June 24th, 2010

[misc] mila kunis

Gillard Moves on Rudd

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, backed by factional Labor Party warlords, has made a tilt at Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's leadership.

Mr Rudd has told a press conference that earlier this evening Ms Gillard visited him to request a leadership ballot.

Mr Rudd says the Labor caucus will vote on the party and Federal Government leadership tomorrow at 9:00am AEST.


"Earlier this evening Julia Gillard requested a ballot for the leadership. I will be writing to the secretary of caucus to convene a special meeting at 9:00am tomorrow morning," he said.

"It's important for these matters to be resolved quickly."

Ms Gillard has confirmed she will run against her leader tomorrow.

"I will be a candidate in tomorrow's ballot," she said.


Events have moved quickly today as support for Mr Rudd collapsed around him. Things came to a head this evening as a number of Labor's most senior figures, including Ms Gillard, met in Mr Rudd's office.

This evening the Prime Minister told the media he had lost the support of factional leaders in the party.

The Australian Workers Union, the Health Services Union and the right faction in many states have shifted their support to Ms Gillard.

"It has become apparent to me that a number of factional leaders no longer support my leadership, that is why it is imperative these matters be resolved," he said.

"I was elected by the people of Australia to do a job. I was not elected by the factional leaders of the Labor Party to do a job. Although they may be seeking to do a job on me."

But Mr Rudd says he believes he can win the leadership vote.

"We've gone into some heavy weather of late and a few people have become, shall I say, a little squeamish at that," he said.

"I'm not for getting squeamish about those things, I am about continuing the business of reform and providing good strong proper government for the people of Australia, the people of Australia who elected me as Prime Minister," he said.

Mr Rudd says if he wins the ballot tomorrow he will not be giving ground to the right on issues like climate change and asylum seekers.

"If I return as the leader of the Government and Prime Minister, I will be very clear of one thing, this party and Government will not be lurching to the right on the question of asylum seekers," he said.

He would not speculate whether Ms Gillard would stay on as Deputy PM if she lost the ballot tomorrow.

But he defended his Government's record, and said he was elected by the people of Australia, not the ALP's factions.

"These are important reforms, infrastructure, health, hospital, closing the gap, also the apology. As Prime Minister of the country I'm proud of each and every one of these achievements," he said.

ACT Labor Senator Kate Lundy says she will vote for Ms Gillard, who she says she will be an inspiring prime minister.

Australian Workers Union chief Paul Howes says his union is also backing Ms Gillard.

"Labor's message had been lost for the last few weeks, and in fact months, under the Prime Minister's leadership," he told ABC's Lateline program.

"We have to look at what's in the best interests of our members, of our union, to ensure that fairness remains in our members' workplaces.

"We think that Julia Gillard is the best option to lead Labor to victory at the upcoming election."

Source: ABC.net.au

Why are we still supporting the Monarchy?

Let us consider for a moment the first two lines of Canadian band Of Montreal’s ‘My British Tour Diary’.
On my trip to England I noticed something obscene
People there still actually give a shit about the Queen
This is the reaction of a band whose singles also include ‘Vegan in Furs’, ‘Cato as a Pun’, and ‘Fun Loving Nun’, and whose lead singer has been known to arrive onstage naked astride a white horse.

Basically, outside Europe even very weird people think we’re weird.


I can understand their perspective. Britain appears in some respects to be one of the more advanced societies in the world. I believe this and I’m proud of it, but I can’t be proud of the British schizophrenia that allowed us to pay £41.5 million in taxes last year to prop up an outdated and irrelevant family whose symbolism says something very harmful about our democracy.

Whenever I argue with Americans that their system has massive flaws, they just stop, smile, and say “but you still have a queen”. Knockout. End of debate.

The arguments for a monarchy in Britain today are as follows:

She’s our queen, and having a royal family has always been a part of Britain.

Untrue. We have been ruled by French, German and (much further back) Roman monarchs/emperors. The current set are more German than anything. There is nothing less fundamentally British than the Royal Family.

