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Tue, 21 Nov 2017
The World for People who Think

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The fun-filled ocean resort at Guantánamo Bay

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© John Moore/Getty Images
Guantánamo inmates kneel at prayers.
A growing hunger strike among detainees is mocked by gullible journalists spouting familiar Potemkin Village propaganda

If you're looking for a fun activity-filled resort to take your family for a summer vacation, you simply cannot do better than Club GTMO, according to a new glossy travel guide just published by Robert Johnson, the Military and Defense Editor of Business Insider, under the guise of a news article. Scrumptious meals. Video games galore for the kids. Outdoor sports. Newspapers from your hometown delivered by smiling bellhops to the front door of your villa. Picturesque Caribbean vistas. All that and more can be yours - provided that you're "compliant". What more could vacationers - or prisoners kept in a cage for more than a decade with no charges thousands of miles away from their family - possibly want? They are, proclaims Johnson, treated "absurdly well". Not just well: absurdly well. They are, he actually writes, lavished with "resort treatment".

The context for Johnson's glowing thumbs-up is an intensifying hunger strike among (totally ungrateful) prisoners at the camp. Lawyers for the detainees say the hunger strike was triggered "as a protest of the men's indefinite confinement without charge and because of what they said was a return to harsh treatment from past years, including more intrusive searches and confiscation of personal items such as mail from their families." That includes, the lawyers say, a lack of sanitary drinking water which has "already caused some prisoners kidney, urinary and stomach problems". Detainees also complain about the recent manhandling of Korans. One lawyer for 11 detainees, Carlos Warner, identifying himself as a "liberal" supporter of Obama, told CNN that the detainees are now deprived of some privileges they had all the way back in 2006 and said the situation there was "dire".

The US military, needless to say, denies these claims. While detainee lawyers insist that the overwhelming majority of detainees are participating in the hunger strike, US military officials claim that "only" 31 of the 166 are doing so. They do acknowledge that some are being force-fed, a few have been hospitalized for dehydration, and that more and more are participating in the strike. As the New York Times' Charlie Savage notes this morning, the conflicting claims are difficult to resolve. That is in part because journalists have very restricted access to the camp and no access to the detainees.

Bad Guys

Military suicides hit epidemic levels - is it stress or the drugs used to treat it?

Unimaginable stress, irrepressible memories, psychoactive prescription drugs make lethal combination.

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Is it the post-traumatic stress from repeated tours in war zones or Big Pharma’s drugs that are being used to treat it?
With what must be one of the strangest statistics in the history of wartime, the Pentagon has released the fact that more soldiers are dying overseas by committing suicide than from combat wounds - about one a day. July 2012 was the worst on record, a month that saw 38 soldiers take their own lives and with 349 recorded for the year. These figures have doubled in the past decade.

More alarming yet is the report that America's returning vets are committing suicide at the unprecedented rate of more than 20 each day - "one every 65 minutes," reported Daily News of New York City - but there is no official answer as to why this happening.

Is it the post-traumatic stress from repeated tours in war zones or Big Pharma's drugs that are being used to treat it?

Heart - Black

From the horse's mouth: Head of Eurogroup shared the plan (which he later retracted) and created chaos in the markets

© John Thys/Agence France-Presse/Getty
Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has rowed back on his statement that future bailouts would follow the Cypriot model, but the true intentions of the Eurogroup are already out of the bag
The good news for the eurozone was that the markets reacted well to the bailout deal for Cyprus. The bad news was that the rally lasted barely until lunchtime. By then investors were running scared at the prospect that the terms imposed on one of the single currency's smaller members would be the template for rescue packages for bigger countries.

Credit for the change of mood goes to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs meetings of eurozone finance ministers and who decided it would be a good idea to go public with the idea that Cyprus was not such a special case after all.

For the past week the message has gone out that there are no comparisons between a country that allowed itself to become the tax haven of choice for high-rolling Russians and other, better-managed, members of the eurozone.

