My Common Sense Politics
By Laura Geggel, Staff Writer
July 22, 2014 04:22pm ET
There may be something to the cliché of lovebirds gazing into each other's eyes, new research suggests. A glance at a person's face tends to indicate romantic love, whereas looking at a person's body is associated with feelings of sexual desire, according to a new study.
These telling glances can last less than half a second, lead study author Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago High-Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory, said in a statement.
"Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers," Cacioppo said. [5 Ways Love Affects the Brain]
Feelings of romantic love and sexual desire activate different areas of the human brain, according to a 2012 review Cacioppo and her colleagues published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. The new study examined whether researchers could identify the difference between feelings of love and lust, based on eye-tracking data.
In the first of two tests, the researchers showed 16 heterosexual students at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland, 120 black-and-white photographs. Each photograph pictured a young heterosexual couple interacting with one another. In the second test, the students looked at 40 photographs of attractive people of the opposite gender. The researchers did not use any nude or erotic pictures in the experiments.
Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
Today Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa struck another blow against the US petrodollar in Fortaleza Brazil. Leaders of the five emerging nations officially agreed to form their own development bank to rival the World Bank and IMF. The bank will be centered in Shanghai, its first president will be Indian and it will begin with an initial capitalization of 100 billion dollars.
The five countries referred to as BRICS have long complained about the not-so-subtle economic warfare the US and Europe wage against developing nations via the World Bank and IMF.
The World Bank/IMF Protection Scheme
As John Perkins eloquently describes in Confessions of an Economic Hitman, these US-dominated agencies operate a mafia-like protection scheme on the global south. Economic hitmen like Perkins pressure leaders of developing nations to accept development loans for massive infrastructure projects (dams, bridges, super highways, etc.) they neither want nor need. If they accept, their economies are paralyzed by crushing debt repayments. If they refuse, they risk assassination or being overthrown through US military intervention or a CIA coup. In nearly every case, the loans go to specific US corporations who build the dams, bridges and super highways.
In addition to crushing debt repayments, the IMF also impose their notorious “structural adjustment” programs on debtor nations. As a condition to renewing their loans, these countries are forced to open their economies further to US and European investors and enact a variety of austerity measure. These typically include privatization of state-owned utilities (by selling them to US and European corporations) and reduction of public spending by laying off state workers and cutting pensions and food and energy subsidies.
Still At It in Ukraine
This is exactly what we saw happen in Ukraine. Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich declined the IMF loan and structural adjustment program he was offered as a condition of EU membership. For obvious reasons, he preferred Russia’s offering – a loan without structural adjustment strings attached and a generous energy subsidy in the form of low prices for Russian natural gas. Sure enough he was overthrown by a fascist coup engineered conjointly by the CIA and Victoria Nuland (wife of Robert Kagan, cosignatory of the neocon Project for a New American Century), Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
As a condition of the $17 billion IMF loan that followed the coup, the new puppet government has eliminated natural gas subsidies (resulting in a 50% increase in the price consumers pay). They have also frozen pensions and wages, as well as agreeing to a further cut government spending by 2% of GDP per year.
As if this tyrannical bullying weren’t enough, China and other BRICS nations are also repeatedly rebuffed when they request equal representation in the World Bank/IMF leadership. Ever since their founding in 1945 in Bretton Woods New Hampshire, the US has been wrongheadly uncompromising that the president of the World Bank must be American and the president of the IMF from Western Europe.
By Rania Khalek
Staff at al-Shifa Hospital treat a victim of Israel’s current attack on Gaza. (Basel Yazouri / ActiveStills)
Doctors treating patients in Gaza have accused Israel of using experimental weapons on Palestinian civilians.
Addressing reporters at a press conference on Sunday, Youssef Abul Resh, undersecretary of the health ministry in Gaza said, “Medical teams have registered injuries consistent with those caused by DIME [dense inert metal explosives] and other banned weapons.”
He added, “Israel has mercilessly targeted Palestinian civilians leaving many of them with life-threatening injuries and future handicaps.”
