Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a beautiful, undeniably scary time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project’s “Trinity” test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May of 1998. This leaves out North Korea’s two alleged nuclear tests in this past decade (the legitimacy of both of which is not 100% clear).
Each nation gets a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. Hashimoto, who began the project in 2003, says that he created it with the goal of showing”the fear and folly of nuclear weapons.” It starts really slow — if you want to see real action, skip ahead to 1962 or so — but the buildup becomes overwhelming.
Ben White and Maggie Haberman, Politico:
There are three words that strike terror in the hearts of Wall Street bankers and corporate executives across the land: President Elizabeth Warren.
The anxiety over Warren grew Monday after a magazine report suggested the bank-bashing Democratic senator from Massachusetts could mount a presidential bid in 2016 and would not necessarily defer to Hillary Clinton — who is viewed as far more business-friendly — for the party’s nomination.
And the fear is not only that Warren, who channels an increasingly popular strain of Occupy Wall Street-style anti-corporatism, might win. That is viewed by many political analysts as a slim possibility. It is also that a Warren candidacy, and even the threat of one, would push Clinton to the left in the primaries and revive arguments about breaking up the nation’s largest banks, raising taxes on the wealthy and otherwise stoking populist anger that is likely to also play a big role in the Republican primaries…
Via Murtaza Hussain, AJE:
"Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: ‘What did my grandmother do wrong?’" writes Murtaza Hussain
On October 24, 2012 a Predator drone flying over North Waziristan came upon eight-year old Nabila Rehman, her siblings, and their grandmother as they worked in a field beside their village home. Her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was teaching the children how to pick okra as the family prepared for the coming Eid holiday. However on this day the terrible event would occur that would forever alter the course of this family’s life. In the sky the children suddenly heard the distinctive buzzing sound emitted by the CIA-operated drones - a familiar sound to those in the rural Pakistani villages which are stalked by them 24 hours a day - followed by two loud clicks. The unmanned aircraft released its deadly payload onto the Rehman family, and in an instant the lives of these children were transformed into a nightmare of pain, confusion and terror. Seven children were wounded, and Nabila’s grandmother was killed before her eyes, an act for which no apology, explanation or justification has ever been given.
This past week Nabila, her schoolteacher father, and her 12-year-old brother travelled to Washington DC to tell their story and to seek answers about the events of that day. However, despite overcoming incredible obstacles in order to travel from their remote village to the United States, Nabila and her family were roundly ignored. At the Congressional hearing where they gave testimony, only five out of 430 representatives showed up. In the words of Nabila’s father to those few who did attend: "My daughter does not have the face of a terrorist and neither did my mother. It just doesn’t make sense to me, why this happened… as a teacher, I wanted to educate Americans and let them know my children have been injured."
The translator broke down in tears while recounting their story, but the government made it a point to snub this family and ignore the tragedy it had caused to them. Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: “What did my grandmother do wrong?” There was no one to answer this question, and few who cared to even listen. Symbolic of the utter contempt in which the government holds the people it claims to be liberating, while the Rehmans recounted their plight, Barack Obama was spending the same time meeting with the CEO of weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
It is useful to contrast the American response to Nabila Rehman with that of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was nearly assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban. While Malala was feted by Western media figures, politicians and civic leaders for her heroism, Nabila has become simply another one of the millions of nameless, faceless people who have had their lives destroyed over the past decade of American wars. The reason for this glaring discrepancy is obvious. Since Malala was a victim of the Taliban, she, despite her protestations, was seen as a potential tool of political propaganda to be utilized by war advocates. She could be used as the human face of their effort, a symbol of the purported decency of their cause, the type of little girl on behalf of whom the United States and its allies can say they have been unleashing such incredible bloodshed. Tellingly, many of those who took up her name and image as a symbol of the justness of American military action in the Muslim world did not even care enough to listen to her own words or feelings about the subject.
As described by the Washington Post's Max Fisher:
Western fawning over Malala has become less about her efforts to improve conditions for girls in Pakistan, or certainly about the struggles of millions of girls in Pakistan, and more about our own desire to make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy with a celebrity and an easy message. It’s a way of letting ourselves off the hook, convincing ourselves that it’s simple matter of good guys vs bad guys, that we’re on the right side and that everything is okay.
But where does Nabila fit into this picture? If extrajudicial killings, drone strikes and torture are in fact all part of a just-cause associated with the liberation of the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, where is the sympathy or even simple recognition for the devastation this war has caused to countless little girls such as her? The answer is clear: The only people to be recognized for their suffering in this conflict are those who fall victim to the enemy. Malala for her struggles was to be made the face of the American war effort - against her own will if necessary - while innumerable little girls such as Nabila will continue to be terrorized and murdered as part of this war without end. There will be no celebrity appearances or awards ceremonies for Nabila. At her testimony almost no one even bothered to attend.
