May 312011
 

Haaretz

On the anniversary of its deadly takeover of the aid flotilla to Gaza, in which nine Turkish activists died in a confrontation with navy commandos, Israel is preparing to block the next flotilla as well.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel prefers a diplomatic move to thwart the flotilla expected at the end of June, but if necessary would exercise force against anyone who tries to disobey the navy’s orders and head to Gaza’s shore.

The Israel Navy has held takeover drills and mobilized reserve combatants, on the assumption the large number of vessels (about 15 ) planning to take part in the flotilla will require reinforcements. The preparations include intelligence surveillance, based mainly on open communications and Internet sites.

The navy is focusing on riot-control measures this time, saying they will use force as a last resort.

Israeli defense sources said recently that despite addressing flaws in the previous flotilla takeover, there is no alternative to taking over the boats and protesters by force – barring an agreement that would cancel the flotilla.

Former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi testified before the Turkel committee investigating the flotilla and said that if necessary, sniper fire would be used to take down violent protesters. This would prevent face-to-face clashes that hold a greater risk to soldiers’ lives.

The Turkel committee in February published the first part of its report, which on the whole justifies Israel’s position and conduct. The report upholds Israel’s argument that it was permitted to impose a blockade on Gaza and exercise force to prevent uncoordinated ships’ entry. Two foreign observers took part in writing the report.

The committee is still hearing testimonies regarding the way Israel investigates warfare incidents.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is expected soon to publish his own report on the flotilla. Lindenstrauss examined various aspects, from ministerial and military decisions during the preparations for the flotilla to presenting Israel’s position abroad.

Immediately after the flotilla incident Israel changed its position dramatically regarding the amount and extent of goods allowed into the Gaza Strip. Egypt’s decision to reopen the Rafah border crossing as of last weekend removes the rest of the coordinated siege both states had imposed on Gaza.

May 312011
 

Activist Post
Kurt Nimmo

The United Nations’ health agency, the World Health Organization, now lists mobile phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

But no adverse health effects have been established, the agency explains.

The decision to list cell phones as a cancer hazard came after a team of 31 scientists from 14 countries examined peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety.

“The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences,” said Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Numerous studies indicate prolonged cell phone use is hazardous. The European Environmental Agency has pushed for more studies. It says cell phones may be as big a public health risk as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline.

In 2009, WHO reached the same conclusion. A decade-long, $30 million study into cell phones found a link between long term use and brain tumors.

The WHO’s Interphone investigation’s results showed “a significantly increased risk” of some brain tumors “related to use of mobile phones for a period of ten years or more,” the Telegraph reported.

The study showed participants in the study who used a cell phones for 10 years or more had doubled the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor. To date, there have been no long-term studies on the effects of cell phone usage among children.

The study showed participants in the study who used a cell phones for 10 years or more had doubled the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor. To date, there have been no long-term studies on the effects of cell phone usage among children.

In response to a number of studies revealing the dangers of cell phones, the industry now advises consumers to hold the devices away from their bodies.

May 312011
 

My Catbird Seat
Jimmy Carter

Editor’s Note: Carter may not have the solution, but does a good job of demonstrating how the move back to ’67 borders is hardly a controversial new position by the United States.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of Nov. 22, 1967, concluded the war of that year and has been widely acknowledged by all parties to be the basis for a peace agreement.


It was not a new U.S. policy concerning the borders of Israel, nor should it have been surprising to Israeli leaders, when President Obama stated:

“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of Nov. 22, 1967, concluded the war of that year and has been widely acknowledged by all parties to be the basis for a peace agreement.

Its key phrases are, “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” and “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” These included the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, plus lands belonging to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.

At Camp David in 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat accepted the following words: “The agreed basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israel and its neighbors is United Nations Security Council resolution 242, in all its parts.”

Specifically concerning the West Bank and Gaza, the Israelis and Egyptians mutually agreed: “In order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants under these arrangements the Israeli military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn as soon as a self-governing authority has been freely elected by the inhabitants of these areas. …” As a result of the Oslo Accords of 1993, a self-governing authority was freely elected in January 1996, with Yasir Arafat as president and 88 Parliament members.

