Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10-22-14 Activist Newsletter

October 22, 2014, Issue 209
1.   Quotes Of The Month (James Connolly)
2.   Bury The Bomb Before It Buries Us
3.   Global Wealth: Top To Bottom
4.   Leftist Malala Wins Nobel Peace Prize
 5.  Wars Of Autumn Divert 21,000-Mile Hike
6.   N.Y. Times Praises Cuba For Helping Africa
7.   Secret Talks Between U.S. And Cuba
8.   The Future Is Here: Floods, Fires, Deserts
9.   Sky High Methane Emissions
10. Other Climate News
11. Homeless Students In Rural New York State
12. U.S. And Japan Upgrade Military Alliance
13. The U.S., China, Russia & Eurasia
14. U.S. War Policies Can’t Win In The Mideast
15. Is Your Pizza Topped With Animal Cruelty?
16. Recommended: 2 Videos, 1 Film

1.   QUOTES OF THE MONTH — James Connolly, the Irish Rebel, 1868-1916
During the lifetime of James Connolly — union leader, socialist, and revolutionary — Ireland was oppressed by English imperialism, dominated by a powerful and rigidly conservative Roman Catholic Church, and exploited by wealthy landlords and the owners of factories and mines. Connolly was murdered at the age of 47 by a British firing squad for being one of the leaders of the famous 1916 Easter Uprising. The executions of Connolly and 15 other leaders of the struggle for independence resulted a few years later in another uprising that liberated most of Ireland  (all but six coun ties) from Great Britain’s greedy embrace.

·      Our demands are most moderate — we only want the Earth.

·      If you strike at, imprison, or kill us, out of our prisons or graves we will still evoke a spirit that will thwart you, and perhaps, raise a force that will destroy you! We defy you! Do your worst!

·      Without the power of the Industrial Union behind it, Democracy can only enter the State as the victim enters the gullet of the Serpent.

·      The worker is the slave of capitalist society, the female worker is the slave of that slave.

·      Just as it is true that a stream cannot rise above its source, so it is true that a national literature cannot rise above the moral level of the social conditions of the people from whom it derives its inspiration.

·      The Cause is not lost.... Despite all the treasons of all the traitors Ireland still remains as pure in heart as ever, and though Empires fall and tyrannies perish, We Will Rise Again!

  Song of James Connolly by the Wolfe Tones:



B-2 "Spirit" bomber dropping casing of a B61-11 nuclear bomb.
By Jack A. Smith, editor

A quarter century after the Cold War ended, the people of the world are now entering a dangerous era of improved and more accurate nuclear weapons and faster, more precise delivery systems at a time of growing antagonism between Washington and Moscow and potential antipathy between the U.S. and China.

All nine nuclear countries are upgrading their atomic weaponry, led by the United States and Russia — the two main nuclear states by far with 7,300 and 8,000 warheads of all kinds between them respectively, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The actually deployed weapons, long-range and strategic, are 1,600 for Moscow and 2,100 for Washington. Most of the rest are in storage for future use, upgrading or are being dismantled.

Both the the U.S. and Russia have substantially reduced their nuclear stockpiles since the implosion of the Soviet Union, and in February 2011 both parties signed a New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) with further reductions that must be implemented within seven years.

Land based ICBM in U.S. silo, waiting.
There is no reason, however, to believe the world is safer or soon to achieve the only dependable safeguard — total world nuclear disarmament.

The U.S. and Russia are now each in the process of modernizing, improving and extending the longevity by decades of the three prongs of their nuclear war triad: strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

Virtually every aspect of Washington’s triad components are being updated or replaced, including improvements to the nuclear warheads and bombs, the accuracy, speed and payload of the missiles, the agility and power of the aircraft (including the addition of 80-100 new long-range penetrating bombers at a cost of $550 million each), and complete modernization and expansion of the underwater fleet, adding 12 new ballistic missile submarines.

To facilitate this program, Washington is spending several billions of dollars just on upgrading or rebuilding major plants, laboratories and offices producing nuclear warheads. At least 40,000 people work in these plants. This includes the new “campus” of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in St. Louis that’s bigger than the Pentagon and cost nearly $700 million to build. (NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that is mainly responsible for nuclear weapons until they are deployed by the Pentagon or returned for repair, updating and disassembly.)

There is a big difference between the nuclear improvement and modernization programs of the United States and Russia. The Obama Administration plans to greatly outspend Moscow in the modernization sweepstakes, more than two to one, with the hope of finally achieving nuclear supremacy over Russia.

