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Shockfront

Tuesday, 06 May 2008

Supreme Court Kicks In: No Vote For You!

That insightful Supreme Court decision on the Indiana Voter ID law is paying dividends already.
About 12 Indiana nuns were turned away Tuesday from a polling place by a fellow bride of Christ because they didn't have state or federal identification bearing a photograph.

Sister Julie McGuire said she was forced to turn away her fellow sisters at Saint Mary's Convent in South Bend, across the street from the University of Notre Dame, because they had been told earlier that they would need such an ID to vote.

The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn't get one but came to the precinct anyway.

"One came down this morning, and she was 98, and she said, 'I don't want to go do that,'" Sister McGuire said. Some showed up with outdated passports. None of them drives.

They weren't given provisional ballots because it would be impossible to get them to a motor vehicle branch and back in the 10-day time frame allotted by the law, Sister McGuire said. "You have to remember that some of these ladies don't walk well. They're in wheelchairs or on walkers or electric carts."
The law nailed more than just the Nuns, though. Pesky newlyweds and out-of-state college students, surely in the liberal block with what Republicans suspect would be pie-in-the-sky notions of young love and learnin', which almost always represent a threat to sensible conservative values.
One newly married woman said she was told she couldn't vote because her driver's license name didn't match the one on her voter registration record…

Another woman said she was turned away from casting her first-ever ballot because she had only a
[...]More

Malawi: Back From the World Bank Dead

Two years ago, the people of Malawi were suffering the ill effects of cruel drought. Five of the country's twelve million citizens were starving or on the verge. It was a perfect storm of natural catastrophe and decades of World Bank "structural adjustments" that had forced Malawi to sell off its state farms, which were then bought by commercial interests. These private enterprises, inheriting a glittering network of irrigation systems, steered production away local foodstuffs to sugar, tea and tobacco exports.

When the small, subsistence farms dried up in a withering drought, there were no irrigated farmlands that would grow food locally. In fact, as Malawians were reduced to picking through termite hills for something edible, commercial farms refused to alter crops to help the local population.
To grow maize as a commercial crop, it's not viable," said Irene Phalula, a company spokeswoman. "We wouldn't make anything out of it."
This, despite the fact the company supported extensive landscaping around their headquarters and even sported a lush, well-watered golf course. But they "wouldn't make anything" out of growing food for the locals, so, no food. Except for browsing the termites hills.

But today, even as many desperately poor regions of the globe reel under food shortages and skyrocketing prices, Malawi is a success story, now growing more food than they need and producing enough for export.  This, even as Mogadishu erupts in riots of food prices.

So, whence did this reversal, something not commonly heard in Africa, come? It happened because the Malawi [...]More

Monday, 05 May 2008

Laura Bush and Her Beautiful Burma Mind


I do reserve the right to offer comment in the event a particularly egregious bit of stupidity rears its malformed head, as it surely will. 
-- anderson, 
shockfront introduction

Remember those words?  Well, that moment is nigh.

Generally, I avoid paying much attention to anything Bush-bots say in the public arena.  Actually, I avoid pay any attention to anything they say, period.  It's just a complete waste of time, devoid of content or meaning, excepting overt, tiresome threats of war or the habitual irony with which their statements are often ladened.

But I simply cannot disregard the recent statements of that empty-headed social lamprey, this country's premiere welfare queen, unhappily known to us all as The First Lady.  As the death toll in Burma mounts and assessments of the hellish disaster continue, Laura Bush, rashly commented on the aftermath of the massive disaster in Burma.

See if you can spot the irony:
she blasted the junta, saying the lack of warning before a deadly cyclone hit on Friday was the latest example of "the junta's failure to meet its people's basic needs."
Not hard, I know.

