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"The combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion). Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself."
- Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine - The book review taken from the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, clearly reveals just how corrupt the pharmaceutical and health care industries have become.
"I would like to comment on the article pertaining to the Amish children and autism. I have worked within the Amish community for over four years and I am in direct contact with many of the health issues in the community. I have worked on quite a number of autistic children within a single settlement and none have had vaccines that I am aware of. I'm not for vaccinations, but I don't think that the vaccination issue is the main culprit in autism. I personally believe that genetic factors, some of which may be triggered by vaccines, are a more likely cause. Today our genetic material is compromised in every society due to the very aspect of the environmental demise we all share in. It is a personal and non-scientific opinion that I pose, but I would not like to think that we are blindsided by a bias against anything if it would keep us from looking at the whole picture for answers to a problem."
- Suzanne Sjogren (email@example.com)
"The tragic irony of this moment is that the rich countries are so rich and the poor so poor that a few added tenths of one percent of GNP from the rich ones ramped up over the coming decades could do what was never before possible in human history: ensure that the basic needs of health and education are met for all impoverished children in this world. How many more tragedies will we suffer in this country before we wake up to our capacity to help make the world a safer and more prosperous place not only through military might, but through the gift of life itself?"
Kucinich abandons White House bid (January 24, 2008) http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Video_Kucinich_quits_presidential_race_0124.html
Dennis Kucinich has decided to drop out of the presidential race after disappointing single-digit showings in early primaries and caucuses. The Democratic congressman told his hometown newspaper the Cleveland Plain Dealer about his plans Thursday and said he plans a formal news conference Friday. The former Cleveland mayor says he wants to remain in the House, where he has called for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney and plans to introduce articles of impeachment against President Bush prior to Monday's state of the union address. "I'm transitioning out of the presidential campaign," Kucinich said in a short video posted to the newspaper's Web site. Kucinich said he has a lengthy announcement planned for his news conference, which is scheduled for noon Friday in Cleveland. This video is from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, broadcast January 24, 2008.
What's Your State of the Union? (January 24, 2008) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-scher/whats-your-state-of-the-_b_83032.html
President Bush delivers his seventh -- and mercifully, last -- State of the Union address on Monday. If it's going to be anything like the previous six, it will be loaded with misleading rhetoric that's completely detached from reality. For example, as I noted here before last year's State of the Union, Bush has repeatedly pledged to bring about energy independence and affordable health care for all. In reality, he has led a band of conservative obstructionists, well-financed by corporate interests, to block progress towards those goals.Why wait until he has the national megaphone all to himself to blast another round of distortions? Let's tell the real story of the State of the Union, now.At Campaign for America's Future, we've launched an effort to deliver the "pre-buttal" to Bush's State of the Union. We've taken the first step and released this video below, comparing last year's address with what's really happening to the foundations of our country. But that's just us. What's your story? How has the state of our union, under seven years of conservative misleadership, impacted you, your family and your community? At the new Campaign for America's Future website, you can share your story.
OUR ONLY VOICE FOR PEACE AND SANITY IN THE US CONGRESS IS UNDER ATTACK AND NEEDS OUR HELP!
From: Dennis Kucinich (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: 23 Jan 2008
Subject: Corporations Target Kucinich at Home, an Urgent Personal Appeal
I want to thank you for your support of our efforts to end the war, to create a not-for-profit healthcare system and take America in a new direction, so that we can have a government we can truly call our own. In connection with that, as you know, I'm running for re-election to the United States Congress and I need your help to make sure that I stay in Congress.
Right now I'm under attack by corporate interests, most of them from the city of Cleveland, who have an agenda that has nothing to do with the people of my community, nor with most people in this country. And so what I'm asking you to do is to help me stay in Congress, so that I can continue to represent the people of my community, the state of Ohio and the United States of America.
I need you to contribute at least $100 to make sure that I can continue my work in the United States Congress. And if you can, to help me raise, with the help of your friends and relatives $1000. (If you contributed to the presidential campaign, you are permitted to contribute to this congressional campaign as it is a separate campaign. Even if you contributed $2300 to the presidential election you can still contribute up to $2300 to this campaign.)
If you can help us with this fundraising effort, I'll be assured of a victory in the primary election which is only six weeks away. Already television commercials are flooding the Cleveland airwaves with a message that is designed to try to knock me out of office. I've served with honor and dignity in the United States House of Representatives. I've led the effort against the war. I stand for peace, for fair trade and for a not-for-profit healthcare system. And now I need you to make sure that I can continue this work.
I cannot stress strongly enough, the importance of you responding immediately. We need to go on TV immediately to answer the kind of attacks that are occurring.
I want to thank you for the great support you've shown me over the years. But I can tell you that now more than ever your support is going to be essential so that I can continue our work in the United States Congress.
So please give at least $100 dollars if you're able to, and help me raise at least $1000, if you're able to. You can enable me to continue to stand up and speak out for the people of Cleveland whose concerns are so similar to the concerns of people all over this country.
My voice is your voice in the United States Congress. I appreciate the opportunity to be someone you can rely on in Congress. I stand up for the people 365 days-a-year, now I need you to take a stand for everything that we believe in.
PS - Remember: If you contributed to the presidential campaign, you are permitted to contribute to this congressional campaign as it is a separate campaign. Even if you contributed $2300 to the presidential election you can still contribute up to $2300 to this campaign.
MUCH MORE below on Dennis Kuninich's brave efforts to help democracy prevail over kleptocracy.
Democratic Presidential Candidate Details 'Significant Percentage Variances,' from 4 to 10%, Discovered So Far During Hand Counts as Paid for by His Campaign http://www.bradblog.com/?p=5598#more-5598
Citing "significant percentage variances in four voting districts in Hillsborough County," Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is requesting that New Hampshire's Secretary of State, William Gardner, "order a complete and accurate recount of all ballots in the New Hamsphire Democratic Presidential Primary election," according to a letter sent this morning, as obtained by The BRAD BLOG.The letter (posted in full at end of this article) details a number of the discrepancies revealed by the recent post-election hand count in Concord, as paid for by the Democratic Presidential candidate's campaign.The count was suspended this morning, when "funds ran out," according to the NH SoS website, making way for a Republican hand count challenge by candidate Albert Howard to begin tomorrow, as The BRAD BLOG reported earlier today."The magnitude of the variances in the four voting locations raise questions about the integrity of the internal vote accounting procedures in use in Hillsborough County," wrote Kucinich. CLIP "Shit, if the world seen this mess here it would shock them as bad as Katrina did. Not a Democracy that's for sure." Taken from a comment posted at the URL above...
On the ground in NH: Recount Update Bev Harris On Bizarre Behavior in New Hampshire Recount (Jan 18, 08) http://tinyurl.com/yqnb8e
(...) I asked Secretary of State Bill Gardner why there was a change in procedure. He did not answer. I asked him again. After about three tries, he just said "it's secure."(...) Paddy Shaffer and I arrived at the archive building on Tuesday afternoon prepared to videotape incoming ballots as they came in that afternoon and throughout the night. We were told the (in my opinion) contrived story that no videotaping would be permitted because mental patients from a hospital about a block away might wander into the parking lot/loading area. We made a point of pressuring Bill Gardner to have this ban lifted. They had clearly been planning for ballots to begin arriving Tuesday. I asked Frank Mevers, head of the archive building, if he could walk us through the observation area where the ballot intake process would take place. At that point he went into the back, had a long phone call, and came out saying they wouldn't be delivering the ballots that night.
Campaign Weekly Update 1-21-08 "Full Court Press" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNXP1djL27A
Battling big media to be heard in the debates. Breaking the silence on Democracy Now! Fighting for ballot access in Texas with a little help from music legend Willie Nelson. All that and an interview with Academy Award-nominee James Cromwell in this week's Kucinich Campaign Update -- your first source for news and information about Dennis Kucinich's race to the White House!
Conspiracy Theorist Why would anybody cheat in an election? (January 24, 2008) http://commonwonders.com/archives/col431.htm
We should at least get votes back on paper and get people counting them by hand.As innocuous as these words may sound, they make me feel like Im on I-35 in Minneapolis, headed toward the Mississippi bridge. Ankle-deep in a presidential election year, I find myself without faith in the infrastructure of American civilization.This is not what Id like to be writing about. Our nations soul is bleeding, its future up for grabs. The candidates jockey for a mandate our mandate and theyll define it as narrowly as possible unless we define it for them. How thoroughly and courageously do we repudiate the Cheney-Bush legacy? How resolutely do we move toward peace and global oneness? Thats what 2008 is all about, right? Why, then, must I divert my attention from matters such as this and ponder . . . memory cards and molded plastic deflectors? Ah, democracy! We cant simply leave it to the voting machine vendors any more than we can leave it to the politicians. The O-rings and gusset plates of democracy are poised to fail in every election; every vote does not count. The media and most government officials are still in denial about this, still dazzled by glitzy, electronic voting technology or maybe just trapped in their billion-dollar commitment to it. Besides, when has technology ever gone backwards?But the call for paper ballots and hand counting however jarring and quaint it may sound in the 21st century comes most urgently not from Luddites or flat-Earthers but the technophiles and self-proclaimed geeks who understand computers most intimately, and know their vulnerabilities. CLIP "A movement of ordinary citizens to save our democratic birthright is growing."
AMERICANS OF COLOR AND THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE: Black Agenda Report, MAPA, and Bill Cosby Weigh In http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_meryl_an_080121_americans_of_color_a.htm
Martin Luther King Day offers an especially appropriate moment to look at which presidential candidate is favored by Americans of color. Put the candidates to the Martin Luther King Test. What would Dr. King do, if he were alive? Which candidate measures up? (...) What would Dr. King do, if he were alive?Ford says Obama and Hillary have already failed the test, miserably, and that the only candidate who would pass the Martin Luther King Test is Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, whose platform for peace, truly universal health care, a living wage, and an end to corporate domination of American life harkens back to that "shining moment" in the Sixties that King mentioned, when there were "hopes" and "new beginnings." CLIP - NOTE: SEE the urgent appeal for help from Kucinich below!!
The Danse Macabre of US-Style Democracy By John Pilger http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19153.htm
What struck me, living and working in the United States, was that presidential campaigns were a parody, entertaining and often grotesque. They are a ritual danse macabre of flags, balloons and bullsh*t, designed to camouflage a venal system based on money power, human division and a culture of permanent war. (...) Nothing has changed. Barack Obama is a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. John McCain’s one distinction is that he has personally bombed a country. They all believe the US is not subject to the rules of human behavior, because it is "a city upon a hill," regardless that most of humanity sees it as a monumental bully which, since 1945, has overthrown 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed 30 nations, destroying millions of lives.
WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION
10 Billion Acres - Reforesting Planet Earth for the sake of Human Survival http://10ba.org/?gclid=CJO-4P_PhZECFQFZQgodHS1EGQ
Respect the Need for Air: try holding your breath. Here's the real cause of Climate Change: Humanity has cut down nearly 10 Billion Acres of Trees since 1492. That's over 54% of all trees. We've cleared plant life in corresponding amounts. It's Trees, Plants and Algae which convert Carbon Dioxide (CO2) to Oxygen (O2): that's the stuff we breathe. If we don't have sufficient numbers and a proper balance of Trees, Plants and Algae, eventually we won't be able to breathe: the atmosphere around us will cease being able to support human existence. We've already caused the atmosphere to lengthen the 500 years to completely replace all oxygen fourfold, to 2000 years, just since 1492. This degradation of the ability to replenish oxygen, and a change in the balance of Trees and Plants to Algae, has reduced the atmosphere's ability to eliminate heat, as well as reduced its capacity to process CO2. We're all in deep trouble. Unless we replace the Trees and Plants we cleared, and restore the balance of Trees to Algae, we face extinction. (...) The steady decline in the Earth's atmospheric O2 content is now officially a threat to Human Survival in the not too distant future. It will hit home far, far sooner than mere global warming, over population or pollution of the environment, however it will steadily worsen the climate changes. The lack of Trees (and plants) to "scrub" CO2 from the Atmosphere is also creating a "greenhouse gas canopy" (G2C) in the upper atmosphere, causing heat to be retained by the atmosphere, leading to climate change in a variety of ways. In various ways, this "CO2 Greenhouse Gas Canopy" being caused by Forest depletion worsens climate conditions. CLIP -Recommended by Arthur Bond (email@example.com) who wrote: "Yes there is climate change and yes we need to clean up our act. As I have already mentioned before the economic system is one of the prime culprits, as the website below explains for example, cutting down billions of trees does affect the global climate. Pollution also indirectly has serious consequences. But little is mentioned by the media, or the politicians regarding the destructive power of the greedy economic system. I don't accept that CO2 alone is the prime cause. There are several factors, some of which I have alluded to." NOTE from Jean: I'm also concerned about the quickening depletion of oxygen in our atmosphere because of the zillion of tons we destroy with all the fossil fuels and forests we continuously burn and which consume gigantic amount of oxygen not replenished fast enough by our dwindling planetary life-support system, a threat mostly ignored so far by the scientific community (try to find any kind of solid data on this, although the website above recommended by Arthur is a step in the right direction although it does not look deeply enough IMHO into the plankton's oxygen replenishing potential in factoring our global needs for Earth regenerative cures) I also completely concur with Arthur that greed in all its forms is a fundamental driving force for the wholesale destruction of Life on Earth. Incidentally, Shifting the World Consciousness from Greed to Compassion will be the central theme of our next Meditation Focus (to be issued next Saturday evening)
WHY IS UNSUSTAINABLE PALM OIL EXPANSION A MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM? http://www.films4.org/palmoil/
Vast swathes of tropical rainforest are being cleared to grow palm oil, especially in Kalimantan, where it is estimated that an area the size of three football pitches is cleared every minute. This deforestation is avoidable millions of hectares of degraded land stand empty or unused in |ndonesia but the potential profits from selling the timber reduces the costs of setting up a plantation by around 40%. (...) World-leading orangutan experts have now identified the clearance of rainforest for palm oil expansion as the single greatest threat to the survival of the orangutan in the wild. Current estimates are that each year 5,000 orangutans are dying in Borneo, and 1,000 a year in Sumatra that means 15 orangutans are dying every single day. This is catastrophic for the orangutan, but also reflects the loss of a wider rich and unique biodiversity within the Indonesian rainforest. For example, Sumatran lowland forest is 2.5 times richer in terms of biodiversity of species than the very best Amazonian rainforest, and 1.8 times richer than the best Central African rainforest. This means that unsustainable palm oil production is destroying the most species-rich rainforests in the world. Orangutans, Asian elephants, sun bears, clouded leopards, Sumatran tigers, hornbills these are just some of the better-known species losing their habitat and their lives due to unsustainable palm oil expansion. (...) On a global scale, Indonesian deforestation for palm oil is also inextricable from climate change. There are widespread environmental and economical threats, not to mention human health risks, posed by the ever-growing problem of smog and smoke stretching as far as Kuala Lumpur caused by huge forest fires during the dry season each year. Furthermore, the topside clearance of peat-swamp forests is one of the most worrying environmental threats of our time. The subsequent release of CO2 and methane from peat reserves in Kalimantan and Sumatra (which in some places reach 60 metres in depth) is already impacting upon greenhouse gas levels and global climate change. The devastating forest fires of 1998 made up 30% of global CO2 emissions that year. This was the greatest single anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases on record. The palm oil crisis is evidently a matter of critical importance, not only for Asian conservation, but globally. Perversely, the proposed development of palm oil for biofuel initially provoked by the desire for a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels will amplify the current problem unimaginably. MUCH MORE ON THIS CRITICAL ISSUE INCLUDING SEVERAL VIDEOS THROUGH http://www.films4.org/palmoil/
Grandmother Drum Global Heart (6 min) MOVING VIDEO IF YOU WATCH IT ALL WITH AN OPEN HEART http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=h7n6LQfNAhQ
For thirteen years White Eagle Medicine Woman (Suraj Holzwarth) was visited in dreams by indigenous grandmothers giving her spiritual guidance to build a giant healing drum. With the help of the Alaskan multicultural community, the large seven foot crystal inlaid GrandMother Drum was built in 2000 for just that, to sound a Big Bang of Love and create a new age of peace and illumination among humanity. More on this amazing drum through http://www.whirlingrainbow.com/
Military claims credit for Texas UFO sightings, witnesses don't buy it (23 January 2008) http://axcessnews.com/index.php/articles/show/id/13802
"I saw the UFO hovering about half a mile above ground around 10 pm," an eyewitness said. "I heard the jets from a distance, looked like they were coming from the Ft. Worth area. When I looked at the jets and looked back to the hovering UFO, its lights blinked 4 times, went black and quickly shot off to the south towards Hico." This reported UFO sighting was not on the night of January 8th - but the following Wednesday - January 16th. The woman described the UFO as being a mile long, bell shaped with bright blinking lights. Does that sound like an F-16 military jet to you? CLIP
NBC 11 Interview, Prop C-Alcatraz Conversion Project (January 23, 2008 - 2 min 23 sec) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjIj9We0NA8
Note from Jean: Long-time ERN subscriber Da Vid (Light8899@aol.com) managed - after decades of unrelenting campaigning - to put on the ballot (as proposition C) his wonderful visionary proposal of converting the derelict Alcatraz prison into a Global Peace Center. Much more on this GREAT initiative through http://www.globalpeacefoundation.org/ "Majestic in its Simplicity, Revolutionary as a Political Metaphor, The Global Peace Center Proclaims Global Renaissance! A New Epoch! A Time of Enduring Peace for All Humanity..." The time is now for this vision to come true ...
Be The Change (Jan 31, 2008) http://www.positivenews.org.uk/artman/publish/article_1467.shtml
Trenna Cormack writes about the inspiration behind her book that grew out of the Be The Change Conference. I went to the Be The Change conference in London for the first time in May 2005. It was a revelation. Never before had I heard so much cutting-edge information from leaders, pioneers and mavericks who were bringing transformation in their areas of work. Speakers ranged from the world-renowned to the unknown. As well as addressing the pressing issues facing our world, we were presented with solutions. Equally heartening was the experience of being amongst an audience of hundreds of people who truly cared, and who were all in their way working for positive change. The sense of kinship was tangible, and together we felt nourished, inspired and empowered. With gathering excitement, I thought to myself, This is brilliant! There should be a book about this! Then one of the facilitators said to us, This isnt just about sages on stages. What are you going to do to be the change? Whats yours to do? Thats when I gulped and realised that the book was mine to do. It would be a way of bringing these messages and this kind of experience to a wider audience, as well as providing ongoing sustenance and inspiration to the existing community. CLIP - MANY MORE such positives news through http://www.positivenews.org.uk
Make Women's Rights a Priority! -- WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO IGNORE THE RIGHTS OF HALF OF HUMANITY! http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/463212784?z00m=13008381
Throughout history, countless women have planned, organized, lectured, wrote, marched, petitioned, lobbied and broke new ground in every field imaginable. The lives of women have been changed forever but theres still so much more to do for womens rights around the globe. The 88 days between Dec. 10 and March 8 - International Human Rights Day and International Women's Day is a time to make women's rights a special priority. We're already halfway there. Now is the time to Act! You can contribute to a better world for women and girls! Pledge to do your part during these 88 days and convert your personal power into action and awareness.Your pledge can be as simple as sharing your opinion on women's rights, or reading an article - or it can be as large as hosting a dinner party in honor of womens' rights, taking part in an event or making a speech. Make your pledge to make womens rights a special priority today!
