nazarene”.

Today, Christians comprise less than 4% of the Palestinian population of Israel and the Palestinian territories – approximately 8% of the Arab population of the West Bank, less than 1% in the Gaza Strip, and nearly 10% of the Arab population in Israel.[2] According to official British Mandatory estimates, Palestine’s Christian population in 1922 comprised 9.5% of the total population (10.8% of the Palestinian population), and 7.9% in 1946.[3] The Palestinian Christian population greatly decreased from 1948 to 1967. A large number fled or were expelled from the area during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and a small number left during Jordanian control of the West Bank for economic reasons. Since 1967, the Palestinian Christian population has increased in excess of the continued emigration.[4]

Worldwide, there are nearly one million Palestinian Christians in these territories as well as in the Palestinian diaspora, comprising over 10% of the world’s total Palestinian population. Palestinian Christians live primarily in Arab states surrounding historic Palestine and in the diaspora, particularly in South America, Europe and North America.

Demographics and denominations

In 2009, there were an estimated 50,000 Christians in the Palestinian territories, mostly in the West Bank, with about 3,000 in the Gaza Strip.[5] Of the total Christian population of 154,000 in Israel, about 80% are Arabs, many of whom also self-identify as Palestinian.[5] The majority (56%) of Palestinian Christians live in the Palestinian diaspora.[6]

According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2013, the population statistics on Palestinian and related Arab-Israeli Christians are as follows:[7][8][9]

Population group Christian population  % Christian
West Bank* 214,000 8
Gaza Strip 12,000 0.7
Arab Christians in Israel** 123,000 10
Non-Arab Christians in Israel 29,000 0.4
Total Arab Christians 349,000 6.0
Total Christians (including non-Arabs) 378,000 3.0
* The figure includes Samaritans and other unspecified minorities.[dubious ]**Arab Christians in Israel do not necessarily identify as Palestinian.

Around 50% of Palestinian Christians belong to the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, one of the 16 churches of Eastern Orthodoxy. This community has also been known as the Arab Orthodox Christians. There are also Maronites, Melkite-Eastern Catholics, Jacobites, Chaldeans, Roman Catholics (locally known as Latins), Syriac Catholics, Orthodox Copts, Catholic Copts, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Quakers (Friends Society), Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans (Episcopal), Lutherans, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Nazarene, Assemblies of God, Baptists and other Protestants; in addition to small groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and others.

The Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theófilos III, is the leader of the Palestinian and Jordanian Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, but Israel has refused to recognize his appointment.[10] If confirmed, he would replace Patriarch Irenaios (in office from 2001), whose status within the church became disputed after a term surrounded by controversy and scandal given that he sold Palestinian property to Israeli Orthodox Jews.[11] Archbishop Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia is the highest ranking Palestinian clergyman in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, is the leader of the Roman Catholics in Jerusalem, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Cyprus. The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem is Suheil Dawani,[12] who replaced Bishop Riah Abou Al Assal. Elias Chacour, a Palestinian refugee, of the Melkite Eastern Catholic Church is Archbishop of Haifa, Acre and the Galilee. Bishop Dr. Munib Younan is the president of the Lutheran World Federation and the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).

endangered species: Yangtze Fish Nearing Extinction


Yangtze Fish Nearing Extinction

The Chinese sturgeon, considered a “living fossil” due to its 140-million-year history, may not be around for much longer. It is teetering on the brink of extinction, thanks in large part to rising pollution levels and the construction of numerous dams along the Yangtze River it calls home. Only 100 specimens are thought to remain in the wild, and for the first year on record, none reproduced naturally in the river in 2013. Without additional conservation efforts, there is little hope for the future of this ancient creature. More… Discuss

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America: online Chapel: Access here


Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America - Oonline Chapel - Calendar Click here to access

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – Online Chapel – Calendar (Click to access)

14   (September)

Elevation of the Holy Cross

new widget at euzicasa: Access HISTORYnet.com (Live The History)


http://www.historynet.com/

Today in History: click to Access Here

health: Fat Shaming Counterproductive


Fat Shaming Counterproductive

Shaming people for being overweight does not motivate them to lose weight. In fact, it appears to have the opposite effect. Adults who experienced weight discrimination gained more weight over a four-year period than those who did not. Being made to feel bad about one’s physique seems to drive people to take comfort in food while simultaneously undermining their self-confidence with respect to physical activity, leading them to avoid it. Unfortunately, weight bias is pervasive not just among the general public but also within the medical community, making it harder for those struggling with their weight to get much-needed support and encouragement. More… Discuss

