Iraq: Medical Care at a Premium

Medical Care At Last, At a Price
by Dahr Jamail
Prompt medical care is at last on offer in Iraq, for those who can find the dollars for it.

“Why would I want to go to government-run hospitals where there is no care, no functioning instruments, long lines, and in the end the same doctor who treats you there can treat you at a private hospital,” says Mohammed Abbas, 35, an employee at Iraq’s Ministry of Oil.

Abbas, speaking at the private Saint Raphael Hospital in the Karrada area of Baghdad, wanted treatment on time, and was prepared to pay for it. Like him, many are coughing up money for private treatment. When they have money, that is, in an economy with more than 50 percent unemployment.

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Jimmy Carter on Gaza: Peace and Health in the Occupied Territory

Peace and health in the occupied Palestinian territory
by Jimmy Carter
32 years ago, one of my highest priorities as President of the USA was to bring peace to the Middle East. For 13 days, I led intense negotiations between Israel and Egypt, resulting in the Camp David Accords in 1978.1
 
There were two agreements, ratified by an overwhelming vote of the Israeli Knesset. One was a peace treaty that was signed 6 months later between Egypt and Israel, and which has been meticulously honoured by both sides. The other was a commitment by Israel to withdraw its political and military forces from Palestinian territory and grant the Palestinians full autonomy over their own affairs.
 
This part has been consistently violated. There has been no withdrawal from the West Bank and the Palestinians here and in the Gaza Strip have been increasingly strangled.  Therefore the conflict within the occupied Palestinian territory has not abated and, by any objective measure, has worsened since I left office.

The 18-month blockade and recent Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas on earth, have compounded the impoverishment and suffering there, and recently caused the deaths of more than 1300 Palestinians,2 many women and children, helpless in the face of overwhelming firepower.
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Text As Verb

Text is a Verb
by Mickey Z.
Would you give up the ability to text ttyl to your BFF in order to save a species from going extinct? In 2009, it’s not an insane question.
 
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The next time your cell phone rings, try focusing on these six simple words: The Democratic Republic of the Congo. I ask you to do this because one of the primary components of cell phone circuitry is a metallic ore called Columbite-Tantalite—or “coltan.” Eighty percent of the world’s known coltan can be found in African nation of The Democratic Republic of the Congo (or DRC), which just so happens to be embroiled in a brutal (even by current standards) civil war since the pre-cell phone days of 1994.
 
Over time, all sides in the unrelenting struggles adroitly began using the mining and sale of coltan not only to nourish the West’s seemingly insatiable cell phone addiction, but also to fund their inexorable mayhem. Civilian deaths in the DRC during this time—mostly from war-related disease and malnutrition—are estimated not in the hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands, but rather in the millions…making it the world’s deadliest military conflict since the Second World War.

And it gets worse.
 
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Four and Out for Democrats: 3 Reasons Obama Will Fail

Four and Out for Democrats: 3 Reasons Obama Will Fail
by C. L. Cook
Though still shy of the traditional 100 day marker, on the three issues the new administration has prioritized it is clear, Barak Obama possesses neither the wherewithal to break the beltway stranglehold on both parties, nor the personal confidence to assert the full power of the presidency to bring his vision of Hope to fruition.

Instead, Obama is apparently convinced he must tread the middle road, taking the bipartisan path Bill Clinton called "triangulation."
 
This means the White House will be no friend to those wanting to see, at long last: an end to the wars and occupations begun through the Bush Doctrine; universal, single-payer health care; and an end to fixed financial markets that serve the top fiftieth percentile at the expense of the rest of taxpaying America.
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Gaza Close as Aid Caravan Crosses into Egypt

A SMOOTH CROSSING INTO EGYPT - Convoy Update 19.00 (GMT) Thursday 5th March 2009
by Viva Palestina
The convoy was over 3 miles long and contained about 220 vehicles. So it was an awesome sight when finally, at about 1.00pm local time, the first vehicles rolled into Egypt, where they were met at the borders by officials and a jubilant crowd. The Egyptians organised the convoy into smaller groups and set off towards the town of SALUM, their first stop. The convoy was handled with military precision by the army and the police. I am told and everyone was relieved at the speed of the crossing.

