Archive | June 3rd, 2014

Delinda Hanley: U.S. Aid to I$raHell in Numbers ”VIDEO”

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The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic System

NOVANEWS

Why collapse and salvation are hard to distinguish from each other.

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham(1)

.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. We simply can’t go on this way.

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems(2). It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues were miraculously to vanish, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained(3). But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and the pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, as the most accessible reserves have been exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable(4), the Ecuadorean government decided that oil drilling would go ahead in the heart of the Yasuni national park(5). It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as blackmail or you could see it as fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich: why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills(6), will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America(7).

The UK oil company Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo(8); one of the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the south-east(9), the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs into a new Niger delta. To this end it’s changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local people(10,11). These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

Some people try to solve the impossible equation with the myth of dematerialisation: the claim that as processes become more efficient and gadgets are miniaturised, we use, in aggregate, fewer materials. There is no sign that this is happening. Iron ore production has risen 180% in ten years(12). The trade body Forest Industries tell us that “global paper consumption is at a record high level and it will continue to grow.”(13) If, in the digital age, we won’t reduce even our consumption of paper, what hope is there for other commodities?

Look at the lives of the super-rich, who set the pace for global consumption. Are their yachts getting smaller? Their houses? Their artworks? Their purchase of rare woods, rare fish, rare stone? Those with the means buy ever bigger houses to store the growing stash of stuff they will not live long enough to use. By unremarked accretions, ever more of the surface of the planet is used to extract, manufacture and store things we don’t need. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that fantasies about the colonisation of space – which tell us we can export our problems instead of solving them – have resurfaced(14).

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year’s predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we were miraculously to reduce the consumption of raw materials by 90% we delay the inevitable by just 75 years(15). Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.

The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st Century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.

Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it.

www.monbiot.com

References:

1. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7853

2. Grantham expressed this volume as 1057 cubic metres. In his paper We Need To Talk About Growth, Michael Rowan translated this as 2.5 billion billion solar systems. (http://persuademe.com.au/need-talk-growth-need-sums-well/). This source gives the volume of the solar system (if it is treated as a sphere) at 39,629,013,196,241.7 cubic kilometres, which is roughly 40 x 1021 cubic metres. Multiplied by 2.5 billion billion, this gives 1041cubic metres. So, unless I’ve got the wrong figure for the volume of the solar system or screwed my units up, which is eminently possible, Michael Rowan’s translation looks like an underestimate. I’ll stick with his figure though, as I don’t have much confidence in my own. Any improvements, comments or corrections via the contact form gratefully received.

3. EA Wrigley, 2010. Energy and the English Industrial Revolution. Cambridge University Press.

4. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/12/western-antarctic-ice…

5. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/23/ecuador-amazon-yasuni…

6. http://www.entornointeligente.com/articulo/2559574/ECUADOR-Gobierno-conc…

7. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/16/ecuador-approves-yasuni-ama…

8. http://www.wwf.org.uk/how_you_can_help/virunga/

9. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/23/fracking-report-billi…

10. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/fracking/10598473/Fracking-could…

11. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/23/fracking-report-billi…

12. Philippe Sibaud, 2012. Opening Pandora’s Box: The New Wave of Land Grabbing by the Extractive Industries and the Devastating Impact on Earth. The Gaia Foundation.http://www.gaiafoundation.org/opening-pandoras-box

13. http://www.forestindustries.fi/industry/paper_cardboard_converted/paper_…

14. https://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/articles/space-race-over

15. Michael Rowan, 2014. We Need To Talk About Growth (And we need to do the sums as well.) http://persuademe.com.au/need-talk-growth-need-sums-well/

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Snowden: The US Government Trained Me “As a Spy”

NOVANEWS

To describe him as “low-level analyst” is “misleading” says NSA whistleblower in broadcast interview

– Common Dreams

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking with NBC News anchor Brian Williams. (Credit: NBC)In an interview set to air Wednesday night on NBC evening news, the former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden tells Brian Williams that he was “trained as a spy” by the U.S. government and that descriptions of him as a “low-level analyst” are “somewhat misleading.”

“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,” Snowden tells Brian Williams in the interview that took place in Russia last week.

Snowden tells Williams that he is, in fact, “a technical specialist” and “technical expert,” but that he didn’t “work with people” in his role as an undercover agent. “I don’t recruit agents,” he said. “What I do is I put systems to work for the United States. And I’ve done that at all levels from — from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top.”

