Friday, June 14, 2013

06-14-13 Activist Newsletter

June 14, 2013, Issue #192



We do not use the word “hero” loosely, but in our opinion, whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s decision to reveal the extent of the Washington government’s erosion of the civil liberties and the privacy rights of the American people at the risk of his own personal freedom is truly heroic.

His act of conscience and moral courage has initiated a nationwide discussion that Washington had managed to suppress for years as it took one step after another to “fight terrorism” by compromising the rights of the American people. There have been many oppressive attacks on our liberties since the founding of our republic, but it was the Bush and Obama Administrations that took the Patriot Act and other tools of repression to turn the United States into a Surveillance State.

All of us are watched or spied upon by various agencies. Our telephones and computers are shared with federal agents or security forces. All of us have our personal information stored in a government file somewhere, waiting to be used. Once the drones take over just about everything we do will be observed. They have even developed cameras that can see through walls.

Those who care about  our individual and collective liberties must continue the fight brought to the forefront by Edward Snowden. We must sign petitions, talk to our families and neighbors, join activist organizations, help groups like the ACLU or progressive media such as Democracy Now. We must publicly demonstrate and take political action to protest Washington’s efforts to crush whistleblowers like Snowden, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange among others who have taken great risks to expose the truth behind the secrets withheld from the American people by their government.

The objective conditions for fascism do not yet exist in America. But the growth of the Surveillance State combined with the enormous power of the ruling elite, immense economic inequality, the shredding of the electoral system by big money, and the gradual loss of democratic rights, bring us ever-closer to fascism.


By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter

There is an obvious connection between the first summit conference attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barrack Obama in California June 7-8 and Obama’s major speech two weeks earlier redefining the future of America’s 12-year military role in the Middle East.

In effect, Obama has transferred the brunt of U.S. foreign/military policy away from the Middle East and the war on terrorism and toward Asia to better manipulate the objective conditions of China’s inevitable return to big power status. The process Washington began two years ago to contain China’s influence — the “pivot” to Asia, now termed the “Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy” — can now be accelerated.

I have located no mention of this connection in the Chinese press, but it undoubtedly added to President Xi’s concern about the “rebalancing” just before his talks with Obama. The only mention in the U.S. mass media I know of was a single paragraph in a March 25 New York Times article about Obama’s comments: “Left unsaid in Mr. Obama’s speech was one of the biggest motivations for his new focus: a desire to extricate the United States from the Middle East so that it can focus on the faster-growing region of Asia.”

The switch makes practical sense. It has evidently occurred to the Oval Office that a monomaniacal obsession with a small, scattered enemy possessing primitive weapons undermines America’s imperial interests. The main geopolitical prize for the U.S. government obviously is in East and South Asia, not the Middle East, which has transfixed Washington’s attention since Sept. 11, 2001, at a huge cost in prestige and treasure — probably $5 trillion or more when it’s finally paid off in several decades..

Clarifying this new foreign /military policy thrust is the main reason President Obama delivered his important speech May 23 redefining America’s wars, drones and Guantanamo. His main message was that “we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.”

“Rebalancing” to Asia does not signify the Obama Administration has the slightest intention to ignore the Middle East. It means these small so-called terror wars are no longer Washington’s first international priority. The U.S. will continue the fighting, but with much smaller numbers of special forces, drones and other cheaper means of domination, not with large armies of occupation and trillions in treasure.

The Afghan, Iraq and “terror” wars combined with a conservative political atmosphere, regressive economic and political trends, and the impotence of the two-party system in these first years of the 21st century have made a mockery of American democracy: Massive government erosion of civil liberties and the right to privacy; an election system based on corporate money, not the voters; and a ruling elite indifferent to burgeoning inequality and the plight of the poor and destitute.

Osama bin-Laden, the symbol of the terror wars is dead (USA!, USA!,USA!), but not before he tricked the world’s most powerful country into launching two unnecessary and embarrassingly stalemated wars against much weaker foes, creating havoc in those two countries and criticism of American aggression throughout much of the region. Credit card war spending created a mile high domestic deficit that Congress is using as a hatchet to cut social programs and substantially weaken civil liberties and privacy rights.

The Obama-Xi talks

More details about the speech follow but I’ll focus now on President Xi’s visit first. It is too early to fully assess the June 7-8 meetings during which the two heads of state spent eight hours together in discussions with hardly any of the usual formalities. There were two main issues, from Washington’s point of view, cyber theft and North Korea, plus several other discussions and agreements.

CYBER THEFT: Obama informed Xi of his extreme displeasure over China’s alleged  massive “cyber-enabled economic theft of intellectual property and other kinds of property in the public and private realm in the United States by entities based in China.” Last March, National Intelligence Director James Clapper testified that cyber threats appear to have largely replaced terrorism as posing the greatest risks to U.S. national security.

Obama directed considerable pressure upon his Chinese guest, but did not obtain much satisfaction. At the end of the cyber meetings, Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security advisor (soon be replaced by UN Delegate Susan Rice), could only report:  “It's quite obvious now that the Chinese senior leadership understand clearly the importance of this issue to the United States.”

The American leader’s cyber presentation was somewhat upstaged the same day when the Guardian (UK) reported, “Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for U.S. cyber-attacks.” This top-secret 18-page presidential directive was provided to columnist Glen Greenwald by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Obviously, the U.S. engages in cyber crime as do most major countries. It even launched the first cyber “war” by corrupting Iran’s computer network.

Xi criticized the U.S. media for ignoring cyber attacks against China. He also commented, “by conducting good-faith cooperation we can remove misgivings and make information security and cyber security a positive area of cooperation between China and the U.S. Because China and the United States both have a need and both share a concern, and China is a victim of cyber attacks and we hope that earnest measures can be taken to resolve this matter.”

Soon after the summit, according to Associated Press, “China's Internet security chief told state media that Beijing has amassed huge amounts of data on U.S.-based hacking. The official held off blaming the U.S. government, saying it would be irresponsible and that the better approach is to cooperate in the fight against cyberattacks.” On June 13, whistleblower Snowden, in Hong Kong, revealed to the South China Morning Post that the National Security Agency was spying on China and Hong Kong. The same day, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chungying said China is a "major victim" of cyberattacks but did not lay blame.

NORTH KOREA: Both sides discussed relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). At the end of the meetings, Donilon announced what the White House perceives as a victory: “With respect to North Korea, I think the important point here is full agreement on the goals -— that is denuclearization; full agreement that in fact the Security Council resolutions which put pressure on North Korea need to be enforced, and full agreement that we will work together to look at steps that need to be taken in order to achieve the goal.”

Rumors were circulating before the meetings that this might be China’s new position toward its old ally, but in summing up the talks on Korea a leading member of the Chinese delegation only said that Xi and Obama "talked about co-operation and did not shy away from differences."

