Politics and Justice Without Borders
Global Community Newsletter main website
Volume 15 Issue 6 February 2017

Theme for this month

Global Parliament values and vision.

Taki: producer and editor
Yukie: editor, speeches and music

January 2017

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Table of Contents of February Newsletter

  • Front Page with an introductory animation and copyrights of Global Community.Copyrights  animation. Copyrights  animation of Global Community.Title and copyrights
  • Summary of paper with animations. Summary of paper with animations.
  • Complete paper with related frames or images. Complete paper with related frames or images.
    • Frames A1 to A5 text and images  in Frames A1 to A5.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A1toA5
      Key words: Global Community definition; Glass Bubble concept; Scale of Global Rights; ethics.

    • Frames A6 to A8 text and images  in Frames A6 to A8.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A6toA8A27A28
      Key words: Values that kept human beings alived from ancient time to today's Global Civilization; most important Global Commons; Commons Trust Fund; Earth rights; Global Ministries; global life-support systems; Scale of Global Rights.

    • Frames A9 and A10 text and images  in Frames A9 and A10.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A9A10A26
      Key words: Global Civilization definition; Global Law; Global Protection Agency (GPA); Vision concerning our species survival and including all other lifeforms on Earth; the rights of peoples to life, clean air, freshwater, security, and of a healthy environment.

    • Frames A11 and A12 text and images  in Frames A11 and A12.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A11A12
      Key words: Global Peace Movement, learning to empathise (kindness, compassion, understanding and respect) with people; religion, faith and ethics; responsibility of managing Earth and its resources; foreign investments and trade must protect and improve social and environmental rights, not just the economy; global sustainability; global resources protection; security cannot be achieved through the military; protection of the global life-support systems.

    • Frames A13 and A14 text and images  in Frames A13 and A14.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A13A14
      Key words: Ecosystems on the planet; ecodiversity and cultural diversity; Nature services to all life on Earth; habitats and ecosystem services; demands resulting from the socio-economic system of a particular country have to find their limits in the protection of the global ecosystem; all these crises are due to human activities, our ways of doing business and trade, and to our ways of consuming resources.

    • Frame A15 text and images  in Frame A15.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A15
      Key words: Global Parliament short and long terms solutions to saving all nations; Scale of Global Rights; Federation of Global Governments; Global Protection Agency (GPA); Global Rights year one; Global Movement to Help; Vision of Hope and Love away from despair and social chaos; Earth Environmental Governance; Primordial Human Rights.

    • Frames A16 to A20 text and images  in Frames A16 to A20.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A26
      Key words: Global Parliament Constitution; an union in the form of nine (9) or more Global Governments; Federation of Global Governments; Global Movement to Help offers Essential Services to serve the people of all nations, all life on Earth; Global Parliament shall be composed of four (4) bodies: the House of Elected Representatives, Federation of Global Governments, House of Advisers, the Executive Council; Global Parliament Constitution.

    • Frame A21 text and images  in Frame A21.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A21A25A29
      Key words: Global Government of North America (GGNA); Global Community ethics gives humanity the moral foundation for a better individual and community; replacing the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the Scale of Global Rights; sovereignty and land ownership; land and natural resources of the planet are a common heritage and belong equally to everyone as a birthright; Criteria of Global Community Citizenship; Global Citizens Rights, Responsibility and Accountability Act; a planetary biodiversity zone now under the protection of the Global Protection Agency (GPA); a planetary state of emergency; Global Government of North America (GGNA) to govern in accordance with the Global Constitution.

    • Frames A22 and A23 text and images  in Frames A22 and A23.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A16toA20A22A23A24
      Key words: Global Parliament Constitution; Global Parliament is founded on the indivisible universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law and by creating an era of freedom, security and justice; Earth management and good governance is now a priority and a duty of every responsible person on Earth; each Global Government is made more responsible and accountable to the people of member nations within the region where it operates; essential services to the people of each member nation are now the most important global rights on the Scale of Global Rights and are protected by the Global Protection Agency (GPA) of each member nation; participating member nations need to give their approval to the GPA; the GPA is a short term solution, an immediate and efficient response to help; there are also long term solutions; a Global Government is concerned not only with economics and trade, but also with the environment, health, agriculture, education, energy, food, social, cultural and many other essential aspects; each Global Government takes a larger share of responsibility of the specific region where it operates, and be more accountable to the people of that region.

    • Frames A24 and A25 text and images  in Frames A24 and A25.
      Key words: The Global Protection Agency (GPA) will train and lead a global force, bypassing traditional peacekeeping and military bodies such as the United Nations and NATO; the GPA will enforce the law; the establishment of the Global Protection Agency (GPA) to fight against the growing threat to the security of all Peoples, all life on our planet, and to fight against global crimes; broadening the traditional focus of the security of states to include both the security of people as well as that of the planet.

    • Frame A26 text and images  in Frame A26.
      Key words: Earth governance is about the rights of states to self-determination in the global context of Global Community rather than the traditional context of a world of separate states; Global Parliament ensures state governments that it will obey the principle of non-intervention in domestic affairs, it will also stand for the rights and interests of the people within individual states in which the security of people is extensively endangered. A global consensus to that effect will be agreed upon by all Member Nations.

    • Frames A27 and A28 text and images  in Frames A27 and A28.
      Key words: The formation of several global ministries for the proper governance of Earth; Humanity sees the need to manage the world affairs in several aspects of our lives; global ministries will be given power to rule themselves in harmony with each other; Global Ministry of World Population; Global Ministry of Essential Services; Ministry of Global Resources; Global Ministry of Water Resources Protection.

    • Frame A29 text and images  in Frame A29.
      Key words: We need leadership in the protection of all our natural resources, 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, land and our oceans, we are facing the climate change crisis. But all these crises are due to human activities, our ways of doing business and trade, and to our ways of consuming resources. Now is the time to press for leadership. When you do exploration work, develop, manufacture, produce, mine, farm or create a product, you become legally and morally responsible and accountable of your product from beginning to end (to the point where it actually becomes a waste; you are also responsible for the proper disposable of the waste). This product may be anything and everything from oil & gas, weapons, war products, construction products, transportation and communications products and equipment, to genetically engineered food products. All consumer products! All medical products! All pharmaceutical products!

    • Frames A30 to A32 text and images  in Frames A30 to A32.
      Key words: Social justice consists in sharing wealth with a view to greater equality and the equal recognition of each individual's merits. All persons within a given society deserve equal access to goods and services that fulfill basic human needs.The Global Community Global Justice Movement has many inter-related components: monetary, social, economic, environmental, democracy, and peace. Global Civilization represents all global citizens, all lifeforms, and stands for global justice. Political ethics deals not mainly with ideal justice, however, but with realizing moral values in democratic societies where citizens disagree about what ideal justice is.

    • Frame A33 text and images  in Frame A33.
      Key words: A very important legislation is the Global Citizens Rights, Responsibility and Accountability Act which, after its approval by Global Parliament, will define rights, responsibility and accountability of all global citizens. Each and everyone of us will make decisions, deal with one another, and basically conduct our actions as per the Act. Global Law includes legislation covering all aspects of human activities. The GPA will enforce the law. And that is how we can stop the global warming of the planet and protect the global life-support systems, thus largely improving the quality of life of the next generations. As we enact global law, we will begin to take on a much deeper kind of global leadership, one that can catapult the whole planet forward into a future where a beneficial Global Parliament is able to cope with global problems.

    • Frame A34 text and images  in Frame A34.
      Key words: We are all responsible for the creation of global warming, and there are plenty of observable effects. Greenhouse gases are accumulating dangerously in the Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, and temperatures are rising globally due to these activities. Climate changes have to be manage without delays. Corporations are required to expand their responsibilities to include global rights, the environment, community and family aspects, safe working conditions, fair wages and sustainable consumption aspects. Despite humanity's success in feeding a growing world population, the natural resources on which life depends, such as fresh water, cropland, fisheries and forests, are increasingly depleted or strained. In this millennium, population growth continues, meaning that more people will be sharing such finite resources as fresh water and cropland. Global Community is declaring a moratorium on world population, the fertility rate and immigration applications all over the world, on all applications for immigration, until applicants from any religious or cultural background have satisfied completely Global Community standard for a population fertility rate of 1.3 children per family. The problem with world overpopulation is everybody’s problem. Until tangible progress is made no immigrants should be accepted. That is Global Law. Overpopulation is a form of population warfare. It is the use of a very high fertility rate to conquer a nation, and that could mean as many as or more than 2.1 children per family. It is a form of cultural and/or religious aggression and invasion by having a much too high number of new born babies. For instance, there has been a rapid increase in population among Muslims to the extent that in 20 years all of Europe and North America are expected to be mostly Islamic. The influx of Latino immigration into the western states of the USA will also have the effect of a population warfare. Now, obviously what immigration does is to infringe into the most important rights on the Scale of Global Rights: Sections 1, 2, and 3. It amounts at creating and stressing the world overpopulation problem which is way far more destructive than conducting military warfare. Global Community condemns all types of warfare we see in the world today: military, economic and population. Surely the rights to protect the existence of all life on our planet are more important than cultural and religious rights. Sections 1, 2 and 3 on the Scale of Global Rights are certainly more important than Section 6.

    • Frames A35 to A37 text and images  in Frames A35 to A37.
      Animation with speech text and music from Summary Paper Animation A30toA37
      Key words: Global political parties are certainly the next best thing to talk about after replacing the United Nations by Global Parliament. Actually why wait! We all know it is coming soon. We all know the UN is on its way out! This is the 21st century, and the old ways have to go for humanity survival, for all life on Earth survival. The world wants an organization dedicated to the welfare of all Peoples and to the protection of the Earth's environment and the global life support systems. The world wants an organization dedicated to the welfare of all Peoples and to the protection of the Earth's environment and the global life support systems. Such an organization must not be governed by powerful lobbying groups. We see entire nations making choices based on what is good for themselves, today self-interests, versus what is good for the next generations and all life on the planet. In other words, they make choices between international politics versus global politics. International politics are driven by national interests, self-interests, and powerful lobbying groups, while global politics are about the survival of all of us on the planet. Global politics is about doing what is right for humanity and all life on the planet. Global politics is about doing what is right for all of us now and in the future, and for all life on the planet.

Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

Bill Van Auken, Jesse Bragg, Robert J. Burrowes, Ilda Maria Costa, Peter Van Els, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Andre De Freitas, Andrea Germanos, Steve Horn, John James, Erik Lindberg (2), Reynard Loki (2), Ping Manongdo, Federico Pieraccini , Steven Rosenfeld (2), Alexandra Rosenmann, Nigel Sizer, David Suzuki , Andrea Thompson.

Bill Van Auken, Russia, Iran And Turkey Issue Joint Declaration On Syrian Settlement  Russia, Iran And Turkey Issue Joint Declaration On Syrian Settlement
Jesse Bragg, Tens of Thousands Call for Obama Climate Hail Mary Before Trump Moves In Tens of Thousands Call for Obama Climate Hail Mary Before Trump Moves In
Robert J. Burrowes, Life on Earth is Dying. Thousands of Species Cease to Exist Life on Earth is Dying. Thousands of Species Cease to Exist
Andre De Freitas, To Truly Fight Poverty, Hunger and Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture Must Go Global To Truly Fight Poverty, Hunger and Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture Must Go Global
Peter Van Els, Confidence And Courage Confidence And Courage
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, You Were Made For This You Were Made For This
Andrea Germanos, New Study ‘Sounds Alarm’ On Another Climate Feedback Loop New Study ‘Sounds Alarm’ On Another Climate Feedback Loop
Steve Horn, In Historic Move, President Obama Has Banned Arctic and Atlantic Offshore Drilling In Historic Move, President Obama Has Banned Arctic and Atlantic Offshore Drilling
John James, “The Platform”, How To Adjust To Climate Change  The Platform, How To Adjust To Climate Change
Erik Lindberg, Growthism  Growthism
Erik Lindberg, Growthism: Part 2  Growthism: Part 2
Reynard Loki, Obama Protects Waterways From Coal Mining Before Trump Crashes the White House Obama Protects Waterways From Coal Mining Before Trump Crashes the White House
Reynard Loki, Trump Declares All-Out War on Environment With Fossil Fuel-Loving, Climate Change-Denying Cabinet Nominees Trump Declares All-Out War on Environment With Fossil Fuel-Loving, Climate Change-Denying Cabinet Nominees
Ping Manongdo, Landmark Human Rights Case Against World's Biggest Fossil Fuel Firms Pushes On Landmark Human Rights Case Against World's Biggest Fossil Fuel Firms Pushes On
Federico Pieraccini, How a United Iran, Russia and China are Changing The World - For the Better How a United Iran, Russia and China are Changing The World - For the Better
Steven Rosenfeld, At Least 50 Trump Electors Were Illegitimately Seated as Electoral College Members At Least 50 Trump Electors Were Illegitimately Seated as Electoral College Members
Steven Rosenfeld, Activists Urge Racist Presidential Election Results Should Not Be Certified Activists Urge Racist Presidential Election Results Should Not Be Certified
Alexandra Rosenmann, Not Just North Dakota: Here Are 10 More States Where Activists Are Fighting Pipeline Projects Not Just North Dakota: Here Are 10 More States Where Activists Are Fighting Pipeline Projects
Nigel Sizer, To Truly Fight Poverty, Hunger and Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture Must Go Global To Truly Fight Poverty, Hunger and Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture Must Go Global
David Suzuki, Why So-Called 'World Class' Oil Spill Response Is Anything But Why So-Called 'World Class' Oil Spill Response Is Anything But
Andrea Thompson, 2016 Is About to Become the Hottest Year on Record 2016 Is About to Become the Hottest Year on Record

Articles and papers from authors


Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper
  December 12, 2016
Life on Earth is Dying. Thousands of Species Cease to Exist

by Robert J. Burrowes, Information Clearing House


December 12, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - On the day that you read this article, 200 species of life on Earth (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects, reptiles) will cease to exist. Tomorrow, another 200 species will vanish forever.

The human onslaught to destroy life on Earth is unprecedented in Earth’s history. Planet Earth is now experiencing its sixth mass extinction event and Homo sapiens sapiens is the cause. Moreover, this mass extinction event is accelerating and is so comprehensive in its impact that the piecemeal measures being taken by the United Nations, international agencies and governments constitute a tokenism that is breathtaking in the extreme.

And it is no longer the case that mainly ‘invisible’ species are vanishing: those insects, amphibians and small animals about which you had never even heard, assuming they have been identified and given a name by humans.

You and I are on the brink of driving to extinction some of the most iconic species alive today. For a photo gallery of threatened species, some of which are ‘critically endangered’, see ‘World’s wildlife being pushed to the edge by humans – in pictures’.

If you want to read more about some aspects of the extinction threat, you can do so in these recent reports: ‘World Wildlife Crime Report: Trafficking in protected species’ and ‘2016 Living Planet Report’  which includes these words: ‘The main statistic from the report … shows a 58% decline between 1970 and 2012. This means that, on average, animal populations are roughly half the size they were 42 years ago.’

And if you want to read just one aspect of what is happening in the world’s oceans, this recent UN report will give you something to ponder: ‘New UN report finds marine debris harming more than 800 species, costing countries millions’. 

Of course, some of what is happening is related to the ongoing climate catastrophe and there isn’t any good news on that front. See ‘What’s Happening in the Arctic is Astonishing’.

But not everything that is going badly wrong is well known either. Did you know that we are destroying the Earth’s soil? See ‘Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues’.

And did you realise that even nitrogen is now a huge problem too? See ‘Scientists shine a spotlight on the overlooked menace of nitrogen’.

Of course, military violence has devastating consequences on the Earth’s ecosystems too, destroying land, water and atmosphere (not to mention killing human beings) in the fight over resources. You will get no joy from the article ‘Iraq’s oil inferno – government inaction in the face of eco-terrorism’ or the website of the Toxic Remnants of War Project. 

But every single aspect of military spending is ultimately used to destroy. It has no other function.

While 2.5 billion human beings do not have enough to eat. See ‘One in three people suffers malnutrition at global cost of $3.5 trillion a year’

As you read all this, you might say ‘Not me’! But you are wrong. You don’t have to be an impoverished African driven to killing elephants for their tusks so that you can survive yourself. You don’t have to be a farmer who is destroying the soil with synthetic poisons. You don’t have to be a soldier who kills and destroys or a person who works for a corporation that, one way to another, forces peasants off their land.

You just have to be an ‘ordinary’ person who pays your military taxes and consumes more than your share of world resources while participating without challenge in the global system of violence and exploitation managed by the global elite.

‘Why is this?’ you might ask.

This is because the primary driver of the human-induced mass extinction is not such things as some people hunting a particular lifeform to extinction, horrendous though this is. In fact, just two things drive most species over the edge: our systematic destruction of land habitat – forests, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, mangroves… – in our endless effort to capture more of the Earth’s wild places for human use (whether it be residential, commercial, mining, farming or military) and our destruction of waterways and the ocean habitat by dumping into them radioactive contaminants, carbon dioxide, a multitude of poisons and chemical pollutants, and even plastic.

