Aram Roston reports for The Nation: "On October 29, 2001, while the Taliban's rule over Afghanistan was under assault, the regime's ambassador in Islamabad gave a chaotic press conference in front of several dozen reporters sitting on the grass. On the Taliban diplomat's right sat his interpreter, Ahmad Rateb Popal, a man with an imposing presence. Like the ambassador, Popal wore a black turban, and he had a huge bushy beard. He had a black patch over his right eye socket, a prosthetic left arm and a deformed right hand, the result of injuries from an explosives mishap during an old operation against the Soviets in Kabul."
Did Big Oil Win the War in Iraq?
Antonia Juhasz writes for AlterNet: "Last week, ExxonMobil became the first U.S. oil company in 35 years to sign an oil-production contract with the government of Iraq. As I write, several other contracts with the world’s largest oil companies are being finalized, and more are expected when a new negotiating round kicks off in Baghdad on Dec. 11. Do these contracts represent a "victory" for Big Oil in Iraq? Yes, but not one as big as the companies had hoped for (at least, not yet)."
Blackwater Attempted to Bribe Iraqi Officials
Jeremy Scahill reports for The Nation: "In the aftermath of the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad by operatives working for Blackwater, top company officials including then-president Gary Jackson "authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support," according to the New York Times. Seventeen Iraqis were killed and more than twenty others wounded in the shooting, prompting the Iraqi government to announce it would ban the company from Iraq with officials vowing to prosecute the shooters. Blackwater, however, remains in Iraq to this day."
Huge Rise in Birth Defects in Falluja
Martin Chulov reports for The Guardian UK: "Doctors in Iraq's war-ravaged enclave of Falluja are dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting. The extraordinary rise in birth defects has crystallised over recent months as specialists working in Falluja's over-stretched health system have started compiling detailed clinical records of all babies born. Neurologists and obstetricians in the city interviewed by the Guardian say the rise in birth defects – which include a baby born with two heads, babies with multiple tumours, and others with nervous system problems - are unprecedented and at present unexplainable."
Meet Our Afghan Ally: Stealing Money, Selling Heroin, and Raping Boys
Patrick Cockburn writes for CounterPunch: "Just when President Barack Obama looked as if he might be railroaded into sending tens of thousands more US troops to Afghanistan the American envoy to Kabul has warned him not to do so. In a leaked cable to Washington sent last week, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Gen Karl W. Eikenberry, argues that it would be a mistake to send reinforcements until the government of President Hamid Karzai demonstrates that it will act against corruption and mismanagement. General Eikenberry knows what he is talking about because he has long experience of Afghanistan. A recently retired three star general, he was responsible for training the Afghan security forces from 2002 to 2003 and was top US commander in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007."
Welcome Home, War! How America's Wars Are Systematically Destroying Our Liberties
Alfred W. McCoy comments for Tom Dispatch.com: "In his approach to National Security Agency surveillance, as well as CIA renditions, drone assassinations, and military detention, President Obama has to a surprising extent embraced the expanded executive powers championed by his conservative predecessor, George W. Bush. This bipartisan affirmation of the imperial executive could 'reverberate for generations,' warns Jack Balkin, a specialist on First Amendment freedoms at Yale Law School. And consider these but some of the early fruits from the hybrid seeds that the Global War on Terror has planted on American soil."
US Must Solve Its Own Economic Problems
Mark Weisbrot,comments in the Guardian UK and reported by The Center for Economic and Policy Research: "President Obama will go to Asia next week and has promised to say something about the exchange rate between the Chinese yuan and the U.S. dollar. It would be good if some enterprising journalist asked him why the United States is worried about the Chinese dumping their dollars, and why U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recently said that the United States is committed to a 'strong dollar.' As a matter of accounting, a 'strong dollar' is the same as an 'undervalued yuan.' So it makes no sense to be worried about the great 'power' that the Chinese are holding over us -- that they can dump a few hundred billion dollars of their reserve holdings and cause the dollar to fall."
Where Are the Real "Deficit Hawks"?
David Sirota writes for Truthdig.com: "Let’s say you’re a congressperson or tea party leader looking to champion deficit reduction—a cause that 38 percent of Americans tell pollsters they support. And let’s say you’re deciding whether to back two pieces of imminent legislation. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the first bill’s spending provisions cost $100 billion annually and its tax and budget-cutting provisions recoup $111 billion annually, thus reducing total federal expenditures by $11 billion each year. The second bill proposes $636 billion in annual spending and recoups nothing. Over 10 years, the first bill would spend $1 trillion and recover $1.11 trillion—a fantastic return on taxpayer investment. Meanwhile, the second bill puts us on a path to spend $6.3 trillion in the same time."
The US as Aging Prize Fighter: The US Capitalist Class
John Reimann writes for The Daily Censored: "One hundred years ago (November, 1909), the famous American author Jack London, wrote a short story called “A Piece of Steak.” In it, an aging prize fighter climbs into the ring one last time. In his prime, this fighter was able to overwhelm his opponents with his strength and speed. Over the years, he has acquired a much greater knowledge, which he seeks to apply in the ring. But this is also a sign of weakness, as age has sapped his speed, strength and stamina; he must use strategy since he lacks the ability to simply physically overwhelm his opponents."
An Open Letter to Harry Reid on Controlling Health Care Costs
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog: "I know you're in a tough spot. It would be bad enough if you only had to get Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, and Blanche Lincoln on board, but anyone who has to kiss Joe Lieberman's derriere deserves a congressional medal of honor. But Harry, you really need to take on future health-care costs."
