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.

Bin Laden dead?

“A Web site claiming close ties to Al-Qaida has announced that the leader of the international terror network, Osama bin Laden, is dead, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al Awsat reported Friday.”

No confirmation of this is currently available.

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Wise prize

Who won tonight’s prestigious award for Australia’s Worst Male TV Personality?

I shall add little more than hearty congratulations to the winner and wish him less exposure in the coming year. Kerry Packer will thank you, Mr Everywhere.

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Freedom wanes

Attacks on public broadcasters around the world have increased in the last years. Murdoch has been a longtime critic of the BBC, ABC and PBS. His media cheerleaders talk about ingrained left-wing bias and lack of accountability in these institutions but their true aim is more sinister – the eradication of any credible competition to the corporate agenda. Who can forget Murdoch crony Tony Ball talking about the public’s supposed dissatisfaction with the BBC? His plan, of course, was to split up the national broadcaster and lessen its overall reach across Britain and the world. It matters little to Murdoch and his ilk that in survey and survey the public express strong support in the independence of the BBC. Likewise with the ABC in Australia.

Take this 2003 survey conducted by British public relations company Weber Shandwick in relation to Iraq’s WMD. The results speak for themselves: “The public is two times more likely to trust the BBC over the Government on the issue of weapons of mass destruction. More than half (54%) of the respondents are much more likely (28%) or somewhat more likely (26%) to believe the BBC on the issue of WMDs. Only one in five (21%) are much more likely (9%) or somewhat more likely (12%) to believe the government.

The European Federation of Journalists reports that journalists across Europe are banding together to voice their concern over the crisis in public broadcasting. Arne König, the Chairman of the EFJ, says that aside from worker’s rights being questioned, political pressure is attempting to silence dissenting viewpoints. “More than ever, these values need to be defended,” says König.

The state of Australia’s public broadcasters, ABC and SBS, is worrying. Governmental pressure is resulting in increasingly reluctant staff tackling the hard issues or asking the tough questions. We now have to rely on comedy to provide the most incisive political comment:

INTERVIEWER: Mr Howard, I wondered if the meaning of Anzac Day has somehow changed?

JOHN HOWARD: Anzac Day is a day of great importance in the Australian calendar, Graham.

INTERVIEWER: What do you think that importance is?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I think the essential lessons and characters of Anzac Day are as they have always been, Bryan.

INTERVIEWER: And what are they?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, it celebrates that very important time when the Australian Government made a very significant decision, Bryan to

INTERVIEWER: To do as it was told by an imperial power.

JOHN HOWARD: — to assemble a very, very impressive body of young men, very talented, very resourceful young men and to send them away to

INTERVIEWER: Invade another country.

JOHN HOWARD: — to defend Britain.

INTERVIEWER: By invading Turkey.

***

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) is holding the annual Orwell Awards – “the gong for the annual tongue-in-cheek anti-press freedom awards.” Aimed at those in power who actively discourage press freedom, including the majority of the ministers in the Howard government. One note of advice to the MEAA. Holding an Inaugural World Press Freedom Dinner tomorrow night is a noble idea, and speakers include shit-stirrers David Marr, Richard Neville and John Birmingham. But how the hell did the NSW Premier Bob Carr score an invitation? He has more press secretaries than John Howard and is the master of spin. His press secretary Walt Secord won an award in 2003 for best spinner in the state.

***

A final warning to those who believe in retaining the current state of affairs regarding Australian defamation laws. This report by the University of Melbourne proves that our freedom of speech, compared to the US, is being seriously eroded:

“This article reports on a comparative content analysis of more than 1,400 Australian and US newspaper articles. The study suggests that in the US – where defamation plaintiffs face much heavier burdens than under Australian law – defamatory allegations are made more frequently against both political and corporate actors than in Australia. The US articles contained apparently defamatory allegations at nearly three times the rate of the Australian sample. In particular, the Australian media appeared to be less comfortable making allegations in relation to corporate affairs than its US counterpart. In addition, some US articles included far more extreme commentary than the Australian sample, which suggests a less restrained style of public debate may be fostered under US law. Through introducing comparative content analysis to Australian media law research, the article supports the idea that Anglo-Australian defamation law has a chilling effect media speech.”

Reform is essential, as online magazine Crikey have been saying for years.

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Legal advice

The release of UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s pre-war legal advice regarding Iraq throws the debate into unchartered territory. Tony Blair has been forced to speak weasel words in his defence (“I did not lie over Iraq”) but a large percentage of the British public now simply do not believe their Prime Minister.