And do you know what drives this destruction of land and water habitats? Your demand for consumer products, all of which are produced by using land and water habitats, and the resources derived from them, often far from where you live. The most basic products, such as food and clothing, are produced on agricultural land, sometimes created by destroying rainforests, or taken from the ocean (where overfishing has savagely depleted global fish stocks). But in using these resources, we have ignored the needs of the land, oceans and the waterways for adequate regenerative inputs and recovery time.

We also participate, almost invariably without question or challenge, in the inequitable distribution of resources that compels some impoverished people to take desperate measures to survive through such means as farming marginal land or killing endangered wildlife.

So don’t sit back waiting for some miracle by the United Nations, international agencies or governments to solve this problem. It cannot happen for the simple reason that these organizations are all taking action within the existing paradigm that prioritizes corporate profit and military violence over human equity and ecological sustainability.

Despite any rhetoric to the contrary, they are encouraging overconsumption by industrialized populations and facilitating the inequitable distribution of income and wealth precisely because this benefits those who control these organizations, agencies and governments: the insane corporate elites who are devoid of the capacity to see any value beyond the ‘bottom line’. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane’. 

If you want action on the greatest challenge human beings have ever faced – to avert our own extinction by learning to live in harmony with our biosphere and equity with our fellow humans – then I encourage you to take personal responsibility.

If you do, you need to act. At the simplest level, you can make some difficult but valuable personal choices. Like becoming a vegan or vegetarian, buying/growing organic/biodynamic food, and resolutely refusing to use any form of poison or to drive a car or take an airline flight.

But if you want to take an integrated approach, the most powerful way you can do this is to systematically reduce your own personal consumption while increasing your self-reliance. Anita McKone and I have mapped out a fifteen-year strategy for doing this in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’.

You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ which obviously includes nonviolence towards our fellow species.

One of the hidden tragedies of modern human existence is that we have been terrorized into believing that we are not personally responsible. See ‘The Delusion “I Am Not Responsible”‘.

For a fuller explanation, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’. 

It isn’t true but few people feel powerful enough to make a difference.

And every time you decide to do nothing and to leave it to someone else, you demonstrate why no-one else should do anything either.

Extinction beckons. What will you do?

Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Information Clearing House editorial policy.

  Read Life on Earth is Dying. Thousands of Species Cease to Exist
  January 2, 2016
How a United Iran, Russia and China are Changing The World - For the Better

by Federico Pieraccini , Information Clearing House


The two previous articles have focused on the various geopolitical theories, their translations into modern concepts, and practical actions that the United States has taken in recent decades to aspire to global dominance. This segment will describe how Iran, China and Russia have over the years adopted a variety of economic and military actions to repel the continual assault on their sovereignty by the West; in particular, how the American drive for global hegemony has actually accelerated the end of the 'unipolar moment' thanks to the emergence of a multipolar world.

From the moment the Berlin Wall fell, the United States saw a unique opportunity to pursue the goal of being the sole global hegemon. With the end of the Soviet Union, Washington could undoubtedly aspire to planetary domination paying little heed to the threat of competition and especially of any consequences. America found herself the one and only global superpower, faced with the prospect of extending cultural and economic model around the planet, where necessary by military means.

Over the past 25 years there have been numerous examples demonstrating how Washington has had little hesitation in bombing nations reluctant to kowtow to Western wishes. In other examples, an economic battering ram, based on predatory capitalism and financial speculation, has literally destroyed sovereign nations, further enriching the US and European financial elite in the process.

Alliances to Resist

In the course of the last two decades, the relationship between the three major powers of the Heartland, the heart of the Earth, changed radically.

Iran, Russia and China have fully understood that union and cooperation are the only means for mutual reinforcement. The need to fight a common problem, represented by a growing American influence in domestic affairs, has forced Tehran, Beijing and Moscow to resolve their differences and embrace a unified strategy in the common interest of defending their sovereignty.

Events such as the war in Syria, the bombing of Libya, the overthrowing of the democratic order in Ukraine, sanctions against Iran, and the direct pressure applied to Beijing in the South China Sea, have accelerated integration among nations that in the early 1990s had very little in common.

Economic Integration

Analyzing US economic power it is clear that supranational organizations like the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank guarantee Washington’s role as the economic leader. The pillars that support the centrality of the United States in the world economy can be attributed to the monetary policy of the Fed and the function of the dollar as a global reserve currency.

The Fed has unlimited ability to print money to finance further economic power of the private and public sector as well as to pay the bill due for very costly wars. The US dollar plays a central role as the global reserve currency as well as being used as currency for trade. This virtually obliges each central bank to own reserves in US currency, continuing to perpetuate the importance of Washington in the global economic system.

The introduction of the yuan into the international basket of the IMF, global agreements for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and Beijing’s protests against its treatment by the World Trade Organization (WTO) are all alarm bells for American strategists who see the role of the American currency eroding. In Russia, the central bank decided not to accumulate dollar reserves, favoring instead foreign currency like the Indian rupee and the Chinese yuan. The rating agencies - western financial-oligarchy tools -have diminishing credibility, having become means to manipulate markets to favor specific US interests. Chinese and Russian independent rating agencies are further confirmation of Beijing and Moscow’s strategy to undermine America’s role in western economics.

De-dollarization is occurring and proceeding rapidly, especially in areas of mutual business interest. In what is becoming increasingly routine, nations are dealing in commodities by negotiating in currencies other than the dollar. The benefit is twofold: a reduction in the role of the dollar in their sovereign affairs, and an increase in synergies between allied nations. Iran and India exchanged oil in rupees, and China and Russia trade in yuan.

Another advantage enjoyed by the United States, intrinsically linked to the banking private sector, is the political pressure that Americans can apply through financial and banking institutions. The most striking example is seen in the exclusion of Iran from the SWIFT international system of payments, as well as the extension of sanctions, including the freezing of Tehran's assets (about 150 billion US dollars) in foreign bank deposits. While the US is trying to crack down on independent economic initiatives, nations like Iran, Russia and China are increasing their synergies. During the period of sanctions against Iran, the Russian Federation has traded with the Islamic Republic in primary commodities. China has supported Iran with the export of oil purchased in yuan. More generally, Moscow has proposed the creation of an alternative banking system to the SWIFT system.

Private Banks, central banks, ratings agencies and supranational organizations depend in large part on the role played by the dollar and the Fed. The first goal of Iran, Russia and China is of course to make these international bodies less influential. Economic multipolarity is the first as well as the most incisive way to expand the free choice before each nation to pursue its own interests, thereby retaining its national sovereignty.

This fictitious and corrupt financial system led to the financial crisis of 2008. Tools to accumulate wealth by the elite, artificially maintaining a zombie system (turbo capitalism) have served to cause havoc in the private and public sectors, such as with the collapse of Lehman Brothers or the crisis in the Asian markets in the late 1990s.

The need for Russia, China and Iran to find an alternative economic system is also necessary to secure vital aspects of the domestic economy. The stock-market crash in China, the depreciation of the ruble in Russia, and the illegal sanctions imposed on Iran have played a profound role in concentrating the minds of Moscow, Tehran and Beijing. Ignoring the problem borne of the centrality of the dollar would have only increased the influence and role of Washington. Finding points of convergence instead of being divided was an absolute must and not an option.

A perfect example, explaining the failed American economic approach, can be seen in recent years with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), two commercial agreements that were supposed to seal the economic trade supremacy of the US. The growing economic alternatives proposed by the union of intent between Russia, China and Iran has enabled smaller nations to reject the US proposals to seek better trade deals elsewhere. In this sense, the Free Trade Area of ​​the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) proposed by Beijing is increasingly appreciated in Asia as an alternative to the TPP.

In the same way, the Eurasian Union (EAEU) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have always been key components for Moscow. The function these institutions play was noticeably accelerated following the coup in Ukraine and the resulting need for Russia to turn east in search of new business partners. Finally, Iran, chosen by Beijing as the crossroad of land and sea transit, is a prime example of integration between powers geographically distant but with great intentions to integrate vital structures of commerce.

The Chinese model of development, called Silk Road 2.0, poses a serious threat to American global hegemonic processes. The goal for Beijing is to reach full integration between the countries of the Heartland and Rimland, utilizing the concept of sea power and land power. With an investment of 1,000 billion US dollars over ten years, China itself becomes a link between the west, represented by Europe; the east, represented by China itself; the north, with the Eurasian economic space; the south, with India; Southeast Asia; the Persian Gulf and Middle East. The hope is that economic cooperation will lead to the resolution of discrepancies and strategic differences between countries thanks to trade agreements that are beneficiary to all sides.

The role of Washington continues to be that of destruction rather than construction. Instead of playing the role of a global superpower that is interested in business and trade with other nations, the United States continues to consider any foreign decision in matters of integration, finance, economy and development to lie within its exclusive domain. The primary purpose of the United States is simply to exploit every economic and cultural instrument available to prevent cohesion and coexistence between nations. The military component is usually the trump card, historically used to impose this vision on the rest of the world. In recent years, thanks to de-dollarization and military integration, nations like Iran, Russia and China are less subject to Washington's unilateral decisions.

Military deterrence

Accompanying the important economic integration is strong military-strategic cooperation, which is much less publicized. Events such as the Middle East wars, the coup in Ukraine, and the pressure exerted in the South China Sea have forced Tehran, Moscow and Beijing to conclude that the United States represents an existential threat.

In each of the above scenarios, China, Russia and Iran have had to make decisions by weighing the pros and cons of an opposition to the American model. The Ukraine coup d’état brought NATO to the borders of the Russian Federation, representing an existential threat to the Russia, threatening as it does its nuclear deterrent. In the Middle East, the destruction of Iraq, Libya and Syria has obliged Tehran to react against the alliance formed between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States. In China, the constant pressure on South China Sea poses a serious problem in case of a trade blockade during a conflict. In all these scenarios, American imperialism has created existential threats. It is for this reason natural that cooperation and technological development, even in the military area, have received a major boost in recent years.

In the event of an American attack on Russia, China and Iran, it is important to focus on what weapon systems would be used and how the attacked nations could respond.

Maritime Strategy and Deterrence

Certainly, US naval force place a serious question mark over the defense capabilities of nations like Russia, China and Iran, which strongly depend on transit via sea routes. Let us take, for example, Russia and the Arctic transit route, of great interest not only for defense purposes but also being a quick passage for transit goods. The Black Sea for these reasons has received special attention from the United States due to its strategic location. In any case, the responses have been proportional to the threat.

Iran has significantly developed maritime capabilities in the Persian Gulf, often closely marking ships of the US Navy located in the area for the purposes of ​​deterrence. China's strategy has been even more refined, with the use of dozens, if not hundreds, of fishing boats and ships of the Coast Guard to ensure safety and strengthen the naval presence in the South and East China Sea. This is all without forgetting the maritime strategy outlined by the PLA Navy to become a regional naval power over the next few years. Similar strategic decisions have been taken by the navy of the Russian Federation. In addition to having taken over ship production as in Soviet times, it has opted for the development of ships that cost less but nevertheless boast equivalent weapons systems to the Americans carrier groups.

Iran, China and Russia make efficiency and cost containment a tactic to balance the growing aggressiveness of the Americans and the attendant cost of such a military strategy.

The fundamental difference between the naval approach of these countries in contrast to that of the US is paramount. Washington needs to use its naval power for offensive purposes, whereas Tehran, Moscow and Beijing need naval power exclusively for defensive purposes.

In this sense, among the greatest weapons these three recalcitrant countries possess are anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic systems. To put things simply, it is enough to note that Russian weapons systems such as the S-300 and S-400 air-defense systems (the S-500 will be operational in 2017) are now being adopted by China and Iran with variations developed locally. Increasingly we are witnessing an open transfer of technology to continue the work of denying (A2/AD) physical and cyberspace freedom to the United States. Stealth aircraft, carrier strike groups, ICBMs and cruise missiles are experiencing a difficult time in such an environment, finding themselves opposed by the formidable defense systems the Russians, Iranians and Chinese are presenting. The cost of an anti-ship missile fired from the Chinese coast is considerably lower than the tens of billions of dollars needed to build an aircraft carrier. This paradigm of cost and efficiency is what has shaped the military spending of China, Russia and Iran. Going toe to toe with the United States without being forced to close a huge military gap is the only viable way to achieve immediate tangible benefits of deterrence and thereby block American expansionist ambitions.

A clear example of where the Americans have encountered military opposition at an advanced level has been in Syria. The systems deployed by Iran and Russia to protect the Syrian government presented the Americans with the prospect of facing heavy losses in the event of an attack on Damascus. The same also holds for the anti-Iranian rhetoric of certain American politicians and Israeli leaders. The only reason why Syria and Iran remain sovereign nations is because of the military cost that an invasion or bombing would have brought to their invaders. This is the essence of deterrence. Of course, this argument only takes into partial account the nuclear aspect that this author has extensively discussed in a previous article.

The Union of the nations of the Heartland and Rimland will make the United States irrelevant

The future for the most important area of ​​the planet is already sealed. The overall integration of Beijing, Moscow and Tehran provides the necessary antibodies to foreign aggression in military and economic form. De-dollarization, coupled with an infrastructure roadmap such as the Chinese Silk Road 2.0 and the maritime trade route, offer important opportunities for developing nations that occupy the geographical space between Portugal and China. Dozens of nations have all it takes to integrate for mutually beneficial gains without having to worry too much about American threats. The economic alternative offered from Beijing provides a fairly wide safety net for resisting American assaults in the same way that the military umbrella offered by these three military powers, such as with the the SCO for example, serves to guarantee the necessary independence and strategic autonomy. More and more nations are clearly rejecting American interference, favoring instead a dialogue with Beijing, Moscow and Tehran. Duterte in the Philippines is just the latest example of this trend.

The multipolar future has gradually reduced the role of the United States in the world, primarily in reaction to her aggression seeking to achieve global domination. The constant quest for planetary hegemony has pushed nations who were initially western partners to reassess their role in the international order, passing slowly but progressively into the opposite camp to that of Washington.

The consequences of this process have sealed the destiny of the United States, not only as a response to her quest for supremacy but also because of her efforts to maintain her role as the sole global superpower. As noted in previous articles, during the Cold War the aim for Washington was to prevent the formation of a union between the nations of the Heartland, who could then exclude the US from the most important area of ​​the globe. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, sights were set on an improbable quest to conquer the Heartland nations with the intent of dominating the whole world. The consequences of this miscalculation have led the United States to being relegated to the role of mere observer, watching the unions and integrations occurring that will revolutionize the Eurasian zone and the planet over the next 50 years. The desperate search to extend Washington's unipolar moment has paradoxically accelerated the rise of a multipolar world.

In the next and final article, I will throw a light on what is likely to be a change in the American approach to foreign policy. Keeping in mind the first two articles that examined the approach by land theorized by MacKinder as opposed to the Maritime Mahan, we will try and outline how Trump intends to adopt a containment approach to the Rimland, limiting the damage to the US caused by a complete integration between nations such as Russia, China, Iran and India.

Federico Pieraccini is an independent freelance writer specialized in international affairs, conflicts, politics and strategies.

  Read How a United Iran, Russia and China are Changing The World - For the Better
  December 13, 2016

by Erik Lindberg, Counter Solutions, Information Clearing House


A week or so ago, it hardly matters when, I heard an NPR business update announce that economists were predicting “a healthy holiday shopping season.”  Such reports are a near-daily happening, and their words of praise, sometimes warning, have come to be accepted with little  question, for they are more mesmerizing than thought-provoking, a spellbound drumbeat which keeps the rhythm of our national ups and downs, hopes and fears, progress and disappointment.

But healthy for what?  Is the health of our families and our children the concern of such reports?  A healthy shopping season may mean a mound of presents under the tree, but will this give comfort to our distracted minds, our scattered consciousness?  Can any still and simple purpose claw its way to the top of such a growing mountain of stuff?   Do the throwaway toys and the “look how much he loves me” jewelry, the most advanced personal devices, or bow-festooned Lexus SUV’s create more of anything we truly need—more love or joy, contentment, peace, simple time with others?  Is it healthy for the Chinese workers who must pump out a strange assortment of bizarre looking plastic pieces beneath the yellow smog which hangs as a choking menace over their cities?  Is it healthy for the African gold and diamond miners, pushed ever harder and more cruelly as demand increases?  It certainly isn’t healthy for our environment, our overburdened planet, which first must supply the raw materials and then absorb the waste.

Of course we all know at some level what a “healthy shopping season” is really healthy for: the economy–that thing, that thing which giveth, it is true, but also taketh away, and is still the only game in town.  But what is “the economy”?  Is it a mere name–like the harvest, the kill, or the catch–that in this case we give to the assembly of transactions we make?   It seems more alive and willful than that, full of demands of its own.  It provides us with our daily bread, and sometimes much more—but at any moment this could come to an end.  For it stands above and apart from us.  It has requirements distinct from ours.  It must be fed.   We are conscripted by it.   It demands our sacrifices.   We live in its shadow, this tottering childish giant, with its foul moods.  But most of all, the economy must grow, a terrible fact that most of us accept without question, we imperiled mortals in the hands of this angry and petulant God.

This need to grow—Growthism—is the foundation of our current condition and the key concept of our present worldview.  It has become a sort of theology and advanced democracies are equally theocracies of Growthism.  It is our official ideology, but not in the common partisan sense of the word.  Rather, it describes a value or a good that is mainly invisible and obediently accepted without question.  Growth, and growth without end or limits, seems like the natural and inevitable order of things, like the best possible arrangement between people and their lands, like all that is left standing when false gods are slain and ancient beliefs are stripped away.

