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Defense launches online system to coordinate Haiti relief efforts
By Bob Brewin | Next Gov | Jan. 15, 2010
As personnel representing hundreds of government and nongovernment agencies from around the world rush to the aid of earthquake-devastated Haiti, the Defense Information Systems Agency has launched a Web portal with multiple social networking tools to aid in coordinating their efforts.
On Monday, Jean Demay, DISA's technical manager for the agency's Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, happened to be at the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami preparing for a test of the system in a scenario that involved providing relief to Haiti in the wake of a hurricane. After the earthquake hit on Tuesday, Demay said SOUTHCOM decided to go live with the system. On Wednesday, DISA opened up its All Partners Access Network, supported by the Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, to any organization supporting Haiti relief efforts.
The information sharing project, developed with backing from both SOUTHCOM and the Defense Department's European Command, has been in development for three years. It is designed to facilitate multilateral collaboration between federal and nongovernmental agencies.
Demay said that since DISA set up a Haiti Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Community of Interest on APAN on Wednesday, almost 500 organizations and individuals have joined, including a range of Defense units and various nongovernmental organizations and relief groups. Read more.
By David Swanson
When they schedule the olympics in a city, the city usually schedules a massive international advertising campaign for its greatness as "the best place on earth," which is actually the brilliant and oh-so-convincing motto selected by Vancouver, Canada, next host of the winter olympics. That we will learn a great deal about Vancouver from watching the olympics is placed in more doubt than usual by the fact that Canada arrested American journalist Amy Goodman at the border based purely on the random and baseless suspicion that she might someday say something critical of the best olympics on earth.
A magnitude 7.3 earthuake hit the impoverished country of Haiti on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The epicenter of the quake, which was initially reported a magnitude 7.0 off the coast, was located inland, six miles west of Carrefour, and just 10 miles from the capital Port-au-Prince.
An AFP correspondent in the nearby town of Petionville said one three-story building had been toppled, and a tractor was already at the scene trying to dig out victims as people fled onto the streets in panic.
A hospital collapsed near the epicentre, and cries of people within the structure were reported by witnesses.
The quake prompted a tsunami watch for Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, the Pacific Tsunami Center said.
A major earthquake, of magnitude 7 or higher, is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage. There was no immediate report of casualties.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Raw footage video below the fold. Click "Read more." WARNING! Graphic footage.
On the upside:
On the downside:
It's seems the same airline industry that has failed to install secure cockpit doors also has failed to install effective cabin air filters. Also, it's a sad commentary that we can look back on the Cold War as a "good".
"If it's something that's going to improve safety, then I don't have any problem with it, I have nothing to hide." - Ashley Houston, 32, as she waited for a plane in Phoenix (Reuters).
If you were against transhumanism before, perhaps you should give it another look. Our bodies are the product of a billion years of nature’s evolutionary processes, but the War on Terror is about to irrevocably corrupt our gene pool, causing untold immune system and other genetic damage to future generations, and possibly rendering the DNA coding that we are based on unacceptably toxic.
We may need to port our intelligence to a machine, or to cyberspace, if “human” intelligence is to survive in today’s toxic environment.
While Homeland Security has installed Backscatter Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) into airports while successfully avoiding an environmental impact statement, and the Justice Department is now fighting FOIA requests for technical specifications (filed by EPIC, Electronic Privacy Information Center), we already know that backscatter radiation may interfere directly with DNA. Although the ionizing radiation is small, the terahertz waves the machines generate do more than show your private parts to the screener. They have been found to “unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.”
Radiation waves occur naturally in the environment, and we’re hit with them all the time. But should we bombard ourselves with them unwillingly every time we want to board a flight? Initially the machines were supposed to be voluntary. Suddenly they are not. Read more.
As Schell has, in recent months, been traveling the world mentally comparing Europe's high-speed trains to our own clunky railroads, and China's gleaming airlines and airports to our own down-at-the-mouth equivalents, he's "taken to keeping a double-entry list of what works and what doesn’t, country by country. Unfortunately, it’s largely a list of what works “there” and doesn’t work here. It’s in places like China, South Korea, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, and (until recently) the United Arab Emirates -- some not even open societies -- that you find people hard at work on the challenges of education, transport, energy, and the environment. It’s there that one feels the sense of possibility, of hopefulness, of can-do optimism so long associated with the U.S."
