Monday, January 23, 2012

01-23-12 Activist Newsletter

Jan. 23, 2012, Issue #174





The Great American boxer Muhammad Ali, 70 years old this month and suffering from Parkinson's Disease, will be remembered for many things — mainly his accomplishments in the ring but not least for his humor and for a remark he once made about his own boxing skills that someone turned into a popular rhyme; "Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad Ali, float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." In our view his best moment was in 1967 when he conscientiously refused to be drafted into the Army to fight in the unjust war against Vietnam, even at the cost of public condemnation and being stripped of his World Heavyweight Championship title. We always thought his best quote was from the same era about the South Vietnam National Liberation Front, sometimes called the Viet Cong: "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.... No Viet Cong ever called me nigger."

By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter

The new year has dawned upon a deeply troubled America. Times are not good in the "best of all possible" nation states, which has suddenly discovered that the seven league boots with which it is accustomed to stride the globe have become ill-fitting and down at the heels.

In recent years, particularly since the onset of the Great Recession, it has become clear to many Americans that their country is composed of two different societies with clashing interests — a very small minority in possession of great wealth and power, and everyone else, with some getting by and many falling by the wayside.

As a consequence, large numbers of people now perceive to one degree or another that big money not only manipulates most elections but influences a great many of the politicians and bureaucrats who craft legislation and execute the policies of the U.S. government. Awareness is spreading that crony capitalism —the corporations, banks and Wall Street — controls the economic system which shapes the political system where decisions are made.

But the beat goes on, of course, until mass consciousness transforms into mass action.

In domestic politics, 2012 opened with the Republican Party's three-ring circus in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the initial contests  to select a presidential nominee. On display is the most bizarre collection of clowns in recent political history. At this stage the battle is between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, who is still favored for now. The struggle within the GOP between ultra right and ultra right "lite" will be determined soon, signaling the start of the best election money can buy.

Which ever party wins in November — and we think President Barack Obama will be reelected — the contest is not between right and left but between right/far right and center right. No matter what the result, progressive change will not be the product. The best outcome might simply be keeping the crazies at bay.

In international affairs, the year opened with U.S. cannon shots aimed just above the heads of America's evidently multifarious enemies, identified as being mainly in Asia and the Middle East, warning them not to mess with Uncle Sam, as though they were about to.

As the shots reverberated, the American people were told:

"Good morning, everybody. The United States of America is the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known. And in no small measure, that’s because we’ve built the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history — and as Commander-in-Chief, I’m going to keep it that way...."

These "reassuring" but misleading hyper-nationalist words from the Commander-In-Chief were expressed Jan. 5 during a visit to the Pentagon to explain Washington's dangerous new war policy. A secondary purpose of the plan is to facilitate Pentagon spending cuts in the next decade, but future allocations will not drop one penny below George W. Bush's bloated war budgets.

Abruptly, the U.S. is supposed to be confronted with a "threat" from China, necessitating that the Pentagon surround that country with even more of its far superior  weaponry, more troops, battle fleets heading in closer proximity, surveillance aircraft, space weapons and long range nuclear missiles.

All this is part of Obama recent "pivot" to Asia, as though we ever left, the main goal being to weaken China within its own natural sphere of interest in order to secure Washington's need to remain global top dog. China is no military threat to the U.S. today or in the future, given the Pentagon's two-decade head start in all the technologies of conflict, and the fact that America's war budget is and will remain many times that of China.

In addition, there seems to be an imminent "threat" to our way of life from Iran, as well as the continuing "threat" to U.S. democracy from some poor tribes in Afghanistan.

Actually, according to "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense," the document explaining the new war plan, the U.S. faces additional "threats" throughout the world, specifically including (aside from those mentioned): Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and  "elsewhere" (our guess is Africa, where Obama's already inserting troops). Primary regions to worry about, says the Pentagon plan, are South Asia, Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Northeast Asia, Eurasia, Southeast and East Asia, plus future, unforeseen demands. 

Despite all these "threats," which are largely invented to justify war spending and keep the American people supportive of the militarism that now pervades our society, Obama twice mentioned in his speech the "tide of war" is receding. But if that is true, why station 40,000 troops in countries around Iraq after withdrawal? Why deploy attack-ready bombers and Navy aircraft carriers near Iran? Why keep nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and make demands on Kabul to allow thousands more to remain indefinitely after the planned "withdrawal" in 2014?

The U.S.-Israeli crusade against Iran may result in an attack this year. The New York Times reported Jan. 12 on an "accelerating covert campaign against Iran consisting of assassinations and bombings. The campaign, which experts believe is being carried out mainly by Israel, apparently claimed its latest victim Jan. 11 when a bomb killed a 32-year-old nuclear scientist in Tehran’s morning rush hour."

On Jan. 14, Iran charged the U.S. and Israel were behind the scientist's murder. That same day the Wall Street Journal reported that the White House was worried that Israel will attack Iran before the U.S. gives a go-ahead. But four days later the Times reported Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared "any decision on a possible pre-emptive military strike on Iranian targets was 'very far off.'" Stay tuned, the year's just started.

The American people are supposed to be safer this new year because President Obama just signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act allocating $662 billion in military spending in 2012 (plus an equal amount for other "national security" purposes in other budgets).

Civil liberties groups criticize the Pentagon bill because it also authorizes an "indefinite detention" clause that is one more step toward a police state. Obama's civil liberties record is worse than that of his predecessor because he retained Bush's excesses and added his own.

A few days after Obama's bragging about the "best-trained" military, the Pentagon and the secretaries of defense and state were forced to publicly apologize in the wake of an international uproar over circulation of a video showing four U.S. Marines jovially urinating on the corpses of Taliban suspects. A couple of days later a U.S. military legal officer recommended that PFC Bradley Manning face a court martial for transferring documents including evidence of U.S. war crimes to the whistle blowing website WikiLeaks. And so it goes, day by day into 2012.

Washington maintains that the Great Recession ended in June 2009 and the economy is on the mend. Stock prices are up, corporate profits are zooming, and the wealthy are exhausting the nation's supply of money bags.

The corporations, banks and Wall St. have been abundantly helped through the tough times by the Obama Administration, but little help has trickled down to average working families. Recession conditions will continue in 2012 for much of the "bottom" 80% of the U.S. population, including high unemployment, more foreclosures, and stagnant wages. Half the families in our Land of Opportunity are low income or poor.

Early in January, the new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults contained a most unusual result. It found that 66% of the people in our "classless society" believe there are “very strong or strong conflicts between the rich and the poor" in the U.S. This is big news, evidently based on growing comprehension of what are in fact class differences.

The top 1% now possess more than 50% of all privately held assets in the U.S. (Assets are everything you own including cash, car and house minus debts.) The top 20% possess 85% of all assets. This means the bottom 80% of the people have accumulated only 15% of the assets (including the bottom 40%, who have no assets at all because they owe more than they own).

However, there is one aspect of our system that is said to prove beyond doubt that all Americans — rich and poor alike — are actually equal in our society where it really counts. We speak of each citizen's right to vote in the quadrennial selection of a Commander-in-Chief, known popularly as the presidential election.

President Obama has transformed his rhetoric into that of liberal populism for the duration of the campaign. He now talks about having government intervene to help reduce inequality and help build a more "equitable" society, not that it's going to happen. He now even tut-tuts about crony capitalism.