Then, in a couple of interviews, Dijsselbloem said Cyprus would be used as the model for future bailouts.

The comments were an open invitation to any investor with more than €100,000 in a eurozone bank to remove it without delay, which some then did.

Book 2

The Heretic: Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him?

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© C.F. Payne

Last fall, a few days before Halloween and about a month after the publication of Mind and Cosmos, the controversial new book by the philosopher Thomas Nagel, several of the world's leading philosophers gathered with a group of cutting-edge scientists in the conference room of a charming inn in the Berkshires. They faced one another around a big table set with pitchers of iced water and trays of hard candies wrapped in cellophane and talked and talked, as public intellectuals do. PowerPoint was often brought into play.

The title of the "interdisciplinary workshop" was "Moving Naturalism Forward." For those of us who like to kill time sitting around pondering the nature of reality - personhood, God, moral judgment, free will, what have you - this was the Concert for Bangladesh. The biologist Richard Dawkins was there, author of The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene, and other bestselling books of popular science, and so was Daniel Dennett, a philosopher at Tufts and author of Consciousness Explained and Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. So were the authors of Why Evolution is True, The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World, Everything Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, and The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions - all of them books that to one degree or another bring to a larger audience the world as scientists have discovered it to be.

Contemporary philosophers have a name for the way you and I see the world, a world filled with other people, with colors and sounds, sights and sensations, things that are good and things that are bad and things that are very good indeed: ourselves, who are able, more or less, to make our own way through life, by our own lights. Philosophers call this common view the "manifest image." Daniel Dennett pointed out at the conference that modern science, at least since the revelations of Darwin, has been piling up proof that the manifest image is not really accurate in any scientific sense. Rather science - this vast interlocking combine of genetics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, particle physics - tells us that the components of the manifest image are illusory.

Heart - Black

"Castrate them!" "Burn them!" "Bullet in the head!": Facebook Israelis react to photo of Palestinian kids

© Shadi Hatem


An image of three Palestinian boys sparked an outpouring of violent and sadistic fantasies after it was reposted to an Israeli Facebook page
Having regularly documented the horrifying racism and violent fantasies frequently expressed by Israelis on Facebook or Instagram, I thought I had seen everything.

But this may be the worst yet. On Wednesday, the picture above of three Palestinian boys in a tent was posted on a popular Facebook page titled in Hebrew "We are all in favor of death to terrorists." Under the picture is the following caption:
Arab boys in the illegal Arab outpost established near Maale Adumim. What should the Israeli army do to them?
This is an apparent reference to the peaceful "Bab al-Shams" encampment established by Palestinians near Jerusalem to protest Israel's plans to seize more land for settlements. The protest was timed to coincide with the visit of US President Barack Obama.
"Run the tent over with a truck/Merkava tank/a bus/ whatever it takes to crush and kill these children," suggested Facebook user Lidor Swisa.

Calculator

Iraq War deaths exceed Vietnam War numbers

Department of Veterans Affairs Reports 73 Thousand U.S. Gulf War Deaths

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More Gulf War Veterans have died than Vietnam Veterans. This probably is news to you. But the truth has been hidden by a technicality. So here is the truth.

The casualties in the Vietnam War were pretty simple to understand. If a soldier was dead from his combat tour, he was a war casualty. There are 58,195 names recorded on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

Some of these brave men died in the jungles of Vietnam while others died in Medivac units or hospitals in Japan and America. A dead soldier can surrender his life anywhere in service to his country. It really doesn't matter where this happens. The location of a soldier's death in no way colors his sacrifice.

But something odd has happened with the Iraq War. The government, under the Bush administration, did something dishonest that resulted in a lie that's persisted since the war began -- and continues to this very day. They decided to report the war deaths in Iraq only if the soldier died with his boots on the ground in a combat situation.

What's the difference, you might ask?

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War Whore

Iraq War vet pens 'last letter' to Bush and Cheney accusing them of war crimes, "plunder" and "the murder of thousands of young Americans - my fellow veterans - whose future you stole."