NEW RELATIONSHIP: The Beijing government stresses that China seeks a "a harmonious, peaceful rise to power and on becoming a responsible stakeholder in the international system.” During the meetings President Xi said he favored a “new type of great power relationship” based on mutual trust, respect, cooperation on important issues, and better ways to resolve differences.

Xinhua news agency reported: “According to Yang Jiechi, Xi's senior foreign policy adviser, Obama responded actively to the proposal, saying that the U.S. side placed high importance on its relations with China and is willing to construct a new state-to-state cooperation modal with China based on mutual benefit and mutual respect, so as to jointly meet various global challenges.”

CLIMATE CHANGE: The U.S. is history’s biggest emitter by of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but relative newcomer China is biggest in recent individual years. At the summit, both agreed to reduce hydrofluorocarbon emissions, one of the most potent of the greenhouse gases. This is not a major step but a beginning. China on its own made an important announcement last month, vowing to put a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2016. This is considered a major breakthrough that will influence other nations, possibly even the U.S.

Omitted from the meeting was Washington’s customary complaint that China manipulated its currency to America’s disadvantage. For the last several years Beijing has been cautiously but systematically appreciating the value of its currency until it now approximates natural value.

The summit was productive in its way, but that does not change either Washington’s geopolitical objectives or the threats implicit in its “rebalancing” to Asia.

Beijing is exceptionally anxious to keep the peace with Washington. It is a developing country with many crucial tasks ahead for decades to consolidate the economic and social conditions of a country which must feed, house, educate and gainfully employ 1.3 billion people in a land area somewhat smaller than the U.S. with 314 million people.

China is also decades behind the U.S. in military terms, a gap that will continue indefinitely because the Pentagon constantly spends fortunes to maintain its weapons and logistic superiority. A war would wipe out the incredible advances China has made since the success of the communist revolution 64 years ago, which includes bringing about 700 million people out of poverty, creating a substantial middle class, and becoming the center of world production.

Washington wants friendly relations with the Beijing government, as it does with all countries. However, it imposes strict conditions for such relations. This is based on the fact that the U.S. has been one of two sharply contending, dominant global powers from the end of World War II in 1945 to1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved, and the single dominant world power — indeed, the mightiest hegemonic state in history — ever since. Those who rule the U.S. believe that it is the “indispensible nation,” ordained to lead, even as its economy suffers stagnation and Washington appears to have a penchant for “leading” the world from one war to another.

The great majority of countries enjoy friendly relations with Washington because they are willing to recognize the U.S. as world leader with special privileges and dispensations up to, and often including, getting away with the murder attendant to its illegal wars. Only a handful of countries do not accept U.S. hegemony — Cuba, Venezuela and Iran among them — and Uncle Sam extracts a hefty price for such insolence.

Beijing seeks friendly relations with Washington for obvious reasons. Successive Chinese leaders have assured the U.S. government that China does not seek world leadership.

China does not challenge American dominion, at least openly, but it is extremely independent. Its tilt toward Iran and Syria, which frustrates the White House, are examples, as is its protection of what it believes are China’s economic, political and territorial prerogatives regardless of intense U.S. criticism in certain areas. In theory, China opposes unipolar (one country) world leadership, preferring a multipolar system, as do a number of developed and developing countries, but no nation will push the issue for the foreseeable future.

America’s leaders are apprehensive that if China largely continues for the next 10 or 20 years the unprecedented development of the last 20 years its mere success in relation to what could be America’s slow decline will result in Washington’s displacement.

That seems to be where the “Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy” comes into play. It has several purposes but two stand out. The main purpose is not to prevent China’s rise or economic success but to confine it in terms of global power, not that Beijing has evidenced a desire to wield such authority. The other purpose is to further integrate the U.S. into the region’s dynamic economic climate. The U.S. is bringing three of its strengths into the endeavor — alliances, money/trade, and military power.

(End of part 1. Part 2 follows below.)


By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter

The U.S. is bringing three of its strengths into the endeavor to confine China’s role in terms of global power — alliances, money/trade, and military power.

1. ALLIANCES: Washington is organizing the many Asia/Pacific countries historically within its superpower orbit to join a united crusade to keep China from exercising leadership even within its own geographical sphere of interest.

Such clients include Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam (lately), Australia, and quite possibly those on the periphery — India, perhaps Myanmar and Cambodia. Indonesia and Taiwan may not want to get involved. Since Obama first announced his focus on Asia two years ago, the U.S. has been inserting itself into regional squabbles, particularly the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, always on the side of Beijing’s opponents to make them more grateful to their protector.

Most of these countries are rising economically or are already established, and they are beginning to develop close economic, political and military ties with each other, but it is unlikely they could form a possible bloc that would some day “balance” China without the U.S.

2. MONEY AND TRADE:  The U.S. is in the process of forming a free trade association of nations in the Asia/Pacific region, including countries in the Americas bordering the Pacific. It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. China supports the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), but is “considering: membership in the TPP as well. The U.S.-dominated TPP will bring some economic benefits to all its members, but the main objective is to provide the United States with an important vehicle to become a major player in the region, political as well as economic, and thus a rival to China in East Asia.

There are various complications and intrigues involved with the TTP that I won’t go into, except for one progressive critique from the Council of  Canadians: “The TPP is globally controversial because of how it will entrench a myopic vision of market-based globalization that is the main cause of runaway climate change and which has done little to create good, sustainable jobs or reduce poverty worldwide. The TPP also enhances corporate rights to sue governments when public policies interfere with how, when and where they make profits.”

3. MILITARY POWER: The unparalleled supremacy of the U.S. military/national security/surveillance apparatus — inefficient against guerrilla war (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan) but capable of becoming an unparalleled death machine if deployed against China — is not only coming to the Asia/Pacific region but it’s mostly there already, in certain places going back to World War II. The U.S. pivoted to Asia 70 years ago and never left. China has been virtually surrounded for years with U.S. naval, air and troop bases through the region from small islands dotting the western Pacific to Japan and South Korea in the northeast to the Philippines in the southeast, to Afghanistan in the west. This does not include air power, long-range missiles, surveillance satellites, and nuclear weapons at the ready.

More recently Obama opened a new Marine base in western Australia and ordered the majority of the U.S. fleet, from aircraft carriers to nuclear submarines, to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Why does the Obama Administration feel the need to show the flag and its martial trappings, up close, intentionally too close for Beijing’s comfort? To show who’s boss. If Beijing ever dared provoke Washington in such manner, the U.S. would prepare for war.