The International Quartet’s Roadmap for Peace in April 2003, supported by President George W. Bush, began with these words: “A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors. The settlement will resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967. …”

In addition, all 23 Arab nations and all 56 Islamic nations have offered peace and normal relations with Israel, but called upon Israel to affirm: “Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967. …”

All these statements assume, of course, that Israel may live in peace within its internationally recognized borders — but not including territories it occupied during the 1967 war. Israel withdrew from Egypt’s Sinai as a result of the 1979 peace treaty, but still occupies and is colonizing with settlers the Golan Heights of Syria, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. (When I was negotiating during the 1970s, it was clear that neither Israel nor Egypt wanted to retain control of Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in August 2005, but continues to hold under siege.)

For more than three decades, Israel’s occupation of Arab land has been the key unresolved issue. Stated simply, Israel must give up the occupied land in exchange for peace. There has never been any question regarding the occupied territory in international law as expressed through United Nations resolutions, the official policies of the United States, nor those of the International Quartet (the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia).

A number of peace proposals have included the caveat found in President Obama’s recent speech: that the pre-1967 border can be modified as a result of mutually agreeable land swaps to permit Israeli settlers in areas close to Jerusalem to remain in what is now occupied Palestinian territory, with an equivalent amount of Israeli land to be transferred to the Palestinians.

One interesting proposal that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made to me in 2005 was that this exchanged land might comprise a corridor between Gaza and the West Bank (about 35 miles), on which a railroad and highway could be built. It would be provided security by Israelis but owned and operated by Palestinians. This is just one possibility.

Two recent developments add urgency to the peace process: moves to unite the major Palestinian factions so they can negotiate with a single voice, and the potential vote in the U.N. General Assembly in September to recognize Palestine as a state. It is likely that about 150 U.N. members are prepared to take this action.

The only viable peace alternative is good faith negotiations, with the key issue remaining the same: Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the occupied territories, with the exception of small land swaps as mutually agreed with the Palestinians.

May 312011
 

Global Research
Ellen Brown

[T]hreatening to default should not be a partisan issue. In view of all the hazards it entails, one wonders why any responsible person would even flirt with the idea.

- Alan S. Blinder, Princeton professor of economics, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve

A game of Russian roulette is being played with the national debt ceiling.  Fire the wrong chamber of the gun, and the result could be the second Great Depression.

The first Great Depression led to totalitarian dictatorships, war to consolidate power, and concentrations of capital in the hands of a financial elite.  The trigger was a default on the global reserve currency, in that case the pound sterling. The U.S. dollar is now the global reserve currency. The concern is that default could create the same sort of global panic today. Dark visions are evoked of the President declaring a national emergency, FEMA plans locking into place, camps being readied for protesters, and the secret government taking over . . . .

This may all just be political theater, but do we really want to get close enough to the economic precipice to find out? The conservative ideologues toying with the debt ceiling are doing it to force cuts in the budget, a budget that was already approved by Congress. Congress is being held hostage by a radical minority pushing a risky agenda, one that is based on an economic model that is obsolete.

High-stakes Gambling

On May 16, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece titled “The Armaggedon Lobby,” which claimed that a “technical default” on the federal debt was just “political melodrama” and not really a big deal:

markets can figure out the difference between a genuine default when a country can’t pay its bills and a technical default of a few days if it serves the purpose of fixing America’s fiscal mess

Not so, said Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in a May 20 interview on CNBC. “That’s gambling. This is the United States. You’re leading the whole world. You cannot play games with that.”

It is not just that the government could be brought to a standstill, with a third of its bills now being paid by borrowing; or that interest rates would shoot up, forcing thousands of homeowners into foreclosure.  Failure to pay on the national debt could trigger a default on the global reserve currency. As one commentator described what could go wrong:
[T]he consequences of a US default could spark yet another global financial crisis. The US could lose its triple-A rating, which could cause a sell-off in Treasury notes by institutional and foreign investors. This sell-off could lead to higher interest rates, and banks’ balance sheets might be decimated by the decline in their bond portfolios. Thus, global banking and financial market liquidity could dry up. Lending between institutions and people or businesses could possibly cease altogether or become cost prohibitive.