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© Truthdig.com
Tomas Young
An Iraq War veteran who joined the U.S. Army two days after 9/11 has written a powerful open letter to former President George W. Bush and ex-Vice President Dick Cheney accusing them of war crimes, "plunder" and "the murder of thousands of young Americans - my fellow veterans - whose future you stole."

Tomas Young, who was shot and paralyzed during an insurgent attack in Sadr City in 2004, five days into his first deployment, penned the letter from his Kansas City, Mo., home, where he's under hospice care.
"I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney," Young wrote in the letter published on Truthdig.com. "I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans - my fellow veterans - whose future you stole."
The 33-year-old, who was the subject of Phil Donahue's 2007 documentary "Body of War," continued:
I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to "liberate" Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called "democracy" in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq's oil revenues.
Young believes he was injured fighting the wrong war:
I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

USA

John Steele: America's Director of Death Squads in Iraq

The following 50 minute documentary provides clear evidence that, in the aftermath of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US government, military and CIA organised death squads of up to 10,000 men for the purpose of sowing terror among the Iraqi population in an effort to defeat the Iraqi resistance.


Light Saber

They want to humiliate us, to destroy our dignity, say Cypriot protesters

Angry mobs lower the German flag and draw swastikas in anti-EU demonstrations


One demonstrator dumped sheep wool and animal feces in front of a line of police officers guarding the entrance of the Cyprus parliament building

They're robbing us, they want our savings, they want to humiliate us, to destroy our dignity - and all this for the EU and IMF," said 45-year-old Maro Pashali, one of hundreds of protesters who gathered outside the Cypriot parliament in Nicosia yesterday in protest at the country's bailout deal. Demonstrators showed their anger by climbing a pole outside the building to lower the German flag, while others brandished placards bearing a European Union insignia with the stars drawn in the shape of swastikas. Some called for a referendum - the right to decide on their future independently of "German diktats" - as young men with scarves hid their faces and chanted anti-German slogans.

As their politicians were attempting to renegotiate the EU/IMF deal to make the terms more favourable to smaller savers, many in the crowd were wondering whether there was not a better way.

Former Foreign Minister and politician Giorgos Lilikas, who attended the protest, told The Independent: "There was another solution which was to offer our natural resources in exchange for help from Europe. If we have to put our banks as a warranty, we don't need the Troika, we can do it on our own."

Whistle

Whistleblower accuses government of neglecting suicidal veterans and suppressing science

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© Wikipedia
A leading epidemiologist says that the Department of Veterans Affairs, charged with caring for millions who have served their country, neglected assisting suicidal veterans who participated in longitudinal studies and never released important research data on the exposure of Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to toxins, inhalational hazards and burn pits.

Dr. Steven S. Coughlin, a former principal investigator at the VA's Office of Public Health, is testifying before Congress today that supervisors threatened to remove him from a study when he asked for mental health providers to contact the suicidal veterans. Some veterans were eventually contacted, but others were not, according to Coughlin.

"I urge this Committee to direct VA to immediately identify procedures to ensure that veterans who participate in VA large-scale epidemiologic studies receive appropriate follow-up care so that this tragedy is not repeated," he said in testimony provided to me.

The hearing, held before an investigative and oversight panel of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, is taking a broad look at the care provided for Gulf War veterans. In addition to Coughlin, among those testifying are experts on Gulf War Illness, a chronic multi-symptom condition that is characterized by headaches, fatigue, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems and cognitive difficulties. It is estimated to affect as many as 200,000 Gulf War veterans, and critics of the VA argue that the agency has focused on stress-related causes for the illness instead of wartime environmental exposures.

In a statement, the VA said that it "has a decades-long history of conducting world-class research studies that meet accepted and rigorous scientific standards. Research on the health of Gulf War Veterans has been and continues to be a priority for VA. The Department depends on this research to inform our decisions and guide our efforts in caring for Gulf War Veterans. All allegations of malfeasance are taken seriously and are investigated fully."