An article titled “The Problem With The Pivot” appeared in the December 2012 Foreign Affairs, declaring: “Obama’s new Asia policy is unnecessary and counterproductive.” Written by Robert S. Ross of Boston Collage and Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the essay stated:

“[T]he Obama Administration’s pivot has not contributed to stability in Asia. Quite the opposite: it has made the region more tense and conflict-prone. Military aircraft and naval ships now crowd the region’s skies and waters. And the United States risks getting involved in hostilities over strategically irrelevant and economically marginal island [in the South China Sea]…. 

“Washington’s increased activity on China’s periphery has led Beijing to conclude that the United States has abandoned ‘strategic engagement,’ the cornerstone of U.S. policy toward China since the end of the Cold War. In contrast to previous administrations, the Obama Administration has dismissed China’s legitimate security interests in its border regions, including even those that are not vital to U.S. security.”

Obama and the Middle East

Now I’ll return to Obama’s May 23 speech “ending: the war on terrorism,” and the “new” U.S. policy in the Middle East. Aside from clearing the way for deeper involvement in Asia, what are we to make of this manipulative and defensive 7,000-word lecture?

Obama sought to convey the impression — in the words of a New York Times article the next day — “that it was time to narrow the scope of the grinding battle against terrorists and begin the transition to a day when the country will no longer be on a war footing…. As part of a realignment of counterterrorism policy, he said he would curtail the use of drones, recommit to closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and seek new limits on his own war power.”

Progressive and left commentators excoriated the speech with a “there he goes again” approach to what they viewed as a deceptive, self-justifying attempt to deflect criticism of his war policies.

President Obama’s pledge to take steps toward removing the U.S. from its “perpetual war footing” was widely questioned.  A May 25 front page article in New York Times noted:

“Nor can Mr. Obama escape his own role in putting the United States on a war footing. He came into office pledging to wind down America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but within a year had ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and oversaw a significant expansion of the Bush administration’s use of clandestine drone strikes.”

Anthony Romero, ACLU executive director, commented: “President Obama is right to say that we cannot be on a war footing forever — but the time to take our country off the global warpath and fully restore the rule of law is now, not at some indeterminate future point.”

The antiwar Answer Coalition summed up the speech in these words: “While there is much to dissect in his speech, the bottom line is that President Obama is attempting to respond to criticism of his war on terror policies while creating a new framework to institutionalize many of these same policies.”

Answer was convinced that the “speech must be seen as a direct response to the individuals and organizations who have consistently been challenging the actions of the administration on these issues. It is unavoidably clear that the firestorm of criticism around drone strikes, Guantanamo Bay Prison, and the extent of domestic surveillance created a climate in which Obama was forced to defend his policies.”

Other commentators tore apart Obama’s efforts to rationalize his killer drone policy when he declared: “Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al-Qaeda and its associated forces. And even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained.” (The Afghan theater includes western Pakistan.) Critics also panned the few superficial reforms he promised to introduce into the program.

Progressives refused to accept his justification for not closing Guantanamo concentration camp as he promised five years ago. Some articles pointed out that despite a recalcitrant Congress, Obama could have used the vast authority of the presidency to actually close the prison and release its hapless inmates. When Obama boasted that he “ended torture” it was pointed out that the forced-feeding of hunger striking Guantanamo prisoners was torture according to the American Medical Association.

Unfinished business: Iran and Syria

The Obama Administration still has much unfinished business in the Middle East that guarantees it will remain indefinitely — though not in “global war on terrorism” rampages as in Iraq. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops will be stationed in or close to the region, on land and at sea. Special forces troops and drones will continue to kill suspected terrorists in the Middle East and now deeper into Africa. In addition, Obama seeks to keep 10,000 U.S. troops and nine bases in Afghanistan to 2024, 10 years after “combat forces” withdraw at the end of 2014.

The White House has many other plans for the Middle East and North Africa. The first task is to insure that Israel, America’s main dependency and factotum in the region, remains the Pentagon’s virtual forward base in the Arab world. America’s second task, at which it has been laboring for many years, is regime change in Iran and Syria — the only two countries in the entire region not within Washington’s hegemonic orbit. Iraq and Libya used to make it four countries, until Bush (2003), then Obama (2012), reduced the number.

Iran, now an Islamic Republic that adheres to the Shia branch of Islam, is the main target because it is a powerful, oil-rich state that will not bend the knee to Washington. The Iranian people have not been forgiven for the last 34 years for the intolerable affront of kicking out the vicious dictatorial monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, installed on the Peacock Throne by American-British imperialism a quarter-century earlier. Were Iran willing to kowtow to the U.S. today, it wouldn’t be suffering extreme sanctions and the constant threat of U.S.-Israeli war.

Iran was greatly strengthened when the U.S. invaded its main enemy, Iraq, bringing down the minority Sunni government in Baghdad led by secularist Saddam Hussein. The majority Shia Iraqi population then elected a government of their own. Now there are Shia regimes in Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus (secular President Bashar Assad and government leaders are Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam), forming a contiguous Shia region 1,500 miles wide, bordered by Turkey on the west and Afghanistan to the east.

The Sunnis are the great majority in the Middle East and throughout Islam. Certain Sunni Arab countries — such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf dictatorships, among others — seek to reduce Shia power by supporting the overthrow of the minority Alawite government led by President Assad, weakening Iran with the loss of its main Arab supporter. The moderate Islamist government of NATO member Turkey is a big supporter of the rebels, partly to gain influence in the Sunni Arab world, partly to impress the U.S.

Escalation in Syria?

The beginning of the popular struggle for democracy in Syria two years ago consisted largely of nonviolent protests that were met with government repression. We will never know if certain government concessions to the original peaceful protests would have led to reform instead of mayhem. The conflict, however, very soon transformed beyond calls for a broader democracy into a deadly civil war led by Sunni rebels, including jihadist elements, seeking to eliminate the secular regime and take power. This war, in its second year, has become exceptionally vicious, destructive of people and infrastructure. The UN says at minimum 93,000 Syrians have been killed.  A large number of the dead have been soldiers on both sides.  

The U.S. and its closest NATO allies have supported regime change from the beginning, a project the U.S. but only if it is possible to place a government submissive to Washington’s dictates in Damascus. That proviso is important.

It is incorrect to assume Obama is disinterested in overthrowing the Assad regime simply because he refused to commit to an American air and ground war to support of the anti-government forces. Obama’s problem is that the insurgents are thoroughly disunited despite receiving arms and money from Sunni countries and “non-lethal” aid from the U.S. and others for well over a year. White House efforts to form a reliable, united pro-U.S. rebel front have failed repeatedly. At the same time, Islamic jihadist fighting elements are stronger than the other warring groups in the Free Syrian Army. This suits the wealthy Saudi Arabian dictatorship, the major sponsor of the war, but is anathema to Washington for obvious reasons.