One would have thought -- "thought" is key here -- that anyone associated with George Bush would avoid criticizing any country's response to, or that country's failure to act on prior warnings of, a natural disaster, especially a really, really big
[...]More

Profit Margins Soar on Hunger, Food Crisis

I'm glad to see mainstream media sources -- notably not American -- are following Shockfront footsteps and reporting that speculators are facing blame for "driving up price of basic foods."
… speculation is helping to drive the prices of basic foodstuffs out of the reach of the hungry.

Index-fund investment in grain and meat has increased almost fivefold to over $47bn in the past year, concludes AgResource Co, a Chicago-based research firm. And the official US Commodity Futures Trading Commission held special hearings in Washington two weeks ago to examine how much speculators were helping to push up food prices.
Speculation combined with actual shortages and increased demand have had the lugubrious effect of at once pushing hundreds of millions of people into desperation while explosively increasing the profit margins of Monsanto, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and other monster agribusiness firms.
The World Bank says that 100 million more people are facing severe hunger. Yet some of the world's richest food companies are making record profits. Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn.

Cargill's net earnings soared by 86 per cent from $553m to $1.030bn over the same three months. And Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world's largest agricultural processors of soy, corn and wheat, increased its net earnings by 42 per cent in the first three months of this year from $363m to $517m. The operating profit of its
[...]More

Sino-India Cyber Front

The Times of India has an interesting article about the constant barrage Indian computers and associated networks are under from cyber attack by China.
China’s cyber warfare army is marching on, and India is suffering silently. Over the past one and a half years, officials said, China has mounted almost daily attacks on Indian computer networks, both government and private, showing its intent and capability.

The sustained assault almost coincides with the history of the present political disquiet between the two countries.

According to senior government officials, these attacks are not isolated incidents of something so generic or basic as "hacking" — they are far more sophisticated and complete — and there is a method behind the madness.

Publicly, senior government officials, when questioned, take refuge under the argument that "hacking" is a routine activity and happens from many areas around the world. But privately, they acknowledge that the cyber warfare threat from China is more real than from other countries.

The core of the assault is that the Chinese are constantly scanning and mapping India’s official networks. This gives them a very good idea of not only the content but also of how to disable the networks or distract them during a conflict.

This, officials say, is China’s way of gaining "an asymmetrical advantage" over a potential adversary.

The big attacks that were sourced to China over the last few months included an attack on NIC (National Infomatics Centre), which was aimed at the National Security Council, and on the MEA.
The article notes that this is perhaps not the wisest [...]More

Burma: A "Democratic" Opportunity Knocks

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Burma's military junta: Our commitment to democracy is so strong, we pledge to hold the constitutional referendum in 5 days. If you forget to vote, we'll understand.
With a now estimated 4,000 Burmese killed after this weekend's horrific cyclone, and projections ranging upward of 10,000 possible deaths, the military junta in Burma (Myanmar, as the  junta like to call it) have "pledged" to hold the May 10 constitutional referendum.  The junta issued a plain statement that their insistence on holding the referendum, mere days after the storm has either killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people, demonstrates their commitment to the "democracy roadmap" and that this commitment to the vote shows that they want to "keep striving to hold hands with the people."

Naturally, critics have blasted the move, though it seems the junta may hold firm on their noble commitment to a cherished democracy.  As one shop owner in Yangon tells us, "We can't find time and money to mend the roof. Don't ask [...]More

Sunday, 04 May 2008

Four Dead in Ohio

Kent State, May 4, 1970.




[h/t Libby]More

Pakistan, India Agree on Pipeline Transit Fee

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Proposed route of the IPI pipeline.
Decades in conception, the long-anticipated Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline project has been a fascinating interface by which "axis of evil" Iran and the United States, via proxies in India and Pakistan, have been tussling for almost two decades with the three-party project seen by each as essential to their respective future development. Though the western-backed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline had been proposed by the US as a viable alternative to the Washington-reviled IPI pipeline, and for which then Unocal consultant, Zalmay Khalilzad had conducted "risk analyses," the growing strength of Taliban forces and an impressive lack of stability after six years of war have kept the TAPI pipeline on Afghanistan's back-burner, while momentum continues to build for the IPI pipeline.