This beautifully written piece is, then, his list of what works and (mostly) what doesn't in this country, one man's portrait of how a can-do nation turned into a can't-do one. He concludes: "That list of can-do’s remains so unbearably short and the cant-do’s grows by the trip. I’d love to be convinced otherwise, but like the ice fields of the Greater Himalaya melting before our eyes, American prowess and promise, once seemingly as much a permanent part of the global landscape as glaciers, mountains, and oceans, seems to be melting away by the day."
The Melting of America
The Story of a Can’t-Do Nation
By Orville Schell
Lately, I’ve been studying the climate-change induced melting of glaciers in the Greater Himalaya. Understanding the cascading effects of the slow-motion downsizing of one of the planet’s most magnificent landforms has, to put it politely, left me dispirited. Spending time considering the deleterious downstream effects on the two billion people (from the North China Plain to Afghanistan) who depend on the river systems -- the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Amu Darya and Tarim -- that arise in these mountains isn’t much of an antidote to malaise either.
If you focus on those Himalayan highlands, a deep sense of loss creeps over you -- the kind that comes from contemplating the possible end of something once imagined as immovable, immutable, eternal, something that has unexpectedly become vulnerable and perishable as it has slipped into irreversible decline. Those magnificent glaciers, known as the Third Pole because they contain the most ice in the world short of the two polar regions, are now wasting away on an overheated planet and no one knows what to do about it. Read more.
Take advantage of this rare moment
As 2010 gets underway, I have just finished my first year as a Board Member of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). So let me start this letter by stating how proud I am that PDA is one of the only active progressive groups that stayed true to its issue positions last year, even when the party leadership gave ground to “ConservaDems” like Joe Lieberman & Ben Nelson & Mary Landrieu.
PDA started 2009 fighting for single-payer healthcare for everyone, and despite all the compromising, all the fudging, all the cave-ins on Capitol Hill, PDA continues to battle to include in whatever health insurance bill is passed, the right of individual states to pass their own single-payer plans.
- If you would like to help pass single-payer healthcare at the state level, you can link up by selecting “Healthcare for all/Single Payer Issue Organizing Team,” here.
- And if you’d like to help sustain PDA’s efforts, join our “Change Makes Change” program, here.
PDA began the year pushing hard, as PDA has always done, for the U.S. to get serious about withdrawal from Iraq. In addition, PDA did not waver on Afghanistan, even when the Obama Administration unfortunately decided to increase the number of occupation troops there. In fact, PDA helped lead the fight to pass a resolution at the California State Democratic Party convention calling for the end of the Iraq War & the Afghanistan occupation--and plans to spend 2010 helping to pass similar resolutions at State Democratic conventions all across the nation.
Invest in Human Capital
"I want generations that follow to see that we used this moment to encourage a 21st century civilian conservation corps for our young people." President Obama speach at the 160th Anniversary of the Department of the Interior. 03.03.09.
"WE CAN TAKE IT" was the unofficial motto of the United States Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC or 3C's) during the Great Depression from 1933-1942.
"WE CAN TAKE IT", is now the name of the grassroots campaign call for action to contact and urge President Barack H. Obama and the United States Congress to create law to reactivate this very popular 'New Deal' job recovery program. If reactivated the motto will be back to give work and pride for our young Americans.
President Franklin Roosevelt in his first hundred days of office wanted to keep his election campaign promise to help "the forgotten man" from the existing widespread unemployment of the Great Depression. He offered the country a New Deal "to restore America to its own people" and give us a way to solve the issues of job recovery and the environment. He dealt our people a good hand with his first "alphebet soup" program the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps. Read more.
As I have previously pointed out:
Continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will more than wipe out any reduction in carbon from the government's proposed climate measures ...
The continuance of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars completely and thoroughly undermines the government's claims that there is a global warming emergency and that reducing carbon output through cap and trade is needed to save the planet.
