Volume 13 Issue 4 December 2014
Lindsay Abrams, David Bromwich, Paul Bucheit, Kaitlin Butler,
Kirtana Chandrasekaran, John Chuckman, Guy Crequie, Martin Drago,
F. William Engdahl, Environment News Service, Joaquin Flores, Alyssa Figueroa,
Sarah Gray, Barry Grey, Karin Kamp, Jon Queally,
Mairead Maguire, Carolyn Raffensperger, Chris Rose,
FRANJA DE SANGRE, Anna Simonton, Dr. Ludwig Watzal
Lindsay Abrams, Humanity’s Ticking Time Bomb: How the Chemical Age Spun Evolution Out of Control
David Bromwich, Why American Exceptionalism Is Inherently Immoral
Paul Bucheit, The Stark Facts of Global Greed, a Disease as Challenging as Climate Change
Kaitlin Butler & Carolyn Raffensperger, Economics As If Future Generations Mattered
Kirtana Chandrasekaran & Martin Drago, Small Scale Food Producers Are The Solution To The Global Food Crisis
John Chuckman, Some Hard Facts About Terror
Guy Crequie, FUTURE OF PLANET…. AND TERRORISM! AVENIR DE LA PLANETE …. ET TERRORISME !
Martin Drago & Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Small Scale Food Producers Are The Solution To The Global Food Crisis
F. William Engdahl, The Kerry-Abdullah Secret Deal And An Oil-Gas Pipeline War On Iran, Syria And Russia
Environment News Service, Huge U.S. Methane ‘Hot Spot’ Detected From Space
Joaquin Flores, Will Serbia Turn To The East? The Real Significance of Putin’s Visit
Alyssa Figueroa, 4 Weird—and Terrifying—Consequences of Climate Change You May Not Know About
Sarah Gray, Amazing: Pope Believes in Evolution and Says God Is Not a Magician
Barry Grey, Human Rights Watch Documents Ukrainian Military’s Use of Cluster Rockets
Karin Kamp, Plastic Junk Litters Our Oceans, Killing Sea Life — And It’s Getting Worse
Jon Queally, The Top 1% Own Half The World's Assets
Mairead Maguire, The Disturbing Expansion Of The Military-Industrial Complex
Carolyn Raffensperger & Kaitlin Butler, Economics As If Future Generations Mattered
Chris Rose, Pentagon Says Global Warming Poses an Immediate Risk to National Security
FRANJA DE SANGRE, BAIN DE SANG, BLOOD BATH, BANHO DE SANGUE, ВАННА КРОВИ
Anna Simonton, How Taxpayers Subsidize the Price of Tar Sands Expansion
Dr. Ludwig Watzal, Flashpoint In Ukraine. How The US Drive For Hegemony Risks World War III
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|October 14, 2014||
The Top 1% Own Half The World's Assets
by Jon Queally, Countercurrents
The top one percent of the wealthiest people on the planet own nearly fifty percent of the world's assets while the bottom fifty percent of the global population combined own less than one percent of the world's wealth.
Those are the findings of an annual report by the investment firm Credit Suisse released Tuesday—the 2014 Global Wealth Report (pdf)—which shows that global economic inequality has surged since the financial collapse of 2008.
According to the report, "global wealth has grown to a new record, rising by $20.1 trillion between mid-2013 and mid-2014, an increase of 8.3%, to reach $263 trillion – more than twice the $117 trillion recorded for the year 2000."
Though the rate of this wealth creation has been particularly fast over the last year—the fastest annual growth recorded since the pre-crisis year of 2007—the report notes that the benefits of this overall growth have flowed disproportionately to the already wealthy. And the report reveals that as of mid-2014, "the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets.”
Campaigners at Oxfam International, which earlier this put out their own report on global inequality (pdf), said the Credit Suisse report, though generally serving separate aims, confirms what they also found in terms of global inequality.
“These figures give more evidence that inequality is extreme and growing, and that economic recovery following the financial crisis has been skewed in favour of the wealthiest. In poor countries, rising inequality means the difference between children getting the chance to go to school and sick people getting life saving medicines,” Oxfam’s head of inequality Emma Seery, told the Guardian in response to the latest study.
In addition to giving an overall view of trends in global wealth, the authors of the Credit Suisse gave special attention to the issue of inequality in this year's report, noting the increasing level of concern surrounding the topic. "The changing distribution of wealth is now one of the most widely discussed and controversial of topics," they write, "Not least owing to [French economist] Thomas Piketty’s recent account of long-term trends around inequality. We are confident that the depth of our data will make a valuable contribution to the inequality debate."
According to the report:
|October 15, 2014||
The Disturbing Expansion Of The Military-Industrial Complex
by Mairead Maguire, Countercurrents
Inter Press Service
BELFAST - How can we explain that in the 2lst century we are still training millions of men and women in our armed forces and sending them to war?
There are more choices than war or peace, there are multi-optional choices and a civilian-based non-military diplomatic-political policy has more chance of succeeding in solving a violent conflict.
In war, the cost in civilian lives is incalculable, not to mention the many military personnel whose lives are destroyed. Then there is the cost to the environment and the cost to human potential as our scientists waste their lives planning and researching even more horrific weapons which increasingly, in modern war, kill more civilians than combatants.
For example, the United States and the United Kingdom committed genocide against the Iraqi people when, between 1990 and 2012, they killed 3.3 million people – including 750,000 children – through sanctions and wars.
We all also watched our television screens in horror in July and August this year as the Israeli military bombarded civilians in Gaza for 50 days.
But, why are we surprised at this cruelty of military when they are doing what they are trained to do – kill, at the behest of their politicians and some people?
It is shocking to listen to politicians and military boast of their military prowess when in lay persons’ terms what it means is killing of human beings.
Every day through our television and local culture, we are subjected to the glorification of militarism and bombarded with war propaganda by governments telling us we need nuclear weapons, arms manufacturers, and war to kill the killers who might kill us.
However, too many people do not have peace or the basics to help them achieve peace.
They live their lives struggling with the roots of violence, some of which are poverty, war, militarism, occupation, racism and fascism. They have seen that they release uncontrollable forces of tribalism and nationalism. These are dangerous and murderous forms of identity which we need to transcend.
To do this, we need to acknowledge that our common humanity and human dignity are more important than our different traditions; to recognise that our lives and the lives of others are sacred and we can solve our problems without killing each other; to accept and celebrate diversity and otherness; to work to heal the ‘old’ divisions and misunderstandings; to give and accept forgiveness, and to choose listening, dialogue and diplomacy; to disarm and demilitarise as the pathway to peace.
In my own country, in Northern Ireland, when faced with a violent and prolonged ethnic/political conflict, the civil community organised to take a stand, rejected all violence and committed itself to working for peace, justice and reconciliation.
Through unconditional, all-inclusive dialogue, we reached peace and continue to work to build up trust and friendship and change in the post-conflict era. The civil community took a leading role in this journey from violence to peace.
I hope this will give an example to other countries such as Ukraine, where it is necessary for an end to the war, and a solution of the problem on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Accords.
We are also challenged to continue to build structures through which we can cooperate and which reflect our relations of interconnection and interdependence. The vision of the founders of the European Union to link countries together economically in order to lessen the likelihood of war among nations is a worthy endeavour.
Unfortunately instead of putting more energy into providing help for E.U. citizens and others, we are witnessing the growing militarisation of Europe, its role as a driving force for armament and its dangerous path, under the leadership of the United States/NATO, towards a new ‘cold’ war and military aggression.
The European Union and many of its countries, which used to take initiatives in the United Nations for peaceful settlements of conflict, are now one of the most important war assets of the U.S./NATO front. Many countries have also been drawn into complicity in breaking international law through U.S./U.K./NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and so on.
It is for this reason that I believe NATO should be abolished and that steps be taken towards disarmament through non-violent action and civil resistance.
The means of resistance are very important. Our message that armed groups, militarism and war do not solve our problems but aggravate them challenges us to use new ways and that is why we need to teach the science of peace at every level of society.
The whole of civilisation is now facing a challenge with the growth of what President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) warned the U.S. people against – the military/industrial complex – saying that it would destroy U.S. democracy.
We know now that a small group made up of the military/industrial/media/corporate/academic elite, whose agenda is profit, arms, war and valuable resources, now holds power worldwide and has a stronghold on elected governments. We see this in the gun and Israeli lobbies, among others, which wield great power over U.S. politics.
We have witnessed this in ongoing wars, invasions, occupations and proxy wars, all allegedly in the name of “humanitarian intervention and democracy”. However, in reality, they are causing great suffering, especially to the poor, through their policies of arms, war, domination and control of other countries and their resources.
Unmaking this agenda of war and demanding the implementation of justice, human rights and international law is the work of the peace movement.
We can turn our current path of destruction around by spelling out a clear vision of what kind of a world we want to live in, demanding an end to the military-industrial complex, and insisting that our governments adopt policies of peace, just economics and cooperation with each other in this multi-polar world.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book, The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com
|October 17, 2014||
Small Scale Food Producers Are The Solution To The Global Food Crisis
by Kirtana Chandrasekaran & Martin Drago , Countercurrents
Adolfo, a small farmer from El Salvador, grows 60 crops and is the personification of the solution to world food hunger. (Photo: Jason Taylor / Friends of the Earth International)
ROME, Italy – Today, World Food Day, we are confronted with the failure of our global food system: 805 million people are going hungry while obesity affects over 2 billion of us.
The hungry are mostly the rural poor living in developing countries, predominantly peasants and other small-scale food producers, from Africa, Asia Nearly one of every nine people go to bed hungry every night, but not Adolfo and his family, despite the fact that he is from an area devastated by the effects of climate change and flooding, the Lempe Valley in El Salvador.
Adolfo knows from first hand experience that agricultural diversity and saving traditional seeds are essential to the livelihoods of small scale food producers, who, in turn, play a vital role in feeding local people.
Governments around the world have sidelined small-scale food producers for decades, pushing millions of them into hunger. Yet, even today, most of the world’s food is still grown by them, using traditional seed varieties and without the use of industrial inputs.
Peasants like Adolfo are the primary food producers feeding the world today. And we desperately need them, not more industrial farming, if we are to feed the planet in the context of climate change and widespread degradation of natural resources.
In Africa, peasants grow almost all locally consumed food. In Latin America, 60 per cent of farming, including meat, comes from small-scale family farms. In Asia, the global rice powerhouse, almost all rice is grown on farms of less than 2 hectares.
Yet industrial farming - based on monocultures, hybrid seeds, and chemical pesticides and fertilizers - is still promoted heavily by agribusinesses and some governments as the best way to provide food for the planet.
Yet, evidence shows that industrial farming is destroying the resources we rely on to produce our food. Desertification of soils, a diminishing genetic pool, and dead-sea zones from fertilizer runoff are just some of the effects of industrial farming. Climate change is another huge challenge that could bring down agricultural productivity significantly by 2050, especially in developing countries. Ironically, industrial farming is itself a major contributor to climate change because of its reliance on fossil fuels and fertilizers.
Despite this, backers of industrial agriculture point to our growing population and the need to produce more food as a justification for ignoring its real environmental consequences.
But we know that producing more food and increasing yields are not the sole challenges. In fact, we already produce enough food to feed our population today and in the future.
The problem is not lack of food, rather its unbalanced distribution. Access to food is dictated by wealth and profit rather than need, when "free trade" is promoted over the Right to Food.
As a result, half the world’s grain now feeds factory-farmed animals and a huge proportion of food crops are turned into agrofuels to fuel cars, taking food from the hungry and diverting it to wealthy consumers.
Our real hunger challenge today is to raise incomes and sustain the livelihoods of small-scale food producers, enabling them to feed themselves and local people sustainably. Facing this challenge, the 'food sovereignty' movement has emerged as an incredibly effective alternative to the industrial food system.
The movement for food sovereignty is backed by more than 300 million small- scale food producers as well as consumers, environmentalists and human rights Food sovereignty is fundamentally different from food security. A country focused on achieving food security does not distinguish where food comes from, or the conditions under which it is produced and distributed. National food security targets are often met by sourcing food produced under environmentally destructive and socially exploitative conditions that destroy local food producers but benefit agribusiness corporations.
On the other hand, food sovereignty promotes community control of resources and access to land for small-scale producers. It prioritizes peoples’ ownership of their food policies. Importantly, it demands the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through agroecology – the application of ecological principles to farming.
In the past few years, new evidence from several United Nations agencies has recognized agroecology as the most effective way to tackle the multiple crises of hunger, environmental damage and poverty. A 2011 analysis of agro-ecology (pdf) found that it has the potential to double small farmers’ food production in 10 years.
Even a fraction of such a gain would go a very long way to substantially decrease world hunger.
The evidence is clear but changing the food system is difficult.
The power of seed and pesticide companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, of gigantic supermarkets such as Wal-Mart, and of grain traders such as Cargill has grown so strong that they exert a massive influence over national food policies. This ensures that agribusinesses still receive billions of dollars in subsidies and policy support.
The solution to global hunger is within our grasp, but it requires a fundamental reform of the global food system: a wholesale shift from industrial farming to agroecology and food sovereignty.
It is Adolfo's knowledge, and that of millions of peasants like him that we want to celebrate today with the motto of World Food Day 2014: 'Family farming: feeding the world, caring for the Earth.'
Kirtana Chandrasekaran is food sovereignty program coordinator at Friends of the Earth International.
Martin Drago is food sovereignty program coordinator at Friends of the Earth International.
|October 19, 2014||
Will Serbia Turn To The East? The Real Significance of Putin’s Visit
by Joaquin Flores , Countercurrents
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic walk during a welcome ceremony at the airport in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014.
Cheered by tens of thousands of citizens, columns of Serbian tanks, armored cars, and thousands of infantry men paraded down Nikola Tesla Boulevard, Thursday, in New Belgrade. The parade’s destination was the Palace of Serbia, where international leaders, dignitaries and high ranking generals of foreign militaries stood in bleachers to look on. Among them, most importantly, was Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a ceremonial event surrounding this occasion, he was awarded the Order of the Republic of Serbia, the nation’s highest honor .
Today marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from occupying Nazi forces. A few of the remaining WWII veterans also stood in the dignitaries section, to remember fallen comrades in the great anti-fascist war of liberation.
The event was not just one commemorative, it was in its own right quite historic. For one, it was the first Serbian military parade since 1918, and the first military parade in Serbia since 1985, when it was the core republic of the Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavija (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or SFRY). A “Strizhi” air show of Russian MiG fighters over the Belgrade skies captivated the audience below, while Serbian armoured personnel carriers crawled in formation to the WWII partisan march, Po Šumama i Gorama (“In the Forests and Mountains”)
But the event’s significance was greater—much greater than a historical reflection and national celebration of a great victory of its people over the most powerful, aggressive, war machine in Europe at the time. This event’s significance went beyond being just a display of national resolve and remembrance. It was symbolic of a turn that Serbia was taking in the direction of its historic ally, Russia. With Putin as honored guest, Serbia seemed to be announcing a new course forward, while overtly and unashamedly celebrating the past.
In fact, To the certain dismay of NATO, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced in a joint press conference with Putin, after the ceremony, that Serbia would never join the EU sanctions against Russia . With this we can see that Serbia is making an ‘Eastward’ turn to the Eurasian sphere.
As polls indicate, the vast majority of Serbs oppose EU policy and dictates, and entry. They would like increased trade with European nations, as long as it respects the fundamental democratic principle of national sovereignty, and self-determination of the Serbian people. Brussels dictates are, in the view of many analysts, at odds with the concept of sovereignty. EU policy, combined with the economic crisis and increased austerity measures, has led to an ever increasing rise of Euro-skepticism within EU and Eurozone countries.