According to Snowden, when he worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency he “developed sources and methods for keeping our information and people secure in the most hostile and dangerous environments around the world.”

He contiuned: “So when they say I’m a low-level systems administrator, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’d say it’s somewhat misleading.”

Watch the clip:

According to NBC News:

The Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed to NBC News that Snowden, as a contractor, had spoken at three of their conferences. Two intelligence sources tell NBC that Snowden worked for the CIA at an overseas station in IT and communications.

The CIA declined to comment on Snowden’s employment or his role at the agency.

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Obama: ‘I Believe in American Exceptionalism with Every Fiber of My Being’

NOVANEWS

President’s foreign policy speech at West Point leaves progressives with plenty to criticize

– Jon Queally

President Barack Obama arrives to deliver the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s Class of 2014, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in West Point, N.Y. (Photo: AP)In a speech rife with incongruities and contradictions, President Obama set out his vision and defense of U.S. foreign policy on Wednesday at the West Point Military Academy in New York.

In the speech, Obama announced that he believes “in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being” and spoke repeatedly about “American leadership” and “American strength.”

Progressives and foreign policy experts on the left, however, were quick to criticize the president’s speech from various angles via their Twitter accounts with many noting that for all his grand rhetoric on the nation’s special place in the world, the United States under his leadership has done little to inspire and much to undermine such a role. From assaults on human rights and the flouting of international law to serves its own interests, many critics charge, the United States continues to export militarism while undermining efforts to create a more just and peaceful world.

A sampling:

The president’s remarks, as prepared for delivery by the White House, follow:

Good morning. Thank you, General Caslen, for that introduction. To General Trainor, General Clarke, and the faculty and staff at West Point – you have been outstanding stewards of this proud institution, and excellent mentors for the newest officers in the United States Army. I’d like to acknowledge the Army’s leadership – Secretary McHugh and General Odierno, as well as Senator Jack Reed – a proud graduate of West Point himself.

To the class of 2014, I congratulate you on taking your place on the Long Gray Line. Among you is the first all-female command team: Erin Mauldin and Austen Boroff. In Calla Glavin, you have a Rhodes Scholar, and Josh Herbeck proves that West Point accuracy extends beyond the three point line. To the entire class, let me reassure you in these final hours at West Point: as Commander-in-Chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. Let me just say that nobody ever did that for me when I was in school.

I know you join me in extending a word of thanks to your families. Joe DeMoss, whose son James is graduating, spoke for many parents when he wrote me a letter about the sacrifices you have made. “Deep inside,” he wrote, “we want to explode with pride at what they are committing to do in the service of our country.” Like several graduates, James is a combat veteran. And I would like to ask all of us here today to stand and pay tribute – not only to the veterans among us, but to the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families.

It is a particularly useful time for America to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom – for you are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. When I first spoke at West Point in 2009, we still had more than 100,000 troops in Iraq. We were preparing to surge in Afghanistan. Our counter-terrorism efforts were focused on al Qaeda’s core leadership. And our nation was just beginning a long climb out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Four and a half years later, the landscape has changed. We have removed our troops from Iraq. We are winding down our war in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s leadership in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more. Through it all, we have refocused our investments in a key source of American strength: a growing economy that can provide opportunity here at home.

In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise – who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away – are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics. Think about it. Our military has no peer. The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low, and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War.

Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth; our businesses the most innovative. Each year, we grow more energy independent. From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivalled in the history of nations. America continues to attract striving immigrants. The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe. And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or girls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine – it is America that the world looks to for help. The United States is the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed, and will likely be true for the century to come.

But the world is changing with accelerating speed. This presents opportunity, but also new dangers. We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of the individual, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm. Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with our own, and governments seek a greater say in global forums. And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24 hours news and pervasive social media makes it impossible to ignore sectarian conflicts, failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.

It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world. The question we face – the question you will face – is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead, not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also to extend peace and prosperity around the globe.

This question isn’t new. At least since George Washington served as Commander-in-Chief, there have been those who warned against foreign entanglements that do not touch directly on our security or economic well-being. Today, according to self-described realists, conflicts in Syria or Ukraine or the Central African Republic are not ours to solve. Not surprisingly, after costly wars and continuing challenges at home, that view is shared by many Americans.