The Royal Family make money from tourism, and if they were gone we would lose the massive amounts of income it provides.

Tourists love the crown jewels, the palaces, and the exhibitions of royal paraphernalia. In a republic we could still maintain these items as historical anachronisms that can be viewed through a glass cage. Of course, we all know how terribly badly off our republican neighbours do without a monarch but with all the glitzy effects that they left behind. France’s income from tourism: 66 billion €, centred on chateaux, art collections previously owned by royalty, and palaces formerly inhabited by their unfortunate aristocracy.

The Queen doesn’t have any power anyway

Symbolism is important. Look at the Catholic church. The use of icons has allowed the Catholics to put a little piece of religion into homes, schools, and workplaces in religious countries. If symbolism doesn’t matter, then presumably the whole of Britain would be content if we put a copy of the Qu’ran in every classroom in the UK? There would be uproar, of course, because objects have a symbolic afterlife. The queen’s head on a coin says “you are my subject, whether I have any real power or not”. In modern Britain today, we do not need to be the subjects of anybody. The symbolism implies that British people agree with paying for and supporting a family who make Britain look laughable in an international context.

How would we go about getting rid of them? It would be impossible.

One of the perks or flaws of our democracy, depending on how you look at it, is that a simple Act of Parliament can change anything. In 1911, many powers of the House of Lords were removed by David Lloyd George. The Lords had to vote for the abolition of their own strength, or face even more stringent penalties. The monarchy will have to sign their own (metaphorical) death warrant, and just like all unemployed people the family can of course get Jobseekers allowance (at the time of writing), return to their jobs in the military, and get on the property ladder.

Finally, when the future monarch acts like this, there is little reason to hope our situation will do anything but deteriorate.

The Government’s Emergency Budget today hurt the people who most need their help. In their careful analysis, they seem to have forgotten to address the people receiving the best benefits package in the country. If Britain wants to maintain its reputation on an international level, wants to have respect for its own democracy, and wants to minimise that deficit, there is one choice: get them out.

Source: Liberal Conspiracy
vidya

Judith Butler refuses award at Berlin Pride; cites 'racist complicity'.

Gay pride heroine says march too superficial and commercial
Published: 20 Jun 10 12:21 CET

A philosopher and gender theorist rejected a prize for civil courage at Christopher Street Day parade in Berlin on
Judith Butler, a respected American leftist feminist intellectual who teaches at Berkeley was honoured at the parade, but used her moment in front of the microphone to reject the prize and criticise the march.

Renate Künast, head of the Green Party, first praised Butler for her work before the 54-year-old professor took to the stage at the Brandenburg Gate.

But rather than accepting the prize, she rejected it, saying the parade had become too commercial, and was ignoring the problems of racism and the double discrimination suffered by homosexual or transsexual migrants.

Reading in German from a paper, she said an alternative Christopher Street Day, which is organised in the Kreuzberg area of the city and due to be held next Saturday, was much more effective at tackling such questions.

Around 600,000 people are estimated to have attended the parade which included around 50 trucks and groups of costumed marchers and dancers.

Source

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Judith Butler continues to be fantastic. But there is a legitimate issue with the mainstream reporting of this incident -- especially that Butler's refusal is glossed as a reaction to the superficiality and commercialism of Pride, whereas that in itself had really very little to do with her very specific objections to mainstream LGBT culture's inability to deal with people of colour.
Aubrey Beardsley

Stem cells reverse blindness caused by burns

Dozens of people who were blinded or otherwise suffered severe eye damage when they were splashed with caustic chemicals had their sight restored with transplants of their own stem cells - a stunning success for the burgeoning cell-therapy field, Italian researchers reported Wednesday.

The treatment worked completely in 82 of 107 eyes and partially in 14 others, with benefits lasting up to a decade so far. One man whose eyes were severely damaged more than 60 years ago now has near-normal vision.

