October 4, 2015
Crisis: US vs Russia, British "Human Rights", Child Labor, Euphemisms, Animals

 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

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One Day After Warning Russia of Civilian Casualties, the
     U.S. Bombs a Hospital in Afghanistan

2. UN torture investigator says UK plan to scrap Human
     Rights Act is ‘dangerous’

3. The Photos That Helped End Child Labor in the United

4. George Carlin: How language is used to mask truth
5. By the way...animals

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, October 4, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. It is also a sunday, and there were few interesting crisis items. I counted 3, to which I added a 4th because it is a nice video I like, and then a 5th which is not quite what it seems: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald that very clearly shows the hypocrisy of the American government; item 2 is about a warning that the UN torture investigator gave when he heard
about new British "human rights" (which will revise the international version); item 3 is about a quite fascinating item that shows child labor in the USA, a mere 100 years ago (and I would not be amazed if these days will return, especially if it is up to the rich); item 4 is a nice video by George Carlin on euphemisms and hypocrisy; and item 5 is about World Animal Day and the reliability of information: You can't trust Wikipedia, and the same goes for most other sources of information.

1. One Day After Warning Russia of Civilian Casualties, the U.S. Bombs a Hospital in Afghanistan 

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Yesterday afternoon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power marched to Twitter to proclaim: “we call on Russia to immediately cease attacks on Syrian oppo[sition and] civilians.” Along with that decree, she posted a statement from the U.S. and several of its closest authoritarian allies – including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UK – warning Russia that civilian casualties “will only fuel more extremism and radicalization.”

Early this morning, in the Afghan city of Kunduz, the U.S. dropped bombs on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)). The airstrike killed at least 9 of the hospital’s medical staff, and seriously injured dozens of patients. “Among the dead was the Afghan head of the hospital, Abdul Sattar,” reported The New York Times.

In fact - see below - 9 staff members were killed, 19 were wounded, of whom 5 were "critical". And this was just the staff.

And this is a classical instance of talking one way, and acting the precisely opposite way: The Russians are blamed for the very things the Americans - who do it more - are praised for, by themselves.

Here is some more:

Jason Cone, MSF’s Executive Director, said the medical charity “condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrific bombing of its hospital in Kunduz full of staff and patients.” He added that “all parties [to the] conflict, including in Kabul & Washington, were clearly informed of precise GPS Coordinates of MSF facilities in Kunduz,” and that the “precise location of MSF Kunduz hospital [was] communicated to all parties on multiple occasions over past months, including on 9/29.” Worst of all, from MSF itself:

In fact - see below - “officials of MSF … told Reuters that they ‘frantically phoned’ NATO and Washington DC, as bombs rained on the hospital for ‘nearly an hour.'"

Here is Glenn Greenwald's conclusion:

This last week has been a particularly gruesome illustration of continuous U.S. conduct under the War on Terror banner, including under the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who celebrates himself for “ending two wars” (in the same two countries where the U.S. continues to drop bombs). The formula by now is clear: bombing whatever countries it wants, justifying it all by reflexively labeling their targets as “terrorists,” and then dishonestly denying or casually dismissing the civilians they slaughter as “collateral damage.”
Yes, indeed: precisely so. Here are three (partial) updates Greenwald later added:
UPDATE: U.S. officials went to TIME Magazine yesterday to announce that Russia will be creating more terrorists than they kill as a result of misguided airstrikes in Syria. “We believe if you inadvertently kill innocent men, women and children, then there’s a backlash from that,” Lieut. General Bob Otto, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance said. “We might kill three and create 10 terrorists. It really goes back to the question of are we killing more than were making?”
That was the American military blaming the Russian for what the Americans are doing themselves on a far larger scale.

Here are the other two updated that wrre mentioned above.

UPDATE II: Al Jazeera reports that the hospital bombed by the U.S. “is the only medical facility in the region that can deal with major injuries.” Nonetheless, “officials of MSF … told Reuters that they ‘frantically phoned’ NATO and Washington DC, as bombs rained on the hospital for ‘nearly an hour.'”

UPDATE III: The latest casualty figures from MSF:

This is a fine article that is recommended reading.

2. UN torture investigator says UK plan to scrap Human Rights Act is ‘dangerous’

The next article today is by Mark Townsend on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The UN special rapporteur on torture has accused David Cameron of a “cold-hearted ” approach to the migration crisis, warning that plans to scrap the Human Rights Act risk subverting international obligations designed to protect people fleeing persecution.

Juan Méndez said the UK’s intention to replace the act with a British bill of rights was a “dangerous and pernicious” development. Méndez said that the government’s proposals indicated a lowering of protection for people that would leave individuals at risk of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and being refused asylum and deported despite facing mistreatment.

He said such a move could contravene Britain’s obligations under international law and set “a very bad example for the rest of the world”, potentially allowing other states to dilute their levels of protection for vulnerable people.

“The problem is that the line between cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and torture is very difficult to draw. If a country is going to mistreat you, then what is going to stop them torturing you? This would be a dangerous development, a disastrous reading because it would violate the object and purpose of the norm.