Protect Ocean Life During International Year of the Reef http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/917230698?z00m=12499042
Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet - home and nursery for almost a million fish and other species. Unfortunately, about 70 percent of the worlds coral reefs are threatened or destroyed, and 20 percent of those are damaged beyond repair. The resources coral reefs provide are worth about $375 billion each year and they cover only one percent of the earths surface. 2008 has been designated as the International Year of the Reef to raise awareness about the increasing threats to coral reefs. Whether you live near the ocean or thousands of miles away, you can help restore this amazing habitat. Pledge to: Use ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions threatening coral reef survival. Use naturally-derived and biodegradable detergents and cleaning products. The chemicals we use end up in our waterways and are carried to the oceans. Do not give coral as presents. Corals are already a gift, and it takes corals decades or longer to create reef structures.
Researchers looking at coral threats (Jan 24, 2008) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080124/ap_on_sc/coral_year;_ylt=AsfTo0TLgsa7zRWXQ64zSqis0NUE
WASHINGTON - Even coral reefs thought to be pristine are facing challenges, researchers said Thursday launching the International Year of the Reef. The year of the reef is a "campaign to highlight the importance of coral reef ecosystems and to motivate people to protect them," Conrad Lautenbacher, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said at a briefing. Climate warming has become an increasing threat to reefs, added Clive Wilkinson, coordinator of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Corals have an upper limit of temperatures they can tolerate, he said. And added carbon dioxide in the ocean water is creating what Wilkinson called the "soda water" effect, increasing the acidity of the water and making it harder for corals to form their shells. CLIP
Awaiting Wall Street's Open, Asia Markets Plunge http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/012208M.shtml
Keith Bradsher reports for The New York Times, "Stock markets across Asia plunged even farther and faster on Tuesday than on Monday - while stock markets in Europe also opened with further losses on Tuesday - as anxious sellers dumped huge numbers of shares on worries that an economic slowdown in the United States could drag down growth around the world."
"Classic Bear Signal" (January 23, 2008) http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2008/01/classic-bear-si.html
In many ways, this is what a classic bear market looks like: After a long period of exuberance, a downturn hits one part of the economy -- in this case, the housing market and mortgage-backed securities. Eventually, that leads to broader losses, even for strong companies, and markets begin a prolonged grind downward. . .The current market looks a lot like the beginning of past bear markets, such as the ones that began in 2000 and in the 1970s and 1987, said Paul Desmond, president of market-research firm Lowry's Reports in North Palm Beach, Fla. First, the most troubled stocks decline -- home builders and financial stocks in the current case -- and then others gradually get hit, including small stocks, retailers, technology stocks, and foreign stocks. Finally even stocks of strong companies are affected. What happens, Mr. Desmond says, is that trading volume and price movement get heavier and heavier for stocks that are declining, and lighter and lighter on the buying side, as more investors look for a way out. When the selling reaches a climax, the bear market is nearing an end, but Mr. Desmond says he doesn't see any sign of a climax yet. "We feel we have been in a bear market since July. Everything that we have seen since then has just been a progression, almost like a disease that you are monitoring and the disease is spreading," he says. "We are still a long way from a major bottom." He is watching for a sign of panic selling, but says it hasn't gotten to that point yet. "Everything we are seeing looks like a typical bear market," he says."
The Financial Tsunami - Part I - Sub-Prime Mortgage Debt is but the Tip of the Iceberg (11-23-7) http://www.rense.com/general80/tsu1.htm
Even experienced banker friends tell me that they think the worst of the US banking troubles are over and that things are slowly getting back to normal. What is lacking in their rosy optimism is the realization of the scale of the ongoing deterioration in credit markets globally, centered in the American asset-backed securities market, and especially in the market for CDO's-Collateralized Debt Obligations and CMO's-Collateralized Mortgage Obligations. By now every serious reader has heard the term "It's a crisis in Sub-Prime US home mortgage debt." What almost no one I know understands is that the Sub-Prime problem is but the tip of a colossal iceberg that is in a slow meltdown. I offer one recent example to illustrate my point that the "Financial Tsunami" is only beginning. (...) The Ohio ruling that dismissed DB's claim to foreclose and take back the 14 homes for non-payment, is far more than bad luck for the bank of Josef Ackermann. It is an earth-shaking precedent for all banks holding what they had thought were collateral in form of real estate property. How this? Because of the complex structure of asset-backed securities and the widely dispersed ownership of mortgage securities (not actual mortgages but the securities based on same) no one is yet able to identify who precisely holds the physical mortgage document. Oops! A tiny legal detail our Wall Street Rocket Scientist derivatives experts ignored when they were bundling and issuing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of CMO's in the past six or seven years. As of January 2007 some $6.5 trillion of securitized mortgage debt was outstanding in the United States. That's a lot by any measure! (...) The most Sub-prime mortgages written with Adjustable Rate Mortgage contracts were written between 2005-2006, the last and most furious phase of the US bubble. Now a whole new wave of mortgage defaults is about to explode onto the scene beginning January 2008. Between December 2007 and July 1, 2008 more than $690 Billion in mortgages will face an interest rate jump according to the contract terms of the ARMs written two years before. That means market interest rates for those mortgages will explode monthly payments just as recession drives incomes down. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners will be forced to do the last resort of any homeowner: stop monthly mortgage payments. Here is where the Ohio court decision guarantees that the next phase of the US mortgage crisis will assume Tsunami dimension. If the Ohio Deutsche Bank precedent holds in the appeal to the Supreme Court, millions of homes will be in default but the banks prevented from seizing them as collateral assets to resell. CLIP
The Financial Tsunami - Part II - The Financial Foundations Of The American Century (1-16-8) http://www.rense.com/general80/tsu2.htm
(...) In those days, in stark contrast to the present, the dollar was "as good as gold." The US currency was effectively the world currency, the standard to which every other currency was pegged. As the world's key currency, most international transactions were denominated in dollars. Maintaining the role of the US dollar as world reserve currency has been the foremost pillar of the American Century since 1945, related to but more strategic even than US military superiority. How that dollar primacy has been maintained to now encompassed the history of countless postwar wars, financial warfare, debt crises, and threats of nuclear war to the present. (...) America's Second Revolution: the eyes on the Prize - Federal Reserve monetary policy has been typically misrepresented as a series of ad hoc pragmatic responses to recurring crises in post-war banking and finance. The reality is that it has faithfully followed a coherent hidden thread of policy that was first laid out in 1973 by the spokesman then for America's most powerful establishment family. The policy was outlined in a little-noted book titled, ominously enough, "The Second American Revolution." It was written by John D. Rockefeller III, scion of the powerful Standard Oil and Chase Manhattan Bank empire, and, along with his three brothers-David, Nelson and Laurance-architect of the world arrangement after 1945 known as the American Century. In his book, Rockefeller declared the establishment's determination to roll back concessions grudgingly granted by the wealthy and powerful during the Great Depression. Rockefeller issued the call in 1973, long before Jimmy Carter or Margaret Thatcher came to office to implement it. He called for a "deliberate, consistent, long-term policy to decentralize and privatize many government functionsto diffuse power throughout the society." The latter was a witting deception as his intent was not to diffuse power, but just the opposite-to concentrate that economic and banking power into the hands of a tight-knit elite. Privatization of essential and socially useful government functions that had been established often with great social agitation and political pressure during the difficult crises of the 1930's, was the Rockefeller agenda. In brief, it was the removal of Depression era government regulations on all aspects of economic and social life in America. Hard as it may be to believe, all major US policy from the 1970's through the misnamed sub-prime crisis today, had a connecting continuous thread. Key Fed and Treasury and other US policymakers always held their "eyes on the Prize." The "Prize" was untold financial gains to be won through a rollback of major concessions to the working blue collar and middle income Americans, concessions granted during the Great Depression by powerful establishment circles led by the Rockefeller and Morgan banking groups, to forestall a more radical revolt. CLIP US Economic history course 101! Very revealing! Recommended by Larry Stell" (firstname.lastname@example.org) Check also the far-reaching proposal Draft Economic Recovery Program To Stop The Bush Depression below
How to Pull Out of a Recession http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/012208N.shtml
Matthew Rothschild writes for The Nation: "Even Bush has finally figured out that the economy is facing 'some challenges,' as he so delicately put it. As a solution, he is sure to propose making permanent the tax breaks for the rich that he's already put in place. But there are two problems with this: one ethical, the other economic."
Hard Times A-Coming: The Bush Dollar Trap By Dave Lindorff http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19133.htm
The first government response to America's sinking economy was denial. We were told as recently as a month ago by administration officials and Wall Street charlatans that the economy was robust and that there would not be a recession. Now we are told that the economy is in trouble, but that the government is taking decisive action to shore it up.
A Recession, If It Comes, Could Be Worse Than Those of Recent Past http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19136.htm
The U.S. has suffered recessions only twice in the past quarter century, and both were short and mild. But there are good reasons to fear that the looming recession, if it arrives, could be worse.
Latin America Banks on Independence http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/012208F.shtml
Mark Engler, reporting for In These Times, writes: "On December 9, standing before the flags of their countries, the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Venezuela, along with a representative from Uruguay, gathered in Buenos Aires and signed the founding charter of the Banco del Sur, or the Bank of the South. By itself, the bank represents a serious challenge to US-dominated institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). As part of a larger trend, it signals a major break from the policies of 'free trade' neoliberalism that dominated in the region throughout the '80s and '90s."
The end of oil is just a game (January 19 2008) http://money.cnn.com/2008/01/16/news/economy/peak_oil_game/?postversion=2008011921
Nw combat videogame depicts a world at war over rapidly dwindling crude supplies. But what's the message players walk away with? - NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- On a futuristic battlefield littered with broken oil wells, burnt-out electric cars and dilapidated wind turbines, you are leading crack military unit on a mission to secure the world's last remaining oil supplies.Your enemies are the Russians and Chinese, who are of course after the same prize. Suddenly machine guns rattle, men are hit, the helicopter goes down, and you're in the middle of an intense firefight in Central Asia.Over the last two decades prior to 2030 oil production has peaked and is declining rapidly, renewables never panned out, plagues hit, and starvation ensued. In other words, things have been very bad, at least according to Kaos Studios, the maker of this video game you're playing."It's a mess, it's a real wreck in there," said Frank DeLise, Kaos' general manager. While Frontlines: Fuel of War is one of the first video games to capitalize on the doom-and-gloom scenario of what might happen when the world runs out of oil, it's not the only video game focusing on energy as oil prices rise, developing nations use more and more crude, and the world grapples with global warming fears.DeLise chose oil as a story line because "energy seems to be a hot topic, and it seems to be getting worse. When stuff is in the news, it gets people involved, and they want to know more about it." (...) But Anderson, the psychologist, is concerned about the message that violent games like Fuel of War may send to players. "It may well change attitudes towards the use of these tactics as a political tool," he said. Players may think "of course we have to use military tactics to go take oil." DeLise dismisses such concerns, saying nations go to war all the time over resources, and that the game is merely a reflection of reality."When it comes down to it, it's about what countries will do to survive," he said. "That's not going to change."
2008 presidential charade promises deepening of government criminality and expansion of war (Jan 10, 08) http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_2824.shtml
Every election in modern US history has been a criminal manipulation, choreographed and rigged by political elites and performed by hand-picked elite puppets, each backed by their teams of corrupt war criminals, intelligence/security "advisors" and think tank assets. The 2008 affair will be no different.It is time once again to dispel the mass insanity and unfounded hopes as another fresh election hell ensues. There will be no savior, no end to the continuing world crisis, and absolutely no "change." The monsters behind each candidate - As the American public once again gets swept up into another beyond, ridiculous carnival over which "presidential personality" is most "likeable," which preselected puppet makes a better speech, etc., there is little or no attention paid to the individuals behind each candidate; the forces that are pulling the strings, and actually setting the geopolitical agenda. (...) While true representatives of "change" such as Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney and Ron Paul, stand no chance (and whose "votes" would be systematically erased in any case), the only remaining puppets, and their respective teams, are proven supplicants of the existing war and industrial elite.It goes without saying that the Republican candidates, particularly John McCain, is deeply connected to the worst elements, most prominently, Henry Kissinger. Barack Obama's elite connection speaks for itself: Zbigniew Brzezinski. (...) Here comes the "even more aggressive 'war on terrorism'"It's clear from the chosen "candidates," there will be no end to the war, or the continuing decline of the American empire. The "war on terrorism" will not only continue but likely intensify and expand under "new management." The only question is whether the bias will be towards a neoliberal brand, the "more nuanced" multinational New World Order, a "bipartisan consensus" in Washington, more orderly economic and political declines, etc. . . or a continuation of the open brutality and criminality of Bush-Cheney. CLIP
Bay Area has first major U.S. study of Morgellons disease (January 17, 2008) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/17/BA0EUGEBK.DTL
Bay Area researchers are beginning the first major U.S. study into a mystery disease known for its frightening symptoms - among them, open sores and unidentifiable objects poking out of the skin - that doctors have long suspected is all in patients' heads. The study into Morgellons will start immediately. The research will be funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [and conducted by Kaiser Permanente]. Researchers are hoping to come up with a more specific definition of Morgellons and how prevalent it is in the Bay Area, which has one of the largest concentrations of ... cases of the disease in the country. The CDC is not yet agreeing that Morgellons is a medical condition. Many doctors believe that Morgellons is actually a psychiatric condition called delusional parasitosis. They say the filaments that patients report growing out of their skin are actually lint or threads from clothing, and the open sores are caused by patients scratching at skin when they perceive a crawling sensation. San Francisco resident Pat Miller has been to more than a dozen doctors since he first developed symptoms several years ago. He's been diagnosed with a wide variety of skin conditions, as well as delusional parasitosis, and few doctors have been willing to consider Morgellons. "I've developed this lack of love for doctors and health care systems. You pretty much have to become your own doctor." The nonprofit Morgellons Research Foundation says that more than 10,000 families in the United States have registered with the Web site, claiming at least one family member has the disease. About 24 percent of registered families are in California, and the Bay Area is one of several hot spots in the country. The research foundation estimates that 150 to 500 people in Northern California have Morgellons. Note: Though mainstream science initially claimed Morgellons disease was purely psychological, much information is challenging this stance. For many revealing health stories from reliable sources, click here. IT IS WORTH ALSO GOING AT http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/17/BA0EUGEBK.DTL TO REVIEW THE MANY COMMENTS PEOPLE LEFT.
USDA Recommends That Food From Clones Stay Off the Market (January 16, 2008) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/15/AR2008011501555.html
The U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday asked U.S. farmers to keep their cloned animals off the market indefinitely even as Food and Drug Administration officials announced that food from cloned livestock is safe to eat. Bruce I. Knight, the USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, requested an ongoing "voluntary moratorium" to buy time for "an acceptance process" that Knight said consumers in the United States and abroad will need, "given the emotional nature of this issue." Yet even as the two agencies sought a unified message -- that food from clones is safe for people but perhaps dangerous to U.S. markets and trade relations -- evidence surfaced suggesting that Americans and others are probably already eating meat from the offspring of clones. Executives from the nation's major cattle cloning companies conceded yesterday that they have not been able to keep track of how many offspring of clones have entered the food supply, despite a years-old request by the FDA to keep them off the market pending completion of the agency's safety report. At least one Kansas cattle producer also disclosed yesterday that he has openly sold semen from prize-winning clones to many U.S. meat producers in the past few years, and that he is certain he is not alone. "This is a fairy tale that this technology is not being used and is not already in the food chain," said Donald Coover, a Galesburg cattleman and veterinarian who has a specialty cattle semen business. "Anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn't know what they're talking about, or they're not being honest." Last year, [only] 22 percent of Americans who responded to a major survey said they had a favorable impression of food from clones. Note: For lots more reliable information on how big business takes huge risks with the food we eat, click here.
MORE such revealing news through http://www.WantToKnow.info/080120morgellonsstudyusdaclonestexasufos
Honeybees may be wiped out in 10 years (January 20, 2008) http://tinyurl.com/299t5t
Honeybees will die out in Britain within a decade as virulent diseases and parasites spread through the nation's hives, experts have warned. Whole colonies of bees are already being wiped out, with current methods of pest control unable to stop the problem. Disease is killing off Britains honeybees - The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) said that if the crisis continued, honeybees would disappear completely from Britain by 2018, causing "calamitous" economic and environmental problems. It called on the Government to restart shelved research programmes and to fund new ones to try to save the insects. Tim Lovett, the association's president, said: "The situation has become insupportable and the Government is unwilling to take steps to avoid disaster." We're increasingly unable to cope with threats as they arise. No bees means a huge cost to agriculture, without touching on the ecological and environmental issues. We're facing calamitous results. Last year, more than 11 per cent of all beehives inspected were wiped out, although losses were higher in some areas. In London, about 4,000 hives - two-thirds of the bee colonies in the capital - were estimated to have died over last winter. Of the eight colonies inspected so far this year, all have been wiped out. The losses are being blamed on Colony Collapse Disorder, a disease that has severely affected bee populations in America and Europe, and a resistant form of Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that affects bees. The decline in honeybees is risking the sustainability of home-grown food. They pollinate more than 90 of the flowering crops we rely on for food. They are estimated to contribute more than £1 billion a year to the national economy yet the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), spends an average of only £200,000 a year on research to protect them. CLIP
Until All the Fish Are Gone http://www.truthout.org/issues_06/012208EC.shtml
A New York Times editorial states: "Scientists have been warning for years that overfishing is degrading the health of the oceans and destroying the fish species on which much of humanity depends for jobs and food. Even so, it would be hard to frame the problem more dramatically than two recent articles in The Times detailing the disastrous environmental, economic and human consequences of often illegal industrial fishing."
Switzerland Tops Environmental Index, US Lags http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/46591/story.htm
DAVOS, Switzerland - Switzerland ranks first in environmental performance but the world's largest economy, the United States, lags many industrialised nations, a report drawn up by US university experts said on Wednesday. Switzerland scored top marks among 149 countries measured in six environmental areas including air pollution, water quality and how they control industrial pollution, according to the 2008 Environmental Performance Index released at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.Sweden came second in the ranking, compiled by environmental experts at Yale University and Columbia University, followed by Norway, Finland and Costa Rica. The United States, dragged down by poor scores on greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of air pollution on ecosystems, placed 39th, far behind other developed states like the United Kingdom in 14th and Japan in 21st."The United States' performance indicates that the next administration must not ignore the ecosystem impacts of environmental as well as agricultural, energy and water management policies," Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, said in a statement. The U.S ranking -- below Albania, Russia and Panama -- was "a national disgrace," Speth said.
EPA Staff Finds Emissions Threat http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/012408D.shtml
Janet Wilson and Richard Simon, reporting for The Los Angeles Times, write: "The Environmental Protection Agency's staff concluded last month that greenhouse gases pose a threat to the nation's welfare, which would require federal regulations to rein in emissions from vehicles, factories, power plants and other industrial polluters under the Clean Air Act, sources in the agency told The Times."
