Iran, ‘according to’ The New York Times…

I was considering doing a series of posts generally titled ‘according to…’ where i’ll scan a newspaper clipping of a prominent news story or interesting event. Instead of lots of waffle from yours truly, i’ll just give a very brief explanation of what I thought stood out of the featured article, maybe using the technique developed by the Achitects Journal where a highlighted section of text is used in place of traditional ‘quotes’.

But, this being me, my creative energy is greater than my implementing energy, meaning things just get left in ‘drafts’ or in notebooks, without the time or energy to finish them off or bring them to life! Claire calls me ‘half-job’! Charming. : )

So, here is the the first ‘according to’ post, without my opinions – Facing the Prospect of a Nuclear Iran, by David E. Sanger, writing in the New York Times.

A very well written article which neatly sums up many of the relevant issues. This is a story to watch and could shape the next generation of Middle East relations.


A pizza is a vegetable: only in America…!

It’s very easy to sum things up in single words, phrases, images etc but it’s not always fair or accurate. However, this, for me, gets fairly close to the truth. Over in the land of the freely unhealthy…

‘A pizza is a vegetable.’

I was shocked, amazed, offended, saddened, but at the same time not completely surprised.

‘In a victory for the makers of frozen pizzas, tomato paste and French fries, Congress on Monday blocked rules proposed by the Agriculture Department that would have overhauled the nation’s school lunch program.

The proposed changes — the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school lunch program — were meant to reduce childhood obesity by adding more fruits and green vegetables to lunch menus, Agriculture Department officials said.’

The rules, proposed last January, would have cut the amount of potatoes served and would have changed the way schools received credit for serving vegetables by continuing to count tomato paste on a slice of pizza only if more than a quarter-cup of it was used. The rules would have also halved the amount of sodium in school meals over the next 10 years.

But late Monday, lawmakers drafting a House and Senate compromise for the agriculture spending bill blocked the department from using money to carry out any of the proposed rules.

‘Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told TPM that the only reason tomato paste is credited differently than other fruits and vegetables is because pizza makers want it that way. She’s not arguing for a half-cup of pizza sauce on each serving of pizza, but she says “it’s a shame that Congress is more interested in protecting (special interests) than protecting children’s health. … They should be helping USDA serve healthier school meals, not making it harder.”

What they’re saying is that a portion of pizza (with no vegetables on it) can be classified as half a serving of vegetables, due only to the two tablespoons of sugary tomato sauce which is on it. The larger half-cup of sauce is what would be needed to bring the pizza portion up to a half vegetable portion, if the sauce was classified on its own.

So, now Congress have kept the same rules as before, kids all over America are still getting part of their vegetable intake while eating their healthy cheese pizzas. I think i’ve found one of the reasons why the States are in trouble.


The end of the occupation…?

Finally, we will see an end to the war in Iraq. One of the final moves in the ‘end game’ is for the Iraqi government to block the installation of permanent US bases in the country.

The Pentagon had wanted the bases to help counter growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. Just a few years ago, the US had plans for leaving behind four large bases but, in the face of Iraqi resistance, this plan had to be scaled down this year to a force of 10,000. But even this proved too much for the Iraqis.

Is this really surprising? What do you think almost every US citizen would say when presented with an occupying Russian force, who wanted to leave 10,000 permanent troops, housed within 4 huge bases?

This is not a major victory for Iran at all. This is a victory for the people of Iraq. How on earth do the Americans expect them to independently govern themselves with a continued military presence in the country?

One of the strongest arguments which I heard during the initial years of the conflict and the start of the terrorist/insurgent phase, was that the very presence of the American military occupation was actually causing the insurgency. The insurgency and lack of security was one of the main reasons for the continued military presence, but if this presence was itself causing the violence, should the American military not leave the country?

I lost track of the number of statements and interviews from Al-Qaeda representatives saying their targets were the American soldiers, or they hoped to cause enough carnage to force them out.

My one major concern is still the presence of the Taliban and their affect on the people, particularly on women’s rights and religious extremism. I’m not sure this is something which the US military can actually sort out, much like their ‘war on drugs’, or their ‘war on terror’. Violence breeds violence. Fighting fire with fire creates a larger fire.


US military aid and Israeli sanctions…?

I read a few articles a while ago about the continued building of settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and wanted to look a bit further into one of the main reasons why they are able to continually defy international law under full view of the international media and community. (sanctions for illegal settlement building) (illegal settlement building)

Military funding and spending is part of most countries budgets but the Israeli case is different, in that the percentage of GDP spent on the military is roughly 7% of GDP which is far higher than most other countries. They also received a substantial fraction of their budget from the United States. (with figures tables)

The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs carries information on a range of topics concerning that area of the planet. I’ve found some figures on the site which are interesting.

2000-2008 = more than $26 Billion in military aid from USA to Israel.

$4.8 Billion in 2008, half of which was military aid.

In 2009 – (US) $14.3 Billion in total Israeli military expenditure (which equals a massive 7% of total GDP! Most countries are between 1-3% of GDP, but the States also stands out as being high, at 4.3% of GDP)

2008 – (US) $2.3 Billion in military aid (according to the Wikipedia figures)

So, roughly 16% of their total military budget comes from the US Government.

The thing is, in comparison, USA military spending at more than $663 Billion, is equal to the combined total of the next 17 countries spending, down to Greece in the Wikipedia table!

There is little point in the USA on the one hand providing massive funding to the Israelis but with the other trying to resolve the disputes in a non-partisan manner. They lack credibility and are also providing the conditions which will sustain the terrible state of conflict in that region.