Tuesday 16th of September 2014

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by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-16 16:29

 

John Howard has questioned the Coalition’s decision to launch two royal commissions in its first year in government, saying that the process shouldn’t be used for “narrow targeted political purposes”.

A royal commission into the home insulation scheme has already concluded, while another royal commission, into unions, is underway.

Howard told the Australian: “I’m uneasy about the idea of having royal commissions or inquiries into essentially a political decision on which the public has already delivered a verdict.

“I don’t think you should ever begin to go down the American path of using the law for narrow targeted political purposes. I think the special prosecutions in the US are appalling.”

Four young men died during work provided by the home insulation scheme in 2009 and 2010. The previous Labor government introduced the scheme as a way to stimulate the economy during the global financial crisis.

The home insulation royal commission cost about $25m and followed several previous coronial and Senate inquiries into the matter. The commission questioned former prime minister Kevin Rudd about the scheme’s roll-out, with the subsequent report finding that the program was seriously flawed.

“I am uneasy about those approaches,” Howard said. “I have to say I’m not happy about that but that’s a decision the government makes and, after all, the former government was tipped out on the strength of, among other things, the failure of the home insulation scheme. There has been coronial investigations.”

Howard is the latest former prime minister to question how the Coalition is handling the royal commission process. Earlier this year, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke expressed concern that the government would break a long-standing convention of cabinet confidentiality by handing certain documents over to the home insulation royal commission.

 

read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/15/john-howard-questions-coalitions-two-royal-commissions

 

We all know that Abbott is a vindictive dick (or arsehole, depending on your viewpoint) who hates anyone who gave him a bit of political stick...

 

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-16 14:22

 


Could Nitrogen Asphyxiation Replace Lethal Injection?


By Markus Feldenkirchen  in Oklahoma City


There have been several botched executions by lethal injection this year, turning many Americans against the death penalty. Now an Oklahoma politician wants to put death-row convicts to death using a new method: nitrogen asphyxiation.

Following a series of botched executions in the US, one lawmaker in the state of Oklahoma is now trying to gather support behind a new form of capital punishment. Mike Christian, a Republican in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, would like to see nitrogen asphyxiation introduced as a method to execute death row inmates. Nitrogen and noble gases such as helium are seen by proponents of assisted suicide as offering a reliable, quick and painless way to die.

Christian plans to introduce his proposal this week at a House hearing on the future of the death penalty. By December, Christian told SPIEGEL, he hopes to be able to present a draft law. Should it receive the requisite support, nitrogen asphyxiation could replace lethal injection as the primary execution method used sometime next year.

"It's the most humane way to die. You just sit there and a few minutes later, you're dead." Christian says. "I think it will definitely meet the standards (set) by the United States Supreme Court that it is definitely not cruel and inhumane."

For nitrogen asphyxiation executions, convicts would be placed in an airtight chamber or under a large plastic sack. The introduction of nitrogen, and the absence of oxygen, leads to a rapid loss of consciousness and, ultimately, to death. The method has never been used for capital punishment cases in the US. And there is disagreement as to whether it is as painless as Christian suggests, with some reports claiming that it is an agonizing way to die.

Of the 38 US states in which executions are carried out, 37 currently use lethal injection. The procedure was developed by a medical examiner from Oklahoma in 1977 and was long considered to be more effective and less painful than previous methods such as hanging, the electric chair or the gas chamber. "Back then, it was Oklahoma that came up with an innovation, and today we should take the lead again and come up with an innovative method," Christian says.

Dr. Michael Copeland, assistant professor at East Central University in Oklahoma City, has been tasked by Christian with providing an expert opinion on the issue. "Nitrogen is the most humane, cheapest and easiest way to execute people," Copeland says. In contrast with gases used previously for capital punishment, he says that convicts executed with noble gases such as nitrogen would not feel as though they were suffocating.