Elites Love to Pig Out on Energy (Jan 2008) http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/296075
We use 30 per cent of all the energy That isnt bad; that is good. That means we are the richest, strongest people in the world and that we have the highest standard of living in the world. That is why we need so much energy, and may it always be that way. -U.S. president Richard Nixon, November 1973.Things have changed since Nixon proudly proclaimed America the worlds biggest energy guzzler. Or have they?Since then, the world has woken up to the stark reality of climate change and the role played by human energy consumption.But this has had surprisingly little impact. Today, George W. Bush - and Stephen Harper - pay lip service to energy conservation, while doing little to actually reduce U.S. and Canadian energy consumption, which remain among the highest per capita in the world. (...) Yet Ottawa seems ready to follow the foot-dragging of the Bush administration, which wont require tougher fuel economy until 2020, resisting the more stringent deadlines set by California.The real resistance seems to be coming not from the public but from powerful interests that have much riding on the maintenance of the energy status quo - most notably oil companies and auto manufacturers.The public - particularly young people - seems to have grasped that the kind of global piggery celebrated by Richard Nixon is not only inherently ugly but carries the seeds of our own destruction.But this ultimately involves letting go of a goal that is the very centrepiece of modern capitalism - ever-increasing consumption.Like the band on the Titanic, some in our political and corporate elites seem determined to go on pumping out the old tunes, even as sea waters rise all around us.
Antarctic ice loss speeds up, nearly matches Greenland loss (January 23, 2008) http://today.uci.edu/news/release_detail.asp?key=1722
Ice loss in Antarctica increased by 75 percent in the last 10 years due to a speed-up in the flow of its glaciers and is now nearly as great as that observed in Greenland, according to a new, comprehensive study by UC Irvine and NASA scientists.In a first-of-its-kind study, an international team led by Eric Rignot, professor of Earth system science at UCI and a scientist with NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., estimated changes in Antarcticas ice mass between 1996 and 2006 and mapped patterns of ice loss on a glacier-by-glacier basis. They detected a sharp jump in Antarcticas ice loss, from enough ice to raise global sea level by 0.3 millimeters (.01 inches) a year in 1996, to 0.5 millimeters (.02 inches) a year in 2006.Rignot said the losses, which were primarily concentrated in West Antarcticas Pine Island Bay sector and the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, are caused by ongoing and past acceleration of glaciers into the sea. This is mostly a result of warmer ocean waters, which bathe the buttressing floating sections of glaciers, causing them to thin or collapse. Changes in Antarctic glacier flow are having a significant, if not dominant, impact on the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet, he said. CLIP
US Censors Arctic Scientists' Findings as it Prepares for Oil and Gas Auction (22 January 2008) http://tinyurl.com/2vgkgu
The United States has blocked the release of a landmark assessment of oil and gas activity in the Arctic as it prepares to sell off exploration licences for the frozen Chukchi Sea off Alaska, one of the last intact habitats of the polar bear. Scientists at the release of the censored report in Norway said there was "huge frustration" that the US had derailed a science-based effort to manage the race for the vast energy reserves of the Arctic. (...) "For a polar bear population already stressed due to massive climate change, these activities could be the last straw," said Kassie Siegel, the climate director at the US-based Centre for Biological Diversity.She said the censoring of the Arctic report was typical of the actions of the White House. "It fits a pattern of downplaying, denying, and suppressing climate science at every turn. It's all part of the Bush-Cheney strategy of handing out as many fossil fuel entitlements as quickly as they can in their final months in office."As climate change melts more of the north polar ice cap and global demand for oil and gas surges there has been a frantic scramble for the Arctic's vast energy wealth. The combination of increased access and prices has seen Russia, Norway, Denmark and Canada step up claims to sovereignty over the North Pole, while the US waits in the wings. The Chukchi Sea is believed to hold 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The receding sea ice and record price for crude is tempting companies into Arctic oil and gas development further out to sea with potentially disastrous consequences. The agencies approving the Chukchi sale admit there is a 40 per cent chance of an oil spill, and that contact with spilt oil is almost certainly fatal for polar bears.
Chill the Drills - Protect Alaska's Polar Bear Seas http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/465483188?z00m=12674417
At a time when the polar bear's future is literally on thin ice, it's no time to add insult to injury by drilling in their fragile Arctic habitat. But it could happen. Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort Seas - also known as the Polar Bear Seas - could be opened to drilling as early as February. Please help protect the bears from further harm by signing this petition to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
How did we end up with such god-awful food? (Jan 20, 2008) http://www.knowledgeofhealth.com/blog/2008/01/how-did-we-end-up-with-such-god-awful.html
We have food fortified with hydrogenated fats, aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup and MSG, that is over-sodiumized and over sugarized, but lacking in essential omega-3 oils, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and other essential nutrients which Americans exhibit massive deficiencies. Human have a vulnerability. Their taste buds rule, and the food purveyors are all vying for your taste buds so you will select and eat more and more of their products. A walk in a food store advertised as "healthy" finds cookies sweetened with aspartame. I told the manager their natural dog biscuits were healthier. CLIP MUCH more through http://www.knowledgeofhealth.com/l
Global rise in breast cancer due to 'Western lifestyles' (24 January 2008) http://tinyurl.com/2e4az3l
Of all the exports from our modern world, breast cancer ranks as among the most dubious. Once thought to be a disease of the rich, it is now a global epidemic.The rise of the cancer in Europe and America cases have jumped 80 per cent in the UK since the 1970s is being mirrored across the world. And scientists say increasing prosperity and the "Westernisation" of traditional lifestyles is to blame.A richer diet, smaller families, delayed childbearing and reduced breast-feeding have driven the increase in the West, together with rising obesity and increased alcohol consumption, specialists say. Now these trends are being seen everywhere with a growing burden of malignant disease in their wake.An estimated 1.3 million new cases were diagnosed around the world last year. It is the commonest cancer in the UK and across Europe, even though it affects almost only one gender. In 2006, it outranked lung cancer, which affects both sexes, for the first time. CLIP
FDA Announces Plan to Eliminate Vitamin Companies (January 15, 2008) http://www.newstarget.com/022499.html
The FDA, emboldened by its transformation into a drug company, has embarked upon an anti-American plan of interfering with business and intentionally eliminating various dietary supplement companies from the market. The FDA announcement came on Friday, June 22, 2007 under the guise of a final rule for dietary supplement good manufacturing practices (CGMPs). Within this 800 page rule the FDA states, "We find that this final rule will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities... Establishments with above average costs, and even establishments with average costs, could be hard pressed to continue to operate. Some of these may decide it is too costly and either change product lines or go out of business... 140 very small [less than 20 employees] and 32 small dietary supplement manufacturers [less than 500 employees] will be at risk of going out of business... costs per establishment are proportionally higher for very small than for large establishments... The regulatory costs of this final rule will also discourage new small businesses from entering the industry." (http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/%7Elrd/fr07625a.html) This FDA rule will directly raise the price of dietary supplements for all consumers. The FDA acknowledges this and says "We expect that the majority of these costs will be borne by consumers of dietary supplements, who will likely respond to the increase in prices by reducing consumption." Thus, the FDA is intentionally seekingl to shrink the size of the dietary supplement industry and reduce the influence of safe and effective options to improve the dreadful trend in the health of Americans. The goal is to leave toxic drugs as the primary health option. Independent analysis of this FDA rule has placed cost of compliance at 10 fold what the FDA estimates with as many as 50% of small companies unable to comply. The gutless cowards of Congress, a majority of whom are on the Big Pharmal payroll or will be on it once they leave Congress, have delegated their lawmaking powers granted by the U.S. Constitution to a bunch of Big Pharma-friendly unelected bureaucrats at the FDA, who are in turn using this power to undermine free commerce and help Big Pharma eliminate competition from the market. This is the behavior of a government in tyranny, inviting a revolution by the people. CLIP
Truth Emergency US - Santa Cruz Media Summit: Live this weekend Jan. 25-27 -- IMPORTANT INITIATIVE!! http://truthemergency.pnn.com/4641-front-pageUpdate
Many economists now doubt that government measures can prevent a major recession given the severe slump in the housing market, the subprime mortgage crisis, growing unemployment, declining consumer spending, and record high oil prices. Even harder times for working people are undoubtedly at hand, yet mainstream corporate media continues to lavish more attention on the Super Bowl and celebrity misadventures than measures to protect Americans from grave personal economic harm. We are spun, mislead, propagandized and amused to death by our media conglomerates and as a result the US has become the best entertained and least informed society in the world. There is a literal truth emergency in the United States, not only regarding distant wars, torture camps, and doctored intelligence, but also around issues that most intimately impact our lives at home. For example, few Americans know that there has been a thirty-five year decline in real wages for most workers in the country, while the top 10% now enjoy unparalleled wealth with strikingly low tax burdens. George Seldes once said, Journalism's job is not impartial 'balanced' reporting. Journalism's job is to tell the people what is really going on. Michael Moores top-grossing movie Sicko is one example of telling the people what is really going on. Health care activists know that US health insurance is an extremely large and obscenely lucrative industry with the top nine companies "earning" $93 billion in profits in 2006 alone. The health-care industry represents the country's third-largest economic sector, trailing only energy and retail among the 1,000 largest US firms. Nevertheless, 16% of Americans still have no health insurance whatsoever and that number will not soon decline, as insurance costs continue to rise two to three times faster than inflation. The consequences are immediate and tragic. Unpaid medical bills are now the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the country, and the Institute of Medicine estimates that nearly eighteen thousand Americans die prematurely each year because they lack coverage and access to adequate care. (...) This Truth Emergency Movement is holding its first national strategy summit in Santa Cruz, California Jan. 25-27, 2008. Organizers are gathering key media constituencies to devise coherent decentralized models for distribution of suppressed news, synergistic truth-telling, and collaborative strategies to disclose, legitimize and popularize deeper historical narratives on power and inequality in the US. In sum this truth movement is seeking to discover in this moment of Constitutional crisis, ecological peril and widening war, ways in which top investigative journalists, whistleblowers and independent media activists can transform the way Americans perceive and defend their world.
Space Tourism Takes Second Big Step With SpaceShipTwo (January 23, 2008) http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/01/space-tourism-t.html
Burt Rutan, who designed the SpaceShipOne, the first privately financed craft to carry a human into space, took the wraps off the second-generation craft, SpaceShipTwo, along with its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo at a news conference with Sir Richard Branson.WhiteKnightTwo has double fuselages and is powered by four engines. It carries SpaceShipTwo to a high earthly altitude and releases it. SpaceShipTwo fires a rocket engine, which burns a combination of nitrous oxide and a rubber-based solid fuel, and shoots the vehicle upward to an altitude of more than 62 miles. The pilot uses the craft's innovative feathered wing, which rotates into a position that greatly increases aerodynamic drag and slows the craft for a landing. The WhiteKnight aircraft is purportedly 70 percent complete. SpaceShipTwo is 60 percent complete. Test flights of the planes could occur this year. Passenger flights are not expected to begin before late 2009 or 2010, if you believe the officials at the press conference. CLIP
Asteroid to Make Rare Close Flyby of Earth January 29
Scientists are monitoring the orbit of asteroid 2007 TU24. The asteroid, believed to be between 150 meters (500 feet) and 610 meters (2,000 feet) in size, is expected to fly past Earth on Jan. 29, with its closest distance being about 537,500 kilometers (334,000 miles) at 12:33 a.m. Pacific time (3:33 a.m. Eastern time). It should be observable that night by amateur astronomers with modest-sized telescopes. Asteroid 2007 TU24 was discovered by the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey on Oct. 11, 2007. Scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have determined that there is no possibility of an impact with Earth in the foreseeable future. "This will be the closest approach by a known asteroid of this size or larger until 2027," said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near Earth Object Program Office at JPL. " As its closest approach is about one-and-a-half times the distance of Earth to the moon, there is no reason for concern. On the contrary, Mother Nature is providing us an excellent opportunity to perform scientific observations."Asteroid 2007 TU24 will reach an approximate apparent magnitude 10.3 on Jan. 29-30 before quickly becoming fainter as it moves farther from Earth. On that night, the asteroid will be observable in dark and clear skies through amateur telescopes with apertures of at least 7.6 centimeters (3 inches). An object with a magnitude of 10.3 is about 50 times fainter than an object just visible to the naked eye in a clear, dark sky. NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers, characterizes and computes trajectories for these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. For more information, visit http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news157.html AND http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov
By Mike Whitney - Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jan 23, 2008
"This is going to be a rough week. Fastening your seat belts may not be enough for this ride. Better superglue yourselves to the floorboards and pray for God's mercy." James Howard Kunstler, "Fullblown Panic"
On Monday, fears of a US recession spilled over into Asian markets, sending stocks tumbling. Indexes were hammered across the board in what turned out to be the worst day of trading since 2001.
In India, the Bombay Sensitive Index plunged 1,408 points, to 17,605. In China, the Shanghai Composite dropped 266 points (or 5.5 percent) to 23,818, while in Japan, the Nikkei fell 535 points, to 13,325 points. The bloodletting stretched across the continent and into Europe where shares nosedived by more than 4 percent by mid-morning "putting them on track for their biggest one-day fall in more than four and a half years."
The huge sell-off is a sign that global investors do not believe that the Fed's rate cuts or President Bush's $150 billion "stimulus package" can revive the flagging economy or breathe new life into the overextended US consumer. After Monday's sharp downturn, the prospects for averting a deep and protracted recession are slim to none.
Economics Professor Nouriel Roubini summed it up like this nearly a month ago: "The United States has now effectively entered into a serious and painful recession. The debate is not anymore on whether the economy will experience a soft landing or a hard landing; it is rather on how hard the hard landing recession will be. The factors that make the recession inevitable include the nation's worst-ever housing recession, which is still getting worse; a severe liquidity and credit crunch in financial markets that is getting worse than when it started last summer, high oil and gasoline prices, falling capital spending by the corporate sector, a slackening labor market where few jobs are being created and the unemployment rate is sharply up, and shopped-out, savings-less and debt-burdened American consumers who -- thanks to falling home prices -- can no longer use their homes as ATM machines to allow them to spend more than their incomes. As private consumption in the US is over 70 percent of GDP, the US consumer now retrenching and cutting spending ensures that a recession is now underway.
"On top of this recession there are now serious risks of a systemic financial crisis in the US as the financial losses are spreading from subprime to near prime and prime mortgages, consumer debt (credit cards, auto loans, student loans), commercial real estate loans, leveraged loans and postponed/restructured/canceled LBO and, soon enough, sharply rising default rates on corporate bonds that will lead to a second round of large losses in credit default swaps. The total of all of these financial losses could be above $1 trillion thus triggering a massive credit crunch and a systemic financial sector crisis." [Nouriel Roubini Global EconoMonitor]
Decades of stagnant wages have left the American worker hamstrung and unable to continue to account for 25 percent of global consumption. Tightening credit and lack of personal savings have only added to his problems. The American consumer is overworked, underpaid, and tapped-out. That means that aggregate demand will fall dramatically across the world triggering increases in unemployment, decreases in capital expansion, and widespread slowdown in business activity. These are the beginnings of a deflationary spiral that will wipe out trillions of dollars of market capitalization in the real estate, equities and bond markets. Even gold and oil will retreat significantly (as we saw in Monday's results).
The present crisis is not the result of normal market forces, but price fixing at the Federal Reserve and the financial engineering of the main investment banks. If there had been sufficient regulation of the Fed's activities -- so that interest rates had not been kept below the rate of inflation for over 31 months straight -- than the trillions of dollars in low-interest credit would not have flooded into the real estate market inflating the biggest housing bubble in US history. Despite his feeble excuses, Greenspan's role in destroying the US economy is no longer in doubt.
Even the far-right op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal conceded Greenspan's culpability in Saturday's edition. Here's what it said: "Amid the daily market turmoil, and to help prevent a crash, it helps to step back and remember how we got here. With the benefit of hindsight, everyone can see that the U.S. economy built up an enormous credit bubble that has now popped. Our own view -- which we warned about going back to 2003 -- is that this bubble was created principally by a Federal Reserve that kept real interest rates too low for too long. In doing so the Fed created a subsidy for debt and a commodity price spike."
Greenspan's low interest rates ignited a speculative frenzy that resulted in humongous equity bubbles. The Fed's "cheap money" policy created artificial demand for housing which drove prices to unsustainable levels. Now the real estate market is crashing; foreclosures are skyrocketing, inventory is at historic highs, construction-related jobs are drying up, and housing prices "across the country" are plummeting for the first time since the Great Depression. These are the real results of Greenspan's "low interest" fake prosperity.
Greenspan is not the only one responsible for the present calamity. The financial markets have been reconfigured in a way that accommodates all manner of corruption. The new model, "structured finance," allows worthless "subprime" loans to be dressed up as valuable assets -- stamped with a triple A rating -- and sold to unsuspecting investors.
The Wall Street Journal explains how our $800 billion current account deficit created a circular loop which channeled vast amounts of borrowed money back into US markets: "That capital flow and debt subsidy, in turn, became fuel for smart people in mortgage companies, investment banks and elsewhere to exploit. In a sense they created a new financial system -- subprime loans, SIVs, CDOs, etc. -- that is enormously efficient and brought capital to new places. But thanks to low interest rates and human enthusiasm, this debt spree also got carried away. "
"Got carried away"? Now there's an understatement. Stock markets across the world are crashing because of the insatiable greed of a few market-heavyweights who gunked up the whole system with worthless mortgage-backed slop.
The Wall Street Journal admits that a new "structured debt" market was created to package dubious subprime liabilities (from "no doc," no collateral , "bad credit" loan applicants) and sell them to hedge funds, insurance companies and foreign banks as if they were precious jewels. The WSJ avers that this is the way that "smart people exploit" the opportunities from lavish "capital flows."
But was it "smart" or criminal?
Fortunately, that question was answered this week in an extraordinary outburst on cable TV by market insider and equities guru, Jim Cramer. In Cramer's latest explosion, he details his own involvement in creating and selling "structured products" which had never been stress-tested in a slumping market. No one knew how badly they would perform. Cramer admits that the motivation behind peddling this junk to gullible investors was simply greed. Here's his statement:
"Its all about the commission"
(We used to say) "The commissions on structured products are so huge let's JAM IT." (note "jam it" means foist it on the customer) It's all about the 'commish'. The commission on structured product is GIGANTIC. I could make a fortune 'JAMMING THAT CRUMMY PAPER' but I had a degree of conscience -- what a shocker!--We used to regulate people but they decided during the Reagan revolution that that was bad. So we don't regulate anyone anymore. But listen, the commission in structured product is so gigantic. (pause) First of all the customer has no idea what the product really is because it is invented. Second, you assume the customer is really stupid; like we used to say about the German bankers, 'The German banks are just Bozos. Throw them anything.' Or the Australians 'M O R O N S' Or the Florida Fund (ha ha ) "They're so stupid let's give them Triple B (junk grade) Then we'd just laugh and laugh at the customers and Jam them with the commission . . . That's what happened; that's what happened. . . . Remember, this is about commissions, about how much money you can make by jamming stupid customers. I've seen it all my life; you jam stupid customers." [See the whole damning confession.]
