Thursday, July 31, 2014

State Dept grilled by press corp offensive over Gaza


This anti-Israel hysteria is the opposite of a peace movement

Anti-Israel activists are the attack dogs of a new Western imperialism.

here are many striking things about the radical rage against Israel that has swept the Western world. There’s its blinkeredness, where these agitators obsess over acts of war carried out by Israel while saying precisely nothing about Kiev’s bombing of civilians in east Ukraine, or America’s resumption of drone attacks in Pakistan, or Egypt the alleged peacemaker’s massacre of more civilians in three days last year than Israel has killed in four weeks in Gaza. There’s its weird intensity, where for some inexplicable reason radicals and liberals are always made more spittle-producing furious by Israel than they are by any other state, issue or war on Earth. There’s its ugly tendency towards racism, where everywhere from London to Paris to Berlin we’ve seen protesters holding up placards depicting hook-nosed Jews feasting on Palestinian blood or heard them chanting ‘Victory to Hamas, Jews to the gas!’.
And there’s another striking, more uncommented-on thing about these red-mist protests against Israel: the extent to which their ostensibly anti-war activists borrow from the language of Western imperialism itself for their denunciations of Israel.
It’s remarkable. Whether they’re branding Israel a ‘rogue state’, or pleading with Western governments to label it a ‘pariah state’, or demanding severe economic sanctions against it, or calling on the UN to cast it out of the family of nations or on the International Criminal Court to drag it by the scruff of its bloodied neck into the dock and charge it with ‘war crimes’, these campaigners who pose as anti-war, who imagine themselves as heirs to the anti-imperialist movements of the twentieth century, actually attempt to marshal the institutions of imperialism itself in their campaign to demonise, isolate and punish Israel. Where pretty much every anti-war demo I went on in my youth involved people hollering ‘Hands off!’ at Western governments – ‘Hands off Haiti’, ‘Hands off Yugoslavia’, ‘Hands off Iraq’ – the message of the anti-Israel paroxysm is the exact opposite: these people are calling for ‘Hands on’, for the West to Do Something, to get stuck in, to intervene both to ‘save Gaza’ (like good, caring colonialists) and to reprimand Israel (like good, angry colonialists).
Israel has become a rogue state for the right-on, the wicked, warped entity Over There that decent-minded liberal folk can rail against, and dream of waging war on, in exactly the same way George W Bush related to Iraq. An anti-war movement? It’s the opposite. The current street-based fury with Israel is best seen, not as any kind of independent or progressive or peacenik grouping, but rather as the protesting wing of the West itself, as the attack dogs of Western institutions’ own exasperation with Israel and their desire to distance themselves from it. These campaigners are effectively pleading with the powers of the West to make good on their post-Cold War promise to rethink their relationship with Israel, and ideally to cast it out entirely from what we view as ‘the civilised world’ (that is, us).
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Ghosts in Sunlight by Hilton Als

This happened in 1967. That year, the American author Truman Capote, then forty-three years old, published a beautiful essay he titled “Ghosts in Sunlight.” The piece—it’s not very long—describes the author’s experience on the set of the film adaptation of his 1966 best-selling book, In Cold Blood. At one point Capote relates how the actors impersonating the real-life protagonists in his famous “non-fiction novel” unsettled him, rattled him, for there they were, alive and interpreting the thoughts and feelings of men he had known long before, dead men he could not shake. Capote describes this experience as being akin to watching “ghosts in sunlight”—a lovely metaphor about memory and the real converging to make the world something else, and the artist someone else, too. Standing on that film set, the Capote who had written In Cold Blood was a relative ghost to the film being made; he was a specter standing in the sunlight of his former self.
I think I understand something about the anxiety Capote expresses in the piece; I certainly understand when he relates how, at some point during his In Cold Bloodprocess, he’d fall into bed with a bottle of scotch and pass out, the victim of a disorienting emotional flu. Nostalgia is one thing, but making art out of the past is another thing altogether, a Herculean effort in that known and unknown landscape we might as well call the metaphysical. It’s the land where all artists dwell, and that your years at Columbia’s School of the Arts have prepared you to meet head on*; by now you have developed the stamina of Hercules, or Sisyphus, as you do the joyful, maddening, and true work of artists, those sometimes whistling and sometimes wretched builders and destroyers of truth and memory, makers who take from the past—their memories—to create a present that shimmers with veracity and poetry.
I wonder if you, like me, feel, just now, like a ghost in the sunlight, awash in memories as your life shifts from student to professional, and your professors become your colleagues. I’ll pull rank now—but just for a moment—and say that my ghosts are probably older than yours. I mean almost Madonna old, and her 1980s music is there in my reminiscences along with so much more as I recall that the majority of my ghosts became just that during the AIDS crisis, which I first read about while I was a student at Columbia—in 1981 or so. I met those now gone boys at Columbia some time before I met you. In memory they wear what they wore then: Oxford button-downs, and they smoke and gossip in the sun that always makes the steps of Low Library—the very steps you’ve sat on yourself—look like a sketch in a dream. Tomorrow was faraway then. And then it wasn’t.
I see those gone boys and hear their laughter and love them even more as I watch you all now in your sunlight. For your time at Columbia and your life in this particular section of Manhattan is becoming part of your past very quickly now, all the moments of making your self—your artist self—mixed up these final days and hours before you face other realities, other dangers, other hopes, and other presents that are destined to become the past, too. And undoubtedly you will try to make art out of this beautiful ephemera, the merging of the past with the present, because you’re artists, chroniclers of who you are, and who you might be, and who we all are, together.
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The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist By Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux

The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.
The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.
Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.”
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Facing economic and political pressure, where does Russia go from here?

Facing economic and political pressure, where does Russia go from here?

Not since the Cold War has Moscow been subjected to such pressure from the West. In the European and U.S. media, Russia’s image and the character of its president Vladimir Putin are being unreservedly demonized. Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, discussed the situation and assessed Russia’s options in an interview with news website

There is a point of view that says Moscow needn't adapt itself to the discrimination from the West because the current sanctions are unpleasant, but not fatal. Is such an approach valid? Sanctions are of course not fatal. However, in the case of their full-fledged introduction - that is, sector-wide sanctions against entire industries - they will significantly sour the economic situation and necessitate arranging an entirely new model of development. In my opinion, such a model does not yet exist, and a response mechanism to a serious economic blockade from the West has not been developed.

Russia's developmental specificities have left it with an economy that is not so deeply immersed in the global economy when compared to countries such as China. However, Russia is still bound very closely to global markets and especially to Europe, so it would be a bad idea to disregard the sanctions as nothing. I also would not bank on Europe's “greed.” Without a doubt, sanctions against Russia would be horrendously disadvantageous, but the pressure from the United States has been very strong, and the informational situation surrounding Ukraine and the downed Malaysia flight has become extremely harsh. The international media has practically made Russia a rogue state, and I cannot remember a more powerful information assault. In other words, there is no cause for panic, but one must consider that Russia has not found herself in such a serious political, economic, or informational confrontation in all the years since 1991.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Statistics by Steve Sailer

We live in a century of nonstop adulation over how statistical analysis of big data is changing the world. Brad Pitt, for instance, starred in a successful Hollywood movie, Moneyball, about the fast-changing realm of baseball statistics.
Last week, however, Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics at Columbia, offered some heresy about his fashionable field on his blog Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science. In a post entitled “A World without Statistics,” Gelman reflected:
A reporter asked me for a quote regarding the importance of statistics. But, after thinking about it for a moment, I decided that statistics isn’t so important at all. A world without statistics wouldn’t be much different from the world we have now.
Indeed, the world probably wouldn’t look all that much different. A Rip Van Winkle baseball fan awoken from a long nap might wonder why the games take so long these days, but little else is visibly different.
Gelman’s dissent is much like the long-running debate over how much computers and the other appurtenances of the information age have actually changed the world. For example, the physical structure of the street I live on hasn’t changed much since the subdivision was constructed around 1950.
The houses now have air conditioning and the cars are more aerodynamic, but overall the onrush of technology has become more subtle than in the two generations preceding the mid-century. In contrast, back in 1885, automobiles and electric power lines existed mostly in inventors’ imaginations.
A careful observer of my street would note that there are now more cables running from the telephone poles into the houses, and the children come outside to play less often. The Information Age has its pleasures, but they are less imposing than the preceding era’s thrills of rocketing about the landscape at ever increasing speeds.
My father’s first aeronautical engineering job after graduating from junior college in 1938 was designing a small part for a flying car. After all, the world had moved so swiftly from mules to motorcars that it seemed inevitable that cars would soon fly.
While he never was so crass as to articulate this, my career in the information age—supermarket scanners, personal computers, the Internet—always struck me as technologically anticlimactic compared to his career working on flying machines.
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When Movies Still Mattered: 1970s American Cinema

Years ago, I remember watching Rancho Deluxe (1975) – a modern day comedy western starring Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston – and marveling how this rather middling, but entertaining, Hollywood movie was still smart, adult and honest. In fact, even a second-tier movie, such as Rancho Deluxe, from 1970s American cinema (the last Golden Age of American movies) was considerably more worthwhile than almost anything coming out from Hollywood, or American independent cinema, in the 21st century. As I prepare to teach a course on this decade in cinema history, it’s worth speculating on why movies turned out so consistently good and gratifying during that time. 

