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|September 6, 2009|| Ecohumanism as a Developmental Crossing (Revisited)
published in the Journal of Europe’s World
by Leslaw Michnowski
Member of the Committee of Prognosis “Poland 2000 Plus”
by the Presidium of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and the Polish Association for the Club of Rome
Chairman of Sustainable Development Creators'Club
The Polish Federation for Life
The Sustainable Development Global Information Society website is managed by Leslaw Michnowski
I observe conservative tendency in the ways for overcome global crisis. From my sustainable development theory point of view this way lead us to global catastrophe. This crisis is not cyclical crisis as usually. It is vey dangerous global civilization crisis. Such crisis to overcome it needs quite new cooperation, information and value - ecohumanistic - tools. It is impossible to overcome it in old social-darwinistic mode.
|Read Download full WORD document by author|
|September 4, 2009||
Predicting Worse Ahead From America's Economic Crisis
by Stephen Lendman, Countercurrents.org
There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved. The (US) economy has reached its debt limit and is entering its insolvency phase. We are not in a cycle but (at) the end of an era. The old world of debt pyramiding to a fraudulent degree cannot be restored," only delayed to postpone a painful day of reckoning. Panarin compares America to the Titanic after hitting an iceberg when it was unclear whether the crew would try to save the ship or more importantly its passengers. Unfortunately, under Bush and Obama, they're trying to save themselves at the expense of the ship and passengers. After disintegration, Panarin sees three dominant influence areas emerging - the EU, Russia and China. The economy suffers from deep structural problems related to household income. Consumers are over-indebted, can't borrow, and Washington's policies aren't helping them. Continued economic decline will follow. "The current depression is the second dip in a multiple-dip downturn that started in 1999 (and triggered) the systemic solvency crisis" that was visible by August 2007 but started in late 2006. The worst lies ahead, the result of the "government's long-range insolvency and (dollar debasing that risks) hyperinflation during the next five years," and perhaps sooner in 2010. It will cause "a great depression of a magnitude never before seen in" America, disrupting all business and commerce and reverberating globally.
America is hemorrhaging financially and economically. Other countries now realize they hold "worthless" US dollars. Reckless money creation achieved short-term hope, benefitted Wall Street alone short-term, elevated world stock markets, and led some to believe the crisis was over when, in fact, it's worsening.
Aside from expected short-lived upturns, "every single sector of the real economy is deteriorating whether it is production, unemployment, corporate profits, real estate, credit defaults, construction, federal deficits, local government and state deficits etc." In response, the Fed keeps printing money and destroying its value. "This is total lunacy! How can any intelligent person believe that printed pieces of paper can solve an economic catastrophe?" We're in "the first phase of this tragic saga." Likely by year end, a second more serious one will start. Real unemployment now tops 20%. It hit 25% in the Great Depression with 35% of the nonfarm population out of work and desperate. "It is our firm opinion that (US) non-farm unemployment levels will reach 35% at least....in the next few years" with all uncounted categories included.
Growing millions with no jobs, incomes, savings, or safety net protections will create "a disaster of unimaginable consequences that will affect the whole fabric of American society" to a degree far greater than in the Great Depression.
Growing unemployment now plagues Western and Eastern Europe as well, and by 2010 will more greatly affect most parts of the world, "including China, Asia and Africa. Never before has there been a global unemployment crisis affecting the world simultaneously." Ahead expect sharp drops in consumption and global trade leading to depression, poverty, "famine and social unrest."
Already, conditions are worse than in the 1930s, but the worst is yet to come. Expect:
-- an extremely severe global depression in most countries with grave economic, political, and social consequences;
-- social safety net protections will end;
-- private and state pensions will likely collapse; and
-- unemployment, poverty, homelessness, hunger, and famine will cause a protracted period of economic, political, social, and institutional upheaval.
|September 4, 2009||
At least - until a few months ago - government targets for cutting greenhouse gases had the virtue of being wrong. They were the wrong targets, by the wrong dates, and they bore no relationship to the stated aim of preventing more than two degrees of global warming. But they used a methodology which even their sternest critics (myself included) believed could be improved until it delivered the right results: the cuts merely needed to be raised and accelerated.
At least - until a few months ago - government targets for cutting greenhouse gases had the virtue of being wrong. They were the wrong targets, by the wrong dates, and they bore no relationship to the stated aim of preventing more than two degrees of global warming. But they used a methodology which even their sternest critics (myself included) believed could be improved until it delivered the right results: the cuts merely needed to be raised and accelerated.
Three papers released earlier this year changed all that. The first one, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February, set the scene(1). It showed that the climate change we cause today “is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop”. Around 40% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans this century will remain in the atmosphere until at least the year 3000*. Moreover, thanks to the peculiar ways in which the oceans absorb heat from the atmosphere, global average temperatures are likely to “remain approximately constant … until the end of the millennium despite zero further emissions”.
In other words, governments’ hopes about the trajectory of temperature change are ill-founded. Most, including the UK’s, are working on the assumption that we can overshoot the desired targets for temperature and atmospheric concentrations of CO2, then watch them settle back later. What this paper shows is that wherever temperatures peak, that is more or less where they will stay. There is no going back.
The other two papers were published by Nature in April. While governments and the United Nations set targets for cuts by a certain date, these papers measured something quite different: the total volume of carbon dioxide we can produce and still stand a good chance of avoiding more than two degrees of warming. One paper, by a team led by Myles Allen, shows that preventing more than two degrees means producing a maximum of half a trillion tonnes of carbon (1830 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide) between now and 2500 - and probably much less(2). The other paper, written by a team led by Malte Meinshausen, proposes that producing 1000 billion tonnes of CO2 between 2000 and 2050 would deliver a 25% chance of exceeding two degrees of warming(3).
Writing elsewhere, the two teams gave us an idea of what this means. At current rates of use, we will burn the ration that Allen set aside for the next 500 years in four decades(4). Meinshausen’s carbon budget between now and 2050 will have been exhausted before 2030(5).
There’s another way of expressing these limits. The World Energy Council (WEC) publishes figures for global reserves of fossil fuels(6). A reserve means the minerals that have been identified, quantified and are cost-effective to exploit; in other words those that are more or less ready to be extracted. (The total amount of a mineral found in the earth’s crust is called the resource). The WEC says that 848 billion tonnes of coal(7), 177,000 billion cubic metres of natural gas(8) and 162 billion tonnes of crude oil(9) are good to go. We know roughly how much carbon a tonne of coal, a cubic metre of gas and a barrel of oil contain. You can see the calculations and references at the bottom of this article: the result suggests that official reserves of coal, gas and oil amount to 818 billion tonnes of carbon.
The molecular weight of carbon dioxide is 3.667 times that of carbon. This means that current reserves of fossil fuel, even when we ignore unconventional sources such as tar sands and oil shale, would produce 3000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide if they were burnt. In other words, if we don’t want to exceed two degrees of global warming, we can burn, according to Allen’s paper, a maximum of 60% of current fossil fuel reserves by 2500(10). Meinshausen says we’ve already used one third of his 2050 budget since 2000(11), which suggests that we can afford to burn only 22% of current reserves between now and 2050(12). If you counted unconventional sources (the carbon content is much harder to calculate), the proportion would be even smaller.
There are some obvious conclusions from these three papers. The trajectory of cuts is more important than the final destination. An 80% cut by 2050, for example, could produce very different outcomes. If most of the cut were made towards the beginning of the period, the total emissions entering the atmosphere would be much smaller than if most of the cut were made at the end of the period. The measure that counts is the peak atmospheric concentration. This must be as low as possible and come as soon as possible, which means making most of the reductions right now. Ensuring that we don’t exceed the cumulative emissions discussed in the Nature papers means setting an absolute limit to the amount of fossil fuel we can burn, which, as my rough sums show, is likely to be much smaller than the reserves already identified. It means a global moratorium on prospecting and developing new fields.
None of this is currently on the table. The targets and methodology being used by governments and the United Nations - which will form the basis for their negotiations at Copenhagen - are not even wrong; they are irrelevant. Unless there is a radical change of plan between now and December, world leaders will not only be discussing the alignment of deckchairs on the Titanic, but hotly disputing whose deckchairs they really are and who has the responsibility for moving them. Fascinating as this argument may be, it does nothing to alter the course of the liner.
But someone, at least, does have a radical new plan. This afternoon the team that made the film The Age of Stupid is launching the 10:10 campaign: which aims for a 10% cut in the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions during 2010. This seems to be roughly the trajectory needed to deliver a good chance of averting two degrees of warming. By encouraging people and businesses and institutions to sign up, the campaign hopes to shame the UK government into adopting this as its national target. This would give the government the moral leverage to demand immediate sharp cuts from other nations, based on current science rather than political convenience.
I don’t agree with everything the campaign proposes. It allows businesses to claim reductions in carbon intensity as if they were real cuts: in other words they can measure their reductions relative to turnover rather than in absolute terms. There’s an uncomfortable precedent for this: cutting carbon intensity was George Bush’s proposal for tackling climate change. As economic growth is the major cause of rising emissions, this looks like a cop-out. The cuts will not be independently audited, which might undermine their credibility with the government.
But these are quibbles. 10:10 is the best shot we have left. It might not be enough, it might not work; but at least it’s relevant. I take the pledge. Will you?
1. Susan Solomon, Gian-Kasper Plattner, Reto Knutti, and Pierre Friedlingstein, 10th February 2009. Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. PNAS, vol. 106, no. 6, pp1704–1709. Doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812721106. http://www.pnas.org/content/early /2009/01/28/0812721106.full.pdf+html
2. Myles R. Allen et al, 30th April 2009. Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne. Nature 458. doi:10.1038/nature08019. http://www.nature.com/nature/ journal/v458/n7242/full/nature08019.html
3. Malte Meinshausen et al, 30th April 2009. Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 °C. Nature 458, 1158-1162. doi:10.1038/nature08017. http://www.nature.com/nature /journal/v458/n7242/full/nature08017.html
4. Myles Allen et al, 30th April 2009. The exit strategy: Emissions targets must be placed in the context of a cumulative carbon budget if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. Nature doi:10.1038/climate.2009.38. http://www.nature.com/climate/ 2009/0905/full/climate.2009.38.html
5. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 30th April 2009. On the way to phasing out emissions: More than 50% reductions needed by 2050 to respect 2°C climate target. http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/on-the-way-to-phasing-out-emissions-more-than-50-reductions-needed-by-2050-to-respect-2b0c-climate-target
6. http://www.worldenergy.org/publications/ survey_of_energy_resources_2007/default.asp
7. http://www.worldenergy.org/publications/ survey_of_energy_resources_2007/coal/627.asp
8. http://www.worldenergy.org/publications/ survey_of_energy_resources_2007/natural_gas/664.asp
9. http://www.worldenergy.org/publications/survey_of_energy_ resources_2007/crude_oil_and_natural_gas_liquids/638.asp
10. On average, one tonne of coal contains 746 kg carbon - http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/misc/energy_conv.html
One cubic metre of natural gas contains 0.49 kg carbon - http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/misc/energy_conv.html
The figure for oil is less certain, because not all of its refinery products are burnt. But the rough calculation here suggests that the use of a barrel of oil releases 317kg of CO2 - http://numero57.net/?p=255. There are roughly 7 barrels to the tonne, giving an approximation of 2219kg CO2, or 605kg of carbon.
So the carbon content of official known reserves of coal, gas and oil amounts to:
848 x 0.746 = 633
+ 177,000 x 0.00049 = 87
162 x 0.605 = 98
Total conventional fossil fuel reserves therefore contain 818 billion tonnes of carbon.
11. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, ibid.
|September 17, 2009||
Would You Know How to Survive After the Oil Crash?
by Tara Lohan, AlterNet
Could you get by without your car, food from outside your community, your job? There's a bunch of folks who want to show you how.
Peak oil is the point when the world hits the maximum rate of petroleum extraction, and after that, production begins to decline. Petroleum is a finite substance, and we have reached the inevitable point at which it simply isn't possible to increase the rate at which we extract it from the ground. Most oil-producing countries, including the U.S., have already seen their glory days and are now watching output from their wells gradually dwindle. Only a few nations are early in the production cycle and able to ramp up the rate of flow. We depend on oil to get us to the store and to get our food and goods there as well. It's a huge component of the industrial agriculture model that feeds most of our country. And petroleum is in just about everything we buy -- from bubble gum to tires to eyeglasses. And when you consider how oil powers our economy, things look bleak. The global-energy equation is changing rapidly, and with it is likely to come great power competition, economic peril, rising starvation, growing unrest, environmental disaster and shrinking energy supplies, no matter what steps are taken. What is generally not comprehended about this predicament is that the developed world will begin to suffer long before the oil and gas actually run out. The American way of life -- which is now virtually synonymous with suburbia -- can run only on reliable supplies of dependably cheap oil and gas.
So what's a city to do?
• Encourage the installation of local, renewable, distributed electric-generating facilities
|September 22, 2009||
While You Are Minding Your Own Business, the U.S. Is Constantly Making War Around the Globe
by Tom Engelhardt, AlterNet, Tomdispatch.com
As much as it might seem that most of us are going along, living peaceful lives, there's another kind of America that operates on the same soil -- a warfare state.
Because the United States does not look like a militarized country, it's hard for Americans to grasp that Washington is a war capital, that the United States is a war state, that it garrisons much of the planet, and that the norm for us is to be at war somewhere at any moment. Similarly, we've become used to the idea that, when various forms of force (or threats of force) don't work, our response, as in Afghanistan, is to recalibrate and apply some alternate version of the same under a new or rebranded name -- the hot one now being "counterinsurgency" or COIN -- in a marginally different manner. When it comes to war, as well as preparations for war, more is now generally the order of the day.
What does it mean when the most military-obsessed administration in our history, which, year after year, submitted ever more bloated Pentagon budgets to Congress, is succeeded by one headed by a president who ran, at least partially, on an antiwar platform, and who has now submitted an even larger Pentagon budget? What does this tell you about Washington and about the viability of non-militarized alternatives to the path George W. Bush took? What does it mean when the new administration, surveying nearly eight years and two wars' worth of disasters, decides to expand the U.S. Armed Forces rather than shrink the U.S. global mission?
What kind of a world do we inhabit when, with an official unemployment rate of 9.7% and an underemployment rate of 16.8%, the American taxpayer is financing the building of a three-story, exceedingly permanent-looking $17 million troop barracks at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan? This, in turn, is part of a taxpayer-funded $220 million upgrade of the base that includes new "water treatment plants, headquarters buildings, fuel farms, and power generating plants." And what about the U.S. air base built at Balad, north of Baghdad, that now has 15 bus routes, two fire stations, two water treatment plants, two sewage treatment plants, two power plants, a water bottling plant, and the requisite set of fast-food outlets, PXes, and so on, as well as air traffic levels sometimes compared to those at Chicago's O'Hare International?
What kind of American world are we living in when a plan to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq involves the removal of more than 1.5 million pieces of equipment? Or in which the possibility of withdrawal leads the Pentagon to issue nearly billion-dollar contracts (new ones!) to increase the number of private security contractors in that country?
What do you make of a world in which the U.S. has robot assassins in the skies over its war zones, 24/7, and the "pilots" who control them from thousands of miles away are ready on a moment's notice to launch missiles -- "Hellfire" missiles at that -- into Pashtun peasant villages in the wild, mountainous borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan? What does it mean when American pilots can be at war "in" Afghanistan, 9 to 5, by remote control, while their bodies remain at a base outside Las Vegas and then can head home past a sign that warns them to drive carefully because this is "the most dangerous part of your day"?
What does it mean when, for our security and future safety, the Pentagon funds the wildest ideas imaginable for developing high-tech weapons systems, many of which sound as if they came straight out of the pages of sci-fi novels? Take, for example, Boeing's advanced coordinated system of hand-held drones, robots, sensors, and other battlefield surveillance equipment slated for seven Army brigades within the next two years at a cost of $2 billion and for the full Army by 2025; or the Next Generation Bomber, an advanced "platform" slated for 2018; or a truly futuristic bomber, "a suborbital semi-spacecraft able to move at hypersonic speed along the edge of the atmosphere," for 2035? What does it mean about our world when those people in our government peering deepest into a blue-skies future are planning ways to send armed "platforms" up into those skies and kill more than a quarter century from now?
And do you ever wonder about this: If such weaponry is being endlessly developed for our safety and security, and that of our children and grandchildren, why is it that one of our most successful businesses involves the sale of the same weaponry to other countries? Few Americans are comfortable thinking about this, which may explain why global-arms-trade pieces don't tend to make it onto the front pages of our newspapers.
And peace itself? Simply put, there's no money in it. Of the nearly trillion dollars the U.S. invests in war and war-related activities, nothing goes to peace. No money, no effort, no thought. The very idea that there might be peaceful alternatives to endless war is so discredited that it's left to utopians, bleeding hearts, and feathered doves.
What a world might be like in which we began not just to withdraw our troops from one war to fight another, but to seriously scale down the American global mission, close those hundreds of bases -- recently, there were almost 300 of them, macro to micro, in Iraq alone -- and bring our military home is beyond imagining. To discuss such obviously absurd possibilities makes you an apostate to America's true religion and addiction, which is force. However much it might seem that most of us are peaceably watching our TV sets or computer screens or iPhones, we Americans are also -- always -- marching as to war. We may not all bother to attend the church of our new religion, but we all tithe. We all partake. In this sense, we live peaceably in a state of war.
|September 21, 2009||
There's Virtually Zero Percent Chance of There Ever Being a Real Afghan Army -- So What's the Pentagon Talking About?
by Ann Jones, AlterNet, Environment, Tomdispatch.com
In Washington, calls are growing for Obama to training more Afghan troops and police rather than sending in more American troops. But this is pure fantasy.
In the heat of this summer, I went out to the training fields near Kabul where Afghan army recruits are put through their paces, and it was quickly evident just what's getting lost in translation. Our trainers, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard, were masterful. Professional and highly skilled, they were dedicated to carrying out their mission -- and doing the job well. They were also big, strong, camouflaged, combat-booted, supersized American men, their bodies swollen by flak jackets and lashed with knives, handguns, and god only knows what else. Any American could be proud of their commitment to tough duty. The Afghans were puny by comparison: Hundreds of little Davids to the overstuffed American Goliaths training them. Keep in mind: Afghan recruits come from a world of desperate poverty. They are almost uniformly malnourished and underweight. Many are no bigger than I am (5'4" and thin) -- and some probably not much stronger. Like me, many sag under the weight of a standard-issue flack jacket. Their American trainers spoke of "upper body strength deficiency" and prescribed pushups because their trainees buckle under the backpacks filled with 50 pounds of equipment and ammo they are expected to carry. All this material must seem absurd to men whose fathers and brothers, wearing only the old cotton shirts and baggy pants of everyday life and carrying battered Russian Kalashnikov rifles, defeated the Red Army two decades ago. American trainers marvel that, freed from heavy equipment and uniforms, Afghan soldiers can run through the mountains all day -- as the Taliban guerrillas in fact do with great effect -- but the U.S. military is determined to train them for another style of war. Still, the new recruits turn out for training in the blistering heat in this stony desert landscape wearing, beneath their heavy uniforms, the smart red, green, and black warm-up outfits intended to encourage them to engage in off-duty exercise. American trainers recognize that recruits regularly wear all their gear at once for fear somebody will steal anything left behind in the barracks, but they take this overdressing as a sign of how much Afghans love the military. My own reading, based on my observations of Afghan life during the years I've spent in that country, is this: It's a sign of how little they trust one another, or the Americans who gave them the snazzy suits. I think it also indicates the obvious: that these impoverished men in a country without work have joined the Afghan National Army for what they can get out of it (and keep or sell) -- and that doesn't include democracy or glory.
Current training and mentoring is provided by the U.S., Great Britain, France, Canada, Romania, Poland, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as by the private for-profit contractors MPRI, KBR (formerly a division of Halliburton), Pulau, Paravant, and RONCO. What is there to show for all this remarkably expensive training? Although in Washington they may talk about the 90,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army, no one has reported actually seeing such an army anywhere in Afghanistan. When 4,000 U.S. Marines were sent into Helmand Province in July to take on the Taliban in what is considered one of its strongholds, accompanying them were only about 600 Afghan security forces, some of whom were police. Why, you might ask, didn't the ANA, 90,000 strong after eight years of training and mentoring, handle Helmand on its own? No explanation has been offered. American and NATO officers often complain that Afghan army units are simply not ready to "operate independently," but no one ever speaks to the simple question: Where are they?
My educated guess is that such an army simply does not exist. It may well be true that Afghan men have gone through some version of "Basic Warrior Training" 90,000 times or more. When I was teaching in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006, I knew men who repeatedly went through ANA training to get the promised Kalashnikov and the pay. Then they went home for a while and often returned some weeks later to enlist again under a different name.
In a country where 40% of men are unemployed, joining the ANA for 10 weeks is the best game in town. It relieves the poverty of many families every time the man of the family goes back to basic training, but it's a needlessly complicated way to unintentionally deliver such minimal humanitarian aid. Some of these circulating soldiers are aging former mujahidin -- the Islamist fundamentalists the U.S. once paid to fight the Soviets -- and many are undoubtedly Taliban
In many districts, the police recently supplemented their low pay and demonstrated allegiance to local warlords by stuffing ballot boxes for President Karzai in the presidential election. Consider that but one more indication -- like the defection of those great Islamist fundamentalist mujahidin allies the U.S. sponsored in the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s who are now fighting with the Taliban -- that no amount of American training, mentoring, or cash will determine who or what Afghans will fight for, if indeed they fight at all.
|September 15, 2009||
Life Without Bumblebees? It's Not Just Honeybees That Are Mysteriously Dying
by Adam Federman, AlterNet, Environment, Earth Island Journal
Not only do bumblebees pollinate about 15 percent of our food crops (valued at $3 billion), they also occupy a critical role as native pollinators.
Bees, and particularly the European honeybee, Apis mellifera, have come to symbolize a deepening ecological crisis in North America. Colony Collapse Disorder, first reported in 2006, has been described as "an insect version of AIDS," ravaging honeybee colonies throughout North America. In fact, the US has become so dependent on honeybees for agricultural purposes that in 2005, for the first time in 85 years, the US allowed for the importation of honeybees to meet pollination demands. Although millions of dollars have been invested in an effort to pinpoint the cause, the honeybee lobby and some environmental organizations say it's not enough, and argue that if dairy cows were disappearing, the response would be slightly more engaged. In recent years, there has been much loose talk about the overall decline of pollinators, and the causes are manifold: habitat loss, pesticides, the spread of disease, and, without fail, global warming. The tendency to make sweeping claims about the demise of all pollinators has led to a lack of specificity when it comes to why particular species have declined, or in the case of B. franklini, disappeared. A crucial factor, according to Thorp and other scientists, was the rise of the commercial bumblebee rearing industry in the early 1990s, largely for greenhouse tomato pollination. Captive bees, they say, played a key role in spreading disease, which has led to the decline of several North American species, all of which belong to the same subgenus. If their theory proves to be correct, the rapid growth of the greenhouse tomato industry over the last two decades may have inadvertently wiped out a number of important native pollinators.
In 1997, just months before he began his monitoring project, Thorp attended a symposium of the Entomological Society of America during which he learned that an outbreak of Nosema bombi – a fungus that lives in the bees' intestinal tract – had wiped out commercial populations of B. occidentalis in North America. Breeders couldn't get rid of the disease and were suffering a shortage of colonies. In an e-mail to a bombus list-serv in 1998, Adrian Van Doorn, then head of the pollination department at Koppert Biological Systems, a commercial breeder, noted that they had been rearing B. occidentalis for several years with few problems, but that in 1997 the rearing stock had "become infected with N. bombi." There was no treatment for the disease, and the breeders were unable to eradicate it. A competing company, Biobest, suffered similar losses, and both companies would eventually phase out production of B. occidentalis altogether. Today they produce only one bee for distribution in all of North America: Bombus impatiens, an eastern bumblebee whose range extends from Maine to southern Florida. After observing sharp declines of B. franklini and B. occidentalis, Thorp began to wonder if there was a possible connection to the disease outbreak that had swept through the commercial facilities.
There is a wealth of evidence pointing to the risks associated with the importation of nonnative species and of pathogen spillover. Yet, according to Otterstatter, Thorp, and others, the regulations in place are hardly adequate to ensure that risks are minimized. Discontinuing the shipment of bees beyond their native ranges and requiring all greenhouses to install insect screens would be a start, they say.
"Bumblebees are marvelous pollinators and I really wouldn't want to see the industry come to a halt," Thorp says. "But I would like to see a lot more protection of the potential environmental risk."
|August 12, 2009||
The severe disturbance of the energy balance of the atmosphere ensuing from the emission of over 320 billion tonnes of carbon since 1750 threatens a shift in the state of the atmosphere/ocean system to ice free greenhouse Earth conditions.
Should humanity choose to undertake 11th hour mitigation and adaptation efforts in an attempt at slowing global warming down, or even reversing it, steps need to include:
1. Urgent deep reductions in carbon emissions, on the scale of at least five per cent of emissions per year, relative to 1990
2. Global reforestation efforts in semi-arid and drought-effected regions, among other providing employment to millions of people.
3. Construction of long-range water conduits from flood-affected to drought-stricken regions (an even more important task than designing Broadband networks...).
4. Urgent development of atmospheric CO2 draw-down methods, including CO2-sequestering vegetation, soil carbon enrichment, sodium hydroxide-based CO2 capture (a technology no more complex than space projects technologies and financially not more expensive than military expenditure).
5. Rapid transition to clean energy (solar-thermal, hot-rock, hydrogen, wind, tide, photovoltaic) and transport systems (electric vehicles).
It is possible that, in order to gain time, some governments may opt for geo-engineering efforts, including stratospheric injection of sulfur aerosols (simulating volcanic eruptions), likely over polar regions, meant to temporarily raise the Earth albedo while other measures are undertaken.
The alternative to urgent fast tracked mitigation efforts does not bear contemplation.
|August 12, 2009||
Cracks Emerging In NAFTA
by Shamus Cooke , Countercurrents.org
The once-solid North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) is starting to show its age. The 1994 trade agreement that laid the foundation for the economic/political integration of North America is encountering serious internal ruptures, threatening future “progress.”
The problems are numerous: fights over trade, immigration, and military cooperation are all issues that Obama recently discussed in Mexico with his NAFTA partners, Mexico and Canada. The annual meeting that usually delivers plans for additional integration was instead used to remedy these heated issues, none of which were fully solved.
Both Mexico and Canada are angry with the U.S. for the “buy American” provision in Obama’s stimulus bill, which they label correctly as “protectionist.” The bill is explicit that many of the raw materials used in construction projects must be bought from U.S. corporations only, in violation of NAFTA. Mexico soon retaliated with taxes (tariffs) on dozens of U.S. goods entering Mexico, a spat that was hoped to have been solved with Obama’s visit.
Other conflicts involve immigration — between all three countries — and the transportation of goods.
Although NAFTA was written with U.S. corporations first in mind, many of them have been out-competed by companies in Canada or Mexico. It was these U.S. corporations that pressured Obama into promising to “re-negotiate” NAFTA.
A danger for U.S. workers, however, is to think that any re-negotiation of NAFTA is intended to help them. Some “fair trade” and anti-free-trade groups — many with connections to labor unions — used Obama’s promise to re-negotiate NAFTA as proof that he should be supported. Since being elected, EVERY significant policy implemented under Obama has been anti-worker — bank bailouts, wars, killing EFCA, etc. The issue of “trade” will not be a progressive exception.
The New World Order that many are predicting will emerge through agreements with various governments and international mega-corporations to exploit the world’s labor force and resources — using a common currency, military, etc. — is unlikely to materialize.
Internationally, conflicts between nations are on the rise; the world political situation has not been this tenuous for decades, with the threat of further regional wars being obvious (for example, in Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Georgia, and the U.S. meddling in Latin America, etc.).
The world recession is further exacerbating these tensions, driving governments to off-load the economic crisis affecting their native corporations onto other governments through currency manipulation, state subsidies (bailouts, stimulus plans), tariffs (protectionism), etc.
The New World Order theory is not new — long-ago referred to as “Ultra-Imperialism,” a theory that took World War I to disprove. The corporations directing government policy in various nations cannot agree to live peacefully together; the bigger ones use their markets and military advantages to drive up profits at the expense of the smaller corporations residing in weaker countries. Capitalism is organically competitive and vicious, not cooperative.
Another guarantee against New World Order integration is the phenomena of nationalism. The deeper the recession becomes, the more nationalistic/patriotic our government officials act. They will blame foreign countries and immigrants for the country’s problems, but never the corporations inside their countries. Nationalistic sentiments were in part what led to disagreements at the recent NAFTA summit.
The whole debate over free-trade versus protectionism is an argument between these corporate forces: the best competitors want free-trade and the other mega-corporations want protection from free-trade. Until these corporations are brought under the control of the people — something that cannot be done under the two party system — the issue of trade will remain a battle for market dominance.
Free-trade, however, does contain a progressive element. All the countries in the world would benefit from a free exchange of goods, services, raw materials, ideas, etc. But under a capitalistic free-trade, the concept of cooperation gets soiled by the profit motive, which means a ruthless competitive battle over the international market. To win one must reduce prices to a minimum, especially by lowering labor costs, by any means necessary.
Protectionism is anti-cooperation. The international goods and raw materials that were once freely traded become inaccessible, except by force. Protectionism helps speed the march to war, a fact recognized by the post World War II Bretton Woods agreement that helped create the World Trade Organization (then called G.A.T.T). Under capitalism, free-trade is a necessity, whereas protectionism signifies a descent into trade wars and military wars.
In consequence, workers need a completely independent position. The notion that we can entrust our government to promote sane trade policies is unwarranted. Indeed, certain labor leaders love the issue of trade because it means they can sit back and do nothing, aside from encourage their members to vote Democrat. Before workers can encourage U.S. policy to be pushed abroad, it must first undergo drastic, progressive change domestically.
Such a change has already happened in Latin America, where a progressive vision around trade has emerged in miniature form. A bloc of countries in Latin America have formed a trade agreement (ALBA), based on the principles of social welfare, bartering, and mutual economic aide — concepts that lie outside of the limits of capitalism. Because these Latin American countries are still semi or majority capitalistic, they cannot arrange agreements that are wholly cooperative, but their example shows what is possible on a small scale.
Achieving a similar policy in the U.S. will first require the abandonment of the corporate-dominated two party capitalist system, and its replacement by an organization that is able to pursue the interests of workers. Such a party can only come into existence through a struggle that involves organized labor, community organizations, students, and all those interested in fighting for social justice.
|August 22, 2009||
Outdated American Constitution Provides Continued Violence
by Dr. Charles Mercieca
President, International Association of Educators for World Peace
Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education
Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament
Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University
There must be a reason as to why the United States is viewed in the world at large as a violent nation. In the early stages of this nation’s history everything seemed to be fine in many ways. However, as time rolled on, at least one segment of this well written document became obsolete, abusive and dangerous because it was no longer applicable to our times. This segment has become nowadays a liability, a malignant tumor that needs to be surgically removed.
Original Intent of U.S. Constitution
Before we go straight into the heart of this vital issue, we need to learn the circumstances under which such a U.S. Constitution was written. We are focusing here on the phrase: “people’s right to bear Arms.” The said document was drafted in 1787 and became effective two years later in 1789, under completely different circumstances. At the time the U.S. Constitution went into operation, there were no airplanes, no trains, no busses, no cars, no telephones, and no radars. Once people left town mostly on horseback, they were fully on their own.
There would be absolutely no one to protect them in any way whatsoever. Hence, this explains why the founding fathers found it wise to let people become their own protection, their own policemen, and their own militia for all practical purposes. In view of this, we may understand, within the context, the reason for the insertion of the “right to bear arms” in the second amendment, which states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
Nowadays, several irresponsible US government officials continue to advocate the right for Americans to be fully equipped with weapons both unchecked and unlicensed. This explains why in the United States every year there are more civilians killed by guns than in all the nations of the world combined. Such US government officials continue to resist any step that may be taken to bring the proliferation of weapons under control.
At this stage of history, the United States has developed immensely compared to more than 200 years ago when it virtually started. Its population now has exceeded 300 million people who come from virtually every major country from across every continent. Its culture is rich as it has been formed from a fusion of the richest cultures on earth. In the world at large, the United States is viewed as a democratic nation even though its capitalistic system has enabled big corporations to control the entire governmental structure.
|July 28, 2009||
How Iran's Nuclear Power Play Can Change Global Politics
by Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, AlterNet, World
A nuclear Iran would inevitably turbo-charge a new, emerging multipolar world; one where the U.S. won't be relied on to control Mideast oil.
Both Russia and China -- as well as Iran -- are firm proponents of the end of the dollar as global reserve currency to the benefit of a (multipolar) basket of currencies, a common currency of which Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had the gall this month to present a prototype at the Group of Eight (G-8) meeting in Aquila, Italy? By the way, it's a rather neat coin. Minted in Belgium, it sports the faces of the G-8 leaders and also a motto -- "Unity in diversity". "Unity in diversity" is not exactly what the Obama administration has in mind as far as Iran and Russia are concerned -- no matter the zillion bytes of lofty rhetoric. Let's start with the energy picture. Iran is world number two both in terms of proven oil reserves (11.2%) and gas reserves (15.7%), according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2008.
What really scares Washington -- from George W Bush to Obama -- is the perspective of a Russia-Iran-Venezuela axis. Together, Iran and Russia hold 17.6% of the world's proven oil reserves. The Persian Gulf petro-monarchies -- de facto controlled by Washington -- hold 45%. The Moscow-Tehran-Caracas axis controls 25%. If we add Kazakhstan's 3% and Africa's 9.5%, this new axis is more than an effective counter-power to American hegemony over the Arab Middle East. The same thing applies to gas. Adding the "axis" to the Central Asian "stans", we reach 30% of world gas production. As a comparison, the whole Middle East -- including Iran -- currently produces only 12.1% of the world's needs.
All about Pipelineistan
A nuclear Iran would inevitably turbo-charge the new, emerging multipolar world. Iran and Russia are de facto showing to both China and India that it is not wise to rely on US might subjugating the bulk of oil in the Arab Middle East. All these players are very much aware that Iraq remains occupied, and that Washington's obsession remains the privatization of Iraq's enormous oil wealth.
As Chinese intellectuals are fond of emphasizing, four emerging or re-emerging powers -- Russia, China, Iran and India -- are strategic and civilizational poles, three of them sanctuaries because they are nuclear powers. A more confident and assertive Iran -- mastering the full cycle of nuclear technology -- may translate into Iran and Russia increasing their relative weight in Europe and Asia to the distress of Washington, not only in the energy sphere but also as proponents of a multipolar monetary system.
|August 14, 2009||
Climate Disobedience Is on the Rise and It's Not Just for Radical Activists Anymore
by Mark Engler, Tomdispatch.com, AlterNet, Environment
An emerging movement is determined to use direct action to combat the depredations of climate change and they've got some big names on board.
In the early morning of October 8, 2007, a small group of British Greenpeace activists slipped inside a hulking smokestack that towers more than 600 feet above a coal-fired power plant in Kent, England. While other activists cut electricity on the plant's grounds, they prepared to climb the interior of the structure to its top, rappel down its outside, and paint in block letters a demand that Prime Minister Gordon Brown put an end to plants like the Kingsnorth facility, which releases nearly 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each day.
The activists, most of them in their thirties and forties, expected the climb to the top of the smokestack would take less than three hours. Instead, scaling a narrow metal ladder inside took nine. "It was the most physically exhausting thing I have ever done," 35-year-old Ben Stewart said later. "It was like climbing through a huge radiator -- the hottest, dirtiest place you could imagine."
In the end, the fatigued, soot-covered climbers were only able to paint the word "Gordon" on the chimney before, facing dizzying heights, police helicopters, and a high court injunction, they were compelled to abandon the attempt and submit to arrest. They could hardly have known then that their botched attempt at signage would help transform British debate about fossil-fuel power plants -- and that it would send tremors through an emerging global movement determined to use direct action to combat the depredations of climate change.
The case took on historic weight only after the Kingsnorth Six went to court, where they presented to a jury what is known in the United States as a "necessity" defense. This defense applies to situations in which a person violates a law to prevent a greater, imminent harm from occurring: for example, when someone breaks down a door to put out a fire in a burning building.
|August 1, 2009||
Why Corporations, Emerging Powers and Petro-States Are Snapping Up Huge Chunks of Farmland in the Developing World
by Scott Thill, AlterNet, Water
In the past six months, big players in the global economy have grabbed 50 million acres of arable land, from Africa to Southeast Asia.
The bubble money has now moved on from housing and turned to the commodities markets, especially global food production. Given what that money did to the housing market, things don't look good for local communities whose land is being bought up by governments, sovereign wealth and hedge funds, and other investors on the hunt for real value in a hyperreal economy. Entrenched and developing economic powers -- the U.K., China, South Korea, India and more -- have launched land rushes to outsource production of everything from staples like rice, wheat, corn and sugar to finance bubbles like biofuels. That includes oil-wealthy Gulf States, which recently feasted on commodities speculation that exploded oil prices in 2008. The hard numbers are alarming: According to the Guardian, in the last six months over 20 million hectares (around 50 million acres) of arable land, mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia, have been sold or negotiated for sale or lease. That's about half the size of all arable land in Europe, or the size of entire U.S. states North Dakota or Oklahoma.
The economic valuation of land and water has increased in concurrence with both price commodities and the ravages of climate change, whose droughts, wildfires and other extreme environmental events are quickly shrinking what's left of the planet's arable land and clean water. That exponential process will only be intensified by the biofuels some of these lands will be used to grow, which is a particularly shameless insult. Rather than use the 2.8 million hectares China bought from the Congo -- or the tens of thousands of hectares the U.K. bought from Ethiopia, Mozambique and Tanzania, and so on -- to feed the hungry, those investor nations will use them to grow food for our cars. What biofuels will do is make a few outsider nations very rich at the expense of a great many locals who could use the land to feed themselves.
These lands are going to be used to grow crops for exports. They're taking arable land out of the domestic food supply. Most of these deals are totally secret, and there are no standards of access to public information. We're also concerned about places with weak legal systems, where farmers and pastoralists won't even know these lands are being sold from beneath them. Some don't even have formal land-titling systems, so this is going to push people off the land and take away their access to food. Involving people, especially the poor, in deals that sell arable land from underneath them just isn't in the investment playbook. After all, even the $700 billion doled out by ex-U.S. Treasury Secretary and ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson is practically impossible to track, on purpose. And that's America handing out American money to American banks. So what cutthroat land-grabber in his or her right mind, which is focused like a laser on maximum profit by any means necessary, is going to clue in a bunch of poor farmers, who already have little recourse, to food-rush schemes designed to lock down production and pricing for richer countries half a world away?
|July 28, 2009||
Why EPA, not Coal Burners, Should Be In Charge on Climate Change
by Daphne Wysham, AlterNet, Environment
The new energy bill would strip EPA of its power and let polluters take the reins with a market-based system.
If the climate bill passes in its current form, this "subprime carbon" market would explode, while the optimal regulatory approach would wither. The Waxman-Markey bill would allow polluters to "offset" their emissions via these questionable commodities, and even to bank their pollution allowances -- meaning, if they "underpollute" one year, they are free to "overpollute" the next, so long as the difference between the two approximates their annual target. This banking of emissions credits, coupled with so many carbon offsets, invites market speculators (those who bet on the future price of a commodity) and derivatives traders to turn our planet's carbon cycling capacity into a lucrative investment opportunity.
To make matters worse, in a bid to win passage of the bill, on June 23 the House Agriculture Committee succeeded in ensuring that the Department of Agriculture would wield oversight over carbon offsets generated by the agricultural industry, rather than the EPA. In the offsets world, agricultural offsets are akin to "junk carbon." Why?
First, because CO2 in this industry doesn't come out of a smokestack or a tailpipe. It comes from soil, application of certain fertilizers, and animals' front and back ends. Handing oversight of this amorphous market in flatulence and other gases to the USDA, which is notoriously cozy with corporate farming interests, all but assures we'll be minting yet more money for agribusiness, which already reaps billions of dollars every year in farm subsidies. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Energy Information Administration estimated that the market for agricultural offsets could total up to $24 billion annually. That sum would dwarf all other U.S. farm subsidies combined.
Obama should go one step further than simply restoring EPA authority to its rightful place. He should make the case for an even stronger EPA, one that could cut U.S. coal-fired power plant emissions by over 50 percent by simply requiring that all coal burners be retrofitted to burn natural gas. A stronger EPA could weigh in with a louder voice and ensure that no more of our taxpayer dollars subsidize climate change via our development banks and export credit agencies. A stronger EPA could be empowered to better implement the many international treaties we are already signatory to -- such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity or the UN Convention to Combat Desertification -- treaties that could help us take bold action on climate change internationally, even in the absence of a strong outcome at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December.
|July 11, 2009||
G8 Failure Means Climate Genocide For Developing World
by Dr Gideon Polya , Countercurrents.org,
The G8 First World countries meeting at L’Aquila, Italy (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK and the US) were occasionally joined at the summit by leaders or representatives from the G5 group of emerging economies (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa) .
The leaders of the G8 leading industrial countries have agreed to try to limit global warming to just 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels by 2050; that G8 nations are to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050; and that World carbon emissions should be cut by 50% by 2050 (see BBC report, “G8 set new climate targets”: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/8141514.stm ).
This outcome has been trenchantly criticized by the UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon as insufficient and inconsistent with urgent scientific advice (see BBC report “Ban criticized G8 climate efforts”. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8143059.stm ).
The grossly inadequate response of the G8 nations is effectively a statement of climate racism and a declaration of prospective climate genocide. Top UK climate scientist Dr James Lovelock FRS has estimated that fewer than 1 billion people will survive global warming this century due to unaddressed, man-made climate change, this constituting a prospective climate genocide that will kill 10 billion non-Europeans including 6 billion infants, 3 billion Muslims, 2 billion Indians and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis (see “Climate Disruption, Climate Emergency, Climate Genocide & Penultimate Bengali Holocaust through Sea Level Rise “: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/climate-disruption-climate-emergency-climate-genocide-penultimate-bengali-holocaust-through-sea-level-rise ).
Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and a world leading greenhouse gas (GHG) polluter. Thus Australia’s domestic and exported “annual per capita GHG pollution” is 54 tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year – 2 times that of the US, 10 times that of China, 25 times that of India and 60 times that of Bangladesh (see “Australia’s “5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020” endangers Australia, Humanity and the Biosphere “: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalley climateactiongroup/australia-s-5-off-2000-ghg-pollution-by-2020-endangers-australia-humanity-and-biosphere ).
The must-read Synthesis Report of the March 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference concluded “inaction is inexcusable” (see “Summary of the Synthesis Report from the March 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference “ : http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/synthesis-report-of-the-2009-copenhagen-climate-change-conference ) - yet pro-coal Rudd Labor policy means that Australia will INCREASE its domestic and exported GHG pollution to 80% above the 2000 level by 2050.
The position of the major Developing countries was put forward by the PM of India, Manmohan Singh as summarized by the The Hindu (see N. Ravi, “A strong political message on climate change: India”: http://www.hindu.com/2009/07/10 /stories/2009071060261000.htm ): “On the principle of “polluter pays,” the major responsibility lay with the industrial nations, and this was a responsibility that they had acknowledged and undertaken under the UNFCCC. The developing countries wanted the industrial nations to commit themselves to sharp and significant reductions in emissions by 40 per cent below the 1990 (the date of the Kyoto protocol) levels by 2020. This could form the basis for a more ambitious target over the longer term. The developing nations were faced with the problem of adaptation to climate change and India itself was spending 2 to 2.5 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product on adaptation, including to extreme climatic events and disasters and the impact on agriculture. Even if emissions were reduced to zero, the accumulated emissions would continue to impose a long term burden on the developing countries. Based on this perspective, the developing countries have been emphasising the two pillars of financing mitigation and adaptation actions and the transfer of technology.”
According to the leading Australian newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald “The most tangible target Singh has offered is to pledge that his country's per capita CO2 emissions will never exceed the average of developing countries.” - well below that of developed countries and accordingly this was an extraordinarily generous offer considering the actualities of comparative greenhouse gas pollution.
Thus, as of 2008, “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 2.2 (India), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 54 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included) (see Wikipedia, “List of countries by greenhouse gas emissions per capita”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_greenhouse_gas_emissions_per_capita and “Australia’s “5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020” endangers Australia, Humanity and the Biosphere “: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/australia-s-5-off-2000-ghg-pollution-by-2020-endangers-australia-humanity-and-biosphere ).
An 80% reduction of present levels of GHG pollution by 2050 as specified by the G8 (and assuming, for the purposes of simplicity, Zero Population Growth or ZPG) would mean, by 2050, 5.4 tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year for the US - as compared to 1.0 for India.
However, based on ZPG and an 80% reduction on the 2000 value by 2050 for Australian Domestic GHG pollution would mean 68 tonnes per person per year of Domestic and Exported GHG pollution by Australia in 2050 - nearly 70 times that of India.
This makes for a novel re-valuation of Asians by racist, Apartheid Australia (see Apartheid Australia Backs Racist Zionist Run Apartheid Israel”: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya290609.htm ).
In 1901, the first PM of newly-independent Australia declared “The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of an Englishman and the Chinaman.”(Australia’s first Prime Minister Edmund Barton debating the Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Bill (1901), commonly known as the “White Australia Policy”; Barton (1901) speech to Federal Parliament concerning the Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Act 1901, quoted in Buggy and Cates (1985), p145 in Buggy, T. and Cates, J. (1985), Race Relations in Colonial Australia (Nelson, Melbourne)).
In 1947, the racist (they were all racists) Australian Labor Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell made the following notorious declaration of racial inequality in the Australian Federal Parliament: “There are many Wongs in the Chinese community, but I have to say - and I am sure that the honourable member for Balaclava [T.W. White, Liberal] will not mind me for doing so - that “two Wongs do not make a White.” [“Aussie joke”: 2 wrongs don’t make a right i.e. 2 Chinese don’t equal a White man] (see Calwell speech to Parliament (1948), Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, 2 December 1947, vol. 194, p2948; quoted in Murray-Smith (1984), p36; quoted and discussed in Kiernan (1978), chapter 5, pp114-135; Murray-Smith, S. (1984) (editor), The Dictionary of Australian Quotations (Heinemann, Melbourne); Kiernan, C. (1978), Calwell. A Personal and Political Biography (Nelson, Melbourne)).
Now in 2009, racist White Australia, Apartheid Australia, is in effect saying that 70 Indians equate to 1 White Australian when it comes to greenhouse gas pollution and dealing with climate change.
If Indian students want to come to Australia, to pay huge rip-off fees to be taught Indian holocaust-denying, anti-Indian lies by Australian history lecturers (see “Western Holocaust Ignoring 1. BBC TV’s “The Story of India” ignores horrendous British atrocities in India”: http://gideon.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/06/western-holocaust-ignoring-1-bbc-tv-s-the-story.htm ) and then get bashed and robbed by anti-Indian, racist thugs into the bargain – well, all I can say is that it’s their call.
|July 9, 2009||
Afghan Genocide: An Open Letter
by Dr Gideon Polya, Countercurrents.org,
An Open Letter sent out to Anti-war groups and Anti-war folks around the world.
I applaud your protests over the Bush (now Obama) wars in Occupied Afghanistan and Occupied Iraq.
A 5 decade research career biological scientist, I have been reporting estimates of how many people have died in Occupied Afghanistan since the US-led invasion using UN Population Division data. My recent estimates (2009) are outlined below. For details of methodology see “Obama’s Afghan War”: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/29546/42/ .
In Occupied Afghanistan post-invasion non-violent excess deaths (avoidable deaths from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease) total 3 million; post-invasion violent excess deaths (assuming the same ratio of post-invasion violent/non-violent excess deaths as in Occupied Iraq of 1.3) total 4 million; post-invasion violent and non-violent excess deaths total 3-7 million; post-invasion under-5 infant deaths total 2.3 million; post-invasion avoidable under- 5 infant deaths (90% are avoidable) total 2.1 million; 3-4 million refugees have been generated plus a further 2.5 million Pashtun refugees from the NW Province of Pakistan under Obama war policies – an Afghan Holocaust and an Afghan Genocide as defined by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention (see: http://www.edwebproject.org/sideshow/genocide/convention.html ).
Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention (see: http://www.edwebproject.org/sideshow/genocide/convention.html ) states “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Much of this carnage is due to US Alliance violation of Articles 55 and 56 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War which demands that an Occupier must provide life –sustaining food and medical requisites to the conquered population ”to the fullest extent of the means available to it” (see: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/92.htm ) – yet the “total annual per capita health expenditure” permitted by the Occupiers in Occupied Afghanistan is merely $29 as compared tot $6,714 in the Occupier country the USA (see WHO: http://www.who.int/countries/en/ ).
The carnage does not stop there – we must also note the 0.7 million global opiate drug-related deaths since 2001 (circa 3,000 in the UK ) due to US Alliance restoration of the Taliban-destroyed Afghan industry from about 6% of world market share in 2001 to about 93% at present (see UN ODC World Drug Report 2007: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/ data-and-analysis/WDR-2007.html ) .
Appallingly, there are only a couple of scholars currently identifying this continuing catastrophe as an Afghan Genocide, notably myself (on the basis of the above data) and top humanitarian US lawyer Professor Ali Khan (on the basis of the US Alliance policy of attempted extermination of an Indigenous religious group, the Taliban) (see: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya080208.htm ).
A final damning statistic: the “annual death rate” is 7% for Occupied Afghanistan under-5 year old infants - as compared to 3% for inmates of the Nazi Buchenwald Concentration Camp and 10% for Australian prisoners of war of the Japanese in World War 2 (for which crimes Axis generals were tried and hanged) (see: http://gpolya.newsvine.com/_news/2009/06/08/2907231-obama- holocaust-denial-in-buchenwald-cairo-speeches-?groupId=1350 ).
Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity. Please tell everyone you can.
Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne, Australia
Dr Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003). He has recently published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://mwcnews.net/Gideon-Polya and http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contribution “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007): http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ). He has just published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open2.net/thingsweforgot/ bengalfamine_programme.html ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya’s huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see “Truth , Beauty & Saving the World – Science, Art & Nuclear, Greenhouse & Poverty Threats”: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeacepl anetmotherchild/truth-beauty-saving-the-world .
|July 7, 2009||
NEW DELHI – Today, international action on climate change is urgent and essential. Indeed, there can no longer be any debate about the need to act, because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), of which I am chairman, has established climate change as an unequivocal reality beyond scientific doubt. For instance, changes are taking place in precipitation patterns, with a trend toward higher precipitation levels in the world’s upper latitudes and lower precipitation in some sub-tropical and tropical regions, as well as in the Mediterranean area. The number of extreme precipitation events is also increasing – and are increasingly widespread. Moreover, the frequency and intensity of heat waves, floods, and droughts are on the rise. This change in the amount and pattern of rainfall has serious implications for many economic activities, as well as for countries’ preparedness to handle emergencies such as large-scale coastal flooding or heavy snowfall.
Some parts of the world are more vulnerable than others to these changes. The Arctic region, in particular, has been warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe. Coral reefs, mega-deltas (which include cities like Shanghai, Kolkata, and Dhaka), and small island states are also extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels. Other negative effects of climate change include possible reductions in crop yields. In some African countries, for example, yields could decline by as much as 50% by 2020. Climate change would also lead to increased water stress, which by 2020 could affect 75-250 million people in Africa alone. Overall, temperature increases are projected to increase by the year 2100 within a range of 1.1 to 6.4°C. In order to focus on this set of outcomes, the IPCC has come up with a best estimate at the lower end of this range of 1.8°C, and 4°C at the upper end. Even at the lower estimate, the consequences of climate change could be severe in several parts of the world, including an increase in water stress, serious effects on ecosystems and food security, and threats to life and property as a result of coastal flooding.
There also may be serious direct consequences for human health if climate change is not checked, particularly increased morbidity and mortality as a result of heat waves, floods, and droughts. Moreover, the distribution of some diseases would change, making human populations more vulnerable. Because the impact of climate change is global, it is essential that the world as a whole take specific measures to adapt. But it is already clear that the capacity of some communities to adapt will quickly be exceeded if climate change goes unmitigated. To help these most vulnerable communities, it is essential for the world to devise a plan of action to limit the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Several scenarios have been assessed by the IPCC, and one that would limit future temperature increase to between 2.0-2.4°C would require that emissions peak no later than 2015, and decline thereafter. The rate of decline would then determine the extent to which the worst effects of climate change can be avoided.