One can only imagine the frustration of the US, NATO and EU Atlanticists who had hoped to coerce Serbia into eventual EU integration. It is not lost on them that, as it stands, Serbia has observer status in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), considered by NATO to be something like the reincarnation of the Warsaw Pact. It also has a free trade agreement with Russia, similar to one that Ukraine has . The US backed coup in Ukraine, justified to its European partners as a necessary step to get Ukraine into an EU association agreement, has shown the world already where an increased effort upon Serbia will lead. Unlike Ukraine, however, Serbian nationalism is firmly pan-Slavic and anti-Hitlerian in its orientation.
That Thursday’s events were not merely an exercise in formalized remembrance, but were vigorous, optimistic, and militarized, which sent a stronger message in imagery than should ever responsibly be said in words. It is additionally troubling for NATO that Serbia is to hold the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE ) chairmanship next year . What will that mean for the OSCE mission in the south Serbian region of Kosovo, presently under US occupation?
Indeed, Thursday’s momentous occasion were as close to a signed Russia-Serbia alliance as one could have without signing one. Responding in a condescending and paternalistic tone, European Parliament Rapporteur on Serbia, David McAllister, expressed concerns over Thursday’s events, reiterating that the EU and NATO did not look favorably upon 4,500 Serbian soldiers saluting Vladimir Putin. He also stated that he expected Serbia to stay on its path to EU accession. 
The Serbian state headed by Tomislav Nikolic of the Progressive Party had previously formally positioned its policy on eventual EU integration. Before his election, support for integration was at a high of 70% . Apart from Serberia’s concern for a declining euro-dollar, numerous setbacks and frustrations on critical negotiating points have caused Brussels to push back further talks. In the meanwhile, Serbian support has dropped to perhaps below 40% . This has left EU analysts to wonder if Serbia’s stated intention to join the EU is genuine. Serbia continues to affirm its intention to join the EU, but it simultaneously holds firm to a growing number of deal-breaking policies.
Perhaps to help clarify the confusion, Nikolic said the following at today’s event:
“I share in the glory of the history of Serbia and Russia, a permanent and unbreakable bond of brotherhood, a friendship that has always been, now and forever the pride of our countries and peoples, to the benefit of any well-intentioned man of the world.
Serbia and Russia are tied in origin, language, customs, religion, history, culture, a sublime love for freedom and heroic pride, common mounds and nameless graves, abandoned orphans and women, young lives cut short, a lost generation that remembers our joint struggle.
How many of us would there be if there were no wars that we didn’t start?” 
A strong majority of Serbs also support President Putin , many viewing him as being a surrogate president. The successes of Russia and Putin are, in the collective Serbian psyche, also theirs to share in. In part through their affinity with Russia, the Serbs feel themselves as part of a larger world of geopolitical relevance. But this majority view hasn’t until recently found an expression in their own government, even while anti-NATO sentiments are considered part and parcel of the Serbian identity.
This contradiction has been bubbling for quite some time, now finding tangible signs of a real resolution. Serbia has been slowly emerging from a neo-colonial Western occupation following several tragedies. Western powers backed a nearly decade long civil war, claiming the lives of over 100,000 people. This criminal and illegal proxy war of divide and conquer, by the US led NATO on Yugoslavia, was followed by a 76 day NATO bombing campaign in 1999 that culminated in the ouster of the democratically elected Slobodon Milosevic in October of 2000.
On the ground, this was coordinated with “Otpor!”, a US supported astroturf movement funded by George Soros’s NED. Stemming in large part from the work of Gene Sharp, it is widely considered to be one of the first modern uses of what has now been called the combined Arab Spring and Color Revolution tactic.
When the lion kills, the jackal prospers; and the following dozen years saw Serbia mis-ruled by a puppet government, supported by a corrupt pro-EU and NATO-tolerant oligarchy. Some like Kostunica were recruited directly from the same “Otpor!”. But now this regrettable story, filled with betrayal and heartache, is but the prologue of a new book about a renewed Eurasian Serbia.
Putin’s momentous and historic visit, then, are not just about the past but about the present and the future. The joint struggle against Nazism in the past finds no lack of allusion in Putin’s comments today about Ukraine and Novorossyia. During his visit, he gave a revealing interview to Serbia’s Politika newspaper. When asked about US-Russia bilateral relations , he stated
“ Washington has actively supported the “Majdan” in Kiev, and as a result of their moves in Kiev a nationalism was unleashed that provoked resentment in a significant part of Ukraine, and threw the country into civil war, (the US) began to blame Russia, that she provoked the crisis. Then President Barack Obama stands in front of the UN General Assembly and included “Russian aggression in Europe” in the list of the three main threats to mankind today, along with the deadly Ebola fever and terrorist group “ISIS”.
Together with the restrictions directed against entire sectors of our economy, such an approach is difficult to name other than hostile.” 
The fight against Nazism is not one of mere historical significance, but one which points clearly to the fight in Novorossiya today against a US backed junta. While Serbia has recently proposed legislation to ban individuals from volunteering in foreign conflicts, more than 200 Serbs, and growing, are actively involved on the pro-Russian side in the emergent Federation of Novorossiya . It is too soon to tell whether Putin’s visit will have any effect on the outcome of this vote, or conversely if passed, its serious enforcement. The civil war in the former Ukraine has relied in part on foreign volunteers involved in an anti-Nazi or anti-Fascist resistance.
Thursday’s agreements signed between Putin and Nikolic were also notable. Among the most important surrounds a Russian governmental organization in Niš, in southern Serbia. An agreement was signed to grant full legal immunity to employees of the organization.
The Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Niš has been under increased scrutiny from the minority pro-western liberals, and representatives of the US embassy have urged a thorough investigation. The accusations are that the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center, also called the Emergency Situations Center, is operating today as an FSB hub, with the ultimate aim of establishing a Russian military base. This has been denied by Serbian authorities . There is a growing memetic movement calling for Russian military bases in southern Serbia. Niš is 80 miles from US Camp Bondsteel, in the US occupied South Serbian region of Kosovo.
Putin also, during the visit, reiterated his unwavering position on the necessary end to the occupation of Kosovo, and its lawful return to Serbia .
All South-stream proposals have the pipeline traveling through, or next to, Niš.
The Emergency Situations Center has been ostensibly set up as a command center for ‘emergency responses’, such as the flash floods that rocked Serbia last May, claiming scores of lives. It is a popular conspiracy theory in Serbia that these floods were caused by the US’s HAARP program, meant to punish Serbia for ignoring EU calls to cease the South-stream gas pipeline project. The completion of the pipeline is a critical piece for Russian access to European markets, as well as a counter-measure against the US created instability in Ukraine, where presently between 65% and 70% of Russian gas to Europe travels through.
On the issue of South-stream, Putin also underlined the importance of the project during today’s visit. He said:
“The South-stream cannot be realized unilaterally. Like in Love, there is a need for two sides. We cannot build the pipeline worth several billions on our own. Similar discussion was led for Nordstream, so now everybody is satisfied. The problems with South-stream are political, and they are damaging the economy. We do not want to have an energy crisis this winter. It certainly will not be our fault.”
One can easily read between the lines of the last sentence, and what this means for Ukraine.
Other areas of talks revolved around the export of Serbian goods to Russia. Serbian exports, mostly agricultural, to Russia have increased over 60% since the NATO/EU imposed sanctions last January . Discussions were also held surrounding dairy.
But this may just be the beginning, and Russian agribusiness consultants may be involved in future projects. A problem with Serbian exports involve their lack of organization, and the agricultural producers are not in a union of producers which export together. For these reasons things are not moving as fast as they could. This reflects some elements of the Serbian culture, which takes a casual approach to business matters and timelines.
Additionally, there was more detailed talks surrounding the export of Serbian made cars, under the Zastava label (formerly Yugo, using the Fiat platform), to Russia. As stated, Serbia enjoys a free trade agreement with Russia.
Germany has indicated that it too may be looking for a loophole to the EU’s sanctions and tariff regime, by having Serbia operate as a middle-man between themselves and their Russian partners. Germany has also felt stifled by EU regulations, having already openly debated leaving the EU . In light of the EU sanctions imposed on Russia over Novorossiya, a serious hindrance to Germany, this may be looking more appealing than ever before. Serbia is a prime candidate due to its proximity to central Europe alongside its non-EU status. Serbia’s holding out as the ‘Lone Star State’ in the Balkans may, in fact, pay serious dividends in the end.
All of this indicates a very real and growing shift, not only for Serbia, but for all of Europe. As the conflict between the CSTO and NATO intensifies, Russia is shoring up its traditional allies and reaffirming its support for the ‘Pink Tide’ Latin American allies in MERCOSUR. Russia does not oppose Serbia’s potential to join the EU, seeing it as another asset within the EU, which can help to maintain its position in bilateral relations.
With all of this in mind, we know at least this: the pouring rain did not deter a single Serb from attending Thursday’s massive events, which caused traffic jams throughout Belgrade that, for the first time in a long time, were ones to be happy about.
|October 22, 2014||
Human Rights Watch Documents Ukrainian Military’s Use of Cluster Rockets
by Barry Grey , Countercurrents
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report Monday documenting the widespread use of banned cluster munitions rockets by the Ukrainian military against heavily populated civilian centers in eastern Ukraine, including central Donetsk city.
The detailed account, based on an on-the-spot investigation by the New York-based organization, working with a New York Times reporter, is a damning exposure of the brutal and illegal methods being used by the US- and European Union-backed regime in Kiev against Ukrainians in the pro-Russian east of the country.
The report includes video interviews with victims of the cluster rocket attacks. It charges the Kiev regime with firing the weapons into Donetsk city, the center of the separatist rebellion against the fascist-backed, pro-Western government that was installed last February in a putsch orchestrated by the CIA and German intelligence.
HRW also released photos showing sections of the cluster munitions rockets in and around Donetsk, unexploded submunitions and remnants of exploded submunitions released by the rockets, and other physical proof of the regime’s use of the weapons.
The report focuses on attacks launched October 2 and October 5 against Donetsk, a month after the signing of a ceasefire agreement between the pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. HRW writes that these cluster munitions attacks, along with ten others it documented, were responsible for at least six deaths and dozens of injuries. The October 2 attack killed a 37-year-old International Committee of the Red Cross administrator stationed in Donetsk.
“It is shocking to see a weapon that most countries have banned used so extensively in eastern Ukraine,” said Mark Hiznay, senior arms researcher at HRW. A 2008 international convention banning the use of cluster munitions has been signed by 114 countries. The US, Ukraine and Russia are among those that have not joined the convention.
“Ukrainian government forces used cluster munitions in populated areas in Donetsk city in early October 2014. The use of cluster munitions in populated areas violates the laws of war due to the indiscriminate nature of the weapon and may amount to war crimes,” the report states.
Asked about the HRW report, Andriy Lysenko, the official spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said Ukrainian troops had never used any prohibited munitions in the east. The government spokesman for the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in eastern Ukraine, Vladyslav Seleznyov, described the accusations as “utter nonsense.”
However, the HRW report outlines detailed physical evidence that cluster munitions were used for attacks on regions controlled by the pro-Russian rebels, and that they were fired by government forces. The report states:
“There is particularly strong evidence that Ukrainian government forces were responsible for several cluster munitions attacks on central Donetsk in early October. In addition to evidence at the impact site indicating that the cluster munitions came from the direction of government-controlled areas southwest of Donetsk, witnesses in that area said that they observed rockets being launched toward Donetsk on the times and days when cluster munitions struck the city. A New York Times journalist tracked down several rockets in that area, which appeared to have malfunctioned and fallen to the ground shortly after they were launched, clearly establishing the flight path of the rockets.
“Human Rights Watch found evidence of surface-fired 220mm Uragan (Hurricane) and 300mm Snerch (Tornado) cluster munitions rockets. Human Rights Watch researchers observed and photographed the remnants of the cargo sections of 16 Uragan and 6 Smerch cluster munitions rockets. Altogether, these 22 rockets would have contained 912 individual fragmentation submunitions. The total number of cluster munitions rockets used so far in the conflict is unknown.”
In Donetsk, doctors at a city hospital and morgue said they had found cluster munitions fragments in several patients.
Cluster munitions are designed to indiscriminately kill or maim anyone within a wide radius. Those who fire them into heavily populated areas do so for the purpose of terrorizing and killing non-combatants.
As the HRW report explains: “Cluster munitions contain dozens or hundreds of smaller munitions, called submunitions, in a container such as a rocket or a bomb. After launch, the container opens up dispersing the submunitions which are designed to explode when they hit the ground. They submunitions are spread indiscriminately over a wide area, often the size of a football field, putting anyone in the area at the time of attack, whether combatants or civilians, at risk of death or injury. In addition, many of the submunitions do not explode on contact, but remain armed, become de facto landmines.”
The HRW report is not the first time charges have been made that the Kiev regime is using cluster munitions in its attempt to crush the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine. Last July, Sarah Blakemore, the director of the Cluster Munitions Coalition, which lobbies for a total ban on the weapons, wrote to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry after images were published indicating the use of cluster rockets against rebel positions in the cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk. Blakemore says she never received a reply.
The US and the European Union have continued to give unstinting support to the Kiev regime and its offensive in the east, despite repeated atrocities against civilians—air and tank assaults, massacres, abductions—carried out by the Ukrainian military as well as far-right militias and the National Guard, whose members are drawn largely from the neo-Nazi Right Sector and the far-right Svoboda party. These crimes include the torching of the Trade Unions House in Odessa on May 2, which killed 38 pro-separatist protesters.
In fact, the bloody offensive in the east is largely directed by the CIA and US Special Forces operatives deployed to Ukraine. Last May, the German media published reports that 400 Academi (formerly known as Blackwater) mercenaries were directing the activities of the National Guard, the Right Sector and other government-backed neo-fascist militias such as the Azov Battalion.
These facts expose the lies promulgated by the US and Western governments and media presenting last February’s fascist-led coup and the US puppet government that replaced the deposed pro-Russian government as a “democratic revolution,” and blaming the ensuing crisis in Eastern Europe on Russian “aggression.”
The pro-Western protests in Kiev that led to the coup were orchestrated by the US and Germany for the purpose of weakening Russia and removing it as an impediment to their imperialist agendas in Europe and the Middle East.
That agenda remains unaltered by the cease-fire agreed to in early September. On Tuesday, one day after the release of the HRW report, Senators Carl Levin (Democrat of Michigan) and James Inhofe (Republican of Oklahoma) published a joint column in the Washington Post under the headline “Why Ukraine Should Have US Weapons.”
The chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Committee called for Washington to increase its military assistance to Kiev by providing “defensive weapons” such as anti-tank weapons, ammunition and military vehicles. They backed their proposal with the claim that “[President] Poroshenko and the Ukrianian military has (sic) shown great restraint in resisting Russian provocations.”
|October 24, 2014||
Economics As If Future Generations Mattered
by Carolyn Raffensperger & Kaitlin Butler , Onthecommons.org, Countercurrents
What are the principles needed to guarantee that we are fair to future generations? (Photo: Raul Lieberwirth/flickr/cc)
We have turned a corner on climate change-- a wrong turn-- and it is happening more rapidly than we have predicted. Climate change is already disrupting society, ecosystems, and national economies. We have altered so much of our Earth that we now threaten our own survival.
We know the catastrophic risks we are passing onto future generations and we wonder, with anxiety and grief, what will become of our planet. We ask ourselves, “what can I do?”
One of the key barriers to taking action on the paramount issues of our time is that these problems are the end result of entrenched cultural, economic and social systems. The message that solutions to climate change and environmental degradation is up to the individual directly conflicts with what people are witnessing: the health and well-being of their bodies and their communities coming a distant second to powerful economic interests.
Current economic calculations do not recognize the full cost to the Commons – the cultural and natural heritage we share that is the foundation of our economy.