The sort of chaos that could ensue was seen when Great Britain reneged on its deal to redeem pound sterling banknotes in gold in 1931. The result was the worst global depression in history.

When the pound went off the gold standard, markets panicked. People rushed to exchange their paper money for gold, in any currencies in which that was still possible. The gold wound up hidden under mattresses and in safety deposit boxes, unspent; and the banks from which it was pulled, having no reserves to back their loans, quit lending or closed their doors. Credit froze; business ground to a halt.

As other countries ran short of gold, they too were forced to take their currencies off the gold standard. The last holdouts suffered the most, including the United States, which kept its gold window open until 1933.

The 19th century had been plagued by bank runs, caused by banks having too little gold to back their outstanding loans. The Federal Reserve was instituted in 1913 ostensibly to prevent those runs, but its levee did not hold back the run of the 1930s. In 1933, the country suffered a massive banking collapse, forcing President Roosevelt to declare a banking holiday and take the U.S. dollar, too, off the gold standard.

Freed from the Bankers’ “Cross of Gold”

The transition off the gold standard was a painful one; but according to Beardsley Ruml, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the country was the better for it. In a paper read before the American Bar Association in 1946, he said that going off the gold standard had finally allowed the country to be economically sovereign:

Final freedom from the domestic money market exists for every sovereign national state where there exists an institution which functions in the manner of a modern central bank, and whose currency is not convertible into gold or into some other commodity.

Freed from the strictures of gold, Roosevelt was able to jump-start the economy with deficit spending. As Marshall Auerback details, the next four years constituted the biggest cyclical boom in U.S. economic history. Real GDP grew at a 12% rate and nominal GDP grew at a 14% rate.

Then in 1937, Roosevelt listened to the deficit hawks of his day and slashed the deficit. The result was a surge in unemployment, and the economy slipped back into depression.

What lifted the country out of the doldrums was again deficit spending, liberally engaged in to fund World War II. In wartime, few people worry about the national debt. The debt grew to 120% of GDP – twice what it is today — and wound up sustaining another very productive period in U.S. history, one that set the country up to lead the world in manufacturing for the next half century.

On Inflation and Taxes
Ruml said federal taxes were no longer needed to fund the budget, which could be financed by issuing bonds. The principal purpose of taxes, he said, was the maintenance of a dollar which has stable purchasing power over the years. Sometimes this purpose is stated as ‘the avoidance of inflation.’”

The government could spend as needed to meet its budget, drawing on credit issued by its own central bank. It could do this until price inflation indicated a weakened purchasing power of the currency. Then, and only then, would the money supply need to be contracted with taxes.

“The dollars the government spends become purchasing power in the hands of the people who have received them,” Ruml said.  “The dollars the government takes by taxes cannot be spent by the people,” so the money supply can be contracted with taxes as needed.

When the economy is in a recession, however – as it is now — the government needs to spend in order to get purchasing power into the hands of the people. Businesses cannot hire more workers until they have more customers demanding their products, and the customers won’t come until they have money to spend. The money (“demand”) must come first. Adding money will not drive up prices until the economy is at full employment. Before that, increasing “demand” will drive up “supply” by setting the engines of production in motion. When supply and demand rise together, prices remain stable.

We now know that a government can go quite far into debt without a dangerous level of price inflation occurring – much farther than the U.S. has gone today. Besides World War II, when U.S. debt was 120% of GDP, there is the remarkable example of Japan. Japan has retained its status as the world’s third largest economy, although it has a debt to GDP ratio of 226% — and it is still fighting deflation.

Critics of the deflationary theory point to commodity prices, which are soaring today. But if those prices were due to the economy being awash with “too much money chasing too few goods,” real estate prices would be soaring too.  Instead, the real estate market has collapsed.  What has actually happened is that the housing bubble has transmuted into the commodity bubble, as “hot money” has fled from one to the other. The overall money supply is still in

The deficit hawks have been predicting for years that the federal debt would sink the dollar and the economy, and it hasn’t happened yet. In fact the federal debt has not been paid off since 1835, and no disaster has resulted. The debt has not only been carried on the government’s books but has continued to grow, and the economy has grown and flourished along with it.