The IPCC also found that the cost of such a strict effort at mitigation would not exceed 3% of global GDP in 2030. Moreover, there are enormous co-benefits to mitigation: lower emissions of GHGs would be accompanied by lower air pollution and increased energy security, agricultural output, and employment. If these co-benefits were taken fully into account, that price tag of 3% of GDP in 2030 would be substantially lower, perhaps even negative. The world could actually enhance economic output and welfare by pursuing a path of mitigation. The need for international action, therefore, stems from two important observations arising out of the IPCC’s work. First, if we do not mitigate emissions of GHGs, the negative effects of climate change will be difficult to reverse, implying great hardship and possibly danger to mankind and other species. Second, the benefits of mitigating emissions of GHGs are so overwhelming that this, combined with the prospect of the harm resulting from inaction, makes it imperative for the world to devise an international response and a plan of action. Given the challenge facing us, the magnitude and nature of which were clearly brought out by the IPCC, the Copenhagen Conference later this year must produce a multi-lateral agreement that deals adequately with climate change.
|June 30, 2009||
It is fitting that today’s deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq’s cities coincides with a meeting in Baghdad to auction off some of the country’s largest oil fields to companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and British Petroleum. It is a reminder of the real motives for the 2003 invasion and in whose interests over one million Iraqis and 4,634 American and other Western troops have been killed. The Iraq war was, and continues to be, an imperialist war waged by the American ruling elite for control of oil and geo-strategic advantage. The contracts will facilitate the first large-scale exploitation of Iraq’s energy resources by US and other transnationals since the country’s oil industry was nationalised in 1972. On offer are 20-year rights over six fields that hold more than five billion barrels of easily and cheaply extractable oil. In the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, where foreign companies are already operating, the Norwegian firm DNO is now producing so-called “sweet oil” from a relatively small field at Tawke, at a cost of less than $2 a barrel. In an apt analogy, Larry Goldstein of the US-based Energy Policy Research Foundation told the New York Times last week: “Asking why oil companies are interested in Iraq is like asking why robbers rob banks—because that’s where the money is.” Iraq’s total oil reserves are estimated to be at least 115 billion barrels. Its reserves of natural gas are at least 3.36 billion cubic metres.
Millions of people around the world understood in 2003 that the claims of the Bush administration and its international allies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism were threadbare lies promulgated to justify the plunder of the country’s oil wealth. The claim by the Obama White House that it is continuing the occupation to consolidate “Iraqi democracy” is also a lie. The war driven by the decline of US global power and growing class tensions within the United States itself. The American capitalist elite believed that military domination in the Persian Gulf would give them access to lucrative resources, as well as a powerful lever against their main European and Asian rivals, who depend upon the region for critical supplies of energy. The militarist agitation surrounding the war was used to smother public disquiet and divert discontent away from the economic inequality that wracks American society.
It has taken more than six years of carnage—far longer than any pro-war analyst would have predicted—to establish the conditions where major corporations feel sufficiently confident to begin making substantial investments in Iraq’s oil industry. Iraqi resistance to the US invasion had first to be drowned in blood and the population reduced to a state of terror and insecurity. The war has produced a litany of crimes, from the torture policy at Abu Ghraib and other prisons, to the destruction of cities such as Fallujah and the attack on densely populated suburbs like Sadr City; to the unleashing of Shiite death squads to depopulate the centres of Sunni resistance in Baghdad. The country has been economically ruined. Unemployment and underemployment stand at between 30 and 50 percent. At least seven million people live on less than $2 a day, and malnutrition and disease are rampant.
The Shiite fundamentalist-dominated Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presides over the misery of the population in exchange for US backing. It now has a bloated US-equipped military and police apparatus of over 630,000 armed men. The repression of the Iraqi masses was the basis for the withdrawal timetable that was agreed to by the Bush administration in last year’s Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). US forces are deemed no longer needed to perform the frontline operations against what remains of the anti-occupation insurgency. Instead, units of the Iraqi army are to take over those tasks. The bulk of the 130,000 American troops in Iraq have been pulled back to heavily fortified camps on the outskirts of the cities, or to the massive air bases that have been built at places such as Balad and Tallil. The SOFA permits them to remain until December 2011, by which time new arrangements for the long-term presence of US forces will have been worked out. American commanders, while outwardly optimistic, have not been able to hide their apprehension over the withdrawal from the cities. To shore up the Iraqi army, some 10,000 US troops are currently embedded as “trainers” in its ranks—a number that will increase to over 50,000 over the coming months. Baghdad’s western suburbs have been creatively categorised as “outside” the urban area. Aircraft, helicopter gunships, artillery and rapid response units are on constant standby to assist Iraqi forces when needed.
The concerns are not only that insurgent groups will take advantage of the US withdrawal to regroup in Iraq’s cities and resume significant resistance to both the Maliki government and American troops. Both Washington and its puppet government are worried that the social plight of the Iraqi working class and popular opposition to the concessions Maliki is making to US imperialism and foreign capital could give rise to large-scale protests and unrest. The Obama administration is acutely conscious that a large majority of Iraqis bitterly opposes the US presence in the country. Behind the scenes, it is reportedly pressuring Maliki to abandon a promise to hold a referendum on the Status of Forces Agreement, knowing that it would be overwhelming rejected. There are also sharp disputes between the rival Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions of the Iraqi ruling elite over the allocation of oil revenues and other sources of wealth. The most explosive tensions centre on the insistence of the Kurdish autonomous region that it get control of the northern oilfields around the city of Kirkuk—two of which are among the six fields being offered for contract in this week’s auction.
The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) last week denounced the auction as “unconstitutional” and warned that companies are “ill-advised” to enter into any contract in Kirkuk to which the KRG is not also a party. The outbreak of an ethnic civil war in the north cannot be ruled out, nor can US military operations to suppress such a development. US imperialism faces a debacle of its own making in Iraq. Amidst the meltdown of economic activity internationally, and the escalation of the US war in Afghanistan and its proxy war in Pakistan, a large proportion of the American military is still tied down by the conflict in Iraq and there is no end in sight. The Obama administration is nevertheless committed to continuing the occupation and realising the predatory objectives of the invasion—in which oil has always loomed large.
|June 29, 2009||
Peak Oil And World Food Supplies
by Peter Goodchild, Countercurrents.org, Truthdig.com
Only about 10 percent of the world’s land surface is arable, whereas the other 90 percent is just rock, sand, or swamp, which can never be made to produce crops, whether we use “high” or “low” technology or something in the middle. In an age with diminishing supplies of oil and other fossil fuels, this 10:90 ratio may be creating two gigantic problems that have been largely ignored.
The first is that humans are not living only on that 10 percent of arable land, they are living everywhere, while trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes bring the food to where those people are living. What will happen when the vehicles are no longer operating? Will everyone move into those “10 percent” lands where the crops can be grown?
The other problem with the 10:90 ratio is that with “low technology,” i.e. technology that does not use petroleum or other fossil fuels, crop yields diminish considerably. As David Pimentel showed in 1984 in his “Food and Energy Resources,” with non-mechanized agriculture, corn (maize) production is only about 2,000 kilograms per hectare, about a third of the yield that a farmer would get with modern machinery and chemical fertilizer. If that is the case, then not only will 100 percent of the people be living on 10 percent of the land, but there will be less food available for that 100 percent.
Incidentally, my use of Pimentel’s study of corn is mainly due to the fact that, although his analysis is only a small and limited one, it provides a handy baseline for other studies of population and food supply. In general, a vegetarian diet requires far less of the world’s resources than a carnivorous one, although I have my doubts about the dietary wisdom of avoiding meat entirely. More specifically, corn is one of the most useful grains for supporting human life; the native people of the Americas lived on it for thousands of years. Corn is high-yielding and needs little in the way of equipment, and the more ancient varieties are largely trouble-free in terms of diseases, pests, and soil depletion. If it can’t be done with corn, it can’t be done with anything.
Actually, of course, there is a third problem that arises from the first two. This is the fact that if 100 percent of the people are living on 10 percent of the land, then the land may have so many people, roads, and buildings on it that a good deal of that land will be unavailable for farming. This problem of disappearing farmland is certainly not a new one; for centuries it seemed only common sense to build our cities in the midst of our paradises.
Let us play with some of these numbers and see what happens. These are only rough figures, admittedly, but greater accuracy is impossible because of the question of how one defines one’s terms, and even more by the fact that everything on this poor planet is rapidly changing. The present population of the Earth is about 7 billion, but there is no point in being more specific, since the number is increasing daily. Nevertheless, 7 billion should be a large enough number to make us seriously consider the consequences. (What other large mammal can be found in such numbers?) When I was born, in 1949, there were less than 3 billion, and it amazes me that this jump is rarely regarded as significant. These 7 billion people in turn live on only about 29 percent of the surface of the Earth, i.e. on dry land, which is about 148 million square kilometers.
Of that 148 million square kilometers, the arable portion, as I said, is only about 10 percent, or 15 million square kilometers. If we divide that 15 million square kilometers into the present figure for human population, we arrive at a ratio of about 470 people per square kilometer of arable land.
Is that last ratio a matter for concern? I would think so. A hard-working (i.e. farming) adult burns about 2 million kilocalories (“calories”) per year. The food energy from Pimentel’s hectare of corn is about 7 million kilocalories. Under primitive conditions, then, 1 hectare of corn would support only 3 or 4 people — or, in other words, 1 square kilometer would support 300 or 400 people. And all of these are ideal numbers; we are assuming that all resources are distributed rationally and equitably. (We are also assuming no increase in population, but famine and the attendant decrease in fertility will take care of that matter very soon.) Even if every inch of our planet’s “arable portion” were devoted to the raising of corn or other useful crops, we would have trouble squeezing in those 470 people mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Given such figures, I have little patience with writers who sprinkle the words “alternative,” “sustainable,” and “transition” over every page. Simple arithmetic is all that is needed to show that such a lexicon is unsuitable.
Nor can I do anything but shake my head when my “organic gardener” friends tell me that they can grow unlimited amounts of food merely by the liberal application of cow manure. Eliot Coleman, Andrew W. Lee, and other recent writers on “low-tech” agriculture (not to mention any farmers of the old school) agree that if cow manure is used on a hectare of farmland, for the first year of crop production at least 100 metric tons are necessary, and after that about 20 tons per year might be adequate. However, cows take up land. Another older but valuable book is Frances Mooore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet,” in which she points out that one cow requires over a hectare in pasturage; that is in addition to the hay, grain, and other foods that the animal is given.
How many cows are needed for all that manure? I neither know nor care. All that is certain is that the use of cows to keep a garden in production would multiply the necessary land area enormously. There would also be no mechanized equipment to deliver the manure. The knowledge of animal husbandry, under primitive conditions, could certainly not be learned overnight. But I can say from experience that reality hits when the sun is going down and the shovel is getting heavy.
Many of the false figures that appear in discussions of the future are the result of armchair gardening of the worst sort. Growing a tiny patch of lettuce and tomatoes is not subsistence gardening. To support human life one must be growing grains and similar crops high in carbohydrates and protein, and these foods must be in quantities large enough to supply three full meals a day, every day, for every person in the household. We must also consider that in apocalyptic times it will certainly not be possible to stroll over to the tap and use a hose to pour unlimited amounts of water over one’s plants; on a large garden, the water is whatever the sky decides to send.
There may be an odd solution or two. There are parts of the Earth where population is actually decreasing in absolute numbers, as people mistakenly come to believe that country living is too hard. Well, yes, being squeezed out by multinationals is definitely too hard, but I’m talking about subsistence agriculture, not trying to survive by picking beans for a dollar an hour. Another partial solution may be a return to foraging, especially for those who choose to live in that non-arable 90 percent. Hunting and fishing have become unfashionable hobbies, but for the physically fit these skills could be a lifesaver; over-harvesting is certainly a concern, but the great majority of westerners are far too weak to spend a day plowing through underbrush.
The seacoast has possibilities that intrigue me. In various coastal areas it is traditional to grow potatoes by placing them on bare rock and covering them with seaweed. Even without a boat it is possible to get a meal by gathering shellfish.
Nor should we totally discount the practicality of animal husbandry. There are many parts of the world that are not suitable for agriculture, but the same land might produce wild grasses or other vegetation that in turn could feed domesticated animals. Under primitive conditions the density of human population in such areas would have to be very low, and the danger of over-grazing would always be there, but the truth is that there are large parts of the world that supported a pastoral life for centuries.
I don’t have much patience with cobbled-together happy endings, but I think there are answers for those who are single-minded enough to go after them. Remember that you can’t save the whole human race, you can only save a few people; learn to use a gun and an ax; head for the country. Oh, yes, and get yourself a reputation as a good neighbor; they may not actually adopt you, but they might help you out when there’s trouble.
|June 29, 2009||
Betraying The Planet
by Paul Krugman, Countercurrents.org, The New York Times
So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.
But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.
And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn't help thinking that I was watching a form of treason - treason against the planet.
To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.
The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe - a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable - can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.
Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there's growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing - that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and across the country extreme, deadly heat waves - the kind that traditionally occur only once in a generation - may become annual or biannual events.
In other words, we're facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?
Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking - if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided - they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.
But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn't see people who've thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don't like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they've decided not to believe in it - and they'll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.
Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday's debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a "hoax" that has been "perpetrated out of the scientific community." I'd call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists - a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.
Yet Mr. Broun's declaration was met with applause.
Given this contempt for hard science, I'm almost reluctant to mention the deniers' dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill's economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.
Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn't it politics as usual?
Yes, it is - and that's why it's unforgivable.
Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an "existential threat" to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole - but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.
Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it's in their political interest to pretend that there's nothing to worry about. If that's not betrayal, I don't know what is.
|June 25, 2009||
America's "Bases Of Empire"
by Stephen Lendman , Countercurrents.org
Besides waging perpetual wars, nothing better reveals America's imperial agenda than its hundreds of global bases - for offense, not defense at a time the US hasn't had an enemy since the Japanese surrendered in August 1945. According to the Department of Defense's Base Structure Report (BSR) through 2005, it totaled 737 but likely exceeds 1000 today with so many new ones built since then - some known, others secret and always others planned. Unacceptable noise, pollution, environmental destruction, expropriation of valuable public and private land, and drunken, disorderly, and abusive soldiers committing crimes that include rape and murder that often go unpunished under provisions in US-imposed Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs).
Officially, over 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees are massed in 909 military facilities in 46 countries and territories. There, the US military owns or rents 795,000 acres of land, and 26,000 buildings and structures valued at $146 billion."
However, the numbers are misleading as they exclude the massive base and troop presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, former Soviet republics, and Warsaw Pact countries as well as unknown numbers of secret facilities in numerous other nations. They consist of three types:
-- Main Operating Bases (MOBs) like the Iraq Balad Air Base housing 30,000 troops, 10,000 contractors, and covering 16 square miles plus another 12-square mile "security perimeter." MOBs are large and permanent, have extensive infrastructure, command and control headquarters, accommodations for families in non-war zones, hospitals, schools, recreational facilities, and nearly anything available in a typical US city.
-- Forward Operation Sites (FOSs) that are also major installations but are smaller than MOBs, and
-- Cooperative Security Locations (CLSs) that are small, austere, called 'lily pads," - to preposition weapons, munitions, and modest numbers of troops.
Farm and public land is expropriated for their use. Toxic pollution is enormous as well as extensive environmental damage. Noise levels from round-the-clock aircraft are intolerable, and around numerous bases America is at war. It also imprisons and tortures thousands, props up despotic rulers for its own advantage, and virtually holds the entire planet hostage to its extremist agenda.
The Purpose of US Bases is that they reflect empire, an aim to dominate everywhere, a sense of "racial, cultural, or social superiority," and a success when "wealth is extracted from peripheral areas and redistributed to the imperial center."
The Pentagon claims they're in place to:
-- defend the homeland with a forward or global presence; and
-- provide other nations with security.
In fact, they're to control trade, resources, local supplies of cheap labor, and political, economic, and social life of host countries. They also force them to support American imperialism, including foreign wars despite harmful fallout to local populations.
|July 10, 2009|| What Kind of "Hope" Is Obama Offering to Latin American Countries Still Traumatized by U.S. Empire?
by Roberto Lovato, World
Throughout the Americas, there exists a powerful political tradition in which esperanza (hope) is defined by the fight against U.S. domination.
Until "hope" has some heft besides military heft to back it up, "esperanza" of Latin America will reign supreme -- and be defended ferociously. Once called "America's Backyard" by Obama's predecessors, America the continent has torn down the fences of what political scientists call the "unipolar" power of the United States in the region as the forces of esperanza usher in a new, more multipolar moment. According to a widely quoted poll by the respected Latinobarometro Corp. in November, Latin Americans have a more favorable opinion of Spain, Japan and the European Union than they do of the United States -- an unprecedented development -- and two-thirds of all Latin Americans say they "don't believe that the change of leadership in that country (the U.S.) will change the attitude of that country towards the region (of Latin America)."
In the land of esperanza, Obama must recognize that talk of "hope" that is accompanied by continued military funding for governments like those of Honduras or Colombia rings as hollow. And are as increasingly vapid as the political slogans, such as "Si Se Puede" (Yes We Can), deployed by politicians and corporations pilfering beer, burgers and bad foreign policy. Although the diplomatic dance between the Obama administration and Latin America has just begun, the initial steps in tiny Honduras may not be taken to the tune of "hope," but to that of esperanza.
|July 9, 2009|| 10 Dangerous Household Products You Should Never Use Again
by Sustain Lane, Health & Wellness
Air fresheners, disinfectants, and cleaners found under your sink are more dangerous than you think.
Here is a list of the ten products you should ban from your home -- forever -- along with suggested alternatives.
1. Non-Stick Cookware
2. Plastic Bottles
3. Conventional Cleaning Supplies
4. Chemical Insecticides and Herbicides
5. Antibacterial Products
6. Chemical Fertilizers
7. More Bulb for Your Buck
8. Air fresheners
9. Flame Retardants
10. Plastic Shopping Bags
|June 26, 2009|| We've Been Trapped Inside a Bad Health Care System So Long, We Don't Even Know How Much We're Missing
by Sara Robinson, Campaign for America's Future, Health & Wellness
Our current system has robbed us of the chance to save, educate ourselves, see the world and live to a robust old age.
Polls say most Americans who have health care are satisfied with it. But nobody ever asks them if they're satisfied with what they've had to do to get it, keep it, or afford it. What would you do differently? I watch my Canadian neighbors live their lives, and the world beyond the swamp comes into sharp and stunning focus. My neighbors go to the doctor when they need to -- and often, when they don't. If they're just feeling funky for a day or two, they go. If the splinter is too big to handle with a needle, they go. Anything goes a little bit sideways -- they go. By American standards, they're probably overusing the system.
But the upshot is that the small symptoms of really big things -- little lumps, creeping blood pressure, wounds that don't heal right, coughs that don't go away -- are caught and diagnosed early in a GP's office, instead of months or years down the road in a full-blown crisis at the ER, which is now the American way. And this is central to cost containment: getting emergent problems calmly headed off right away in a $30 office visit is a lot more cost-effective than having to deal with the full catastrophe later on in a $3,000 emergency-room drama scene. And it allows people to maintain their good health through the years, instead of delaying treatment until it's too late to recover it and permanent damage is done. My neighbors heal, recover, and go on with their lives. The U.S. disability rate last year was 19.1 percent, and rising fast. In Canada, it's 14.3 percent -- and Statistics Canada believes that the only reason their stats are creeping up these days is that people who once hid their disabilities are now more willing to admit them. That disability rate affects the country's economic competitiveness. Americans just don't have the time or money to spend on a proper recovery after a major event, or get the full course of treatment that a chronic condition requires to be truly well-managed. Fearing for our income or our jobs, we hurry back to work too soon. Our insurance doesn't cover necessary follow-up therapies, so things may not heal thoroughly or properly. We can't afford the drugs, so we cut the pills in half, or stop taking them entirely. The result is that too many of us end up far more impaired than we need to be -- and may, in fact, never be quite right again. Deferred maintenance -- which is what this is -- takes a ferocious toll on the American workforce, which is now being forced to compete with workers around the world who get better care, make better recoveries, and are able to return to work at full strength.
My neighbors start small businesses.
My neighbors go back to school.
My neighbors quit jobs they hate.
My neighbors stay home with their kids.
My neighbors invest.
My neighbors travel.
My neighbors seldom go bankrupt.
My neighbors have never seen anyone die because they didn't have health care. With 22,000 Americans dying every year due to a lack of health insurance.
Think about it. Let yourself get good and angry. The current system has robbed an entire generation of Americans of their full potential. It has made us serfs. It has narrowed our horizons. It has undermined our families and communities. It has deprived us of the chance to save, to own a home, to educate ourselves and our children, to see the world, to retire in comfort, and to live to a healthy and robust old age.
|June 25, 2009|| Food Inc: Michael Pollan and Friends Reveal the Food Industry's Darkest Secrets
by Tara Lohan, Environment
The new film Food Inc. is a shocking look at the health, human rights and the environmental nightmare that lands on our plate each meal.
It turns out that figuring out the most simple thing -- like what's on your dinner plate, and where it came from -- is actually a pretty subversive act. The story's main narrative chronicles the consolidation of our vast food industry into the hands of a few powerful corporations that have worked to limit the public's understanding of where its food comes from, what's in it and how safe it may be. But it's also a larger story about the people that have gotten in the way of the stampeding corporate herd. There are also the farmers who appear with their faces blacked out on screen for fear of Monsanto, or the communities ravaged by Type 2 diabetes, or the undocumented workers at processing plants who are recruited from their NAFTA-screwed homelands, illegally brought over the border to work dangerous jobs for peanuts, only to be humiliatingly sacrificed in immigration raids that only criminalize workers and never the employers. But it is the ordinary folks in the film that make you realize how critical these issues are to the future of food, health care, the environment and human rights in this country. when 1 out of 3 Americans born after the year 2000 is going to get early-onset diabetes; it is going to bankrupt the health care system. And I think there is a direct connection between food and health.
I don't think you can deal with the environment without dealing with the food system when 20-25 percent of your carbon footprint involves growing and transporting food.
I think these issues are coming to the surface and are becoming more important, there has just been some movement on food safety where the FDA will have the power to recall food (which they do not have now). one of the shocks of making this film was that at every rural location we went to there were parts of towns that only spoke Spanish and that our food is grown and processed by illegal immigrants, and it is really this hypocritical world that we live in because we are depending on them to deliver this inexpensive food to the supermarket, but yet we also don't want them in our communities because people think it taxes communities -- the health care and schools. But unfortunately, the people who get arrested are the workers who are working hard and doing their part, and the reason they are being hired is because they are doing difficult, dangerous, low-paying jobs, and only people without rights would want to do that work. And that for me was as important as talking about how the animals are mistreated -- I tried not to even go there. But people are always shocked by animal mistreatment in the film, and I didn't think I even put it in.
People think if they can't do it all the time they don't have to do anything. Change one meal. But then we have to stop subsidizing food that is making us sick, we have to change the national school-lunch program. If we supported local farms and got that to the school systems and spent a dollar there, we'd save a a fortune in medicine and train kids to eat right, and we'd have better communities. We have to vote with our votes and our forks. I am really optimistic that it's going to change. I feel a sense of real growth -- it might not be quick, but it is going to change, there is a real growing movement. The question is when. This is an unsustainable system, it can't go on.
|June 22, 2009||
More Than 1 Billion People Hungry Worldwide In 2009
by Joe Kishore , Countercurrents.org, Truthdig.com
Humanity will achieve the dubious distinction this year of having more than 1 billion members of its species living in hunger for the first time in history.
The number of undernourished is estimated to soar by about 100 million over last year, to 1.02 billion, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The 11 percent surge in the world’s hungry is primarily a product of the global economic crisis, combined with persistently high food prices. World economic output is expected to decline by more than 3 percent this year—the first global contraction since the Second World War. The economic crisis, the FAO notes, “has reduced incomes and employment opportunities of the poor and significantly lowered their access to food.”
The world’s hungry are concentrated in Asia and the Pacific (642 million), Sub-Saharan Africa (265 million), Latin America and the Caribbean (53 million), and the Near East and North Africa (42 million). Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest concentration of hungry, while the Middle East and North Africa saw the most rapid growth in the number of hungry people (13.5 percent).
The agency’s definition of hunger is based on the number of calories consumed. Depending on the relative age and gender ratios of a given country, the cutoff varies between 1,600 and 2,000 calories a day.
It is likely the FAO figures significantly underestimate the number of people suffering from hunger. A study published earlier this year found that 12 million children are at risk of inadequate food in the United States (see, “US: 12 million children face hunger and food insecurity”). FAO figures estimate the total number of hungry people in the entire “developed world” (including the US and Europe) at 15 million.
According to the FAO, the growth of hunger is not the result of a decline in food production. Cereal production, for example, will only slightly decrease this year from 2008. Instead, “the poor are less able to purchase food, especially where prices on domestic markets are still stubbornly high.... At the end of 2008, domestic staple foods still cost on average 24 percent more in real terms than two years earlier; a finding that was true across a range of important foodstuffs.”
In other words, the sharp growth in hunger is due not to a lack of capacity, although global food production could be significantly increased given a rational and scientific allocation of agricultural resources. Instead, the rise in social misery results from the fact that millions more people are now unable to afford the most basic necessities.
The FAO highlights three aspects of the present crisis that make it particularly severe. First, it follows the rapid growth in food prices in the years 2006-2008. This bubble was driven in part by speculative activities of investors pouring money into commodities as the financial crisis developed. This preceding surge in prices eroded any buffer created by households to cope with economic shocks (see figure).
Second, the crisis is global. The FAO notes, “When economic crises are confined to individual countries, or several countries in a particular region, governments can make recourse to instruments such as currency devaluation, borrowing or increased use of official assistance to face the effects of the crisis.”
Third, poorer countries are “more financially and commercially integrated into the world economy” and are therefore “far more exposed to changes in international markets.” They are highly susceptible to rapid changes in global demand or supply and credit restrictions.
Another related factor not mentioned by the FAO has been the way in which the US government has monopolized credit markets to fund its multi-trillion-dollar bank bailouts, exploiting the privileged position of the American dollar to do so. Poorer countries do not have this privilege and are facing higher borrowing costs as a consequence.
The FAO takes note of the growth in interest rates for debt to “developing countries” along with the complete absence of available credit for some nations. The economic crisis has led to other rapid shifts in capital markets, including the drying up of foreign direct investment.
Many poorer countries are seeing a sharp decline in remittances from migrants, by 5 to 8 percent. The FAO notes: “What is more, remittances have usually been resistant to shocks and often even increased during economic crises in recipient countries. The countercyclical effect of these transfers is unlikely to happen this time due to the global dimension of the current recession.”
The FAO also expects foreign aid to drop by 25 percent to the poorest 71 countries. Total official development assistance (ODA) aid from all countries has been about $100 billion a year—as compared to bank bailouts running in the trillions and a US military budget of more than $500 billion.
Countries that rely on exports have been particularly hard hit by the economic crisis, and world trade is anticipated to fall between 5 and 9 percent this year.
|June 17, 2009||
The Food Crisis Continues - In The Form Of A Global Scramble For Lucrative Farmlands
by Sam Urquhart , Countercurrents.org
Governments - concerned about future food security - have been furiously signing deals with other governments across the world. Saudi Arabia has tied up 25,000 ha in Sudan to grow corn, soy and wheat, with Jordan and Syria inking similar deals. China has reportedly signed numerous deals, as in Laos , where a state rubber company has acquired 160,000 ha, and Mozambique , where 10,000 "settlers" are reportedly set to assist in the conversion of thousands of hectares to export crop production. Even tiny Mauritius has agreed a deal with Mozambique to farm 5,000 ha of land in a country where over 50 percent of the people live on less than a dollar a day.
In Africa , the American firm Jarch Capital claims to have rights on 800,000 ha of Sudanese land, while numerous biofuel companies have secured huge deals (and some have been knocked back). Meanwhile, in Asia, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, agri-giant Monsanto has bought the rights to 10,000 acres of farmland "for experimenting with GMOs" and "is looking for an additional 50-100,000 acres" in the near future.
And that's just a pinprick in the wider picture. GRAIN has documented over 180 such deals involving both governments and private investors. It's a pandemic of land acquisitions, with no known cure.
On the one hand, the shock of rising prices and the specter of food insecurity raised by the food crisis has shattered confidence in the world market, sending nations scrambling to secure land and water with which to grow essential crops. The Gulf states have been particularly active, having seen their food import bills rise from around $8 billion to nearly $20 billion in the past five years alone - concerns over water use have prompted Saudi Arabia to plan for an end to all wheat production by 2016.
Rising awareness of climate change has motivated governments and private investors, for different reasons. Water scarce nations have begun to "lock up" water resources in the form of land rights in anticipation both of future water stress and rising prices, China being a prime example. Across the world, governments have begun to link up with other governments to sign massive land deals.
On the other hand, stimulated by the prospect of looming price spikes (and windfall profits) in the future, private investors have begun to move into agriculture on an unprecedented scale. Land is being rapidly securitized. As veteran commodities trader Jim Rogers says , "I'm convinced that farmland is going to be one of the best investments of our time"
As GRAIN reported in 2008, " The two big global crises that have erupted over the last 15 months – the world food crisis and the broader financial crisis that the food crisis has been part of – are together spawning a new and disturbing trend towards buying up land for outsourced food production."
Rogers and long-time collaborator George Soros have been moving into global land investment - eyeing massive profits to be gained from future price spikes. As has Lord Jacob Rothschild, via a company called Agfirma Brazil . As he puts it, "we have an extraordinary situation. If you take governments' printing money as fast as they are, borrowing as fast as they are, and bailing out white-elephant corporations, we're surely going to have an inflationary situation fairly soon" a situation in which CNN's Brian O'Keefe comments, "owning a hard asset like land is a good hedge."
According to the FAO, such deals (or, more accurately, "land grabs") have seen almost 2.5 million hectares of farmlands allocated to foreign investors in just five sub-Saharan African countries since 2004, although the FAO's figures understate the true total by excluding investments under 1000 ha in extent. Huge areas of land are being sold to the highest bidder, with over 180 deals across the world having been documented by GRAIN, and the likelihood that there have been more, as such deals are generally concluded behind closed doors.
We simply don't know the true extent of the scramble for land, but the consequences will undoubtedly be vast. The scale of the wave of land grabs is truly global. From the black earth of Southern Russia and the Ukraine, to Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines in south-east Asia, to Pakistan, to Sudan, Zambia, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Madagascar in Africa and even into the Amazon, there is a sustained effort to open up communal landholdings to global investors, be they government or private.
The focus needs to be on how these investments can be made “win-win” rather than “neo-colonialism”. Von Braun and Meinzen-Dick remind us that "unequal power relations in the land acquisition deals can put the livelihoods of the poor at risk" while, as "Land is an inherently political issue across the globe, with land reform and land rights issues often leading to violent conflict...the addition of another actor competing for this scarce and contested resource can add to socio-political instability in developing countries."
For GRAIN's Devlin Kuyek, the threats presently far outweigh the opportunities for countries hosting such land deals. As he says, given the disastrous development of mortgage based derivatives, there is "a ll the reason in the world to be concerned about how financial houses are going to be or are speculating in land" while, "if financial instruments are being developed for land, then that's a troubling prospect."
As Kuyek notes, "these deals are being promoted as win-win" but in reality "It's not just that they want to produce food. It's that they want to produce it in a away that makes profit. These are big natural resource projects, and need to be looked at through the same lens as dams and mines."
The world's leaders don't appear keen to remodel agriculture from above. As Kuyek says, no-one is really dealing with the fundamental problems within the global agricultural system. While nothing is done about a system which manufactures hunger, and "Nothing is being done to address speculation, or the amount of profits taken by the corporations in control of the food system" these land grabs are little more than "a band-aid over growing problem of food insecurity" - albeit band-aids which have the potential to make the wound much more dangerous.
This is worrying, as the wave of "land grabs" carries with it huge social and environmental pitfalls. For one thing, the continuing encroachment of governments and private investors into indigenous lands is breaking apart communal landholding systems. In turn, this is compromising the ecosystems that such peoples maintain and subsist from.
Then there are the implications for small-scale agriculture in general. There is a perceived need to move towards "sustainable agriculture" which is less dependent upon fossil fuel inputs, more efficient, more socially equitable and has a low ecological impact.
But, these land grabs are compromising the prospects for small farmers, and seem to be boosting industrial-style plantations. As GRAIN's Kuyek told me, "The fact is that you're taking away lands from farmers who are the only way that you're going to move towards sustainable agriculture that meets the needs of local people."
But what can people do about land grabs? MELCA Mahiber provides one model - having lobbied the Ethiopian government and laboriously compiled its own research on large-scale agriculture projects within the nation's borders. But its success is far from certain. Cambodia shows the fragility of a legalistic solution. What is needed is collective action.
As the IFPRI researchers von Braun and Meinzen-Dick conclude "by acting collectively the poor can stimulate a shift in power relations." Kuyek is more strident. " People need to be aware of what governments are doing" he told me. "They need to insist on the right to know what leaders are signing away on their behalf, and to push for a process to uncover what is being done, and to allow the people to decide."
"These are their lands, and they need to take control of their lands. It's as simple as that."
|June 15, 2009||
A strong, stable Congress government may be good for business, but can it contend with the real, looming threat of environmental catastrophe?
Business and financial communities reacted with outright euphoria to the recent landslide victory of India's National Congress Party. Mumbai's stock exchange soared. Foreign investment poured in. Pundits at what used to be known as investment banks trumpeted the results as nothing less than India finally throwing off the shackles that have held it back from greatness: the limitations of a weak coalition government beholden to Communists. India, we are told, is free at last to embark on a project of wealth creation that the rest of the world will be hard-pressed to imitate.
India is expected to recover smartly from the current global recession, hitting an annual economic growth rate of 6.9 percent by next year. Meanwhile, bearish economists are warning that structural weaknesses will delay the recovery of the US economy until well into 2011. The icing on this cake: General Motors is soothing investors rattled by its recent bankruptcy in the United States with the assurance that its India operations will not be affected. Charles Wilson, a former GM CEO, once quipped that "what's good for General Motors is good for the country." That quaint, 20th century line now begs only one question: which country? The world's financial press buzzes that India could be the "new China"; capital (at least some of it) is stampeding from Shenzhen to Bangalore; and the US dollar is in free fall.
India has one of the world's longest coastlines. Rising sea levels are already swallowing up the Sunderbans at the mouth of West Bengal's mighty Hooghly River. Next door in Bangladesh, 15 percent of whose land mass will be under water if sea levels rise as predicted, things are even worse. Little wonder India is building a fence along its border with Bangladesh in anticipation of a wave of climate-change refugees. At 4,000 kilometers in length, the Indo-Bangladeshi Barrier will rival the Great Wall of China. One can only imagine what rising sea levels will do to the millions crammed onto reclaimed land in Mumbai or in India's new auto manufacturing hub of Chennai, around which one trusts the government of India has no plans to build fences.
Climate change is also already causing the glaciers of the Himalayas to melt at an alarming rate, the rivers they feed are receding. Some scientists are predicting that the sacred Ganga, whose waters have nourished the great grain-producing Gangetic plains as well as the souls of untold millions of Hindu faithful through millennia, is in danger of simply drying up. Three billion people - half the world's current population - depend on the Himalayas for water. The impact of that water dwindling away is terrifying.
If temperatures rise in India by even a couple of degrees Celsius, which they are already well on track to do, the very viability of food plants will be threatened. Yields will plummet in plants simply not evolved to thrive in higher temperatures. More immediately, climate change causes predictable weather patterns to become unpredictable. This is not good news for a country where the vast majority of agricultural production depends on the regular arrival, duration, and bounty of the monsoon rains. No wonder William Cline, in his meticulously researched book Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country (Center for Global Development 2007) projects that agricultural production in India will decline by as much as 38 percent over current levels by 2080 as a direct result of climate change alone. By that year, India will have added 450 million more people to its population.
Climate change is a weapon of mass destruction. Mitigating global warming by whatever means necessary should be the new Indian government's priority number one.
The government should make a major push to develop low-cost alternative energy technologies that don't require finite, toxic fuel sources (which means both fossil and fissile energy sources).
It should help India's small-scale farmers return to the cultivation of traditional hardy (and higher in protein) food plants such as millet and buckwheat, and install low-cost, highly effective micro-irrigation systems to get the biggest plant-growing benefit for every drop of precious water.
It should require all new construction across the country to be green construction, naturally cooler with little or no air conditioning, and with roofs that collect and channel rain when during monsoons.
It should recognize that the infrastructure India so desperately needs is green infrastructure that encourages public transportation and the use of bicycles, a realization at long last sweeping cities in richer nations.
India cannot afford to do as the west did: get dirty to get rich, then start to think about cleaning up the mess. It also cannot expect wealthier countries to push the hardest to deal with climate change, the global menace that will devastate India far more than it will them.
To grapple with climate change, a different approach is required. The new Congress government needs to bring to this task the real spirit of "young India", the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi who warned decades ago that the "earth has enough to satisfy man's need but not every man's greed."
|June 12, 2009||
Depraved Injustice And The Privatization Of The Global Freshwater Commons
by Frank Joseph Smecker, Countercurrents.org
Of all our natural resources water has become the most precious. By far the greater part of the earth’s surface is covered by its enveloping seas, yet in the midst of this plenty we are in want. By a strange paradox, most of the earth’s abundant water is not usable for agriculture, industry, or human consumption because of its heavy load of sea salts, and so most of the world’s population is either experiencing or is threatened with critical shortages.
Around the world, scarcity of potable water is becoming a portentous matter. Admonishing phrases like “water is the next oil,” and “wells are running dry” have percolated their way into the collective lexicon of global issues. Rivers and streams are vanishing, and the desiccation and depletion of entire watersheds and aquifers is increasing the world over. Desperately seeking a reason for the withering away of drinkable water and the silencing of gushing streams, it becomes obvious that there is not one sole factor contributing to this dire situation, but many. Global warming and climate change, industrial modes of production, dam construction, and water privatization all conduce to the problem of water scarcity.
The supply of freshwater on this planet is only 2.5 percent of the world’s total water. Considering the amount that is frozen up in ice and snow, roughly one percent is left for human use. Water consumption has grown twice as fast as the world’s population.
We are often told that we’ve exceeded our carrying capacity here on Earth (or are arriving at that calamitous denouement of the story of civilization in no time soon), and water – a finite resource – is being exacerbated at an alarming rate in tandem to population growth. It is very true that we’ve reached our carrying capacity, this planet cannot healthily sustain so many people living in current arrangements; it cannot support our lifestyle. But anyone who has closely studied the conflation of civilization, agriculture, and Capitalism understand well that human population booms are endemic to the aforementioned social formula. And in all honesty, to blame the problem of water scarcity upon an increasing global population is sneaky as hell. Ninety percent of human water use is for industrial purposes – 70 percent being used exclusively for large-scale agriculture and factory farming. If the dominant economic mode were to shift gears, to one that wasn’t defined globally, and predicated upon the funneling of resources to the producer rather than the community, the availability of water would be much different. If community-scale projects and strict environmental protection policies were implemented to define our economic behavior, then I’m pretty sure billions of people would not be facing such dire water related plights. However, in a world where market theory has greatly influenced the dominant praxis of economic intercourse, the privatization of the planet’s water has been pitched as the panacea that will solve our troubles.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.2 billion people worldwide go without access to clean drinking water, and approximately 2.5 billion people don’t have access to “adequate sanitation services.” Over five million – mostly children in Africa and Asia – die annually from preventable, water-related diseases. The following countries (population provided) consume only contaminated water: Sudan (12.3 million); Venezuela (5 million); Zimbabwe (2.7 million); Tunisia (2.1 million), and Cuba (1.2. million).
Proponents of water privatization argue that privatization of water in developing nations, where millions are subjected to abject poverty, would be a boon, delivering clean water for drinking and sanitation to many who go without. Conversely, many posit that these nations are not equipped to negotiate contracts and the poor bear the brunt of fee increases. The ensuing information will corroborate the latter allegations.
By the end of 2000, more than 93 countries worldwide had partially privatized water or wastewater services. The larger the company, the more control. According to research done by Elizabeth Brubaker at the Energy Probe Research Foundation, at the largest scale, private water companies construct, own, and run water systems around the globe, raking in revenues of more than $30 billion – excluding revenue from the sales of bottled water. Most of this money does not make it back into the communities, but is rather transferred to the transnationals.
The largest players in water privatization are two French transnationals: Veolia Environment (owned by media conglomerate Vivendi) and Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux whose water and wastewater businesses are run by its subsidiary Ondeo (I’m sure you can find the CEOs’ names and home addresses if you reconnoiter hard enough on the Internet …to send them letters, silly). These two companies have interests in water projects in over 120 countries and provide to roughly 100 million people. Suez alone is active in more than 100 countries, and has become the second largest overseer of municipal systems in the U.S. – right behind American Water Works.
In 1993, Suez and Buenos Aires consummated a privatization deal (lauded by the World Bank); over the years the results were: drastic increases in consumer water prices; more than 95 percent of the city’s sewage dumped into the Rio del Plata river, to name but a couple. In 1998, Atlanta, Georgia signed a 20-year, $428 million contract with United Water, a Suez subsidiary. The results? Rate increases of sewer bills – 12 percent annually. According to a report procured by Public Citizen, the company also charged “an extra $37.6 million for additional service authorizations, capital repair, and maintenance costs.” The denizens of Atlanta paid about $16 million of these costs, and then an additional $1 million to hire investigators to verify United Water’s reports. Which turned out to be fishy. How’s that for venality – as if selling people water isn’t enough of a depraved iniquity.
As for abroad, the U.K. has used a large private system since the late 80s. A 1994 study purported to show rates of dysentery ascending in a majority of the urban areas. And according to the Public Citizen report, in 1998, “the major water companies in the U.K. were ranked as the second, third, and fourth-worst polluters.” And, “…ten water companies were prosecuted a total of 260 times between 1989 and 1997.”
Other noted effects of water privatization include: Improper protection of water quality; ecological destruction of downstream habitat; failure to protect public ownership of water and water rights; wasted water and neglect of conservation; and the transfer of assets of local communities to transnationals.
Despite corporate claims (which are fallacious beyond a doubt), the privatizing of water heavily increases the price of water. According to foodandwaterwatch.org, “International corporations can easily expect to make a 20 percent to 30 percent margin of profit from investment in water service… In 2006, Veolia made a consolidated net income of €759 million (nearly $1.12 billion), according to its 2006 annual report. In addition, 35 percent of Veolia’s total revenue came from water, with 10 percent from North America,” and “In the same year Suez earned a gross operating income of €7,083 million (nearly $10.38 billion), and RWE had a net income of €3,847 million (almost $5.66 billion). Some €689 million ($1.02 billion) of RWE’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) came from its water division, known as U.S. water provider American Water.” All of this money is funneled out of the community and into the pockets of the shareholders. There is virtually no case in which the privatizing of water has benefited everyone in a specific community. Kendra Okonski, editor of The Water Revolution, observed, “In most poor countries today, governments perpetuate water scarcity – which harms both people and the environment. They fail to provide water to the poor, but provide massive subsidies for water use by vested interests, such as big landowners.”
I recently had a chat with local environmentalist, Annette Smith from Vermonter’s for a Clean Environment (VCE), over the issues of water privatization, and the reprehensible bottled-water industry. She explained to me that “large extractions of water, the size at which commercial bottled-water companies operate, can taper stream channels, alter temperatures fish rely upon for their life cycles, and can expend aquifers and other nearby water sources.
“Furthermore, the impact goes far beyond the actual water extraction.” Smith explained that, “the plastic bottles have their environmental impacts as well. For one, the plastic bottles contain phthalates, which are chemical compounds that are added to plastics to increase their flexibility. Phthalates have been known to be culpable for organ damage, adverse hormonal activity, and birth defects.”
Plastic is a polymer, which is a very complex molecule. When plastic is disposed of in a landfill, it takes thousands upon thousands of years for that polymer to break down. In the U.S. approximately 60-70 million plastic water bottles are discarded every day.
The industrial process of manufacturing plastic bottles is very intensive as well. It uses the equivalent of four pints of water to manufacture one plastic bottle. A quote taken from the Chicago Tribune pretty much sums up a brief but comprehensive analysis of the water-bottle industry’s uses: “The 1.5 million barrels of crude oil used each year to manufacture plastic water bottles in the U.S. could fuel 100,000 cars for a year [or just stay in the ground and mitigate our military involvement in the Middle East]. Thousands of tons of greenhouse gases are emitted transporting bottled water around the world. Just 23 percent of all plastic bottles are recycled, meaning 52 billion end up in landfills or littered.”
Did you know that there is a trash vortex in the Pacific Ocean larger than the continental United States, and that there is now more plastic by weight than plankton?
Phytoplankton populations are in inexorable decline.
Whale populations are in inexorable decline.
This is what I do know: People manufacture plastic while sea otters choke to death on polyethylene rings from beer six-packs. People buy plastic while nylon nets strangle the lives out of great gulls. People discard plastic into the landbases and oceans while plastics get lodged in sea turtles – killing them. Fulmars wash ashore, lifeless, their stomachs distended with plastic. Whales, too, have been found dead along shorelines, autopsies revealing stomachs bloated with plastics.
As we’re all aware global warming is a consequence of green house gas emissions, especially CO2 emissions, and the water-bottling industry clearly isn’t helping the situation. I was curious to hear what Smith had to say about the impact global warming will have on watersheds. Her response was sharp: “Drought is the equalizer, because you can have water extractions that do not seem to be having an impact, but in drought the impacts can turn a neighborhood from barely having enough water to having no water at all.” I was beginning to see some irony here, as the song goes: “You don’t miss your water ‘til your well runs dry.”
Of all the social and natural crises we humans [and nonhumans] face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our [sic] planet Earth. No region will be spared from the impact of this crisis which touches every facet of life, from the health of children to the ability of nations to secure food for citizens. Water supplies are falling while the demand is dramatically growing at an unsustainable rate.
However, the issues surrounding water access around the world still remains dire and demanding. Mexico City has sunk more than thirty feet into the ground due to their extracting from the underlying aquifer. Routine shutting off of taps has become compulsory as they are over 50 percent below their water table. The same conditions exist in Beijing and Shanghai, China, as well as in many regions of India, Africa and the Global South.
Between 1970 and 2000, virtually all vegetation of Madagascar’s highland plateau had been lost to deforestation for irrigation and agriculture. The endeavor transformed the country’s biomass into a wasteland. The detrimental effects are widespread erosion that produce heavily silted rivers that “run red;” the loss of ecosystems, and species driven to the brink of extinction; as well as the loss of fresh water, and coral reef reformations.
In California farmers are on strike because of drought conditions and lack of adequate water supply for agricultural purposes.
We’re told this is an issue that is commensurate with a growing global population. But the truth is, it is the result of social arrangements. Ninety percent of the use of water is for industrial agriculture and the commodification of nature, viz. for the industrial production of consumables and energies. Population growth is not responsible for the desiccation of fresh water as much as capitalism is, as much as industrial civilization is (it is self-evident that cities do not have a clean source of fresh water – fluoridation does not count, to find out why, go buy some rat poison at your local grocer and read the ingredient – there’s only one: sodium fluoride. Or better yet, see how long it takes for one of your friends to take a swim in the Hudson in the NY Bay area; I’ll give you a hint at how long it’ll take – unless s/he’s fucking bonkers, you’ll get well beyond quadruple-dog-dare).
If we want to preserve our freshwaters, it is imperative that our modes of production change radically, that the dams the world over come down – immediately, and by any means necessary; and that water is not viewed objectively as a catalyst for generating financial wealth, meaning no more commercial bottled water.
Every river, stream, and brook in the continental U.S. is tainted with carcinogenic material. There are approximately 41 million Americans drinking water that has traces of pharmaceuticals in it – in India the waters contain 150 times the highest levels of pharmaceutical contamination than in the U.S. The reasons for this abuse to our watersheds and freshwaters runs deep folks, but if we want to preclude further devastation we must act now, we must engender what the residents in East Montpelier had last year, this time on a global scale.
In April 2000, after a week of civil disobedience and impassioned protest in the streets, the president of Bolivia was demanded to terminate the 40-year water privatization contract granted to Aguas del Tunari. As I mentioned earlier, the terms were so despotic that within months the entire region rose up and drove them out. As portrayed above, if we align voices with actions, then community agency can direct what’s in our best interest, and that is to preserve the natural world – especially its freshwaters.
|June 11, 2009||
The Global Significance Of The Amazon Protest
by Sam Urquhart
Sam Urquhart is a journalist and activist from the UK. His work focuses on the global struggle for social and environmental justice, at a time of environmental and social crisis. He blogs at the Hidden Paw, which you can find here http://szamko.wordpress.com/, Countercurrents.org
Peru's Amazon region has been locked down, after the death of perhaps 40 indigenous protesters and 20 police during an attempt to break up a blockade last Friday. Some reports put the death toll as high as 84, in the worst violence that the Amazon region has seen since the height of the Shining Path insurgency in the 1980s. On 6 June, a peaceful blockade was allegedly fired upon by helicopters from the nation's army. Most of the dead were indigenous protesters, part of a contingent at the blockade in Bagua province which numbered thousands - all of them seeking to resist the expansion of energy exploration and logging into Peru's Amazon region. And many of them appear to have been not just peaceful, but asleep. As the NGO Amazon Watch reported, [http://www.amazonwatch.org/ newsroom/view_news.php?id=1829] "At approximately 5 am...the Peruvian military police staged a violent raid" during which "several thousand Awajun and Wambis indigenous peoples were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and real bullets." In a brutal attack, helicopters dropped tear gas bombs from on high while police moved in on the protesters - shooting some in the process. The NGO also reports that "as the unarmed demonstrators were killed and injured some wrestled the Police and took away their guns and fought back in self-defense resulting in deaths of several Police officers." Indigenous leader Walter Kategari expressed similar sentiments, telling the Mexican newspaper El Universal [http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/internacional/61995.html] that "They began to shoot against our people. And the government knows that the natives are pacific, but when there is an action against us they will always find a reaction. And they made us react." Kategari echoes the words of Alberto Pizango, one of the major organizers of the indigenous movement in Peru, who has said that police shot down indigenous "brothers" like nothing more than animals.
The pace of indigenous mobilization and resistance in Peru has quickened over the past three years since Alan Garcia took power for the second time as president of Peru. Garcia embarked upon a twin-track economic strategy which has alienated large sections of Peruvian society, but none more so than the country's 14 million indigenous people.
On the one hand, Garcia has pushed through a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, passing numerous "decrees" in order to remodel the economy to suit the terms of the deal. On the other, he has aggressively pursued the opening up of the Amazon to energy exploration and development, a strategy which poses an immediate threat to indigenous ways of life and native ecologies.
As one study published in 2008 reported, Garcia has allotted over 70 percent of the Peruvian Amazon to oil firms such as Argentina's Pluspetrol, France's and France's Perenco. Such deals have also been secured without consultation with indigenous communities that they will affect. In fact, Alan Garcia has overridden concerns about indigenous rights, saying that "We have to understand when there are resources like oil, gas and timber, they don't belong only to the people who had the fortune to be born there."
The decrees which Garcia passed in order to ready Peru for integration with the U.S. economy stand to make the expropriation of indigenous lands much easier.
Decree 1064, for instance, sought to outflank local communities, allowing companies with concessions to arrange changes to zoning permits in the Amazon with Peru's central government, potentially bypassing any form of local consultation. Amazon Watch notes that this puts Peru in contravention of ILO regulation 169, which requires governments "to consult with indigenous people prior to signing contracts and establishing any development projects that will affect them" - something which "has never happened, but there has always been a requirement for companies to at least negotiate a financial settlement with a community prior to moving in." [http://www.bicusa.org/admin/Document.101184.aspx]
Article 7 of Decree 1064 also sought to "[reclassify] communal land rights as subordinate to individual and private ownership" while "sub-clauses of article 7 give favor in any conflict to individuals and companies, and to settlers who have invaded indigenous territory." This was supposed to work in conjunction with decree 1089, which expanded the role of Peru's urban land titling service, COFPRI, whose policy "has been to promote individual land titles, offering credit to individuals who rescind their communal land for individual titles." Decrees 1015 and 1073, in addition, would make it easier to break up indigenous landholdings by requiring a simple majority amongst communities, rather than two thirds as was previously the case. [http://www.en-camino.org/node/96]
Perhaps most controversially of all, Decree 1090 sought to drastically reduce the amount of the Amazon covered by Peru's Forestry Heritage protection system, "freeing" some 45 million hectares for the purposes of economic development (comprising some 60 percent of Peru's jungles).