But if they had attended, they would’ve heard a nine year old girl asking the questions which millions of other innocent people who have had their lives thrown into chaos over the past decade have been asking: "When I hear that they are going after people who have done wrong to America, then what have I done wrong to them? What did my grandmother do wrong to them? I didn’t do anything wrong."
Murtaza Hussain is a Toronto-based writer and analyst focused on issues related to Middle Eastern politics.
Above is a video report that updates the movement to establish a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) (a k a the Robin Hood tax) in the United States, from The Real News, an independent journalism outlet.
An FTT would free up billions of dollars that could be used to protect society’s most vulnerable citizens, or to create a bailout fund for the next crash. And a tiny tax on trades would also have the benefit of reducing volatility in the financial markets by limiting incentives to digitize and automate everything; automated computer algorithms making microsecond decisions (high-frequency trading) are responsible for the majority of global trades being made today. (The systemic risks inherent in loosely regulated global financial markets have increased as the financial industry has exploded in size and importance. About $6 trillion is traded on financial markets daily as of 2009, including $4 trillion on the foreign exchange market, by far the world’s largest market, followed by the derivatives market. The size of the foreign exchange market has increased 800% since 1988.)
Europe has started moving ahead with an FTT in the face of firm opposition from both the Democratic and Republican parties. The Obama Administration, via Tim Geithner, has made its distaste with an FTT clear. Increased public awareness of the issues and public pressure on lawmakers is urgently needed.
Artist-comedian Russell Brand has written a fiery and funny polemic very much worth reading in the New Statesman as part of his guest editorship of the British magazine.
Who is this clown and why should we take him seriously?
Few contemporary voices pack such political profundity and authenticity along with the provocative humor and lightheartedness that we normally associate with advertising and consumer culture; this is a highly potent mixture. (Rolling Stone financial reporter Matt Taibbi comes to mind as another that might fall in this category.)
Sut Jhally, professor of communications at UMASS-Amherst, has argued that in order to compete with the compelling images and narratives of mass advertising, left movements in the 21st century need to allow themselves to be sexier and more fun than they were in the 20th. Russell Brand’s unique voice fits that model I think and, though it won’t suit everyone, adds to the diversity of the social and environmental justice movements. He’s a real pot stirrer.
As he says in this piece, “Serious causes can and must be approached with good humour, otherwise they’re boring and can’t compete with the Premier League and Grand Theft Auto. Social movements needn’t lack razzmatazz.”
Brand had earlier this year caused a stir with his subversive speech at a GQ awards show that tore into the hypocrisy of all the glitz and glamour. He then broke down the absurdity of it all in this brilliant op-ed in The Guardian.
I wrote a letter this week to the NYTimes in response to an article about the Roma, a historically marginalized group in Europe that were targeted for genocide by the Nazis during the Holocaust. My original text emphasized the outrageousness of the headline, as does the first letter below, which was signed by an international group of academics; the Times abridged my letter since the two letters made similar points.
Here are the two letters (and here is the link to all 3 letters):
To the Editor:
We were dismayed by “Are the Roma Primitive, or Just Poor?” (news analysis, Sunday Review, Oct. 20). The headline pretends to present two sides of a legitimate debate, when in fact the first horn of the dichotomy has no place at all in civil discussion, in Europe or America. The article makes it appear acceptable to debate as a serious issue whether Roma culture will effectively be a plague on Europe until this culture is renounced by its members through assimilation.
Can anyone imagine today speaking publicly about any other persecuted and marginalized European or American ethnicity as “primitive,” as fundamentally unfit for side-by-side existence with the majority groups? Of course not.
Overt discrimination against Roma, while technically illegal, remains widespread and widely accepted in southeastern Europe. Deprived of opportunity there, many hope for better prospects in Western Europe, only to find once they arrive, in many cases, that their status as citizens of the European Union counts for nothing. The Roma remain effectively stateless, disowned by all European governing bodies as out of place, indeed as invasive.
Nonetheless, they have a vibrant and resilient culture, with literature worth reading, films worth seeing and people worth getting to know. This much they have in common with all cultures. Your article will not help anyone to realize this.
JUSTIN E. H. SMITH
Paris, Oct. 20, 2013
The writer is a professor at University of Paris VII. The letter was signed by 37 other academics in the United States, Canada and Europe.
To the Editor:
The Roma are the last group in Europe toward whom it is still widely socially acceptable to express overt racism, and the government of France persists in fanning the flames of hatred. The French interior minister, Manuel Valls, has gone beyond “implicitly suggesting they should leave”; he has quite explicitly stated that Roma should either leave voluntarily or be forcibly removed.
Your article describes the Marais district of Paris as a place “where young Roma gangs brazenly target tourists and locals at metros and bank machines.” I was surprised to read this since I have never witnessed such gang behavior in my eight years living in this neighborhood.
Yet last week I did see that the students at the high school around the corner had blockaded the front doors with piles of big green plastic trash cans and were holding signs protesting the police treatment of a Roma student who was removed from a school bus and later deported.
Paris, Oct. 20, 2013
The writer is president-elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.
