Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Nanny State Round Up: Ban Pointed Kitchen Knives!

‘Beyond parody’: Call for UK to ban pointed kitchen knives ridiculed online

Church of England bishops are leading a call for the government to take a serious stance on knife crime by banning pointed kitchen knives. The suggestion has been met with some confusion, and a lot of jokes.
Church leaders, with support from police, victims, and psychiatrists, penned an open letter to the government, arguing that domestic knives should be redesigned with rounded tips to reduce the number of life-threatening stabbing injuries. They reportedly argue that pointed blades aren’t even needed in this day and age, given that we have forks to eat with.
The absurdity of banning a common kitchen implement was pointed out by bemused netizens, particularly as the proposal comes after police recently announced that they will no longer post images of seized knives “to help reduce the fear of knives,” and as the Home Office uses takeaway packaging to basically tell people that stabbing is bad.

Aww... how they mean well...

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Julian Assange denied justice (again)

The WikiLeaks founder would have been released from HMP Belmarsh on 22 September, Westminster magistrates court heard on Friday, but he was told he would be kept in jail because of “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond again.

Assange, 48, who is an Australian citizen, appeared by video-link wearing a loose-fitting T-shirt.

District judge Vanessa Baraitser told him: “You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end. When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.

“Therefore I have given your lawyer an opportunity to make an application for bail on your behalf and she has declined to do so, perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings.

“In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”

Assange was asked if he understood what was happening. He replied: “Not really. I’m sure the lawyers will explain it.”

Another administrative hearing will take place on 11 October and a case management hearing on 21 October, the court heard. The final extradition hearing is expected in February.


Friday, 13 September 2019

Why is billionaire George Soros a bogeyman for the hard right?

He's a Jewish multi-billionaire philanthropist who has given away $32bn. Why does the hard right from America to Australia and from Hungary to Honduras believe George Soros is at the heart of a global conspiracy, asks the BBC's Mike Rudin.

One quiet Monday afternoon last October in leafy upstate New York, a large manila envelope was placed in the mailbox of an exclusive country mansion belonging to multi-billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The package looked suspicious. The return address was misspelt as "FLORIDS" and the mail had already been delivered earlier that day. The police were called and soon the FBI was on the scene.

Inside the bubble-wrapped envelope was a photograph of Soros, marked with a red "X". Alongside it, a six-inch plastic pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and a black powder.

More than a dozen similar packages were sent to the homes of former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats.

None of the devices exploded. The FBI traced the bombs to a white van covered in pro-Trump and anti-Democrat stickers, parked in a supermarket car park in Florida.

Immediately the right-wing media claimed it was a "false-flag" operation intended to derail President Donald Trump and the Republican campaign, just two weeks before the crucial US mid-term elections.

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs tweeted: "Fake News - Fake Bombs. Who could possibly benefit by so much fakery?" Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh added: "Republicans just don't do this kind of thing."

Soon the internet was awash with allegations that the bomb plot was a hoax organised by Soros himself.

President Trump condemned the "despicable acts", but when a member of the audience at a White House reception shouted "Soros! Lock him up!" the president seemed amused.

Then a 56-year-old Florida man called Cesar Sayoc was arrested.

Conspiracy theories claimed he wasn't actually a Republican. But Luigi Marra, a former work colleague, told me how Sayoc used to deliver pizzas in his van plastered with pro-Trump stickers and argue with customers if they had Democratic posters at their homes.

"Everything for him was a conspiracy theory, everything. George Soros was the one behind everything, he was the one buying the whole Democratic Party, he was the epicentre of what is going wrong in the United States of America."

Sayoc's social media revealed more. On the day the pipe bomb was discovered at George Soros's house, Sayoc reposted a meme claiming, "The world is waking up to the horrors of George Soros."

Sayoc later pleaded guilty to 65 counts, including intent to kill or injure with explosives, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

So how did George Soros come to be regarded by so many as the evil mastermind at the heart of a global conspiracy?