Fundamental to Australia is the legal advice offered to John Howard. On what basis did the Prime Minister commit this country to war? Legal eagle Richard Ackland today asks the key question:

“How did the legal smoke-and-mirrors game play out in this corner of the globe? The Prime Minister, John Howard, told the House of Representatives on March 18, 2003: “Our legal advice … is unequivocal … This legal advice is consistent with that provided to the British Government by its Attorney General.

“As we now realise, the legal advice to the British Government was highly equivocal. With which piece of legal advice was Howard’s legal advice consistent?”

Pressure must be placed on the government to release its own legal advice. Without it, serious doubts will remain over the true intentions of our elected officials.

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Black gold in safe hands

Ahmed Chalabi, former Pentagon favourite, failed coup leader, alleged spy for Iran and provider of false information regarding Iraq’s WMDs, is back. As acting Iraqi oil minister. The mind boggles. The oil fields were “secured” almost before the invasion began and yet more than two years after the invasion, oil revenues are reaping not a fraction that was predicted.

Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfiwitz, told the U.S. House Budget Committee on February 27, 2003 that oil exports would pay for the reconstruction of post-invasion Iraq: “It’s got already, I believe, on the order of $15 billion to $20 billion a year in oil exports, which can finally – might finally be turned to a good use instead of building Saddam’s palaces. It has one of the most valuable undeveloped sources of natural resources in the world. And let me emphasize, if we liberate Iraq those resources will belong to the Iraqi people, that they will be able to develop them and borrow against them.”

One can safely interpret “borrow” to mean the rapid arrival of massive financial loans on the condition that privatisation of natural resources and essential services are undertaken by Western multinationals.

But I digress. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Paul McGeough reports today on the suffering of Iraqi children due to the effects of depleted uranium.

McGeough writes: “The rest of the world vowed to help Iraq after the ousting of Saddam Hussein. Billions ofdollars have been set aside and because Basra is Iraq’s only city by the sea, hundreds of military and civilian supply convoys thunder past its hospitals, heading to Baghdad and other centres as part of a huge military and reconstruction effort.

“But few trucks stop at these hospitals. A few did pull up outside the Al-Sadr Teaching Hospital a month ago and dumped donated second-hand hospital equipment from Japan in the forecourt. But no one knows how to install it all – so the delivery just gathers dust and its flat surfaces have become an extension of the waiting room for day patients.”

Chalabi’s reputation is so sullied that his appointment throws into question the agendas behind the endorsement of a government by the National Assembly. Already, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s connections to Iran remain unclear.

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The smoking gun?

“Tony Blair was told by the government’s most senior law officer in a confidential minute less than two weeks before the war that British participation in the American-led invasion of Iraq could be declared illegal.”

A startling revelation in today’s Guardian and a story that should receive widespread coverage in Australia, but has not, thus far. The BBC and Independent are leading with the story and yet neither the Sydney Morning Herald nor News Limited websites mention the yarn at all. The Age features the story from Reuters. Will any paper in Australia dare print the story on their front page tomorrow, giving it equal weight to the numerous page one articles before the war channelling government propaganda on WMDs?

Let’s take a look back. At the time of the Iraq invasion in early 2003, Bush, Blair and Howard all claimed that the “Coalition of the Unwilling” was engaged in lawful behaviour. John Howard said on March 14, 2003: “There is adequate legal authority in the existing [UN] resolutions for force to be used.” Dissenting views were expressed but had little practical effect.

Fast forward to 2005. The British election is days away. Tony Blair is likely to win (a report in today’s Australian explains this will be largely due to a “badly distorted electoral system”) but the leaking of the UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s pre-war advice reveals that serious doubts were expressed merely days before the invasion, not least because of dubious evidence of Iraq’s WMD capability. Ten days later, Blair claimed his country could enter the war legally. What happened during those ten days remains a mystery though governmental pressure on the Attorney General seems likely.

In October 2003, leading Pentagon hawk Richard Perle admitted that the Iraq war was illegal. “International law … would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone”, and this would have been morally unacceptable, Perle said. This caused barely a ripple. Indeed, in 2003 the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh uncovered numerous shady dealings involving Perle and arms dealing. Today, however, with an upsurge in violence across Iraq, an ever-increasing “Coalition” death toll and no clear exit strategy, the new leaks will hopefully re-focus attention on the nature of taking a country to war.

Families of some of the British soldiers killed in Iraq are preparing legal action against Blair based on the leaked information. Furthermore, the initial concerns expressed by Lord Goldsmith were never seen by the British Cabinet, “an apparent breach of the official code covering ministerial behaviour”, reports the Guardian.

Can you imagine a world where Western leaders could be brought before an international court and charged with war crimes? As John Pilger said in 2003: “To call them war criminals is not to take a cheap shot. It is to speak the truth. In 1946, the judges at the Nuremberg war crimes trials said that unprovoked aggression against another state was, and I quote, ‘the supreme international war crime because it contains all the evils of other war crimes.'”