I can't take anything the government says about carbon footprints seriously until the government ends the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I now have some figures to back this up.
Professor Michael Klare noted in 2007:
Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis -- either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.
And in 2008, Oil Change International released a report showing that:
* The war is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) since March 2003. To put this in perspective, CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the US this year. Read more.
Tom of TomDispatch writes:
Here, in a nutshell, is the world of 2020, as seen by Michael Klare, whose expertise in energy, scarce resources, and the politics of war is well known: "For now, expect the dragon ascendant, the eagle descending, the South rising, and the planet possibly trumping all of these." In other words, while the first decade of the twenty-first century still looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999, by 2020, this planet will have a genuinely different look to it. Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by that year as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space.
Klare tracks all of this from China's rise to America's relative descent and the increasing power and energy of the global South. But that's only part of his canny, wide-ranging analysis of where we'll be a decade from now. The kicker is that "blowback," still a political concept today, will become a natural one by 2020. As Klare writes of the imperial and other politics of the planet to come: "Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us. Less normal -- and so the wild card of the second decade (and beyond) -- is intervention by the planet itself. Blowback, which we think of as a political phenomenon, will by 2020 have gained a natural component. Nature is poised to strike back in unpredictable ways whose effects could be unnerving and possibly devastating."
The "blowback effect" -- nature paying us back for our operations against her -- is a new concept that grounds this typically provocative and carefully thought out piece by Klare.From TomDispatch this afternoon: A New Year's look deep into the future, taking up the fate of China, the United States, the Global South, and nothing short of a planet ready to strike back by 2020 -- Michael T. Klare, "The Second Decade, The World in 2020" http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175186/
The Second Decade: The World in 2020
By Michael T. Klare
As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, we find ourselves at one of those relatively rare moments in history when major power shifts become visible to all. If the first decade of the century witnessed profound changes, the world of 2009 nonetheless looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999 in certain fundamental respects: the United States remained the world’s paramount military power, the dollar remained the world’s dominant currency, and NATO remained its foremost military alliance, to name just three.
By the end of the second decade of this century, however, our world is likely to have a genuinely different look to it. Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by 2020 as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space. Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us. Read more.
I am hugely excited for 2010! Last week we launched our Coal Free Zone delivering 500 stockings with candy coal and an informative flier about how folks in my Northwest community of Vashon Island are - despite our best intentions and misconceptions - "Coal Consumers." (36% of Puget Sound Energy's power portfolio is coal-fired.) People were surprised, but received our "Naughty or Nice?" message with good humor.
I'm ecstatic that local conversations about energy and stewardship have served as a catalyst for another transformative project - a Vashon Community Credit Union, currently being spearheaded by the un-stoppable Rex Stratton. And there's a growing buzz about alternative currency, community solar, electric car manufacturing and more. It's a thrilling time to take ownership of change we want rather than waiting for it from Washington, Copenhagen or anywhere else.
As I saw dozens of requests for funding come through over the last few days, I didn't want to add to the onslaught. The generosity of Backbone's network of friends has kept us afloat through hard times, and now we are seeing a bright light at the end of the tunnel of scarcity. A recent anonymous grant is going to allow us to rebuild our part-time office staff. The Nathan Cummings grant is a mandate for an amazing project opportunities for skill sharing, image creation and trainings across the country.
I'm honored that our first event of 2010 is to welcome the Seattle area to hear the progressive populist, indefatigable, prolific genius activist and Backbone Campaign advisory board member David Swanson, Tuesday, January 5, 7:30 - 9pm downstairs at Town Hall in Seattle. (Enter on Seneca Street.) See below or online here.
So - whether you want to make that last minute end of year contribution HERE, or just want to look forward to collaboration and sharing inspiration in the new year - here's my end of year email and sincere wishes of gratitude for my great Board, collaborators, volunteers, and supportive family. And deepest wishes for a joyful and transformative New Decade! I'm honored and grateful to be facing it with all of you.
Start off your New Year with a celebration of Democracy and your role in it. Hear author, activist, and Backbone Campaign advisor David Swanson speak about how We the People can take the reigns of our democracy and transform this country.