The Soviet Union, which had been devastated in World War II while American territory and industry were untouched, managed to catch up with the U.S. in nuclear power by the late 1950s and established nuclear equivalence, but at a cost in national treasure that contributed to its eventual implosion. Moscow will think thrice about trying to match Washington’s reckless spending.

President Obama has committed the U.S. to spend a staggering trillion dollars over 30 years to develop and possess a state of the art nuclear killing machine, not counting inevitably huge cost overruns that have yet to be calculated. As a first installment, the White House plans to invest nearly $355 billion over the next 10 years in reconstructing its nuclear arsenal.

The program can only be intended to strengthen and prolong Washington’s global military dominance — and thus its global hegemony and the rewards that accrue to the highest and mightiest — long into the future.

These long-term modernizations threaten the world’s peoples. Given the increasing economic, political and military volatility of the global situation, the gradual decline of U.S. influence coupled with its long-term stagnant economy, and the rise of alternative states including China, a major nuclear confrontation most certainly cannot be ruled out in future. Climate change, as it increases for a couple of decades, will contribute to international destabilization, compounding the existing contradictions that may lead to war.

Unplug the involuntary suicide bomber!
Here is an account of Moscow’s modernization, according to Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists:

“Russia is in the middle of a significant nuclear modernization that marks its attempt to transition from Soviet-era nuclear force structure to something more modern, leaner, and cheaper to maintain....

“Information on Russian nuclear spending is scarce and contradictory. In 2011, Russian news media and analysts reported that Russia planned to spend $70 billion on new strategic weapons through 2018. That sounds like a considerable amount, but only adds up to $10 billion per year. That is close to what the U.S. NNSA spends per year on weapons activities.

“Likewise, Russian media in 2012 reported that Russia planned to spend 101 billion rubles on nuclear weapons from 2013 through 2015. That also sounds like a very significant sum, but corresponds to only $2.9 billion over three years. This does not appear to be the entire nuclear budget; it apparently covers only the “nuclear weapons complex.” If that corresponds to the U.S. nuclear complex — that is, NNSA facilities —then it would imply that Russia spends less than half of what the United States spends on nuclear weapons infrastructure....

“Russia’s overall defense budget has increased. Over the next 10 years, the plan is to spend 19 trillion rubles ($542 billion) on defense. That is less than the annual U.S. defense budget. Of that amount, strategic nuclear forces are thought to account for about 10%, or $54 billion in total over 10 years. It is unclear what categories are included, but it appears to be roughly 20% of the $30 billion the United States is estimated to spend on its nuclear triad per year. The Russian economy seems ill equipped to support such investments in nuclear forces that will only constrain resources available for conventional forces.”

At this rate U.S. nuclear superiority seems assured, especially now that President Obama is seeking to destroy the Russian economy with heavy sanctions. This is in part Obama’s riposte to Russia for re-incorporating Crimea back into Russia after 97% of the population voted to secede from Ukraine in a plebiscite last march following a Washington-backed coup that replaced the Russia-friendly elected president with a leader beholden to the U.S. and European Union. The Obama Administration does not seem to care that these moves are pushing Russia toward China. (See article below: “The U.S., China, Russia & Eurasia.”)

Kristensen reports, “Chinese nuclear forces are in the latter phase of a two-decade-long upgrade that includes deployment of new land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery vehicles. This effort is occurring in parallel with a broader modernization of China’s general military forces. Unlike the other nuclear members of the NPT, China is increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal, which is currently estimated to be around 250 warheads. Although China does not seem to plan a significant increase in the size of its nuclear forces, it is changing the composition of that force and putting more emphasis on mobile systems.”

New B61-12 will replace all U.S. free fall nuclear bombs.
Judging by this report, and the fact that Beijing is at least two decades behind the U.S. in military technology, it hardly seems possible for China to catch up with Washington  given the Pentagon’s nuclear modernization scheme, though that does not seem to be its intention.

None of the seven remaining nuclear states come anywhere close to the U.S. and Russia in warheads and delivery systems, but even just one nuclear warhead is a terror weapon. According to the SIPRI Yearbook 2014: “Three of the remaining seven nuclear states are members of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). They include France, 300 warheads, 290 deployed; UK, 225 warheads, 160 deployed; China, 250, none deployed. The remaining four countries are in violation of the NPT. None of their warheads are deployed. They are: Pakistan, 100-120 warheads; India, 90-110; Israel 80 (though some other estimates are higher); North Korea, 6-8 at most. (India, Pakistan and Israel, never joined the NPT; North Korea was a member but quit.)