Much has already been written, and showcased, about the era in documentaries such as Easy Rider,Raging Bulls (2002, based on Peter Biskind’s provocative 1998 book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and Rock N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood) and A Decade Under the Influence(2003). Both looked at how the younger set of Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg, as well as their elders Robert Altman (who didn’t begin his movie career until he was in his 40s) and Paul Mazursky were given the filmmaking reins in a failing and geriatric Hollywood that was out of touch with '60s American culture. Fearing complete failure, the ageing Hollywood had no choice but to take chances with whom it allowed to make movies. Also remarked upon was how a new breed of (often identifiably ethnic) actors and actresses (ordinary looking folk, and not gorgeous looking movie stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Jack Nicholson) were allowed to play front and centre in movies that worked off of their eccentricities and plain appearances. But I’d argue that the dominant factor in why the movies were so good and relevant in the '70s was trust. The studio executives generally trusted (to a point) that these maverick moviemakers would still make films that had cachet and appeal and, more significantly, audiences could be expected to follow them in whatever endeavours they undertook in that regard. (The '30 and '40s movies, the last Golden Age before the '70s, did the same in an assumption of literacy on the part of the filmgoing audiences.)

If you consider the films now touted as classics from that period – The Godfather and II,Taxi DriverCabaretMean StreetsThe ConversationShampooThe Last DetailNashvilleJawsCarrieThe Last Picture ShowMcCabe & Mrs. MillerClose Encounters of the Third Kind,ChinatownThe Deer HunterApocalypse NowBadlandsAnnie Hall, and M*A*S*H*, among so many others – you also note these are all movies that are accessible and easy to get into, much like the movies of the French New Wave (The 400 BlowsBreathless,Claire's Knee) which were a direct influence on would- be American filmmakers. That’s a salient point in our present and simplified film culture, where today so many film critics seem to think that glacially paced movies, where almost nothing really happens, are the bar to which filmmakers should aspire. How else to explain the critical acclaim for deadly dull films like Ballast or Meek’s Cutoff? American moviemakers in the '70s never forgot to entertain their audiences, partially because of the palpable excitement they felt on tackling previous taboo subjects. Many of those movies were also box office hits and even the unique, challenging films of Robert Altman (California SplitMcCabe & Mrs. MillerNashville), though often dropped by one studio like a hot potato before being picked up by another, still eventually saw the light of day. I doubt too many original projects made today would get far past the proposal stage. 

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Israel Is Stealing and Murdering Its Way Through Palestine. The Moral Failure Of The West. BY PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

Readers are asking for my take on the Israel-Gaza situation, and, believe it or not, Oxford University’s famous debating society, the Oxford Union, invited me to debate the issue.
I replied to the Oxford Union that I was unprepared to take responsibility for the Palestinians without undergoing the extensive preparation that an Oxford Union debate deserves and requires. Unless things have changed since my time at Oxford, one prevails in a Union debate by anticipating every argument of one’s opponent and smashing the arguments with humor and wit. Facts seldom, if ever, carry the day, and sometimes not even wit and humor if the audience is already committed to the outcome by the prevailing propaganda. There is no time or energy in my overfull schedule for such preparation plus time away and jet lag.
Moreover, I am not an expert on Israel’s conquest and occupation of Palestine. I know more than most people. I was rescued from Zionist propaganda by Israeli historians, such as Ilan Pappe, by Jewish intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, by documentary film makers, such as John Pilger, by Israeli journalists such as Uri Avnery and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and by an Israeli houseguest who is an Israeli member of an Israeli peace group that opposes Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes, villages, and orchards in order to build apartment blocks for settlers.
There is only one take on the current Israeli slaughter of Palestinians, which Netanyahu, the demonic Israeli leader, declares will be a “protracted campaign” this time. We are witnessing yet again Israeli war crimes that are supported by the Great Moral West that is so concerned about the deaths of 290 passengers on MH-17 that they are about to drive the world to a major war, while Palestinian casualties pile up so fast that they are out of date by the time you put the numbers in a column. So far more than 1,200 deaths, with injuries to 2,000 children, 1,170 women, and 257 elderly.
Reading the Western Media, watching Western TV, and listening to Western radio, one is left with the propaganda that the Palestinians are to blame for the Israeli attack on Gaza, just as one is left with the propaganda that the Malaysian airliner deaths are Russia’s fault. There is no evidence, but propaganda does not require evidence. Just repetition.
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Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg—who is 63 with a long, graying beard—recently sat down with me to explain what he described as a “child-rape assembly line” among sects of fundamentalist Jews. He cleared his throat. “I’m going to be graphic,” he said.

