Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

The "no kidding" stories of the day

John Danforth, a former senator and US ambassador to the United Nations, writes in yesterday’s New York Times that the Republican Party has fallen hostage to the religious right. “Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians”, he said.

Palestinian women have borne the brunt of the pain inflicted by four-and-a-half years of conflict but their plight has been largely ignored, Amnesty International says and reported by The Independent today. Both the Israelis and Palestinians are criticised. The Israelis for regularly refusing women to cross checkpoints and gain medical access and the Palestinian Authority (PA) for not addressing issues such as honour killings.

Watch these stories ignored or spun out of recognition in the West. Bush devotees will mention his democratic vision and love of freedom, conveniently ignoring issues such as Guantanamo Bay and the Palestinians will be blamed for causing terrorism and therefore, by extension, shouldn’t be expecting treatment with compassion. The PA will be dismissed as corrupt (which it is) and ineffective (fairly accurate) but frequently forgotten in this debate is the fact that the Israeli military has spent the last four years destroying the entire infrastructure within Palestinian society.

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Torture, Colin says "oops" and what we should be doing

German publication Der Spiegel yesterday released a report showing that US General Ricardo Sanchez authorized illegal interrogation techniques in Iraq just months before the Abu Ghraib abuses. In further evidence that Geneva conventions were wilfully ignored after the US invasion, the latest revelations add weight to the charge that senior elements of the US military acted in the knowledge that their superiors were unlikely to chastise them.

Furthermore, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell said this week that he was “furious and angry” that the information he presented to the UN in February 2003 was wrong. “We were sometimes too loud, too direct, perhaps we made too much noise,” Powell told Germany’s Stern magazine. Admitting that blatant lies were told that led to an illegal invasion isn’t something we’re likely to hear Powell admit anytime soon.

Before I’m told that the Left should “get over” the reasons behind the war, I have this to offer. An unprecedented number of people around the world protested before the war and signalled their opposition to an invasion without UN sanction. Ignoring ever-increasing amounts of information that proves duplicity by the leading governments is irresponsible, especially in light of US sabre-rattling towards Iran, Syria and North Korea. We must learn the lessons of past mistakes and hold our leaders accountable. Elections are but one way of doing this.

Journalists shouldn’t see themselves as beholden to government spin. Indeed, the finest reporters are those individuals who work outside the system, cultivating contacts and presenting alternative narratives from the official line, likely to be inaccurate and air-brushed (UK-based Medialens expertly dissects the true role of journalists in Western “democracies.”)

Sadly in Australia, we are yet to produce an equivalent to Seymour Hersh, although Dateline’s Mark Davis is perhaps as close as we get.

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Popularity contest

John Brown works for the University of Southern California. He runs a website dedicated to examples of US public diplomacy ” including current issues in U.S. foreign policy, international broadcasting and media, propaganda, cultural diplomacy, educational exchanges, anti-Americanism, and the reception of American popular culture abroad.”
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Is Iran next?

Scott Ritter is a former UN Weapon’s Inspector in Iraq and one of the few voices before the invasion to claim that Saddam was essentially disarmed. Mainly ignored in the Western media – keener to accept and propel government spin on WMD – he now publishes regularly in the Arab world, including al-Jazeera.

His latest article warns of the threat posed by blindly following the lead of the US and Israel, two countries encouraging action against the Islamic state. Caution should be exercised, Ritter argues, as facts on the ground are sketchy, at best.

The December edition of The Atlantic asked whether Iran was next on the neo-con hit-list and in an analysis that completely ignored the civilian population conducted a Pentagon war-game to determine US military success. Failure was the result, thankfully.


They voted…against the US

Two months after the “historic” Iraqi elections, Western propaganda continues to push the line that the Iraqis voted for democracy and freedom. Many did, but one key factor has been erased: the leading parties campaigned for an end to US occupation. In his latest interview, Noam Chomsky explains the true significance of the January elections:

“I agree that the elections were a success…of opposition to the United States. What is being suppressed – except for Middle East specialists, who know about it perfectly well and are writing about it, or people who in fact have read the newspapers in the last couple of years – what’s being suppressed is the fact that the United States had to be brought kicking and screaming into accepting elections. The U.S. was strongly opposed to them.”

Read the whole thing.

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Speaking out in Nepal

When Nepal’s King Gyanendra sacked his country’s government and declared a state of emergency in early February, press freedom immediately suffered. We now learn from the Committee to Protect Bloggers that a small group of bloggers in Kathmandu are fighting back and spreading the word of democracy. One was recently dubbed the “Salam Pax of Kathmandu”, a reference to the trail-blazing resident of Baghdad who reported on his city’s journey during the period before and after the US invasion of 2003.

The Committee blog focuses primarily on attempts by governments in the Middle East to restrict blogging access and voices other than the official line. They are, of course, fighting a battle they will never win.


New Matilda

Any kind of new so-called alternative voices are welcome in the closed Aussie media environment. New Matilda started in 2004 and aims to provide a centre-left outlook on Australia and the world. This week’s editorial paints a typical picture of John Howard and his seeming inability to feel compassion towards refugees who desire better lives in supposedly open Australia while he expresses compassion towards victims of natural disasters and terrorism over “there” in faraway lands.