As we write, the Obama Administration has just announced, “following a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.” Up to 150 people are alleged to have died from the gas.

Nerve gas may have been used but I remain dubious that the Syrian government ordered its use. Assad fully understood that if even a small amount of gas was deployed it would cross Obama’s “red line,” leading anywhere from a marked increase in U.S. support for the rebels or massive retaliation. Assad clings tenaciously to his life, his office, and his constituency. Why would he, in effect, toss it all away by approving the use of a small amount of sarin knowing it could trigger his doom?

War hawks in Washington — liberal and conservative, as well as within the State Department —are demanding a drastic response from the White House, from arming the rebels with sophisticated weapons to establishing a no-fly zone to putting “boots on the ground.”

Obama is hesitant. According to the New York Times he has “decided to begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition.” I suspect he will insist that the shipments must not end up with jihadist rebels. He can be expected to resist pressure to establish a no-fly zone in Syria backed with U.S. jets, as he did in Libya. Syria has sophisticated air defenses as opposed to nearly defenseless Libya.

Another factor causing hesitation is that despite a year of press and U.S. government exaggerations that Assad is on the precipice of defeat, the Alawite government controls most of the territory and nearly all the large cities. Recent battlefield support from Lebanon’s Shia self-defense organization Hezbollah has been an important asset for the government and has contributed to rebel setbacks and loss of territory in recent months.

The sarin announcement, and the subsequent American decision to openly send arms, benefits the insurgents at a time when they need a morale boost and an infusion of weapons with which to
mount counterattacks. Obama will do what he can to keep the rebels in the field and bring about regime change. But he knows history will be unforgiving if he aligns with known terrorists, and justly suspects that the American people will oppose another U.S. ground war in the Middle East.

There is one important unknown factor: the influence on Obama from newly named security adviser Susan Rice, the former UN Delegate, and her replacement, Obama adviser Samantha Powers. Both are liberal war hawks and staunch advocates of so-called “humanitarian intervention.” They may push for a tougher line on Syria and elsewhere. At the UN Rice has been publicly rude to chief delegates from both China and Russia. Powers is said to have been a major influence Obama’s decision  to attack Libya. Veteran analyst M.K. Bhadrakumar, writing June 8 in India Punchline, commented that by advancing both advisers Obama “is letting loose two cats among pigeons, a reference to State and Defense Secretaries Kerry and Hagel.”


[Last month the quantity of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a high total of 400 parts per million (ppm). This brief no-nonsense article discusses what it would take to stop the rise in terms of fossil fuel reductions. Much of the environmental movement has established 350 ppm as the level appropriate to sustain life on Earth.]

By the Scripps CO2 Research Group

It is a well-established fact that atmospheric CO2 is rising at roughly 55% of the rate expected from fossil-fuel emissions.  From this fact, we know that to stop CO2 in its tracks at 400 ppm, we’d need to cut fossil-fuel emissions immediately by 55%. 

At that point, the remaining emissions would be exactly counteracted by natural “sinks” that are removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The main sinks are the oceans, which absorb CO2 as it dissolves in seawater, and land plants, which convert the carbon in CO2 into relatively long-lived storage pools such as wood or soil organic matter. These sinks are acting like a sponge that is soaking up some of the extra CO2.

Over time these sinks would slowly saturate as they come into balance with the 400 ppm in the air, and additional cuts would then be needed to match the decreasing sink capacities.  By 2060, we’d have to cut emissions to below 20% of current levels.

An immediate cut in fossil fuel emissions by 55% is clearly not even remotely possible, so CO2 will continue its relentless rise.  Keeping CO2 below 450 ppm will also be very difficult, as this will require immediately leveling off of fossil fuel emissions and then cutting emissions to below 30% of present levels over the next 50 years or so. 

If nothing is done to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, CO2 could keep rising for centuries, depending on the amount of coal, natural gas, oil, and any new forms of fossil fuels that are extractable. By some estimates, the ultimate resource of fossil fuels may be large enough that CO2 will rise as high as 1,600 ppm before fossil fuels are fully depleted.  This would be sufficient to cause the world to warm between 4 to 10° C (7 to 18° F) with unimaginable consequences.

From the Activist Newsletter: Here’s some positive news from as recent article in The Independent (UK), headlined “China agrees to impose carbon targets by 2016.” 

"The battle against global warming has received a transformational boost after China, the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide, proposed to set a cap on its greenhouse gas emissions for the first time. Under the proposal China would put a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions from 2016, in a bid to curb what most scientists agree is the main cause of climate change.

“This is very exciting news,” said Lord Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics. “Such an important move should encourage all countries, and particularly the other large emitters such as the United States, to take stronger action on climate change. And it improves the prospects for a strong international treaty being agreed at the United Nations climate change summit in 2015.
Nearly 200 countries around the world have pledged to agree legally binding targets to reduce their emissions at the next significant climate change summit in Paris in 2015.

By Sen. Bernie Sanders, from the Guardian (UK), June 2

The front pages of American newspapers are filled with stories about how the U.S. economy is recovering. There is some truth to that. Since President George W. Bush left office in 2009, significant progress has been made in moving our economy out of the abyss of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But in the midst of this slow recovery, we must not accept a "new normal."

We must not be content with an economic reality in which the middle class of this country continues to disappear, poverty is near an all-time high and the gap between the very rich and everyone else grows wider and wider.

The good news is that instead of losing more than 700,000 jobs a month as we were five years ago, we've been gaining almost 200,000 jobs a month since January. The bad news is that, in addition to those job numbers being much too low, nearly 60% of the jobs gained since the "recovery" are low-wage jobs that pay less than $14 an hour, while most of the jobs lost during the recession were decent-paying middle-class jobs.

The good news is that the official unemployment rate has gone down from 10% in October of 2009 to 7.5% in April. The bad news is that 20 million Americans still are looking for work and the real unemployment rate – counting those who have given up looking for work and those working part time when they need full time jobs – is 13.9% The very bad news is that youth and minority unemployment is far higher than that and, with the decline in factory jobs, income for poorly educated men has shrunk by nearly two-thirds over the past four decades.

The good news is that housing prices are beginning to rise, providing some additional wealth for most home owners. The bad news is that from 2009 to 2011 all of the new wealth generated in this country went to the top 7% of American households, while the bottom 93% saw a net reduction in their wealth. Further, the U.S. has more wealth inequality than any major country on earth with the top 1% now owning 38% of the financial wealth, while the bottom 60% owns just 2.3% of the wealth.

The good news is that the stock market has fully recovered from its collapse in 2008 and is now at an all time high. The bad news is that the top 1% of Americans earn more income than the bottom 50%, and 
100% of the new income generated in this country 2009-2011 went to the top 1%. During that period the bottom 99% of Americans lost ground economically.