This single mindedness has brought resistance. Indigenous peoples have long struggled against energy firms. The Achuar, for example, have taken the American giant Occidental Petroleum to court in Los Angeles over the pollution of their land. Yet this resistance has never been unified.
The integration of Peru's economy into the wider free trade area will have profound implications for the Amazon. In fact, as Farid Matuk, former Director of the Peruvian National Institute of Statistics and Informatics, told me, while "The whole idea of the FTA is to expand the agricultural frontier of the US economy" it will have the effect of driving food production from the coast into Peru's Amazon region. While "Coastal areas will switch to growing food for export but food production" he told me, "less land available for food for domestic consumption may lead to demand for land in the jungles [and] you will need to cut more forests down to produce more food for domestic consumption."
As Petrik adds, "As the new FTA ensures investor protections for multi-national corporations, more of these corporations and their industrial model, which marginalizes labor rights and the environment as mere externalities, are likely to negate any obstacles to expanding trade at any cost."
So the FTA carries with it an implicit pincer movement focused on Amazonian lands. On the one hand, there is an increasing pressure on Peruvian land to grow food for domestic consumpion. On the other there is the opening up of the region to corporate investment and the hollowing out of regulatory safeguards.
President Garcia made a rare television address, calling the indigenous communities selfish for locking away resources beneath their lands which should by rights be enjoyed by all Peruvians. "We have to understand" he said, that "when there are resources like oil, gas and timber, they don't belong only to the people who had the fortune to be born there because that would mean more than half of Peru's territory belongs to a few thousand people." Garcia coupled this appeal to nationalism with an escalation of force, sending Peru's military into the Amazon region for 30 days to quell protests at strategic locations while Pizango and AIDESEP continued to call for dialogue. Despite his unwillingness to engage in honest talks with AIDESEP or to debate the matter in Congress, Garcia has since then became more desperate to end the indigenous blockades, which are taking a direct toll on energy production and transportation. Although protesters have failed to hold the pipeline leading from the Camisea natural gas project in Peru's south after almost two weeks of occupation, other pipelines still remain blocked. Yet even before that occupation, as the Financial Times reports, "The demonstrations...[had]prompted warnings of fuel rationing within a fortnight" while in Block 1A, run by Argentine firm Pluspetrol, operations have been suspended.
In choosing to militarize the conflict with indigenous protesters, Garcia is not just attacking the physical bodies of indigenous Peruvians. His government has set out to challenge, and potentially dismantle, a constellation of diverse - yet related - cultures, all of which see "development" and the "environment" in ways strikingly alien to corporate strategists and neoliberal politicians.
As Ricardo Carrere, international coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement puts it, "if you want to do something about climate change, then you must stop oil extraction and the reality shows that the only people in the world who are actually doing something to protect the world versus climate change are the indigenous peoples saying "no more oil."
In Carrere's opinion, indigenous peoples are standing up against forces that are antithetical to environmental sustainability and social justice. They are opposing an "economic logic which means we need to destroy" and offering a different model of development, one which "needs to be decentralised, bringing people from the cities back to the land where they can have a better way of life" and demands "a very profound change is needed in every single country."
If, as Carrere points out, "we are becoming poorer with every barrel of oil we export" then we are becoming richer with every indigenous person who stands up for their lands and their rights against energy firms. They are not simply local instances of resistance, but are actions with global importance.
They are also the continuation of centuries of anti-colonial resistance. As Survival International's Stephen Corry says, "protests signal that the colonial era has finally drawn to a close. No longer are Amazon Indians prepared to put up with the illegal and brutal treatment which has been routine. That’s finished." [http://www.laht.com/article.asp? ArticleId=336792&CategoryId=14095]
The protests in Peru therefore have a global significance - both in terms of resistance against neo-colonial investment laws and in terms of environmental sustainability. The massacre at Bagua speaks to all of us. As Yanomami Indian spokesman Davi Kopenawa Yanomami eloquently expresses: [http://www.survival-international.org/news/4644]
"We must listen to the cry of the earth which is asking for help. The earth has no price. It can’t be bought, or sold or exchanged. It is very important that white people, black people and indigenous peoples fight together to save the life of the forest and the earth. If we don’t fight together what will our future be? Your children need land and nature alive and standing. We Indians want respect for our rights. You can learn with us and with our shamans. That is important not only for the Yanomami but for the future of the whole world."
|May 28, 2009||
Tree Of Life
by David Sparenberg, Countercurrents.org
The obsessions of fundamentalism and outdated political reactions notwithstanding, gender is not an issue, sexual preference is not an issue. Even race, on this small Earth, cannot continue to be an issue. War is an issue, more so in this era of stockpiled weapons of mass destruction with capacity to transform Earth into death’s inferno and ultimately obliterate the entirety of planetary populations. Genocide is an issue; omnicide is the endgame of the dance macabre of all crimes of hatred and the will to domination. Global warming is an issue in this age of accelerated species extinction, deforestation, impending environmental cataclysm and prolific crimes against creation. Famine is an issue in a time of drought, population displacements and proliferating epidemic diseases. Slavery has again become an issue and is an outgrowth of irreverence and the culture of exploitation. Dazzled by the artifices of glitz and glitter, we have become blind to the darkness of destruction that is all around us and arises from our invested extravagance, hubris and frivolity. At the same time, there is often much hypocrisy in the non-issues and far too much neglect of the real ones. A society may oppose same sex relationships and ignore the ubiquity of addiction to pornography. A society may oppose abortion but rush to war, commit itself to mass murder, or as a matter of normalcy blithely overlook the sweeping starvation of millions in a distant neighborhood of the global village.
If our consciousness is not energized by a renaissance of reconfigured moral conviction, then morality and higher consciousness continue to be disempowered by the lack of access and its own dispassionate equivocation. In like mode, we will, consequently, continue to be victimized by the shadow paradigms of arrogance, indifference and sanitized exploitation. Rather than the struggle for sanity, the convolutions and betrayals of pathologies will define us to a bitter end.
World over we have come to a place that is not only a crossroads of choice in direction, but find ourselves on the narrow ridge of momentous decision as well. Will we continue in the pernicious folly of extravagance, or will we collectively open our eyes to the mutuality of global conditions, see where (ecologically) and how (historically) we are together, and make good on a reality inspired non violent revolution for the preservation of life in all of its earthly manifestations, and the enhancement of human life through a compassionate commitment of each to all and all to each? Will we envision and embody the bold Gandhian imperative of being the change we desire and need, and not only for the sake of self but creatively and for the sustaining benefit of otherness? We have an international and even primeval heritage of creation based spirituality and wisdom, while an abundance of intelligence dedicated to change is afoot. What is pressing upon us and yet to be determined is whether or not a paradigm changing sufficiency of our species possesses the courage for enlightened sacrifice and the humility to live in peace with diversity and difference and, by a new standard of planetary balance, symbiotically abide amid the remaining biotic community of sustaining goodness with and for this living Earth.
While the words here present a view in sweeping terms, there have been guiding maxims in ordinary language among us for some decades now which are not overwhelming or a burden exceeding the resources of individual responsibility. Chiefly, consider now but these two: Live simply that others may simply live and Think globally but act locally. Individually and within the intimacies of family and intentional community will we—not in abstraction, but each and every, in both the concrete and evolving dream of our otherness--take to heart the knowledge that compassion engenders respect and wonderment and honoring life is the radical counter to neglecting and destroying life? Moreover, put awareness into practice knowing that compassion is of two interpenetrating dynamics, as vital to one another as are yin and yang. There is the compassion of compassionate denouncement, which sets a limit to wrong doing through protest and nonviolent noncooperation, and the compassion of compassionate affirmation, which welcomes dialogue with otherness through mutual recognitions, conjoins dialectics, and engages in the reciprocity, albeit often asymmetry, of healing. Both modes are compassion and fruit from the same tree, which is none other than the tree of life. As such, the authenticity of compassion as an orientation and process is a non-partisan holism which loses that authenticity when and wherever polarized and politicized by dogma.
|May 29, 2009||
Manipulation: How Markets Really Work
by Stephen Lendman, Countercurrents.org
Wall Street's mantra is that markets move randomly and reflect the collective wisdom of investors. The truth is quite opposite. The government's visible hand and insiders control markets and manipulate them up or down for profit - all of them, including stocks, bonds, commodities and currencies.
It's financial fraud or what former high-level Wall Street insider and former Assistant HUD Secretary Catherine Austin Fitts calls "pump and dump," defined as "artificially inflating the price of a stock or other security through promotion, in order to sell at the inflated price," then profit more on the downside by short-selling. "This practice is illegal under securities law, yet it is particularly common," and in today's volatile markets likely ongoing daily.
Why? Because the profits are enormous, in good and bad times, and when carried to extremes like now, Fitts calls it "pump(ing) and dump(ing) of the entire American economy," duping the public, fleecing trillions from them, and it's more than just "a process designed to wipe out the middle class. This is genocide (by other means) - a much more subtle and lethal version than ever before perpetrated by the scoundrels of our history texts."
Fitts explains that much more than market manipulation goes on. She describes a "financial coup d'etat, including fraudulent housing (and other bubbles), pump and dump schemes, naked short selling, precious metals price suppression, and active intervention in the markets by the government and central bank" along with insiders. It's a government-business partnership for enormous profits through "legislation, contracts, regulation (or lack of it), financing, (and) subsidies." More still overall by rigging the game for the powerful, while at the same time harming the public so cleverly that few understand what's happening.
|May 29, 2009||
The World is acutely threatened by man-made global warming and many scientists now doubt that we can avoid further damaging temperature increases to over 2C above that in 1900. However resolute global action via an Accountability, Badge and Credo (ABC) protocol may yet save Man and the Biosphere. In short, the Accountability, Badge and Credo (ABC) protocol involves (A) Accountability of greenhouse gas (GHG)-polluting climate criminals imposing GHG pollution on all peoples and species (e.g. by naming via an electronic Doomsday Book or virtual Doomsday Monument of bad and good guys; by using a Green Credentialling or Green Certification system to identify products, people, companies and countries we can support and those we must boycott; and by international and intra-national sanctions, boycotts, green tariffs, reparations demands, civil actions and criminal prosecutions); (B) a Badge that activists can wear with a simple core pictorial or word message (e.g. “Climate Emergency” or “Climate Emergency Network”) or a core numerical message (e.g. “300” or “350” to indicate the urgent need to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentration to about 300 parts per million (ppm) or to less than 350 ppm, respectively); and (C) a Credo or core statement of beliefs (e.g. “We believe in a safe and sustainable existence for all peoples and all species on our warming-threatened Planet and that this requires a rapid reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to about 300 parts per million”).
I would offer the following succinct credo for those wanting to save the Planet:
“We believe in a safe and sustainable existence for all peoples and all species on our warming-threatened Planet and that this requires a rapid reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to about 300 parts per million”.
The Climate Emergency Network is a little more expansive:
“We have no right to bargain away the lives of others. Our goal is a safe climate future for all people, all species, and all generations. The Global Community must concurrently halt man made greenhouse gas emissions, remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and actively cool the Earth”. 
Of course, implicit in this Credo is the “How” of achieving a rapid reduction of atmospheric CO2 concentration to a safe level of 300 parts per million. The Melbourne-based Yarra Valley Climate Action Group has produced a pamphlet “Climate Emergency Facts and Required Actions” that summarizes required actions as detailed below. .
1. Change of societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management and biological sustainability with complete cessation of species extinctions and zero tolerance for lying.
2. Urgent reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists.
3. Rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth.
|May 29, 2009||
Global Warming Causes 300,000 Deaths a Year, Says Kofi Annan Thinktank
by John Vidal, Countercurrents.org, The Guardian
Global Warming is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and is affecting 300m people, according to the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming.
A family wades through flood waters to catch a relief boat, north-east of Patna, India. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP It projects that increasingly severe heatwaves, floods, storms and forest fires will be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths a year by 2030, making it the greatest humanitarian challenge the world faces.
Economic losses due to climate change today amount to more than $125bn a year - more than the all present world aid. The report comes from former UN secretary general Kofi Annan's thinktank, the Global Humanitarian Forum. By 2030, the report says, climate change could cost $600bn a year.
Civil unrest may also increase because of weather-related events, the report says: "Four billion people are vulnerable now and 500m are now at extreme risk. Weather-related disasters ... bring hunger, disease, poverty and lost livelihoods. They pose a threat to social and political stability".
If emissions are not brought under control, within 25 years, the report states:
• 310m more people will suffer adverse health consequences related to temperature increases
• 20m more people will fall into poverty
• 75m extra people will be displaced by climate change.
Climate change is expected to have the most severe impact on water supplies . "Shortages in future are likely to threaten food production, reduce sanitation, hinder economic development and damage ecosystems. It causes more violent swings between floods and droughts. Hundreds of millions of people are expected to become water stressed by climate change by the 2030. ".
The study says it is impossible to be certain who will be displaced by 2030, but that tens of millions of people "will be driven from their homelands by weather disasters or gradual environmental degradation. The problem is most severe in Africa, Bangladesh, Egypt, coastal zones and forest areas. ."
The study compares for the first time the number of people affected by climate change in rich and poor countries. Nearly 98% of the people seriously affected, 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters and 90% of the total economic losses are now borne by developing countries. The populations most at risk it says, are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, south Asia and the small island states of the Pacific.
But of the 12 countries considered least at risk, including Britain, all but one are industrially developed. Together they have made nearly $72bn available to adapt themselves to climate change but have pledged only $400m to help poor countries. "This is less than one state in Germany is spending on improving its flood defences," says the report.
The study comes as diplomats from 192 countries prepare to meet in Bonn next week for UN climate change talks aimed at reaching a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in December in Copenhagen. "The world is at a crossroads. We can no longer afford to ignore the human impact of climate change. This is a call to the negotiators to come to the most ambitious agreement ever negotiated or to continue to accept mass starvartion, mass sickness and mass migration on an ever growing scale," said Kofi Annan, who launched the report today in London.
Annan blamed politians for the current impasse in the negotiations and widespread ignorance in many countries. "Weak leadership, as evident today, is alarming. If leaders cannot assume responsibility they will fail humanity. Agreement is in the interests of every human being."
Barabra Stocking, head of Oxfam said: "Adaptation efforts need to be scaled up dramatically.The world's poorest are the hardest hit, but they have done the least to cause it.
Nobel peace prizewinner Wangari Maathai, said: "Climate change is life or death. It is the new global battlefield. It is being presented as if it is the problem of the developed world. But it's the developed world that has precipitated global warming."
Calculations for the report are based on data provided by the World Bank, the World Health organisation, the UN, the Potsdam Insitute For Climate Impact Research, and others, including leading insurance companies and Oxfam. However, the authors accept that the estimates are uncertain and could be higher or lower. The paper was reviewed by 10 of the world's leading experts incluing Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, Jeffrey Sachs, of Columbia University and Margareta Wahlström, assistant UN secretary general for disaster risk reduction.
|December 02, 2007||
Tomgram: A Basis for Enduring Relationships in Iraq and Iraq as a Pentagon Construction Site
by Tom Engelhardt , Tomdispatch.com ,
The title of the agreement, signed by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in a "video conference" last week, and carefully labeled as a "non-binding" set of principles for further negotiations, was a mouthful: a "Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America." When questioned by reporters at the time about whether such "permanent bases" were in the works, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the U.S. was "unlikely to seek any permanent or ‘long-term' bases in Iraq". Back in 2003, Pentagon officials, already seeking to avoid that potentially explosive "permanent" tag, plucked "enduring" out of the military lexicon and began referring to such bases, charmingly enough, as "enduring camps." And the word remains with us -- connected to bases and occupations anywhere. For instance, of a planned expansion of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, a Col. Jonathan Ives told an AP reporter recently, "We've grown in our commitment to Afghanistan by putting another brigade (of troops) here, and with that we know that we're going to have an enduring presence. So this is going to become a long-term base for us, whether that means five years, 10 years -- we don't know." Still, whatever they were called, the bases went up on an impressive scale, massively fortified, sometimes 15-20 square miles in area, housing up to tens of thousands of troops and private contractors, with multiple bus routes, traffic lights, fast-food restaurants, PXs, and other amenities of home, and reeking of the kind of investment that practically shouts out for, minimally, a relationship of a distinctly "enduring" nature. These were part of what should be considered the facts on the ground in Iraq, though, between April 2003 and the present, they were rarely reported on or debated in the mainstream in the U.S. But if you place those mega-bases (not to speak of the more than 100 smaller ones built at one point or another) in the context of early Bush administration plans for the Iraqi military, things quickly begin to make more sense. Again, it's necessary to put these facts on the ground in a larger -- in this case, pre-invasion -- geopolitical context. From the first Gulf War on, Saudi Arabia, the largest producer of energy on the planet, was being groomed as the American military bastion in the heart of the Middle East. But the Saudis grew uncomfortable -- think here, the claims of Osama bin Laden and Co. that U.S. troops were defiling the Kingdom and its holy places -- with the Pentagon's elaborate enduring camps on its territory. Something had to give -- and it wasn't going to be the American military presence in the Middle East. The answer undoubtedly seemed clear enough to top Bush administration officials. As an anonymous American diplomat told the Sunday Herald of Scotland back in October 2002, "A rehabilitated Iraq is the only sound long-term strategic alternative to Saudi Arabia. It's not just a case of swopping horses in mid-stream, the impending U.S. regime change in Baghdad is a strategic necessity." And the ramping up of the already gigantic "mega-bases" in Iraq proceeds apace. Recent reports indicate that the Pentagon will call on Congress to pony up another billion dollars soon enough for further upgrades and "improvements." We also know that frantic construction has been under way on three new bases of varying sizes. The most obvious of these -- though it's seldom thought of this way -- is the gigantic new U.S. Embassy, possibly the largest in the world, being built on an almost Vatican-sized plot of land inside Baghdad's Green Zone. It is meant to be a citadel, a hardened universe of its own, in, but not of, the Iraqi capital. In recent months, it has also turned into a construction nightmare, soaking up another $144 million in American taxpayer monies, bringing its price tag to three-quarters of a billion dollars and still climbing. It is to house 1,000 or so "diplomats," with perhaps a few thousand extra security guards and hired hands of every sort. When, in the future, you read in the papers about administration plans to withdraw American forces to bases "outside of Iraqi urban areas," note that there will continue to be a major base in the heart of the Iraqi capital for who knows how long to come. As the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler put it, the 21-building compound "is viewed by some officials as a key element of building a sustainable, long-term diplomatic presence in Baghdad." Presence, yes, but diplomatic?
|May 26, 2009||
Chalmers Johnson On The Cost Of Empire
by Chalmers Johnson, Countercurrents.org, Truthdig.com
The American public, if not the residents of the territories in question, is almost totally innocent of the huge costs involved, the crimes committed by our soldiers against women and children in the occupied territories, the environmental pollution, and the deep and abiding suspicions generated among people forced to live close to thousands of heavily armed, culturally myopic and dangerously indoctrinated American soldiers. Officially, over 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees are massed in 909 military facilities in 46 countries and territories. There has been no public discussion by the Obama administration over starting to liquidate our overseas bases or beginning to scale back our imperialist presence in the rest of the world. The political machinations that every American embassy and military base on earth engages in to undermine and change local laws that stand in the way of U.S. military plans. For years the United States has interfered in the domestic affairs of nations to bring about “regime change,” rig elections, free American servicemen who have been charged with extremely serious felonies against local civilians, indoctrinate the local officer corps in American militarist values (as at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Ga.), and preserve and protect the so-called Status of Forces Agreements that the United States imposes on all nations with U.S. bases. These SOFAs give our troops extraterritorial privileges such as freedom from local laws and from passport and travel regulations, and they absolve the U.S. from a country’s anti-pollution requirements, noise restrictions and environmental laws. The “abuses and usurpations” of American standing armies “include more than rape, murder, sexual harassment, robbery, other common crimes, seizure of people’s lands, destruction of property, and the cultural imperialism that have accompanied foreign armies since time immemorial. They now include terrorizing jet blasts of frequent low-altitude and night-landing exercises, helicopters and warplanes crashing into homes and schools and the poisoning of environments and communities with military toxins; and they transform ‘host’ communities into targets for genocidal nuclear as well as ‘conventional’ attacks.” When it comes to opportunism, Gerson notes that the Navy’s Indian Ocean tsunami relief operations of 2005 helped open the way for U.S. forces to return to Thailand and for greater cooperation with the Indonesian military. There are today an estimated 350 to 480 free-fall B-61-type tactical nuclear weapons in the territories of the NATO allies, compared with a maximum of 7,300 land, air, and sea-based nuclear weapons based in Europe in 1971. The bombs are housed at eight air bases in six NATO countries, all of which enjoy Bechtel-installed Weapons Storage and Security Systems, type WS-3. These devices are vaults installed in the floors within a “protective aircraft shelter” and allow for the arming of bombs and aircraft inside hangars, offering high degrees of secrecy and (supposedly) security. Heller and Lammerant note that the weapons based in Europe are “secret, deadly, illegal, costly, militarily useless, politically motivated, and deeply, deeply unpopular. Heller and Lammerant conclude their essay with details on the early-warning radars, anti-missile bases, military hubs to support operations in Africa, and facilities extant or being constructed at Thule in Greenland, Vardo in Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Vicenza in northern Italy. On March 17, 2009, the Czech government rejected a proposal by the Pentagon to install a U.S. military radar base in the Czech Republic because the lower house of the Czech parliament seemed certain to vote against it. The essays are tours de force on the construction of probably permanent American military bases in occupied Iraq and of the massive fortress—- as large as the Vatican—in the Green Zone of Baghdad that is the “American Embassy.” The military is a violence-producing institution to which sexual and gender violence are intrinsic. The essence of military forces is their pervasive, deep-rooted contempt for women, which can be seen in military training that completely denies femininity and praises hegemonic masculinity. The OWAAMV [Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence] movement illustrates from a gender perspective that ‘the protected,’ who are structurally deprived of political power, are in fact not protected by the militarized security policies; rather their livelihoods are made insecure by these very policies. The movement has also illuminated the fact that ‘gated’ bases do not confine military violence to within the bases. Those hundred-of-miles-long fences around the bases are there only to assure the readiness of the military and military operations by excluding and even oppressing the people living outside the gated bases.
|May 26, 2009||
The Road To Two Degrees Celsius
by Andrew Glikson, Countercurrents.org
According to the IPCC AR4-2007 report a total anthropogenic greenhouse factor, equivalent to +2.3 degrees C, is masked by a compensating aerosol albedo effect (mainly sulphur from industrial emissions) equivalent to -0.9C (without land clearing albedo gain and ice melt albedo loss) (Table 1). Once the short-lived aerosols dissipate, adding the reflectance loss of melting polar ice (where maximum warming of up to 4 degrees C occurs; Figure 2), mean global temperatures track toward +2 degrees C, considered by the European Union to be the maximum permissible level. Variations in temperature and sea ice cover around Antarctica are effected by the shrinking polar wind vortex and tropospheric and stratospheric ozone layer conditions, resulting in geographic and temporal variability in sea and land ice cover. Ongoing global warming may lead to the release of methane from permafrost, collapse of the North Atlantic Thermohaline current, high-energy weather events and yet little-specified shifts in atmospheric states (tipping points). Despite intensified warnings from the Copenhagen climate conference, as a self-fulfilling prophecy Rudd’s “great moral issue of our time” is being relegated to secondary priority, if that. More recently the pro-carbon lobby is using a new tactic: “jobs”, a novel angle for big business traditionally concerned with profits as much as with social welfare, at times regarding unemployment as a convenient lever to lower wages and conditions. The warning of “jobs” means that, rather than accept the global concern for the survival of future generations and biodiversity, which demands urgent (as well as job-creating) transformation from polluting utilities to alternative energy industries, workers will be just fired – a threat held over the head of governments with one eye on the next elections. Basically they still don’t get it. Given that warnings by scientists have proven mostly correct, as contrasted with watered-down reports percolating upward through bureaucracies, there is little evidence the Rudd government is listening to the recent dire warnings by climate scientists.
|June 1, 2009|| Feasibility of Peace in the Middle East
by Dr. Charles Mercieca
President, International Association of Educators for World Peace
Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education
Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament
Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University
Download full WORD document by author
Over the past few decades, the Middle East has increasingly emerged to become a malignant tumor of our earthly community. Like any other disease, this fatal malady can still be cured in one way or another, even through an unexpected miracle. During the past centuries, quite a few books were written on the nature of miracles that even skeptics, who had serious doubts, after giving a second thought, began to believe in such mysterious phenomena.
Getting to the Source of the Problem
Going back to Aristotle some 2,500 years ago, the concept of the Causa Prima – the First Cause was attributed to that source without which nothing could possibly have existed. As time rolled on, this Causa Prima was referred to by various other names, such as Yahweh in Judaism, God in Christianity and Allah in Islam. When people are taken to hospital for an unspecified illness, the first thing doctors do is to analyze the symptoms in an effort to get to the source of the involved problem.
This way they could provide remedies that would lead to the cure of an illness under consideration. Our ability to get successfully to the source of any problem we encounter is the first gigantic step toward the eventual elimination of such a problem, be it physical, social, or psychological. The reason why the Middle East turmoil has been going on for decades may be due to the fact that the real source of the problem might not have been discovered. It may also be due to the fact that wrong methods were used to end this long tragic conflict.
To comprehend well the feasibility of peace in the Middle East, we need in the first place to realize and understand the philosophy that all involved parties have been using to get what they want. Unfortunately, it has been based on a system of fear, stubbornness, and blindness in having the parties involved trying to get what they want without regarding the feelings and rights of others. Hence, the entire region developed into an atmosphere of terror where everyone has been a loser and no one a winner. We must keep in mind that good intentions are not enough since, as they say, “The way to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Discussing the Middle East is not an easy job because it seems to be too much complicated. However, this should not render us incapable of tackling this serious problem. As long as we keep in mind the universal welfare of all people involved in this tragic conflict without exception, we should have no problem to come to a positive and constructive solution that would make everyone feel happy and safe. To this end, several steps need to be taken fast and smooth if possible. In this process we need to have our eyes wide-opened after we try to dehypnotize ourselves from false beliefs we might have been fed in life.
Military Trained to Wage Wars
There is one thing for sure that all parties involved in the Middle East quagmire must keep in mind. Throughout history the military was always used to wage wars and not to bring about peace. From a careful study of history of the last several centuries we learn that the military hardly ever used dialogues and diplomacy to solve human conflicts. They used struggles and wars that destroyed the infrastructure of cities where they left tens of thousands of people homeless ending up deprived from their crucial necessities of life. Besides, tens of thousands of others were killed or maimed badly.
Whereas through healthy dialogues and strong diplomacy everything is discussed on mutually beneficial bases, through the military tens of thousands, amounting at times to millions, are silenced through the extermination of their lives. And we know the rest of the story. When people are massacred and buried in individual or mass graves, they become silenced forever. In fact, at the entrance of every cemetery where we find people buried as a result of struggles and wars we could write in big letters: Military Peace at Work!
In view of this, one of our big lessons we should learn toward the feasibility of peace in the Middle East is to find ways to replace fear with trust, weapons with the vital necessities of life, and the military with humanitarian agencies. Those that think they can control people through weapons and a strong military have proved to be deadly wrong because such elements do not have the ability to conquer the “will” of the people, as General Westmoreland, commander of the US military forces in Vietnam said in his commencement address at the University of Kansas in 1966.
Among other things, this US General said: “We have certainly the most sophisticated weapons and the best well trained military, but we cannot conquer these people who come to confront us with rifles that in the USA we use to shoot pigeons. It is not the job of the military to solve such conflicts. We need to have a group of well trained diplomats to do this job successfully.”
Within the context of his speech given in an educational institution, General Westmoreland showed clearly that the best way to deal with the human mind was through a good education. He even added that weapons and wars harden the human mind to the point of making it defiant and fearless by all means. Coming to the disastrous region of the Middle East, it would make no sense at all for us to take sides and to start blaming each other in an effort to justify our brutal acts.
Creation of Sound Criteria
The best way to solve the Middle East conflict is to establish criteria that are based not on what the Israelis or the Palestinians accept as being right or wrong, but that are based on the dictates of both the Divine Positive Law and the Natural Law. These two sets of laws are God-made laws that are higher than both the ecclesiastical law and the civic law. The Divine Positive Law is referred to in the Bible as the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses, one of which says: You should not kill. This means that each time the Israelis kill Palestinians and vice versa, they are defying this God-made law.
On the other hand, anything that is linked with the necessities of life is viewed as the Natural Law, which God put in the order of nature from the very first day of creation. The Natural Law is also referred to as human rights. All people have a right to live in peace and security, to have adequate residential facilities, needed medical equipment, and full freedom of movement along with having schools and places of worship. This means that each time the Israelis destroy the residential facilities of the Palestinians and vice versa, they are defying the Natural Law. In essence, they are ultimately rebelling against God.
In the sphere of our global community we often hear many talking of the importance to have experience of something that is about to be done. This assumes that, once you have the experience of an involved activity, everything should be performed well to the satisfaction of everyone involved. Well, from the last history of 1900 years, the Jewish people have been banished from their homeland by the Romans toward the latter half the first century A.D. In 1948, the United Nations divided Palestine to give a substantial portion to the Jews.
This portion of Jewish land was then referred to as Israel. Since then, instead of having the Israelis and the Palestinians living together hand in hand in peace and harmony, they both took God’s laws in their hands and began to fight each other that resulted in the killing and maiming of thousands of innocent people, who are all God’s most dear and beloved children, in addition to having their residential areas destroyed senselessly.
Ironically, both of them believe in the same God whom they offend and insult as they please by disregarding both the Divine Positive Law and the Natural Law. Both of them should realize that the Holy Scriptures they claim to believe in can never be interpreted in a way that would contradict God’s eternal laws. Like Pope Benedict said this past year, war can never be justified in any circumstance. The pope is viewed as the vicar of Jesus Christ who is known as the Master Teacher of Nazareth, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.
Following God’s Instructions
This Master Teacher of Nazareth said the Pharisees: “The God you know is not the God I know. You preach a God of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The God I know is a God of love and mercy, one that when you strike him on the cheek, not only He would not strike back but he would rather let you strike him on the other cheek as well.” If actions speak louder than words, it is quite obvious that the Palestinians continue to practice the “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” philosophy that Jesus so adamantly rejected and condemned.
And to turn an insult into an injury, the Israelis went even further with their developed philosophy of “one hundred eyes for one eye and one hundred teeth for one tooth.” Both the Israelis and the Palestinians need to study the teachings and warnings of the Master Teacher of Nazareth, all of which were vindicated, year in and year out, for the past 2,000 years. This great Teacher of all times warned us saying that we will be treated in due time the way we treat others. If we are kind with others we will eventually experience kindness.
On the other hand, if we harm others we are bound to experience same harm. Hence, we need to outline seven steps the Israelis must take to help bring about genuine peace in the Middle East. Likewise, we may also outline seven steps the Palestinians must take to make a good contribution to a permanent peace in this fragile global area. Besides, we must also enlist seven steps that both the Israelis and the Palestinians should take together so that their children and grandchildren would be able to live in permanent peace.
The seven steps the Israelis could take to bring about a permanent peace in the Middle East may be enlisted as follows:
1. Stop the further building of Jewish homelands on Palestinian land. This is so essential that President Obama stressed its importance in his speech in Cairo fairly recently.
2. Bring to an end the unlimited confiscation of Palestinian territory through the further construction of roads to accommodate the Jewish settlers at the expense of the Palestinian people.
3. Abolish the apartheid that the Israelis created among Palestinians, which has been condemned by US President Jimmy Carter and by Archbishop Tutu who described it as worse than the one they had in South Africa.
4. Encourage Jewish settlers in Palestinian land to move to Israel and to donate their houses to poor Palestinians. Those that would prefer to remain in the settlements must then be ready to become Palestinian citizens.
5. Re-build the cities that were destroyed in both the West Bank and Gaza. Let the poor Palestinians be somewhat rewarded for the enormous suffering they have gone through over such a long period.
6. Provide all Palestinians with needed schools and hospitals that would replace those that the Israelis destroyed. Besides, provide such institutions with all needed material to make them effective.
7. Keep in mind that, while in the Old Testament the Jews were viewed as God’s children who owned Israel, in the New Testament Jesus stated that God’s children were all believers with Israel belonging to all people, Jews and Gentiles.
The seven steps the Palestinians could take to contribute toward a permanent peace in the Middle East may be enlisted as follows:
1. Avoid taking the initiative to attack Israel. Retaliation always brings negative results. If God behaved toward us same way as we behave toward each other, the human race would have been exterminated long time ago.
2. Generate positive and constructive energy in such a way that the whole world will unite behind the Palestinian cause. Everyone in the world is convinced of the right Palestinians have to live in a sovereign state of their own.
3. Use the force of good dialogues and strong diplomacy with all the major countries in the United Nations, especially those in Middle East, to hasten the formation of two peaceful sovereign states.
4. Encourage your young men and women to study in some of the best colleges and universities in the world as to help create a future generation that would be capable to work out wonders for the Palestinians.
5. Concentrate on building a strong civilian economy in cooperation with all the surrounding countries, including Israel. The Palestinians understand very well the importance of securing and retaining peace.
6. Recognize Israel as a sovereign nation as set up by the United Nations in 1948. Since then most of its surrounding nations have proven to be quite hostile, which forced the Israelis to panic and go to extremities as a result.
7. Pray God daily for a permanent peace in the Middle East. Let us keep in mind the words of Jesus in this regard: “With prayer you can move a mountain.” Prophet Muhammad brought this statement also to his people.
The seven steps that the Israelis and Palestinians should take together to bring a permanent peace in the Middle East may be enlisted as follows:
1. Making a solemn promise to God that there will never be a war again in the Middle East, as far as the Israelis and the Palestinians are concerned. This may be achieved through true repentance and genuine mutual forgiveness.
2. The Israelis should create a program of disarmament and arms control in the entire Middle East region. Also, Israel should ask the United Nations to implement a program leading to the abolition of all nuclear weapons.
3. The Palestinians should promise to create a productive and fully demilitarized nation after the example of Costa Rica that would make Palestine become officially the “Island of Peace” in this global area.
4. Both countries need to recognize fully each other and establish embassies in their respective territory. They should also work hand in hand to develop the civilian economy with notable success.
5. The Israelis and the Palestinians should retain the boundaries that were established in 1948, while making Jerusalem, as Pope John Paul II stated, an international city governed by Jews, Christians and Moslems.
6. Both governments should keep in mind that they do not own the involved territories nor do they own their respective peoples. Their job is to bring a permanent peace in the region characterized by stability and security.
7. The Israelis and Palestinians could set an example to the world by changing the mission of the military, from a negative agency of destruction to a productive agency that proves to be beneficial to all people without exception.
Of course, it would not be enough for the Israelis and the Palestinians to establish good and cordial relations. All the nations in the Middle East must demonstrate respect toward the established sovereignty between these two nations. In fact, all of such nations should establish an embassy of their own in both Israel and Palestine. After all, these two nations are not just any other two nations. They both occupy the land that has been sacred in the Bible, the land that is linked to great prophets, the land of the promised Messiah.
If there should be one global area in the world that is characterized by stability, prosperity, mutual respect, and peace should be the Middle East. All those living in this region should recognize the fact that they have one common enemy over which they happen to have full control. This enemy’s name is wars of any kind, which could be controlled through the exercise of such virtues as patience, humility, courage, honesty, perseverance, faith, piety, tolerance and fortitude. The sum total of such virtues may be described as wisdom.
In conclusion, we may state that the feasibility of peace in the Middle East amounts to a real possibility if all the parties involved in that area were to work on it with deep faith in God, the exercise of good will, and the determination to eventually succeed by all legitimate means.
|June 4, 2009|| Chomsky: What Obama Didn't Say in His Cairo Address Speaks Volumes About His Mideast Policy
by Noam Chomsky, World
The U.S. has played a decisive role in sustaining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama gave no indication that its role should change.
A CNN headline, reporting Obama's plans for his June 4 address in Cairo, Egypt, reads "Obama looks to reach the soul of the Muslim world." Perhaps that captures his intent, but more significant is the content hidden in the rhetorical stance, or more accurately, omitted.
Keeping just to Israel-Palestine -- there was nothing substantive about anything else -- Obama called on Arabs and Israelis not to "point fingers" at each other or to "see this conflict only from one side or the other."
There is, however, a third side, that of the United States, which has played a decisive role in sustaining the current conflict. Obama gave no indication that its role should change or even be considered.
Those familiar with the history will rationally conclude, then, that Obama will continue in the path of unilateral U.S. rejectionism.
Obama once again praised the Arab Peace Initiative, saying only that Arabs should see it as "an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities." How should the Obama administration see it?
Obama and his advisers are surely aware that the initiative reiterates the longstanding international consensus calling for a two-state settlement on the international (pre-June 1967) border, perhaps with "minor and mutual modifications," to borrow U.S. government usage before it departed sharply from world opinion in the 1970s. That's when the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution backed by the Arab "confrontation states" (Egypt, Iran, Syria), and tacitly by the PLO, with the same essential content as the Arab Peace Initiative, except that the latter goes beyond by calling on Arab states to normalize relations with Israel in the context of this political deal.
Obama has called on the Arab states to proceed with normalization, studiously ignoring, however, the crucial political settlement that is its precondition. The initiative cannot be a "beginning" if the U.S. continues to refuse to accept its core principles, even to acknowledge them.
In the background is the Obama administration's goal, enunciated most clearly by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to forge an alliance of Israel and the "moderate" Arab states against Iran. The term "moderate" has nothing to do with the character of the state, but rather signals its willingness to conform to U.S. demands.
What is Israel to do in return for Arab steps to normalize relations? The strongest position so far enunciated by the Obama administration is that Israel should conform to Phase I of the 2003 Road Map, which states: "Israel freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)." All sides claim to accept the Road Map, overlooking the fact that Israel instantly added 14 reservations that render it inoperable.
Overlooked in the debate over settlements is that even if Israel were to accept Phase I of the Road Map, that would leave in place the entire settlement project that has already been developed, with decisive U.S. support, to ensure that Israel will take over the valuable land within the illegal "separation wall" (including the primary water supplies of the region), as well as the Jordan Valley, thus imprisoning what is left, which is being broken up into cantons by settlement/infrastructure salients extending far to the east.
Unmentioned as well is that Israel is taking over Greater Jerusalem, the site of its major current development programs, displacing many Arabs, so that what remains to Palestinians will be separated from the center of their cultural, economic and sociopolitical life.
Also unmentioned is that all of this is in violation of international law, as conceded by the government of Israel after the 1967 conquest, and reaffirmed by Security Council resolutions and the International Court of Justice. Also unmentioned are Israel's successful operations since 1991 to separate the West Bank from Gaza, since turned into a prison where survival is barely possible, further undermining the hopes for a viable Palestinian state.
It is worth remembering that there has been one break in U.S.-Israeli rejectionism. President Clinton recognized that the terms he had offered at the failed 2000 Camp David meetings were not acceptable to any Palestinians, and in December, proposed his "parameters," vague but more forthcoming. He then announced that both sides had accepted the parameters, although both had reservations.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Taba, Egypt, to iron out the differences, and made considerable progress. A full resolution could have been reached in a few more days, they announced in their final joint press conference. But Israel called off the negotiations prematurely, and they have not been formally resumed. The single exception indicates that if an American president is willing to tolerate a meaningful diplomatic settlement, it can very likely be reached.
It is also worth remembering that the George W. Bush administration went a bit beyond words in objecting to illegal Israeli settlement projects, namely, by withholding U.S. economic support for them. In contrast, Obama administration officials stated that such measures are "not under discussion," and that any pressures on Israel to conform to the Road Map will be "largely symbolic," the New York Times reported (Helene Cooper, June 1).
There is more to say, but it does not relieve the grim picture that Obama has been painting, with a few extra touches in his widely heralded address to the Muslim World in Cairo on June 4.
|June 4, 2009|| Morality, Mortality and Immortality
by Bill Ellis
The Gaian paradigm has implications to our belief systems that go beyond a view of the cosmos. They include implications to our ideas of morality, mortality, immortality, as well as our system of human values. Some people have taken these implications into the sphere of religion. Some see the formation of a new Gaia religion. To others, an understanding of Gaia supports the values that have governed humanity for eons past. Without taking positions on such speculations we should at least open the dialogue on the degree to which these scientific notions might influence our pragmatic view of our lives.
For most of the 13.7 billion years that the Cosmos has been in existence, there was no one to ponder the question of to be or not to be. While quarks evolved into atoms, the atoms, into molecules, and the molecules into cells, consciousness of being did not exist. Each new step of evolution brought new entities and new properties. Only in the evolutionary phase when brain cells had evolved and created the human mind, did â€śbeingâ€ť -- the property of thought, memory, and consciousness -- emerge. Only in this brief miniscule submoment of cosmic evolution has the sense of being existed. Only in this small window of time have humans been the source of conscious being and recognized, as Descartes put it, "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think therefore I am).
So far, I have written about only two aspect of being -- the body and the mind. There is a third aspect. It is more the essence of who we are than the other two. It is more ethereal and more everlasting. I'm not sure what I should call it. But, for lack of a better word, I'll call it "soul." By soul, I don't mean anything mysterious, mystical, magical, divine, or other worldly. The soul is the essence, the unique core of our being of who we are. It's who we are more than either our minds or our bodies.
This soul, the true center of one's being, is not easy to circumscribe. It, like the mind and body, evolves. Its evolution ocurs over all time. Not that the past will be embodied in one's physical and mental being, but from the beginning of time to the end of time what we become involves the whole cosmos. We have a birth date and a death date. But who we become is already, in part, predetermined by the world around us. The essence of our being -- our soul -- is absorbed over time from the preexisting world of ideas and actions, of nature and technologies, of awe and wonder, and of the beauty and mystery that exist in, and is, the cosmos. It is the universal cosmic soul. It is similar to the noosphere of Pierre Teilard de Chardin, the collective unconscious of Carl Jung, the ideosphere of others. It is the totality of the physical, biological, technological, and cultural worlds and more. It is the the knowledge, the beliefs, the feelings, as well as the written word and the passed on memories of everyone who has ever lived. It is inherited from our ancestors and from the evolving physical, biological, mental. technological and social spheres.
This cosmic soul has been evolving since the Big Bang. Each step in cosmic evolution has created a new part of the cosmic soul. It includes Mount Fuji, the Johnston flood, the ice ages, the Crusades, the invention of the computer, and all other happenings. Each individual at birth is enmeshed in the cosmic soul of the time.
A simple example of this idea of soul is that of a flock of birds. The soul of the flock evolves as a unit. It includes migration patterns, eating resources, nesting places, and other characteristics. The flock follows certain patterns for centuries. Each individual bird live for but a short time. But the memory essence or soul of the flock is passed to new birds as they hatch, join the flock, participate, and learn by doing. The soul of the flock evolves as it continually finds new opportunities and faces new challenges. Each bird gains its individual soul and passes its know-how on to other new birds that join. The soul of the flock is passed from individual souls to individual souls, as the flock evolves to meet contingencies of the time.
Humans likewise are born into the cosmic soul. They are embedded in the essence of all that exists. Who they are to become depends on what they absorb into themselves from all that is. Each soul is immortal. It is part of the cosmic soul. Everything anyone, makes, writes, says,or does becomes part of the cosmic soul and is everlasting. Shakespeare, Edison, Einstein, Jesus, Marx, Smith and others are still with us. So is Joe Blow, Anna Finklestein, and other common people. All have left their marks for eternity.
Each act or expressed idea is like dropping a stone in a mill pond. The stone may sink to the bottom never to be seen again. But its ripples spread out and may join other ripples to produce an overwhelming wave of social transformation. The origins of any act of social change may be lost in the myriad of its sources. Once we recognized this, we are driven to live a positive, creative life of values -- to be one of the sources of what will become. Whether anyone remembers the name of any one of us, everything we have, said, or written is part of the evolving cosmic soul.
Each person's soul is formed by every experience and every thought they ever have. It is passed on in the same way. Each "unexpected act of kindness or senseless act of beauty" makes a ripple like a grain of sand dropped in the cosmic mill pond. Every kind word one utters forms a pebble's ripple that will be passed on. More telling in the cosmic soul will be some of the memos, papers and posts that are written. They are rocks that make a bit bigger splash, or at least have a guaranteed longer life. Most important are the interactions among people close one another -- families, friends, and communities. In a person's children, friends an colleagues there is a continual riling of the waters (particularly of the good stuff). It is passed into the cosmic soul in that it remains real in the future and assures the immortality of everyone who ever lives.
Recognizing the immortality of our souls suggests a new emphasis on morality. Every act, thought or word we utter should be in the context of its impact on the cosmic soul. They change the cosmic soul as they happen and they will be remembered and they will affect cosmic evolution for ages into the future. They provides us with reason for living. As one colleague stated it, the new moral imperative is: â€śMake all decision based on whatever promotes the health, competence and adaptive flexibility of oneself and of all the larger system of which one is a partâ€ť (Gaia) Whether we accept this view of the human or the cosmic soul the Gaian paradigm suggests a view of It does suggest the below value system.
|June 18, 2009|| Help Save the Earth, Time to Subsitute Hemp for Oil
by Dara Colwell, Water
Every man-made fiber we wear, sit on, cook with, drive in, are by-products of the petroleum industry -- all of which could be replaced by hemp.
A low-input, low-impact crop, industrial hemp can play a significant role in our desperate shuffle to avoid catastrophic climate change. Hemp requires no pesticides; it has deep digging roots that detoxify the soil, making it an ideal rotation crop -- in fact, hemp is so good at bioremediation, or extracting heavy metals from contaminated soil, it's being grown near Chernobyl. Hemp is also an excellent source of biomass, or renewable, carbon-neutral energy, and its cellulose level, roughly three times that of wood, can be used for paper to avoid cutting down trees, an important line of defense against global warming. When it comes to hemp, environmental gains are inexorably intertwined with economic ones. Blending hemp with plastics is not only cheaper for producers, but natural-fiber composites are roughly 30 percent lighter, which in turn leads to greater fuel efficiency for customers. As biomass, hemp can be converted into fuels such as methane, methanol and gasoline, which can help curb the world's growing appetite for palm oil used to make biodiesel, and which is having a colossally negative environmental impact. In densely populated Indonesia, companies are draining local peat swamps and clearing virgin tropical forests, home to the endangered orangutan, to make room for palm oil plantations. This alone has resulted in 2 billion tons of carbon-dioxide emissions being released into the atmosphere a year, according to the conservation nonprofit Wetlands International. The same is happening in Brazil's biodiverse cerrado region south of the Amazon, where sugar cane and soy plantations are replacing native vegetation. Deforestation now accounts for 25 percent of the world's greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the Global Canopy Program, an alliance of rainforest scientists based in Oxford, England. Tropical forests are essentially the planet's lungs -- and without lungs, well, it's a no-brainer ... If all the diesel engines today were converted to use hemp biodiesel, you could wipe out world hunger while providing a natural balance to global warming. As hemp, which has a short harvesting period (roughly 120 days for seed), grows it sequesters, or captures, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Because biofuels emit less carbon dioxide when burned, more carbon is actually absorbed by the plants used to produce it. So, as more hemp grows, more carbon dioxide would be sucked out of the atmosphere. As it stands, we can't grow hemp but we can import it, and we do, in the form of clothing, bath towels, rugs, food and car components from Canada, China and Europe, which have utilized the crop to bolster their economies. And with hemp, there's growing opportunity. Among exciting developments is hempcrete, a generic term for hemp-based building material used to replace concrete. In France, which has grown industrial hemp without interruption, hemp plaster is common due to its high insulation properties. Hemp can be made into almost any building material, including roofing, flooring, paint, insulation pipes and bricks. In addition, hempcrete tends to be stronger and absorb greater humidity while sequestering carbon dioxide.
|June 17, 2009|| Shame: The 'Anti-War' Democrats Who Sold Out
by Jeremy Scahill, World
In a historic vote, only 30 of 256 Democrats stood against $100 billion for more war.
In a vote that should go down in recent histories as a day of shame for the Democrats, on Tuesday the House voted to approve another $106 billion dollars for the bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and increasingly Pakistan). To put a fine point on the interconnection of the iron fist of U.S. militarism and the hidden hand of free market neoliberal economics, the bill included a massive initiative to give the International Monetary Fund billions more in U.S. taxpayer funds. What once Democrats could argue was "Bush's war," they now officially own. In fact, only five Republicans voted for the supplemental (though overwhelmingly not on the issue of the war funding). Ron Paul, who made clear he was voting against the war, was a notable exception. This vote has revealed a sobering statistic for the anti-war movement in this country and brought to the surface a broader issue that should give die-hard partisan Democrats who purport to be anti-war reason for serious pause about the actual state of their party. Only 30 Democrats voted against the war funding when it mattered. And these 30 did so in the face of significant threats to their political future from the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That means that only 30 out of 256 Democrats are willing to stand up to the war and the current president presiding over it. The White House and the Democratic Congressional Leadership played a very dirty game in their effort to ram through the funding. In the crosshairs of the big guns at the White House and on Capitol Hill were anti-war legislators (particularly freshmen), and the movement to hold those responsible for torture accountable. In funding the wars post-Bush, the Obama White House has been able to rely on strong GOP support to marginalize the anti-war Democrats who pledged back in 2007 to vote against continued funding (as 51 Democrats did in May when the supplemental was first voted on). But the White House ran into trouble on this bill because of Republican opposition to some of the provisions added to the bill (primarily the IMF funding) and one removed (the Graham-Lieberman amendment that would have blocked the release of prisoner abuse photos). This created a situation where the White House and pro-war Democrats actually need a fair number of anti-war Democrats (whose votes seldom matter this much) to switch sides and vote with them. That is why this battle was so important for the anti-war movement. What repelled the Republicans from a vote to fund the war was hardly a sudden conversion to pacifism (in fact, their position was hypocritical). It was largely when the White House and Congressional Democratic leadership added a provision to the bill that will extend up to $100 billion in credits to the International Monetary Fund. This sent many Republicans to the microphones to denounce the funding as a "global bailout" and will undoubtedly be used as a campaign issue in 2010 to attack the Democrats who voted for the spending bill. For its part, the Democratic leadership, in trying to win Democratic support, portrayed the IMF funding as a progressive policy. The IMF has been a destabilizing force in many countries across the globe through its austerity measures and structural adjustment schemes. Remember, it was the policies of the IMF and its cohorts at the World Bank and World Trade Organizations that sparked global uprisings in the 1990s. Thankfully, at least a handful of Democrats seemed to understand the atrocious role the IMF has played and tried (unsuccessfully) to impose rules on the funding that would have confronted the IMF’s austerity measures by requiring that “the funds allocated by Congress for global stimulus are used for stimulatory, and not contractionary, purposes.” In urging their colleagues to oppose the war funding and the IMF funding, Kucinich and California's Bob Filner sent a Dear Colleague letter, which stated: "The IMF has a long history of placing economic conditions on countries receiving loans that have actually damaged, rather than stimulated, those economies, and its policies have not changed enough to warrant support." They charged that the IMF funding "would be used to bail out private European banks with U.S. taxpayer money." In addition to the military and IMF funding, the bill also provides $10.4 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and $7.7 billion for "Pandemic Flu Response." Under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the Democratic-controlled Congress has been a house of war. Unfortunately, it is not a house where the war is one of noble Democrats fighting for peace, freedom and democracy against the evil, belligerent Republicans as they advocate and implement policies of preemptive war, torture and the violation of civil liberties. Instead, it is a house void of substantive opposition to the ever-expanding war begun under Bush and escalating under Obama.
|June 8, 2009|| 119 Million Americans Want a Public Health Option -- Why Aren't Politicians Listening?
by Robert Parry, Health and Wellness, Consortium News
Rarely has an issue more dramatically highlighted the question of whether our government represents the people's interests or an industry's.