The huge enhancement program not only reverses President Obama’s pledge as a candidate and several times afterward to work toward nuclear disarmament but also contradicts a major clause in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that directs the big nuclear weapons states in particular to eliminate existing weapons stockpiles. Here are two clauses that went into effect 44 years ago:

·      NPT Article VI: "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament." The five treaty members with nuclear weapons do not believe this is a literal commitment. However, many of the 181 non-nuclear NPT treaty members, plus citizens of nuclear member countries view the clause after over four decades as a commitment to take relatively swift action. Commenting on the foot-dragging of the five nuclear NPT countries, SIPRI said they “appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely.”

·      NPT Article I: “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other explosive devices directly, or indirectly.” 

In addition to the nine  “official” nuclear nations, five non-nuclear NATO members in Europe harbor U.S. warheads and delivery systems. They are Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Their military is trained in how to operate the systems. During peacetime the U.S. is in charge. In the event of war the various countries would control and operate these systems, launching nuclear missies and air attacks. The U.S., which has long violated NPT Article I by its exchanges with the UK, justifies wartime use by its five “non-nuclear” allies by arguing that war obviates the NPT treaty. Berlin, which stores 20 U.S. strategic warheads, has asked Washington to remove them for many years, to no avail — one more proof NATO is America’s Foreign Legion.

Old Faithful   B-52 Stratofortress,
modernized and ready for war.
These five countries plus France and England function in effect as the Pentagon’s front line nuclear base. Combined with U.S. insistence on maintaining anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems in the region —absurdly enough to protect Europe from an attack by Iranian missiles! — Washington appears to be lining up the chessboard for a win.

Russia views the U.S./European ABM systems as offensive, not defensive. Here’s why: A first strike from a U.S./NATO attack would still leave Russia with the ability to launch a reduced number of retaliatory nuclear warheads, many of which would then be destroyed by the ABM shield, leaving Russia vulnerable to an annihilating second strike from the West.

The New START Treaty is significant but it still leaves sufficient weapons in the hands of the U.S., Russia, the five NPT members and four “non-nuclear” outliers to destroy the world and all its inhabitants several times over. The agreement became operative in February 2011 after it was approved by the U.S. Senate 71-26 and by both houses of the Russian parliament.

To obtain enough Republican Senate votes to pass the treaty Obama cut a deal in December 2010 to expand the Pentagon’s planned modernization of the “Nuclear Triad”— land, sea and air delivery of strategic nuclear weapons. The New York Times noted last month that before Obama’s deal with the Republicans “the original idea was [a] modest rebuilding of the nation’s crumbling nuclear complex.”

On Aug. 27, the Congressional Research Service document on the treaty included this brief description:

“New START provides the parties with seven years to reduce their forces, and will remain in force for a total of 10 years. It limits each side to no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments. Within that total, each side can retain no more than 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments. The treaty also limits each side to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads; those are the actual number of warheads on deployed [on intercontinental land based ballistic missiles] ICBMs and [submarine launched] SLBMs, and one warhead for each deployed heavy bomber.

Don’t be misled by the one-warhead-one-bomber ratio. One strategic warhead can kill millions and there are many bombers capable of making multiple round trips. In addition the Pentagon can field thousands of planes with non-nuclear missiles and bombs. It is also in the final stages of perfecting new supersonic missiles that can deliver powerful warheads launched from the U.S. to accurately reach a specific target in China within one hour.

The president claims to be disarming by reducing some long range SLBM-ICBMs while not only upgrading the kill power and accuracy of the many remaining missiles but improving the delivery systems. In addition it’s all supposed to be operative for another 20 to 40 years. Further, it must be understood that while the U.S government’s official nuclear stance toward Russia and China is “maintaining strategic stability,” Washington’s understanding of “stability” undoubtedly implies superiority.

The Arms Control Association says these upgraded “systems are in many cases being completely rebuilt with essentially all new parts.” This effort includes:

“Modernized strategic delivery systems: U.S. nuclear delivery systems are undergoing continual modernization, including complete rebuilds of the Minuteman III ICBM and Trident
II SLBM. The service lives of Trident Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are being extended. Additionally, a new submarine, the SSBNX, which will replace the existing Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, is undergoing development and is expected to cost about $100 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The B-2 strategic bomber, a relatively new system, is being upgraded, as is the B-52H bomber. The Air Force is also planning a new Long Range Bomber and a new cruise missile to replace the Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM).”