Filigree


Filigree

Filigree is an ornamental work of fine gold or silver wire, often wrought into an openwork design and joined with matching solder under the flame of a blowpipe. It was made in ancient Egypt, China, and India. Saxons, Britons, and especially the Celts in Ireland were skilled at devising intricate and ingenious designs in the Middle Ages. Today, it is employed in Mediterranean areas, as well as in Mexico, India, and Scandinavian countries. What is the origin of the word “filigree“? More… Discuss

today’s holiday: Gibraltar National Day


Gibraltar National Day

On September 10, 1967, the people of Gibraltar participated in a national referendum and rejected the option to pass under Spanish Control. Since 1967, Gibraltarians have commemorated the referendum date. In recent years, events leading up to the momentous day have included dance performances, military band concerts, and a governor’s parade. On National Day, people typically dress in the national colors of red and white. A popular tradition is the ceremonial release of 30,000 red and white balloons, each representing an individual living on the rock. More… Discuss

Author Claims Jack the Ripper Was Actually Aaron the Ripper


Author Claims Jack the Ripper Was Actually Aaron the Ripper

The true identity of the infamous serial killer known as Jack the Ripper has eluded investigators for over a century, but in his new book, Naming Jack the Ripper, author Russell Edwards claims to have solved the mystery at last. He points the finger at 23-year-old Polish immigrant and hairdresser Aaron Kosminski, long considered one of the key suspects in the so-called Whitechapel murders. Edwards arrived at this conclusion after linking DNA left on a shawl at one of the Ripper’s murder scenes to the descendants of Kosminski. More… Discuss

The Fountain Pen


The Fountain Pen

Prior to the refinement and mass-production of the fountain pen in the late 19th century, writing with ink had some serious drawbacks. The dip pen had to be continuously dipped in ink, while the quill—made from a feather plucked from a live bird—required frequent sharpening. By contrast, the fountain pen held liquid ink in a reservoir until needed, at which time the ink was fed to a nib via a combination of gravity and capillary action. How was ink inserted into the first fountain pens? More… Discuss

word: zealot


zealot 

Definition:

(noun) An immoderate, fanatical, or extremely zealous adherent to a cause, especially a religious one.

Synonyms:

drumbeater, partisan

Usage:

Jane, who had dabbled in vegetarianism during high school, became an environmental zealot while in college. Discuss.

this pressed: L.A. school board approves contract to destroy emails after a year – LA Times


Monica Ratliff listening to Ron ChandlerL.A. school board approves contract to destroy emails after a year – LA Times.

from Democracy Now: Will Iraq or Syria Survive? UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Sectarian War & the Disastrous ’03 Invasion


Will Iraq or Syria Survive?  UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Sectarian War and the Disastrous 03' Invasion.

Will Iraq or Syria Survive? UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Sectarian War and the Disastrous 03′ Invasion. (click to access program)

As a Sunni militancy overtakes large parts of Iraq, former U.N.-Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi joins us to discuss the escalating Iraqi conflict, the long-term impact of the 2003 U.S. invasion, and the crisis in neighboring Syria. A former Algerian freedom fighter who went on to become Algeria’s foreign minister, Brahimi has been deeply involved in Middle Eastern diplomacy for decades. He has worked on many of the world’s major conflicts from Afghanistan and Iraq to South Africa. Brahimi resigned as the U.N.-Arab League special envoy for Syria last month after a lengthy effort that failed to bring about peace talks between the Syrian government and rebel groups. On the legacy of the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, Brahimi says: “The biggest mistake was to invade. I am tempted to say that every time there was a [U.S.] choice between something right and something wrong, not very often the right option was taken.” On Syria, Brahimi says the conflict is “an infected wound … if not treated properly, it will spread — and this is what is happening.”
 

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Sunni militants have seized part of Iraq’s largest oil refinery located in the northern Iraqi city of Baiji. The militants reportedly now control three-quarters of the refinery complex. Meanwhile, Shiite families are leaving the city of Baquba in droves out of fear the militants from ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, will soon seize the city. Baquba is located just 40 miles from Baghdad. Many analysts say the fighting in Iraq has become a proxy war between the Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shiite-led Iran. On Tuesday, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, vowed on live television to protect Shiite shrines in Iraq. Rouhani said many Iranians have already signed up to go to Iraq to fight. This came as Iraq’s Shiite-led Cabinet accused Saudi Arabia of promoting genocide in Iraq by backing Sunni militants.