As the health insurance industry and its defenders in Congress lay out their case against permitting a public option in a reform bill, perhaps their most curious argument is that some 119 million Americans are ready to dump their private plans and jump to something more like Medicare – and that's why the choice can't be permitted. In other words, the industry and its backers are acknowledging that more than one-third of the American people are so dissatisfied with their private health insurance that they trust the U.S. government to give them a fairer shake on health care. The industry says its allies in Congress must prevent that. Rarely has an argument more dramatically highlighted the philosophical question of whether in a democracy, the government should represent the people's interests or an industry's. The counter-argument, of course, might be that if the health insurance industry hadn't dissatisfied so many customers – indeed forcing many sick people into bankruptcy because of excessive fees, denial of coverage and gaps in permitted medical treatments – there wouldn't be so many Americans eager for a public option. So, now to protect the health insurance industry, Congress must stop 119 million Americans from leaping into the arms of a government plan. On the other hand, the health insurance industry appears about as popular with Americans as the tobacco industry, with both considered highly hazardous to your health. Except that Americans can choose not to smoke, while they run enormous risks for themselves and their families if they don't have some form of health insurance. Health insurance companies do negotiate rates with hospitals and doctors that are far below what is charged to people who don't have insurance, sometimes as low as one-tenth what the uninsured patient might be charged. These disparities, in effect, force many Americans to sign up for private insurance even if the insurance fees are excessive, padded with handsome profits for investors and unproductive bureaucratic costs (including investigations into whether people can be denied payments because of undisclosed "preexisting conditions"). If the health insurance industry had its way, Congress would produce a bill that simply required Americans (or their employers) to buy health insurance from private industry. That way, the government would compel citizens to become customers while denying them a choice of the public plan. To avoid such an outcome, proponents of the public option – including those 119 million Americans who are ready to sign up – will have to overcome opposition from Republicans and some Democrats who are determined to protect the interests of the private health insurance industry.
|June 12, 2009|| Who Are the Shadow Warriors? Countries Are Getting Hit by Major Military Attacks, and No One Is Taking Credit
by Conn Hallinan, World
In Syria, Sudan and elsewhere there have been violent attacks that no country has claimed responsibility for. A dark new trend in warfare.
Sudan: The two F-16s caught the trucks deep in the northern desert. Within minutes, the column of vehicles was a string of shattered wrecks burning fiercely in the January sun. Surveillance drones spotted a few vehicles that had survived the storm of bombs and cannon shells, and the fighter-bombers returned to finish the job.
Syria: Four Blackhawk helicopters skimmed across the Iraqi border, landing at a small farmhouse near the town of al-Sukkariyeh. Black-clad soldiers poured from the choppers, laying down a withering hail of automatic weapons fire. When the shooting stopped, eight Syrians lay dead on the ground. Four others, cuffed and blindfolded, were dragged to the helicopters, which vanished back into Iraq.
Pakistan: a group of villagers were sipping tea in a courtyard when the world exploded. The Hellfire missiles seemed to come out of nowhere, scattering pieces of their victims across the village and demolishing several houses. Between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, 60 such attacks took place. They killed 14 wanted al-Qaeda members along with 687 civilians.
In each of the above incidents, no country took responsibility or claimed credit. There were no sharp exchanges of diplomatic notes before the attacks, just sudden death and mayhem.
War without Declaration
The F-16s were Israeli, their target an alleged shipment of arms headed for the Gaza Strip. The Blackhawk soldiers were likely from Task Force 88, an ultra-secret U.S. Special Forces group. The Pakistanis were victims of a Predator drone directed from an airbase in southern Nevada.
Each attack was an act of war and drew angry responses from the country whose sovereignty was violated. But since no one admitted carrying them out, the diplomatic protests had no place to go.
The "privatization" of war, with its use of armed mercenaries, has come under heavy scrutiny, especially since a 2007 incident in Baghdad in which guards from Blackwater USA (now Xe) went on a shooting spree, killing 17 Iraqis and wounding scores of others. But the "covertization" of war has remained largely in the shadows. The attackers in the Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan were not private contractors, but U.S. and Israeli soldiers.
In the past, war was an extension of a nation's politics "too important," as World War I French Premier Georges Clemenceau commented, "to be left to the generals."
But increasingly, the control of war is slipping away from the civilians in whose name and interests it is supposedly waged. While the "privatization" of war has frustrated the process of congressional oversight, its "covertization" has hidden war behind a wall of silence or denial.
"Congress has been very passive in relation to its own authority with regard to warmaking," says Princeton international law scholar Richard Falk. "Congress hasn't been willing to insist that the government adhere to international law and the U.S. Constitution."
|June 10, 2009|| Why My Vasectomy Will Help Save the Earth's Resources
by Matt Leonard, Sex and relationships
Matt works at Rainforest Action Network, working to reconcile “economy” with “ecology.” His spare time is spent with the Bay Rising affinity group, climbing rocks and listening to obscure punk bands. Matt Leonard lives in San Francisco, where he works on climate justice and energy issues, rock climbs, rides his bike, and eats yummy vegan food. He currently works with Greenpeace and Rising Tide North America. Matt Leonard lives in San Francisco, where he likes to ride his bike, climb rocks, play soccer, wrestle with dogs, eat yummy vegan food, and find ways to constructively challenge the social and ecological destruction that our profit-obsessed economy presents us with. He currently spends his time working with Greenpeace US and Rising Tide North America. Originally from Seattle, he has also worked with Rainforest Action Network, Direct Action To Stop the War, and The Ruckus Society. He can be reached at email@example.com
Any child I had would have been raised here and would consume (despite my best efforts) far more resources than I am comfortable accepting.
Last year, I became castrated impotent sterile. That is, I had a vasectomy. While it's actually a very common procedure (nearly 500,000 are performed every year in the US), it raises eyebrows -- and a lot of questions.
The first one is always simply: Why?
Although this was a very personal decision for me, it was also a choice I made out of larger societal, political, and environmental motivations. I consider the environmental ones paramount. In an economic system that demands infinite growth with finite resources, not doubling my own consumption is one small stone in a big river.
More importantly, I live in the US, and any child I had would have been raised here and would consume (despite my best efforts) far more resources than I am comfortable accepting. Living even a modest lifestyle in the US comes as a direct result of the oppression, domination, and deaths of many unseen people, not to mention the exploitation of natural resources at rates that threaten the ability of our planet to sustain life. These facts shouldn't be cause for guilt or shame; instead, they should spur us to organize to confront the systems and institutions that have created these problems. On a personal level, contributing another person to the system that I have spent my adult life fighting is just not something I'm willing to do.
The next question is usually: But what if you change your mind?
I view my decision as permanent. As I see it, I already made the decision years ago not to have children, based on sound, rational reasons. If I change my mind in the future, I believe that change would be fundamentally selfish, and I am comfortable committing myself to rational reasons now.
People typically follow up with: Aren't there other forms of birth control?
Yes, of course, and most of us here in the US are lucky to be able to choose the form that is best for our lifestyles, our preferences, and our relationships. A vasectomy fit my needs best.
I guess there's always abstinence, but that's no fun, right? I suppose the rhythm method is an option, but almost everyone knows how (in)effective that is. Condoms are fine and dandy in many situations, but they have their downsides as well, and can seem pointless if you are in a monogamous relationship.
All the other common birth control methods have one aspect in common: They place the onus on women. Not only does our society expect women to deal with the logistics of birth control, but these methods also have severe physiological drawbacks, from roller-coaster hormonal changes to intensifying menstruation cycles to weight and skin changes. Although these methods have come a long way in a few decades, they still burden women and their bodies. Is it any coincidence that in a male-dominated society, the medical establishment has thus far focused on birth control methods that leave the burden solely on women?
For men, vasectomies are simple. There are almost no side effects and no long-term impacts; it's a quick, low-cost, outpatient procedure. Having decided that I want to take an active role in birth control, a vasectomy is fair, easy, and it confronts my privilege on this issue.
What if you decide you want children in the future? people ask.
Many of my friends whom I deeply respect have chosen to have children or will do so in the future. Some people do feel that there is something special and important about having a blood-related child. I just don't share that feeling.
There are thousands of beautiful children all over the world who need parents, and if I ever decide that being a father is something I want in my life, I would be remiss to ignore the existing children needing support and love. For me, adoption is the best option. We need more parents in this world, not more kids.
Finally, But don't we need the smart, progressive people to reproduce?
I'm of the nurture-over-nature camp. I think the whole "passing on genes" obsession can sometimes border on eugenics. I'm fairly confident there is no gene that instructs your child to fight for justice, peace, and sustainability. That comes from living those values and instilling them in the communities we are a part of. That's what I want to prioritize in my life -- and I feel I can share those things more effectively without a child.
And besides -- I've got messed-up teeth, I'm legally blind, bald, and have a history of heart disease. Let Matt Damon pass on his genes instead.
|June 12, 2009|| Peak Oil Is for Real: The Era of Cheap Oil Is Officially Over
by Michael T. Klare, Environment
The era of plentiful oil is drawing to a close, and a new era of economic peril, rising starvation and environmental disaster is born.
Every summer, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy issues its International Energy Outlook (IEO) -- a jam-packed compendium of data and analysis on the evolving world energy equation. For those with the background to interpret its key statistical findings, the release of the IEO can provide a unique opportunity to gauge important shifts in global energy trends. As it happens, the recent release of the 2009 IEO has provided energy watchers with a feast of significant revelations. By far the most significant disclosure: the IEO predicts a sharp drop in projected future world oil output (compared to previous expectations) and a corresponding increase in reliance on what are called "unconventional fuels" -- oil sands, ultra-deep oil, shale oil, and biofuels. Almost as notable, when it comes to news, the 2009 report highlights Asia's insatiable demand for energy and suggests that China is moving ever closer to the point at which it will overtake the United States as the world's number one energy consumer. Clearly, a new era of cutthroat energy competition is upon us. Very simply, it indicates that the usually optimistic analysts at the Department of Energy now believe global fuel supplies will simply not be able to keep pace with rising world energy demands. For years now, assorted petroleum geologists and other energy types have been warning that world oil output is approaching a maximum sustainable daily level -- a peak -- and will subsequently go into decline, possibly producing global economic chaos. Whatever the timing of the arrival of peak oil's actual peak, there is growing agreement that we have, at last, made it into peak-oil territory, if not yet to the moment of irreversible decline. But for an expansion on this scale to occur, whole new industries will have to be created to manufacture such fuels at a cost of several trillion dollars. This undertaking, in turn, is provoking a wide-ranging debate over the environmental consequences of producing such fuels. For example, any significant increase in biofuels use -- assuming such fuels were produced by chemical means rather than, as now, by cooking -- could substantially reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, actually slowing the tempo of future climate change. On the other hand, any increase in the production of Canadian oil sands, Venezuelan extra-heavy oil, and Rocky Mountain shale oil will entail energy-intensive activities at staggering levels, sure to emit vast amounts of CO2, which might more than cancel out any gains from the biofuels. Canada is becoming increasingly important as the world's leading producer of oil sands, or bitumen -- a thick, gooey, viscous material that must be dug out of the ground and treated in various energy-intensive ways before it can be converted into synthetic petroleum fuel (synfuel). According to the IEO report, oil sands production, now at 1.3 million barrels a day and barely profitable, could hit the 4.4 million barrel mark (or even, according to the most optimistic scenarios, 6.5 million barrels) by 2030. Given the IEA's new projections, this would represent an extraordinary addition to global energy supplies just when key sources of conventional oil in places like Mexico and the North Sea are expected to suffer severe declines. The extraction of oil sands, however, could prove a pollution disaster of the first order. For one thing, remarkable infusions of old-style energy are needed to extract this new energy, huge forest tracts would have to be cleared, and vast quantities of water used for the steam necessary to dislodge the buried goo (just as the equivalent of "peak water" may be arriving). What this means is that the accelerated production of oil sands is sure to be linked to environmental despoliation, pollution, and global warming. There is considerable doubt that Canadian officials and the general public will, in the end, be willing to pay the economic and environmental price involved. In other words, whatever the IEA may project now, no one can know whether synfuels will really be available in the necessary quantities 15 or 20 years down the road. Venezuela has long been an important source of crude oil for the United States, generating much of the revenue used by President Hugo Chávez to sustain his social experiments at home and an ambitious anti-American political agenda abroad. In the coming years, however, its production of conventional petroleum is expected to fall, leaving the country increasingly reliant on the exploitation of large deposits of bitumen in the eastern Orinoco River basin. Just to develop these "extra-heavy oil" deposits will require significant financial and energy investments and, as with Canadian oil sands, the environmental impact could be devastating. Nevertheless, successful development of these deposits could prove an economic bonanza for Venezuela. The big winner in these grim energy sweepstakes, however, is likely to be Brazil. Already a major producer of ethanol, it is expected to see a huge increase in unconventional oil output once its new ultra-deep fields in the "subsalt" Campos and Santos basins come on-line. These are massive offshore oil deposits buried beneath thick layers of salt some 100 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro and several miles beneath the ocean's surface. When the substantial technical challenges to exploiting these undersea fields are overcome, Brazil's output could soar by as much as three million barrels per day. By 2030, Brazil should be a major player in the world energy equation, having succeeded Venezuela as South America's leading petroleum producer. The global energy equation is changing rapidly, and with it is likely to come great power competition, economic peril, rising starvation, growing unrest, environmental disaster, and shrinking energy supplies, no matter what steps are taken. No doubt the 2010 edition of the report and those that follow will reveal far more, but the new trends in energy on the planet are already increasingly evident -- and unsettling.
|June 2, 2009|| World's Next Big Climate Pact Begins to Take Shape
by Peter N. Spotts, Environment
This week, negotiators from 182 countries meet in Bonn, Germany to lay the groundwork for a post-Kyoto climate regime.
A two-year march toward a new treaty to combat global warming is pausing briefly in Bonn to give negotiators from 182 countries their first crack at tackling a rough draft of an agreement. Despite differences over some difficult issues, there is cautious optimism that negotiators could make progress especially now that the US is playing what many see as a more constructive role than it did under the Bush administration. Over the next two weeks, country representatives will debate and overhaul as much of a 53-page "negotiating text" as they can to get a draft pact ready for government ministers to consider in December at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) annual "conference of the parties" in Copenhagen. The ultimate goal is to produce a new agreement that will cover developing as well as developed countries and will pick up where 1997 Kyoto Protocol leaves off. The protocol's first -- and so far, only – enforcement period ends in 2012. The protocol, which formally took force last year, calls on industrial countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a combined average of 5.5 percent below 1990 levels. Then, it must be clear on what major developing countries -- China, India, Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa -- will do to limit the growth of their emissions. It must be clear about providing stable and predictable sources of money for adaptation measures in the developing world and for aid in buying the green technologies that will help those countries meet their emissions goals. And it must be clear on how the financial institutions that provide that money will be governed. Developing countries argue that they have no representatives on the governing boards of any of the climate-related funding agencies currently set up to serve them.
So far, the goal has been to put emissions on a path that would limit the average rise in global temperatures to about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by century's end. Based on the 2007 reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that amount of warming implies stabilizing greenhouse-gas concentrations at 450 parts per million (ppm). But some atmospheric researchers have since argued that to avoid dangerous human effect on climate, emissions must be stabilized at or below 350 ppm. Currently, the concentration of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse-gas posing the biggest concern, stands at 387 ppm.
|May 28, 2009|| It's Time to Come Clean: New Yorkers Are Plugged in to Our Country's Dirtiest Source of Power
by Jeff Biggers, Environment
More than 240,000 tons of coal stripmined through mountaintop removal operations are consumed by New Yorkers every year.
More than 240,000 tons of coal stripmined through mountaintop removal operations are consumed by New Yorkers every year. Thirteen power plants in 11 counties burn mountaintop removal coal. And every day in the lush green coalfields of the central Appalachian mountains, at least three million pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel-oil explosives are detonated to blow off the tops of mountains and topple the rocks and waste into valleys and streams.
Mountaintop removal coal, which provides less than 7 percent of all coal production in the United States, could easily be replaced with underground coal or energy efficiency initiatives, or renewable energy sources. The first step in this process in the 21st century is for New York to end its use of mountaintop removal coal, and allow Appalachia's true cultural legacies to rise again.
|May 26, 2009|| Why Obama Should Take Notes from Cuba on a Green Energy Revolution
by Peter Bosshard, Environment
Cuba has successfully greened its energy sector over the last few years, and is now exporting its energy revolution.
In 2006, the government responded to the power crisis by launching its "Revolución Energética." "We are not waiting for fuel to fall from the sky," Fidel Castro said at the time, "because we have discovered, fortunately, something much more important: energy conservation, which is like finding a great oil deposit."
It mobilized consumers to replace more than 9 million incandescent light bulbs – almost 100% of the bulbs used in the country -- with compact fluorescents within six months. Under the utility’s program, more than 2 million energy-efficient refrigerators, 1 million fans, 182,000 air conditioners and 260,000 water pumps were sold.
The country’s 13,000 social workers contributed to the revolution by visiting homes, exchanging light bulbs, and educating consumers about energy conservation. Where education is not sufficient, a revised tariff structure strongly discourages wasteful consumption. If consumers use less than 100 kWh of electricity per month, they pay the very low lifeline tariff of 0.4 US cents/kWh. The rate rises steeply with consumption, and reaches 5.4 US cents/kWh for consumers using more than 300 kWh per month. To ramp up generation, the government built two wind farms and is currently installing 100 additional wind measuring stations. It also built a grid-connected solar electric plant and 180 micro-hydro power plants, and expanded the capacity of the country’s biogas facilities (mainly in the sugar sector). Cuba has promoted renewable energy for off-grid electrification for many years. In the meantime, 8000 solar electric systems have been installed to electrify all schools, health clinics and social centers in the country, and many residential buildings. Cuba is adding 300 biogas plants which are based on animal waste this year, and plans to electrify the remaining 100,000 houses that have no access to electricity with renewable energy. Finally, Cuba tackled the transmission losses by upgrading transmission cables, electrical posts and meters. By installing close to 2,000 diesel- and fuel-based micro-power plants, the country also eliminated the need for transmission to many communities altogether. In the US, the clean energy act is phasing out most incandescent light bulbs within a period of more than six years. Cuba managed to take this step in just six months.
|May 13, 2009|| Pipeline-Istan: Everything You Need to Know About Oil, Gas, Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan and Obama
by Pepe Escobar, Tomdispatch.com
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Foreign Policies
Nothing of significance takes place in Eurasia without an energy angle.
As Barack Obama heads into his second hundred days in office, let's head for the big picture ourselves, the ultimate global plot line, the tumultuous rush towards a new, polycentric world order. In its first hundred days, the Obama presidency introduced us to a brand new acronym, OCO for Overseas Contingency Operations, formerly known as GWOT (as in Global War on Terror). Use either name, or anything else you want, and what you're really talking about is what's happening on the immense energy battlefield that extends from Iran to the Pacific Ocean. It's there that the Liquid War for the control of Eurasia takes place.
Yep, it all comes down to black gold and "blue gold" (natural gas), hydrocarbon wealth beyond compare, and so it's time to trek back to that ever-flowing wonderland -- Pipelineistan. It's time to dust off the acronyms, especially the SCO or Shanghai Cooperative Organization, the Asian response to NATO, and learn a few new ones like IPI and TAPI. Above all, it's time to check out the most recent moves on the giant chessboard of Eurasia, where Washington wants to be a crucial, if not dominant, player.
We've already seen Pipelineistan wars in Kosovo and Georgia, and we've followed Washington's favorite pipeline, the BTC, which was supposed to tilt the flow of energy westward, sending oil coursing past both Iran and Russia. Things didn't quite turn out that way, but we've got to move on, the New Great Game never stops. Now, it's time to grasp just what the Asian Energy Security Grid is all about, visit a surreal natural gas republic, and understand why that Grid is so deeply implicated in the Af-Pak war.
Every time I've visited Iran, energy analysts stress the total "interdependence of Asia and Persian Gulf geo-ecopolitics." What they mean is the ultimate importance to various great and regional powers of Asian integration via a sprawling mass of energy pipelines that will someday, somehow, link the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, South Asia, Russia, and China. The major Iranian card in the Asian integration game is the gigantic South Pars natural gas field (which Iran shares with Qatar). It is estimated to hold at least 9% of the world's proven natural gas reserves.
As much as Washington may live in perpetual denial, Russia and Iran together control roughly 20% of the world's oil reserves and nearly 50% of its gas reserves. Think about that for a moment. It's little wonder that, for the leadership of both countries as well as China's, the idea of Asian integration, of the Grid, is sacrosanct.
If it ever gets built, a major node on that Grid will surely be the prospective $7.6 billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, also known as the "peace pipeline." After years of wrangling, a nearly miraculous agreement for its construction was initialed in 2008. At least in this rare case, both Pakistan and India stood shoulder to shoulder in rejecting relentless pressure from the Bush administration to scotch the deal.
Iran's relations with both Russia and China are swell -- and will remain so no matter who is elected the new Iranian president next month. China desperately needs Iranian oil and gas, has already clinched a $100 billion gas "deal of the century" with the Iranians, and has loads of weapons and cheap consumer goods to sell. No less close to Iran, Russia wants to sell them even more weapons, as well as nuclear energy technology.
And then, moving ever eastward on the great Grid, there's Turkmenistan, lodged deep in Central Asia, which, unlike Iran, you may never have heard a thing about.
In the ever-shifting New Great Game in Eurasia, a key question -- why Afghanistan matters -- is simply not part of the discussion in the United States. (Hint: It has nothing to do with the liberation of Afghan women.) In part, this is because the idea that energy and Afghanistan might have anything in common is verboten.
And yet, rest assured, nothing of significance takes place in Eurasia without an energy angle. In the case of Afghanistan, keep in mind that Central and South Asia have been considered by American strategists crucial places to plant the flag; and once the Soviet Union collapsed, control of the energy-rich former Soviet republics in the region was quickly seen as essential to future U.S. global power. It would be there, as they imagined it, that the U.S. Empire of Bases would intersect crucially with Pipelineistan in a way that would leave both Russia and China on the defensive.
Afghanistan, as it happens, sits conveniently at the crossroads of any new Silk Road linking the Caucasus to western China, and four nuclear powers (China, Russia, Pakistan, and India) lurk in the vicinity. "Losing" Afghanistan and its key network of U.S. military bases would, from the Pentagon's point of view, be a disaster, and though it may be a secondary matter in the New Great Game of the moment, it's worth remembering that the country itself is a lot more than the towering mountains of the Hindu Kush and immense deserts: it's believed to be rich in unexplored deposits of natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chrome, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, and iron ore, as well as precious and semiprecious stones.
And there's something highly toxic to be added to this already lethal mix: don't forget the narco-dollar angle -- the fact that the global heroin cartels that feast on Afghanistan only work with U.S. dollars, not euros. For the SCO, the top security threat in Afghanistan isn't the Taliban, but the drug business. Russia's anti-drug czar Viktor Ivanov routinely blasts the disaster that passes for a U.S./NATO anti-drug war there, stressing that Afghan heroin now kills 30,000 Russians annually, twice as many as were killed during the decade-long U.S.-supported anti-Soviet Afghan jihad of the 1980s.
And then, of course, there are those competing pipelines that, if ever built, either would or wouldn't exclude Iran and Russia from the action to their south. In April 2008, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India actually signed an agreement to build a long-dreamt-about $7.6 billion (and counting) pipeline, whose acronym TAPI combines the first letters of their names and would also someday deliver natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India without the involvement of either Iran or Russia. It would cut right through the heart of Western Afghanistan, in Herat, and head south across lightly populated Nimruz and Helmand provinces, where the Taliban, various Pashtun guerrillas and assorted highway robbers now merrily run rings around U.S. and NATO forces and where -- surprise! -- the U.S. is now building in Dasht-e-Margo ("the Desert of Death") a new mega-base to host President Obama's surge troops.
TAPI's rival is the already mentioned IPI, also theoretically underway and widely derided by Heritage Foundation types in the U.S., who regularly launch blasts of angry prose at the nefarious idea of India and Pakistan importing gas from "evil" Iran. Theoretically, TAPI's construction will start in 2010 and the gas would begin flowing by 2015. (Don't hold your breath.) Embattled Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who can hardly secure a few square blocks of central Kabul, even with the help of international forces, nonetheless offered assurances last year that he would not only rid his country of millions of land mines along TAPI's route, but somehow get rid of the Taliban in the bargain.
Should there be investors (nursed by Afghan opium dreams) delirious enough to sink their money into such a pipeline -- and that's a monumental if -- Afghanistan would collect only $160 million a year in transit fees, a mere bagatelle even if it does represent a big chunk of the embattled Karzai's current annual revenue. Count on one thing though, if it ever happened, the Taliban and assorted warlords/highway robbers would be sure to get a cut of the action.
In fact, it's as if the New Great Gamesters had just discovered another Everest. This year, Obama's national security strategists lost no time unleashing a no-holds-barred diplomatic campaign to court Turkmenistan. The goal? To accelerate possible ways for all that new Turkmeni gas to flow through the right pipes, and create quite a different energy map and future. Apart from TAPI, another key objective is to make the prospective $5.8 billion Turkey-to-Austria Nabucco pipeline become viable and thus, of course, trump the Russians. In that way, a key long-term U.S. strategic objective would be fulfilled: Austria, Italy, and Greece, as well as the Balkan and various Central European countries, would be at least partially pulled from Gazprom's orbit. (Await my next "postcard" from Pipelineistan for more on this.)
If, one of these days, the Turkmenistani leader opts for TAPI as well, it will open Washington to an ultimate historical irony. After so much death and destruction, Washington would undoubtedly have to sit down once again with -- yes -- the Taliban! And we'd be back to July 2001 and those pesky pipeline transit fees.
As it stands at the moment, however, Russia still dominates Pipelineistan, ensuring Central Asian gas flows across Russia's network and not through the Trans-Caspian networks privileged by the U.S. and the European Union. This virtually guarantees Russia's crucial geopolitical status as the top gas supplier to Europe and a crucial supplier to Asia as well.
Meanwhile, in "transit corridor" Pakistan, where Predator drones soaring over Pashtun tribal villages monopolize the headlines, the shady New Great Game slouches in under-the-radar mode toward the immense, under-populated southern Pakistani province of Balochistan. The future of the epic IPI vs. TAPI battle may hinge on a single, magic word: Gwadar.
Essentially a fishing village, Gwadar is an Arabian Sea port in that province. The port was built by China. In Washington's dream scenario, Gwadar becomes the new Dubai of South Asia. This implies the success of TAPI. For its part, China badly needs Gwadar as a node for yet another long pipeline to be built to western China. And where would the gas flowing in that line come from? Iran, of course.
Whoever "wins," if Gwadar really becomes part of the Liquid War, Pakistan will finally become a key transit corridor for either Iranian gas from the monster South Pars field heading for China, or a great deal of the Caspian gas from Turkmenistan heading Europe-wards. To make the scenario even more locally mouth-watering, Pakistan would then be a pivotal place for both NATO and the SCO (in which it is already an official "observer").
Now that's as classic as the New Great Game in Eurasia can get. There's NATO vs. the SCO. With either IPI or TAPI, Turkmenistan wins. With either IPI or TAPI, Russia loses. With either IPI or TAPI, Pakistan wins. With TAPI, Iran loses. With IPI, Afghanistan loses. In the end, however, as in any game of high stakes Pipelineistan poker, it all comes down to the top two global players. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets: will the winner be Washington or Beijing?
|May 15, 2009||
Who Rules America?
by Paul Craig Roberts, Countercurrents.org
What do you suppose it is like to be elected president of the United States only to find that your power is restricted to the service of powerful interest groups?
Fighting the special interests doesn’t pay and doesn’t succeed. On April 30 the primacy of special over public interests was demonstrated yet again. The Democrats’ bill to prevent 1.7 million mortgage foreclosures and, thus, preserve $300 billion in home equity by permitting homeowners to renegotiate their mortgages, was defeated in the Senate, despite the 60-vote majority of the Democrats. The banksters were able to defeat the bill 51 to 45.
These are the same financial gangsters whose unbridled greed and utter irresponsibility have wiped out half of Americans’ retirement savings, sent the economy into a deep hole, and threatened the US dollar’s reserve currency role. It is difficult to imagine an interest group with a more damaged reputation. Yet, a majority of “the people’s representatives” voted as the discredited banksters instructed.
Hundreds of billions of public dollars have gone to bail out the banksters, but when some Democrats tried to get the Senate to do a mite for homeowners, the US Senate stuck with the banks. The Senate’s motto is: “Hundreds of billions for the banksters, not a dime for homeowners.”
The same Congress that can’t find a dime for homeowners or health care appropriates hundreds of billions of dollars for the military/security complex. The week after the Senate foreclosed on American homeowners, the Obama “change” administration asked Congress for an additional $61 billion dollars for the neoconservatives’ war in Iraq and $65 billion more for the neoconservatives’ war in Afghanistan. Congress greeted this request with a rousing “Yes we can!”
The additional $126 billion comes on top of the $533.7 billion “defense” budget for this year. The $660 billion--probably a low-ball number--is ten times the military spending of China, the second most powerful country in the world.
How is it possible that “the world’s only superpower” is threatened by the likes of Iraq and Afghanistan? How can the US be a superpower if it is threatened by countries that have no military capability other than a guerilla capability to resist invaders?
These “wars” are a hoax designed to enrich the US armaments industry and to infuse the “security forces” with police powers over American citizenry.
Not a dime to prevent millions of Americans from losing their homes, but hundreds of billions of dollars to murder Muslim women and children and to create millions of refugees, many of whom will either sign up with insurgents or end up as the next wave of immigrants into America.
Americans elected Obama because he said he would end the gratuitous criminal wars of the Bush brownshirts, wars that have destroyed America’s reputation and financial solvency and serve no public interest. But once in office Obama found that he was ruled by the military/security complex. War is not being ended, merely transferred from the unpopular war in Iraq to the more popular war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Obama, in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, continues to attack “targets” in Pakistan. In place of a war in Iraq, the military/security complex now has two wars going in much more difficult circumstances.
According to Pentagon budget documents, by next year the cost of the war against Afghanistan will exceed the cost of the war against Iraq. According to a Nobel prize-winning economist and a budget expert at Harvard University, the war against Iraq has cost the American taxpayers $3 trillion, that is, $3,000 billion in out-of-pocket and already incurred future costs, such as caring for veterans.
If the Pentagon is correct, then by next year the US government will have squandered $6 trillion dollars on two wars, the only purpose of which is to enrich the munitions manufacturers and the “security” bureaucracy.
In the Afghan “desert of death” the Obama administration is constructing a giant military base. Why? What does the internal politics of Afghanistan have to do with the US? What is this enormous waste of resources that America does not have accomplishing besides enriching the American munitions industry? Why is the US making itself impotent fighting wars that have nothing whatsoever to do with its security, wars that are, in fact, threatening its security? The answer is that the military/security lobby, the financial gangsters, and AIPAC rule. The American people be damned.
|May 12, 2009||
A K-5 Curriculum For Students In The Post-Carbon Era
by Sarah Rios and Jaime Campos, Countercurrents.org
Will education be important in the post-carbon era?
What will need to be taught?
What skills need to be acquired?
We hope to provide one alternative for educating students, after the fall of empire.
As the economy begins its downward spiral and as the price of a gallon of gasoline continues to rollercoaster, the impending doom of America, even life as we know it, is approaching. Our education system is in shambles, food prices are ever increasing, and our hopes for an oil-driven tomorrow are no more. Not even the face of hope, Barack Obama, can halt what is bound to happen. With everything moving its course, it is only a matter of time before the idea of great nations becomes that of mere villages. Each unit of people will have to sustain themselves as their own entity. Food will be grown locally and oil-based products will no longer be available on a shelf or at the pump. With this comes a need for those who are ready and recognize the problem to switch gears from being a consumer to being a survivalist. Only with a strong community, one comprised of individuals who barter goods and share a common cause, can any of us have a shimmer of hope.
Yet, with such an inevitable ending to the story that is the industrial era of this world, people do not or will not realize the problems that lie ahead. Time and time again people publish books and articles about the bubble that is about to burst. Time and time again there are signs that the foundation of our current lives are crumbling. Our governments make this seem like a simple scratch and try to cover it with a band-aid, but they don’t realize that this crack is expanding and that a Grand Canyon-sized problem is about to emerge. For those who do realize and are open to the idea of a post-carbon future, there is hope. People around the world are building small communities that will live off the land and do not rely on things we all take advantage of, including flowing electricity, grocery stores, and water coming out the tap. For this minority of people there maybe a future with a silver lining, but it will not be a Hollywood ending.
For the future of our world there are several factors that will still be as important as they are now. Obviously the acquisition of food, water, and shelter will be necessary but so will the education of future generations. For them education will ensure a brighter tomorrow. Yet education will not be the kind that was made to simply make robots to continue the American dream. Instead it will be about educating the young to survive, to know the basic skills that will get them through tomorrow. For most people, there won’t be a need for calculus or organic chemistry, instead basic long division and simple science will suffice. Schooling will involve a movement away from technology and will include only the essentials.
|March 24, 2009|| Liquid War: Postcard from Pipelineistan
by Pepe Escobar, Tomdispatch.com
What happens on the immense battlefield for the control of Eurasia will provide the ultimate plot line in the tumultuous rush towards a new, polycentric world order, also known as the New Great Game.
Our good ol' friend the nonsensical "Global War on Terror," which the Pentagon has slyly rebranded "the Long War," sports a far more important, if half-hidden, twin -- a global energy war. I like to think of it as the Liquid War, because its bloodstream is the pipelines that crisscross the potential imperial battlefields of the planet. Put another way, if its crucial embattled frontier these days is the Caspian Basin, the whole of Eurasia is its chessboard. Think of it, geographically, as Pipelineistan.
All geopolitical junkies need a fix. Since the second half of the 1990s, I've been hooked on pipelines. I've crossed the Caspian in an Azeri cargo ship just to follow the $4 billion Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, better known in this chess game by its acronym, BTC, through the Caucasus. (Oh, by the way, the map of Pipelineistan is chicken-scratched with acronyms, so get used to them!)
Global financial crisis or not, oil and natural gas are the long-term keys to an inexorable transfer of economic power from the West to Asia. Those who control Pipelineistan -- and despite all the dreaming and planning that's gone on there, it's unlikely to be Washington -- will have the upper hand in whatever's to come, and there's not a terrorist in the world, or even a long war, that can change that.
Energy expert Michael Klare has been instrumental in identifying the key vectors in the wild, ongoing global scramble for power over Pipelineistan. These range from the increasing scarcity (and difficulty of reaching) primary energy supplies to "the painfully slow development of energy alternatives." Though you may not have noticed, the first skirmishes in Pipelineistan's Liquid War are already on, and even in the worst of economic times, the risk mounts constantly, given the relentless competition between the West and Asia, be it in the Middle East, in the Caspian theater, or in African oil-rich states like Angola, Nigeria and Sudan.
In these early skirmishes of the twenty-first century, China reacted swiftly indeed. Even before the attacks of 9/11, its leaders were formulating a response to what they saw as the reptilian encroachment of the West on the oil and gas lands of Central Asia, especially in the Caspian Sea region. To be specific, in June 2001, its leaders joined with Russia's to form the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It's known as the SCO and that's an acronym you should memorize. It's going to be around for a while.
Back then, the SCO's junior members were, tellingly enough, the Stans, the energy-rich former SSRs of the Soviet Union -- Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan -- which the Clinton administration and then the new Bush administration, run by those former energy men, had been eyeing covetously. The organization was to be a multi-layered economic and military regional cooperation society that, as both the Chinese and the Russians saw it, would function as a kind of security blanket around the upper rim of Afghanistan.
Iran is, of course, a crucial energy node of West Asia and that country's leaders, too, would prove no slouches when it came to the New Great Game. It needs at least $200 billion in foreign investment to truly modernize its fabulous oil and gas reserves -- and thus sell much more to the West than U.S.-imposed sanctions now allow. No wonder Iran soon became a target in Washington. No wonder an air assault on that country remains the ultimate wet dream of assorted Likudniks as well as Dick ("Angler") Cheney and his neocon chamberlains and comrades-in-arms. As seen by the elite from Tehran and Delhi to Beijing and Moscow, such a U.S. attack, now likely off the radar screen until at least 2012, would be a war not only against Russia and China, but against the whole project of Asian integration that the SCO is coming to represent.
Meanwhile, as the Obama administration tries to sort out its Iranian, Afghan, and Central Asian policies, Beijing continues to dream of a secure, fast-flowing, energy version of the old Silk Road, extending from the Caspian Basin (the energy-rich Stans plus Iran and Russia) to Xinjiang Province, its Far West.
The SCO has expanded its aims and scope since 2001. Today, Iran, India, and Pakistan enjoy "observer status" in an organization that increasingly aims to control and protect not just regional energy supplies, but Pipelineistan in every direction. This is, of course, the role the Washington ruling elite would like NATO to play across Eurasia. Given that Russia and China expect the SCO to play a similar role across Asia, clashes of various sorts are inevitable.
Ask any relevant expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing and he will tell you that the SCO should be understood as a historically unique alliance of five non-Western civilizations -- Russian, Chinese, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist -- and, because of that, capable of evolving into the basis for a collective security system in Eurasia. That's a thought sure to discomfort classic inside-the-Beltway global strategists like Dr. Zbig and President George H. W. Bush's national security advisor Brent Scowcroft.
According to the view from Beijing, the rising world order of the twenty-first century will be significantly determined by a quadrangle of BRIC countries -- for those of you by now collecting Great Game acronyms, that stands for Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- plus the future Islamic triangle of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Add in a unified South America, no longer in thrall to Washington, and you have a global SCO-plus. On the drawing boards, at least, it's a high octane dream.
In Central Asia, some of the biggest stakes revolve around the monster Kashagan oil field in "snow leopard" Kazakhstan, the absolute jewel in the Caspian crown with reserves of as many as 9 billion barrels. As usual in Pipelineistan, it all comes down to which routes will deliver Kashagan's oil to the world after production starts in 2013. This spells, of course, Liquid War. Wily Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev would like to use the Russian-controlled Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) to pump Kashagan crude to the Black Sea.
In this case, the Kazakhs hold all the cards. How oil will flow from Kashagan will decide whether the BTC -- once hyped by Washington as the ultimate Western escape route from dependence on Persian Gulf oil -- lives or dies.
Welcome, then, to Pipelineistan! Whether we like it or not, in good times and bad, it's a reasonable bet that we're all going to be Pipeline tourists. So, go with the flow. Learn the crucial acronyms, keep an eye out for what happens to all those U.S. bases across the oil heartlands of the planet, watch where the pipelines are being built, and do your best to keep tabs on the next set of monster Chinese energy deals and fabulous coups by Russia's Gazprom.
|April 29, 2009|| Imagine a World Without Seafood for Supper -- It's Nearer Than You Think
by Andrew Purvis
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
The majority of fish populations have been reduced by 70-95% -- and global demand keeps rising.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70% of the world's fisheries are now fully exploited (ie, fished to the point where they can only just replenish themselves), overexploited or depleted. The majority of fish populations have been reduced by 70-95%, depending on the species, compared to the level they would be at if there were no fishing at all. In other words, only five per cent of fish are left in some cases. In more practical terms, fishermen are catching one or two fish per 100 hooks, compared to 10 fish per 100 hooks where a stock is healthy and unexploited - a measure of sustainability once used by the Japanese fleet. In England and Wales, we are landing one fish for every 20 that we landed in 1889, when government records began, despite having larger vessels, more sophisticated technology and trawl nets so vast and all-consuming that they are capable of containing 12 Boeing 747 aircraft.
Where have all those other fish gone? In short, we have eaten them. "Tens of thousands of bluefin tuna used to be caught in the North Sea every year," says Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at the University of York. "Now, there are none. Once, there were millions of skate - huge common skate, white skate, long-nosed skate - being landed from seas around the UK. The common skate is virtually extinct, the angel shark has gone. We have lost our marine megafauna as a consequence of exploitation."
Then there are the devastating effects of bottom trawling around our coasts, which began with the advent of the steam trawler 130 years ago. "Sweeping backwards and forwards across the seabed, they removed a whole carpet of invertebrates," Professor Roberts says, "such as corals, sponges, sea fans and seaweeds. On one map, dating from 1883, there is a huge area of the North Sea roughly the size of Wales, marked 'Oyster beds'. The last oysters were fished there commercially in the 1930s; the last live oyster was taken in the 1970s. We have altered the marine environment in a spectacular way."
Worse still, after stripping our own seas bare, we have "exported fishing capacity to the waters of developing countries", Professor Roberts warns. Off Mauritania, Senegal and other West African countries, fleets from the rich industrial north are "fishing in a totally unsustainable way with minimal oversight by European countries". In return for plundering the oceans, which deprives local people of food, and artisanal fishermen of their livelihood, these vessels pay minimal fees that impoverished countries are happy to accept. "It is a mining operation," Professor Roberts says, "a rerun of the exploitation of terrestrial wealth that happened in colonial days. This is colonialism in a new guise, albeit with a respectable cloak in the form of access agreements."
Such is the human feeding frenzy, there may come a time when there are no fish left to catch. In 2006, a study in the US journal Science warned that every single species we exploit would have collapsed by 2048 if populations continued to decline as they had since the 1950s. By 2003, nearly a third of all species had collapsed, the study found - meaning their numbers were down 90% or more on historic maximum catch levels. Extrapolate that on a graph, and the downward curve reaches 100% just before 2050.
|May 16, 2009|| Our Appetite for Animals Is Taking Us Toward Apocalypse
by Kathy Freston
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
Cutting your meat-eating habits is one of the most impactful ways you can prevent drastic changes to our climate.
If the Earth is warmed by a mere 4 degrees Celsius, by the year 2099 the planet will become unrecognizable. We will have warm, acidic seas that will probably not sustain fish; many of the areas where food is grown and populations flourish will no longer be able to provide for either because of vast flooding or desertification; storms will be fiercer and much more devastating; and the only places that will have enough water and resources to sustain humans will be in the high latitude areas of the planet (stress mine--because I'm shocked).
A nightmare scenario based on worst possible circumstances? Sadly, no. In fact a warming of 4 degrees Celsius is a conservative prediction according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If we don't make serious changes, and soon, warming could be markedly greater.
That's where all the life would be. The rest of the world will be largely desert with a few oases. Imagine what it might be like if 9 billion (the projected population by then) people are all scrambling to stake claim to a few select and prime habitable areas on the planet. Humans are in a pretty difficult position and I don't think they are clever enough to handle what's ahead. I think they'll survive as a species all right, but the cull during this century is going to be huge.The number remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less. In order to survive, humans may need to do something radical: rethink our society not along geopolitical lines but in terms of resource distribution. To me, the whole discussion feels sort of like making your mind up to deal with cancer once it inevitably develops, rather than doing what you can to prevent it in the first place. To be sure, if you are likely to get such a troubling diagnosis - whether cancer or a dying environment - it would be wise to make meaningful (and to some, this might mean radical) changes. But wouldn't it be preferable to do everything possible to prevent disaster, rather than focusing most of your resources on planning for it?
One of the most meaningful things we can do to arrest climate change is to change the way we eat. the meat industry is one of the most devastating causes of global warming. And this is not just factory farming--some analysis indicates that smaller farms cause more warming. They're generally better for animal welfare, water pollution, and desertification, but they actually require more resources, and thus cause more greenhouse gas emissions. We need government change: We need a shift away from the billions in annual subsidies for the meat industry, as discussed in a Union of Concerned Scientists report. We need more healthy vegetarian foods in schools and other government programs. We need education of the public about this very real cause for alarm and potential solutions. We need leaders who understand the issues and take them seriously. But we also need all of us to take personal charge of our lives, and to do what we can personally to decrease our support for climate change. Eating meat causes about 40% more global warming gases as all the cars, trucks, planes, and other forms of transport combined--that is, cutting back on our consumption of chicken, pork, and other animal products.
|April 28, 2009|| The Earth Is a Ponzi Scheme on the Verge of Collapse
by Matthew Stein Huffington Post
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Water
Our model of exponential growth in consumption of energy, natural resources and raw materials cannot last forever.
The illusion that the "Free Market" is the logical savior of our world has been maintained by the promise of riches and an ever increasing standard of living and lifespan that has been demonstrated by the industrialized world for the past several hundred years. On the surface, who can look at the apparent success of America, and not come to that quick conclusion? However, when you look deeper, you will find that this success is built on a business model based upon exponential growth, and that this growth must be fed by a similar exponential growth in consumption of energy, natural resources, raw materials, and in the continuous expansion to new markets. All of this is well and good when the world has an abundant supply of undeveloped lands and unused resources, but it starts coming apart as that same world approaches its natural limits to growth and consumption.
Here is a brief summary of a few current trends that illustrate that we are operating a giant Ponzi scheme, and that we are running out of new sources of energy, untapped markets, and raw materials to keep it running:
1. Trees: About 1/2 of the world's forests are already gone (most were cut in the last 50 years), and a significant percentage of the rest are in trouble. At the current rate of destruction, it has been estimated that the world's rainforests will be completely eliminated within forty years. Trees play a necessary role in stabilizing our planet's weather, atmosphere and soils. A single large mature tree has the evaporative surface area on its needles or leaves equivalent to a 40 acre lake. A process called "desertification" occurs near areas that have been deforested once the trees stop recycling moisture back into the atmosphere to fall as rain somewhere down wind. A recent study shows that deforestation contributes roughly 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions every year.
2. Atmosphere: Global greenhouse gas emissions have increased by a factor of four since 1950. We have been burning fossil fuels for over 500 years, but half of all of those burned fuels have been consumed in the past thirty years! There is a scientific consensus to 90% certainty that these atmospheric changes will result in catastrophic, potentially civilization busting, climate changes within the next 50 years. Even if you do not believe in global warming, data indicates that the increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere (the primary greenhouse gas) caused by our rapidly increasing consumption of fossil fuels, is increasing the acidity of the oceans, and that if this trend continues much longer, it has the potential to kill most of the planktons, diatoms, and coral reefs of the ocean, knocking out the bottom of the food chain, killing most of the life in the oceans of the world, and destroying one of the legs of our world's oxygen cycle.
3. Oceans: 11 out of 15 of the world's major ocean fisheries are either already in collapse, or are in serious decline and danger of collapse. All large open ocean predatory fish, such as marlin and tuna, are already 90% depleted. By 2004, an estimated 20% of the world's coral reefs had been destroyed (up from just 11% in 2000), an additional 24% were close to collapsing, and another 26% were under long-term threat of collapse. A recent British government report showed a drop in the world's oceanic zooplankton of an astounding 73% since 1960. Zooplankton are a critical element in the bottom of the world's food chain as well as its oxygen cycle.
4. Oil and other fossil fuels: Our modern industrial global machine essentially eats, sleeps, and sh_ts oil. Nearly all of the world's giant oil fields (they produce over half the world's oil) are mature and exhibit declining rates of oil production. In 2008, the International Energy Agency (IEA) shocked the world when it released an authoritative public study revealing that the world's oil fields are declining at an average rate of 9.1%, which is much faster than previously thought. Even with huge capital investments to implement Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods, this rate of decline would only improve to 6.4%. What does this mean? It means that if our world is to maintain its current rate of oil consumption (our world's recent globalization has been fueled by an annual oil production growth rate of something like 10%), then we would need to find and develop a Saudi Arabia's worth of oil every year for the next year or two from now to eternity--an impossible fantasy!
5. Soil: A third of the original top soil in the United States is now gone. It has been estimated that the world has from 50 to 100 years of farmable soil, using current farming practices. The US has cut soil losses to 18 times the rate of nature's replacement, the developing world averages a soil depletion rate of 36 times natural replacement, and China averages 54 times the rate of replacement.
6. Fresh water: Irrigated land comprises only 16% of the world's croplands, but produces 40% of the world's crop production. Many of the world's major rivers (China's Yellow River, America's Colorado River, the Nile, the Rio Grande, the Ganges, the Indus, the Amu Darya, the Syr Darya, and Africa's Chao Phraya) now run dry, or nearly dry, for significant parts of the year due to expanding irrigation and population demands. Unsustainable over pumping from aquifers is causing increasing salinity, lowering aquifer levels, and failed wells in many of the world's irrigated bread baskets, such as California's Central Valley, the US' giant south central Ogallala aquifer, China's grainbelt middle plains, India's principle breadbasket, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.
In the mid 1980's, when our world had just over half its current population, we first exceeded the capacity of our planet to continuously supply us with the food and raw materials that we consume, and to process our wastes. What this means, is that we have been consuming our planet's resources faster than they regenerate, and polluting its natural systems faster than they can recover. This "drawing down" of our resources, is essentially spending the money from investors (all of us) in this Ponzi scheme, and when the remaining "money" (the natural resources and ecosystems of our world) can't support the payments anymore, it will most certainly collapse! Unfortunately, it's going to take more than minor changes in the way we do business to get off this giant Ponzi scheme.
|May 8, 2009||
The Rise Of Political Conflicts In Modern Burma (1947-2004)
by Nehginpao Kipgen
Nehginpao Kipgen - USA based Political Activist and researcher on The Rise of Political Conflicts in Modern Burma (1947-2004). And he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
The conflicts in Burma have a long history. Some of the ethnic insurgent groups have been fighting against the successive governments ever since the country gained independence from the British, while some of the ethnic insurgent groups were formed in the late 1980s and in the early 1990s. Of the many underground groups, the Karen National Union has been one of the fiercest groups in the country. The group fights for the establishment of a genuine Federal Union of Burma with all the states having equal rights and the right to self-determination. Since the 8888 uprising and the subsequent events, a number of ethnic insurgent groups have been pushing for the restoration of democracy in the country and the establishment of a true federal democratic government. Whatever the causes are, one thing is clear that the stalemate between the Burman government and the ethnic insurgent groups will continue if the government ignores the doctrines of equality, liberty and fraternity at the national level.
At present, almost all insurgent groups give their focus on the restoration of democracy, and the safeguarding of human rights in the country. It is hard to predict whether these ethnic insurgency problems will end once democracy is restored in the country. The country's future will certainly depend on the leaders of the future democratic Burma. The contemporary political situation shows that even a large section of the Burmans themselves got involved in waging war against the leadership of the military regime. Among others, insurgent groups such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), and the Wa ethnic group that have entered into a ceasefire agreement with the military regime, weakening the strength of the collective opposition forces. The military regime has been trying its best to persuade different ethnic insurgent groups to lay down their arms. Although some insurgent groups so far refuse to hold dialogue, quite a good number of groups have decided to work together with the military junta.
There has been steady progress on the part of the government in bringing several armed groups into ceasefire table. Till very recently, several armed groups made ceasefire with the military regime. Although there is no complete silence, there has been a tremendous drop in arms conflicts across the country since 10 years back. As I write this paper, the government is holding rounds of talks with the longest armed group in the country, the Karen National Union (KNU). However, there has not been any formal ceasefire agreement signed by the two parties. Other armed groups such as Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and Chin National Front (CNF) have also expressed their willingness for a formal and complete ceasefire with the government. KNPP once signed a ceasefire agreement with the military government in 1995, but collapsed within weeks.
Co-operation for Peaceful Solution
In the meantime, there are some other ethnic groups such as the Rohingyas in Arakan state, Pa- O, Lahu and Wa ethnic groups in Shan state, who are fighting for autonomy. It is sometime difficult to predict what the future of Burma will look like, whether the status-quo of the existing seven states and seven divisions will remain intact or be broken down into different smaller states. The Kukis in upper Sagaing Division are also consistently demanding for the restoration of their land, which is now occupied by mixed ethnic groups. It is important to note that the successive military regimes have been following a policy of Burmanization where they transplant Burmese immigrants in minority ethnic dominated areas. Fundamental rights are said to be totally absent. Laws of the land are in the hands of a few Burmese top army generals. Forced labor and human rights violations are largely practiced in minority ethnic populated areas. Child soldiers are also very common in Burma. Many young children are kidnapped and threatened with dire consequences if they refuse to join military. This practice has ruined the lives of thousands of the younger generation. Due to the excessive use of forced labors, human rights violations, and crimes against humanity, Burma is isolated from the international community, particularly from the western countries.