Trillions of dollars in structured investments (CDOs, MBSs, an ASCP) have now clogged up the global financial system and are dragging the world headlong into recession/depression. Cramer's confession is a candid admission of criminal intent to defraud the public by selling products which people -- within the financial industry -- KNEW were falsely represented by their ratings. They sold them simply to fatten their own paychecks and because there is no longer any regulatory agency within the US government that curtails illicit activity.
Boycott US financial products?
As the stock market continues its inexorable downward plunge, foreign central banks and investors need to determine whether they were deliberately ripped off and aggressively pursue legal alternatives. They should initiate a boycott of all US financial products until an appropriate settlement for the hundreds of billions in losses due to the "structured finance" swindle can be negotiated. That is the best way to serve their own national interests and those of their people.
Deregulation has destroyed the credibility of US markets. There is no oversight or policing agency. It's the Wild West. The assets are falsely represented, the ratings are meaningless, and there's a clear intention to deceive. That means that the stewardship of the global economic system is no longer in good hands. There needs to be a fundamental change. As the nightmare scenario of global recession continues to unfold; we need new leaders in Europe and Asia to step up and fill the void.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Message from Davos: The recession is coming (January 23, 2008) http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/markets/article3239801.ece
Business leaders and economists gave a bleak outlook for the economy which is heading for a 'severe downturn' -- A full-blown, prolonged recession in America is now inescapable, with the rest of the world set to be dragged into a severe global slowdown despite yesterday's emergency US interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve, leading economists said in Davos this morning. A darkening outlook for the global economy looked set to dominate the week-long World Economic Forum, as plunging stock markets and the Fed's drastic and dramatic reaction overshadowed the opening of the annual gathering of political and business leaders.Some of the world's most prominent economic pundits told an opening session this morning that the Fed's surprise three-quarter-point cut in US official interest rates was already "too little, too late" to stave off recession in America. In a bleak discussion of prospects, the economists predicted that Britain, Europe and much of Asia also now face a sharp and unavoidable downturn in their economies, even if they escaped recession. CLIP
U.S. economy still strong and open: Rice (Jan 23, 2008) MORE LIES! http://www.reuters.com/article/companyNewsAndPR/idUSL2388732820080123
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to soothe investor fears about the U.S. economy on Wednesday, saying it was resilient and sound and that Washington remained open to trade and investment.In the keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos delivered against a backdrop of financial turmoil, Rice made a rare foray into world economics and urged her audience of business leaders to have confidence in the U.S. economy. "The U.S. economy is resilient, its structure is sound, and its long-term economic fundamentals are healthy." CLIP
Draft Economic Recovery Program To Stop The Bush Depression
By Webster Tarpley
1. Stop all foreclosures immediately for at least five years and for the duration of the depression by means of a compulsory federal law carrying criminal penalties. No foreclosures on homes, family farms, factories, public utilities, hospitals, transportation and other infrastructure. Outlaw adjustable rate mortgages.
2. Raise the federal minimum wage immediately to a living wage of at least $15 per hour, with the short-term goal of attaining a federal minimum wage of at least $20 per hour.
3. Immediate enactment of a securities transfer tax (STT) or Tobin tax of 1% to be imposed on all financial turnover in all financial markets to include the New York Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, the Amex, the Chicago Board of Trade, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the market in federal securities, the foreign exchange market, the New York Mercantile Exchange, and all other financial markets. This tax will be paid by the seller. This tax will be extended to the notional value of all derivatives, including over-the-counter derivatives, exchange traded derivatives, structured notes, designer derivatives and all other financial paper. Derivatives will become reportable under penalty of law. It is conservatively estimated that the securities transfer tax will yield approximately $5 trillion of new revenue in its first year of application. This new revenue will permit a stabilization and consolidation of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and will permit the expansion of Head Start, the Food Stamps program, WIC, the Veterans Administration hospitals, while extending unemployment insurance up to an initial total of at least 52 weeks, to be prolonged as needed. Provide revenue sharing to deal with the looming deficits of states, counties, and municipalities.
4. Using the new revenue obtained from the securities transfer tax on Wall Street financiers, provide comprehensive tax relief for all small businesses, thus permitting them to pay the new living wage. Small business will also be aided by the provision of national single-payer health care, as described below.
5. Implement Medicare for all in the form of a single payer, universal coverage, publicly administered system to provide healthcare for all. No rationing of care will be permitted under any circumstances. Cost-cutting will be achieved through eliminating exorbitant corporate profits, through administrative reform, and above all through a federally-funded crash program, on the scale of the Manhattan Project, of biomedical research designed to discover new and more effective treatments and cures for the principal diseases currently afflicting humanity.
6. Simultaneously, enact comprehensive income tax relief for working families, raising the standard deduction for married filing jointly and the personal exemption to at least $25,000 each. This would mean that a family of four would pay no federal income tax on their first $125,000 of income. Expand the earned income tax credit (EITC) to approximately 4 times its current level, with at least $150 billion paid out. Increase EITC payments to persons living alone as well as to families with children. Make all college tuition and fees expenses deductible, and remove the limits on the Hope and Lifetime Learning tax credits. Return to the FDR-Ike-JFK 90% top marginal rate for unearned income ? capital gains, interest, dividends, royalties, etc., not wages or self-employment -- of taxpayers with federal adjusted gross income over $25 million. Roll back the scandalous Bush tax cuts for the rich. Favor progressive taxation over proportional and regressive taxation at every level. Phase out the most regressive taxes, like the poll tax and the sales tax.
7. Nationalize the Federal Reserve System and establish it as a bureau of the United States Treasury. The current privatized status of the Federal Reserve System constitutes a violation of the United States Constitution. The size of the money supply and interest rates will henceforward be decided not by cliques of private bankers meeting in secret, but rather by public laws passed by the House and Senate, and signed by the president. Use this authority to immediately issue an initial tranche of $1 trillion of new federal credits at 1% yearly interest rates and maturities up to 30 years, to be repeated as needed. Consider credit as a public utility. Make this initial credit issue available on a priority basis to states, counties and local governments for the purpose of infrastructure modernization. Distribute credit to the private sector for high-technology re-industrialization in plant, equipment and jobs, manufacturing, mining, farming, construction, and other production of tangible physical wealth and commodities only. Aim at the creation of 5 to 7 million new productive jobs at union pay scales per year to achieve full employment for the first time in decades.
8. Federally-sponsored infrastructure projects will include a new nationwide network of magnetic levitation railways, as well as light rail systems to facilitate commuting in all urban centers. These economical and attractive light rail systems will allow a large portion of the vehicle miles by private automobile using internal combustion engines to be phased out of use in daily commuting. Launch a public works program of highway and bridge reconstruction, water management systems, electrical grids, hospitals, schools, cultural facilities, and public libraries.
9. Comprehensive re-regulation of the entire financial and banking system. Regulate the current non-bank banks. Bring all the hedge funds under the oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission, thus effectively ending their special outlaw status as hedge funds. Begin aggressive enforcement of all applicable antitrust and securities fraud laws, as well as all existing labor legislation, including child labor, wages and hours, etc. Repeal the Taft-Hartley law with its anti-union "right to work" provisions, re-affirm the inalienable right to collective bargaining, and revive the National Labor Relations Board as an effective ally of working people. Full Davis-Bacon Act enforcement for all federal contracts, without exception. Tax leveraged buyouts and private capital deals, including all profits deriving from them, in whatever form. End corporate welfare, and establish consumer protection. Revive Glass-Steagall to prevent nationwide banking oligopolies combining commercial banking with investment banking.
10. Free college for all qualified students. Any student earning a high school diploma will be entitled to free tuition and fees at a community college or state university. High quality remedial courses to give high-school dropouts a second chance, no matter what their age. Without investment in the human capital of a highly trained work force, there can be no economic survival in the 21st century. Federal aid to raise teacher salaries through revenue sharing.
11. Announce the intention of the United States to abrogate NAFTA, WTO, and all other international free trade agreements which have destroyed employment in this country, while increasing the poverty levels of the third world. Introduce a low protective tariff, starting at 10% ad valorem on manufactured commodities to prevent reckless dumping.
12. Investment tax credit for purchase modern technology in the form of new physical tangible capital goods. Tax breaks for the creation of new jobs in physical commodity production. Severe tax penalties for the export of jobs to third world sweatshops.
13. Immediately impeach and remove from office both Bush and Cheney, since otherwise all effective measures to deal with the Bush economic depression will be crippled by presidential vetoes. Prepare the impeachment of the RATS (Roberts-Alito-Thomas-Scalia) cabal of the Supreme Court, if they should attempt to sabotage this emergency economic recovery program under the color of judicial review.
14. Protect the family farm by a program of debt moratorium for farmers, no foreclosures, 1% long-term federal credit for spring planting needs and capital improvements, Restore parity prices at 125% of parity. Rebuild farm surpluses and food stockpiles. Food for Peace for famine relief abroad.
15. Keep open the options of capital controls and exchange controls if required by further deterioration of the crisis. Prepare to freeze most categories of financial debt (debt moratorium) for the duration of the crisis. Revive Defense Production Act powers to mandate production of needed commodities by private sector, as needed.
16. Call an international economic conference of sovereign states to deal with this unprecedented world economic depression. The United States should take the lead in proposing a new world monetary system based on the alienable right of all nations and peoples to modern economic development and to the enjoyment of the fullest fruits of science, technology, industry, progress, and rising standards of living. The new monetary system should be based on fixed parities with narrow bands of fluctuation among the euro, the dollar, the yen, the ruble, and other world currencies, including emerging Latin American and Middle East regional currencies, with periodic settlement of balance of payments discrepancies in gold among national authorities. The goal of the new system is to promote world economic recovery through large-scale export of the most modern high-technology capital goods from the US, EU, and Japan to the developing countries. Create a Multilateral Development Bank with an initial capital of 1 trillion euros from US, UK, Japan, and other exporters to finance investment in the poorest countries with 1%, revolving loans with maturities up to thirty years. Immediate, permanent, and unconditional cancellation of all international financial debts of the poorest countries.
17. Revive international humanitarian, scientific and technological cooperation for the benefit of all nations. Roll back epidemic, tropical, and endemic diseases with an international program of biomedical research. Join with all interested nations in a joint international effort to develop new energy resources in the field of high-energy physics. Fund and expand an international cooperative commitment to the exploration, permanent colonization, and economic development of the moon and nearby planets. The spin-offs from these three science drivers will provide the new technologies for the next wave of economic modernization.
18. Revive the Franklin D. Roosevelt "freedom from want" provision of the Atlantic Charter as elaborated in the Economic Bill of Rights from the State of the Union Address of January 1944 and incorporate these economic rights of all persons as amendments to the US Constitution: "The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation; the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; the right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; the right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; the right of every family to a decent home; the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; the right to a good education."
Webster G. Tarpley
21 January 2008
Washington DC, USA
Solutions for Surviving the Economic Downfall of America (January 22 2008) http://www.newstarget.com/z022528.html
The Coming Financial Collapse of America (and Why Today's Market Bloodbath is Only a Small Taste of Things to Come...) (...) The U.S. economy, as any astute financial observer has noted for years, is running on artificial wealth that has been manufactured by the Federal Reserve and swallowed by gullible consumers chasing that pot of gold at the end of the easy money rainbow. An alarmingly large percentage of U.S. economic activity is driven by consumer spending and the taxation of such activities. So when housing prices plummet and consumer bankruptcies start piling up, here's what we're going to see next:My prediction for 2008 - 2012 is a massive wave of municipal bankruptcies, state bankruptcies and escalating national debt. We are going to see cities and states go belly up, pension programs terminated (or watered down), and financial institutions teetering on the brink of disaster.And the worst part of it all? The only way out of this financial mess is for the Federal Reserve to steal yet more money from the American people by printing more money and hyperinflating the currency. This is the part where the late Aaron Russo and his film Freedom to Fascism comes into play. If you haven't already watched this documentary on the massive fraud of the Federal Reserve and the IRS, watch it now at Google Video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5355374476580235299
This is also the part where Ron Paul comes in (http://www.RonPaul2008.com), since Ron Paul is the only Presidential candidate who understands the financial destruction being caused by the Federal Reserve and has pledged to end the Fed's control over the U.S. money supply. (The Fed, by the way, is a privately-owned corporation that isn't even controlled by U.S. lawmakers.) (...) U.S. Spending Top Three List: War, Disease and Debt -- I see 2008 - 2012 as being very tumultuous years for the United States of America. This nation is technically bankrupt right now. And do you know where the spending is going? Check this out: The top three things that the U.S. government spends money on are: (figures from 2006)
1) WAR: Department of Defense + Veterans' benefits ($580.5 billion)
2) DISEASE: Medicare + Medicaid ($614.1 billion)
3) DEBT: Debt to the people (Social Security + Welfare) and to debt holders (interest on national debt) ($1,115.4 billion)
What's fascinating about all this is that these three things take up 85% of the federal budget! (Total 2006 federal budget was $2.7 trillion.) Yes: 85% of the federal budget goes to pay for war, disease and debt. Need I say more? That fact right there should tell you all you need to know about the future of this nation: The U.S. is about to become history. In the history of the world, no nation that spends 85% of its budget on war, disease and debt has ever survived for more than a few years. (Rome spent far less on war and still couldn't keep its republic together...) CLIP
One Step Closer to a Cheney Impeachment http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/74629
Nine out of 23 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee favor starting impeachment hearings against Vice President Dick Cheney. Six of the nine are co-sponsors of H.R. 799, which contains three articles of impeachment.
Death and Darkness in Gaza - People are dying, Help us!
A humanitarian crisis is underway as the Gaza Strip's only power plant began to shut down on Sunday, and the tiny coastal territory entered its third full day without shipments of vital food and fuel supplies due to Israel's punitive sanctions.
The Gaza Strip's power plant has completely shut down on Sunday because it no longer has the fuel needed to keep running. One of the plant's two electricity-generating turbines had already shut down by noon.
This will drastically reduce output to 25 or 30 megawatts, down from the 65 megawatts the plant produces under normal conditions. By Sunday evening the plant will shut down completely, leaving large swaths of the Gaza Strip in darkness.
Omar Kittaneh, the head of the Palestine Energy Authority in Ramallah, confirmed that by tonight, the one remaining operating turbine will be powered down, and the Gaza power plant will no longer be generating any electricity at all.
"We have asked the Israeli government to reverse its decision and to supply fuel to operate the power plant", Dr. Kittaneh said. "We have talked to the Israeli humanitarian coordination in their Ministry of Energy [National Infrastructure]. We say this is totally Israel's responsibility, and that reducing the fuel supplies until the plant had to shut down will affect not only the electrical system but the water supply, and the entire infrastructure in Gaza everything."
After months of increasingly harsh sanctions, Israel imposed a total closure on the Strip's border crossings, even preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid. The Israeli government says the closure is punishment for an ongoing barrage of Palestinian homemade projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip.
180 fuel stations have shut down after Gaza residents to buy gas for cooking.
A Palestinian economist Hasan Abu Ramadan said the current humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip will be deepened by the blockade on fuel and food supplies. He warned that Gaza Strip could go from a situation of deep poverty to all out famine, disease, and malnutrition.
Abu Ramadan said that more than 80% of the Strip's 1.5 million residents have been surviving with the help of food aid from international organizations such as UNRWA for Palestinian refugees.
Most international actors in the region believe there already is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, the Undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs John Holmes, who said at a press conference at UNHQ in New York on Friday that "This kind of action against the people in Gaza cannot be justified, even by those rocket attacks".
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed particular concern, in a statement issued later on Friday through his spokesperson, about the "decision by Israel to close the crossing points in between Gaza and Israel used for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Such action cuts off the population from much-needed fuel supplies used to pump water and generate electricity to homes and hospitals".
The UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories, John Dugard, also issued a much sharper statement on Friday, saying that Israel must have foreseen the loss of life and injury to many nearby civilians when it targeted the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza City.
This, and the killings of other Palestinians during the week, plus the closures, "raise very serious questions about Israel's respect for international law and its Commitment to the peace process", Dugard said. He said it violates the strict prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention, and one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law: that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets.
Gaza Border Breached, Thousands Flood Into Egypt (23 January 2008) http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/012308O.shtml
Gaza City - Masked gunmen used explosives to blow holes in the Gaza Strip's border fence early today, enabling thousands of Palestinians to pour into Egypt to buy food, fuel and other supplies that had been cut off because of an Israeli blockade, witnesses said. Egyptian and Palestinian border guards did not resist the mass crossing at the Rafah terminal. Witnesses said Palestinian security officials later closed some of the breaches but kept two open, allowing Gazans to cross into Egypt and return with milk, cigarettes and plastic bottles of fuel. Hundreds of Gaza women had crashed a gate at the same border Tuesday to protest Egypt's cooperation with Israeli sanctions. They were turned back during a riot that injured 35 people and curtailed a resumption of food aid to the impoverished territory. Gaza came under total blockade Thursday after a sharp increase in Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel. The attacks continued Tuesday, but at a reduced rate, with more than 20 rockets landing harmlessly. Israel nonetheless eased the blockade Tuesday by delivering 317,000 gallons of diesel fuel for Gaza's shut-down power plant and for near-empty backup generators at hospitals. By evening, lights were back on in much of this capital after a two-day blackout. But the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the World Food Program said the border disturbance prevented 14 of the 24 truckloads of aid they had dispatched to Gaza from getting in. The two agencies supply food donations to about three-fourths of Gaza's 1.5 million people. (...) Israel agreed Monday to ease the blockade after intense criticism from the United Nations and European and Arab governments. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking to reporters en route to Berlin, said Tuesday that U.S. officials also had voiced concern "about the importance of not allowing a humanitarian crisis to unfold" in Gaza. Israeli officials insisted this week that Gazans were not on the brink of a crisis and that the measures were a justified reaction to rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas and other militant groups that call for the Jewish state's destruction. International relief workers gave a bleaker picture. They said the effects of the closure highlighted how fragile Gaza's network of essential services has become since June, when Hamas' violent takeover of the territory prompted Israel to cut off most cross-border commerce and start restricting fuel and aid deliveries. "In terms of the supplies coming in today, welcome as they are, they are nothing but the first step," John Ging, head of the U.N. relief agency in Gaza, told Reuters news agency Tuesday. Without a sustained flow of aid shipments, "we will face another disaster very quickly," he said.
IDF official rejects claims of humanitarian crisis in Gaza (01.20.08) http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3496654,00.html
Reports of crisis in Strip nothing but media spin created and promoted by Hamas, says military source -- Israel News"There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza," a military official told Ynet Sunday, claiming that the Palestinians had enough food supply to last them for the next weeks, and that any reports of such a crisis were created and promoted by Hamas. Lights Out'Israel's sanctions strengthen Hamas' / Ali WakedAs Gaza plunges into darkness due to power shortage, locals warn of impending humanitarian crisis. One resident says Israel's 'collective punishment' increases solidarity among PalestiniansFull StoryWhile admitting that the situation in the Gaza Strip was far from good, the official rejected claims that Gazans were suffering from a power shortage due to the shutting down of turbines at the local power plant. "Even today, Israel is behind 70% of the power supply to Gaza, and therefore any claim to the effect that there are electricity problems in Gaza is unfounded," he stated. "These are media spins by interested parties. We did not cut back on electricity and don't intend to do so at this point. "The Palestinians are in fact the ones who shut down power for several hours a day in a bid to create a crisis. At the moment, their fuel supply has not run out yet. If there is shortage of fuel oil at the power plants, they should ask themselves what happened to the supply they received." According to Israel, a recent shipment of 10,000 heads of cattle into the Strip, coupled with the existing stocks of poultry, fruits and vegetables and the smuggling of food supplies from Egypt should be enough to sustain the local population for weeks. Consequently, Israel said it did not plan to ease the siege on Gaza, except for urgent humanitarian needs.
