Category Archives: No War

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Response to “WikiLeaks, Drought and Syria”

Later on the same day that Thomas Friedman published the op-ed in the New York Times entitled “WikiLeaks, Drought and Syria” Jeffery Grossman wrote a response to it in his article ‘Thomas Friedman. “WikiLeaks, Drought and Syria”: Israel Has the … Continue reading

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What do Israel and Australia have in common?

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Opinion 26 Jan 2014 What do Israel and Australia have in common?Australia’s crimes during its colonial history resemble those of Israel.By Vacy Vlazna Dr Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. Australia’s indigenous peoples have struggled for decades … Continue reading

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Shouting into a dust storm: “WikiLeaks, Drought and Syria”

JAN. 21, 2014 by Thomas L. Friedman, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times In the 1970s, I got both my bachelors and masters degrees in modern Middle East studies, and I can assure you that at no time did environmental or … Continue reading

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Refugee sworn affidavit of past torture by Australian Navy

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The military man raised his handgun (it was dark almost black and had a shiny side). He pointed it at my head. He was about two metres away. He then lowered his gun and pulled back the metal slide on … Continue reading

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Sharon

“We will re-build everything on the basis of resistance and  Sharon must be aware of the resistance of the Jenin camp for all his life”  — young girl standing in the rubble of Jenin in 2002. Jenin is dedicated to … Continue reading

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Reporting the Brisbane G20

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I want to try to spend tonight inspiring some of you to become reporters. What’s in a name? I use reporter because the word, journalist, is a too lofty for me – a name popularised by the self-important – journalists! … Continue reading

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The Truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal

(Uncharacteristically, overnight this story has already slipped from view on the Guardian pages! Such a thoroughly well researched and extensive article would normally be there on their front page for quite a while. It also disappeared from their Middle East … Continue reading

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Detention centre conditions toughening up

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Dear Refugee Supporters, We are seeing changed conditions in the MITA (Melbourne immigration Transit Accommodation) which are clearly designed to frighten and  intimidate the people inside. Directions have been given and are now being implemented. Sudden early morning room searches … Continue reading

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Saudi Arabia, France make their move in Lebanon

The Saudi decision to give $3 billion in aid to the Lebanese army to purchase French weapons and ammunition came as a surprise to both supporters and opponents of the move. The amount is the highest ever to the army, but the most alluring aspect … Continue reading

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Peace activists arrested for standing on public road

Human Rights Continue reading

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Why Lebanese are coming in boats

This film clip from Human Rights Watch explains (why Lebanese are coming in boats) Abbott and Morrison claim that they  (Lebanese) are ‘economic refugees’ and have sent Lebanese community leaders out to tell people not to come. I remember a … Continue reading

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PShift Retrospective 2013

History is an angel being blown backwards into the future He said: History is a pile of debris And the angel wants to go back and fix things To repair the things that have been broken But there is a … Continue reading

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Towards Peace — a worker’s journey

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Towards Peace – A workers Journey (PDF) by Phil O’Brien and Bernie Dowling [SHAPE – Social History Publishing Enterprise with LeftPress] Tunnelling through the night, the trains pass in a splendour of power, with a sound like thunder shaking the … Continue reading

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No Permanent Protection Visas

No Permanent Protection Visas to be granted to people who arrive in Australia without visas. THIS is the excuse given for no releases from detention since Morrison took over. People in detention have to sign this Code of Behaviour before … Continue reading

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Urgent Appeal to Pope Francis to help Gaza

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Gazan families are suffering. Israel and Egypt have cut off fuel supplies so that Gazans have had no electricity and vital services for 2 months. Families, in freezing temperatures have no light, no heat and hospitals are overflowing while sewerage … Continue reading

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G20, LNP and neoliberalism

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‘… in my view populism is what we need, roughly speaking hanging bankers from the lamposts …’ – prof john quigan speaking at the cloudland committee inaugural forum on 28 nov 2013 [1:07:37] in PShift recording below   Review of … Continue reading

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Protected: Conscience, Law and Order — “hiding in the thickets of the law”

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On streets of Dublin: Manning-Assange-Snowden

The last few days in Dublin, unfolded in a warm embrace of solidarity for imprisoned Pvt Manning’s mother Susan, Aunts Mary & Sharon & Uncle Kevin. The family had travelled from their hometown Haverford West, South Wales to Dublin the … Continue reading

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Indonesian police launch massive crackdown on peaceful KNPB activists

From http://freewestpapua.org/ November 26, 2013 Indonesian police have today arrested a total of 41 KNPB activists in Timika, Jayapura and Sorong ahead of planned mass actions across West Papua this weekend for West Papua independence day. Crackdowns are continuing at … Continue reading