This is not an economic anomaly. The economy has flourished because of the national debt. Nothing backs the currency today but “the full faith and credit of the United States.” Money is no longer a metal; it is an inflow and outflow, credits and debits. The liabilities of the government are the assets of the private economy. The national debt is what backs the money supply.

Dealing with the Rising Cost of Debt Service
There is a potential time bomb in a growing federal debt, but it is one that can be defused. The debt has risen from $10 trillion to $14 trillion just since the banking crisis of 2008, not from “entitlements” but due to the Wall Street collapse and bailout. Just the interest on this growing debt could cripple the tax base if interest rates were at normal levels, so they have had to be pushed almost to zero. The result has been to create a dollar carry trade. This has facilitated speculation in commodities, a major cause of today’s commodity bubbles.
There is, however, a solution to this problem, and it was discovered by Japan. The government can spend, not by issuing bonds at interest to the public, but simply by creating an overdraft at the central bank, as Beardsley Ruml recommended. The Bank of Japan now holds an amount of public debt equal to the country’s GDP! As noted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research:

Interest on [Japanese] debt held by the central bank is refunded back to the treasury, leaving no net cost to the government on this debt. . . . Japan continues to experience deflation, in spite of the fact that its central bank holds an amount of debt that is roughly equal to its GDP. This would be equivalent to the Fed holding $15 trillion in debt.

Like the Bank of Japan, the Federal Reserve now returns the interest it receives to the government. With a rising interest tab on the federal debt no longer a problem, private interest rates could be allowed to rise to normal levels.

Today the Fed is not permitted to buy bonds directly from the Treasury but must go through middleman bond dealers. But that problem too could be fixed. In a supporting statement in 1947, Federal Reserve Chairman Marriner Eccles discussed a bill to eliminate the unnecessary cost of these middlemen. He said the Federal Reserve had been allowed to purchase securities directly from the government from its inception in 1914 until the Banking Act of 1935. Then:

A provision was inserted in that act requiring all purchases of government securities by Federal Reserve banks to be made in the open market, which means purchased chiefly from dealers in Government bonds. Those who inserted this proviso were motivated by the mistaken theory that it would help to prevent deficit financing. . . .

Nothing constructive would be accomplished by the proviso that the Reserve System must purchase Government securities exclusively in the open market. About all such a ban means is that in making such purchases a commission has to be paid to Government bond dealers.

The interest cost and the bond dealers’ cut could both be eliminated by allowing the Treasury to borrow directly from its own central bank, interest free.

Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

We have been frightened into believing that government debt is a bad thing, but nearly all money today originates as debt. As Marriner Eccles observed in the 1930s, “That is what our money system is. If there were no debts in our money system, there wouldn’t be any money.”

The public debt is the people’s money, and today the people are coming up short. Shrinking the public debt means shrinking more than just the services the government is expected to provide. It means shrinking the money supply itself, along with the ability to provide the jobs, wages and purchasing power necessary for a thriving economy.

Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute.org. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how the power to create money has been usurped from the people, and how we can get it back. Her websites are http://webofdebt.com and http://ellenbrown.com.

Ellen Brown is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Global Research Articles by Ellen Brown

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May 312011
 

Before it is news

Amid health fears, Diet Coke sweetener in safety spotlight

An artificial sweetener used in Diet Coke is to undergo an urgent EU safety review.
Aspartame is ingested every day by millions of people around the world in more than 6,000 well-known brands of food, drink  and medicine.

However, it has been the subject of a number of studies that appear to show harmful effects on human health.

One recent study linked diet drinks containing aspartame to premature births, while another suggested it could cause cancer.

To date, health watchdogs, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), have ruled out any link to ill-health.

But after several MEPs asked for a new investigation following pressure from European health campaigners, EU Commission officials have now asked the EFSA to bring forward a review that had been planned for 2020.

The concern about artificial sweeteners such as aspartame relates to the fact that they contain methanol, a nerve toxin which can be metabolised in the body to form two more nerve toxins: formic acid and formaldehyde, the chemical used to preserve dead bodies.

Earlier this year, experts on Britain’s Committee on Toxicity(CoT) ruled that ‘long-term exposure to methanol consumed through food, including from aspartame, is unlikely to be harmful to health’.
The committee pointed out that methanol is also found in fruit and vegetables.
As a result of the experts’ conclusions, the FSA ruled the consumption of aspartame ‘is not of concern at the current levels of use’.