Yet growing numbers of people are waking up to the reemerging Commons ethic, which holds that human systems must be aligned to match ecological ones. People believe that future generations have the inalienable right to a healthy planet, and many are now seeking ways to withdraw their consent to the politics and policies that lead to a toxic future.
A rights-based approach to human systems like the economy allows us to open our discussion to questions like: What is the economy for? What are the principles needed to guarantee that we are fair to future generations? What tenets make justice and the protection of the Commons more likely?
The Women’s Congress for Future Generations, to be held Nov. 7-9 in Minneapolis, is joining the groundswell of individuals and organizations calling for the arraignment of our capital-driven, infinite-growth paradigms, and adopting different economic principles which many Indigenous cultures have lived by for centuries. This gathering builds and extends on the first Women’s Congress held in Moab, Utah in September 2012.
Attendees of the Moab Congress drafted a living Declaration of the Rights of Future Generations and corresponding Bill of Responsibilities of Present Generations. The goal of the upcoming Congress in November is to infuse the Declaration with an even deeper analysis of economic and environmental justice.
Participants at the Congress will bring forward ideas to help shift the way we care for and relate to our Earth--ideas such as moving environmental law out of free market private property law into rights law; caring for the Commons, the Precautionary Principle, and Free Prior and Informed Consent. Congress goers-- both men and women--will imagine different economic principles that counter dominant but destructive paradigms.
Some of the new principles to be discussed are:
And these are a few of the tenets that flow from these economic principles:
This is a conversation about the definition, boundaries, and acceptance of limits.
If one accepts the incontestable truth that present generations inherit an Earth left from previous generations, and that we are all eventually ancestors, then our lives are a simultaneously defined by inheriting and bequeathing.
Facing another incontestable truth that our Earth is finite allows us to expand our point of view to include a “bigger picture,” which tells a story with a common goal: It is a story of an incredibly interconnected living systems on which we are dependent, not dominant. The story of human development that has recalibrated its systems to match those of nature itself. The story of a civilization that thrives on stewardship and care, generation after generation into the far future.
Carolyn Raffensperger is the Executive Director of the Science & Environmental Health Network, www.sehn.org
Kaitlin Butler is project director at the Science and Environmental Health Network and an organizer of the 2014 Women’s Congress.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
|October 27, 2014||
The Kerry-Abdullah Secret Deal And An Oil-Gas Pipeline War On Iran, Syria And Russia
by F. William Engdahl , Engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net, Countercurrents
The details are emerging of a new secret and quite stupid Saudi-US deal on Syria and the so-called IS. It involves oil and gas control of the entire region and the weakening of Russia and Iran by Saudi Arabian flooding the world market with cheap oil. Details were concluded in the September meeting by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Saudi King. The unintended consequence will be to push Russia even faster to turn east to China and Eurasia.
One of the weirdest anomalies of the recent NATO bombing campaign, allegedly against the ISIS or IS or ISIL or Daash, depending on your preference, is the fact that with major war raging in the world’s richest oil region, the price of crude oil has been dropping, dramatically so. Since June when ISIS suddenly captured the oil-rich region of Iraq around Mosul and Kirkuk, the benchmark Brent price of crude oil dropped some 20% from $112 to about $88. World daily demand for oil has not dropped by 20% however. China oil demand has not fallen 20% nor has US domestic shale oil stock risen by 21%.
What has happened is that the long-time US ally inside OPEC, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been flooding the market with deep discounted oil, triggering a price war within OPEC, with Iran following suit and panic selling short in oil futures markets. The Saudis are targeting sales to Asia for the discounts and in particular, its major Asian customer, China where it is reportedly offering its crude for a mere $50 to $60 a barrel rather than the earlier price of around $100.  That Saudi financial discounting operation in turn is by all appearance being coordinated with a US Treasury financial warfare operation, via its Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in cooperation with a handful of inside players on Wall Street who control oil derivatives trading. The result is a market panic that is gaining momentum daily. China is quite happy to buy the cheap oil, but her close allies, Russia and Iran, are being hit severely.
According to Rashid Abanmy, President of the Riyadh-based Saudi Arabia Oil Policies and Strategic Expectations Center, the dramatic price collapse is being deliberately caused by the Saudis, OPEC’s largest producer. The public reason claimed is to gain new markets in a global market of weakening oil demand. The real reason, according to Abanmy, is to put pressure on Iran on her nuclear program, and on Russia to end her support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
When combined with the financial losses of Russian state natural gas sales to Ukraine and prospects of a US-instigated cutoff of the transit of Russian gas to the huge EU market this winter as EU stockpiles become low, the pressure on oil prices hits Moscow doubly. More than 50% of Russian state revenue comes from its export sales of oil and gas.
The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of US globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. The principal target, however, is Putin’s Russia, the single greatest threat today to that Superpower hegemony. The strategy is similar to what the US did with Saudi Arabia in 1986 when they flooded the world with Saudi oil, collapsing the price to below $10 a barrel and destroying the economy of then-Soviet ally, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and, ultimately, of the Soviet economy, paving the way for the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the hope is that a collapse of Russian oil revenues, combined with select pin-prick sanctions designed by the US Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence will dramatically weaken Putin’s enormous domestic support and create conditions for his ultimate overthrow. It is doomed to fail for many reasons, not the least, because Putin’s Russia has taken major strategic steps together with China and other nations to lessen its dependence on the West. In fact the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the Dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe. For this reason, I call the Kerry-Abdullah oil war a very stupid tactic.
The Kerry-Abdullah secret deal
On September 11, US Secretary of State Kerry met Saudi King Abdullah at his palace on the Red Sea. The King invited former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar to attend. There a deal was hammered out which saw Saudi support for the Syrian airstrikes against ISIS on condition Washington backed the Saudis in toppling Assad, a firm ally of Russia and de facto of Iran and an obstacle to Saudi and UAE plans to control the emerging EU natural gas market and destroy Russia’s lucrative EU trade. A report in the Wall Street Journal noted there had been “months of behind-the-scenes work by the US and Arab leaders, who agreed on the need to cooperate against Islamic State, but not how or when. The process gave the Saudis leverage to extract a fresh US commitment to beef up training for rebels fighting Mr. Assad, whose demise the Saudis still see as a top priority.” 
For the Saudis the war is between two competing age-old vectors of Islam. Saudi Arabia, home to the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, claims de facto supremacy in the Islamic world of Sunni Islam. The Saudi Sunni form is ultra-conservative Wahhabism, named for an 18th Century Bedouin Islamic fundamentalist or Salafist named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahha. The Taliban derive from Wahhabism with the aid of Saudi-financed religious instruction. The Gulf Emirates and Kuwait also adhere to the Sunni Wahhabism of the Saudis, as does the Emir of Qatar. Iran on the other hand historically is the heart of the smaller branch of Islam, the Shi’ite. Iraq’s population is some 61% majority Shi’ite. Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad is a member of a satellite of the Shi’ite branch known as Alawite. Some 23% of Turkey is also Alawite Muslim. To complicate the picture more, across a bridge from Saudi Arabia sits the tiny island country, Bahrain where as many as 75% of the population is Shi’ite but the ruling Al-Khalifa family is Sunni and firmly tied to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the richest Saudi oil region is dominated by Shi’ite Muslims who work the oil installations of Ras Tanura.
An oil and gas pipeline war
These historic fault lines inside Islam which lay dormant, were brought into a state of open warfare with the launching of the US State Department and CIA’s Islamic Holy War, otherwise known as the Arab Spring. Washington neo-conservatives embedded inside the Obama Administration in a form of “Deep State” secret network, and their allied media such as the Washington Post, advocated US covert backing of a pet CIA project known as the Muslim Brotherhood. As I detail in my most recent book, Amerikas’ Heiliger Krieg, the CIA had cultivated ties to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood death cult since the early 1950’s.
Now if we map the resources of known natural gas reserves in the entire Persian Gulf region, the motives of the Saudi-led Qatar and UAE in financing with billions of dollars the opposition to Assad, including the Sunni ISIS, becomes clearer. Natural gas has become the favored “clean energy” source for the 21st Century and the EU is the world’s largest growth market for gas, a major reason Washington wants to break the Gazprom-EU supply dependency to weaken Russia and keep control over the EU via loyal proxies like Qatar.
The world’s largest known natural gas reservoir sits in the middle of the Persian Gulf straddling part in the territorial waters of Qatar and part in Iran. The Iranian part is called North Pars. In 2006 China’s state-owned CNOOC signed an agreement with Iran to develop North Pars and build LNG infrastructure to bring the gas to China.
The Qatar side of the Persian Gulf, called North Field, contains the world’s third largest known natural gas reserves behind Russia and Iran.
In July 2011, the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq signed an historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed in the midst of the NATO-Saudi-Qatari war to remove Assad. The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. The agreement would make Syria the center of assembly and production in conjunction with the reserves of Lebanon. This is a geopolitically strategic space that geographically opens for the first time, extending from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. As Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar put it, “The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.”
Shortly after signing with Iran and Iraq, on August 16, 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Ministry of Oil announced the discovery of a gas well in the Area of Qarah in the Central Region of Syria near Homs. Gazprom, with Assad in power, would be a major investor or operator of the new gas fields in Syria.  Iran ultimately plans to extend the pipeline from Damascus to Lebanon’s Mediterranean port where it would be delivered to the huge EU market. Syria would buy Iranian gas along with a current Iraqi agreement to buy Iranian gas from Iran’s part of South Pars field.
Qatar, today the world’s largest exporter of LNG, largely to Asia, wants the same EU market that Iran and Syria eye. For that, they would build pipelines to the Mediterranean. Here is where getting rid of the pro-Iran Assad is essential. In 2009 Qatar approached Bashar al-Assad to propose construction of a gas pipeline from Qatar’s north Field through Syria on to Turkey and to the EU. Assad refused, citing Syria’s long friendly relations with Russia and Gazprom. That refusal combined with the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline agreement in 2011 ignited the full-scale Saudi and Qatari assault on Assad’s power, financing al Qaeda terrorists, recruits of Jihadist fanatics willing to kill Alawite and Shi’ite “infidels” for $100 a month and a Kalishnikov. The Washington neo-conservative warhawks in and around the Obama White House, along with their allies in the right-wing Netanyahu government, were cheering from the bleachers as Syria went up in flames after spring 2011.
Today the US-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a US-controlled New World Order. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal. The true aim of the US and Israel backed ISIS is to give the pretext for bombing Assad’s vital grain silos and oil refineries to cripple the economy in preparation for a “Ghaddafi-”style elimination of Russia and China and Iran-ally Bashar al-Assad.
In a narrow sense, as Washington neo-conservatives see it, who controls Syria could control the Middle East. And from Syria, gateway to Asia, he will hold the key to Russia House, as well as that of China via the Silk Road.
Religious wars have historically been the most savage of all wars and this one is no exception, especially when trillions of dollars in oil and gas revenues are at stake. Why is the secret Kerry-Abdullah deal on Syria reached on September 11 stupid? Because the brilliant tacticians in Washington and Riyadh and Doha and to an extent in Ankara are unable to look at the interconnectedness of all the dis-order and destruction they foment, to look beyond their visions of control of the oil and gas flows as the basis of their illegitimate power. They are planting the seeds of their own destruction in the end.
 M. Rochan, Crude Oil Drops Amid Global Demand Concerns, IB Times, October 11, 2014 http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/crude-oil-drops-amid-global-demand-concerns-1469524
 Nihan Cabbaroglu, Saudi Arabia to pressure Russia Iran with price of oil, 10 October 2014, Turkish Anadolu Agency, http://www.aa.com.tr/en/economy/402343–saudi-arabia-to-pressure-russia-iran-with-price-of-oil
 Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, Deal With Saudis Paved Way for Syrian Airstrikes: Talks With Saudi Arabia Were Linchpin in U.S. Efforts to Get Arab States Into Fight Against Islamic State, Wall Street Journal, September. 24, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/deal-with-saudis-paved-way-for-syrian-airstrikes-1411605329?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories
 POGC, North Pars Gas Field, Pars Oil and Gas Company website, http://www.pogc.ir/NorthParsGasField/tabid/155/Default.aspx
 Imad Fawzi Shueibi , War Over Gas–Struggle over the Middle East: Gas Ranks First, 17 April, 2012. http://www.voltairenet.org/article173718.html
 Pepe Escobar, Why Qatar Wants to Invade Syria, Asia Times, September 27, 2012, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article32576.htm
 F. William Engdahl, Syria Turkey Israel and the Greater Middle East Energy War, Global Research, October 11, 2012, http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-turkey-israel-and-the-greater-middle-east-energy-war/5307902
|October 29, 2014||
Flashpoint In Ukraine. How The US Drive For Hegemony Risks World War III
by Dr. Ludwig Watzal, Countercurrents
Stephen Lendman (ed), Flashpoint in Ukraine. How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III, Clarity Press, Atlanta 2014, 269 pp. 16 $.
The Ukrainian national elections have produced the expected results. The West-oriented parties won. Surprisingly, President Poroshenko's party and the party of the radical anti-Russian Yatsenyuk, the U.S. favorite, who carried a head-to-head-race, both ended up with 22 percent of the vote. They wish to lead Ukraine into the European Union and NATO as fast as possible. According to Western propaganda, this was a victory for freedom, democracy and free enterprise. The costs of this political mirage will have to be paid by ordinary folks. These elections won't stabilize the country because Russia's security concerns are still unmet. Although the book under review was published a few months ago, its contributions have not lost their topicality. The problems that the US created, are still unresolved.
Stephen Lendman is a writer, syndicated columnist, and activist. He has been hosting since 2007 a regular newshour at The Progressive Radio Network. For his book, Lendman gathered former government officials, journalists, activists and academics known for their radical and competent critique of US foreign policy. These include Paul Craig Roberts, James Petras, Michael Parenti, Cynthia McKinney, Mahdi Nazemroaya, Michel Chossudovsky, John McMurtry, Matthew Witt, Jeffrey Sommers and others. Most contributions focus on the geopolitical aspects and the consequences of the takeover of Ukraine by the Western Alliance and its anti-Russian thrust.
In his introductory remarks, Lendman called the Ukraine conflict "the most significant post-WW II geopolitical crisis.” He warned that “escalating it risks global conflict." To emphasize the historical significance of the US coup in Ukraine, he compares it with Mussolini's 1922 march on Rome. In Washington's expansionist strategy, the "17 Euro-zone countries represent its weakest links". If Ukraine is to join the European Union (EU) it would have to undergo severe structural economic changes that will be dictated by the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF troika. This will inevitably affect dramatically the living standards of the population, writes Lendman. He underlines the geostrategic importance of Ukraine with a quotation by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who once said: "Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire." Lendman argues that Ukrainian Jews are threatened and that some have left the country: "Anti-Semitism is rife. Radical ultra-nationalism is virulent."
According to Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Treasury Secretary under President Reagan, Washington does not only set the world on a path of war but also endangers world peace by its recklessness. He lists contractual breaches by the Western Alliance compared to the agreements with the former Soviet Union: The US administration – with the consent of its NATO partners – expanded the Alliance into Eastern Europe, placed anti-ballistic missiles at the Russian border in Poland and withdrew from the ABM treaty. Beyond that, the West unleashed a propaganda war, blaming Putin for the entire crisis. But so far, the Russian government has not had to do anything except acquiesce to the self-determination of the people in the Russian areas of Ukraine, writes Roberts. "Without the cover provided by Europe, Washington's acts of aggression would result in war crime charges against the US government."
Just after Putin protected the Russian population in Crimea and the Eastern part of Ukraine from the putschists in Kiev, Washington imposed sanctions on Russia. "The Obama regime cites the 'success' of the financial and economic sanctions against Iran as a 'model' of what can be achieved with Russia", writes James Petras, also the author of the book "The Politics of Empire". The West calculates on a weak Russian response or even hopes for a capitulation. If neither materializes and Putin remains tough, the "polarized world will witness new class, national and regional conflicts", writes Petras.