A member of Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidim fundamentalist branch of Orthodox Judaism, Nuchem designs and repairs mikvahs in compliance with Torah Law. The mikvah is a ritual Jewish bathhouse used for purification. Devout Jews are required to cleanse themselves in the mikvah on a variety of occasions: Women must visit following menstruation, and men have to make an appearance before the High Holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Many of the devout also purify themselves before and after the act of sex and before the Sabbath.

On a visit to Jerusalem in 2005, Rabbi Rosenberg entered into a mikvah in one of the holiest neighborhoods in the city, Mea She’arim. “I opened a door that entered into a schvitz,” he told me. “Vapors everywhere, I can barely see. My eyes adjust, and I see an old man, my age, long white beard, a holy-looking man, sitting in the vapors. On his lap, facing away from him, is a boy, maybe seven years old. And the old man is having anal sex with this boy.”

Rabbi Rosenberg paused, gathered himself, and went on: “This boy was speared on the man like an animal, like a pig, and the boy was saying nothing. But on his face—fear. The old man [looked at me] without any fear, as if this was common practice. He didn’t stop. I was so angry, I confronted him. He removed the boy from his penis, and I took the boy aside. I told this man, ‘It’s a sin before God, a mishkovzucher. What are you doing to this boy’s soul? You’re destroying this boy!’ He had a sponge on a stick to clean his back, and he hit me across the face with it. ‘How dare you interrupt me!’ he said. I had heard of these things for a long time, but now I had seen.”

The child sex abuse crisis in ultra-Orthodox Judaism, like that in the Catholic Church, has produced its share of shocking headlines in recent years. In New York, and in the prominent Orthodox communities of Israel and London, allegations of child molestation and rape have been rampant. The alleged abusers are schoolteachers, rabbis, fathers, uncles—figures of male authority. The victims, like those of Catholic priests, are mostly boys. Rabbi Rosenberg believes around half of young males in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community—the largest in the United States and one of the largest in the world—have been victims of sexual assault perpetrated by their elders. Ben Hirsch, director of Survivors for Justice, a Brooklyn organization that advocates for Orthodox sex abuse victims, thinks the real number is higher. “From anecdotal evidence, we’re looking at over 50 percent. It has almost become a rite of passage.”

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George Zimmerman spotted in truck outside DeLand gun store

 George Zimmerman in suit at trial
George Zimmerma, visibly heavier than he was at arrest and wearing a suit, stands for instruction from Judge Debra Nelson during his trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla. Thursday, July 11, 2013. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, but was ultimately acquitted at trial. 
A DeLand police officer saw a dark truck parked behind a gun store that had recently been burglarized.
Inside the vehicle was former Neighborhood Watch Volunteer George Zimmerman and his dog.
Zimmerman is a friend of the owner, he told the officer, had permission to be there and would be parked near the store for a few nights, keeping watch, hoping to prevent another break-in, according to a police incident report.
Zimmerman is the 30-year-old former Sanford Neighborhood Watch volunteer acquitted of second-degree murder last year for killing Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old from Miami Gardens whose death prompted civil-rights marches.
He told Sanford police he acted in self-defense. Since the shooting Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman has lived in hiding and not held a job.
On Sunday, about 12:30 a.m., DeLand Officer Jessica Mayo saw him parked behind Pompano Pat's, a gun and motorcycle store, she wrote in a report. The report sparked media coverage when it became public Tuesday.
Zimmerman explained what he was doing and why he was there, the officer wrote in the incident report.
"Zimmerman was very cooperative and was able to dispel my alarm regarding the situation," she wrote.
Sam Porter, a store employee, on Tuesday said Zimmerman is not an employee but someone with "a good heart" who wanted to help his friend, the owner.
Zimmerman's help comes days after his libel suit against NBC Universal made headlines.
Zimmerman is appealing the ruling of a Sanford judge, who last month threw out his suit.
He sued in 2012, alleging he was defamed in five news reports following the shooting death.
But on June 30, Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson threw out the case.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Andy on the Jews

A GOP Ultimatum to Vlad by Patrick J. Buchanan

With the party united, the odds are now at least even that the GOP will not only hold the House but also capture the Senate in November.