Hamas Beats Israel's Gaza Siege (January 23, 2008) http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1706252,00.html
Palestinians cross over a destroyed section of the border wall from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, into Egypt (...) Now that Gazans have exploded out of their besieged enclave, it may be up to Israel to seal up the border again, since the Egyptians are showing no signs of doing so. Israel had put the economic squeeze on Gaza's 1.5 million people - a policy described as "collective punishment" by many aid organizations - hoping it would turn the Palestinians against Hamas. But with the siege broken, even if temporarily, Hamas has earned the gratitude of hungry Palestinians and reinvigorated its popularity in Gaza.
Humanitarian Impact of Israel's Blockade of Gaza - 2 Minute Video Report - 21 Jan 08 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01hqVzViFTw
Gaza's 1.5 million residents are struggling to cope without electricity and other basic necessities on the fourth day of an Israeli blockade. Hospitals have begun to run short of fuel for generators, and sewage has spilled out onto the streets.
American Pressure Thwarts UN Censure of Gaza Strip Blockade http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/947155.html
The United Nations Security Council will not approve a resolution condemning Israel over the closure of the Gaza Strip, due to pressure applied by the United States. The council will instead issue a Presidential Statement on the matter when it meets to discuss the situation in Gaza. According to a draft of the statement obtained by Haaretz, the Security Council will express "its deep concern about the deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory." "The Security Council also expresses concern in particular about the steep deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, due to the continued closure of all of the Gaza Strip border crossings and the recent decision by the Israeli government to reduce fuel supplies, to cut off electric power, and to prevent the delivery of food and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip," the draft says. "The Security Council calls upon Israel to abide by its obligations under international law including humanitarian and human rights law and immediately cease all its illegal measures and practices against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip," continued the draft statement. CLIP
Defusing the Gaza time bomb (January 20, 2008) http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/01/20/defusing_the_gaza_time_bomb/
THE GAZA STRIP suffers from sky-rocketing unemployment and poverty, and lacks medicine, fuel, electricity, food, and other essential commodities. It is virtually cut off. It also is the most likely trigger for the next Arab-Israeli war. In the past few weeks, Palestinian militant groups have fired rockets and mortars into Israel. Israeli incursions and aerial attacks have resulted in Palestinian casualties, including one that killed the son of one of Hamas's senior leaders. The situation is untenable, and both sides know it. Israel is unlikely to stand idly by as Hamas's arsenal grows and attacks continue. Hamas undoubtedly will retaliate for the deaths. Neither can afford to back down. Over recent weeks, Hamas officials in Gaza made clear they were prepared for a mutual cease-fire, entailing an end to rocket launches, a cessation of Israeli military attacks, and an opening of Gaza's crossings. Since Hamas's takeover of Gaza last June and the Islamists' intensified conflict with President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, their principal goals have been to consolidate their hold over the territory, reestablish law and order, and prove that they can govern. A severe conflict with Israel would threaten the first two objectives; maintenance of the border closures imperils the third. Israeli officials appear torn. They are not eager to reenter a territory from which they recently withdrew; know the risks of a ground operation; and are unsure that even an extensive military campaign can stop the rockets. But they see another side. To reach a cease-fire with Hamas and loosen the siege could bolster a movement they are determined to weaken; to deal with the Islamists could undercut Abbas, increase the pressure he feels to reconcile with Hamas, and thus jeopardize the fragile peace process recently revived at Annapolis, Md.; and to halt operations in Gaza could give Hamas a free hand to improve its military capacity. CLIP
3 dead in new Israeli airstrike, death toll 30 in 3 days! (2008-01-17) http://www.freegaza.ps/english/index.php?scid=100&id=260&extra=news&type=40Gaza
Three people were killed, including a woman and her son and several others were injured in a fresh Israeli raid, targeting a civilian car in Beit Lahiyah, in the northern Gaza Strip, on Thursday. (...) The latest killings bring the death toll in the Gaza Strip to 28 in the past three days.The offensive came as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared Israel was "at war" with Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip, who bombard Israeli towns bordering the coastal area with projectiles. "A war is going on in the south, every day, every night We cannot and will not tolerate this increasing fire at Israeli citizens ... so we will continue to operate, with wisdom and daring, with the maximum precision that will enable us to hit those who want to attack us," Olmert said in a speech.
52 Patients killed by Israeli Occupation due to Closure!
96% of factories are closed
67 thousand factories employees become out of work
25 thousand of textile workers became jobless
100% of textile factories are closed
$58 million are the losses of wooden industries
570 thousand of wooden industries workshop are closed
20-30 food lorries enter Gaza Strip instead of 300 in the past
85% of citizens are under poverty line
650$ is the rate of annual income per capita
65% of stores works are decreased
$55 million are the wastage of the agricultural sector
$120 million are the wastage of the industrial sector
$52 million are the losses of the fiber sector
470 cancer patients are likely to die
4500 strawberry farmers become out of work
$14 million are the wastage of strawberry and flowers season
$370 millions are the costs of stalled construction projects
3000 fishermen become out of work due to siege
160 thousand workers are out of work
6 months, Gaza with closed crossings and borders
136 medical instruments are stopped or our of order
97 sorts of medicines on the verge of depletion
107 classes of basic medicines are depleted from Gaza Strip
22 money holistic are suspended from work due to the siege
322 patients are in serious danger and in need of urgent treatment
1562 patients in need of treatment outside Gaza Strip
West Bank Bantustan http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19116.htm
The Annapolis peace process, guided by the Quartet, leads us towards a Palestinian "state" that, notwithstanding Bush's adjectival outpourings, will resemble Gaza-esque enclaves declared "unoccupied" and subjected to brutal repression.
Date: 22 Jan 2008
From: Ricken Patel - Avaaz.org (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Crisis in Gaza
The people of Gaza are being squeezed to death. This week's blackouts have finally reached the attention of the world -- and the international community could help end the blockade. Our obligation is clear. This isn't about Israel vs Palestine or Hamas vs Fatah: this is about 1.5 million human beings locked up in the biggest prison on earth. The siege of Gaza is a collective punishment violating international law, and far from ensuring Israel's security, it is only stoking rage and desperation.
Incredibly, the UN, European Union and Arab League have so far failed to act. We must seize this moment with an emergency campaign: demanding that the international community step in to end this blockade, ensure the free flow of supplies, and help broker the ceasefire which civilians on all sides desperately need. Please click below to sign the emergency petition -- we'll deliver it to the UN, EU and Arab League when we reach 100,000 signatures, so sign and tell everyone you know:
The humanitarian crisis of sealed-off Gaza is only getting worse, and a rain of missiles is falling. No genuine peace talks will be possible while the siege continues. In the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, we saw how global pressure and assistance can help stop a crisis and protect civilians from harm -- we cannot stay silent about the crisis in Gaza. Please add your name now at the link above, and forward this message widely.
With hope and determination,
Ricken, Paul, Galit, Esra'a, Pascal, Ben and the whole Avaaz team
PSS In a global interactive poll, tens of thousands of Avaaz members helped to set our direction for campaigning on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and achieving a reciprocal ceasefire were both supported by over 90% of respondents: http://www.avaaz.org/en/annapolis_results_2
By Linda S. Heard - Online Journal Contributing Writer
January 23, 2008
Do Israeli leaders have stones where their hearts should be? Are they tested for an absence of empathy and compassion before they are allowed to take office? Is there an empty void in place of their conscience? There must be, else how do they get to sleep at night? How do they bear looking at their own faces in the mirror? Take a long hard look at Gaza, which Israel has deliberately and systematically turned into the most hellish place on earth, and you'll understand that these are valid questions.
Israelis like to believe they are an evolved people and, indeed, their intellectual capabilities are sterling. They are also a people who have known extreme suffering, extreme hardship and the brand of loneliness that only the homeless can feel. But it seems their collective memory is short, else how on earth can they bear to keep silent about the terrible things being done to a frightened, poor, hungry people in their name?
Fresh from an orgy of grandiose peace promises and reassuring photo-ops with Mahmoud Abbas doing his return of the long-lost-brother act, Israel wasted no time in going on the rampage. It wasn't enough to assault Gaza militarily, resulting in over 30 deaths in just a few days. They have now sealed the open-air virtual prison and blockaded imports of fuel, medicines and even food.
As we stuff ourselves with takeaways in our heated living rooms or watch our favorite program on our posh plasma televisions or head off for the mall with bulging wallets, let's take just a moment to imagine what life must be like for the 1.5 million residents of Gaza.
The BBC five-day weather forecast for Gaza puts nighttime temperatures at 4 to 8 degrees Celsius with sunset at around 5 p.m. each day. Just imagine long evenings in the dark and the cold with elderly parents or young children with no means of cooking a warm meal. Perhaps, you're thirsty so you put a glass under the tap and nothing comes out because without electricity the pumps don't function. Wouldn't most of us consider such an existence torture?
Imagine having a sick family member who requires regular insulin injections for diabetes but when you go to the pharmacy, there is none. Perhaps you're a proud father or mother of a newborn who needs to spend the first weeks of life inside an incubator, but all the doctors can do is shrug their shoulders and say "there's no electricity." Tragically, this isn't empty speculation. Already, five patients have died in Gaza hospitals simply due to its lack.
Imagine how helpless and despairing you would feel trapped in that hell with no way of getting away from it; no place to escape from Israel's bombs; no future; no hope.
Israel is even preventing humanitarian aid from getting through; aid which keeps 80 percent of Gaza residents alive. UN officials have protested but is anyone in Israel listening?
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was concerned about Israel's closure of crossing points used to deliver humanitarian assistance.
John Dugard, the UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur slammed Israel for targeting Gaza's Ministry of Interior and the consequent loss of innocent life and for its policy of collective punishment, which he says violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.
But when has Israel ever cared about its responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions? Throughout its history as a state, it has shown complete disregard for UN Security Council resolutions and international law. It operates purely out of self-interest on the basis of "might is right." It has no moral compass when it comes to making Palestinian lives as miserable as possible. As an entity it knows no shame. All its crimes are hidden under cover of the magic word "security."
Gideon Levy, a journalist with the Israeli daily Haaretz appears to understand this. In a recent opinion piece he writes: "Here, we have the yardstick for security success: the number of Palestinians killed. As in the most primeval wars, the heads of the defense establishment are boasting about the number of people Israel has killed. Their job is to ensure protection for the residents of the state. And, as we know, the residents of the 'Gaza perimeter' are not receiving this protection.
"So the death toll has become the measure of their success . . . Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin briefed the Cabinet last week about the 'achievements' of his organization: 810 Palestinians killed during the past two years . . ."
There are many just and empathetic Israelis like Levy but, unfortunately, they never make it into the Cabinet, nor do they manage to make serious inroads into the "I'm alright Jack" apathy displayed by the majority of Israelis vis-à-vis their Palestinian neighbors.
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who lives in Damascus, has made an emotional appeal to Mahmoud Abbas and leaders of the Arab world. He asks them to put aside differences and to "stand with us in pride and honor." In particular, he wants Egypt to supply fuel via the Rafah crossing, which it controls. Thus far, Egypt, bound and gagged by its treaties and alliances, has not responded.
After earlier accusing Hamas of thwarting national aspirations, Mahmoud Abbas has finally spoken up. He has called on Israel to immediately end the blockade and to allow the entry of fuel to facilitate the lives of the innocent. He has further called for a 'special' Arab League meeting and warns he may put the issue before the UN Security Council.
I'm already anticipating e-mails from Israel's champions asking why I don't mention the hundreds of Palestinian rockets that are sent in the direction of the Western Negev -- as though they alone could justify Israel's punishment of innocent men, women and children. So I'm mentioning them.
But let's put those into perspective. They are homemade and ineffectual, the vast majority landing on sand. It's true that the Israeli town of Sderot is under threat. It's true that the Qassams have killed a relatively small number of Israelis, but when Gaza is ruthlessly attacked almost weekly, why should Israelis expect to be immune from retaliation? Israel wants to be a boxer, whose opponent has his hands and feet bound, and when one restraint falls away, Israel, cries foul play.
Without our humanity we are nothing. Those who thrust fear, hunger and pain onto innocent people or allow such atrocities to happen should evaluate their place in the brotherhood of mankind, as well as their understanding of their own religion because no religion on earth tolerates such callous practices.
This is my plea to decent people everywhere. Make your voices heard. Let them ring out from the rooftops. Take up your pens; open your laptops and send Israel a clear message: "This is not acceptable . . . This is not acceptable . . . This is not acceptable."
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
24/01/08 "ICH" -- -- Forget everything you've read about the Great Escape from Gaza. It's all rubbish. The whole farce was cooked up in an Israeli think tank as way to rid Palestine of its indigenous people. Here's an excerpt from the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva which explains the real motive behind the incident:
MK (Israeli Knesset member) Aryeh Eldad is hailing the Arab exodus to Egypt as proof that voluntary transfer is indeed an option.
The Israeli left continues to claim that there is no such thing as voluntary transfer, and simply ignores reality, Eldad said. (Arutz Sheva)
Voluntary transfer. Bingo.
So the fleeing Palestinians just fell into a trap. Now they've been banished to Egypt by their own volition. We'll have to wait and see how many are allowed to return.
The media has played its traditional role in the Gaza fiasco, trying to make it look like Hamas' "terrorist masterminds" struck a major blow against Israel. It's just a way of diverting attention from Israel's role in the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Here's the way Ha'aretz summed it up:
Hamas chalked up a real coup. Not only did the organization demonstrate once again that it is a disciplined, determined entity, and an opponent that is exponentially more sophisticated than the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are now forced to find a new joint border control arrangement, one that will probably depend on the good graces of Hamas....The Hamas action yesterday was anything but spontaneous. It was another stage in the campaign that began in Gaza's night of darkness on Sunday. As Gaza was plunged into widely televised blackness, Palestinian children armed with candles were brought out on a protest march and organized into prime-time demonstrations in support of the Egyptian and Jordanian branches of the Muslim Brotherhood. (Gaza border breach shows Israel Hamas is in charge, Ha'aretz)
Nonsense. Israel is not the victim any more than Palestinian children are "armed" with candles. The candles are a symbol of hope; something that is sadly lacking under Israeli rule. The truth is that Israel was getting battered in the media for cutting off food, water, energy and medical supplies to 1.5 million civilians (some of whom died in the hospital when the power was turned off on their respirators) so they looked for a way to do an about-face without appearing weak. Ha'aretz would like us to believe that our sympathy for starving women and children is the result of the propaganda we've seen in the "Palestinian-owned media.
What a laugh; the Palestinian-owned media.
Hamas poses no threat to Israel and it controls nothing; certainly not the border. They've even suspended all suicide attacks since they won democratic elections a year and a half ago. But that is not enough for Israel whose goal is to extinguish any trace of Arab solidarity or Palestinian nationalism. Nearly all of the 4,000 articles now appearing on Google News follow this same absurd narrative about 'clever terrorists' who've out-foxed Israel and liberated their people. It's just another way of concealing the criminal brutality of the 60 year long occupation. In truth, Hamas probably had nothing to do with the destruction of the wall. It's just part of Israel's plans to exile more Palestinians.
According to the article in Arutz Sheva, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak decided to follow orders from Hamas' chief Khaled Mashall and ignore Israeli calls to close the border. Mashaal seemed to indicate that Hamas was asserting sovereignty over northern Sinai, calling upon the Arab world to take advantage of the Islamist group's new stronghold to provide aid directly without Israeli interference.
Now, that's a stretch. In other words, US puppet Hosni Mubarak-who gets $2 billion a year in aid from the United States---has suddenly decided to take orders from the head of a group that is on the State Dept's list of terrorist organizations so that he can fulfill his obligations as a loyal Arab?
Besides, Hamas has no interest in northern Sinai or any other territorial ambitions. Its only purpose is to resist Israeli occupation.
So far an estimated 350,000 residents of Gaza have fled across the border since Wednesday. The Egyptian police have done nothing to stop them from entering the country. "A significant number have remained in Egypt...traveling south to Egyptian population centers.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on 1-24-08 that:
Israeli officials proposed that Egypt take over responsibility for sustaining the Gaza Strip.
Israeli media quoted members of the Olmert government as saying Thursday that, after Palestinians overran the Gaza-Egypt border, there was an opportunity to demand that Cairo take care of the needs of the coastal territory.
"We need to understand that when Gaza is open to the other side, we lose responsibility for it. So we want to disengage from it," Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio. "We are responsible as long as there is no alternative." (JTA)
Are we expected to believe that in the last 24 hours Israel decided willy-nilly to relinquish control over parts of the Gaza Strip? Israel has devoted a considerable amount of time to building settlements in a way that removes any possibility of creating a contiguous Palestinian state. It is highly unlikely that their plans for Gaza are taken any less seriously. In fact, we are probably seeing a manifestation of those plans right now via the expulsion of 350,000 Palestinians.
The Jerusalem Post's Yaakov Katz clarifies how the destruction of the border wall serves Israel's long-term policy objectives:
Without even knowing it, Egypt helped Israel on Wednesday to complete the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he opened the crossing for Gazans since they were "starving due to the Israeli siege," what he did proved to the world that his country is perfectly capable of caring for the Palestinians when it comes to food and medical care.
Wednesday's events and particularly Mubarak's decision to open a floodgate into his country for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, demonstrated that there are alternatives to Israel when it comes to being Gaza's provider. " (Jerusalem Post)
That says it all, doesn't it? The Palestinians are regarded as a mere nuisance and a drain on Israeli resources. Now that the wall has conveniently been knocked down, the problem appears to be solved.
Hamas had nothing to do with blowing up the wall. And if they did, they were just unwitting accomplices in Israel's masterplan to drive more Palestinians off the land and to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the ones that remain.
This is just another grim chapter in Bush's New Middle East.
Israel wants to sever connections with Gaza - official http://snipurl.com/1y6jw
Israel would like to sever its remaining connections with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip after militants blasted open the territory's border with Egypt, a top Israeli defence official said on Thursday.
Gaza Exodus To Egypt: A 'Blessing in Disguise' for Israel? http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,530735,00.html
As Jerusalem sees it, Egypt now has responsibility for more than just the Gaza Strip's southern border. "The opening of the border relieves us of our responsibility for Gaza," a government official said, "and if the international community demands that the Israeli border with Gaza be opened, we will now point to the Egyptian role."
From: Catherine Allon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: The Earth Hour - March 29th - Is your city involved?
Date: 22 Jan 2008
Dear One, Can you imagine my surprise when I saw a half page article (below) on the front page of our daily rag the Toronto Star devoted to this story about saving our environment?
