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.

Don’t trust our government to keep us safe from terrorism

Next step you hear something in the media about the Australian government being “tough on terror” (and the media cheer-leaders behind them), remember this:

A Supreme Court judge has attacked the Australian Federal Police for bungling a two-year investigation into three men who sent funds to Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger separatists.

The agents’ action included improperly arresting a suspect and abusing his rights.

The AFP’s mistakes occurred during its 2007 arrest and questioning of Arumugan Rajeevan, who is one of three men who will be sentenced in the Victorian Supreme Court today for providing money to a terrorist organisation.

Federal agents arrested Rajeevan at gunpoint despite having no legal basis to do so. They refused requests from a barrister and lawyer to speak to him during his five-hour voluntary interview, and subjected him to questioning described by Justice Paul Coghlan as ”really well over the top” and ”outrageous”.

The AFP, which was heavily criticised over its handling of another terrorist investigation, into Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef, said it could not comment on the case until the men had been sentenced. However, it is believed the AFP has already made changes to deal with the problems that arose during the Tamil Tigers investigation.

Australian prosecutors last year withdraw all terrorism charges against Rajeevan, Aruran Vinayagamoorthy and Sivarajah Yathavan.

In December, they pleaded guilty to a lesser charge under the charter of the United Nations Act, a federal law that makes it a criminal offence to provide an asset to a terrorist organisation proscribed by either the UN or the Australian government.

In pretrial comments in January last year – which could not be reported at the time – Justice Coghlan said federal agents had ”abused” the rights of Rajeevan.

He said the manner in which Rajeevan was questioned by federal agent Patricia Reynolds was ”beyond any training a proper investigator can have” and a ”fundamental departure from the [proper] principles”.

After hearing a section of the interview, he said: ”The man is being abused … we’ve seen an example of at least half an hour of an interview in which there is an absolute … departure from the principles that would apply [in a normal interview].”

Rajeevan was questioned by Ms Reynolds and another female agent. ”Whether it’s good girl, bad girl, I don’t know, but every time Ms Reynolds comes into it it’s pretty full on,” Justice Coghlan said of the interview. After his criticism, the prosecution decided not to use Mr Rajeevan’s interview as part of its case.

The judge also queried why the AFP did not let barrister Philip Boulton, QC, and lawyer Adam Houda speak to Rajeevan while he was being questioned.

He described as ”frighteningly high handed” Rajeevan’s arrest at gunpoint in 2007 by federal agents and warned police they risked incriminating themselves by testifying about the potentially unlawful arrest.

He said it appeared that federal agents had used their claim that Rajeevan was voluntarily co-operating with them after his improper arrest to afford him ”less rights … than you would have in circumstances that you’re under arrest”.

After federal agents arrested Rajeevan, police realised they didn’t have enough evidence to hold him and told him he would be ”unarrested”.

”The notion that somebody can be arrested unlawfully and then just unarrested at somebody else’s whim is bizarre,” Justice Coghlan said.

The crown has alleged the trio supplied more than $1 million to the Tamil Tigers..

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Jewish “leader” asks Australia to ignore Israeli crimes

So this is how the Zionist establishment wants to be known: defending extra-judicial murder. Well done, lads, you make us fellow Jews proud:

The nation’s peak Jewish organisation has warned it would be an “extreme” reaction for the government to expel an Israeli diplomat as retaliation for the fake passport scandal.

In its first public comments since Britain last week expelled an Israeli diplomat, raising pressure on Australia to follow suit, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has called on the Rudd government to take a different path.

ECAJ president Robert Goot told The Australian: “I think it would be an extreme reaction or possibly an overreaction (to expel an Israeli diplomat). The Jewish community would hope the Australian government might adopt a more nuanced position, depending on the outcome of the (Australian Federal Police) investigation.”

The government says it will not make a decision on whether to take further diplomatic action against Israel until it receives a final report by the AFP into whether the Israeli government was involved in the use of fake Australian passports.

Four fake Australian passports were used by an assassination squad in Dubai in January during their murder of a Hamas leader, a plot widely believed to have been masterminded by Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Gordon Brown’s government in London last week expelled an Israeli diplomat as punishment for the use of British passports in the Dubai killings after a British report found it was “highly likely” that Israel was involved in the fake passports. The AFP has a copy of the British report, but Mr Goot said that other countries whose passports were used in the operation, including Germany, France and Ireland, had not expelled any diplomats.

