True North Humanist Perspective May 24 2013

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Brian Mulroney pronounces on the Jewish question and Israel

'One can strongly disagree with policies of the government of Israel without being an anti-Semite'

By Peter Larson
National Council on Canada Arab Relations

24 May 2013 — Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (1984 to 1993) made an interesting speech on May 9 to the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs committee in Montreal.
In the audience were many of those who are the city’s strongest defenders of Israel. (Also in the crowd, according to Canadian Jewish News was Justin Trudeau wearing “a tie with a stylized Star of David” on it.)
Mulroney spent a lot of his speech talking about Canada’s sorry record of anti-Semitism, which bears remembering, beginning with exclusions of Jews from Canadian hospitals and universities, up to and including a Canadian Prime Minister who openly praised Adolf Hitler. He also spoke about his (Mulroney’s) support of Israel, which we can only assume is genuinely felt and which he evidently feels to be part of fighting Anti-Semitism. (More)


Stephen Harper would have us believe the impossible

'Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a bitter control freak. How could he not know what was going on between his office and Mike Duffy?'

Senate expense scandal points to the essential Stephen Harper

By Thomas Walkom
National Affairs
The Toronto Star
21 May 2013 — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has attempted to put the Senate scandal behind him. He has failed.
He has failed because the imbroglio in the upper chamber speaks to more than the dubious accounting methods said to be employed by Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, two high-profile Harper senators forced to resign from the Conservative caucus.
It also speaks to the essential Stephen Harper.
The prime minister is a complicated man. He is at heart deeply ideological, a Margaret Thatcher conservative who believes firmly in the primacy of markets. (More)
Israel ex-intel chief says Russia won't let the US attack Syria

Amos Yadlin warns Israel should be wary of carrying out further airstrikes on Damascus, says Russia is signaling that it won’t let the US touch Syria

By Times of Israel Staff

18 May 2013 — Underlining growing concerns over friction between Jerusalem and Damascus, the highly-respected former head of the Israeli army’s Military Intelligence hierarchy on Friday compared current Israeli-Syrian tensions to the strains that presaged the 1967 Israel-Arab war.

He also said Moscow, by continuing to stand by President Bashar Assad, was signaling  that it was not going to let the US get its hands on Syria.

Maj.-Gen (ret.) Amos Yadlin, a one-time fighter pilot, ex-head of IDF Military Intelligence and former Israeli military attaché to the US who now heads a prestigious Tel Aviv think tank, warned that Syria’s embattled president might well retaliate were Israel to again strike at weapons convoys in Syria, as it has done twice this month already. (More)


Obama two years ago: Assad would fall in 'A matter of days, not weeks'

Pew polling reveals Syrian support strengthens behind Assad

UN general assembly vote reflects shift in Syrian public opinion

By Franklin Lamb

Franklin Lamb, a former Assistant Counsel of the US House Judiciary Committee at the US Congress and Professor of International Law at Northwestern College of Law in Oregon, earned his Law Degree at Boston University and his LLM, M.Phil, and PhD degrees at the London School of Economics.

18 May 2013 — It’s not hard to find critics of the Assad government in the Governorate (Muhafazat) of Homs or for that matter, to varying degrees in Syria’s other thirteen Governorates according to Syrian analysts interviewed by this observer and reports from human rights groups including lawyers representing dissidents in Syria. However, after nearly 27 months of turmoil, the public opinion pendulum is markedly shifting back in support of the current regime.

One international political result was registered at the United Nations this past week when a US-Qatari-Saudi drafted General Assembly Resolution that was designed to increase pressure on the Assad government stumbled badly and fell far short of what the Saudi Ambassador to the UN and other US allies predicted would be an overwhelming vote in favor.

Over the past four or five months it has become increasingly clear that public opinion in Syria is shifting for reasons that include, but are not limited to the following: (More)


More than 85,000 US veterans raped by fellow servicemen

60 per cent were women and 40 per cent men — cost of rehabilitation astronomical

Eurasia Review

21 May 21 2013 — More than 85,000 US veterans received medical treatment for sex abuse trauma in 2012, while only 4,000 applied for disability benefits. The numbers portray the shocking long-term consequences of sex abuse, days after the Pentagon acknowledged the problem.

The data shows the long-term financial and emotional costs of sexual assault in the military for both men and women. Of the 85,000 veterans suffering from what the Department of Veterans Affairs calls “military sexual trauma”, 60 percent were female and 40 percent were male. In comparison, only 4,000 American veterans sought disability benefits in 2012, which is 20 times less than those suffering from sex abuse trauma, the Associated Press reports. (More)


Atheists rejoice! Pope Francis says you're OK

It's not about being right, it's about being loving, the unusually tolerant Pontiff tells his flock

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
23 May 2013 — It likely doesn’t matter much to the atheists of the world that — of all people — Pope Francis is on their side. But he is. And that’s a cool thing for all of us.

In a message delivered Wednesday via Vatican Radio, the new pontiff distinguished himself with a call for tolerance and a message of support – and even admiration – toward nonbelievers.