A different view, from interventionists on the left and right, says we ignore these conflicts at our own peril; that America’s willingness to apply force around the world is the ultimate safeguard against chaos, and America’s failure to act in the face of Syrian brutality or Russian provocations not only violates our conscience, but invites escalating aggression in the future.

Each side can point to history to support its claims. But I believe neither view fully speaks to the demands of this moment. It is absolutely true that in the 21st century, American isolationism is not an option. If nuclear materials are not secure, that could pose a danger in American cities. As the Syrian civil war spills across borders, the capacity of battle-hardened groups to come after us increases. Regional aggression that goes unchecked – in southern Ukraine, the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world – will ultimately impact our allies, and could draw in our military.

Beyond these narrow rationales, I believe we have a real stake – an abiding self-interest – in making sure our children grow up in a world where school-girls are not kidnapped; where individuals aren’t slaughtered because of tribe or faith or political beliefs. I believe that a world of greater freedom and tolerance is not only a moral imperative – it also helps keep us safe.

But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution. Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures – without thinking through the consequences; without building international support and legitimacy for our action, or leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required. Tough talk draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans. As General Eisenhower, someone with hard-earned knowledge on this subject, said at this ceremony in 1947: “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.”

Like Eisenhower, this generation of men and women in uniform know all too well the wages of war. That includes those of you at West Point. Four of the service-members who stood in the audience when I announced the surge of our forces in Afghanistan gave their lives in that effort. More were wounded. I believe America’s security demanded those deployments. But I am haunted by those deaths. I am haunted by those wounds. And I would betray my duty to you, and to the country we love, if I sent you into harm’s way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed fixing, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.

Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership. But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail. And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader – and especially your Commander-in-Chief – to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.

Let me spend the rest of my time, then, describing my vision for how the United States of America, and our military, should lead in the years to come.

First, let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency: the United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it – when our people are threatened; when our livelihood is at stake; or when the security of our allies is in danger. In these circumstances, we still need to ask tough questions about whether our action is proportional, effective and just. International opinion matters. But America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland, or our way of life.

On the other hand, when issues of global concern that do not pose a direct threat to the United States are at stake – when crises arise that stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction – then the threshold for military action must be higher. In such circumstances, we should not go it alone. Instead, we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action. We must broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions and isolation; appeals to international law and – if just, necessary, and effective – multilateral military action. We must do so because collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, and less likely to lead to costly mistakes.

This leads to my second point: for the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism. But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable. I believe we must shift our counter-terrorism strategy – drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan – to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.

This reflects the fact that today’s principal threat no longer comes from a centralized al Qaeda leadership. Instead, it comes from decentralized al Qaeda affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in the countries where they operate. This lessens the possibility of large-scale 9/11-style attacks against the homeland, but heightens the danger to U.S. personnel overseas, as we saw in Benghazi; or less defensible targets, as we saw in a shopping mall in Nairobi. We need a strategy that matches this diffuse threat; one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military thin, or stir up local resentments.

Empowering partners is a large part of what we’ve done in Afghanistan. Together with our allies, America struck huge blows against al Qaeda core, and pushed back against an insurgency that threatened to overrun the country. But sustaining this progress depends on the ability of Afghans to do the job. That’s why we trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police. Earlier this spring, those forces secured an election in which Afghans voted for the first democratic transfer of power in their history. At the end of this year, a new Afghan President will be in office, and America’s combat mission will be over.

Now, as we move to a train and advise mission in Afghanistan, our reduced presence there will allow us to more effectively address emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa. Earlier this year, I asked my national security team to develop a plan for a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel. Today, as part of this effort, I am calling on Congress to support a new Counter-Terrorism Partnerships Fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines. These resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.

A critical focus of this effort will be the ongoing crisis in Syria. As frustrating as it is, there are no easy answers – no military solution that can eliminate the terrible suffering anytime soon. As President, I made a decision that we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian civil war, and I believe that is the right decision. But that does not mean we shouldn’t help the Syrian people stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his people. And in helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we also push back against the growing number of extremists who find safe-haven in the chaos.