In Washington, President Obama is scheduled to meet today with the four top congressional leaders. There are conflicting reports of his plan of action. The Wall Street Journal reports Obama has decided against immediate airstrikes in Iraq, but The New York Times reports Obama is considering what the paper described as a “targeted, highly selective campaign” of airstrikes. One official told the Times the campaign would most likely use drones and could last for a prolonged period.

Joining us to discuss the situation in Iraq and across the wider region is Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned his post last month as the United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria. Brahimi has been deeply involved in Middle Eastern diplomacy for decades. He’s a former Algerian freedom fighter who went on to become Algeria’s foreign minister. As a diplomat, he has worked on many of the world’s biggest conflicts, from Afghanistan and Iraq, from Haiti to South Africa. He’s a member of the Elders, a group of retired statesmen formed in July 2007 at the initiative of Nelson Mandela; it was originally chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, now by Kofi Annan.

Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh and I interviewed Lakhdar Brahimi on Tuesday. He’s in Paris, France. I started by asking him to respond to what’s happening in Iraq right now.

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham have invaded and taken control of the second-largest city in Iraq, which is absolutely extraordinary. That is the city of Mosul. I understand that they went down also and took a part—or, you know, maybe they are still there—of the city of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, and that they were marching on Baghdad, and they have been stopped somewhere. And I doubt very much that they will enter Baghdad in any significant manner. But this indicates the fragility of the state of Iraq that has been created by the Americans after they invaded the country in 2003. It’s really extraordinary that the state, as important and as rich, as a matter of fact, as Iraq, cannot protect the second-largest city in the country.

It also vindicates what the secretary-general of the United Nations and myself have been saying for months, years even. And that is that the situation in Syria is like an infected wound: If it is not treated properly, it will spread. And this is what is happening. You know, the secretary-general has very often warned that if Syria is not attended to properly, then most, if not all, of its neighbors were in danger. And this is one of the neighbors of Syria.

Of course, it had—it has its own problems. And this latest development is an addendum, something that has come on top of the problems that were there. Those problems were that the country was more and more divided along sectarian lines, and the corruption was rife, and the government was not capable—has not been capable of re-establishing services, like water, electricity, sewages and so on, at the level they existed under Saddam, when the country was under extremely severe sanctions.

So, this is where we are. Syria is—you know, there is fighting there. There is killing. There is—bombardments are taking place. And people are—you know, there is no development taking place, and people are leaving their homes, their villages, their cities, either remaining inside the country as internally displaced people or going to neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, in particular. And quite a few of them have gone to Iraq, actually.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ambassador Brahimi, you mentioned the complicity of the United States invasion of 2003 in the present situation in Iraq.

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: Yes.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to comments made by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair over the weekend. He said, in fact, the 2003 invasion of Iraq was not responsible for the violent insurgency now engulfing the country. He was speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. Let’s just go to a clip.

TONY BLAIR: So my point is very simple: Even if you left Saddam in place in 2003, then, when 2011 happened and you had the Arab revolutions going through Tunisia and Libya and Yemen and Bahrain and Egypt and Syria, you would have still had a major problem in Iraq. Indeed, you can see what happens when you leave the dictator in place, as has happened with Assad now. But if you say to me, would I prefer a situation where we’d left Saddam in place in 2003—do I think the region would be safer, more stable, if we’d done that—my answer to that is unhesitatingly no.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ambassador Brahimi, that was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaking over the weekend.

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: Yes.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you respond to the comments he made about the 2003 invasion?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: You know, the situation in Iraq was extremely bad, and definitely it was called the “Republic of Fear” with reason. You know, you cannot justify post facto an invasion that was absolutely horrible. I mean, first of all, it was unjustified. Second—I mean, it was built on a lie. You know, the weapons of mass destructions were just in the imagination of some people who wanted to invade Iraq. Second, things have—I mean, justifications were invented after—democracy, getting rid of a dictator, and I don’t know what. That very dictator, when he was just as a dictator as he was in 2003, was a very good friend of the United States and of Britain when he was fighting Iran in the ’80s. But let’s, you know, forget about that for the moment. So, the invasion was absolutely horrible.