The good news is that, since 2008, the deficit has been cut by more than half. In 2008 it was $1.4 trillion, this year it will be about $642 billion. The bad news is that many working class families can no longer afford the outrageously high cost of college, and the average American student leaves school about $25,000 in debt, with graduate students running debts far higher.

The good news is that if you are a CEO of a large corporation, you are now making 350 times more than your average employee. The bad news is that unemployment benefits have been cut, making it harder for the long-term unemployed to live in dignity.

The American people get the economic realities. According to a Gallup poll, nearly six out of 10 believe that money and wealth should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people in the U.S., while only a third of Americans think the current distribution is fair. A record-breaking 52% of the American people believe that the federal "government should redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich."

The United States Congress and the president must begin listening to the American people. While there clearly has been some improvement in the economy over the last five years, much more needs to be done. We need a major jobs program which puts millions back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. We need to tackle the planetary crisis of global warming by creating jobs transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

We need to end the scandal of one of four corporations paying nothing in federal taxes while we balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

From the Activist Newsletter: Sanders, the Independent Senator from Vermont, is the only declared socialist in Congress, and one the few members who will make even a mildly progressive statement such as this. Actually, Congress and President Obama do hear the American people, but also hear Wall Street, the corporations, the banks and the wealthy 1% — and our unequal socioeconomic system is such that the majority  of these elected officials have chosen to follow the money.]

By Salvatore Babones

It is well known that the level of income inequality stretches much higher in the United States than in the other developed countries of Europe and North America. Now a report from the International Labor Organization shows that U.S. inequality has literally gone off the chart.

Income inequality in the United States is soaring so high, in fact, that the authors of the ILO’s new 2013 World of Work report couldn’t even place the United States on the same graph with the other 25 developed countries their new study examines.

Income inequality reflects the sum total of all the differences between the incomes enjoyed by different households in a country. Differences between rich and poor households, rich and middle-income households, middle-income and poor households all enter into total income inequality.

Researchers usually measure income inequality using a statistic called the Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient runs from a minimum of 0 (perfect equality in incomes across all households) to 100 (one rich household gets all the income for an entire country).

The ILO report places the U.S. Gini coefficient at 47.7, or almost half way toward the extreme where one rich household gets everything and everyone else gets nothing. By comparison, the levels of inequality in the other 25 developed countries studied all fall in a band between 20 and 35.

Even worse, in America inequality is not only high but rising. The Unites States is one of only three developed countries where income inequality rose during the recession of 2008-2009, then continued rising through the lackluster recovery of 2010-2011.

The other two: Denmark and France. Both these countries had much lower levels of inequality to start with. By 2011, Denmark’s inequality had risen into the high 20s and France’s inequality into the low 30s.

In the United States inequality sat at 46.3 before the recession, moved to 47.0 in 2010, and rose further to 47.7 in 2011.

Rising inequality has hit the American middle class particularly hard. But America’s middle class decline began well before the recession hit in 2008. Every year fewer and fewer Americans qualify as middle class, and those who do have lower and lower incomes.

The share of U.S. adults living in middle-income households, the new ILO report notes, dropped from 61% to 51% between 1970 and 2010, and the median incomes of these  households fell 5%.

Where has the middle class held its own in recent decades? Well, in Denmark and France, among other countries. The country with the largest middle class according to the ILO’s calculations is Norway, where about 70% of the population rate as middle class.

In the United States today only about 52% of the population can claim middle class status.

The World of Work report concludes that the middle class in the United States and around the world is suffering from “long-term unemployment, weakening job quality, and workers dropping out of the labor market altogether.” Things have been bad for a long time, but the recession has made them far worse….

— From, June 6. The remainder of this article, including a chart, is at
—The author is a senior lecturer in sociology and social policy at the University of Sydney and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.


[Following is a substantial excerpt from an article — essentially a wake-up call for American intellectuals — by Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of “The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World.”]

By Kishore Mahbubani

The time has come to think the unthinkable: the era of American dominance in international affairs may well be coming to an end. As that moment approaches, the main question will be how well the United States is prepared for it.

Asia’s rise over the last few decades is more than a story of rapid economic growth. It is the story of a region undergoing a renaissance in which people’s minds are re-opened and their outlook refreshed. Asia’s movement toward resuming its former central role in the global economy has so much momentum that it is virtually unstoppable. While the transformation may not always be seamless, there is no longer room to doubt that an Asian century is on the horizon, and that the world’s chemistry will change fundamentally….

If the world’s center of gravity shifts to Asia, however, Americans will be woefully unprepared. Many Americans remain shockingly unaware of how much the rest of the world, especially Asia, has progressed.
Americans need to be told a simple, mathematical truth. With 3% of the world’s population, the U.S. can no longer dominate the rest of the world, because Asians, with 60% of the world’s population, are no longer underperforming. But the belief that America is the only virtuous country, the sole beacon of light in a dark and unstable world, continues to shape many Americans’ worldview. American intellectuals’ failure to challenge these ideas – and to help the U.S. population shed complacent attitudes based on ignorance – perpetuates a culture of coddling the public.

But, while Americans tend to receive only good news, Asia’s rise is not really bad news. The U.S. should recognize that Asian countries are seeking not to dominate the West, but to emulate it. They seek to build strong and dynamic middle classes and to achieve the kind of peace, stability, and prosperity that the West has long enjoyed.

This deep social and intellectual transformation underway in Asia promises to catapult it from economic power to global leadership. China, which remains a closed society in many ways, has an open mind, whereas the U.S. is an open society with a closed mind. With Asia’s middle class set to skyrocket from roughly 500 million people today to 1.75 billion by 2020, the U.S. will not be able to avoid the global economy’s new realities for much longer.

The world is poised to undergo one of the most dramatic power shifts in human history. In order to be prepared for the transformation, Americans must abandon ingrained ideas and old assumptions, and liberate unthinkable thoughts. That is the challenge facing American public intellectuals today.

— From Project Syndicate, May 28, 2013

By Chris Hedges

FORT MEADE, Md.—The military trial of Bradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened.

Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late.

The draconian trial restrictions, familiar to many Muslim Americans tried in the so-called war on terror, presage a future of show trials and blind obedience. Our email and phone records, it is now confirmed, are swept up and stored in perpetuity on government computers. Those who attempt to disclose government crimes can be easily traced and prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Whistle-blowers have no privacy and no legal protection. This is why Edward Snowden—a former CIA technical assistant who worked for a defense contractor with ties to the National Security Agency and who leaked to Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian the information about the National Security Council’s top-secret program to collect Americans’ cellphone metadata, e-mail and other personal data—has fled the United States. The First Amendment is dead. There is no legal mechanism left to challenge the crimes of the power elite. We are bound and shackled. And those individuals who dare to resist face the prospect, if they remain in the country, of joining Manning in prison, perhaps the last refuge for the honest and the brave.