With the additional resources I’m announcing today, we will step up our efforts to support Syria’s neighbors – Jordan and Lebanon; Turkey and Iraq – as they host refugees, and confront terrorists working across Syrian borders. I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and a brutal dictator. And we will continue to coordinate with our friends and allies in Europe and the Arab World – to push for a political resolution of this crisis, and make sure that those countries, and not just the United States, are contributing their fair share of support to the Syrian people.

Let me make one final point about our efforts against terrorism. The partnership I’ve described does not eliminate the need to take direct action when necessary to protect ourselves. When we have actionable intelligence, that’s what we do – through capture operations, like the one that brought a terrorist involved in the plot to bomb our Embassies in 1998 to face justice; or drone strikes, like those we have carried out in Yemen and Somalia. But as I said last year, in taking direct action, we must uphold standards that reflect our values. That means taking strikes only when we face a continuing, imminent threat, and only where there is near certainty of no civilian casualties. For our actions should meet a simple test: we must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.

I also believe we be more transparent about both the basis for our actions, and the manner in which they are carried out – whether it is drone strikes, or training partners. I will increasingly turn to our military to take the lead and provide information to the public about our efforts. Our intelligence community has done outstanding work and we must continue to protect sources and methods. But, when we cannot explain our efforts clearly and publicly, we face terrorist propaganda and international suspicion; we erode legitimacy with our partners and our people; and we reduce accountability in our own government.

This issue of transparency is directly relevant to a third aspect of American leadership: our efforts to strengthen and enforce international order.

After World War II, America had the wisdom to shape institutions to keep the peace and support human progress – from NATO and the United Nations, to the World Bank and IMF. Though imperfect, these institutions have been a force multiplier – reducing the need for unilateral American action, and increased restraint among other nations. But just as the world has changed, this architecture must change as well. At the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy spoke about the need for a peace based upon, “a gradual evolution in human institutions.” Evolving these institutions to meet the demands of today must be a critical part of American leadership.

Of course, skeptics often downplay the effectiveness of multilateral action. For them, working through international institutions, or respecting international law, is a sign of weakness. I think they’re wrong. Let me offer just two examples why.

In Ukraine, Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe. But this isn’t the Cold War. Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away. Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions. Europe and the G-7 joined with us to impose sanctions. NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies. The IMF is helping to stabilize Ukraine’s economy. OSCE monitors brought the eyes of the world to unstable parts of Ukraine. This mobilization of world opinion and institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda, Russian troops on the border, and armed militias. This weekend, Ukrainians voted by the millions; yesterday, I spoke to their next President. We don’t know how the situation will play out, and there will be grave challenges. But standing with our allies on behalf of international order has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future.

Similarly, despite frequent warnings from the United States, Israel, and others, the Iranian nuclear program steadily advanced for years. But at the beginning of my presidency, we built a coalition that imposed sanctions on the Iranian economy, while extending the hand of diplomacy to the Iranian government. Now, we have an opportunity to resolve our differences peacefully. The odds of success are still long, and we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement – one that is more effective and durable than what would be achieved through the use of force. And throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side.

This is American leadership. This is American strength. In each case, we built coalitions to respond to a specific challenge. Now we need to do more to strengthen the institutions that can anticipate and prevent them from spreading. For example, NATO is the strongest alliance the world has ever known. But we are now working with NATO allies to meet new missions – within Europe, where our Eastern allies must be reassured; and also beyond Europe’s borders, where our NATO allies must pull their weight to counter-terrorism, respond to failed states, and train a network of partners.

Likewise, the UN provides a platform to keep the peace in states torn apart by conflict. Now we need to make sure that those nations who provide peace-keepers have the training and equipment to keep the peace, so that we can prevent the type of killing we have seen in Congo and Sudan. We are deepening our investment in countries that support these missions. Because having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods lessens the need for us to put our own troops in harm’s way. It is a smart investment. It’s the right way to lead.

Keep in mind, not all international norms relate directly to armed conflict. In the face of cyber-attacks, we are working to shape and enforce rules of the road to secure our networks and citizens. In the Asia Pacific, we are supporting Southeast Asian nations as they negotiate a code of conduct with China on the South China Sea, and are working to resolve territorial and maritime disputes through international law. That spirit of cooperation must energize the global effort to combat climate change – a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we’re called on to respond to refugee flows, natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food. That’s why, next year, I intend to make sure America is out front in a global framework to preserve our planet.

