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Last year, the price of gasoline in the United States topped the $4 per gallon mark.
This year in Afghanistan, the price has topped $400.
The stunning revelation emerged Thursday in a report from the Pentagon to House officials. The information conveyed offers new insight into a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, which found that the US spends $1 million per year for each servicemember on the ground in Afghanistan.
Velvet Revolution Launches "Stop The Chamber" Campaign To End Their Multiple Abuses; Seeks DOJ Investigation & More!
Click here to sign on.
A VelvetRevolution.us Campaign
Stop The Chamber
The Chamber of Commerce, under the leadership of Tom Donahue, has gone from a well respected trade organization to an extremist political organization dedicated to corrupting American democracy by elevating the profits of big corporations over the well being of the citizens they serve. The most recent example of this corrupt behavior is the Chamber's announcement that it is spending more than $100 million to defeat initiatives to protect the environment and provide affordable health care to everyone.
The Chamber is the biggest lobbying operation in the United States, spending billions of dollars on behalf of big business over the past decade to corrupt the political system. Polluters like Big Coal, Big Asbestos, and Big Oil only need call the Chamber to stop any accountability for their toxic destruction. Wall Street banks and CEOs need only make sure that they have paid their Chamber dues to ensure that they can continue to rip off the taxpayers. And killers like Big Tobacco need only form a partnership with the Chamber to ensure that they will be given immunity from lawsuits that seek accountability for the death and sickness of millions of Americans.
Click here to sign on.
Tom Donahue has turned the once respected and even-handed Chamber into an extremist organization, bragging that the Chamber gutted the Clinton tobacco settlement, killed the Clinton health care plan, and scuttled previous oversight of Wall Street and the banking system. Now the Chamber is spending tens of millions on ads and lobbyists to stop health care for all, protect polluters from accountability, and shield the financial industry from government regulation.
Not only is the Chamber lobbying and advertising against the interests of Americans, it is also committing fraud and violating campaign finance laws by creating fake astroturfing front groups, with patriotic names like Citizens for a Strong Ohio, and then illegally funneling millions of anonymous dollars into those groups to attack candidates and judges who won't do their bidding. While this corrupts the electoral system, the Chamber persists, even when it is caught, fined and required to disclose its "anonymous" donors.
We have had enough and it is time to Stop The Chamber. Therefore, we demand the following:
- Fire Tom Donohue. Mr. Donohue is the Chamber's corrupter in chief who single handedly turned the Chamber "into a pay-to-play vehicle for right-wing causes and corporate dishonesty. As Eliot Spitzer put it, ''Tom Donohue has never once found a crime that he couldn't justify, as long as it was committed by one of his dues-paying members.'"
- Drop Corporate Support for the Chamber. Over the past month, several large companies have abandoned the Chamber because of its anti-science stance on global warming. These include, Apple, Exelon Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric, Nike, and Public Service Company of New Mexico. As Nike put it, "We fundamentally disagree with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the issue of climate change, and their recent action challenging the E.P.A. is inconsistent with our view that climate change is an issue in need of urgent action." We will target companies with exposure and boycotts if they remain with the Chamber.
- Launch A Criminal Investigation Against The Chamber For Fraud, False Tax Filings And Campaign Finance Violations. The Chamber was found to have committed fraud and campaign finance violations in Ohio by creating a front group called Citizens for a Strong Ohio and funneling millions of dollars through it to defeat Supreme Court Justice Alice Resnick because she could not be bought. This Chamber practice is widespread and was also used against Karl Rove-targeted Mississippi Justice Oliver Diaz, and in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, West Virginia, and Arkansas. We are asking the Department of Justice to investigate these illegal practices under RICO and to review whether the Chamber is actually a political action committee rather than a trade association. See our letter to DOJ here.
- Ask Congress To Investigate The Chamber. In addition to a criminal investigation, we want Congress to investigate the activities of the Chamber to include astroturfing and election manipulation as outlined by Public Citizen. Read U.S. Chamber of Commerce Failed to Report Electioneering Spending and Grants, Public Citizen Asks IRS to Investigate. Send a letter to Congress here.
- Reorganize The Chamber. The Board of the Chamber should shut down the Chamber's lobbying arm and legal reform arm, and return to being a respected trade organization rather than a partisan PAC.
- Speak Out Against The Chamber. We ask companies, politicians and others that do not agree with the flat earth, anti science, partisan, anti people approach of the Chamber to speak out publicly against the Chamber.
"If you are the average Joe, you should definitely be worried because if the U.S. dollar loses its status it is going to mean higher borrowing costs for the U.S. government, which will mean the average Joe will have to pay higher taxes, the U.S. government will spend less on services, and there will be higher interest rates -- or some combination of the above."
