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Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden - Nukes - Racism & Animal Cruelty Thanks to Republicans - Why We Need to Stop Eating Fish - Insurance Rips Off Customers - more

- The Ability to Kill Osama Bin Laden Does Not Make America Great
    The gap between rhetoric and reality has long been a defining trait of American life. Lies about our values have shielded us from the brutal facts of our nation ever since we built it on the back of genocide and slavery. But it is in times like these that the dissonance becomes unbearable.
- The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries
    At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. 
    When we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.

    And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.
    Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.
- Aide to Japan PM quits over radiation limits
    A senior nuclear adviser to Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister, has submitted his resignation, alleging the government had ignored his advice on radiation limits and failed to follow the law.
    Toshiso Kosako, a Tokyo University professor, who was named last month as an aide to Kan, said the government had only taken ad-hoc measures to contain the crisis at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
- Same Old from the Nuclear Gang after Fukushima
    Wishful thinking about energy generation has apparently induced both temporary blindness and long-term amnesia about the history of nuclear "mishaps."
- Storms in US cause loss of external power at three nuclear reactors
    According to an incident report submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission last night, an emergency was declared at the plant following a loss of external power at 16:35 CDT. Backup diesel generators kicked into action to keep the reactors' cooling systems operational, and although some power has been restored to the plant since, they will continue to operate until full power is restored, according to updates on the TVA website. The reactors at Browns Ferry are of a similar design to those at Fukushima-Daichii.
- US reels from deadly storms
    The death toll from Wednesday's storms reached 337 across seven states, including 238 in Alabama, making it the deadliest US tornado outbreak since March 1932, when another Alabama storm killed 332 people.
- Donald Trump's Lunacy Reveals Core Truth About the Republicans
    Since the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party has proved that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. It has long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals – and it turns out it was on to something. Every six months, the party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.
- Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch
    On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries [run by oil billionaire Republican climate change deniers] sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.
- Why The Planet and Your Body Need You to Stop Eating Fish ASAP
    Believe it or not, fish are on the brink of extinction. A report released today found that 40 species of fish that live in the Mediterranean could disappear in just a few years due to overfishing, pollution, and habitat deterioration. It goes without saying that this is very serious. Some of the most popular fish are in danger, including bluefin tuna, dusky grouper, sea bass and hake. Many consider blue fish to be the best tasting tuna and it is often used in sushi (distinguished as maguro or toro). Almost half the species of Mediterranean sharks and rays are endangered.
    Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury, which can cause major harm to your nervous system
- Don't Cover-Up Animal Cruelty
    [Republican supported law] would make it illegal to photograph farmed animals without first getting permission from the farmer. What are they trying to hide? Do Iowa farms house really famous animals like Miss Piggy and Babe and this law just seeks to protect them from paparazzi?
    If only. What they are trying to hide are the routine violations of state and federal anti-cruelty laws that have been documented in Iowa and across the country.
- Including Animals in Our Circle of Concern
    ...too little has changed, and animal protection is still not embraced by most progressives as integral to the important work of creating a just and healthy world.
- Eye-Opening Study Reveals New Health Benefit of a Vegan Diet
    There seems to be no end to the number of health benefits associated with a vegan diet. We already know that vegans tend to have slimmer waistlines,  fewer arthritis symptoms,  and longer life spans and that vegans are less likely to suffer from heart disease, strokes, and even cancer—but now researchers suspect that vegans may also have a "significantly lower risk of developing cataracts."
- Who Covereth the Heaven With Clouds, Who Prepareth Rain For the Earth, Who Hasn'teth A Clue
    Fear not the extreme weather threatening us all, the tornados in the South, the drought and fire ravaging Texas. GOP Gov. Rick Perry - he who has called climate change “one contrived phony mess" and whose state is the biggest carbon polluter in the country - will save us with prayer.
- Birthers, Royals and Crocks
    It’s been a week—or an eternity—of embarrassments for the human race, though for once fate’s sense of humor was as well-timed as a Johnny Carson joke: the running gag over Barack Obama’s birth certificate culminated at the same time as that other gag known as the British monarchy. Unfortunately, neither Obama releasing proof of his whereabouts on his first day of Genesis nor the marriage of William and Kate plus 8,000 television anchors is likely to put an end to either charade.
- White House Threatens to Blacklist Paper for Covering Protest
    The San Francisco Chronicle is apparently in trouble with the White House for posting video of a protest against the White House's treatment of suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning.
- Petraeus' CIA Move Raises Awkward Questions
    While political Washington is cheering General David Petraeus' nomination to head the CIA, the mood at the agency's headquarters and in Pakistan's intelligence service is less celebratory.
    Petraeus, the architect of the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, is expected as CIA director to embrace the campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, a nominally covert CIA operation that has fueled anti-American sentiment but put heavy pressure on militant safe havens.
- 'Uncut' Activists Claim Purge of Facebook Pages
    Protest groups claim Facebook has taken down dozens of pages in a purge of activists' accounts
- Venezuela Institutes Windfall Oil Tax to Support Social Programs, Education
    Ramirez said revenue from the tax will not used for investment in the oil industry, but rather will be funneled into the government's social programs and projects aimed at improving health care, education, housing, agriculture and infrastructure.
- Insurers Getting Rich By Not Paying for Care
    I'm betting that just about every executive of a for-profit health insurance company, whose total compensation ultimately depends on the value of their stock options, woke up on Good Friday considerably wealthier than they were 24 hours earlier. Why? Because of the spectacular profits that one of those companies reported Thursday morning.
    Among those suddenly wealthier executives, by the way, are the corporate medical directors who decide whether or not patients will get coverage for treatments their doctors believe might save their lives.
- Health Execs Getting Richer As Some Americans Beg for Help to Pay for Care
    To make this kind of money, insurance companies have to spend far less paying their policyholders' medical claims than anyone thought possible.
    They've been able to do that so far this year, despite the new health care reform law, by shifting many policyholders into plans that force them to spend more from their own pockets before coverage kicks in. Insurance firms also fatten their bottom lines by denying more claims.
- Increasing Calls for Iraq War Probe of Bush Administration
    In his just published memoirs, The Age of Deception, former chief United Nations nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei asks that George W. Bush and officials in his administration face international criminal investigation for the war in Iraq. One thing he learned from the Iraq war, he says, is that deliberate deception is not limited to small countries ruled by ruthless dictators.
- Republican Paul Ryan's "Spinal Tap" Tour Packs the Halls, But The Crowds Aren't Cheering
    When Ryan claimed that taxes needed to be cut for corporations and the wealthy in order to create jobs, he was greeted with a collective groan from hundreds of workers in a town that just lost a major auto factory. One man yelled: “We’ve been cutting their taxes for 30 years and what did it get us? Outsourcing and layoff notices.”