In Salum they were met by children, who handed them flowers, and they were warmly welcomed by the people. Then they were taken to a huge tent where a press conference was held and a reception ceremony took place.
Lunch was on the menu, before being whisked away to continue their journey towards the beautiful coastal town of MATRUH. A lavish reception awaits them in this picturesque part of Egypt where they are expected to enjoy the sea breeze after experiencing the beauty and quietness of the desert.

Overall, a good start to the final leg of the journey. Gaza is getting ever so close and the mission is close to being accomplished.
 
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Bagram: Obama's Guantanamo?

Obama's Guantanamo? Bush's Living Legacy at Bagram Prison
by Karen J. Greenberg
Just when you think you've woken up from a bad dream… When it comes to offshore injustice and secret prisons, especially our notorious but little known prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, let's hope the Obama years mean never having to complete that sentence.
 
In the Bush era, those of us who followed his administration's torture, detention, and interrogation policies often felt like we were unwilling participants in a perverse game of hide-and-seek. Whenever one of us stumbled upon a startling new document, a horrific new practice, a dismal new prison environment, or yet another individual implicated in torture policy, the feeling of revelation would soon be superseded by a sneaking suspicion that we were once again looking in the wrong direction, that the Bush administration was playing a Machiavellian game of distraction with us.

Okay, call it paranoia -- a state of mind well suited to the Age of Cheney -- but when Abu Ghraib finally came to light, it turned out that our real focus should have been on the administration's program of "extraordinary rendition" and the CIA secret flights to the foreign countries that were serving as proxy torturers for the United States. And when one case of torture by proxy, that of Maher Arar, achieved some prominence, we began looking at proxy torturers for the United States, when we should have been looking at legalized policies of torture by the U.S.
 
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Last Rites for the Western World

Last Rites for the United States, and Himself - A Review of Last Rites, by John Lukacs
by Walter C. Uhler   
In 1990, at the age of sixty-five, John Lukacs wrote a well-received "auto-history" entitled Confessions of an Original Sinner. Now, almost twenty years later, Mr. Lukacs has given his readers part two: Last Rites. The book not only appears to constitute a valedictory for an erudite and influential 85 year old man — who admits that his curiosity, reading and appetite for life are weakening — but also the swan song for the five hundred years of European culture carried forward, until recently, by the United States.

Which is to say that Mr. Lukacs sees signs of America's decadence all around: academics who neither buy nor read books, the widespread decline of serious reading, "the rapid deterioration of attention, the nervous constriction of its span," an "unwillingness to think," the rise of pictorial culture (a new "Dark Ages of symbols, pictures, images, abstractions"), and, most ominously, the emergence of a militaristic political conservatism in the United States.
 
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A Different Light: The Legacy of Rosalind Franklin

Revisiting the Legacy of Rosalind Franklin in a Different Light
by Diane Walsh
Montreal, Canada — DNA is often referred to as the secret of life. If you were inspired to study the complexities of chemistry and biology you’d probably know off the bat to go to the canon of science publications that exist in both print and online.

Scientifically informed people will have heard of Nobel Prize winners—Dr. Francis Crick, Dr. James Watson, and Dr. Maurice Wilkins.  As they discovered DNA, right?  It makes sense that the subject of DNA exists in the milieu of the world of science.  It would, wouldn’t it?   

But say, it was suggested there was someone else—also—behind this DNA discovery. Someone of whom you might not have heard, even if you made a point of knowing such things. Even more surprising—someone whose contribution had been knowingly suppressed.  Moreover, say someone presented you with the challenge of taking the subject of DNA out of formal scientific discourse and placing it in the field of fine art, for example?  Would you be up for it?
 