Is the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency in jeopardy? How are U.S. officials responding? And should the average American be worried?
A report in The Independent newspaper today, citing Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, said that Gulf Arab countries -- joined by China, Russia, Japan and France -- are planning to move away from pricing oil in dollars to using an array of currencies including the Japanese yen, the Chinese yuan, the euro, gold, and a new unified currency in the Gulf Co-operation Council including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Qatar. Read more.
Back before email, a world traveler who wanted to keep in touch and couldn't just pop into the nearest Internet café, might drop you a series of postcards from one exotic locale after another. Pepe Escobar, that edgy, peripatetic globe-trotting reporter for one of my favorite on-line publications, Asia Times, has been doing just that for TomDispatch readers as he explores the geography that undergirds our civilization, the pipelines that crisscross Eurasia through which flow energy -- and trouble. This, then, is his third "postcard" from what he likes to call Pipelineistan. The first in March began laying out a great, ongoing energy struggle across Eurasia via an embattled energy corridor (and a key pipeline) that runs from the Caspian Sea to Europe through Georgia and Turkey -- and the Great Game of business, diplomacy, and proxy war between Russia and the U.S. that has gone with it.
In May, he plunged eastward into tumultuous Central and South Asia and the devolving battleground that, in Washington, goes by the neologism AfPak (for the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations). Now, he heads west toward Europe and another developing struggle, this time over just how natural gas from the Caspian Sea will reach Europe. Think of this as a story that lurks under so many other stories. For instance, this very day, the representatives of Russia, Germany, China, France, Britain, and for the first time, the United States, will be sitting down with Iran's representative in Geneva for what's billed as an historic exchange. On the table -- and in global headlines -- will be the Iranian nuclear program, a
previously secret Iranian nuclear site, Iranian medium-range missile tests, sanctions of various sorts, the possibility of future attacks on that country's nuclear establishment, and so on. What won't be in the headlines, or the accompanying reams of analysis, is the approximately 15% of the world's natural gas deposits Iran controls. As it happens, for the Europeans and the Russians (and so for Washington), that's the story hidden under the Iranian imbroglio, which is why we need Pepe Escobar. Tom
Jumpin' Jack Verdi, It's a Gas, Gas, Gas
Iran and the Pipelineistan Opera
By Pepe Escobar
Brussels -- Oil and natural gas prices may be relatively low right now, but don't be fooled. The New Great Game of the twenty-first century is always over energy and it's taking place on an immense chessboard called Eurasia. Its squares are defined by the networks of pipelines being laid across the oil heartlands of the planet. Call it Pipelineistan. If, in Asia, the stakes in this game are already impossibly high, the same applies to the "Euro" part of the great Eurasian landmass -- the richest industrial area on the planet. Think of this as the real political thriller of our time.
The movie of the week in Brussels is: When NATO Meets Pipelineistan. Though you won't find it in any headlines, at virtually every recent NATO summit Washington has been maneuvering to involve reluctant Europeans ever more deeply in the business of protecting Pipelineistan. This is already happening, of course, in Afghanistan, where a promised pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India, the TAPI pipeline, has not even been built. And it's about to happen at the borders of Europe, again around pipelines that have not yet been built.
If you had to put that Euro part of Pipelineistan into a formula, you might do so this way: Nabucco (pushed by the U.S.) versus South Stream (pushed by Russia). Be patient. You'll understand in a moment. Read more.
Iran agrees to ship enriched uranium to Russia for refinement
By Warren P. Strobel and Margaret Talev | McClatchy
Iran agreed in principle Thursday to ship most of its enriched uranium to Russia, where it would be refined for exclusively peaceful uses, in what Western diplomats called a significant, but interim, measure to ease concerns over its nuclear program.
The agreement was announced after more than seven hours of high-level talks in Geneva among Iran and representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, which also featured the highest-level official U.S.-Iranian encounter in three decades.
Iran also pledged that within weeks it would allow the inspection of a previously covert uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom, and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, announced that he'd head to Tehran to work out the details.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said the talks marked "a constructive beginning" and showed the promise of renewed engagement with Iran, but added that "going forward, we expect to see swift action. We're not interested in talking for the sake of talking."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the talks had "opened the door" to potential progress on the nuclear issue. "It was a productive day, but the proof of that has not yet come to fruition, so we'll wait and continue to press our point of view and see what Iran decides to do," she said.
In Geneva, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said he hoped the talks — which are to reconvene later this month — were the beginning of intensive engagement with Iran after a 15-month pause. Read more.