You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else. We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if so many of our political leaders deny that it is taking place. It’s a lot harder to call on China to resolve its maritime disputes under the Law of the Sea Convention when the United States Senate has refused to ratify it – despite the repeated insistence of our top military leaders that the treaty advances our national security. That’s not leadership; that’s retreat. That’s not strength; that’s weakness. And it would be utterly foreign to leaders like Roosevelt and Truman; Eisenhower and Kennedy.

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions. That’s why I will continue to push to close GTMO – because American values and legal traditions don’t permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders. That’s why we are putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence – because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we are conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens. America does not simply stand for stability, or the absence of conflict, no matter what the price; we stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere.

Which brings me to the fourth and final element of American leadership: our willingness to act on behalf of human dignity. America’s support for democracy and human rights goes beyond idealism – it’s a matter of national security. Democracies are our closest friends, and are far less likely to go to war. Free and open economies perform better, and become markets for our goods. Respect for human rights is an antidote to instability, and the grievances that fuel violence and terror.

A new century has brought no end to tyranny. In capitals around the globe – including some of America’s partners – there has been a crackdown on civil society. The cancer of corruption has enriched too many governments and their cronies, and enraged citizens from remote villages to iconic squares. Watching these trends, or the violent upheaval in parts of the Arab World, it is easy to be cynical.

But remember that because of America’s efforts – through diplomacy and foreign assistance, as well as the sacrifices of our military – more people live under elected governments today than any time in human history. Technology is empowering civil society in ways that no iron fist can control. New breakthroughs are lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. And even the upheaval of the Arab World reflects the rejection of an authoritarian order that was anything but stable, and offers the long-term prospect of more responsive and effective governance.

In Egypt, we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests – from the peace treaty with Israel, to shared efforts against violent extremism. So we have not cut off cooperation with the new government. But we can and will persistently press for the reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded.

Meanwhile, look at a country like Burma, which only a few years ago was an intractable dictatorship, hostile to the United States. Thanks to the enormous courage of the people in that country – and because we took the diplomatic initiative – we have seen political reforms opening a once closed society; a movement away from partnership with North Korea in favor of engagement with America and our allies. We are now supporting reform – and badly needed national reconciliation – through assistance and investment; coaxing and, at times, public criticism. Progress could be reversed. But if Burma succeeds, we will have gained a new partner without having fired a shot.

In all these cases, we should not expect change to happen overnight. That’s why we form alliances – not only with governments, but with ordinary people. For unlike other nations, America is not afraid of individual empowerment, we are strengthened by it – by civil society and transparency; by striving entrepreneurs and small businesses; by educational exchange and opportunity for women and girls. That’s who we are. That’s what we represent.

I saw that throughout my trip to Africa last year. American assistance has made possible the prospect of an AIDS-free generation, while helping Africans care for their sick. We are helping farmers get their products to market, and feeding populations once endangered by famine. We aim to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, so people are connected to the promise of the global economy.

All this creates new partners and shrinks the space for terrorism. Tragically, no American security operation can eradicate the threat posed by an extremist group like Boko Haram. That is why we must focus both on rescuing those girls, but also on supporting Nigerian efforts to educate its youth. Indeed, this should be one of the hard-earned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development. Foreign assistance isn’t an afterthought – something nice to do apart from our national defense. It’s part of what makes us strong.

Ultimately, global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty. But American leadership also requires us to see the world as it should be – a place where the aspirations of individual human beings matter; where hopes and not just fears govern; where the truths written into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in the direction of justice. And we cannot do that without you.

Graduates, you have taken this time to prepare on the quiet banks of the Hudson. You leave this place to carry forward a legacy that no other military in human history can claim. And you do so as part of a team that extends beyond your units or even our Armed Forces. In the course of your service, you will work as a team with diplomats and development experts. You will get to know allies and train partners. You will embody what it means for America to lead.

Next week, I will go to Normandy to honor the men who stormed the beaches. And while it is hard for many Americans to comprehend the courage and sense of duty that guided those who boarded small ships, it is familiar to you. At West Point, you define what it means to be a patriot.