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Shootings, killings, beatings, arrests as hundreds flee to jungle after Indon Police open fire on peaceful KNPB demo

From http://westpapuamedia.info/ Before the shooting, a mass of people had gathered in the field outside the Expo Waena bus terminal and market in front of the Museum, mainly sitting and chatting while listening to speeches. According to the witness, police … Continue reading

War on trial

November 16, 2013
"Mass movements don't come from nowhere" … veteran peace activist Graeme Dunstan is taking on the military-industrial complex.‘Mass movements don’t come from nowhere’ … veteran peace activist Graeme Dunstan is taking on the military-industrial complex. Photo: James Brickwood

A thorn in the side of the Australian government for decades, activist Graeme Dunstan has upped the ante by aligning himself with the radical Christian Plowshares movement and taking on the military.

During Graeme Dunstan’s criminal trial in Rockhampton in August, the easiest way to find the veteran peace activist was to head to the river. There, you’d first spot his “Peacebus”, the large white van that has been his home for 15 years, and which on one side is completely covered by a large billboard artfully painted with the slogan: “War brings neither peace nor climate justice: cut military spending.”

Then, next to the Peacebus, you’d see Dunstan. Kneeling. Meditating. On the yoga mat. Praying as the sun rose over the Fitzroy River. Afterwards, he’d brew a stove-top coffee out of the back of the van, its inside a hippie rabble: aromatherapy bottles, a single bed, feathers, a boomerang, and tomes on drones, military weaponry and Zen.

Taking up the fight … Graeme Dunstan and his "Peacebus".Taking up the fight … Graeme Dunstan and his ‘Peacebus’. Photo: James Brickwood

As he contemplated the Fitzroy, yachts bobbing nearby, he’d be wearing one of a seemingly perpetual supply of shirts stamped with a political statement. “Save the snubfin dolphin.” “Peace pilgrim.” “Stand fast: support the troops! Bring ’em home!” And when asked about potentially going to jail, the 71-year-old, who blockaded US president Lyndon Johnson’s motorcade in Sydney in 1966 and founded the Aquarius Festival in northern NSW’s Nimbin in 1973, would be philosophical: “The company and the food is not too good in jail, but I can still be an activist there. I can teach meditation. It won’t be an unproductive time for me.”

There was never any doubt about Dunstan’s guilt. Before and during the trial, he had told anyone who would listen – police, local media, lawyers, readers of his blog peacebus.org – that he had indeed helped his friend Bryan Law, a radical Catholic activist and taxi driver who died this year of a diabetes-related illness, commit a crime in 2011.

Dunstan had damaged Commonwealth property. He had rented a truck, driven Law to Rockhampton Airport and helped open a chained gate that Law had attacked with bolt cutters. He had taken photos and called the media. He then watched as his friend, dressed in a black suit and white cowboy hat, drove undisturbed across the tarmac on a bright red tricycle and struck a $45 million Tiger military helicopter with a garden mattock, causing $162,000 worth of damage.

Fought hard … the late Bryan Law, a radical Catholic activist.Fought hard … the late Bryan Law, a radical Catholic activist.

The pair had undertaken what is known internationally as a “plowshare”, a radical form of left-wing Catholic activism in which protesters break into military facilities and damage weapons. Their inspiration comes from a passage in the Book of Isaiah: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Clearly guilty, the pair both pleaded not guilty in order to take the matter to court. They wanted to put the military arsenal in the dock and the notion of war on trial in front of a jury – a tradition in the Plowshares movement. “There have been some spectacular successes – the juries have gone against all the evidence to say ‘not guilty’, ” says Dunstan now. “Those charged have argued in court that the crime was a moral necessity, that the war had to stop, the government wasn’t going to do anything about it and this was the only means left to us.”

Law, who fellow activists admit was a difficult man to work with, set out to do a plowshare after being inspired by three Christian plowshare activists in New Zealand. In 2008, the trio had broken into the Waihopai spy station and deflated two US radar domes with sickles; they were subsequently found not guilty by a jury. “Bryan wanted to do it here; he wanted to embody the prophesy of Isaiah,” says Dunstan, a devout Buddhist.

All we are saying ... anti-war activist Donna Mulhearn.All we are saying … anti-war activist Donna Mulhearn. Photo: Fairfaxsyndication.com

The fact that a Christian and Buddhist faced trial over a high-profile act of civil disobedience is indicative of the state of Australia’s peace movement. While the scene is made up of all sorts – socialists, greens, communists, unions, aid groups and students, all sharing opposition to war, nuclear weapons and military bases – in recent years it is largely faith-based activists who have been undertaking the more noticeable acts of non-violent civil disobedience, known as “the arrestables” in protest parlance.