And this—you know, it has—I mean, let’s talk about what is—what is important to talk about now: terrorism. There was no terrorism. There were no terrorists in Iraq in those days. Terrorism was sucked in, brought in, by—as a direct consequence of the invasion. And it flourished, first of all, in Iraq, and then it went to Syria, and now it is back in Iraq. So, to say that 2003 had nothing to do with what is happening now is a little bit an—I don’t know—overstatement, understatement. Certainly not reality.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Brahimi, Paul Bremer, the first head of the so-called coalitional—Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, one of the first things he did in that role was to sign the Coalition Provisional Authority Orders 1 and 2, completely dismantling Iraq’s government and military. During your tenure as U.N. special envoy for Iraq, you referred to Bremer as, quote, “the dictator of Iraq.” Writing in The Wall Street Journal over the weekend in the wake of the present violence that’s engulfing Iraq, Bremer said, quote, “It is time for both American political parties to cease their ritualistic incantations of ‘no boots on the ground,’ which is not the same as ‘no combat forces.’ Of course Americans are reluctant to re-engage in Iraq. Yet it is President Obama’s unhappy duty to educate them about the risks to our interests posed by the unfolding drama in Iraq.” Can you elaborate, Ambassador Brahimi, on your comments about Paul Bremer being dictator of Iraq and what that meant for Iraq?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: You know, I was just repeating something that he said himself. I think he said—and he has written, I think, in his memoirs—that nobody in the history of Iraq had as much power as he had. For my money, that is equivalent to being a dictator. And he was doing everything he wanted.

And you have mentioned, you know, the dissolution of the army. Every American who knew anything about Iraq, and there were quite a few, many of them in government—former ambassadors, people who know Arabic, who know the country, who know the region—they were all unanimous: Don’t touch the army. There are definitely, you know, 10, 15, 100, 1,000 officers that have, you know, blood on their hands, that are corrupt, that should be taken off the army. But keep the army. This is the backbone of the country, and it is going to cooperate with you. And as a matter of fact, a lot of people, including in the military, were already talking to some of the Iraqi militaries to see how they can come back and reorganize themselves and work with the occupying power. But Mr. Bremer—and he was saying that he was under instructions from the secretary of state for defense, Mr. Rumsfeld—said, “No, no, no. We will dissolve the army.” And they went ahead and did it. I think that—you know, I don’t think there is any, any, any argument that that was a mistake then.

Should—what should the Americans do today? I fully understand the hesitation of President Obama to send foreign troops in, American troops into Iraq again. As a principle, foreign troops meddling in an internal situation like this is not a very good idea. I also hear that there is a possibility that they will be talking to Iran, and I’m sure that they will be talking to other neighbors of Iraq, chief of them—amongst them, Saudi Arabia, to see what needs to be done to help Iraq solve its problems and perhaps stop these terrorist organizations from making more progress. But be careful that this help from outside does not make things worse. I think that it’s—you know, there is a lot of sectarianism in Iraq. I don’t think there is a secret—that’s a secret or anybody ignores that fact or says it doesn’t exist. So, please, if you help face this ISIS, that’s great, but make sure that you don’t make things worse by making—by supporting more sectarianism, not less sectarianism.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ambassador Brahimi, on the question of sectarianism, there have been several reports that suggest that in the initial days of the Iraq invasion in 2003, there were some neoconservative members of the Bush administration that actively fostered sectarianism between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds as a way of—as a policy of kind of divide and rule. Could you comment on that?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: I have told my American friends several times, of course, I am not privy to what was taking place in the Pentagon, where responsibility lied for Iraq. President Bush had given full, total responsibility to the Pentagon over Iraq. What was discussed there and what they did there, I don’t know. But as somebody from the region just looking at what was actually taking place, it was extremely hard not to believe that sectarianism was being promoted and that the people that were being put in charge were—I mean, of course the Kurdish region was given to Kurds 100 percent, and no—the rest of the Iraqis had no part in it. But in the rest of Iraq, the impression one had was that the people that were preferred by the occupying powers were the most sectarian Shia and the most pro-Iranian Shia, so, you know, that Iran—that Iraq is now very, very close to Iran. Again, from the point of view of somebody who looks at things from outside, I have absolutely no knowledge of what went on in the high spheres of power in Washington. The impression we had is that these people were put in charge either out of total ignorance—and that is extremely difficult to accept—or intentionally. But the fact is, you know, that the system that was established was very sectarian.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi. He resigned his post last month as United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria. We’ll be back with him in a moment.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi. He resigned as U.N.-Arab League special envoy to Syria last month. Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh and I interviewed him yesterday. He’s in Paris, France. I asked him what the gravest error of the U.S. was in its 2003 invasion of Iraq.