Obama sure sounds even more progressive than when he was a "change-we-can-believe-in" candidate in 2008. This was before governing as a center-right patron of the ruling establishment for the last three years, ignoring poor, low income and minority Americans as though they didn't exist, initiating a completely failed program for the millions who have been foreclosed, and changing little to nothing, even in his first two years when the Democrats controlled the House as well as the Senate.

Probable opponent Romney has undergone a similar opportunist transformation in the opposite direction in order to obtain the GOP nomination. He's now campaigning as a right/far right populist this year after governing Massachusetts as a healthcare moderate conservative and who earlier supported abortion, and gun control, among many flip-flops. Gingrich has always been an ultra-reactionary hypocrite going back to the early 1990s in the House, and hasn't seen the need to adopt a new persona for 2012. 

The main reason we believe Obama will be reelected has nothing to do with his record as president. It is that the Republicans have gone so far to the political right, and have acted like such obstructionist buffoons in Congress, that the crucial independent vote will lean toward the center-right. The Democratic leadership hopes Gingrich becomes the candidate because he'll campaign as a far rightist while they fear Romney may moderate some of his rhetoric. But even so, Obama's nearly $1 billion war chest should finish him off.

Assuming Obama does return to power, we know now, as in the 2008 campaign, that a "liberal" will not be occupying the Oval Office for the next four years. The pro-99% rhetoric will stop at the second term White House door.

American politics is quite different today than when the Democratic Party adopted a center left configuration for a few years in the 1930s and 1960s. However, in terms of the gradations of political "evil," the center right is a "lesser evil" to the right/far right, given the two conservative options for electing a president offered the American people by those who run the show, though it’s a dismal commentary on democracy.

In the present era it is certainly legitimate to worry about the direction American politics is heading domestically, coupled with a probable global future of more wars, more poverty and environmental disaster. We worry deeply about the problems that will confront our and all today's children and grandchildren.

However, we retain unshakable confidence in what the masses of people can accomplish under difficult conditions when they become united, organized, disciplined and committed to the struggle for a better, equal and cooperative society, and a peaceful, environmentally sustainable world. 

This option for substantive transformation beckons. It is the objective requirement of our times if we are to avoid a catastrophe down the road. A decisive turn to the left is essential and possible. It could revolutionize society and change the world to benefit all the people.

By Juan Cole

The announcement of the Iranian government that it will activate its Fordow nuclear enrichment site has predictably drawn forth a new round of war propaganda from the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In contrast, the Chinese media accurately report Iran’s affirmation that the new site will be subject to UN inspections and so is perfectly legal.

Ironically, what Clinton says is diametrically opposite from the repeated assurances given by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, that Iran is not trying to construct a nuclear warhead. True, he put it in a misleading way, saying that Iran “is not yet building a bomb,” as though it is only a matter of time.

But in order to build a bomb, Iran would have to deny access to UN inspectors and, well, initiate a program to build a bomb. That it has not done so is covered up in mainstream U.S. political and journalistic discourse, to the point where the New York Times had to apologize for stating (contrary to Panetta) that Iran has a nuclear weapons program (it does not, as far as anyone can tell).

And now, it turns out, the Obama administration is even willing to admit the truth. The sanctions regime on Iran is not even primarily about the civilian nuclear enrichment program (to which Iran has a right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), but about causing the regime to collapse.

I think blockading a civilian population for the purpose of instituting regime change in a state toward which no authorization of force has been issued by the UN Security Council may well be a war crime. Even advocating a war crime can under some circumstances be punishable, as happened at the Nuremberg trials.

Unlike Israel (Egypt 1956, 1967; Lebanon 1982, 2006) or the U.S. (Iraq 2003), Iran has not unilaterally attacked a nation that had not attacked it, and Iran has not occupied other states’ territory. Both Israel and the U.S. have stockpiles of nuclear warheads. Iran doesn’t have a single one and doesn’t even have a nuclear weapons program. Since Iran has not attacked anyone (and hasn’t done so for over a century), and since the UNSC has not authorized the use of force against Tehran, it would be illegal under the UN Charter for the U.S. or Israel to attack Iran....

[ reports that "In a closed-door parliamentary meeting on Jan. 10, Israel’s military chief of staff Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz said Iran should expect 'continuing and growing pressure from the international community and things which take place in an unnatural manner.' This was widely interpreted as referring to covert acts of sabotage and violence in Iran."]

Clinton says that the Fordow enrichment facility near Qom was not declared as it should have been, but rather was revealed by U.S. satellite surveillance. But after it was declared, the then head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, was allowed to inspect it and found nothing there, just “a hole in the mountain.” This finding suggests that Iran was within its rights not to declare it was opening a new enrichment site, since it had not done so, just dug a hole in a mountain. There was no nuclear material there when ElBaradei visited in fall, 2009.

The Iranians say that they will try to enrich to 19.75% at the Fordow site. This enrichment level is still that of low enriched uranium (LEU), and is the level of enrichment necessary for fuel for Iran’s medical reactor, which produces isotopes for treating cancer. Iran had acquired fuel for the medical reactor, which was given to it by the United States, from Argentina. But it has run out, and Argentina got out of that business. It is not clear why the West wants Iranian cancer victims not to have access to isotopes for radiation treatment.

While enriching to 19.75% LEU is an increase in Iran’s enrichment capabilities, it is nowhere near the 95% generally needed to make a bomb. Moreover, Iran says it is not trying to get a bomb, and the IAEA has acknowledged repeatedly that no nuclear material has been diverted from the civilian program. If Iran does not permit inspections of Fordow, now that would be suspicious and really would be a violation of NPT obligations. But they seem perfectly willing to let inspectors in.

Clinton said, “There is no plausible justification for this production. Such enrichment brings Iran a significant step closer to having the capability to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium.” But every clause of this statement is false.

— Jan. 12,

By the Activist Newsletter

Civil liberties organizations are appalled by President Obama's decision to sign into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) including a provision for indefinite detention that in effect suspends habeas corpus for some, a heretofore sacrosanct aspect of American democracy.

The bill primarily authorizes $662 billion in military spending through 2012, and includes sanctions on Iran's oil exports that amount to a declaration of economic war, as well as allowing arbitrary and indefinite military detention of Americans and others.

The Chief Executive approved the legislation Dec. 31 despite opposition to the detention provision from his principle national security officers — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Obama could have vetoed the bill, insisting the offensive section be dropped, as was his earlier intention. He could have prevailed, despite grumbling from Republican politicians, because Pentagon money bills and anti-Iran sanctions receive the highest priority.

This being an election year when Democratic voters have no viable alternative, the President evidently calculated that his political career, if not democracy, would benefit from an indulgence in George W. Bush-style anti-terrorist bravado pleasing to conservatives.

Obama justified his further erosion of civil liberties by issuing a signing statement claiming "serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists." He suggested his government, however, would not implement the outrageous codicil, while hardly unaware succeeding administrations will ignore his empty pledge.

All prominent civil liberties organizations criticized the law as unconstitutional as well as shockingly misguided. Many progressive and left voices characterized the legislation as bad as or worse then the freedom-corroding Patriot Act, which Obama supports, and a step toward a police state.