At a press conference, on Friday, Sept. 25, 2009, activists demanded that the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company (BGE), roll back its electric rates to 2006 levels and for it to grant immediate rate relief. BGE is a subsidiary of Constellation Energy, (CE). The event was held in front of the office of the Public Service Commission, a state regulatory agency located in Baltimore, MD. The Maryland Coalition for BGE Reregulation sponsored the press conference. Leo Burroughs is one of its leaders. He was sharply critical of elected Maryland politicians for their do-nothing conduct in this matter, particularly Governor Martin OMalley. Burroughs labeled him, "the biggest phony." Burroughs also announced a new Petition drive. A similar social justice effort was recently staged by activists in the Washington, D.C. area against the electric utility giant, PEPCO.
A tiny car company backed by former Vice President Al Gore has just gotten a $529 million U.S. government loan to help build a hybrid sports car in Finland that will sell for about $89,000.
The award this week to California startup Fisker Automotive Inc. follows a $465 million government loan to Tesla Motors Inc., purveyors of a $109,000 British-built electric Roadster. Tesla is a California startup focusing on all-electric vehicles, with a number of celebrity endorsements that is backed by investors that have contributed to Democratic campaigns. Read more.
Talk about roller-coaster rides: the price of a barrel of crude oil, which was still under $20 the week after September 11, 2001, made it to $147 in July 2008, just before the global economic meltdown, only to hit a low of $32.40 early this year. And yet, in recent months, hardly noticed, it's crept back above $70 -- and this with "recovery" barely on the horizon and global industrial demand still muted at best. And that's the good news.
Surely, as economic activity picks up, oil demand will rise and prices will resume their upward march. And don't be fooled by a spate of announcements, as recently in the Gulf of Mexico, of new oil discoveries, as Michael Klare, author of the invaluable book Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, indicates. If there is a surge in industrial demand globally, recent discoveries will have little impact on the growing supply of energy.
"It's still the one," energy expert Daniel Yergin says of oil in the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine. Yergin, author of a classic history of oil, The Prize, claims that petroleum will dominate the global energy equation for decades to come. Look elsewhere and you can find sprightly scenarios for energy futures based on climate-friendly renewable energy sources. As Klare makes painfully clear, however, there's a third way -- and that is distinctly not good news. We are going to enter an age of Xtreme energy, he suggests, and the last-ditch efforts to keep our world on its normal course are likely to devastate the environment, accelerate climate change, inflict widespread pain, and create global conflict. It's not a pretty picture. Tom
The Era of Xtreme Energy
Life After the Age of Oil
By Michael T. Klare
The debate rages over whether we have already reached the point of peak world oil output or will not do so until at least the next decade. There can, however, be little doubt of one thing: we are moving from an era in which oil was the world's principal energy source to one in which petroleum alternatives -- especially renewable supplies derived from the sun, wind, and waves -- will provide an ever larger share of our total supply. But buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride under Xtreme conditions.
West Using Its Military Might To Control World Energy Resources: Pentagon's Global Mission To Secure Oil And Gas Supplies
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's 2009 Year Book documented that international military expenditures for 2008 reached $1.464 trillion. The denomination in dollars is germane as the United States accounted for 41.5 percent of the world total.
Earlier this month the Congressional Research Service in the U.S. reported that American weapons sales abroad reached $37.8 billion, or 68.4 percent of all global arms transactions. The next largest weapons supplier was Italy at $3.7 billion, less than one-tenth the U.S. amount. Russia was third at $3.5 billion. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, however, asserted that Germany had superseded Britain and France and become the world's third largest weapons exporter.
Western nations in general and the U.S. overwhelmingly among them dominate the global arms market.
21st century weaponry is daily more technologically advanced, more linked with computer networks and satellite communications, and progressively approaching a blurring of conventional and strategic, terrestrial and space-based capabilities.
And in the U.S. and allied nations the notion of so-called preemptive warfare has advanced precariously to include cyber and satellite attacks that can cripple a targeted nation's communications, control and air defense centers, thus rendering it both helpless and toothless: Not able to fend off attacks and unable to retaliate against or even forestall them with a secure deterrent force.
Justice Dept. Investigates Ex-Official’s Ties to Shell
By Neil A. Lewis | NY Times
The Justice Department is investigating whether a former secretary of the interior, Gale A. Norton, violated the law by granting valuable leases to Royal Dutch Shell around the time she was considering going to work for the company after she left office, officials said Thursday.
The officials said investigators had recently turned up information suggesting that Ms. Norton had had discussions while in office with Royal Dutch Shell about future career opportunities. In early 2006, Ms. Norton’s department awarded three tracts in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary for shale exploration. In December 2006, she joined Shell as the company’s general counsel in the United States for unconventional oils, a company spokeswoman said.