Perhaps President Putin's speech at the annual conference of the Valdai club in Sochi may offer a way out of the impasse. Although he criticized the West sharply and called for a dialogue on a equal basis, he demanded of the West more respect of Russia's legitimate interests. According to Putin, the strategic interests of Russia and the United States overlap in many aspects. Putin called on the US to abandon the pursuit of dominance and imperial ambitions. The "pseudo-supremacy" of the United States results only in "chaos and blood. Interference and dictates of the United States do no good, but let conflicts escalate only further." In his speech, Putin clearly rejected a return to totalitarianism in Russia. This would only lead to a "dead end", he said.
With this speech, Putin played the ball into the opponent's box. Now, the West and the newly elected Ukrainian parliament can choose between cooperation and confrontation. As the book shows, Western leaders are spoiling for a fight because they strive to extend the sphere of Western influence until the Russian border. The book’s contributions illuminate not only the background of the Ukraine conflict, but also the expansionist goals of the US-NATO alliance. "Flashpoint Ukraine" can therefore be highly recommended.
Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a journalist and editor in Bonn, Germany. He runs the bilingual blog "Between the Lines" http://between-the-lines-ludwig-watzal.blogspot.de/
|October 29, 2014||
Some Hard Facts About Terror
by John Chuckman , Countercurrents
We are having an outbreak of reports in the Canadian press about “home grown” terrorists, “radicalized” young men of Muslim faith traveling out of the country to participate in extremist groups abroad, a relatively insignificant phenomenon which has received inordinate publicity. In any event, if you give the matter some thought, you realize that this “news” is a kind of empty publicity, noise about something as old and familiar as human life itself, although it has been bestowed with a new name intended to frighten us into supporting measures outside the framework of a society of laws.
The truth is that young men, at least a certain portion of them, have always traveled abroad to join causes and wars. It’s about as ordinary a phenomenon as playing team sports or joining clubs. In many cases, we end up praising them for their bravery and idealism, as was certainly the case with the many thousands of Europeans, Americans, and Canadians who traveled to Spain in the 1930s to volunteer in the civil war against General Franco. In other cases, we condemn and imprison them and sometimes even execute them as part of the losing side, as America has been doing in its rampage through the Middle East.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the emergence of new, independent nations from the British Empire drew thousands of young men to Africa to fight as mercenaries or volunteers. Apartheid South Africa used to run classified ads in newspapers abroad to attract young men in its battle against the African National Congress. Young Jewish men in the past went to Israel to join the IDF out of some sense of brotherhood, and they do so still. The French Foreign Legion gained almost mythical status as a place for young men to leave things behind, embracing an undefined sense of purpose and brotherhood. Young European adventurers, often young noblemen with hopes of gaining glory, sailed across the Atlantic in the 1770s to volunteer in the American colonies’ revolt against the British Empire, far more of them than Washington’s meagre army could use.
Magnetic leaders like Napoleon or Castro or Nasser attracted countless volunteers from abroad in their heyday. Our history books don’t dwell on the fact but large numbers of young men from many countries volunteered for Hitler’s invading legions. The phenomenon does not depend on the high or noble nature of the cause, although the luster and publicity around grand causes undoubtedly attracts a still wider range of young men.
Mental illness also intrudes into terrorist matters, all things unusual or different being grist for the big dumb mill of the press. In Canada, during the wave of empty chatter about “home-grown terrorists,” there were two isolated incidents of murder in different parts of the country, one of a policeman and one of a reservist in the military. Immediately the press began a completely uninformative and patience-exhausting round of speculation about the dark nature of the perpetrators, complete with interviews of various self-proclaimed “terrorism experts,” men, as it generally turns out, who run security firms and are out drumming up business. In both cases, we finally learned through the fog of misinformation generated by the press, that the young dead men were deeply mentally disturbed, their acts having no more political significance than the crazed men set on suicide who first kill their wives or children or the boys who periodically show up heavily armed at school, shooting their way through classmates.
And of course, it is almost invariably males who do these things, our prisons containing about ten men for every woman. The violence we see in professional football, hockey, or boxing being almost an exclusive male domain. Woman rarely commit murder, males being responsible for almost all of it, with young males being responsible for an extraordinarily disproportionate share.
Aside from the psychotic and deeply depressed, there is a certain segment of young men in every society who are simply attracted to opportunities for legal killing, rape, and mayhem – this being the truly ugly side of every war and conflict that we never mention in our sentimental world-war memorial services or high school textbooks. These men are variously termed sociopaths or psychopaths, and they appear to exist naturally in some proportion in any population. They enjoy killing, inflicting pain, and the sense of supreme power over the lives of others, and they are incapable of sympathy for their victims or remorse for their acts. They only fear being caught, and war provides a wonderful legal playground for them.
The bloodiest, most brutal and pointless war of the last half century, America’s grotesque slaughter in Vietnam, attracted thousands of volunteers from other countries to join in the gruesome fun – acts which included everything from raping girls and then shooting them to throwing men out of helicopters. Even then-peaceful Canada, whose prime minister, Lester Pearson, bravely turned down Lyndon Johnson’s bullying demands to send troops (charmer that Johnson was, he is said to have grabbed our Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader by the lapels during a meeting and pushed him against a wall), saw hundreds of adventure-seeking young men, on their own, join the American holocaust, which would see three million horribly slaughtered, countless wounded, and an ancient agricultural land overwhelmed with America’s landmines, cluster bombs, and poisons.
Today we call people terrorists as easily as we more accurately might have called them reckless or mad. The word terrorist has been given an almost frightening, superstitious connotation much resembling the word witch in the seventeenth century when any poor old soul who suffered from a mental illness like schizophrenia might be burnt alive for her mumblings and delusions. Today, the same people we once burnt would be sent to a homeless shelter or a psychiatric hospital. Another aspect of the word terrorist is related to what Stalin used to say when he expected his officials to launch a new purge to keep the country terrorized into submission. The Vozhd would say something about “wreckers” or “wreckers of the revolution” and his minions would busy themselves demonstrating alacrity in finding large numbers to consign to prison or death. All of our press and government spokespeople now use terrorist with those two meanings, and to the extent that they do, we should recognize the foolishness of their speech and its danger to a free society.
Of course, anyone who commits violent crime needs dealing with, and we do have laws covering every form of violent crime and what is judged the degree of culpability. But creating a special class or type of crime, somehow understood to be different in nature from other crimes, and thereby requiring extraordinary measures of espionage and policing and imprisonment and standards of evidence, is a shabby, dishonest, and cowardly political act. It is a political act in exactly the sense best explained by George Orwell.
The template for this kind of state activity comes directly from Israel. It long ago succeeded in changing the outside perception of events since 1948 from that of a relatively powerless people having their homes and lands taken with great brutality. Everyone knows instinctively that people treated in that fashion have every right in international law and custom to fight their oppressors. We call them at various times and circumstances freedom fighters, guerillas, resistance fighters, or irregulars. But in this case, they were transformed into terrorists who seek only to destroy law-abiding, democratic Israel – unspeakably evil beings intent on attacking the imported Ozzie-and-Harriet peacefulness of white-picket fence neighborhoods constructed on other people’s property. It truly is a case of the world turned on its head.
It does make things so much easier when you shoot someone or bulldoze their home or send them to prison indefinitely with no trial and subject to torture, if you first have demonized them, much as in the case of witches or wreckers, with terrorist being this generation’s choice demonizing word. And when Israel kills some people whose identity as “terrorists” might be seen as very doubtful, the victims magically become militants, a Newspeak word which strives to make the killing of anyone from boys to grandfathers palatable, our shabby press in the West having adopted the word in its reportage without so much as blinking an eye, much less asking a question. This has been Israel’s day-in, day-out pattern of government for decades, but now it has managed to export to the United States the same pattern of behavior. The United States, after all, is a nation given to Captain Ahab-like obsessions, as it has demonstrated many times in its history, Muslims now having displaced the Communists it pursued with relentless fury for decades at home and abroad. And when the United States embraces a new obsession, its dependants in Europe, Canada, Australia, and other places are bullied into embracing it too. America has many avenues for pressuring the acceptance and recognition of its latest craze or special interest or dark operation and to quiet the criticism which would naturally flow from those who disagree and think for themselves.
Were America not enthralled with this voodoo about terror, Europe and others would quickly fall away, and Israel’s ugly behavior would be left in a glaring spotlight, much as South Africa’s once was.
It is the force of these considerations in part which leads so many to question the true nature of what happened on 9/11, for that set of events was pivotal in having American public opinion embrace extraordinary, anti-democratic, and anti-human rights measures. I do not subscribe to the (not-uncommon) conspiracy notion that the American government was complicit in 9/11, using it as a kind of Nazi Reichstag Fire to ignite the mindless war on terror and a crusade through the Middle East to overturn governments unfriendly to Israel. I do very much believe though that the full story of that event has never been told, and, as always, that can only mean highly embarrassing or compromising facts are being suppressed. The immense body of confidential information in Washington on all matters of state – literally tens of billions of documents - would largely disappear if it weren’t for considerations of embarrassment and compromise, the need for genuine government secrecy being much rarer than many assume.
A free society does not recognize crimes deemed in some way to be different or more heinous or extraordinary: it maintains and enforces sensible, well-reasoned laws which apply equally to all. It does not create criminal laws which reflect political pressure or special interests. The United States, now on a new hunt for a great white whale, has virtually re-created East Germany’s dreaded Stasi, only in a much more sophisticated and far-reaching form. It meshes with the all-pervasive secret state police apparatus Israel has constructed in the Middle East with infinite care since 1948. Now, over all our lives there is something, not answerable to any electorate, working to dissimulate, to intimidate, and to generate fear as nothing of which the Soviet Union was remotely capable. It influences all of our laws and customs, even attempting to shape the way we speak and think.
John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and concern for human decency. John regards it as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of something like 3 million Vietnamese in their own land because they happened to embrace the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada, which he is fond of calling “the peaceable kingdom.” He has been translated into at least ten languages and is regularly translated into Italian and Spanish. Several of his essays have been published in book collections, including two college texts. His first book was published, The Decline of the American Empire and the Rise of China as a Global Power, by Constable and Robinson, Lo
|October 23, 2014||
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The origins of the phrase “American exceptionalism” are not especially obscure. The French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville, observing this country in the 1830s, said that Americans seemed exceptional in valuing practical attainments almost to the exclusion of the arts and sciences. The Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, on hearing a report by the American Communist Party that workers in the United States in 1929 were not ready for revolution,denounced “the heresy of American exceptionalism.” In 1996, the political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset took those hints from Tocqueville and Stalin and added some of his own to produce his book American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. The virtues of American society, for Lipset -- our individualism, hostility to state action, and propensity for ad hoc problem-solving -- themselves stood in the way of a lasting and prudent consensus in the conduct of American politics.
In recent years, the phrase “American exceptionalism,” at once resonant and ambiguous, has stolen into popular usage in electoral politics, in the mainstream media, and in academic writing with a profligacy that is hard to account for. It sometimes seems that exceptionalism for Americans means everything from generosity to selfishness, localism to imperialism, indifference to “the opinions of mankind” to a readiness to incorporate the folkways of every culture. When President Obama told West Point graduates last May that “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” the context made it clear that he meant the United States was the greatest country in the world: our stature was demonstrated by our possessionof “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known,” uniquely tasked with defending liberty and peace globally; and yet we could not allow ourselves to “flout international norms” or be a law unto ourselves. The contradictory nature of these statements would have satisfied even Tocqueville’s taste for paradox.
On the whole, is American exceptionalism a force for good? The question shouldn’t be hard to answer. To make an exception of yourself is as immoral a proceeding for a nation as it is for an individual. When we say of a person (usually someone who has gone off the rails), “He thinks the rules don’t apply to him,” we mean that he is a danger to others and perhaps to himself. People who act on such a belief don’t as a rule examine themselves deeply or write a history of the self to justify their understanding that they are unique. Very little effort is involved in their willfulness. Such exceptionalism, indeed, comes from an excess of will unaccompanied by awareness of the necessity for self-restraint.
Such people are monsters. Many land in asylums, more in prisons. But the category also encompasses a large number of high-functioning autistics: governors, generals, corporate heads, owners of professional sports teams. When you think about it, some of these people do write histories of themselves and in that pursuit, a few of them have kept up the vitality of an ancient genre: criminal autobiography.
All nations, by contrast, write their own histories as a matter of course. They preserve and exhibit a record of their doings; normally, of justified conduct, actions worthy of celebration. “Exceptional” nations, therefore, are compelled to engage in some fancy bookkeeping which exceptional individuals can avoid -- at least until they are put on trial or subjected to interrogation under oath. The exceptional nation will claim that it is not responsible for its exceptional character. Its nature was given by God, or History, or Destiny.
An external and semi-miraculous instrumentality is invoked to explain the prodigy whose essence defies mere scientific understanding. To support the belief in the nation’s exceptional character, synonyms and variants of the word “providence” often get slotted in. That word gained its utility at the end of the seventeenth century -- the start of the epoch of nations formed in Europe by a supposed covenant or compact. Providence splits the difference between the accidents of fortune and purposeful design; it says that God is on your side without having the bad manners to pronounce His name.
Why is it immoral for a person to treat himself as an exception? The reason is plain: because morality, by definition, means a standard of right and wrong that applies to all persons without exception. Yet to answer so briefly may be to oversimplify. For at least three separate meanings are in play when it comes to exceptionalism, with a different apology backing each. The glamour that surrounds the idea owes something to confusion among these possible senses.
First, a nation is thought to be exceptional by its very nature. It is so consistently worthy that a unique goodness shines through all its works. Who would hesitate to admire the acts of such a country? What foreigner would not wish to belong to it? Once we are held captive by this picture, “my country right or wrong” becomes a proper sentiment and not a wild effusion of prejudice, because we cannot conceive of the nation being wrong.
A second meaning of exceptional may seem more open to rational scrutiny. Here, the nation is supposed to be admirable by reason of history and circumstance. It has demonstrated its exceptional quality by adherence to ideals which are peculiar to its original character and honorable as part of a greater human inheritance. Not “my country right or wrong” but “my country, good and getting better” seems to be the standard here. The promise of what the country could turn out to be supports this faith. Its moral and political virtue is perceived as a historical deposit with a rich residue in the present.
A third version of exceptionalism derives from our usual affectionate feelings about living in a community on the scale of a neighborhood or township, an ethnic group or religious sect. Communitarian nationalism takes the innocent-seeming step of generalizing that sentiment to the nation at large. My country is exceptional to me (according to this view) just because it is mine. Its familiar habits and customs have shaped the way I think and feel; nor do I have the slightest wish to extricate myself from its demands. The nation, then, is like a gigantic family, and we owe it what we owe to the members of our family: “unconditional love.” This sounds like the common sense of ordinary feelings. How can our nation help being exceptional to us?
Teacher of the World
Athens was just such an exceptional nation, or city-state, as Pericles described it in his celebrated oration for the first fallen soldiers in the Peloponnesian War. He meant his description of Athens to carry both normative force and hortatory urgency. It is, he says, the greatest of Greek cities, and this quality is shown by its works, shining deeds, the structure of its government, and the character of its citizens, who are themselves creations of the city. At the same time, Pericles was saying to the widows and children of the war dead: Resemble them! Seek to deserve the name of Athenian as they have deserved it!
The oration, recounted by Thucydides in the History of the Peloponnesian War, begins by praising the ancestors of Athenian democracy who by their exertions have made the city exceptional. “They dwelt in the country without break in the succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the present time by their valor.” Yet we who are alive today, Pericles says, have added to that inheritance; and he goes on to praise the constitution of the city, which “does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves.”
