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Obama announces total Iraq troop withdrawal

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© AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Barack Obama speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011
Washington - President Barack Obama on Friday declared an end to the Iraq war, one of the longest and most divisive conflicts in U.S. history, announcing that all American troops would be withdrawn from the country by year's end.

Obama's statement put an end to months of wrangling over whether the U.S. would maintain a force in Iraq beyond 2011. He never mentioned the tense and ultimately fruitless negotiations with Iraq over whether to keep several thousand U.S. forces in Iraq as a training force and a hedge against meddling from Iran or other outside forces.

Instead, Obama spoke of a promise kept, a new day for a self-reliant Iraq and a focus on building up the economy at home.

"I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year," Obama said. "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."

Obama spoke after a private video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and he offered assurances that the two leaders agreed on the decision.

Comment: X-U.S. President Bush must be thinking, "Oh no, Obama just gave them a 'Timeline' for Troop withdraw"!


Vader

Putin: Who gave NATO right to kill Gaddafi?


Star of David

Greater Israel---or Peace?

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Pathbreaking scholars Norman Finkelstein and John Mearsheimer speak out about the precarious future of the Jewish state.

Shortly before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in New York to seek United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state, TAC's Scott McConnell sat down with Norman Finkelstein and John Mearsheimer to discuss the deeper currents shaping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since then, President Obama has given a speech shocking in its deference to Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's right-wing coalition, and there is no immediate prospect for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations - the "peace process" begun with discussions in Oslo, Norway in 1991. Israel has announced fresh plans to move settlers into Palestinian areas of Jerusalem it conquered in 1967.

As daunting as the prospects for peace may be, Israel no longer enjoys immunity from criticism within the American media and academy - thanks in large part to the work of scholars like Mearsheimer and Finkelstein, who have forced a debate among foreign-policy thinkers and the American left over the price Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians all pay for Tel Aviv's policies.

One of America's most important dissident scholars, Norman Finkelstein has written six books touching on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2007, after he had been recommended by DePaul University's political science department and described by the university as an "outstanding teacher," he was denied tenure thanks to an unprecedented lobbying campaign waged by Alan Dershowitz, who had long sparred with Finkelstein over Israel. Finkelstein is the child of European Jews who survived Auschwitz and Majdanek, which gave added force to his book The Holocaust Industry, critical of ways Israel has exploited the Holocaust for financial and political gain. His most recent work, This Time We Went Too Far, is an analysis of Israel's 2008-09 war against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago is one of America's foremost international relations scholars. He created a storm in 2006 when he and co-author Stephen Walt of Harvard University published the essay "The Israel Lobby," which was later expanded into a best-selling book.

Document

New Greek austerity Bill passed

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© The Associated Press
One person has died after violent anti-austerity protests in Greece
Greek's parliament has passed a deeply resented austerity Bill that has led to violent protests on the streets of Athens, despite some dissent from one Socialist politician.

The new measures include pay and staff cuts in the civil service as well as pension cuts and tax hikes for all Greeks. The Bill passed by majority vote in the 300-member parliament.

Former labour minister Louka Katseli voted against one article that scales back collective labour bargaining rights.

She voted in favour of the overall Bill, but prime minister George Papandreou expelled her from the party's parliamentary group, cutting his majority to 153.

Yoda

The Truth about the Kennedy Assassination and Obama, as told by Muammar Gaddafi

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So, remind us again... why is Libya being carpet-bombed by the Axis of Evil?


Smoking

First They Came for the Smokers... And I said Nothing Because I Was Not a Smoker

smoking
© bureaucrash.com
"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln
I was born in Iran in 1985 when the country was recovering from the effects of the 1979 revolution and the fascist take-over of the Islamic Republic. That, however, is not what I want to write about today. I'm writing about my experiences throughout my life with smoking and anti-smoking, and how closely the anti-smoking lobby, and the social attitudes it has produced, resembles fascism.

My father was a smoker, and my mom was not. In fact, after my parent's divorce, my mom became a complete anti-smoker. One reason was perhaps because she associated smoking with my father, whom she had begun to dislike. I had a different idea of smoking. Most of my father's family smoked, and I had nothing but fond memories from smokers - especially my father. The smell of tobacco on his clothes when he held me, the look of pleasure when he lit up a smoke after a nice meal and the hours of conversation that was spent between adults around the hookah.

My first experience with the anti-smoking lobby came one day at school, when my school (which, I should mention, was a complete by-product of the Islamic Republic's religious belief system) dedicated a whole day to inform children about the harmful effects of smoking and how we should all convince our parents to stop smoking if we wanted them to live. They even gave us stickers to take home with us that said, "Dear parent: do you want to live to see me grow up? Then stop smoking now!"