Three years ago, Gavin White graduated from this Academy. He then served in Afghanistan. Like the soldiers who came before him, he was in a foreign land, helping people he’d never met, putting himself in harm’s way for the sake of his people back home. Gavin lost one of his legs in an attack. I met him last year at Walter Reed. He was wounded, but just as determined as the day that he arrived here. He developed a simple goal. Today, his sister Morgan will graduate. And true to his promise, Gavin will be there to stand and exchange salutes with her.

We have been through a long season of war. We have faced trials that were not foreseen, and divisions about how to move forward. But there is something in Gavin’s character, and America’s character, that will always triumph. Leaving here, you carry with you the respect of your fellow citizens. You will represent a nation with history and hope on our side. Your charge, now, is not only to protect our country, but to do what is right and just. As your Commander-in-Chief, I know you will. May God bless you. May God bless our men and women in uniform. And may God bless the United States of America.

Posted in USAComments Off on Obama: ‘I Believe in American Exceptionalism with Every Fiber of My Being’

Mass Hospitalizations As Hunger Strike Spreads in I$raHell Prisons

NOVANEWS

Palestinian detainees are protesting Israel’s ‘administrative detentions’ without charge or trial

– Sarah Lazare

Nearly 70 Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for five weeks to protest Israel’s detentions without charge or trial have been hospitalized, the Israel Prison Service announced Wednesday, according to the New York Times

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(Image: Addameer)

It was not immediately clear where these hospitals are located.

According to Palestinian prisoner rights organization Addameer, hunger strikers are boycotting clinics, “accusing the prison doctors of conspiring with the IPS to break their strike.”

Issa Qaraqe, minister of prisoner affairs for the Palestinian Authority, reportedly toldVoice of Palestine radio that the prisoners’ health is deteriorating rapidly. “Most are vomiting blood and fainting,” he stated. “They cannot walk, they are in terrible pain. We are afraid some will die if the situation continues.”

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are participating in a hunger strike against Israel’s widespread practice of “administrative detention,” in which the nation holds people without charge or trial on “evidence” that is kept secret from the prisoner and lawyers. These detentions can be renewed indefinitely, and some Palestinians have languished in prison for over a decade under this status.

Critics charge that administrative detentions are part of a broad strategy to undercut Palestinian movements and further tear their social fabric. “Administrative detention is usually used against Palestinians who are protesting against Israeli apartheid,” Ramah Kudaimi of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told Common Dreams. “Israel rounds up activists, holds them for several months, and can renew the detention and keep them indefinitely.”

The hunger strike began April 24 when nearly 100 prisoners, including many held under administrative detention, began withholding food at several prisons. According to a letter to the UN, penned by 18 Palestinian human rights organizations, these hunger strikers have faced retaliation for their protest, including: isolation, transfer, raids, denial of visits, and restriction of legal counsel. Despite these punishments, the hunger strikes have spread to other prisons.

The protest follows a 2012 mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners, which forced the Israeli government to agree to restrict its use of administrative detention.

Yet, according to Addameer, as of April 2014, 5,265 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons, 186 of them under administrative detention.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Mass Hospitalizations As Hunger Strike Spreads in I$raHell Prisons

Pope Francis in Palestine

NOVANEWS

Pope Francis’ seemingly impromptu prayer at Israel’s Apartheid Wall hinted at a radical critique of Israel in an otherwise carefully orchestrated trip.

Pope Francis’ silent prayer at the separation barrier running through the West Bank may prove to be the most memorable moment of his trip to Israel-Palestine. (Photo: AFP / L’Osservatore Romano)There were plenty of important statements from Pope Francis during his recent three-day trip to Palestine and Israel—including a plea for “justice,” a traditional call for peace, and a reference to the “State of Palestine”—but at the end of the day it was all about the photo-ops.

The pope’s visit was carefully orchestrated—shaped not only by security concerns, but by his insistence on avoiding Israeli checkpoints. U.S. and other official visitors often work diligently to avoid having to see—or be photographed seeing—the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints or the Apartheid Wall that snakes through the West Bank, separating Palestinians from their land and dividing the area into tiny non-contiguous pieces of territory.

But Pope Francis’ complicated logistics were not aimed at pretending not to see, but at refusing to acknowledge Israeli power and control over the Palestinian territories. Instead of crossing into the West Bank through the Israeli military-controlled Allenby Bridge, for example, his helicopter flew from Jordan to land directly in Bethlehem, in the West Bank. He said Mass at Manger Square, but what got all the international attention were his meetings with Palestinian refugees, his visit with kids at the Dheisheh refugee camp, and his unexpected invitation to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres for a “prayer summit meeting” at the Vatican.