But before traditional conservatives cheer that prospect, they might take a closer look at the foreign policy that a Republican Senate would seek to impose upon the nation.

Specifically, they should spend time reading S. 2277, the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014,” introduced by Sen. Bob Corker on May 1, and endorsed by half of the Senate’s GOP caucus.

As ranking Republican on the foreign relations committee, Corker is in line to become chairman, should the GOP take the Senate. That makes this proposal a gravely serious matter.

Corker’s bill would declare Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine “major non-NATO allies” of the United States, move NATO forces into Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, accelerate the building of an ABM system in Eastern Europe, and authorize U.S. intelligence and military aid for Ukraine’s army in the Donbass war with Russian-backed separatists.

U.S. aid would include antitank and antiaircraft weapons.

S. 2277 would direct the secretary of state to intensify efforts to strengthen democratic institutions inside the Russian Federation, e.g., subvert Vladimir Putin’s government, looking toward regime change.

If Putin has not vacated Crimea and terminated support for Ukraine’s separatist rebels within seven days of passage of the Corker Ultimatum, sweeping sanctions would be imposed on Russian officials, banks and energy companies, including Gazprom.

Economic relations between us would be virtually severed.

In short, this is an ultimatum to Russia that she faces a new Cold War if she does not get out of Ukraine and Crimea, and it is a U.S. declaration that we will now regard three more former Soviet republics — Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia — as allies.

A small, weak country might accept this dictation from a superpower.

But Russia, where anti-Americanism is virulent and rampant and the Russian people support Putin’s actions in Ukraine, would want him to tell the Americans just what to do with their ultimatum.

And how Russia would respond is not difficult to predict.

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Why Benjamin Netanyahu Should Be Very, Very Worried. Israel's defense is vulnerable to more than missiles as demographic and social changes threaten its global story.

Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday asked Benjamin Netanyahu whether he was worried about "a third intifada." The Israeli prime minister replied that Hamas "wants to pile up" Gazan casualties in hope of instigating an uprising. In other words, he ducked the heart of the question.

Netanyahu should be worried. The Israeli public should be worried. All supporters of the Jewish state should be worried—not only about the prospect of current events spiraling out of control, but also about a confluence of demographic and social trends that threaten Israel's ability to manage the war of perceptions.

Every nation has a story. Israel's is that Arabs have long been unwilling to negotiate with the Jewish state, and that terrorists among the Palestinians want to destroy it. For decades, three significant factors helped make this the dominant Middle East narrative. First, it's correct, at least when applied to the dangerous minority of Palestinians. Second, elite opinion-makers, including journalists and politicians in the West, embraced and amplified the Israeli case. Finally, public opinion in the West, and particularly in the United States, firmly supported Israel.

The first factor still holds. The United States would not hesitate to respond fiercely to attacks like those of Hamas. No country would. Israel has the absolute right to defend itself, and Netanyahu stood on firm ground as he described to Wallace the motives and tactics of Hamas.

The danger lies with the last two factors, starting with the near-monopoly Israel once enjoyed over the mind share of public-opinion elites. Israel must learn to act in a world of democratized media, where tweets and posts and pictures about Gazan casualties reach the global community instantaneously and without filter.

The newly interconnected world includes mainstream journalists, whose coverage of a decades-old story now includes an expanded array of sources who don't work for a government, a lobby, or an activist group. The past few weeks have exposed a subtle but significant shift in coverage—a more empathic view of the plight of Gazans, and a greater focus on the consequences of Israel's actions.