Mr Goot added that Britain’s decision might have been linked to the domestic politics of that nation’s forthcoming election campaign. “We note with dismay the actions taken by the British government over the passport issue,” Mr Goot said.

He described as “sensible and astute” comments made last week by Tony Abbott, who called on the government not to expel an Israeli diplomat and to be sympathetic to Israel’s unique security situation.

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser this week criticised the Opposition Leader’s comments as “thoroughly ill-advised” and said Australian politicians should not be blind to Israel’s faults.

Mr Goot said he believed the relationship between Israel and Australia would ultimately be unharmed by the controversy. He denied that there had been a slow drift in the relationship under the Rudd government.

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Light posting for a while

I’ll be travelling for the next while, so posting may be a little erratic.

Hang tight, I’ll return from the forest soon enough.

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Please don’t drop our bombs on poor Palestinians

Perhaps, step by step, Western nations are realising Israel illegally uses their weapons against civilians:

A group of British lawmakers are expected to call Tuesday for the reevaluation of arms deals with Israel after a recently published report claimed that British weapons were “almost certainly” used in Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, The Guardian reported.

“It is regrettable that arms exports to Israel were almost certainly used in Operation Cast Lead,” the U.K. daily The Guardian quoted the Commons committee on strategic export controls report.

“This is in direct contravention to the U.K. government’s policy that U.K. arms exports to Israel should not be used in the occupied territories,” the report said.

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Making Muslims dislike you even more

Yet another counter-productive and utterly clueless Western government program in the post 9/11 world:

A key government policy on countering extremism in Britain has “stigmatised and alienated” Muslims and undermined community relations, a Commons report says today.

Many Muslims told the cross-party committee of MPs that they believed the purpose of the Prevent programme was to “spy” on Asian communities, and that the Government was using funding to engineer a moderate form of acceptable Islam.

The Communities and Local Government Committee said ministers should investigate claims the strategy had been hijacked by police and MI5 to gather intelligence on alleged radicals.

Committee chairman Phyllis Starkey said: “Many witnesses believe Prevent has been used to ‘spy’ on Muslim communities. The misuse of terms such as ‘intelligence gathering’ among Prevent partners has clearly discredited the programme and fed distrust.

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A mainstream reporter who wants to talk about occupation

Leading Australian journalist Paul McGeough answers some questions for newmatilda.com:

What’s the headline you’d most like to see on the front page of a daily newspaper?
World’s last arms manufacturer closes plant, joins former competitors aiding agriculture projects in Africa.

What question should we ask our next interviewee?
Australia is occupied by a foreign power and you join the resistance — where would you draw the line between name-calling and suicide-bombing?

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Signs of life inside North Korea

After my book The Blogging Revolution was released, I was constantly asked why I hadn’t examined North Korea. I always said it was simply because the internet barely existed in the Communist nation.

Now, via the New York Times, a glimpse:

North Korea, one of the world’s most impenetrable nations, is facing a new threat: networks of its own citizens feeding information about life there to South Korea and its Western allies.

The networks are the creation of a handful of North Korean defectors and South Korean human rights activists using cellphones to pierce North Korea’s near-total news blackout. To build the networks, recruiters slip into China to woo the few North Koreans allowed to travel there, provide cellphones to smuggle across the border, then post informers’ phoned and texted reports on Web sites.

The work is risky. Recruiters spend months identifying and coaxing potential informants, all the while evading agents from the North and the Chinese police bent on stopping their work. The North Koreans face even greater danger; exposure could lead to imprisonment — or death.

The result has been a news free-for-all, a jumble of sometimes confirmed but often contradictory reports. Some have been important; the Web sites were the first to report the outrage among North Koreans over a drastic currency revaluation late last year. Other articles have been more prosaic, covering topics like whether North Koreans keep pets and their complaints about the price of rice.

But the fact that such news is leaking out at all is something of a revolution for a brutally efficient gulag state that has forcibly cloistered its people for decades even as other closed societies have reluctantly accepted at least some of the intrusions of a more wired world.

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Google slaps down Australia

Is Australia trying to look foolish or do they truly want to look like a bumbling authoritarian state?

The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has launched a stinging attack on Google and its credibility in response to the search giant’s campaign against the government’s internet filtering policy.