But by far the most lasting image of the trip was the popemobile’s seemingly unscripted haltin Bethlehem. For days, Bethlehem’s kids had fought a running battle with Israeli troops—not with stones, but with spray paint. Each day, the troops whitewashed the graffiti that covers the Apartheid Wall, which in that area separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. Each night, the Palestinian kids would return to recreate their art.

This time, the kids won. When the pope drove by, he read “Apartheid Wall” and “Bethlehem is like the Warsaw Ghetto” on the 24-foot-high cement panels that make up the wall. He got out, walked to the wall, leaned his face against it, and prayed. The photo, splashed across the front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and probably most of the daily newspapers in the world, remains the main take-away of the papal visit.

Not surprisingly, Israel tried to “balance” the pope’s trip, insisting on visits to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and the memorial to Israeli victims of terrorism. But, as Palestinian lawyer and longtime analyst Diana Buttu pointed out in the New York Times, those sites are monuments to Israel’s past, required by diplomatic protocol for every official visitor to Israel. The Apartheid Wall, on the other hand, “is ongoing, something that Palestinians live with everyday,” she said. “I think he really displayed compassion in visiting the Wall and really understanding what people are living under.”

The one part of the pope’s Israeli itinerary that stood out was the requisite visit and wreath-laying at the grave of Theodore Herzl, the late 19th-century founder of modern Zionism credited with the idea of creating a separate state for European Jews. What if the pope’s advisers had provided him with some of Herzl’s own language to cite?

Perhaps a line or two from Herzl’s letters to the infamous British colonialist Cecil Rhodes, who conquered much of Africa for the British crown, might have been appropriate. “You are being invited to help make history,” Herzl wrote to Rhodes. “It doesn’t involve Africa, but a piece of Asia Minor; not Englishmen but Jews. … How, then, do I happen to turn to you since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial. … I want you to…put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan.”

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Pope Francis in Palestine

Janet McMahon: The I$raHell lobby network and coordinated PACs that finance U.S. elections ”VIDEO”

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Ten Things You Should Know About Dams

NOVANEWS

1. 50,000 Large Dams Are Clogging the World’s Rivers:

About 50,000 dams with a height of 15 meters or more and millions of smaller dams have been built on the world’s rivers. Some of them date back centuries, but most were built after World War II. About 5,000 dams have a height of 60 meters or more; another 350 such giants are currently under construction.

2. Dams Are Changing the Face of the Earth:

Dams have fragmented two thirds of the world’s large rivers and flooded a land area the size of California. Their reservoirs contain three times as much water as all the world’s rivers, and constantly lose close to four Niagara Falls to evaporationDams trap 40 cubic kilometers of sediment severy year, and starve deltas of the silt that protects them against the intruding sea.

3. Dams Provide Important Services:

Dams generate 16% of the world’s electricity and irrigate food crops for 12-15% of the world’s population. To a lesser extent, dams have also been built for water supply, flood protection, navigation and tourism purposes. Most dams have been built for irrigation, but 80% of the water they store is used for hydropower.

4. Dams Kill Fish:

Dams block the migration of fish, deplete rivers of oxygen, and interfere with the biological triggers that guide fish. They also reduce the ability of rivers to clean themselves. Due to dam building and other factors, the population of freshwater species declined by 37% between 1970-2008 – more than the populations of any other ecosystems. Tropical freshwater populations declined by a stunning 70%.

5. Dams Are Changing the Climate:

Dams are not climate-neutral. Particularly in the tropics, organic matter rotting in their reservoirs emits methane, an aggressive greenhouse gas. Scientists have estimated that reservoirs account for 4% of all human-made climate change, equivalent to the climate impact of aviation. The floods and droughts caused by climate change in turn make dams less safe and less economic.

6. Dams Displace People:

Dams have displaced an estimated 80 million people, with 23 million alone in China. Displacement robs people who are already poor and marginalized of their resources, skills and cultural identity, and impoverishes them further. Dams have also negatively impacted about 500 million people living downstream. The benefits of dams often bypass the people who sacrifice their livelihoods for them.