The foreshadowing here of American exceptionalism is uncanny and the anticipation of our own predicament continues as the speech proceeds. “In our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to its highest point, and both united in the same persons... As a city we are the school of Hellas” -- by which Pericles means that no representative citizen or soldier of another city could possibly be as resourceful as an Athenian. This city, alone among all the others, is greater than her reputation.
We Athenians, he adds, choose to risk our lives by perpetually carrying a difficult burden, rather than submitting to the will of another state. Our readiness to die for the city is the proof of our greatness. Turning to the surviving families of the dead, he admonishes and exalts them: “You must yourselves realize the power of Athens,” he tells the widows and children, “and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honor in action that men were enabled to win all this.” So stirring are their deeds that the memory of their greatness is written in the hearts of men in faraway lands: “For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb.”
Athenian exceptionalism at its height, as the words of Pericles indicate, took deeds of war as proof of the worthiness of all that the city achieved apart from war. In this way, Athens was placed beyond comparison: nobody who knew it and knew other cities could fail to recognize its exceptional nature. This was not only a judgment inferred from evidence but an overwhelming sensation that carried conviction with it. The greatness of the city ought to be experienced, Pericles imagines, as a vision that “shall break upon you.”
Guilty Past, Innocent Future
To come closer to twenty-first-century America, consider how, in theGettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln gave an exceptional turn to an ambiguous past. Unlike Pericles, he was speaking in the midst of a civil war, not a war between rival states, and this partly explains the note of self-doubt that we may detect in Lincoln when we compare the two speeches. At Gettysburg, Lincoln said that a pledge by the country as a whole had been embodied in a single document, the Declaration of Independence. He took the Declaration as his touchstone, rather than the Constitution, for a reason he spoke of elsewhere: the latter document had been freighted with compromise. The Declaration of Independence uniquely laid down principles that might over time allow the idealism of the founders to be realized.
Athens, for Pericles, was what Athens always had been. The Union, for Lincoln, was what it had yet to become. He associated the greatness of past intentions -- “We hold these truths to be self-evident” -- with the resolve he hoped his listeners would carry out in the present moment: “It is [not for the noble dead but] rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
This allegorical language needs translation. In the future, Lincoln is saying, there will be a popular government and a political society based on the principle of free labor. Before that can happen, however, slavery must be brought to an end by carrying the country’s resolution into practice. So Lincoln asks his listeners to love their country for what it may become, not what it is. Their self-sacrifice on behalf of a possible future will serve as proof of national greatness. He does not hide the stain of slavery that marred the Constitution; the imperfection of the founders is confessed between the lines. But the logic of the speech implies, by a trick of grammar and perspective, that the Union was always pointed in the direction of the Civil War that would make it free.
Notice that Pericles’s argument for the exceptional city has here been reversed. The future is not guaranteed by the greatness of the past; rather, the tarnished virtue of the past will be scoured clean by the purity of the future. Exceptional in its reliance on slavery, the state established by the first American Revolution is thus to be redeemed by the second. Through the sacrifice of nameless thousands, the nation will defeat slavery and justify its fame as the truly exceptional country its founders wished it to be.
Most Americans are moved (without quite knowing why) by the opening words of the Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers...” Four score and seven is a biblical marker of the life of one person, and the words ask us to wonder whether our nation, a radical experiment based on a radical “proposition,” can last longer than a single life-span. The effect is provocative. Yet the backbone of Lincoln’s argument would have stood out more clearly if the speech had instead begun: “Two years from now, perhaps three, our country will see a great transformation.” The truth is that the year of the birth of the nation had no logical relationship to the year of the “new birth of freedom.” An exceptional character, however, whether in history or story, demands an exceptional plot; so the speech commences with deliberately archaic language to ask its implicit question: Can we Americans survive today and become the school of modern democracy, much as Athens was the school of Hellas?
The Ties That Bind and Absolve
To believe that our nation has always been exceptional, as Pericles said Athens was, or that it will soon justify such a claim, as Lincoln suggested America would do, requires a suppression of ordinary skepticism. The belief itself calls for extraordinary arrogance or extraordinary hope in the believer. In our time, exceptionalism has been made less exacting by an appeal to national feeling based on the smallest and most vivid community that most people know: the family. Governor Mario Cuomo of New York, in hiskeynote address at the 1984 Democratic convention, put this straightforwardly. America, said Cuomo, was like a family, and a good family never loses its concern for the least fortunate of its members. In 2011, President Obama, acceding to Republican calls for austerity that led to the sequestration of government funds, told us that the national economy was just like a household budget and every family knows that it must pay its bills.
To take seriously the metaphor of the nation-as-family may lead to a sense of sentimental obligation or prudential worry on behalf of our fellow citizens. But many people think we should pursue the analogy further. If our nation does wrong, they say, we must treat it as an error and not a crime because, after all, we owe our nation unconditional love. Yet here the metaphor betrays our thinking into a false equation. A family has nested us, cradled us, nursed us from infancy, as we have perhaps done for later generations of the same family; and it has done so in a sense that is far more intimate than the sense in which a nation has fostered or nurtured us. We know our family with an individuated depth and authority that can’t be brought to our idea of a nation. This may be a difference of kind, or a difference of degree, but the difference is certainly great.
A subtle deception is involved in the analogy between nation and family; and an illicit transfer of feelings comes with the appeal to “unconditional love.” What do we mean by unconditional love, even at the level of the family? Suppose my delinquent child robs and beats an old man on a city street, and I learn of it by his own confession or by accident. What exactly do I owe him?
Unconditional love, in this setting, surely means that I can’t stop caring about my child; that I will regard his terrible action as an aberration. I will be bound to think about the act and actor quite differently from the way I would think about anyone else who committed such a crime. But does unconditional love also require that I make excuses for him? Shall I pay a lawyer to get him off the hook and back on the streets as soon as possible? Is it my duty to conceal what he has done, if there is a chance of keeping it secret? Must I never say what he did in the company of strangers or outside the family circle?
At a national level, the doctrine of exceptionalism as unconditional love encourages habits of suppression and euphemism that sink deep roots in the common culture. We have seen the result in America in the years since 2001. In the grip of this doctrine, torture has become “enhanced interrogation”; wars of aggression have become wars for democracy; a distant likely enemy has become an “imminent threat” whose very existence justifies an executive order to kill. These are permitted and officially sanctioned forms of collective dishonesty. They begin in quasi-familial piety, they pass through the systematic distortion of language, and they end in the corruption of consciousness.
The commandment to “keep it in the family” is a symptom of that corruption. It follows that one must never speak critically of one’s country in the hearing of other nations or write against its policies in foreign newspapers. No matter how vicious and wrong the conduct of a member of the family may be, one must assume his good intentions. This ideology abets raw self-interest in justifying many actions by which the United States has revealingly made an exception of itself -- for example, our refusal to participate in the International Criminal Court. The community of nations, we declared, was not situated to understand the true extent of our constabulary responsibilities. American actions come under a different standard and we are the only qualified judges of our own cause.
The doctrine of the national family may be a less fertile source of belligerent pride than “my country right or wrong.” It may be less grandiose, too, than the exceptionalism that asks us to love our country for ideals that have never properly been translated into practice. And yet, in this appeal to the family, one finds the same renunciation of moral knowledge -- a renunciation that, if followed, would render inconceivable any social order beyond that of the family and its extension, the tribe.
Unconditional love of our country is the counterpart of unconditional detachment and even hostility toward other countries. None of us is an exception, and no nation is. The sooner we come to live with this truth as a mundane reality without exceptions, the more grateful other nations will be to live in a world that includes us, among others.
David Bromwich, the editor of a selection of Edmund Burke's speeches, On Empire, Liberty, and Reform, has written on the Constitution and America's wars for The New York Review of Books and The Huffington Post.
|October 26, 2014||
Humanity’s Ticking Time Bomb: How the Chemical Age Spun Evolution Out of Control
by Lindsay Abrams , Salon.com, AlterNet
Hey, creationists, wrap your minds around this: Not only is evolution definitely a thing, it’s happening all around us — and at an incredibly rapid pace. The growing threat of antibiotic resistance, the need for new genetically modified crops after our old herbicides stopped being so effective, the resurgence of bedbugs: these are all examples of what biochemical toxicologist Emily Monosson calls “evolution in the fast lane.”
And despite the opinions of those who don’t like to think that human activity can have a significant, detrimental effect on our planet, they’re proof of just the opposite. We may temporarily gain the upper hand over pests and diseases through our use of chemicals, but eventually they’re all but guaranteed to bounce back, stronger than before. Less intentional still, says Monosson, are the impacts we’re having on larger species: where industrial pollution meets wildlife, frogs, fish and salamanders evolve to survive in their newly toxic environments.
In “Unnatural Selection,” Monosson discusses the myriad ways in which the chemical age is changing life, and, most importantly, what we can do to slow things down. Part of the challenge, she told Salon, is just understanding that this is evolution we’re seeing — something that not everyone seems to grasp. ”Maybe if we did,” she mused, “we’d realize how important it is to reduce our chemical influence on life.”
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity, and to incorporate some follow-up points made later over email.
Just to start off, I was hoping we could talk about how evolution, as you write about it, is defined — how is it different from what we’re typically taught?
Well, just to clarify, I’m not sure I’m defining it any differently from what we’re normally taught. By definition, evolution is a change in gene or trait frequency in a population — so a trait like hair or eye color becomes more common in a population over time. The difference is probably that we’re often taught that evolution is something that happens over very long time frames, and we tend to think of evolution in terms of the evolution of different species or very large traits. That’s called macroevolution: big changes. So what I’m writing about here is called microevolution: it’s very small changes. These are changes that normally would probably be difficult to see or that we might not notice — a change in an enzyme or protein, something like that — but because we’re looking at things like resistances, they become very noticeable.
There are a couple of evolutionary biologists who are working on popularizing the idea that evolution can happen very rapidly, and in contemporary time. And that the more we look, the more we see it — so it’s probably more of the norm than the oddball thing. Probably everybody learned about the peppered moths that evolved during the Industrial Revolution, and that was the oddball situation, but what these guys are saying now is that this is kind of more the norm; that these things can happen pretty rapidly.
And that’s something that we’re still working on understanding — how prevalent it is?
Yes, that’s right.
How much time passed between the time when humans began to have this outsized effect on other organisms, and when we began to really understand the implications of that, or even that it was happening?
That is a great question, which I’d best leave to the evolutionary biologists. If people were mining a thousand years ago or something like that, and putting their mine tailings in the soil next to the mine, they might have been influencing the microbes and the worms that were living there. And I guess somebody could say that when people were hunting they were probably influencing evolution, because there’s evidence with fisheries that if you take the biggest fish, you can influence the growth rate of fish populations. If I had to say when we began, I’d say it’s probably when we started becoming dominant and messing with nature.
That said, my focus has been how our use of industrial-age chemicals has influenced evolution; and that influence probably began whenever humans started using, discarding and producing chemicals, but really took off with the industrial age and the chemical revolution. Ever since we started killing things either intentionally or not with chemicals, turning up the pressure, those species that could evolve rapidly probably did so. (In the case of the moths the soot was a more indirect influence — it wasn’t killing the moths, only making them more visible.) We are just now learning the scope of who can and in many cases cannot evolve rapidly in response to our chemicals.
As far as when we really started to understand the effects that we have with the chemicals we’re using, that would probably go back to thinking about antibiotic resistance. That was becoming known back in the 1940s, at least, and maybe even sooner — that if you use too much of the chemical you can influence evolution and cause resistance. I write about Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, and it was being proposed that penicillin be put in all sorts of consumer products — things from vaginal creams to toothpastes. Just like people use antimicrobials now. And back then, he warned in his Nobel Prize speech that if you’re going to do this, you’re going to lose the efficacy of penicillin. The sensitive bacteria are going to become resistant. And that was already happening: during World War II there was evidence of bacteria resistant to penicillin.
One of the things you write about is this idea of “consequences of denial”: We’ve known this has been happening for a long time, but haven’t always changed our ways in recognition of that knowledge. Would you characterize most of the problems we’re facing now, like antibiotic resistance or the emergence of superweeds, as arising in large part from our unwillingness to admit these things could even happen?
Even though evolution or resistance was known in the medical world in response to antibiotics early on — the fact that resistance could be shared among different pathogens, or that pathogens could become resistant to multiple antibiotics — took a while to catch on. Those things were first reported in the late ’50s and ’60s but the studies were received with disbelief. That just couldn’t happen. Similarly farmers have been dealing with resistance to pesticides. They see it. But they use more or use the next pesticide. So in some odd way we seem to accept it as an inevitability, but don’t think about changing how we do things. Maybe because we never thought about it explicitly as evolution; or more profoundly that we have changed that population of insects or weeds or whatever. Maybe if we did, we’d realize how important it is to reduce our chemical influence on life.
I think a lot of it is also this attitude of “technology will save us.” It’s always that thinking that the next best thing is just around the corner — and that did happen right away in the early days when penicillin was becoming less effective: they tweaked it a little and made methicillin, and that worked for awhile, until bacteria became resistant to that. So I think that pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, antivirals — we tend to think there’s a new one around the corner. We just think we’re so great, we’ll come up with something else.
And I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d guess some might not believe that evolution can happen that quickly, let alone at all. (One of my favorite Gary Trudeau comics is a doctor who is treating a creationist who has TB.)
Contemporary evolution and our understanding of it I guess really blossomed in the late 1980s through the 1990s with work by scientists like Peter and Rosemary Grant with Darwin’s finches and articles by Andrew Hendry and Mike Kinnison. Their work helped popularize the idea. But well before that, rapid evolution in bacteria and plants and other prolific species was well known. It just wasn’t known how pervasive it was across all types of organisms, including vertebrates. And in how few generations it can happen.
You know, sometimes when some of these things are really effective and not that toxic, they’re kind of precious, and they should be treated that way. When we lose those, then it’s difficult to discover something else like them. I think we can’t always be saved by technology. The other thing is that we keep developing newer and newer chemicals — we want another antibiotic, we want a different kind of herbicide — but we’re just going to keep having the same problem, that those are going to become ineffective. And so we really need to change our ways. Which is what’s starting to happen with antibiotics.
I’ve been thinking about what you wrote in the context of factory farms — we’re saying we want to take on antibiotic resistance, but the U.S. government still hasn’t done anything about the 80 percent of antibiotics that go to livestock. Is that another example of our just not understanding the enormity of the problem?
Well, I’m not sure it’s not understanding the enormity of the problem, because I just don’t get how anybody could not understand that at this point. So my guess is it’s more different kinds of forces of inertia, not wanting to change, maybe not having good substitutes… I image that just using that much antibiotics in an industrial situation — it’s hard to get an industry to change its ways. I don’t know if there’s a disconnect.
So, one of the things that I was thinking about is that when we’re thinking about antibiotics, and we think about the human side of it — you know, how we can change our behavior — part of it is that it’s kind of an issue of the commons. So antibiotics affect us all, and I might cut back on using them, or be less demanding of a doctor, because I want them to work in my kids, when my kids are sick, or I want them to work in me. But when you’re talking about farming, that’s a different kind of approach. If the industry or whatever loses the use of an antibiotic, that’s not going to affect them personally.
One of the other lessons that you focus on in the book is that evolution is inevitable, which seems like another really obvious thing that we keep failing to think through. The most egregious example, I thought, was Monsanto coming out with Roundup and calling it “evolution-proof.” Is that a fallacy that we still struggle with?