To bring a long lasting solution to the decades' old conflicts in Burma, it needs the sincerity, honesty and the participation of all ethnic groups. Different ethnic groups should be brought into confidence, and their legitimate demands should be looked into. The country needs changes and improvements in all fields - political, socio-economic, education, and so on and so forth. Political problems should be solved by political means. At present, all opposition forces, including ethnic insurgent groups are fighting for a common cause i.e., the restoration of democracy in the country. In the process of restructuring the devastated country, all ethnic groups should be invited to participate.
Last but not the least; the international community should step up their pressures against the military regime in order to bring a significant change in the country. The international community should evaluate the effectiveness of economic sanctions. If not effective, they should come up with an alternative method to do the job better. The day will come when justice prevails. The day is drawing nearer for the downfall of the Burman ethnic group dominated military dictatorship. To achieve the above said goals, the people need unity, patience, endurance and concerted efforts. Different ethnic minorities and the majority Burman ethnic group should set aside their differences in order to achieve their common objectives.
|March 10, 2009||
Iceland, the developing world, and the West take note. This cancer is heading everywhere, courtesy of banker-imposed diktats, mainly from America and the UK. They insist Iceland impoverish its citizens by paying debts in ways (they'd) never follow even though the government has no way to do it. Wall Street and Western European bankers planned it and now ordered the government to sell off the nation's public domain, its natural resources and public enterprises to pay (its) financial gambling debts. Also, raise permanent taxes at the worst possible time, then suck the maximum wealth from the country leaving behind an empty hulk and impoverished, desparate population. It's called dystopia Merriam-Webster defines as: "an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives, the opposite of utopia under conditions of deprivation, poverty, disease, violence, oppression, and terror, much like in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Permanent debt bondage "is as deadly as outright military" defeat. Loss of livelihoods and assets leave people vulnerable to sickness, despair, and early deaths, much like what happened to post-Soviet Russia under Washington-imposed shock therapy.
Contrast this to how developed countries, like America, handle debt - by inflating (not deflating) their way out to pay it off with cheap (reduced purchasing power) money because inflation erodes its value. It's simple - by printing money and running budget deficits the way Washington did after Nixon closed the gold window in August 1971, ended the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement, and no longer let dollars be backed by gold or converted into it in international markets. A new monetary system creates money like confetti, and lets us spend and live beyond our means, then have developing and indebted nations pay the price. Countries should not borrow in foreign currencies, instead monetize their own credit for domestic spending and investment. Iceland broke the cardinal rule of international finance: Never borrow in a foreign currency for credit that can freely be created at home. Governments can inflate their way out of domestic debt, not the foreign kind.
When foreign central banks receive dollars for their exports (or asset sales)," their choices are limited. Congress won't let them buy important domestic companies or resources, or get paid with US gold reserves. The alternative is buy Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities like Fannie and Freddie debt. Icelanders and other nations must remember that America is the world's largest debtor, and as Adam Smith explained in The Wealth of Nations - no nation ever repaid its debt, and he never envisioned one large as America's. We grow it by issuing paper for real assets and services.
Today's financial strategy is multilateral (with) the IMF (and World Bank) act(ing) as enforcer(s) for global creditors to appropriate the income of real estate, national infrastructure and industry" by masquerading as a helping hand and seducing borrowers to believe it. Here's how neo-feudal banking works. It doesn't create credit for manufacturing. Retained earnings and equity do it. It "create(s) credit primarily against (existing) collateral, and by so doing, "extract(s) money from the economy (and) undercuts industrial growth for "short-term speculative gains." This hegemony "took thousands of years to achieve, and it wasn't easy inducing nations into poverty through debt pyramiding as good economic strategy. It's like prescribing gorging as a way to lose weight or a junk food diet to stay healthy. Iceland made it worse by protecting the claims of creditors against debtors, including most wage-earners. As post-bubble home prices plunged, creditors held their own and even "strengthen(ed) their hand by increasing their take," thus making a bad situation worse. Its people own a shrinking equity in their homes vis-a-vis bankers having the lion's share. Its law shifts homeowners to Negative Equity, and it works by keeping people in the dark. But it's much the same in the US to hide the root cause of today's crisis - Wall Street/Washington's engineered housing and debt bubble fraud amounting to financial piracy of the greatest magnitude. In America, Iceland, and elsewhere it's turned "ownership" societies into "loanship" debt trap ones. Until recently, it was unthinkable to let economies be crippled by interest payments. Now it's de rigueur through clever manipulation to convince people and nations to go along with their own demise. For Iceland, its debt burden threatens its national identity and loss of its future the way Adam Smith explained - through bankruptcy when it's too great to repay. "Today, creditors and bondholders care about foreign economies only to the extent that they can charge (enough) interest (to) absorb their entire economic surplus." Getting it all is today's credo, and nothing too outlandish is irresponsible. Get in trouble. Socialism comes to the rescue, for bankers, not people or easy targets like Iceland.
|April 17, 2009|| Sea Levels Are Rising: It's Time to Decide Which Coastal Cities Are Worth Saving
by Scott Thill
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Water
Ice cubes the size of American states are melting into the ocean; we face frightening scenarios and tough choices for coastal habitation.
Since April Fool's Day expired, there has been nothing but bad news about Earth's various ice shelves circulating through the news. Antarctica's Wordie and Larsen ice shelves? The first is simply gone, and the second is disappearing fast. How about the Connecticut-sized Wilkins shelf? It has fragmented into polar pieces after the ice tether holding it to the Antarctic peninsula snapped this week, signaling that the Earth is undergoing some profound changes. "This continued and often-significant glacier retreat is a wakeup call that change is happening," USGS glaciologist Jane Ferrigno explained in a joint United States Geological Survey and British Antarctic Survey on the melt. "Antarctica is of special interest, because it holds an estimated 91 percent of the Earth's glacier volume, and change anywhere in the ice sheet poses significant hazards to society." In other words, giant ice cubes the size of American states melting into the ocean should worry everyone on Earth living in a territory with a coast, and even those without. Several recommendations to attack the problem head-on, including obvious remedies like limitations on coastal development and abandonment of at-risk areas. We first need to ensure that all new developments integrate future sea-level rise into their designs. This should be done immediately. Communities must then conduct local analysis to determine what is at risk and what they want to protect. All stakeholders must be involved in this process. Seawalls may be appropriate in some areas. However, they do have adverse consequences. First, the footprint of the structure can result in a loss of beach. Second, seawalls fix the position of the shoreline, thereby drowning the beach in front of the structure and resulting in a loss of recreational opportunity and habitat.
|April 16, 2009|| 1,500 Indian Farmers Commit Mass Suicide: Why We Are Complicit in these Deaths
by Tara Lohan
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Water
Crop failure may have pushed farmers over the edge, but American companies have been leading them to the cliff for years.
The headline has been hard to ignore. Across the world press, news media have announced that over 1,500 farmers in the Indian state of Chattisgarh committed suicide. The motive has been blamed on farmers being crippled by overwhelming debt in the face of crop failure. Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead. Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiraling debts -- and no income. So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops. And no company has been as notorious in the business as the U.S. agra-giant Monsanto.Here's the way it works in India. In the central region of Vidarbha, for example, Monsanto salesmen travel from village to village touting the tremendous, game-changing benefits of Bt cotton, Monsanto's genetically modified seed sold in India under the Bollgard® label. The salesmen tell farmers of the amazing yields other Vidarbha growers have enjoyed while using their products, plastering villages with posters detailing "True Stories of Farmers Who Have Sown Bt Cotton." Old-fashioned cotton seeds pale in comparison to Monsanto's patented wonder seeds, say the salesmen, as much as an average old steer is humbled by a fine Jersey cow. Part of the trick to Bt cotton's remarkable promise, say the salesmen, is that Bollgard® was genetically engineered in the lab to contain bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that the company claims drastically reduces the need for pesticides. The catch is that Bollgard® and Roundup® cost real money. And so Vidarbha's farmers, somewhat desperate to grow the anemic profit margin that comes with raising cotton in that dry and dusty region, have rushed to both banks and local moneylenders to secure the cash needed to get on board with Monsanto. Of a $3,000 bank loan a Vidarbha farmer might take out, as much as half might go to purchasing a growing season's worth of Bt seeds. And the same goes the next season, and the next season after that. In traditional agricultural, farmers can recycle seeds from one harvest to plant the next, or swap seeds with their neighbors at little or no cost. But when it comes to engineered seeds like Bt cotton, Monsanto owns the tiny speck of intellectual property inside each hull, and thus controls the patent. And a farmer wishing to reuse seeds from a Monsanto plant must pay to relicense them from the company each and every growing season. The cycle of debt continues into a downward spiral. And to be sure, water problems are adding to the crisis.
|April 13, 2009||
Border Tribal Belt: Partnership, Prosperity and Security
by Mariam Khan
President Pakistan Peoples Party
Human Rights Women WING
Deputy Atorney General for Pakistan
Pakistan Supreme Court
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The only alternative of ameliorating the lot of these people is active cooperation of Afghanistan and Pakistan. A holistic and integrated plan for tribal development is needed. International community must shoulder the responsibility of bringing these two countries nearer to each other despite of lingering suspicions between the two neighbours.
There are many irritants between the two countries and these are rooted in past and recent history. However, it is heartening to note that both Afghanistan and Pakistan established a tripartite commission with the US government on 17 June 2003 as one of the partners to discuss security matters and other related subjects. The meetings of the Commission are regularly taking place alternately in Kabul and Islamabad. The establishment of the tripartite commission is in line with the 11th Article of the 1921 Anglo-Afghan Treaty, which stipulates that "two high contracting parties having mutually satisfied themselves each regarding the goodwill of the other, and especially regarding their benevolent intentions towards the tribes residing, close to their respective boundaries, hereby undertake each to inform the other in future of any military operations of major importance which may appear necessary for the maintenance of order among the frontier tribes residing within their respective spheres, before the commencement of such operations." The establishment of tripartite commission augurs well for the future relations of the two countries. This paves way for cooperation in other areas, including the development and progress of the tribes residing close to the border. It is widely alleged, not without any reason, that Pakistan has actually violated the sanctity of the border by establishing security posts inside the Afghan territory. This is the duty of international community, specifically Americans, to rectify the situation before the misgivings and suspicions lead to acrimony.
|April 13, 2009||
Pakistan Peoples Party Human Rights(women) Wing: working group of women for peace and security
by Mariam Khan
President Pakistan Peoples Party
Human Rights Women WING
Deputy Atorney General for Pakistan
Pakistan Supreme Court
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1.Capacity development of local Human Rights women wing. Promotion of sustainable livelihood systems among poor and vulnerable members of society .
2.Implement action of a primary health care programme to improve knowledge and practice on diseases ,prevention and basic health care.
3.Implementation of an agricultural project in urban areas ,focusing on women economic empowerment and community development through increased agricultural production.
4.Promotion of rule of law through reform supporting activities within the formal legal sector and media campaigns.
5. Free legal aid for accused women and juveniles
6. Reforms in prison rules in general and for women prisoners particular.
7. Establishment of separate prisons for women and juveniles where atmosphere should not be of a prison but reformatory institution.
8. Well being off minor children of women prisoners and establishment of care centers for children of women in incarceration.
9. Establishment of exclusive family courts, till sub division level .
10. Rehabilitation of women/ juveniles having free from prisons and creating skill development and employment opportunities.
11.Eleminatin of death sentence of women .
12. free vocational education .
13. Child and women protection centers.
14. Poverty reduction plans to eliminate beggary.
15. Elimination of prostitution through proper study and action plan where the sex workers be given incentives and state protection and bring them to normal life .
16. Provision of soft micro loans to needy women .
We need your assistance in improving the quality of life in our country ,such as help in identifying issues of women and their role in family ,work place and public arena , and help shape the public policy debate on the issues we need support by private –sector grants and contributions .
We want to provide education and trainings to low income women to enable them to become self-supporting.
|April 13, 2009|| Cosmetic Religion in America
by Dr. Charles Mercieca
President, International Association of Educators for World Peace
Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education
Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament
Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University
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From theological teachings, we learned that when one uses weapons to kill others not only the one that uses the weapons is guilty of murder, but also the one who provided the killer with such weapons. If this is a fact, why is it the clergymen in the United States do not bring to the attention of their respective congregations this moral fact? Why is it that such clergymen never warn their congregations of their moral obligation not to work for the weapons industry?
There have never been clergymen in America who reminded the members of their congregations that those who manufacture and procure such weapons share the same identical guilt of those that afterwards use them to murder many innocent people, along with the destruction of their homes. This may be due to the fact that such clergymen have created a new form of spirituality with a new set of beliefs, which amounts to the emergence of a cosmetic religion.
Such clergymen may render themselves pleasing to some political figures, especially those with financial interest in the transaction of weapons and the waging of wars. However, clergymen, in virtue of their position, have a moral obligation to provide effective guidelines to people relative to the observance of God’s Ten Commandments. If clergymen were to do their job properly, they may become valuable in replacing the culture of war with the culture of peace.
The creation of a cosmetic religion is not pleasing to God at all. The Pharisees did just that at the time of Jesus Christ who did not hesitate to call them hypocrites. He also compared them to whitewashed tombs, which looked clean from the outside but stunk from the inside. Americans need to have as spiritual leaders clergymen who are vociferous in their condemnation of wars and in the continued manufacture and sales of weapons.
Last but not least, it is encouraging for us to know that we do have a few courageous clergymen in the U.S.A. who joined peace-workers in the streets of the nation to protest against armaments and wars, especially against nuclear weapons. Some ended up being put in jail but, like their Master Teacher of Nazareth, their day of triumph seems to be approaching sooner or later.
When it comes to democracy and freedom, the United States has proved to be, perhaps, the most vocal nation in the world. This constitutes a great irony, which cannot be taken lightly. As St. Thomas Aquinas well put it, nemo dat quod non habet – no one can give something that one does not have. The sooner that all Americans and the nations of the world come to see this with crystal clarity, the sooner they could take appropriate and adequate precaution in dealing with the U.S. government, which is ultimately held responsible and accountable for the proliferation of weapons and the continued promotion of wars everywhere.
|March 20 2009|| Will Our Economic Collapse Cause the Death of Millions Abroad?
by Michael T. Klare
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace
As the wealthier nations cease investing in the developing world or acquiring its exports, the crisis is hitting them with a vengeance.
While the economic contraction is apparently slowing in the advanced industrial countries and may reach bottom in the not-too-distant future, it's only beginning to gain momentum in the developing world, which was spared the earliest effects of the global meltdown. But now, as the wealthier nations cease investing in the developing world or acquiring its exports, the crisis is hitting them with a vengeance. On top of this, conditions are deteriorating at a time when severe drought is affecting many key food-producing regions and poor farmers lack the wherewithal to buy seeds, fertilizers, and fuel. The likely result: A looming food crisis in many areas hit hardest by the global economic meltdown. The greatest worry is that most of the gains achieved in eradicating poverty over the last decade or so will be wiped out, forcing tens or hundreds of millions of people from the working class and the lower rungs of the middle class back into the penury from which they escaped. Equally worrisome is the risk of food scarcity in these areas, resulting in widespread malnutrition, hunger, and starvation. All this is sure to produce vast human misery, sickness, and death, but could also result in social and political unrest of various sorts, including riot, rebellion, and ethnic strife.
As these effects ripple through the developing world and millions upon millions of people face increasingly harsh conditions, social and political unrest of all forms will increase. Such unrest, involving angry protests over plants closings, mass layoffs, and government austerity measures, has already erupted in Europe, Russia, and China, and now threatens to spread to other areas of the world. Until now, such disorder has been limited to urban riots and rock-throwing incidents, but it is easy to imagine far more violent forms of turmoil -- including the outbreak of armed rebellion or civil strife. Economic deprivation is also spurring an increase in crime and piracy in certain areas.
|March 28 2009|| The Population Debate Is Screwed Up
by Laurie Mazur
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
Debaters on population usually take two sides: either they see it as a huge problem facing humanity, or that it's a non-issue. They're both wrong.
Slowing population growth is not all we must do. Continued reliance on fossil fuels could easily overwhelm the carbon reductions from slower growth. Rapacious consumption in the affluent countries drives environmental destruction worldwide; changing our own systems of production and consumption must be the top priority if we are to preserve a habitable planet.
Slowing population growth won't eradicate poverty or feed the hungry, either; that will require a wholesale rethinking of development, trade and other economic policies.
But slower population growth could help give us a fighting chance to meet these challenges. It could reduce pressure on natural systems that are reeling from stress. And it could help give families and nations a chance to make essential investments in education, health care and sustainable economic development.
In the last half-century, we've learned a lot about why we should slow population growth, and we've also learned how. We now know that the best way to slow population growth is not with top-down "population control," but by ensuring that all people are able to make real choices about sexuality and reproduction.
That means access to voluntary family planning and other reproductive-health information and services. It means education and employment opportunities, especially for women. And it means tackling the deep inequities -- gender and economic -- that prevent people from making meaningful choices about childbearing. Each of these interventions is vitally important in its own right as a matter of human rights and social justice. Together, they will help shape a sustainable, equitable future.
Moreover, slowing population growth by the ethical means outlined above is surprisingly cost-effective. For example, the developed countries' share of the cost to provide reproductive health services for every woman on earth is $20 billion -- about what the bankers on Wall Street gave themselves in bonuses last year.
|March 12, 2009|| Hymne des Citoyens du Monde
par Mme Marie Robert
Citoyenne du monde
Počte des mots, des images et des gestes
Médaille de Vermeil Arts Sciences Lettres
Messagčre de culture de la paix pour l’Unesco
Hymne des citoyens du monde en 7 couplets et 7 refrains
Levons-nous, peuples de
frères riches de promesses
Portons aux ombres
Faisons de la
La guerre est faillite
© Texte écrit par Marie ROBERT,
le 12 Mars 2009
Tous droits d’auteur réservés
|March 21, 2009||
A considerable amount of research and analysis has been undertaken on the issue of political Islam. This has helped to correct some simplistic and alarmist assumptions previously held in the West about the nature of Islamic values and intentions. It has been established that political Islam is like a changing landscape, deeply affected by a range of circumstances. But a debate on this topic often gets stuck on the simplistic question of, “Are Muslims democratic?” Western scholars have tried to present Islam as anti-democratic and inherently authoritarian. By misrepresenting Islam in this way they seek to prove that Islam has a set of values inferior to Western liberalism and is a barrier in the way of progress of civilizations. While Turkey and Malaysia set a fantastic example for nations around the world to see that democracy coexists with a great religion like Islam. The experience of both the above-mentioned countries reflects the fact that many Muslims, whether living in secular or formally Islamic states, see democracy as their main hope. Islam, like other faiths, is spiritual and is a code of conduct for over 1.4 billion people. The political aspects of Islam are derived from the Holy Quran and Sunnah, Muslim history and, sometimes, from elements of political movements outside Islam. The political concepts in Islam also emanate from the leadership by successors of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) known as Caliphs, Islamic law, the duty of rulers to seek shura or consultation from their subjects and the importance of rebuking unjust rulers. Muslim scholars agree that Islamic values are compatible with democracy. According to them, the principle of shura (consultative decision-making) is the source of democratic ethics in Islam. It is based on three basic teachings. First, that all persons in any given society are equal. Second, public issues are best decided by the majority view. And third, the three other principles of justice, equality and human dignity, which constitute Islam’s moral core, are best realized in personal as well as public life under governance by a shura. Ijma (consensus) that is acceptance of a matter by a specified group of people is another source that relates to democracy. All the Muslims of all the times, according to some Muslim scholars, may be involved in the process of building consensus. Finally, the model set by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) reveals how democratic practices and theories are attuned to an Islamic state. The first Islamic state based on a social contract was constitutional in character and had a ruler who ruled with the written consent of all citizens of the state. Demonstrating democratic spirit, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) chose to prepare a historically specific constitution based on the eternal and transcendent principles revealed to him but he also sought the consent of all who would be affected by its implementation. This means that in a democracy, Muslims and non-Muslims are equal citizens of an Islamic state. According to many religious scholars, the Constitution of Madinah established a pluralistic state, a community of communities. The principles of equality, consensual governance and pluralism were central to that concept and practice.
|April 10, 2009|| Why Spain Can Actually Prosecute Bush and Co. for Their Crimes
by Marjorie Cohn
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Rights and Liberties
They can use "universal jurisdiction," often used to prosecute foreign nationals for crimes that shock the conscience of the global community.
A Spanish court has initiated criminal proceedings against six former officials of the Bush administration. John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes and Douglas Feith may face charges in Spain for authorizing torture at Guantánamo Bay. If arrest warrants are issued, Spain and any of the other 24 countries that are parties to European extradition conventions could arrest these six men when they travel abroad. Does Spain have the authority to prosecute Americans for crimes that didn't take place on Spanish soil? The answer is yes. It's called "universal jurisdiction." Universal jurisdiction is a well-established theory that countries, including the United States, have used for many years to investigate and prosecute foreign nationals for crimes that shock the conscience of the global community. It provides a critical legal tool to hold accountable those who commit crimes against the law of nations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Without universal jurisdiction, many of the most notorious criminals would go free. Countries that have used this as a basis to prosecute the most serious of crimes should be commended for their courage. They help to create a just world in which we all seek to live. Universal jurisdiction complements, but doesn't supersede, national prosecutions. So if the United States were investigating the Bush officials, other countries would refrain from doing so. Evidence that Bush officials set a policy that led to the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo continues to emerge. Gonzales met with other officials in the White House and authorized torture, including waterboarding.
|April 9 2009|| Atenquique's environmental and economic development shrinkage in Globalization era
by Dr. José G. Vargas-Hernández
Global Environment Minister
Department: Ciencias económico Admionistrativas
Organization: Instituto tecnológico de cd. Guzman
Address: Avenida tecnológico 100, Cd. Guzmán, jalisco, 49000, México
Other professional qualifications:
Sistema Nacional de Investigadores
Instituto Tecnologico de Cd. Guzman
Paper to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Federation of Global Government, August 2009.
Atenquique's environmental and economic development shrinkage in Globalization era
This paper focuses on the effects the transfer of ownership from a state-owned Paper Mill Company to a corporate private ownership has had on environmental and economic shrinkage in Atenquique. This transfer was the result of the ongoing economic process of globalization, after the industrial boom of the paper mills during the second half of the last century. The paper also focuses on how the employees of this Paper Mill Company live and how they have been affected by globalization and how they feel about their paper mill’s new corporate owners. The methodology used was descriptive and exploratory. A sample of ten workers at the company who lived in Atenquique was chosen for an interview. After being inhabited the town of Atenquique developed in terms of population, society and economy. On the other hand the Industrial Company of Atenquique grew during the period when it was a property of the Mexican State. After the company’s privatization, the town started to decline and shrink in three above-mentioned variables. The impact on the environmental and economic development has initiated the shrinking and declining of Atenquique and the surrounding cities and towns.
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|April 6, 2009|| Why the London Protesters Are on the Right Side of History
by Johann Hari
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
There will be far more sympathy in the future for those who took to the streets and rioted outside the G20 than for people who stayed home.
Many commentators seemed bemused that the protesters focused on the climate crunch as much as the credit crunch. What's it got to do with a G20 meeting on reviving the global economy? Why wave banners saying "Nature Doesn't Do Bail-Outs" today? Because both crises have their roots in the same ideology -- and both have the same solution. We are facing a collapsed economy and a rapidly warming world because an extreme ideology has dominated world affairs for decades. The climate is currently going the same way as the banks. Last month, the world's climate scientists gathered in Copenhagen to explain we are facing "devastating consequences" -- not in some distant future, but in my lifetime and yours. Unless we swerve fast, we are soon going to hit global temperatures that no human being has ever lived through. We don't have much time. By 2015, we will have belched so much carbon into the atmosphere that we will cross the Point of No Return: the climate will start to unravel as all its natural cooling processes breaking down one by one, guaranteeing we become hotter and hotter. Once we hit an increase of 4 degrees, much of the world will become uninhabitable, and there will be vast wars for what remains. The distinguished environmental scientist James Lovelock warns that climate changes tend not to happen gradually, inch-by-inch. They suddenly flip -- in our case from a cool world to a very hot one. He believes the hotter new world we are bringing into being could support, at best, a billion people. That would require 84 percent of the world's population to die off.
That's why the protesters were talking about the climate. It should be the number one issue at every global meeting. And the way out of the climate crunch and the credit crunch is the same -- a Green New Deal. And it gets better: it turns out a green stimulus is best for the economy. A major study by the University of Massachusetts compared the effects of an old-style stimulus that simply gives people more cash to a green stimulus. They found that a green stimulus creates four times more jobs, and three times more "good jobs," defined as those that pay more than $16 per hour. Why? Because a green stimulus is labor-intensive: you spend more money on people and less on machines. And the money you spend stays at home, making it easier to sell: you can only insulate a loft in Hull in Hull; you can only build a wind farms in the Mid-West in the Mid-West.
|April 6 2009|| Oil Has Peaked: Now Begins the Transition
by Shaun Chamberlin
Chelsea Green Publishing published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
We have officially entered the post-oil age in which the transition to lower energy lives is inevitable.
As The Oil Drum pointed out last week, oil has peaked. We have officially entered the post-oil age in which the transition to lower energy lives is inevitable. This incredible energy source fuelled the rapid developments of the 20th century, whether in technology, industry, food yield or transport, and is also the source of the plastics and many synthetic materials that are everywhere around us. Ninety-five percent of all goods in shops involve the use of oil, and ninety-five percent of the UK's food is now oil-dependent. Just to farm a single cow and deliver it to market requires six barrels of oil, enough to drive a car from New York to Los Angeles.
As oil becomes more expensive and less available it affects the price and availability of the products and services throughout the economy that are dependent on it, as well as the jobs tied into these products and services. And since oil features in the supply chain of almost every company, the health of the national and global economy is also threatened as they all find their costs increasing within an economy whose total productive capacity is decreasing.
In other words, the growth of our economy is dependent on a growing net energy supply, and for the first time in centuries it is unlikely to have it. A real cause for concern is that our economic system as currently designed fails without continued growth, leading to bankruptcies, defaults on loans and mortgages, mass unemployment, homelessness and a myriad of other unpleasant consequences.
Peak oil is no longer simply a future problem. While richer countries have been able to pay the increasing prices demanded for oil globally, those with less money have been struggling to afford the supplies they rely on.
Recent oil price increases have had devastating effects on many of the world's poor countries, some of which now spend as much as six times as much on fuel as they do on health. Others spend twice the money on fuel as they do on poverty alleviation. And in still others, the foreign exchange drain from higher oil prices is five times the gain from recent debt relief. Of the world's 50 poorest countries, 38 are net importers of oil and 25 import all of their oil requirements.
The possible future America was warned of in that 2005 Department of Energy report, with its abrupt and revolutionary economic, social and political impacts, has already been unfolding elsewhere. Outright energy shortages and deadly fuel riots have been seen across the world, and the peak oil predicament underlying them is only worsening as time goes by.
|March 27, 2009||
On Wall Street, that is. So hyped by advance fanfare, Timothy Geithner unveiled his Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP) on March 23, the latest in a growing alphabet soup of handouts topping $12.5 trillion and counting - so much in so many forms, in "gov-speak" language, with so many changing and moving parts, it's hard for experts to keep up let alone the public, except to sense something is very wrong. So what's next? "The Obama administration will be forced to go to Congress with yet another bailout proposal. (It's) hard to understand this plan as anything other than a last ditch effort to save Wall Street banks. (Obama) seems prepared to risk his presidency on their behalf" and odds are he'll lose. The wrong choices are trillions more in handouts, reckless money creation, dollar debasing, and an eventual inflation destroying the purchasing power for millions. So far, that's where Congress and Obama's money managers are heading us, and already the bill for their actions is past due.
|March 26, 2009||
Global Investors Ponder Implications Of US Dollar Collapse
by Alex Lantier
The world bourgeoisie is beginning to consider the consequences of the huge deficit spending and money-printing operations that the Obama administration is using to fund its bailouts of Wall Street and major banks. As these policies increasingly raise questions about the value of the US dollar, commentators are in particular pondering the desirability and implications of a diminished international role for the American currency. The administration's printing or borrowing of trillions of dollars that it hands out to Wall Street and major US banks has undermined confidence in the dollar, the currency in which most international trade is conducted. Even more startlingly, the Obama administration's statements fail to address or explain the growing calls for new currency systems, and particularly the rapidly escalating tensions between the US and China. China owns currency reserves worth $2 trillion, two thirds of which are held directly in US dollars, making it the largest foreign holder of US currency. These funds are largely invested in US Treasury bonds and government-guaranteed debts of mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. By vastly increasing the supply of US dollars on international markets, all tend to push down their value and that of China's dollar holdings. On March 23, Zhou made his proposal to end the US dollar's role as the global reserve currency. Concern was not limited to China, however. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose government holds the EU presidency, baldly labeled US policy "a road to hell." Washington is forecasting a $1.75 trillion budget deficit in 2009 and a $1.17 trillion deficit in 2010. Topolanek noted that US government borrowing takes up so much of globally available funds that other borrowers, such as European governments, would not be able to raise funds on global capital markets. We may have a situation in which major US creditors such as China refuse to lend to the US government, forcing Washington to cut spending. The result would be a truly explosive social situation, as the US government told the population it no longer had money to fund social spending, after trillions of dollars had already been handed out to the banks and the super-rich.
|March 31, 2009||
President Barack Obama is making the Afghan War Obama’s Afghan War. Careful analysis of UN mortality statistics reveals that 46,000 Afghans have died avoidably in the first 40 days of the Obama presidency, including 32,250 infant deaths due to US war crimes. On 27 March 2009 Obama unveiled a new strategy for Occupied Afghanistan and robot-bombed Pakistan. Obama, who has already ordered a surge of more than 17,000 additional U.S. soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan, promised another 4,000 “trainer” troops, taking the total to more than 55,000. Another 30,000 soldiers from various allied and NATO nations, including 2,500 from Canada and 1,000 from Australia, are also deployed in Afghanistan. The initial “justification” for the War on Afghanistan was refusal of the mostly Pashtun Taliban Afghan Government to hand over the US-alleged master-mind of the 9-11 atrocity, Osama bin-Laden, to the US, although the Afghan Government offered to such a hand-over to a third party, noting that the US refuses to hand over alleged US war criminals to the International Criminal Court. One can estimate that 327,000 Occupied Afghan under-5 year old infants die each year under US Alliance occupation, 90% avoidably and due to US Alliance war crimes i.e. 0.9 x 327,000 = 294,300 avoidable Occupied Afghan infant deaths yearly, 806 deaths daily and 40 days x 806 infant deaths/day = 32,250 avoidable Afghan under-5 infant deaths so far in the first 40 days and nights of the Obama Administration. 32,500 Afghan under-5 infant deaths corresponds to 32,250/0.7 = 46,000 avoidable Afghan deaths due to Obama. With 46,000 Afghan avoidable deaths in 40 days to his credit, Obama has already vastly exceeded the US-alleged Muslim-origin non-state terrorist body count of 7,000 total Western deaths over 40 years. Who is the worse terrorist, Obama or Osama? Obama already wins hands down as the worse terrorist by an enormous margin. With Obama backing continuing foreign occupations of Haiti, Somalia, Diego Garcia, Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, extending US bombing of Pakistan and now permitting US or Israeli bombing of Sudan, Obama is set to take over the mantle from George W. Bush for being the World’s worst terrorist.
|March 31, 2009||
As the permafrost in Siberia melted, growing methane emissions could accelerate climate change. But even she was not expecting such a rapid change. Lakes in Siberia are five times bigger than when I measured them in 2006. It's unprecedented. This is a global event now, and the inertia for more permafrost melt is increasing. Changes in ocean currents, for instance, could disrupt the Asian monsoon, and nearly two billion people rely on those rains to grow their food. As if that wasn't bad enough, it is also possible that positive feedback from the release of methane from melting permafrost could lead to runaway warming. The danger is that if too much methane is released, the world will get hotter no matter how drastically we slash our greenhouse gas emissions. Recent studies suggest that emissions from melting permafrost could be far greater than once thought. What is certain is that the Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth. While the average global temperature has risen by less than 1 °C over the past three decades, there has been warming over much of the Arctic Ocean of around 3 °C. In some areas where the ice has been lost, temperatures have risen by 5 °C. This intense warming is not confined to the Arctic Ocean. It extends south, deep into the land masses of Siberia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Scandinavia, and to their snowfields, ice sheets and permafrost. In 2007, the North American Arctic was more than 2 °C warmer than the average for 1951 to 1980, and parts of Siberia over 3 °C warmer. In 2008, most of Siberia was 2 °C warmer than average. Changes in wind patterns may accelerate the warming even further. Loss of summer sea ice means more heat is absorbed in the ocean, which is given back to the atmosphere in early winter, which changes the wind patterns, which favours additional sea ice loss. The changing winds might also be to blame for some of the cold and snowy weather in North America and China in recent winters, Overland says. Unusual poleward flows of warm air over Siberia have displaced cold air southwards on either side. The rapid warming in the Arctic means that a global temperature rise of 3 °C, likely this century, could translate into a 10 °C warming in the far north. Permafrost hundreds of metres deep will be at risk of thawing out. This is where things go global. The Arctic is not just a reflective mirror that is cracking up. It is also a massive store of carbon and methane, locked into the frozen soils and buried in icy structures beneath the ocean bed. A quarter of the land surface of the northern hemisphere contains permafrost, permanently frozen soil, water and rock. In places, deep permafrost that formed during the last ice age, when the sea level was much lower, extends far out under the ocean, beneath the seabed. Large areas of permafrost are already starting to melt, resulting in rapid erosion, buckled highways and pipelines, collapsing buildings and "drunken" forests. The real worry, though, is that permafrost contains organic carbon in the form of long-dead plants and animals. Some of it, including the odd mammoth, has remained frozen for tens of thousands of years. When the permafrost melts, much of this carbon is likely to be released into the atmosphere. The carbon content of permafrost to about 1600 billion tonnes - roughly a third of all the carbon in the world's soils and twice as much as is in the atmosphere. There may be as much as 100 billion tonnes of this carbon could be released by thawing this century, based on standard scenarios. If that all emerged in the form of methane, it would have a warming effect equivalent to 270 years of carbon dioxide emissions at current levels. It's a kind of slow-motion time bomb. The loss of Arctic sea ice could lead to the release of ever more methane from permafrost and methane hydrates. That in turn would make a dramatic reduction in the strength of the ocean conveyor sometime this century increasingly likely, which could lead to abrupt changes in the Asian monsoon.
|March 27, 2009||
Is the US dollar’s status as world reserve currency threatened by the debt monetization and multi-year, multi-trillion dollar issuance of new Treasuries? The United States has become an import-dependent country. The US is dependent on imports for energy, manufactured goods including clothes and shoes, and advanced technology products. If the US dollar loses its reserve currency status, the US will not be able to pay for its imports. The ensuing crisis would dwarf the current one. Obama’s advisers believe that the US can monetize debt and issue new debt endlessly, because America’s capital markets are the deepest and most liquid. The dollar is strong, Obama said at his press conference. But already cracks and strains are appearing. To avoid a crisis of this magnitude, the US needs to focus on saving the dollar as reserve currency. As I previously emphasized, this requires reducing US budget and trade deficits. Despite the near-term budget costs of ending the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, terminating these pointless military adventures would produce immediate large out-year budget savings. Closing many foreign military bases and cutting a gratuitously large military budget would produce more out-year savings. The Obama administration’s belief that it can continue with Bush’s wars of aggression while it engages in a massive economic bailout indicates a lack of seriousness about America’s predicament. Rome eventually understood that its imperial frontiers exceeded its resources and pulled back. This realization has yet to dawn on Washington. More budget savings could come from a different approach to the financial crisis. The entire question of bailing out private financial institutions needs rethinking. The probability is that the bailouts are not over. The commercial real estate defaults are yet to present themselves. Would it be cheaper for government to buy the shares of the banks and AIG at the current low prices than to pour trillions of taxpayers’ dollars into them in an effort to drive up private share prices with public money? The Bush/Paulson bailout plan of approximately $800 billion has been followed a few months later by the Obama/Geithner stimulus-bailout plan of another approximately $800 billion. Together it adds to $1.6 trillion in new Treasury debt, much of which might have to be monetized. Could this huge debt issue be avoided if the government took over the banks and netted out the losses between the constituent parts? A staid socialized financial sector run by civil servants is preferable to the gambling casino of greed-driven, innovative, unregulated capitalism operated by banksters who have caused crisis throughout the world. Perhaps the Federal Reserve should be socialized as well. The notion of an independent, privately-owned Federal Reserve system was never more than a ruse to get a national bank into place. Once the central bank is part of the state-owned banking system, the government can create money without having to accumulate a public debt that saddles taxpayers and future budgets with hundreds of billions of dollars in annual interest payments. If the Obama administration can think about socializing health care as a single-payer system, it should be able to think about socializing the banking system. Currently, Medicare is paid for by taxpayers, Medicare beneficiaries, healthy retirees, and doctors. Beneficiaries have to pay substantial premiums for supplemental coverage whether ill or healthy, and doctors are paid a pittance from the schedule of fixed prices. The insurers are the ones who make money, not the medical service providers. The single-payer system would shrink costs by the amount of the health insurance industry’s profits and the enormous paperwork and enforcement compliance costs. The trade deficit is even more difficult to address. The American economy lost much of its manufacturing leg to offshoring. It has now lost its real estate and financial sector legs. Real incomes for the average family have not increased. The consumer-demand-driven economy became dependent on the accumulation of consumer debt, which has reached its limit. When the production of goods and services for the domestic market is moved offshore, Americans lose income and the economy loses GDP. When the goods and services produced offshore return to be sold to Americans, they constitute imports that widen the trade deficit. The US finances its trade deficit by turning over to foreigners ownership of existing US assets and their future income streams, which, of course, increases the flow of income away from Americans. The claim that low prices in Wal-Mart compensate for all these costs is ridiculous. Nevertheless, the Obama administration, corporation executives, and the economics profession remain committed to offshoring. The claim, expressed by Obama at his press conference, that retraining programs are the solution to manufacturing and IT unemployment caused by offshoring is also ridiculous. For a decade the only source of American job growth has been domestic services that cannot be offshored, such as hospital orderlies, barbers, waitresses and bartenders. Retraining is simply a government subsidy to educational institutions, a subsidy that insures their continued support for offshoring. The enormous trade deficit that has been created by the pursuit of short-term corporate profits can only be closed in two ways. One is to stop the offshoring and to bring home the offshored production. Possibly, this could be done by replacing the corporate income tax with a tax based on whether value added to a company’s output occurs domestically or abroad. The other way the trade deficit can be closed is by the inability of Americans to pay for imports. If debt monetization wrecks the dollar and drives up import prices, Americans will have to learn to live with less imported energy and manufactured goods. American annual consumption would shrink by the amount of the trade deficit.
|March 24, 2009||
Water supplies are at serious risk everywhere. This is the natural result of overpopulation, climate change, and the reckless consumption of our natural resources. One of the most reckless -- and disturbing -- aspects in my opinion is the commoditization of water. Think back 20, 30, or 40 years. When you were thirsty, you turned on the kitchen faucet and poured yourself a glass of water. You thought nothing of it. These days, I don't know many people who would drink the water from their kitchen faucet without at least filtering it first. I myself use a Brita water filter pitcher at home. But that's not convenient enough, or glamorous enough, for some people. So they buy their drinking water in bottles. By the case. I see it flying off the shelves every time I go to the supermarket. These same people who complained so loudly when gasoline prices hit $4 per gallon think nothing of paying $10 per gallon for their drinking water. And they won't listen to the fact that bottled water is no cleaner and no safer than tap water, and often comes from the very same sources. To them, carrying around a bottle of commercially sold water is a status symbol, just like their big, bloated, gas-guzzling SUVs. If it's expensive, then it must be better. And, by supporting the commercialization of water -- by willfully paying corporations for something that they could otherwise get for free -- they are compounding the problem. If water is something you have to pay for, then the poor will not be able to afford it. And, without clean water, it is impossible to survive.
That's why I support the effort to add a 31st article to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which would define water as a basic human right. Here is the text of the proposed article: "Everyone has the right to clean and accessible water, adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family, and no one shall be deprived of such access or quality of water due to individual economic circumstance."
|March 16, 2009||
Ten Ways To Save The World
by Geoffrey Lean , The Independent Countercurrents.org
Sweep away soot
Cutting soot emissions from car exhausts, factories and open fires is probably the fastest way to tackle global warming, and there are calls for a treaty to achieve this. Scientists say the pollutant is the second biggest culprit in climate change after carbon dioxide. Black carbon, which gives soot its colour, has two main effects. It heats the atmosphere by absorbing radiation from the sun and releasing it into the air. And it darkens snow and ice when it falls on them, causing them to reflect less sunlight, heat up and melt – in turn exposing land or water, which also warms rapidly. Reducing emissions is fairly easy, using tried and tested technology. And it has a rapid effect as soot stays only days or weeks in the atmosphere, compared with centuries for carbon dioxide.
Save the ozone
Measures to save the ozone layer have so far been the most effective steps to combat climate change, as many of the chemicals that attack the protective layer in the atmosphere are also global warming gases. A 20-year-old treaty, the Montreal Protocol, has almost phased out their production, coincidentally eliminating the equivalent of 11 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. This puts to shame the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed to cut emissions by 2 billion tons. Experts want measures to remove the chemicals from equipment such as old fridges, where they acted as coolants, when these are scrapped, saving the equivalent of 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide.
Renewable energy is often unreliable: the sun does not always shine, the wind does not blow for ever. But the European Commission and other bodies are drawing up plans to get round this by tapping clean sources and linking them up, so that there will always be enough to meet all Europe's electricity needs. Solar power stations, for example, would be placed in the Sahara, where just a fraction of the desert could provide for the whole continent. Tides would be tapped along Britain's coasts, the world's best place for exploiting this resource. Huge wind farms would be erected in the North Sea, and these would be balanced by hydropower in mountainous areas such as Norway, storing water behind dams and releasing it on calm days. It would all be linked by a continent-wide electricity grid.
Wise up the grid
Barack Obama, David Cameron and Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, are all sold on creating a "smart grid", which the Tory leader describes as like moving from "the plain old telephone system to the internet". The present "dumb grid" just delivers electricity from generators to consumers; the smart one would enable them to communicate with each other. So, it can make fridges and washing machines and other appliances use power when it is abundant and cheap, and avoid peak times when it would be much more expensive. Smoothing out demand in this way means that the grid needs fewer power stations, and can accommodate renewable energy more easily. It would also provide a huge boost to a "rooftop revolution", where households generate their own electricity from the sun or the wind and sell what they do not need to the grid.
Motoring could be revolutionised if cars were marketed like mobile phones – in a manner that would cut carbon dioxide and reduce the cost of driving. Motorists would get subsidised – or possibly even free – electric cars in the same way that customers currently get mobile phone handsets. In return, they would take out a contract for miles, rather than minutes, entitling them to get power either by plugging in to recharging points (at home, in car parks or on the street) or exchanging batteries at filling stations. The idea is the brainchild of a thirty-something former dot-com entrepreneur, Shia Agassi, who believes it would halve motoring costs. It sounds too good to be true, but Israel, Denmark, Hawaii and San Francisco are already starting to put the system in place – and even Gordon Brown has toyed with the idea. But to tackle climate change properly, the electricity has to be provided by renewable sources or nuclear power rather than fossil fuels.
Slimy scum could prove our saviour, as algae are emerging as one of the most promising and environmentally friendly sources of biofuel. Algae can grow extraordinarily fast, doubling in weight several times a day. They produce at least 15 times as much fuel per hectare as conventional crops like corn or oilseed rape, and do not take up farmland needed to grow food; they can be grown in lakes, the sea or even in the process of cleaning polluted water. Algae take three times their own weight of carbon dioxide from the air while growing, and the fuel they produce packs much more power for its weight than other biofuels. It is therefore being developed as a potential carbon-neutral way of fuelling aircraft: Air New Zealand has already mixed it with ordinary jet fuel for test flights. Cars have run on pure algae biofuel, and big oil companies are investing in it.
Hemp is the world's second fastest growing plant after bamboo, shooting up four metres in just 14 weeks, rapidly taking carbon from the air. One hectare provides enough hemp to construct a house, if mixed with lime to revive an ancient building material. Limetechnology, the Abingdon-based firm pioneering the practice, calculates that growing it will capture 50 times as much carbon dioxide as would be saved by upgrading a traditional home to modern standards of energy efficiency. Biochar, an ancient technique used by Amazonian Indians to fertilise their land by burying charcoal, has even wider applications. Opponents worry that growing trees for it will take land out of food production, but Craig Sams – the co-founder of Green and Black's chocolate, who is now developing it – believes that just 21/2 per cent of the world's productive land would suffice to get carbon dioxide levels down to those of the pre-industrial age by 2050.
Pay for trees
Felling forests, especially in the tropics, is the second biggest cause of carbon dioxide emissions after burning fossil fuels, accounting for a fifth of the world's total. But people and governments have no incentive to leave them standing when they can make money by selling the timber, or farming the cleared land. Now international negotiators are beginning to work out how the world as a whole could compensate them for setting aside the chainsaw. In practice, of course, the money would end up coming from rich countries. Halving emissions from deforestation is estimated to cost about $20bn (Ł14.3bn) a year, but would avoid pollution costing at least five times as much. Similarly, Ecuador is seeking international compensation for refraining from developing a huge oil field lying under a particularly important area of Amazonian rainforest in the north-west of the country.
Green taxes are beginning to come back into fashion after being eclipsed for years by sophisticated schemes for trading carbon emissions. They would work best as part of an "ecological tax reform", which would reduce taxes on employment – such as income tax and national insurance – at the same time. By shifting the burden from "goods", such as work, to "bads", such as pollution, it becomes cheaper to lay off barrels of oil than to fire people, reducing pollution and increasing employment. The European Union has estimated that this could create at least 2.7 million jobs across the continent, while combating global warming. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have both taken up the idea and promised to introduce it if they get into power. But so did Gordon Brown in opposition, and, despite introducing some modest measures in his 1999 Budget, he backed off after the fuel price protests the next year.
Follow a busker
A former busker, Aubrey Meyer, thought up what is increasingly regarded as the long-term solution to global warming – and, through relentless campaigning, he has managed to get his idea adopted as policy by many governments, especially in developing countries. Dubbed "contraction and convergence", it starts from the principle that everyone on Earth is entitled to emit the same amount of carbon dioxide. It then determines the level of emissions low enough to avoid dangerous climate change. The total amount put into the atmosphere worldwide each year must then be made to "contract" until it reaches this point. Simultaneously, the totals of individual countries have to "converge", so that each emits the same amount for every one of its citizens; rich countries would have to reduce their totals very heavily, while some poor countries could actually be able to increase theirs. Most experts agree that it is the fairest framework. Persuading Americans to agree to emit the same amount as Ethiopians is another matter.
|March 6, 2009||
Revenge Of The Rainforest
by Steve Connor , The Independent, Countercurrents.org
The Amazon rainforest is one of the biggest and most important living stores of carbon on the planet through its ability to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into solid carbon, kept locked in the trunks of rainforest trees for centuries. But this massive natural "sink" for carbon cannot be relied on to continue absorbing carbon dioxide in perpetuity, a study shows. Researchers have found that, for a period in 2005, the Amazon rainforest actually slipped into reverse gear and started to emit more carbon than it absorbed.
The Amazon: Facts and figures
* The Amazon rainforest covers an area of some 600 million hectares (2.3 million sq miles), an area of land 25 times bigger than Britain. It is the biggest rainforest on Earth, responsible for about 40 per cent of the world's rainforest absorption of carbon dioxide.
* Satellite surveys indicate that about 5,800 sq miles of the Amazon rainforest is burnt or cleared each year to make way for cattle ranching, farming or other kinds of development.
* More than half of the world's estimated 10 million species of plants, animals and insects live in tropical rainforests. One-fifth of the world's fresh water moves through the Amazon basin.
* Scientists estimate that there are at least 100 billion tons of carbon stored in the trees of the Amazon rainforest and each year the Amazon absorbs about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
* During the extreme drought of 2005, the Amazon became a net producer of carbon dioxide, releasing an estimated 3 billion tons of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere – a net increase of 5 billion tons.
|March 5, 2009||
Human Rights In Israel And Occupied Palestine
by Stephen Lendman , Countercurrents.org
The State of Israel has increasingly shirked its responsibility to ensure its citizens the most fundamental rights:"
-- to health,
-- housing, and
-- to live in dignity.
Quite the opposite:
-- inequality is growing,
-- socioeconomic gaps are widening,
-- free expression and privacy are threatened,
-- racist trends are more common,
-- so are ones that limit basic freedoms and endanger human and civil rights; legislation for them has been tabled in the Knesset,
-- judicial equity is eroding,
-- so is democracy,
-- civil society organizations and activists are threatened,
-- institutionalized discrimination exists,
-- Arab Israelis are disadvantaged, persecuted, endangered, and live under third-world conditions, especially in "unrecognized villages" in the Negev and Galilee;
-- the gap between Arabs and Jews has widened, and
-- all of the above is in Israel.
In Occupied Palestine, conditions are far worse and oppressive. "For forty-one years, Israel has denied fundamental rights to four million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza," effectively controlling their lives, and repressively denying them their rights under military occupation:
-- to life,
-- personal security,
-- free movement and expression,
-- to earn a living,
-- to health,
-- to basic dignity, and much more.
ACRI compiled its data from numerous and varied sources:
-- non-governmental organizations,
-- Knesset deliberations and documents, and
-- Israeli published material and court proceedings.
|March 5, 2009||
Iraqi Massacre Ignored By Media
by Gideon Polya , Countercurrents.org
1. “More than 4,200 Americans have been killed” ignores other US Alliance deaths and huge numbers of wounded.
According to Iraq Casualties 4,253 Americans have been killed and 31,010 have been wounded (such as not to return to duty within 3 days); US and US Alliance deaths total 4,571. . 2. “Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died” is a 100-fold lower estimation of the reality of about 2.3 million violent and non-violent Iraqi post-invasion excess deaths.
Just Foreign Policy (an organization of eminent US scholars and US elected representatives) says 1,311, 696 Iraqis have been killed post-invasion, this regularly updated figure being based on the survey data published in the top medical journal “The Lancet” by distinguished US medical epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins and Columbia Universities and corroborated by an independent survey by the top UK commercial polling organization ORB. . However those dying avoidably since the US Alliance Occupation include not only those killed violently but those killed non-violently through deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease. These non-violent avoidable deaths can be estimated from comparative UN Population Division mortality data. As of March 2009, the post-invasion non-violent excess deaths (non-violent avoidable deaths) total 984,000 (1.0 million). . The report also ignores the 630,000 post-invasion Iraqi under-5 infant deaths (about 0.1 million every year, 270 daily, largely avoidable and due to egregious US Alliance war crimes and equivalent to the 9-11 death toll every 11 days according to the UN Population Division, plus an estimated 6 million refugees (as estimated by the eminent, international BRussells Tribunal. . 3. “The conflict has cost hundreds of billions of dollars” underestimates the real accrual cost of $3 trillion by a factor of 10.
4. Obama’s “by August 31st 2010 our combat mission in Iraq will end“ is an outright Obama lie according to “35,000 and 50,000 American troops will stay behind after August next year to help train the Iraqi forces and to undertake counter terrorism missions“
5. “He's [Obama’s] praised the efforts of the US military” means Obama accepts complicity in the Iraq War, the Iraqi Holocaust and Genocide.
The invasion was illegal under International Law and based on egregious falsehood. According to a News.com article re US Center for Public Integrity: “US President George W Bush and other top officials issued almost one thousand false statements about the national security threat from Iraq following the September 11 attacks, according to a study by two not-for-profit organisations”. 6. “He's [Obama’s] also promised to have all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011” is contradicted by US military who have foreshadowed endless involvement.
