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:
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Obama Ginning 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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America's Constitution and the Bush Bullet

How Close the Bush Bullet
by Robert Parry
Earlier this decade when some of us warned that George W. Bush was behaving more like an incipient dictator than the leader of a constitutional republic, we were dismissed as alarmists, left-wingers, traitors and a host of less printable epithets.

But it is now increasingly clear that President Bush and his top advisers viewed the 9/11 attacks as an opportunity to implement a series of right-wing legal theories that secretly granted Bush unlimited power to act lawlessly and outside the traditional parameters of the U.S. Constitution.

These theories held that at a time of war – even one as vaguely defined as the “war on terror” – Bush’s powers as Commander in Chief were “plenary,” or total. And since the conflict against terrorism had no boundaries in time or space, his unfettered powers would exist everywhere and essentially forever.
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Three Canadians Die in Afghanistan Bombing

Three Canadians Die in Afghanistan Bombing
by C. L. Cook
Three more Canadians died today in Afghanistan, victims of a roadside bomb. The three members of Canada's so-named, "Quick Reaction Force" were returning to base when their armoured vehicle was hit.
Warrant Officer Dennis Raymond Brown and Corporals Dany Fortin, and Kenneth O'Quinn are the 109th, 110th, and 111th Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since Canada's  deployment there in 2001.
Warrant Officer Dennis Raymond Brown (DND)  
Two Canadian aid workers and one diplomat have too been killed there.

Two others in the armoured vehicle crew wounded were evacuated to hospital at Kandahar Airbase and are said to be in "fair" and "good" condition.
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Nobel Nominee Vanunu Refuses to Share Stage with Peres

No to Nobel Award
by Mordechai J. C. Vanunu
Dear Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo, I am Vanunu Mordechai, who has been nominated several times to Nobel Peace Prize, also this year´s 2009 award. I am asking the committee to remove my name from the list for this year´s list of nominations. My main reason for this is that I cannot be part of  a list of laureates that includes Simon Peres. He is the man who was behind all the Israeli atomic policy.

Peres established and developed the atomic weapon program in Dimona in Israel.  Exactly like Dr. Khan did in Pakistan, Peres was the man behind the atomic weapon proliferation to South Africa and other states. He was also, for instance, behind the nuclear weapon test in South Africa in 1978.

Peres was the man who ordered the kidnapping of me in Italy Rome, Sept. 30, 1986, and for the secret trial and sentencing of me as a spy and traitor for 18 years in isolation in prison in Israel.
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Constitution Disposal and Yoo

George W. Bush’s Disposable Constitution
by Scott Horton
Yesterday the Obama Administration released a series of nine previously secret legal opinions crafted by the Office of Legal Counsel to enhance the presidential powers of George W. Bush. Perhaps the most astonishing of these memos was one crafted by University of California at Berkeley law professor John Yoo. He concluded that in wartime, the President was freed from the constraints of the Bill of Rights with respect to anything he chose to label as a counterterrorism operations inside the United States.

Here’s Neil Lewis’s summary in the New York Times:

“The law has recognized that force (including deadly force) may be legitimately used in self-defense,” Mr. Yoo and Mr. Delahunty wrote to Mr. Gonzales. Therefore any objections based on the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches are swept away, they said, since any possible privacy offense resulting from such a search is a lesser matter than any injury from deadly force. The Oct. 23 memorandum also said that “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.” It added that “the current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically.”
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Humanity's Environmental Blind Spot

Blind Spot
by Amanda Zackem
Here is what Howard Zinn said about the film: "BLIND SPOT is a fascinating documentary it draws on some of the most impressive scientific minds to educate us about our role in saving the earth, the water, the air and the lives of our children. I was transfixed by it.”

Dictators weren't the only people in the crosshairs of Woodstock's socially relevant entries. "Blind Spot," an intellectually dense, but utterly gorgeous, look at mankind's dangerous obsession with fossil fuel, blames the whole world for its wastefulness. Although at times overbearingly verbose, Adolfo Doring's astute, thoughtful portrait has enough sweeping visuals to offset the barrage of scientific talking heads. In other words, it makes "An Inconvenient Truth" look like a sitcom.

- Indiewire Oct 2008          
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Gaza Convoy: Across the Desert to Egypt

CONVOY OPT FOR DESERT ROUTE - Convoy Update 11.30 (GMT) Tuesday 23rd March 2009
by Yvonne Ridley
After enjoyiong the hospitality of Ras Lanouf, it was felt that the call of Gaza was getting louder and louder and that the aid has to get there as soon as possible.

Consultations took place between our convoy leaders and their Libyan counterparts and it was decided that the route will be amended to take the convoy through the desert road to the crossing point of AMSA'AD. This means that they will not go through Benghazi and Bayda where rallies and accomodation had been prepared for them to the disappointment of thousands of Libyans.

After setting off at 08.00am local time, they have just stopped in AJDABIYAH after a 200km trek, for fuel and refreshments. What awaits them is No Man's Land for another 400km (240 miles). They will be stopping when needed for rest,prayers and food.
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