“They are seriously talking about walking in the footsteps of Jesus and Gandhi,” says Dunstan of the radical Christians. “The thing Bryan Law kept saying [is] if we really want to stop this war … the tools are given to us – they are there, they’ve been tried and they work. Non-violent direct action works. You go and put your body on the line and bear witness. It works. So that’s what they are aspiring to. And, of course, it is kind of respected in the secular left, this kind of action, but they don’t associate with it, it is something else – people are afraid they are going to be preached it.” He shakes his head. “It doesn’t happen like that.”

Christian opposition to war dates back to the time of Jesus and has concerned the faithful for centuries. However, according to University of New Mexico sociology professor Sharon Erickson Nepstad, who has written extensively about plowshares and non-violent action, the modern movement had its genesis in the 1920s, when Pope Benedict XV rejected the centuries-old notion of “just war” – a Christian idea that, in some circumstances, war could be justified.

In response to the pope’s encyclical, in 1927 American Catholics founded the Catholic Association for International Peace (CAIP) to study and promote Catholic notions of peace. “But as Hitler rose to power, CAIP leaders veered away from pacifism, arguing that a war against the Nazis was morally justifiable,” Nepstad wrote in an essay on the Plowshares movement. However, American Catholic activists like Dorothy Day – who helped found the anti-war Catholic Worker movement – continued advocating for pacifism and direct action against militarism. Her ideas later inspired young Catholics to burn their Vietnam War draft cards and raid draft offices – in one instance dramatically pouring their blood over files.

The modern Plowshares movement began in 1980 when eight Catholic activists, including two priests, broke into a Pennsylvania General Electric plant that was manufacturing nuclear warheads. The ease with which they broke in led them to believe divine intervention was involved. As one activist told Nepstad: “Somehow it felt holy that we actually got into that room, because we didn’t know where things were inside that building. We just kept walking until we walked into the test area and there were these golden-coloured warheads on the table.”

The activists hammered on the nuclear warhead cones, poured their blood on security documents and prayed for peace. Some of the “Plowshares Eight” subsequently spent up to 10 years in jail, and their legal plight was later immortalised in the film In the King of Prussia, starring Martin Sheen. But Plowshares campaigns spread across the world, including in Australia. As Nepstad detailed: “Plowshares activists are not concerned that it is illegal to smash at these ‘contemporary gods of metal’. Nor are they worried that such rule-breaking behaviour will provoke negative reactions from others. They maintain that civil disobedience and defiance of social norms is consistent with the example Christ set.”

Each day of Dunstan’s four-day trial, around 20 activists would set up a large, brightly coloured banner outside the court featuring the words from the Isaiah prophecy alongside photos of children killed in Iraq. They would hold a prayer vigil. Sing peace songs. Call out the names of people killed in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The eclectic cast – some mumsy-looking, others dreadlocked – would then fill the courtroom gallery.

Watching and tweeting each day was Treena Lenthall, who was jailed for two months over her role in the “Jabiluka plowshare” in 1998 when she disabled equipment at the Northern Territory mine. Sitting nearby was her partner, the independent filmmaker David Bradbury – the pair are working on a documentary about Dunstan’s case. The only secular supporter was Robin Taubenfeld, a kooky and key anti-war activist who runs Friends of the Earth in Brisbane.

Meanwhile, online from London, Brisbane-born Catholic Worker Ciaron O’Reilly was sending rambling, passionate emails offering strategic advice on how to conduct the defence in the trial, including the suggestion to play Collateral Murder, the infamous video Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning leaked to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks depicting a US Apache helicopter killing innocent civilians in Iraq in 2007. The defence aim was to highlight that military helicopters like the one Law attacked killed innocent people. Eventually, Judge Nicholas Samios allowed the video to be played, but admitted he was giving Dunstan “a lot of latitude”.

O’Reilly, one of Australia’s most active Plowshares activists, has faced court three times over his actions, including attacking a B52 bomber in New York during the 1991 Gulf War, disabling equipment at Jabiluka with then-partner Lenthall in 1998 and disarming a US Navy warplane at an Irish airport in 2006. Sean O’Reilly, Ciaron’s younger brother, helped Dunstan at his trial; Dunstan was, in turns, overwhelmed, unprepared, amusing, cool and Buddhist in representing himself. A particular low point for Dunstan was when the jury asked for a mental-health report on him.