Find out more -

Watch Conspiracy Files: The Billionaire Global Mastermind on BBC Two at 21:00 on Sunday 8 September

Viewers in the UK can catch up later online (BBC iPlayer)

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Go OAN! Go, Go, Go!

Uh oh, is Rachel Madcow finally in trouble?

OAN sues Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, Comcast, NBC Universal for $10 million

One America News Network (OAN), a conservative news network for people who think Fox News is too liberal, has filed a $10 million dollar defamation lawsuit against Rachel Maddow, MSNBC and its parent companies Comcast and NBC Universal.

The network claims Maddow defamed them during an episode of her nightly show when she referred to OANN as "paid Russian propaganda."

Maddow was referencing OAN's employment of Kristian Brunovich Rouz as an on-air reporter covering US politics while he is also employed as a reporter for Sputnik, a Kremlin-owned news wire. If Sputnik sounds familiar, that could be because it was found to have been part of Russia's 2016 election interference scheme.


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Bolton Quits! (Ahem, is FIRED)

I could practically kiss DJT:

I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.” the president wrote on Twitter on September 9, 2019.
Meanwhile Netanyahoo's been sighted chewing manically on one end of his laser pointer...

Monday, 9 September 2019

Vietnamistan (reminder)

The president of the United States had planned to host the Taliban on U.S. soil, three days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Can you even begin to imagine the reaction from the right if Barack Obama had made a similar announcement?

To be clear: Inviting the loathsome Taliban to Camp David, of all places, for a personal meeting with the U.S. president, not only in advance of any finalized peace agreement but also on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, was a dumb and offensive idea. However, engaging in negotiations with the Taliban to try and end the Afghan conflict — as the Trump administration has been doing for the past year in Qatar, including nine separate meetings led by the veteran U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad — is neither dumb nor offensive. It’s something that should have been attempted by the George W. Bush administration back in 2002 or 2003.

The war in Afghanistan, remember, has been an utter catastrophe. It may have dropped out of the headlines here in the United States, but it still holds the title for the longest-running conflict in American history. As the Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow has pointed out, the Afghan war has lasted “longer than the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and Korean War combined.”

This forgotten conflict has cost the U.S. taxpayer almost $1 trillion and has resulted in the deaths of more than 2,400 U.S. military personnel — as well as tens of thousands of unnamed, innocent Afghan civilians. “We’re pretty close to the day when we will wake up to the news of a casualty in Afghanistan who was not born on 9/11,” Democrat Pete Buttigieg, who himself was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, said at the CNN presidential debate in July.

So Trump, prior to becoming president, was right when he declared Afghanistan to be a “mess” and a “total disaster.”

And he was right, upon assuming office, to have authorized peace talks with the Taliban (despite harshly condemning Obama for trying to do the same in 2012). Liberals who piously condemn Trump for trying to do a deal with the Islamist insurgent group need to explain how they plan to end the fighting without trying to do the same. (“At some point,” tweeted political scientist Paul Musgrave on Sunday, “the US will have to reach a deal with the Taliban, accept defeat, go on an all-out rampage, or make it a literal forever war.”)


As for the attempt to deny terrorists a safe haven, if 100,000 US troops couldn’t defeat the Taliban at the height of the Obama-ordered surge in 2011, why should we believe that the current deployment of 14,000 U.S. troops can achieve any kind of victory in 2019 or 2020?

Lest we forget, the Taliban right now controls “nearly half of Afghanistan.” There are at least 240 Al Qaeda fighters on the ground in Afghanistan, according to the U.N. Security Council. Meanwhile, Georgetown University terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman says an ascendant ISIS has invested “a disproportionate amount of attention and resources in Afghanistan,” while the Pentagon says the jihadi group poses a “substantial threat” to the country.

