Author Archive | majestic

The Pentagon’s Law of War Manual

The US Department of Defense published its “Law of War Manual” in June and now the World Socialist Web Site dissects some of the more controversial provisions:

The new US Department of Defense Law of War Manual is essentially a guidebook for violating international and domestic law and committing war crimes. The 1,165-page document, dated June 2015 and recently made available online, is not a statement of existing law as much as a compendium of what the Pentagon wishes the law to be.

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According to the manual, the “law of war” (i.e., the law of war according to the Pentagon) supersedes international human rights treaties as well as the US Constitution.

The manual authorizes the killing of civilians during armed conflict and establishes a framework for mass military detentions . Journalists, according to the manual, can be censored and punished as spies on the say-so of military officials. The manual freely discusses the use of nuclear weapons, and it does not prohibit napalm, depleted uranium munitions, cluster bombs or other indiscriminate weapons.

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Willie Nelson’s Crusade Against ‘Big Pot’

Willie Nelson is dead set against agri-business farming and production methods ruining his supply of marijuana so he’s taking on “Big Pot,” as New York Magazine calls it:

…Nelson is gearing up for a different battle. He has been a vocal advocate of marijuana legalization for more than half a century, but he has watched the last few years unfold with a combination of joy and dread. Even as the country has softened its stance toward marijuana, a legion of large corporations has gathered to dominate the legal market. Nelson figures he has at least one good fight left. In what may be his last political act, he is declaring war on Big Pot.

Think Green

By way of first principles, let us pause to establish that legalization is here. That fight is over; legal weed has arrived; all that remains is for the last chips to fall. Some form of marijuana has already been approved in 23 states, and roughly 80 percent of the American public currently favors medicinal use.

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Ben Carson’s unusual theory about pyramids

Not that I think closed-minded Egyptologists of the Zahi Hawass ilk have it all right either, but US Presidential candidate Ben Carson’s Biblically-influenced Giza Pyramids theory isn’t exactly lodged in scientific study, as reported by CBS News:

Ben Carson stood by his long-held belief about ancient pyramids in Egypt, that they were used to store grain, rather than to inter pharaohs.

Dr. Ben Carson 1998 Graduation key note speaker (YouTube)

Dr. Ben Carson 1998 Graduation key note speaker (YouTube)


Asked about this Wednesday, Carson told CBS News, “It’s still my belief, yes.”

The subject came up when Buzzfeed published a 1998 commencement speech delivered by Carson at Andrews University, a college founded by Seventh-day Adventists.

“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said. “Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it.

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Million mask march: How Guy Fawkes became the global face of modern protest

Remember, remember the Fifth of November, disinfonauts: This year Britain’s annual fireworks and bonfire celebration in the name of Guy Fawkes also marks the “Million Mask March.”

We Are Anonymous Sydney 2014

DW looks at how the Guy Fawkes mask has become the defining image of modern protest:

As night falls across the UK on November 5, thousands of families will be heading out to their nearest park to enjoy the local bonfire and fireworks display, whilst likely tucking into some bonfire specialities such as Parkin or toffee apples.

The British tradition marks the day in 1605 when Catholic would-be terrorist Guy Fawkes was arrested after attempting to assassinate King James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament in London.

On the same night, in cities both in the UK and around the world, thousands of people are also due to take to the streets for the global “Million Mask March” and don their “Guy Fawkes” masks – a pale bearded face, made famous by Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s 1980s graphic novel “V for Vendetta” and the 2006 Warner Bros.

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U.S. Government Releases Full Text of TPP Agreement

So this is what the fuss was all about. The full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been released by the US Government. This is the Preamble:


The Parties to this Agreement, resolving to:

ESTABLISH a comprehensive regional agreement that promotes economic integration to liberalise trade and investment, bring economic growth and social benefits, create new opportunities for workers and businesses, contribute to raising living standards, benefit consumers, reduce poverty and promote sustainable growth;

STRENGTHEN the bonds of friendship and cooperation between them and their peoples;

BUILD on their respective rights and obligations under the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization;

RECOGNISE the differences in their levels of development and diversity of economies;

STRENGTHEN the competitiveness of their businesses in global markets and enhance the competitiveness of their economies by promoting opportunities for businesses, including promoting the development and strengthening of regional supply chains;

SUPPORT the growth and development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises by enhancing their ability to participate in and benefit from the opportunities created by this Agreement;

ESTABLISH a predictable legal and commercial framework for trade and investment through mutually advantageous rules;

FACILITATE regional trade by promoting efficient and transparent customs procedures that reduce costs and ensure predictability for their importers and exporters;

RECOGNISE their inherent right to regulate and resolve to preserve the flexibility of the Parties to set legislative and regulatory priorities, safeguard public welfare, and protect legitimate public welfare objectives, such as public health, safety, the environment, the conservation of living or non-living exhaustible natural resources, the integrity and stability of the financial system and public morals;

RECOGNISE further their inherent right to adopt, maintain or modify health care systems;

AFFIRM that state-owned enterprises can play a legitimate role in the diverse economies of the Parties, while recognising that the provision of unfair advantages to state-owned enterprises undermines fair and open trade and investment, and resolve to establish rules for state-owned enterprises that promote a level playing field with privately owned businesses, transparency and sound business practices;