Coombs opened the trial last week by pleading with the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, for leniency based on Manning’s youth and sincerity. Coombs is permitted by Lind to present only circumstantial evidence concerning Manning’s motives or state of mind. He can argue, for example, that Manning did not know al-Qaida might see the information he leaked. Coombs is also permitted to argue, as he did last week, that Manning was selective in his leak, intending no harm to national interests. But these are minor concessions by the court to the defense. Manning’s most impassioned pleas for freedom of information, especially regarding email exchanges with the confidential government informant Adrian Lamo, as well as his right under international law to defy military orders in exposing war crimes, are barred as evidence.

Manning is unable to appeal to the Nuremberg principles, a set of guidelines created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations after World War II to determine what constitutes a war crime. The principles make political leaders, commanders and combatants responsible for war crimes, even if domestic or internal laws allow such actions. The Nuremberg principles are designed to protect those, like Manning, who expose these crimes. Orders do not, under the Nuremberg principles, offer an excuse for committing war crimes. And the Nuremberg laws would clearly condemn the pilots in the “Collateral Murder” video and their commanders and exonerate Manning. But this is an argument we will not be allowed to hear in the Manning trial.

Manning has admitted to 10 lesser offenses surrounding his leaking of classified and unclassified military and State Department files, documents and videos, including the “Collateral Murder” video, which shows a U.S. Apache attack helicopter in 2007 killing 12 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children on an Iraqi street. His current plea exposes him to penalties that could see him locked away for two decades. But for the government that is not enough. Military prosecutors are pursuing all 22 charges against him. These charges include aiding the enemy, wanton publication, espionage, stealing U.S. government property, exceeding authorized access and failures to obey lawful general orders—charges that can bring with them 149 years plus life.

“He knew that the video depicted a 2007 attack,” Coombs said of the “Collateral Murder” recording. “He knew that it [the attack] resulted in the death of two journalists. And because it resulted in the death of two journalists it had received worldwide attention. He knew that the organization Reuters had requested a copy of the video in FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] because it was their two journalists that were killed, and they wanted to have that copy in order to find out what had happened and to ensure that it didn’t happen again. He knew that the United States had responded to that FOIA request almost two years later indicating what they could find and, notably, not the video.

“He knew that David Finkel, an author, had written a book called ‘The Good Soldiers,’ and when he read through David Finkel’s account and he talked about this incident that’s depicted in the video, he saw that David Finkel’s account and the actual video were verbatim, that David Finkel was quoting the Apache air crew. And so at that point he knew that David Finkel had a copy of the video. And when he decided to release this information, he believed that this information showed how [little] we valued human life in Iraq. He was troubled by that. And he believed that if the American public saw it, they too would be troubled and maybe things would change.”

“He was 22 years old,” Coombs said last Monday as he stood near the bench, speaking softly to the judge at the close of his opening statement. “He was young. He was a little naive in believing that the information that he selected could actually make a difference. But he was good-intentioned in that he was selecting information that he hoped would make a difference.”

“He wasn’t selecting information because it was wanted by WikiLeaks,” Coombs concluded. “He wasn’t selecting information because of some 2009 most wanted list. He was selecting information because he believed that this information needed to be public. At the time that he released the information he was concentrating on what the American public would think about that information, not whether or not the enemy would get access to it, and he had absolutely no actual knowledge of whether the enemy would gain access to it. Young, naive, but good-intentioned.”

The moral order is inverted. The criminal class is in power. We are the prey. Manning, in a just society, would be a prosecution witness against war criminals. Those who committed these crimes should be facing prison. But we do not live in a just society….

— From Truthdig, June 9. The this article continues at

By Radhika Miller

Demonstrations took place across the country June 1 to mark the fourth year of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s imprisonment and the start of his trial for exposing war crimes perpetrated abroad by the U.S. government.

A spirited march and rally took place in Fort Meade, Md., where Manning is being held and tried. He is charged with indirectly “aiding the enemy” for releasing information to the transparency website WikiLeaks.

Activists rode buses from across the Northeast — some came from as far away as Vancouver, B.C., and Mexico City — to attend the rally and march. Sponsors included the Bradley Manning Support Network, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, with the help of Courage to Resist and many other groups.

According to organizers, some 1,000 supporters converged on Ft. Meade. They activists marched over a mile in blistering heat from the base entrance to the gate nearest the military courtroom. Chants of “Free Bradley Manning!” “Bradley Manning speaks for me!” and “Truth is not a crime!” rang out loudly as activists took to the streets of the military town.

Speakers at the rally included retired Col. Ann Wright and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, both of whom offered words of strength to Manning. Supporters hung medals representing the Nobel Peace Prize, for which Manning has been nominated, along the gate.

— From Liberation, June 4 (

By the Activist Newsletter

European leaders are extremely nervous about the social and political implications of exceptionally high youth unemployment, the product of a continuing economic crisis in the European Union, accelerated in part by austerity policies..

In the EU, 23.2% of those aged 15 to 24 in the labor force are now listed as unemployed. Youth unemployment is worst in Greece, where it has risen to 57.9%, and in Spain, at 55.2%.

The fear is that an entire generation of working people will become alienated from their governments, from the concept of European unity holding the EU together, and from capitalism itself.

European government ministers met in Paris May 28 to address a crisis that could turn into a catastrophe unless serious measures are taken. Wolfgang Schäuble, finance minister of Europe’s most powerful state, Germany, declared: "We need to be more successful in our fight against youth unemployment; otherwise, we will lose the battle for Europe's unity."

Schäuble’s government may be noted for its insistence upon austerity in ailing European countries, but it’s evidently not indifferent to certain realities. Speaking of the need to preserve Europe's generous welfare model come what may, Schäuble told the conference that if stingy U.S. welfare standards were introduced in Europe, "we would have revolution, not tomorrow, but on the very same day.”

French President François Hollande told the conference: “We need to act quickly…. Remember the postwar generation, my generation. Europe gave us the support we needed, the hope we cherished. The hopes that we could get a job after finishing school, and succeed in life…. Can we be responsible for depriving today's young generation of this kind of hope?"

Several plans have been put forward in recent years to provide jobs for an estimated six million young job seekers, but they haven’t made much progress.

Germany and France announced a new joint plan for young workers at the meeting. It is based on extending cheaper credit to businesses specifically to hire unemployed young workers. Business Week says “The Franco-German plan is expected to provide European Investment Bank backing for loans totaling as much as $78 billion to small and mid-sized companies that agree to hire and train young people.”