In an interview on ABC Radio last night, Senator Conroy also said he was unaware of complaints the Obama administration said it had raised with the government over the policy.

The government intends to introduce legislation within weeks forcing all ISPs to block a blacklist of “refused classification” websites for all Australians.

Senator Conroy has said the blacklist will largely include deplorable content such as child pornography, bestiality material and instructions on crime, but a large and growing group of academics, technology companies and lobby groups say the scope of the filters is too broad and will not make a meaningful impact on internet safety for children.

Google, which has recently been involved in a censorship spat with China, has been one of the filtering policy’s harshest critics. It has identified a range of politically sensitive and innocuous material, such as sexual health discussions and discussions on euthanasia, which could be blocked by the filters.

Last week, it said it had held discussions with users and parents around Australia and “the strong view from parents was that the government’s proposal goes too far and would take away their freedom of choice around what information they and their children can access”.

Google also said implementing mandatory filtering across Australia’s millions of internet users could “negatively impact user access speeds”, while filtering material from high-volume sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter “appears not to be technologically possible as it would have such a serious impact on internet access”.

“We have a number of other concerns, including that filtering may give a false sense of security to parents, it could damage Australia’s international reputation and it can be easily circumvented,” Google wrote.

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What us Jews should be thinking about this Passover

Happy Passover to all my (observant) Jewish readers.

Akiva Eldar in Haaretz has a message for you all:

One of the harshest of the 10 plagues has smitten the children of Israel this Passover, and they are stumbling about in pitch darkness, bumping blindly into anyone in their way as they head toward the edge of the precipice. Warm friends, cool friends, icy enemies: Jordan and Turkey, Brazil and Britain, Germany and Australia – it’s all the same.

And if that’s not enough, the myopic Jewish state also has gone and collided head-on with the ally that offers existential support. Israel has become an environmental hazard and its own greatest threat. For 43 years, Israel has been ruled by people who have refused to see reality. They speak of “united Jerusalem,” knowing that no other country has recognized the annexation of the eastern part of the city. They sent 300,000 people to settle land they know does not belong to them. As early as September 1967, Theodor Meron, then the legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, said there was a categorical prohibition against civilian settlement in occupied territories, under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Meron – who would become the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and is now a member of the Appeals Chamber for both that court and a similar one for Rwanda – wrote to prime minister Levi Eshkol in a top-secret memorandum: “I fear there is great sensitivity in the world today about the whole question of Jewish settlement in the occupied territories, and any legal arguments that we try to find will not remove the heavy international pressure, from friendly states as well.”

It is true that for many years, we have managed to grope our way through the dark and keep the pressure at bay. We did so with the assistance of our neighbors, who were afflicted with the same shortsightedness.

On Sunday, however, the Arab League marked the eighth anniversary of its peace proposals, which offer Israel normalization in exchange for an end to the occupation and an agreed solution to the refugee problem, in accordance with UN Resolution 194. But Israel behaves as if it had never heard of this historic initiative. For the last year, it was too busy realizing its dubious right to establish an illegal settlement in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, turning a blind eye to reality, has tried to persuade the world that what applies to Tel Aviv also applies to Sheikh Jarrah. He simply refuses to see that the world is sick of us. It’s easier for him to focus on his similarly nearsighted followers in AIPAC. Tonight they’ll all swear “Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem” – including the construction in Ramat Shlomo, of course.

Hillary Clinton is not Jewish, but it was she who had to remind the AIPAC Jews what demography will do to their favorite Jewish democracy in the Middle East. A few days earlier, she had come back from Moscow, where she took part in one of the Quartet’s most important meetings. Israeli politicians and media were too busy with the cold reception awaiting Netanyahu at the White House. They never gave any thought to the decision by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations to turn Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s state-building plan from a unilateral initiative into an international project.

The Quartet declared that it was backing the plan, proposed in August 2009, to establish a Palestinian state within 24 months. This was an expression of the Palestinians’ serious commitment that the state have a just and proper government and be a responsible neighbor. This means Israel has less than a year and a half to come to an agreement with the Palestinians on the permanent borders, Jerusalem and the refugees. If the Palestinians stick to Fayyad’s path, in August 2011, the international community, led by the United States, can be expected to recognize the West Bank and East Jerusalem as an independent country occupied by a foreign power. Will Netanyahu still be trying to explain that Jerusalem isn’t a settlement?