Consider these three stories and a question raised by each:

NBC pulled foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin out of the Gaza Strip, raising questions about whether his empathetic coverage of Palestinians led to his removal. Brian Stelter, who covers the media for CNN, said his reporting "strongly suggests that this was a situation caused by network news infighting and bureaucracy." Public backlash played a role in Mohyeldin's return to Gaza, Stelter said. Question: A decade or so ago, would a news organization receive this much pressure for a staffing decision?
A Palestinian-American teenager accused Israeli authorities of beating him. Upon his return to Tampa Fla., 15-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir said, "No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die." Question: A decade or so ago, would the beating be covered at all? As much?
CNN correspondent Diana Magnay tweeted that the Israelis cheering bombs hitting Gaza, and who had allegedly threatened her, were "scum." The network pulled her off the story. Question: A decade or so ago, would a network correspondent broadcast her bluntly negative opinion about Israeli soldiers? (What are the chances a network reporter would even think to call Israelis scum?)
Finally, a generation of global citizens is rising to power without the Israeli narrative embedded so firmly in its consciousness. The so-called Arab Spring and the United States' diminished influence abroad has created a new set of filters through which young people will consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a viewpoint that might be less inclined to favor the Jewish state.

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Vietnam: Cats Being 'Drowned, Shaved, Burned and Fried with Garlic'

Cats are being drowned, shaved, burned then fried with garlic at restaurants across Vietnam, despite an official ban that makes it illegal to eat the creatures.
Known as "little tiger", cat meat is served as an accompaniment to beer in Vietnam, with dozens of restaurants in Hanoi having it on their menu.
A report by AFP found that cat owners live in fear or their pets being snatched from the street. Most keep their pets indoors or tied up to prevent them being stolen.
Van Dung, a manager of a restaurant serving cat meat, said he buys them from local breeders and 'cat traders', where their source is unknown. Demand is so high that cats are also being smuggled in from Thailand and Laos.
"A lot of people eat cat meat. It's a novelty. They want to try it," Dung said, adding he has never had problems with authorities and serves up to 100 clients on busy days.
Vietnam banned the consumption of cats to encourage ownership and keep the rat population under control. However, decades of eating cats and dogs has meant the habit is hard to break.
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How the year 1999 changed cinema forever

Blair Witch 3 on the way?

From Star Wars and Austin Powers to Magnolia and Being John Malkovich, 1999 was a turning point in mainstream cinema. Here's why...

It's not an entirely perfect science, as you're going to discover, to determine one year as a turning point in modern cinema. And yet for those of us who lived at the multiplex and assorted smaller screening houses in 1999, and looking back at it now, it all feels like quite a surreal, sudden changing of the guard took place.
The ramifications of what happened at the movies in 1999 still continue to be felt today too, across blockbuster cinema and smaller productions. Furthermore, and this is one we've not discussed, 1999 was arguably the last stand for mid-budget studio pictures.
And it was also the year where this lot happened...

1999 changed the way films were marketed

We talked recently, when we looked at how unusual films got through the studio system, about Warner Bros' conundrum with 1999's The Matrix. It had a revolutionary action movie, but it could only sell it in the tried and tested way: big promos, a big junket, and lots of bluster. The battering ram approach, if you will. It worked, although word of mouth and ecstatic reviews helped. But the sea change would begin with 1999's The Blair Witch Project.
It would be fair to say that even big blockbusters now owe a degree of their marketing to the way Artisan originally sold Blair Witch. It wasn't the first film to sell heavily off the back of an online campaign - the Showgirls website was a notorious hit many years earlier, although it didn't translate to (clothed) bums on seats - but it was the first to make such a staggering success of it.
It's easy to overlook just how clever and groundbreaking the Blair Witch campaign was. Seeding mysteries online, and with a website that only added to the air of the unknown about the movie, the film almost felt like a component part of something bigger by the time most got to see it, rather than the central attraction. Now, we're in a world where Sony will drop a new picture or exclusive clip of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on a near-daily basis, and where using social media, trying to get a heavy web presence, and trying to get online chatter started is no longer innovative, it's expected. Blair Witch did that.
Few have recaptured quite what made Blair Witch the groundbreaker it was (Cloverfield got close), but the vast bulk of big films since have given it a go come the marketing campaign.
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Monday, July 28, 2014

The 10 Most 'Socialist' States in America

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Although ObamaCare is a controversial achievement by President Obama and the Democrats, Republican opposition has been repeating the same complaints: it's bad for the economy and bad for Americans, it's an unwelcome expansion of government, it's not working, and it's socialism.