I remember being quite shocked and scared after that 'lesson' about smoking. I cried thinking my dad was surely going to die because he smoked a lot! My parents had divorced at that time, so when I went home I waited for my dad to come pick me up from my mom's house for our daily visit. When I returned home, I was still quite upset so my mom asked me what was the matter and I told her that I thought my dad was going to die because he smoked. She didn't say much except that smoking was indeed very bad and to go ahead and give my dad the sticker. When my dad came to pick me up, he was shocked to see my sad face and my puffy eyes from crying all day. I told him what had happened, gave him the sticker and begged him through tears to stop smoking. He became upset too, and in a low voice he said, "I'll try." But that wasn't good enough for me. I told him, "But don't you want to live to see me grow up?" He said, "Of course I do, but life is more complicated than that." Then he faced my mom and asked, "What kind of crap have they been teaching her in school?!?" My mom replied, "I happen to agree with what they taught!" And he replied, "Since when do you agree with the fascists of Islamic Republic?" My mom went silent and said nothing else.

Star of David

'Theater of the Absurd': Netanyahu and His Endgame in Palestine

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© Wikipedia
The UN headquarters in New York
During his deliberately offensive speech on September 23, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the General Assembly as 'the theater of the absurd.' Israel's few friends at the United Nations - led by the US delegation - listened gleefully and applauded as Netanyahu heralded a steady stream of insults.

Netanyahu then returned to Israel with vengeance, enraged by the passionate international reception of Palestinian Authority's statehood bid.

Despite every Israeli effort, the world community has long been united in its support of Palestinian rights.

For decades, Israel labored to legitimize itself, denying the very existence of Palestinians. Following its occupation of the rest of historic Palestine in 1967, it tried to validate its colonial project while concurrently targeting any political platform that represented the Palestinian people. This endeavor was unsuccessful, thanks in part to the resistance of the Palestinians themselves, but also largely due to the enduring international support.

House

US: Foreigners' Sweetener: Buy House, Get a Visa

Sen. Charles Schumer
© Getty Images
Supporters of the bill, co-authored by Sen. Charles Schumer, say it would help make up for American buyers who are holding back.

The reeling housing market has come to this: To shore it up, two Senators are preparing to introduce a bipartisan bill Thursday that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 to buy houses in the U.S.

The provision is part of a larger package of immigration measures, co-authored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah), designed to spur more foreign investment in the U.S.

Foreigners have accounted for a growing share of home purchases in South Florida, Southern California, Arizona and other hard-hit markets. Chinese and Canadian buyers, among others, are taking advantage not only of big declines in U.S. home prices and reduced competition from Americans but also of favorable foreign exchange rates.

To fuel this demand, the proposed measure would offer visas to any foreigner making a cash investment of at least $500,000 on residential real-estate - a single-family house, condo or townhouse. Applicants can spend the entire amount on one house or spend as little as $250,000 on a residence and invest the rest in other residential real estate, which can be rented out.

MIB

We don't need a war with Iran

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© Wikipedia
But I fear the administration may be trying to drum up one

I am delighted if quick work on the part of the FBI prevented the Saudi Arabian ambassador from being assassinated in Washington. Nonetheless, the report of the incident, coinciding with Department of Defense budget concerns and President Barack Obama's political woes, makes me wonder if the Obama administration isn't laying the groundwork with the American public for a war with Iran.

It would have been a disaster if someone had killed Saudi Ambassador Adel A. al-Jubeir in Washington, particularly if the assassination had taken place in a public place frequented by Washington politicians, lobbyists and other public figures. Host governments are required to assure the safety of foreign diplomats on their soil.

Star of David

Unfolding a Plot: Mossad at Work

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© Wikimedia Commons
Mossad Seal
Despite its evidently make-believe facade, the cooked-up story of the Saudi envoy assassination plot does not seem to be something which can be easily banished from the minds of the American powers that be.

The heat over Iran in the US government is growing rapidly. Some Republican congressmen have expressed their interest in waging an all-out war against Iran, a threat they keep refreshing every time they have an excuse. They have clearly stated that Washington should not dismiss the idea of resorting to military force against Iran, an idea which is being strengthened in Congress. "I don't think you should take it off the table," Michigan Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has said.

It is quite natural that he was vehemently supported by the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senator John McCain, who have always maintained an antagonistic approach towards Iran.

Hawkish Gingrich said on CNN, "Our goal should be the replacement of the Iranian dictatorship, and we have done nothing of consequence to systematically undermine the regime."