"This is a roaring success," said ophthalmologist Dr. Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis, who had no role in the study - the longest and largest of its kind.

Stem cell transplants offer hope to the thousands of people worldwide every year who suffer chemical burns on their corneas from heavy-duty cleansers or other substances at work or at home.

The approach would not help people with damage to the optic nerve or macular degeneration, which involves the retina. Nor would it work in people who are completely blind in both eyes, because doctors need at least some healthy tissue that they can transplant.

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Source contains some nifty but potentially gross before/after pictures of patients' eyes. And unless I'm reading this article completely wrong, it sounds like they used adult stem cells, though it does raise some interesting possibilities.
Obama-chill

Short, Tense Deliberation, Then a General Is Gone




By the time he woke up Wednesday morning, President Obama had made up his mind.

During the 36 frenetic hours since he had been handed an article from the coming issue of Rolling Stone ominously headlined “The Runaway General,” the president weighed the consequences of cashiering Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose contemptuous comments about senior officials had ignited a firestorm.

Mr. Obama, aides say, consulted with advisers — some, like Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who warned of the dangers of replacing General McChrystal, others, like his political advisers, who thought he had to go. He reached out for advice to a soldier-statesman, Colin L. Powell. He identified a possible successor to lead the war in Afghanistan.

And then, finally, the president ended General McChrystal’s command in a meeting that lasted only 20 minutes. According to one aide, the general apologized, offered his resignation and did not lobby for his job.

After a seesaw debate among White House officials, “there was a basic meeting of the minds,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and a major player in the deliberations. “This was not good for the mission, the military and morale,” Mr. Emanuel said.

Mr. Obama has forced out officials before, including the director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair; the White House counsel, Gregory Craig; even General McChrystal’s predecessor, Gen. David D. McKiernan.

But this is the highest profile sacking of his presidency. The time between Mr. Obama’s first reading of the Rolling Stone article and his decision to accept General McChrystal’s resignation offers an insight into the president’s decision-making process under intense stress: He appears deliberative and open to debate, but in the end, is coldly decisive.

In a subsequent meeting with his Afghan war council, Mr. Obama delivered a tongue-lashing, instructing his advisers to stop bickering among themselves.

 

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Source

Personally, I find it interesting to see what actually happens behind the scenes like this.  It made me glad that McChrystal was smart enough to call each of those people and apologize for what he or aides had said, and that he didn't try to excuse his conduct or try to lobby to keep his job.  I give him credit for that, even if the things that triggered all of these other events were really quite dumb, and seriously avoidable.

I read the Rolling Stone article yesterday, and was just struck at how unprofessional the behavior of him and his aides were from the very beginning.  It's even more ridiculous when they knew full well they had a member of the press sitting right there.  That being said, I do have to give him credit for apparently going above and beyond when it came to trying to avoid civilian causalties during various operations.  Personally, I hope those efforts continue.

Supposedly, the confirmation of Petraeus should fly through the Senate (as per John McCain), but we'll see.  I have come to realize that there are no limits to the idiot efforts of the GOP to block anything and everything productive that President Obama tries to do. 

Also, regarding Petraeus, I heard on the radio this morning that apparently the guy didn't even have time to call his wife before having to give a yes or no answer on taking this job up. (*winces in sympathy*)  I have a feeling that's why POTUS specifically mentioned the sacrifices that both Petraeus and his family would have to make for him to take on this command.

ETA:  Oh, and for all of those comments I've seen about people thinking McChrystal is going to make a beeline for the nearest Fox Noise reporter....had better think again
ontd → glasses!rdj

Australia's first female PM



Julia Gillard has become Australia's first female prime minister after Kevin Rudd stood aside at the last minute before this morning's historic leadership ballot.

Ms Gillard was unelected unopposed, making her the nation's 27th prime minister and its first female leader. She has chosen Treasurer Wayne Swan to be her Deputy Prime Minister.