The Center for Constitutional Rights announced that it "strongly condemns the U.S. Congress for passing, and President Obama for signing, the... NDAA, which effectively endorses war without end and makes indefinite military detention without charge or trial a permanent feature of the American legal system. This is the first time since the McCarthy Era that Congress has written indefinite detention into law. We had hoped that President Obama... would uphold his promise to veto this radical law that threatens to roll back both decades-old legislation enacted to combat McCarthy-era excesses and 19th-century limitations on domestic military policing.

"The NDAA reauthorizes and extends [Bush's] Authorization for Use of Military Force, which has been used to justify the detention of men at Guantánamo without charge or trial for the past 10 years. The NDAA also goes further and broadens the range of activities that warrant indefinite detention to include undefined ‘substantial support’ for terrorism. In addition, the NDAA contains no geographic limitation and allows the president to indefinitely detain even American citizens."

The American Civil Liberties Union declared that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States was unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA. In addition, the breadth of the NDAA’s detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war.

Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director, declared: “President Obama's action is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law. The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.

“We are incredibly disappointed that President Obama signed this new law even though his administration had already claimed overly broad detention authority in court. Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today...."

The bill also contains provisions making it difficult to transfer suspects out of military detention, which prompted FBI Director Mueller to testify that it could jeopardize criminal investigations. It also restricts the transfers of cleared detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries for resettlement or repatriation, making it more difficult to close Guantanamo, as Obama pledged to do in one of his first acts in office.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges has filed suit against President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of authorizing the military to jail anyone throughout the world, including U.S. citizens, on the grounds of suspected terrorism. "It’s clearly unconstitutional," Hedges says. "It is a huge and egregious assault against our democracy. It overturns over 200 years of law, which has kept the military out of domestic policing."

The Senate passed the bill with the detention clause by vote of 86-13 Dec. 15. Only six Democrats voted no. They were: Durbin, Illinois; Harkin, Iowa; Cardin, Maryland; Franken, Minnesota; Merkley and Wyden, Oregon.

The House approved the bill a day earlier, 283-136, with 190 Republicans voting yes, and  43 no. Democrats were split  93 yes, 93 no. In the New York House delegation, 11 Democrats voted no. They were (by Congressional District): 6-Meeks, 8-Nadler, 10-Towns, 11-Clarke, 12-Velazquez, 14-Maloney, 15-Rangel, 16-Serrano, 21-Tonko, 22-Hinchey, 28-Slaughter. All 8 New York Republicans voted yes, as did 10 Democrats.
— J.A.S.

By Tana Ganeva

The FBI claims that their fingerprint database (IAFIS) is the "largest biometric database in the world," containing records for over a hundred million people. But that's nothing compared to the agency's plans for Next Generation Identification (NGI), a massive, billion-dollar upgrade that will hold iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.

Ambitions for the final product are candidly spelled out in an agency report: "The FBI recognizes a need to collect as much biometric data as possible within information technology systems, and to make this information accessible to all levels of law enforcement, including International agencies." (A stack of documents related to NGI was obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights and others after a FOIA lawsuit.)

It'll be "Bigger -- Better -- Faster," the FBI brags on their Web site. Unsurprisingly, civil libertarians have concerns about the privacy ramifications of a bigger, better, faster way to track Americans using their body parts.

"NGI will expand the type and breadth of information the FBI keeps on all of us," says Sunita Patel of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "There should be a balance between gathering information for law enforcement, and gathering information for its own sake."

—For the  rest of this AlterNet article, including specific details about the FBI's techniques, go to


MID-HUDSON ACTIVIST GALE MCGOVERN DIES — Ulster County peace and justice activist Gale McGovern died Dec. 27. She was 73. We worked with Gale on several causes over the years, and had great respect for her continual activism and courage, not least because she required crutches or a wheelchair to get to meetings and demonstrations.

Gale was born in Quincy, Mass., graduated from Boston University in the 1960s, and settled in New York City as a book editor. While there she participated in various movements and campaigns. She was a lesbian, and at the time was a member of the Gay Activists Alliance and the Daughters of Bilitis. She fought for equality for lesbians and gays the rest of her life.

Gale eventually moved to the Hudson Valley in the early 1980s and resumed the activism she had temporarily suspended for several years. Her final residence was in Olivebridge.

It's impossible to list all the peace and justice causes Gale supported. She was a staunch backer of political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Native American Leonard Peltier, among others. She was at just about every large antiwar protest we organized in the region. She demanded rights for the disabled, and woe betide organizers of movement events that did not offer wheelchair access.

Gale was in the front lines championing New Paltz Mayor Jason West for presiding over allegedly "illegal" public solemnization ceremonies in 2004 for 25 gay couples who sought this form of union before same-sex marriage became legal in New York state. (Within a week he was charged with 19 misdemeanor counts of "solemnizing marriages without a license," but the charges were dismissed.)

For many years Gale was active with the Caribbean and Latin America Support Project, and was involved with Middle East Crisis Response. She was a long-time backer of liberal Rep. Maurice Hinchey. A couple of years ago she worked to save the Rosendale Theater, among so many other activist ventures. We will announce when a memorial service is to be held for this extraordinary woman somewhere in Ulster County.

ROCKLAND COUNTY VIGIL ENDS — After nine years and one month, the popular weekly two-hour antiwar vigil on Saturdays at the corner of Route 59 and Middletown Rd. in Nanuet, N.Y., has closed down. The vigil, sponsored by the Rockland Coalition For Peace & Justice, began months before Washington's unjust and illegal invasion of Iraq when President Bush's nefarious intentions became obvious.

Coalition members decided to end the vigil when U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq at the end of December. Members of the group indicate they will remain engaged in work for peace and justice. Several other long-term weekly peace vigils in the Hudson Valley region are continuing to witness against Washington's continuing wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, drone attacks in several other countries, and increasing intimations of wars to come.

OCCUPY ORANGE COUNTY — A new Occupy group will hold its first organizational meeting at the Mulberry House in Middletown at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2. Other regional Occupy efforts we know of are in Albany, New Paltz, and Poughkeepsie.

Organizers say the meeting "will be a celebration of the huge [Occupy] successes of the past year, a pep rally to keep our spirits high for the challenges that lie ahead, and an opportunity to learn first hand from experienced Occupiers what it's like on the ground (sometimes literally) at an Occupy site. There will be great food, music, and speakers from unions and community groups."

Local sponsoring organizations so far include the Democratic Alliance, Community Voices Heard of Newburgh, Orange County Peace and Justice and the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter.

BILL MOYERS IS BACK — The very best of the liberal commentators has returned to public television after his long-running PBS program, Bill Moyers Journal, ended in April 2010. The new one hour program, Moyers & Company, is distributed to stations free by American Public Television, not PBS, but it is being carried by some — though not all — PBS stations.

Channel 13 in New York City, which is available on cable in the Hudson Valley region, is broadcasting the program, though not on prime time. However, the program available at 6 p.m. Sundays; 10 p.m. Mondays and 4:30 a.m. Wednesdays. (Check the listings to be sure.) His first two programs were terrific. Repeats are available at the website,

One hour a week of Moyers on TV, and five hours a week (an hour a day, Monday-Friday) of Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and her associates is the best progressive news/informational programming you will find in America. DN! may be obtained on several Hudson Valley radio programs or TV, radio and print all days via

By the Activist Newsletter (adapted from several sources and an AP article)

Since their rough eviction from a park near the state Capitol on the first day of winter, the Occupy Albany movement has regrouped out of a storefront a few blocks away, where members meet and organize protests and marches to help correct what they consider American democracy bent to favor the rich.

