Rounding Up Romney, Sesame Street And The World

The US Presidential election is almost over, in a day or two voting will be completed and the counting starts.

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, has received a more than fair hearing by the world’s media, but as far I can see they have avoided talking about his weirder views and what might happen under a Romney Presidency.

Mitt and Big Bird

Some have strong opinions about Romney’s proposed cuts to PBS:

“Organizers of the Million Puppet March on Capitol Hill in support of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television and National Public Radio (NPR) put the turnout at around 1,000 people, three days before the US presidential vote.

Characters from the children’s show “Sesame Street” — a PBS staple since the network’s founding in 1970 — figured prominently, including two Big Birds, many Kermits and Elmos, and a Miss Piggy grooving to “Dancing in the Streets.”

But the family-friendly rally on a chilly and cloudy day also attracted a frisky marionette of President Barack Obama and a blue-suited protester in a Mitt Romney mask jammed into a trash can with Big Bird on his back.

There was no shortage of sometimes witty placards, like “Keep your Mitts off Big Bird,” “puppets for peace” and, on the arm of a middle-aged gentleman with a skunk puppet, “Romney smells funny.”

The New Yorker looks at Mormonism, private equity, and the making of a candidate:

“Just about the only thing in life that Mitt Romney is obviously not very good at is the public aspect of running for office. During his four campaigns for office—U.S. senator, in 1994; governor, in 2002; President, in 2008 and 2012—he must have undergone endless hours of training and practice, but the magic just isn’t there. In June, I spent a few days on the campaign trail with him, in Wisconsin and Iowa. Romney’s trip had several purposes. A film crew was gathering footage for campaign commercials to run in the fall; Romney stopped in Janesville, Wisconsin, talking privately and doing an event with Paul Ryan, soon to be his running mate; and it was another attempt, apparently fruitless, on the part of the campaign to demonstrate the candidate’s concern with ordinary people. This segment was officially called the “Every Town Counts” tour. Romney rode around in a sleek bus painted with all-American scenes of mountains, church steeples, and ships in harbors. “

Joan Smith looks at a similar issue, men with power and keeping it to themselves:

“Now he’s been criticised by the first female head of the Home Office, the kind of person who very rarely speaks out, for excluding women from top government posts. Dame Helen Ghosh, who left her job as permanent secretary last month to run the National Trust, told students at a Cambridge college that Westminster is run by powerful networks of men which are hard for women to break into. She pointed out that there was a “magical moment” six years ago when half the heads of government departments were women, but now there are only three female permanent secretaries. “

The West-friendly Bahrain regime is locking up people, again:

“MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A defense lawyer in Bahrain says a prominent human rights activist is in custody after defying an official ban on protest gatherings in the Gulf kingdom.

The detention of Yousef al-Muhafedha could further embolden Shiite-led demonstrators seeking a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.”

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The DWP, Olympics And Glenn Greenwald

I hadn’t wanted to post for a few days, but some news items struck me as deserving of a wider audience, lest I forget.

Surprisingly for the Torygraph, the story of double amputee asked by the DWP to prove that he’s unfit for work:

“A disabled man has been asked to prove he is unable to work by the Department of Work and Pensions despite having both legs amputated due to diabetes.

Chris Cann, 57, was left wheelchair bound after losing both legs and four fingers to diabetes.

Despite being housebound, the widower has been ordered to attend an assessment centre to prove he is too disabled to work or his £600-a-month benefits will be stopped.

Chris, who developed diabetes six years ago, started claiming disability allowance in 2008 – before he had his legs amputated.

Two years ago he had his right leg amputated below the knee and in January this year Chris had surgery again to have his left leg removed as well as four fingers on his right hand.

This week Chris received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions ordering him to undergo medical tests to prove he should receive the new Employment and Support Allowance.

This is not an isolated instance as the Diary of a Benefit Scrounger documents.