Naturally, a guy whose job it is to lead the world’s largest Christian faith is still going to come at his flock with a Jesus-centric message. But he’s taking it in an encouraging new direction. In his message, Francis dissed the apostles for being “a little intolerant” and said, “All of us have this commandment at heart: Do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not (a) Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must.”

And the pope spoke of the need to meet each other somewhere on our on common ground. “This commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” It was a deeper affirmation of his comments back in March, when he declared that the faithful and atheists can be  “precious allies… to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.” (More)

Some questions make atheists feel second-class — and make you look like a jerk for asking them
By Greta Christina
14 May 2013 — Asked of Hispanic-Americans: "Are you in this country legally?" Asked of gays and lesbians and bisexuals: "How do you have sex?" Asked of transgender people: "Have you had the surgery?" Asked of African Americans: "Can I touch your hair?"

Every marginalized group has some question, or questions, that are routinely asked of them — and that drive them up a tree; questions that have insult or bigotry or dehumanization woven into the very asking. Sometimes the questions are asked sincerely, with sincere ignorance of the offensive assumptions behind them. And sometimes they are asked in a hostile, passive-aggressive, "I'm just asking questions" manner. But it's still not okay to ask them. They're not questions that open up genuine inquiry and discourse, they're questions that close minds, much more than they open them. Even if that's not the intention. And most people who care about bigotry and marginalization and social justice — or who just care about good manners — don't ask them.

Here are nine questions you shouldn't ask atheists. I'm going to answer them, just this once, and then I'll explain why you shouldn't be asking them, and why so many atheists will get ticked off if you do. (More)

By Glenn Greenwald
Guardian UK
17 May 2013 — Senior Obama officials tell the US Senate: the 'war', in limitless form, will continue for 'at least' another decade - or two

Last October, senior Obama officials anonymously unveiled to the Washington Post their newly minted "disposition matrix", a complex computer system that will be used to determine how a terrorist suspect will be "disposed of": indefinite detention, prosecution in a real court, assassination-by-CIA-drones, etc. Their rationale for why this was needed now, a full 12 years after the 9/11 attack:

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether the statutory basis for this "war" - the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) - should be revised (meaning: expanded). This is how Wired's Spencer Ackerman (soon to be the Guardian US's national security editor) described the most significant exchange:

"Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, 'At least 10 to 20 years.' . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today - atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America's Thirty Years War."

That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the "war on terror" will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week's big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of "endless war". Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so. (More)
By Jack Kim
25 April 2013 SEOUL South Korea — Kim Kyong-hui has battled alcoholism and the killing of her lover to stand alongside her nephew, North Korea's youthful leader Kim Jong-un, as a reminder that he is the true heir of the dynasty's blood-line.

The 67-year-old daughter of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung cuts a rare female figure in Pyongyang's male-dominated hierarchy and ranks as a four-star general, often sporting her trademark dark glasses at important events.

She is married to Jang Song-thaek, seen as the second most powerful man in the North, who has survived purges and official displeasure to reach the pinnacle of his career, thanks largely to his sometimes tempestuous marriage to Kim.

This Pyongyang power couple has formed a kind of regency in the obscurantist political world of the North behind its young and mercurial leader, who succeeded his father Kim Jong-il in December 2011.

In recent weeks, the 30-year-old dictator has threatened the United States with nuclear attack, declared a "state of war" with South Korea and announced he was restarting a plutonium reactor at the Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant - all on top of conducting a third nuclear test in February and a long-range rocket test in December. (More)

North Korean special envoy visits China

to reassure its most important ally

Russia Herald
22 May 2013 PYONGYANG North KoreaIn an indication that North Korea may give diplomacy a chance to end regional tension, its leader Kim Jong Un Wednesday sent a special envoy to China to win the confidence of its most important ally.
The trip by Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, a senior Workers' Party official and the military's top political officer, comes after months of ignoring Chinese warnings to give up nuclear weapons.
The visit is taking place amid tensions easing on the Korean Peninsula. For the last two months, Pyongyang has been threatening to attack South Korean and US military bases in the region.
Choe is considered a longtime Kim family friend who is often seen standing next to the leader, along with Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle, in official pictures. (More)

US effort to block democracy in Venezuela

despite honest poll harms hemispheric relations

By Laura Carlsen
Foreign Policy In Focus
02 May 2013 — The US government stands alone among major world governments in refusing to recognize the results of the recent Venezuelan presidential election. The petulant position of the Obama administration harms U.S. relations across the entire hemisphere and feeds a scenario of violence in that Caribbean country.

Nation after nation--including the last hold-out Spain and the Organization of American States—has recognized Nicolas Maduro, who took office following his narrow win in the April 14 elections. The results ratified by the National Electoral Council show Maduro with 50.78 percent to 48.95 percent for defeated conservative candidate Henrique Capriles—a difference of 1.8 percent, or some 260,000 votes. There were no major anomalies on Election Day, which by all reports went remarkably smoothly.