Despite this verdict, the FSA is currently recruiting volunteers for an investigation into anecdotal reports of ill health, including headaches and stomach upsets, associated with aspartame.
The watchdog announced the research project in 2009, however it has had difficulties recruiting volunteers who claim to suffer problems.

EFSA spokesman, Lucia De Luca, said: ‘Aspartame is one of hundreds of flavourings. It is on the market because it has been assessed in the past and considered safe.

‘We have received an official request for a complete re-evaluation of the safety of aspartame.
‘The re-evaluation is scheduled for 2020 but the Commission asked us to do this re-evaluation now in the light of recent events.

 A study last year of 60,000 mothers-to be found a correlation between the amount of diet drink consumed and an early birth

‘In the past year, there have been a couple of studies looking at aspartame and concerns expressed by consumer groups and others.’

In July last year, EU-funded research by Danish scientists, which looked at almost 60,000 mothers-to-be, found a correlation between the amount of diet drink consumed and an early birth.
Previously, the Independent Ramazzini Foundation in Italy has published research suggesting aspartame caused several types of cancer in rats at doses very close to the current acceptable daily intake for humans.

Both of these have been evaluated by EFSA experts, who have rejected any risk to human health.
Aspartame is manufactured by Ajinomoto Sweeteners Europe. The firm said it welcomes the decision to bring forward the safety evaluation.

A spokesman said: ‘EFSA reaffirmed the safety of aspartame in 2006, 2009 and 2010. In addition, recent allegations about the safety of aspartame made in France and by a handful of MEPs have already been dismissed by EFSA.

‘This review of the extensive body of science on aspartame will provide additional confirmation of the ingredient’s safety.

‘By providing an excellent sweet taste, aspartame makes a useful contribution to a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and can help people to avoid overweight and obesity, and their associated diseases.’

More from Barracuda
May 312011
 

Examiner
 Kenneth Schortgen Jr.

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) which are used to create new food seeds and crops, are being tied to use as a potential biological weapon in creating infertility in places around the world.

A report published on May 28th tied together that the international organization Codex, which is seeking to regulate every food, mineral, and herb in the world used for consumption, does not consider GMO created products as food, and thus they are being placed in a separate sphere of attributes that can be used for alternative functions.
Including birth control and creating infertility in a nation or population.

There has been a concerted national effort by citizens to have the US government label GMOs.  Opposing it are government intent not only to keep them unlabeled in the US but efforts at the international level by the US government to remove all labeling of GMOs through Codex.  The problem is that Codex applies to food, and GMOs don’t qualify.
The corn has been field tested in tests financed by the US Department of Agriculture along with a small California bio-tech company named Epicyte. Announcing his success at a 2001 press conference, the president of Epicyte, Mitch Hein, pointing to his GMO corn plants, announced, “We have a hothouse filled with corn plants that make anti-sperm antibodies.”

Hein claimed it was a possible solution to world “over-population. – Salem News

Besides the creation and use of GMO corn and other staples in places like South America, Mexico, and Africa, an interesting data point was discovered in the US shortly after GMO foods (BT-Corn) were approved in 1996.  Since that time, birth rates in the US have been falling, and accelerating in decline since 1999, just three years after the introduction of the GMO to the food supply.

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Genetically modified organisms (GMO) which are used to create new food seeds and crops, are being tied to use as a potential biological weapon in creating infertility in places around the world.
A report published on May 28th tied together that the international organization Codex, which is seeking to regulate every food, mineral, and herb in the world used for consumption, does not consider GMO created products as food, and thus they are being placed in a separate sphere of attributes that can be used for alternative functions.

Including birth control and creating infertility in a nation or population.

There has been a concerted national effort by citizens to have the US government label GMOs.  Opposing it are government intent not only to keep them unlabeled in the US but efforts at the international level by the US government to remove all labeling of GMOs through Codex.  The problem is that Codex applies to food, and GMOs don’t qualify.
The corn has been field tested in tests financed by the US Department of Agriculture along with a small California bio-tech company named Epicyte. Announcing his success at a 2001 press conference, the president of Epicyte, Mitch Hein, pointing to his GMO corn plants, announced, “We have a hothouse filled with corn plants that make anti-sperm antibodies.”