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I'm pretty happy right now. What about other Aussies?
*betty draper reading

Texas Democrats sue to boot Republican-funded Green Party from ballot

Democrats head to court in effort to stop Greens



Group that helped party gather signatures to get on statewide ballot has several ties to Republicans.

By Jason Embry

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Published: 8:53 p.m. Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Democrats will try today to block the Green Party from fielding candidates for governor and other statewide offices this November.

The Greens appeared to qualify for this year's statewide ballot by submitting 92,000 petition signatures to the secretary of state's office in May. But the Texas Democratic Party will try to persuade a state district judge in Austin to block the Greens from the ballot because, Democrats claim, an outside group illegally paid for the gathering of those signatures.

Take Initiative America, a Missouri-based group with several ties to Republicans, paid $532,500 to gather the signatures for the Green Party, according to court filings. Democrats contend that Republicans are behind the effort because a Green candidate likely would pull votes away from Democrat Bill White, who is challenging Gov. Rick Perry.

....continued at the source.
Sufjan Smile

A "get out of jail free" card for Wall Street



As members of the House of Representatives and Senate patch together a final version of financial reform legislation, it's increasingly clear that Wall Street and its army of lobbyists have won the battle to keep the bill from making any real changes in how America's biggest banks do business.

That means there will be nothing to prevent banks from taking the kinds of risks that could lead to another 2008-style financial flameout. And if that happens, there will be no alternative to the federal government conducting another taxpayer-funded bailout of the Wall Street fat cats. "[A]t the end of the day, essentially nothing in the entire legislation will reduce the potential for massive system risk as we head into the next credit cycle," wrote Simon Johnson in a recent blog post.

Different versions of financial reform legislation passed the House and Senate earlier this year. Both were incredibly weak compared to what was expected after the 2008 Wall Street crash pushed the economy into a recession.

But now, with lawmakers from both houses working through the "conference" process that resolves differences between the two bills, already feeble legislation is being further gutted, with lobbyists from the banking industry pushing members of both parties to remove every provision they find objectionable.

At this point, it appears that the final bill will do nothing to limit the size of "too big to fail" banks. It won't regulate credit default swaps--the form of financial insurance on investments going bad that was at the heart of the 2008 crisis. It will have only modest measures to make more transparent the trading of Wall Street's massively complicated investments known as derivatives.
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Source: Socialist Worker

Go figure, a neo-liberal President whose largest campaign donor was Goldman Sachs, and a congress of bought voices are continuing to stump for corporatism, only enacting the most 'lenient' of measures on their buddies.
old

Group of youths attack Jewish dance group

A Jewish dance group was attacked with stones by a group of children and teenagers during a performance at a street festival in the Germany city of Hannover, police said Thursday. One dancer suffered a leg injury and the group then canceled their performance.

The teenagers also used a megaphone to shout anti-Semitic slurs during the Saturday afternoon attack, Hannover police spokesman Thorsten Schiewe said.

Police said the incident is under investigation and that they do not have an exact number of attackers yet. Schiewe said there were several Muslim immigrant youths among the attackers.

Two suspects, a 14-year-old and a 19-year-old, were being questioned, he said.

Alla Volodarska, whose Progressive Jewish community of Hannover group held the performance, told The Associated Press in an interview that members were still in shock.

"What happened is just so awful," Volodarska said. "The teenagers started throwing stones the moment our dance group was announced, even before they started dancing."

Volodarska said she did not attend the event herself, but had talked to several members of the eight-person dance group since the incident. She said one dancer, a woman in her forties, was injured by several stones that hit her leg.

"There were many kids throwing stones, many of them, but we don't know the exact number," she said, adding that the community had performed Israeli group dances at many festivals in the past and never experienced this kind of hostility before.

Volodarska said that the festival took place in Sahlkamp, an immigrant neighborhood of Hannover.


Source
Martha

Al Gore Sexual Harassment Charges Dropped

Photobucket

A Portland, Oregon massage therapist's claim of "unwanted sexual contact" against former Vice President Al Gore has been dismissed by local authorities.