In the last week, Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 190 people, eighty percent of them civilians, including at least 34 children.
Using Gaza as a laboratory
DIME bombs contain tungsten, a cancer-causing metal that helps to produce incredibly destructive blasts which slice through flesh and bone, often decapitating the lower limbs of people within the blast radius.
Renowned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who witnessed the horrific injuries caused by DIME bombs during Israel’s 2009 Gaza onslaught, told The Electronic Intifada over the phone from al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City that patients are showing up with DIME-related injuries.
“A good number of the injuries seen here are consistent with the use of dense inert metal explosives, or DIME, that we saw during the 2009 attack and also in 2006,” said Gilbert. “The bodies are pretty much destroyed by enormous energy released by the explosives that are shot near them or at them.”
Gilbert first witnessed the effects of DIME munitions on the human body during Operation Summer Rains, Israel’s 2006 months-long attack on the Gaza Strip that killed more than four hundred Palestinians. “Large chunks of flesh, of muscles were cut away. We didn’t find any shrapnel and [the wounds] were delivering a strange fume. Gradually we came to understand these must have been the new DIME weapons developed by the US Air Force together with the Israelis.”
The experimental weapon was used on a larger scale during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, including 352 children.
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 12:55
By David Theo Goldberg, Truthout Op-Ed
Mourners bury the body of a person killed during an overnight Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, July 13, 2014. The airstrike killed an estimated 21 Palestinians. (Photo: Wissam Nassar / The New York Times)
Israel is at it again. It has been bombing Gaza and its inhabitants mercilessly, even indiscriminately. Some say disproportionately though that judgment is predicated on accepting that there is some self-defending legitimacy to killing almost at random women, children and men, even the unborn, simply to be rid of them in the name of "hunting out the terrorists." This, surely, is a deeply questionable rationalization at best.
To date upwards of 150 Gazans have been killed, while rockets fired from Gaza on southern Israel have killed one. Disproportion plays no part in the Israeli calculus, and to think, part of the logic at work is to take Israel at its disingenuous word. What is really at work is Israel's intermittent undertaking, bid up each time, to purge Palestine of a good deal of its people, to put them on notice that leaving would be better than living in Palestine, that for Palestinians, Palestine is a pipe dream evaporating in the pall of smoke rising above Gaza.
Three Israeli teenagers were murdered in the West Bank. Israeli militants retaliated by burning alive a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. The Israeli armed forces responded first by rounding up large numbers of Palestinian activists and then by reacting to Hamas rockets by obliterating swathes of northern Gaza. It doesn't matter that those apparently responsible for the teenage deaths were not Hamas members, even though Hamas seemed to approve of the disappearance. That one could ask what three teenage Israeli boys were doing hitchhiking in the West Bank speaks to the disproportionate sense of entitlement of Israelis to Palestinian turf; after all, three Palestinian teenage boys hitchhiking in Israel would quickly be picked up by the Israeli police. The boys should not have lost their lives for doing so; to say this is at once to acknowledge that Palestinian youth have lost theirs in much larger numbers at the hands of the Israeli state and population. This seems a moral consideration long lost on the Israeli government and increasingly on its citizens.
What seems new about the current bombardment of Gaza by Israel is not the extent of it, not the expanding number of deaths, alas, not the trapped experience of living in the Gaza concentration camp with no relief, no way out, no future but that dictated by Israel. All this has been standard state practice, increasingly if in fits and starts, at least since 1967 and especially since 2000. What is new is not so much the fact but the disturbing extent and depth, the openness and vehemence with which Israel's everyman and woman, its ordinary teenage boys and girls, are expressly supporting the extermination of Gazans, and of Palestinians more generally: Gaza should be the Arab graveyard, bombing women and children in Gaza is orgasmic, death to all Arabs, kill all Arabs so there will not be another generation, hating Arabs isn't racism, it's a commandment from God. These are accurate paraphrases of the very terms circulating on social media today.
