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“We are beckoned to see the world through a one-way mirror, as if we are threatened and innocent and the rest of humanity is threatening, or wretched, or expendable. Our memory is struggling to rescue the truth that human rights were not handed down as privileges from a parliament, or a boardroom, or an institution, but that peace is only possible with justice and with information that gives us the power to act justly.”

― John Pilger





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News and Opinion



An Inconvenient Truth About Lincoln (That You Won’t Hear from Hollywood)

Over this Thanksgiving week, you may find yourself in a movie theater watching Steven Spielberg’s treatment of Abraham Lincoln and the battle to pass the 13th Amerndment, which abolished slavery once and for all. There’s much to be said for Lincoln: marvelous acting, less mythologizing than usual, and a fascinating window into raucous realpolitik. Spielberg’s film stands several cuts above any movie depiction of the Lincoln presidency you’re likely to see.

Lincoln himself stands several cuts above the vast majority of U.S. presidents. After some equivocating, he freed the slaves, a monumental undertaking that was a service to the country and to humanity in general. He was also friendlier to workers than most presidents, an affinity noted by Karl Marx, who exchanged letters with Lincoln leading up to and during the Civil War. (You won’t see the GOP acknowledging that!)

But there’s a side of Lincoln that no Hollywood film shows clearly: He was extremely close to the railway barons, the most powerful corporate titans of the era.
 

"Mowing the Grass" in Gaza
Israeli soldiers open fire in 'buffer zone'
One Palestinian has been killed and 10 teenagers wounded as Israeli soldiers open fire at border.
One adult has been killed and 19 others wounded as Israeli soldiers, stationed at the border line between Khan Younis and Israel, opened fire on them, medical sources say.

Witnesses told Al Jazeera that the teenagers entered the disputed area of the "buffer zone", which is 300m along all the Gaza-Israel border, south east of the Gaza Strip.
[...]
Al Jazeera's Johnston said that there had been a problem in this area for the past two days. The Israeli army is able to shoot at people in the buffer zone without entering the area, she said.

This is the second person to be killed since the truce came into effect. Nader Abumaghasib, a 15-year-old boy was killed after going out, about 40 minutes after the ceasefire, brokered on Wednesday night, was announced.

Wednesday's ceasefire deal ended eight days of fierce fighting that left 163 Palestinians and six Israelis dead.

Amid budget scrutiny, CIA shutters climate center

With the U.S. intelligence budget shrinking, the CIA has quietly shut down its Center on Climate Change and National Security -- a project that was launched with the support of Leon Panetta when he led the agency, but that drew sharp criticism from some Republicans in Congress.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the center said it closed its doors earlier this year, with its staff and analysis continuing under other auspices.

CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz confirmed the change.

"The CIA for several years has studied the national security implications of climate change," Ebitz said in a statement to Greenwire. "This work is now performed by a dedicated team in an office that looks at a variety of economic and energy security issues affecting the United States."

The 50 Most Important Women in Science

Three percent of tenured professors of physics in this country are women. Nonetheless, a woman physicist stopped light in her lab at Harvard. Another woman runs the linear accelerator at Stanford. A woman discovered the first evidence for dark matter. A woman found the top quark. The list doesn't stop there, but the point is clear.
Three years ago, Discover started a project to look into the question of how women fare in science. We knew there were large numbers of female researchers doing remarkable work, and we asked associate editor Kathy A. Svitil to talk to them. The result of her investigation is a selection of 50 of the most extraordinary women across all the sciences. Their achievements are detailed in the pages that follow.

To read their stories is to understand how important it is that the barriers facing women in science be broken down as quickly and entirely as possible. If just one of these women had gotten fed up and quit—as many do—the history of science would have been impoverished. Even the women who have stuck with it, even those who have succeeded spectacularly, still report that being a woman in this intensely male world is, at best, challenging and, at worst, downright disheartening.

It will take goodwill and hard work to make science a good choice for a woman, but it is an effort at which we cannot afford to fail. The next Einstein or the next Pasteur may be alive right now—and she might be thinking it's not worth the hassle.