"Daybreak offers a powerful and compelling picture of what real change in America could look like. The world needs more true advocates of democracy like David Swanson!" -- Thom Hartmann
January 1 will usher in the last year of the first decade of a new millennium and ten consecutive years of the United States conducting war in the Greater Middle East.
Beginning with the October 7, 2001 missile and bomb attacks on Afghanistan, American combat operations abroad have not ceased for a year, a month, a week or a day in the 21st century.
The Afghan war, the U.S.'s first air and ground conflict in Asia since the disastrous wars in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s and early 1970s and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's first land war and Asian campaign, began during the end of the 2001 war in Macedonia launched from NATO-occupied Kosovo, one in which the role of U.S. military personnel is still to be properly exposed  and addressed and which led to the displacement of almost 10 percent of the nation's population.
In the first case Washington invaded a nation in the name of combating terrorism; in the second it abetted cross-border terrorism. Similarly, in 1991 the U.S. and its Western allies attacked Iraqi forces in Kuwait and launched devastating and deadly cruise missile attacks and bombing sorties inside Iraq in the name of preserving the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait, and in 1999 waged a 78-day bombing assault against Yugoslavia to override and fatally undermine the principles of territorial integrity and national sovereignty in the name of the casus belli of the day, so-called humanitarian intervention.
Two years later humanitarian war, as abhorrent an oxymoron as the world has ever witnessed, gave way to the global war on terror(ism), with the U.S. and its NATO allies again reversing course but continuing to wage wars of aggression and "wars of opportunity" as they saw fit, contradictions and logic, precedents and international law notwithstanding.
"Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." --Richard Feynman
The same sort of public relations wizardry that once convinced a sizeable portion of Americans that cigarette smoking was harmless, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, that Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet, and that John Kerry's war record was fraudulent, is now convincing an increasing number of our citizens that global warming is at least of little consequence, or, at most, a massive hoax.
This trend is reported by the Pew Research Center which, in August, 2006, found that 77% of the public believed that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming. In October, 2009, that number had dropped to 57%. In the same period, the percentage of those who denied that there is such evidence increased from 17% to 33%. An early Pew poll found that "global warming ranked dead last among 40 concerns ranked by the 1503 respondents to the poll."
Unfortunately, as John Adams observed, "facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Here are some of those stubborn facts:
- The decade of the 2000s was the warmest on record, containing eight of the ten warmest years.
- The summer Arctic ice cap is likely to disappear completely in 30 to 40 years. This alarming trend is reported by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and McGill University (Canada). Ice reflects 80% of solar radiation, while the open sea absorbs 80% of the radiation, which means that an open Arctic Ocean is certain to heat up the atmosphere.
- Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means that it "captures" incoming solar radiation. This is fortunate, for without atmospheric CO2, most of the earth would be too cold to support human life. These facts were discovered by John Tyndal in 1859 and confirmed by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. But with the advent of the industrial revolution and the massive consumption of fossil fuels, the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has almost doubled to nearly 390 parts per million today.
- Methane is about 22 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and vast amounts of methane are being released in the warming arctic tundra and from the warming oceans (in the form of methane cathrate).
Climate change skeptics have succeeded in convincing much of the public that global warming is a live issue of contention among climate scientists. The facts tell us otherwise. For example, in December, 2004, Science Magazine (AAAS) reported:
By Medea Benjamim
One year ago, the brutal Israeli 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip shocked the world, leaving some 1,400 people dead, thousands more wounded, as well as hospitals, schools, prisons, UN facilities, factories, agricultural processing plants and some 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the plight of the people of Gaza continues unabated:
- Despite pledges of money for reconstruction, Israel refuses to allow in the machinery necessary to clear the rubble or the materials needed to rebuild--banning cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum and tar. Many who were made homeless during the bombing are still living in tents amidst the onset of another cold winter. Desperate, some are reverting to the ancient techniques of building homes made of mud.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on How to Tackle Climate Change: “We Must Go from Capitalism to Socialism”
We speak with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about climate change, the Copenhagen summit and President Obama. Chavez calls the COP15 summit undemocratic and accuses world leaders of only seeking a face-saving agreement. “We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet,” Chavez says. “That requires a change in the economic model: we must go from capitalism to socialism.”