I think now it’s becoming less so. So they said it was nearly evolution-proof, and I’m guessing the thought was that it was probably evolution-proof. I think that there still is probably a little bit of the thinking that through technology, we’ll figure out something that is evolution-proof, and people certainly strive for that. And it would be great — I was just listening to a webinar on resistance in chemotherapy, and what you strive for is to come up with something, whether it’s a chemical or a combination of chemicals or a series of treatments, that is evolution-proof — but it just seems like no matter what we do, even those things that people think are evolution-proof… evolution happens. So I think it’d be surprising if a chemical, whether an antibiotic or herbicide or whatever, came out that’s truly evolution-proof.
This is the story of presumably unexpected resistance — no matter how one feels about GMO, even if you are okay with it, this shows just how innovative nature can be and how little we know.
Some of the examples you give in the book sound more like science fiction — are there any that you’ve found people have a particularly hard time believing are happening?
Of all of these, probably the more surprising one is evolution in vertebrates, because when we’re talking about leaves or bacteria or something like that, we’re talking about very prolific species that have high reproductive rates. So we tend not to think like that when it comes to animals like fish or salamanders or even mice and rats, even though they do have high reproductive rates (but not like bacteria). Those are the ones where I think it’s more surprising when people hear that they evolve, and especially that they evolve in response to pollutants. The difference is that when you have pesticides or antibiotics, those things have a specific target site: insects or bacteria that you’re trying to get at. And it almost makes sense that they’d evolve resistance to those. But when you’re talking about something like PCBs or dioxins, those weren’t designed to kill. And so when you think of selective pressures, you don’t always think that they’re imposing that strong or that big of a selective pressure on those organisms.
The really interesting thing, at least in Ike Wirgin’s work — he’s the one who discovered that tomcods were developing resistance to PCBs and dioxides — is that a lot of these resistances come from selective pressures, but a lot of time there’s something called standing genetic variation. That’s just the variation that’s in a population: you know, every population has lots of genetic variation for any particular gene. So what he thinks is that the reason that resistance is happening so quickly in the populations he’s studying, which is probably within the timeframe of 50 years, is that they already had a gene for resistance somewhere in the population, and that gene was just getting selected for. It’s not like there were necessarily new mutations within that timeframe that arose. And that actually is really important with antibiotics and with cancers — the thinking now is that a lot of times, cancers aren’t just any one clone of an aberrant cell, that they have their own evolutionary course and there are lots of different variants within a particular cancer, and some of those might be resistant to drugs right off the bat. So when you’re treating with that drug, then you’re selecting for that resistant population, that’s a problem. And that’s something that I think now they can do a lot of genetics to see what the mutations are in any cell population, and then try to think about how they can treat it better from the start.
What other solutions can we be looking for, aside from just creating new chemicals? Is the key to try to direct evolution — if that’s even possible — or maybe just to scale back as much as possible?
So, yes, the most obvious is that these chemicals cause evolution because they’re an incredibly powerful selective pressure, so by removing that pressure you’ll reduce or at least change the pace of evolution or the outcome. So using less is a big deal. Using things differently: a lot of these chemicals attack a single target, so some alternatives are to use combinations of antibiotics, or chemotherapy drugs, or herbicides at the same time, because you’re attacking multiple targets, and so it becomes more difficult, through the process of evolution, to become resistant in that way. When you do back off, there are strategies: with agriculture, there’s integrated pest management; with antibiotics, there’s just being better at prevention. The other big thing is using identification — using the right antibiotic for the right pathogen. That’s a really big deal. This year’s Longitude Prize, this $16 million prize awarded through the U.K., will go to someone who develops a quick test to identify pathogens that you can use bedside. There are also some innovative ways, when you’re talking about drugs, of using evolution to your advantage. If you can understand how an organism will evolve, or what mechanisms it will evolve, you could push it in one direction so that it becomes more susceptible to a different kind of treatment, or another drug.
Which of those seem most realistic, the most doable to you?
The pathogen test is actually one realistic thing that we can do, and it’s probably something that could be developed pretty quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody figures that one out soon. Another is backing off; they’ve definitely cut back with antibiotic use in hospitals. And I think another one is prevention; I think there’s some evidence that they’ve been much more aware of resistant diseases and pathogens in general being spread around hospitals, that if they really work to improve the hygiene in the hospitals, they see a reduction in hospital-borne infections.
There’s also hope for developing new things, too, especially in antibiotics. But realistically, I think reining in the use of these chemicals is something we can do. Because I think we’ve gotten very cavalier about how we use them. You know, I wrote about how, when my kids were little, we just showed up at the doctor with an ear infection, and we’d get antibiotics. Nobody knew whether they had a virus or a bacterial infection, and the antibiotics wouldn’t help against a viral infection. But we got the stuff anyway. And I’d be surprised if that happens now. And I don’t know that anybody would really complain now — you know, part of the problem was pushy parents saying “we’re not going to leave until we get something to treat our kids.” I’m not sure that would happen anymore, because I think people are so much more aware. So I think there’s been a good job of getting people aware that we need to conserve these, and that we don’t need to take them all the time.
Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.
|October 26, 2014||
The Stark Facts of Global Greed, a Disease as Challenging as Climate Change
by Paul Bucheit , AlterNet
Global inequality, like global warming, is a disease that may be too far along to ever be cured.
Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, a member of US Uncut Chicago, and the editor and main author of American Wars: Illusions and Realities (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.
|October 28, 2014||
In an exciting declaration, Pope Francis I stated that God should not seen as a “magician with a magic wand,” while unveiling a statue of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Pope Francis also stated that evolution and the Big Bang theory are both true and not incompatible with the church’s views on the origins of the universe and life.
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said, according to the Independent. Francis continued by stating that God “created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”
“The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it,” Francis explained. ”Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
While the pope’s understanding of the origins of life still requires a divine force (rather than a scientific one), his views are a leap forward for the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is not the first pope to welcome these two scientific theories. However, the Catholic Church has a long reputation of being at odds with science, and Pope Francis’ declaration is looked at as “trying to reduce the emotion of dispute or presumed disputes” between the church and science.
It is an especially groundbreaking stance in terms of evolution. The theory, broadly accepted by the majority of scientists, is still under attack by Young Earth Creationists, and it is taught alongside the pseudo-science of creationism in American schools. Some mainstream politicians even try to distance themselves from the term “evolution.”
|October 14, 2014||
Huge U.S. Methane ‘Hot Spot’ Detected From Space
by Environment News Service , AlterNet
Just one location in the U.S. Southwest is responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane seen over the United States – more than triple the standard ground-based estimate, according to a new study of satellite data by scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan.
Methane traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and, like carbon dioxide (CO2), it contributes to global warming. But methane is 22 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than is CO2.
This is almost 3.5 times the estimate for the same area in the European Union’s widely used Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research.
The study’s lead author, Eric Kort of the University of Michigan says the study period predates the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, near the hot spot.
This indicates that the methane emissions should not be attributed to fracking but instead to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, which is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country.
Natural gas is 95 to 98 percent methane. Methane is colorless and odorless, making leaks hard to detect without scientific instruments.
“The results are indicative that emissions from established fossil fuel harvesting techniques are greater than inventoried,” Kort said. “There’s been so much attention on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but we need to consider the industry as a whole.”
Coalbed methane is gas that lines pores and cracks within coal. In underground coal mines, it is a deadly hazard that causes fatal explosions almost every year as it seeps out of the rock.
In the study published online today in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters,” researchers used observations made by the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography (SCIAMACHY) instrument.After the U.S. energy crisis of the 1970s, techniques were invented to extract the methane from the coal and use it for fuel. By 2012, coalbed methane supplied about eight percent of all natural gas in the United States.
SCIAMACHY measured greenhouse gases from 2002 to 2012. The atmospheric hot spot persisted throughout the study period. A ground station in the Total Carbon Column Observing Network, operated by the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, provided independent validation of the measurement.
To calculate the emissions rate that would be required to produce the observed concentration of methane in the air, the authors performed high-resolution regional simulations using a chemical transport model, which simulates how weather moves and changes airborne chemical compounds.
Research scientist Christian Frankenberg of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, first noticed the Four Corners signal 0years ago in SCIAMACHY data.
“We didn’t focus on it because we weren’t sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,” Frankenberg said.
Frankenberg said that the study demonstrates the unique role that space-based measurements can play in monitoring greenhouse gases.
“Satellite data cannot be as accurate as ground-based estimates, but from space, there are no hiding places,” Frankenberg said.
In March 2014 the Obama Administration announced a strategy to reduce methane emissions under its Climate Action Plan. The strategy includes improving the measurement and monitoring of methane emissions and assessing current methane emissions data.
|October 14, 2014||
Pentagon Says Global Warming Poses an Immediate Risk to National Security
by Chris Rose , AlterNet
While U.S. politicians continue to disagree on global warming and its potentially catastrophic consequences, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has just released a report saying climate change will have serious implications for national security.
“Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict,” Hagel said in the introduction to the report —Department of Defense: 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.
“They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”
Hagel said the U.S. military refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of today’s challenges – from infectious disease to terrorism.
He also said a changing climate will have significant impacts on the military and the way it executes its missions, including supporting civil authorities and providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters.
Coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, he said in the 16-page report, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many training activities.
“We must also work with other nations to share tools for assessing and managing climate change impacts, and help build their capacity to respond. Climate change is a global problem. Its impacts do not respect national borders. No nation can deal with it alone. We must work together, building joint capabilities to deal with these emerging threats.”
Hagel added that the potential consequences of climate change means politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound military planning.
He said the Department of Defence (DoD) is almost finished a baseline survey that assesses the vulnerability of the U.S. military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities.
“In places like the Hampton Roads region in Virginia, which houses the largest concentration of US military sites in the world, we see recurrent flooding today, and we are beginning work to address a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet over the next 20 to 50 years,” he said.
In a related speech Monday to the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Arequipa, Peru, Hagel was quoted as saying that the loss of glaciers due to climate change will strain water supplies in several areas of the world.
“Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability,” he said. “Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration.”
He said that while those kinds of events have occurred in other regions of the world, and there are worrying signs that climate change will create serious risks to stability in the Americas.
“Two of the worst droughts in the Americas have occurred in the past 10 years … droughts that used to occur once a century. In the Caribbean, sea level rise may claim 1,200 square miles of coastal land in the next 50 years, and some islands may have to be completely evacuated. According to some estimates, rising temperatures could melt entire glaciers in the Andes, which could have cascading economic and security consequences.”
Uncertainty regarding climate change is no excuse for delaying action, an accompanying DoD news story quoted Hagel as saying.
“While scientists are converging toward consensus on future climate projections, uncertainty remains. But this cannot be an excuse for delaying action,” Hagel said.
“Every day, our military deals with global uncertainty. Our planners know that, as military strategist Carl von Clausewitz wrote, ‘all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight.’ ”
According to the New York Times, the new report marks a significant shift forU.S. military strategic planning.
“In the past, the Pentagon’s response to climate change has focused chiefly on preparing military installations to adapt to its effects, as in protecting coastal naval bases from rising sea levels,” the NYT article said.
“But the new report calls on the military to incorporate climate change into broader strategic thinking about high-risk regions — for example, the ways in which drought and food shortages might set off political unrest in the Middle East and Africa.”
The article added that the Pentagon’s increased emphasis on the threats of climate change is aimed in part at building support for a United Nations agreement, to be signed next year in Paris, that would require the world’s largest producers of planet-warming carbon pollution to slash their emissions.
The Los Angeles Times said Peruvian President Ollanta Humala noted in opening remarks of the defense summit that “if we don’t do anything to address the effects of climate change, there will be nothing left.”
|October 15, 2014||
Plastic Junk Litters Our Oceans, Killing Sea Life — And It’s Getting Worse
by Moyers and Company, Karin Kamp , AlterNet
The ocean may conjure up images of coral islands, gray whales and deep blue seas, but plastic junk?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a collection of debris in the North Pacific ocean – is one of five major garbage patches drifting in the oceans.
Captain Charles J. Moore recently returned from a six-week research trip to the patch and was “utterly shocked” by how the quantity of plastic debris – everything from hard hats to fishing nets to tires to tooth brushes — had grown since his last trip there in 2009.
“It has gotten so thick with trash that where we could formerly tow our trawl net for hours, now our collection tows have to be limited to one hour,” Moore, founder of Algalita Marine Research and Education, told BillMoyers.com
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch actually has two parts — the Western Garbage Patch, near Japan and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California.
“It is the concentration of debris that is growing,” says Moore, who has been studying the patch for 15 years. Moore used aerial drones on his latest expedition to assess the amount of garbage in the eastern patch – which he said is about twice the size of Texas – and found that there is 100 times more plastic by weight than previously measured.
While you might think of a garbage patch as some large congealed mass whose borders are easily definable, it doesn’t quite work like that. Most of the garbage patch is made up of tiny fragments of plastic – notorious for being exceptionally slow to break down – and virtually invisible to the eye.
Scooping up trash at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Much of the debris, about 80%, comes from land-based activities in Asia and North America, according to National Geographic, the remainder comes from debris that has been dumped or lost at sea. It takes about six years for the trash from the coast of North America to reach the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and about one year from Japan.
“The larger objects come mostly from Asia because they arrive there sooner before they can become embrittled and break into bits, which is what happens to North American debris,” Moore says.
These plastics can make the water look like a giant murky soup, intermixed with larger items such as fishing nets and buoys. On his latest trip, Moore said he came upon a floating island of such debris used in oyster aquaculture that had solid areas you could walk on.
Sea creatures get trapped in the larger pieces of debris and die. They also eat the smaller plastic bits, which is problematic because “plastic releases estrogenic compounds to everything it comes in contact with,” Moore says. As he wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed: “Hundreds of species mistake plastics for their natural food, ingesting toxicants that cause liver and stomach abnormalities in fish and birds, often chocking them to death.”
Scientists have collected up to 750,000 bits of microplastic in a square kilometer (or 1.9 million bits per square mile) of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Most of the debris comes from plastic bags, caps, water bottles and Styrofoam cups.
Many in the scientific community agree that the best way to deal with these patches is to limit or eliminate our use of disposable plastics entirely. Moore encourages consumers to “refuse plastics whenever possible,” adding: “Until we shut off the flow of plastics to the sea, the newest global threat to our Antrhopocene age will only get worse.”
Karin Kamp is a multimedia journalist and producer. Before joining billmoyers.com she helped launch The Story Exchange, a site dedicated to women's entrepreneurship. She previously produced for NOW on PBS and WNYC public radio and worked as a reporter for Swiss Radio International.
|October 16, 2014||
Carolyn Marsh was in her living room watching television on a Wednesday night in August when she heard a loud boom from somewhere outside. Having lived in the industrial town of Whiting, Indiana––just south of Chicago––for nearly three decades, she wasn’t terribly shaken. “There’s a lot of noise constantly,” she explains.
But when the news came on an hour later and reported an explosion at the nearby BP refinery, Marsh was incensed. It was the second serious incident since the recent completion of BP’s Whiting Refinery Modernization Project, which Marsh had fought to prevent.
In December 2013, after six years of community pushback, court battles, Environmental Protection Agency citations, and ongoing construction in spite of it all, BP’s $4.2 billion retrofitted facility came fully online.
A little-known tax break allows companies to write-off half of the cost of new equipment for refining tar sands and shale oil. According to a report by Oil Change International, this subsidy had a potential value to oil companies (and cost to taxpayers) of $610 million in 2013.It was now a tar sands refinery, capable of refining 350,000 barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil per day. And it was paid for, in large part, by U.S. taxpayers.
Tar sands are petroleum deposits made up of bitumen mixed in with sand, water and clay. Their production is extremely destructive at every stage: from strip mining indigenous lands in Canada, to disastrous accidents along transportation routes, to dangerous emission levels produced by refining the heavy crude, to the hazards imposed on communities saddled with tar sands byproducts like petroleum coke (“petcoke”), and finally to the greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere when the end product is used for fuel.