The extraordinary ordinariness of these tweets by teenage girls figured alongside bikini'd photographs of themselves is reinforced by their parental celebration, eating popcorn and cheering the bombs dropping on Gaza from the safety of their Israeli suburban lawns. For disturbing our peace, for so much as undoing our absolute sense of self-righteous security, for reminding us of our history, for holding in question our right to be here, we will kill you, obliterate you, call for your extermination. And ejaculate at the thought of it. Obscenity doesn't begin to characterize the moral degradation at work.
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 10:56
Border fence between the US and Mexico in Sasabe, Arizona.
Shena Gutierrez was already cuffed and in an inspection room in Nogales, Arizona, when the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent grabbed her purse, opened it, and dumped its contents onto the floor right in front of her. There couldn’t be a sharper image of the Bill of Rights rollback we are experiencing in the U.S. borderlands in the post-9/11 era.
Tumbling out of that purse came Gutierrez’s life: photos of her kids, business cards, credit cards, and other papers, all now open to the official scrutiny of the Department of Homeland Security. There were also photographs of her husband, Jose Gutierrez Guzman, whom CBP agents beat so badly in 2011 that he suffered permanent brain damage. The supervisory agent, whose name badge on his blue uniform read “Gomez,” now began to trample on her life, quite literally, with his black boots.
“Please stop stepping on the pictures,” Shena asked him.
A U.S. citizen, unlike her husband, she had been returning from a 48-hour vigil against Border Patrol violence in Mexico and was wearing a shirt that said “Stop Border Patrol Brutality” when she was aggressively questioned and cuffed at the CBP’s “port of entry” in Nogales on that hot day in May. She had no doubt that Gomez was stepping all over the contents of her purse in response to her shirt, the evidence of her activism.
Perhaps what bothered Gomez was the photo silkscreened onto that shirt -- of her husband during his hospitalization. It showed the aftermath of a beating he received from CBP agents. His head had a partially caved-in look because doctors had removed part of his skull. Over his chest and arms were bruises from Tasering. One tooth was out of place, and he had two black eyes. Although you couldn’t see them in the photo, two heavily armed Homeland Security agents were then guarding his hospital door to prevent the father of two, formerly a sound technician and the lead singer of a popular band in Los Angeles, from escaping -- even in his comatose state.
Jose Gutierrez Guzman's has become an ever more common story in an American age of mass expulsions. Although he had grown up in the United States (without papers), he was born in Mexico. After receiving a letter requesting his appearance, he went to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Los Angeles and was promptly arrested and deported. Customs and Border Protection agents later caught him crossing the border in San Luis, Arizona, near Yuma, in an attempt to reunite with his wife and children.
“Stop... stepping... on... the... pictures,” Shena insisted.
As she tells the story, Agent Gomez looked at her shirt for a second, then looked up at her and said, “You have that mentality about us. You think we go around abusing.” His tone remained faux-friendly, but his boots didn’t -- and neither did those cuffs another CBP agent had put on her. Forcing her hands behind her back, they cut uncomfortably into her wrists. They would leave deep red circular marks.
On display was a post-9/11 world in which the usual rights meant to protect Americans from unreasonable search and seizure and unwanted, as well as unwarranted, interrogation were up for grabs.
While such constitutionally questionable intrusions into people’s privacy have been increasing at border crossings in the post-9/11 years, this type of hardline border policing has also moved inland. In other words, the sort of intrusions that once would have qualified as unconstitutional have moved in startling numbers into the interior of the country.
Imagine the once thin borderline of the American past as an ever-thickening band, now extending 100 miles inland around the United States -- along the 2,000-mile southern border, the 4,000-mile northern border, and both coasts -- and you will be able to visualize how vast the CBP’s jurisdiction has become. This “border” region now covers places where two-thirds of the U.S. population (197.4 million people) live. The ACLU has come to call it a “constitution-free zone.” The “border” has by now devoured the full states of Maine and Florida and much of Michigan.