“The Bush Gang should be prosecuted over mass murder before the International Criminal Court (in absentia if necessary) for their involvement in the ongoing Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghan Genocides (post-invasion non-violent excess deaths 0.3 million, 1 million and 4 million, respectively; post-invasion violent excess deaths 10,000, 1 million and possibly 2 million, respectively [if the Occupied Afghanistan violent/non-violent excess death ratio is half that in Occupied Iraq]; post-invasion under-5 year old infant deaths 0.2 million, 0.6 million and 2.1 million, respectively; refugees totalling 7 million, 6 million and 4 million, respectively – Genocides as defined by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention”.
|February 25, 2009||
One thing that will hit Americans rather hard in the future is the problem of “individualism” vs. “collectivism.” Americans are loners. If you put a group of Asians on a desert island, they will get together and build a boat. If you put a group of Americans on a desert island, they will start arguing about property rights. The weakness of individualism could be seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s: in those days, the average person was isolated, lost, and afraid. It was a “shame” to be poor, so one could not even discuss the problem with one’s neighbors. The news media and the government largely denied that the Depression existed, so there was little help from them. Closely related to the problem of individualism is that of the lack of ideological unity. The basic premises of any major discussion seem to be absent. In a typical crowd of Americans, half will deny that any of the dozen aspects of systemic collapse even exist. Of course, there won’t be as many people anyway. The world’s overall population density right now is about 33 people per hectare of arable land surface — far too many people. Even if we were all largely vegetarian, and if land were distributed fairly, we could not keep everyone alive in the post-oil world if the population were so large. The number is now 8 times greater than the absolute maximum that is possible without fossil fuels. In a hunting-and-gathering society, each family might need at least 25 square kilometers of land — and if that sounds like too much, just ask serious deer-hunters how much land they cover merely to get one animal per year. In a society of subsistence agriculture, the numbers are greater, but they still come nowhere near that of the world’s present population. Food will become quite an obsession. If we look at “peak oil” in terms of its daily effect on the average person, we get a simple equation: “peak oil” equals “peak food.” Oil made it possible for us to keep 7 billion people alive — well, only barely alive, of course, since half of them don’t get a very good diet. When the oil is gone, most of that population will also have to go. But when I say they will “have to go,” I don’t mean that they will float up into the sky. And I don’t mean that we will invent spaceships to take them to Mars. To put it rather bluntly, there will be some truly astonishing famines in the next few decades. The decline in oil production will be swift and ruthless, because without all the fertilizer and tractors and trucks, there will not be enough food for more than a small number of people. If we look at the oil-to-population ratios of previous years and project those same ratios onto the right-hand side of that bell curve, it’s fairly easy to see that about 50 million people will be starving to death every year as a result of global oil depletion. One way or another, the population will have to return to about 1 billion rather than 7. Even that 1 billion is rather optimistic, because by then there will have been so many side-effects from the entire spectrum of systemic collapse — ranging from resource depletion to governmental collapse — that it is unlikely that the planet will be able to keep as many as a billion people alive. I’ve gone through the calculations a hundred times, adding in all the factors of war, epidemics, and so on, and my best guess is that the world’s population will eventually drop to about 1 percent of its present level. To look at the future, then, we must start by looking at a world in which the human population has been dramatically reduced. The most basic principle is that each person will have to start thinking in terms of a smaller radius of activity. The globalized economy will have to be replaced by the localized economy. Most food will have to be produced at a local level, and probably each family will have to produce its own food. The catch to growing food, however, is that most of the world’s surface is unsuitable for growing food, no matter what techniques of farming are employed. This is not the fault of mankind, it is merely a consequence of the nature of the planet. On many parts of the globe, the climate is too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. In other cases, the land is too barren to support anything but a sparse growth of wild plants, which in any case are simply growing and then dying and replacing their own material The most useful crops will be those that are high in carbohydrates and protein. Crops that are susceptible to diseases, pests, bad soil, or bad weather should be avoided. In most of North America, the most important crops will be corn and beans. Of course, those would have to be open-pollinated types, because hybrid varieties do not produce viable seeds — you have to buy the seeds every year from big companies that produce them, and those big companies will not be around in the future (which is perhaps a great blessing). In other parts of the world, other grains will be more suitable. Good farmland will of course be scarce, but many people will become aware of one of the curious side-effects of the urbanization that has characterized so many countries since the Industrial Revolution: the abandonment of good land. Over the last few centuries, as people moved from the countryside to the city, the result for some of those rural areas was a considerable decline in population. The same process is still underway. Even in highly developed countries, although the cities may be crowded there are rural areas that are steadily losing population. Such depopulation will present opportunities for those with a pioneering spirit. Admittedly a lot of these abandoned lands are what the encyclopedias dismiss as “marginal uplands” — as opposed to the lands along the valley bottoms, where rivers and rains have carried the good soil — but the better farmers will know how to deal with these more-fragile environments.
It would be quite an understatement to say that, without gasoline and diesel fuel, transportation will be limited. Not only will the fuel be lacking, but even the roads to drive on will become less common. Anyone who has driven past a construction site should suspect that a modern road is not as durable as Roman aqueduct. Asphalt is made from oil. As oil becomes scarce, so will asphalt, and paved roads will therefore go unrepaired. As social chaos intensifies and municipal governments watch their budgets disappearing, the maintenance of paved roads will be further reduced. When those roads are not repaired, it will take little time for them to become cracked and unusable, and they will often be blocked by smashed and abandoned cars whose owners have lost the ability — or the sheer willpower — to keep them running. In any case, the main roads will generally be going in the wrong directions: from one city to another, exactly where most people will not want to go. Any clever human being would stay away from the cities, and instead go up into the hills, well away from populated areas, further on, to greener pastures. There will be only 3 methods of travel: on foot, in a non-motorized boat, or on the back of a horse, a donkey, or some other animal. One’s speed by any of these 3 methods will be about the same: 40 km per day, if one is in excellent shape. For short distances, one means of transport may be quicker than another, but the longer the distance we take into consideration, the less it seems that walking is to be despised. Certainly the history of bicycles is not likely to go on for much longer: even where paved roads are usable, bicycles will be hard to repair without the industrial infrastructure to provide the spare parts and the servicing. It should be obvious that those who live in the country will be better prepared than those who live in the city. A city is a place that consumes a great deal and produces little, at least in terms of essentials. By the end of the present century, the human population will be much smaller than it now is. The 200-odd nations of the present day will be only a dim memory, and the major languages will have broken up into local dialects, to such an extent that a linguistic outsider will be one who lives only over the next hill. Grass will be growing everywhere, and the long miles of cracked highways will be merely a curiosity. I think even in our dreams we imagine a less crowded planet, a less noisy one, a less busy one. Such dreams tell us the obvious truth that daily life should not be a fast-paced interminable struggle of each person against every other.
|February 25, 2009||
Targeting Israel With Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions, And Prosecutions
by Stephen Lendman
Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won't do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way. In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:
"The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure - in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation." In July 2008, 21 South African activists, including ANC members, visited Israel and Occupied Palestine. Their conclusion was unanimous. Israel is far worse than apartheid as former Deputy Minister of Health and current MP Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge explained: "What I see here is worse than what we experienced - the absolute control of people's lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw....racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa." Despite widespread international condemnation for its policy of violent repression against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, the Israel government appears impervious to moral appeals from world leaders." For its part, America "seems reluctant to act. However, there are ways of exerting pressure from within Europe....many national and European cultural and research institutions....regard Israel (alone in the Middle East) as a European state for the purposes of awarding grants and contracts. Would it not therefore be timely" for a pan-European moratorium of all further support "unless and until Israel abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with the Palestinans" along the lines of proposed "peace plans.
|February 23, 2009||
And Still They Talk Of Righteousness
by Aditi Munot, Countercurrents.org
Everyday, each one of us commits several sins. But no one wants to take notice of or acknowledge our mistakes and fallacies. We are comfortable in the cocoon of our righteousness. We are happy to believe our goodness, our correctness, the lack of evil deeds on our part. We all need to take a closer look at ourselves and our daily actions. We need to be more honest with ourselves. Just look at the amount of water people living in cities waste. People get their houses washed and their verandas washed and their gardens watered every other day in the name of cleanliness and hygiene and beauty. Washed! The planet is parched and starving for water and rich urban families waste thousands of litres of water every day. The tap is kept running while doing the dishes and rinsing the clothes in every household. Everyday, lakhs of litres of wasted water runs down drains and gutters when young children in villages carry pots of water on their heads in the scorching sun for kilometres together. It is no different when it come to electricity. Most urbanites forget to turn off the light, the fan, the boiler, the air conditioner. Its just about, ‘I can afford to pay for it’. Half the country does not get electricity, and of those who do get it, most face power cuts for several hours a day. But the privileged few can afford to waste! They are happy with their malls and multiplexes and hoardings. They feel they deserve it while others spend their lives in darkness. The same is true for almost anything consumed by urbanites. Dams are a necessity for their water supply and electricity generation. So what if thousands of villages are submerged and millions of people displaced and rendered homeless. Fuel is their birth right- for a long drive maybe or a road trip. Who cares if thousand of species are being driven to extinction and the planet is boiling. Diamonds are an urban girl’s best friends. Let it be that generations of people have been forced to give their blood to this trade. Nike, Gap, Banana Republic are a statement of urban lifestyle. Forget about the women and children who toil away their lives in inhumane sweatshops. Wider roads, flyovers, infrastructure are basic amenities a city needs. So what if the millions of trees felled are hundreds of years old and a necessity for the planet. Plastic is the most convenient option created by mankind. Leave aside the fact that it takes over 10000 years for it to decompose. Buying more stuff out of sheer boredom and throwing away things for the need of variety and change is the way of life. It does not matter that this accounts for unnecessary consumption of resources and piling of wastes. The list can go on forever. Be it food, water, energy, clothing, houses, jewellery, infrastructure and development the wastage, plunder and greedy consumption just does not stop. And these very people talk about being good citizens, good human beings, aware and educated individuals. These are the pundits who talk about good and evil, right and wrong, responsibilities and duties. Who are these people fooling? Themselves or the whole wide world? When, when will these people get out of their self created righteousness and enter reality? We need to stop committing these crimes against humanity, against all species, against the planet. We need to understand and accept that everybody has an equal right to live and an equal right to all amenities. We need to understand no one is or should be allowed to be more privileged to live at the cost of the lives of so many others.
|February 24, 2009|| A Planet on the Brink: Economic Crash Will Fuel Social Unrest
by Michael T. Klare Tomdispatch.com
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Rights and Liberties
Governments across the planet are preparing for a surge of violent protests from economic upheaval. Wars may follow.
The global economic meltdown has already caused bank failures, bankruptcies, plant closings, and foreclosures and will, in the coming year, leave many tens of millions unemployed across the planet. But another perilous consequence of the crash of 2008 has only recently made its appearance: increased civil unrest and ethnic strife. Someday, perhaps, war may follow. As people lose confidence in the ability of markets and governments to solve the global crisis, they are likely to erupt into violent protests or to assault others they deem responsible for their plight, including government officials, plant managers, landlords, immigrants, and ethnic minorities. The riots that erupted in the spring of 2008 in response to rising food prices suggested the speed with which economically-related violence can spread. While most such incidents are triggered by an immediate event -- a tariff, the closure of local factory, the announcement of government austerity measures -- there are systemic factors at work as well. While economists now agree that we are in the midst of a recession deeper than any since the Great Depression of the 1930s, they generally assume that this downturn -- like all others since World War II -- will be followed in a year, or two, or three, by the beginning of a typical recovery. There are good reasons to suspect that this might not be the case -- that poorer countries (along with many people in the richer countries) will have to wait far longer for such a recovery, or may see none at all. Even in the United States, 54% of Americans now believe that "the worst" is "yet to come" and only 7% that the economy has "turned the corner," according to a recent Ipsos/McClatchy poll; fully a quarter think the crisis will last more than four years. Whether in the U.S., Russia, China, or Bangladesh, it is this underlying anxiety -- this suspicion that things are far worse than just about anyone is saying -- which is helping to fuel the global epidemic of violence. Banks and corporations in the wealthier countries will cease making investments in the developing world, choking off whatever growth possibilities remain; and that food costs will rise uncomfortably, while the use of farmlands for increased biofuels production will result in diminished food availability to hundreds of millions.
|February 24, 2009|| The Spectacular, Sudden Crash of the Global Economy
by Joshua Holland
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Corporate Accountability and Workplace
In a short period of months, the entire system of global capitalism has screeched to a halt. No one knows what happens next.
Chinese manufacturing declined in each of the last five months. More than 20 [million] rural migrant workers in China have lost their jobs and returned to their home villages or towns as a result of the global economic crisis. The UN estimates that the downturn could claim 50 million jobs worldwide. The global economic crisis had become the biggest security threat facing the United States, outpacing terrorism. The model of economic globalization that's dominated during the past 40 years is, if not dead, at least in critical condition. Few progressives will mourn its demise -- it was both a proximate cause of the economic meltdown in which we find ourselves today, and one of its victims. But if we are reaching the end of an era, questions arise about not only what will replace it, but also how we'll finance the government spending that most economists agree will be required to stave off a long, painful depression. Among the wealthy countries, nowhere was this truer than in the United States, with its fealty to a mythic “free market” and its elites’ scorn for a robust safety net. After union-busting, global trade deals have done the most damage to workers’ bargaining power. Whereas companies used to negotiate with their employees in relatively good faith, those negotiations are now overshadowed by the threat -- ubiquitous in labor disputes today -- to simply move the whole plant to Mexico or China. The result was an illusion of prosperity. Corporate profits rose (in 2004, corporate profits took the largest share of national income since they started tracking the data in 1929 and wages took the smallest), and high earners did very well too. When the oil shock hit in 1973, those in the top one percent of the income ladder took in just over 9 percent of the nation’s income; by 2006, they grabbed almost 23 percent. In the intervening years, their average incomes more than tripled. After that, we started financing our lifestyles through debt -- mounds of it. Consumer debt blossomed; trade deficits (which are ultimately financed by debt) exploded and the government started running big budget deficits year in an year out. In the period after World War Two, while wages were rising along with the overall economy, Americans socked away over 10 percent of the nation’s income in savings. But in the 1980s, that began to decline -- the savings rate fell from 11 percent in the 1960s and ‘70s, to 7 percent in the 1980s, and by 2005, it stood at just one percent (household savings that year were actually in negative territory). After the collapse of the dot-com bubble and the recession that followed it, the economic “expansion” of the Bush era was the first on record in which median incomes never got back to where they were before the crash. Fortunately for Wal-Mart shoppers, a massive housing bubble was rising. Americans started financing their consumption by taking chunks of equity out of their homes. The result: in 2005, long before the housing bubble crashed, the average amount of equity Americans had in their homes was already the lowest it had ever been. We hear a lot of chatter about a “credit crunch” being at the root of our economic woes -- that banks aren’t lending to otherwise qualified individuals and businesses. The truth, however, is that before the housing (and stock) markets crashed, the average American household already had 20 percent more in debt than it earned in a year. Already deeply in the hole, when the markets crashed, consumers stopped spending, and that's fueled millions of layoffs, led to a mountain of foreclosures, and left state budgets decimated. The connection between decades of false prosperity, the piles of household debt that resulted, and the degree to which that left American families vulnerable to the bubble’s crash is not difficult to see. China became an export engine by keeping wages down through repressive union-busting and by drawing on an almost endless supply of poor rural peasants to work its production lines. While global trade flows have exploded, much of that trade has been between multinationals based in the advanced economies and their own offshore units. They ship production overseas, but the goods produced end up back in domestic markets; it’s a means of avoiding “first-world” wages, public interest regulations and environmental restrictions. China and the U.S. have developed a precariously symbiotic relationship. With its reserve army of cheap labor unmatched by any country in the world, China became the ‘workshop of the world,’ drawing in $50 billion in foreign investment annually by the first half of this decade.” To survive, firms all over the world, "had no choice but to transfer their labor-intensive operations to China to take advantage of what came to be known as the ‘China price,’ provoking in the process a tremendous crisis in the advanced capitalist countries’ labor forces. It was always an unsustainable model; the United States’ annual trade deficit with China -- financed by debt -- was $6 billion as recently as the mid-1980s; by last year it had exploded to $266 billion. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the world economy is anything but decoupled, all but begging the Chinese to continue to buy our debt. According to Agence France Presse, “Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi largely agreed to disagree on human rights,” while “she focused on the need for China to help finance the massive 787-billion-dollar US economic stimulus plan by continuing to buy US Treasuries.” In a moment of clarity -- one that shone a light on the rot of the global economic system that has prevailed for the past 40 years, Clinton explained to the Chinese media, "We have to incur more debt … the US needs the investment in Treasury bonds to shore up its economy to continue to buy Chinese products."
|February 19, 2009|| Obama Must Stop Dirty Coal -- But What Will He Replace it With?
by Joseph Romm
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
It is incumbent on progressives to propose a realistic alternative to new coal plants -- here's our best options.
Also, while my original post focused on the key strategies of efficiency and recycled energy (i.e. cogeneration or combined heat and power), wind, and concentrated solar thermal, I left out one of the most crucial -- biomass cofiring, which is almost certainly the cheapest, easiest, and fastest way to provide new renewable baseload power without having to build any new transmission lines! So what do we do in the near term to meet the projected 1% annual increase in demand over the next decade while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions? The answer is we do energy efficiency (including cogeneration), wind power, concentrated solar power (CSP), and biomass cofiring. These are the low-carbon power sources capable of delivering power affordably and quickly -- and that means having no obvious production bottlenecks (unlike, again, say, another well-known power source, The goal is to fund technologies and boost industries that are capable of scaling up to deliver hundreds if not thousands of GWs of carbon free power by mid-century.
|March 9, 2009|| Why Leading Scientists Underestimated How Quickly We're Scorching the Atmosphere
by Elizabeth Grossman, Earth Island Journal
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
The predictions about what climate change may bring are pretty dire, but now it seems, they were actually underestimated
In its most recent official report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) significantly underestimated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would occur during the last seven years, a miscalculation that has put the planet beyond the "range of possibilities" considered by some of the world's top climatologists. The overly optimistic predictions in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment, released in 2007, appear to have been driven, in part, by the political dynamics involved in the international effort. The underestimation means that government negotiators meeting in Copenhagen later this year to write a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol will have a tougher task than previously imagined. The underestimation of greenhouse emissions occurred, Field said, because the IPCC failed to include in its scenarios the rapid increase in carbon dioxide from Asia's coal-reliant industrial expansion between 2000 and 2007. What happened is that China and India developed rapidly while rising oil prices pushed wealthy nations to use more coal, which is more CO2 intensive in its emissions. An increase in atmospheric CO2 is attributable to the steep rise in global coal use, pushed upward by accelerated Asian economic and industrial development. Not only has atmospheric carbon increased beyond the range of possibilities, but so too has effects of that increase on Earth's ecosystems. The retreat of Arctic Sea ice, the collapse of permafrost, ice sheet melt and that melting's contribution to sea level rise are occurring faster and with more intensity than expected. Atmospheric carbon dioxide, Field said, rose 3.5 percent annually between 2000 and 2007, compared with annual increases of 0.9 percent in the 1990s. Between 1993 and 2003, melting ice sheets accounted for 40 percent of sea level rise. That contribution is now estimated at 80 percent.
|February 19, 2009|| Is Economic Recovery Even Possible on a Planet Headed for Environmental Collapse?
by Tom Engelhardt, Tomdispatch.com
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Water
As the global economy melts down, so is the planet, with droughts threatening food production and industry across the world.
Australia, by the way, is a wheat-growing breadbasket for the world and its wheat crops have been hurt in recent years by continued drought. Meanwhile, central China is experiencing the worst drought in half a century. Temperatures have been unseasonably high and rainfall, in some areas, 80% below normal; more than half the country's provinces have been affected by drought, leaving millions of Chinese and their livestock without adequate access to water. In the region which raises 95% of the country's winter wheat, crop production has already been impaired and is in further danger without imminent rain. All of this represents a potential financial catastrophe for Chinese farmers at a moment when about 20 million migrant workers are estimated to have lost their jobs in the global economic meltdown. Some scientists warn China could face more frequent droughts as a result of global warming and changes in farming patterns. In Iraq, the worst drought in at least a decade and possibly a farming lifetime is expected to reduce wheat production by at least half; while the country's vast marshlands, once believed to be the location of the Garden of Eden, have been turned into endless expanses of baked mud. Nor is Iraq's drought a localized event. Serious drought conditions extend across the Middle East, threatening to exacerbate local conflicts from Cyprus and Lebanon to Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel where this January was reported to have been the hottest and driest in 60 years. In Latin America, Argentina is experiencing "the most intense, prolonged and expensive drought in the past 50 years," according to Hugo Luis Biolcati, the president of the Argentine Rural Society. One of the world's largest grain exporters, it has already lost five billion dollars to the drought. Its soybeans -- the country is the third largest producer of them -- are wilting in the fields; its corn -- Argentina is the world's second largest producer -- and wheat crops are in trouble; and its famed grass-fed herds of cattle are dying -- 1.5 million head of them since October with no end in sight. In the State of Texas -- 97.4% to be exact -- is now gripped by drought, and parts of it by the worst drought in almost a century. As global warming strengthens, the American southwest, parts of which have struggled with varying levels of drought conditions for years, could fall into a possibly permanent state of drought." We're talking potential future "dust bowl" here. A December 2008 U.S. Geological Survey report warns: "In the Southwest, for example, the models project a permanent drying by the mid-21st century that reaches the level of aridity seen in historical droughts, and a quarter of the projections may reach this level of aridity much earlier. And talking about drought gripping breadbasket regions, don't forget northern California which "produces 50 percent of the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables, and a majority of [U.S.] salad, strawberries and premium wine grapes." Its agriculturally vital Central Valley, in particular, is in the third year of an already monumental drought in which the state has been forced to cut water deliveries to farms by up to 85%. California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming... In a worst case... up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture. As for East Africa and the Horn of Africa, under the pressure of rising temperatures, drought has become a tenacious long-term visitor. Half of the world's population could face severe food shortages by the end of the century as rising temperatures take their toll on farmers' crops... Harvests of staple food crops such as rice and maize could fall by between 20% and 40% as a result of higher temperatures during the growing season in the tropics and subtropics. The pace of global warming is likely to be much faster than recent predictions, because industrial greenhouse gas emissions have increased more quickly than expected and higher temperatures are triggering self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms in global ecosystems. If global temperatures are on the rise and more heat means lower crop yields, then you're talking about more Kenyas, and not just in Africa either. You're probably also talking about desperation, upheaval, resource conflicts, and mass out-migrations of populations, even -- if scientists are right -- from the American Southwest.
|March 17, 2009|| To overcome the Global Crisis - Towards a Sustainable Development Policy
published in the Journal of Europe’s World
by Leslaw Michnowski
Member of the Committee of Prognosis “Poland 2000 Plus”
by the Presidium of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and the Polish Association for the Club of Rome
Chairman of Sustainable Development Creators'Club
The Polish Federation for Life
The Sustainable Development Global Information Society website is managed by Leslaw Michnowski
To UN and G20 Leaders!
The world is confronted by crisis, its dimension is global, its character is inexperienced. This crisis is the result of obsoleteness of social-darwinist rules of politics and global economic order. They have very high ecosocial costs and they are shortsighted. Today we can choose a one of the three different ways and different responses to present challenges:
o The first way leads finally to global military confrontation and war for access to deficit resources and clean environment.
o The second way would be the "soft" continuation of social-Darwinist, "zero growth" social relations, by global Orwellian totalitarian order.
o The third way means the "three pillars" sustainable development of the world society. For this end we have to integrate human development with economic development and environment protection, and base policy on world society common interest axiology principle. This third way means ecohumanistic transformation as a partnership-based co-operation for the common good of all people (rich and poor, highly developed societies and underdeveloped countries), cooperation protecting natural environment, supported by science and high technology, including information culture.
The essence of the third way’s transformation includes creation of the new sustainable development economy, with possibility to account complex costs and effects - with social and environment components. It would allow stimulating creative (cognitive and innovative) activity, directed on common good/common interest, guided by ecosocial justice. In our opinion only the third way - oriented towards sustainable development of the world society - is rational, as the only realistic way of reversing present trends and avoiding the global catastrophe.
Two important world anti-crisis events will be held in the 2009 year: G20 World Summit (London, April 2nd) and UN General Assembly. We strongly recommend inclusion of the following proposals into agenda of both events:
 Creation of the UN Economic Council, together with the World Sustainable Development Strategy Center, including United Nations Information Center.
 Introducing THE WORLD INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY AND ECONOMY, including GLOBAL EARLY WARNING, as the new UN Program.
|Read Download full WORD document by author|
|February19, 2009|| Articles from Abdul Basit
1.0 Wars and Climate Change: National Interests Verses Global Emergency
|February 21, 2009||
Do Americans Get “The Truth”?
by Timothy V. Gatto, firstname.lastname@example.org http://liberalpro.blogspot.com
Especially in the United States of all places, the “media” is generally incapable of reporting truthfully in matters that don’t generally follow the official government policy. A good case in point is the build-up to the war in Iraq. It was nearly impossible to find any information that wasn’t government-generated, and the information that was based on independent sources was usually ignored. This same scenario is alive and well when the “media” reports on Israel.
First of all, the government of Israel has become a bellicose, right-wing dominated organization that denies its Arab citizens the right to make policy or carry leadership positions. According to Stephen Lendman (Fascist Rule in Israel-ICH 20 Feb2009): “Under the law for Arabs and Jews, no candidate may challenge Israel's fundamental Jewish character or demand equal rights, privileges, and justice. The essential Zionist identity is inviolable. The law works only for Jews. Israeli Arabs have no rights. They're denied equal treatment and justice, even those elected to public office. Israel calls this democracy. South Africa called it apartheid. Nazi Germany called it fascism”.
News today must be free of government subsidies or corporate control. The truth about Israel’s bellicose nature is quite evident from international news sources. We can’t as a nation use the bible as a source for the nature of Israel’s claims on foreign territory or use the holocaust as an excuse for Israel’s wholesale slaughter of Palestinians. While Israel claims it doesn’t want Iran to build nuclear weapons, Israel has hundreds and hasn’t even signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Why should Israel threaten war on a nation that has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, when it finds itself a nuclear rogue state? The fact that Israel used white phosphorus against Palestinian non-combatants does not bode well for Israel’s future compliance with International Law. This kind of news is what should be on our “media”. Too bad you won’t find it there.
|February 13, 2009|| What's Green About the New Stimulus Deal?
by Joseph Romm Climate Progress
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
There's lots of good news -- from a tax credit for renewables to the $50 billion nuclear industry giveaway being axed. Here's the highlights.
A final deal was reached on a $789 billion stimulus plan (see NYT here). One of the best pieces of news is that the $50 billion in fraudulent budget gimmickry on behalf of the nuclear industry was axed, as I posted last night.
There's also a 3-year extension of the production tax credit for wind and other renewables, which will be crucial to Obama meeting his goal to "double the production of alternative energy in the next three years." And there's an expanded tax credit for plug in hybrids, which will be critical for Obama to meet his goal of one million plug-ins by 2015.
Clean, Efficient, American Energy: To put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we will increase renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient.
|February 19, 2009||
President Of Special Interests
by Paul Craig Roberts, PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com , Countercurrents.org
The Bush/Obama bailout/stimulus plans are not going to work. Both are schemes hatched by a clique of financial insiders. The schemes will redistribute income and wealth from American taxpayers to the shyster banksters, who have destroyed American jobs, ruined the retirement plans of tens of millions of Americans, and worsened the situation of millions of people worldwide who naively trusted American financial institutions. The ongoing theft has simply been recast. Instead of using fraudulent financial instruments, the banksters are using government policy.
When it comes to cleaning up the Greenspan Bubble legacy by writing down homeowner mortgage debt, the Treasury proposal offers homeowners $50 billion – just [half of one percent] of the $10 trillion Wall Street bailout to date, and less than half the amount given to AIG to pay its hedge fund speculators on their derivative gambles. The Treasury has handed out $25 billion to each and every big bank, so just two of these banks alone got as much as the reported one-quarter of all homeowners in America suffering from Negative Equity on their homes and in need of mortgage renegotiation.
Congress has had a parade of CEOs, ranging from Bill Gates of MIcrosoft and IBM brass on down the line, to testify that they desperately need more H-1B work visas for foreign employees as they cannot find enough American software engineers and IT workers to grow their businesses. Yet, all the companies who sing this song have established records of replacing American employees with H-1B workers who are paid less.
Just the other day Microsoft, IBM, Texas Instruments, Sprint Nextel, Intel, Motorola, and scores of other corporations announced thousands of layoffs of the qualified American engineers who “are in short supply.”
IBM has offered to help to relocate its “redundant” but “scarce” American engineers to its operations in India, China, Brazil, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Russia, South Africa, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates at the salaries prevailing in those countries.
On January 28, USA Today reported: “In 2007, the last full year for which detailed employment numbers are available, 121,000 of IBM's 387,000 workers [31%] were in the U.S. Meanwhile, staffing in India has jumped from just 9,000 workers in 2003 to 74,000 workers in 2007.”
In order to penetrate and to serve foreign markets, US corporations need overseas operations. There is nothing unusual or unpatriotic about this. However, many US companies use foreign labor to manufacture abroad the products that they sell in American markets.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, no longer an American institution, and immigration advocates, such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association, immediately went to work to defeat or to water down the amendments. Senator Grassley’s attempt to prevent American corporations from replacing American workers with foreigners on H-1B work visas in the midst of the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression was met with outrage from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization concerned solely with the multi-million dollar bonuses paid to American CEOs for reducing labor costs by offshoring American jobs or by replacing American employees with foreign guest workers.
Last year, Microsoft was here on Capitol Hill advocating for more H-1B visas. The purpose of the H-1B visa program is to assist companies in their employment needs where there is not a sufficient American workforce to meet their technology expertise requirements. However, H-1B and other work visa programs were never intended to replace qualified American workers. Certainly, these work visa programs were never intended to allow a company to retain foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American workers, when that company cuts jobs during an economic downturn.
IT is a prime example. The companies used the bust to lay off hundreds of thousands of tech workers around the US and Britain, citing low profits or debt. The public as a whole accepted this, as part of the economic landscape and protests were few, especially with a prospect of the situation turning around. However, shortly after the turn around in the economy, it became very clear that there would be no turn around in the IT employment industry. Not only were companies outsourcing everything they could, under the cover of the recession, they had shipped in tens of thousands of H-1B work visaed workers who were paid on the cheap.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Caterpillar, General Electric, other transnational corporations, and editorial writers whose newspapers are dependent on corporate advertising set out to defeat the buy American requirement. As far as these anti-American organizations are concerned, the stimulus bill has nothing to do with American jobs or the American economy. It only has to do with the special interest appetites that have the political power to rip off the American taxpayers.
I want to say this as clearly as it can be said. The offshoring of American jobs is the anthesis of free trade. Free trade is based on comparative advantage. Jobs offshoring is an activity in pursuit of lowest factor cost--an activity that David Ricardo, the originator of the free trade theory, described as the betrayal of one’s own country in pursuit of “absolute advantage.”
The “free market” shills on the payroll of the U.S. Chamber, NAM, and in economics departments and think tanks that are recipients of grants from transnational corporations are whores aligned with elites who are destroying the American work force.
Obama has appointed to his National Economic Council blatant apologists for the offshoring of American jobs.
Possibly Obama loves the country that elevated him to its highest office. But his administration is populated with people whose loyalty does not extend beyond elites to the American people.
|February 18, 2009||
From oil and other hydrocarbons we get fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, lubricants, plastic, paint, synthetic fabrics, asphalt, pharmaceuticals, and many other things. On a more abstract level, we are dependent on oil and other hydrocarbons for manufacturing, for transportation, for agriculture, for mining, and for electricity. When oil goes, our entire industrial society will go with it. There will be no means of supporting the billions of people who now live on this planet. Above all, there will be insufficient food.
Global oil production went from about 0.1 billion barrels in 1900 to about 4.2 in 1950, to about 27.0 in 2000. According to most estimates, the peak was (or will be) around the year 2010. The rest is a steep drop: 20 billion barrels in 2020, 15 in 2030, 9 in 2040, 5 in 2050.
In the entire world, then, there are perhaps a trillion barrels of oil left to extract — which may sound like a lot, but isn’t. When newspapers announce the discovery of a deposit of a billion barrels, readers are no doubt amazed, but they are not told that such a find is only two weeks’ supply. And the only event that could ease the demand for oil would be a global depression; reduced oil consumption would then be part of the overall collapse of the world’s economy.
About 20 or 30 major studies have been done, and the consensus is that “peak oil” is somewhere between the years 2000 and 2020.
Alternative sources of energy will never be very useful, for several reasons, but mainly because of a problem of “net energy”: the amount of energy output is not sufficiently greater than the amount of energy input. All alternative forms of energy are so dependent on the very petroleum that they are intended to replace that the use of them is largely self-defeating and irrational. Alternative sources ultimately don’t have enough “bang” to replace 30 billion annual barrels of oil — or even to replace more than the tiniest fraction of that amount.
Petroleum is required to extract, process, and transport almost any other form of energy; a coal mine is not operated by coal-powered equipment. It takes “oil energy” to make “alternative energy.”
The use of unconventional oil (shale deposits, tar sands, heavy oil) poses several problems besides that of net energy. Large quantities of conventional oil are needed to process the oil from these unconventional sources, so net energy recovery is low. The pollution problems are considerable, and it is not certain how much environmental damage the human race is willing to endure. Even if these problems could be solved, the human population will continue to increase, and developing nations will be trying to industrialize. With unconventional oil we are, quite literally, scraping the bottom of the barrel.
More-exotic forms of alternative energy are plagued with even greater problems.
There will be about 50 million deaths every year from famine directly due to oil depletion, with a total of about 4 billion deaths by the end of this century.
The approach of massive famine is not just a theoretical matter. The FAO, the Earth Policy Institute, and other organizations have shown that world food supplies per capita have already been declining for several years.
|February 16, 2009||
When Population Growth And Resource Availability Collide
by Lester R. Brown, Earthpolicy.org Countercurrents.org
As land and water become scarce, competition for these vital resources intensifies within societies, particularly between the wealthy and those who are poor and dispossessed. The shrinkage of life-supporting resources per person that comes with population growth is threatening to drop the living standards of millions of people below the survival level, leading to potentially unmanageable social tensions.
Access to land is a prime source of social tension. Expanding world population has cut the grainland per person in half, from 0.23 hectares in 1950 to 0.10 hectares in 2007. One tenth of a hectare is half of a building lot in an affluent U.S. suburb. This ongoing shrinkage of grainland per person makes it difficult for the world's farmers to feed the 70 million people added to world population each year. The shrinkage in cropland per person not only threatens livelihoods; in largely subsistence societies, it threatens survival itself. Tensions within communities begin to build as landholdings shrink below that needed for survival.
Disagreements over the allocation of water among countries that share river systems is a common source of international political conflict, especially where populations are outgrowing the flow of the river. Nowhere is this potential conflict more stark than among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia in the Nile River valley. Agriculture in Egypt, where it rarely rains, is wholly dependent on water from the Nile. Egypt now gets the lion's share of the Nile's water, but its population of 75 million is projected to reach 121 million by 2050, thus greatly expanding the demand for grain and water. Sudan, whose 39 million people also depend heavily on food produced with Nile water, is expected to have 73 million by 2050. And the number of Ethiopians, in the country that controls 85 percent of the river's headwaters, is projected to expand from 83 million to 183 million.
Since there is already little water left in the Nile when it reaches the Mediterranean, if either Sudan or Ethiopia takes more water, then Egypt will get less, making it increasingly difficult to feed an additional 46 million people. Although there is an existing water rights agreement among the three countries, Ethiopia receives only a minuscule share of water. Given its aspirations for a better life, and with the Nile being one of its few natural resources, Ethiopia will undoubtedly want to take more.
In the Aral Sea basin in Central Asia, there is an uneasy arrangement among five countries over the sharing of the two rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, that drain into the sea. The demand for water in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan already exceeds the flow of the two rivers by 25 percent. Turkmenistan, which is upstream on the Amu Darya, is planning to develop another half-million hectares of irrigated agriculture. Racked by insurgencies, the region lacks the cooperation needed to manage its scarce water resources. Geographer Sarah O'Hara of the University of Nottingham who studies the region's water problems, says, "We talk about the developing world and the developed world, but this is the deteriorating world."
|February 19, 2009||
Food Crisis Under The Spotlight
by Joyce Mulama, Inter Press Service, http://liberalpro.blogspot.com
Worldwide demand for food is expected to grow steadily over the next 40 years, but 25 percent of the world's food production may be lost to 'environmental breakdowns' by 2050 unless urgent action is taken.
This is the message in a document presented to environment ministers from more than 140 countries meeting in Nairobi, Kenya under the auspices of the United Nations Environmental Programme Governing Council to discuss climate change and other environmental challenges.
The document, titled "The Environmental Food Crisis: The Environment's Role in Averting Future Food Crises" calls for an increase in food production to meet the needs of an estimated 2.7 billion more people.
"Elevated food prices have had dramatic impact on the lives and livelihoods, including increased infant and child mortality, of those already undernourished or living in poverty and spending 70-80 percent of their daily income on food," it reads.
The UNEP meeting comes as the host country Kenya is engulfed in a severe food crisis with up to 10 million people facing starvation due to poor rainfall and high fertiliser prices among other things.
According to Baya, immediate measures to achieve food security must include educating farmers to diversify and plant alternative crops that are resistant to changing climatic conditions. This, he says, will also help conserve the environment. "Intensive land cultivation and growing of the same crop over a long period of time degrades the soil. Increasing food production and security must take into account protection of the environment, including the soil," he observed.
|February 10, 2009|| We'll Never Be Happy Consumers Again -- No Stimulus Package Can Bring That Back
by James Howard Kunstler
Kunstler.com, published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, ACCOUNTABILITY AND WORKPLACE
The political theater of the moment in Washington is focused on the illusion that we can find new ways of keeping the old ways going.
The attempted re-start of revolving debt consumerism is an exercise in futility. We've reached the limit of being able to create additional debt at any level without causing further damage, additional distortions, and new perversities of economy (and of society, too). We can't raise credit card ceilings for people with no ability make monthly payments. We can't promote more mortgages for people with no income. We can't crank up a home-building industry with our massive inventory of unsold, and over-priced houses built in the wrong places. We can't ramp back up the blue light special shopping fiesta. We can't return to the heyday of Happy Motoring, no matter how many bridges we fix or how many additional ring highways we build around our already-overblown and over-sprawled metroplexes. Mostly, we can't return to the now-complete "growth" cycle of "economic expansion." We're done with all that. History is done with our doing that, for now.
So far -- after two weeks in office -- the Obama team seems bent on a campaign to sustain the unsustainable at all costs, to attempt to do all the impossible things listed above. Mr. Obama is not the only one, of course, who is invoking the quest for renewed "growth." This is a tragic error in collective thinking. What we really face is a comprehensive contraction in our activities, especially the scale of our activities, and the pressing need to readjust the systems of everyday life to a level of decreased complexity.
For instance, the myth that we can become "energy independent and yet remain car-dependent is absurd. In terms of liquid fuels, we're simply trapped. We import two-thirds of the oil we use and there is absolutely no chance that drill-drill-drilling (or any other scheme) will change that. The public and our leaders can not face the reality of this. The great wish for "alternative" liquid fuels (bio fuels, algae excreta) will never be anything more than a wish at the scales required, and the parallel wish to keep all our cars running by other means -- hydrogen fuel cells, electric motors -- is equally idle and foolish. We cannot face the mandate of reality, which is to do everything possible to make our living places walkable, and connect them with public transit. The stimulus bills in congress clearly illustrate our failure to understand the situation.
The attempt to restart "consumerism" will be equally disappointing. It was a manifestation of the short peak energy decades of history, and now that we're past peak energy, it's over. That seventy percent of the economy is over, especially the part that allowed people to buy stuff with no money.
The argument about "change" during the election was sufficiently vague that no one was really challenged to articulate a future that wasn't, materially, more-of-the-same. I suppose the Obama team may have thought they would only administer it differently than the Bush team. If this nation wants to survive without an intense political convulsion, there's a lot we can do, but none of it is being voiced in any corner of Washington at this time. We have to get off of petro-agriculture and grow our food locally, at a smaller scale, with more people working on it and fewer machines. This is an enormous project, which implies change in everything from property allocation to farming methods to new social relations. But if we don't focus on it right away, a lot of Americans will end up starving, and rather soon. We have to rebuild the railroad system in the US, and electrify it, and make it every bit as good as the system we once had that was the envy of the world. If we don't get started on this right away, we're screwed. We will have tremendous trouble moving people and goods around this continent-sized nation. We have to reactivate our small towns and cities because the metroplexes are going to fail at their current scale of operation. We have to prepare for manufacturing at a much smaller (and local) scale than the scale represented by General Motors.
The political theater of the moment in Washington is not focused on any of this, but on the illusion that we can find new ways of keeping the old ways going. Many observers have noted lately how passive the American public is in the face of their dreadful accelerating losses. It's a tragic mistake to tell them that they can have it all back again. We'll see a striking illustration of "phase change" as the public mood goes from cow-like incomprehension to grizzly bear-like rage. Not only will they discover the impossibility of getting back to where they were, but they will see the panicked actions of Washington drive what remains of our capital resources down a rat hole.
A consensus is firming up on each side of the "stimulus" question, largely along party lines -- simply those who are for it and those who are against it, mostly by degrees. Nobody in either party -- including supposed independents such as Bernie Sanders or John McCain, not to mention President Obama -- has a position for directing public resources and effort at any of the things I mentioned above: future food security, future travel-and-transport security, or the future security of livable, walkable dwelling places based on local networks of economic interdependency. This striking poverty of imagination may lead to change that will tear the nation to pieces.
|February 7, 2009||
One cannot emphasize enough the stranglehold Israel’s lobbying infrastructure has on US foreign policy. The events of recent weeks undoubtedly attest to this. “The special relationship” that has been historically fostered between the US and Israel in fact, is often a relationship of leverage, manipulation and intimidation, and often leads to the US supporting actions or resolutions that stand at complete odds with the interests of the American people.
The promise of change echoed the world over as people from all corners anticipated the magic moment Obama could actually change the devastating reality in which we live today. But just weeks before his inauguration, Israel unleashed the most barbaric attacks on defenseless Palestinian civilians since 1948. Civil societies expressed outrage and called for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes and genocide. Other nations cut diplomatic ties completely with the Jewish state. But the man of change did absolutely nothing. For weeks he was completely silent. Even in his first days in office, Obama made no mention of the Israeli genocide in Gaza. So, what of this change that he promised? What kind of hold does Israel have to silence the President of the United States?
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy as a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.” What has been revealed in their work is that “The Lobby” is not a unitary organization, of a few, or many paid lobbyists who are pushing for a specific foreign policy agenda. Sure, you have that too, manifested in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – an organization that boasts of 60,000 active members, and who showers US congressmen with many millions of dollars in campaign contributions, all with one aim in mind, a pro-Israel, right or wrong agenda. But it’s much more complex than that.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, less known than AIPAC is a powerful lobby conduit, for it supposedly represents 52 major Jewish organizations. Based in New York, the organization simply represents an uncompromisingly pro-Israel stance, which tends to advocate Israel’s suppression of Palestinians (as Israel’s right to defend itself), and advocates a pro-war agenda (as was the case before the Iraq war, and later against Syria and Iran.)
When AIPAC holds its annual conferences, countless members of the House and the Senate, the executive branch, top representatives of both parties, as well as hundreds of US ambassadors flock from all over the world in an unprecedented manner to vow their allegiance to Israel.
Within the United States there is a great apparatus that has been in motion for generations. It is beyond civil society, beyond individual citizens and citizen groups, it is perhaps even more powerful than ‘the man of change’ himself. And if we are truly to see some transformation in the way the US now rules the world, then this war-mongering machine must be dismantled.
|February 4, 2009||
It Is Now Or Never
by Aditi Munot, Countercurrents.org
Global temperatures are higher by about 0.8°C over pre industrial temperatures. Another 0.6°C is already built into the system. These changes have occurred solely on account of human activities like clearing of forests, endless burning of fossil fuels and so on. In less than 200 years, we have unleashed into the atmosphere the green house gases that nature took billions of years to bury.
All this reckless burning of cheap fuel has resulted in increasing forest fires, loss of permafrost, intensifying desertification, extinction of innumerable species of plants and animals, rising diseases and so on. The urgency of the problem of global warming is such that if we do not act today, change our needs and habits today, it will probably be too late to do anything. Our lack of action now will lead to global warming attaining certain tipping points which in turn will trigger positive feedbacks in the system. Many rainforests like the Amazon, which are the biggest carbon sinks will eventually become the largest carbon emitters of our planet. Similarly global warming not just results in loss of polar ice caps and glaciers, but also ensures more sunlight is absorbed by the earth as ice is an important reflector of solar radiation. More so, melting permafrost releases trapped methane and carbon dioxide further enabling the cycle of global warming. Once these and such other positive feedbacks like the soil and ocean carbon cycle feedbacks kick in, the situation will be irreversible forever.
It will be impossible to sustain a human population of over 6.7 billion in the face of higher sea levels and increased deserts. There will be mass scale diseases and epidemics, poverty and starvation, riots and wars.
The truth is, climate change is no longer a difficulty to be faced by our children or grandchildren. It sure is going to happen in our lifetimes. If we do not change today, correct our lifestyles and consumption patterns now…. There will be no tomorrow. We, the entire global community have to make a choice today, to be able to live tomorrow. Each one of us, every individual, every country, the whole world needs to take it upon ourselves to keep this planet liveable…. For us, our children, all other species with whom we share this planet.
|January 19, 2009|| Dirt-Cheap Gas in 2009: Be Careful What You Wish For
by Michael T. Klare
Tomdispatch.com., published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
Oil costs a third of what it did in July, and prices keep dropping. That may seem like a godsend now, but we'll pay through the nose later.
Low prices, as at present, are bad for producers, and so will hurt a number of countries that the US government considers hostile, including Venezuela, Iran and even that natural-gas-and-oil giant Russia. All of them have, in recent years, used their soaring oil income to finance political endeavors considered inimical to US interests. However, dwindling prices could also shake the very foundations of oil allies like Mexico, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, which could experience internal unrest as oil revenues, and so state expenditures, decline. No less important, diminished oil prices discourage investment in complex oil ventures like deep-offshore drilling, as well as investment in the development of alternatives to oil like advanced (non-food) biofuels. Perhaps most disastrously, in a cheap oil moment, investment in non-polluting, non-climate-altering alternatives like solar, wind and tidal energy is also likely to dwindle. In the longer term, what this means is that, once a global economic recovery begins, we can expect a fresh oil price shock as future energy options prove painfully limited. The upsurge in Chinese consumption, combined with unremitting demand from older industrialized nations and significant price speculation on oil futures, largely explained the astronomical way prices were driven up until last summer. But with the Chinese economy visibly faltering, such projections no longer seem valid. Many analysts now predict that a sharp drop-off in Chinese demand will only accelerate the downward journey of global energy prices. Under these conditions, an early price turnaround appears increasingly unlikely. At present, the world enjoys the (relatively) unfamiliar prospect of a global oil-production surplus, but there's a problematic aspect to this. As long as prices remain low, oil companies have no incentive to invest in costly new production ventures, which means no new capacity is being added to global inventories, while available capacity continues to be drained. Simply put, what this means is that, when demand begins to surge again, global output is likely to prove inadequate. Most "easy oil" reservoirs have now been exhausted, which means that virtually all remaining global reserves are going to be of the "tough oil" variety. These require extraction technology far too costly to be profitable at a moment when the per barrel price remains under $50. Principal among these are exploitation of the tar sands of Canada and of deep offshore fields in the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of Guinea and waters off Brazil. While such potential reserves undoubtedly harbor significant supplies of petroleum, they won't return a profit until the price of oil reaches $80 or more per barrel -- nearly twice what it is fetching today. Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the oil majors are canceling or postponing plans for new projects in Canada and these offshore locations. While competition among consuming states may lessen, negative political conditions within producing nations are sure to be magnified. Many of these nations, including Angola, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, among others, rely on income from oil exports for a large part of their government expenditures, using this money to finance health and education, infrastructure improvements, food and energy subsidies and social welfare programs. Soaring energy prices, for instance, allowed many producer countries to reduce high youth unemployment -- and so potential unrest. As prices come crashing down, governments are already being forced to cut back on programs that aid the poor, the middle class and the unemployed, which is already producing waves of instability in many parts of the world. Plunging oil prices are also expected to place severe strains on the governments of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, all of which benefited from the record prices of the past few years to finance public works, subsidize basic necessities and generate employment. Like Russia, these countries adopted expansive budgets on the assumption that a world of $70 or more per barrel gas prices would continue indefinitely. Now, like other affected producers, they must dip into accumulated reserves, borrow at a premium, and cut back on social spending -- all of which risk a rise in political opposition and unrest at home.
|January 8, 2009||
How to overcome the global crisis?
by Leslaw Michnowski
The Sustainable Development Global Information Society website is managed by Leslaw Michnowski www.psl.org.pl/kte/artlm.htm
The world is in the open phase of global crisis. We are standing in front of :
(A) new world war;
(B) "soft" continuation of social-Darwinistic social relations - in the quite new (high science and technology supported, most probably global Orwellian totalitarian) its pathological form;
(C) sustainable development of the world society, conditioned upon ecohumanistic transformation (including creation of the new economy with possibility to account complex costs and effects and stimulate creative – cognitive and innovative - activity directed on common good).
Ecohumanism is a partnership-based co-operation for the common good of all people (rich and poor, from countries highly developed and behind in development), their descendants, and natural environment - commonly supported by science and high technology (including information culture).
It is impossible to overcome global crisis by the (A) or (B) ways. We have to overthrow "zero growth" defense strategy (A. Merkel, WEF, Davos 2007). We have to substitute entrepreneurial capitalism for speculative capitalism (N, Sarcozy, EU Summit 10.2008, B. Gates, WEF Davos 2008). We need creative, ecosocial useful capitalism – i.e. ecosocial free market economy (GMPI)
To achieve above we ought to support G. Brown‘s proposal: GLOBAL EARLY WARNING SYSTEM. But this information system building should be only the first step of creation of world information system for sustainable development policy and economy.
To avoid global catastrophe we need especially – as soon as possible - to elaborate, adopt and enforce UN program of sustainable development information bases creation. The two important world anticrisis events will be hold in the 2009 year:
I - G20 (London, April 2nd);
II – UN General Assembly.
Therefore we propose to try to include into programs of both above events our strategic proposal: TO START TO CREATE THE WORLD INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY AND ECONOMY.
Without that information system all of the main UN tasks: MDGs, ("three pillars") sustainable development of the world society, fair globalization, sustained economic growth, decoupling economy growth and resources depletion - are not possible to achieve.