Multnomah County District Attorney Schrunk said Wednesday there was insufficient evidence to support the masseuse's accusations. She has since refused to be interviewed by police and did not want the investigation to continue.

The National Enquirer first reported the woman's claim Wednesday, identifying her as a 54-year-old woman.

According to the police report, Gore went under the alias "Mr. Stone" at the upscale Hotel Lucia. On the day of the alleged incident, Oct. 24, 2006, Gore was in Portland to give a speech on climate change.

The massage therapist said Gore asked for an abdominal massage, according to a transcript of the interview released by police. The masseuse said Gore began to moan during his appointment, insisted that she go lower, and grabbed her hand and guided it to his pubic area.

She later claimed Gore tried to have sex with her and began to embrace her before she wriggled out of his grasp.

According to the police report, the woman canceled appointments with detectives on Dec. 21 and 26 after the alleged incident. Her attorney later canceled a January meeting the following year and said the case would be handled civilly.

The woman said she did not immediately report the incident because she didn't want to ruin her reputation and be made "into a public spectacle."

Gore announced early this month that he was separating from his wife, Tipper. The two had been together for 40 years.

SOURCE

My reaction in a nutshell:
Ani: Amazon Warrior

Video taken yesterday at 3pm - Destin Beach, Florida - People STILL Using Polluted Beaches

I can't believe parents are still letting their children use beaches in Florida despite the fact oil is in the water and on the sand in some locations beaches in Florida like this that are covered in oil.  Once you SEE the oil you should leave the beach. Duh.  Look at this beach - it's FULL of people. Wow. At the end of the video the child screams to mother for her to get the oil off and the mother acts like she doesn't know what to do and can't get it off. DEAR GOD :'(

I cannot handle this disaster. Seriously cannot handle.

Times paywall: initial data and analysis

Following months of speculation, News International has finally erected a paywall around the Times newspaper website. After a couple of weeks running two sites, (www.timesonline.co.uk and www.thetimes.co.uk) in parallel, visitors to the former site are now automatically redirected to the latter. Since last Tuesday, users have had to register to read content on the Times website (as well the separate Sunday Times site). However, they don’t yet have to pay: during the trial period, which is expected to last until the end of the month, simply having registered is enough to access the content behind the paywall.

So, what has the impact been on traffic to the Times website? The chart below illustrates the market share of UK Internet visits within our News and Media – Print category. We have aggregated traffic to both old and new Times sites in order to cut out any double counting and provide a consistent comparison and, as you can see, the title’s market share has dropped from 4.37% during the week ending May 22nd to 2.67% last week (w/e June 19th).



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Source: Hitwise
Reporting

Working to Help a Haven for Afghan Women Blossom

KABUL, Afghanistan — There was in the city an old garden, and in that garden there were trees, and under the trees there were women.

And there were no scarves on the heads of the women who sat under the trees in the old Kabul Women’s Garden.

That was all something remarkable once upon a time, as it is even now. Screened from male scrutiny by the leafy canopies of almond or apricot trees, women could go outside as they pleased, dare to wriggle naked toes in fountain water or just gossip without the veil.

Now this oasis of freedom for women, surrounded by the misogynist desert of the capital city, is undergoing a rebirth.

As with so much happening today in Afghanistan, the midwives are foreigners, the gestation is troubled and the parents are hopeful.

Some say this fabled eight-acre enclosure in the Shahrara neighborhood of Kabul goes back to the days of Babur the Conqueror, in the 1500s. More reliably it is dated to the 1940s or ’50s, when King Zahir Shah was said to have bequeathed it to the state.

Karima Salik tells the story of the Kabul Women’s Garden she remembers as a girl in the 1970s, a halcyon age for Afghanistan and its women, before the present 32 years of unbroken war began.

“The trees covered everything,” she recalled. “There was laughter and chatter and music.”