Justice or Vengeance?
In the midst of the Arab Spring, which directly rejects al-Qaeda-style small-group violence in favor of mass-based, society-wide mobilization and non-violent protest to challenge dictatorship and corruption, does the killing of Osama bin Laden represent ultimate justice, or even an end to the "unfinished business" of 9/11?
by Phyllis Bennis
Published on Monday, May 2, 2011 by OtherWords

AMMAN, Jordan — U.S. agents killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, apparently without cooperation from the government in Islamabad. The al-Qaeda leader was responsible for great suffering; I do not mourn his death. But every action has causes and consequences, and in the current moment all are dangerous. It's unlikely that bin Laden's killing will have much impact on the already weakened capacity of al-Qaeda, which is widely believed to be made up of only a couple hundred fighters between Afghanistan and Pakistan — though its effect on other terrorist forces is uncertain. Pakistan itself may pay a particularly high price.

As President Barack Obama described it, "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden." Assuming that was indeed the case, this raid reflects the brutal reality of the deadly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that preceded it and that continue today, 10 years later — it wasn't about bringing anyone to justice, it was about vengeance.

And given the enormous human costs still being paid by Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, and others in the U.S. wars waged in the name of capturing bin Laden, it's particularly ironic that in the end it wasn't the shock-and-awe airstrikes or invasions of ground troops, but rather painstaking police work — careful investigation, cultivating intelligence sources — that made possible the realization of that goal.
President Obama acknowledged that the post-9/11 unity of the people of the United States "has at times frayed." But he didn't mention that that unity had actually collapsed completely within 24 hours of the horrifying attacks on the twin towers. September 11, 2001 didn't "change the world;" the world was changed on September 12, when George W. Bush announced his intention to take the world to war in response. That was the moment that the actual events of 9/11, a crime against humanity that killed nearly 3,000 people, were left behind and the "global war on terror" began. That GWOT war has brought years of war, devastation and destruction to hundreds of thousands around the world, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond.

There was an unprecedented surge of unity, of human solidarity, in response to the crime of 9/11. In the United States much of that response immediately took on a jingoistic and xenophobic frame (some of which showed up again last night in the aggressive chants of "USA, USA!!" from flag-waving, cheering crowds outside the White House following President Obama's speech). Some of it was overtly militaristic, racist and Islamophobic. But some really did reflect a level of human unity unexpected and rare in U.S. history. Even internationally, solidarity with the U.S. people for a brief moment replaced the well-deserved global anger at U.S. arrogance, wars, and drive towards empire. In France, headlines proclaimed "nous sommes tous Américaines maintenant." We are all Americans now.

But that human solidarity was short-lived. It was destroyed by the illegal wars that shaped the U.S. response to the 9/11 crime. Those wars quickly created numbers of victims far surpassing the 3,000 killed on September 11. The lives of millions more around the world were transformed in the face of U.S. aggression — in Pakistan alone, where a U.S. military team assassinated bin Laden, thousands of people have been killed and maimed by U.S. drone strikes and the suicide bombs that are part of the continuing legacy of the U.S. war.

These wars have brought too much death and destruction. Too many people have died and too many children have been orphaned for the United States to claim, as President Obama's triumphantly did, that "justice has been done" because one man, however symbolically important, has been killed. However one calculates when and how "this fight" actually began, the U.S. government chose how to respond to 9/11. And that response, from the beginning, was one of war and vengeance — not of justice.

The president's speech last night could have aimed to put an end to the triumphalism of the "global war on terror" that George W. Bush began and Barack Obama claimed as his own. It could have announced a new U.S. foreign policy based on justice, equality, and respect for other nations. But it did not. It declared instead that the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and beyond will continue.
In that reaffirmation of war, President Obama reasserted the American exceptionalism that has been a hallmark of his recent speeches, claiming that "America can do whatever we set our mind to." He equated the U.S. ability and willingness to continue waging ferocious wars, with earlier accomplishments of the U.S. — including, without any trace of irony, the "struggle for equality for all our citizens." In President Obama's iteration, the Global War on Terror apparently equals the anti-slavery and civil rights movements.

Today, the Arab Spring is on the rise across the Middle East and North Africa. It's ineffably sad that President Obama, in his claim that bin Laden's death means justice, didn't use the opportunity to announce the end of the deadly U.S. wars that answered the attacks of 9/11. This could have been a moment to replace vengeance with cooperation, replace war with justice.

But it was not. Regardless of bin Laden's death, as long as those deadly U.S. wars continue in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and beyond, justice has not been done.