Young American workers are in the same boat. According to April statistics, 16.1% of American workers 18 to 29 are without jobs, more than double the national rate. The average for the 16-24 year group is 16.2%, and 1.3 million of this cohort have been jobless for over six months.

These unemployed U.S. workers do not benefit from anything like Europe’s welfare system. Indeed, far from providing a comprehensive jobs program for young Americans, Congress and the White House are planning cutbacks in Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and Social Security.

By Wendy Wang, Kim Parker and Paul Taylor
Pew Research Center, May 30, 2013

A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11% in 1960.

These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two very different groups: 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers.1

The income gap between the two groups is quite large. The median total family income of married mothers who earn more than their husbands was nearly $80,000 in 2011, well above the national median of $57,100 for all families with children, and nearly four times the $23,000 median for families led by a single mother.

The groups differ in other ways as well. Compared with all mothers with children under age 18, married mothers who out-earn their husbands are slightly older, disproportionally white and college educated. Single mothers, by contrast, are younger, more likely to be black or Hispanic, and less likely to have a college degree.

The growth of both groups of mothers is tied to women’s increasing presence in the workplace. Women make up almost half (47%) of the U.S. labor force today, and the employment rate of married mothers with children has increased from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011….

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that the public remains of two minds about the gains mothers have made in the workplace — most recognize the clear economic benefits to families, but many voice concerns about the toll that having a working mother may take on children or even marriage. About three-quarters of adults (74%) say the increasing number of women working for pay has made it harder for parents to raise children, and half say that it has made marriages harder to succeed. At the same time, two-thirds say it has made it easier for families to live comfortably.

While the vast majority of Americans (79%) reject the idea that women should return to their traditional roles, the new Pew Research survey finds that the public still sees mothers and fathers in a different light when it comes to evaluating the best work-family balance for children.

About half (51%) of survey respondents say that children are better off if a mother is home and doesn’t hold a job, while just 8% say the same about a father.

On the topic of single mothers, most Americans (64%) say that this growing trend is a “big problem”; however, the share who feel this way is down from 71% in 2007. Also, young adults are less concerned than older adults about the trend. About four-in-ten adults under age 30 (42%) view it as a big problem, compared with 65% of those in their 30s and 40s and 74% of adults who are 50 and older.

The public’s opinions about unmarried mothers also differ by party affiliation and race. Republicans (78%) are more likely than Democrats (51%) or independent voters (65%) to say that the growing number of children born to unwed mothers is a big problem. Whites are more likely than non-whites to view it as a big problem (67% vs. 56%). The views of men and women on this issue are the same.

Data for this report are mainly from Pew Research analysis of multiple years of Census Bureau data as well as a recent Pew Research survey conducted by landline and cellular telephone April 25-28, 2013, among a nationally representative sample of 1,003 adults living in the continental United States. Other Key Findings:

Both groups of breadwinner mothers, married and single, have grown in size in the past five decades. Of all households with children younger than 18, the share of married mothers who out-earn their husbands has gone up from 4% in 1960 to 15% in 2011, nearly a fourfold increase. During the same period, the share of families led by a single mother has more than tripled (from 7% to 25%).

The total family income is higher when the mother, not the father, is the primary breadwinner. In 2011, the median family income was nearly $80,000 for couples in which wife is the primary breadwinner, about $2,000 more than it was for couples in which husband is the primary breadwinner, and $10,000 more than for couples in which spouses’ income is the same.

Married mothers are increasingly better educated than their husbands. Even though a majority of spouses have a similar educational background, the share of couples in which the mother has attained a higher education than her spouse has gone up from 7% in 1960 to 23% in 2011. In two-parent families today, 61% have a mother whose education level is similar to her husband’s, 23% have a mother who is better educated than her husband, and 16% have a father who is better educated than his wife.

Most people reject the idea that it is bad for a marriage if a wife out-earns her husband. When asked if they agree or disagree that it is generally better for a marriage if a husband earns more than his wife, some 28% of survey respondents say they agree and 63% disagree. When a similar question was asked in 1997, 40% said they agreed. In the new survey, adults with a high school diploma or less were twice as likely as those with a college degree (35% vs. 18%) to say it is generally better for a marriage if a husband out-earns a wife. There were no significant differences between men and women on this question.

Today’s single mothers are much more likely to be never married than were single mothers in the past. The share of never married mothers among all single mothers has increased from 4% in 1960 to 44% in 2011. During the same period, the share of single mothers who had children from previous marriages has gone down from 82% to 50%.

Never married mothers have a distinctive profile. Compared with single mothers who are divorced, widowed or separated, never married mothers are significantly younger, disproportionally non-white, and have lower education and income. Close to half of never married mothers in 2011 (46%) are ages 30 and younger, six-in-ten are either black (40%) or Hispanic (24%), and nearly half (49%) have a high school education or less. Their median family income was $17, 400 in 2011, the lowest among all families with children

By the Activist Newsletter

The United States possesses sufficient nuclear weapons and delivery systems to destroy the world several times over. Many Americans think all such weapons of mass destruction are kept within the U.S. these days, for security if nothing else, but many continue to be stored abroad for swifter delivery to the enemy battlefield or major population centers.

What enemies requiring annihilation does the Obama Administration have in mind — particularly ones so threatening that the U.S. must station nuclear weapons in close proximity for a quicker mass killing? This has not yet been revealed.

According to a brief June 10 article by Jason Ditz at, “NATO member nations, Germany in particular, have been pressing for the U.S. to remove nuclear arsenals from their soil, saying the deployments put them at risk of targeting in the event of a broader war. U.S. officials have ruled out moving the nukes, saying Europe must share the ‘nuclear risks and responsibilities’….

“Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers, the center-right government leader during the Reagan-era, has just revealed that the Netherlands is still playing host to 22 American nuclear weapons. ‘I would never have thought those silly things would still be there in 2013. I think they are an absolutely pointless part of a tradition in military thinking,’ Lubber said in comments for a National Geographic documentary.

“Experts familiar with the situation say that the 22 warheads are B61 bombs with a 50 kiloton yield. They remain stored at the Volkel Air Base, initially built in 1940 as a Nazi airfield. The bombs are believed to have been there since the 1960s.”

According to the BBC June 10, “The location of the remaining U.S. tactical nuclear bombs in Europe is one of the worst kept secrets in NATO. There are estimated to be somewhere between 160 and 200 B61 bombs at air bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey…. These weapons are the remnant of a U.S. stockpile that at the height of the Cold War in the early 1970s included some 7,300 warheads.”

Incidentally, 50 kilotons is equal to 50,000 metric tons of TNT — four times the strength of atom bombs used by the United States against the civilian population of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945.