After showing Collateral Murder, Justice Samios also let defence witnesses who had “seen war” on to the stand. Australian peace activist and former journalist Donna Mulhearn, who was a “human shield” in Iraq in 2003, talked about her experiences there of seeing helicopter gunships kill civilians. Reverend Simon Moyle, a Melbourne Baptist minister and non-violence activist, spoke about the Plowshares movement, as well as his time in Afghanistan. After closing arguments, the jury was sent out but, to the excitement and shock of the activists, the 12 men and women of the jury did not immediately return with a guilty verdict.

Rockhampton is a sleepy and pleasant river city near the mid-north coast of Queensland. One of its more charming buildings is the Criterion Hotel, which Douglas MacArthur used as a base during World War II.

Since 2005, the city has hosted the month-long Talisman Saber “war games”, during which an estimated 20,000 US and 10,000 Australian soldiers undertake realistic, large-force operations ranging from amphibious beach landings to parachute jumps. While they are called “games”, their seriousness was highlighted this year when the US military admitted to dropping four unarmed bombs from two Harrier jets on the Great Barrier Reef – they’d been forced to drop them to avoid hitting civilian boats that had strayed into the testing area.

Talisman Saber has traditionally been catnip to Australia’s peace movement. When the games first kicked off in 2005, a Greenpeace yacht managed to disrupt navy exercises. Protest numbers swelled to the hundreds in 2007 during the height of left-wing anger against US president George W. Bush and the Iraq War. It was during these games that the nomadic Dunstan connected with the faith-based activists, his “affinity group” as it is referred to in activist circles. Both the faith-based groups, as well as organisations such as the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, would be involved in protests.

When I showed up in July for this year’s Talisman Saber, however, the number of activists had dwindled to about 12. At times there were more police watching the protests than protestors themselves. While their numbers were tiny, they still managed to annoy the military and the police, spending the week popping up at various locations with flags, pamphlets and loudspeakers to voice opposition to war. Four protestors blockaded the Western Street Barracks and were arrested. Two police liaison officers followed them wherever they went; a working friendliness seemed to flow between them.

Days later, Dunstan and Greg Rolles, 31, a Quaker and high-school history teacher from Brisbane, continued a tradition, started by Christians in 2007, of walking onto Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area while Talisman Saber exercises were taking place. They then spent 30 hours on the site, including praying to a small angel dedicated to Franz Jägerstätter, a peace activist executed by the Nazis in 1943 for his conscientious objection to war. (The shrine had been planted in 2011 by Margaret Pestorius, Law’s wife.)

Some of the Christian activists I spoke to in Rockhampton said their faith was intrinsic to their civil disobedience and gave them courage to break into sites. Jessica, an articulate 37-year-old, recalled that at her first Talisman Saber protest in 2005, after jumping the fence of the Shoalwater Bay military zone and sitting on a road with makeshift coffins, she went into a “space”: “It was almost going back to my Pentecostal Christian days, this kind of sense of the spirit, about being so released … it doesn’t matter what they do to me now, I’ve done what I think is really important, a tiny gesture of blocking a road and not letting the military traffic through.”

Jim Dowling, a scruffy-looking man who never seemed to wear shoes, told me he was a veteran activist from Brisbane who was politicised during the corruption of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen years in Queensland. In the 1980s, he and Ciaron O’Reilly founded a Catholic Worker community in Brisbane that focused on hospitality to the poor. Now living with his family on a farm outside Brisbane, he made money by making and selling soap and caring for a disabled man one night a week.

Dowling said he believed that faith was needed to commit to the cause long-term. As he put it: “People of faith have faith, as Saint Paul said, in things unseen, things unbelievable. In an age like today of cynicism and pragmatism, you have to have a lot of faith to believe that peace is possible, that non-violence is possible and that another world is possible … I can’t comprehend what motivates anyone without any faith. I can’t understand why people without faith would bother to be part of any movement for justice.”

A seemingly mellow guy, Dowling was part of a crew including Law, Mulhearn (who testified at Dunstan’s trial) and Adele Goldie who audaciously broke into the Pine Gap joint-defence facility outside Alice Springs in 2005. Depending on your point of view, the ease with which they entered Australia’s most secretive satellite station was either disturbing or comical. According to Dowling, in the lead up to their action, Law wrote to then defence minister Robert Hill and Pine Gap management requesting they be allowed to have a “citizens inspection” of the facility because they believed “it was a terrorist base involved in killing civilians in places in Iraq and Afghanistan by providing targeted information”.