Socialism at its core is a political term applied to an economic system in which individual property, like money, is held and used in common, within a state or a country as an attempt to equalize the standard of living for the average citizen.
In a completely socialist society, there would be no money. Basic needs such as food, shelter, education and healthcare would be available and provided to everyone, so division of classes based on wealth would not exist.
But if America is really turning into a more socialist country, then where can we see evidence of this happening? Are any states becoming socialist before our eyes? And if so, how do we define the most socialist state, you ask? 
In order to measure the degree to which different states reflect socialist principles, we determined state expenditures and state GDP as the best indicators because socialist states tax and spend a higher percentage of their GDP. We used data on the total state expenditures for fiscal year 2013 from the most recent National Association of State Budget Officers report and pulled 2013 gross domestic product by state data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The math? Simple. The FY2013 state expenditure divided by the state's 2013 GDP. 

After all the number crunching, we have come up with the 10 most socialist states in America.
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The 10 Least 'Socialist' States in America

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Winston Churchill once said that "socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."

Now when you put it that way, socialism doesn't sound so fair. 

If you echo Churchill's sentiment and would feel cheated by the fruits of your labor going towards less fortunate residents, then you might consider moving to one of these least "socialist" states in the country.
Socialism at its core is a political term applied to an economic system in which individual property, like money, is held and used in common, within a state or a country as an attempt to equalize the standard of living for the average citizen.
In a completely socialist society, there would be no money. Basic needs such as food, shelter, education and healthcare would be available and provided to everyone, so division of classes based on wealth would not exist.
Where in America can we see evidence of this happening or not happening? Are some states less socialist than others? And if so, how do we define the least socialist state? 
In order to measure the degree to which different states reflect socialist principles, we determined state expenditures and state GDP as the best indicators because socialist states tax and spend a higher percentage of their GDP. We used data on the total state expenditures for fiscal year 2013 from the most recent National Association of State Budget Officers report and pulled 2013 gross domestic product by state data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Then, it was basic mathematics; the FY2013 state expenditure divided by the state's 2013 GDP. 
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10 Movies Millennials Must See to Understand the 1970s. The era of devils, divorces and disasters, captured on film. By KATHY SHAIDLE

I knew things were bad when, a few years ago, I actually found myself missing the Seventies.
Many, many American movies made during the Seventies share one overarching theme:
America is falling apart!
Tim Dirks’ must-read, 6-part overview of the films of this era begins with this highly-concentrated, perfectly observed paragraph:
Motion picture art seemed to flourish at the same time that the defeat in the Vietnam War, the Kent State Massacre, the Watergate scandal, President Nixon’s fall, the Munich Olympics shoot-out, increasing drug use, and a growing energy crisis showed tremendous disillusion, a questioning politicized spirit among the public and a lack of faith in institutions — a comment upon the lunacy of war and the dark side of the American Dream.
Our own Ed Driscoll has done yeoman’s work chronicling that decade’s “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” leftwing auteur boom: the death of the studio system, and the rise of hot young directors – Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese — whose visions still inform American film, and the culture at large.
Most recently, Kyle Smith proffered his “10 Best Films of the 1970s.”
My list is different than Smith’s because the “best” films of that era (and I agree with many of his selections) don’t necessarily capture the mood of the times as well as lesser movies.
What follows is a guide for millennials who are forever hearing about “the Seventies,” are living with that decade’s toxic cultural fallout, and who wonder what life during this tumultuous time (although, aren’t they all…?) was really like.
That’s why I’ve neglected to mention anachronistic or overly escapist fare: all the bloated feel-good musicals; anything by Disney, Mel Brooks or Cubby Broccoli; all but one of Woody Allen’s “early funny ones”; sweeping pseudo-period Oscar bait like Barry LyndonThe Way We WereNew York, New YorkThe Sting and Funny Lady; and time-less blockbusters like Star WarsHalloween and Rocky.
(Incidentally: most movies about the Vietnam War were made in the 1980s.)
However, I have included movies about the Seventies that were made later, if they accurately evoke the time period. Note: There are a LOT of these.
Ideally, curious readers should get hold of the ten movies I’ve chosen as exemplars of my ten different themes, then temporarily get rid of their computers and phones (because it’s 1972, and “Ma Bell” still hasn’t shown up to activate your line). Next put on some thick polyester clothing, and eat nothing but Cheesies and Orange Crush for the duration. (The Seventies were VERY orange.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Deutschland, Deutschland! by Taki