None of this is true.  Growth of the sort we celebrate is only a few hundred years old, and the creed of Growthism is far younger than that.  The economy is alive and distinct from our transactions not because it is a natural thing, though its requirements act like natural law.  We have collectively granted powers to it, allowed it to achieve ascendancy.  It rules, in a sense, by consent of the governed.  But in another sense it now rules without consent.   We cannot will it away, even as we come to understand its malignant force, nor could we vote it out or loosen its grip with a popular referendum.  We breathed life into it, gave it power—and now it will not go away, this latter day Frankenstein, simply because it no longer serves our purposes.  Our purposes now belong to it.

Consider, as an example, how it meets out punishments to us in the form of recessions.  A recession, after all, simply means the economy is not growing, which in turn means that the total quantity of goods and services are not increasing.  Not growing, if you think about it, might be an entirely normal state of affairs.  As parents, we hope our children stop growing, at least, physically, when they are big enough. Perhaps we have all we need and now require only emotional growth.  Perhaps our health requires equilibrium, even rest.  Even if we might want a little more, making due with a little less for a year or so—and we are talking about a very small contractions (as little as 1 or 2% when it comes to recessions)—should not be the cause for alarm if that was the end of it.  But with recessions fear and panic tremble through the system–and for the very real reason that a one or two percent decrease in the rate we produce goods and services can send the economy into a fit of rage.  It punishes us by destroying businesses, evicting people from their houses, loading people with unpayable debt.  After a recession it may take years to return to full employment, for businesses to stabilize, for people and nations alike to balance their budgets.  And some never recover.  An economic event sits in the pantheon of human fears alongside earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons.  But this one, our priests assure, us might be prevented.

And so we return in all earnestness to growth, lesson learned.  The economy must grow.  Everyone says it is so.

Das Growth

In the context of growth, and brief lapses in growth—and then the all-hands-on-deck, full societal effort to return to growth–it no longer makes sense to think of our economic system simply as a capitalist system.  By no means do I wish to underrate the role played by capitalism in growth.  Capitalism is still growth’s number one supporter, and will, in the hands of its financiers, be one of its final defenders.  Rather, it is to say that the rules of growth have superseded the rules of capitalism and, for that matter, the rules of the market.  Growth, and its demands, is broader and deeper than capitalism.  Under pure capitalism (should it exist or have existed), the demands of capital and property ownership establish the rules for all of society, and the state becomes, to paraphrase Marx, a committee for managing the common affairs of capitalism.  Today, in contrast, the Liberal state is a committee for managing growth, for prodding and prying our affairs and efforts in the direction of growth–the market, if necessary, be damned.  One of the main differences between liberals and conservatives, in industrial societies, amounts to two different approaches to securing growth.  And growth, this way, vs. growth, that way, are the only options we have at the polling place.

There may have been a time when Marx’s description was accurate, but capitalist markets, alone, were unable to maintain growth, and since growth has the last word (it turned out), the state began to supplement capitalism, with monetary and fiscal policy and an intricate system of regulations and incentives and now bailouts.  If necessary, government will take over of businesses, here, while privatizing services there, as long as it can help maintain growth.  But beyond the financial nuts and bolts, or the influx of cash or credit, civil society has constructed a vast and inexhaustible ideological social apparatus that pays ceaseless homage to growth.  To the needs and interests of the capitalism, capital, and the immediate demands of capitalists, Growthism, in all its exhaustive brilliance, has added the needs of the destitute, the demands of the worker and half-employed, and the very identity of the expanding class of knowledge workers and managers of growth.  All are united in the pursuit of growth, which isn’t to say that growth helps all equally.  Hiding this difference, this easing of class antagonisms, is just one of its many coup d’états.  But this easing requires growth to continue, lest these antagonisms (or others) return with renewed vigor (as they do today).   And if capitalism takes enough rope to hang itself, Growthism takes more rope than that.  It requires a far taller gallows for the noose to tighten and the neck to snap.

But what is Growthism?  What kind of thing, even, is it?  This question is best answered genealogically—where did Growthism come from and how did it form?  By answering this we see its manifold destiny. For Growthism began as a new condition of reality, became a solution, a solution so successful that it became inexorably embedded in our systems, directing and controlling them, appearing as an inescapable natural law; and then, just when it looked like we may have reached the limits of growth, Growthism  became an earnest, though idolatrous belief.  But as part of its cunning, Growthism contains each successive stage in the present, so that it is at once a condition, a solution, the end pursued by our every system, and a belief about what is good and right and natural.

Part 2, forthcoming: Growth as a Historical Condition

Erik Lindberg received his Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature in 1998, with a focus on cultural theory. After completing his degree, Lindberg began his career as a carpenter, and now owns a small, award-winning company that specializes in historical restoration. In 2008 he started Milwaukee’s first rooftop farm, and was a co-founder of the Victory Garden Initiative, as well as a member of Transition Milwaukee’s inaugural steering committee. He lives in Milwaukee with his wife and young twin boys.

Photo By Ian Muttoo – originally posted to Flickr as Alone / TogetherUploaded using F2ComButton, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8808073

Originally published by Resilience.org

  Read Growthism
  December 14, 2016
“The Platform”, How To Adjust To Climate Change

by John James, Climate Change, Countercurrents.org


It appears that over the past 18 months or so we have pushed the earth into an irrevocable spiral. The accumulating feedback loops cannot now be contained, though with concerted effort we may be able to diminish them. Dr Thomas Crowther wrote “It’s fair to say we have passed the point of no return on global warming and we can’t reverse the effects.” And from Stephen Hawking “We are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity.”

Carbon in the earth is now being released through manyfeedbacks that that need no encouragement from us. Its just hit the news that soil respiration “is about to add between 0.45 and 0.71 parts per million of CO2 to the atmosphere every year” which is another fifth added to what we do. We know that methane in Arctic permafrost and clathrates is being released 200 times faster than usual. The impact of forest fires can be enormous, as high as half the total emissions from fossil fuels. Droughts that now circle the globe have reduced forest ability to absorb carbon. And so on.

Everybody knows the changes are speeding up. We seem to be past the point of no return. We will see multi-metre sea level rise, expected over the next decade or so. There is no escape from these consequences. As James Hansen said, “this is inevitable”.

When we follow the connections between rising seas, fleeing populations and the collapse of industry its obvious we will find it increasingly difficult to import the fuel, food and manufactured goods on which we depend.

Think about the consequences, and the tensions and panic that would follow.

We the people now have to act for our own survival. Wecannot trust the politicians. Its up to us, and we can, as long as we startnow.

On the South Coast of NSW in Australia we have begun aprocess that we would like to see advanced everywhere. We intend to implement local alternatives for all aspects of our lives so we are independent of endangered supplies.

We have oversimplified these aspects into eight headings. There are answers to each one as long as we act while there is still time.

Food, Water and Goods, equipment, clothes, shoes, winter food storage;

Transport and Trawling, cartage, busses, distribution of food and stuff, ambulance;

Flooding and Heatwaves, roads, wharves, sewage,homelessness, keeping cool;

Communication, the internet can be switched off, so we need another way;

Wellbeing and Resilience, panic when people feel threatened by change;

Building and Maintenance, repair of equipment, spare parts, power outages;

Essential Services, health, dental, security, trash, bushfires, school, burials;.

Money and Governance, publicity, exchange, charities, grants

We are calling ourselves The Platform, from the image that when the train bears down on the station it is best to get off the tracks and onto the side. Perhaps when others come on board we will become The Platform (AU.se). But, in the meantime we have agreed down here in the Bega area that we have to start planning now.

We still have all the benefits of an industrial society to help us. Lets use what tools we have, and start now.

This is a call to action – it is now time – as everybody knows this moment is propitious.

  Read “The Platform”, How To Adjust To Climate Change
  January 4, 2016
At Least 50 Trump Electors Were Illegitimately Seated as Electoral College Members

by Steven Rosenfeld, Countercurrents.org


More than 50 Electoral College members who voted for Donald Trump were ineligible to serve as presidential electors because they did not live in the congressional districts they represented or held elective office in states legally barring dual officeholders.

That stunning finding is among the conclusions of an extensive 1,000-plus page legal briefing prepared by a bipartisan nationwide legal team for members of Congress who are being urged to object to certifying the 2016 Electoral College results on Friday.

“Trump’s ascension to the presidency is completely illegitimate,” said Ryan Clayton of Americans Take Action, who is promoting the effort. “It’s not just Russians hacking our democracy. It’s not just voter suppression at unprecedented levels. It is also [that] there are Republicans illegally casting ballots in the Electoral College, and in a sufficient number that the results of the Electoral College proceedings are illegitimate as well.”

“Republicans like to talk all the time about people voting illegally,” Clayton continued. “We have a list of a bunch of Republicans that allegedly voted illegally in the Electoral College. Pam Bondi is the attorney general of the state of Florida and the Florida Constitution says that you cannot hold two offices. And she holds the office of Attorney General and she holds the office of federal elector in the Electoral College. That is a violation of the law. That is a violation of the Constitution. And the vote that she cast in this election is illegal.”

A joint congressional session is scheduled to ratify the 2016 Electoral College vote this Friday. While there have been calls to challenge that certification—including one women-led effort saying Trump's victory is due to voter suppression targeting people of color—the analysis that scores of Trump electors were illegally seated, and the additional finding that most states won by Trump improperly filed their Electoral College "Certificates of Vote" with Congress, is unprecedented.

Their research and report grew out of the legal activities surrounding the December 19 Electoral College meeting, where Clayton and others urged Republican electors to reject Trump saying they had a constitutional responsibility to pick a more qualified president.  

Clayton is hoping that sufficient numbers of Republicans in Congress will not vote to ratify the Electoral College results, thus depriving Trump of the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to win the presidency. If that transpires, the House would then decide between the three top Electoral College vote-getters—Trump, Hillary Clinton and Colin Powell, he said. But before any of that can happen, there needs to be a formal challenge to ratifying the 2016 Electoral College results in Friday’s joint session of Congress, which is where the research finding that scores of Trump votes were illegally cast comes in.

“We have reason to believe that there are at least 50 electoral votes that were not regularly given or not lawfully certified (16 Congressional District violations and 34 Dual Office-Holder violations),” the executive summary of the Electoral Vote Objection Packet said. “The number could be over a hundred. We urge you to prepare written objections for January 6.”

“The compiling of the laws and evidence in this Electoral Vote Objection Package was completed by a national team of roughly 15 pro bono attorneys, law students, and legal assistants who represent no client or entity,” the summary said. “We are non-partisan—Democrat, Republican, and Independent. We live in different parts of the country, urban and rural, red states and blue states.”

Challenging the Electoral College

The Electoral College’s results have only been challenged twice since 1877. The most recent was in 2005, when an objection to Ohio’s Electoral College votes was filed by Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, D-OH, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA. While that effort did not stop President George W. Bush's reelection, it did force both chambers of Congress to debate for two hours before the Electoral College vote was ratified. Tubbs-Jones and Boxer used the podium to rail against GOP efforts to suppress the vote and disqualify ballots in communities of color.

The process for challenging the Electoral College vote is two-fold. First, a House member has to file a formal challenge and objection. Then one House member and one senator has to sign on, prompting each body to retire to their chambers for the two-hour debate.

The Electoral Vote Objection Packet briefing cites two main areas where 2016 Electoral College members were illegally seated and a third where their votes electing Trump were improperly sent to Congress.

“Specifically, at least 16 electors lived outside the congressional districts they represented in violation of state statutory residency requirements, and at least 34 electors held dual offices, in direct violation of statutes prohibiting dual-office holding,” the briefing's executive summary says, noting this violates two sections of the U.S. Constitution.

The first group of illegitimate electors amounts to political carpetbagging. “In North Carolina, for instance,” the briefing says, a state law, “NCGS 163-1(c) states, ‘One presidential elector shall be nominated from each congressional district…’ Yet, we have voter registration cards showing that numerous North Carolina electors lived outside the congressional districts they represented.”

The report lists the following states and their number of illegitimate electors: Arkansas (two from outside its congressional district); Indiana (one), Louisiana (one), Michigan (one), North Carolina (seven), Oklahoma (one), and Texas (three).

The second group of illegitimate electors is based on the fact that presidential electors hold a federal office, however short-lived, and that directly conflicts with states that ban elected officials from holding more than one office at a time. Florida’s state constitution, for example, bars dual-office holding. Its Supreme Court has issued rulings that further define what constitutes an officeholder. And the state legislature has passed other laws treating them as public officials, such as reimbursing them for travel costs.

“Ironically, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has issued a number of Advisory Legal Opinions on dual-office holding, was a presidential elector,” the briefing said. “Her name was on the Governor’s certification list of Republican electors, and also Attorney General Bondi cast her electoral ballot on December 19. More Negron, who also cast an electoral vote, is currently president of the Florida Senate.”

The report lists the following states and their number of illegitimate electors based on dual-office holders: Alabama (two), Florida (12), Georgia (four), Iowa (two), Kansas (four), Kentucky (one), Michigan (one), Missouri (one), Nebraska (one), North Carolina (one), Ohio (one), Oklahoma (two), Pennsylvania (two), South Carolina (one), South Dakota (three), Tennessee (two), Texas (four), Utah (one), and West Virginia (three). This tally, which adds up to 49 electors, was taken from a spreadsheet accompanying the briefing and is a larger number than what was cited in the report’s executive summary, which is quoted above.

Finally, there is another area of concern. Apparently, 23 states—out of the 31 that cast Electoral College votes for Trump—did not properly report separate vote counts for president and vice-president to Congress. That violates the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and a federal law requiring presidential electors in each state to “provide ‘two distinct lists of votes,’ one for the president and the other for the Vice President,” the briefing said. “Of 31 states, only eight states followed that law," the report said. "Some states codify the federal law into their own state law regarding presidential electors. Of those, 15 states did not provide two lists of signatures on their Certificates of Vote.”

“We are not providing any legal advice,” the briefing’s disclaimer says. “We strongly suggest that members of Congress employ their own legal teams to verify our work.”
It may be that the efforts to convince Congress to challenge the ratification of the 2016 Electoral College amounts to little more than a Hail Mary aimed at derailing a Trump presidency. As of late Wednesday, Clayton thought there would be House members willing to object to certifying the Electoral College vote, but he was less certain about finding a senator willing to go along.

But even if a challenge is mounted and fails, it underscores the illegitimate basis of Trump’s presidency and the deep opposition to it, and refutes the GOP’s outrageous claim that it has a mandate for dismantling government programs across the board.   

“We have a list of 50 illegal electors,” Clayton said. “That puts Donald Trump below the threshold that he needs to be elected president. Let’s debate it in an open session. According to the Constitution, the Congress, if nobody wins on the first round of balloting, picks from the top three candidates. That will be Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Colin Powell.”


Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights, campaigns and elections, and many social justice issues. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

  Read At Least 50 Trump Electors Were Illegitimately Seated as Electoral College Members
  December 17, 2016
Confidence And Courage

by Peter Van Els , Life/Philosophy, Countercurrents.org


We stand on the edge of the destruction of humanity and our planet, therefore we need Confidence, Courage, Love, Respect, Understanding to comprehend precisely, what human race needs to do in order to achieve real changes for the benefit of all mankind. As long as people do not see this great danger, nothing else matters.

Understanding of the strength of the individual, the power of the collective, the power of Love is essential! Human kind MUST realize, that 98% of the world has had enough of the capitalist, neoliberalism system, and certainly the elite, who have failed completely. Confidence in contemporary politics is completely gone, because citizens are no longer represented by their so called allies, chosen by the people. No wonder, that there is a cry of anger by people who are abandoned by their leaders and justice system.

Unfortunately, those who shout the loudest and express, with no effect “the great dissatisfaction”, are considered as a minority, and the minority is blamed for any failures of the corrupted systems. It is clear and evident that the true originators of the previously mentioned elite are the culprits and causes of “the great dissatisfaction”. In spite of the obvious, we are again misled by the deceitful and false arguments. In a climate of “spiritual emptiness”, it is easy to create a religious phenomenon, such as “A false Messiah”. Far right, totalitarian, evil people, such as: Wilders, Marianne Le Pen, Viktor Orban, Erdogan and Trump. Beware! A secular religion.!!! Understandably, there is sand in our eyes, but we are not seeing blind and “hearing deaf”! Where have we heard that before? We lived through it. We experienced it. We were minorities such as war refugees, Mexicans, as depicted and designated as guilty, but in a different context…

So much of old much used paths, just as a strategy, “Divide and conquer, by chaos.” It sounds so familiar. History repeats itself, but there is one big difference, now, there are weapons of mass destruction.

It is time to find the Courage to stand up against loutish behavior, against idle gossip and fight for universal truth, such as “Treat others in a way as you would like to be treated by others”. Life is really simple, only we, people make life difficult.

It is imperative to have Courage to stand up for your opinion, to speak your truth understandable and in a loving way, fed with wisdom and with proper arguments. The well-meaning man has a voice, and this voice should be heard, creating a snowball effect where out of something small, can grow something beautiful and grand in favour of mankind and our beautiful planet.