The online publication has been very uneven. Speaking to the soft Left voter within, the editors appear generally unwilling to publish writers operating outside the establishment media or academia. Furthermore, this attitude rarely allows any serious examination of political life beyond a two-party system. Perhaps I’m being unfair. I’m happy to continue supporting attempts to highlight the failure of mainstream media in holding business and government accountable. Truly brave indy publishing is something like US-based Counterpunch, though whether Australia can support something like this is debatable. And now we have until May to wait for The Monthly, “a new national magazine of politics, society and the arts.” Pray for guts.


Facts on the ground

If one is thinking of travelling to Iraq as a journalist, would the US Embassy be the best source of security information? Contact information for the relevant personnel can be found here. Considering the fact that the US military have killed numerous journalists in suspicious circumstances (including the recent near-death experience of Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena), I would encourage would-be visitors to post-Saddam Iraq source their security info elsewhere. A good place to start could be here.

Anti-chewers unite

In the latest news not getting appropriate coverage in the anti-humour Australian media, citizen groups in the US are fighting the ever-increasing trend of second-hand tobacco spit in public. New York resident Glen Abramson explains: “I can’t go to a bar without coming home reeking of tobacco spit. I have to wring my clothes out in the sink before I go to bed. Sometimes, I’ll get them back from the dry-cleaners with flakes of chew still clinging in the weave.”

Timor sea justice

Channel 7 and SBS have refused to show these ads funded by millionaire businessman, Ian Melrose, explaining the ways in which the Australian government is stealing the oil and natural gas reserves in the Timor Shelf.

Crikey today reports that Melrose is bewildered by the networks’ decision:

The networks have not yet supplied written statements outlining the reasons why they refuse to screen the ads, but have indicated that they were concerned about the content of the ads for young viewers. Melrose says this is nonsense: “The ads have already been approved by the appropriate bodies and were deemed suitable for free-to-air television, so that can’t be the reason,” he told Crikey today.”

“What I want to know,” says Melrose, “is, has there been any correspondence between the networks and the Australian government?”

It’s a good question and one unlikely to be answered by government still basking in the glow of “liberating” East Timor in 1999.


Iraq still matters

Many adults in the US still regard the situation in Iraq as vitally important, according to a new poll by CBS News. Indeed, it is the most pressing issue according to respondents, followed by the economy/jobs and terrorism.

Before last year’s Federal election, Australians overwhelmingly thought that the Iraq war increased the terrorist threat to our shores. The recent announcement of a further deployment of 450 troops has also left the public feeling great unease.

These results are hardly surprising. Australians are wary of engaging even further in Iraq when more and more countries are withdrawing. What has John Howard promised that we aren’t being told?

Former US Presidential candidate and consumer advocate, Ralph Nader, claims that a US withdrawal from US is now more likely than ever. Frankly, I think he’s deluding himself. The US have never set a timetable for withdrawal because they intend to maintain a sizeable presence in the country for the foreseeable future – Iraq remains a key strategic asset in the region.


One big prison

B’Tselem is one of Israel’s premiere human rights organisations. Its latest report, One Big Prison, makes for disturbing reading. It’s well worth quoting in full:

Israel has cut off the Gaza Strip from the rest of the world to such an extent that it is easier for Palestinians in Israel or the West Bank to visit relatives in prison than visit a relative in Gaza. This is one conclusion of the 100-page report that B’Tselem and HaMoked publish today. One Big Prison documents the ongoing violations of human rights and international law resulting from Israel’s restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank, Israel, and the rest of the world. The report also warns against Israel’s attempt to avoid its responsibility toward residents of the Gaza Strip following disengagement.

Despite the easing of restrictions that Israel declared following the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February 2005, there has been almost no improvement in the movement of Palestinians to and from Gaza, nor in the movement of goods. The report illustrates the extent to which Israel treats many fundamental human rights – among them the right to freedom of movement, family life, health, education, and work – as “humanitarian gestures” that it grants or denies at will.

Report Highlights:

• As a result of the economic siege on Gaza, more than 77 percent of Gazans (1,033,500 people) now live below the poverty line – almost double the number before the intifada. Some 23 percent of Gazans (over 323,000 people) are in “deep poverty,” meaning that they do not reach the subsistence poverty line even after receiving aid from international agencies.

• The forced isolation of Gaza tears many Palestinians from their families, and in some cases even separates spouses. The report includes the testimonies of a woman whose husband was expelled from the West Bank to Gaza, and of a mother whose son has never seen his father.

• Almost all the restrictions on movement are imposed on entire categories of people, based on sweeping criteria, without checking if the individual poses a security risk, and without weighing the harm the person will suffer, or if less harmful alternatives are available. In most cases, where Israel denies a permit and human rights organizations intervene, Israel reverses its decision to avoid an embarrassing legal challenge.

• Most components of the policy of strangulation are illegal under international and Israeli law.

The strangulation of the Gaza Strip increased following Palestinian attacks against civilians in Israel and the Occupied Territories over the past few years. Targetting civilians is a “war crime” and never justified. Israel is entitled, even obligated, to protect its citizens. However, Israel’s right to self-defense does not permit it to trample on the rights of an entire population.

Israel declared that “completion of the disengagement will invalidate the claims against Israel on its responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” In the report, HaMoked and B’Tselem emphasize that all the suffering described in the report is likely to continue, and even worsen, after disengagement, for which Israel will be continue to bear legal responsibility.

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