Social network of food picks best Thanksgiving recipe

Unleash big data on that Thanksgiving turkey! For anyone preparing a feast today, the hidden connections between your foodstuffs probably aren't your first concern.

But they do exist, and it turns out that they play a large part in determining how well-liked any given recipe will be. Lada Adamic from the University of Michigan downloaded 46,337 recipes from the website Allrecipes.com, then mined the text for ingredients used, the type of meal, the kind of event and the region where the recipe originated. Combining these data with the reviews each recipient received, Adamic built a model that can predict - with around 70 per cent accuracy - how many stars a recipe would receive based solely on its ingredients. This should help you put together a recipe that will unthrone the current top-ranked Thanksgiving meal on the site - awesome sausage, apple and cranberry stuffing.

Libyan security chief assassinated in Benghazi
Colonel Farag al-Dersi played key role in curbing militia power in wake of murder of US ambassador Chris Stevens in September

The Libyan security chief who led an anti-militia crackdown in the wake of the killing of the country's US ambassador has been assassinated in Benghazi, raising questions about the government's ability to impose the rule of law.
[...]
His death is the latest in a string of killings and car bombings in the city, most of them targeting officials who had high-profile roles in the former administration of Muammar Gaddafi. To date none of the assassins have been put on trial.

The latest killing highlights the problems faced by Libya's new cabinet, which was sworn-in last week, in tackling the country's security vacuum. Police and army functions remain distributed among a patchwork of militias. Some, notably those in the former key rebel cities of Misrata and Zintan, are well organised, but other parts of the country remain chaotic.

The new government is handicapped by the exclusion from office of eight of its 27 ministers, including both interior and justice ministers, by a commission investigating their alleged links to the former Gaddafi regime.

Obama brings in grassroots team to cut deal on fiscal cliff
President calls on campaign team to spread the word about looming deadline when tax rises and spending cuts will kick in

The Obama for America campaign team, which has remained intact post-election, sent out a message to supporters saying that though there is a lot of stake, with their help a deal is possible.
[...]
The Obama campaign team, in an email to its extensive network of supporters, said: "Right now, president Obama is working with leaders of both parties in Washington to reduce the deficit in a balanced way so we can lay the foundation for long-term middle-class job growth and prevent your taxes from going up."

It calls on them to spread the word about Obama's position to friends, families and neighbours. It said he wanted a balanced budget that will extend tax cuts for 98% of the population, eliminate tax cuts for the wealthiest and cut spending by $3tn.

Will the Democrats Tax the Rich to Avoid the Fiscal Cliff?

Some Democrats are already preparing to help Obama break the 2012 promise. The New York Times reports:

"Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, extended an olive branch to Republicans, suggesting Thursday that he could accept a tax plan [to fix the deficit] that leaves the top tax rate at 35 percent [leaving the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in place]."
And although Obama has vowed to stay firm over taxing the rich (this time), his toughness is only skin deep, and comes with dangerous strings attached.
For example, Obama only wants to tax the rich enough to be able to sell the grand bargain to the American public; any grand bargain will include historic cuts to cherished national programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and Obama wants to avoid some of the outrage by claiming that the rich were forced to share in the "sacrifice" too.

This is the "balanced approach" to deficit cutting that Obama discusses, meaning that he wants to raise some revenue from the rich while also making gigantic cuts to social programs.

Saudi Arabia implements electronic tracking system for women

RIYADH — Denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.

Since last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.
[...]
“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Women are not allowed to leave the kingdom without permission from their male guardian, who must give his consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or border.

The move by the Saudi authorities was swiftly condemned on social network Twitter — a rare bubble of freedom for millions in the kingdom — with critics mocking the decision.

Act Now on Global Warming, Experts Urge

Professors at Columbia University pressed lawmakers to take advantage of widespread public interest in global warming after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy before a lifeless economy and the “fiscal cliff” dominate the American political discussion again.





Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


The Evening Blues

Turkey Gangs Terrorize Towns






Steely Dan - "Black Friday"






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