The strength of the individual.

I am Peter Van Els, and I was born in 1957, living in The Netherlands in a small city called Sluis. I am an autodidact, Life is my biggest teacher and I started to write last year to stand up against lawless and corrupt governments after I’d said to myself “enough is enough”! I believe all good souls must stand up and try to connect and unite, and try to change the system for the benefit for Mother Earth and for our offspring

As an individual, you can grow a seed in your immediate area, or you can touch someone and that someone touch another and so one. From 1 person to 5 persons, from 5 persons to 25 persons and so you finally reach the world. The strength of the domino effect.

Should we let reign fear, helplessness and frustration, a very paralyzing, blocking sensation? Fear of personal responsibility, fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of death and therefore fear of life. The answer is “NO”! One MUST takes responsibility for one’s own behavior, and not to continue to be a victim of the demagogues and fascist authorities.

Reign courage! It is essential, vital and important to our survival instinct and the desire for true freedom and human dignities, so we can protect our highly endangered, precious planet, with flora and fauna. Awake and awaken others! Real awakers understand, that petty differences are not important, that EGO is not important, but that ‘ideal’ which awakers have woken up to, is extremely important and that by means of love and respect can make a difference, wake up , wake up others, connect and unite.

United we stand, divided we all fall. By working together, we can, with our own talents and gifts, reinforce each other. Every well thinking person wants prosperity, freedom, peace, love, joy, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The good and right ingredients and a universal truth to create a loving society.

Confidence and Courage. Looking at the amazing beauty of nature, its people, planet, universe, only gratitude, humility, modesty feeling, and yes also optimism. By living life in which we live, there’s faith and courage to live, to survive and to choose life. Because of the enormous power and desire of humans to survive as individuals and as a species, is common sense, rather than the madness of the day, victorious, eventually.

Courage we need to unite and connect, to represent the true voice of the people, which achieved universal values and where power and corruption has no soil anymore. It takes courage, a charismatic and wise person, like Bernie Sanders, to stand up for humanity and our planet. It is a moral obligation to our future generations and our planet. We need more Bernie Sanders!

“Everything has been said and written, but using the power of repetition.” Lanaria Amberkira

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln.

Interesting articles; “We stand on the edge of destruction of mankind. As long as people dont see, nothing else really matter. “Noam Chomsky https://www.vn.nl/noam-chomsky-geen-spat-veranderd/

“This is the most dangerous time for our planet.” Stephen Hawking

I am Peter Van Els, and I was born in 1957,  living in The Netherlands in a small city called Sluis. I am an autodidact, Life is my biggest teacher and I started to write last year to stand up against lawless and corrupt governments after I’d said to myself “enough is enough”! I believe all good souls must stand up and try to connect and unite, and try to change the system for the benefit for Mother Earth and for our offspring

  Read Confidence And Courage
  December 22, 2016
Growthism: Part 2

by Erik Lindberg, Counter Solutions, Countercurrents.org


One of the notable features of Growthism is the way it takes growth to be entirely normal and, at the same time, understands it as the very recent triumph of humanity over the awful conditions it faced for the first two hundred thousand years of its existence as a species.  According to the groundbreaking, if also flawed, work of Angus Maddison that calculated the history of world GDP, until around 1820 per capita economic growth was minimal at best.  Prior to the nineteenth century, the standard of living for people across the globe was forever dodging Malthusian traps and progressed so slowly that it can only be visibly graphed according to multi-century chunks.  Then, rather suddenly, everything changed and the size of both the world’s economy and per capita GDP began to double many times each century.  In the minds of the world’s power-brokers and knowledge-makers, as well as most casual onlookers, this two-century growth spurt is expected to continue into perpetuity, its youthful exuberance adding little doubt as to its long-term staying power.  We have banked everything on it.

This sense of normalcy can be seen in the way journalists, academics, and politicians speak about economic growth.  An economy that is not growing, of course, in recession and has only “recovered” once it is growing again at an acceptable rate, around 3% per year, a rate often extolled with genetic metaphors—as if this sort of growth part of “the economy’s” DNA.  An economy that is not growing or not growing fast enough is, accordingly, referred to as “sluggish” or will be said to be “facing headwinds,” ones like insufficient consumer confidence, high energy prices, an international trade imbalance, or even demographic changes.  This is quite odd if considered outside the perspective of Growthism: the fact, say, that the population is growing older or that people are having fewer babies could be considered mainly as an economic challenge, never mind the more basic fact that an economy’s size and growth has to do with how much people are buying and selling and that people might someday decide they have everything they need.  That any pause in buying, selling, and of course disposing, is a condition from which we must recover is the most peculiar thing, yet it is accepted without thought.

Add to this the fact, mentioned above, that economic growth is such a recent phenomenon and it is quite impressive, if not surprising, the way the language of growth and the expectations surrounding it have come to be seen as completely ordinary.  How, one might ask (though one rarely does) could something so new and so utterly unique to most of human history at the same time be thought of as so normal, even permanent?  The answer to this question has to do with the story of progress used to narrate economic growth and the more general increase in standards of living since the Industrial Revolution, and before that the age of European global conquest.[i]

As the story normally goes, prior to the advent of massive international trade and economic growth humans lived in a shackled and repressed condition of general immiseration.  But then—whether it is attributed to Enlightenment philosophy, the scientific revolution, or the way explorers allowed Europeans to break free from their bounded geography and their dark ages—humans woke up, discovered the keys to freedom and prosperity, and began the march, or rather sprint, towards full human potential.  Our two hundred year growth spurt is normal because its prehistory was a history of the repression of true human nature and capacity.

A very striking, and in many ways well-conceived, example of this story has been provided by physician and investment banker William Bernstein, in his history of prosperity,  The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World Was Created.[ii]   But the same point, here, could be made with countless other examples. Bernstein’s purpose is to explain “how economic growth sprang to life after millennia of slumber” (4), in part because he wants to make sure we don’t engage in any backsliding.  For “beginning around 1820, the pace of economic advance picked up noticeably, making the world a better place to live in” (15).  By finally discovering the four main prerequisites for sustained economic growth—property rights, scientific rationalism, capital markets, and fast and efficient communication and transportation (15-16)—humanity was jarred awake from this two hundred thousand year slumber.

The metaphorical drift is key to the story’s success. In addition to the metaphor of waking from a slumber, Bernstein carefully employs figurative language to paint a picture of the coming of humans into true being, of shaking free of old shackles.  Previous obstacles to economic development, he says, are like a dam that, once breached, can never be rebuilt, for the onrushing flow of prosperity that has built up behind it a part, we are to suppose, the innate potential of we ingenious humans.  He employs chapter headings like “The Premodern Absence of Property Rights,” “The Premodern Absence of Scientific Rationality,” “The Premodern Absence of Effective Capital Markets,” “The Premodern Absence of Effective Transport and Communications.” Prior to 1800, he notes, Europeans suffered from the “lack of adequate transport,” while hunter gatherer societies are “economically crippled, since they depend” excessively on land, “the least productive of the four inputs,” thus ignoring the more significant inputs of “labor, capital, and knowledge “(45).

With such metaphors illustrating his story of economic growth, and beyond the metaphors the outright declarations of premodern lack, Bernstein cements the notion of a universal and timeless human desire to be just like us, whose potential was yet to be unleashed in the dark and drowsy ages of old.  And only with this picture of us humans and our history, can he confidently conclude that economic growth is permanent.  It is, he says, “an unrelenting, never-ending engine—an economic perpetual motion machine showing no signs of fatigue, let alone stopping” (373).  Therefore, “a century from now, the world will be a far more prosperous place, and a thousand years hence, the earth’s inhabitants will judge the current century to have been an impoverished, cruel, and deprived Dark Age” (378).

Of course the most significant problem with Bernstein’s account (as well as with our faith, hope, and assumptions about the future of our money) is that the economy cannot grow at the “normal” rate for another thousand years, never mind a single century, never mind another few decades.  Despite all the talk of a knowledge economy or “decoupling,” whether at stake is measurable GDP or a higher “standard” of living, economic activity requires raw materials and energy.  As a tour through Mark Zuckerberg’s home would surely reveal, people aren’t interested in buying and selling things that can be effortlessly materialized out of thin air for increasing sums of money[iii] (and there is a name for that: it’s called inflation!).

There are all sorts of material and resource constraints preventing continued economic growth, but consider thermodynamic limits like this: from 1650 to the present, U.S. energy consumption has grown at a rate of 3% per year.  As Physicist Tom Murphy had calculated it, if global energy use grew at a rate of 2.3% per year, the temperature of the Earth would reach the boiling point in four hundred years–not from global warming, but just from the spent energy.  This, Murphy adds, “is independent of technology. Even if we don’t have a name for the energy source yet, as long as it obeys thermodynamics, we cook ourselves with perpetual energy increase.”  Continue this growth rate for 1400 years, Murphy adds, and we’re using an energy amount equal to the entire sun and in 2500 years an amount equivalent to the entire Milky Way galaxy.[iv]  Of course a mere 6 degrees rise in temperature—which, incidentally is not only possible, but the result of our current short-term trajectory of growth and “development”—wipes out life as we know it long before that.  Bernstein’s “economic perpetual motion machine” can expect a life that will be nasty, brutish, and short.  So can we.

But for the time being, I want to make a more subtle point.  Lost in the normalizing of economic growth, in addition to any awareness about its lethal outcome, is the sense that economic growth and modernity in general are part of a very specific historical conditions, and not the simple releasing of a dammed up river.  And because these conditions cannot last, as important as asserting this fact, unknown to most of the knowledge-makers and power-brokers in Liberal societies, is thinking about our present historical condition in ways that will help us choose, if that’s the right word, an alternative.

So here’s a claim that might be met with incredulity, and perhaps more so (I should admit up front) as the consequences of it are considered: most of human history was not a prequel, or lead-up, to us.  Hunters and gatherers were not “crippled” by a lack of economic development, or by the absence, even, of electricity.  They had everything they wanted and did not want from the lack of unfulfilled wants.  They pursued (probably the wrong word) a very different version of the good life and often thrived in it.  So also with Native Americans, Laplanders, even, dare I say, medieval peasants.  Do I romanticize the past, here, ignoring hunger, disease, cruelty and indifference to suffering?  No, this, merely, is what it looks like when one refuses to romanticize the present.

Once we’ve made the switch in perspective to seeing Growthism as a historical conditions, with its own specific challenges and justifying myths, we might also be better able to take a look at all the collateral damage and unique misery of our current way of life, of the cast-offs, the impoverished citizens of petro-states, the garbage pickers of the great Asian and African megacities, the dispossessed West Virginia coal miners suffering an epidemic of black-lung disease, the Bangladeshi garment workers and all the other sweatshops of the world, human trafficking and indentured sex-work, the shootings, the incarceration, the crippling want.  Do these just represent the incomplete acceptance of our ideals, or an inevitable dark side of a system set on growth?  And even among the elites of the United States we see an epidemic of teenage depression, of eating disorders indicative of children raised to hate their bodies and compare themselves into starvation.  We see the addiction, the obsession with trivial distractions, a people glued to hand-held computers as life and history go whizzing by, careening out of control.  We see people who give things to their children that they know they shouldn’t have, but cannot imagine an alternative to the onslaught of social pressure, hypertrophied norms, inflating demand and expectations.

This all is Growthist dis-ease, part of a Growthist historical condition—explained-away in terms of uneven development, of backwaters of retrograde ideology, as at least being “better than living on a farm without electricity”—all absent from premodern societies, whatever challenges and struggles they contained.  This is not to romanticize the past; it is to not romanticize the present.  It is to not cling to its fables out of fear and misunderstanding, and regardless of their deathly trajectory.  Indeed the first lesson taught to all students of modernity or modernism is the way modernization is always accompanied by a deeply unsettling breakdown of the traditions which provided meaning, purpose, a sense of belonging, and orientation.  Such traditions–now despised by modern people as lacking opportunity, freedom, self-expression, perhaps even economic growth—nevertheless were often successful in guiding everyday people through life and death, sometimes in societies that sustained themselves over millennia—and might still be doing so today if that little white spot on the ocean horizon had never come closer and never spilled onto the beaches its pale, hairy, and hungry beasts.

In the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” we witness just this sort of disruption, but on an extremely limited scale, when a coke bottle is dropped from a plane into the world of a nomadic hunter and gatherer society, causing sudden disruption, conflict, and acrimony within the tribe and a general threat to social cohesion.  Prior to the age of Columbus, similarly, Europe had a relatively bounded geography.  This is not to ignore the Crusades, the conquests, or the awareness about the riches of Asia and the existence of an Africa beyond the Arab part with which Europeans traded.  Rather, and more significantly, its scientific, cosmological, economic, and moral orders reflected, perhaps in an idealized sense, a closed geographical space in which various sorts of order might be imagined and maintained.  One of the more powerful illustrations of this old order, and its change to a new one, is provided by Andre Koyre and his groundbreaking book on the sixteenth and seventeenth century Scientific Revolution, From a Closed World to an Infinite Universe.  Within the closed world, Europeans enjoyed stable categories and hierarchies, represented, for instance, by the Great Chain of Being, or the table of virtues.  As C.S. Lewis explained it in The Discarded Image,[v] “At his most characteristic medieval man is not as wanderer.  He was an organizer, a codifier, a builder of systems.  He wanted ‘a place for everything and everything in its right place’”(10).  In its science, as in Koyre’s closed world of harmony, perfection, and purpose, “the fundamental concept was that of certain sympathies, antipathies, and strivings inherent in matter itself.  Everything has its right place, its home, the region that suits it, and, if not forcibly restrained, moves thither by a sort of homing instinct” (92).

Upon the voyages of Columbus, all such homing instinct was cast aside.  Word spread like wild fire and everyone wanted in on the race.  Within a few decades, the Columbian Exchange submitted Europe to this same sort of sudden disruption on a scale that is difficult for us to imagine, as it was flooded with new images of entirely unknown worlds, and the sudden promise of great riches.  Silk, gold, silver, tobacco, new foods and spices, came pouring in.  People suddenly had to have what a year before they had not known even to exist.  And they were willing to do anything to get it, unconcerned as the bodies piled up and the enthralled torture of self and other was taken to a global scale.  In a great act of misapprehension, we praise the Renaissance for the birth of humanism and the emergence of the sovereign individual.  But this humanism was not humanitarian.  Its “I” is a wanting and craving self, never satisfied, obsessive, always on the run in pursuit of more and ever more than that.  No fashion was too new, no rival too distant, no novelty too sacred, no life indisposable.

About this change and this new condition, Marx’s description in The Communist Manifesto remains unmatched:

The bourgeoisie, whenever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.  It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors,’ and left remaining no other  nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payments.’  It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy waters of egotistical calculation. . . . Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois [Growthist] epoch from all other ones.  All fixed and fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.   All that is solid melts into air.

The closed and purposeful world with its sense of harmony and proportion, or proper place described by Lewis or Koyre could not, of course, survive the sudden onslaught of growth, as the European world was cracked open and turned upside down, much as Marx describes it.  We moderns are Growthists through and through and are thus apt to see this opening as the triumph of humanity, as did the New Science and Enlightenment philosophy—and as do Growthist cheerleaders like Bernstein, or the New York Times, or NPR, or the BBC, or the United Nations, or Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton.

Is the universe not, we might ask, really infinite, are we moderns not empirically correct?  Did we not replace myth with truth as we discarded this old image?  If, as Francis Bacon was to put it, “knowledge is power” (and therefore what is not powerful is not knowledge), then a strong case can be made.  But a cautionary thought: when they imagined a closed world, the medieval mind had, for whatever reasons, a far better intuitive grasp than we on the limits of the world that actually sustains us.  The universe may be infinite but our biosphere is not.   Innovation may be able to stretch our biosphere’s carrying capacity, but it cannot breach its limits without dire consequences.  And as the cosmology that carried humanity to the brink of extinction (if, indeed, it does not), our present faith in the infinite universe, or in knowledge as power, as controlling metaphors for human behavior will someday be viewed with as much contempt and derision as we direct toward pre-modern, pre-Growthist thought today.  School children will stand agape, wondering how?—how people once believed that there were no thermodynamic or biological limits to how much they might have and do.

Read Grothism-Part I

Erik Lindberg received his Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature in 1998, with a focus on cultural theory. After completing his degree, Lindberg began his career as a carpenter, and now owns a small, award-winning company that specializes in historical restoration. In 2008 he started Milwaukee’s first rooftop farm, and was a co-founder of the Victory Garden Initiative, as well as a member of Transition Milwaukee’s inaugural steering committee. He lives in Milwaukee with his wife and young twin boys.

[i] Maddison measures GDP prior to modern records by looking at the size of cities and the percentage of the population engaged in (subsistence) farming.  While this tells us a lot about society, it doesn’t measure substantial increases in the wealth of the elites who already lived off the farm.  Maddison may be correct that the Columbian Exchange did not affect the affluence of European peasants, it does mark the beginning of growth and the rather sudden increase in global trade and the drastic transfer of wealth to Europe.

[ii] Bernstein, William J.  The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World Was Created (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004).