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: The biggest mistake was to invade Iraq. Having invaded Iraq, you know, I would be probably very, very unfair, but I am tempted to say that every time there was a choice between something right and something wrong, not very often the right option was taken.

If you want one instance of what was wrong, it’s probably the dissolution of the army, because the army was the backbone of the country, because the army was nonsectarian. You know, the majority of the soldiers were Shia. And I think in the officer corps—it would be very interesting to take a look back—you would find that there were a lot of Shia in it. Saddam was not—you know, I mean, didn’t care about who was Sunni or who was Shia. What he cared for is who was with him and who was not, you know, who would—whom he considers as loyal 1,000 percent and whom he does not. You know, I asked some American friends, couple of times—I don’t know if you remember that deck of cards with Saddam being the ace of spades. Out of those 54 bad guys in Iraq, I used to ask my American friends whether they knew how many Shia were in that deck of cards. One of them said zero. One of them said four or five. Actually, the number of Shia in that deck of cards was 35.

During the war, I mean, Saddam was terribly unfair. Although a lot of Shia were fighting in the ranks of army of their country against Shia Iran, I think he was extremely suspicious of the Shia, because they were Shia. And he has killed a lot of religious leaders, a lot of—so, you know, there was—there was that, but nothing like what existed after that and what exists today.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ambassador Brahimi, you’ve suggested that sectarianism was excarcerbated following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S.

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: Yeah, sure.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: One of the other effects, which you mentioned earlier, was the spread of terrorism, and in particular, of suicide attacks in Iraq, which prior to 2003 were unprecedented. In other words, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan nor Pakistan nor Syria had ever witnessed suicide attacks before 9/11 occurred and, subsequent to that, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. So could you talk about some of the implications of that, what the effects of that have been, and how you think that phenomenon, which is now so widespread, should be dealt with?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: It did not exist in Iraq. And, you know, this al-Qaeda did not exist at all. It had no dormant cell in Iraq. It was brought in after the invasion as a way of people coming to fight a crusader, a power, invading a sister Muslim country. That is when al-Qaeda came in and started to recruit Iraqis and to bring in non-Iraqis. The ancestor of ISIS was created as a direct consequence of the invasion of Iraq, nothing else. And, you know, it developed and so on, and you remember 2005, 2006, 2007 were absolutely horrible years in Iraq, when civil war was really taking place, with the Americans at the receiving end themselves. And, of course, they destroyed Fallujah completely; the Americans destroyed the city of Fallujah completely.

Car bombs and so on did exist before, but it did no exist in Iraq, and al-Qaeda had absolutely no presence in Iraq before the invasion. It really became a reality as a direct consequence of the invasion in 2003 and developed from there. And what you see today there is the son or the grandson of what happened in—I mean, you know, I’m sure some of your viewers may remember the name of Zarqawi, a Jordanian, very, very cruel man who was one of the leaders of the al-Qaeda in Iraq in those years, 2005, 2006. So, this is it. Al-Qaeda and what—the terrorist organizations that exist today in—as far as Iraq is concerned, and Syria, as a matter of fact, their origin is definitely post-2003.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to comments made by the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. He resigned from his position in May. He was speaking to Christiane Amanpour on CNN earlier this month.

ROBERT FORD: I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy. We have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict, in terms of the fighting on the ground and the balance on the ground, and we have a growing extremism threat. And there really is nothing we can point to that’s been very successful in our policy, except the removal of about 93 percent of some of Assad’s chemical materials. But now he’s using chlorine gas against his opponents, in contravention of the Syrian government’s agreement in 2013 to abide by the Chemical Weapons Convention. The regime simply has no credibility, and our policy is not addressing the Syrian crisis as it needs to.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria. Ambassador Brahimi, could you comment on what he said and also what you see the flaws with U.S. policy vis-à-vis Syria being today?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: I was very, very surprised when I heard him say that he left because he couldn’t support the American policy anymore. Very, very surprised that—you know, of course, I’m not familiar with what was going on inside the government and what discussions he had with the secretary of state and others before he left, but the impression I had was that he left because he reached retirement age and he was tired of dealing with a very, very difficult problem in Syria. That was understandable. This is—this is something, you know, very surprising to me, what he said about him not capable of supporting the U.S. policy anymore. Again, the view in the region was that he was making the policy, or at least he was taking a very, very important part in making that policy.