PROMOTE high levels of environmental protection, including through effective enforcement of environmental laws, and further the aims of sustainable development, including through mutually supportive trade and environmental policies and practices;

PROTECT and enforce labour rights, improve working conditions and living standards, strengthen cooperation and the Parties’ capacity on labour issues;

PROMOTE transparency, good governance and rule of law, and eliminate bribery and corruption in trade and investment;

RECOGNISE the important work that our relevant authorities are doing to strengthen macroeconomic cooperation, including on exchange rate issues, in appropriate fora;

RECOGNISE the importance of cultural identity and diversity among and within the Parties, and that trade and investment can expand opportunities to enrich cultural identity and diversity at home and abroad;

CONTRIBUTE to the harmonious development and expansion of world trade and provide a catalyst to broader regional and international cooperation;

ESTABLISH an Agreement to address future trade and investment challenges and opportunities, and contribute to advancing their respective priorities over time; and

EXPAND their partnership by encouraging the accession of other States or separate customs territories in order to further enhance regional economic integration and create the foundation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific,

HAVE AGREED as follows…

[Read the full text here]

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The Tangled Cultural Roots of Dungeons & Dragons

How many RPG players know the true cultural roots of Gary Gygax’s seminal game, Dungeons & Dragons? The New Yorker traces D&D’s history:

In 1984, the comic-strip artist Jack Chick, an evangelical Christian, published a tract called “Dark Dungeons.” In it, a young woman named Debbie is seduced into witchcraft through her participation in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The Mephistophelean figure in the strip is the Dungeon Master, a raven-haired woman named Ms. Frost, who says to Debbie, “Your cleric has been raised to the 8th level. I think it’s time that you learn how to really cast spells.” But then Debbie’s friend Marcie commits suicide after her character dies in the game, and the new witch is wracked with guilt and doubt. She is saved, ultimately, when Mike, a hunky Christian boy (“I’ve been praying and fasting for you”), takes her to see a pastor who has himself come “out of witchcraft.” Debbie meets the pastor and repents, accepting Jesus as her Savior: “I want You to be in charge of everything…not that lousy D.

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Sixty Percent Of Americans Take Prescription Drugs

Sixty Percent yo! Yes, 6 of every 10 Americans are on drugs, the kind that make health insurance ridiculously expensive in the United States. NBC News reports on the shocking statistics:

More Americans than ever are taking prescription drugs — close to 60 percent of U.S. adults, according to new research.


And most seem to be related to obesity, with cholesterol and blood pressure drugs leading the pack, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The single most popular drug is Zocor, a cholesterol-lowering drug in a class called statins, said Elizabeth Kantor, formerly of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and now at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The drug, known generically as simvastatin, is taken by 8 percent of the U.S. population.

Her team used national surveys of more than 37,000 adults to find that the percentage of people taking prescription drugs rose from 51 percent of the adult population in 1999 to 59 percent in 2011.

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This is the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century – so far

Indonesia is burning. So why is the world looking away, asks George Monbiot at the Guardian:

I’ve often wondered how the media would respond when eco-apocalypsestruck. I pictured the news programmes producing brief, sensational reports, while failing to explain why it was happening or how it might be stopped. Then they would ask their financial correspondents how the disaster affected share prices, before turning to the sport. As you can probably tell, I don’t have an ocean of faith in the industry for which I work. What I did not expect was that they would ignore it.

Indonesian firefighters trying to contain forest fire.

Indonesian firefighters trying to contain forest fire.


A great tract of Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death.

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Tangled Up In Entanglement

Think you know about quantum mechanics? Keep reading, via the New Yorker:

No area of physics causes more confusion, not just among the general public but also among physicists, than quantum mechanics. On the one hand, it’s the source of New Age mythology, and has enabled hucksters to peddle new self-help cures; on the other, for the philosophically inclined, it has provided some illusory hope of free will in an otherwise deterministic universe. Of the aspects of quantum mechanics that confuse and dismay observers, perhaps nothing approaches the property called “entanglement.” Einstein, who never really accepted entanglement’s existence, called it, derisively, “spooky action at a distance.”


Unfortunately for Einstein, entanglement, “spooky” or not, is apparently real, as researchers in the Netherlands demonstrated last week, just in time for Halloween. In doing so, the researchers affirmed once again that quantum mechanics, as strange as it may seem, works in every way we can test it.

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Americans Becoming Less Religious

It’s hard to believe this is true if you listen to the rhetoric in the Republican Presidential debates, but apparently the American public is becoming less religious, per Pew Research:

Is the American public becoming less religious? Yes, at least by some key measures of what it means to be a religious person. An extensive new survey of more than 35,000 U.S. adults finds that the percentages who say they believe in God, pray daily and regularly go to church or other religious services all have declined modestly in recent years.

But the Pew Research Center study also finds a great deal of stability in the U.S. religious landscape. The recent decrease in religious beliefs and behaviors is largely attributable to the “nones” – the growing minority of Americans, particularly in the Millennial generation, who say they do not belong to any organized faith. Among the roughly three-quarters of U.S.

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