"With nitrogen we won't have the problem of drug shortage that we've witnessed recently," Copeland says. "It's ubiquitous." Unlike with lethal injections, little can go wrong, he says. "You don't need a doctor or other medical personnel to find a vein."

 

read more: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/us-representative-wants-to-replace-lethal-injection-with-nitrogen-a-991651-druck.html

 

 

Sometimes, I worry about my fellow humans... Their desire for sadistic quickery is astonishing, even in the case of "approved" killerisation.

 

See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kye2oX-b39E

 

 

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-16 13:51

 

 

Wendy Whiteley suggested long-term staff associated with the previous gallery director Edmund Capon may have been targeted for removal.

"There seems to be some deliberate idea that they're kind of shaking out the rug," she said.

Whiteley added: "I really don't know. Perhaps they think loyalties get split."

Vere Kenny, a gallery volunteer for 10 years, said alienating the gallery's team of volunteers could also jeopardise the gallery's fundraising efforts.

"Discarding an unpaid workforce when dollars are being begged for extensions is not a good look," she said. "Nor is it a good idea to alienate a 200-odd body of people who may have influence and indeed some dollars they may now withhold."

She said the volunteers were told it was too difficult to train them for the new role.

"There is now some mention of customer surveys being part of the ticket selling," she said. "Great way to piss off your public."

The plan to replace the AGNSW volunteer task force of mainly elderly and retired men and women with casual ticket sellers was announced earlier this month.

 

 

 

The painting in the mischief at top, Bailed up, is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It was painted by Tom Roberts.

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-16 13:07

A joke making the rounds among Russian officials and hacks who take a keen interest in what is going on in the Middle East these days goes something like this: How will the Yanks deal with the Islamic State group? They will create "Islamic State 2", a bigger and better armed group, and let it deal with the original Islamic State group. And what happens when "Islamic State 2" turns against them as it happened with the original Islamic State? They will create "Islamic State 3", and so on.

But seriously, the rise and spread of the Islamic State group is no laughing matter. Now that the US and its allies have finally woken up to the dangers of the spread of the extremist group, the worry in Moscow is that the hotheads in the Pentagon and at Nato headquarters in Brussels will decide to start hitting Islamic State positions in Syria along with "other targets" there as well - for instance, Syrian army positions.

US President Barack Obama has already announced his plan to deal with the group, promising to lead a "broad coalition" that will "roll back this terrorist threat". In Moscow, the fear is that the US will seize this opportunity to intervene in Syria.

The Libyan scenario

According to Valeriy Fenenko from the Moscow Centre for International Security, the US can actually use the presence of the Islamic State group in Syria as a pretext to implement the "Libyan scenario".

"The Americans are bound to try to compensate for their failure last fall," he says. "At first, it will be air strikes against terrorists and then, in parallel, it may amount to helping the moderate opposition. The US may start a creeping interference, like it happened in Bosnia," he said.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/russia-warned-yanks-about-islam-201491165841895365.html

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-16 13:01

 

 

When it comes to controversies about curriculum, textbook content and academic standards, Texas is the state that keeps on giving.

Back in 2010, we had an uproar over proposed changes to social studies standards by religious conservatives on the State Board of Education, which included a bid to calling the United States’ hideous slave trade history as the “Atlantic triangular trade.” There were other doozies, too, such as one proposal to remove Thomas Jefferson from the Enlightenment curriculum and replace him with John Calvin. Some were changed but the board’s approved standards were roundly criticized as distorted history.

There’s a new fuss about proposed social studies textbooks for Texas public schools that are based on what are called the Texas Essential  Knowledge  and  Skills.  Scholarly reviews of 43 proposed history, geography and government textbooks for Grades 6-12 — undertaken by the Education Fund of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog and activist group that monitors far-right issues and organizations — found extensive problems in American Government textbooks, U.S. and World History textbooks, Religion in World History textbooks, and Religion in World Geography textbooks.  The state board will vote on which books to approve in November.

