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Sep 28 2013
Our regular featured content-
These weekly features-
These featured articles-
Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt
Write more and often. This is an Open Thread.
Sep 28 2013
Three days of mourning were declared in the aftermath of the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya that has left at least 72 dead including six soldiers and five of the attackers.
The attack was perpetrated by the militant youth group, al-Shabaab, associated with Islamic extremists in Somalia and is regarde by the US and other nations as a terrorist group. The groups is targeting Kenya for providing troop that supported the Somali Transitional Federal Government.
While al-Shabab has turned into a largely violent organization, for a time it was run as a counter force to criminal gangs operating in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. Al-Shabab was once the military wing of the deposed Islamic Court Union (ICU), which controlled much of central and southern Somalia in late 2006.
But Al-Shabab’s fighters were eventually forced out of Somalia by Ethiopian troops in support of the largely powerless U.N.-backed interim government.
Though the group has carried out attacks in other countries, it has mostly focused on attacks within Somalia, using suicide bombs to kill dozens over the years. Its members have also assassinated international aid workers and others perceived to be friendly to Somalia’s transitional government.
Author and national security correspondent for The Nation, Jeremy Scahill joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Nareem Shaihk to discuss how the US meddling in the region is tied to the “rampage” at the Nairobi mall.
Scahill says the Bush administration’s decision to back Ethiopia’s overthrow of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union in 2006 helped fuel al-Shabab’s growth into the dominant militant group that it is today: “Al-Shabab was largely a non-player in Somalia and al-Qaeda had almost no presence there. The U.S., by backing [Somali] warlords and overthrowing the Islamic Courts Union, made the very force they claimed to be trying to fight.”
Jeremy also appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes further explaining the history of the region and al-Shabaab.
>>> at this hour, kenyan security forces claim to be in control of the west gate premier shopping mall in nairobi, kenya, the site of one of the most horrifying terror attacks in recent memory. kenyan interior ministry saying “our forces are combing the mall floor by floor looking for anyone left behind. we believe all hostages have been released.” this hour, the kenyan government hasn’t yet made a full accounting. midday saturday, nairobi, kenya, a mall that could easily be mistaken for any major mall in the u.s. or anywhere in the world, fell under attack by 10 to 15 gunmen, reportedly from the islamist al shabaab militia. one eyewitness was an american who had recently moved to nairobi from north carolina.
>> you could hear while we were back there them methodically kind of going from store to store, talking to people, asking questions, shooting, screams, and then it would stop for a while. then they would go to another store.
>> another eyewitness, a software engineer who was in the parking lot with his two daughters said they were throwing grenades like maize to chickens. he and his daughter survived. at last count, at least 62 people have died in the attack, mostly kenyans along with foreigners from britain, france, australia, canada and india. at one point, terrorists started a fire in the mall, which according to security forces, was meant as a diversion. a reported 175 people were wounded in a siege that entered its third day today. at least three assailants have been killed by security forces with at least ten suspects arrested. the attackers also took hostages as the standoff proceeded.
>> we have done search of the building and we can confirm that the hostages, almost all of them have been evacuated.
>> the kenyan foreign minister has since told al jazeera the mall attack was the work of al qaeda, not al shabaab. more on that in a second. president kenyatta said one of his nephews was in the mall and killed in the attack. the chief of the kenyan defense forces said the terrorists are clearly a multinational collection from all over the world. the fbi is looking into reports that americans were among the attackers. “the new york times” photographer tyler hicks happened to be nearby the mall when the siege began. he entered the mall along with police officers and captured these stunning images.
>> once i got inside the mall, i could see how tense everyone was, the army and police, how carefully they were moving. they were dashing across open areas, taking extreme care with their cover. it seemed kind of like anywhere you looked there would be another body. people were still hiding in shops. and as the police and the army were moving through, they would either discover people or they would sense that help had arrived and then they would flood out. so, you get kind of moments of silence and then other moments of big streams of people who they were trying to get out as quickly as possible. it really seemed like everywhere we went, more people came out of the woodwork. at one sense it seemed very abandoned. for example, the music that plays in the shopping mall, the typical kind of music, was still playing on the intercom. so, it was kind of this eerie silence with this music interrupted occasionally by gunfire. terrified people were crying, screaming, just running for their lives, really. i never thought that i would encounter this kind of tragedy in a public place like this, where completely innocent civilians were just gunned down and murdered. it’s not like a conventional war, where you expect combatants to get hurt or expect there to be collateral damage in those kinds of situations. this is just a suicide mission and murder.
>> joining me now is jeremy ask a hill, my colleague at “the nation” magazine, where he’s national security correspondent. he is also author of “dirty wars,” producer and writing of the film by the same name. jerry, you were in somalia. there’s footage of you being on a rooftop with incoming fire from al shabaab fighters, basically. what do you make of the conflicting reports about whether al shabaab or al qaeda did it, and who is al shabaab and how are they different from al qaeda?
>> right, well, first of all, al shabaab was a group of relative nobodies in 2006 during the bush administration. they were a sort of outlier in a group called the islamic courts union, which was largely made up of, almost exclusively made up of somali actors. and these actors meaning players on the scene in somalia. and al shabaab was the sort of group among those that sort of had the most allegiance to al qaeda or affinity for osama bin laden’s message, but they had no political sway whatsoever domestically within somalia. the u.s. partnered with the ethiopian military in 2006- 2007 and staged an invasion of somalia, and they dismantled this government of the islamic courts union, which was the only government that brought stability in somalia since the blackhawk down episode. so, what happened as a result of that is that the shabab became the vanguard of what was viewed as a movement to fight off a crusading force backed by the united states. so, al shabaab started to get street credibility within somalia because they were the only ones fighting. the rest of the networks had been disrupted, co-yopted, killed or imprisoned by the americans or ethiopians. so, what happened at the end of the day is that al qaeda was able to get a foothold in somalia and it had never been able to before. bin laden desperately wanted to get into somalia and somalis rejected him. the u.s. invasion with ethiopia opened the door and al shabaab has gotten more militant as the years have gone on.
>> and they clearly seem to have an agenda if, in fact, this is somali al shabaab fighters behind this. why would they attack a kenyan mall?
>> well, there’s a long history of al qaeda in east africa and eventually al shabaab staging attacks in kenya and elsewhere in africa.
>> of course the embassy bombings.
>> yes, in ’98 in tanzania and kenya, but there was also a 2002 attempt to shoot down israeli aircraft in mombasa. then you had the bombing at the world cup in 2010 in uganda, an american citizen was killed in that as well as a number of ugandans. and i think that, you know, if you look at the past two years, kenya has been deeply involved with somali politics, funding warlords. i traveled with a kenyan-backed warlord who had brand new military equipment given to him in the summer of 2011, and then kenya staged an invasion of parts of southern somalia. and i think al shabaab has seized on this idea that kenya is a puppet or a proxy for the u.s., and that’s really the message that they’ve propagandized.
>> what does it say about the state of al qaeda or global ji jihadis in 2013 that this attack happened, that it’s coming from possibly somalia? it seems to me like it’s the situation which we smash one or disrupt one network and they seem to pop up somewhere else.
>> right. something interesting is that when i was last in somalia in the summer of 2011, the head of al qaeda in east africa was killed in mogadishu, fazul mohammed. and among the documents seized, and i reported on this in my book, were letters from fazul to ayman al zawahiri, number two in al qaeda. and what fazul said is shabaab is making a mistake trying to hold territory in somalia and you need to go back to managing savagery. there is a famous al qaeda paper called “the management of savagery,” and data is make it impossible for anyone else to govern. make people feel fear and that the government cannot protect them.
>> and i think that’s part of what we’re seeing. but there’s no one al shabaab right now, which is why the kenyans —
>> being splintered, and it’s ann clear who is exactly krogh the organization. journalist jerry scahill,
Sep 28 2013
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama addressed the world at the 2013 UN General Assembly meeting in New York City. He mostly touted the US policy in the Middle East and the so-called right of the US to interfere with the sovereign nations of the region. Even though the president has directed Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister over Iran’s nuclear program, he again declared that the US can use force to stop what there is no evidence of, an Iranian nuclear weapon. The speech, a neo-con’s dream, was littered with lies, as enumerated by David Swanson.
2. “(P)eople are being lifted out of poverty,” Obama said, crediting actions by himself and others in response to the economic crash of five years ago. But downward global trends in poverty are steady and long pre-date Obama’s entry into politics. And such a trend does not exist in the U.S. [..]
4. “Together, we have also worked to end a decade of war,” Obama said. In reality, Obama pushed Iraq hard to allow that occupation to continue, and was rejected just as Congress rejected his missiles-for-Syria proposal. Obama expanded the war on Afghanistan. Obama expanded, after essentially creating, drone wars. Obama has increased global U.S. troop presence, global U.S. weapons sales, and the size of the world’s largest military. He’s put “special” forces into many countries, waged a war on Libya, and pushed for an attack on Syria. How does all of this “end a decade of war”? And how did his predecessor get a decade in office anyway? [..]
6. “We have limited the use of drones.” Bush drone strikes in Pakistan: 51. Obama drone strikes in Pakistan: 323. (That they have admitted to. TMC [..]
8. “… and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.” There are hundreds of confirmed civilian dead from U.S. drones, something the Obama administration seems inclined to keep as quiet as possible. [..]
13. “How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, or embroiling ourselves in someone else’s civil war?” That isn’t a complete list of choices, as Obama discovered when Russia called Kerry’s bluff and diplomacy became a choice, just as disarmament and de-escalation and pressure for a ceasefire are choices. Telling Saudi Arabia “Stop arming the war in Syria or no more cluster bombs for you,” is a choice. [..]
14. “What is the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct?” Force doesn’t have a role in civilized conduct, the most basic standard of which is relations without the use of force. [..]
17. “It is an insult to human reason – and to the legitimacy of this institution – to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.” Really? In the absence of evidence, skepticism isn’t reasonable for this Colin-Powelled institution, the same U.N. that was told Libya would be a rescue and watched it become a war aimed at illegally overthrowing a government? Trust us? [..]
There are 45 cringe worthy lies in David’s dissection of the president’s speech.
During this section of the speech my jaw sort of hit the floor. He basically came out and said the United States is an imperialist nation and we are going to do whatever we need to conquer areas to take resources from around the world. I mean, it was a really naked sort of declaration of imperialism, and I don’t use that word lightly, but it really is. I mean, he pushed back against the Russians when he came out and said I believe America is an exceptional nation. He then defended the Gulf War and basically said that the motivation behind it was about oil and said we are going to continue to take such actions in pursuit of securing natural resources for ourselves and our allies. I mean, this was a pretty incredible and bold declaration he was making, especially given the way that he has tried to portray himself around the world. On the other hand, you know, remember what happened right before Obama took the stage is that the president of Brazil got up, and she herself is a former political prisoner who was abused and targeted in a different lifetime, and she gets up and just blasts the United States over the NSA spy program around the world.
Obama’s UN Speech: Packaging Neoconservative Values in the Language of Peace & Liberation
by Kevin Gosztola, FDL The Dissenter
The speech President Barack Obama delivered at the United Nations General Assembly was a neoconservative foreign policy speech, the kind of speech one might have heard President George W. Bush deliver in the midst of the Iraq War to defend decisions made by those ruling America.
Both Robert Kagan and William Kristol, leading American neoconservatives, argued in 1996, “Without a broad, sustaining foreign policy vision, the American people will be inclined to withdraw from the world and will lose sight of their abiding interest in vigorous world leadership. Without a sense of mission, they will seek deeper and deeper cuts in the defense and foreign affairs budgets and gradually decimate the tools of US hegemony.”
The hegemon or paramount power that neoconservative policy thinkers like Kagan and Kristol consider America to be passed on an opportunity to show “leadership” by striking Syria. Obama was acutely aware that the United States was not in control of the developing response to the crisis in Syria. His speech was an opportunity to reassert American power, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. [..]
Now, America has drone bases to make war permanent. It has a massive surveillance apparatus that Obama is more than willing to defend and utilize against any country in the world that threatens its power. Though all countries may seek to spy on one another to decide what to do diplomatically, no country can match the technological capabilities of the United States as it bugs and spies on diplomatic missions of countries to remain supreme.
Sep 28 2013
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
September 28 is the 271st day of the year (272nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 94 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1928, the antibiotic Penicillin was discovered. It’s discovery is attributed to Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928. He showed that, if Penicillium notatum was grown in the appropriate substrate, it would exude a substance with antibiotic properties, which he dubbed penicillin. This serendipitous observation began the modern era of antibiotic discovery. The development of penicillin for use as a medicine is attributed to the Australian Nobel laureate Howard Walter Florey together with the German Nobel laureate Ernst Chain and the English biochemist Norman Heatley.
However, several others reported the bacteriostatic effects of Penicillium earlier than Fleming. The use of bread with a blue mould (presumably penicillium) as a means of treating suppurating wounds was a staple of folk medicine in Europe since the Middle Ages. The first published reference appears in the publication of the Royal Society in 1875, by John Tyndall. Ernest Duchesne documented it in an 1897 paper, which was not accepted by the Institut Pasteur because of his youth. In March 2000, doctors at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José, Costa Rica published the manuscripts of the Costa Rican scientist and medical doctor Clodomiro (Clorito) Picado Twight (1887-1944). They reported Picado’s observations on the inhibitory actions of fungi of the genus Penicillium between 1915 and 1927. Picado reported his discovery to the Paris Academy of Sciences, yet did not patent it, even though his investigations started years before Fleming’s. Joseph Lister was experimenting with penicillum in 1871 for his Aseptic surgery. He found that it weakened the microbes but then he dismissed the fungi.
Fleming recounted that the date of his discovery of penicillin was on the morning of Friday, September 28, 1928. It was a fortuitous accident: in his laboratory in the basement of St. Mary’s Hospital in London (now part of Imperial College), Fleming noticed a petri dish containing Staphylococcus plate culture he had mistakenly left open, which was contaminated by blue-green mould, which had formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould. Fleming concluded that the mould was releasing a substance that was repressing the growth and lysing the bacteria. He grew a pure culture and discovered that it was a Penicillium mould, now known to be Penicillium notatum. Charles Thom, an American specialist working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was the acknowledged expert, and Fleming referred the matter to him. Fleming coined the term “penicillin” to describe the filtrate of a broth culture of the Penicillium mould. Even in these early stages, penicillin was found to be most effective against Gram-positive bacteria, and ineffective against Gram-negative organisms and fungi. He expressed initial optimism that penicillin would be a useful disinfectant, being highly potent with minimal toxicity compared to antiseptics of the day, and noted its laboratory value in the isolation of “Bacillus influenzae” (now Haemophilus influenzae). After further experiments, Fleming was convinced that penicillin could not last long enough in the human body to kill pathogenic bacteria, and stopped studying it after 1931. He restarted clinical trials in 1934, and continued to try to get someone to purify it until 1940.
Sep 28 2013
Akihabara-based magazine blasts past Kickstarter goal, aims to bring otaku culture to the world
Michelle Lynn Dinh
The word “otaku” in the Japanese language is a general term for anyone who is passionate about a hobby. But in English, “otaku” has become a term that refers to people who are obsessed with Japanese culture, particularly anime and manga. But the world of the otaku is sometimes misunderstood. That’s where JH Lab, a group of “otaku of the highest caliber” comes in, hoping to demystify the world of anime and manga fans and bring the culture of Akihabara to people everywhere.
To do this, JH Lab has created Akiba Anime Art (AAA), “a brand new pop-culture magazine from Akihabara, featuring cool OTAKUs, advanced technologies, kawaii-cosplays, Dojins and much more!” They’ve started a Kickstarter campaign to make their dream a reality and have quickly surpassed their initial goal, raising over US$42,000. Supporters of the project will receive special edition illustrations from featured Japanese artist, John Hathway, and have a chance to be drawn into his amazing Akihabara picture jockey cityscape. Let’s take a closer look at this rapidly growing magazine’s “ultra otaku power.”
Sep 28 2013
One of the biggest drivers of health care costs to the patient is medication. Pharmaceutical companies who hold the patents often make minor changes in the drug to gain a new patent and applying for a new patent on essentially the same drug. This is called “evergreening.” A paper in PLOS examined the economic impact of this practice:
The researchers identified prescriptions of eight follow-on drugs issued by hospital and community pharmacists in Geneva between 2000 and 2008. To analyze the impact of evergreening strategies on healthcare spending, they calculated the market share score (an indicator of market competitiveness) for all prescriptions of the originally patented (brand) drug, the follow-on drug, and generic versions of the drug. The researchers then used hospital and community databases to analyze the costs of replacing brand and/or follow-on drugs with a corresponding generic drug (when available) under three scenarios (1) replacing all brand drug prescriptions, (2) replacing all follow-on drug prescriptions, and (3) replacing both follow-on and brand prescriptions. [..]
Using these methods, the researchers found that over the study period, the number of patients receiving either a brand or follow-on drug increased from 56,686 patients in 2001 to 131,193 patients in 2008. The total cost for all studied drugs was €171.5 million, of which €103.2 million was for brand drugs, €41.1 million was for follow-on drugs, and €27.2 million was for generic drugs. Based on scenario 1 (all brand drugs being replaced by generics) and scenario 2 (all follow-on drugs being replaced by generics), over the study period, the healthcare system could have saved €15.9 million and €14.4 million in extra costs, respectively. The researchers also found some evidence that hospital prescribing patterns (through a restrictive drug formulary [RDF]) influenced prescribing in the community: over the study period, the influence of hospital prescription patterns on the community resulted in an extra cost of €503,600 (mainly attributable to two drugs, esomeprazole and escitalopram). However, this influence also resulted in some savings because of a generic drug listed in the hospital formulary: use of the generic version of the drug cetirizine resulted in savings of €7,700.
In a post at his blog, law professor Jonathan Turley explains how President Barack Obama has yielded to the pressures of the pharmaceutical industry and pushed to block access the inexpensive generic drugs, demanding India, one of the world’s largest suppliers of generic drugs, block production of the low cost medications:
Millions of Americans struggle on a daily basis to afford medicine in the United States which is the highest in the world. Many seek affordable drugs by driving to Canada or seeking medicine (as well as medical care) in India. Yet, one of the first things that President Obama did in the new health care law was to cave to a demand by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby to drop provisions guaranteeing cheaper medicine. The lobby then got Congress to block two measures to guarantee affordable medicine. With billions at stake, Congress and the White House again yielded to the demands of this industry, which is sapping the life savings away of millions of families. Given this history, many are concerned about a meeting planned between Obama and the Prime Minister of India. Public interest groups object that Obama is threatening retaliation against India in the hopes of blocking one of the major alternatives for families in acquiring affordable medicine. Congress has also again responded to industry demands for pressure in India to change its laws and, as a result, raise the cost of medicine. Doctors Without Borders, a highly respected medical group, has denounced the effort of the Obama Administration as threatening basic health care for its own citizens and those around the world.
On the eve of a meeting between US president Barack Obama and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh at the White House, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today warned that India faces retaliatory political pressure from the US government and pharmaceutical industry for its efforts to legally limit abusive patenting practices and to increase access to affordable generic medicines.
Pharmaceutical companies are aggressively lobbying congress and the Obama administration in a broad campaign to press India into changing its intellectual property laws. India is a critical producer of affordable medicines, and competition among generic drug manufacturers there has brought down the price of medicines for HIV, TB, and cancer by more than 90 percent. [..]
The pharmaceutical lobby, led by Pfizer, is currently engaged in a concerted effort to pressure India to change its intellectual property laws. In June, 170 members of US congress wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to send a “strong signal” to India’s high-level officials about its intellectual property policies, and numerous congressional hearings have been held in the past year designed in part to criticize India’s robust defense of public health. Several interest groups have been created to lobby the US government about India’s policies and in early September, US congressional trade leaders requested that the US International Trade Commission initiate an official investigation on India’s intellectual property laws. [..]
Earlier this year, Novartis lost a seven-year-battle to claim a patent on the salt form of the cancer drug imatinib, marketed as Gleevec. The Indian Supreme Court ruled that this new formulation did not meet the patentability requirement in Indian patent law, which limits the common pharmaceutical industry practice of “evergreening,” or extending drug patents on existing drugs in order to lengthen monopolies. [..]
These decisions by the Indian judiciary and government are compliant with all existing international law, including those rules outlined in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. Both defend access to existing medicines by allowing countries to use legal flexibilities such as patent oppositions and compulsory licenses to overcome intellectual property barriers. Nevertheless, some US pharmaceutical companies are crying foul, and wrongly accusing India’s patent system of not being consistent with TRIPS.
(all emphasis mine)
As Prof. Turley points out, India is forcing down the cost of drugs making life saving drugs available to millions. If Big Pharma is successful the impact will be life threatening to millions around the world.
Sep 28 2013
Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.
Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.
You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.
This week I pulled out my miso and got to work on dishes other than soups. Mind you, I love miso soup; it’s one of my favorite things about eating in a Japanese restaurant. I used to make it a lot at home, too, especially in my early days of being a vegetarian when I was still obsessed with getting enough protein, because it is a good source. But I also love miso glazes on vegetables and on fish and I’ve used this healthy fermented food in salad dressings, dips and spreads.
The paste is made by fermenting grains and/or soybeans with salt and a fungus called kojikin. It is always salty and the light varieties – white (shiro), yellow, and some light brown varieties – are sweet as well. The mildest tasting misos are the white or shiro misos, which are made with rice, barley and a relatively small proportion of soybeans. The more soybeans that are used in miso, the darker and stronger it tastes. I worked with a light miso in this week’s recipes.
~Martha Rose Snulman~
Called Nasu dengaku, this is a dish on many Japanese menus.
Winter squash is another great candidate for glazing with miso.
A miso glaze based on a well-known recipe, but with significantly less sugar.
This tangy dressing can also be used as a sauce over grains.
A nutty, sweet and salty spread that can stand in for peanut butter.
Sep 28 2013
Assumptions can be dangerous to people who are habitually marginalized. One of the big assumptions that people make about the concept of “transgender” is that transgender is a subset of homosexual. It is not. I do not have data to turn to, but I have heard, as I shared in a diary last week, that about 1/4 of transgender people are gay or lesbian, 1/4 are heterosexual, 1/4 are bisexual and 1/4 are asexual.
What exactly that says about the influence of the normalized control of gender and sexuality by our culture is something I’ll let other people discuss.
But the assumption has a large impact on the everyday lives of gender-variant people. Even scientists studying sexually-transmitted diseases jump to the conclusion that transgender women are “men who have sex with men.” And even direct evidence to the contrary often does not dissuade people from adopting the assumption.
Tonight I have two cases in point.