Hein claimed it was a possible solution to world “over-population. – Salem News

Besides the creation and use of GMO corn and other staples in places like South America, Mexico, and Africa, an interesting data point was discovered in the US shortly after GMO foods (BT-Corn) were approved in 1996.  Since that time, birth rates in the US have been falling, and accelerating in decline since 1999, just three years after the introduction of the GMO to the food supply.

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Since GMO food is not considered a natural commodity for consumption by the UN’s regulatory body (Codex), and scientists have purposefully introduced spermacidal modifications into corn for the purpose of controlling world populations, then unequivocally, one of the many purposes of GMO created foods is for the use as a biological weapon.

Many global foundations have been pushing for the expansion of GMO foods, especially corn, soybeans, and rice to help end hunger and poverty around the world, and primarily in third world countries.  The Gates Foundation, the Rockfeller Foundation, and former UN Chief Kofi Annan’s Agra organization are just three powerful entities supplying funds and promotions to expand GMO use in many countries.

There is also an ongoing battle between citizens and the FDA to demand labelling of GMO based food products, but to this point, the government agency has been able to keep the public in the dark on what is in their food.  Since GMO based products are not considered food under UN regulations, many questions still remain as to the reasons why the FDA allows them in consumable foods at all.

Creating a food source or seed meant to be eaten by man as a dietary staple which has been modified to bring sterility or outright birth control is in essence, creating and distributing a biological weapon for the sole purpose of lowering birth rates and populations in one or more locations.  Since GMO based products are not considered food according to the UN Codex, but are being allowed into the world’s diet as a consumable, creates many questions as to the real purpose of expanding GMO use into the food supply.

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May 312011
 

PressTV

Two French lawyers are to take legal action against French President Nicolas Sarkozy for crimes against humanity over NATO-led military operations in Libya.

Attorneys Jacques Verges and Roland Dumas have offered to represent Libyan families that have fallen victim to NATO strikes against Sarkozy, AFP reported.

“The two lawyers are going to file a complaint in the French courts in the name of the Libyan families,” a Libyan justice ministry official Ibrahim Boukhzam said.

Verges denounced a French state led by “hoodlums and killers,” adding that he and Dumas were “going to break the wall of silence.”

Dumas has further condemned his country’s actions against a “sovereign country” and said he would be willing to defend Gaddafi if he were to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

During a visit to Tripoli, Dumas and Verges accused NATO forces of killing civilians instead of protecting them.

French warplanes were the first to strike Muammar Gaddafi’s forces after a UN resolution calling for the protection of Libyan civilians and a no-fly zone was passed.

Sarkozy announced the launch of military actions in Libya, backed by Western and Arab allies, on March 19.

According to the Libyan government, hundreds of civilians have been killed by NATO strikes. NATO claims that it has targeted areas under the control of pro-Gaddafi force. 

May 312011
 

Downward Spiral

Perhaps I am atypical, but I’ve always been hypersensitive to what’s going on around me in the real world. Among my earliest childhood memories are the gas lines that followed the 1973 Arab oil embargo; the event which probably planted the seed that sprouted into awareness of peak oil during my fifth decade on this planet. Despite being just a kid at the time, I was keenly aware that my family’s cars needed that gasoline that was being rationed, and we furthermore needed those cars to do just about everything that was important–from my dad getting to work in the morning, to me getting to school, to my mom going grocery shopping every weekend.

My heightened awareness is likely also the reason why I still have vivid memories of a headline that appeared in our local small town newspaper one day several years after those gas lines had abated. The headline read in stark simplicity: “60 to 90 Years’ Supply of Oil Left,” and it really grabbed this thirteen-year-old’s attention. Being a thoughtful youth, I did a quick mental calculation and realized that if the headline was accurate it meant if I was lucky there was a chance I would not live to see the end of the oil age.