Boo to the C.I.A.! It got caught spying on Germany and its top man in Berlin has been sent home. What I’d like to know is, what’s so important about Berlin’s open-book policies that we had to play dirty with them? Maybe our ex-top man in the German capital should now concentrate on weeding out Israeli spies in Washington. It would make more sense, as Israel does spy on its benefactor, protector, and major ally, whereas Germany does not. Actually, spying on Germany does smack of arrogance and disrespect. Germany no longer has a Gestapo nor a Stasi, is deeply antimilitaristic, and—yes—a growing anti-Americanism is taking place but for all the right reasons: America’s post-9/11 sojourn into the Mideast and the disasters that followed the Cheney-Rumsfeld efforts to play Alexander the Great.
Germans today are not the ones Hollywood so easily portrays as goose-stepping, Nazi-loving, Jew-hating villains. Actually, and this will not make me very popular, they never were. My aunt by marriage Princess Lily Schoenburg lost her six sons on the Russian front, where they were dispatched as cannon fodder for being aristocrats. Hitler and the Nazis were loathed by the upper and educated classes; tolerated, once war was declared, by the middle class, as it had no other choice—and only a small, twisted number of Germans remained ardent Nazis after it became clear that Hitler was leading the nation to disaster. Hitler and the Nazis brought law and order to a seething Germany in 1933 and also put most Germans to work. Nazism held sway for 12 years and it has been dead and deeply buried since 1945. The rest is all bullshit made up by Hollywood and sensation-seeking newspapers, as ridiculous as the Hitler sightings in South America.
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Reality May Not Have Your Bias BY RAZIB KHAN

I’ve expressed a little disappointment in a book I recently read, Azar Gat’s Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism. There are two primary reasons for this. Nations simply does not measure up to his previous work, War and Human Civilization. But that is perhaps not a fair assessment, since War and Human Civilization is quite possibly Gat’s magnum opus. A second issue is that the core assertion inNations is quite modest, and not entirely at variance with conventional intuitions. Basically, Gat is refuting a modernist view, which has arguably gone from being revisionist to normative, that the concept and execution of a nation is a historically contingent construction of early modern Europe, and more precisely Revolutionary France of the 1790s. This is not an unfounded characterization of what the default position for many is, I myself have parroted the idea that the nation- state was “invented” by the French in the 1790s. This may be a vulgarization, but I’ve heard others express the same sentiment in the years since I first encountered this thesis in high school. It’s one of those “fun counter-intuitive facts” which has the beauty of simplicity, and the drawback of almost certainly being false on the face of it.
But note that I qualified the nation- state, rather than nation unadorned. When properly qualified and delineated one can perhaps defend the empirical validity of the idea that something unique emerged in early modern Europe after the Peace of Westphalia, and culminating in the Congress of Vienna. The problem is that the model being presented is usually not couched in modest terms. In hindsight the idea that nationalism is an invention of early modern Europe, and Revolutionary France, has as much plausibility as the idea that the Troubadours of the Provence invented romantic love. Yes, there are particular motifs and forms in the idea of love as it is culturally practiced in much of the world which may have its roots in this period and place, but I think it is totally misleading to assert that “love” is a cultural invention of the medieval West, as a common vulgarization goes.* Rather, love has a deep cognitive and evolutionary basis in our lineage, and manifests in a variety of ways in different social contexts. There isn’t a part of the brain which is our “love region,” rather, it is an emotion which synthesizes basic elements of human nature. It is not particularly surprising that romantic love is going to be more salient in an individualist society with consumer surplus, but that does not mean that subsistence level peasants lack the basic cognitive facilities because they had not been properly enculturated.**
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When Media Mergers Limit More Than Competition

The much-admired Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black may be rolling in his grave at the prospect of a merger between 21st Century Fox and Time Warner Inc., which would reduce control of the major Hollywood studios to five owners, from six, and major television producers to four, from five.

“The widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public,” he wrote in the majority opinion that decided a 1945 antitrust case involving major newspaper publishers and The Associated Press. “The First Amendment affords not the slightest support for the contention that a combination to restrain trade in news and views has any constitutional immunity.”

Fox and Time Warner may no longer publish old-media newspapers or magazines, but they certainly disseminate information and opinions that may be even more vital to the “welfare of the public” today than the newspapers of Justice Black’s era. HBO alone, one of Time Warner’s cable channels, produces “Real Time With Bill Maher,” “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and acclaimed documentaries like “The Case Against 8,” about the struggle for marriage equality, and the “Paradise Lost” series, which examined the murder convictions of the group of white teenagers known as the West Memphis Three.

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