The existence of a federal criminal investigation was first reported Thursday by The Los Angeles Times. Read more.
Biden Pushes Iraqi Leaders On Vote Law, Oil-Bid Perks
By Scott Wilson | Washington Post
Vice President Biden pressed Iraqi leaders Wednesday to approve as quickly as possible legislation that establishes rules for the planned January general election and to make the next round of bids to develop Iraqi oil concessions more attractive to foreign investors.
In a series of meetings in the Green Zone, Biden listened to the concerns of Iraqi leaders, now in the heat of an election season that Obama administration officials acknowledge will delay until after the vote any progress on such pressing issues as passing a law on the equitable distribution of national oil revenue among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
A senior administration official said Biden also made his interests known on a variety of issues, such as the need for the Iraqi parliament to adopt laws to better protect foreign investment and leaving unchanged the terms of the timetable for the withdrawal of the 130,000 U.S. troops now in the country. Read more.
Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) wrote to update us on the International People's Declaration of Peace (IPDoP):
- This is the final version of IPDoP...the committee sent it out for translation services today!
- We are working on website and an online petition to sign after the translations are complete, it is not ready to be signed yet.
- We are also working on an archival quality hard copy document to be taken all over the world for signatures of leading peace proponents.
- We are also working on accompanying articles for the Declaration.
- We still need commitments for free or very low cost translation services into: French, Japanese, Arabic, Bengali, and Chinese
International People's Declaration of Peace
We the undersigned, as responsible citizens of this planet, hereby proclaim the urgent universal need for sustained security through peace, for present and future generations of the human family.
DC Preps for Exotic Evening of Dance, Art and Music Benefiting the International Lifeline Fund Thurs. 9/24, RSVP Now!
The International Lifeline Fund is a non-profit humanitarian relief organization based in Washington, D.C. In the three short years since it became operational in 2006, this cutting edge organization that has found ways to dramatically reduce human misery and environmental destruction at remarkably low cost. In an effort to get the most bang out of every buck, Lifeline has been promoting cost-effective technologies and self-sustaining programs, which give vulnerable individuals the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty and become productive members of their societies.
Lifeline’s signature initiative involves the promotion of sustainable fuel technologies in regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, which, in the past two decades, have lost approximately one-third of their forest cover. Literally half of this loss is attributable to cooking on an open fire – a method that is extremely hazardous to human health and that retards the living standards of women who must spend countless hours collecting wood. In an effort to address these and other problems associated with open fire cooking, Lifeline has provided some 50,000 fuel-efficient clay stoves to women who have been displaced by violence in Somalia, Darfur, Burundi and Northern Uganda. At a cost of as little as $2 each, these stoves have profoundly improved the lives of scores of thousands and slowed the pace of deforestation by greatly reducing the amount of wood needed for cooking.
Massey Morgan Rd Julian, WV 6AM ish 9-9-09 | Press Release
I was filming a Chain & Tube Lock Down Blockade of the road which leads to Massey Energy Regional Headquarters as the first workers of the day arrived.
By Linda Milazzo
I was out last evening. I tried to escape, just for a while, back to the days of (Taking) Woodstock when we who worked to end the Vietnam war did so as a united, free-spirited force. I readily admit that in today's times of racism disguised as patriotism, religious perversion, rampant ignorance, unhinged media menaces, and growing hostility amongst Americans, I yearn for that long ago era of 'peace and love.'
Enroute home after my wistful evening, I glanced at my phone and saw a Washington Post alert saying Obama's Green Jobs appointee, Van Jones, had resigned. I was shocked. I knew Jones was being assaulted by the right, but I didn't think he'd resign, and I didn't think the Obama administration would so readily sacrifice this brilliant advocate for the environment and the poor. After all, Jones is a person in the Obama administration who personifies the term "public servant." For progressives, Van Jones' appointment was, and is, Obama's tour de force gift to America of a high level appointee free of corporate entanglements who cannot and will not be bought. Jones is a man for the people in an administration where for the corporation is the norm.
Van Jones called Republicans what most of the people who voted for Obama call them. And he signed a statement calling for further inquiry and explanation of 911-- the original 911 truth document. Was he left hanging by the Obama Administration for doing what scores of millions of Americans would also do?
Van Jones has been the target of a vicious smear campaign for weeks. Tonight, he resigned his position as special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Apparently, the White House and president Obama did not stand behind Jones, one of the most respected leaders in the ecological movement. The Washington Post reported,
'White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday that Jones "continues to work for the administration" -- but he did not state that the adviser enjoys the full support of President Obama, instead referring all questions to the environmental council where he worked, signaling the resignation was imminent.'