@ TI.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

The Thorn in America's side

The Cuba Libre Story (German Title: Geheimes Kuba)

Cuba – the island where dreams clash. It was the gateway to the New World, the port of call for the American underworld, a crossroads for drug smuggling.

It has brought us cigars, sugar and rum. And a Socialist Revolution: Cuba stands for schools for everybody, and an eternal struggle for freedom.

Cuba may seem synonymous with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, but its history was shaped by adventurer Christopher Columbus, freedom fighter José Martí, Dictator Fulgenico Batista, Mafia Boss Meyer Lansky and many others.

“The Cuba Libre Story” tells Cuba’s complete history – looking back at 500 years before the Castro Brothers, and ahead at what will come after them.

The series weaves together over 50 exclusive interviews with the most important experts and eyewitnesses of Cuban history – both from within and outside the island with never-before-seen archive footage.

All footage has been newly scanned, digitally restored and re-mastered, from the Spanish-American War of 1898, which was the first war in history ever to be filmed.

We hear from Juan Antonio Rodriguez Menier, former chief of Castro’s secret service and Nikolai Leonov, head of the KGB in Latin America from 1953 onwards (and Vladimir Putin’s former boss and mentor), from Marita Lorenz, Castro’s former lover and Carlos Calvo, Castro’s former bodyguard.

We hear from Cynthia Duncan, granddaughter of Mafia boss Meyer Lansky, Leonardo Padura, Cuba’s most famous novelist and Egon Krenz, East Germany’s last head of state and personal friend of the Castro brothers.


Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission

On a Mission from God

Back on 31 March 2019 I wrote an essay entitled “God and U.S. Foreign Policy.” The central figure in that essay was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo is a Christian fundamentalist who believes that God is at work when it comes to both sustaining Israeli society as well as the U.S. foreign policies that underpin it. There are other Christian fundamentalists in the Trump White House who agree with Pompeo, significantly Vice President Pence. Both men also appear to believe a really bizarre backstory that predicts that Israel’s success is a prelude to the second coming of Christ and the subsequent end of the world. (Just as an aside, I have to confess that when I was around five or six I was convinced that Godzilla was real and attempting to crawl through my bedroom window at night. I grew out of this quickly.) Folks like Pompeo and Pence seem so attached to their point of view that, as regards Israel, they carry out the duties of their offices as if they were, as the Blues Brothers would put it, “on a mission from God.”

Such Christian fundamentalists have long had allies among Jewish fanatics—those who insist that Palestine is now the “land of Israel” and divinely reserved for Jews only. Here in the U.S., before the Civil Rights movement changed things in the public sphere, we used to have hotels that were restricted to white Christians only. No Jews, African-Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, etc. were allowed in. The Jewish fanatics currently supporting and running Israel are in the process of turning Palestine/Israel into a restricted hotel.

Why some—though certainly not all—Jews, who are members of a group that has long been victimized by racism, would want to support widespread official discrimination in Israel is a psychological conundrum. But major Jewish American politicians certainly do support this unfortunate effort, and as pointed out above, this makes them allies of Pompeo, Pence and others like them. Take for instance Charles “Chuck” Schumer, a Democratic Senator from New York, and the Senate minority leader. Schumer too is on a self-declared mission from God to defend Israel. Here is how he describes it: “You know, my name . . . comes from the word shomer, guardian, watcher. … And I believe Hashem [Orthodox for God] actually gave me that name. One of my roles, very important in the United States senate, is to be a shomer – to be a or the shomer Yisrael. And I will continue to be that with every bone in my body.”

For those readers who might find this declaration a bit baffling, here is a translation: Schumer claims that his name derives from the Hebrew word “shomer” which means “guard.” It also means “watcher” or “observer,” but the senator likes “guardian” perhaps because it has a connotation of alleged historical significance. Anyway, he goes on to claim that God gave him this name and set him the “role” of “guarding” Israel’s interests in the U.S. Senate. It’s a task that he carries out with all his strength and determination.

Much more @ tothepointanalysis.