“Of course, the minister said, ‘There is no way you are going out to inspect it and we will charge you under the Defence Special Undertakings Act if you try to,’ ” Dowling told me. “We said, ‘Oh well, we are going to try anyhow,’ and we drove off to Alice Springs. We were there for quite a few days, went to the front of the base a number of times.”

Dowling claimed that at one meeting, Mulhearn asked the head of Pine Gap security: “What do you think our chances are of getting into the base?”

“No chance,” he replied.

“Do you think it would be a miracle if we got into the base?”

“It would definitely be a miracle,” he replied.

On the night of December 8, the four broke into pairs – Dowling and Goldie, Mulhearn and Law – and were dropped off at different locations to begin the five-kilometre walk to the base. Dowling and Goldie managed to cut through two interior fences at dawn, climbed onto a building next to an antenna and took photographs of themselves before they were eventually caught. Mulhearn and Law made it to the interior fences and began cutting through before they were stopped.

During the group’s trial in 2007, the court heard that the sensors supposed to detect intruders coming through the interior fences were turned off as they were routinely set off by kangaroos and goannas. To the Christian activists, however, their break-in was indeed a miracle.

I asked Dowling whether the fact Plowshares was inspired by a verse from the Bible would lead people to view the movement as a radical, nutty, fringe Christian organisation. He shrugged, nonplussed. “The mainstream religion is materialism, just get a job, make some money, consume, consume, be silent and die,” he says. “Anyone who is outside of that … is obviously [the] ‘crazy, radical fringe’. ”

Graeme Dunstan was eventually found guilty. While the prosecutor called for a custodial sentence, Judge Samios sentenced him to a suspended two-year jail sentence with a three-year good behaviour bond and ordered him to pay $162,000 to the Commonwealth.

He is now back on the road in his Peacebus, having recently been at Victoria’s Swan Island SAS training base, at a time when 15 Christians broke in to the facility. “There are tides in the affairs of men and mass movement arises, and then they disappear again,” he says. “We are in one of the troughs between mass movements. But mass movements don’t come from nowhere – they are actually built by solid work, by people who keep the work going and then seize the moment.”

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Peace, tourism and political games in Kashmir

While praise is heaped on tourism, its actual contribution to Kashmir’s economy is unknown [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera  – Opinion – Al Jazeera English] For a second summer in a row, the Indian establishment and media are agog with Kashmir’s bumper … Continue reading

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WikiLeaks Whistleblower Private Manning

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POSTER – Fri. Nov. 29th. 7pm Dublin solidarity event with Welsh family of imprisoned inprisoned WikiLeaks Whistleblower Private Manning Please circulate, print off put up! We have been working on street solidarity with Manning Assange for the past 3 years … Continue reading

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Letter from Afghan MP’s about ‘Deporting to Danger’

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This letter was sent by over 40 Afghan Members of Parliament urging the Australian government not to send Hazaras back to Danger and not to reinstate the disastrous Temporary Visa. 1. Please ring your local member and urge them to … Continue reading

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Refugees, sea shepherds, and bankers…

Hi folks, Greetings from France, where the European leg of my world tour has begun…  Next is Germany, Denmark, Norway and Belgium, then North America.  The venue for tomorrow’s gig in Freiburg, Germany has been changed due to harassment by … Continue reading

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RoadMap to Apartheid

[PShift (4zzz fm 102.1 Fridays at noon) broadcast on 20 Sept 2013 – ‘Roadmap to Apartheid’] Six years ago, almost to the day, a Palestinian citizen was killed by Israeli forces on Wednesday morning in Al-’Ayn refugee camp, west of … Continue reading

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Refugees shot trying to leave

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WILL THIS BE AUSTRALIA NEXT WEEK? Two Palestinian refugees killed in emigration attempt from Egypt Two Syrian-Palestinian refugees killed attempting illegal passage from Alexandria to Europe Zeinab El Gundy, Wednesday 18 Sep 2013 Two Palestinian refugees, formerly detained at El-Gomrok … Continue reading

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Why care about G-20? Some initial thoughts…

Dear Friends, Imagine if the leaders of all these countries, finance ministers and central bank govenors were meeting in your town to set the global economic agenda: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of … Continue reading

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Rain of fire: US attempt to destablise Middle East

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“I dream of snakes … I kill one and a yet bigger one appears …” – Cuban troubadour, Silvio Rodriguez I refer to the NYT article With the World Watching, Syria Amassed Nerve Gas which does not give any detail … Continue reading

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Striking it Richer

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The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States (Updated with 2012 preliminary estimates) Emmanuel Saez, UC Berkeley• September 3, 2013 The recent dramatic rise in income inequality in the United States is well documented. But we know less about … Continue reading