Foreign Policy has an amusing piece on the best and worst countries to be a returning athlete.

As Oscar Wilde said “Work is the curse of the drinking classes” and the Economist tries to prove it, unsuccessfully in the Middle East:

“NOBODY knows exactly when Islamic scholars decided that booze was sinful. In the 1970s political Islam led some countries such as Iran and Pakistan to ban alcohol, although many do not and exceptions are made for non-Muslims. In some countries the punishment for Muslims caught quaffing are severe: 80 lashes in the case of Iran. Things may get more arid yet as Islamist parties from Indonesia to Tunisia moot restrictions on alcohol. The number of drinkers varies by country, but some put the total at 5% of those identifying themselves as Muslim. Drinking may even be on the rise. Between 2001 and 2011 sales of alcohol in the Middle East, where Muslims dominate, grew by 72%, against a global average of 30%. “

A white supremacist road trip ends in bloodshed:

“Their three-state road trip, during which they are accused of killing a middle-aged black man and a 19-year-old stranger singled out because they thought he was Jewish, ended with Grigsby allegedly telling police she and Pedersen were on their way to “kill more Jews” in Sacramento, California. “

Never sure what to make of Glenn Greenwald, but one thing those at FP don’t like him.

The Department of Homeland Security and its inability to recognise the threat of the Far Right.

Pam Geller’s stupid ads get ripped into.

More police violence in Bahrain.

Putin’s thugs beat up a Chess Grandmaster.

Well, I am, truly, shocked a Banker being selective with the facts. Whatever next? Banks doing dodgy deals?

Pussy Riot and Russia.

Rounding Up The Absurd And Not Julian Assange, Much.

There is a lot going on in the world, aside from Julian Assange and his antics.

Spiegel Online finds an ex-Jihadist making peace with the Far Right in France.

CNN’s Ben Wedeman in Aleppo:

“What we saw during our trips in Aleppo were not images of the city I knew: The shelling, the snipers, the destruction. I never imagined this city would be standing in the middle of warfare. Nobody imagined it would turn into this.

Some parts of Aleppo are complete battle zones. Shells and rubble litter the streets. Cars are blown to pieces.

This beautiful city is where we raised my daughter for her first years from 1990 to 1993. When I was at work my wife went everywhere shopping with my daughter and going to markets. “

HRW has harrowing details of a government attack:

“Azaz residents told Human Rights Watch that, at around 3 p.m., they saw a fighter jet drop at least two bombs on the residential area. Within seconds, dozens of houses in an area of approximately 70-by-70 meters – more than half a football field – were flattened. Houses on the surrounding streets were significantly damaged, with collapsed walls and ceilings. On the streets around the bombed area, windows were broken and some walls had collapsed. “

In Britain, the Stop the War Coalition thinks Assange is right to avoid addressing allegation of rape in Sweden.

Fancy owning a fire engine (or a fleet of them) for £2, the absurdities of privatisation laid bare.

The Guardian editorial on Assange.

A racial attack in Israel.

Where are Assad’s billions? Like most dictators he has stolen his share and kept it out of harms way, but what happens when he leaves Syria?

A crazed neo-Nazi in Peru thinks that the conquistadors were Jews.

The Extremis Project looks promising, but we will have to see.

What happened to a real asylum seeker in Ecuador.

After Assad, We’ll miss Bashar Assad when he’s gone.

Racists beat their daughter for choosing a black boyfriend.

Norm on alibi Antisemitism.

A very understated, Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, on Julian Assange case – The World at One, BBC Radio 4.

Frank Bajak has a local(ish) perspective on granting Assange asylum and the reasoning behind it.

President Ahmadinejad spouting racism yet again, will we be told this is a mistranslation (sic) too? Juan Cole is still deciding.

Meanwhile in Bahrain, the West is silent.

Being young and poor in Egypt.

A library in Israel.

Finally, increased sectarianism is killing people in Pakistan.