Flash forward to middle age, and while researching this article I unearthed a reference to what it was that generated that headline from so many years ago. According to a Time magazine story published in October 1978, the source of that “60 to 90 year” figure was an official report produced for the Central Intelligence Agency by Richard Nehring, a policy analyst for the Rand Corporation. The Time article, entitled “Oil: What’s Left Out There?” centered on two basic questions: “How much oil does the world have left?” and “When will it run out?”

These were hotly debated topics at the time. The article points out that President Jimmy Carter, in his drive to get an energy program through Congress, had been relying on a previous CIA analysis estimating that world oil supplies would be depleted by the end of the 1980s. Nehring’s report, therefore, represented a considerable change from the agency’s previous thinking on the issue and also had important political ramifications.

What strikes me looking back in hindsight is just how accurate Nehring’s prediction has turned out to be. It is now nearly 33 years later, and the general consensus among Peak Oil analysts today is that the world has something on the order of 35-40 years of remaining oil supplies at current consumption rates (putting aside the fact that production rates will no doubt fall well before then). Add those two figures together and the headline that grabbed my attention when I was a kid will hit almost the exact middle of its 60-90 year target range.

Even more telling is what the Nehring paper had to say about how his prediction would be affected by increasing oil demand: “If demand does increase and supplies are being used up more quickly, Rand experts believe that energy requirements could still be met through conservation measures and the use of special techniques to squeeze more oil out of existing reserves.” Done and done. Conservation through greater efficiency in the early 1980s caused oil consumption to actually fall for awhile and special techniques are now used to extract more oil from older fields.

Nehring’s credibility is further enhanced by a caution added to his relatively optimistic analysis: “the world’s reserves can really be significantly increased only by additional recovery from known fields and by further discoveries of ‘supergiant’ fields containing at least five billion barrels of oil.” As we now know, the former has become standard practice while the latter has not occurred at all. In fact, the Rand report noted at the time that new discoveries of supergiant fields had already almost completely tapered off.

The Time article goes on to list the reasons why the oil crisis seemed somewhat less dire a half-decade after the appearance of those first gas lines. Among the factors cited was the development of already discovered supergiant oil fields in the North Sea, Alaska and Mexico, which we now know were largely responsible for oil prices returning to their pre-oil shock, inflation-adjusted norms during the 1980s and 1990s.

So what do we learn from this little detour through the recent past? First and foremost, the evidence is right there in black-and-white that America’s political leadership has for the past third of a century had available at its disposal a highly accurate prediction from its own intelligence analysts as to how long conventional oil supplies were likely going to last. The fact that the more dire previous predictions regarding oil production relied upon by Carter were just then being overtaken by positive developments in the oil industry did not lessen the obvious need for long term planning to prepare the nation for the inevitable day when the oil would run out for good.

History records what happened next. Despite being the last president to take oil depletion seriously as a political issue, Carter hedged his bets and issued the Carter Doctrine, making it American policy to guarantee uninterrupted oil shipments from the Middle East, by force if necessary. Among his opponents during his 1980 reelection bid was Republican Congressman John Anderson–running as an independent—whose platform called for even more drastic conservation measures like a 50 cent a gallon gasoline tax (equivalent to about $1.50 a gallon today). Both men were of course defeated by Ronald Reagan, the first candidate to run on the notion of unfettered American exceptionalism, including the ludicrous idea that even geologic reality could be overcome by enough positive thinking.

For over three decades Americans have been living in a dream world created by politicians of both parties and reinforced by our mainstream media. Despite some indications that cracks are beginning to appear in the façade, most people have yet to awaken to peak oil reality. The guy driving the Hummer with the “Drill, Baby, Drill” bumper sticker plastered on the back is just as firmly in denial as he ever was. If you don’t believe me, read the comments section below any mainstream press Internet article about high gasoline prices and you’ll see more than you’ll likely ever care to see of the infantile mindset that still predominates among large numbers of our fellow citizens when it comes to energy issues.

As yet another quadrennial political spectacle begins to unfold before us, we must lament the fact that no serious candidate vying to take the presidential oath of office on January 20, 2013, has publicly acknowledged the stark realities of peak oil and resource depletion. Those of us in the peak oil movement are now also aware, of course, that oil production is going to drop off steeply long before we reach Nehring’s projected date range for supplies to run out. What was once an inconvenient truth stubbornly denied by Reagan in the name of short-term political advantage is now emerging as the most serious crisis this nation has faced since its founding. That this is so should not come as a surprise to anyone. After all, we were given a very clear warning about what’s coming all the way back in 1978.