Via Too Much:
The new data from the Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse put the world’s total personal wealth, as of this past June, at $241 trillion, an all-time record. The world’s richest 1 percent currently hold 46 percent of global assets. The poorest half of global adults hold less than 1 percent.
What do these numbers mean, in the daily lives people actually lead? A new World Bank report just out, The State of the Poor, offers some hints.
About 1.2 billion people in the world today live on less than $1.25 a day, a state of affairs that researchers define as “extreme poverty.” Only 26 percent of these extremely poor have access to clean water, only 49 percent access to electricity…
In the world today, the 32 million adults worth over $1 million collectively hold $98.7 trillion in personal wealth. These affluents make up 0.7 percent of the world’s adult population and hold 41 percent of the world’s wealth.
A graduated wealth tax that averaged 0.5 percent on all personal wealth over $1 million would raise about $500 billion annually, nearly triple the $169 billion needed to lift every soul on the planet out of extreme poverty.
Via Nasser Hussein, Boston Review:
While drone strike footage has entered our culture as fantasy, drones have entered these regions as psychological trauma. In interviews, humanitarian workers, doctors and psychologists all attest to widespread occurrence of PTSD and anticipatory anxiety. Recent studies go beyond the disputation of casualty counts to a more thorough examination of life under the constant threat of drone strikes, offering ample evidence of a severely traumatized population, living under constant fear of the next strike. “Living Under Drones,” the comprehensive Stanford/NYU study of the impact of drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan, includes first-hand interviews with many witnesses and survivors of the strikes. The words of one interviewee reveal an almost textbook definition of anticipatory trauma: “God knows whether they’ll strike again or not. But they’re always surveying us, they’re always over us, and you never know when they’re going to strike and attack.” While in law, the term “imminent” is frequently used for justification, here “imminent” takes on an altogether different and terrifying meaning, one distinguished by sound: “one man described the reaction to the sound of the drones as ‘a wave of terror’ coming over the community.” In another testimony, Hisham Abrar states, “when children hear the drones, they get really scared, and they can hear them all the time.”
Egypt and the US: After the coup
An excellent in-depth report from AJE on the important link between the US and Egypt following the recent coup.
Michael Isikoff, NBC News:
A new report from a special U.N. investigator says drone strikes have killed far more civilians than U.S. officials have publicly acknowledged – at least 400 in Pakistan and as many as 58 in Yemen – and chides the U.S. for failing to aid the investigation by disclosing its own figures.
U.N. Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, who issued the “interim” report, said the U.S. had created “an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency.”
Justin Gillis, NYTimes:
If greenhouse emissions continue their steady escalation, temperatures across most of the earth will rise to levels with no recorded precedent by the middle of this century, researchers said Wednesday.
"500 People Will Control American Democracy" If Supreme Court Overturns Campaign Finance Law
The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down most of the remaining limits on massive spending by wealthy donors on political campaigns. On Tuesday, justices heard arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which has been referred to as “the next Citizens United.” Republican leaders and wealthy GOP donor Shaun McCutcheon wants the Supreme Court to throw out aggregate limits on individual contributions in a single two-year cycle, saying they violate free speech. “If these advocate limitations go down, 500 people will control American democracy. It would be ‘government for the 500 people,’ not for anybody else — and that’s the risk,” says Burt Neuborne, law professor and founding legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts indicated he is prepared to strike down caps on donations to individual candidates, but perhaps not on donations to political committees. Justice Antonin Scalia appears to be set to back the lifting of all limits. “The Scalia side says, ‘Look, if you’re rich, you’re entitled to have as much influence as you can buy,’” Neuborne says. “And the Scalia side has won 5-to-4 consistently in recent years.”
Brett Zongker, Associated Press:
The U.S. government’s aggressive prosecution of leaks and efforts to control information are having a chilling effect on journalists and government whistle-blowers, according to a report released Thursday on U.S. press freedoms under the Obama administration.
The Committee to Protect Journalists conducted its first examination of U.S. press freedoms amid the Obama administration’s unprecedented number of prosecutions of government sources and seizures of journalists’ records. Usually the group focuses on advocating for press freedoms abroad…read more
Via Democracy Now!:
From Caspian Sea to Arctic to Middle East, How Oil Pipelines Threaten Democracy & Planet’s Survival
We spend the hour looking at politics, money and the pursuit of oil, from the series of pipelines originating in the oil-rich Caspian Sea to the deposits in the Arctic Sea where Russia has charged 30 people with piracy for a Greenpeace protest against drilling, to the vast reserves of the Middle East that have fueled conflict for decades. Three guests join us for a roundtable discussion: Anna Galkina, a member of the London-based arts, human rights and environmental justice organization Platform; Platform founder James Marriott, author of “The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London”; and Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University professor and author of the books “Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil” and “Colonizing Egypt.”
Via Agence France Presse/AJA:
At least five civilians, including three children, targeted while hunting for birds, local officials say