GCHQ’s activities

While the NSA has been the focus of much my criticisms, its British counterpart the GCHQ has been even worse in its disregard for people’s privacy. Glenn Greenwald has a new story out today revealing more of its activities and its propaganda techniques to manipulate public opinion.
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More on the recent Obamacare rulings

Last Tuesday we had two conflicting rulings by two different US Appeals Courts, one ruling 2-1 that the Affordable Care Act only allowed tax credit subsidies if they were offered through the state-run health care exchanges while the other unanimously said that such subsidies could also be offered through the federal exchanges. Since 36 states belong to the latter category, the eventual outcome of this case has significant implications.
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US and Saudi Arabia cooperation

Saudi Arabia has one of the most brutal governments and repressive social practices. The terrible way it treats criminals and women and gays and indeed anyone who deviates from strict Islamic orthodoxy is legendary. Hence the US government’s close ties with that country and its reluctance to criticize its practices is noteworthy showing how the US’s concern for human rights is highly selective and largely driven by geopolitical interests.
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Reports of Israeli attacks on schools and hospitals

Richard Engel of NBC News says that the school that was hit by Israeli artillery was a designated UN refugee shelter which people went to seeking shelter from the aerial barrage. He shows one man who said his six children were blown to bits like scraps of paper. The UN official was adamant that there were no militants in the building. Four such schools have been attacked so far.
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A very moving interview

Actor George Takei was a guest on The Daily Show and Jon Stewart wisely decided not to make it a yuk-fest with Star Trek jokes but instead spent the time allowing Takei to describe the time during World War II when his family were herded into barbed-wire enclosed internment camps for the entire duration of the war purely because of their Japanese ethnicity or, as we say now, racial profiling.
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War is not hell, it is worse

Some apologists for war try to casually dismiss the unwelcome fact that it results in the deaths of mostly innocent civilians with clichés like ‘war is hell’, acting as if they are themselves veterans of wars who have seen the grimness up close and are thus can be excused for taking a hardened view. In actual reality, I have noticed that many of the people nowadays who say such things are those who have never seen war and death up close and their macho posturing is just that, posturing. This series of stills from the old TV show M*A*S*H better captures the reality of war.
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Exploiting the poor, then hiding them

New York City has allowed a real estate developer to construct an apartment building with two classes of tenants, rich and poor, but where the poorer people have to use a separate back entrance, like servants’ have in feudal societies.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development signed off on the application from Extell to build a 33-story building on the Upper West Side. The building will have 219 luxury condos that overlook the waterfront, according to the Post, and 55 “affordable” units that face the street. They will have separate entrances, which, as Gawker noted, sparked outrage last year when the plans were first revealed.

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