You know, what was wrong with American policy, I think every single party that dealt with Syria over the last three years have made mistakes. The United States, like everybody else, misjudged the meaning and the—you know, what was happening and, you know, where things were going. You know, mistakes were made in Tunisia, when everybody thought that, you know, President Ben Ali was so strong, so well organized, that these demonstrations are going to last two days, three days, three or two weeks, and then they will be over and the men will be there. He left after less than a month. Mubarak in Egypt—you know, Egypt is a stable country, a very well-organized country. Their police was tremendously strong and well equipped. They will manage to—you know, to ride this storm. And to be fair, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, they took quite a while. They were telling those young people, I mean, “Go home. You know, you are going to be killed for nothing. The regime is not going to fall.” This is—this was—so, everybody made a mistake there. So when the—you know, and Libya, Libya, the country, you know, everybody thought that Libya would fall in a matter of days. It took several months and several billion dollars spent by the Americans, the French, the British and others in bombarding and destroying the country. And, by the way, look at the results: They are not great.

When the turn of Syria came, I think, understandably, everybody said, “Ah, OK, you know, this is now the trend. People—I mean, this regime resist one month, three weeks, six months. So this will be the case in Syria.” So I think that the Americans, like everybody else, thought that the regime was going to fall, and everybody started talking about the day after. And people were afraid that they would not be ready for the day after, that the regime will fall, and we will not be ready how to help the country rebuild and so on and so forth. It has taken maybe almost three years, three, four years, before people started to realize that this was different. And by the way, the Russians were the first who said this—Syria is not going to follow suit to what happened in Tunisia and Egypt; the regime is not going to fall. And nobody listened to them. I think if we had, perhaps it would have been better for all of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you quit as former U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: You know, I wanted to quit one year before I did, because in these kind of jobs, you come and try a few ideas and then move on. This is not a 9:00 to 5:00 job that you do for years and years. That is one reason.

The second reason is that, you know, we organized that conference in Montreux, Switzerland, and we moved from there to what we thought was going to be negotiations between the opposition and the government. And that was a failure, mainly because of the government. And then the government announced that they were organizing presidential elections, meaning that they were going a totally different way from what we were discussing in Geneva. So I think it was the normal thing for me to do.

I have tried this working with the Russians and the Americans. Together, the three of us have organized the Geneva II Conference. I led those discussions, two rounds of discussions in Geneva. That has taken us nowhere. I think it is time to tell the Syrian people we are not delivering, and we—I apologize to them for that, but also to tell everybody else, “Please be careful. This is—this is a very, very bad, very complicated, very dangerous situation, and you have got to pay more attention to it.” I hope that, you know, they will pay a little bit more attention and that they will help the secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, who is really devoting a great deal of attention to Syria. I hope that he will be helped to do a better job than I have been able to do until the end of May.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ambassador Brahimi, you’ve also suggested, in an interview you gave to the German news magazine Der Spiegel earlier this month, that the situation in Syria is so much worse than it was in Afghanistan in 1999 when you resigned your U.N. position there. Could you explain why you think that’s the case?

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: You know, in Afghanistan, there was a, yeah, civil war, but the factions in Afghanistan were not over-armed the way the parties that are involved in Syria are. There was—you know, nobody had the aviation that the Syrian government has or the tanks and the artillery that they have. It was, you know, this horrible war, low-intensity civil war. And, you know, the Afghans were, in their way, much better organized and also much more open in their discussions with us. For example, we never had, in all those wars of civil war—you know, after the Russians left, anyway, that’s the part I know—we never had any problem going for the vaccination in spring. All the factions knew that teams from the United Nations were going to go all over the country and vaccinate kids. And that happened. It hasn’t been that easy in Syria.