Memo to the Tea-baggers: God and Country Aren't with You
Glynn Wilson comments for the Locust Forks News-Journal (via AlterNet): "There must not be a tea-bagger alive who has ever had to sit all night in the Charity hospital in a city like New Orleans, waiting for the morning shift to call their number. In hospitals across America, the uninsured wait there through the night in the midst of all that painful sickness, some with swine flu, others on the verge of a heart attack."
Testing Next Year's Lies Today
Joe Conason writes for Truthdig.com: "Within hours after the House of Representatives approved health care reform by a narrow margin, Republicans predicted retribution at the polls next fall. They promised to make every Democrat regret that historic vote as the first step toward the reversal of power in Washington. And as the current debate has proved, they aren’t going to let honesty become an obstacle."
ACORN Sues Federal Government Over Congress' "Unconstitutional" Move to Defund Group
Jason Leopold reports for Truthout: "Last September, just as Congress was getting ready to pass a Republican-sponsored initiative to withhold federal funds from the community advocacy group ACORN, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), warned that the measure was wholly unconstitutional. The 'Defund ACORN Act,' sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), 'is in blatant violation of the Constitution's prohibition against Bills of Attainder,' said Nadler, the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. A bill of attainder is a legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial or judicial hearing."
Copenhagen: Seattle Grown Up
Naomi Klein writes for The Nation: "The other day I received a pre-publication copy of The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle, by David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit. It's set to come out ten years after a historic coalition of activists shut down the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, the spark that ignited a global anticorporate movement."
The Choice Ahead: Entrenched Fossil Fuel Dependence Or Climate Change Management
Emily Spence writes for Dissident Voice: "According to Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda Bilmes, the Iraq War cost three trillion dollars. While much of the money used to conduct the war was borrowed (most notably from Chinese institutions), ultimately American taxpayers will be responsible for many years to come for footing the bill, including the high interest payments on the funds loaned. This is because the federal budget, especially between the military and big business bailout costs, far exceeded the annual and shrinking amount taken in by taxes."
FBI Was Warned about Scott Roeder
Tracy Clark-Flory writes for Salon.com: "Roughly a month before the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, the FBI received an anonymous letter warning that suspected killer Scott Roeder "would do physical harm" to the abortion provider, the Associated Press reports. The letter didn't offer a time-line, specifics or incriminating details -- just that the anti-abortion activist was going to hurt the late doctor. Here's where things get messy: The tipster, now revealed to be Mark Archer of Tunkhannock, Pa., and his wife were fighting for custody of Roeder's 7-year-old daughter. That's because his wife got pregnant by Roeder before she married Archer."
Lawmakers Ready to End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Eric Zimmerman reports for The Hill: "Democratic leaders have indicated that they will repeal the Clinton-era "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in next year's defense-authorization bill -- legislation that has long been considered a likely vehicle for reversing the discriminatory policy. The decision could make the divisive social issue an agenda for voters and candidates during the 2010 midterm elections."
The Media's Silly Ft. Hood Coverage
Mark Benjamin writes for Salon.com: "The conventional narrative of the Fort Hood shootings, one week later, has been distinguished by the reporting of unconfirmed -- and sometimes incorrect -- details and the drawing of dubious conclusions. The only thing that suggests the current story will withstand the test of time better than the initial Pat Tillman myth (that he died in combat, rather than by friendly fire), or the overheated tale of heroism by Jessica Lynch in 2003 (which Lynch herself protested), is that two basic facts seem clear: The shootings certainly happened, and given the number of eyewitnesses, it's almost certain that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan did it."
A Need to "Dig Beneth the Corporate Surface"
John Hanrahhan comments for Nieman Watchdog: "Economist Simon Johnson wants to see modern-day muckrakers take on the nation’s economic collapse and the financial institutions that helped precipitate -- and are even benefiting from -- the collapse. In an interview with Nieman Watchdog, Johnson, professor of global economics and management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, emphasized that he believes there are many fine journalists doing a good job of covering the economic news on a day-to-day basis. What’s largely missing from the mainstream press coverage of the last year, though, is 'the long, in-depth, comprehensive dissection of a financial institution, going through all the nuances and details of how the institution is run, taking a skeptical look at the people who run it, and investigating how we got to where we are today.'"
Jon Stewart Continues to Break Stories the "Real" Media Won't
Will Bunch writes for Philadelphia Daily News: "Earlier this year, I wrote a post about "fake newscaster"/comedian Jon Stewart and his epic "Daily Show" takedown of bogus business reporting and misleading hype on the business news channel CNBC, and I wondered why it took someone like Stewart to report what the mainstream media seemed unable or unwilling to tackle. I said there were valuable lessons for traditional, so-called "serious" media in Stewart's brand of -- dare I say it -- journalism."
FCC Releases Top Five Barriers to Broadband
John Eggerton writes for Cable and Broadcasting: "According to a request for comment issued Wednesday, the FCC has tentatively concluded that the chief barriers to broadband adoption include: 'Affordability of service, affordability of hardware, insufficient digital and technical literacy levels, unawareness of the personal relevance and utility of broadband technology and online content and an inability to use existing technology and applications due to physical or mental disabilities.'"
Net Neutrality and Freedom Threatened by Internet Freedom Act
Tim Jones writes for Tigerweekly.com: "Net neutrality is the most important technology issue in the public sphere today, and it's important to have a clear definition of the term. "Net neutrality" refers to the structure of the Internet as it is now: All Web sites are loaded with the same speed, and Internet Service Providers charge one flat rate for access to the entire Internet with no monthly limit on usage. Recently, the FCC stated four guidelines for the continued existence of net neutrality, which say that consumers are allowed to access what they want on the Internet, use applications that make use of the Internet, use devices that make use of the Internet and are entitled to competition between ISPs."