Ideas promoted in various proposed textbooks include the notion that Moses and Solomon inspired American democracy, that in the era of segregation only “sometimes” were schools for black children “lower in quality” and that Jews view Jesus Christ as an important prophet.

Here are the broad findings of 10 scholars, who wrote four separate reports, taken from an executive summary, followed by the names of the scholars and a list of publishers who submitted textbooks.

The findings:

  • A number of government and world history textbooks exaggerate Judeo-Christian influence on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition.
  • Two government textbooks include misleading information that undermines the Constitutional concept of the separation of church and state.
  • Several world history and world geography textbooks include biased statements that inappropriately portray Islam and Muslims negatively.
  • All of the world geography textbooks inaccurately downplay the role that conquest played in the spread of Christianity.
  • Several world geography and history textbooks suffer from an incomplete – and often inaccurate – account of religions other than Christianity.
  • Coverage of key Christian concepts and historical events are lacking in a few textbooks, often due to the assumption that all students are Christians and already familiar with Christian events and doctrine.
  • A few government and U.S. history textbooks suffer from an uncritical celebration of the free enterprise system, both by ignoring legitimate problems that exist in capitalism and failing to include coverage of government’s role in the U.S. economic system.
  • One government textbook flirts with contemporary Tea Party ideology, particularly regarding the inclusion of anti-taxation and anti-regulation arguments.
  • One world history textbook includes outdated – and possibly offensive – anthropological categories and racial terminology in describing African civilization.
  • A number of U.S. history textbooks evidence a general lack of attention to Native American peoples and culture and occasionally include biased or misleading information.
  • One government textbook … includes a biased – verging on offensive – treatment of affirmative action.
  • Most U.S. history textbooks do a poor job of covering the history of LGBT citizens in discussions of efforts to achieve civil rights in this country.
  • Elements of the Texas curriculum standards give undue legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” and the legacy of slavery in the South. While most publishers avoid problems with these issues, passages in a few U.S. history and government textbooks give a nod to these misleading arguments.

 

In July, the Texas Freedom Network released a review of the various panels of people who had been selected by the Texas Board of Education to review the proposed textbooks. It said in part:

 

 

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/09/12/proposed-texas-textbooks-are-inaccurate-biased-and-politicized-new-report-finds/?hpid=z4

 

Now watch for the Pyne review of curriculum in Aussieland. See article at top.

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-16 12:04

Australia’s military involvement in Iraq is likely to cost half a billion dollars each year, Tony Abbott has revealed, as he confirmed some personnel had already left for the Middle East.

The prime minister said Australian special forces deployed to the region would be armed, but based in Iraqi and Kurdish military headquarters in an advisory role rather than directly fighting in the field against Islamic State (Isis) militants.

Abbott defended Australia’s decision to help transport weapons and other military equipment to the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq, after reports that the Peshmerga were working closely with the PKK, which is designated by Australia as a terrorist organisation.

read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/16/tony-abbott-military-action-against-isis-cost-half-billion-dollars-year

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-16 10:11

Climate Summit: European Union surprised Tony Abbott will not attend high level climate talks



The European Union's climate chief says it is a pity Prime Minister Tony Abbott will not attend a major UN climate meeting in New York next week.

World leaders including US president Barack Obama and UK prime minister David Cameron will attend the UN secretary-general's Climate Summit.

Mr Abbott will not be attending, despite the fact that he is due to attend a UN Security Council meeting in New York the next day.

EU commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard said it came as a surprise.

"It is, of course, I think, a pity that not everyone is going," she said.

read more: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-16/eu-climate-chief-surprised-by-australia27s-un-summit-snub/5745908

 

Surprised? Are they idiots who have not worked out yet that Tony is a turd opposed to the concept of global warming?

by John Richardson on Mon, 2014-09-15 23:57

The UN Security Council (UNSC), the only international body empowered to declare war and peace, continues to remain a silent witness to the widespread devastation and killings worldwide, including in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Ukraine.

