Chicago: Aurora all the time


The aftermath of the movie theater shooting in Colorado that claimed the lives of 12 people brought out once again the familiar calls for greater gun control and national reflection to determine what could have triggered such a shocking act of violence. These types of harrowing incidents often tend to produce legitimate collective soul searching, which sometimes even manifests in effective legislation to prevent similar crimes from occurring in the future.

However, as heinous as the Colorado shooting was, viewed on its own it is worth noting that in terms of scale it pales in comparison to the near-industrial-level killing that regularly ravages much of inner-city America; in particular the city of Chicago, which has been grappling with years of protracted violence that has produced numbers of dead and wounded more appropriate to an active war zone than a major American city. Since 2001, more than 5,000 people have been killed by gunfire in the streets of Chicago, a staggering number that is more than double the number of American soldiers who have been killed fighting in Afghanistan during the same period. The majority of the violence has been attributed to gang rivalries that have escalated into open warfare, and as in any war innocent civilians have often borne a disproportionate share of the suffering.

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The dangerous triumph of Israel’s right wing


For Israel, a state that has always been tenacious and aggressive in combatting perceived delegitimisation from abroad, the most dangerous threat to its continued political integrity might today be engineered by its own right-wing government.

Recently, the Levy Commission, a blue-ribbon panel of Israeli jurists commissioned by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government to determine the legal status of the Palestinian West Bank, came back with findings and recommendations that represent a potential sea change in Israeli policy in the ongoing conflict. In contrast to mainstream legal opinion as well as the recognised position of the international community, including Israeli allies such as the US and EU, the Commission’s inquiry came back with the unprecedented finding that in fact there is no occupation of Palestinian lands and that the continued construction of settlement outposts, viewed as one of the major roadblocks to a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians, is in fact wholly legal both in the future and retroactively.

Continued at Al Jazeera

America’s forgotten POW: Bowe Bergdahl

The decision to send young men and women to kill and die in foreign lands is one which is often taken without much real thought for the welfare of these individuals, often barely past the age of adulthood, despite the massive amount of rhetoric and jingoism which surrounds their deployments. Soldiers are killed and maimed with depressing regularity, registering as a brief news story and then in most cases disappearing from the public consciousness forever. Perhaps even more painful psychologically is the plight of soldiers in conflict who disappear into the hands of those they have been sent to fight, continuing to exist in a state of living death, often mistreated and without means of contacting their loved ones or a clear prospect of when, or if, they may ever safely return home again. During the years of his detention in the Gaza Strip, captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit became a symbolic figure in his country whose name was known to every citizen. Through his suffering he became an iconic figure in Israel, where concern about his fate was almost universal and public pressure eventually forced the government to make his status a priority in its policy decisions. Similarly, most every Palestinian knows the plight of their own prisoners languishing behind enemy lines and popular opinion ensures that their fates are front and centre in every political negotiation carried out by their leaders.

Don’t trust corporate charity

Given their existence as legal entities designed solely to generate profits for their contractual owners, it seems surprising of late that many corporations seem to have developed something akin to a soul. Seldom a week passes where there is not some heartwarming story of Exxon Mobil donating to the Wounded Warrior Project, General Electric providing Easter baskets to the needy, or Dow Chemical offering grants to students to pay for their higher education; all acts which perhaps signal the dawn of a new era of caring corporate stewardship towards the general population. These gestures of altruism are hardly small, and in fact represent major outlays of cash for charity as part of corporate strategy. The amount of capital spent is often significant enough to represent a type of private social safety net for those who are the beneficiaries. Indeed, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a core concept in the strategy of most major organizations whereby they are ostensibly required by their own internal mandates to care and provide for the communities in which they operate. Goldman Sachs’ company website has an entire section dedicated to its “Goldman Sachs Gives” program; documenting the work the organization is doing providing services and educational opportunities to vulnerable youth. In addition it notes the work Goldman is doing to “build and stabilize communities” in the United States – a task traditionally attributed to government. To these ends Goldman and others have collectively given billions to charitable causes over the years, addressing a wide range of varying social needs.

Drone activist denied visa


“If the U.S. believes in the rule of law, it should not be hindering advocacy of claims against the CIA for wrongful death and injury.” Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer and co-founder of the Pakistan based legal advocacy organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) has been campaigning for the past several years on behalf of civilians who have been killed and maimed as part of the CIA’s covert drone warfare program in NW Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The drone campaign, which continues to be conducted without oversight and accountability, is documented to have taken a horrendous toll on the civilian population of these regions, the magnitude of which has only come to light through the efforts of grassroots activists such as Akbar.

U.S. politicians’ favorite terrorist group

U.S. politicians' favorite terrorist group

Given the supreme importance of the fight against terrorism and the terrible ramifications which ostensibly exist for providing material support to terrorists, it is puzzling to see prominent individuals within the U.S. political establishment openly lobbying for, and taking money from, an Iranian organization which is designated by the State Department as a terrorist group.

Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) is an organization with a history of violent terrorism against Americans and others, and was a key strategic asset of Saddam Hussein during his brutal crackdown on Iraqi Kurds in the early 90’s. Despite being implicated in the deaths of numerous American and Iranian civilians, (and being designated as a terrorist organization by countries around the world for its actions) U.S. political figures such as Ed Rendell, Andrew Card and John Bolton are openly advocating for MEK and are in many cases receiving significant sums of money for doing so…..

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Austerity and the roots of Britain’s turmoil

Britain Riot

“There’s going to be riots, there’ll be riots.” Less than a week before a police shooting in the North London neighbourhood of Tottenham triggered the worst social unrest to hit Britain in decades, these were the words of a young man predicting the effect of youth club closures on his community. While the wanton violence and destruction still occurring in London and other places within Britain has shocked the world, it has not been as much of a surprise to many UK residents who have been warning of growing anger and alienation within British society, especially among youth.

While the rioters have come from backgrounds which cut across lines of race and social status, in the broadest sense what most of them have in common is that they are young men from economically deprived parts of the country. While many individuals have rightly pointed out that much of the violence appears borne of opportunistic criminality, this does not address the observable correlation between lack of economic opportunity, cuts to social services and the attraction of engaging in these types of destructive behaviours. Not only does Britain have one of the highest violent crime rates in the European Union, its unemployment rate for those between the ages of 16-24 currently stands at 18%. As Matthew Goodwin, a politics professor at the University of Nottingham, explained to Forbes:

“There’s income inequality, extremely high levels of unemployment between 16 and 24-year-olds and huge parts of this population not in education or training…there’s a general malaise amongst a particular generation.”

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