The Albany occupiers and their supporters conducted a demonstration Jan. 20 outside the Foley Federal District Courthouse as part of actions in many cities to protest the 2nd anniversary of the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision granting corporations the same rights as people, with no limit on political contributions. The rally endorsed a constitutional amendment clarifying that corporations are not persons, and also backed public financing of elections. MoveOn was a co-sponsor.

Members of Occupy Syracuse, 20 of whom were evicted by police from their encampment at 3:35 a.m. Jan. 19, likewise promised to regroup and continue protesting without their tents, as did Occupy Poughkeepsie some weeks earlier. The Poughkeepsie group just conducted four days of marches and meetings, Jan. 14-17, including the daytime re-occupation of Hulme Park, where their tents once stood.

The Syracuse encampment was torn down after 110 days in Perseverance Park, appropriately between the 1%-dedicated Merrill Lynch and Chase Bank buildings. Democratic Mayor Stephanie A. Miner ordered the eviction a few days earlier, arguing that the alleged use of propane to heat the freezing tents was a hazard.

On Dec. 18, after many safety inspections every two hours, Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Cavuto said there was no immediate safety concern at Occupy Syracuse, but several hours later the police were sent in. There was no serious violence, though seven people were arrested for illegally erecting tents in the city. According to Occupy Syracuse, Mayor Miner never objected to the tents in several previous face to face meetings.

Authorities have been evicting occupiers in tent encampments in scores of cities and towns  throughout the U.S. since the Occupy movement was born in September. In New York City, where more than 700 marchers were arrested Oct. 1, the Occupy Wall Street protesters were evicted by police from Zuccotti Park and the Manhattan encampment taken down Nov. 15. Occupy Wall Street remains active without its tents.

In two other major New York State cities —Buffalo and Rochester — officials have allowed demonstrators to continue camping. Initially, 48 were arrested in Rochester for curfew violations. A judge is considering whether to dismiss charges. Authorities last month dismantled a second Buffalo encampment a few blocks from the first one.

In Albany, as in dozens of  U.S. cities since last March, demonstrators set up camp in a local park last Oct. 21. Albany officials let the occupiers stay in Academy Park even though Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted state police enforce an 11 p.m. curfew in adjacent state-owned Lafayette Park, where more than 130 people have been arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct. Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares has declined to prosecute peaceful protesters.

The Occupy Albany tents vanished Dec. 22 when Albany police, armed with a court order, closed down the encampment after a two-month occupation. That sparked a spontaneous evening protest march around downtown Albany with the last big tent carried by about 75 protesters. It ended back in the park, where police wrestled the tent away. A handful of demonstrators were pepper sprayed by a policeman on horseback. Four protesters were arrested.

City officials said protesters can stay in Academy Park and exercise their First Amendment rights, but they can't pitch tents, and the group has continued its activities in the park and elsewhere. Occupy members have been turning up at other rallies, including the "People's State of the State," also in the city's Academy Park, where groups urged raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10. The next day, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said raising that wage would be a top legislative priority for his Democratic majority.

Occupy Albany is now headquartered in a small office on a downtown street of mostly residential brownstones. The movement's name is stenciled on the window and a poster next to it says, "Tax the 1 percent." Fliers are neatly laid out on a table, protest signs stacked against a wall, and one utilitarian desk has a computer, connected to the Internet where the movement maintains a Web site and Facebook page and uses other social networks to connect.

About 15 volunteer lawyers have been doing Occupy Albany's legal work, now challenging the order by state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi to end the encampment, trying to get the case moved to federal court, and defending arrested protesters.

"We're in it for the long term," said Colin Donnaruma, one of the protesters pepper sprayed during a confrontation with police when the outdoor encampment was dismantled. "The movement isn't contingent on physically occupying a place."

By Glenn Greenwald

American presidential elections are increasingly indistinguishable from the reality TV competitions drowning the nation's airwaves. Both are vapid, personality-driven and painfully protracted affairs, with the winners crowned by virtue of their ability to appear slightly more tolerable than the cast of annoying rejects whom the public eliminates one by one. When, earlier this year, America's tawdriest (and one of its most-watched) reality TV show hosts, Donald Trump, inserted himself into the campaign circus as a threatened contestant, he fitted right in, immediately catapulting to the top of audience polls before announcing he would not join the show.

The Republican presidential primaries – shortly to determine who will be the finalist to face off, and likely lose, against Barack Obama next November – has been a particularly base spectacle. That the contest has devolved into an embarrassing clown show has many causes, beginning with the fact that GOP voters loathe Mitt Romney, their belief-free, anointed-by-Wall-Street frontrunner who clearly has the best chance of defeating the president.

In a desperate attempt to find someone less slithery and soulless (not to mention less Mormon), party members have lurched manically from one ludicrous candidate to the next, only to watch in horror as each wilted the moment they were subjected to scrutiny. Incessant pleas to the party's ostensibly more respectable conservatives to enter the race have been repeatedly rebuffed. Now, only Romney remains viable. Republican voters are thus slowly resigning themselves to marching behind a vacant, supremely malleable technocrat whom they plainly detest.

In fairness to the much-maligned GOP field, they face a formidable hurdle: how to credibly attack Obama when he has adopted so many of their party's defining beliefs. Depicting the other party's president as a radical menace is one of the chief requirements for a candidate seeking to convince his party to crown him as the chosen challenger. Because Obama has governed as a centrist Republican, these GOP candidates are able to attack him as a leftist radical only by moving so far to the right in their rhetoric and policy prescriptions that they fall over the cliff of mainstream acceptability, or even basic sanity.

In July, the nation's most influential progressive domestic policy pundit, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, declared that Obama is a "moderate conservative in practical terms." Last October, he wrote that "progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion," because the president – "once you get past the soaring rhetoric" – has "largely accepted the conservative storyline."

Krugman also pointed out that even the policy Democratic loyalists point to as proof of the president's progressive bona fides – his healthcare plan, which mandates the purchase of policies from the private health insurance industry – was designed by the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation's most rightwing thinktanks, and was advocated by conservative ideologues for many years (it also happens to be the same plan Romney implemented when he was governor of Massachusetts and which Newt Gingrich once promoted, underscoring the difficulty for the GOP in drawing real contrasts with Obama).

How do you scorn a president as a far-left socialist when he has stuffed his administration with Wall Street executives, had his last campaign funded by them, governed as a "centrist Republican", and presided over booming corporate profits even while the rest of the nation suffered economically?

But as slim as the pickings are for GOP candidates on the domestic policy front, at least there are some actual differences in that realm. The president's 2009 stimulus spending and Wall Street "reform" package – tepid and inadequate though they were – are genuinely at odds with rightwing dogma, as are Obama's progressive (albeit inconsistent) positions on social issues, such as equality for gay people and protecting a woman's right to choose. And the supreme court, perpetually plagued by a 5-4 partisan split, would be significantly affected by the outcome of the 2012 election.

It is in the realm of foreign policy, terrorism and civil liberties where Republicans encounter an insurmountable roadblock. A staple of GOP politics has long been to accuse Democratic presidents of coddling America's enemies (both real and imagined), being afraid to use violence, and subordinating U.S. security to international bodies and leftwing conceptions of civil liberties.