Many Blessings to you
PS The Star also mentioned 6 'meditations' on the environment on the same front page.
Toronto plays key role in Earth Hour crusade
This week's Earth Hour challenge
On Saturday, March 29, people around the world will turn off their lights as a symbolic statement about taking action against climate change. The bigger aim, though, is to build awareness about the long-term changes we can make to lighten our load on the planet.
Every Saturday until Earth Hour, Catherine Porter and Peter Gorrie, the Star's environment reporters, will take on a weekly environmental challenge aimed at reducing their eco-footprint, and we hope you'll follow along with them. They'll issue the challenge in our paper every Saturday, and throughout the week they'll write about it on their blog, The Green Life, at www.thestar.com/blogs. They want to hear from you how you are doing, what you are doing, suggestions and challenges of your own.
Think of it as a little green support group. Or the nudge you've been waiting for.
Replace all incandescent light bulbs in your home with compact fluorescents, and slay all indoor power vampires (electronic gadgets that suck energy to stay on even when you turn them off).
While most people blame industry for the bulk of our country's greenhouse gases, our own personal lifestyles and choices contribute to one-third to half of them.
About 16 per cent of that comes from the electricity and heat we pump into our homes. Old-fashioned light bulbs, for instance, use 95 per cent electricity to make heat rather than light. And since lighting can take up 15 per cent of your home's electricity bill, that's a lot of wasted dollars and greenhouse gases. Electronic gadgets that draw phantom power can suck up 20 per cent of a home's electricity bill, surpassing even the mighty fridge.
Environment reporter Catherine Porter has long thought of herself as green. So she was shocked to learn that her eco-footprint spanned 6.6 hectares. Now she's on a mission to bind her feet.
Over 20 years of reporting on the environment, one conclusion stands out for Peter Gorrie: Less is more. That's why this year-round bike commuter is working hard to shrink his energy bill.
Why I'll be part of Earth Hour
"We are all responsible for our planet. It's the only one we've got! It may be daunting, but we can each do our part as individuals to make a healthier planet. For my part, when I purchased my first home, I took steps to make it more energy-efficient. All of my appliances are EnergyStar, I've installed new draft-proof windows and doors, and I power my home with Bullfrog Powera green renewable energy supplier. In my professional life, I have to travel a lot so I always use carbon credits to offset the emissions created by my flights and encourage others to do the same. And you don't have to break the bank to save the planet. Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescents, re-caulk your windows and turn off your lights when you leave the room and your appliances when you go away. We can all do our part."
- Deutsche Grammophon recording artist Measha Brueggergosman
The Star is issuing a challenge - to ourselves and to our readers - to commit our city to one hour of darkness.
By simply turning out the lights for one hour on the same day at the same time, citizens and companies around the world are uniting to send a powerful message to sluggish governments
Jan 19, 2008 - Peter Gorrie Environment reporter
Seven countries, 17 cities (so far) and a growing movement that truly begins at home.
It might seem an inconsequential thing to turn out the lights in your house for an hour on a Saturday night.
With vast clouds of greenhouse gases spewing from vehicles, factories and generating stations around the world, it's like an ant trying to halt the juggernaut of destructive climate change.
But Earth Hour is all about the power of one, multiplied many, many times.
If you, your neighbours and many others take the little step between 8 and 9 p.m. on March 29, not only will the city's electricity consumption drop for 60 minutes, you'll be making a major statement to sluggish governments and industry, and to one another.
"Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action," says the World Wildlife Fund, a main organizer of what, in its second year, has become a global event.
"It's a potent, very visible symbol of concern and expectation for action," says Julia Langer, global threats director at WWF- Canada.
"It's a celebration of what's been done so far and ratcheting up to the next level of achievement."
Building public awareness of energy use is key to moving the province toward "the conservation culture that the premier is talking about," says Toronto Hydro spokesperson Blair Peberdy.
The lights-out campaign was launched last year in Sydney, Australia. Organizers say 1,950 businesses and government departments, and 60,000 households, participated. For 60 minutes, much of the city's skyline went dark and demand for electricity fell 10.2 per cent. That reduction was double the original target.
Since most of Australia's electricity is generated by burning coal, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was equivalent to taking 48,000 cars off the road for an hour, organizers say.
This year, Earth Hour will be an international demonstration of the power of individuals to create change.
Sydney is in again, and the event, so far, has expanded within Australia to include Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Gold Coast and Melbourne, and beyond the island continent to Toronto; Chicago; Tel Aviv and Haifa, Israel; Manila, Philippines; Suva, Fiji; Christchurch, New Zealand; and four Danish cities Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg. At least three more Bangkok, Singapore and Shanghai are likely to participate. Others are welcome.
A similar action, Lights Out America, will be held in additional U.S. locations.
Toronto's Earth Hour is co-sponsored by the Star, WWF-Canada, the City of Toronto and Virgin Mobile, with co-operation from Toronto Hydro and many businesses.
During the two months leading up to Earth Hour, the newspaper will publish daily green tips. It has launched a blog thestar.com/blogs aimed at helping readers cut their consumption of energy and resources of all kinds.
The Star is also taking the campaign to heart by undertaking its own "green" plan at the Vaughan Press Centre and offices at One Yonge St.
And this week, WWF-Canada begins a companion campaign called "The Good Life," intended to help people take positive action on climate change while living happier, healthier lives in harmony with the environment.
It sets up a national system for tracking how we reduce our greenhouse emissions. You'll find details on the group's website: http://www.wwf.ca/
"It will prove the point that people are taking action and build the expectation for others to do their part as well," Langer says.
For Earth Hour, each city is setting its own goals for reduced electricity demand.
Toronto's is 5 per cent. Although that doesn't sound like much, it would be a substantial achievement and require mass participation by residents and businesses, according to Toronto Hydro.
On the other hand, there's no reason why we can't eclipse what Sydney accomplished last year.
Here's what's involved:
Looked at in the simplest way, lighting accounts for about 15 per cent of the total electricity demand on a typical late-March weekend evening.
During the past three years, the load has amounted to 3,345 megawatts during the equivalent to this year's Earth Hour period, Toronto Hydro says. So, one-third of all the lights in Toronto would have to go dark to reach the goal.
The real situation, though, is more complex.
On weekdays, residential demand accounts for only 20 per cent of the total load, but on a March Saturday night, with many businesses and factories closed, it rises to 30 per cent.
The city has about 600,000 dwellings. Assuming half are occupied on a Saturday night, and each is lit by 10 100-watt bulbs, if everyone at home turned off all their lights, demand would fall by 300 megawatts.
Just like that, we'd cut overall demand by nearly 9 per cent.
The effort can go beyond lights: You can eliminate other power drains, too, including the "phantom" or "vampire" load consumed by TVs, stereos, computers, cellphone chargers and any other gear that appears to be turned off but is eating up watts on standby.
Just pull the plug or switch the power bar to "off." Even better, shut down your gizmos and do something fun that doesn't require electricity at all. Your choice.
With all those options, we'd double the target just by cutting residential demand. But obviously, only with huge participation.
Some of the non-residential half of the load can't, or won't, be cut.
For safety reasons some lights, including traffic signals and 160,000 street lamps, must remain on. Condo and apartment hallways have to be illuminated. Subways and streetcars will keep trundling along.
And water treatment plants among the city's main power consumers can't be shut down.
The Leafs are scheduled to play the Montreal Canadiens that evening, and the Air Canada Centre isn't going to be darkened with 20,000 fans and players inside.
The ACC draws up to 10 megawatts when the rink and TV lights are on full blast.
Even so, the business side has plenty of scope to cut its demand, Hydro officials say.
For one thing, the downtown towers, which draw up to 10 to 15 megawatts each, don't need to be as brightly lit as they now are on Saturday nights.
Stores could tone down their outdoor signs; restaurants could serve meals by candlelight.
"The office towers are darker after business hours than they used to be, but there's a lot of room for improvement," Peberdy says.
Toronto's Earth Hour greenhouse gas savings won't be as dramatic as in Sydney because most of our electricity comes from hydro and nuclear stations, whichas long as they're generating powerare emissions-free.
In fact, it's difficult to say what the drop might be.
Over the past two years, Ontario's remaining coal plants have generated only about 18 per cent of the power produced province-wide between 8 and 9 p.m. on March 29.
Separate figures aren't available for Toronto. Assume we match the provincial result, though. Coal plants tend to be shut down first when power demand falls, because nuclear and hydro stations produce the cheapest power and nuclear plants are best left humming along at top speed.
So, we can assume much of the reduction will be at the coal-fuelled plants, but not all.
What will the city look like?
"All of the downtown better go dark," Langer says.
For certain, it won't be like the big blackout of 2003, when, for a time, almost every light was out and, for once, city dwellers could see stars shining brightly in the night sky.
It also won't be a surprise, so there's no need to fear stumbling around in the dark, or having a fridge full of food go bad.
But if enough condo dwellers and businesses participate, much of the skyline will be reduced to a dim silhouette. And if the rest of us join in, neighbourhoods will be dark and peaceful.
Again, Earth Hour is not about solving climate change: It's about people expressing concern and an intention to do something about it.
"Turning out the lights is a symbol of what we can do, and what we want to do," Langer says.
Civilian radioactive waste http://earthwatch.unep.net/emergingissues/radioactivewaste/civilian.php
Civilian nuclear activities such as electricity generation also produce wastes that are difficult to handle. Used fuel rods can be reprocessed, but there are still large quantities of radioactive waste materials waiting in temporary storage sites.Since the 1960s, more than 200,000 tons of spent fuel have been produced by 400 reactors in 30 countries, and every year 10,000 tons are added. One much-debated method of nuclear waste disposal is burial. According to a submission by the Royal Society to Britain's House of Lords inquiry on nuclear waste, all countries with a nuclear waste problem are considering underground disposal as "the only viable long-term option". However, it appears that every country that has tried to find a safe burial site has failed. Cases in point include the United States at Yucca mountain in Nevada, Germany at Gorleben and Britain in Cumbria. In these cases, the countries were faced with more geological complexities and political opposition than expected (Edwards, 1999).
The environmental disadvantages of burial of nuclear wastes include the spread of radioactivity into the surrounding environment. If absorbed into the food chain, it can cause unpredictable genetic damage. Furthermore, some elements have a half-life of up to 100,000 years, and so the effects of nuclear contamination would be permanent and almost irreversible (Tengelsen, 1995). Much more on this through http://earthwatch.unep.net/radioactivewaste/index.php
THIS IS A VERY SAD AND TRAGIC SITUATION THAT URGENTLY REQUIRES OUR COLLECTIVE ATTENTION. PALM OIL PLANTATIONS GROWN IN FRESHLY DESTROYED RAINFOREST, AS WELL AS ALL LOGGING AND CLEAR-CUTTING OF ALL BIODIVERSITY-RICH FORESTS MUST BE IMMEDIATELY HALTED AND FOREVER BANNED WORLDWIDE!
In Indonesia, oil palms feed world thirst for clean fuel, but forests, climate and species pay a steep price
By Tom Knudson
January 20, 2008
Every morning, the cage doors swing open and 34 orangutan orphans climb into the outstretched arms of their human mothers.
Grabbing at wrists, tugging at elbows, these baby apes cling to the young women like Velcro, happy to be free of their cages, to play in the dappled sun of the nearby forest for a few hours.
It's primate day care, a scene that seems choreographed for the Animal Planet channel. But this spectacle of one hominid helping another is more than entertainment. It is a genuine reflection of environmental collapse.
These rust-red fluff balls were born in the wild, in the steamy, lime-green rain forest of tropical Indonesia. Today this jungle is being leveled and its great apes captured, killed and orphaned to grow palm oil, a plantation crop refined into biofuel for environmentally conscious consumers in Europe and the United States.
We live in a world of wanna-be-green commerce, of guilt-ridden citizens eager to protect nature, shrink their carbon footprints and free themselves from Middle East oil. But not every new fuel and eco-friendly product soothes the planet. Some are saddled with environmental baggage of their own, with not-so-obvious links to pollution, climate change and deforestation.
During the past year, supported by a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation, I have reported on two such cases: a gourmet line of "conservation-based" Starbucks coffee that was grown on a plantation in a threatened Ethiopian rain forest and a petroleum substitute fueling U.S. cars that was strip-mined from Canada's boreal forest.
Nothing captured my attention like the orphaned orangutans of Indonesia. Here was a new generation of primates with no forest to explore, no mothers to mimic. Yet they clowned around at my feet, nearly stole my backpack and played tug of war with a stick. Other endangered species don't do that.
As symbols of environmental change, orangutans are hard to beat. But their struggle is more than a tale of paradise lost. It is also through the logging of Indonesia's great rain forests and the resulting massive release of carbon into the atmosphere a story with a broader connection to the warming of the Earth's atmosphere and mankind's role in triggering it.
By coincidence, my November visit came just ahead of the largest global climate gathering in years, a United Nations conference in the Indonesian resort community of Bali.
As delegates from nearly 190 nations met to lay the groundwork for a global warming treaty, another climate drama with worldwide implications was unfolding 400 miles to the north across the pale blue Java Sea in Borneo and farther west in Sumatra.
Where a rich rain forest once stood, storing carbon in its roots, branches, trunks and soil, vast fields of oil palms stretched across the landscape, displacing native people and leaving some of the world's most majestic creatures from Sumatran tigers to orangutans without a home.
"There is no greater curse for orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra than palm oil plantations," said Biruté Galdikas, one of the world's leading primate scientists, who lives in Indonesia but spends part of the year in Los Angeles, home to her nonprofit group: Orangutan Foundation International. "People who buy palm oil have orangutan blood on their hands."
Growing taste for palm oil as fuel
For more than 30 years, Indonesia's oil palm plantations have fed a global market for vegetable oil, most used in everyday food products from cream cheese to candy bars, cookies to hamburger buns. As concern about climate change and oil prices has grown, interest in palm oil as a green, renewable fuel has soared.
The trend began in Europe a decade or so ago when governments began subsidizing companies to blend soybean, palm and other vegetable oils with diesel to reduce carbon emissions. Since 2004, biodiesel production has more than doubled in Europe to 4.9 million metric tons.
Now biodiesel is catching on in the United States. Last year, the nation's largest biodiesel plant, supplied in part with palm oil, opened in Washington state. In 2007, 15 million gallons of palm oil were offloaded in Southern California, where it helped power cruise ships and semi-trailer trucks.
Regulators are increasingly uneasy. This week, European Union officials plan to propose a law to ban the import of biodiesel derived from crops grown on recently destroyed forests. California's own alternative fuels plan says palm oil should "come from plantations whose creation does not disrupt that habitat of rare species."
Wade Randlett, co-founder of NextFuels Inc., the San Francisco company that imported the 15 million gallons of palm oil to California, said his supplies from Malaysia and Indonesia meet that test.
"Every drop is from a sustainable source," he said. "Not one square foot of rain forest has been destroyed."
The difficulty of tracing palm oil a bulk commodity blended and shipped in giant batches to specific land management practices in the tropics makes some biofuel entrepreneurs wary.
"Palm-based biodiesel, practiced poorly, is an environmental disaster," said Eric Bowen, chairman of the California Biodiesel Alliance. "You've got orangutan populations under pressure. You've got deforestation going on."
Environmental concerns prompted food and biodiesel companies to join with conservation groups in 2003 to form the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which promotes more eco-friendly production, including sowing plantations on land already cleared for farming instead of in rain forests.
Not all environmentalists think the group can live up to its name.
"How can (palm oil) be sustainable if it's causing so much destruction?" said Leila Salazar-Lopez, agribusiness campaign director with the Rainforest Action Network in San Francisco.
Expansion becomes disaster, critic says
The roots of Indonesia's palm oil expansion reach back 3 1/2 decades, when the government of former President Suharto set aside vast swaths of forest for logging and plantations. Overcutting caused widespread damage and continues to be a problem, according to Lisa Curran, a Yale University professor of tropical resources.
So little wood remains on legal timber concessions that companies log illegally inside national parks and other protected areas, Curran wrote in a 2004 article in the journal Science. Once forests are logged of valuable trees, they often are cleared for oil palm plantations, Curran noted.
"Oil palm is a disaster all the way around for biodiversity if converted from logged forest or peat swamp," Curran the recipient of a 2006 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award for her work on Indonesia's deforestation wrote in an e-mail. "Oil palm is fine if they actually put it on totally degraded lands but they don't."
Indonesia's government believes there is still plenty of land left for nature, said Riaz Saehu, a spokesman for the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C. But, he said, in recent years it also has begun taking a more cautious approach toward oil palm plantations.
"There is an effort to reduce plantation expansion," Saehu said, pointing out that palm oil plantations now cover about 15 million acres roughly the size of 20 Yosemite National Parks up from 1.5 million acres in 1986. "What we do now is basically to promote sustainability."
Curran, who also directs Yale's Tropical Resources Institute, has her doubts. "After 23 years there I must say they can talk the talk but never walk the walk," she said.
And what about the palm oil industry? "It's wrong to say palm oil destroys the forest," said Siam Maksum, a safety officer for the sprawling Astra Agro Lestari plantation whom I met at a business exhibition in south-central Borneo. "We are not responsible for that."
Maksum showed me a movie about palm oil and gave me a brochure about the promise of biodiesel. His company is the largest palm oil producer in Indonesia and, he said, it brought jobs, schools and opportunity to the hinterlands.
Plantation destroys rain forest riches
My first glimpse of a palm oil plantation came on the back of a motor scooter flying along the mud-slick back roads of Sumatra with members of an indigenous tribe, the Kubu people. They drove, sometimes wildly. I hung on and hoped for the best.
For mile after muggy mile, the palm trees flew by, growing in long, shadowy rows like an oversized Iowa cornfield. Here and there, we passed charred stumps, reminders of the cathedral-like rain forest that once defined this landscape. At one spot, where the land had been bulldozed for new planting, pinkish-red soil was bleeding into a creek.
Through an interpreter, the Kubu told me they had lived for generations off the riches of the rain forest its fish, deer, plants and turtles. Now, their jungle pantry was lean. "Before, there were many animals," said Abas, a Kubu leader, who like some Indonesians uses just one name. "Today, there is hardly anything."
We kept moving, fishtailing through muddy spots, splashing through puddles, until we came to a tiny village of stick huts surrounded by oil palms, where a bronze-skinned mother of five invited me inside for a visit. She said her name was Anna.
"I am a victim," said Anna, who wore only blue shorts and a black bra. "I have lost my garden. I cannot grow the rubber, bananas, chiles and other things I need to feed my family." A plantation palm oil tree grew in Anna's front yard.
A village leader named Matt Aman joined the conversation. Years ago, this corner of Sumatra was a chorus of birdsong, he said. Now, an eerie quiet grips the land a silent spring all year long.
"There are no sounds from the birds anymore," he said.
Deforestation unlocks carbon gases
A day's drive north of the Kubu villages in the palm oil capital of Indonesia, Riau province, deforestation is stirring a global debate over climate change.
All deforestation contributes to global warming, of course, by releasing carbon long stored in trunks, leaves and branches back into the atmosphere. But Indonesia's forests especially its soggy peat jungles being drained and burned for palm oil plantations are special.