May 312011
 

Ugly Truth

Reuters

An Arab League committee decided on Saturday to seek full UN membership for a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital, it said in a statement.

The Arab League’s peace process follow-up committee said it would request membership for the state of Palestine at the UN General Assembly’s meeting in New York in September.

Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani speaks as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) listens on during the opening of the Arab League Monitoring Committee in Doha on May 28, 2011.

“The committee decided to go to the United Nations to request full membership for Palestine on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” it said in a statement.

Earlier on Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said there were “no shared foundations” for peace talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and seeking UN recognition of Palestinian statehood was his only option.

Abbas expressed concern that taking the diplomatic step opposed by the United States and Israel could result in financial sanctions and urged Arab states to fill any gap.

While he left room for a compromise, saying a resumption of peace talks on terms acceptable to the Palestinians would avoid the UN move, the remarks were some of Abbas’s bleakest yet on the likelihood of more negotiations.

Palestinian leaders have said Netanyahu’s ideas for peace with the Palestinians, outlined in a speech to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, put more obstacles in the path of an already moribund peace process.

“We see from the conditions that Netanyahu laid out that there are no shared foundations … for negotiations. Our fundamental option is to go to the United Nations,” Abbas said in his opening remarks.

“This is no secret, we have said it to the Americans and the Europeans and the Israelis, our only option is to go to the United Nations,” he said.

May 302011
 

…And an illustration of the state of Tucson journalism:

William Heuisler
Examiner

On May 5th a Pima County Sheriff’s special weapons team malfunctioned asymmetrically:
SWAT arrived, broke into a private home, and shot a homeowner in less than a minute, but medical attention for that same homeowner was delayed for more than an hour. Why the haste…and the delay?

Police serve and protect. Most law enforcement officers serve the public unselfishly and with a day-to-day heroism matched only in our Armed Services. The May 5th unbalanced actions and reactions of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department were not due to the individual officers.
Police militarization killed Marine veteran, Jose Guerena.

Misuse of military-style special weapons teams to serve search warrants on residences of veterans and gun owners has become common. Traditionally, detectives served daylight residential search warrants quietly, politely and with as little disruption as possible. Although militarized raids are supposedly safer for officers, the new tactics endanger the people police should be protecting. On May 5th many police bullets were found to have passed through neighbors’ homes.

 During the May 5th assault, unnecessary speed prevented communication with civilians. Videos and reports show no communication at all between Deputies and Jose Guerena in the 45 seconds before shooting began. Why not?

 Case #110503248  (Search warrant – 7100 block of south Redwater Street in Tucson). Supervisor – Sergeant Krygier’s 11-page statement can be viewed as a PDF in 5/27 Arizona Daily Star.

Sergeant Krygier excerpts:
Page 3, line 27

 “As I got out of the Bearcat, uh, Almaraz, I think, left the siren going too long, ‘cause we don’t wanna keep it going, because obviously then we can’t hear.
Page 11, line 17

“…the siren had gone on for too long.” (Echavarri, 2011)

A 45 second video (Echavarri, 2011) shows the siren drowning out police commands until six seconds before the door was breached. Shooting began almost immediately. Assaulting a private home like an enemy fortress is senseless. Needless haste and sirens are counterproductive. Those decisions – and delaying medical aid – are policy and training.

After the Jan. 8th Jared Loughner murders, Sheriff Dupnik was full of angry accusations. Now his policies have caused the death of a citizen during service of a search warrant. Could the Sheriff explain why a siren was used? Or why deputies were so quick to shoot and so slow to allow medics (already on the scene) to render aid to a Marine veteran?

Sheriff Dupnik is ultimately responsible. For three weeks he has been uncharacteristically silent.

 Echavarri, F. (2011). Arizona Daily Star. Complex drug probe triggered SWAT raid. Related documents (PDF: statements of officers involved in SWAT raid). http://azstarnet.com/news/local/crime/article_ffd3cd6b-6564-59a9-8b43-a1635ae66bd4.html