Following the elections, Capriles contested the results in fiery speeches and called on supporters to demonstrate, but curiously did not file a legal challenge.

The Venezuelan electoral system is highly tamper-proof, as recognized by monitoring organizations like the Carter Center, which before the vote assessed the system as “the best in the world.”  Delegations from the Carter Center, the Union of South American Countries, and other experts observed the elections and proclaimed them clean and fair. Venezuelans vote electronically, then print out and double-check a paper ballot before depositing it as well. The Electoral Council carries out an audit at polls of 54.3 percent of the votes. These reviews are signed by members of the political parties, including Capriles’ Democratic Unity Party. (More)

By William Boardman
Reader Supported News
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
21 May 2013 — The militant American empire doesn't need any more AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists).

On September 14, 2001, Congress authorized the president to wage unfettered, permanent war against pretty much anyone the president, in his sole discretion, deemed related to the 9/11 attacks and any future attacks. On September 18, 2001, President Bush signed this authorization into law.

The United States has been in a permanent state of war ever since. And on May 16, 2013, the Obama administration's Pentagon officials testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that they expected this permanent state of war to last another 10 to 20 years.

This came as an apparent surprise to some senators, including John McCain, the Arizona Republican who voted for the initial authorization: "This authority ... has grown way out of proportion and is no longer applicable to the conditions that prevailed, that motivated the United States Congress to pass the authorization for the use of military force that we did in 2001." (More)

By Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader is a politician, activist and the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel.
17 May 2013 — Why are big, global U.S. corporations so unpatriotic? After all, they were created in the U.S.A., rose to immense profit because of the toil of American workers, are bailed out by American taxpayers whenever they’re in trouble, and are safeguarded abroad by the U.S. military.

Yet these corporate goliaths work their tax lawyers overtime to escape U.S. taxes. Many pay less than you do in federal income taxes. Imagine corporations, like General Electric, have not paid federal income taxes on U.S. profits for years.

Mega corporations have abandoned U.S. workers by entrenching “pull-down” trade agreements that make it easier than ever to ship jobs and whole industries to fascist and communist regimes abroad which keep their workers near serfdom.

Remember, the U.S. has run large trade deficits for the past 30 years as a result of anti-American trade deals pushed by these global companies. These goliaths are pressing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that will further pull down our economy. (More)

Afghanistan: sharp rise in women jailed for ‘moral crimes’

after more than a decade of US guns spreading democracy

By Eurasia Review
21 May 2013There has been a sharp rise in Afghanistan of women and girls being imprisoned for ‘moral crimes,’ warned Human Rights Watch this Tuesday.

Upon that backdrop, HRW is urging the Afghan government to take urgent steps to halt what it describes as an alarming increase of these detentions, although it notes senior government officials in the past have  failed to end such abuses.

Statistics from Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry indicate that the number of women and girls imprisoned for “moral crimes” in Afghanistan had risen to about 600 in May 2013 from 400 in October 2011 – a 50 percent increase in a year and a half. Since October 2011, there has been an almost 30 percent increase overall in the number of women and girls imprisoned in Afghanistan’s prisons and juvenile detention facilities. (More)


Iran allows eight candidates for presidential campaign

Ahmadinejad challenges removal of his aide from race

Russia Herald

22 May 2013 TERHAN Iran — Iran has approved eight candidates for the presidential election due next month, rejecting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top aide in a major setback to the hawkish leader of the Islamic republic.

Ahmadinejad criticised the decision to remove Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei from the final candidate list and said it was an act of "oppression". He announced plans to take up the case with country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The candidates approved by Iran's Guardian Council of Constitution for the presidential race included the country's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati

Also approved for the June ballot are prominent lawmaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel and Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf

The approved candidates are all top Khamenei loyalists and are hard-liners associated with the clerical establishment. (More)


The Benghazi Lie
By Mark Steyn
National Review
10 May 2013 — Shortly before last November’s election I took part in a Fox News documentary on Benghazi, whose other participants included the former governor of New Hampshire John Sununu. Making chit-chat while the camera crew were setting up, Governor Sununu said to me that in his view Benghazi mattered because it was “a question of character.” That’s correct. On a question of foreign policy or counterterrorism strategy, men of good faith can make the wrong decisions. But a failure of character corrodes the integrity of the state.

That’s why career diplomat Gregory Hicks’s testimony was so damning — not so much for the new facts as for what those facts revealed about the leaders of this republic. In this space in January, I noted that Hillary Clinton had denied ever seeing Ambassador Stevens’s warnings about deteriorating security in Libya on the grounds that “1.43 million cables come to my office” — and she can’t be expected to see all of them, or any. Once Ambassador Stevens was in his flag-draped coffin listening to her eulogy for him at Andrews Air Force Base, he was her bestest friend in the world — it was all “Chris this” and “Chris that,” as if they’d known each other since third grade. But up till that point he was just one of 1.43 million close personal friends of Hillary trying in vain to get her ear.  (More)