By the Activist Newsletter

Up to 400 people turned out on a blustery and rainy day New Paltz, N.Y., May 25 to take part in a rally and march opposing Monsanto, the monster biotechnology company. The rally at Peace Park featured several local speakers, including a farmer, who passionately opposed genetic modification in the food supply. They also demanded that food corporations inform the purchaser on the label if it is a GMO product.

Marchers left the rally with chants and many homemade signs. They were supposed to walk only on the sidewalk but marched in the street instead, blocking busy Main St. traffic for about 15 minutes until police cars arrived. The march continued on the sidewalk, escorted by town and state police.

The action had many sponsors, including GMO? OMG!, Hudson Valley for No GMO’s, Hudson Valley Seed Library, Occupy New Paltz, Occupy Poughkeepsie, Occupy Northern Dutchess, Gomen Kudasai, Climate Action Coalition, New Paltz Women in Black, Veterans for Peace of the Hudson Valley, Four Winds Farm, Liberty View Farm, Evolutionary Organics Farm, Occupy Kingston, Occupy South Ulster, Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and Hudson Valley WORD.

According to Earth Open Source, following are some GMO myths and truths:

Genetically modified (GM) crops are promoted on the basis of a range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters. They say that GM crops:

Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops
Are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops
Are strictly regulated for safety
Increase crop yields
Reduce pesticide use
Benefit farmers and make their lives easier
Bring economic benefits
Benefit the environment
Can help solve problems caused by climate change
Reduce energy use
Will help feed the world.

However, a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence shows that these claims are not true. On the contrary, evidence presented in this report indicates that GM crops:

Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops
Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts
Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety
Do not increase yield potential
Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it
Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds,” compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops
Have mixed economic effects
Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity
Do not offer effective solutions to climate change
Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops
Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.

In essence, there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist. Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.

— This information is based on the 2012 report “GMO Myths and Truths” A pdf copy is available at

By Don Lieber

A truck delivering waste from a fracking operation in Greene County, Pennsylvania, was quarantined April 19 after being rejected by a hazardous waste landfill as too dangerous. The truck was carrying highly radioactive radium-226 in concentrations 86 times higher than allowed per EPA limits.

The truck was sent back to the fracking site, which is operated by Rice Energy. Radium is a routine by-product of fracking – the fossil fuel extraction method behind the ongoing “natural gas boom.”

“Radium is a well known contaminant in fracking operations,” writes Jeff McMahon at Forbes. John Poister, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, said, “the material in question is radium 226, which is what we expect from shale drill cuttings.”

Radium-226 is linked to various forms of cancer and other diseases. “Radium-226 causes bone sarcomas and carcinomas of the paranasal sinuses and mastoid process,” according to the National Institutes of Health’s Toxicology Data Network.

“External exposure to radium’s gamma radiation increases the risk of cancer to varying degrees in all tissues and organs,” according to the EPA. In addition to radium, fracking involves the use of hundreds of other toxic chemicals. As reported on Planetsave previously, many of these chemicals are known carcinogens, such as benzene and formaldehyde, which are subsequently found in local air and water supplies.

One 2011 study linked 25% of the known chemicals used in fracking with cancers and mutations; another 2012 study by the US Geological Survey identified toxic chemicals found in local water supplies in Wyoming linked to nearby fracking operations. This year, further reports have detailed the risks of silicosis (a fatal lung disease) faced by well operators due to high levels of silica dust in fracking operations.

There are scant legal requirements for the industry to disclose which chemicals are used, or how often. There currently exist no federally mandated reporting requirements for disclosing the chemicals used in fracking, due largely to the infamous “Halliburton Loophole” – a law enacted in 2005 (at the behest of Vice President Cheney) that remains unchanged under President Obama. The law exempts the natural gas industry from regulatory and reporting requirements otherwise mandated under the Safe Drinking Water Act….

— From, 05-30-13


It's estimated that more than 80,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement or restricted housing across the United States on any given day.

Yet, according to the ACLU, “solitary confinement is fundamentally inhumane and actually jeopardizes our public safety…. People placed in solitary exhibit a variety of negative psychological reactions, including severe and chronic depression, self mutilation, decreased brain function, hallucinations, and revenge fantasies.”

A new 72-page report on the use of solitary confinement in the federal prison system was released in late May by the U.S. General Accounting Office. It calls on the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to evaluate the use of solitary and monitor its effects on prisoners.

The report, which was requested by several members of Congress, attempts to solve the mystery surrounding how many prisoners in federal prison are subjected to solitary confinement and how BOP monitors individuals while in solitary.

Solitary confinement is an extreme form of punishment that should be reserved for only the most extreme circumstances. Imagine being locked in a cell the size of a parking space for 22-24 hours a day with little to no human interaction aside from prison guards and the occasional healthcare provider or attorney. That's what life is like in solitary confinement. We must insist on humane methods of punishment and prison management.”

Many in the legal and medical fields criticize solitary confinement as both unconstitutional and inhumane. It's widely accepted that it exacerbates mental illness and undermines a prisoner's re-entry into society. According to the GAO report, however, no BOP official would acknowledge that long-term segregation may have detrimental effects on prisoners, even though the BOP's own policy recognizes the potential for damaging lasting effects.

No matter what you choose to call the practice — segregated, disciplinary or administrative housing, solitary confinement or isolation — it is crucial to understand the short and long term effects of this practice if we're going to hold people for months and years at a time with very little human contact. Nevertheless, this report finds that BOP has not conducted any type of research to determine whether the practice of solitary confinement has an adverse impact on prisoners or contributes to maintaining prison safety.

Over the last two decades corrections systems have increasingly relied on solitary confinement —even building entire institutions called "supermax" prisons where prisoners are held in conditions of extreme isolation, sometimes for years or even decades. This massive increase in the use of solitary confinement has led many to question whether it is an effective and humane use of public resources. Supermax prisons, for example, typically cost two or three times more to build and operate than even traditional maximum-security prisons.

Even more disturbing, the report concluded that BOP officials have not studied whether or not solitary confinement is an effective safety measure. In the research that has been conducted, there is little empirical evidence to suggest that solitary confinement actually makes prisons safer. Indeed, emerging research suggests that supermax prisons actually have a negative effect on public safety.

We should instead put more emphasis on the rehabilitation of prisoners to become more productive members of society. It's time for BOP officials to reconcile the reality in federal prisons — that more and more prisoners are being put in solitary confinement — with the fact that the practice is expensive and that there are more humane ways to keep facilities safe.

— The author is with the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, responsible for defending civil liberties in Congress and in the Executive Branch in the areas of criminal justice.
— The full text of the report — “Improvements Needed in Bureau of Prisons' Monitoring and Evaluation of Impact of Segregated Housing”— is at