But how can a GOP candidate invoke this time-tested caricature when Obama has embraced the vast bulk of George Bush's terrorism policies; waged a war against government whistleblowers as part of a campaign of obsessive secrecy; led efforts to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs; extinguished the lives not only of accused terrorists but of huge numbers of innocent civilians with cluster bombs and drones in Muslim countries; engineered a covert war against Iran; tried to extend the Iraq war; ignored Congress and the constitution to prosecute an unauthorized war in Libya; adopted the defining Bush/Cheney policy of indefinite detention without trial for accused terrorists; and even claimed and exercised the power to assassinate U.S. citizens far from any battlefield and without due process?

Reflecting this difficulty for the GOP field is the fact that former Bush officials, including Dick Cheney, have taken to lavishing Obama with public praise for continuing his predecessor's once-controversial terrorism polices. In the last GOP foreign policy debate, the leading candidates found themselves issuing recommendations on the most contentious foreign policy question (Iran) that perfectly tracked what Obama is already doing, while issuing ringing endorsements of the president when asked about one of his most controversial civil liberties assaults (the due-process-free assassination of the American-Yemeni cleric Anwar Awlaki). Indeed, when it comes to the foreign policy and civil liberties values Democrats spent the Bush years claiming to defend, the only candidate in either party now touting them is the libertarian Ron Paul, who vehemently condemns Obama's policies of drone killings without oversight, covert wars, whistleblower persecutions, and civil liberties assaults in the name of countering terrorism.

In sum, how do you demonize Obama as a terrorist-loving secret Muslim intent on empowering U.S. enemies when he has adopted, and in some cases extended, what was rightwing orthodoxy for the last decade? The core problem for GOP challengers is that they cannot be respectable Republicans because, as Krugman pointed out, Obama has that position occupied. They are forced to move so far to the right that they render themselves inherently absurd.

— Glenn Greenwald is a Constitutional law attorney and a popular contributing writer at and frequent guest on Democracy Now. He has written four books so far: "How Would a Patriot Act?" (2006), "A Tragic Legacy" (2007), "Great American Hypocrites" (2008), and "With Liberty and Justice for Some" (2011).


By Activist Newsletter

The major industrialized countries of the world must take swift and substantial measures to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas emissions or a climate-change disaster is unavoidable.

According to the authoritative Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Jan. 10:  "The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth's atmosphere.

"The International Energy Agency projects that, unless societies begin building alternatives to carbon-emitting energy technologies over the next five years, the world is doomed to a warmer climate, harsher weather, droughts, famine, water scarcity, rising sea levels, loss of island nations, and increasing ocean acidification. 

"Since fossil-fuel burning power plants and infrastructure built in 2012-2020 will produce energy — and emissions — for 40 to 50 years, the actions taken in the next few years will set us on a path that will be impossible to redirect.  Even if policy leaders decide in the future to reduce reliance on carbon-emitting technologies, it will be too late."

The United States — the world's most influential country and also the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases historically and today on a per capita basis — has been egregiously derelict in mitigating the impending crisis (see UN climate conference article below).

In 2002, 75% of the American people correctly believed human activity to be mainly responsible for global warming, and constituted a potentially powerful constituency for taking bold measures to drastically reduce climate change.

But today — although 99% of the global scientific community adhere to this position — the number of Americans who do so has dropped to 44%. This is mainly because of duplicitous propaganda from Big Business, the Republican Party, and right wing ideology. But the lackadaisical attitude of the Obama Administration is a factor as well. President Obama has never utilized the White House "bully pulpit" to galvanize the American people into action on this issue in the face of continual conservative climate change denial.


By Friends of the Earth International

The UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, were a failure and take the world a significant step back by further undermining an already flawed, inadequate multilateral system that is supposed to address the climate crisis.

Developed countries engaged in a smoke and mirrors trick of delivering rhetoric but no action, failed to commit to urgently needed deep emissions cuts, and even backtracked on past commitments to address the climate crisis.

Participants from 191 countries and the European Union attended this important Nov. 28-Dec. 9 international meeting. The official name of the gathering was the 17th  Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol.

The outcome of the Durban talks — heralded by some as a step forward — in fact amounts to:

• No progress on fair and binding action on reducing emissions.
• No progress on urgently needed climate finance.
• Increased likelihood of further expansion of false solutions like carbon trading.
• The further locking in of economies based on polluting fossil fuels.
• The further unraveling of the legally-binding international framework to deliver climate action on the basis of science and equity.

While there was resistance from developing countries to the destructive proposals on the table in Durban, the final Durban outcome amounts to:

1. A new “Durban Platform” which will delay climate action for a decade. Instead of implementing the existing, ambitious and equitable negotiating roadmap that was agreed in Bali four years ago, a new process to launch negotiations for a new treaty was agreed in Durban.

2. A substantial weakening of the Kyoto Protocol, the only existing international framework for legally-binding emissions reductions by rich industrialized countries. These countries are responsible for three quarters of the emissions in the atmosphere despite only hosting 15% of the world’s population. The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has still not been formally agreed and would only cover the European Union and a handful of other developed countries.

3. Drastically insufficient targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions which are largely responsible for global warming. Taken alongside the expansive loopholes agreed to in Durban that serve to help countries avoid emissions cuts, these paltry pledges actually mean a likely net increase in emissions between now and 2020.

4. A shift of the burden for climate action to developing countries, which have done the least to cause global warming, have the least resources to combat it, and face the additional burden of having to address pressing poverty alleviation and development needs.

5. Absolutely no progress on urgently-needed, new and additional public finance for developing country climate action and adaptation measures to protect vulnerable communities from climate impacts. The Green Climate Fund was approved but with no means by which to fill the coffers and a provision agreed to that could allow multinational corporations and private financial actors to directly access the fund.

6. The increased likelihood of new opportunities for carbon trading, a destructive false solution to the climate crisis which locks in climate inaction, drives land grabbing and displacement of communities, and could contribute to another global financial collapse.

“Developed countries, led by the United States, accelerated the demolition of the world’s international framework for fair and urgent climate action. And developing countries have been bullied and forced into accepting an agreement that could be a suicide pill for the world,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International.

He continued “On the eve of the climate talks, hundreds of families in Durban lost their homes and some even their lives in devastating flooding. From the Horn of Africa to Thailand to Venezuela to the small island state of Tuvalu, hundreds of millions of people are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis they did not create. The lack of progress in Durban means that we are even closer to a future catastrophic 4 to 6 degrees Celsius of warming, which would condemn most of Africa and the small island states to climate catastrophe and devastate the lives and livelihoods of many millions more around the world.”

According to Climate Justice Now!, a broad coalition of social movements that attended the conference, "decisions resulting from the UN COP17 climate summit in Durban constitute a crime against humanity.... The world’s polluters have blocked real action and have once again chosen to bail out investors and banks by expanding the now-crashing carbon markets — which like all financial market activities these days, appear to mainly enrich a select few.

Janet Redman, of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies charged: “What some see as inaction is in fact a demonstration of the palpable failure of our current economic system to address economic, social or environmental crises. Banks that caused the financial crisis are now making bonanza profits speculating on our planet’s future. The financial sector, driven into a corner, is seeking a way out by developing ever newer commodities to prop up a failing system.”

Who is to blame? The disastrous Durban outcome is attributable to a combined effort by the governments of rich industrialized countries, most notably the U.S., Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Russia and the European Union. The United States is most to blame, as it has been the most powerful driver in the dismantling of the legally-binding framework for developed country emissions reductions. It refused to take on emissions reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, and has attempted to replace this system with a weaker, ineffective system of voluntary pledges.