For the past three years, Ms. Salik has managed the garden, which is now in the midst of a $500,000 face-lift supported by the United States Agency for International Development and CARE International. Most of the money pays laborers who are landscaping, planting trees, rebuilding footpaths and raising the walls still higher. Women on construction projects are almost unheard of in Afghanistan, but the United States Agency for International Development program requires that at least 25 percent of the work force be female. Here they are 50 percent of it.

Ms. Salik’s childhood witnessed one of the most liberated periods for women in Afghan history, when the communist government took over in 1978 and enforced equality, banned the burqa and mandated education for girls.

The revolt of the mujahedeen, led by conservative, rural warlords, wiped that all out in a few years’ time.
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Source

Reporting

As China Aids Labor, Unrest Is Still Rising

BEIJING — On a hot morning in late May, while some 2,000 workers at a Honda parts factory were striking in China’s south, 100 irate employees at a hotel in the heart of the capital staged their own protest.

The Honda workers got lots of publicity. The hotel employees were mostly ignored. But the undercurrent was the same: labor disputes are becoming a common feature of the Chinese economic landscape.

Chinese workers are much more willing these days to defend their rights and demand higher wages, encouraged by recent policies from the central government aimed at protecting laborers and closing the income gap. Chinese leaders dread even the hint of Solidarity-style labor activism. But they have moved to empower workers by pushing through labor laws that signaled that central authorities would no longer tolerate poor workplace conditions, legal scholars and Chinese labor experts say.


The laws, enacted in 2008, were intended to channel worker frustrations through a system of arbitration and courts so no broader protest movements would threaten political stability.

But if recent strikes and a surge in arbitration and court cases reflect a rising worker consciousness partly rooted in awareness of greater legal rights, they also underscore new challenges in China. The labor laws have raised expectations, but still leave workers relatively powerless by Western standards. The Communist Party-run legal system cannot cope with the exploding volume of labor disputes. And legal enforcement by local officials loosened when the global economic crisis hit China and resulted in factory shutdowns.

If the expected revaluation of the renminbi, the Chinese currency, makes exports less competitive, then local officials and mainland companies may collude to ignore laws and ensure that labor costs stay low.

“It’s not enough simply to rely on laws,” said Liu Kaiming, the head of the Institute of Contemporary Observation, a labor advocacy organization in Shenzhen. “Laws only provide the bare minimum required.”

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Source

*betty draper reading

Green party kicked off the ballot in Texas

Judge rules Green Party can be kept off November ballot



By Kate Alexander | Thursday, June 24, 2010, 05:21 PM

Texas Green Party candidates can be kept off the November statewide ballot because the petitions that qualified the party were paid for with an illegal corporate contribution, a judge ruled Thursday.

Lawyers for the Greens said they planned to appeal directly to the Texas Supreme Court and hoped to get a ruling in time for a July 2 deadline for the party to deliver the names of its candidates to the Texas Secretary of State.

sauce

What the elf?

George Osborne said yesterday that "there are some families receiving £104,000 a year in housing benefit". That calculation, the government subsequently admitted, was not based on real cases but on potential rates for housing benefit.

The rates Osborne used show that prior to yesterday's reforms, anyone granted housing benefit on a five bedroom house in Kensington and Chelsea, one of London's most upmarket boroughs, would have got £2,000 a week.

"It is what the rate would be," said a spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions. "We don't have any figures on how many people are claiming that rate."

However, she added that a search of the Daily Mail and the Sun newspaper websites would throw up stories of people being paid the same if not more.

In January it was reported that a family in Brent, north-west London, was being paid £2,875 a week for a seven-bedroom house.

In November last year, it was revealed that Somali-born Nasra Warsame and seven of her children were living in a £1.8m house in Westminster, central London, at a cost to taxpayers of £1,600 a week.