Free Mahmoud Sarsak

The plight of Mahmoud Sarsak should make us think about what we mean by justice.

Is it right that young Palestinians are locked up, as prisoners, without a trial?

Internment, unlawful combatants, administrative detention or lettre de cachet.

Many countries do it, the UK, the US, Ireland and even France.

Whatever you call it, locking people up without trial has many names and it is wrong.

France 24 explains Mahmoud Sarsak’s difficulties:

“AFP – In 2009, Mahmud Sarsak set out from Gaza to sign on with a West Bank football team, but what he thought was the start of a dream career quickly spiralled into a nightmare.

Three years later, the young athlete is lying in a bed in an Israeli prison clinic after spending more than 80 days without eating in protest at his being held without charge.

With his case drawing more and more attention, the Israel Prison Authority on Monday told AFP that Sarsak had ended his strike.

But the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoners’ Club denied the claim, as did his family, although his lawyer Mohammed Jabarin admitted Sarsak was “drinking milk” in a move which he said did not amount to breaking the strike.

Sarsak, 25, was born in Gaza and dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. As a teenager, he played several times for the Palestinian national team in Europe and the Middle East, attracting favourable attention from coaches.

So when he set out for the West Bank on July 22, 2009, he felt he had a promising career ahead of him.

But he never even got there.

As he tried to pass the Erez crossing into Israel, Sarsak was arrested and has been held ever since under Israel’s so-called unlawful combatants law, which allows suspects to be held without charge under a procedure similar to administrative detention.

Israeli officials have called Sarsak an “Islamic Jihad terrorist who planned attacks and bombings,” but have not made public any charges or evidence against him.

“They want to kill my Mahmud,” says his mother Umm al-Abed, sitting outside a solidarity tent by International Committee of the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza City. “Why isn’t the world doing anything?”

FIFA on Tuesday called on the Israeli Football Association to make contact with the relevant Israeli authorities to secure the release of Sarsak and other players it said were being held.

“In a letter to the Israel Football Association, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter expressed today grave concern and worry about the alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players,” a FIFA statement said.

Sarsak began his hunger strike on March 23 as a wave of similar protests swept through the population of Palestinians being held in Israeli jails. “

Habeas Corpus should apply to young Palestinians, Israelis or those locked up by Kings and despots across the Middle East.

B’Tselem Statistics on Administrative Detention.

How Bahrain held its opponents without habeas corpus for weeks and months.

British Royals Suck Up to Bahrain’s Despot

 

Never one to let human rights get the way of business and old pals Her Majesty’s Government, in the form of  Lilibet, has invited the King of Bahrain to lunch:

“The King of Bahrain, whose regime has been accused of brutally suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations, will have lunch with the Queen in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee.

The Middle East ruler is one of a number of foreign monarchs criticised for their human rights records or extravagant lifestyles who have been invited to dine with the British Royal Family.

Buckingham Palace has released a guest list for the Sovereign Monarchs lunch being held at Windsor Castle – the biggest gathering of foreign royals in the UK since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding last year.

Bahrain’s King Hamad Al-Khalifa has been condemned as a despot by former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane in the run up to the lunch.

The Labour MP said many would regret Foreign Secretary William Hague’s decision to approve the inclusion of the Middle East ruler. But the Foreign Office has stressed it is supporting Bahrain in its attempts to improve its human rights.

Guests from controversial regimes include Swaziland’s King Mswati III, Sheikh Nasser Mohamed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait and Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

Mr MacShane said: “Arab nations must let their citizens vote in free elections and let them speak without fear of arrest, torture or death.

“For too long we have turned a blind eye to the repression carried out under the rule of royals in Arabia.

“The FCO should protect the British Queen rather than expose her to having to dine with a despot.” “

Lest we forget, the Guardian’s page on Bahrain.

Meeting Bahrain’s hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

AI’s page on Bahrain.

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