[iii] Said Mark Zuckerberg: “The economy of the last century was primarily based on natural resources, industrial machines and manual labor. . . . Today’s economy is very different. It is based primarily on knowledge and ideas — resources that are renewable and available to everyone.”  It is worth remembering that Facebook gets its revenue from advertisers who are working to move material objects around the globe only by using energy and raw materials, beaten into shape by a global lumpen worker, who in turn wants to eat and have their own material objects.

[iv] http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/04/economist-meets-physicist/

[v] Lewis, C.S. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964).

  Read Growthism: Part 2
  December 22, 2016
Russia, Iran And Turkey Issue Joint Declaration On Syrian Settlement

by Bill Van Auken, World, Countercurrents.org


After meeting in Moscow on Tuesday, top officials of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish governments issued a joint eight-point statement of principles calling for the extension of a ceasefire throughout Syria and a negotiated settlement between the Syrian government and its opponents.

Much of the statement, dubbed by Russian officials as the “Moscow Declaration,” was boilerplate. It declared the three countries’ support for “the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,” while affirming that “there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict.”

The timing of the statement and the geopolitical alignment of its three signatories, however, make the document extraordinarily troubling for Washington.

The meeting in Moscow was convened on the basis of the stunning defeat delivered to the nearly six-year-old US orchestrated war for regime change in Syria. Last week, Syrian forces, backed by Russia and Iran, retook eastern Aleppo, the last urban stronghold of the Islamist militias that served as US proxy forces in the fight against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

That Turkey has now joined with Assad’s key allies, Russia and Iran, is an indication of the severity of this defeat. Previously Turkey had served as a key state sponsor of the Al Qaeda-linked militias fighting in Syria, allowing its territory to be used as a conduit for the shipment of CIA-supplied arms and “foreign fighters” into the country, while dispatching elements of its security forces to provide them aid and training.

Within the past week, however, Turkey joined with Russia in brokering a ceasefire with the so-called “rebels” in eastern Aleppo along with their evacuation together with that of thousands of civilians from the besieged enclave.

The Moscow statement declared that the three countries “welcome joint efforts in eastern Aleppo allowing for voluntary evacuation of civilians and organized departure of the armed opposition.” The statement stands in sharp contrast to the position taken by Washington, which has waged a propaganda campaign denouncing the government’s retaking of Aleppo as a “massacre” and even “genocide.”

That Turkey, a key NATO ally for the last six decades, with the second largest army in the US-led military alliance, has joined with the two countries viewed by Washington as the principal obstacles to its drive to assert hegemony over Middle East and Eurasia is a serious blow to US policy.

The Turkish government has sought a rapprochement with Moscow since last May, when it began efforts to assuage tensions that erupted after the Turkish air force carried out an ambush shootdown of a Russian warplane operating on the Turkish-Syrian border in November of last year, raising the threat of an armed conflict between the two countries, potentially drawing NATO into a war with nuclear-armed Russia.

Relations between the two countries grew closer after the abortive military coup against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan last July, which Erodgan and his supporters blamed on Washington and Berlin.

The Erdogan government has also clashed with Washington over the US alliance with the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia affiliated with the Turkish Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which Ankara regards as a “terrorist organization” and against which it has waged a protracted counterinsurgency campaign. Erdogan ordered the Turkish army into Syria last August, ostensibly to join the US campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS), but more importantly to block the YPG from establishing a de facto Kurdish state on its border.

The issuing of the Moscow statement came on the heels of Monday’s assassination in Ankara of the Russian ambassador, Andrei Karlov, by an off-duty member of an elite Turkish police unit. While there was initial speculation that the killing could provoke a crisis between Russia and Turkey, the two governments have insisted that they are united in response to the assassination, while pro-government media and officials in both countries have made statements blaming Washington and NATO for the crime.

The affiliations and motives of the killer, 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, remain in dispute. Erdogan made a statement Wednesday categorically identifying Altintas as a supporter of the opposition Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-exile in Pennsylvania.

Erdogan and his ruling AKP party blamed Gulen supporters for the abortive July coup, and the government has since launched a massive purge of the military, the police forces and civil service that has seen over 100,000 people sacked and some 37,000 detained.

Meanwhile, Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), the joint command center of Islamist militias dominated by the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate, issued a statement Wednesday claiming responsibility for the assassination. Such an affiliation is in line with the statements made by the assassin after pumping nine bullets into the Russian ambassador.

While it has been widely reported that he shouted out, “Don’t forget about Aleppo, don’t forget about Syria,” it was less widely acknowledged that he began his rant in Arabic, proclaiming himself one of those “who give Mohammed our allegiance for jihad,” a slogan used by Al Qaeda.

The Turkish prosecutor’s office has announced that it is investigating why police who responded to the scene of the assassination shot and killed the assassin rather than seeking to capture him. Sections of the Turkish media have also raised questions on the same subject, pointing out that killing Altintas served to impede the investigation into his real motives. Erdogan reacted angrily to the questions, suggesting that failing to kill him could have cost more lives.

The Turkish government has obvious motives for pinning the killing on the Gulenists, which would serve to legitimize its police-state crackdown, while also diverting attention from the deep ties forged between the Turkish security forces and the Islamists in Syria during the war for regime change against Assad.

The editorial reaction to the assassination and the subsequent trilateral meeting in Moscow by the two “papers of record” of the US political establishment Wednesday was telling.

The New York Times noted that “the most important thing to say about Monday’s dramatic assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey by a lone gunman is that it has not ruptured relations between the two countries.” It concluded, “losing Turkey as an ally would be another unacceptable casualty of the Syrian war.”

The Washington Post was more blunt, stating that the assassination “might have been expected to derail a fragile detente between the regimes of Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Instead, it has served to underline a budding alliance that could have the effect of excluding the United States from the endgame of Syria’s civil war and critically weakening U.S. influence across the Middle East.”

The paper described the killing as a “sign that Russia may pay a price in blowback for its intervention in Syria,” but concluded that Washington may be facing “a peace [in Syria] that will empower a string of anti-US strongmen from Damascus and Tehran to Ankara and Moscow.”

These suggestions by the two most influential US newspapers that a political assassination has had the opposite of the desired effect have ominous implications given the level of anti-Russian hysteria whipped up in recent months by both the US government and the corporate media.

This anti-Russian campaign saw the former director of the CIA, Michael Morell, tell a television interviewer last August that the US should respond to the events in Syria by “covertly” telling the “moderate” rebels Washington is supporting “to go after the Russians.” Asked if he meant “killing Russians,” Morell answered in the affirmative.

More recently, President Obama said in an interview last week that Washington would retaliate against Moscow over allegations of Russian interference in the US election “at a time and place of our own choosing.”

Whether or not Washington had a direct hand in the murder of Ambassador Karlov, evidence points to the killing having been carried out by someone affiliated with the US proxy forces in Syria. More fundamentally, the initial reaction to the reversals for US policy in the Middle East suggest that far greater acts of violence are being prepared.

First published by WSWS.org

  Read Russia, Iran And Turkey Issue Joint Declaration On Syrian Settlement
  December 27, 2016
You Were Made For This

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Life/Philosophy, Countercurrents.org


My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. . . Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now.

Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés is a certified senior Jungian analyst. Her doctorate, from the Union Institute & University , is in ethno-clinical psychology on the study of social and psychological patterns in cultural and tribal groups. She often speaks as “distinguished visiting scholar” and “diversity scholar” at universities. She is the author of many books on the journey of the soul. Beginning in 1992 and onward, her work has been published in 37 languages. Her book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of The Wild Woman Archetype was on The New York Times’ best seller list for 145 weeks, as well as other best seller lists, including USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal.

This article first appeared in http://www.wanttoknow.info/youweremadeforthis

  Read You Were Made For This
  December 27, 2016
New Study ‘Sounds Alarm’ On Another Climate Feedback Loop

by Andrea Germanos, Countercurrents.org


The loss of Arctic sea ice has already been shown to be part of a positive feedback loopdriving climate change, and a recent study published in the journal Nature puts the spotlight on what appears to be another of these feedback loops.

It has to do with soil, currently one of Earth’s carbon sinks. But warming may lead to soils releasing, rather than sequestering, carbon.

As study co-authorJohn Blair, university distinguished professor of biology at Kansas State University, explained, “Globally, soils hold more than twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, so even a relatively small increase in release of carbon from the Earth’s soils can have a large impact on atmospheric greenhouse gases and future warming.”

For the study, the researchers took data from over four dozen sites across the globe representing a variety of ecosystems and heated them approximately one degree Celsius.

They found that the samples from lower latitude grassland soils showed little change, but the soil samples from the colder, higher latitude ecosystems—which hold more carbon—released large amounts of carbon with the temperature increase.

The total amount of carbon lost by 2050 from these higher latitude soils could end up being the equivalent of as much as 17 percent of the expected human-caused emissions over this period, the results suggested.

The study’s abstract summarizes the findings thusly:

Despite the considerable uncertainty in our estimates, the direction of the global soil carbon response is consistent across all scenarios. This provides strong empirical support for the idea that rising temperatures will stimulate the net loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere, driving a positive land carbon–climate feedback that could accelerate climate change.

According to Blair, who also directs the NSF-funded Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program at Kansas State’s Konza Prairie Biological Station, “This study sounds an alarm that we need to be aware of these kinds of feedbacks in order to control greenhouse gasses while they are still controllable.”

The study also directs attention to soil’s climate buffering potential.

“What we know from this study is that warming will result in the loss of stored carbon in a wide variety of ecosystems—and that has potentially harmful effects in terms of future global warming,” Blair noted. “At the same time, it also highlights the potential role that the soil could play in storing carbon and helping to mitigate climate change.”

First published in CommonDreams.org

  Read New Study ‘Sounds Alarm’ On Another Climate Feedback Loop
 December 12, 2016
Why So-Called 'World Class' Oil Spill Response Is Anything But

by David Suzuki, AlterNet


A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.
Photo Credit: NOAA

In July, a pipeline leak near Maidstone, Saskatchewan, spilled about 250,000 liters of diluted oil sands bitumen into the North Saskatchewan River, killing fish and birds and compromising drinking water for nearby communities, including Prince Albert. It was one of 11 spills in the province over the previous year.

In October, a tugboat pulling an empty fuel barge ran aground near Bella Bella on the Great Bear Rainforest coastline, spilling diesel into the water. Stormy weather caused some of the containment booms to break. Shellfish operations and clam beds were put at risk and wildlife contaminated.

Governments and industry promoting fossil fuel infrastructure often talk about “world class” spill response. It’s one of the conditions B.C.’s government has imposed for approval of new oil pipelines. But we’re either not there or the term has little meaning. “This ‘world-class marine response’ did not happen here in Bella Bella,” Heiltsuk chief councillor Marilyn Slett told Metro News.

If authorities have this much trouble responding to a relatively minor spill from a tugboat, how can they expect to adequately deal with a spill from a pipeline or a tanker full of diluted bitumen? The simple and disturbing truth is that it’s impossible to adequately clean up a large oil spill. A 2015 report commissioned by the City of Vancouver and the Tsleil-Waututh and Tsawout First Nations concluded that “collecting and removing oil from the sea surface is a challenging, time-sensitive, and often ineffective process, even under the most favorable conditions.”

What the oil and gas industry touts as “world class spill response” boils down to four methods: booms, skimmers, burning and chemical dispersants. An article at Smithsonian.com notes, “For small spills these technologies can sometimes make a difference, but only in sheltered waters. None has ever been effective in containing large spills.” Booms don’t work well in rough or icy waters, as was clear at the Bella Bella spill; skimmers merely clean the surface and often not effectively; burning causes pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; and dispersants just spread contaminants around, when they work at all.

Researchers have also found that cleaning oil-soaked birds rarely if ever increases their chances of survival. A tiny spot of oil can kill a seabird.

After the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill off the Alaska coast, industry only recovered about 14 per cent of the oil—which is about average—at a cost of $2 billion. The 2011 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has cost more than $42 billion so far, and has not been overly effective. In that case, industry bombed the area with the dispersant Corexit, which killed bacteria that eat oil! Record numbers of bottlenose dolphins died.

We’re not going to stop transporting oil and gas overnight, so improving responses to spills on water and land is absolutely necessary. And increasing the safety of pipelines, tankers and trains that carry these dangerous products is also critical, as is stepping up monitoring and enforcement. With the Saskatchewan spill, the provincial government deemed an environmental assessment of a pipeline expansion connected to the one that leaked as unnecessary because the Environment Ministry did not consider it a “development.” University of Regina geography professor Emily Eaton, who has studied oil development, told the National Observer that Saskatchewan “gives a pass” to most pipelines it regulates.

Beyond better response capability and technologies, and increased monitoring and enforcement, we have to stop shipping so much fossil fuel. The mad rush to exploit and sell as much oil, gas and coal as possible before markets dry up in the face of growing scarcity, climate change and ever-increasing and improving renewable energy options has led to a huge spike in the amount of fossil fuels shipped through pipelines, and by train and tanker—often with disastrous consequences, from the Gulf of Mexico BP spill to the tragic 2013 Lac-Mégantic railcar explosion.

Spills and disasters illustrate the immediate negative impacts of our over-reliance on fossil fuels. Climate change shows we can’t continue to burn coal, oil and gas, that we have to leave much of it in the ground. If we get on with it, we may still have time to manage the transition without catastrophic consequences. But the longer we delay, the more difficult it will become.

This article was originally published by the David Suzuki Foundation.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation

  Read Why So-Called 'World Class' Oil Spill Response Is Anything But
  December 21, 2016
2016 Is About to Become the Hottest Year on Record

by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, AlterNet


In less than two weeks, 2016 will officially be the hottest year on the books in more than 120 years of record keeping by U.S. agencies.

It will be the third straight record-setting year — and of the 17 hottest years, 16 have been this century — a clear sign of the human-caused rise in global temperatures caused by the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases over the past century. The world is already more than halfway down the road to surpassing the Paris climate pact goal to limit warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100.


The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years. Each month shows the average of that month's temperature and each month before it.

These milestones have climate scientists and policymakers concerned about keeping that goal, particularly as the incoming Trump administration will almost certainly be filled with cabinet members who reject the established science of climate change.

November was the second warmest on record (after November 2015), according to NASA data released last week, with an average temperature 1.71°F (0.95°C) above the 1951-1980 average.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ranked the month slightly lower, in the fifth warmest spot, according to a report released Monday. It put the global temperature for the month at 1.31°F (0.72°C) above the 20th century average.

For the year-to-date, 2016 is 1.69°F (0.94°C) above the 20th century average, according to NOAA, and 1.84°F (1.02°C) above the 1951-1980 average according to NASA.

Each agency uses different baselines of comparison and processes global temperature data in slightly different ways, leading to small differences in the final numbers for particular months and years. Both, though, have shown clear agreement in overall warming trends, and expect 2016 to easily set the record in their respective datasets.

While a very strong El Niño helped boost temperatures during this year and last, the record-setting temperature is mostly due to the long-term warming driven by human activities. Even years marked by El Niño’s cold counterpart, La Niña, are now warmer than El Niño years of previous decades because of this warming.

Last year, the world agreed to limit warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century and to try to keep it under 1.5°C. To show how close global temperatures already are to the second goal, Climate Central has been reanalyzing the monthly temperature data to compare it to a baseline closer to pre-industrial.

Averaging NASA and NOAA’s data, 2016’s temperature through November is 1.23°C (2.21°F) above the average from 1881-1910.

One major area of warmth during both November and the year as a whole was the Arctic. During November, the Arctic saw an almost unprecedented sea ice retreat, capping off a year that has shocked even seasoned Arctic researchers. The winter sea ice peak was the lowest on record (beating out 2015) and the summer minimum was the second lowest. Air temperatures in the region have continually been above average by double digits.

How temperatures around the world compared to normal for the year so far.

One reason NOAA’s global temperature for November may have been lower than NASA’s is that it doesn’t incorporate Arctic temperatures.

Another hotspot for November was North America; the contiguous U.S. is poised to have its second-hottest year on record.

Many climate scientists have expressed concern over some of President-elect Trump’s nominees to key cabinet posts, such as the departments of Energy and State. Rick Perry, the Energy nominee, has dismissed the reality of climate change, and Rex Tillerson, nominee for secretary of state, is CEO of ExxonMobil, which spent decades ignoring its own scientists’ research tying fossil fuels to climate change.

There is concern that with these players, the incoming administration will roll back progress toward combating climate change, causing the world to charge past its goals of limiting warming.

Andrea Thompson is a Senior Science Writer at Climate Central, focusing on extreme weather and climate change. Previously, Andrea was a writer and reporter for Live Science and Space.com, reporting on climate change, weather and other science-related topics. Follow Andrea on Twitter @AndreaTWeather.

  Read 2016 Is About to Become the Hottest Year on Record
  December 21, 2016
Tens of Thousands Call for Obama Climate Hail Mary Before Trump Moves In

by Jesse Bragg, AlterNet


President Barack Obama delivers remarks on energy after a tour of a Solar Panel Field at the Copper Mountain Solar 1 Facility, the largest photovoltaic plant operating in the country with nearly one million solar panels powering 17,000 homes, in Boulder City, Nevada, March 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Photo Credit: Lawrence Jackson/White House

Just one month from inauguration and with confirmation hearings looming for President-elect Trump’s climate-denying cabinet, an international coalition of human rights and environmental groups is  appealing to President Obama to take one final action to advance justice and action on climate change in spite of Trump.