For 43 years, the Israeli public – schoolchildren, TV viewers, Knesset members and Supreme Court judges – have been living in the darkness of the occupation, which some call liberation. The school system and its textbooks, the army and its maps, the language and the “heritage” have all been mobilized to help keep Israelis blind to the truth. Luckily, the Gentiles clearly see the connection between the menace of Iranian control spreading across the Middle East and the curse of Israeli control over Islamic holy places.

Monday night, when we read the Passover Haggadah, we should note the plague that follows darkness. That may open our eyes.

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Is Wikileaks the most important website in the world?

The latest Wikileaks drama:

Whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks is planning to release a video that reveals what it’s calling a Pentagon “cover-up” of an incident in which numerous civilians and journalists were murdered in an airstrike, according to a recent media advisory.

The video will be released on April 5 at the National Press Club, the group said.

They also noted their members have recently been tailed by individuals under State Department diplomatic immunity, and that “one related person was detained for 22 hours” while authorities seized computer equipment.

In a video released Friday, a Russia Today broadcast discusses the pending release of the video WikiLeaks first announced in a tweet on Feb. 20, 2010, which read: “Finally cracked the encryption to US military video in which journalists, among others, are shot. Thanks to all who donated $/CPUs.”

A follow-up on March 22 announced their reveal date.

“Over the last few years, WikiLeaks has been the subject of hostile acts by security organizations,” founder Julian Assange writes. “We’ve become used to the level of security service interest in us and have established procedures to ignore that interest. But the increase in surveillance activities this last month, in a time when we are barely publishing due to fundraising, are excessive.”

On Tuesday evening, followers of the WikiLeaks Twitter feed were startled to read, “WikiLeaks is currently under an aggressive US and Icelandic surveillance operation.” This was followed a few minutes later by “If anything happens to us, you know why: it is our Apr 5 film. And you know who is responsible.” A succeeding message warned, “We have airline records of the State Dep/CIA tails. Don’t think you can get away with it. You cannot. This is WikiLeaks.”

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What Washington does for its little Jewish friend

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak:

The United States is a central source for Israel’s qualitative edge [over its enemies] in advanced weapons systems, $3 billion in annual financial aid, ammunition and spare parts that are spread out here in American storage facilities within Israel, and upon which the IDF relies as an ‘oxygen supply’ in time of war.

I believe it is our duty to work toward an arrangement that marks out a clear border inside Israel on the basis of security and demographic considerations.

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Obama wants peace in our time (and the Middle East may not be ready)

Either a massive game-changer or a case of massive American over-reach (hello Zionist lobby, Congress etc?)

U.S. President Barack Obama’s demands during his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Tuesday point to an intention to impose a permanent settlement on Israel and the Palestinians in less than two years, political sources in Jerusalem say.

Israeli officials view the demands that Obama made at the White House as the tip of the iceberg under which lies a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Israel.

Of 10 demands posed by Obama, four deal with Jerusalem: opening a Palestinian commercial interests office in East Jerusalem, an end to the razing of structures in Palestinian neighborhoods in the capital, stopping construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and not building the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.

But another key demand – to discuss the dispute’s core issues during the indirect talks that are planned – is perceived in Jerusalem as problematic because it implies that direct negotiations would be bypassed. This would set up a framework through which the Americans would be able to impose a final settlement.

It is not just Obama’s demands that are perceived as problematic, but also the new modus operandi of American diplomacy. The fact that the White House and State Department have been in contact with Israel’s European allies, first and foremost Germany, is seen as part of an effort to isolate Israel and put enormous political pressure on it.

Israeli officials say that the Obama administration’s new policy contradicts commitments made by previous administrations, as well as a letter from George W. Bush in 2004 to the prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon. According to this view, the new policy is also incongruous with the framework posed by Bill Clinton in 2000.

Senior Israeli sources say that as a result of the U.S. administration’s policies, the Palestinians will toughen their stance and seriously undermine the peace process’ chances of success.

Moreover, sources in Jerusalem say that the new American positions undermine the principle of credibility that has guided U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II. Ignoring specific promises made to its Israeli ally would make other American allies lose trust in its commitments to them.

Israeli officials warn that if the United States shirks its past commitments, the willingness of the Israeli public to put its trust in future American guarantees will be undermined – as will the superpower’s regional and international standing.

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