Locked inside those forests and swamp-like thickets is a Fort Knox of carbon about 24 billion tons that has been captured from the atmosphere over eons through the magic of photosynthesis. Now deforestation is opening those vaults.
"First, there is a natural compaction that takes place. The peat sinks," said Art Klassen, regional director for the Tropical Forest Foundation, a science-based U.S. nonprofit group. "Then there is the natural oxidation of the upper layer. Because of the sun, there is greater biological activity, which decomposes that peat, completely releasing CO2 and oxidizing it."
Indonesia's deforestation-related carbon releases have lately drawn global attention because of their scale. A recent World Bank report put the loss at 2.6 billion tons a year out of a national total of 3 billion tons making the impoverished nation the third largest source of climate-warming carbon dioxide on Earth, behind China and the United States.
"Indonesia! Who would have thought it?" said Galdikas, the primate scientist in Jakarta. "It's because of the massive burning of forests for palm oil, used for biofuel. It's enough to make you support Saudi Arabian oil."
The week I visited Riau province, Greenpeace activists aboard the Rainbow Warrior were blockading a shipment of palm oil off its coast. A large banner tied to the ship's masts read: "Palm Oil Kills Forests & Climate."
As land cleared, wildlife driven out
Riau province also is home to one of the rarest mammals on Earth: the Sumatran tiger. Fewer than 350 are believed to survive in the wild. And as plantations expand for palm oil and for acacia trees, grown for pulp and paper many scientists fear the worst.
"The tiger is going to go extinct if we don't do something," said Sunarto, a wildlife biologist in the regional capital of Pekanbaru.
On several occasions, Sunarto said he has returned to tiger study areas only to find the rain forest mowed down to make way for plantations. "It's very sad," he said. "The trees are gone. The animals are gone."
Still, Sunarto soldiers on. The jungle where he works is sticky-hot, soggy-wet and buggy. Every member of his research team, Sunarto included, has come down with malaria. "We say we are going to put malaria on our résumés," he joked.
A similar spirit motivates researchers 700 miles east on the island of Borneo where the object of attention is Asia's only great ape the orangutan.
"Orangutans are almost ancestors," said Galdikas, a protégée of the late anthropologist Louis Leakey. "They share 97 percent of their genetic material with us. They are basically what we once were before we left the Garden of Eden. Do we want orangutans to disappear from the face of the Earth as biologically viable populations?"
Now 61, Galdikas arrived in Borneo in 1971 when she was 25 and Borneo was one of the wildest places on Earth. She built a research station on the swampy southern coast, named it Camp Leakey and set out to study and live with orangutans in the wild.
Over the years, she's had more scrapes and close calls than Indiana Jones. Once, she said, she was kidnapped by loggers and held at knifepoint. "It was about forests," Galdikas said as she sat calmly in her quiet home in Jakarta. "They beat me. I have teeth missing. I can talk about it now because it was 17 years ago."
Since then, she said, the struggle against illegal logging largely has been won. Camp Leakey is part of Tanjung Puting National Park, which Galdikas helped create. But now, she said, palm oil plantations represent a bigger threat.
"They just clear the forest," she said. "They take out the valuable timber and the rest they burn. And in the process, they drive out all the wildlife. When the burning is over, orangutans become refugees."
Many of those homeless orangutans along with others rescued from an illegal pet trade end up at the care and rehabilitation center Galdikas directs just outside Pankalabuun, where they are given names and impress the volunteers with their antics and aptitude.
Consider Kristen, a 22-year-old female. "She's extremely intelligent," said Jodie Sheridan, an Australian volunteer at the facility. "One day, she escaped from her cage, took herself straight to the vet's kitchen, mixed up a sugary mess and walked herself back to the cage."
Designed a decade ago for 40 animals, the center's orangutan population has ballooned to 325. "That's the most we've ever had," said Waliyati, the care center's manager. "Every year, we get 60 to 80 more."
Over the past year, the number of orphaned orangutan babies and toddlers has more than doubled, from 15 to 34.
"A refugee camp" of orangutans
An orphaned orangutan is a biological fire alarm. Few species bond more closely to their mothers. In the wild, a baby orangutan swings and dangles from its mother for at least three years, then remains with her for five more. In the wild, an orangutan orphan is an oxymoron.
Why, then, are so many orphans turning up at the care center? Galdikas and six other orangutan scientists and care workers I interviewed maintain that more and more it's because their mothers are shot or bludgeoned to death while foraging for food on palm oil plantations.
"They actually hire hunters to kill them because they view them as agricultural pests," Galdikas said. "The police have told me that."
Shortly after Sheridan arrived to volunteer at the care center in early 2006, she was shown some photos of a young male orangutan that had recently been mortally wounded in a palm oil plantation. In two of the pictures, which I later received via e-mail, the limp body of an orangutan is sprawled beneath a palm oil tree. Its mouth hangs open. Its right eye is swollen shut.
"People here were phoned to come and pick him up. But by the time they got there, he'd been beaten so badly that he only lived for two days," Sheridan said. "There are close-ups of his face and they've taken a big bat, a big lump of wood to him. And you've got all these palm oil workers standing around his body on the ground."
It's difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint who is killing orangutans. But Siam Maksum, the palm oil safety officer in Pangkalanbuun, told me his company is not to blame. "The orangutan never comes to our plantation because the land is already degraded," he said.
What about other companies? I asked.
"I have no idea," he said.
At the time of my visit to the care center, the newest orphan was Sirdado, who had arrived on Nov. 7. He was found wandering in a palm oil plantation, reported Fajar Dewanto, the field supervisor with Orangutan Foundation International in Borneo who organized the rescue.
His mother was missing a telltale clue. "If we find an infant, we know the mother has been killed," Dewanto said.
Though Sirdado was tucked away in quarantine, swarms of other primate preschoolers tumbled around on the ground in a makeshift playground and swung through some branches. Others held tight to their new human mothers.
Touching, yes. But tragic, too.
"The number of orangutans in rehabilitation centers is simply a symptom of how fast the forest is going," said Stephen Brend, a British zoologist who works at the facility.
"It's a major burden and a real horror story," he added. "It's just a refugee camp."
Biofuels 'do more harm than good' - MPs warn of emission and rainforest risks (January 20 2008) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jan/20/biofuels.renewableenergy
Controversial plans to make cars greener by using fuel made from crops and animal fat will be thrown into doubt this week when MPs are expected to question whether they will do more harm than good. Biofuels have been hailed as a green alternative to oil by some, but in the US, where there are massive plants converting maize (corn), it has been criticised for making food more expensive and being environmentally unfriendly. From April, petrol and diesel sold in the UK must have 2.5 per cent biofuels, drawn from sources such as tallow, rapeseed and sugar beet, rising to 5 per cent in two years' time. The EU wants to increase this to 10 per cent by 2020. But the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee is likely to call tomorrow for the schemes to be delayed because of fears that biofuels can have negative consequences. Criticisms include claims that producing some biofuels emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and that habitats such as tropical rainforests are being destroyed to plant the new crops. The report, 'Are Biofuels Sustainable?', is also thought to predict that rising food prices pushed up by competition for land could restrict growth in the industry. CLIP
Brazil to crack down on deforestation (January 24, 2008) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080124/ap_on_sc/brazil_amazon_deforestation_7;_ylt=Au8apI08LTJs.hnUOfnn88BxieAA
BRASILIA, Brazil - Brazil will combat rising deforestation in the Amazon by sending extra federal police and environmental agents to areas where illegal clearing of the rain forest jumped dramatically last year, officials said Thursday. (...) On Wednesday, the environment ministry announced that up to 7,000 square 2,700 square miles of rain forest was cleared from August through December.That puts Brazil on course to lose 5,791 square miles for the year ending in August a 34 percent increase from the previous 12-month period. (...) Adario said corn is increasingly being grown in the Amazon because of high international prices brought on by U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to promote use of corn-based ethanol. Brazil is an importer of corn, but farmers are increasingly planting it to meet domestic demand, Adario said.
Once a Dream Fuel, Palm Oil May Be an Eco-Nightmare (January 31, 2007) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/business/worldbusiness/31biofuel.html
AMSTERDAM, Jan. 25 Just a few years ago, politicians and environmental groups in the Netherlands were thrilled by the early and rapid adoption of sustainable energy, achieved in part by coaxing electrical plants to use biofuel in particular, palm oil from Southeast Asia. A palm oil estate on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Exports hit a record $9 billion last year because of strong European demand. Spurred by government subsidies, energy companies became so enthusiastic that they designed generators that ran exclusively on the oil, which in theory would be cleaner than fossil fuels like coal because it is derived from plants. But last year, when scientists studied practices at palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, this green fairy tale began to look more like an environmental nightmare. Rising demand for palm oil in Europe brought about the clearing of huge tracts of Southeast Asian rainforest and the overuse of chemical fertilizer there. Worse still, the scientists said, space for the expanding palm plantations was often created by draining and burning peatland, which sent huge amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.Considering these emissions, Indonesia had quickly become the worlds third-leading producer of carbon emissions that scientists believe are responsible for global warming, ranked after the United States and China, according to a study released in December by researchers from Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, both in the Netherlands. It was shocking and totally smashed all the good reasons we initially went into palm oil, said Alex Kaat, a spokesman for Wetlands, a conservation group. The production of biofuels, long a cornerstone of the quest for greener energy, may sometimes create more harmful emissions than fossil fuels, scientific studies are finding. As a result, politicians in many countries are rethinking the billions of dollars in subsidies that have indiscriminately supported the spread of all of these supposedly eco-friendly fuels for vehicles and factories. The 2003 European Union Biofuels Directive, which demands that all member states aim to have 5.75 percent of transportation run by biofuel in 2010, is now under review. CLIP
Biofuels: Green Dream or Climate Change Nightmare? http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/biofuels-green-dream-or-climate-change-nightmare-20070509
(...) There's a finite amount of arable land on the planet and most, if not all, of that is already being used to feed the 6 billion plus population. Monbiot points out that if we rely on crops for our fuel supplies, it will "set up a competition for food between cars and people" and that crop prices are already rising as a result. As food becomes more and more expensive, you can bet it won't be those sitting behind the wheel of a 4x4 going hungry.With prices for biofuel crops rising ever higher as demand increases, the temptation to open up new areas of arable land is just too great. Illegal timber isn't the only reason the rainforests of south-east Asia are being torn down, and in Indonesia vast areas that were once virgin forest are being replanted with palms, the oil from which goes into a multitude of supermarket products and, increasingly, biofuels. With species such as orang-utans already highly endangered, the expansion of oil palm plantations into their remaining habitat could be the final straw. CLIP
Say Yes to Orangutan Friendly Palm Oil (SAME IDEA AS THE DOLPHIN SAFE LABEL OF TUNA CANS) http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/say-yes-to-orangutan-friendly-palm-oil.html
Presently in Borneo (Indonesia and Malaysia) and Sumatra the Orangutan population is down to around 69,000. This may initially sound like a fairly large number, but when you discover that we are currently losing 50 Orangutans a week and that at the present rate of killing there will be none left by 2026, you then realise why the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have raised the alarm to an unprecedented level with a new report : "Last Stand of the Orangutan : A State of Emergency".The reason for this panic and devastation unfortunately lies very close to home.....Palm Oil. In your home right now there are likely to be a number of products that you use & consume everyday which contain Palm Oil from Borneo or Sumatra. To enable us to have these products millions of hectares of natural Rainforest are being destroyed to be replaced with Palm Oil Plantations. These Rainforests are the homes of the Orangutans, but everyday more and more are being slaughtered with guns, machetes, wooden stakes and even set on fire so that multi-national Palm Oil companies can get richer quicker. In some cases the babies of these Orangutans manage to escape, but unless rescued their fate is as heartbreaking as their parents. Orangutans share 96.4% of human genes and the helpless babies stay stuck to their mothers side for at least the first 5 years of their lives............ Just like our children. Petition: Please join us in asking Supermarkets to ensure that the Palm Oil used in their products comes from Orangutan Friendly, sustainable, non-destructive sources. And let's urge them to join the roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Sign the petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/say-yes-to-orangutan-friendly-palm-oil/sign.html
Forwarded by Daniel Stafford (email@example.com)
Why Ethanol Production Will Drive World Food Prices Even Higher in 2008
Lester R. Brown - January 24, 2008
We are witnessing the beginning of one of the great tragedies of history. The United States, in a misguided effort to reduce its oil insecurity by converting grain into fuel for cars, is generating global food insecurity on a scale never seen before.
The world is facing the most severe food price inflation in history as grain and soybean prices climb to all-time highs. Wheat trading on the Chicago Board of Trade on December 17th breached the $10 per bushel level for the first time ever. In mid-January, corn was trading over $5 per bushel, close to its historic high. And on January 11th, soybeans traded at $13.42 per bushel, the highest price ever recorded. All these prices are double those of a year or two ago.
As a result, prices of food products made directly from these commodities such as bread, pasta, and tortillas, and those made indirectly, such as pork, poultry, beef, milk, and eggs, are everywhere on the rise. In Mexico, corn meal prices are up 60 percent. In Pakistan, flour prices have doubled. China is facing rampant food price inflation, some of the worst in decades.
In industrial countries, the higher processing and marketing share of food costs has softened the blow, but even so, prices of food staples are climbing. By late 2007, the U.S. price of a loaf of whole wheat bread was 12 percent higher than a year earlier, milk was up 29 percent, and eggs were up 36 percent. In Italy, pasta prices were up 20 percent.
World grain prices have increased dramatically on three occasions since World War II, each time as a result of weather-reduced harvests. But now it is a matter of demand simply outpacing supply. In seven of the last eight years world grain production has fallen short of consumption. These annual shortfalls have been covered by drawing down grain stocks, but the carryover stocks -- the amount in the bin when the new harvest begins -- have now dropped to 54 days of world consumption, the lowest on record. (See data at http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update69_data.htm)
From 1990 to 2005, world grain consumption, driven largely by population growth and rising consumption of grain-based animal products, climbed by an average of 21 million tons per year. Then came the explosion in demand for grain used in U.S. ethanol distilleries, which jumped from 54 million tons in 2006 to 81 million tons in 2007. This 27 million ton jump more than doubled the annual growth in world demand for grain. If 80 percent of the 62 distilleries now under construction are completed by late 2008, grain used to produce fuel for cars will climb to 114 million tons, or 28 percent of the projected 2008 U.S. grain harvest.
Historically the food and energy economies have been largely separate, but now with the construction of so many fuel ethanol distilleries, they are merging. If the food value of grain is less than its fuel value, the market will move the grain into the energy economy. Thus as the price of oil rises, the price of grain follows it upward.
A University of Illinois economics team calculates that with oil at $50 a barrel, it is profitable -- with the ethanol subsidy of 51¢ a gallon (equal to $1.43 per bushel of corn) -- to convert corn into ethanol as long as the price is below $4 a bushel. But with oil at $100 a barrel, distillers can pay more than $7 a bushel for corn and still break even. If oil climbs to $140, distillers can pay $10 a bushel for corn -- double the early 2008 price of $5 per bushel.
The World Bank reports that for each 1 percent rise in food prices, caloric intake among the poor drops 0.5 percent. Millions of those living on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder, people who are barely hanging on, will lose their grip and begin to fall off.
Projections by Professors C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer of the University of Minnesota four years ago showed the number of hungry and malnourished people decreasing from over 800 million to 625 million by 2025. But in early 2007 their update of these projections, taking into account the biofuel effect on world food prices, showed the number of hungry people climbing to 1.2 billion by 2025. That climb is already under way.
Since the budgets of international food aid agencies are set well in advance, a rise in food prices shrinks food assistance. The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which is now supplying emergency food aid to 37 countries, is cutting shipments as prices soar. The WFP reports that 18,000 children are dying each day from hunger and related illnesses.
As grain prices climb, a politics of food scarcity is emerging as exporting countries restrict exports to limit the rise in domestic food prices. At the end of January, Russia -- one of the top five wheat exporters -- will impose a 40-percent export tax on wheat, effectively banning exports. Argentina, another leading wheat exporter, closed export registrations for wheat indefinitely in early December until it could assess the condition of the new crop. And Viet Nam, the number two rice exporter after Thailand, has banned rice exports for several months and will likely not lift this ban until the new crop comes to market.
Rising food prices are translating into social unrest. It began in early 2007 with tortilla demonstrations in Mexico. Then came pasta protests in Italy. More recently, rising bread prices in Pakistan have become a source of unrest. In Jakarta, 10,000 Indonesians gathered in front of the presidential palace on January 14th this year to protest the doubling of soybean prices that has raised the price of tempeh, the national soy-based protein staple. When a supermarket in Chongqing, China, where cooking oil prices have soared, offered this oil at a reduced price, the resulting stampede when doors opened killed three people and injured 31.
As economic stresses translate into political stresses, the number of failing states, such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti, which was already increasing before the rise in food prices began, could increase even faster.
There is much to be concerned about on the food front. We enter this new crop year with the lowest grain stocks on record, the highest grain prices ever, the prospect of a smaller U.S. grain harvest as several million acres of land that shifted from soybeans to corn last year go back to soybeans, the need to feed an additional 70 million people, and U.S. distillers wanting 33 million more tons of grain to supply the new ethanol distilleries coming online this year. Corn futures prices for December 2008 delivery are higher than those for March, suggesting that market analysts see even tighter supplies after the next harvest.
Whereas previous dramatic rises in world grain prices were weather-induced, this one is policy-induced and can be dealt with by policy adjustments. The crop fuels program that currently satisfies scarcely 3 percent of U.S. gasoline needs is simply not worth the human suffering and political chaos it is causing. If the entire U.S. grain harvest were converted into ethanol, it would satisfy scarcely 18 percent of our automotive fuel needs.
The irony is that U.S. taxpayers, by subsidizing the conversion of grain into ethanol, are in effect financing a rise in their own food prices. It is time to end the subsidy for converting food into fuel and to do it quickly before the deteriorating world food situation spirals out of control.
Lester R. Brown is President of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.
The lowdown on topsoil: It's disappearing (January 22, 2008) http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/348200_dirt22.html
Disappearing dirt rivals global warming as an environmental threat - The planet is getting skinned.While many worry about the potential consequences of atmospheric warming, a few experts are trying to call attention to another global crisis quietly taking place under our feet. - Sustainable farming not an easy sell - Call it the thin brown line. Dirt. On average, the planet is covered with little more than 3 feet of topsoil -- the shallow skin of nutrient-rich matter that sustains most of our food and appears to play a critical role in supporting life on Earth."We're losing more and more of it every day," said David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington. "The estimate is that we are now losing about 1 percent of our topsoil every year to erosion, most of this caused by agriculture.""It's just crazy," fumed John Aeschliman, a fifth-generation farmer who grows wheat and other grains on the Palouse near the tiny town of Almota, just west of Pullman."We're tearing up the soil and watching tons of it wash away every year," Aeschliman said. He's one of a growing number of farmers trying to persuade others to adopt "no-till" methods, which involve not tilling the land between plantings, leaving crop stubble to reduce erosion and planting new seeds between the stubble rows.Montgomery has written a popular book, "Dirt," to call public attention to what he believes is a neglected environmental catastrophe. A geomorphologist who studies how landscapes form, Montgomery describes modern agricultural practices as "soil mining" to emphasize that we are rapidly outstripping the Earth's natural rate of restoring topsoil."Globally, it's clear we are eroding soils at a rate much faster than they can form," said John Reganold, a soils scientist at Washington State University. "It's hard to get people to pay much attention to this because, frankly, most of us take soil for granted."The National Academy of Sciences has determined that cropland in the U.S. is being eroded at least 10 times faster than the time it takes for lost soil to be replaced.The United Nations has warned of worldwide soil degradation -- especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where soil loss has contributed to the rapidly increasing number of malnourished people. CLIP
Soaring global wheat prices increase hunger for millions of Afghans http://snipurl.com/1y6jr
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Afghanistan today urged the international community to fund a sharp increase in needed food assistance for the poor of Afghanistan who cannot afford to pay soaring local prices for wheat, a staple of the Afghan diet.