Today, 117 organizations including and the Center for International Environmental Law, led by Corporate Accountability International, delivered the call of more than 70,000 people to President Obama to fulfill the U.S.’s commitment to the U.N. climate treaty’s Green Climate Fund. The GCF is a primary vehicle for climate finance that is largely seen as the lynchpin of climate action. In 2014 the U.S. committed $3 billion  to the GCF, but to date has only $500 million.

Donald Trump has made climate denial and advancing the fossil fuel industry’s agenda a central   of his new administration. Last week, Trump nominated a series of climate deniers to his cabinet including Rex Tillerson, current chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, as Secretary of State, and Scott Pruitt, who is known for suing the Environmental Protection Agency, to direct that very agency.

“Donald Trump’s administration will be of, by, and for, the fossil fuel industry and if we don’t act now, millions will suffer,” said Corporate Accountability International's Tamar Lawrence-Samuel. “President Obama must do whatever it takes to fulfill the U.S.’ commitment to the Green Climate Fund before Donald Trump and his Big Oil cabinet take over.”

Established as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Green Climate Fund is the primary vehicle through which global north countries, responsible for the vast majority of historical global greenhouse gas emissions, can provide the resources due global south countries so that they may adapt to the already devastating effects of climate change and transition to renewable energy sources.  

In March 2016, understanding that climate deniers in Congress would refuse a direct appropriation, the Obama administration made good on $500 million of its  commitment to the Green Climate Fund through a State Department fund called the Economic Support Fund (ESF). Given the myriad funds appropriated to the State Department, Treasury Department, Defense Department and other agencies whose mission could arguably align with support of climate finance, the fulfillment of this pledge on a more accelerated timeline is regarded as an issue of political will.

“The debt for the damage inflicted on the global climate by American carbon will never be fully repaid, and the Trump administration can be counted on to do nothing for the most vulnerable people on the planet,” said author and  founder Bill McKibben, “So this call makes both practical and moral sense.”

The demand on the Obama administration is part of a global movement of environmental and human rights groups to protect a critical international commitment made by the U.S., and to resist Trump’s looming assault on climate policy, human rights and equity during his term. Not only do most of Trump’s cabinet appointments have long histories of dismantling and attacking environmental policies, they  than one third of Americans combined and owe much of it to years in the upper echelons of confirming the fears of many that this administration will represent only the interests of corporations and the wealthy.

Jesse Bragg is the media director at Corporate Accountability International.

  Read Tens of Thousands Call for Obama Climate Hail Mary Before Trump Moves In
  December 21, 2016
Obama Protects Waterways From Coal Mining Before Trump Crashes the White House

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet

President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie look at the swollen Passaic River from the Main Street Bridge in Paterson President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie look at the swollen Passaic River from the Main Street Bridge in Paterson, N.J., Sept. 4,, 2011.(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Photo Credit: Pete Souza/White House

On Monday, the U.S. Interior Department finalized a contentious rule to protect rivers, streams and forests from the negative impacts of surface coal mining. The Stream Protection Rule is the first update to the department's regulations in 33 years, and is one of the Obama administration's last major moves to protect the environment. Specifically, the rule was established to "avoid or minimize impacts on surface water, groundwater, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources," according to the DOI.

"The responsible rule released [December 20] represents a modern and balanced approach to meeting the nation’s energy needs," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said on Monday. "Regulations need to keep pace with modern mining practices, so we worked closely with many stakeholders to craft a plan that protects water quality, supports economic opportunities, safeguards our environment and makes coalfield communities more resilient for a diversified economic future."

The stronger guidelines force coal firms to steer clear of mining activities that endanger streams and drinking water sources. Additionally, companies are required to restore ecosystems to their original state once mining activities have ceased in the area. Over the next two decades, the rule will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, according to the Interior Department.

While it is a major victory for environmentalists, the rule, which has received strong opposition from the coal industry, will likely be one of the first to be targeted by President-elect Trump, who made many promises to sustain the nation's declining coal sector.

Both senators representing West Virginia, the second highest coal-producing state after Wyoming, oppose the new rule. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, underscored a demand she made to President Obama to "not move forward with any more rules and regulations as you are going out the door." Joe Manchin, the state's senior senator and a Democrat, said, "I remain unconvinced that this jobs-killing regulation is necessary or substantiated, particularly when you consider state and federal regulations already in place."

One industry-backed study claimed, with scant evidence, that the rule could result in the loss of 5,000 jobs nationwide, reported West Virginia's Metro News. But in its press release announcing the rule, the DOI stated, "Economic impacts were thoroughly analyzed and the final rule is projected to have a negligible impact on the coal industry overall."

"This rule takes into account the extensive and substantive comments we received from state regulators, mining companies and local communities across the country," said Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider. "We traveled the country, visited many mines, and met with many of the people who work and live in coal country to make sure we wrote the best rule possible—one that is both economically achievable and protective."

"This updated, scientifically modern rule will make life better for a countless number of Americans who live near places where coal is being mined," said Joseph Pizarchik, director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, a branch of the DOI that developed the rule. "We are closing loopholes and improving our rules to more completely implement the law passed by Congress."

Though environmentalists largely cheered the new rule, some found fault with some of its provisions. Neil Gormley, staff attorney at Earthjustice, said that while Monday's actions "includes several long-awaited improvements to current regulations," he noted it was unfortunate that the rule also "eliminates the Reagan-era stream buffer zone, a strongly worded safeguard that prohibited harmful activity within 100 feet of streams. States have frequently refused to enforce the stream buffer zone, and the coal industry has long sought its repeal."

Despite the steady decline of the coal industry, Donald Trump made the plight of out-of-work coal miners a central theme of his candidacy, though he was short on actual policy recommendations. "We’re going to get those miners back to work," he said during his victory speech in May after securing the GOP presidential nomination. "Let me tell you, the miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania…they're going to start to work again."

Activists are prepared to fight Trump's expected rollback of environmental protections, particularly those opposed by the coal industry. Jenifer Collins, associate legislative representative at Earthjustice, said her organization is committed to ensuring that "the commonsense protections for Appalachian communities are not rolled back by members of Congress, who would rather use the region as a partisan football than provide meaningful protections. We will also push the Department of Interior for stronger action and oppose any attacks by the coal industry. Clean water cannot be sacrificed for the sake of profits for big business."

  Read Obama Protects Waterways From Coal Mining Before Trump Crashes the White House
  December 21, 2016
In Historic Move, President Obama Has Banned Arctic and Atlantic Offshore Drilling

by Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog, AlterNet


President Obama has announced what amounts to a ban of offshore drilling in huge swaths of continental shelf in both the Alaskan Arctic Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, a decision which came after years of pushing by environmental groups.

Using authority derived from Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the White House banned drilling in a 115 acre area making up 98 percent of federally owned lands in the Alaskan Arctic and a 3.8 million acre stretch of the Atlantic extending from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Canadian border. By taking this route, rather than issuing an Executive Order, Obama made it legally difficult for Republican President-elect Donald Trump's administration to reverse this action.

Environmental groups and Democratic senators have praised the decision, while Republican congressional members and industry groups have denounced it.

“Today … the United States is taking historic steps to build a strong Arctic economy, preserve a healthy Arctic ecosystem and protect our fragile Arctic waters, including designating the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing,” the White House said in a statement, which also pointed to the “need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels,” as guided by climate science.  

President-elect Donald Trump is a climate change denier who repeatedly promised on the campaign trail and during his post-election “Victory Tour” that he would “unleash” more hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of oil and gas, and push for more “clean coal” production. Trump also supports increased offshore drilling

Industry, Republicans React

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, came out strongly against the Obama administration's move.

“The only thing more shocking than this reckless, short-sighted, last-minute gift to the extreme environmental agenda is that President Obama had the nerve to claim he is doing Alaska a favor,” she said in a press release, which featured the state's congressional delegation slamming Obama for making the decision.

“President Obama has once again treated the Arctic like a snow globe, ignoring the desires of the people who live, work, and raise a family there. I cannot wait to work with the next administration to reverse this decision.”

Murkowski, a climate change denier who said she did not vote for Trump and called for him to drop out of the race on October 8, is a major recipient of oil and gas industry campaign money. She has taken $1,353,794 from the industry throughout her congressional career.

Murkowski and the Alaska delegation were not alone in their denouncement of the Obama maneuver, with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also bemoaning it on Twitter. Ryan has taken $1,223,182 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry during his congressional career.

Industry groups such as the Consumer Energy AllianceAmerican Petroleum Institute (API), and Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) all scoffed at the Obama decision in press statements. 

“We disagree with this last-minute political rhetoric coming from the Obama administration and contest this decision by the outgoing administration as disingenuous,” said IPAA in a press release. “With exactly one month left in office, President Obama chose to succumb to environmental extremists demands to keep our nation’s affordable and abundant energy supplies away from those who need it the most by keeping them in the ground.”

Cautious Optimism

However, Democratic Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have shown support for the current administration's move.

Meanwhile, environmental groups praised the decision, but noted the likelihood that the incoming Trump administration will attempt to challenge it. In addition, groups pointed to the action's limits, as oil and gas drilling will continue in the Gulf of Mexico and exploration could proceed in large swaths of the Atlantic.

“This is an important move, but we’re still looking forward to the day when all communities are protected from fossil fuel development,” May Boeve, 350.org's executive director, said in a press release. “Everyone deserves the right to safe environment and the benefits of a clean energy economy. That includes those in the Gulf and other areas facing dangerous oil, gas, and coal expansion.”

Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s senior vice president for the United States, also called for the Obama administration to lock in a ban of seismic airgun blasting in the southern portion of the U.S. Atlantic Ocean offshore continental shelf. 

“As we celebrate this important step forward, we must not forget that a vast stretch of water from Delaware to Florida is still at risk from unnecessary seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface,” Savitz said in a press release. “Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, firing intense blasts of compressed air every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end.”

“The government’s own estimates state that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more,” Savitz continued. “With offshore drilling off the table for the near future, permits for seismic airgun blasting should be denied.”

“Uncharted Waters”

One key question, of course, is what will take place next in U.S. federal courts after the almost certain challenge from the oil and gas industry. It is “unchartered waters,” both literally and figuratively, according to one expert.

“It’s never been done before,” Patrick Parenteau, professor of environmental law at the University of Vermont, told The New York Times. “There is no case law on this. It’s uncharted waters.”

The industry, though, has pointed to a precedent of 12(a) protections being reversed. The New York Times reported that after President Bill Clinton used this legal action to “withdraw 300 million acres from oil and gas drilling from an area that had already been designated as a marine sanctuary, President George W. Bush reinstated about 50 million acres to fossil fuel leases.”

Andrew Radford, API's senior policy advisor for offshore operations, told The Times that he sees the Bush precedent will be the one pursued by API, its industry allies, and the Trump administration to reverse Obama's move.

“Similar to how President Bush issued a memo in 2008 to add areas back in, we’re hopeful that the Trump administration will take a look at this to reverse that decision and we look forward to working with them to make that happen,” Radford said.

Steve Horn is a Researcher and Writer for DeSmogBlog, focusing primarily on domestic and international natural gas drilling operations and its interplay with international geopolitics. He lives in Madison, WI.

  Read In Historic Move, President Obama Has Banned Arctic and Atlantic Offshore Drilling
  December 16, 2016
Not Just North Dakota: Here Are 10 More States Where Activists Are Fighting Pipeline Projects

by Alexandra Rosenmann, AlterNet


With the Dakota Access Pipeline nearly 90% complete, developers are focusing their attention elsewhere. Meanwhile, protests against additional pipelines throughout the country have yet to receive a tenth of the airtime. 

“If you draw a line from Chicago to the Gulf Coast — Houston, Port Arthur, Baton Rouge — that line goes through Patoka, Illinois,” John Moody, a spokesman for the Association of Oil Pipelines told the Chicago Sun Times. “Then start in Cushing, Oklahoma, and draw a line across to Cleveland and Detroit and central Ohio, and that line goes through Patoka. Patoka is a crossroads for energy delivery.”  

Beyond North Dakota, here are 10 states that have also been battling pipeline projects.

1. Ohio

Construction of the 255-mile Nexus Gas Transmission project, a partnership between Houston-based Spectra Energy and Detroit’s DTE Energy, is expected to begin by early 2017.

2. Iowa

The Dakota Access Pipeline project faced resistance in Iowa long before it reached Standing Rock. In July 2015, landowners in its path urged the Iowa Utilities Board to reject permits needed for the project to proceed.

“Our century-plus-old farm was taken care of for four generations and I will do my best to keep it that way,” they wrote in their objection. But the anti-pipeline group Bold Iowa has pledged to keep fighting the four-state, 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline until it becomes operational. The group's direct action includes standing in court with Iowa landowners in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline battling eminent domain abuse. 

3. Texas

Standing Rock's success this December reinvigorated a more than two-year battle to half construction of the Trans-Pecos pipeline, a 148-mile joint venture with Mexico's federal electricity commission, the Comisión Federal de Electricidad.

4. Louisiana

The company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline is currently planning a 162-mile pipeline that would cut through the Atchafalaya Basin and 11 Louisiana parishes. But resistance to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline has already spread worldwide. Concerned citizens and environmental groups from New Zealand to South Africa have gathered thousands of signatures, leading the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to call for a public hearing in which the water quality permits of the site will be assessed.

5. Florida

The Sierra Club, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Flint Riverkeepers filed a motion in late October to expedite review of the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, which includes the $3.2 billion Sabal Trail gas pipeline. Protests have continued for the past month and 16 demonstrators have been arrested thus far.

6. Alabama

On November 15, outside the Army Corps of Engineers building, Huntsville protesters gathered in solidarity with the thousands at Standing Rock. The Sabal Trail pipeline is set to cross three states and cover 500-plus miles (86 in Alabama, 162 in Georgia, 268 in Florida).

7. Arkansas

Diamond Pipeline is a planned 440-mile oil pipeline by Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy Corp across 14 counties and five rivers in Arkansas. The project is set to begin by the end of 2016. 

8. North Carolina

A nearly 600-mile proposed pipeline drew protests in three cities on November 19. In Pembroke, Fayetteville and Nashville, hundreds marched in opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline which awaits a review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Dominion Power and Duke Energy's $5 billion project would carry natural gas to North Carolina from fracking operations in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

9. Pennsylvania

Sunoco Logistics pushed back the timeline for its Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline on November 12. The $2.5 billion project has not yet received the necessary approvals, even months after charging Huntingdon County residents who objected to the pipeline being built on their property.

10. New York

The National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. awaits approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin its proposed $410 million Northern Access Project in Western New York. Meanwhile, 50 miles outside of NYC, Spectra Energy’s pipeline expansion project continues to face controversy.

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

  Read Not Just North Dakota: Here Are 10 More States Where Activists Are Fighting Pipeline Projects
  December 18, 2016
Trump Declares All-Out War on Environment With Fossil Fuel-Loving, Climate Change-Denying Cabinet Nominees

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet


Scientists warn in a major new report that the increasingly rapid melting of Arctic ice could potentially be irreversible and have severe implications not just for Arctic ecosystems, but for the entire planet.

"The warning signals are getting louder," said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report, adding that these developments "also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger."

Researchers monitoring Arctic weather stations and satellites recently expressed alarm when they found that it is currently about 20°C warmer over most of the Arctic Ocean, unheard of at this time of year.

As President-elect Donald Trump rolls out a frightening coterie of fossil fuel-loving, climate change-denying cabinet appointments, it has becomes clear that he's not only ignoring the gathering warning signs, he's happy to roll back many, if not all advancements to combat the effects of climate change. Here's a look at Trump's anti-climate, anti-environment rogues gallery.

1. Mike Pence, Vice President

Indiana Governor Mike Pence has said some pretty ludicrous things about climate change, going back more than a decade. On his 2001 campaign site, he expressed his disagreement with the scientific consensus that climate change is real and man-made, calling global warming a "myth" and claiming that the planet is "actually cooler than it was 50 years ago."

During his time in the House, Pence consistently voted against any legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including a carbon cap-and-trade bill in 2009, and in 2011 he supported a bill to limit the EPA's ability to regulate such emissions. An outspoken supporter of the coal industry, Pence said in his 2015 State of the State address, "Indiana is a pro-coal state … we must continue to oppose the overreaching schemes of the EPA until we bring their war on coal to end."

More recently, in a 2014 interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd, Pence said that climate change science was unresolved, citing  Indiana's "tough winter" that year as evidence of his claim. He told Todd: "I don't know that that is a resolved issue in science today... just a few years ago we were talking about global warming. We haven't seen a lot of warming lately. I remember back in the '70s we were talking about the coming ice age." Last year, he refused to implement President Obama's Clean Power Plan, intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

2. Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Interior nominee

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a freshman congressman, is a staunch supporter of fossil fuel and one of the most anti-environment lawmakers on Capitol Hill, scoring a ghastly 3 percent lifetime score on the League of Conservation Voters' National Environment Scorecard. It's no surprise that his campaign was generously backed by the oil and gas lobby. Oasis Petroleum, a Texas-based petroleum and natural gas exploration and production company, is his largest campaign contributor and the oil and gas industry is his third-largest sector contributor. He's also an ally of the coal industry. Last year, Zinke defended a regulatory loophole for coal companies by authoring a budget rider on a spending bill that allows them to dodge royalty payments.

