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Showing posts from August 29, 2014

Hamas’s Chances

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[Or, it ain't easy being green... *RON*]
Nathan Thrall, London Review of Books, 1 August 2014

The current war in Gaza was not one Israel or Hamas sought. But both had no doubt that a new confrontation would come. The 21 November 2012 ceasefire that ended an eight-day-long exchange of Gazan rocket fire and Israeli aerial bombardment was never implemented. It stipulated that all Palestinian factions in Gaza would stop hostilities against Israel, that Israel would end attacks against Gaza by land, sea and air – including the ‘targeting of individuals’ (assassinations, typically by drone-fired missile) – and that the closure of Gaza would essentially end as a result of Israel’s ‘opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas’. An additional clause noted that ‘other matters as may be requested shall be add…

Isis consolidates

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[The London Review of Books often has good pieces on global politics. *RON*]
Patrick Cockburn, London Review of Books, 1 August 2014

As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland. In a few weeks of fighting in Syria Isis has established itself as the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, routing the official al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor and executing its local commander as he tried to flee. In northern Syria some five thousand Isis fighters are using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul to bes…

Here's How Little You Earn On Stocks After You Pay The Man, Uncle Sam, And The Invisible Hand

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[So, tell me, how did the 1% and the 0.1% get so rich? Insider trading or does it all go to CEOs? *RON*]
Myles Udland, Business Insider, 29 August 2014

Fees, taxes, and even inflation just kill your investment returns.

A Thornburg Investment Management study of "real, real returns," which was alerted to us by Cullen Roche at Pragmatic Capitalism, shows how various costs eat into your stock market returns.

Real, real returns take into account expenses (the man), taxes (Uncle Sam), and inflation (the invisible hand).

Thornburg's study notes that "nominal returns are a misleading driver of an investor's investment and asset-allocation planning... because they are significantly eroded by taxes, expenses and inflation." The risk then, as Thornburg sees it, is that a failure to understand real, real returns could lead to investment decisions that miss potential diversification opportunities.

This chart from Thornburg shows how …

How Does a 9-Year-Old Come to Shoot a Fully Automatic Weapon?

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[How is this even remotely possible? Americans are gun-crazy, literally. The Uzi tragedy in Arizona, explained. See also: The NRA Just Tweeted '7 Ways Children Can Have Fun at the Shooting Range'. *RON*]

—By Rebecca Cohen, Mother Jones, 28 August 2014

A nine-year-old in Arizona accidentally killed her gun instructor on Monday when the Uzi he was teaching her to fire recoiled out of her control and shot him in the head. A video of the incident shows 39-year-old Charles Vacca switching the gun into automatic mode, then standing at the girl's side as she pulls the trigger and the weapon's force wrenches her arm in his direction.

Many commentators have since expressed disbelief—though not the NRA, which was busy talking up fun for kids at gun ranges—that a child was permitted to wield a weapon with such firepower.

But the shooting lesson was just normal business at the firing range where Vacca worked. Its "Bullets and Burgers&qu…

Deadly Rhetoric - Do Guns Save Lives?

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[The US gun lobby claims that guns save lives and keep us safe from criminals – what do social scientists say? I just started reading Aeon, which seems to have some excellent articles. *RON*]
by Venkat Srinivasan, Aeon Magazine, 29 August 2014
Venkat Srinivasan is a writer and research engineer based in San Francisco. His work has appeared in Caravan and Wired among others.

The first gun massacre in Blacksburg, Virginia, probably occurred on 8 July, 1755, when a group of native Americans entered Draper’s Meadow and killed four settlers – probably, because there are no rules as to how many killings make a massacre, and because the number of victims is disputed. Some historians have placed the death toll at eight. Draper’s Meadow was a frontier settlement on the edge of Virginia, between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Allegheny Mountains. The natives attacked it, because they felt threatened by the tyranny of the English settlers, who viewed their comm…

Let’s End Poverty: We Have the Money, Do We Have the Will?

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[47 million Americans live beneath the official poverty line, under a daily judgment of failure. The question today is: Whose failure? This is the introductory article to the Fall 2014 issues if Yes! magazine, which is dedicated to the issue of eliminating poverty. *RON*]

I am driving my old red Jeep near my house. I stop for a traffic light and see a disheveled man, trying to smile, wanting to look me in the eye, and holding a cardboard sign on which he has printed in thick, black letters: “No job. Anything helps. God bless.”

Do I roll down my window and hold out some coins? Or pretend I don’t see him?

Do I avoid eye contact because, deep down, seeing him forces me to confront a scary reality—that I, too, could wind up begging on the streets? Do I let his presence reinforce the common belief that poverty is inevitable, a timeless plight I cannot solve?

My stoplight turns green. Problem solved. For now.

Although not for the man with the hand-lettere…

Is Blackwater Finally Going to Be Held Accountable for Civilian Deaths?

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[Controversial case is one of few in which US forces have been tried for civilian deaths in Iraq. It has always been astounding to me how there has essentially never been any public debate over the fact that US military personnel, including privatized military, are being held accountable to, literally, no laws in the world. "It must have seemed like the apocalypse was here... There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene. None of these people were armed.... the most horrible botched thing I have ever seen in my life."*RON*]

By Dan Roberts, AlterNet via The Guardian, 28 August 2014


One of the darkest days of the US occupation of Iraq was relived in a Washington courtroom on Wednesday as the prosecution of four Blackwater security contractors accused of killing 14 civilians in a mistaken attack in Baghdad reached an emotional and legal climax.

Seven years after the bloody shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that left a total of 17 Iraq…

Why Coal Is (Still) Worse Than Fracking and Cow Burps

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[Geoscientist Raymond Pierrehumbert argues that carbon dioxide is always worse than shorter-lived pollutants like methane. And, of course, the Port of Vancouver is now preparing to hugely increase exports of coal via my home town - to our everlasting shame. *RON*]

—By Chris Mooney, Mother Jones, 29 August 2014

Is fracking for natural gas good for the planet?

To understand the pitched fight over this question, you first need to realize that for many years, we've been burning huge volumes of coal to get electricity—and coal produces a ton of carbon dioxide, the chief gas behind global warming. Natural gas, by contrast, produces half as much carbon dioxide when it burns, and thus, the fracking boom has been credited with a decline in US greenhouse gas emissions. So far so good, right?

Umm, maybe. Recently on our Inquiring Minds podcast, we heard from Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering at Cornell University, who contends that it just …