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From the 'Closed Zone'

"Closed Zone," from the director of animation of "Waltz with Bashir"
by Sarah Anne Minkin
Yoni Goodman, the director of animation for the movie "Waltz with Bashir," created a very short film called "Closed Zone" to illustrate the effects of closure in Gaza. For the last 18 months, Israel has maintained a siege of Gaza, strictly limiting who and what enters or exits the small & overcrowded strip of land. (Despite having withdrawn the Jewish settlers from Gaza in 2005, Israel maintains control over Gaza's land, air and water borders, including indirect control over the Rafah border with Egypt.)
 
 
 
This 1.5 minute film takes the perspective of an individual and shows what that closure looks like through his eyes. You can see it here: http://closedzone.com/
 
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Obama Ginning on Iraq

MEDIA ALERT: GENERIC INVADER NONSENSE - OBAMA ON IRAQ
by Media Lens
As a presidential candidate, Barrack Obama described the war in Iraq as one that "should never have been authorised and never been waged". On February 27, as president, Obama saw it differently. He told US troops at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina:

"You have fought against tyranny and disorder. You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor, and succeeded beyond any expectation." ('Obama's Speech at Camp Lejeune, N.C.,' New York Times, February 27, 2009;)

This might best be described as Generic Invader Nonsense (GIN). Much the same has been said by every war leader and general of every invasion in history. Did Goebbels not argue that Germany was fighting "tyranny" on the Eastern front in 1941? Were Indonesian armed forces not offering a "precious opportunity" to the impoverished people of East Timor in 1975?
 
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Getting Serious with Torture...Really

Being serious about torture. Or not.
by William Blum
In Cambodia they're once again endeavoring to hold trials to bring some former senior Khmer Rouge officials to justice for their 1975-79 war crimes and crimes against humanity. The current defendant in a United Nations-organized trial, Kaing Guek Eav, who was the head of a Khmer Rouge torture center, has confessed to atrocities, but insists he was acting under orders.1
 
As we all know, this is the defense that the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected for the Nazi defendants. Everyone knows that, right? No one places any weight on such a defense any longer, right? We make jokes about Nazis declaring: "I was only following orders!" ("Ich habe nur den Befehlen gehorcht!") Except that both the Bush and Obama administrations have spoken in favor of it.
 
Here's the new head of the CIA, Leon Panetta: "What I have expressed as a concern, as has the president, is that those who operated under the rules that were provided by the Attorney General in the interpretation of the law [concerning torture] and followed those rules ought not to be penalized. And ... I would not support, obviously, an investigation or a prosecution of those individuals. I think they did their job."2 Operating under the rules ... doing their job ... are of course the same as following orders.
 
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Vancouver Police Go for Cell Bondage Shopping Trip

Pivot Files "BodyCuff" Complaint
by Pivot Legal Society
Vancouver, March 3, 2009 - Pivot Legal Society is calling upon the Vancouver Police Department to change their policy regarding the use of "modified restraint devices" on prisoners in the Vancouver jail in light of the Willow Kinloch decision in Victoria, where a jury awarded $60,000 to a teen who was placed in a restraining device for hours on end after being uncooperative with jail guards.
 
 
The current VPD policy allows officers to place prisoners who are "causing a disturbance" in restraint devices even though they have been placed into a jail cell and are no longer a threat to officer safety. Pivot has received three complaints from individuals who say they were painfully bound at both their hands and feet by jail guards, and left in their cells for long periods of time barely able to move.

"These devices were designed to temporarily help officers transport a violent offender into a jail cell, not to inflict pain on an uncooperative prisoner who is already in a jail cell," says Douglas King, policing campaigner for the Pivot Legal Society. "Using this device as a form of corporal punishment on people is an abuse of police authority and needs to be banned."
 
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