Canada, Japan, Russia, Australia and New Zealand have pursued a similar agenda of trying to escape their legal and moral obligation to act first and fastest to cut their emissions. Canada, Japan and Russia have refused outright to emissions cuts under the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period, and Australia and New Zealand have made their commitments conditional, leaving the European Union and a handful of other developed countries covered by the agreement in Durban.

The European Union, heralded as a climate leader and the savior of the Durban talks, had an agenda filled with false promises. The EU was a key architect of the new “Durban Platform” that will delay action for 10 years, lock in low ambition and deliver a weaker, less effective system than the Kyoto Protocol. The EU’s strategy in Durban was to split the group of developing countries and force emerging economies like India and China, with hundreds of millions of people still below the poverty line, to take on unfair responsibilities for tackling the climate crisis. The EU also blocked progress in closing dangerous loopholes in existing emissions targets, and was the principle driver of the push to expand destructive carbon trading.

The huge influence of corporate polluters and other corporate and financial vested interests over the positions of governments is the underlying reason why Durban’s outcome was so disastrous. The pressure and influence of these interest groups undermines the ability of ordinary citizens and civil society to hold our governments to account for their action on climate and their positions in the international climate negotiations....

Many developing country negotiators expressed growing concerns as the talks progressed. The Africa Group (comprising the 54 countries in Africa), India, Venezuela, Bolivia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Nicaragua and a number of small island states all pushed back against the destructive proposals being advanced. But developing countries were coerced into having to accept a “take it or leave it” package to save the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Climate Fund and failed to stand strong and united against the disastrous final outcome of the talks. One of the most vocal critics, India, caved at the last minute to demands by the US and other developed countries that provisions to safeguard an equitable approach to tackling the climate crisis be excluded from the Durban agreement....

Clearly, there is a need to radically transform our global economy to create a more just and sustainable world. We need dramatic cuts in emissions on the basis of science and equity and a transformation in our economies to make this a reality.

Developed countries also have a moral and legal obligation to honor their climate debt and provide adequate public finance to developing countries to develop sustainably and protect the vulnerable from climate impacts.

A strong and fair UN agreement on climate is essential, and to get it we will work with others to strengthen the movement for justice in all countries and hold our governments to account to ensure that politics works for people and the planet, not for profit.

— Friends of the Earth International, which authored most of this article, is one of several progressive environmental organizations that were strongly critical of the Durban conference along lines similar to those noted here. The website is
— Another critique of interest, with links to several of the important documents considered in Durban — "How to not tackle climate change and call it a success" by Nele Marien — is at


[We are reprinting this article from Foreign Affairs online because it is one of the few published in the U.S. that depicts the many advances in green technology and greenhouse gas reduction taking place in China. Near the end it begins to worry about the impact this will have on U.S. "competitiveness" and the "economic and security implications of China's innovation" — a concern we would have restyled had it been our piece. The author leads the Carbon Management Program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.]

By S. Julio Friedmann

For energy enthusiasts, China has become the main event. The country uses more energy and emits more greenhouse gas than any other on Earth. Its production of power is booming, too. Every year, China generates nearly 100,000 megawatts more than the previous year — more than the total generated by California or Texas. The scale of the accompanying infrastructure change is staggering: every week, a new large coal plant opens somewhere in China. This has led to widespread pollution, health problems, and environmental degradation — to the cost to the Chinese economy of about 11% of GDP.

But this is not the same old cautionary tale of dirty development: China has taken these challenges, and the need for energy and 20 million new jobs per year, as a spur to invest in clean technology. Indeed, with the government putting over $50 billion into clean energy R&D every year, China has become a global hub for energy innovation.

The country's progress is driven by a combination of government mandate and direct investment. Examples are many. A 2007 law required 4% gains in energy efficiency each year through 2012, including in the transportation and industrial sectors. Since then, total efficiency in the power sector has increased by nearly 10% and is likely to continue rising. Such mandates have been matched by requirements for sulfur emissions control and cleaner water, the closure of many low-efficiency coal mines and cement plants, and new investment in solar, wind, and other renewable power.

To all this, China's 12th five-year-plan, introduced earlier in 2011, added goals for developing clean technology indigenously. Mostly these innovations will be for domestic use, although there is growing interest in international export markets for clean tech. Many state-funded projects now require that 80% of the technology used be indigenous. Two agencies are responsible for overseeing compliance. First is the National Energy Administration (NEA), which approves the financing and construction of virtually every large energy project. Second, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) runs the more than 100 Chinese academies that conduct clean tech research. In 2010, China funneled tens of billions for green innovation through these two organizations.

Massive state investment has allowed Beijing to do what private industry around the world cannot. Power and energy production requires massive upfront capital investments; the total cost for building individual novel solar, nuclear, or wind power facilities often exceeds $1 billion. The high expense makes such projects risky for capital markets around the world, not to mention for most private firms. Often, private banks only want to be fast followers and invest in second-generation plants, not first-generation plants with a new design. NEA and MOST backing helps projects clear this hurdle.

A good example is Huaneng, the world's largest power company, which generates about 160,000 megawatts of power per year — 30% more than Texas. Every year, it adds 13,000 megawatts of new generation — about the same as Massachusetts' current generation. To meet the government's many clean energy mandates, Huaneng plans to install windmills capable of generating 10,000 megawatts per year (close to the total of U.S. wind power) and solar panels capable of generating 10,000 megawatts per year (greater than the U.S. total). By 2025, Huaneng expects to add more than 50,000 megawatts of hydropower and 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power. Meanwhile, it will continue to add nearly 50 megawatts of coal power.

Beyond producing energy, Huaneng innovates through its Clean Energy Research Institute, which is funded by its own revenues and NEA and MOST. It has designed and built two major indigenous clean coal technologies in the last decade. The first is a gasifier that turns coal into synthetic gas with high efficiency and ultra-low pollution. The second is a new capture technology that strips CO2 out of coal plant emissions. It is apparently the world's largest post-combustion carbon capture facility — and its cheapest. The deadlines set by the government mandates brought these projects to life in just three years and have already led to international licensing agreements and new proposed projects in North America and Europe.

Other companies, too, are developing clean tech from scratch, both for domestic use and for export. The XinAo Group, Shenhua, State Grid, and CNOOC, all major Chinese energy firms, have created their own innovation enterprises undergirded by the financial power of their parent companies and the state. Their efforts include solar thin-films, biofuels, batteries, efficient vehicles, coal-to-liquids, shale gas, and smart grids. In many cases, Chinese companies have even formed joint ventures with firms in the United States to accelerate development and Western commercialization. For example, Lishen, one of the world's largest battery companies, has embarked on a $7 billion development drive to improve battery technology on its own, with licensing agreements in the United States.

At the same time, China has started to repatriate Western-educated Chinese nationals, especially those who have worked at Western energy firms (GE, Dow, DuPont, Areva) or are leading scientists and engineers at Western universities (Johns Hopkins, MIT, Stanford, and USC, among others). When they return to China, they are given staffs of hundreds, multimillion-dollar budgets, and aggressive delivery timelines. Sometimes called "sea turtles" (for returning to the shores of their birth), they bring a Western innovation strategy to Chinese design, and are paired with the intellectual and financial resources needed to bring designs to life.