In these vast domains, Homeland Security authorities can institute roving patrols with broad, extra-constitutional powers backed by national security, immigration enforcement, and drug interdiction mandates. There, the Border Patrol can set up traffic checkpoints and fly surveillance drones overhead with high-powered cameras and radar that can track your movements. Within 25 miles of the international boundary, CBP agents can enter a person’s private property without a warrant. In these areas, the Homeland Security state is anything but abstract. On any given day, it can stand between you and the grocery store.
“Border Patrol checkpoints and roving patrols are the physical world equivalent of the National Security Agency,” says attorney James Lyall of ACLU Arizona puts it. “They involve a massive dragnet and stopping and monitoring of innocent Americans without any suspicion of wrongdoing by increasingly abusive and unaccountable federal government agents.”
An Exceptional Decline for the Exceptional Country?
The Empire as Basket Case
By Tom Engelhardt
July 13, 2014
For America’s national security state, this is the age of impunity. Nothing it does -- torture, kidnapping, assassination, illegal surveillance, you name it -- will ever be brought to court. For none of its beyond-the-boundaries acts will anyone be held accountable. The only crimes that can now be committed in official Washington are by those foolish enough to believe that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth. I’m speaking of the various whistleblowers and leakers who have had an urge to let Americans know what deeds and misdeeds their government is committing in their name but without their knowledge. They continue to pay a price in accountability for their acts that should, by comparison, stun us all.
As June ended, the New York Times front-paged an account of an act of corporate impunity that may, however, be unique in the post-9/11 era (though potentially a harbinger of things to come). In 2007, as journalist James Risen tells it, Daniel Carroll, the top manager in Iraq for the rent-a-gun company Blackwater, one of the warrior corporations that accompanied the U.S. military to war in the twenty-first century, threatened Jean Richter, a government investigator sent to Baghdad to look into accounts of corporate wrongdoing.
Here, according to Risen, is Richter’s version of what happened when he, another government investigator, and Carroll met to discuss Blackwater’s potential misdeeds in that war zone:
“Mr. Carroll said ‘that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,’ Mr. Richter wrote in a memo to senior State Department officials in Washington. He noted that Mr. Carroll had formerly served with Navy SEAL Team 6, an elite unit. ‘Mr. Carroll’s statement was made in a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine,’ Mr. Richter stated in his memo. ‘I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.’”
When officials at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world, heard what had happened, they acted promptly. They sided with the Blackwater manager, ordering Richter and the investigator who witnessed the scene out of the country (with their inquiry incomplete). And though a death threat against an American official might, under other circumstances, have led a CIA team or a set of special ops guys to snatch the culprit off the streets of Baghdad, deposit him on a Navy ship for interrogation, and then leave him idling in Guantanamo or in jail in the United States awaiting trial, in this case no further action was taken.
Power Centers But No Power to Act
Think of the response of those embassy officials as a get-out-of-jail-free pass in honor of a new age. For the various rent-a-gun companies, construction and supply outfits, and weapons makers that have been the beneficiaries of the wholesale privatization of American war since 9/11, impunity has become the new reality. Pull back the lens further and the same might be said more generally about America’s corporate sector and its financial outfits. There was, after all, no accountability for the economic meltdown of 2007-2008. Not a single significant figure went to jail for bringing the American economy to its knees. (And many such figures made out like proverbial bandits in the government bailout and revival of their businesses that followed.)
Meanwhile, in these years, the corporation itself was let loose to run riot. Long a “person” in the legal world, it became ever more person-like, benefitting from a series of Supreme Court decisions that hobbled unions and ordinary Americans even as it gave the corporation ever more of the rights and attributes of a citizen on the loose. Post-9/11, the corporate world gained freedom of expression, the freedom of the purse, as well as the various freedoms that staggering inequality and hoards of money offer. Corporate entities gained, among other things, the right to flood the political system with money, and most recently, at least in a modest way, freedom of religion.