Those who argue that the Iraq issue is dead misunderstand the direction our leaders are taking us. Just a few weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked George W. Bush to step up pressure on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapon’s facilities. Today we learn that the US is likely to sell bunker-buster bombs to Israel, weapons designed to destroy underground nuclear factories.

It has already been proven that the Iraq war was illegal. The next challenge is to bring accountability back to Western democracy and today’s news brings the public one small step closer to realising how far our governments have strayed.

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What I do

I’m proud to join the club…

“Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuck-offs and misfits – a false doorway to the backside of life. A filthy, piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo cage.”

Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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Speaking on blogs

This weekend signals the beginning of the Eighth Annual Freelance Convention for Journalists, Artists and Photographers organised by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. If you’re in Sydney, or feel the need to get here, it’ll be well worth a visit. Speakers include ABC’s Kerry O’Brien and Jonathan Harley and Garry Linnell, editor-in-chief of The Bulletin. They’ll be talking on all media matters, including pitching stories to editors, interview techniques and new media.

I’ll be speaking on Sunday morning on the topic: “Web Tactics: Blogging and New Technologies.” I’ll be joined by Trevor Cook, a director of PR firm Jackson Wells Morris. Expect heated debate over the impact of blogging on journalism and perhaps the odd joke about Rupert Murdoch’s recent realisation that money could be made on the internet.

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Keeping it fake

George W. Bush isn’t one to engage in debate. Indeed, he much prefers talking to slavish followers, Republican hacks and media cheerleaders. He recently toured the US promoting his plan to privatise social security. He conducted fake town hall meetings where nobody spoke out of line and everybody congratulated their President. Why? Republican media strategist Frank Luntz explains: “A real town hall can be very dangerous if it gets out of control. A town hall where the speaker cannot command the respect and the control of the audience can look very bad on television. … To me the most important component of a successful town hall is the visual, is the backdrop.” And, Luntz forgot to add, a lack of real debate. The Bush administration is getting pretty proficient at selling itself and many news organisations are either oblivious or happy to go along for the ride.

Watch this exclusive report to prepare yourself for the onslaught of fake news coming soon to a TV near you.

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Less than holy blessings

The election of Josef Ratzinger as the new Catholic Pontiff has drawn the predictable cries from familiar circles, including this one. And critics are just warming up. How about the connections between Ratzinger and Opus Dei, the secretive sect associated with fascism and American Supreme Court judges? What about the links between the new Pope and the Bush family? Conspiratorial? Hardly. Take this example, one of many detailed by the Planetary Movement:

“When George Bush visited John Paul II in June of last year, he asked the Pontiff for a political favour. Shortly thereafter, Cardinal Ratzinger issued a letter to American bishops that essentially threatened to excommunicate all Catholics who voted for John Kerry. Upon receipt of the letter, five prominent Roman Catholic bishops held an unprecedented press conference to proclaim their preference for George Bush over his rival, John Kerry. Bush received 6% more Roman Catholic votes last year than he did in 2000, even though his opponent was a lifelong Catholic who had served as an altar boy. Ratzinger’s political intervention had worked wonders for neoconservativism, and it is now being recognized as one of the most decisive factors in Bush’s electoral strategy.”

Ratzinger has a history of silencing critics who challenge the church’s behaviour over sexual abuse. Many critics, including some critical of this blog, argue that challenging the new Pope is somehow inappropriate, insensitive, intolerant, prejudicial. My point has never been to chastise Catholics for their faith. I take issue, however, with the history of Ratzinger, his associations and the likely future of an increasingly tight union between religious fundamentalism and the political realm. The flaunting of religious belief for the sake of political gain seen across the Western world is yet another sign of traditional democratic values being challenged.

Ratzinger deserves to be questioned and investigated like any other religious leader. Of course, not many other religions would appoint someone like Ratzinger to the throne.

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The draft

Will the US need to reinstate the draft? The military establishment realise that to maintain troop levels in Iraq and throughout the world, 100,000 more men and women are required.

This could be the best thing for the movement against American militarism in decades.

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Irreversible

The following is Israeli peace group Gush Shalom’s weekly message to be published tomorrow in Haaretz:

After 29 years of occupation, the last Syrian soldier has left Lebanon.

The Syrians consider Lebanon part of their “historic homeland”. They thought that their occupation is “irreversible”. Now, suddenly, they were forced to leave.

Many Israelis consider the occupied territories part of our historic homeland. They believe that the occupation is “irreversible”.

But in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, too, the occupation will come to an end. And perhaps much sooner than many people expect.

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