But the IPI pipeline had also fallen into some doubt when the US-Iran nuclear issue suddenly popped onto the radar of the Bush administration, though with both Pakistan and India facing huge projected gas and energy shortfalls, the time for siding with White House on the issue of the IPI pipeline has clearly passed.

[...]More

Saturday, 03 May 2008

Iraq COIN Strategery

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Two rockets landed near the al-Sadr hospital in Sadr City, wounding 20 people including women and children, and incinerating or damaging 11 ambulances.(Photo:Reuters)
Hearts and minds COIN strategy paying dividends in Iraq:
A US air strike damaged a hospital in the Iraqi capital's violent Shiite stronghold of Sadr City on Saturday, injuring 20 people….

witnesses and an AFP reporter at the scene said the main Al-Sadr hospital had been badly damaged and a fleet of ambulances were destroyed.

Hospital staff said at least 20 people wounded in the air raid were taken to the same hospital which had its glass windows shattered, and medical and electrical equipment damaged.

Doctors and hospital staff were livid they had been hit.

"They (the Americans) will say it was a weapons cache (they hit)," said the head of Baghdad's health department, Dr Ali Bistan. "But, in fact they want to destroy the infrastructure of the country."

He charged that the attack was aimed at preventing doctors and medicines reaching the hospital which is located inside an area of increased clashes between American troops and militiamen.

The corridors of the hospital were littered with glass splinters, twisted metal and hanging electrical wiring. Partitions in wards had collapsed.

The huge concrete blocks forming a protective wall against explosions had collapsed on parked vehicles, including up to 17 ambulances, disabling the emergency response teams.
Aside from the obvious success of this COIN [...]More

Friday, 02 May 2008

Pakistan to Reinstate Judges

Much to the likely chagrin of Pervez Musharraf, the newly elected coalition government of Pakistan looks set to reinstate the country's chief justice and the sixty other jurists Musharraf had dismissed and held under house arrest just prior to the Bhutto assassination and the thence delayed election.  
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Pakistan's lawyers' protest of Musharraf looks to be rewarded by the new coalition government in Islamabad.
After being initially dismissed by Musharraf in March of 2007, the Supreme Court reinstated chief justice Iftikhar Chaudry, only to be dismissed again by the reviled president-general.  During the interstitial periods between dismissals, the country's lawyers took to the streets to protest Chaudry's suspension, which produced the odd and rather delightful sight of an army of well-tailored black suits confronting riot police and burning effigies of Musharraf.  My kind of lawyers.

Recall that Musharraf had caused a furor in Pakistan when he unconstitutionally dispatched the Supreme Court Chief Justice and placed him under house arrest after Chaudry launched an investigation of Musharraf and Pakistan's ISI  and into the disappearance of hundreds of political prisoners and others thought to be "terrorism suspects."

It seems like the long, dark days of the President General are coming to a much deserved end.  He knew this, of course, after the election, which was widely expected to be rigged, produced an overwhelming denunciation of his authoritarian rule.  He quietly slunk away, even as the Bush administration insisted on continuing their support for the deeply unpopular figure; being a GWOT ally outweighed [...]More

Crack the Sky

A new poll suggests that George W. Bush is the most unpopular president in modern American history.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates that 71 percent of the American public disapprove of how Bush his handling his job as president.

"No president has ever had a higher disapproval rating in any CNN or Gallup poll; in fact, this is the first time that any president's disapproval rating has cracked the 70 percent mark," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

What the Bush administration sees in these numbers is proof, proof I tell you! that Bush is a visionary whose vision simply can be neither appreciated nor apprehended by the rude and the common. High disapproval is merely affirmation of his glorious mission and inspired foresight.More

Thursday, 01 May 2008

Longshore May Day Protest Brings Cargo "to a Halt"

Some weeks ago, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) promised a shut down of west coast ports on the international labour day, May Day, in protest of the Bush administration's war policy and the continued occupation of Iraq.