Here is a brief excerpt from Lester R. Brown's most excellent new book Plan B 3.0
Mobilizing to save civilization means restructuring the economy, restoring its natural support systems, eradicating poverty, stabilizing population and climate, and, above all, restoring hope. We have the technologies, economic instruments, and financial resources to do this. The United States, the wealthiest society that has ever existed, has the resources to lead this effort.
Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia Universitys Earth Institute sums it up well: The tragic irony of this moment is that the rich countries are so rich and the poor so poor that a few added tenths of one percent of GNP from the rich ones ramped up over the coming decades could do what was never before possible in human history: ensure that the basic needs of health and education are met for all impoverished children in this world. How many more tragedies will we suffer in this country before we wake up to our capacity to help make the world a safer and more prosperous place not only through military might, but through the gift of life itself?
It is not possible to put a precise price tag on the changes needed to move our twenty-first century civilization off the decline-and-collapse path and onto a path that will sustain economic progress. But we can at least provide some rough estimates of the scale of effort needed.
As noted in Chapter 7, the additional external funding needed to achieve universal primary education in developing countries that require help, for instance, is conservatively estimated at $10 billion per year. (See Table 132.) Funding for an adult literacy program based largely on volunteers will take an estimated additional $4 billion annually. Providing for the most basic health care in developing countries is estimated at $33 billion by the World Health Organization. The additional funding needed to provide reproductive health care and family planning services to all women in developing countries amounts to $17 billion a year.
Closing the condom gap by providing the additional 9.5 billion condoms needed to control the spread of HIV in the developing world and Eastern Europe requires $3 billion$550 million for condoms and $2.75 billion for AIDS prevention education and condom distribution. The cost of extending school lunch programs to the 44 poorest countries is $6 billion. An estimated $4 billion per year would cover the cost of assistance to preschool children and pregnant women in these countries. Altogether, the cost of reaching basic social goals comes to $77 billion a year.
As noted in Chapter 8, a poverty eradication effort that is not accompanied by an earth restoration effort is doomed to fail. Protecting topsoil, reforesting the earth, restoring oceanic fisheries, and other needed measures will cost an estimated $113 billion in additional expenditures per year. The most costly activities, protecting biological diversity at $31 billion and conserving soil on cropland at $24 billion, account for almost half of the earth restoration annual outlay.
Combining social goals and earth restoration components into a Plan B budget yields an additional annual expenditure of $190 billion, roughly one third of the current U.S. military budget or one sixth of the global military budget. (See Table 133.) In a sense this is the new defense budget, the one that addresses the most serious threats to our security.
Unfortunately, the United States continues to focus on building an ever-stronger military, largely ignoring the threats posed by continuing environmental deterioration, poverty, and population growth. Its defense budget for 2006, including $118 billion for the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, brought the U.S. military expenditure to $560 billion. Other North Atlantic Treaty Organization members spend a combined $328 billion a year on the military. Russia spends about $35 billion, and China, $50 billion. U.S. military spending is now roughly equal to that of all other countries combined.
As of late 2007, direct U.S. appropriations for the Iraq war, which has lasted longer than World War II, total some $450 billion. Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes calculate that if all the costs are included, such as the lifetime of care required for returning troops who are brain-injured or psychologically shattered, the war will cost in the end some $2 trillion. Yet the Iraq war may prove to be one of historys most costly mistakes not so much because of fiscal outlay but because it has diverted the worlds attention from climate change and the other threats to civilization itself.
It is decision time. Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual and watch our modern economy decline and eventually collapse, or we can consciously move onto a new path, one that will sustain economic progress. In this situation, no action is a de facto decision to stay on the decline-and-collapse path. No one can argue today that we do not have the resources to eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and protect the earths natural resource base. We can get rid of hunger, illiteracy, disease, and poverty, and we can restore the earths soils, forests, and fisheries. Shifting one sixth of the world military budget to the Plan B budget would be more than adequate to move the world onto a path that would sustain progress. We can build a global community where the basic needs of all the earths people are satisfieda world that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized.
Going Bankrupt: Why the Debt Crisis Is Now the Greatest Threat to the American Republic (23/01/08) http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19144.htm
The military adventurers of the Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups of men thought that they were the "smartest guys in the room," the title of Alex Gibney's prize-winning film on what went wrong at Enron. The neoconservatives in the White House and the Pentagon outsmarted themselves. They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination. As a result, going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment. Its government no longer even attempts to reduce the ruinous expenses of maintaining huge standing armies, replacing the equipment that seven years of wars have destroyed or worn out, or preparing for a war in outer space against unknown adversaries. Instead, the Bush administration puts off these costs for future generations to pay -- or repudiate. This utter fiscal irresponsibility has been disguised through many manipulative financial schemes (such as causing poorer countries to lend us unprecedented sums of money), but the time of reckoning is fast approaching. There are three broad aspects to our debt crisis. First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on "defense" projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States. Simultaneously, we are keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segments of the American population at strikingly low levels.Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our manufacturing base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures -- so-called "military Keynesianism," which I discuss in detail in my book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. By military Keynesianism, I mean the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true. Third, in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of our country. These are what economists call "opportunity costs," things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world's number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs -- an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing. Let me discuss each of these. CLIP
The environmental damage caused to developing nations by the world's richest countries amounts to more than the entire third world debt of $1.8 trillion, according to the first systematic global analysis of the ecological damage imposed by rich countries.
The study found that there are huge disparities in the ecological footprint inflicted by rich and poor countries on the rest of the world because of differences in consumption. The authors say that the west's high living standards are maintained in part through the huge unrecognised ecological debts it has built up with developing countries.
"At least to some extent, the rich nations have developed at the expense of the poor and, in effect, there is a debt to the poor," said Prof Richard Norgaard, an ecological economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study. "That, perhaps, is one reason that they are poor. You don't see it until you do the kind of accounting that we do here."
Using data from the World Bank and the UN's Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the researchers examined so-called "environmental externalities" or costs that are not included in the prices paid for goods but which cover ecological damage linked to their consumption. They focused on six areas: greenhouse gas emissions, ozone layer depletion, agriculture, deforestation, overfishing and converting mangrove swamps into shrimp farms.
The team calculated the costs of consumption in low, medium and high income countries, both within their borders and outside, from 1961 to 2000. The team used UN definitions for countries in different income categories. Low income countries included Pakistan, Nigeria and Vietnam, and middle income nations included Brazil and China. Rich countries in the study included the UK, US and Japan.
The magnitude of effects outside the home country was different for each category of consumption. For example, deforestation and agricultural intensification primarily affect the host country, while the impacts from climate change and ozone depletion show up the disparity between rich and poor most strikingly.
Greenhouse emissions from low-income countries have imposed $740 billion of damage on rich countries, while in return rich countries have imposed $2.3 trillion of damage. This damage includes, for example, flooding from more severe storms as a result of climate change.
Likewise, CFC emissions from rich countries have inflicted between $25 billion and £57 billion of damage to the poorest countries. Increased ultraviolet levels from the ozone hole have led to higher healthcare costs from skin cancer and eye problems. The converse figure is between $0.58 and $1.3 billion.
The team publish their results today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"We know already that climate change is a huge injustice inflicted on the poor," said Dr Neil Adger at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich, who was not involved in the research, "This paper is actually the first systematic quantification to produce a map of that ecological debt. Not only for climate change but also for these other areas."
"This is an accounting tool that allows you to say how much the high-income world owes the low-income world for the environmental externalities we impose on them," he said.
The team confined its calculations to areas in which the costs of environmental damage, for example in terms of lost services from ecosystems, are well understood. That meant leaving out damage from excessive freshwater withdrawals, destruction of coral reefs, biodiversity loss, invasive species and war. So the researchers believe the figures represent a minimum estimate of the true cost.
"We think the measured impact is conservative. And given that it's conservative, the numbers are very striking," said co-author Dr Thara Srinivasan, who is also at Berkeley.
Ocean floor sensors will warn of failing Gulf Stream
UK will be in a deep freeze if the current strays
Robin McKie, science editor - January 20 2008
An armada of robot submarines and marine sensors are to be deployed across the Atlantic, from Florida to the Canary Islands, to provide early warning that the Gulf Stream might be failing, an event that would trigger cataclysmic freezing in Britain for decades.
The £16m system, called Rapid Watch, will use the latest underwater monitoring techniques to check whether cold water pouring south from melting Arctic ice sheets is diverting the current's warm waters away from Britain.
Without the Gulf Stream, the UK would be as cold as Canada in winter. Ports could freeze over and snowstorms and blizzards would paralyse the country. An extreme version of this meteorological mayhem provided the film The Day After Tomorrow with its plotline.
'The Day After Tomorrow suggested the Gulf Stream could fail within a couple of days,' said Rapid Watch's co-ordinator, Meric Srokosz of the Southampton Oceanographic Centre. 'In reality, a collapse will take a lot longer, but could still occur in about 10 years.' Rapid Watch has been designed to discover if such weakening is already occurring or is about to begin.
The Gulf Stream starts in the Gulf of Mexico and follows the eastern US seaboard before crossing the Atlantic towards western Europe. The heat it brings across the Atlantic gives Britain its temperate climate. The former chief scientist, Sir Robert May, once calculated that the Gulf Stream delivered 27,000 times the warmth that all Britain's power stations are capable of supplying.
But scientists have recently warned that the current is threatened by meltwater from Greenland and the Arctic. As global warming takes a grip, glaciers and ice sheets are disappearing faster and faster. This could bring major cooling to western Europe. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned last year, the Gulf Stream is particularly warm and salty, and increasing amounts of fresh water pouring into it from the Arctic are likely to disrupt it.
These fears have been backed by studies involving research vessels that have zig-zagged across the Gulf Stream, measuring currents at various depths, data that indicated that the Gulf Stream was indeed beginning to switch off.
But in 2004, Dr Srokosz - with his Southampton colleagues Professor Harry Bryden and Dr Stuart Cunningham - set up Rapid, a temporary array of sensors fixed to the seabed that provided daily measurements of the Gulf Stream for the first time. The first results, which were published last year, revealed that the Gulf Stream fluctuates in a highly unpredictable fashion.
'The Gulf flows at an average rate of 20 million cubic metres per second,' added Srokosz. 'But this flow varies from as little as four million cubic metres to about 35 million. This means past isolated measurements could be highly misleading.'
As a result, Srokosz has designed Rapid Watch, which has just received £16m from the Natural Environment Research Council. 'Rapid was a proof of concept study,' he said. 'Rapid Watch is a full-scale detection system.' Rapid Watch, which will begin operations later this year, will monitor the Gulf Stream until 2014. Cables will moor monitoring devices to the seabed and measure current flow, temperature and other variables at depths down to 5,000 metres.
In addition, robot probes - called gliders - will study the current as they descend and ascend. 'Robot gliders can currently operate to depths of about 1,000 metres, but soon versions that can dive to 5,000 metres should be ready.
'Certainly, it is critical we now find out how the Gulf Stream is behaving,' added Srokosz. 'It has an immense influence on our climate - and our lives.'
Phone makers' own scientists discover that bedtime use can lead to headaches, confusion and depression
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
20 January 2008
Radiation from mobile phones delays and reduces sleep, and causes headaches and confusion, according to a new study.
The research, sponsored by the mobile phone companies themselves, shows that using the handsets before bed causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them, interfering with the body's ability to repair damage suffered during the day.
The findings are especially alarming for children and teenagers, most of whom surveys suggest use their phones late at night and who especially need sleep. Their failure to get enough can lead to mood and personality changes, ADHD-like symptoms, depression, lack of concentration and poor academic performance.
The study carried out by scientists from the blue-chip Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University in Sweden and from Wayne State University in Michigan, USA is thought to be the most comprehensive of its kind.
Published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Progress in Electromagnetics Research Symposium and funded by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, representing the main handset companies, it has caused serious concern among top sleep experts, one of whom said that there was now "more than sufficient evidence" to show that the radiation "affects deep sleep".
The scientists studied 35 men and 36 women aged between 18 and 45. Some were exposed to radiation that exactly mimicked what is received when using mobile phones; others were placed in precisely the same conditions, but given only "sham" exposure, receiving no radiation at all.
The people who had received the radiation took longer to enter the first of the deeper stages of sleep, and spent less time in the deepest one. The scientists concluded: "The study indicates that during laboratory exposure to 884 MHz wireless signals components of sleep believed to be important for recovery from daily wear and tear are adversely affected."
The embarrassed Mobile Manufacturers Forum played down the results, insisting at apparent variance with this published conclusion that its "results were inconclusive" and that "the researchers did not claim that exposure caused sleep disturbance".
But Professor Bengt Arnetz, who led the study, says: "We did find an effect from mobile phones from exposure scenarios that were realistic. This suggests that they have measurable effects on the brain."
He believes that the radiation may activate the brain's stress system, "making people more alert and more focused, and decreasing their ability to wind down and fall asleep".
About half of the people studied believed themselves to be "electrosensitive", reporting symptoms such as headaches and impaired cognitive function from mobile phone use. But they proved to be unable to tell if they had been exposed to the radiation in the test.
This strengthens the conclusion of the study, as it disposes of any suggestion that knowledge of exposure influenced sleeping patterns. Even more significantly, it throws into doubt the relevance of studies the industry relies on to maintain that the radiation has no measurable effects.
A series of them most notably a recent highly publicised study at Essex University have similarly found that people claiming to be electrosensitive could not distinguish when the radiation was turned on in laboratory conditions, suggesting that they were not affected.
Critics have attacked the studies' methodology, but the new findings deal them a serious blow. For they show that the radiation did have an effect, even though people could not tell when they were exposed.
It also complements other recent research. A massive study, following 1,656 Belgian teenagers for a year, found most of them used their phones after going to bed. It concluded that those who did this once a week were more than three times and those who used them more often more than five times as likely to be "very tired".
Dr Chris Idzikowski, the director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, says: "There is now more than sufficient evidence, from a large number of reputable investigators who are finding that mobile phone exposure an hour before sleep adversely affects deep sleep."
Dr William Kohler of the Florida Sleep Institute added: "Anything that disrupts the integrity of your sleep will potentially have adverse consequences in functioning during the day, such as grouchiness, difficulty concentrating, and in children hyperactivity and behaviour problems."
David Schick, the chief executive of Exradia, which manufactures protective devices against the radiation, called on ministers to conduct "a formal public inquiry" into the effects of mobile phones.
Forwarded by Larry Stell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
BULLETIN ITEM: Doug Thompson: "America Is A Terrorist State" & Bush Is The No. 1 Most Dangerous Terrorist In The World
Canada has dared admit what other U.S. allies will not: America is a terrorist state that tortures prisoners and violates international law.
A Canadian Foreign Affairs Department training manual, Torture Awareness Workshop Reference Materials, defines torture and lists Guantanamo Bay and the United States, along with Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Syria as nations which torture prisoners and abuse human rights.
This is not an enemy of the United States making wild claims about the Great Satan of America. Its not even our sometimes ally France. This is Canada, one of this countys strongest allies.
While Canada didn't come out and say flatly that America is a "terrorist state," the manual clearly identifies this nation as one that uses terror techniques in direct violation of international law. In our book, that makes us the United Terrorist States of America.
When America cant even pass muster with its friends, America is in trouble. Our emergence as an international bully with no regard for law or human decency is now complete and even our allies cant look the other way.
The destruction of America by George W. Bush and his followers is almost complete. He still has a year left in office to finish the job.
Just when you think the rampant arrogance that has dragged our country into the mire and muck of criminal activity and corruption cant possibly get any worse it does.
Missing White House emails, destroyed CIA tapes that show torture of prisoners, violation of wiretap laws and nonstop abuse of human and civil rights highlight a government out of control and a nation unable to stop the decline.
The Bush Administration is lying about troop withdrawals from Iraq, lying about clashes with Iran and lying about its continued criminal actions both at home and on the international stage.
Later today, Bush will unveil a so-called economic stimulus package that economists already say is too little too late. As he did with Katrina, Bush is routinely ignoring a problem until it out of control. The man who exports terrorism to other nations and launches invasions based on lies doesnt have time to deal with issues closer to home.
And he doesnt have time to earn or keep the respect of once-staunch allies of this nation.
Canada has, in effect, called America what it has become: a terrorist nation.
Sadly, their assessment is true: And the most dangerous terrorist of all lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
As an American, it scares the hell out of me that this terrorist has another year to complete his mission of destroying America.
And it may be too late to stop him.
TORTURE IS A MORAL ISSUE - A Statement of Conscience of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture http://www.nrcat.org/index.php
Please join the over 18,000 people who have already endorsed this statement. Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved -- policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable. Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed? Let America abolish torture now -- without exceptions. Endorse the Statement Today.
From: Kathy Roberts (email@example.com)
Subject: A Big Lie Is Better Than A Small One
Date: 22 Jan 2008
"All this was inspired by the principle - which is quite true in itself - that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes. ..."
- Hitler, Mein Kampf
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
- Joseph Geobbels
Bush, Other Officials Issued Hundreds of False Statements Before Iraq Invasion http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/012308K.shtml
Douglass K. Daniel reports for The Associated Press, "A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks."
Study: Bush, aides made 935 false statements in run-up to war (January 23, 2008) http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/01/23/bush.iraq/
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001, according to a study released Tuesday by two nonprofit journalism groups. President Bush addresses the nation as the Iraq war begins in March 2003. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003," reads an overview of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism. According to the study, Bush and seven top officials -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice -- made 935 false statements about Iraq during those two years. The study was based on a searchable database compiled of primary sources, such as official government transcripts and speeches, and secondary sources -- mainly quotes from major media organizations. The study says Bush made 232 false statements about Iraq and former leader Saddam Hussein's possessing weapons of mass destruction, and 28 false statements about Iraq's links to al Qaeda. CLIP
Web Site Assembles U.S. Prewar Claims http://snipurl.com/1y3ge
Students of how the Bush administration led the nation into the Iraq war can now go online to browse a comprehensive database of top officials' statements before the invasion, connecting the dots between hundreds of claims, mostly discredited since then, linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda or warning that he possessed forbidden weapons.
Bush Era's Last Legs: Will Anything Change When He Goes? http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/012408H.shtml
Robert Parry, writing for Consortium News, says, "The political calendar indicates that in one more year on Jan. 20, 2009 the presidency of George W. Bush will come to an end. However, the worst consequences of his disastrous reign, including the Iraq War, may be nowhere near ending."
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