Jones recently issued two apologies. One was for calling Republicans "assholes." The other was for signing a statement in 2004 supporting a call for further investigation of 911, which suggested that the Government might have had a role in the 911 attack. The original document can be found here, with Van Jones the 46th signatory (and this writer was the 47th.) Ironically, one of the most vocal "birthers, who question the validity of Obama's birth certificate, Phillip J. Berg, was also a signatory of the same statement, 8th on the list. Read more.
Controversy Over Fiery Remarks Fells Obama Adviser
Obama's 'green jobs' adviser quits under fire amid controversy over inflammatory statements
By Will Lester, Associated Press | ABC News
The White House environmental adviser under fire for inflammatory statements made before he joined the administration resigned after what he called a "vicious smear campaign against me."
Van Jones "understood that he was going to get in the way" of President Barack Obama's agenda, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Sunday.
The resignation was disclosed without advance notice by the White House in a dead-of-the-night e-mail on a holiday weekend. It came as Obama is working to regain his footing in the contentious health care debate.
Jones, who specialized in environmentally friendly "green jobs" with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, was linked to efforts suggesting a government role in the Sept. 11 attacks and to derogatory comments about Republicans. Read more.
Climate SOS Sets Out to Defeat U.S. "False" Climate Bill, Claiming "Worse Than Nothing Is Not Good Enough"
A grassroots network of environmentalists, scientists, human rights and social justice activists and faith-based organizations concerned about climate change launched a nationwide campaign today to either dramatically improve or defeat climate change legislation being considered in Congress. They say that the Senate bill, expected in September, will very likely take its cue from the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) passed by the House in June, and be even further watered down. While others are calling for passage of the bill, saying it will be "the best we can get under the political climate", the network, calling themselves Climate SOS, states that, like Dr. James Hansen, they believe such a bill will be "worse for the environment than doing nothing". They want lawmakers to start over and get serious about crafting a real and effective climate bill based on the mandates of science, not special interests.
"ACESA was designed to enrich Wall Street, the fossil fuel, utilities and big agribusiness industries at the expense of the climate and our collective peace and survival", said the network's spokesperson Dr. Rachel Smolker, Co-director of BioFuel Watch. "The bill's cap-and-trade mechanism for regulating emissions has been repeatedly proven ineffective, risky and prone to speculation and manipulations, and will lock us into a framework that prevents any effective climate legislation from being adopted. This is one of many provisions in ACESA that make it worse than nothing. It's virtually impossible the Senate will be able to improve on ACESA enough to get us where we must go in order to avoid catastrophic warming."
"ACESA does not even aim to provide a 50/50 chance of averting the worst of climate catastrophe, based on the figures of the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change", said Dr. Maggie Zhou of Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities. "Politicians either do not understand or are not telling the American people about the true magnitude of climate change consequences. The costs of insufficient action will be so much greater than the costs of taking bold action now, and will include lost lives, extinctions and the threatened survival of civilization itself. If politicians and their constituents understood this, there would be far less compromising on the basis of 'political and economic feasibility'."
"Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union," by David Swanson is due in stores September 1st, but the publisher has it now and you can get it straight from Seven Stories Press.
Here's an announcement from CleanHouston.org about the climate fight, which parallels the health fight. The Democrats in both cases have produced bills that go 90% of the way to satisfying the industries responsible for the problems. In return, in both cases, those industries have used astroturf groups and the corporate media to generate pseudo-populist revolts against the impure efforts that did not provide 100% profit maximization:
Energy Citizens, a corporate-organized Astroturf alliance funded in large part by the American Petroleum Institute, is holding rallies in 20 states over the August congressional recess. The rallies aim to undermine the efforts to get climate legislation enacted at the federal level.
Submitted by David Solnit
On August 15th activists and community members from around the Bay Area joined Richmond, California residents to protest the Chevron corporation’s devastating environmental and human rights record around the world.
Those of us who proposed the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney for violating his oath of office and engaging in a Nixon-on-steroids spree of high crimes and misdemeanors began to recognize the abusive nature of the previous administration when Cheney refused to release details of the industry insiders with whom he met to craft energy policies.
The refusal of the Bush-Cheney administration to permit public review of White House visitor logs detailing who was meeting with the vice president's energy task force during the very first weeks of their tenure was a deliberate decision made to cloak dirty dealing by officials who were determined to serve corporate rather than public interests.
It also provided an early indicator that darker and dirtier deeds would eventually be done by Cheney and his compatriots. And they were. Read more.