Zinke has held numerous positions that show a callous disregard for the environment—exactly the opposite of the mandate entrusted to the position of Secretary of the Interior, which is to protect that nation's natural resources. He opposed the Obama administration's proposed rule to regulate drilling and fracking operations on federal and American Indian lands. He voted in favor of lifting the 40-year-old crude oil export ban, which helped lock the nation into a fossil fuel dependency. He co-sponsored the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, a bill to hasten pipeline approval by instituting mandatory deadlines for federal agencies to review natural gas infrastructure projects. He supports the rapid building of Northwest coal export terminals. He has also demonstrated a blatant disregard for the treaty rights of indigenous tribes when they interfere with the construction of coal terminals.

"We're not surprised that Trump has picked Rep. Ryan Zinke for interior secretary," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. She urged senators to oppose Zinke's nominations, saying, "We need an interior secretary that would prioritize our climate and protect our public lands for future generations—not prioritize oil and gas development."

"President Obama and Secretary Jewell have left a sterling legacy of environmental progress, and Rep. Zinke will be tasked with either defending that legacy or unraveling it," said Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation. "It seems abundantly clear which path President-elect Trump would prefer he take, and considering Mr. Zinke's history of denying climate science and defending fossil fuel interests, it is likely that we will be facing an uphill battle."

"Zinke never worked for the people of Montana. He works for the fossil industry and coal companies, shilling for coal export terminals in disadvantaged communities in states he does not even represent," said Greenpeace climate campaign specialist Diana Best, noting that the congressman is the primary author of legislation that would "set our country back decades by reversing the moratorium on leasing our public lands to coal companies."

3. Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce nominee

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump made big promises to coal miners, many of whom have lost their jobs as the industry collapses. But his commitment to out-of-work miners has faltered, as his pick for Commerce Secretary is Wilbur Ross Jr., a New York billionaire who owned the now-defunct Sago mine in West Virginia where 12 miners were killed in an explosion in 2006.

Ross made his fortune restructuring distressed companies across a variety of industries, including telecommunications, textiles, steel and coal. Initially  he claimed he wasn't involved in Sago's day-to-day operations management, but later admitted he knew about the violations, and simply dismissed them. The New York Post reported that former WL Ross & Co. executives put the blame squarely at their ex-boss's feet, noting he "had been intimately involved with the company that owned the West Virginia mine where 12 miners perished—and he knew all about its safety problems."

In 2005, the Sago fines amounted to about $96,000, a slap on the wrist for maintaining what was essentially a death trap. "Such 'enforcement' has a deterrent effect akin to punishing drunk driving with fines of a few nickels," remarked Jeff Milchen, director of ReclaimDemocracy.org, a few days after the disaster.

Connecting negligence with profit, Milchen argued that preventing future tragedies like Sago "involves changing the cost-benefit analysis made by corporate executives in workplace safety decisions." Although MSHA kept firing off citations and fines, "the average fine levied in 2005—about $150—equals a few seconds of income," wrote Milchen, noting that the mine's managers "simply wrote them off as a cost of doing business on the cheap."

On the campaign trail, Trump described himself as the "last shot for the miners,” saying he would be "an unbelievable positive." But the only thing that is unbelievable about Trump's position on coal mining is that he may put a negligent CEO in charge of the federal department whose mission is, in part, improving the living standards of Americans through "sustainable development."

4. Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy nominee

Trump's selection for the energy department, Rick Perry, is particularly ironic, as the former Texas governor said during his 2012 presidential bid that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy altogether. Most notably, Perry is a board member of Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline. There can be no mistake that his confirmation by the Senate to head the nation's energy policy would be a massive gift to the fossil fuel industry and a crushing blow to the renewable energy movement.

As the governor of Texas, Perry espoused an "all-of-the-above" approach to energy production, making the Lone Star state a leader not only in oil and gas, but also wind power and renewable energy investment. Still, environmentalists have lodged serious concerns. "Perry is a climate change denier, opposes renewable energy even as it has boomed in Texas, and doesn't even believe CO2 is a pollutant," League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski said. "Not only that, he is deep in the pocket of Big Polluters, who have contributed over $2.5 million to his presidential campaigns, a disturbing sign that they expected him to protect their profits in office, not do what's best for the American people."

"Perry's tepid support for renewable energy targets doesn’t excuse his backing of climate disasters like Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline," said 350.org executive director May Boeve. "An Energy Department run by the fossil fuel industry is a catastrophe our planet can’t afford."

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Perry's nomination is just more evidence that Trump is "continuing to pack his cabinet with allies of big polluters who put profits over people." She added, "The American people didn't vote to return to the dirty old days when smog choked our cities. And we didn't vote to turn a blind eye to the dangers of climate change."

5. Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State nominee

Rex Tillerson has been working at ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, for more than four decades. Since 2006, he's been the chairman and CEO of the company. The Economist reported this week that Tillerson's background in engineering "makes him a stickler for evidence-based decision-making." But when it comes to climate, reputation isn't reality, as Exxon has made decisions that ignore the scientific evidence of climate change. The company has been the focus of a historic investigation by a coalition of state attorneys general regarding allegations that it intentionally misled investors and the public about the negative impact its business has on the planet's climate.

Greenpeace executive director Annie Leonard criticized Tillerson for concealing climate science so Exxon "could cash in on disaster, instead of transitioning his company to a position of true leadership." Describing his appointment as America's top diplomat would be "an affront to global progress," Leonard said, adding, "at this moment in time, choosing a man who knows the world through the single frame of the oil and gas industry may actually be more dangerous than picking somebody with no understanding of the world at all."

Adding to the concern about Tillerson is the fact that he has a worryingly cozy relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin. One deal that the two worked on in particular has raised alarm: a $500 billion oil exploration partnership between Exxon and Rosneft, the Russian government's oil firm. While that deal was blocked when the Obama administration imposed sanctions against Russia for its Ukraine intervention, Tillerson, as Secretary of State, could lift those sanctions. "Imagine," writes Joe Romm, founding editor of Climate Progress, "if the oil giant is freed to produce and sell oil on the staggering 63.7 million acres of Russian land it leases, which is over 5 times the amount of land it leases in this country. Happy days are here again, for Exxon."

Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, associate research director at Corporate Accountability International, warned that Tillerson would "run the Department of State like an extension of the corporation’s business development department." Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation called Tillerson's nomination the "most egregious step in turning the federal government, and stewardship of the global environment, over to a cabal of corporate extremists with proven disdain for science, stewardship, public service, and the common good. Every American should tremble for our country."

Sit-Ins Planned Against Climate-Denial Cabinet

Campbell said Trump's recent nominations continue "a pattern of choosing cabinet members unabashedly hostile to the agency each has been anointed to lead, unwilling to follow the laws Congress has charged their agency with administering, and unwilling to allow science to guide his agency’s decisions. This is more reckless than extreme partisanship and more dangerous than overblown rhetoric. It puts every American on notice that the rule of law is in peril."

"Donald Trump’s cabinet picks are shaping up to be a who’s who of climate denialists, Wall Street bankers, corporate CEOs, and oil barons," said Lawrence-Samuel. "If approved, these choices would represent an unprecedented level of corporate control over our democracy. Congress must block these appointments in order to protect human rights, the environment and our democracy at large."

Activists are mobilizing. "Activities will ramp up in the new year, with a national day of action targeting Senate offices across the country on January 9," according to 350.org. "Activists are already laying the groundwork for not only lobby visits, but also sit-ins, protests, and creative actions to target key senators who say they recognize the threat of climate change, but haven’t yet come out against Pruitt and other deniers in the cabinet."

"Senators are delusional if they think their constituents support appointing a climate denier to run the EPA or the CEO of ExxonMobil to head the State Department," said Jason Kowalski, 350.org policy director. "Take a state like Maine, where 74 percent of voters support EPA actions to protect the environment. There is no way Senator Collins can get away with a vote for Pruitt and not come across as a sellout to the fossil fuel industry."

Before Thanksgiving, The Economist offered some helpful advice: "Pay more attention to what the president-elect does than to what he says. His choice of cabinet appointees certainly makes for better evidence than old tweets." Less than a month later, we have all the evidence we need: Trump has declared all-out war on the environment.

But it's not just the environment that's in the crosshairs—all science-based policy decision-making is now at risk, physicist Lawrence Krauss pointed out Tuesday in the New Yorker. "Taken singly, Trump’s appointments are alarming," he writes. "But taken as a whole they can be seen as part of a larger effort to undermine the institution of science, and to deprive it of its role in the public-policy debate."

  Read Trump Declares All-Out War on Environment With Fossil Fuel-Loving, Climate Change-Denying Cabinet Nominees
  December 24, 2016
Landmark Human Rights Case Against World's Biggest Fossil Fuel Firms Pushes On

by Ping Manongdo, Eco-Business, AlterNet


The Philippines Commission on Human Rights has announced that it is moving forward with the next steps in the world’s first-ever case against major fossil fuel companies for alleged human rights abuses. 

The commission is to take to task oil giants such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Suncor and ConocoPhillips for their alleged role in causing death and financial loss on a massive scale as a result of climate-induced disasters in the archipelago.

A month after concluding the first phase of their investigation, which looked at scientific evidence linking climate change and fossil fuel operations, CHR commissioner Roberto Eugenio T. Cadiz, who leads the national investigative body for the case, said they are now ready to push forward with public hearings, beginning in April 2017.

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) devastation. Many houses were wiped out by container vans that were pushed by the typhoon from a nearby port in Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines. Image: Asian Development BankCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Cadiz said they have secured responses from 20 out of the 47 fossil fuel companies involved in the case as of December 8.

The responses were either sent to CHR directly or to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC), a New York-based advocacy group that tracks the human rights policies and performance of businesses.

In a letter addressed to BHRRC, American company ConocoPhillips, which claims to be the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company, said they challenged the jurisdiction of the legal proceedings arguing that their company does not have operations in the Philippines.

“We operate responsibly and take climate change issues seriously; managing greenhouse gas emissions in our operations and integrating climate-change related activities and goals into our business planning,” Sabrina Watkins, ConocoPhillips’ head of sustainable development, said in the statement.

Repsol, a global energy producer based in Madrid, confirmed in a letter sent to BHRRC on November 8, that they sent a reply to the CHR but are unable to disclose details due to the confidentiality rules of the government body.

Russian company Lukoil for their part said that they have now developed and are implementing what they call a Biodiversity Protection Program focused on “undoing harm” to marine resources and “reclaiming oil contaminated land.”

The company further said that it has been aiming to prevent water pollution by using “zero pollution” technology in its off-shore operations since 1997. With this technology, not a single item of waste will pass into the water, the company said in a statement.

The CHR said the petitioners would be ready with a consolidated response by February 14, 2017.

“As petitioners, we will continue to advocate for our demands, including an authoritative finding by the CHR that fossil fuel companies must respect human rights and outline steps that would shift their existing business practices away from further contributions to climate change and prevent human rights impacts,” said Rose Trajano, secretary general of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, one of the petitioning organisations.

“As long as companies and governments fail to act on climate change, every day is human rights day. Today, we got much closer to our aspiration of holding those most responsible for the climate crisis accountable, in order to prevent further harm,” said Yeb Sano, executive director, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The petition was filed by typhoon victims, backed by 14 civil society and non-government organisations including Greenpeace Southeast Asia, on September 15 last year.

They demand that the 47 fossil fuel companies explain how the human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied, and prevented.”

An archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is one of the countries in the world that is most vulnerable to climate impacts. In 2013, it was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, one of the most powerful storms that has ever made landfall, which killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than half a million.

In October this year, the country’s northern region was hit by Typhoon Haima, locally known as Lawin, a Category 5 typhoon.

The petitioners argue that climate injustice is a violation of human rights.

“The reality of climate change and how it affects human rights has been put in the spotlight, and ultimately, when people stand together and rise above adversity, justice will prevail,” Sano said.

Ping Manongdo is a correspondent based in Baguio City, Philippines. She has supported publicly listed companies as well as SMEs based in Singapore with their digital media content strategies for six years. Before that, she was a news reporter for one of the biggest media organizations in the Philippines, and wrote stories on military conflict, environmental disasters, and the plight of marginalized communities in her country.

  Read Landmark Human Rights Case Against World's Biggest Fossil Fuel Firms Pushes On
  December 29, 2016
To Truly Fight Poverty, Hunger and Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture Must Go Global

by Nigel Sizer, Andre De Freitas, AlterNet


CHIKHALDARA, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA - NOV 19 : Women Farmer working at strawberry farm in the morning on November 19, 2015. Chikhaldara, Amravati , Maharashtra, India.
Photo Credit: CRSHELARE / Shutterstock.com

The Paris Climate Agreement went into force on November 4, less than a year after 190 governments signed the landmark, legally binding international treaty. Ten days later, world leaders and civil society groups gathered at the COP22 climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco, to tackle the next phase—implementation—beginning with the development of concrete climate action plans.

Agriculture, which accounts for 25 to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (second only to the energy sector), is finally playing a starring role at the conference thanks to the treaty’s formal recognition of the critical interplay between agricultural expansion, deforestation and climate change.

"We must provide the necessary resources to support [climate] adaptation and encourage agriculture because it is one of the solutions to environmental problems," said Dr. Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change.

Pershing’s statement is a harbinger that the innovative sustainability solutions advanced by the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) for 30 years are finding more widespread acceptance in the agricultural sector. The ambitious agricultural agenda of COP22 is in fact well aligned with our decades of transformative work in agriculture, including the development of an effective and dynamic sustainability standard (the SAN Standard), the training of more than 1.4 million farmers in vulnerable landscapes around the world, and the building of sustainable commodity supply chains through our certification system. Since we are intimately acquainted with the nuts and bolts of this work, we also appreciate the reality check given by Pershing about the resources that will be required to support the world’s 570 million farmers on their journey to long-term sustainability.

Although the outcome of the U.S. presidential election brings some uncertainty to these efforts, it is heartening to note that nine out of ten countries that have ratified the Paris agreement have included agriculture in their climate action plans. And in the days after the election, more than 300 huge brands called upon the president-elect to continue U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. Hundreds more have made independent commitments to sustainability, ranging from removing deforestation from their supply chains to improving agricultural practices on the ground. As sustainability becomes a mainstream concern, public pressure is shifting attitudes in boardrooms, and other governments will continue to push their countries towards low-carbon economies.

This is both an important commitment by world leaders, a rousing call to action for businesses, and a mandate to double down on efforts for organizations like ours. One of the biggest and most complex questions is how to scale up sustainable agriculture while addressing challenges specific to various regions and crops. That’s why "continuous improvement" is a fundamental feature of the SAN standard, which is used to audit Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms. The SAN system is designed to bring farms in and move them up the ladder of sustainability in ways that are responsive to more localized challenges.

When Platanera Río Sixaola earned Rainforest Alliance certification in 1993, it was a milestone in sustainable agriculture (the banana farm remains certified to this day). Today, it is one of more than 1.2 million Rainforest Alliance certified farms in 45 countries that grow over 100 different crops. The Rainforest Alliance and the SAN are now working diligently to bring all of these farms in line with the 2017 SAN Standard, which becomes binding in July 2017. An important facet of this mammoth undertaking is a strengthened "continuous improvement" framework that measures performance levels throughout certification cycles. Farms must demonstrate continuous improvement over the years and reach the highest level of performance by the sixth year. 

In recognition of several high-priority conservation and human rights goals, the 2017 SAN standard still includes "critical criteria" that all certified farms must follow from the outset. These critical criteria emphasize essential issues that need to be addressed first in the farm's sustainability journey, strengthening the capacity of farmers to manage their operations, mitigate risks to workers and nearby communities, practice farming methods designed to eliminate deforestation and build climate resilience.  

Climate smart agriculture

Climate smart agriculture (CSA) is a system of methods that make farms more productive and resilient in the face of climate change, while reducing their climate impacts. The 2017 SAN Standard is the first certification scheme to integrate the principles of climate smart agriculture into its basic framework.

In the 2017 SAN Standard, farms are required to conduct ongoing climate risk assessments and formulate action plans to address specific climate threats. Different farms have different risk factors, and the farmers themselves are best placed to understand and address their specific challenges. The key is for farms to proactively build locally appropriate climate resilience practices into their management.

Action plans will vary by region but could include planting more diverse crops; planting trees to absorb GHG emissions; better soil management to improve the retention of water, organic fertilizer, and carbon; and/or reducing chemical pesticides. The widespread adoption of CSA, beginning with the 8.6+ million acres already covered by Rainforest Alliance certification, has the potential to significantly mitigate GHG emissions caused by farming. They can also help farms weather climate disruptions that might otherwise put them out of operation. 

Reducing pesticides and protecting pollinators

The 2017 SAN Standard includes the most rigorous framework yet for the implementation of integrated pest management methods and restrictions on the use of chemical substances.  It prohibits 150 chemical substances classified by the UN World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization as “highly hazardous,” including widely used pesticides like atrazine, and institutes strict safety measures governing the use of another 170 high-risk substances. These requirements are designed to reduce chemical use over time while minimizing risks to human health, wildlife, aquatic ecosystems, and pollinator species that facilitate the cultivation of three-quarters of the world’s leading food crops.