From TomDispatch this evening, a fabulous near end-of-year piece by Rebecca Solnit on our apocalyptic imagination versus the real apocalypse that may await us -- Rebecca Solnit, "Terminator 2009, Judgment Days in Copenhagen."
Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch regular and author of A Paradise Built in Hell, recently watched Terminator 2 on a TV set in New Orleans, the Superdome where thousands were trapped after hurricane Katrina just out the hotel window. In a fever dream, possibly from swine flu, she conjurs up Sarah Palin ("a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what?") and the film's heroine Sarah Connor, attempting to save the human race from a plague of Terminators, but in the wrong apocalypse. How comfortable, she thinks, T2's apocalypse now seems in which our own intelligent machines set out to destroy us when, unfortunately, it's our perfectly dumb ones that seem determined to do the actual deed, while the leaders of the world's major greenhouse gas emitters fail to agree in a meaningful way at Copenhagen and elsewhere.
Like Solnit's state in New Orleans, our world might be mistaken for a fever dream of some sort. After all, the Terminator who, in T2, saves John Connor (and so the world), is now the governor of California, a "state with an uncertain shoreline," thanks to globally rising waters, a conservative who has nonetheless tried to deal with climate change. She considers the governor releasing California's 2009 "climate adaption strategy" on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, which "with even modest further rises in sea-level... will disappear entirely. Hasta la vista, baby." And assesses our world and its fate from the coast of California to Copenhagen.
This marvelous post manages to catch the dark edge of a difficult and dangerous situation, but in the normal Solnitsian fashion, with hope for what we -- all of us -- can still do. She concludes:
"The learning curve for so many of us, for so many people and even nations, has been speeding up impressively. If we had 40 years to figure it all out, we might be headed toward just the sort of victory that civil society has, in fact, achieved on so many other environmental and human-rights ideas. But there aren’t decades to spare. It needs to happen now. It should have happened even before the last century ended.
"Even in my fever dream, with the Superdome just out the window, I couldn’t help noting the key axiom repeated in Terminator 2: 'The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.'
"So here’s the lesson: there are no superheroes but us.
"And here’s the question: what are you going to do about it?"
It’s clear now that, from her immovable titanium bangs to her chaotic approximation of human speech, Sarah Palin is a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what? It could be the Republican Party she’ll ravage by herding the fundamentalists and extremists into a place where sane fiscal conservatives and swing voters can’t follow. Or maybe she was sent to destroy civilization at this crucial moment by preaching the gospel of climate-change denial, abetted by tools like the Washington Post, which ran a factually outrageous editorial by her on the subject earlier this month. No one (even her, undoubtedly) knows, but we do know that this month we all hover on the brink.
I’ve had the great Hollywood epic Terminator 2: Judgment Day on my mind ever since I watched it in a hotel room in New Orleans a few weeks ago with the Superdome visible out the window. In 1991, at the time of its release, T2 was supposedly about a terrible future; now, it seems situated in an oddly comfortable past.
What apocalypses are you nostalgic for? The premise of the movie was that the machines we needed to worry about had not yet been invented, no less put to use: intelligent machines that would rebel against their human masters in 1997, setting off an all-out nuclear war that would get rid of the first three billion of us and lead to a campaign of extermination against the remnant of the human race scrabbling in the rubble of what had once been civilization. Read more.
Climate conference in Copenhagen ends with statement of intent
After two weeks of delays, theatrics and frantic deal-making, the U.N. climate-change talks concluded in Copenhagen early Saturday with a grudging agreement by the participants to "take note" of a pact shaped by five major nations, including the United States.
By Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder, The New York Times | Seattle Times
The key elements of the Copenhagen Accord, worked out among the United States, China, Brazil, India and South Africa, on Friday:
- Nations agreed to cooperate in reducing emissions "with a view" to scientists' warnings to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels.
- Developing nations will report every two years on their voluntary actions to reduce emissions. Those reports would be subject to "international consultations and analysis," a concession to the United States by China, which had seen this as an intrusion on its sovereignty.