In other words, two great power centers have been engorging themselves in twenty-first-century America: there was an ever-expanding national security state, ever less accountable to anyone, ever less overseen by anyone, ever more deeply enveloped in secrecy, ever more able to see others and less transparent itself, ever more empowered by a secret court system and a body of secret law whose judgments no one else could be privy to; and there was an increasingly militarized corporate state, ever less accountable to anyone, ever less overseen by outside forces, ever more sure that the law was its possession. These two power centers are now triumphant in our world. They command the landscape against what may be less effective opposition than at any moment in our history.
July 13, 2014 - 7:06am
Seeing through the tear-jerking to the guilty U.S. Government
The pictures of thousands of children huddled in shelters are upsetting, and the tales some tell are horrifying, and that is all a real but sentimental distraction from the entrenched American power that created these conditions. American power uses these children and their families and their countries for its own ends. American power is not likely to make any meaningful changes to solve what is essentially a permanent crisis. Whatever official alleviation there is will be just enough to get those heart-rending images off the front pages, so that the profitable stream of human exploitation can be managed more “effectively.” American power insists that these are “illegal immigrants,” rather than face the reality that they are refugees from the exercise of American power.
So it’s no wonder President Obama doesn’t want to have his picture taken amid the terrible results of American policy to which he has been as much a guilty party as every other president at least since Polk.
By his actions over the years, the president appears committed to the U.S. imperial role in the world, especially in “our backyard.” There is little serious debate among the governing classes, who seem to feel their mandate is expressed by racist rioting against brown children. But there seems to be another, better America as well, perhaps a majority, out of power and out of the media, but stepping up to care for these refugees, humanely, where they are.
On July 7th, more than 100 civil rights and civil liberties, human rights, faith, immigration, labor, criminal justice, legal, and children’s rights organizations signed an open letter to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, the man President Obama says keeps him intimately informed on the refugee situation. These organizations adamantly object to the inhumanity of administration plans to open new detention centers for families:
Family detention profoundly impacts the emotional and physical well-being of children and breaks down family relationships…. locking babies in prison cells and deporting women and young children to dangerous situations are not the solution.
This open letter has not been widely reported in mainstream media and there has apparently been no response from the administration to date.
Another coalition of civil rights and civil liberties organizations in Seattle filed a class action suit against the U.S. government on July 9th. The coalition argues that “putting children into immigration court without counsel violates both constitutional due-process rights and immigration law.” The coalition represents eight children, age 10 to 17, who face deportation hearing without representation.
The president was in Texas on July 9th, meeting with Texas governor Rick Perry, among other things, and sharing a tarmac handshake photo op. Governor Perry has been asking for help with child refugees for a few years now, although the help he’s been asking for is mostly military and para-military (which may be the way he feels all teenagers should be handled, who knows?). For most of that time, the Obama administration has been relatively unresponsive, but Governor Perry has chosen not to make a big deal of it until now, so there’s little evidence to show that those people in power care much about children until there are enough of them to make embarrassing headlines.
As long as the president was going to Texas anyway, lots of people wondered, why didn’t he visit the border area where thousands of children constituted a growing humanitarian crisis that was getting global attention?
The president’s answer during a press conference in DalFort Fueling in Dallas seemed oddly bloodless, not only uncaring, but evasive of accountability:
This isn’t theatre. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops. I’m interested in solving the problem.
Because these were American journalists covering an American president, there were no meaningful follow-up questions. No one asked: How do you define “the problem?” What is your idea of a good solution? Why were you OK with a photo op last night [July 8] shooting pool and drinking beer with the Colorado governor?
On MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” the next day, Mitchell talked about this odd set of presidential priorities with Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, who has warned that the border crisis could become Obama’s “Katrina moment,” a reference to President Bush’s apparent callous indifference to the suffering in New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane. To be fair, Obama has not done a detached flyover, looking down on the Rio Grande Valley, as President Bush did over flooded New Orleans (in a famous White House photo op).