Although the 2017 SAN Standard prohibits pesticides in the "neonicotinoid" class, known to harm pollinator species, the plan for implementation illustrates the complex considerations in advancing sustainable agriculture. Neonics are currently used widely in the tropics, sometimes subsidized by governments, and they are often seen as the only viable pesticide option for smallholder farmers. Banning them overnight would mean financial ruin for nearly 1.3 million farmers in the Rainforest Alliance/SAN system. To balance the welfare of farmers with the goal of eliminating the use of these dangerous substances, the 2017 SAN Standard gives farmers three years to phase them out. In the meantime, they are temporarily permitted on farms where there is no viable alternative and must applied in ways that minimize risks for people and pollinator species. By July 2020, no certified farms can use these chemicals.

Protecting native ecosystems

Hundreds of companies around the world have pledged to fight climate change by eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. The 2017 SAN Standard offers one of the strongest frameworks for doing so by requiring Rainforest Alliance Certified farms to protect forests, as well as biodiversity-rich non-forest ecosystems like grasslands, from agricultural expansion. In fact, to be eligible for Rainforest Alliance certification, farms cannot have converted natural forests to grazing or cropland for at least five years.

Safeguarding worker rights

Recognizing the vital role workers play in long-term sustainability, the 2017 SAN Standard incorporates stricter mandatory requirements and a strong continuous improvement framework governing human rights, worker housing, sanitation, safety, gender and child labor protections, and living wage considerations. 

Although on-site inspections of certified farms happen annually, labor issues require continuous attention. The 2017 SAN Standard requires farms to provide effective channels for workers to air complaints and grievances and get them resolved quickly. In the interest of transparency, summaries of any farm certification process will be posted on the SAN website, to further support the engagement of workers and their organizations, as well as other actors.

The issue of a living wage is one of the most challenging considerations of any sustainability standard, given the sheer variability of economic development, the rule of law in producer countries, and international supply chain dynamics. The 2017 SAN Standard requires farms to demonstrate progress toward the provision of living wages, using a "basic-needs approach" that combines critical and continuous improvement criteria with planning processes for living wage payments led by the certified operation. Workers on certified farms must receive no less than the legal minimum wage of the applicable laws of the country, but the final goal is to ensure that farms pay a living wage. The Rainforest Alliance and the SAN are members of the Global Living Wage Coalition, a group of leading standards systems that have been working together to better define and achieve progress toward living wage in different supply chains.

The greatest opportunity

Climate change, the greatest global crisis in human history, calls upon people at every level of society to fight unprecedented environmental destruction and human suffering. Indeed, we can only address this crisis effectively if we do so together, with every single tool at our disposal, from bold international policy decisions to everyday actions by people around the world.

The Global Climate Action Agenda for COP22 called agriculture "the greatest opportunity…unrivaled in its potential to simultaneously address poverty, hunger, and climate change." Realizing that potential will require taking sustainable agriculture to a global scale, transforming the way crops are grown on hundreds of millions of farms, from the largest plantations to the tiniest smallholder plots. The 2017 SAN Standard provides the kind of dynamic, inclusive, and comprehensive accountability framework we’ll need to get there.

Nigel Sizer is the president of the Rainforest Alliance.

Andre De Freitas is the executive director of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, of which the Rainforest Alliance is a founding member.

  Read To Truly Fight Poverty, Hunger and Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture Must Go Global
  January 3, 2016
Activists Urge Racist Presidential Election Results Should Not Be Certified

by Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet


An intense women-led lobbying effort on Capital Hill spent Tuesday seeking two representatives and one senator to challenge Friday’s certification of 2016’s Electoral College vote, saying the nation needs to hear how Donald Trump’s margin of victory was built on racist tactics targeting black and brown voters. The activists were focusing on the Congressional Black Caucus, which they said has a special responsibility to defend the rights of citizens of color who were the targets of GOP voter suppression efforts in 2016.

Sisters in Struggle and Women and Allies implore you to make the right decision in supporting our objection against the disenfranchisement of black and brown voters that contaminated and delegitimized the election of 2016,” their letter said. “We are an intergenerational coalition of women of all colors…[who] put our lives, scholarships, careers and futures on the line to break through the iron curtain of black voters’ disenfranchisement. We fought too hard and sacrificed too much to allow the re-creation of a nation of first- and second-class citizens in 2016.”

The effort, if successful, would be the third time since 1877 that the Electoral College's selection of a president would be challenged. The last time was in early 2005, when the re-election of George W. Bush came after a litany of GOP-led voter suppression, voter disqualification and vote count anomalies occurred in Ohio. Former judge and Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones and California Sen. Barbara Boxer, both Democrats, objected to the 2004 Electoral College certification and forced each body to hold a two-hour debate before ratifying the Electoral College vote.

“Unfortunately, objecting to the electoral votes from Ohio is the only immediate avenue to bring these issues to light,” Tubbs-Jones said at the time. “While some have called our cause foolish, I can assure you that my parents, Mary and Andrew Tubbs, did not raise any fools. They raised a lawyer. They raised a former judge. They raised a prosecutor, and thank god, they lived to see me serve as a member of the House of Representatives. I’m duty-bound to follow the law and apply to the law to the facts as I find them, and it is on behalf of those millions of Americans who believe in and value our democratic process, and the right to vote, that I put forth this objection today.”

The activists urging the Congressional Black Caucus members to similarly challenge the 2016 Electoral College certification said that GOP racist electioneering is even more dire today.

“Our coalition bases our request on documented and irrefutable evidence that the electoral votes that electors cast in critical battleground states are invalid because they are based on rampant voter suppression, stolen and uncounted votes and other acts against black and brown people both during early voting and on election day,” their letter continued. “Time and time again you have gone to ordinary black people to ask for their votes, and they have delivered despite acts of criminalization, dehumanization, and voter intimidation. On top of this they have faced public slander by Republicans who have labeled them immoral citizens and voters who commit voter fraud and who must be tracked by the ‘moral majority’ through measures such as [intentionally restrictive] voter ID requirements and Crosschecking [a computerized program used by states to purge otherwise eligible voters]."

So far, there have been lukewarm responses from black leaders to file the challenge and lecture their peers about voting rights, said Ruby Sales, a civil rights crusader who is leading Sisters in Struggle.

“What we have are primitive promises, and they are predicated that we will do it if someone else steps up,” Sales said. “There was some indication that Congressman Keith Ellison [from Michigan and a candidate for Democratic National Committee chair] would object, whether by writing the complaint or speaking when they return to to the chambers. Stanford Bishop, from home district in Columbus, Georgia, and Gwen Moore from Wisconsin, indicated they would be interested. Their praise is always predicated on the actions of someone else. There’s a timidity to step out. There’s a lack of courage.”

The coalition has also been in touch with New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker’s office, Sales said, saying they were first reaching out to Black Caucus members. “If we can break through the monolith of silence, we can have a movement.”

Historic Necessity

A detailed and factual case can be presented showing a spectrum of intended slights and injuries against voters of color in the final three states—Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—that gave Trump his tainted Electoral College majority, the activists said, as well as in other states where Republicans targeted voters of color, such as Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina. Some of these details were seen in the recent presidential recount led by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, as well as in the unfolding political coup in North Carolina, where the outgoing GOP governor and GOP-majority legislature have sought to gut the incoming Democrat’s power and control of state election boards.

However, above these barriers and tactics was a bigger and longer view that needs to be conveyed, Sales said. She was referring to the way the Republican Party has been systematically resurrecting a racist states’ rights tradition that began soon after the American Civil War and is poised to assert itself across the federal government under Trump and congressional Republicans.

“Coming out of the South and having lived under the weight of states’ rights, we know that for many years there has been activity on the part of right-wing Republicans to supplant federal rights with state rights,” Sales said. “That goes back to the old model that was always in the South and was at the heart of segregation. That is the crisis we face today, the reinstitution of state rights that are predicted on white supremacy… the federal government has not fought the resurrection of states' rights in the country.”

The Electoral College challenge would force the Republican Party and the nation to acknowledge that the United States is not a post-racial society, contrary to claims by many in the GOP, she said, and to admit that racism is alive and can be seen in every step of American elections.

“When people say move on, they are asking us to lie down and submit to policies and actions that eradicate the meaning of our lives and our place in American democracy,” Sales said. “They are asking us to submit to the forces of oppression. They are asking us to surrender our rights of dissent. This is beyond black and brown people. Ultimately, it is a question of will we have a democracy or will we not?”

Victory by Racist Means

The process for filing an Electoral College challenge requires one House member to file the compliant, and one additional House member and a senator to sign onto it—triggering the ensuing two-hour debate that would become a focus for focusing on the many ways Republicans created barriers to voting by people of color.

“The GOP kicked more than a million people off voter registration lists with Crosscheck. They closed 868 polling places in African-American and Latino districts across the South for this election,” said Ann Massaro, a co-founder of Women and Allies. “[Trump] won a number of states by very narrow margins, less than 1 percent, so small factors would have been enough to change the result.”

Massaro gave many high-profile examples showing how GOP-sponsored racist election laws affected larger numbers of voters than Trump’s margin in key states. For example, he won Wisconsin by 22,000 votes, but a federal judge said in a ruling that 300,000 state residents lack the required ID under the state’s tougher voter ID law.  

“According to one post-election study, these were the percentages of people who wanted to vote but were unable to vote by ethnicity,” Massaro said. “Forty-seven percent Hispanic-Americans, 42 percent black Americans, and 29 percent white Americans. Hispanic and black Americans were twice as likely to have voted by provisional ballots than whites, which means these were ballots that may not have been counted at all.”

“The other really important thing is this whole Crosschecking feeds the complete criminalization of black and brown people,” she said. “It plays into calling them liars and calling them cheats. We’re saying millions of black and brown votes were erased from their 2016 election and we break it down state by state.”

The activists’ letter to the Black Caucus listed the tactics and their impacts. Here are the salient facts from the letter:

  • In Michigan, Trump supposedly won by 10,700 votes, yet 75,355 ballots were never counted—either marked unreadable, blank or rejected. Almost all these so-called "spoiled" ballots were cast in Detroit and Flint, communities of color. A hand count was revealing the obvious: in these uncounted ballots were the votes that defeated Mr. Trump. A partisan state court of appeals stopped the hand counting of paper ballots after a federal judge ordered it to be started. The votes of the Michigan electors must be rejected.
  • Similarly, in Wisconsin, the massive non-count of ballots in Milwaukee doubtless contain the tally that defeated Mr. Trump—but once again, a human hand-count of the ballots was denied. The electors’ vote for Trump must be rejected.
  • In Pennsylvania, in a close and suspect race, the hand-count of paper ballots and review of the machine codes was stymied.  Again, the missing tally came from communities of color. The choice of Pennsylvania electors must be challenged.
  • The U.S. Civil Rights Commission and Harvard Law School investigations have found that the chance a black voter’s ballot will be "spoiled" and not counted is 900% higher compared to a white one. And the terrible secret of American democracy is that millions of votes are cast and not counted in a typical national election.
  • The Supreme Court ruling inShelby County v. Holderin 2013 eradicated the need for certain states and local governments to obtain federal approval before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices.  Consequently, this ruling ushered in discriminatory assaults such as voter ID laws and other requirements that further disallowed black and brown people the right to vote.
  • Leading up to the 2016 election, Republicans closed 868 polling places primarily in areas where people of color reside and in states with a long history of voter discrimination such as North Carolina.
  • In Alabama, the state passed a law in 2011 requiring government-issued IDs in order to vote. It later announced that it was closing 31 driver licensing bureaus throughout the state. Consequently, the state made it difficult for black voters in 29 Black Belt and Democratic counties to obtain state-issued IDs in order to vote.
  • The New York Times reported last year that white election officials went door to door in Sparta, Georgia, systematically racially profiling, intimidating and terrorizing more than 180 mainly African-American voters by questioning the accuracy of their addresses. Sheriff deputies served them with "courtesy" summons which required them to appear in person to prove their residency.  
  • In North Carolina, under the guise of voter fraud, despite a lack of evidence, lawmakers moved to slash the number of early voting hours in heavy Democratic and black populated communities, such as Mecklenburg County, in an attempt to stifle voter turnout and to make it difficult to vote.  

The activists’ letter to the Black Caucus said these points are only the tip of the iceberg of racist voter suppression and vote-nullifying tactics, which all adds up to an illegitimate presidency for Donald Trump.

“Mr. Trump’s narrow lead of just over one percent of the vote raises the legitimate question of who would have won had not these acts of disenfranchisement taken place,” they said. “We have listened to some of you who have cautioned us that to interfere with the seating of Donald Trump will set loose civil unrest among his supporters. Whether you realize it or not, there is another powder keg that is percolating in black, brown and progressive communities who voted in large numbers for Secretary Clinton only to have their votes stolen and disregarded, not only by Republicans but seemingly by Democrats. The questions are before you: who will enter an objection and sign it?"

(Sign the activists' petition to Vice President Joe Biden, members of Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer to challenge the 2016 Electoral College results.) 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights, campaigns and elections, and many social justice issues. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

  Read Activists Urge Racist Presidential Election Results Should Not Be Certified
  November 28, 2016

by Ilda Maria Costa, Brésil,

O amor que cultivamos
em nossos ternos corações
é o que faz de nós,
pessoas especiais e singulares.
Portanto, harmonização é regar
vivências, emoções e sentimentos
com muito amor, paz e simplicidade.

Desde que seguros e protegidos, confiamos; valorizados e autoconfiantes, produzimos;
motivados e portadores de senso de verdade, ouvimos; gratificados, crescemos.

E, sentindo-nos acalentados
e queridos, entregamo-nos;
prestativos e solidários, interagimos;
engajados e fraternos, compartilhamos;
respeitados e livres, harmonizamos amor.

Gratidão, amor, humildade,
tolerância e simplicidade como bases
do bem viver e de conviver.
Esses valores projetam ações
e gestos singulares
que nos levam ao exercício
de nossa cidadania.
Refletir sobre nossos atos,
impedir-nos-á que façamos deles
misérias ou desgraças humanas.
Paz e Amor, um sonho
a iluminar nossos caminhos.

Lorsque nous nous sentons engagés à la vie,
nous sommes en mesure de faire des rêves,
une douce réalité.
Soutien, affection, encouragement et compréhension
nous rendent heureux,
ainsi qu’on nous l’enseigne
pour y faire face avec optimisme.

L'amour grandit dans nos cœurs tendres
Il est ce qui nous fait des individus spéciaux.
Par conséquent, l'harmonisation est l'arrosage
des expériences, émotions et sentiments
avec l'amour, la paix et la simplicité.

Depuis est sûr la sécurité, la confiance;
valeur et confiance en soi, nous produisons;
sens motivé et réel; heureux, nous grandissons.

Et, en se sentant chéri et cher, nous donnons;
utile et de soutien, nous interagissons;
engagés et fraternels, nous partageons;
respectés et libres, nous harmonisons l'amour.

Gratitude, amour, humilité,
la tolérance est de simplicité en tant que bases
la bonne vie est en direct.
Ces actions de valeurs de conception et des gestes singuliers
qui nous conduirons à exercer de nos citoyens.
Réfléchir sur nos actions, nous empêchent de nous faire
misères ou malheurs humains.
Peace and Love, un rêve
pour éclairer nos chemins.

Cuando nos sentimos comprometidos con la vida,
somos capaces de hacer que los sueños
una realidad dulce.
El apoyo, el afecto, estímulo y comprensión
hacernos felices,
y se nos enseña
para hacer frente con optimismo allí.

El amor crece en nuestros corazones tiernos
Es lo que nos hace individuos especiales.
Por lo tanto, la armonización es el riego
experiencias, emociones y sentimientos
con el amor, la paz y la simplicidad.

Para asegurarse de que la seguridad, la confianza;
valor y confianza, producimos;
se sienten motivados y real; feliz, crecemos.

Y, al sentirse apreciado y amado, que damos;
útil y de apoyo, que interactúan;
comprometida y solidaria, compartimos;
respetada y libre, estamos alineando amor.

La gratitud, el amor, la humildad,
La tolerancia es la simplicidad como bases
la buena vida es en vivo.
Estos valores de diseño acciones y gestos singulares
que nos dirigimos a ejercer nuestros ciudadanos.
Reflexionar sobre nuestras acciones nos obstaculice nuestro
miseria humana o desgracia.
Paz y amor, un sueño
para iluminar nuestros caminos.


When we feel committed to life,
We are able to make dreams,
A sweet reality.
Support, affection, encouragement and understanding
Make us happy,
As we are taught
To face it optimistically.

Love grows in our tender hearts
It is what makes us special individuals.
Therefore, harmonization is watering
Experiences, emotions and feelings
With love, peace and simplicity.

Since is safe security, trust;
Value and self-confidence, we produce;
Motivated and real sense; Happy, we grow.

And, feeling dear and dear, we give;
Useful and supportive, we interact;
Engaged and fraternal, we share;
Respected and free, we harmonize love.
Gratitude, love, humility,
The tolerance is of simplicity as bases
The good life is live.
These actions of design values and singular gestures
Which will lead us to exercise our citizens.
Reflecting on our actions, preventing us from
Miseries or human misfortunes.
Peace and Love, a dream
To illuminate our paths.

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