In many ways, China's green dreams are good news.

Consider the impact on the environment. Together the United States and China account for 40% of emissions, 40% of energy consumption, and 50% of global coal use. Nothing other countries do on this issue can match the impact of the actions (or inaction) of the United States or China. Without Washington and Beijing leading the way, the world will not mitigate the worst consequences of climate change. In this context, any Chinese investment in clean tech is a global good.

Many U.S. businesses will benefit, too. For one, Chinese investment in green tech is already creating jobs in the United States. Thanks to Chinese partnerships with GE, Applied Materials, Duke Energy, and others, those companies have been able to build plants, hire people, demonstrate technology, and underwrite projects. Further, U.S. companies benefit directly from Chinese research. For example, FutureFuels, a U.S. energy company in Pennsylvania, is deploying a novel clean-coal plant that Huaneng first tested and developed. Once operational, the plant could carry the smallest carbon footprint of any coal or gas plant in the eastern United States. And it would create with it thousands of jobs in southern Pennsylvania's Rust Belt, besides.

Beyond that, U.S. companies and consumers will benefit indirectly from having access to lower-cost technologies that have already been tested on a large commercial scale, speeding the implementation of more efficient and sustainable energy technologies in the United States. So, too, will partnerships between the two countries. These commercial agreements have already started to lay a foundation of trust, absolutely essential for future U.S.-China government agreements in trade, climate, and other key areas.

At the same time, China's green innovation raises questions about U.S. and European competitiveness. For years, the West believed that its economic advantage was its ability to invent products that could be sold to eastern markets. Successive governments sold innovation as a pathway to job creation and prowess in manufacturing. However, if the West buys Chinese clean tech, that narrative reverses. It also raises the specter of permanent loss of manufacturing for some heavy equipment, technology development, and high-value innovation.

One might ask, as well, whether all this will truly address China's challenges. Air quality improvement is still localized and slow, and concerns about particulates and mercury remain. Fuel shortages of all kinds, including coal, gas, and gasoline, persist, raising local and global prices despite China's impressive gains. And some in China have tried to force burgeoning commercial partnerships to start committing to intellectual property agreements that chill innovation and trade. Trade and monetary imbalances could also be magnified by Chinese clean tech exports, as could concerns for worker safety.

Ultimately, China's clean energy investment and deployment will dominate climate and trade trajectories for decades — whatever the effects on commerce, industry, energy, and even human rights and monetary policy. The scale of its effort simply dwarfs every other on earth. That is good news for the oceans and the atmosphere, but also gives pause to the 5.5 billion people on this planet who don't live in China. For them, the economic and security implications of China's innovation drive are yet to be seen.


[The following brief article needs some background for many readers who are unfamiliar with the long armed uprising in India, a regional economic powerhouse but a society of grave poverty for the multitudes where, for instance, up to 50 million child laborers earn a pittance for their survival. We include links to two articles below about the nature of the struggle.]

By Associated Press

PATNA, India:  Suspected Maoist rebels triggered a powerful land mine Jan. 21 that killed 13 policemen in eastern India, a top police official said. At least two other policemen were injured in the explosion that blew up their minibus in Jharkhand state, police superintendent G.K. Rath said.

The officers had conducted a routine search for rebel hideouts in a remote, densely forested region and were returning from the operation when the blast occurred. Police sealed off the district and launched a massive hunt for rebels active in the area.

The rebels have been fighting the government for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for landless farmers, the poor [and an end to the corporate theft of territories inhabited by indigenous people].

Often referred to as Naxalites, for the village of Naxalbari in neighboring West Bengal state where the movement began in 1967, the fighters were inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong and are currently active in 20 of India's 28 states [under the flag of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, to distinguish them from two other communist parties active in the country].

— Further reading:
"Walking With The Comrades," by the great Indian author Arundhati Roy,  and CNN's "Maoists Being Forced Into Violence?" (Interview with Arundhati Roy),

By Donald Macintyre, The Independent (UK), Jan. 14

The Palestinian presence in the largest part of the occupied West Bank has been, "continuously undermined" by Israel in ways that are "closing the window" on a two-state solution, according to an internal European Union report viewed by The Independent. 

The report, approved by top Brussels officials, argues that EU support, including for a wide range of building projects, is now needed to protect the rights of "ever more isolated" Palestinians in "Area C" — the sector that includes all 124 Jewish settlements — illegal in international law – and which is under direct Israeli control. It comprises 62% of the West Bank, including the "most fertile and resource rich land."

With the number of Jewish settlers now at more than double the shrinking Palestinian population in the largely rural area, the report warns bluntly that, "if current trends are not stopped and reversed, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders seem more remote than ever."
The 16-page document is the EU's starkest critique yet of how a combination of house and farm building demolitions; a prohibitive planning regime; relentless settlement expansion; the military's separation barrier; obstacles to free movement; and denial of access to vital natural resources, including land and water, is eroding Palestinian tenure of the large tract of the West Bank on which hopes of a contiguous Palestinian state depend.... 


The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)  published a brief report Jan. 10 titled "The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies."  Here is an excerpt:

Settlements are illegal under international law. The seizure of land for settlement building and future expansion has resulted in the shrinking of space available for Palestinians to sustain their livelihoods and develop adequate housing, basic infrastructure and services. The failure to respect international law, along with the lack of adequate law enforcement vis-à-vis settler violence and takeover of land has led to a state of impunity, which encourages further violence and undermines the physical security and livelihoods of Palestinians.

• Since 1967, Israel has established about 150 settlements (residential and others) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in addition to some 100 “outposts” erected by settlers without official authorization.

• The settler population is estimated at approximately 500,000; its rate of growth during the past decade stood at a yearly average of 5.3% (excluding East Jerusalem), compared to 1.8% by the Israeli population as-a-whole

• While fenced or patrolled areas of settlements cover three percent of the West Bank, 43% of the West Bank is off-limits for Palestinian use because of its allocation to the settlements' local and regional councils.

• Virtually all of the land viewed by Israel as public or “state land” (27% of the West Bank) has been allocated to settlements, rather than for the benefit of the local population (B’Tselem).

• About one third of the land within the settlements' outer limits is privately owned by Palestinians, according to official Israeli land records (Peace Now).

• Over 60% of the Palestinian-owned structures demolished in 2011, due to the lack of permit, were located in areas allocated to settlements.

• In 2011, five Palestinians (including two children) were killed and over 1,000 injured (of whom nearly a fifth were children) by Israeli settlers or security forces in incidents directly or indirectly related to settlements, including demonstrations.

• Over 90% of Israeli police investigations into incidents of settler violence during the past six years (2005-2010) were closed without indictment (Yesh Din).

• More than 500 internal checkpoints, roadblocks and other physical obstacles impede Palestinian movement inside the West Bank, including access of children to schools; they exist primarily to protect settlers and facilitate their movement, including to and from Israel.

• The location of settlements was the major consideration behind the deviation of the Barrier’s route away from the Green Line; once complete, about 80% of the settler population will live in settlements located on the western (“Israeli”) side of the Barrier.

— For the full  2-page OCHA text including a settlement map:


1. "A Mistaken Case for Regime Change in Syria" — If you think you know all that's going on in Syria based on your familiarity with American (or British) print and TV mass media, think again. You may only know the half of it. Author Aisling Byrne, writing from Beirut in Asia Times suggests regime-change is the U.S.-backed goal, and presents a well documented challenge to the propaganda that infuses much of  the news coverage.

