Author Archive | imkaan

Suicide Has Killed More Troops Than the War in Afghanistan This Year

Writes Alexander Abad-Santos on the Atlantic Wire:

This is a pretty terrible statistic: 154 active duty troops have committed suicide in the first 155 days of the new year–a rate alarmingly close to one per day. The number dead from suicides eclipses the U.S. forces killed in Afghanistan by about 50 percent.

For comparison, there were around 130 suicide deaths during the same time last year, reports The Associated Press’ Robert Burns. It’s difficult to wrap our brains around that number and that rate, and of course that statistic is just one more troubling recent finding from our troops. (Remember the reports that found that sexual assaults among members of the army were up 64 percent from 2006? Or the rise in alcohol abuse?) “It’s a sign in general of the stress the Army has been under over the 10 years of war,” Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired Army general told Burns. “We’ve seen before that these signs show up even more dramatically when the fighting seems to go down and the Army is returning to garrison.”…

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Collective ‘Om’ at Wisconsin Capitol on Eve of Historic Walker Recall Election (Video)

Via Revealing Politics:

The night before Wisconsin’s recall election progressive activists gathered around the Capitol to “cleanse it of negative energy” and sing together in solidarity. The evening opened with songs, some of which were written specifically for the events, as lyric sheets were handed out to attendees. Attendees then practiced a meditational “Om” and then all pulled together to circle the Capitol building with their collective energy.

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Did the Earliest Human Relatives Originate in Asia and Not Africa?

Reports Jennifer Viegas in Discovery News:

The ancestors of humans, apes and monkeys evolved first in Asia before moving on to Africa, suggests a new fossil find from Myanmar.

Remains of a newly found primate, Afrasia djijidae, show this monkey-like animal lived 37 million years ago and was a likely ancestor of anthropoids — the group including humans, apes and monkeys.

“Many people have heard about the ‘Out of Africa’ story of human origins and human evolution,” said Christopher Beard, a Carnegie Museum of Natural History vertebrate paleontologist who co-authored a study about the fossil find in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Our paper is the logical precursor to that, because we are showing how the anthropoid ancestors of humans made their way ‘Into Africa’ in the first place.”…

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UN Chooses Robert Mugabe As A ‘Leader for Tourism’

Robert MugabeDavid Usborne writes in the Independent:

Never mind that Robert Mugabe is under a travel ban for his cruel stewardship of Zimbabwe since independence. The United Nations, in its wisdom, has designated him a “leader for tourism” and chosen the Victoria Falls, shared with Zambia, as the venue for a holiday industry conference next year.

At the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), based in Madrid, the thinking seems to be: “If the old man can’t visit us then we should visit him.”

The honour was made official when UNWTO head, Taleb Rifai, arrived at the Falls for a ceremony to name Zimbabwe and Zambia co-hosts of the 2013 conference … Kumbi Muchemwa, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said: “I can’t see any justification for the man being an ‘ambassador’. An ambassador for what? The man has blood on his hands. Do they want tourists to see those bloody hands?”…

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Chris Hayes: Glamorizing and Justifying War with the Term ‘Hero’

Decoration DayVia Alternet:

It’s sure to be a little bit controversial but it’s an extremely salient point: Chris Hayes, when discussing the meaning of Memorial Day, admitted that he feels “uncomfortable” calling deceased soldiers heroes. Not because they’re not heroes, but because the term lionizes and glamorizes war. Hayes discussed how he feels “uncomfortable” with the term:

I feel … uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.

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Selling Software That Kills

Syrian Uprising MapWrites Jon Evans on TechCrunch:

The government of Syria uses made-in-California technology from BlueCoat Systems to censor the Internet and spy on its pro-democracy activists (who are regularly arrested and tortured, not to mention slaughtered wholesale.) Amesys of France and FinFisher of the UK aided brutal dictators in Egypt and Libya. Sweden’s Teliasonera allegedly took up the same cudgel in Belarus, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Kazakhstan. McAfee and Nokia Siemens have done the same in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, Bain Capital recently bought a Chinese video-surveillance company reportedly “used to intimidate and monitor political and religious dissidents,” and Cisco “has marketed its routers to China specifically as a tool of repression.” You can’t help but be impressed by how globalized the oppression-technology industry has become.

So what privacy/surveillance story caused an eruption of outrage this week? Yes, you guessed it: SceneTap, a startup that uses facial-recognition software to (anonymously) track demographics at bars and clubs in major American cities in real time.

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Nearly Half of New U.S Veterans Are Seeking Disability

US Dept. of Veterans AffairsReports the AP:

America’s newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate, claiming to be the most medically and mentally troubled generation of former troops the nation has ever seen.

A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press.

What’s more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.

It’s unclear how much worse off these new veterans are than their predecessors.

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Animal Poachers In India Can Be Shot on Sight

PoachingReports Talia Ralph on Global Post:

Animal poachers in India can now be shot on sight, after lawmakers in the western state of Maharashtra passed legislation Wednesday to defend tigers, elephants, and other wildlife from attacks, the Times of India reported.

The state’s forest guards should not be “booked for human rights violations when they have taken action against poachers,” Maharashtra’s Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam said Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

There have been no cases of tiger poachers being shot or killed in Maharashtra, but guards have been charged in the past for shooting illegal loggers or fishermen, the state’s chief wildlife warden S.W.H. Naqvi told the AP.

The state also announced plans to put more rangers and jeeps on patrol in the forest, and will offer secret payments to those who tip off officials about poachers and animal smugglers, according to the AP.

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United States Justice: 2,000 Convicted Then Exonerated Over 23 Years

JailbaitReports the AP via CBS News:

More than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the United States in the past 23 years, according to a new archive compiled at two universities.

There is no official record-keeping system for exonerations of convicted criminals in the country, so academics set one up. The new national registry, or database, painstakingly assembled by the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, is the most complete list of exonerations ever compiled.

The database compiled and analyzed by the researchers contains information on 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence. The researchers are aware of nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data.

They found that those 873 exonerated defendants spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years in prison, an average of more than 11 years each…

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Around The World, Obama’s Presidency A Disappointment

Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.Reports Don Melvin and Rod McGuirk on the Associated Press:

In Europe, where more than 200,000 people thronged a Berlin rally in 2008 to hear Barack Obama speak, there’s disappointment that he hasn’t kept his promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, and perceptions that he’s shunting blame for the financial crisis across the Atlantic.

In Mogadishu, a former teacher wishes he had sent more economic assistance and fewer armed drones to fix Somalia’s problems. And many in the Middle East wonder what became of Obama’s vow, in a landmark 2009 speech at the University of Cairo, to forge a closer relationship with the Muslim world.

In a world weary of war and economic crises, and concerned about global climate change, the consensus is that Obama has not lived up to the lofty expectations that surrounded his 2008 election and Nobel Peace Prize a year later. Many in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America were also taken aback by his support for gay marriage, a taboo subject among religious conservatives…

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