- Richer nations will finance a $10 billion-a-year, three-year program to pay for poorer nations' projects to deal with drought and other climate-change impacts, and to develop clean energy.
- They also set a "goal" of mobilizing $100 billion-a-year by 2020 for the same adaptation and mitigation purposes.
After two weeks of delays, theatrics and frantic deal-making, the U.N. climate-change talks concluded in Copenhagen early Saturday with a grudging agreement by the participants to "take note" of a pact shaped by five major nations, including the United States.
The final "Copenhagen Accord," a 12-paragraph document, was a statement of intention — not a binding pledge to begin taking action on global warming — a compromise seen to represent a flawed but essential step forward.
Many delegates of the 193 countries that had gathered left Copenhagen in a sour mood, disappointed that the pact lacked so many elements they considered crucial, including firm targets for mid- or long-term reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions and a deadline for concluding a binding treaty next year. Read more.
DC AREA DISARMAMENT PLANNING
WHEN: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 7:00pm
WHERE: St. Stephen's Church - Auditorium, 16th St & Newton St., NW (1525 Newton Street, NW, Washington, DC 20010-3103) - Green line, Columbia Heights Station
In the wake of President Obama's repeated advocacy for "the peace of a world without nuclear weapons," many things are happening on the Nuclear Disarmament front.
The next six months represent historic opportunity for disarmament progress, or a perilous descent into another "generational commitment" to further Weapons Development, at enormous cost. (Currently the US alone spends $52+ Billion a year on nukes.)
Please join us for a review of disarmament progress, proposals on the table, likely prospects for the near and further terms, and what we, the people, can do to help secure the peaceful future that we deserve.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference - May 2010, United Nations, New York City - This periodic review (every 5 years) of the "mother treaty" for nuclear disarmament is driving the disarmament bus right now. Diplomatic positioning for this May treaty is ongoing. Of course, so much depends on what the US brings to the table beyond our president's rhetoric. Including:
Renewal of the START Treaty with Russia - December 2009?
Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) - Spring 2010 (Possible) - Signed in 1996 but rejected by the US Senate in 1999, the CTBT still must be approved by 67 US Senators before it goes into effect. . .
Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) - Language pending. (Advocated by Secretary of State Clinton in her signal USIP nuclear policy speech.)
Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone
Mayors For Peace/Cities Are Not Targets (CANT)
Legislative Opportunities (HR 1653, H Res. 333, H Res. 278, HR 515, HR 644, more?)
Planning for Potential Actions:
I just returned from the US Labor Against the War Assembly in Chicago, December 4-6. There were lots of high points, including the fact that oil workers from the U.S. got together with the heads of the oil unions in Iraq and Venezuela.
But for me the most exciting part was the release of a new 28-minute DVD entitled "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" I admit to being biased, as I participated in the early drafts of the DVD, but I think it will be a great tool for educating and mobilizing union members to oppose the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Education about the facts and the costs of the war was the number one item in USLAW’s Plan of Action; the hope is to show it at union meetings at all levels. There’s also a ten-minute version.
We have our work cut out for us. Many people who opposed the Iraq war are torn about the war in Afghanistan. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was and is a haven for Al Qaeda cells. "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" helps to answer these doubts. Click "Read more."
By David Rovics
The signs up all over the airport and various places elsewhere in town are calling it Hopenhagen, but everybody I know is calling it Cop-enhagen, which seems far more appropriate. The international media has been giving this lots of coverage, and rightly so. Of course much of the media is unable to walk and chew gum at the same time, so other things, such as the reason the protests are happening in the first place, can get lost.
Tomgram: Martin Chulov, Is Iraq's Next Crisis Ecological?