2 "The Myth of 'Isolated' Iran" — an article by Pepe Escobar that touches many bases about Iran and the world situation that also refutes the myth that U.S. diplomacy has "isolated" the Tehran government. "Iran may be 'isolated' from the United States and Western Europe," writes Escobar, "but from the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] to NAM (the 120 member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement), it has the majority of the global South on its side. And then, of course, there are those staunch Washington allies, Japan and South Korea, now pleading for exemptions from the coming boycott/embargo of Iran’s Central Bank." It's worthwhile mentioning by name, though they are in NAM, five countries with which we share the Western Hemisphere that are friendly to Iran — Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua. Several other hemispheric nations are at least not enemies.

3. "Why Socialism Polls Well" — especially among youth and African Americans, who view socialism favorably by 49% and 55% respectively, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. This is the subject of analysis by Peta Lindsay, a young woman candidate for U.S. President in this year's election on the ticket of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. "Our wages are going down while the cost of living goes up," she writes. "The explosive growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement forced the mainstream media to acknowledge this truth. Young people have been sold out by this system, and we are becoming more and more willing to fight back. We want peace, we want equality, we want jobs, and we want the wealth that our labor creates to be used to provide the things that our people need. We want socialism." It's at

4. "From Behind the Iron Door" — A new article by Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who has been wrongfully imprisoned in the U.S. for 36 years in an 8x6 foot cell. Leonard is one of our country's best known political prisoners. His statement is at  If you are not familiar with the case of this fighter for the rights of indigenous Americans go to his website at

5. "World Peace Hanging by a Thread" — written Jan. 12 by former Cuban President Fidel Castro about his meeting with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Cuba this month: "I am convinced that Iran will not commit any rash actions that might contribute to setting off a war. If a war were to be unleashed, it would inevitably be completely as a result of the recklessness and congenital irresponsibility of the Yankee Empire. I believe that the political situation surrounding Iran and the associated risks of a nuclear war that involves us all... because they threaten the very existence of our species." Most of the article is a discussion of the world situation, region by region.


•• PERRY SCOFFS AT DESECRATION: In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union Jan. 14, Republican Gov. Rick Perry blasted the Obama Administration for its criticism of U.S. Marines videotaped urinating on the corpses of three slain Afghans, saying that it proved Obama’s “disdain for the military.”

“These kids made a mistake,” insisted Perry of the grotesque incident, adding that “to call it a criminal act is over the top.” U.S. military officials have promised a full investigation of the video, though so far they have not filed charges. Just Imagine Perry's thundering indignation had Taliban fighters dishonored the cadavers of American Marines.

The desecration of corpses during a war is considered a serious crime both under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions. (AN, based on

•• DOOMSDAY CLOCK CLOSER TO DISASTER — "Inadequate progress on nuclear weapons reduction and proliferation, and continuing inaction on climate change," prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Jan. 10 to push the hands of the famous Doomsday Clock to 11:55 p.m., one minute closer to midnight.

The Doomsday Clock expresses how close this group of scientists believes humanity is to catastrophic destruction, symbolized by midnight on the clock. The group monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself. First and foremost, these include nuclear weapons, but they also encompass climate-changing technologies and new developments in the life sciences that could inflict irrevocable harm.

The last time the Doomsday Clock minute hand moved was in January 2010, when it was pushed back one minute from five to six minutes before midnight. The clock's hands have been adjusted 20 times since its inception in 1947, when the clock was initially set to seven minutes to midnight. (From Environmental News Service.

•• STATES ABRIDGED ABORTION RIGHTS IN 2011 — Lawmakers across the nation passed a record number of reproductive health and rights-related provisions in 2011. A new report from the Guttmacher Institute reports that three dozen states enacted 135 measure— “an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009.” Sixty-eight percent of the provisions — 92 in 24 states — restricted access to abortion services. (Full article:

•• America Is Not Broke — The Institute for Policy Studies has just published new 20-page report that challenges the budget-cutting premise that America cannot afford Medicare or adequate funding for schools, etc. The report argues that "the current fiscal challenge poses an opportunity to harness our country’s ample but misdirected resources in ways that will make us stronger." The Activist Newsletter would slash Pentagon and national security budgets far more and increase taxes on the wealthy higher than the report recommends, but it's a good start. A PDF of the America is Not Broke is at


Every year since 2004, The Boston-based United for a Fair Economy has presented a report on the "State of the Dream," coinciding with M.L. King's birthday. The 2012 report is titled "The Emerging Majority." Commenting on the new publication, the "Too Much" column had this to say (with minor editing):

In the two decades between 1948 and 1968 — years that saw the income gap between America’s rich and everyone else narrow significantly — the income gap between black and white Americans also narrowed.

According to United for a Fair Economy the typical African American family in 1948 made 53 cents for every dollar of typical white family income. In 1968, the median black family was making 60 cents for every dollar that went to the median white family.

But that progress has ended. By 2010, typical African American and Latino families made only 57 cents for every typical white family dollar.

And wealth disparities run far wider, especially since the Great Recession hit. Between 2005 and 2009, the wealth of the typical U.S. white family dropped 16% to $113,149. The typical black family net worth dropped 53%, to $5,677 — and the typical Latino household net worth sank 66%, to $6,325.

These figures ought to send a shudder through anyone who worries about America’s future. "Thirty years from now," the report points out, "people of color will collectively represent the majority of the U.S. population. If we continue along the same governing path, the racial economic divide will remain in 2042 and, in many regards, will be considerably worse."
This means the majority of America’s young people will be growing up in economically insecure households.

So what do we do as a nation? The 2012 State of the Dream suggests we take actions similar to what the U.S. accomplished after World War II.

The government made public investments to help working families accumulate enough household wealth to “cushion the blow of a layoff, enable someone to take time off from work to return to school or care for an ailing parent, or be used as seed money to start a new business.”

Those public investments that America made after World War II — in everything from housing to education — worked marvelously well. But not for families of color. Black veterans, for instance, couldn’t take full advantage of the GI Bill because most colleges either discouraged or refused to accept black applicants. Historically black colleges simply didn’t have enough seats.

State of the Dream 2012 urges a package of new initiatives that would essentially amount to a new GI Bill — for everybody [not only veterans]. The package, United for a Fair Economy notes, would include programs like “KidSave” and “individual development accounts,” or IDAs.

IDAs offer matching funds that can give lower-income families greater incentive “to save and build wealth,” and some IDA programs already exist in a handful of communities. “KidSave” would establish for every newborn child a small trust fund that could later be tapped, as the child enters adulthood, for college, job training, or a home down payment.

Stiff taxes on America’s wealthy, notes the new State of the Dream, could go a long way to help finance the KidSave-like efforts America needs to revitalize the nation's beleaguered middle class and close the racial wealth gap.

America’s 400 richest currently hold $1.53 trillion in personal wealth, Forbes reported this past September, a total of 12% up from the previous year — and 608% more than the combined wealth of the Forbes 400 in 1982, after adjusting for inflation. A 10% tax on just the wealth of the Forbes 400 could raise enough money to bankroll a $35,000 KidSave nest-egg for every baby born this year in the United States. Dr. King would approve, having once said: “A society based on making all the money you can and ignoring people’s needs is wrong.”

— Link to the full 50-page State of the Dream 2012 report: