Privatisation for breakfast, lunch and dinner27 Sep 2010

Are there limits to privatisation or should we just consider asking multinationals to sell babies to the highest bidder?

A private company in Maryland has taken over public libraries in ailing cities in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas, growing into the country’s fifth-largest library system.
Now the company, Library Systems & Services, has been hired for the first time to run a system in a relatively healthy city, setting off an intense and often acrimonious debate about the role of outsourcing in a ravaged economy.
A $4 million deal to run the three libraries here is a chance for the company to demonstrate that a dose of private management can be good for communities, whatever their financial situation. But in an era when outsourcing is most often an act of budget desperation — with janitors, police forces and even entire city halls farmed out in one town or another — the contract in Santa Clarita has touched a deep nerve and begun a round of second-guessing.
Can a municipal service like a library hold so central a place that it should be entrusted to a profit-driven contractor only as a last resort — and maybe not even then?

After all, in the US countless politicians are bankrolled by the arms industry, proving that privatisation of death and the myriad of ways to achieve it is no block to assuming public office and then spreading the glorious ideology to other areas of life.


New Yorker embraces pure surrealism 27 Sep 2010

The New Yorker on the iPad. Sheer joy:
Murdoch hearts anybody other than sensible US politicians27 Sep 2010

Hello, my name is Fox News and I like Christians, no mosques anywhere and far-right Republicans:

With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office.

The real cost of outsourcing asylum seeker care is more pain 27 Sep 2010

How unsurprising. Shocking cases of mistreatment in Britain’s detention system, most of which are run by private companies, such as Serco. But let’s not have a robust debate about whether multinationals should be managing people coming from torture and trauma:

Millions of pounds in compensation is being paid to migrants who have been traumatised after being locked up in detention centres across the UK, the Guardian has learned.
Government figures show £12m in “special payments” – including compensation – for 2009/10 and a further £3m the year before.
The Home Office said it did not record the proportion of special payments made in compensation, but officials accepted that the figure over the past three years ran to millions of pounds.
Lawyers who are acting for detainees said there was an “epidemic of mistreatment” in the asylum system.
Harriet Wistrich, of Birnberg Peirce, said there was a “systemic failure” to protect torture victims who came to the UK seeking refuge. “It is nothing short of scandalous that we are causing serious harm by detaining people, sometimes for long periods of time, who have done nothing other than seek a place of sanctuary from the horrors they have escaped from, in the mistaken belief that Britain is a just and tolerant society.”
In another case, in June this year, a woman from west Africa, who was locked up for a month in 2006 at [Serco’s] Yarl’s Wood detention centre, Bedfordshire, was awarded a £57,000 payout. In his ruling the judge said there had been a “grave failure” on the part of the Home Office. “A true punishment of the Home Office to reflect the gravity of the situation would run into sums far in excess of those which the court is legally authorised to award,” he said.


Islam is the true enemy, says Republican candidate27 Sep 2010

Welcome to mainstream America:


How we rely on local journalists to show our stupidity 27 Sep 2010

The silent heroes who report on inept and criminal Western wars:

Stringers in Afghanistan, where I am the correspondent for al-Jazeera, are the eyes and ears of the world’s media. Without them, getting a picture of what is going on outside Kabul is almost impossible for a western journalist. Most correspondents don’t often stray from the capital and those embedded with security forces struggle to witness anything not cleared by military censors.
Al-Jazeera is bolder than most, with an occasional trip to the more dangerous provinces. But in the past week our invaluable stringer network has closed down. This month, one stringer’s home in Khost was raided and four of his relatives were arrested. Then our Ghazni stringer was arrested two days after polling day for being what the International Security Assistance Force termed a “suspected Taliban media and propaganda facilitator”. Two nights later, our Kandahar stringer was also picked up for being a “Taliban facilitator”.
Whether or not the intention was to intimidate the press, these arrests have in effect shut down our coverage, despite the fact that both men were released on Friday. So when do I stop being a journalist who wants to cover both sides of this conflict and become a facilitator of Taliban propaganda? I recently produced three reports based on footage my brave producer had taken in a Taliban camp in Baghlan province. The fighters talked about the upcoming elections, suicide bombers and al-Qaida.
Their views may be unpalatable, especially for those who have lost relatives in this conflict, but is that a reason not to air them? If the coalition is committed to talking to the more moderate members of the Taliban, then the more we know about them the better.
But there’s a much more basic reply to the suggestion that our footage stopped people voting. About 40% of Afghans have access to TV but only 4% have access to satellite television and even fewer speak English or Arabic. Even if our footage of the Taliban could put fear into the hearts of people here, very few of them even got to see it.
• Payment for this piece will go to the stringers’ families


Your friendly financial institution assists killers 26 Sep 2010

Did you know that one of Australia’s major banks, ANZ, is funding companies that make cluster bombs?


Here’s what Iraqis need; iTunes26 Sep 2010

Here’s a plan. Invade a country. Destroy the infrastructure. Refuse to compensate. Remain an occupier. Computer anybody?

The shipment of laptop computers that arrived in Iraq’s main seaport in February was a small but important part of the American military’s mission here to win hearts and minds. What happened afterward is a tale of good intentions mugged by Iraq’s reality.
The computers — 8,080 in all, worth $1.8 million — were bought for schoolchildren in Babil, modern-day Babylon, a gift of the American taxpayers. Only they became mired for months in customs at the port, Umm Qasr, stalled by bureaucracy or venality, or some combination of the two. And then they were gone.
Corruption is so rampant here — and American reconstruction efforts so replete with their own mismanagement — that the fate of the computers could have ended as an anecdote in a familiar, if disturbing trend. Iraq, after all, ranks above only Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia on Transparency International’s annual corruption index.


It is your patriotic duty to provide weapons of death to the state26 Sep 2010

The privatisation of war is an ugly business, pushed by governments keen to pursue a “war on terror” with no end in sight and virtually no accountability:

The CIA is implicated in a court case in which it’s claimed it used an illegal, inaccurate software “hack” to direct secret assassination drones in central Asia.
The target of the court action is Netezza, the data warehousing firm that IBM bid $1.7bn for on Monday. The case raises serious questions about the conduct of Netezza executives, and the conduct of CIA’s clandestine war against senior jihadis in Afganistan and Pakistan.
The dispute surrounds a location analysis software package – “Geospatial” – developed by a small company called Intelligent Integration Systems (IISi), which like Netezza is based in Massachusetts. IISi alleges that Netezza misled the CIA by saying that it could deliver the software on its new hardware, to a tight deadline.
When the software firm then refused to rush the job, it’s claimed, Netezza illegally and hastily reverse-engineered IISi’s code to deliver a version that produced locations inaccurate by up to 13 metres. Despite knowing about the miscalculations, the CIA accepted the software, court submissions indicate.
IISi is now seeking an injunction to ban Netezza and the CIA from using the software or any derivative of it, in any context.


Business as usual in apartheid Palestine 26 Sep 2010

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