Monday, May 17, 2010

The New York Times is portraying old cold warrior Robert Gates as a military budget-cutting maverick today, fighting against Congressional corruption and the bloated defense corporations for the sake of the common American! He bravely fends off irate calls from the Capitol and K Street! F-22s have been cancelled, and threatening noises made about aircraft carriers and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. What's his game? It is true that an increasingly large proportion of US imperial murder is conducted via unmanned, sky-borne death machine. Maybe this is a practical move.

The NYT's concern with military cost-cutting extends to the health care of retirees: "Active-duty military and their families rightly do not pay for health care. But what retirees pay — $460 annually per family — has not risen in 15 years. Mr. Gates said that many retirees earn full-time salaries on top of their military retirement pay and could get coverage through their employer. We owe our fighting forces excellent care, but this is a time when everyone must share the burden." As we know, NYT editorialists are the type of people who like to share burdens.

USAID has been paying to build the Apartheid road in Israel and the Occupied territories, despite US promises six years earlier not to.

Jonathan Cook says, with obvious irony, "The US agency’s involvement in building a segregated West Bank road infrastructure would run counter to Washington’s oft-stated goal, including as it launched 'proximity talks' last week, to establish a viable Palestinian state with territorial contiguity. "

Mr Khalilieh said the PA was being effectively bullied into conceding the road infrastructure wanted by Israel.

"What happens is that USAid presents a package deal of donations for infrastructure projects in the West Bank and the Palestinians are faced with a choice of take it or leave it. That way the PA is cornered into accepting roads it does not want."

He said some roads were also being approved because of a lack of oversight by the PA. An inter-ministerial committee to vet proposed roads to ensure they did not contribute to the Israeli plan had been inactive since 2006, he said, following the split between Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian elections.

The Palestinian Authority is now scrambling to look like it's paying attention.

"Tropical" diseases are apparently also common in poor (especially minority) communities in the US, and apparently could be cheaply dealt with: "Mass distributions could control or eliminate most neglected tropical diseases from the Caribbean at an estimated cost of $20 million per year for five years." The extent of the problem in the US is not fully known. Meanwhile, the war on AIDS is falling apart. Donors are focusing their money on cheaper diseases to treat.

Japanese people are not generally thrilled with the American bases, which they may associate with approximately 200,000 accidents and crimes involving U.S. soldiers, in which 1,076 Japanese civilians have died since 1952. Okinawans are anxious to remove one of several bases, Futenma Air Force Base, from their island, which they associate with fatal car crashes and rapes, but prime minister Yukio Hatayama is having trouble living up to his promises to do so. 59% of Japanese voters say he should resign if he can't work it out. (If you want to see some real ugly Americans, look at the comments on that one.) The beginning of this interview with Chalmers Johnson has a little more background on the bases in Okinawa. "After research, you discover that the rate of sexually violent crimes committed by our troops in Okinawa leading to court-martial is two per month!"

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