A sharply divided UNSC has watched the slaughter of Palestinians by Israel, the genocide and war crimes in Syria, the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, the U.S. military attacks inside Iraq and now a virtual invasion of Syria – if U.S. President Barack Obama goes ahead with his threat to launch air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The United States has refused to go before the UNSC for authorization and legitimacy – even if it means suffering a veto by Russia or China or both.

Still, ironically, Obama is scheduled to preside over a UNSC meeting when he is in New York in late September since the United States holds the presidency under geographical rotation among the 15 members in the Council.

A head of state or a head of government chairing a meeting of the Security Council is a rare event, not a norm.

But it does happen when a UNSC member presides over the Council in the month of September during the opening of a new General Assembly session, with over 150 world leaders in tow.

In his address to the nation early this week, Obama said, “I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilise the international community around this effort” (“to degrade and destroy ISIS”, the rebel Islamic militant group inside Iraq and Syria).

Still, the proposed strike inside Syria is not part of the Council’s agenda – and certainly not under the U.S. presidency.

Obama also said intelligence agencies have not detected any specific ISIS plots against the United States.

ISIS is still a regional threat that could ultimately reach out to the United States, he said, justifying the impending attacks.

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org, told IPS, “As an instrument for preventing or restraining war, the United Nations has devolved into a plaintive institution, with its Security Council dominated by superpowers — most of all by the United States in tandem with its permanent-member allies.”

He said it used to be that U.S. presidents at least went through the motions of seeking Security Council approval for going to war, but this is scarcely the case anymore.

“When it lacks the capacity to get what it wants by way of a non-vetoed Security Council resolution for its war aims, the U.S. government simply proceeds as though the United Nations has no significant existence,” said Solomon, author of ‘War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.’

Internationally, he said, this is the case because there are no geopolitical leverage points or institutional U.N. frameworks sufficient to require the United States to actually take the Security Council seriously as anything much more than a platform for pontification.

A Russian official was quoted as saying the Obama administration would need to get a UNSC resolution before it launches air attacks inside Syria — which, of course, the Russians did not do either before they intervened in Ukraine.

Perhaps all this points only in one direction: the UNSC has time and again proved its unworthiness – and remains ineffective and politically impotent having outlived its usefulness, particularly in crisis situations.

Humanitarian aid? Yes. Collective international action? No.

The veto-wielding permanent members of the UNSC – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia – are obviously not interested in fairness, justice or political integrity but only interested in protecting their own national interests.

In an editorial Friday, the New York Times struck a cautious note when it said there will be no turning back once air strikes enter Syrian territory, unleashing events that simply cannot be foreseen.

“Surely, that’s a lesson America has learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies, told IPS, “Regardless of whether it is justified or not, air strikes by the United States or other foreign powers in Iraq and Syria are clearly acts of war requiring U.N. authorization.”

If the threat from ISIS and the limited nature of the military response is what President Obama says it is, then the United States should have little trouble in receiving support from the Security Council, said Zunes, who has written extensively on the politics of the Security Council and serves as a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.

“The refusal to come to the United Nations, then, serves as yet another example of the contempt Washington apparently has for the world body,” he said.

Peter Yeo, executive director of Better World Campaign, a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to strengthening U.S.-U.N. relations, has called on the U.S. Congress to engage the United Nations in addressing the critical challenges in the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq.

“Let Congress know the U.S. cannot go it alone in confronting this challenge, and that we should continue to utilize resources like the U.N. Security Council and the U.N.’s humanitarian response agencies to combat ongoing and future threats,” he said.

More than ever, the U.S. needs the U.N. as a strategic partner to help facilitate the complex security and humanitarian response needs in the region, he said in a statement released Thursday.

Solomon told IPS that the domestic politics of the U.S. have been sculpted in recent decades to relegate the U.N. to the role of afterthought or oratorical amphitheatre unless it can be coupled to the U.S. war train of the historic moment.

“Deformed as it is as a representation of only the governments of some sectors of global power, the Security Council still has some potential for valid exercise of discourse – even diplomacy – if not legitimate decision-making per se.”