Eco-Humanism and Popular System Dynamics as Preconditions for Sustainable Development, The Vol. 3, No. 11, November 2007 issue of the Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence (SSNV) Research Newsletter, editor Luis Guterriez – http://pelicanweb.org/solisustv03n11michnowski.html ,
Ecohumanism as a Developmental Crossing, [in:] Sri Sadguru Sainathaya Namah, Transformative Pathways Attainable Utopias, (red. Sangeeta Sharma), Jaipur, India, 2008 - http://www.psl.org.pl/kte/Indie.pdf .
|January 9, 2009||
US Senate Endorses Israel's War On Gaza
by Jeremy R. Hammond
Countercurrents.org, Foreign Policy Journal
The US Senate on Thursday passed a non-binding resolution promoted by the influential Israeli lobby AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee), effectively endorsing Israel’s war on Gaza. The resolution, entitled “A resolution expressing solidarity with Israel in Israel’s defense against terrorism in the Gaza Strip” recognizes “the right of Israel to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” and reaffirms “the United States’ strong support for Israel in its battle with Hamas”. The resolution does not recognize the right to self-defense of the Palestinian people. It makes no mention of Israel’s continuing settlement expansion in the West Bank, also in violation of the Quartet requirements. Nor does it call upon Israel, which illegally occupies the West Bank and has held Gaza under siege for three years, to recognize the “right to exist” of a Palestinian state or to renounce violence. It makes no mention of the fact that Hamas had strictly observed the cease-fire until it was violated by Israel on November 4, when Israel launched an airstrike into Gaza that killed 5 and injured several others. The resolution notes that “the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including shortages of food, water, electricity, and adequate medical care, is becoming more acute”. It neglects to point out that this is the direct result of Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza, and that the humanitarian crisis has been greatly exacerbated by Israel’s aerial bombardment and invasion of Gaza, instead praising the minimal amount of humanitarian aid Israel has allowed into the territory. “Wake up America. We have trillions for a war machine and the banks while our government stands by and sniffs at the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, where Israel is blocking aid for wounded Palestinians. Here’s today’s Washington Post. It says, ‘The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it found at least 15 bodies and several children emaciated but alive in a row of shattered houses in the Gaza Strip and accused the Israeli military of preventing ambulances from reaching the site for 4 days. 12 corpses lying on mattresses in one home, along with 4 young children lying next to their dead mothers.’ That’s a quote. Today, US tax dollars, US jets, and US helicopters provided to Israel are enabling the slaughter in Gaza. The administration enables Israel to press forward with the attack against defenseless civilians, blocks efforts at promoting a cease-fire at the UN, and refuses to make Israel compliant with conditions that arms shipments will not be used for aggression. Israel is going to receive $30 billion in a ten year period for military assistance, without having to abide by any humanitarian principles, international laws, or standards of basic human decency. Wake up America.”
|December 29, 2008|| Research Papers
by Dr. ZhongXiangZhang
1.0 Meeting the Kyoto Targets: The Importance of Developing Country Participation (the market of tradable permits from no emissions trading to full global trading)
|December 18, 2008||
20 Ways To Save Mother Earth And Prevent Environmental Disaster
by Evo Morales, President of Bolivia
Global warming is generating abrupt changes in the weather: the retreat of glaciers and the decrease of the polar ice caps; the increase of the sea level and the flooding of coastal areas, where approximately 60% of the world population live; the increase in the processes of desertification and the decrease of fresh water sources; a higher frequency in natural disasters that the communities of the earth suffer; the extinction of animal and plant species; and the spread of diseases in areas that before were free from those diseases. One of the most tragic consequences of the climate change is that some nations and territories are the condemned to disappear by the increase of the sea level. Competition and the thirst for profit without limits of the capitalist system are destroying the planet. Under Capitalism we are not human beings but consumers. Under Capitalism Mother Earth does not exist, instead there are raw materials. Capitalism is the source of the asymmetries and imbalances in the world. It generates luxury, ostentation and waste for a few, while millions in the world die from hunger in the world. In the hands of capitalism everything becomes a commodity: the water, the soil, the human genome, the ancestral cultures, justice, ethics, death … and life itself. Everything, absolutely everything, can be bought and sold and under capitalism. And even “climate change” itself has become a business. Climate change has placed all humankind before a great choice: to continue in the ways of capitalism and death, or to start down the path of harmony with nature and respect for life. The market mechanisms applied in the developing countries have not accomplished a significant reduction of greenhouse effect gas emissions. Just as well as the market is incapable of regulating global financial and productive system, the market is unable to regulate greenhouse effect gas emissions and will only generate a big business for financial agents and major corporations. The Earth is much more important than the stock exchanges of Wall Street and the world. Humankind is capable of saving the Earth if we recover the principles of solidarity, complementarity and harmony with nature in contraposition to the reign of competition, profits and rampant consumption of natural resources.
|November 22, 2008|| How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth
by Herve Kempf Chelsea Green Publishing
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
We've got to think about our choices for the future collectively, seeking cooperation rather than competition.
There is an emergency. In less than a decade we will have to change course -- assuming the collapse of the U.S. economy or the explosion of the Middle East does not impose a change through chaos. To confront the emergency, we must understand the objective: to achieve a sober society; to plot out the way there; to accomplish this transformation equitably, by first making those with the most carry the burden within and between societies; to take inspiration from collective values ascribed to here in France by our nation's motto: "Liberty, ecology, fraternity." The third, wobbly force is the left. Since its social-democratic component became its center of gravity, it has abandoned any ambition of transforming the world. The compromise with free-market liberalism has led the left to so totally adopt the values of free-market liberalism that it no longer dares -- except in the most cautious terms -- to deplore social inequality. On top of that, the left displays an almost cartoonish refusal to truly engross itself in environmental issues. The left will be reborn by uniting the causes of inequality and the environment -- or, unfit, it will disappear in the general disorder that will sweep it and everything else away. The somewhat successful, although still incomplete, battle in Europe against GMOs, the international community's continuance of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 despite the United States' withdrawal, the refusal by the peoples of Europe to participate in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the general recognition of the urgency of climate-change challenge are signs that the wind of the future has begun to blow. Despite the scale of the challenges that await us, solutions are emerging and -- faced with the sinister prospects the oligarchs promote -- the desire to remake the world is being reborn.
|November 14, 2008|| Are Human Beings Hard-Wired to Ignore the Threat of Catastrophic Climate Change?
by Lisa Bennett Greater Good
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
Climate scientists wonder why people don't do more about global warming. Social scientists have some troubling answers.
Why don't more of us respond more seriously to the most serious threat to the planet in human history?
But most of us do not rely on our analytic abilities to evaluate the risk of global warming-or any risk, for that matter. Instead, we rely on the second and more common way of perceiving risk: our emotions. Emotions, more than anything else, are what motivate us to act. As decades of behavioral decision research has shown, most people have to feel a risk before they do something about it. In this way, our limited response to global warming is similar to our limited response to mass murder or genocide. Like genocide, the long-term consequences of global warming are so enormous we can't wrap our heads around them. Scientists predict in 40 years global warming will displace 20 million people from Beijing, 40 million from Shanghai and surrounding areas, and 60 million from Calcutta and Bangladesh. These statistics are daunting, but they're abstract; they don't inspire us to feel for the one individual whose life will be put at risk. As a result, we fail to take appropriate action. And as with others, so with ourselves: It is emotions, such as fear or worry, that motivate us to protect ourselves from risk. With global warming, this presents an even more challenging situation. The fact that global warming appears to represent a hazard of nature also leads people to underestimate the risk. A third obstacle that limits people's response to global warming-and even their willingness to believe in it-is also one of the most intractable. In a series of recent studies, a group of scholars from Yale and other universities have been studying how cultural values shape our perceptions of risk. Based on the premise that Americans are culturally polarized on a range of societal risks, from global warming to gun control. People may simply reject evidence that clashes with their worldview. To a certain extent our attitude toward risk and behaviors are conditioned not just by the raw facts of the matter, but by the orientation that we have to the world. In the case of global warming, researchers found two general worldviews that seemed to have the most significant influence on perception and action. One group consists of egalitarians, or people who prefer a society where wealth, power, and opportunity are broadly distributed. Researchers called the other group the hierarchists, those who prefer a society that is linear in its structure, with leaders on top and followers below. What we've seen through this research is that egalitarians are generally more concerned about environmental risks over a range of hazards, including global warming. Hierarchists tend to be less concerned.
Communication about global warming needs to reach people's emotions and trigger fear, and that means emphasizing the dramatic consequences to come. Also, people need to be offered a set of actions they can take to combat global warming.
|December 15, 2008|| Bolivian President Evo Morales: 20 Ways to Save Mother Earth and Prevent Environmental Disaster
by Evo Morales
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Water,
Competition and the thirst for profit without limits of the capitalist system are destroying the planet. Under Capitalism we are not human beings but consumers. Under Capitalism Mother Earth does not exist, instead there are raw materials. Capitalism is the source of the asymmetries and imbalances in the world. It generates luxury, ostentation and waste for a few, while millions in the world die from hunger in the world. In the hands of capitalism everything becomes a commodity: the water, the soil, the human genome, the ancestral cultures, justice, ethics, death … and life itself. Everything, absolutely everything, can be bought and sold and under capitalism. And even “climate change” itself has become a business. “Climate change” has placed all humankind before a great choice: to continue in the ways of capitalism and death, or to start down the path of harmony with nature and respect for life. The Earth is much more important than the stock exchanges of Wall Street and the world While the United States and the European Union allocate $4100 billion to save the bankers from a financial crisis that they themselves have caused, programs on climate change get 313 times less, that is to say, only $13 billion. The resources for climate change are unfairly distributed. More resources are directed to reduce emissions (mitigation) and less to reduce the effects of climate change that all the countries suffer (adaptation). The vast majority of resources flow to those countries that have contaminated the most, and not to the countries where we have preserved the environment most. Around 80% of the Clean Development Mechanism projects are concentrated in four emerging countries. Capitalist logic promotes a paradox in which the sectors that have contributed the most to deterioration of the environment are those that benefit the most from climate change programs. At the same time, technology transfer and the financing for clean and sustainable development of the countries of the South have remained just speeches. Attack the structural causes of climate change:
1) Debate the structural causes of climate change. As long as we do not change the capitalist system for a system based in complementarity, solidarity and harmony between the people and nature, the measures that we adopt will be palliatives that will limited and precarious in character. For us, what has failed is the model of “living better”, of unlimited development, industrialisation without frontiers, of modernity that deprecates history, of increasing accumulation of goods at the expense of others and nature. For that reason we promote the idea of Living Well, in harmony with other human beings and with our Mother Earth.
2) Developed countries need to control their patterns of consumption -- of luxury and waste -- especially the excessive consumption of fossil fuels. Subsidies of fossil fuel, that reach $150-250 billion, must be progressively eliminated. It is fundamental to develop alternative forms of power, such as solar, geothermal, wind and hydroelectric both at small and medium scales.
3) Agrofuels are not an alternative, because they put the production of foodstuffs for transport before the production of food for human beings. Agrofuels expand the agricultural frontier destroying forests and biodiversity, generate monocropping, promote land concentration, deteriorate soils, exhaust water sources, contribute to rises in food prices and, in many cases, result in more consumption of more energy than is produced.
Substantial commitments to emissions reduction that are met
4) Strict fulfilment by 2012 of the commitments of the developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least by 5% below the 1990 levels. It is unacceptable that the countries that polluted the planet throughout the course of history make statements about larger reductions in the future while not complying with their present commitments.
5) Establish new minimum commitments for the developed countries of greenhouse gas emission reduction of 40% by 2020 and 90% by for 2050, taking as a starting point 1990 emission levels. These minimum commitments must be met internally in developed countries and not through flexible market mechanisms that allow for the purchase of certified emissions reduction certificates to continue polluting in their own country. Likewise, monitoring mechanisms must be established for the measuring, reporting and verifying that are transparent and accessible to the public, to guarantee the compliance of commitments.
6) Developing countries not responsible for the historical pollution must preserve the necessary space to implement an alternative and sustainable form of development that does not repeat the mistakes of savage industrialisation that has brought us to the current situation. To ensure this process, developing countries need, as a prerequisite, finance and technology transfer.
Address ecological debt
7) Acknowledging the historical ecological debt that they owe to the planet, developed countries must create an Integral Financial Mechanism to support developing countries in: implementation of their plans and programs for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change; the innovation, development and transfer of technology; in the preservation and improvement of the sinks and reservoirs; response actions to the serious natural disasters caused by climate change; and the carrying out of sustainable and eco-friendly development plans.
8) This Integral Financial Mechanism, in order to be effective, must count on a contribution of at least 1% of the GDP in developed countries and other contributions from taxes on oil and gas, financial transactions, sea and air transport, and the profits of transnational companies.
9) Contributions from developed countries must be additional to Official Development Assistance (ODA), bilateral aid or aid channelled through organisms not part of the United Nations. Any finance outside the UNFCCC cannot be considered as the fulfilment of developed country’s commitments under the convention.
10) Finance has to be directed to the plans or national programs of the different states and not to projects that follow market logic.
11) Financing must not be concentrated just in some developed countries but has to give priority to the countries that have contributed less to greenhouse gas emissions, those that preserve nature and are suffering the impact of climate change.
12) The Integral Financial Mechanism must be under the coverage of the United Nations, not under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and other intermediaries such as the World Bank and regional development banks; its management must be collective, transparent and non-bureaucratic. Its decisions must be made by all member countries, especially by developing countries, and not by the donors or bureaucratic administrators.
Technology transfer to developing countries
13) Innovation and technology related to climate changes must be within the public domain, not under any private monopolistic patent regime that obstructs and makes technology transfer more expensive to developing countries.
14) Products that are the fruit of public financing for technology innovation and development of have to be placed within the public domain and not under a private regime of patents, so that they can be freely accessed by developing countries.
15) Encourage and improve the system of voluntary and compulsory licenses so that all countries can access products already patented quickly and free of cost. Developed countries cannot treat patents and intellectual property rights as something “sacred” that has to be preserved at any cost. The regime of flexibilities available for the intellectual property rights in the cases of serious problems for public health has to be adapted and substantially enlarged to heal Mother Earth.
16) Recover and promote indigenous peoples' practices in harmony with nature which have proven to be sustainable through centuries.
Adaptation and mitigation with the participation of all the people
17) Promote mitigation actions, programs and plans with the participation of local communities and indigenous people in the framework of full respect for and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The best mechanism to confront the challenge of climate change are not market mechanisms, but conscious, motivated and well organised human beings endowed with an identity of their own.
18) The reduction of the emissions from deforestation and forest degradation must be based on a mechanism of direct compensation from developed to developing countries, through a sovereign implementation that ensures broad participation of local communities, and a mechanism for monitoring, reporting and verifying that is transparent and public.
|December 1, 2008|| Major Green Groups Offer Plan to Obama
by Kate Sheppard
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Water,
How should Obama act on the environment? A report by 29 major enviro groups gave Obama a list of actions and policies.
Twenty-nine of the country's biggest green groups rolled out a comprehensive list of actions and policies they'd like President-elect Barack Obama to adopt after he takes office Jan. 20. In it, the groups stress the need for an approach that unites environment, energy, and economic policies. "We need to dig ourselves out of the financial hole we're in with a green shovel," said National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger during a conference call with reporters. It calls for the creation of jobs in the renewable energy sector, building weatherization, a retooled auto industry, investment in infrastructure like public transportation, and major improvements to the electrical grid. The guidelines also detail what can be done in every executive branch agency, department, and office on a number of other environmental issues. The groups call for Congress to pass legislation in 2009 to cut emissions 35 percent below currently levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by midcentury. They also call for movement toward 100 percent clean electricity through "energy efficiency, modernizing the grid, and greatly expanding power generation from renewable energy resources." The groups urge Obama to grant California's request for waiver to allow the state to enforce tougher standards for cutting emissions from vehicles, and that he use the Clean Air Act "to declare that global warming pollution endangers public health and welfare and to set standards for power plants, vehicles, and fuels." Other recommendations include a call for tougher fuel economy and appliance efficiency standards,and a mandate that government agencies take into account and plan for climate change in all of their actions regarding energy use and natural resources. The groups also urge Obama to reengage in international climate negotiations.
|December 9, 2008|| Ecohumanism as a Developmental Crossing
by Leslaw Michnowski
Two radically different approaches dominate assessments of today's global situation. In a rather generally accepted view world society's development is and will be driven by the ongoing rapid economic growth of many heretofore backward societies, notably China and India. In addition, this growth will — as it is doing now — take place in a socio-Darwinistic global rivalry, in other words, according to a ,,growth at the cost of the environment (social and/or natural)1" policy. And without proper knowledge about this policy's complex effects.
The expected goal of such essentially lethal globalization would be the elimination of the fundamental threats looming before contemporary humanity, like the depreciation of the natural environment and the exhaustion of rare, deficit natural resources.
The second approach — which can be shared is to see the world in global crisis (Pajestka 1989). Evident proof of this lies in the continuously progressing and ruthless depreciation of the life supporting natural environment and the increasing use of accessible natural resources at a faster pace than their alternatives can be found. Moreover, access to these valuable resources is fast becoming the object of ruthless battle (even if fought with modernday means).
In the light of the research this crisis is the result of world society's ill adjustment to life in State of Change and Risk, in other words in a qualitatively new situation mainly created by the rapid development of science and technology. In order to overcome global crisis world society will have to achieve sustainable development, in other words, development without cyclically returning disasters and the shortsighted construction of new forms of social and economic life on the ruins of former life forms.
This will require human coexistence models that are qualitatively different from the present ones. The emergence of these new social models will be pre-condition the transformation of the rapid economic and civilizational growth of societies which until recently were behind in their development into a driving force of world society's sustainable development.
Systematic studies of the ways to overcome global crisis show that an in-depth diagnosis of global crisis and its causes is fundamental for developing new forms of interpersonal, international and intercultural life. Equally necessary is the pinpointing of the basic factors driving sustainable development, also in terms of ethic and information. Of prime importance in overcoming global crisis is the rejection of today's dominating selfishness and individualism in favour of ecohumanism.
Ecohumanism means partnership-based cooperation for the common good of all people (rich and poor, from countries highly developed and behind in development), their descendants, and natural environment - commonly supported by science and high technology.
Partnership-based cooperation along "development together with the environment (social and/or natural)" principles will require universal access to knowledge about the complex effects of human activity, including those, which take place over time and space.
|November 30, 2008|| THE KURUBA TRIBE AND THEIR MEDICINAL KNOWLEDGE AND TRADITIONAL FOOD HABITS
by Dr. H. M. Maralusiddaiah
Globally, about 85.00 per cent of the traditional medicines used for primary health case are derived from plants. Form the time immemorial mankind has been in search for plants, animals and pains, deformities aliments and diseases that affect some of the unfortunate members of our society.
The history of medicine can be linked with the remote past. Although modern medicine, or Allopathy has been accepted by a few position of the population of the world. Only in recent years has these been a new look at natural remedies, home remedies and simple ways of using plant materials which are so easily available in one’s own backyard or in the neighbourhood.
The plant kingdom has many plants with properties that are conductive to health to secure the best results from the use of plants as remedial agencies; they must be used consistently over a sufficient period of time. The Kuruba of Karnataka a dominant community in Karnataka. They are distributed in all most all districts and they are traditionally shepherds and still majority of them are practicing their occupation.
The Kurubas identity some of the plants and trees which are having medicinal values. Now I am trying to give some of the common plants and trees which are used by them regularly.
Some valuable traditional knowledge and medicinal plants names are not disclosed by them may be kept very secret, such as in cases of applications of plants for therapeutic uses. If they disclose the name of the medicine it won’t work, that is why we are not getting most of the important medicinal names and uses . They will show the roots tuber ,leaves and bark and they won`t tell the names that is the secret.
|October 31, 2008|| What Is this "Clean Coal" Obama and McCain Support?
by Tara DePorte
http://www.alternet.org/authors/7775/, published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Water,
Coal and its byproducts are everywhere -- in plastics, tar, fertilizer, steel and as the energy source for major industries such as paper and cement. In the U.S., however, over 90% of coal is used for electricity generation, resulting in 83% of carbon dioxide emission from the power sector. Coal is burned in power plants to create steam, thereby powering turbines and generating both electricity and a diversity of harmful air pollutants. No matter how you look at it, there isn't much clean about coal. The extraction and burning of coal is considered the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, including oil and gas. So, what is this new, innovative and so-called "clean coal"? Unfortunately, no one has discovered a new form of coal -- the black rock composed of carbon or hydrocarbons that is intensively mined throughout the world. The dangerous misnomers "clean coal" or "clean coal technology" are not about finding a cleaner form of fuel, instead they describe the reduction of air pollution from coal-burning power plants. For instance, some "clean coal technology" works to boost power plant efficiency in converting coal to energy, others physically filter emissions before release, and others are being developed to capture emissions upon release from the plants. With goals of zero-emissions coal power plants, the U.S. has spent over $2.5 billion since 2001 in research and development for "clean coal technology." Unfortunately, none of the options on the table actually help coal--as a whole--become any cleaner. A misnomer at best, "clean coal technology" is key to the cleanup of existing coal-powered facilities, but it's a long shot from the clean energy bill of health. There are some promising technologies being tested and applied within the "clean coal technology" umbrella, such as those addressing "end of the pipe" issues with the burning of the most abundant of fossil fuels.
|October 31, 2008||
The Truth About Rising Seas
by John James
The dissolution of the atmosphere is moving faster than anticipated. The key indicators are exceeding most of the computer projections. Nowhere have the remedial actions already taken made things better. This is because 80 percent of global warming comes from burning fossil fuels, and none of the wind farms or hybrid cars has made the slightest dent in its use. As more people and nations acquire more wealth, consumption rises and emissions increase – all exacerbated by the growing world population. This combination is increasing world temperatures, especially in the northern hemisphere where the ice in the Arctic sea is fast disappearing. The great glaciers of Greenland are supporting the sea-ice nearby, but these too are melting. Speaker after speaker produced evidence that the Greenland ice sheets were “unstable”, seriously melting around the edges and being undermined by melt-water rushing through crevasses and literally putting the skids under the glaciers, so they slide faster towards the sea. One large glacier on the west coast, 3 miles wide and a mile deep, is now slipping into the sea at 2 meters an hour, when the normal rate was around 90 meters per year. We know that were all the ice on Greenland to melt, sea levels would rise over 7 meters. The question is how long may this take? The IPCC estimate of hundreds of years is being contradicted by studies of past glaciations. Andrew Glickson and Bradley Opdyke showed that at the end of earlier ice ages the glaciers collapsed suddenly. Suddenly does not mean over a century or two, but within a decade. We all saw the speed at which this can happen in 2002 when 2,600 square kilometres on the Larsen B ice shelf in the Antarctic disintegrated and disappeared in less than five weeks. This could happen with Greenland. It was agreed at the Conference that two degree rise in global temperatures is now inevitable from the pollution we have already put into the atmosphere, though it may take us until 2025 to get there. We also know that in the historical past every degree rise in temperature has quite rapidly produced a minimum 4 metres rise in sea levels. So, the past tells us that 8 meters is on the way, though none know when. This is not the one meter assumed in our government’s discussions. Also, there are the international implications: The mere 2 percent of the world's land that is less than 10 metres above sea level is home to more than 10 per cent of the world's population - 680 million and counting - and much valuable property and vital farmland. Without mega-engineering protection, many cities would be inundated - including New York, London, Sydney, Vancouver, Melbourne and Tokyo - and leave surrounding areas vulnerable to storm surges. In Florida, Louisiana, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and elsewhere, whole regions and cities would vanish. China's economic powerhouse, Shanghai, has an average elevation of just 4 metres.
|October 31, 2008||
PETITION TO SAVE THE PLANET
by Michael Ellis and Lesley Pocock
Sign in at:
Save The Planet:
1. Re-evaluate ourselves as the prime cause of the planetary problems we are facing, and continue to re-evaluate.
2. Respect the inherent value in every single human being.
3. Respect the vastly unexplored complexity of ecosystems and life in all its forms, and the world's diverse cultures, including the open, constructive, peace-loving and responsible integrity which is evolving in Humanity.
4. Create a planetary peace and ecological culture (i.e. a sustainable civilization)
5. To positively evolve regarding issues of consumption and economy, through changes in consciousness, value systems, needs, and education
6. To recognize human potential as a prerequisite to the development of true Civilization including the power of the mind to devise appropriate technologies and enlightened strategies.
7. To use communication technology and the media and educational systems as a strategic vehicle to unite humanity for peace and non violence rather than for war
8. To integrate scientific disciplines and scientific knowledge with consciousness
9. To create universal access to the world’s knowledge and use innovative forms of education, which recapture the essence and heart of education for life.
10. To promote economic empowerment of the developing world, by developed countries, to aid in all human development.
Sign the petition.
|October 29, 2008||
Peak Oil And The Systemic Collapse Of Modern Civilization
by Peter Goodchild
Systemic collapse has ten principal parts, each with a somewhat causal relationship to the next. Fuel, metals, and electricity are a tightly-knit group, since no industrial civilization can have one without the others. As those three disappear, food and fresh water become scarce. Matters of infrastructure then follow: transportation and communication. Social structure fails: government, finance, and education. After these ten, there is psychic breakdown: madness and chaos. If we look at a chart of human population over the millennia, we see what is virtually a horizontal line. Then around 1800 or 1900 the line begins to curve upward, so that for the last few decades it has been basically a vertical line. In other words, there are billions of human beings, and every few years that number doubles. That isn’t merely a mathematical curiosity. It’s a great misfortune. Half the people in the world go to bed hungry, and the other half have to fight tooth and nail to make sure they get a meal. No one can really learn much by watching TV. The mainstream news media are tightly controlled by a very small number of very powerful corporations. They do not censor a great deal, although they distort considerably, but one thing they do not allow is any story that casts aspersions on the first principle of capitalism: that “economic growth” must never be curtailed, although it is only growth in the sense of “profits.” “More, bigger, faster” makes profits. And yet the fundamental truth is that the planet Earth is dying from two problems, each the converse of the other: resource-consumption and overpopulation. With oil, metals, and electricity gone, the rest is sure to follow: food, fresh water, transportation, communication, government, finance, education. And after that there is another layer, more psychological or sociological, that I call “the four Cs.” The first three are crime, cults, and craziness --- the breakdown of traditional law, the tendency toward anti-intellectualism, the inability to distinguish mental health from mental illness. There is also a more general one that is simple chaos, which results in the pervasive sense that “nothing works any more.”
|October 17, 2008||
Additional Thoughts On The Bailout
by Paul Craig Roberts
Just as the Bush regime’s wars have been used to pour billions of dollars into the pockets of its military-security donor base, the Paulson bailout looks like a Bush regime scheme to incur $700 billion in new public debt in order to transfer the money into the coffers of its financial donor base. The US taxpayers will be left with the interest payments in perpetuity (or inflation if the Fed monetizes the debt), and the number of Wall Street billionaires will grow. As for the US and European governments’ purchases of bank shares, that is just a cover for funneling public money into private hands. The explanations that have been given for the crisis and its bailout are opaque. The US Treasury estimates that as few as 7% of the mortgages are bad. Why then do the US, UK, Germany, and France need to pour more than $2.1 trillion of public money into private financial institutions? If, as the government tells us, the crisis stems from subprime mortgage defaults reducing the interest payments to the holders of mortgage backed securities, thus driving down their values and threatening the solvency of the institutions that hold them, why isn’t the bailout money used to address the problem at its source? If the bailout money was used to refinance troubled mortgages and to pay off foreclosed mortgages, the mortgage backed securities would be made whole, and it would be unnecessary to pour huge sums of public money into banks. Instead, the bailout money is being used to inject capital into financial institutions and to purchase from them troubled financial instruments. The bailout package is a result of panic and threats, not of analysis and understanding. Neither Congress nor the public knows the full story. If the problem is the mortgages, why does the bailout leave the mortgages unaddressed and focus instead on pouring vast amount of public money into private financial institutions? The purpose of regulation is to restrain greed and to prevent leveraged speculation from threatening the wider society. Congress needs to restore financial regulation, not reward those who caused the crisis.
|October 17, 2008||
Fear The Coming Nature Crunch
by George Monbiot
The financial crisis for which we must now pay so heavily prefigures the real collapse, when humanity bumps against its ecological limits. we are losing natural capital worth between $2 trillion and $5 trillion every year as a result of deforestation alone. The losses incurred so far by the financial sector amount to between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion. Sukhdev arrived at his figure by estimating the value of the services - such as locking up carbon and providing fresh water - that forests perform, and calculating the cost of either replacing them or living without them. The credit crunch is petty when compared to the nature crunch. The two crises have the same cause. In both cases, those who exploit the resource have demanded impossible rates of return and invoked debts that can never be repaid. Ecology and economy are both derived from the Greek word oikos - a house or dwelling. Our survival depends on the rational management of this home: the space in which life can be sustained. The rules are the same in both cases. If you extract resources at a rate beyond the level of replenishment, your stock will collapse. Here are some of the reasons why people fail to prevent ecological collapse. Their resources appear at first to be inexhaustible; a long-term trend of depletion is concealed by short-term fluctuations; small numbers of powerful people advance their interests by damaging those of everyone else; short-term profits trump long-term survival. The same, in all cases, can be said of the collapse of financial systems. Is this how human beings are destined to behave? If we cannot act until stocks - of either kind - start sliding towards oblivion, we're knackered. But one of the benefits of modernity is our ability to spot trends and predict results. If fish in a depleted ecosystem grow by 5% a year and the catch expands by 10% a year, the fishery will collapse. If the global economy keeps growing at 3% a year (or 1,700% a century), it too will hit the wall. A steady-state economy has a constant stock of capital that is maintained by a rate of throughput no higher than the ecosystem can absorb. The use of resources is capped and the right to exploit them is auctioned. Poverty is addressed through the redistribution of wealth. The banks can lend only as much money as they possess.
|October 16, 2008||
Stock markets in the US and Europe fell sharply yesterday amid mounting evidence that the US economy is entering into a severe recession. Indicating the extent to which the financial crisis has hit working people, the fall in consumer sales especially affected auto retailers, with car sales down 3.8 percent, as well as department stores and shopping malls. In response, shares values yesterday declined for Wal-Mart (6.3 percent), Target (8 percent) and Staples (7.7 percent). On Tuesday, the Treasury reported that the federal government ran a budget deficit of $454.8 billion in the 2008 fiscal year. According to Bloomberg.com, Morgan Stanley chief economist David Greenlaw has predicted the shortfall may increase to about $2 trillion once the full extent of the bailout is realised. This would be the equivalent of approximately 15 percent of US gross domestic product—more than twice as large as the post-World War II record deficit of 6 percent of GDP recorded in 1983. Slowing world growth is reflected in falling demand for commodities, leading to lower prices. The Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, an index of world commodity prices, fell to a two-year low yesterday, down almost 40 percent from July’s record high. Over the past three months, the prices of crude oil, platinum, steel, copper and zinc have slid by 35-45 percent, while agricultural commodities including soy and corn have declined by more than 50 percent. Rio Tinto has announced it is cutting production at some of its aluminum smelters in response to slowing Chinese growth. Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese declared that the Chinese economy “is pausing for breath after spectacular GDP growth.” Shares in the mining giant plummeted by 16 percent in response to the announcement. Other energy and commodity firms’ stock also fell yesterday, including Alcoa (down 12.8 percent) and Exxon Mobil (14 percent). The financial crisis has brought to a head the underlying contradictions which have been wracking the capitalist system over an entire period. Notwithstanding the desperate hopes of policy makers in Europe, Asia, and other regions, a severe and protracted recession in the US will inevitably trigger a major downturn in the world economy.
|October 14, 2008||
There Is No Quick Fix
by David Truskoff
When my wife went to work for a brokerage firm (she was an information specialist) she was given a book to read titled simply "The Stock Market." The book is dated 1963 and on page 473 we read, "Part of the activities of the Security and Exchange Commission are concerned with the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Other acts of regulation include the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, (rescinded 2007) the Investment Company Act of1940, the Banking Act and the Glass-Steagall Act. (rescinded 1999) All of these acts, put in place to control greed and prevent the robber barons from destroying our economy again, have been either rescinded or tampered with or outright gutted by congress. Ronald Reagan, the "de-regulation president", dealt a near death blow to unionism by firing the air controllers and then having their union smashed. He then imposed a moratorium on all new federal regulation enforcement. Reagan is often called the president that saved the world from Communism and given credit for restoring the economy to the real free market. The term "Free Market" has become a joke today in the bailout era. The fact is that by the end of his term, 138 Reagan administration officials had been convicted, indicted, or subject of official investigations for official misconduct and/or criminal violations. In terms of number of officials involved, the Reagan administration is American history's most corrupt administration. Reagan based his economic program on a theory known as supply-side economics, (Trickle down Reaganomics), a re-wording of the theory that if you benefit the rich money will filter down to the middle class, with a fat and satisfied middle class. Corporate America would have no oversight at all. That kind of fix only lasts until the next needle. Reagan's Economic Recovery Tax Act called for huge tax cuts for upper income people and large corporations. It was the beginning of the Capitalist system slide into the world wide economic bust of 2008. Stock market crashes do not happen overnight. They are created by blind greed over the years. When I heard both of the abominable 2008 presidential candidates say they would welcome billionaire Warren Buffet as the new Secretary of the Treasury, I thought that I had fallen through the rabbit hole into never-never land. Buffet began trading stocks at age eleven. His father was a broker and congressmen. Warren is not a carpenter that builds the houses we live in. He is not a farmer that grows the food we eat. He is not a doctor that cures our ills. He is the "vampire-like, (who) lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor he sucks." Can anyone in their right mind believe that he who is perhaps the captain of the sinking ship, the one who helped run us aground, be the one to save us?
|October 20, 2008|| How the Economic Crisis Will Affect the Environment
by Michael T. Klare
Huffington Post, published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Environment
Will the crisis be good or bad for the environment, especially with respect to global warming?
Of the many areas that will be impacted by the downturn, the environment stands out in particular. It's closely tied to the tempo of resource consumption, and significant efforts to ameliorate environmental decline will prove very expensive and out of reach for already-stretched budgets. The question thus arises: Will the crisis be good or bad for the environment, especially with respect to global warming? By all accounts, the steady growth in the world economy -- much of it driven by phenomenal economic expansion in China, India, and other nations -- was producing a corresponding increase in demand for energy of all forms, especially greenhouse-gas emitting fossil fuels. According to the latest pre-crisis projections by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), combined energy consumption by all nations of the world was expected to grow by 22 percent between 2005 and 2015, from 462 to 563 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs). Most of this increase, almost 90 percent, was expected to come from fossil fuels -- oil, coal, and natural gas. The result, not very surprisingly, was a dramatic projected increase in the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), the leading source of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Again using DOE projections, total world emissions of CO2 were expected to increase by a frightening 22 percent between 2005 and 2015, from 28.1 to 34.3 billion metric tons. This increased rate of greenhouse-gas emissions would precipitate global climate change, resulting in persistent droughts, increased storm activity, and a significant rise in the sea level. At some point, the price of gasoline will fall so low that many drivers will once again engage in the wasteful driving habits they may have given up when the price of gas soared over $3 per gallon. This may not occur right away. But with crude oil at $70 per barrel, half of what it was in August, a corresponding drop in the price of refined products will eventually follow. And that could lead people to see cheap gasoline as the one bright spot on an otherwise dismal horizon.
|October 20, 2008||
The global crisis that triggered the planetary state of emergencyInvestigative Report
October 20, 2008
Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
Major factors have caused the global crisis which triggered the planetary state of emergency :
* financial crisis
* social-economic crisis
* human activities destroying Earth ecosystems and global life-support systems, and so endangering the future of life on our planet
* disconnected with reality, unfair and corrupted governance focusing only on finances, trade and consumption
The EU, UN, WTO, IMF, World Bank, FTAA, NAFTA, NATO, and G8 nations, all nations, must operate and do their business as per the Scale of Global Rights.
Causes of the global crisis which triggered the planetary state of emergency
A) Financial crisis
Proposal to adapt to the new world order
21st Century democracy
Embrace new values, principles, global concepts, and a new, more healthy, way of life
Polluter pays principle
You own a property, use it, share it or lose it
New way of doing business and trade
Nationalization of natural resources
Federation of Global Governments and the Global Protection Agency (GPA)
Societal checks and balance
No taxes on labour but taxes on the use and consumption of natural resources
Global Economic Model
Planetary biodiversity zone
Earth management and governance
Global Community Emergency, Rescue, and Relief Centre
Strong commitment to Peace in the world by means of diplomacy, not by bullying and war
What we must do
Conclusion and recommendations
Who owns the Earth ?
Agriculture, overpopulation, energy and industry for a better future
Conflicts and wars are not sustainable
Resources have become the new political boundaries
World poverty and food crisis
World Summit of the G20 nations and the new World Order
Peak Oil and Gas Movement
Protection of the global life-support systems and the environment
Crisis of freshwater, food, deforestation, and ocean health
Global governance and the 21st Century democracy
Global Protection Agency (GPA) and global leadership
New way of doing business and trade
Nationalization of natural resources
Global Economic Model
Planetary state of emergency
Planetary biodiversity zone
Federation of Global Governments Essential Services
|October 13, 2008|| Financial Meltdown 101
by Arun Gupta
Indypendent, published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, http://www.alternet.org/workplace/
Everything you ever wanted to know about the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression but were afraid to ask. A speculative bubble occurs when price far outstrips the fundamental worth of the asset. Bubbles have occurred in everything from real estate, stocks and railroads to tulips, beanie babies and comic books. As with all bubbles, it took more and more money to make a return. In 1996, the Fed allows regular banks to become heavily involved in investment banking, which opens the door to conflicts of interest in banks pushing sketchy financial products on customers who poorly understood the risks. In 1999, under intense pressure from financial firms, Congress overturns Glass-Steagall, allowing banks to engage in any sort of activity from underwriting insurance to investment banking to commercial banking (such as holding deposits). Many Americans joined the stock mania literally in the last days and lost considerable wealth, and some, such as Enron employees, lost their life savings. When the stock market bubble erupted, turbulence rippled through the larger economy, causing investment and corporate spending to sink and unemployment to rise. Then came the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, generating a shock wave of fear and a drop in consumer spending. Burned by the stock market, many people shifted to home purchases as a more secure way to build wealth. By 2002, with the economy already limping along, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and the Fed slashed interest rates to historic lows of near 1 percent to avoid a severe economic downturn. Low interest rates make borrowed money cheap for everyone from homebuyers to banks. This ocean of credit was one factor that led to a major shift in the home-lending industry -- from originate to own to originate to distribute. Low interest rates also meant that homebuyers could take on larger mortgages, which supported rising prices. In the originate-to-own model, the mortgage lender -- which can be a private mortgage company, bank, thrift or credit union -- holds the mortgage for its term, usually 30 years. Every month the bank* originating the mortgage receives a payment made of principal and interest from the homeowner. If the buyer defaults on the mortgage, that is, stops making monthly payments, then the bank can seize and sell a valuable asset: the house. Given strict borrowing standards and the long life of the loan, it's like the homebuyer is getting married to the bank. *Shorthand for any mortgage originator. In the originate-to-distribute model, the banks sell the mortgage to third parties, turning the loans into a commodity like widgets on a conveyor belt. By selling the loan, the bank frees up its capital so it can turn around and finance a new mortgage. Thus, the banks have an incentive to sell (or distribute) mortgages fast so they can recoup the funds to sell more mortgages. By selling the loan, the bank also distributes the risk of default to others. The banks made money off mortgage fees, perhaps only a few thousand dollars per loan. Because they sold the loan, sometimes in just a few days, they had no concern that the homebuyer might default. Banks began using call centers and high-pressure tactics to mass-produce mortgages because the profit was in volume--how many loans could be approved how fast. This was complemented by fraud throughout the realestate industry, in which appraisers over-valued homes and mortgage brokers approved anyone with a pulse, not verifying assets, job status or income. And the mushrooming housing industry distorted the whole economy. Of all net job growth from 2002 to 2007, up to 40 percent was housing-sector related: mortgage brokers, appraisers, real-estate agents, call-center employees, loan officers, construction and home-improvement store workers, etc. To make the loans easier to sell, the banks go to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and get assurance for conforming (or prime mortgages*). Assurance means one of the agencies certifies that the loans are creditworthy; they also insure part of the loan in case the homeowner defaults. Before their recent nationalization, Fannie and Freddie were government-sponsored entities (GSEs). While anyone could buy shares in the two companies, they were also subject to federal regulation and congressional oversight. This federal role was seen as an implicit guarantee: While there was no explicit guarantee, all parties believed loans backed by Fannie and Freddie were absolutely safe because the government would not let the two agencies fail. This allowed them to borrow huge sums of money at extremely low rates. *Prime refers to the credit score of the borrower. Banks then sold their newly acquired assured prime mortgage loans to bundlers, ranging from Fannie and Freddie to private labels, such as investment banks, hedge funds and money banks (ones that hold deposits like savings and checking accounts. Bundlers pooled many mortgages with the intention of selling the payment rights to others, that is, someone else pays to receive your monthly mortgage payments. The next step was to securitize the bundle (a security is a tradable asset. Much of the financial wizardry of Wall Street involves turning debts into assets. Say you're Bank of America and you sell 200 mortgages in a day. Lehman Brothers buys the loans after they are assured and bundles them by depositing the mortgages in a bank account -- that's where the monthly payments from the 200 homeowners go. Then, a mortgage-backed security (MBS) is created from this bundle. An MBS is a financial product that pays a yield to the purchaser, such as a hedge fund, pension fund, investment bank, money bank, central bank and especially Fannie and Freddie. The yield, essentially an interest payment, comes from the mortgage payments. How does it work? The homeowner keeps making monthly mortgage payments to Bank of America, which makes money from the fees from the original mortgage and gets a cut for servicing the mortgage payments, passing them on to Lehman Brothers. Lehman makes money as a bundler of the mortgages and underwriter of the mortgage-backed security. The purchaser of the mortgage-backed security, say, Fannie Mae, then gets paid from the bank account holding the mortgage payments. At first, this process covered only prime mortgages because Fannie and Freddie could not assure subprime loans. To address low rates of home ownership among low-income populations and communities of color, around 2004 Congress began encouraging Fannie and Freddie to start assuring subprime mortgages on a wide scale. And easy credit fed investors' appetite for more and more mortgage-backed securities, which provided funding for new mortgages. One definition of subprime loans is any loan at an interest rate that is at least 3 percentage points more than a prime loan. Many of these loans were adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) with teaser rates. The rate was low for the first few years, but then it would reset, causing monthly payments to leap dramatically, sometimes to two or three times the original amount. Subprime borrowers are considered riskier to lend to because of low credit scores. Subprime borrowers are concentrated among people of color and immigrant and low-income communities, partly because racial and class disparities result in less access to banking services such as credit cards, online billing and checking and saving accounts. Bill paying becomes a labor-intensive process, making it much more likely that payments will be late or missed, driving down credit scores. With mortgage brokers and lenders pushing loans on anyone and everyone, those with less financial acumen -- disproportionately low-income people, immigrants, the elderly and communities of color -- often found themselves with mortgages that became unaffordable. With the surge in mortgage loans, around 2004, banks started extensively using financial products called collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). The banks would either combine mortgage-backed securities they already owned or bundle large pools of high-interest subprime mortgages. CDOs were sliced into tranches -- think of them as cuts of meat -- that paid a yield according to risk of default: The best cuts, the filet mignon, had the lowest risk and hence paid the lowest yield. The riskiest tranches, the mystery-meat hotdogs that paid the highest yield, would default first if homebuyers stopped making payments. This was seen as a way to distribute risk across the markets. The notion of distributing risk means all the market players take a little risk, so if something goes bad, everyone suffers but no one dies. Tranches were given ratings by services like Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch. The highest rating, AAA, meant there was virtually no risk of default. The perceived safety of AAA meant a broad variety of financial institutions could buy them. And because tranches were marketed as a tool to fine-tune risk and return, this spurred a big demand. There was a conflict of interest, however, because the rating services earned huge fees from the investment banks. Moody's earned nearly $850 million from such structured finance products in 2006 alone. The investment bank also bundled lower-rated mortgage backed securities, like BBB -rated ones, and then sliced them to create new tranches rated from AAA to junk. This was like turning the hotdogs into steaks. Furthermore, the banks would hedge the tranches, another way of distributing risk, by purchasing credit default swaps (CDSs) sold by companies like AIG and MBIA. The swaps were a form of insurance. This was seen as a way to make tranches more secure and hence higher rated. For instance, say you're Goldman Sachs and you have $10 million in AAA tranches. You go to AIG to insure it, and the company determines that the risk of default is extremely low so the premium is 1 percent. So you pay AIG $100,000 a year and if the tranche defaults, the company pays you $10 million. But CDSs started getting brought and sold all over the world based on perceived risk. The market grew so large that the underlying debt being insured was $45 trillion -- nearly the same size as the annual global economy! Also around 2004, things began to get even trickier when investment banks set up entities known as structured investment vehicles (SIVs). The SIVs would purchase subprime MBSs from their sponsoring banks. But to purchase these MBSs, the structured investment vehicles needed funds of their own. So the SIVs created products called asset-backed commercial paper (short-term debt of 1 to 90 days). Asset-backed means it is backed by credit from the sponsoring bank. The SIVs then sold the paper, mainly to money market funds. In this way, the SIVs generated money to purchase the mortgage-backed securities from their bank. The SIVs made money by getting high yields from the subprime MBSs they brought, while paying out low yields to the money markets that purchased the commercial paper (profiting from a spread like this is known as arbitrage). Wall Street's goal was to conjure up ways to make money while not encountering any liability. It was moving everything off-book to the SIVs to get around rules about leveraging. Banks, hedge funds and others leverage by taking their capital reserves -- actual cash or assets that can be easily turned into cash -- and borrowing many times against it. For instance, Merrill Lynch had a leverage ratio of 45.8 on Sept. 26. That means that if Merrill had $10 billion in the bank, it was playing around with $458 billion. The Federal Reserve is supposed to regulate reserves to limit the growth of credit, but the SIVs were one method to get around this rule. More leverage also meant more risk for the bank, however, because funds could disappear quickly if a few bets went bad. This is all part of what's called the Shadow Banking System, meaning it gets around existing regulations. It was deregulation that led to the huge growth of the shadow banking system. In 2004 Wall Street successfully lobbied the Securities and Exchange Commission to loosen regulations on how much they could leverage against their capital reserves. This allowed the companies "to invest in the fast-growing but opaque world of mortgage-backed securities; credit derivatives, a form of insurance for bond holders; and other exotic instruments," according to the New York Times. The only real oversight left in place was self-policing by the investment banks themselves to determine if they were putting investors at risk. The whole process worked as long as everyone believed housing prices would go up endlessly. This is a form of perceptual economics, one principle of which is that any widely held belief in the market tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the case of housing, homeowners took on ever-larger mortgages in the belief that prices would keep rising rapidly. Mortgage lenders believed the loans were safe because even if the homeowner defaulted, the mortgage holder would be left with a house that was increasing in price. Confidence in rising prices led the creators and purchasers of mortgage-backed securities to think these investments were virtually risk-free. This also applied to over-leveraging -- as long as there was easy credit and quick returns to be made, investors clamored for more mortgage-backed securities. And this applied to the money market funds that brought the paper from structured investment vehicles. As long as the money market funds had confidence in the system, they didn't cash out the commercial paper when it came due, but rolled it over at the same interest rates. This allowed the SIVs to mint money without posing any liabilities for their sponsoring banks. This system kept the U.S. economy chugging along for years. For some 35 years, real wages have been stagnant for most Americans, but as house values skyrocketed over the last decade, many homeowners refinanced and cashed out the equity -- turning their homes into ATMs. For example, if you owed $200,000 on a mortgage but the house value rose to $300,000, you could potentially turn the $100,000 difference into cash by refinancing. By 2004, Americans were using home equity to finance as much $310 billion a year in personal consumption. This debt-driven consumption was the engine of growth. U.S. over-consumption was balanced by over-production in many Asian countries. Countries like China, India, Taiwan and South Korea run large trade surpluses with the United States, which speeds their economic development. They invest excess cash in U.S. credit instruments ranging from corporate debt and MBSs to government bonds and bills. It's what economists call a virtuous cycle: we buy their goods, helping them develop, while they use the profits to buy our credit, allowing us to purchase more of their goods. But it's also unsustainable. A country cannot over-consume forever. In the final stage of the housing bubble, fewer first-time buyers could afford traditional mortgages. Rising house prices required ever-larger down payments so subprime mortgages multiplied, as they often required little or no money down. From 2004 to 2006, nearly 20 percent of all mortgage loans were subprime loans. As the vast majority were adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), this created a time bomb. The minute interest rates went up, the rates reset, and homeowners with ARMs were saddled with larger monthly payments. Various factors combined to slow real-estate prices and deflate the bubble. Rising prices led to a building boom and oversupply of houses, everaccelerating prices meant more money brought smaller returns and, once again, the Fed played a role by raising interest rates. It was trying to stave off inflation, but given the proliferation of adjustablerate mortgages, it led to higher mortgage payments, pushing hundreds of thousands of homeowners into foreclosure. Once the bubble started to leak, the process accelerated, turning the mania into a panic. First, the default spread to the structured debt instruments like collateralized debt obligations and mortgage-backed securities. The system of distributing risk failed. Securitization had spread across the entire financial system -- investment and money banks, pension funds, central banks, insurance companies -- putting everyone at risk. Because the finance sector had lobbied aggressively for decades to slash regulation, the lack of oversight amplified risk. As mortgage holders defaulted, mortgage-backed securities also began to default. The subprime funding conduit from Wall Street froze up, which led big mortgage lenders like Countrywide, New Century Financial and American Home Mortgage to go belly-up. As panic set in, money market funds began to stop rolling over the commercial paper -- they wanted to cash it out. So SIVs now had to either call on their credit line from their sponsoring banks or sell assets such as the mortgage-backed securities to raise money. Mortgage defaults and forced sales of the MBSs began to push prices down even further. This forced banks to book losses, requiring some to sell more assets to cover the losses, further lowering prices, forcing them to book more losses, creating a vicious cycle. This is known as a liquidation trap. Since no one was sure about the size of the losses, banks began to hoard funds, which caused the credit markets to dry up. Over the last year, the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury have taken increasingly drastic measures -- lowering interest rates, pumping cash into the banking sector, allowing investment banks to borrow funds while putting up low-valued securities as collateral. This then proceeded to financing takeovers, such as the Fed providing a $29 billion credit line for JP Morgan to take over Bear Stearns in March. Then it nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; this was followed by the federal takeover of AIG, which was done in by its gambling with credit default swaps. In the end, the legendary Wall Street banks disappeared in a fortnight -- bankrupt, acquired or converted into bank holding companies like Citigroup. But the contagion has not been contained. Whether the bailout plan can succeed is highly questionable. Many are skeptical as to whether the bailout will even restore confidence -- and credit -- to the banking system. As Reuters stated recently, "Doubts remain as to how it [the bailout plan] could immediately thaw the frozen money and credit market." Even if the bailout revives the banking sector, few economists think it will jumpstart the consumer credit machine. For one, over-leveraged, money-strapped banks will eagerly dump nearworthless securities on taxpayers in exchange for cash to bulk up their reserves. Plus, with working hours and wages declining and unemployment, home foreclosures and inflation surging, banks are in no mood to give consumers more credit, so consumption -- and hence the economy -- will continue to contract. There are many other, better options that were proposed: avoiding the poisonous mortgage-backed securities and buying equity stakes directly in troubled banks, re-regulating the industry, sending in teams of government auditors to decide the real worth of financial companies and which should live and die, creating a Home Owners' Loan Corporation to allow the government to buy troubled mortgages directly, allowing local governments to seize foreclosed homes and turn them into subsidized housing to minimize abandonment (which creates ghost neighborhoods, driving down the price of still-occupied homes), public works program, alternative energy investments, a Green New Deal. But these are political questions that depend on organizing and political power to propose, legislate, fund and enact. That's what will determine if there is a 21st-century New Deal or if Wall Street will get away with the biggest financial crime in world history.
|October 10, 2008||
The Methane Time Bomb And The Triple Meltdown ( Triple stands for: (1) ice sheets; (2) global economy; (3) trust in governments.)
by Andrew Glikson, email@example.com
Recent reports of enhanced methane (CH4) leaks off the eastern Siberian coast (about 100 times the background level of about 1780 parts per billion CH4) and off Svalbard (Norway) have been overshadowed in the media by the collapse of the global credit bubble. At the root of both is a common thread, deregulation, including open-ended permits to pollute the atmosphere and the oceans, little-regulated financial systems and economic globalization, representing failure by governments to protect the life and welfare of their hapless populations. For some time now, climate scientists warned that melting of subpolar permafrost and warming of the Arctic Sea (up to 4 degrees C during 2005–2008 relative to the 1951–1980) are likely to result in the dissociation of methane hydrates and the release of this powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere (methane: 62 times the infrared warming effect of CO2 over 20 years and 21 times over 100 years). The amount of carbon stored in Arctic sediments and permafrost is estimated as 500–2500 Gigaton Carbon (GtC), as compared with the world’s total fossil fuel reserves estimated as 5000 GtC. Compare with the 700 GtC of the atmosphere, which regulate CO2 levels in the range of 180–300 parts per million and land temperatures in a range of about – 50 to + 50 degrees C, which allowed the evolution of warm blooded mammals. The continuing use of the atmosphere as an open sewer for industrial pollution has already added some 305 GtC to the atmosphere together with land clearing and animal-emitted methane. This raised CO2 levels to 387 ppm CO2 to date, leading toward conditions which existed on Earth about 3 million years (Ma) ago (mid-Pliocene), when CO2 levels rose to about 400 ppm, temperatures to about 2–3 degrees C and sea levels by about 25 +/- 12 metres. There is little evidence for a extinction at 3 Ma. However, by crossing above a CO2 level of 400 ppm the atmosphere is moving into uncharted territory. At this stage, enhanced methane leaks threaten climate events, such as the massive methane release and fauna extinction of55 million years ago, which was marked by rise of CO2 to near-1000 ppm. The $700 billion donated by the US Congress to save corrupt financial dealers are required for fast-tracked conversion from polluting to clean energy utilities and vehicles. The trillions of dollars spent since WWII on bombing peasant populations in their fields in the name of democracy and freedom are needed for replanting deforested regions of the Earth.