You know, the Russians had destroyed quite a little bit of the country, and the Afghans, very early on, before the Taliban, destroyed Kabul when the Russians left. But after that, there wasn’t that kind of destruction that you see in Syria now. Homs—friends who went to Homs recently told me that it looks like the pictures we see of Berlin in 1945. So the level of destruction is absolutely horrible. You know, when I arrived on the scene in ’97, with the years of Russians and the—of the internal civil war between the factions, there was something like five million refugees from Afghanistan. In three years only, in Syria, we have two million and a half refugees, six or seven million internally displaced. And by next year, if things continue the way they are, we are going to have four million refugees—population being about the same, 23 million in Syria, maybe 25 or 26 [million] in Afghanistan. So, the level of violence and destruction is much higher in Syria than it was in Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned his post last month as United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria. We’ll be back with him in a minute.

Battle For The Net


U.S. internet pioneer John Quarterman at a pan...

U.S. internet pioneer John Quarterman at a panel by EFF-Austin on net neutrality (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here: https://battleforthenet.com/sept10thEveryone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

“Internet speed is to the 21st century what public education was (still tries to be) to the 19th and 20th:
The cornerstone of civilization! It is the new infrastructure of the country and the world; MAKE IT FAST MAKE IT ACCESIBLE: THE ECONOMY NEEDS IT! George-B”

Hawaii is a paradise…of bird extinction http://t.co/jkTaUx6mqq #SOTB14 pic.twitter.com/lYufd32CxM — Smithsonian


Hawaii is a paradise…of bird extinction http://t.co/jkTaUx6mqq #SOTB14 pic.twitter.com/lYufd32CxM

— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) September 10, 2014

Is Schwarzenegger to Blame for Your Spare Tire?


Is Schwarzenegger to Blame for Your Spare Tire?

It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that being a couch potato isn’t good for one’s waistline, but it does take one—in fact, it took an entire team—to figure out which genre of TV or film is likely to do the most damage. The answer, as it turns out, is action. People watching an action film ate twice the amount of food by weight and 65 percent more calories than those watching an interview program. All in all, the researchers conclude, people should avoid snacking when watching TV, particularly when watching highly distracting content like action movies. More… Discuss

today’s birthday: Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533)


Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533)

Queen Elizabeth, England‘s last Tudor monarch, came to the throne during a turbulent period in the nation’s history. Although she has been described as vain, miserly, and fickle, she was remarkably successful as queen. During her reign, England pursued a policy of expansionism in commerce and geographical exploration, defeating the Spanish Armada and becoming a major world power. Literature and the arts flourished during the period as well. To whom was the Queen married? More… Discuss

environment/endangered species: California Blue Whale Makes a Comeback


California Blue Whale Makes a Comeback

Once teetering on the brink of extinction, the California blue whale has recovered in an unprecedented way—reaching about 97 percent of historic population levels. Researchers estimate that there are now 2,200 of these whales in existence. It is the only population of blue whale known to have rebounded from the ravages of whaling. The blue whale is the largest known animal on Earth, growing to nearly 100 feet (30 meters) in length and weighing in at 190 tons (172 tonnes), twice as much as the largest known dinosaur. More… Discuss

this pressed: Flash – In Ukraine flashpoint cities, residents doubt lasting peace – France 24


Flash – In Ukraine flashpoint cities, residents doubt lasting peace – France 24.

Global Audit of Violence against Children Paints Grim Picture


Global Audit of Violence against Children Paints Grim Picture

By the age of 20, one in 10 girls has been raped or sexually assaulted, according to new UN figures, while a third of the world’s 15- to 19-year-old girls who have been in cohabiting relationships have suffered emotional, physical, or sexual violence at the hands of their husbands or partners. Boys are also often the victims of sexual violence, though to a lesser extent than girls. For both genders, cyber-victimization is the most common form of sexual violence. Other forms of violence against children are also pervasive, regardless of age, region, religion, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. More… Discuss

today’s holiday: Ginseng Festival


Ginseng Festival

This festival is a celebration of ginseng in Fusong, a county in the Changbai Mountains of China and the largest ginseng grower in the country. The people of Fusong have traditionally celebrated the ginseng harvest, and, in 1987, the government officially set aside three days for both a festival and a trade fair of ginseng products. The festival features performances of yangko, dragon, and lion dances; story-telling parties with a ginseng theme; art and photo exhibits; and a fireworks display. More… Discuss