Source: The Guardian

I don't fucking believe this. The DWP are using THE SUN AND THE DAILY FUCKING MAIL, two shit-mouthed lying bastard rags who have attacking those of us on benefits as one of their pet fucking topics, as their sources on the benefits people are receiving? There are no words. Or rather there are a lot of very repetitive, somewhat obscene words much like the ones I shouted as I read this. WTELF?
Reporting

Why WTO membership for Iran makes sense

The Congressional Sanctions Agreement making its way through both houses of Congress this week will do little to change the behavior of the Iranian regime. There is, however, a better way to promote lasting and permanent political change in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States should strongly encourage and actively negotiate the accession of Iran to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

For years, the U.S. has tirelessly promoted the notion that trade liberalization reforms support greater market freedoms, which in turn pave the way for enhanced political liberalization. Indeed, it was precisely this reasoning that led America to support the WTO applications of China, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam, three countries with troubling human rights records.

That same argument applies as much, if not more, to Iran. WTO accession can be a catalyst for the liberalization of Iran's economy. WTO reforms would require Iran to broaden and deepen the integration of its economy with the world trading system. It would demand true non-discriminatory treatment through adherence to the most-favored nation (MFN) and national treatment obligations of GATT Articles I and III, and their re-incarnations in other WTO Agreements, plus reductions in tariff and non-tariff barriers. It would necessitate privatization of state-owned and state trading enterprises (SOEs and STEs), which would lead to increased openness to foreign direct investment. And it would impel greater respect for intellectual property rights, specifically patents, trademarks, copyrights, and semi-conductor mask works, pursuant to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs).

Such economic reforms, which Iran would be compelled to implement and enforce before formally acceding to the WTO, would prove a watershed for the country. Not only would they result in a less isolated country with a more empowered middle class, they also would enhance the rule of law in Iran and make the country a more responsible member of the international community. That is because, as a WTO member, Iran would be obligated to submit to adjudicatory proceedings under the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) in its trade disputes with other WTO Member countries. Since 1995, this mechanism for solving trade disputes has been an integral and successful feature of the international rule of law.

These obligatory interactions with the global market would foster an Iranian economy that is dependent on free trade and good relations with the rest of the world. That would make it far more costly for Iran to persist in dangerous, irresponsible behavior on the international stage. It would also make it more difficult for Iran to get away with human rights violations at home. Why is it that the U.S. appreciated this logic with respect to China, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam, but not when it comes to Iran?

Insofar as the WTO accession process emphasizes the commercial rule of law, it just as well could strengthen the rule of law in Iran when it comes to non-commercial matters. For example, as a WTO Member, Iran would have to make the manner in which domestic courts and administrative agencies adjudicate trade and investment cases more transparent. That process, more than any sanctions regime, would help chip away at the power of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) over the economy. By most estimates the IRGC controls one-third of Iran's annual budget and almost all of the country's black market. In fact, Iran's economic isolation has allowed the IRGC to take control over every aspect of the country's economy. The IRGC controls 51 percent of Iran's telecommunications industry, and was just awarded the rights to develop the vast gas fields of South Pars because of the hesitancy of global firms like Royal Dutch Shell and Repsol YPF to invest in Iran. WTO accession would entail cutting back on the power of SOEs and STEs, requiring them to operate on a commercial basis and honor the non-discrimination principle so that foreign competitors would be treated in a like manner with Iranian entities.

To be sure, WTO accession would not be a panacea for all of Iran's economic and political problems. It could, however, breathe new life into the long-suffering private sector of Iran and enhance the rule of law in Iran, just as it has in other countries. Iran, which first applied to join the WTO in July 1996, is desperate for membership and eager for robust international commercial relationships. Yet by blocking the formation of a working group to discuss Iran's accession application, and by dithering on appointment of a chairman of that group, the U.S. is willfully ignoring an opportunity to gain some measure of leverage over the Islamic Republic (something it sorely lacks). Worse, it is playing into the hands of Iranian officials who argue that America bears a deep-seated, anti-Iranian bias.

Reza Aslan is a contributing editor at The Daily Beast and author most recently of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Globalized Age.