7. Dams Can Put Human Rights at Risk:

Most dams that displace large populations are being built by authoritarian governments. In Burma, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Sudan and other countries, dam builders have often responded to opposition with serious human rights violations. In the worst dam-related massacre, more than 440 indigenous people were killed to make way for Guatemala’s Chixoy Dam in 1982.

8. Dams Are Expensive:

Large dams belong to the most expensive investments many governments have ever made. An estimated 2000 billion dollars has been spent on dams since 1950. Due to planning errors, technical problems and corruption, dams experience average delays of 44% and  cost overruns of 96%. Such massive overruns make them uneconomic.

9. Dams Don’t Last Forever:

Sooner or later reservoirs silt up, and the cost of maintaining dams becomes bigger than their benefits. In the United States, more than 1000 dams have been removed at great cost. When dams are not properly built or maintained, they can break. In the world’s biggest dam disaster, the failure of China’s Banqiao Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people in 1975.

10. Better Solutions Are Usually Available:

In 2012, governments and businesses installed 75 gigawatt of wind and solar power, compared with 30 gigawatt of hydropower. Such alternatives fare even better when social and environmental impacts and transmission costs are included. The International Energy Agencyhas proposed that 60% of the funds needed to achieve energy access for all should go to local renewable energy projects.

Posted in USA, Afghanistan, Pakistan & Kashmir, YemenComments Off on Ten Things You Should Know About Dams

Philip Giraldi – Is I$raHell a U.S. ally? ”VIDEO”

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Stop the Wall: Protest in Front of UN Offices in Ramallah

NOVANEWS

Zio-Nazi Wall in West Bank

Over 20 Palestinian communities and civil society organizations demand action to stop israel’s ethnic cleansing in the Jordan valley

Today, protesters gathered in front of the United Nations office in Ramallah in response to the latest wave of home demolitions that have displaced the Palestinian Bedouin community in Abu al Jaj. The demonstration aimed at breaking the silence of the United Nations and the international community as a whole as the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley continues.

The protestors handed over a letter addressed to Secretary-General Ban ki Moon asking for immediate and effective action and released a video with proof of Hyundai’s key role in the displacement of the communities calling for a boycott of the company.

For the letter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki Moon, click here.

For the video on Hyundai’s role in Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies, click here.

For photos, click here.

On the 21st of May 2014, the houses and animal enclosures of 13 families were demolished in Abu Al Jaj Refugee Camp, located in the middle of the Jordan Valley, affecting 71 Palestinians. The morning demolition, aided by large Hyundai excavators under the protection of Israeli soldiers was carried out under the pretext of the camp homes being too close to “Ntsuwah” settlement.

This is only the latest episode in an ongoing policy of displacement and population transfer that began in 1947 and has continued with varying intensity. In the Naqab/Negev some 40,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israeli are currently under imminent threat of forced transfer. As for the occupied West Bank, UNOCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) has documented during the years between 2009-2013 the demolition of a total of 2603 structures and the displacement of 4325 Palestinians from their homes. The majority of home demolitions have occurred in the Jordan Valley and other locations in Area C. Since the beginning of the year 611 people have already been displaced in the West Bank, along with 308 structures destroyed.

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign comments:

These home demolitions, which de facto amount to the forced transfer and ethnic cleansing of our communities, could not be implemented without the active role of Israeli and international corporations, such as Hyundai, that provide the necessary equipment and profit from these war crimes. We ask these companies to stop their complicity and ask the United Nations to provide a list of the responsible state and non-state actors and to hold them accountable.

Since July 2011 UNOCHA has been officially informed by the Israeli Civil Administration of a ‘relocation plan’ of Bedouin communities and communities in area C. Still, no effective measures have been undertaken by the UN to halt these policies of forced transfer and ethnic cleansing and to tackle the root causes.

Jamal Juma’ further adds:

Until today, the UN system and international humanitarian organizations have limited their response to ongoing documentation of facts and to ensure ‘humanitarian sustainability’ for the continual ethnic cleansing of our people. What we urgently need is effective action to stop the Israeli policies of home demolitions and forced transfer of our populations.

The protesters, including those who had travelled from the Jordan Valley for the demonstration, handed a letter to the UN office in Ramallah addressed to Security-General Ban Ki-moon. The letter served as a further reminder of the UN and wider international community of their obligation in the face of grave breaches of international law.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Stop the Wall: Protest in Front of UN Offices in Ramallah

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