Despite all the reasons to keep tar sands in the ground, the refining equipment tax credit has helped put tar sands development in the U.S. on the rise, accelerating climate change at the expense––in every sense of the word––of American taxpayers.
Subsidizing the Dirtiest of Dirty Oil
Heavy speculation and investment in Canadian tar sands extraction have been going on since at least 1995, when the oil industry set a production target of 1 million barrels per day by 2020. That goal was reached far ahead of time, in 2004. Now the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers predicts a rate of 4.8 million barrels per day by 2030 if currently planned expansion holds.
In order to take full advantage of Canada’s tar sands-driven energy boom, American refineries would need to make costly retrofits to century-old facilities designed for the light crude that once flowed plentifully from domestic oil wells––not heavy tar sands crude with a consistency like molasses.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) gave the oil industry a kick in that direction when he introduced a tar sands refinery equipment tax break to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a bill that funneled $85 billion worth of subsidies to the energy sector.
A report by The Pew Charitable Trust estimated that, between 2005 and 2009, this refinery equipment tax break alone cost the government $1.2 billion and increased emissions by more than two million metric tons of carbon.
In the years since Grassley incentivized tar sands retrofits, refineries across the midwest have sprung into action, undertaking massive overhauls to accommodate the tar sands crude that already flows into the U.S. through the original Keystone pipeline and Enbridge’s sprawling network of pipelines.
State and municipal governments have jumped on the tar sands subsidy bandwagon as well, offering tax breaks and other incentives to refineries considering tar sands retrofits.As a result, between 2010 and 2012, tar sands refining in the U.S. increased by 43 percent, according to Oil Change International. By 2012, tar sands accounted for 10.7 percent of the total crude oil processed in U.S. refineries.
One of the biggest handouts came, astonishingly, from the cash-strapped city of Detroit, whose city council approved a whopping $175 million tax break to Marathon for a tar sands upgrade in 2007. Earlier this year, city council members expressed dismay that the massive subsidy created only 15 new jobs for Detroit workers.
“In a city with double-digit unemployment, any company that’s receiving a tax abatement of nearly $180 million should be giving more back, including hiring residents,” Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins told the Detroit Free Press.
“They’re dangling carrots in front of minorities in the city of Detroit,” a worker rejected by Marathon told the Detroit Free Press. “They feel like they can do that. It’s a renegade refinery running over poor people.”
BP’s Whiting Refinery Modernization Project got a significant boost from local coffers as well. In 2008, Indiana’s state development agency awarded BP a $400,000 tax break in a deal that required the company to train 1,583 Indiana employees and hire 74 new ones by 2013. Strangely, in 2012, the same agency gave BP an additional $1.2 millionwith the same stipulation of hiring 74 people by 2013, but without the training.
This cozy relationship between BP and Indiana’s government was solidified several years earlier, before the Whiting Refinery Modernization Project was ever on the table. In 2003, BP successfully pushed for a tax reform law that shifted the company’s tax burden directly onto Indiana residents and paved the way for the refinery expansion.
Refinery Expansions on the Backs of Taxpayers
Carolyn Marsh remembers the shock when her property taxes tripled. “I had been paying less than $1,000––my house is 105 years old––and suddenly I owed almost $3,000.”
With no children, a frugal lifestyle, and union wages, Marsh had saved quite a bit, though not enough to live in one of the Windy City’s lakefront neighborhoods. She was an avid birdwatcher, and living within walking distance of Lake Michigan, where migratory birds and waterfowl commingle, was Marsh’s dream.Born and raised in Chicago, Marsh moved to Whiting in 1987 when her fifteen year career as a steel mill worker came to a grinding halt during one of the final chapters of rust belt de-industrialization.
Whiting, just 17 miles south of downtown Chicago, had parks along the lake and a wilderness area that Marsh would later save from development by pressuring city leaders to designate it as a bird sanctuary. Because it was an industrial area, property taxes were low, and the older homes were affordable.
But Marsh says it was a trade off. “If I wanted to live cheaply and have a house, I would have to tolerate living near a refinery,” she explains. “It’s dangerous. Refineries leak all the time and this whole area has a huge asthma problem.”
For 16 years, Marsh lived with that trade off, until BP threatened to seek out lower property taxes elsewhere and state lawmakers kowtowed to the corporation’s demands. The resulting legislation cut industrial property taxes by 14 percent, shifting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes onto residential property owners like Marsh.
“Living cheap is no longer the situation for me or for others,” Marsh says. “But we still live with the pollution and the results of accidents at the plant.”
When the company announced its plans to refine tar sands in 2006, a BP executive credited the 2003 tax reform, saying the expansion would have been “much less likely,” under the old tax structure.
Marsh was instrumental in challenging the modernization project, testifying in a lawsuit concerning BP’s air permit. A 2012 settlement forced the company to pay an $8 million fine and spend an additional $400 million dollars on technology to reduce pollution.
Marsh was also involved in the public outcry against BP’s water permit, which originally allowed the refinery to discharge 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more industrial waste into Lake Michigan.
But, in Marsh’s view, these hard-won mitigations have had a minimal impact.
Only three months after BP’s Whiting Refinery Modernization Project was complete, the facility spilled what BP estimated to be between 15 and 39 barrels of oil, very likely the heavy tar sands crude, into Lake Michigan, a source of drinking water for millions of people. Five months after that, the explosion Marsh heard caused a fire inside the refinery. It was quelled by the end of the night, with one reported injury, according to BP.
“They should shut the damn thing down,” Marsh says. “We can’t keep exploiting our natural resources to put gas in our cars. It’s insane.”
Investing in Politicians to Protect Their Profits
Accidents like these are run of the mill for BP. With annual profits in the tens of billions of dollars, the corporation has a long history of opting to pay big fines rather than clean up its act.
The company also uses its war chest to exert influence over policymakers. According to The Center for Responsive Politics, BP has spent $95 million lobbying Congress since 1998. Individuals and PACs affiliated with BP have contributed a total of $7 million to Congressional election campaigns.
When the Energy Policy Act made its way through Congress in 2005, BP threw down $1.6 million to lobby for a number of provisions, including, ““issues with expanding refining capacity” according to their lobbying disclosure.
Though BP’s SEC filings don’t specify which tax credits the company has taken advantage of, its 2013 annual reportdoes say that BP not only had $200 million in U.S. tax benefits that year, it also had $1.7 billion in U.S. tax credits stored up.
Corporations are allowed to carry over tax credits from one year to the next in order to use them at the most opportune time––generally those years when profits are high.
A footnote in the filing further explains that BP accumulated the $1.7 billion in tax credits between 2005 and 2011, which is both within the time window of eligibility for the refining equipment tax credit and within the time that construction at the Whiting refinery was underway.
All in all, it seems that BP got a big bang for its buck, spending $1.6 million to push through a plethora of self-serving provisions and likely writing off huge chunks of its $4.2 billion refinery upgrade as a result.
But they were hardly the only ones. On the long list of corporations that poured lobbying money into the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the infamous Koch Industries stands out. They too had something to gain in pushing for the refinery equipment tax break, which was among the many provisions they spent nearly $1.58 million lobbying for.
Mounting Toxic Byproducts
In the coming months, Bautista’s husband would pressure wash a sticky black film off their home multiple times. Her young daughter would come in from playing in the backyard, her face smudged with a sooty-looking substance that didn’t wash off easily.When the 30-foot-tall black mounds appeared along the Calumet River in Southeast Chicago in early 2013, Olga Bautista thought the ominous forms were piles of coal. She grew up in the industrial area and was used to coal trains passing through on their way to the power plant in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
Shortly after Bautista gave birth to her second daughter, a friend visited, bringing news from a meeting of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, where both women volunteered. The huge mounds were something called petcoke, the friend told Bautista.
“We started to make the connection,” she says.
They learned that petcoke, or petroleum coke, is a byproduct of oil refining that looks and burns like coal, but is much dirtier, emitting 5-10 percent more carbon dioxide per unit of energy. Refining tar sands bitumen requires a process called coking that produces far more petcoke than conventional oil refining.
Thus, as the Whiting Refinery Modernization Project gradually came online, petcoke began piling up on the banks of the Calumet River, awaiting shipment to countries where emissions standards are lower. The middleman? KCBX, a subsidiary of Koch Industries.
Bautista describes the population of Southeast Chicago as working class. “We are teachers, nurses, police officers, firemen. We are in the service industry, cleaning hotels, working at Wal Mart and Dollar Stores. We are the backbone of this city.”
Yet, the neighborhoods that make up Southeast Chicago are some of the most underserved, particularly South Deering, one of the areas nearest to the petcoke piles.
“It’s a transit desert, it’s a food desert,” Bautista says. “They had one laundromat that has recently burned down. People are washing their clothes in their bathtubs.”
Southeast Chicago is predominantly Latino. As the city’s industrial corridor, it’s long borne the brunt of environmental racism. The Southeast Side has higher rates of asthma, heart disease, stroke, and cancer than the Chicago area as a whole.
After years of living with pollution, Bautista says, many residents were initially unfazed by the petcoke piles. But then a particularly windy day in August, 2013 catalyzed the community into action.
“People were calling 911 because they thought the neighborhood was on fire,” Bautista says, describing the thick cloud of petcoke dust that whipped through Southeast Chicago that day, blanketing homes and sending dozens of people to clinics with respiratory issues.
After that, a number of community groups formed Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke and began a campaign to pressure city government to force out KCBX and it’s waste piles.
KCBX says they need at least four years to accomplish this––and they’ve threatened to sue to get their way. They’re also demanding permission to pile the petcoke fifteen feet higher.
While these moves constitute some modest progress, a Chicago city webpage about petcoke casts doubt on how seriously elected officials are treating the issue. The patronizing Q and A actually instructs residents to just stay inside and clean their homes in order to avoid exposure to petcoke dust.
“This is the kind of violence we’re under,” Bautista says. “We’re risking our lives just by breathing the air while these corporations are using tax loopholes to abuse us and make a profit. We’re financing our own misery.”
Fighting Petcoke, Fighting for Climate Justice
Bautista suspects that this is a tactic to minimize the issue of the petcoke piles in the upcoming elections. It’s unlikely to work, since she’s running for Alderman. Recently, KCBX’s petcoke piles have shrunk. But members of the Southeast Coalition to Ban Petcoke discovered they’ve been moved onto barges anchored at points in the river not visible from public property.
Her platform isn’t only about opposition to KCBX storing petcoke, though. Bautista is part of a growing movement for climate justice that demands broader systemic change from corporations and governments. In September she spoke in the closing plenary of the NYC Climate Convergence, held in conjunction with the historic People’s Climate March.
Her speech connected the struggles of people in Whiting, Southeast Chicago, Detroit, and so many other communities suffering the consequences of massive corporate welfare for the fossil fuel industry.
“BP and Koch industries are polluting our community, and it’s time they and companies like theirs pay up big time or get out,” she told her audience.
“This is what is meant by class warfare, but it’s only war when we rise up and fight against the forces that have hijacked our lives…Win or lose there is something about living a life with dignity––with our heads held high and exposing these systems that tear us down everyday while only a small minority profits in any way…Our backs are already against the wall. The only way to move is forward.”
|October 20, 2014||
4 Weird—and Terrifying—Consequences of Climate Change You May Not Know About
by Alyssa Figueroa , AlterNet
When you think about the terrible effects of climate change, I bet you picture droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, which makes sense — climate change is causing weather patterns to go absolutely crazy. But the crazy weather leads to other consequences that we often don’t think about when we hear the globe is warming up. Here is a list of 5 frightening effects from climate change.
1. Increased Suicide
Besides destroying crops and causing food prices to spike, droughts have recently been linked to an alarming consequence: suicide. In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found a link between droughts and suicides among men ages 30 to 49 living in rural areas in Australia. After evaluating 40 years of drought and suicide data for the state of New South Wales, droughts were linked to a 15 percent increase in suicide risk among these men. This link was also found in men under 30, though no link was found among women.
Though research for this study was completed in Australia, links between droughts and suicides have been made before, particularly in India where thousands of farmers kill themselves each year. In fact, a recent article states that one farmer in India commits suicide every 12 hours.
As the United States is seeing its largest drought since 1956, there are reasons to be concerned about the correlation. While the authors of the study note, “suicide is a complex phenomenon with many interacting social, environmental, and biological causal factors,” there are plenty of explanations for the correlation. The authors write that farmers and farming communities lose a lot of money when droughts destroy their crops. They also state that farmers experience mental distress when witnessing the devastation of their livestock and crops.
The authors remind us that if we don’t truly work to stop climate change, we will have to face the disturbing effects. They conclude in their abstract: “Elucidating the relationships between drought and mental health will help facilitate adaptation to climate change.”
2. West Nile Virus
What do you get when you combine increasingly warm weather and thousands of mosquitoes? A huge outbreak of West Nile virus. As droughts are causing creek waters to stop flowing, mosquitoes are finding the perfect breeding spot in the standing water. Mosquitoes also mature and thus breed faster in the heat. Meanwhile, warm weather also decreases the virus’ incubation period. This all allows the virus to spread rapidly. In addition, earlier springs and milder winters lengthen breeding season.
According to the Center for Disease Control, West Nile virus has infected 1,118 people and killed 41 people across the nation. Human cases have been detected in 38 states, while human and animal cases have been detected in 47 states. Texas, especially Dallas County, has been hard hit, with 586 reported cases and 11 deaths.
3. Nuclear Plant Shutdown
Nuclear power plants often rely on cold waters to cool their reactors. But as hot weather is causing water temperatures to rise, nuclear plants have had to respond. In Connecticut, the Millstone nuclear plant was shut down in 2012 as the waters surrounding it reached nearly 77 degrees, 2 degrees higher than the 75 degrees the reactor was designed to withstand.
In July 2012, an Illinois nuclear plant, whose reactor was built to work in water below 98 degrees, asked for special permission to continue operation when the waters around it reached 102 degrees. Permission was granted partly because if a nuclear plant shuts down, cold water must be available to cool all equipment.
Craig Nesbit, the owner of the plant, told the New York Times, "Last thing in the world you’d ever want to do, if there was no safety implication, is shut down a 2,600-megawatt nuclear plant in the biggest heat wave in the last 30 years."
Other plants in the Midwest have faced similar problems with warm water temperatures as well as low water levels, which inhibit reactors’ pipes from drawing up water.
Although we should be focusing on creating more sustainable initiatives than nuclear energy, even greener energy projects are struggling to meet the supply of our large energy demand. For example, California’s hydroelectric power plants cannot produce as much electricity due to the drought. Perhaps, the only truly sustainable approach we can take is to change our resource-consuming lifestyles.
Still, the worst-case scenario is not simply a reduction of energy, but a nuclear plant meltdown. Emergency officials in Connecticut even held a drill to deal with two fictitious accidents at the Millstone nuclear plant. They prepared for a release of large amounts of radioactivity from the reactor. The governor declared a general emergency, closing parks, moving schoolchildren to evacuation centers, evacuating residents within five miles of the plant and distributing potassium iodide pills to guard against absorption of radioactive iodine through people’s thyroids.
4. Cows Fed Candy
With corn nearly $9 a bushel due to the drought, Nick Smith, the co-owner of United Livestock Commodities in Kentucky, said his farm had to come up with a cheaper way to feed his cattle. The remedy? A concoction of candy rejected for human consumption, an ethanol byproduct and a mineral nutrient.
Joseph Watson, also a co-owner of the farm, said, "Just to be able to survive, we have to look for other sources of nutrition."
Watson claims the cows seem to be doing okay. But since cows are designed to eat grass — not corn, and certainly not an expired candy and ethanol mixture — the sweet mixture probably won’t be promising. And there are human side-effects, too: cows that don’t eat grass are more prone to developing E. coli, which can infect various types of food we eat.