But the Security Council ultimately represents the skewed agendas of its permanent members, and those agendas only include peace to the extent that permanent members are actually interested in peace and such interest, at best intermittent, depends on undependable willingness to look beyond narrow nationalistic and corporate interests, Solomon added.

“Of course, the U.S. government has continued to engage in acts of war in several countries on an ongoing basis for more than a dozen years.”

The military strikes now being planned by the White House will add Syria to the list of countries attacked by a Washington-based government that speaks loudly about international law at the same time that it violates international law at will, he argued.

The U.S. government will decide whether to seek any authorization or resolution from the U.N. Security Council primarily on the basis of gauging likely benefits of rhetorical grandstanding, Solomon predicted.

US Bypasses Security Council On Impending Invasion Of Syria By Thalif Deen

by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2014-09-15 22:46

 

 

From Richard Ackland: "Leadership at last!" (Gus thinks that Ackland was being restrained and did not post: "leadershit now!")

...

Yet we saddle up knowing nothing of the historical or cultural context of what has gripped northern Iraq and Syria. No one in the war party has made the most cursory attempt to get to grips with the forces that are at play. Instead, the reflex position is to answer the call of our great and powerful US ally as some sort of speculative down payment on a security insurance policy.

The opposition tags along for fear of being outgunned in this war of overwrought opportunism. At the same time Scott Morrison, who has somehow interposed himself as some sort of security saviour, has been sending Iraqi and Syrian asylum seekers back to their disturbed homelands.

Then there is the home grown danger: the lone wolf within. This too is folded into the case put by the war machine. Irvine told a media conference on Friday: “I worry, and worried for five and a half years, about lone wolves popping up who’ve avoided the radar in some way or another.” Abbott added that some 30 Australians we know went to Afghanistan and Pakistan a decade or so back to work with the Taliban. “Some 25 of them returned to Australia and about two-thirds of those were subsequently involved in terrorist activities here in Australia. I think nine were convicted of terrorist activities here in Australia.” That’s slightly more than the 20 returnees Abbott was bandying about earlier last week. The numbers seem rubbery.

The prospect of a lone wolf attack is not a fresh danger and it doesn’t need the security alert to shift a notch. It certainly won’t be overcome by sending forces into an impenetrable tribal and religious war – in fact, that engagement will significantly increase the prospect of a threat on home soil. The passports of some Australians who pose a risk have been cancelled and others still here are being monitored. However, Abbott reassured us that a terror attack is not imminent. On Friday he said: “we have no specific intelligence of particular plots”.

read more: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/15/leadership-at-last-but-where-will-the-iraq-war-machine-take-australia

 

Note that all this war crap is now filling the headline spaces on all news channels, spaces that would have "normally" been reserved for yet another Liberal (CONservative) Party member of parliament taking cash under the table...

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See the colours above: yellow and orange versus black and green and blue and red...

by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2014-09-15 22:31

The Palmer United party senator Jacqui Lambie says she is prepared to take a DNA test to prove her Indigenous heritage.

Lambie last week warned a Tasmanian Indigenous elder to “watch his step” after he questioned the veracity of her heritage.

In her recent maiden speech to parliament, the Tasmanian senator told of her links “over six generations to celebrated Aboriginal chieftain of the Tasmanian east coast, Mannalargenna”.

Lambie said she shared “blood, culture and history through my mother Sue Lambie’s family”.

Her claim was shot down by the chairman of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, Clyde Mansell, who told the ABC that Lambie was “not part” of the family.

read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/15/jacqui-lambie-ready-to-take-dna-test-to-prove-she-is-indigenous

 

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It is possible that Lambie has some Aboriginal heritage and I don't think that Clyde Mansell is disputing this possibility. No-one is. What Clyde Mansell is rightly pointing out is there is no record making a connection between Lambie and Mannalargenna as she claims. None whatsoever. Simple, like the meerkat would say.