|October 10, 2008|| How the U.S. Military Turned Me into a Terrorist
by Aaron Glantz
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, http://www.alternet.org/asoldierspeaks/
A powerful excerpt from 'Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan' lays bare the racism at the core of the Iraq occupation. In March of this year, a courageous group of veterans brought the war home, at a historic event held in Silver Spring, Md., inspired by Vietnam veterans a generation before. "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" convened more than 200 soldiers who have served in the so-called "War on Terror;" like their fellow soldiers before them, who shared stories that laid bare the nightmare of Vietnam, these veterans bore witness to the crimes that have been committed in Americans' names during the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The hearings lasted four days; in their testimony, soldiers described how the discarding of the military's rules of engagement and its systematic dehumanization of Iraqi and Afghan civilians has led to horrible acts of violence against innocent men, women and children. "These are not isolated incidents," was a common refrain, even as the episodes they described seemed exceptionally brutal. For many of the veterans, it was the first time they had told their stories. When I got to Iraq in 2003, I learned a new word, "haji." Haji was the enemy. Haji was every Iraqi. He was not a person, a father, a teacher, or a worker. It's important to understand where this word came from. To Muslims, the most important thing is to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj. Someone who has taken this pilgrimage is a haji. It's something that, in traditional Islam, is the highest calling in the religion. We took the best thing from Islam and made it into the worst thing. Since the creation of this country, racism has been used to justify expansion and oppression. Native Americans were called "savages," the Africans were called all sorts of things to excuse slavery, and Vietnam veterans know the multitude of words used to justify that imperialist war. So haji was the word we used. It was the word we used on this particular mission I'm going to talk about. We've heard a lot about raids and kicking down the doors of people's houses and ransacking their houses, but this was a different kind of raid. We never got any explanation for our orders. We were only told that a group of ?ve or six houses was now property of the U.S. military, and we had to go in and make those families leave their houses. I tried hard to be proud of my service, but all I could feel was shame. Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These are human beings. I've since been plagued by guilt. I feel guilt any time I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn't walk who we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt any time I see a mother with her children, like the one who cried hysterically and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt any time I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street. We were told we were ?ghting terrorists; the real terrorist was me, and the real terrorism is this occupation. Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. Without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war. I threw families onto the street in Iraq, only to come home and ?nd families thrown onto the street in this country, in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis. Our enemies are not ?ve thousand miles away, they are right here at home, and if we organize and ?ght, we can stop this war, we can stop this government, and we can create a better world.
|October 10, 2008|| How Badly Can the 'Experts' Ruin the Planet?
by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, http://www.alternet.org/audits
Look no further than the World Bank to see how many economic, social and environmental problems so-called experts can make worse. Remember the World Bank, that global "development" institution based in Washington, D.C., that dispenses billions of dollars a year to poorer nations with the declared intent of ending global poverty? We -- and many of you -- spent decades protesting the World Bank and documenting the bank's projects and policies that exacerbated economic, social and environmental problems. In the United States, thousands of protesters took to the streets in the years prior to 9/11 to condemn the financial behemoth. Across the Third World, where the impacts of World Bank lending are felt on the ground every day, such protests began even earlier. This weekend, World Bank President Robert Zoellick will use the occasion of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund's annual meetings in Washington, D.C., to announce that critics like us were oh so wrong and that we should look to the World Bank to play a key role in solving the world's food, climate, poverty and other crises. Were we indeed wrong? Could millions of our allies in developing countries, including so-called beneficiaries of the development mega-agency, have possibly been so wrong? Is it a time for a mea culpa? Having taken a close look at the World Bank past and present in our recently published book, Development Redefined: How the Market Met Its Match, we'd say it's not. When the Institute for Policy Studies started monitoring World Bank greenhouse gas emissions in 1997, the Bank was investing roughly 100 times more in fossil fuel energy projects than in clean energy. Tens of billions of dollars of dirty energy lending later, the Bank certainly has demonstrated its ability to contribute to climate chaos. Here, Zoellick is onto a truth of some sorts. If you really get down to the basics, over the course of its history, the World Bank has been all about "inclusive globalization." For example, over the past two decades, the economic-globalization free-market model it pushed on its borrowing countries has propelled the total number of billionaires in the world from around 100 to 1,125, with a far more inclusive group of countries being home to the billionaires today. So too does the World Bank now acknowledge that its math was wrong and the number of people living in poverty today is actually much higher than the Bank's prior calculations asserted. In other words, "inclusive globalization" has helped create a larger, more inclusive class of poor people. Way to go, World Bank. The World Bank has loaned tens of billions of dollars to Africa since the Bank set up shop right after World War II? The fact that poverty and inequality have risen in most African countries over that same period is surely pure coincidence. Consider the case of Malawi, where the government explicitly rejected the World Bank's advice on how to deal with a crisis in domestic corn production that threatened widespread famine. The result of ignoring the Bank's expertise? By late 2007, Malawi was not only feeding its own population, but also exporting corn. Dare we suggest that if Zoellick really cares about sub-Saharan Africa, he would encourage other countries to follow Malawi's example and ignore the Bank's advice? Indeed, check out the Bank's preferred solution to climate change. It's to get governments out of the picture and let the invisible hand of "carbon markets" prevail. Talk about ingenuity regarding an appropriate role for the public sector: The Bank has devised a way to make hundreds of millions of dollars off carbon markets by charging a hefty commission on trades. Or take the food crisis. By pressing countries to follow a set of policies geared to shift farmers from subsistence food crops (rice and corn, for instance, that the grower could eat) to export crops (cut flowers, ornamental plants, gourmet veggies -- that either can't be eaten or aren't meant for local stomachs), the Bank has created a "freer" global market for farm products grown largely by or for big agribusiness companies. Southern countries get to be more vulnerable to and dependent upon the whims of an unfair and volatile global market. And, now there's a role for governments to play in quelling the ensuing "food riots." Who could better grasp the challenges faced by people who make less than $2 a day than people who make hundreds of dollars a day, often tax-free? Who could better understand the needs of poor people than experts who zip in and out of poorer countries and stay in five-star hotels? And, as for those World Bank staff who do live in-country, who could better comprehend the realities of the average poor person there than Bank staff who typically live in mansions with chauffeurs and gardeners?
|October 3, 2008|| The Age of Unbridled Consumption Just Ended
by Lisa Wise
The Women's Media Center
published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/
The economic crisis, however painful, will lead to at least one positive outcome. Our economy in recent decades has been propped up by an alarming degree by profligate consumer spending and wasting of resources prompted by an avaricious credit industry. Even before the crisis, it was obvious that the traditional American Dream of comfort and security had been displaced by a "more is better" focus that promotes not quality of life, but rather the unbridled production and consumption of stuff. There was never any chance that could continue indefinitely. Recently, the Global Footprint Network issued a report stating that by September 23, humanity had consumed all the new resources the planet will produce for the year. For the rest of 2008, we are in the ecological equivalent of deficit spending, drawing down our resource stocks -- in essence, borrowing from the future. Sound familiar? We can't hope to keep to our economic budget if we can't keep to our ecological budget. The "more is better" version of the American dream is unsustainable environmentally, fueling a level of resource consumption that the planet cannot keep up with. It is personally unsustainable, drawing American families into a work-and-spend treadmill that depletes savings and clutters lives. And now we see it is unsustainable economically, as well. Whatever economy emerges from this crisis will need to put less emphasis on "more" stuff and greater emphasis on more of what matters -- like healthy communities, a healthy planet and a higher quality of life. In righting the economic ship, the end game shouldn't be to plug up a broken vessel, but to move to something more seaworthy -- one that sails within both personal and ecological limits.
|October 3, 2008|| There Is More to Green Than Global Warming
by Thomas Kostigen
http://www.alternet.org/authors/8446/, published in AlterNet: The Mix is the Message, Water, Huffington Post
We are facing crises of freshwater, food, deforestation, and ocean health. We need leadership in the protection of all our natural resources. All of our natural resources are in peril because of what we do and what that does to our planet.
We are facing a fresh water crisis. We are facing a food crisis. We are facing a crisis over deforestation. And we are facing crises in our oceans. While carbon emissions from fossil fuels pollute the air, so does a lot of other stuff. Now is the time to press for leadership in the protection of all our natural resources. We must increase our freshwater supply by about 20 percent by the year 2025 to meet world demand, and 90 cities still dump sewage into it. The price of most food has doubled over the past year, forcing millions deeper into poverty and malnourishment. There is now six times as much plastic as zooplankton in parts of the Pacific Ocean, and 90 percent of the big fish on Earth have disappeared. Meanwhile, we have an ever-increasing waste and electronic-waste burden on our hands. We each create twice as much trash per day as we did 40 years ago. The average size of our landfills has multiplied 25 times in that period as well. And our e-waste burden is so bad that we ship 80 percent of it overseas to countries with weak environmental standards. These countries in turn make products from our discards and ship them right back to us. (And we wonder how lead paint gets in toys.) As well, up to 40 percent of global wood production is from illegal timber operations. Deforestation not only displaces people and endangers species, it is the second biggest cause of climate change. (It isn't only fossil fuels that cause global warming.) To be sure, an alternative energy supply is needed and important. But let's not forget the importance of other environmental factors crucial to our health and well-being, not to mention the planet's.
|September 29, 2008||
Planetary biodiversity zone ( Part III )
Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
The Global Community has established a planetary biodiversity zone now under the protection of the Global Protection Agency (GPA). We have declared a moratorium on all development in the zone, including all drilling, military testing, and any other destructive uses of the ecosystems.
The planetary biodiversity zone includes :
The people of all nations are required to respect the moratorium until global law has been completed to include regulations to be enforced by the GPA.
|September 24, 2008||
The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists. Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane. The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth. The Arctic region as a whole has seen a 4C rise in average temperatures over recent decades and a dramatic decline in the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by summer sea ice. Many scientists fear that the loss of sea ice could accelerate the warming trend because open ocean soaks up more heat from the sun than the reflective surface of an ice-covered sea.
|September 11, 2008||Read|
|September 24, 2008||
The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists. Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane. The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth. The Arctic region as a whole has seen a 4C rise in average temperatures over recent decades and a dramatic decline in the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by summer sea ice. Many scientists fear that the loss of sea ice could accelerate the warming trend because open ocean soaks up more heat from the sun than the reflective surface of an ice-covered sea.
|September 18, 2008||
Sauvons la banquise et l'humanité
by Guy CREQUIE
Ambassadeur de la Paix
Cercle Universel des Ambassadeurs de la Paix
Universal Ambassador Peace Circle
Global Community peace Movement
Guy CREQUIE Global file
Our Global Community volunteers will help you
L'explorateur français Jean-Louis ETIENNE, vient de lancer une pétition pour sauver la banquise au pôle Nord. Selon ses analyses, la fonte avec le réchauffement va entraîner une période de chaos climatique notamment dans l'hémisphčre Nord.
Depuis quelque temps, nous connaissons de sérieux avertissements. Męme s'il existe des phénomčnes climatiques conjoncturels exceptionnels, force est de constater, ces derničres années, l'accroissement des tornades, cyclones, tremblements de terre ou autres tsunamis.
Il suggčre que le Président français Nicolas SARKOZY, qui préside actuellement l'Union Européenne propose aux Nations Unies le vote d'une résolution qui classerait la banquise de l'Océan arctique comme une zone d'intéręt commun pour l'humanité.
Il est temps, qu'en actes, les gouvernements mettent en śuvre les recommandations du GIEC et des conférences internationales. La France pour sa part, a tenu son Grenelle de l'environnement. Il faut, aprčs le vote d'une résolution par l'AG de l'ONU, que les Nations Unies organisent un sommet millénaire pour l'environnement avec le vote ensuite de résolutions par continent avec des échéances d'application et les sommes allouées.
En effet, contrairement ŕ ceux qui parlent de déterminisme de la bourse pour justifier leur impuissance ou inaction, les humains sont encore les décideurs de l'économie mondiale .Par contre, face ŕ la nature en colčre, quelle que puisse ętre notre conception philosophique ou religieuse, nous ne pouvons rien empęcher ŕ l'instant = sauf constater les dégâts. Ce qui se fait maintenant et se fera pour l'environnement, aura des incidences pour une autre génération. Cependant, il faut le faire au présent car c'est de la survie de la plančte et de toutes ses formes de vie : humaine, animale,minérale, végétale...qu'il est question!
L'AVENIR COMMANDE MAINTENANT LA SAGESSE ET LA DETERMINATION DU PRESENT.Que la science serve l'humain, les peuples, et non des privilégiés détenteurs d'intéręts privés ou de stratégies étatiques suicidaires.
|September 18, 2008||
The Blue Crystal Ball
by Dean Hepburn
Humanity has one of the greatest gifts ever to have been provided to a species- foresight. We can plan our day and year; we can do a shopping list with the knowledge that we can save food for another day and we know that a day will come on which we will die. For all our inventiveness, for all our intelligence, for all our knowledge of history and for all our foresight, we cannot say what Earth will look like in a thousand years, and we can’t stop destroying it. For the next century at least, it is most likely that humanity will continue the degradation of Earths natural resources until we hit a series of catastrophes. Such events will be based on famine, disease and war or a series of climatic events which lead to famine, disease and war. We know that the weather is changing; we know that we are contributing to it; we know that our population will hit about 10 billion by the year 2050 and we know that agricultural systems will not be able to provide nutritious food for such an increasing population forever. Not only that but we are expected to consume more, our economies are based on consumption and we know that our economy must be fed in order for our social services to be provided. So it seems that we are developing to death. ‘Economy’ has become a word so revered that it now has a God or master like status. On any given day you can bet that our politicians and financial gurus will be screaming ‘economy must be fed or we all will die’. Our appetite for consumable products which feed the economy is voracious. World product has increased a massive 1600% since only 1950, whilst trade in that time has increased from less than $500 billion (in today’s money) to more than $8 trillion. It is predicted that by the year 2050, the vast forests of Asia, South America and central Africa will have been consumed and be replaced by representative patches called National Parks while the rest of the land will become sterile pine forests and agriculture. In many instances, and this includes Australia, lands presently or formerly containing forests or grassland filled with a plethora of biodiversity will become barren wastelands caused by unsustainable farming practices and climate change. The loss of such forests will allow greenhouse gases to increase in the atmosphere causing higher rates of climate change leading to more dramatic climatic events such as floods and longer, drier droughts. This alone, it is estimated, will contribute an extra hundred million or more refugees looking for a new home. For all this talk of human apocalypse it is almost reassuring to know that something will eventually destroy the planet no matter what we do to it in the interim. We have an opportunity to shoot for the stars, yet no realistic capacity exists for us to survive for more than a few months outside the Earth’s atmosphere. The unifying aspect is that we all need clean air to breath, nutritious food to eat, a safe home and love. Tragically, all these appear harder to attain as we supposedly progress. The air is no longer clean, food is less nutritious, a safe home can only be found behind security screens and trends show increasing divorce rates and loneliness. The dream of a bright future hid the fact that in dreams begin responsibilities. So what does the future really hold for humanity? With a moment of clarity, let us look into the blue crystal ball called Earth.
|September 18, 2008||
Over the past eleven days, the US government has taken control of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; Lehman Brothers, the oldest US investment bank, has gone into bankruptcy; Merrill Lynch has sold itself to Bank of America; and the government has taken over insurance giant American International Group (AIG) in order to stave off its collapse. These unprecedented developments have only intensified fears in the US and around the world of a financial meltdown that could dwarf the collapse of the 1930s. Credit markets in the US and around the world have seized up in the wake of the government bailout of AIG and the demise of Lehman and Merrill Lynch. Banks and financial firms have all but ceased lending to one another, and the cost of short-term credit upon which the financial system depends has skyrocketed. Big investors are bailing out of stocks and other securities and rushing to buy Treasury securities, which are considered relatively safe. As a result, the yield on Treasury bills has plummeted, at one point on Wednesday falling below zero. Other signs of a collapse of confidence in the financial markets were in evidence. Crude oil jumped by $6 a barrel and gold and silver futures soared, as investors scrambled to move their money out of stocks and bonds and into commodities and precious metals. What is involved in the crisis is not simply the failure of certain large finance houses, but rather the bankruptcy of American capitalism itself. The US central bank, the Federal Reserve Board, is heading toward insolvency. The massive decline in the Fed’s real assets is the result of its having doled out hundreds of billions of dollars in low-interest loans to prop up Wall Street, taking as collateral virtually worthless mortgage-backed securities and other assets that cannot be sold on the market because no one will buy them. The Treasury’s announcement of a bailout to the Fed, on the heels of its assumption of the $5.3 trillion in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac liabilities, is the precursor to a colossal government bailout of the banking system, which will be engineered with the full support of the Democratic Congress and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, and whose cost will be placed squarely on the working class.
|September 18, 2008||
Only a Roosevelt-Scale Counterrevolution Can Prevent Great Depression II
by Robert Kuttner
The American Prospect
AlterNet, The Mix is the Message, Corporate Accountability and Worplace
Free-market extremists brought us this needless economic collapse. Here's a rundown of the mistakes we've made and the reforms we need now. The current carnage on Wall Street, with dire spillover effects on Main Street, is the result of a failed ideology -- the idea that financial markets could regulate themselves. Serial deregulation fed on itself. Deliberate repeal of regulations became entangled with failure to carry out laws still on the books. Corruption mingled with simple incompetence. And though the ideology was largely Republican, it was abetted by Wall Street Democrats.
Three Basic Reforms
What all of these sins had in common was that they led financial markets to misprice assets. In plain English, that means buyers were purchasing securities based on bad information, often with borrowed money. When firms started losing money on sub-prime in mid-2007 and other owners decided it was time to get their money out, the whole miracle of leverage went into reverse. And it spilled over into other securities that had been mispriced thanks to all the conflicts of interest tolerated by regulators. That's why, no matter how much taxpayer money the Federal Reserve and the Treasury keep pumping in, they can't turn dross back into gold. The next administration and the Congress need to return the financial economy to its historic task of supplying capital to the real economy -- of connecting investors to entrepreneurs -- and shut down the purely casino aspects of the system that have only enriched middlemen and passed along huge risks to everyone else.
If it Quacks Like a Bank, Regulate it Like a Bank. Barack Obama said it well in his historic speech on the financial emergency last March 27 in New York. "We need to regulate financial institutions for what they do, not what they are." Increasingly, different kinds of financial firms do the same kinds of things, and they are all capable of infusing toxic products into the nation's financial bloodstream. That's why Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has had to extend the government's financial safety net to all kinds of large financial firms like A.I.G. that have no technical right to the aid and no regulation to keep them from taking outlandish risks. Going forward, all financial firms that buy and sell products in money markets need the same regulation and examination. That will be the essence of the 2009 version of the Glass-Steagall Act.
Limit Leverage. At the very heart of the financial meltdown was extreme speculation with esoteric financial securities, using astronomical rates of leverage. Commercial banks are limited to something like 10 to one, or less, depending on their conditions. These leverage limits need to be extended to all financial players, as part of the same 2009 banking reform.
Police Conflicts of Interest. The conflicts of interest at the core of bond-raising agencies are only one of the conflicts that have been permitted to pervade financial markets. Bond-rating agencies should probably become public institutions. Other conflicts of interest should be made explicitly illegal. Yes, financial markets keep "innovating." But some innovations are good, and some are abusive subterfuges. And if regulators who actually believe in regulation are empowered to examine all financial institutions, they can issue cease-and-desist orders when they encounter dangerous conflicts.
|September 17, 2008||
Meltdown On Wall Street: Grave Warning For India
by Partha Banerjee
On September 15, the house of cards starts falling down on Wall Street. Lehman Brothers goes for bankruptcy protection, Merrill Lynch goes for a shotgun marriage with Bank of America, AIG is about to unravel, later to be nationalized by the U.S. Just last week, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bailed out by the U.S. govt. CEO's and big investors get out okay; ordinary employees and little people on the street suffer heavily. The collapse of the Wall Street giants comes six months after the meltdown of Bear Stearns and a year after the start of the credit crisis, set off by bad mortgage financing and real estate investments: none of which can be blamed on ordinary investors or home owners -- it's the latter that suffered the greatest (countless people lost their homes). In spite of an outpouring of help from peer institutions, the U.S. market took a great hit and pulled the global markets down. On September 16, the FTSE-100 share index went down 4.07 percent in London, the Paris CAC-40 was off 4.5 percent and Germany's DAX 30 index tumbled 3.23 percent. India's Sensex also crashed 3.4 percent. The end of Lehman Brothers, a 150-year-old corporation, may not stop the financial crisis that has gripped Wall Street for months, analysts said. "More investment banks could disappear soon." Christopher Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, a research firm, predicted that “approximately 110 banks with $850 billion in assets could close by next July. That's out of 8,400 federally insured institutions, which together hold $13 trillion in assets,” he said. It's a major debacle for U.S.-style corporate capitalism that thrives on empowering the most powerful and enriching the richest. Nowhere in the world -- even in other market-driven economies such as Europe, Canada or Japan -- a country is run under the guise of democracy, yet power never percolates down to the ordinary people. Especially since the terrorist attacks of September 11, this administration of Bush, Cheney and McCain, with active help from a self-censored media, lied to us both about the war and the status of the crumbling economy. On one hand, a trillion dollar war destroyed two ancient civilizations called Iraq and Afghanistan and killed countless men, women and children; at the same time, the enormous cost of the war emptied precious resources from within the U.S. -- resources that could well have been spent on jobs, health care, education, housing, environment, energy, immigration and other top priorities.
|September 14, 2008||
PRINCIPE D’HARMONIE ET REALITE SOCIALE = LE CHEMIN DE LA TRANSFORMATIONby Guy CREQUIE
CONCEPTS……..ET ACTUALITE DU MONDE = QUELQUES REFLEXIONS
Adolescence et violence = Non ŕ l'universalisme de la finitude assassasine
Droits de l'homme et devoir d'humanité
Ambassadeur de la Paix
Cercle Universel des Ambassadeurs de la Paix
Universal Ambassador Peace Circle
Global Community peace Movement
Guy CREQUIE Global file
Our Global Community volunteers will help you
Le principe d’harmonie est celui oů les choses en apparence stables, se développent et meurent en passant par un changement ininterrompu au cours duquel finalement, malgré tous les hasards apparents et les retours en arričre momentanés, un développement progressif vers l’harmonie finit par se faire jour. En 2007, il s’est écoulé 50 ans, depuis que le bouddhiste Josei TODA, devant 50.000 jeunes réunis dans le stade de Mitsuzawa ŕ Yokohama au Japon a dénoncé les armes nucléaires comme un mal absolu et il a rugi comme un lion en exigeant leur abolition.
En surface, sans parler de L’échec actuel du TNP ( traité de non-prolifération nucléaire ) on pourrait penser que cet appel n’a pas été écouté car comme l’écrit Monsieur Daisaku IKEDA, dans ses propositions pour la paix le 26 janvier 2007, transmises au Secrétaire général de l’ONU : Ban Ki-Moon, « … Il est regrettable, que nous soyons entrés dans le 21č sičcle encombrés du fardeau de 27.000 tętes nucléaires….. »
Le principe d’harmonie ? Il sera lorsque les humains mettront en actes le Manifeste RUSSELL –EINSTEIN publié en 1955 qui disait : « L’appel que nous lançons, est celui d’ętres humains ŕ d’autres ętres humains ; rappelez-vous que vous ętes de la race des hommes et oubliez le reste …. »
Avec la guerre entre la Russie et la Géorgie début aoűt dans le Caucase, ce conflit est également apparu comme le théâtre d’un affrontement Est-Ouest entre la Russie (qui soutient les indépendantistes Ossčtes) et les Etats –Unis (avec l’OTAN.)
L’ONU est apparue bien limitée ou timorée pour peser d’un quelconque poids relativement ŕ ce conflit. Il est vrai que depuis l’éclatement de l’ex URSS, les relations des l’OUEST avec la Russie ont permis des avancées de relations plus détendues que lors de la guerre froide, mais l’implantation prévue du bouclier antimissiles dans des anciens pays alliés du bloc soviétique a relancé des tensions.
Des concepts tels ceux de : humanisme, démocratie, liberté, valeur, de droit de l’homme et de devoir sont utilisés en des sens divers. Ils deviennent de simples abstractions, des sortes d’hymne générique ignorant les singularités.
Le vécu des peuples est ressenti comme étranger ŕ des mots qui ressemblent ŕ des slogans creux !
Egalement, ces abus de langage aboutissent ŕ un affaiblissement de la pensée elle-męme ; ceci, dans la mesure ou celle-ci se rétrécit, véhicule par les mots des conceptions fausses ou ŕ interprétations multiples, sans clarté ou cohérence de vulgarisation et sans le respect des usages originaux et primitifs des concepts.
Un autre concept reste ŕ affirmer : celui de dignité ; du respect de toutes les minorités humanistes de pensée et de groupes sociaux marginalisés et cependant porteurs d’une riche histoire humaine.
C’est pourquoi, ma modeste ambition d’essayiste sera celle de redéfinir l’humanisme contemporain, ce ŕ quoi voulait s’atteler le philosophe Michel FOUCAULT, hélas mort avant d’avoir pu réaliser son dessein.
A ma modeste maničre, je réfléchis sur les questions de société et relativement ŕ l’humanisme, je viens de terminer 2 livres : la Révolution de l’esprit (pour l’humanisme en action) ŕ paraître le 9 décembre 2008 et « Réconcilier les droits et les devoirs pour l’avenir de l’humanité » ŕ paraître l’été 2009.
La culture de la paix et de la non-violence ne concerne pas que les Institutions, elle est exigeante pour chaque citoyen si nous voulons que notre plančte vive en harmonie. Sinon, les violences sociales planétaires qui nous attendent seront un drame aussi grave que les déséquilibres causés ŕ la bio-diversité et qui menacent nos vécus ŕ venir.
Certes, le rôle des parents, des enseignants reste primordial afin de transmettre les valeurs de paix et d’harmonie et de ce point de vue si l’engagement associatif prend un relief grandissant, le rôle des Religions valorisant la compassion, l’amour universel, le travail intérieur sur soi, devrait ętre une contribution également importante. Hélas, l’apparition des fondamentalismes et autres fanatismes ont obscurci bien des messages originaux, lesquels, ont perdu de leur portée étant parfois et hélas abusivement assimilé aux dérives sectaires et obscurantistes, voire meurtričres.
Je propose donc, dans cette perspective, aux Chefs d’Etats et de Gouvernements de devenir des promoteurs et garants du devoir d’humanité !
Curieusement, les concepts de VIE et de PEUPLE ne font l’objet d’aucune définition dans le droit international. Ceci, alors qu’ils sont au centre de toute aventure humaine.
Cette apologie ou ce laxisme vis-ŕ-vis de la suppression de la vie s’applique alors également pour les animaux, les plantes,….Bref, toute vie organique et biologique en général !
Parlons, et réglons dans le droit international, dans les Constitutions, actes, traités, de tout ce qui a trait aux atteintes multiples et caractéristiques des droits et devoirs de la personne.
Pour ma part, j’ai suggéré ŕ l’occasion du 60e anniversaire de la déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme, la mise en chantier d’une nouvelle déclaration des droits et devoirs de la personne. J’ai exposé mes arguments dans un livre ŕ paraître sous le titre : « Réconcilier les droits et les devoirs pour l’avenir de l’humanité.
En ce début de IIIe millénaire, le véritable humanisme contemporain est celui du respect de la vie : de toute forme de vie, et ce : ŕ commencer pour l’exemplarité par Les Chefs d’Etats et de Gouvernements et autres Institutions, les leaders religieux,….
Cet humanisme, passe par l’exigence du devoir d’humanité !
|September 12, 2008|| U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
by Triaka Smith
In the Spirit of Aloha
FACT 1 - The U.S. Constitution established a form of government that gave direct governing power to a small minority over the American people at large. Political power was structured from top-down in Executive and Legislative branches of government, rather than from bottom-up taxpayers and consumers, an oligarchical system that gave preference to money interests who influenced politicians.
FACT 2 - Money interests influenced the U.S. government to extend, consolidate and centralize economic, political and military power in what President H.W. Bush termed the New World Order.
FACT 3 - By the 21st century, the U.S. was the most dominating force in the world with 1,150 military installations in 144 of almost 200 nations on the planet with the world's largest and most powerful military force in human history.
And you wonder why terrorists want to destroy this invasive force?
I wonder why the 2008 Presidential and Congressional candidates do not offer a change in Foreign Policy and why media people do not ask the obvious questions.
|September 9, 2008|| Peace Partnership International
Dot Maver, President & CEO
Global Community Affiliated Centres for Education and Training
Peace Partnership International
Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace
Kosta Makreas has encouraged me to update you on our historic initiative to found a National Peace Academy in the United States of America. It is a group effort and we are part of a consortium made up of Case Western Reserve University, Biosophical Institute, and Peace Partnership International.
The unique design process we are undertaking is one of the main reasons we are excited about the National Peace Academy. It is not about simply starting another educational institution. It is about infusing and reflecting the principles and practices of peace throughout the process itself and through the emerging institution. You can find out more about the National Peace Academy at www.nationalpeaceacademy.us.
Founding a National Peace Academy initiative is one of three major initiatives we are engaged in at Peace Partnership International. We are also working closely with the Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace, and through our initiative, Building Bridges of Peace, we are forging partnerships with and among government, business and civil society to help create a culture of peace.
The Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace, which Peace Partnership International co-founded in 2005, is a community of individuals and organizations in 36 countries on six continents working to encourage the institutional support for and expression of a culture of peace in governments around the world. Solomon Islands and Nepal already have such government ministries, and Costa Rica is poised to become the third. Learn more at www.mfp-dop.org.
Making the shift to a culture of peace requires everyone, in all walks of life, working together to discover - from their own personal and professional perspective - what that shift means for them, why it is important, and how to do it. Our third major initiative, Building Bridges of Peace, is bridging socioeconomic and intergenerational divides to catalyze partnerships for peace. Learn more at http://www.peacepartintl. org/content/blogcategory/108/132/.
Please take a moment and visit our website at www.peacepartintl.org. Once you have familiarized yourself with our work, we invite you to spread the word via our easy-to-use Refer-a-Friend system at www.peacepartintl. org/tellfriends.
Thank you for your tireless efforts as we all work together to create a better world. Your support and encouragement is deeply appreciated. Please let me know if you have any questions or desire further information.
In the spirit of peace,
Dot Maver, President & CEO
|September 10, 2008|| South Africa: A 21st Century Struggle
by Beth Weaver
Environmental Defense Fund
South Africa faces a multitude of struggles of its own — an enormous rate of unemployment and the lack of quality education for a huge portion of the population result in high crime rates and widespread poverty that perpetuates racial divide.
This remaining divide cripples the South African economy and disheartens many South Africans who dreamt that the end of apartheid would be the end of the nation's problems.
Environmental degradation and the growing scarcity of natural resources are increasingly affecting life in South Africa and adding great strains on an already fragile economy.
Water conservation is at the forefront of the debate. At each guest house where I stayed, I'd see signs reminding us of the necessity of conserving water, which is widely thought of as Africa's most precious resource.
The threat of global warming was also present. Several South Africans I met on my journey noted how the weather has been different in recent years and how "we now go from winter directly into summer."
No matter how much time one spends trying to save endangered species and protect the environment, it is always a humbling experience to happen upon a plant or animal that is one of the last of its kind.
The South African environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk warned that global warming is already impacting the ecosystem of Kruger National Park. He said many of the species could face extinction and added, "If the phenomenon continues unabated, the damage to one of South Africa's most celebrated and popular conservation and tourism areas could be shattering."
|September 9, 2008|| What Iceland Can Teach America
by David Yarnold
Environmental Defense Fund
Iceland's commitment to harnessing renewable energy resources is absolutely inspirational. Their use of geothermal power is groundbreaking.
As much as 70% of Iceland's total energy (and 100% of its electricity and heat) comes from renewable energy. This is the highest percentage of any country in the world and puts Iceland on track to meet its goal of providing 100% of its energy needs from zero-emission renewable energy sources before mid-century.
To complete their mission, Iceland plans to use geothermal electricity to split hydrogen from water and use hydrogen fuel cells for its fishing fleets and transportation sector, the last industries in Iceland still using fossil fuels.
A 2006 MIT study concluded that about 100 Gigawatts of economically viable energy could be developed in the lower 48 states. That's enough energy to power 50 million homes.
Iceland's ability to tap their renewable energy resources and maintain a modern, growing economy is a remarkable case study in how we can break free from our addiction to fossil fuels.
Iceland has taken care to protect its wildlife from exotic predators; so this puffin with its absurdly oversized and colorful beak knew it had no reason to fear me.
|September 8, 2008||
Murdering Mother Earth
by Jason Miller, Cyrano’s Journal Online’s associate editor.
Nuclear power only produces 20% of the electricity consumed in the US, but accounts for a number of staggering problems we simply keep sweeping under the rug for future generations to solve. Forget logic or consideration for our children or for Mother Earth, though. John McCain, Greanpeace founder Patrick Moore, and a host of other whores to the nuclear power industry hail nuclear energy as a “green” alternative to fossil fuels and clamor for more. Since nuclear plants rely on large bodies of water to cool reactors (and avoid a melt-down) and discharge about 70% of the heat they generate (as waste), they are vulnerable to droughts and cause significant thermal pollution in the bodies of water that cool them. Nuclear power production begins to contaminate the environment with radioactivity before the fuel even arrives at the plant. It takes a tonne of uranium ore to produce 3 kilograms of uranium oxide. While the tailings that are left behind emit small levels of radiation, they do release radon gas and radioactive dust at a rate 10,000 times faster than the unmined ore. This nuclear contamination stays in the environment for 100,000 years and over time reaches such high levels that a Los Alamos Laboratory report concluded that we need to, “to zone the land in uranium mining and milling districts to forbid human habitation.” Nuclear power facilities produce a steady stream of low-level radioactive waste, including gas, solid and liquid. Gaseous and liquid wastes are “cleaned and diluted,” but are eventually released into the environment. Solid wastes are transported to one of three low-level radiation disposal sites in the US where they continue accumulating and emitting radiation into the environment. Sounds Earth-friendly, doesn’t it? About once a year 33% of a reactor’s fuel rods are replaced, producing anywhere from 12 to 30 tonnes of high level nuclear waste. The frightening part is that we’ve been using this “green” technology for 40 years now and still haven’t figured out a safe and permanent means of disposing of its extremely dangerous and lethal by-products. Temporary pools or dry cask storage (large steel cylinders that require constant monitoring) onsite at nuclear facilities house most of the spent reactor fuel, which will remain a dire threat to the environment for tens of thousands of years. Nuclear power plants are running out of storage capacity and the “permanent storage solution” at Yucca Mountain, projected to be operational in 2017, is little more than a tentative and distant speck on the horizon. Nuclear reactors are “dual-use” by virtue of the fact that plutonium is one of their by-products and plutonium can be used to produce nuclear weapons. Small wonder our ruling class trembles with fear (hence their belligerence, bullying and macho posturing) at the prospect of Iran (a nation which refuses to genuflect to the American/Israeli Empire) developing nuclear reactors to generate power. And someone please explain what it is that’s so “green” about a source of electricity that produces waste that people (whom our malevolent and brutal foreign policy has pissed off—there are millions and millions of them) could use to make a “dirty bomb” and then deploy it against us. Granted the potential efficacy of a dirty bomb is subject to debate, but who wants to find out? We already have 104 repositories for bomb-making materials scattered across the United States. Let’s push to add more! While many anti-nuclear activists focus their efforts on opposing the issuance of licenses to build new nuclear power plants, another approach may prove to be more effective and is in play at this moment. Members of IPSEC, a group of over 70 community groups, have devoted themselves to shutting down the nuclear power plant known as the Indian Point Energy Center. Grassroots and non-profit, the objective of IPSEC groups like Riverkeeper is to replace nukes with a truly safe form of sustainable energy and to preserve the integrity of the environment. If IPSEC is successful in setting a precedent by catalyzing the shuttering of Indian Point, a domino effect could ensue and spell the beginning of the end for the menace of nuclear power. Indian Point is situated about 25 miles from New York City, a rather populous area, eh? (93 million people live within a 500 mile radius of this nuclear facility, most of whom would be impacted by a major accident or meltdown at Indian Point). “Without continuous monitoring and guaranteed water flow, the thousands of tons of radioactive rods in the cores and the thousands more stored in those fragile pools would rapidly melt into super-hot radioactive balls of lava that would burn into the ground and the water table and, ultimately, the Hudson.” Indian Point Energy Center manifests nearly all that is inane and insane about humans shattering atomic nuclei and hubristically believing we can play with the fires of hell without getting burned…..
|September 8, 2008||
Nuclear Waiver - Blow To Non-Proliferation
by Praful Bidwai, Inter Press Service
The special waiver granted to India by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) from its nuclear trade rules is being seen as a massive setback to the cause of global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The NSG's waiver will allow India to resume nuclear commerce with the rest of the world with very few restrictions although India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has refused to accede to any other agreement for preventing the spread of, reducing the numbers of, or abolishing nuclear weapons. Clearly though, the waiver only became possible because of the strong-arm methods used by the U.S. to bludgeon dissenting NSG members into agreeing to the exemption text it had drafted in consultation with India. Contrary to the claim that the waiver, and more generally, the U.S.-India nuclear deal, will bring India into the global "non-proliferation mainstream" or promote nuclear restraint on India's part, it will allow India to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal and encourage a nuclear arms race in Asia, particularly in the volatile South Asian subcontinent, where Pakistan emerged as India's nuclear rival 10 years ago. The special waiver has been roundly criticised by nuclear disarmament and peace groups throughout the world, including in India. With the waiver under its belt, India can proceed to import uranium fuel, of which it is running short, and a range of other nuclear materials, equipment and technologies for its civilian nuclear programme. But it can divert domestic uranium exclusively for weapons purposes. India accepts no limits or restrictions on the size of its nuclear arsenal and has an ambitious nuclear doctrine under which it continues to stockpile fissile material for weapons use.
|September 6, 2008||
Why We're Planning To Prosecute Cheney And Bush
by David Swanson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Next weekend in Andover, Mass., a group of attorneys, academics, and activists will gather to plan the prosecution of Dick Cheney, George Bush, and the lawyers and advisors who, together with them, are responsible for war crimes. The conference is open to the public and expected to be well attended: http://war-crimes.info In a December 31, 2007, editorial, the New York Times faulted the current president and vice president of the United States for kidnapping innocent people, denying justice to prisoners, torturing, murdering, circumventing U.S. and international law, spying in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and basing their actions on "imperial fantasies." If the editorial had been about Bush and Cheney robbing a liquor store or killing a small number of people or robbing a small amount of money or torturing a single child, then the writers at the New York Times would have demanded immediate prosecution and incarceration. Can you guess what they actually demanded? They demanded that we sit back and hope the next president and vice president will be better. Well, what if they are? The next guy who walked into the liquor store or played with the child would be better too. But how does that fact deter future crimes? Well, we can announce new policies, pass new legislation, amend the Constitution. We can shift power to the Congress, and clean up our electoral system to allow real representation of the people in the Congress. We can shift our resources from the military to peaceful enterprises. We can eliminate secret government and create total transparency. We can perfect the brilliant cutting-edge democratic system that our nation created over two centuries ago and has done little to update since. We can put an end to plutocracy, reclaim our airwaves, ban war propaganda, and develop wholly different public attitudes toward those 95.5 percent of people in the world who are not Americans. And so we should. But even if we could do all of those things instantly, it would not be sufficient to chain the dogs of war. Exquisite laws and enlightened public attitudes are of no use at all as long as presidents and vice presidents suffer no penalty for disobeying them, and in fact benefit politically and financially.
And we can make citizens arrests all on our own right now: http://afterdowningstreet.org/citizenarrest
|September 6, 2008||
Sino-Russian relations have been under intense scrutiny lately because of the Georgian-Russian conflict over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. In the early morning of August 8, 2008, when President Dmitry Medvedev was on vacation and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was in Beijing attending the Summer Olympics Games, Georgia launched a military offensive to surround and capture Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. Putin, who was in Beijing prior to the Olympics opening ceremony, immediately informed the Chinese side in his meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao on August 8. China's reaction to Georgia's assault, according to Putin, was that "nobody needs the war", which was also US President George W Bush's reaction. The Georgian-Russian conflict is in essence between Russia and the US. Beijing's public "neutrality" toward the Georgia-Russian conflict, however, should not be a surprise in that it has been the pattern in China's diplomacy since the 1980s. In almost all cases ranging from international crises (Korean Peninsula, Iran, Kashmir, etc) to bilateral disputes (the South China Sea with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the East China Sea with Japan, border settlements with Russia, Vietnam, India - in progress- etc), China has opted for dialogue and compromise, rather than confrontation or side-taking. The same operational principle has applied to difficult issues such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. Aside from this predictable pattern of China's approach to conflict and disputes, the timing of the conflict was also an irritant for Beijing. China did not want any conflict at the historical moment of hosting the Olympics, whether Russia was part of the conflict or not. Given the complexities of the ethnic conflicts dating back to the 1920s, its evolving nature and the US looming large in the background, China's cautious reaction was expected, if not desirable for Moscow. What China did was perhaps rational within the context of its strategic partnership relations with Russia. It is perhaps what Russia would do in a scenario of a China-US conflict over Taiwan. That is, Russia would more likely remain neutral though expressing sympathy for China. This was exactly what Moscow did in 2001 when a US spy plane (EP-3) collided with a Chinese jet fighter (J-8II) off China's coast, leading to a major crisis between China and the US. When the Georgian dust settles, the West may start to comprehend that the Sino-Russian strategic partnership is perhaps not as strong or weak as it appears. What is unclear, however, is whether the crisis between Washington and Moscow will be over, as Washington has rushed US$1 billion aid, and Vice President Dick Cheney, to Georgia and NATO is amassing warships in the Black Sea.
|September 5, 2008||
Global Realignment: How Bush Inspired A New World Order
by Ramzy Baroud
The series of unfortunate and costly decisions made during the two terms of the Bush administration, combined with economic decline at home, might devastate the US's world standing much sooner than most analysts predict. What was difficult to foresee was that the weakening of US global dominance, spurred by erratic and unwise foreign policy under Bush, would re-ignite the Cold War, to a degree, over a largely distant and seemingly ethnically-based conflict -- that of Georgia and Russia. Who could have predicted a possible association between Baghdad, Kabul and Tbilisi? But to date the decline of US global power to the advent of the Bush administration, or even the horrific events of 11 September 2001, is not exactly accurate. The rapid collapse of the Soviet Union and the unravelling of the Warsaw Pact -- especially as former members of that pact hurried to joined NATO in later years -- empowered a new breed of US elite who boasted of the economic viability and moral supremacy of US-styled "Capitalism and Democracy". But a unipolar world presented the US leadership with an immense, if not an insurmountable task. The wars and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq were aimed at strengthening the US hand in protecting its interests and managing its international affairs. Afghanistan's position was strategic in warding off the growth of the rising powers of Asia -- aside from its military and strategic value, it was hoped to become a major energy supply route -- while Iraq was to provide a permanent US military presence to guard its oil interests in the whole region and to ensure Israeli supremacy over its weaker, but rebellious Arab foes. Faced with foreign occupation, Iraqis fought back, creating a nightmare scenario and promising US defeat in their country. The US's original plan to exploit the country's fractious ethnic and religious groupings also backfired, as shifting alliances made it impossible for the US to single out a permanent enemy or a long-term ally. In Afghanistan, the picture is even more bleak as the country's unforgivable geography, the corruption of US local allies, resurgence of the Taliban, and the US-led coalition's brutal response to the Taliban's emboldened ascension, has rendered Afghanistan a lost cause by any reasonable military standard. The new military limitations faced by the US in the Middle East have also resulted in the weakening of US political sway and standing. More, its regional allies have also suffered one blow after another: Israel in Lebanon, Georgia in South Ossetia, US allies in Venezuela and other South American countries, etc. Indeed, it is a matter of time before a challenger to US global hegemony arises and tests US resolve under new circumstances. While growing US involvement in Eurasia and its missile defence shield was considered part and parcel of the neo-con plan for "rebuilding America's defences", it was considered by Russia a threat to its national security. The Georgian invasion of South Ossetia represented a golden opportunity for Moscow to send an unmistakable message to Washington. By crushing the US-Israeli trained Georgian army, Russia declared itself a contender to unchallenged US global dominance, which had lasted for nearly two decades. Countries such as Iran and Syria are quickly warming up to the new Russia, as the latter seeks to rebuild its own alliances and defences.
|September 5, 2008||
Going On An Imperial Bender
by Tom Engelhardt
According to Pentagon records, in fact, there are 761 active military "sites" abroad. The fact is: We garrison the planet north to south, east to west, and even on the seven seas, thanks to our various fleets and our massive aircraft carriers which, with 5,000-6,000 personnel aboard -- that is, the population of an American town -- are functionally floating bases.
The U.S. has 106 bases in Iraq at a cost that, while unknown, must have been staggering indeed. U.S. negotiators finally offered the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki its terms for a so-called status of forces agreement, evidently initially demanding the right to occupy into the distant future 58 of the bases it has built. In the U.S., military bases really only matter, and so make headlines, when the Pentagon attempts to close some of the vast numbers of them scattered across this country. Then, the fear of lost jobs and lost income in local communities leads to headlines and hubbub. Of course, millions of Americans know about our bases abroad firsthand. In this sense, they may be the least well kept secrets on the planet. American troops, private contractors, and Defense Department civilian employees all have spent extended periods of time on at least one U.S. base abroad. And yet no one seems to notice the near news blackout on our global bases or consider it the least bit strange. It's hard for us even to begin to grasp just how military (and punitive) is the face that the U.S. has presented to the world, especially during George W. Bush's two terms in office. Americans are unlikely to be able to shoulder forever the massive global role the Pentagon and successive administrations have laid out for us. Sooner or later, cutbacks will come and the sun will slowly begin to set on our base-world abroad.
|September 4, 2008||
Surviving Peak Oil: Obstacles To Relocation
by Cliff Wirth
Oil and natural gas depletion will soon begin to undermine the capacity of urban and metropolitan areas to sustain human life. Modern urban and metropolitan life depends on oil and natural gas for food production and distribution, residential heating, water purification and distribution, sanitation, and the power grid that delivers electricity for the pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, elevators, home heating controls, and automated building systems. As international food transport collapses, most oil rich nations face starvation too, regardless of how much oil they possess. Oil depletion means population decline for all urban areas. The notion that urban and suburban dwellers will relocate to small villages in agricultural regions is unrealistic. In the ensuing Peak Oil generated global economic depression, the value of urban residential properties will plummet. Increasing unemployment will slow new house sales and accelerate mortgage and property tax foreclosures. With more and more urban homes up for sale, their prices will decline sharply. And, as the price of urban property declines in value, rural property will increase in comparative value. At the same time, the cost of building new homes in rural areas will increase with the increasing cost of oil and natural gas. Building materials (asphalt and fiberglass shingles, cement, plastic and aluminum siding, fiberglass insulation, glass, lumber, and bricks) are either made from oil or they are manufactured with the energy of oil, natural gas, and coal. All building materials and construction workers are transported using oil (diesel and gasoline). Electricity that is used in the manufacture and construction of houses will also become more expensive. Coal (which is transported with diesel) and natural gas (which uses oil in exploration, drilling operations, and transport of workers) provide the energy for electric power generation. Thus coal and natural gas costs, as well as the cost of electricity, will increase with the increasing price of oil. Similarly, the construction of residential water (wells and pumps) and sanitation systems (septic systems or outhouses in rural areas) will cost more and more as the price of oil increases.. Studies by scientific organizations and independent analysts indicate that global crude oil production will now begin to decline, from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time demand will increase 14%. This is equivalent to a 33% drop in 7 years. The price of oil will skyrocket like never before. No one can reverse this trend, nor can we conserve our way out of this catastrophe. Because the demand for oil is so high, it will always exceed the level of production; thus oil depletion will proceed at the same rate until all recoverable oil is extracted. Alternatives energies will not fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The proponents of the electric economy, the hydrogen economy, or an algal bio-diesel economy ignore the obvious. There is little capital, time, energy, or public will for such trillion dollar infrastructure makeovers. The belief in alternative energies is so strong that most scientists avoid examining obvious questions – does the development of alternative energies consume more energy than they provide, and do alternative energies consume liquid fuels and give us electric power, which is not what we need? We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from "outside," and without the power grid virtually nothing works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated systems. After the last power black out, the people living in rural areas will find that surviving will become increasing difficult without all of the goods from the “outside” (food, canning jars, fencing, roofing, hay, straw, seed, animal feed, plastic tarps, fertilizer, clothes, fabric, medicine, hardware, saws, wood stoves, etc.). The survivors will be the very few who live in areas with good rain and soil and who prepared intelligently for a life without oil.
|September 4, 2008||
Overcoming Human Nature: The Revolution Of The Meek
by Peter Chamberlin
I see clearly the rising image of the new race, a new culture dedicated to enlightenment. The new mankind will be hungry for knowledge, in the same way that the current race is hungry for wealth and power. The new man will seek to overcome life's problems through understanding them, instead of forcefully re-ordering them to a more acceptable configuration. In order for us to open a new path to awakening a generation of new men we must expose the corruption and imminent collapse of the old order, which is based on economic control, and visualize the new earth, based on cooperation and shared humanity. We see a new world, not based on control and the idea of domination, but one of unlimited human potential, given free rein to grow and understand the problems that we create for ourselves. The old world order must give way to a new world that has no center, where edicts and coercive dictates do not exist. In the new order, power will flow from each person. In the old order, everyman was encouraged to want to be king. "Success" was measured by how close you came to fulfilling this kingly ambition. The "aristocracy" ("rule by the best," meaning the wealthiest) came to rule over mankind, with each man giving his consent to the arrangement. The cultivated desire to live like kings is the glue that bound the kingdom together, becoming the basis of the capitalist system. The "aristocrats" were a minority of individuals possessed of the desire to dominate and control all things within their grasp. The economic system created by the aristocracy is a system of control, enforced by laws and armies, designed to expand, without end, until all life on the planet is brought under aristocratic domination. The expansion of the system will not stop until all resources are brought under their control. In order for the system to function, the majority of the people have to remain as willing to submit to the economic domination of the wealthy minority as the elite are determined to dominate them. But a funny thing happened on the way to the world dictatorship, just before total resource domination was achieved, the majority began to resist. The "meek" were starting to assert their will to hold onto the little that they had. The resistance of the meek had begun. When governments all over the world work together to preserve their collective illegitimate powers, then it is time for a worldwide revolution to set all men free. To all the members of the United States Congress I say, if you, as our representatives, allow the invasion of another country, or the introduction of American troops into the streets of the United States, for the purpose of ending democracy and eliminating the Bill of Rights, then the revolution awaits you. To President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid, I say to you, if you move forward with your plans for world war or for establishing a police state in America, for the purpose of seizing control of the world's energy sources and creating an illegitimate world government, then the revolution awaits you, with all its fury. America's illegitimate power can no longer be maintained. America's military and other powers of persuasion can no longer contain the actions of the other governments of the world. Killing is not the solution, the saving and improving of all life is the answer. This country has amassed the largest debt that the world has ever witnessed, for the sake of empowering the military machine used to dominate the world. This debt will never be repaid. This requires that we stop our war of terrorism and devote a large portion of those funds dedicated to waging the war into an international re-building effort, to begin to repair the nations we have destroyed and to alleviate some of the human suffering we have caused. In the new world economy, the illegitimate power of capitalism, which can only be maintained by military force, will have been broken itself. This breakdown will cause unimaginable suffering to intensify, as the food distribution chains break down, as well. What would an investment equivalent to one year of the Pentagon's budget (or the amount spent on new weapons systems in one year) do towards insuring that more people do not starve because of America's mistakes?
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