Well, the ILWU has made good on the promise:
LOS ANGELES - Terminal operators say West Coast cargo traffic has come to a halt as port workers stage daylong anti-war protests.

Pacific Maritime Association spokesman Steve Getzug says thousands of dockworkers did not show up to work Thursday morning, leaving ships and truck drivers idle at ports from Long Beach to Seattle.
Respect!More

The Heavy Foot of Chevron

Continuing a follow-up on the story of Chevron's complicity with the military junta's abuse of the local population in Burma, there are some other venues of brutality onto which Chevron has dropped a heavy foot, specifically Nigeria and Ecuador.  You have no doubt heard of the civil unrest and militant uprisings against oil interests in Nigeria, which are frequently under attack.  What you have not heard much about, as typical  western media reportage tends to elide any mention of reasons as to why local Nigerians are taking issue with the presence of Chevron and others in the Niger delta region.  And Ecuador.  Chances are you've heard almost nothing about Chevron's monstrous black and oily footprint there.

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Toxic sludge pit left behind by Chevron-Texaco. Photo: Amazon Watch, 2003.
EI provides a brief overviews:
In Ecuador, Chevron is refusing to clean up 18 billion gallons of toxic waste in the Amazon rainforest; what has been called “one of the world’s most contaminated industrial sites.” A court-appointed expert in an ongoing lawsuit in Ecuador recently found high levels of cancer and miscarriages, and widespread contamination in the area in dispute, assessing Chevron’s clean-up costs at US$7-16 billion - potentially the largest environmental judgment in history.

[...]More

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

BurmaSlave: The "Human Energy" of Chevron

Chevron Corporation -- The Power of Human Energy
A rapacious foreign company, the steamy jungles of Southeast Asia, a repressive authoritarian regime, forced slave labour, brutal abuses of the local population,; it all sounds so 19th century. We've done away with that!

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No, "we" haven't. It is happening today. Based on on-the-ground investigations conducted over a five year period, a major report released by EarthRights International charges Chevron Corporation, in complicity with the brutal military junta in Myanmar, with human rights abuses on a scale and of a kind that seems anachronistic, like chronicles of colonial repression in the era of the British East India Company.

[Full report, titled, The Human Cost of Energy, Chevron's Continuing Role in Financing Oppression and Profiting From Human Rights Abuses in Military-ruled Burma (Myanmar). If you can read it, do so. It is a doozy. ]
Chevron and its consortium partners continue to rely on the Burmese army for pipeline security and those forces continue to conscript thousands
[...]More

KBR: The Other Thieves of Baghdad

Unquenched looting in Baghdad after the American invasion was bad enough.  Now, the charmers from the company we all know and love, KBR, have been exposed as a government-funded band of roaming thieves. In Senate testimony today, former KBR employees revealed … nothing at all surprising. Damnable, of course, but for an outfit like KBR, not surprising. Remember, these are the same people who gang-rape their own employees, lock them in trailers, deny and defend the actions and refuse to be held accountable. Low-grade thievery seems like a step in the right direction.
KBR employees working in Iraq stole weapons, artwork and even gold to make spurs for cowboy boots, two former company workers told Senate Democrats on Monday.

… Linda Warren, a 50-year-old Abilene woman who worked as a laundry foreman and recreation director for the Houston-based contracting giant in Iraq, told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Monday that some of her American colleagues doing construction work in Iraqi palaces and municipal buildings took woodcarvings, tapestries and crystal "and even melted down gold to make spurs for cowboy boots."

… Frank Cassaday, a former KBR ice plant operator, told lawmakers that a KBR foreman tried to take military equipment, including two rocket launchers, detonators and ammunition.
Well, spurs! What red-blooded American can't understand a desire to turn a golden artifact into something a little more useful like spurs? I mean, yeeha!

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