Nobody is safe from these terrible climate change consequences that are affecting people -- and animals -- worldwide.
|October 15, 2014||
FUTURE OF PLANET…. AND TERRORISM! AVENIR DE LA PLANETE …. ET TERRORISME !
by Guy Crequie
Guy CREQUIE Global file
Ecrivain francais à finalité philosophique. Blog http://guycrequie.blogspot.com
AVENIR DE LA PLANETE …. ET TERRORISME !
(Première de mes deux contributions depuis mon retour après 15 jours d’absence)
Depuis de nombreux mois, j’alerte les médias, les élus politiques sur l’importance du DJIHAD ces jeunes Français, lesquels, parfois partent en couple en Irak, en Syrie, au Soudan, Pakistan, en Algérie ou autre. Estimés à 950, la réalité doit être bien supérieure ceci car nos services secrets ne peuvent pas tout maitriser. Sans parler de ceux d’autres pays européens et ceux des autres continents.
Régulièrement des apprentis terroristes sont arrêtés sur le territoire national. Il y a eu ceux d’Orly, de Lyon, de Toulouse mais bien d’autres dans la discrétion. Notre pays devra s’habituer sous la menace d’un attentat. Certes, des mesures contraignantes vont en résulter, lesquelles vont entraver nos habitudes, libertés. Cependant, la sécurité collective des citoyens, relève bien de l’article 3 de notre Constitution. Le drame et la difficulté sont ceux que la menace viendra de l’intérieur de notre pays. Des Français issus de l’immigration voulant détruire notre système. Heureusement, majoritairement, la Communauté musulmane en France se dresse, et refuse ce terrorisme et fanatisme de l’horreur. La décapitation d’Hervé GOURDEL a accentué cette prise de conscience.
Alors, à qui la faute ? Certes le poids de la colonisation a sa part, les déséquilibres nord/sud, et par exemple le Sahel conjugue : conditions climatiques (sécheresse) et problèmes géopolitiques (terrorisme, zone de pauvreté). Il y a les retombées des expéditions militaires en Afghanistan, en Irak …. Il y les problèmes de civilisation : le modèle occidental ou présenté comme tel, celui du libéralisme économique, du fonctionnement des grandes institutions inspiré par le modèle dit démocratique occidental, et puis il y a les retards de la pensée sur l’état du monde réel. C’est ce que j’expliquerai ultérieurement par exemple en exposant pour l’Islam, l’origine du califat, ses incidences dans l’histoire (son histoire), et la nécessité urgente d’une appropriation de leur histoire par les Musulmans, afin de définir une islamologie appliquée, laquelle, définira la voie musulmane au sein de la modernité sans s’aligner sur les repères et modèles occidentaux, mais en dialogue et recherche de convergences avec eux.
J’aborde maintenant les enjeux de la Conférence Internationale sur le climat à l’ONU ,qui s’est déroulée en septembre 2014…. Une de plus diront certains, et pour quels résultats ???
Dans un contexte de crise politique nationale et internationale, nous sommes de surcroît confrontés aux enjeux du réchauffement climatique.
Comment va-t-on s’adapter ? A court terme, avec une évolution de 1 degré d’ici 2050, nous ne maitriserons plus grand-chose en 2100 ! Ensuite réchauffement de 2 degrés ou plus, tout dépend de ce que nous ferons. Ce sont les enfants qui sont actuellement dans les cours d’écoles qui paieront le prix. La nécessité est celle de combiner : les solutions techniques et celles comportementales. Les solutions techniques ont l’avantage de permettre de l’innovation pour le mieux vivre. Mais le coût est élevé, c’est pourquoi les élus politiques hésitent à les mettre en œuvre en période de crise. Ensuite, ce sont les pays les plus en difficultés qui n’y parviennent pas facilement. Les solutions comportementales passent par des politiques publiques et médiatiques mais celles-ci restent certes en progrès, mais insuffisants. Exemple à propos du nucléaire : à part les noms d’oiseaux échangés entre partisans et opposants, parmi les citoyens, qui possède réellement l’information objective, scientifique sur les enjeux et effets du nucléaire ?
Certes, le CO2 produit est nettement inférieur à celui produit par les énergies fossiles. Mais, il y a les questions des déchets, des accidents et leurs incidences. Sortir de l’idéologie, pour parler vrai, risques, progrès et enjeux, le débat est peu réel, les citoyens ne sont pas éclairés sont sensibles au coût, ceci car la transition énergétique avec les énergies renouvelable a un coût.
Vingt-deux millions de personnes ont été déplacés de par le monde à cause des catastrophes naturelles, soit trois fois plus que les déplacements liés aux guerres ou conflits ethniques. Si nous ne réduisons pas le réchauffement climatique d’ici 2100 et que les températures dépassent de 3 à 5 degrés les températures actuelles, plusieurs régions du monde deviendront inhabitables ce qui provoquera des exodes forcés ou organisés, avec des risques de conflits.
Ensuite l’adaptation par la contrainte, présente d’autres risques économiques et sociaux. Exemple : dans le delta du Mékong, lors de crues et de catastrophes naturelles, les populations sont déplacées sur les collines, mais cela produit des pertes de repaires, des pertes d’activités économiques maitrisées dans le delta.
Aujourd’hui, par exemple en France : dix-sept millions de personnes vivent dans des zones à risques (inondables, séismes…).
Cependant, le coût de ne pas construire produit aussi des risques.
Quel prix, les populations sont-elles prêtes à payer individuellement et collectivement, ceci car mieux aménagé demande des fonds, mais en situation de crise : c’est réduire d’autres dépenses tels crèches, structures pour personnes âgées, équipements sportifs etc…
Des solutions à court terme sont recherchées : exemple : des forages pour alimenter en eau des rivières, mais quel est le coût écologique, et ensuite, avec la sécheresse, il y a aussi les évaporations.
Plus fondamentalement, des réflexions devront s’engager s’agissant du choix des cultures, leur localisation, l’adaptation de l’agriculture. Les rendements en blé et en maïs n’augmentent plus depuis 15 ans, après 50 ans d’augmentation, ceci à cause de la sécheresse.
Les techniques de manipulation du climat posent des questions éthiques, de modes de consommation, de gouvernance politique et territoriale.
Alors, les Nations Unies ont décidé de la création d’un fonds vert de 100 milliards de dollars. La France, l’Allemagne ont décidé de verser 1 milliard avec deux missions principales : réduire les émissions à effet de serre, aider à s’adapter par une ingénierie du comportement.
Cependant, le réchauffement climatique est confronté à des réalités de géopolitiques internationales, à des problèmes structurels d’inégalités entre continents, et au poids du capitalisme mondial.
Un exemple : la crise ukrainienne a démontré, que l’Europe dépend beaucoup de la Russie pour le gaz. Si nous voulons diminuer de moitié notre consommation d’énergie d’ici 2050 et alors que 90% de l’énergie produite au plan mondial ne sera pas nucléaire, il est impérieux de trouver un équilibre entre le recours aux énergies renouvelables et la maitrise de nos consommations, ce qui pose la question de nos habitants (leur conception) et celle de nos comportements.
Copyright Guy CREQUIE,
Ecrivain français à finalité philosophique – observateur social
Messager de la culture de la paix de l’UNESCO
FUTURE OF PLANET…. AND TERRORISM!
(First of my two contributions since my return after 15 days of absence)
Since many months, I alert the media, the political elected officials on the importance of the DJIHAD these young French, which, sometimes leave in couple to Iraq, to Syria, in Sudan, Pakistan, to Algeria or other. Estimated at 950, reality must be quite higher this because our secret services cannot all control. Without speaking of those of other European countries and those of the other continents.
Regularly terrorist apprentices are stopped on the national territory. There were those of Orly, of Lyon, of Toulouse but well of others in discretion. Our country will have to be accustomed under the threat of an attack. Admittedly, constraining measurements will result from it, which will block our practices, freedoms. However, the collective security of the citizens, concerns well article 3 of our Constitution. The drama and the difficulty are those which the threat will come from the interior of our country. Of the French resulting from immigration wanting to destroy our system. Fortunately, mainly, the Muslim community in France draws up, and refuses this terrorism and fanaticism of the horror. The decapitation of Herve GOURDEL accentuated this awakening.
Then, with which it fault? Admittedly the weight of colonization has its share, NORTH-SOUTH imbalances, and for example the Sahel combines: geopolitical climatic conditions (drought) and problems (terrorism, zone of poverty).
There are the repercussions of military forwardings in Afghanistan, in Iraq…. It there problems of civilization: the model Western or presented like such, that of the economic liberalism, the work of the great institutions inspired by the Western model known as democratic, and then there are the delays of the thought on the state of the real world.
It is what I will explain later on for example while exposing for Islam, the origin of the caliphate, his incidences in the history (its history), and urgent need for an appropriation of their history by the Muslims, in order to define a islamology applied, which, will define the Moslem way within modernity without aligning itself on the reference marks and model Western, but dialogues about it and search for convergences with them.
I now approach the challenges of the International Conference on the climate with UNO, which proceeded in September 2014…. Will One moreover say some, and for which results???
In a context of national and international political crisis, we are in addition confronted with the challenges of climate warming.
How will one adapt? In the short run, with an evolution of 1 degree by 2050, we will not control any more large-thing in 2100! Then warming of 2 degrees or more, all depends on what we will do. They are the children who are currently in the courses of schools which will pay the price.
The need is that to combine: technical solutions and those behavioral.
The technical solutions have the advantage of allowing innovation for best living. But the cost is increased, this is why the political elected officials hesitate to implement them in crisis period. Then, they are the countries more in difficulties which do not reach that point easily.
The behavioral solutions pass by public policies and media but those remain certainly in progress, but insufficient. Example concerning the nuclear power: except for the names of birds exchanged between partisans and opponents, among the citizens, who has really objective, scientific information on the challenges and effects of the nuclear power?
Admittedly, produced CO2 is definitely lower than that produced by fossil energies. But, there are the questions of waste, the accidents and their incidences. To Leave the ideology, to speak true, risks, progress and challenges, the debate is not very real, the citizens are not enlightened are sensitive to the cost, this because the energy transition with energies renewable has a cost.
Twenty-two million people was moved all over the world because of natural disasters, that is to say three times more than displacements related to the ethnic wars or conflicts. If we do not reduce climate warming by 2100 and that the temperatures exceed from 3 to 5 degrees the current temperatures, several areas of the world will become uninhabitable what will cause exoduses forced or organized, with risks of conflicts.
Then the adaptation by the constraint, presents other economic and social risks. Example: in the Mekong delta, at the time of believed and natural disasters, the populations are moved on the hills, but that produced of the losses of dens, the losses of economic activities controlled in the delta. Today, for example in France: seventeen million people lives in zones at the risks (easily flooded, earthquakes…). However, the cost not to build also produced risks.
Which price, the populations is they ready to pay and collectively, this individually because better arranged demand of the funds, but for crisis situation: it is to reduce other expenditure such cribs, structures for elderly people, sports facilities etc…
Short-term solutions are required: example: drillings to feed out of water of the rivers, but which is the ecological cost, and then, with the drought, there are also evaporations. More basically, of the reflections will have to engage as regards choice of the cultures, their localization, the adaptation of agriculture. The corn and wheat yields have not increased any more for 15 years, after 50 years of increase, this because of the drought.
The techniques of handling of the climate ask ethical questions, modes of consumption, political and territorial governance. Then, the United Nations decided creation of funds green of 100 billion dollars. France, Germany decided to pour 1 billion with two main missions: to reduce the emissions for greenhouse effect, to help to adapt by an engineering of the behavior. However, climate warming is confronted with the geopolitical realities international ones, problems structural of inequalities between continents, and with the weight of world capitalism.
An example: the Ukrainian crisis showed, that Europe depends much on Russia for gas. If we want to decrease by half our energy consumption by 2050 and whereas 90% of the energy produced with the world plan are not nuclear, it is pressing to find a balance between the recourse to renewable energies and the control of our consumption, which asks the question of our inhabitants (their design) and that of our behaviors.
Copyright Guy CREQUIE,
French Writer with philosophical purpose - social observer
Messenger of the culture of the peace of UNESCO
|October 26, 2014||
Cercle Universel des Ambassadeurs de la Paix
Universal Ambassador Peace Circle
BAIN DE SANG, BLOOD BATH, BANHO DE SANGUE, ВАННА КРОВИ
by FRANJA DE SANGRE
FRANJA DE SANGRE El llanto de los niños no cesa en la garganta de la oscuridad.
El llanto sigue su canto inconsolableante el drama de la guerra...
Las bombas resuenan a la distancia con su música cerca del miedo y el canto de los indefensos...
La codicia de los poderosos no cesa escondida tras la máscara del poder.
Las madres cobijan en su seno el dolor inconsolable por sus hijos indefensos ante las atrocidades del combate... Una franja de sangre y horror separa a los hombres...
Todos luchan sin amor por sus derechos... ¿Donde está la Justicia y la Paz? ¿Donde?
Nacerá otro día en que los justos buscarán el nombre de Dios... Los niños sonreirán ante el resplandor de la Paz y el silencio de la guerra...
El hombre clamará por justicia sin dolor ni muerte... Reinará la Paz en el Planeta para todos los hombres. Será el día en que la injusticia será vencida en nombre del amor de los unos por los otros.
El bien reinará y vencerá la Paz
BAIN DE SANG
Les cris des enfants ne s'arrêtent pas au trou de l'obscurité.
Pleurer continue son chant inconsolable du drame de la guerre...
Cris résonnent à distance avec sa musique à proximité de la peur et le chant de l'impuissant...
La cupidité des puissants tient cachée derrière leur masque de la puissance.
Abri de mères dans votre douleur inconsolable pour des enfants sans défense lutter contre les atrocités...
Un bain de sang et d'horreur séparent les hommes..
Tous luttent sans amour pour leurs droits... où est la justice et la paix ? Où ?
Il va naître un autre jour où les justes chercheront le nom de Dieu... Enfants sourire avant la lueur de la paix et le silence de la guerre...
L'homme doit pleurer pour la justice sans douleur ou la mort...
Paix sur la planète règnera pour tous les hommes. Ce sera le jour où l'injustice sera vaincu au nom de l'amour de l'autre.
Le bon va régner et gagner la paix
The cries of the children do not stop at the hole of darkness.
Crying continues his inconsolable song of the drama of the war...
Cree resonate remotely with his music in the vicinity of fear and the singing of the powerless...
The greed of the powerful is hidden behind their masks of power.
Shelter of mothers in your inconsolable pain for defenceless children fight against the atrocities... A bath of blood and horror separate men...
All are struggling without love for their rights... where is the justice and peace? Where to?
It will rise another day where the righteous will seek God's name...
Children smile before the glow of peace and the silence of the war...
Man must cry for justice without pain or death...
Peace on the planet shall reign for all men. This will be the day where injustice is defeated on behalf of the love of the other.
The good will prevail and win peace
BANHO DE SANGUE
Os gritos das crianças não pare no buraco das trevas.
Chorando continua sua canção inconsolável do drama da guerra...
Cree ressoa remotamente com sua música nas proximidades do medo e o canto dos fracos...
A ganância dos poderosos está escondida atrás de suas máscaras do poder.
Abrigo de mães em sua dor inconsolável para crianças indefesas lutar contra as atrocidades...
Um banho de sangue e horror separar homens...
Todos estão lutando sem amor pelos seus direitos... onde está a justiça e a paz? Para onde?
Ele vai subir outro dia onde os justos procurarão o nome de Deus... Crianças sorriam antes o brilho da paz e o silêncio da guerra...
Homem deve chorar pela justiça sem dor ou morte...
Paz no planeta reinará para todos os homens. Este será o dia onde a injustiça é derrotada em nome do amor do outro.
A boa vontade prevalecer e ganhar a paz
Postal address: 186 Bowlsby Street, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada V9R 5K1
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