Published time: July 08, 2014 21:05
The Pentagon’s research lab has funded dozens of studies concerning the use of social media, the Guardian reported on Tuesday, raising further questions about what kind of data is of interest to governments around the globe.
Just days after a report published by researchers at Facebook revealed that users of the social media site had been manipulated for science, Ben Quinn and James Ball at the Guardian wrote this week that DARPA — the Pentagon-run Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — has in one way or another funded several studies recently that set out to explore that social networking site, as well as users of Twitter, Pinterest, Kickstarter and others.
The journalists’ report stems from a list of publications that went live on DARPA’s site late last month concerning its Social Media in Strategic Communications, or SMISC, program.
“The general goal of the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program is to develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base,” a statement there reads. “Through the program, DARPA seeks to develop tools to support the efforts of human operators to counter misinformation or deception campaigns with truthful information.”
From there, visitors to the site can view any of dozens of studies from researchers at the likes of the University of Southern California, IBM or Georgia Tech Research Institute who have relied either fully or partially on Pentagon money to conduct social media studies.
By Elizabeth Palermo, Staff Writer
July 08, 2014 04:23pm ET
An F-35 fighter jet completes a test landing aboard the USS Wasp in October 2011.
Credit: Lockheed Martin Corp.
The United States military has grounded its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets, after one of the warplanes caught fire last month on a runway at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The Pentagon announced last week that it has officially grounded the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in response to the June 23 fire, which resulted in more than $2 million worth of damage to the affected plane.
The incident is the latest in a series of delays for the Air Force's newest fighter, which can take off and land vertically and boasts stealth capabilities. [7 Technologies That Transformed Warfare]
The military is conducting an investigation into the incident, but the United States Naval Institute (USNI) reports that multiple unnamed sources have said an engine malfunction was "definitely" to blame for the fire.
Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary, said the cause of last month's engine fire remains under investigation.
Saturday, July 12th, 2014
Alimuddin Usmani interviews Gilad Atzmon
Alimuddin Usmani:After “Cast lead” in 2009 and “Pillar of defense” in 2012, the Israeli army has launched operation “Protective edge” in July, 2014 against Gaza. What is the purpose of these repeated large scale military operations?
Gilad Atzmon: It is important to note that Israel hasn’t won a single military battle since 1973. True, it has killed many Arabs, but it hasn’t managed to achieve any of its military objectives.
Israel’s military domination has been sustained by the power of deterrence. The strategy was to force Arabs to avoid conflict by threatening that they could lose everything. This week has shown that this trick won’t work anymore.
Palestinian resistance has sprung back to life. Israel can not solve its problems by military means. The situation is desperate for the Israelis. They have started to realize that they are stuck within a political, ideological and cultural stalemate. Israel is unable to conjure an image of a resolution. There is no prospect of future for the Jewish State.
Furthermore, the Jewish left’s blatant lie that the ‘occupation is the problem’ has been exposed this week as we witness Israeli Arab citizens chased by Jewish mobs. As we know, the right-wing call for mass expulsion of all Arabs from Israeli territory is becoming increasingly popular within Israel. This brutal ‘solution’ is totally consistent with Jewish supremacist culture and ideology. After all, Jews, and I mean both Zionists and anti, like to operate within a Jews only environment. But can Israel rid itself of the Palestinians. This is exactly what the Right wing parties within the coalition promise to do.
Back to your question; since the military cannot provide the answers and the politicians cannot produce an image of a solution, the military is used as a firemen’s brigade. It supplies short lived victories. The IDF is buying time, it cannot deliver a victory because military objectives cannot even be articulated. The IDF pounds Gaza with missiles, it kills whatever it suspects might be dangerous (a lot of kids, elders and women). But as time goes by, the military options are shrinking and to a certain extent, are not viable any more.
The German military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz suggested in the 19th century that “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” In the case of Israel what we see instead is the reverse of Clausewitz’ idea: Israeli politics is the continuation of the Jewish need for a conflict.