Raj Bhala is the Rice Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law and author of Understanding Islamic Law (Shari'a) (forthcoming) and International Trade Law.

Source

Where “A Day of Fun” Is A Crime

In a May 7 article, Haaretz reporter Ilana Hammerman described in dramatic detail a crime she had methodically planned and committed. In defiance of laws supposedly related to Israel’s security, Hammerman picked up three teenage Palestinian girls in their village in the West Bank, took them through the Betar checkpoint, and drove them into Tel Aviv. There they ate ice cream, visited the mall and museum, and played in the sea. Even though the girls lived just a few kilometers from the beach, Israel’s military occupation had prevented them from ever visiting it before their illegal “day of fun.”

Hammerman wrote in her account of the experience, “If There Is A Heaven:”
“The end was wonderful. The last photos show them about two hours after the trip to the flea market, running in the darkness on Tel Aviv’s Banana Beach. They didn’t want to stop for even a minute at the restaurant there to have a bite to eat or something to drink, or even to just relax a bit. Instead they immediately removed their sandals again, rolled up their pants and ran into the water. And ran and ran, back and forth, in zig-zags, along the huge beach, ponytails flying in the wind. From time to time, they knelt down in the sand or crowded together in the shallow water to have their picture taken. The final photo shows two of them standing in the water, arms around each others’ waists, their backs to the camera. Only the bright color of their shirts contrasting with the dark water and the sky reveals that the two are Yasmin and Aya, because Lin was wearing a black shirt.”
But the fun ended as soon as a group called The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel filed a request with Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein demanding that Hammerman be prosecuted for breaking the country’s “Law of Entry to Israel” forbidding Israelis from assisting Palestinians in entering Israel. If Weinstein agrees to the request, Hammerman could face as much as two years in prison.

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel was founded by a religious nationalist settler named Nachi Eyal. When I reached Eyal on the phone, he maintained to me that his concern related strictly to Hammerman’s disregard for the rule of law. “She broke the law and she made a report about her breaking of the law,” Eyal told me. “She wanted everyone to know that you can take Palestinians in against the law and lie to police officers and the Army. I want to send a message that no citizen in Israel can take the law into his hands and if he does they have to pay.”

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Source: Max Blumenthal

Be Still My Heart

Perriello blasts Senate on unemployment benefits

Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello today released a statement blasting the U.S. Senate for playing politics with unemployment benefits and Medicare payments to doctors.

“The elites in the Senate may have forgotten what it’s like on Main Street for families still struggling in this recession,” Perriello said in the statement. “Hardworking Virginians who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own have been subject to the game-playing and political posturing of the Senate for too long. People depend on these benefits to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head while they search for new work. It’s unconscionable that the Senate continues to play politics with unemployment benefits and Medicare payments while the American people need action.”

This week, thousands of unemployed Virginians will receive a notice from the Virginia Employment Commission indicating benefits are being cut off due to the Senate’s inaction. And Virginia doctors who see Medicare patients have been notified that their reimbursements will decrease by 21% because of the Senate’s failure to pass a long-term fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.

Rep. Perriello has voted to extend unemployment benefits and to prevent the 21 percent cut in Medicare payments. For months, the Senate has passed a series of temporary extensions of unemployment benefits but only at the last minute when they expire and leave hundreds of thousands of Americans without any help. If the Senate continues to stall, 23,500 Virginians will lose their unemployment benefits.



source
movies | Impish Fräulein2

ONTD_Political's PotD: June 23, 2010.


Gimme Shelter
Along the Los Angeles River are invisible cities whose population centers do not figure on official maps. The river's littered banks have become a no-man's land for the homeless--the hard-core junkies, the mentally ill and those just trying to disappear. A dozen or so people live in tents and lean-tos under the 7th Street bridge in Long Beach, just one of the many invisible villages along the river.

Francine Orr | Los Angles Times
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This is an audio/visual photo set; check out the source link for the full experience.

Warning: Contains stark images of drug use.