“It is not to give governments flexibility in deciding who stays; it is to protect people from torture and ill-treatment. You could call this a bad-faith interpretation,” he said.

That is about it. There is more in the article, but I quote just the end:

Justice minister Dominic Raab said: “This is idle speculation. We will set out our proposals for full consultation in due course, and it’s irresponsible for any UN official to criticise our plans without knowing what they are.”

Let me put it thus: Menendez knows the Human Rights Act quite well; he also knows that the present Tory government seems to contain quite a few moral degenerates; and he tried to warn you. But no, wasted energy...

3. The Photos That Helped End Child Labor in the United States

The next article today is by Mark Murrmann on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:
In the early 1900s, Lewis Hine left his job as a schoolteacher to work as a photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, investigating and documenting child labor in the United States. As a sociologist, Hine was an early believer in the power of photography to document work conditions and help bring about change. He traveled the country, going to fields, factories, and mines—sometimes working undercover—to take pictures of kids as young as four years old being put to work.
In 2004, retired social worker Joe Manning set out to see what had happened to as many of the kids in Hine's photos as he could find. He's documented his findings—showing the lives of hundreds of subjects—on his website,
                       Clicking the image willl lead you to the site, where the pictures are 4 times larger 
The photography has the following text under it:
Workers at the end of the day in a Pennsylvania coal mine. The smallest boy near the far right, is a nipper. On his right is Arthur, a driver. Jo, on Arthur's right, is a nipper. Frank, the boy on the left end of the photo, is a nipper and works a mile underground from the shaft, which is 5,000 feet down.
Note that the six children in front are around 10 or 12 years old; that they had worked a 10 hour day; and that this happened a mere 100 years ago in the USA ("Land of the free, home of the brave"), and was not really made better until the New Deal of the 1930ies.

There are many more similar pictures in the last dotted link: I found all of them  quite fascinating, although in fact they are all about cruel and harsh child abuse.

Originally, I planned to give this item my own title: "What the rich want", but I did not, although that is what I think:
  • I do not believe in any necessary course of moral improvement in history.
  • I do believe that the few rich have nearly always nearly everywhere exploited as much as they could, for the simple reason that this was most profitable for them.
  • I believe that if it is up to the - majority of the - rich, then these pictures may give a good view of the future of the American workers.
So here you have images of how it was, a mere hundred years ago (and indeed 85 years ago) and how it very well may be in 25 to 50 years from now, when there will be many more people, and it will be a lot warmer, and the rich may have divided the world into the few who have nearly everything and the many who have nearly nothing, and who will not eat if they don't work, regardless of their age, health or condition, even if they are four years old.

4.  George Carlin: How language is used to mask truth

The next item is not an article but a video by George Carlin on the power of euphemism:

This is here because I like it and think it is instructive.

5. By the way... animals

Did you know it is World Animal Day today?

I realized it yesterday evening, I suppose because it was annually given attention to at school, when I was between 7 and 12. But that is meanwhile around 55 (or more) years ago, and I don't know - having neither children nor grandchildren since I am ill a very long time - whether this is done now. (It seems to be, still, in Holland: See below.)

While I like animals (without sentimentality, and some kinds considerably more than others) that is not the reason this item is here.

It is here because it illustrates the unreliability of information.

To start with, here is the complete item for "World Animal Day" ("Redirected from Animal day") on the English Wikipedia:

World Animal Day is an international day of action for animal rights and welfare celebrated annually on October 4, the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

It started in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence, Italy who wished to highlight the plight of endangered species.

And that's it. I found that pretty minimalistic, and tried the Dutch version, which is "Dierendag". Here is a link to the item:

This has no less than 6 paragraphs, three pictures and four links. And here enters the reliability of information, for an international day that exists now for 85 years, at least, and that is quite uncontroversial:

According to the Dutch item (1) world animal day did not start in 1931, but in 1930 (2)
world animal day did not start "at a convention of ecologists in Florence" "in 1931" but at an international conference of the associations for the protection of animals in Vienna in 1929, and (3) the idea for a world animal day was not started by ecologists at all, but by one Ilse Winter in Brno, who proposed the idea in a letter of 1927 to the head of the international organization for the protection of animals. (4) In the Dutch files I consulted, nothing was said about "endangered species".

So here we have in one and the same encyclopedia two completely opposed stories about the foundations of an international day that exists 85 years now, and which is not contentious, nor controversial, nor much politicized, and which is still - in Holland, at least - widely practised.

Somebody at Wikipedia - I guess the English one - must have been imagining things.

Whatever the explanation: This is a good illustration of how careful one must be with - especially - all journalism, and also much printed information, including encyclopedias, also when on line: Even bits about World Animal Day, that exists for 85 years now, and is quite uncontroversial, may get completely false reports, that also remain standing for years on end. [1]


[1] Incidentally: Will I report this to Wikipedia? No. I have several years ago tried to correct an obvious printing mistake and ran into a pretty awful bureaucratic ritual, and since then have decided to use it but never to address it.

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