Suicide Takes a Life Every 40 Seconds


Suicide Takes a Life Every 40 Seconds

The suicide of beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams last month brought the typically taboo subject to the fore, yet this “major public health problem” is all too often ignored. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 800,000 people take their own lives each year. That is about one person every 40 seconds. The introduction of a national suicide prevention strategy has proven effective, but just 28 countries have done so. The WHO is therefore calling on the nations of the world to take action, with the goal of reducing suicide deaths by 10 percent by 2020. More… Discuss

Train Your Brain to Eat Healthy


Train Your Brain to Eat Healthy

It is not easy to pass up French fries in favor of carrot sticks, but proper brain training can make it easier. Following a high-fiber, high-protein, low-carb diet seems to alter the way people’s brains respond to food, making healthier foods more appealing. After six months of following this diet, overweight and obese men and women showed changes in activity in the reward centers of their brains indicating greater enjoyment of healthier foods and decreased sensitivity to unhealthy, higher-calorie foods. They also lost significantly more weight than a control group not on the diet. More… Discuss

this pressed: Moscow will review its military strategy in face of NATO plan for rapid-reaction force – The Washington Post


Moscow will review its military strategy in face of NATO plan for rapid-reaction force –

The Washington Post.

this pressed: BBC News – Ebola outbreak: West Africa food harvests ‘at risk’


BBC News – Ebola outbreak: West Africa food harvests ‘at risk’.

this pressed: U.S. military targets extremists in Somalia|USA Today


U.S. military targets extremists in Somalia.| USA Today

this pressed: Woman who worked in four jobs, overcome by fumes, dies as she naps in car | NJ.com


Fernandes3.jpgWoman who worked in four jobs, overcome by fumes, dies as she naps in car | NJ.com.

this pressed: Ukraine: Nato hält Niederlage für Kiew für sicher – SPIEGEL ONLINE (Analysis of the military situation: NATO sees Ukraine as already loser)



Ukraine: Prorussische Separatisten auf dem Vormarsch

Ukraine: Nato hält Niederlage für Kiew für sicher – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

(Analysis of the military situation: NATO sees Ukraine as already loser)

Excerpts from article:  “Kiev / Moscow - NATO has changed its military assessment of the situation in eastern Ukraine fundamentally. A week ago, the strategists of the Alliance assumed that Russia has strengthened the separatists with covert troops only because the pro-Russian rebels had to retreat under pressure of the Ukrainian army.

When the generals of the alliance but then late last week to a crisis meeting on the situation of the army of the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko came together, they painted a grim picture. Militarily, the conflict for Kiev is already lost,” stated a senior NATO general. Poroshenko, the judgment, were really only talks to withdraw his men alive from the pliers of the Russians“.

The location descriptions behind closed doors were far more dramatic than the few images that NATO published mid-week. On large maps were marked with thick arrows Russian units, which now from the north, the west and the south on the border of eastern Ukraine are at least 20 Battalions  with a minimum of 500 men and heavy guns are the scouts of NATO.”
(translation from German to English with the aid of Google Translate online service)

this pressed from Newsweek: Egyptian Islamic Authority Issues Fatwas Against Selfies and Chatting Online


RTR2E1DT

Egyptian Islamic Authority Issues Fatwas Against Selfies and Chatting Online.

Egyptian Islamic Authority Issues Fatwas Against Selfies and Chatting Online.

today’s birthday: Gloria Estefan (1957)


Gloria Estefan (1957)

Estefan is a seven-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter. Born in Cuba and raised in Florida, she began performing with the Miami Sound Machine in the 1970s. The group had a string of hit songs and albums, but Estefan was clearly the star, and by the early 1990s she was being billed as a solo artist. With over 100 million albums sold worldwide, she is the most successful crossover performer in Latin music history. What nearly ended Estefan’s career just as it was beginning to take off? More… Discuss

Risk of Eating Moldy Bread | LIVESTRONG.COM


“Eating moldy bread could lead to death. Photo Credit bread. slices of bread with seeds image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com”

.Risk of Eating Moldy Bread | LIVESTRONG.COM

Risk of Eating Moldy Bread

Risk of Eating Moldy Bread | LIVESTRONG.COM Eating moldy bread could lead to death. Photo Credit bread. slices of bread with seeds image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com

this pressed from VOA: Explosion Fells Building Outside Paris, Killing at Least 2


Explosion Fells Building Outside Paris, Killing at Least 2.