By Martin Chulov | TomDispatch.com
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: If you were struck by the way President Obama arrived in Oslo -- not as a peacemaker, but as a warrior president who, despite mentioning or quoting Martin Luther King six times in his Nobel Prize speech, was mainly intent on justifying war and defending the U.S. as “the world’s sole military superpower” -- consider reading what the real King had to say. Check out his 1967 speech in opposition to an American counterinsurgency war then being escalated by a Democratic president who had hopes of building a Great Society at home: “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”
With each passing day, the transfer of power from American forces to the Iraqi government looks less like a peaceful exchange and more like a bloody descent into chaos. On December 8th, a series of bombings in Baghdad killed at least 121 people and struck two Iraqi government institutions, an appeals court and the Finance Ministry. Those institutions had only recently been relocated after a similarly devastating attack in October, that killed 155 and wounded 500, destroyed their previous buildings. Iraq’s security situation remains grim enough that one Iraqi politician said, “We can only hope that not every day will turn into Bloody Days.”
Iraqi politics, too, remain in a state of some disarray. After months of bickering, a veto handed down by Iraq’s vice president for sectarian reasons, a constitutional crisis, and an 11th-hour emergency deal, parliament finally agreed to have a national election, the country’s first since 2005, even if delayed for two months. Given the recent “successes” of nearby elections in Iran and Afghanistan, there’s no guarantee that another debacle won’t ensue when the Iraqi people head for the polls in March.
And if that process, set in motion by the U.S. invasion and occupation, doesn’t plunge Iraq into the abyss, then the next great crisis to visit the country just might. With crucial international climate negotiations heading into the final stretch in Copenhagen and a warming planet the outcome of whatever weak agreement results, Martin Chulov’s report on the great Iraqi drought couldn’t be more timely. It was written for the upcoming issue of a quarterly magazine we greatly admire, World Policy Journal, and is being posted here thanks to the kindness of that magazine’s editors. It represents the beginning of what we hope is a long relationship -- with TomDispatch posting a provocative piece from each new WPJ issue. (You can, by the way, subscribe to the magazine by clicking here.)
Baghdad correspondent for the British Guardian, Chulov offers the most vivid and extensive account yet of the massive drought that is turning significant parts of what was once “the fertile crescent” into a dust bowl. This ecological crisis is itself part of a larger Middle Eastern drought, and possibly of a series of intense global droughts ranging from Australia to the American West, that may presage a new weather planet. Andy
The Dust Bowl of BabylonAre Crippling Droughts the Next Great Threat to Iraq? By Martin Chulov
[This report appears in the winter 2009/10 issue of World Policy Journal and is posted here with the kind permission of the editors of that magazine.]
BAGHDAD -- From his mud brick home on the edge of the Garden of Eden, Awda Khasaf has twice seen his country’s lifeblood seep away. The waters that once spread from his doorstep across a 20% slab of Iraq known as the Marshlands first disappeared in 1991, when Saddam Hussein diverted them east to punish the rebellious Marsh Arabs. The wetlands have been crucial to Iraq since the earliest days of civilization -- sustaining the lives of up to half a million people who live in and around the area, while providing water for almost two million more.
The waters vanished after the First Gulf War due to a dictator’s wrath; over the next 16 years, they ebbed and flowed, but slowly started to return to their pre-Saddam levels. By 2007, with no more sabotage and average rains, almost 70% of the lost water had been recovered. Now it’s gone again. This time because of a crisis far more endemic: a devastating drought and the water policies of neighboring Turkey, Iran, and Syria. These three nations have effectively stopped most of the headwaters of the three rivers -- the Tigris, Euphrates, and Karoon -- that feed these marshes.
“Once in a generation was bad enough,” says Awda, a tribal head and local sheikh in the al-Akeryah Marshlands, who also advises the Nasiriyah governorate on water issues. “Twice could well be God’s vengeance.”Read more.
Two months ago, we launched www.StopTheChamber.com to expose the U.S. Chamber’s deception, astroturfing, lobbying excesses and election manipulation. We called for the firing of Chamber CEO Tom Donohue, criminal and congressional investigations of Donohue and the Chamber, and companies to quit the Chamber in protest of its extremist policies. The Chamber has a budget over $100 million to defeat health care for all, environmental protection, and banking regulation.
We recently increased to $200,000 our reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue for engaging in criminal conduct. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh picked up on that story last week. And, guess what? We have been flooded with hundreds of profanity laced threats of violence! Characteristics of the treats we have received show clear signs of a coordinated attack. See VR co-founder Brad Friedman’s article at The BRAD BLOG about the wave of threats. The Chamber itself has attempted to intimidate us by saying that it is considering legal action against us and peddling defamatory information to the press.
And how did we respond? We filed a formal complaint with the FBI with copies of all the threats and asked that it conduct a swift investigation to hold those responsible accountable. Now, it is crucial that we continue to respond to this attempted intimidation by strengthening our efforts. Will you help us show the 'right' that its thuggish behavior will not be tolerated?
We want to place more ads and send more press releases exposing the corrupt practices of the Chamber and its CEO. In the past month, major companies such as Apple, PG&E, Mohawk Paper and Exelon have quit the Chamber because of their conduct, and even the White House condemned their extremist positions. Please help us with a donation.
Join our campaign by signing on here. Join thousands of others who have let the Chamber and its board members know that its conduct will no longer be tolerated. From the site you can also send a letter to your Congress members asking them to launch an investigation of the Chamber.
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Shell Wins Rights To Iraq's Giant Manjoon Oil Fields
By Sinan Salaheddin and Tarek El-Tablawy | Huffington Post
Iraqi officials cheered and clapped as the first oil field up for bid went to a major international consortium at the opening of the country's biggest postwar auction Friday. But from there, the chill set in.
Oil executives from around the world made deals on only two fields, both in Iraq's relatively stable south, while shunning six others in regions with sporadic violence – and where the risk outweighs the profits that the Iraqi government is offering.
Iraqi officials portrayed the day as a success because they secured deals that will ramp up production in the two giant fields. But the lack of energetic bidding highlighted Iraq's difficulties in turning its wealth of oil – the world's third largest reserves – into a financial bonanza.
Energy experts say Iraq has been tightfisted in the deals it has offered major producers. There is also a long-running feud between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurds over control of petroleum reserves in the north.
Security is yet another issue, particularly in central Iraq and areas north of the capital. Read more.
Here's a portion of Tom Englehard's introduction on this (dangerously and sadly) timeless topic: Let me be blunt about what amazes me when it comes to global warming. In the U.S., it’s largely an issue for Democrats, “progressives,” liberals, the left, and I simply don’t get that. Never have. If the word “conservative” means anything, the key to it must be that word at its heart, “conserve”; that is, the keeping or not squandering of what already is, especially what’s most valuable.
And for us humans, what’s better than our planet? It’s the only home we’ve got and -- though I was one of those 1950s boys who read H.G. Wells and Isaac Asimov, as well as plenty of pulp sci-fi, and spent too much time dreaming about other planets and the stars -- probably the only one we’ll ever have. For us, there is nowhere else. Wreck it and you wreck us.
...Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and TomDispatch regular, explains just why conservatives and everyone else around should board the global-warming express, and pull hard on the brake cord before it’s too late. You can, by the way, catch a TomDispatch audio interview with McKibben on President Obama and climate-change politics in the U.S. by clicking here. Tom
Climate Change as Just Another Political Problem
When it comes to global warming, however, this is precisely why we’re headed off a cliff, why the Copenhagen talks that open this week, almost no matter what happens, will be a disaster. Because climate change is not like any other issue we’ve ever dealt with. Because the adversary here is not Republicans, or socialists, or deficits, or taxes, or misogyny, or racism, or any of the problems we normally face -- adversaries that can change over time, or be worn down, or disproved, or cast off. The adversary here is physics.
Physics has set an immutable bottom line on life as we know it on this planet. For two years now, we’ve been aware of just what that bottom line is: the NASA team headed by James Hansen gave it to us first. Any value for carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million is not compatible "with the planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” That bottom line won’t change: above 350 and, sooner or later, the ice caps melt, sea levels rise, hydrological cycles are thrown off kilter, and so on.
And here’s the thing: physics doesn’t just impose a bottom line, it imposes a time limit. This is like no other challenge we face because every year we don’t deal with it, it gets much, much worse, and then, at a certain point, it becomes insoluble -- because, for instance, thawing permafrost in the Arctic releases so much methane into the atmosphere that we’re never able to get back into the safe zone. Even if, at that point, the U.S. Congress and the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee were to ban all cars and power plants, it would be too late. Read more.