The U.S. government has long spoken of its nuclear forces as a “deterrent” to another nation contemplating a nuclear attack, but actually America’s use of nuclear weapons is fairly open ended, including first strike under certain conditions. Some have interpreted the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review as indicating that the U.S. has finally adopted a no-first-use policy after years of claiming it "reserves the right to use" nuclear weapons first. But this does not appear to be the case.

The Defense Department issued a report last year, “on behalf of the President... on Nuclear Employment Strategy of the United States in accordance with Section 491 of 10 U.S.C.” This report included the following paragraph: “The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review established the Administration’s goal to set conditions that would allow the U.S. to safely adopt a policy of making deterrence of nuclear attack the soul purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons. Although we cannot adopt such a policy today, the new guidance reiterates the intention to work towards that goal over time.” Actually both the U.S. and Russia maintain the right to first strike if they believe (whether it’s true or not) they are under attack.

Most Americans had no knowledge whatsoever of the dangerous deal that made New START possible. Arms control and disarmament groups in the U.S. have been monitoring and criticizing the aspects of what they knew about program almost from the beginning — but few others outside Congress, arms specialists and dedicated news readers seem to have been aware.

Public information about Obama’s entire nuclear weapons commitment was revealed piecemeal until Sept. 21 this year when the New York Times published an extraordinary 2,600-word front-page article by William J. Broad and David E. Sanger that disclosed the entire program.

“This expansion,” they wrote, “comes under a president who campaigned for ‘a nuclear-free world’ and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy. The original idea was that modest rebuilding of the nation’s crumbling nuclear complex would speed arms refurbishment, raising confidence in the arsenal’s reliability and paving the way for new treaties that would significantly cut the number of warheads. Instead, because of political deals and geopolitical crises, the Obama administration is engaging in extensive atomic rebuilding while getting only modest arms reductions in return....

“Supporters of arms control, as well as some of President Obama’s closest advisers, say their hopes for the president’s vision have turned to baffled disappointment as the modernization of nuclear capabilities has become an end unto itself. ‘A lot of it is hard to explain,’ said Sam Nunn, the former senator whose writings on nuclear disarmament deeply influenced Mr. Obama. ‘The president’s vision was a significant change in direction. But the process has preserved the status quo.’”

In a statement Sept. 22, the day after the New York Times article when the entire picture became news, leaders and experts from seven national nongovernmental organizations charged that “that current plans for maintaining and upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next decade and beyond exceed reasonable deterrence requirements as set out by the President in June 2013, are unaffordable, and unless they are significantly adjusted, the nuclear force modernization plan will also deplete resources from higher priority budget needs.” 
The groups included Union of Concerned Scientists, Federation of American Scientists, Arms Control Association, Council for a Livable World, and Women's Action for New Directions.

Last March, when the administration put forward details of its budget for fiscal year 2015, which started Oct. 1, containing initial funding for the improvement and modernization program, the organization Nuclear Watch (New Mexico) declared:

“Contrary to President Obama’s rhetoric about a future world free of nuclear weapons, most famously expressed in his April 2009 speech in Prague, the president asks for a 7% increase for nuclear weapons research and production programs under the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA’s ‘Total Weapons Activities’ are slated to rise to $8.3 billion in FY 2015, and to an astounding $9.7 billion by FY 2019, 24% above fiscal year 2014. Obama’s budget request sets a new record for DOE nuclear weapons spending, even exceeding the Cold War high point in 1985 under President Reagan’s military buildup.... While rebuilding nuclear weapons at exorbitant expense, the Obama Administration proposes to slash dismantlement of existing weapons] by nearly half, from an already paltry $54.2 million to $30 million.”

Commenting on the entire program, Angela Canterbury, executive director for Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, declared: "The current plan is geared towards building more nuclear weapons that we don't need and can't afford. We need to scrap it and the nuclear weapons we don't need. We need to put into place a far more affordable plan to meet the President's goals to make us safer."

The Homeland Security Newswire wrote Aug. 6: “The Obama administration is allocating more resources toward refurbishing and modernizing current nuclear weapons than advancing nuclear nonproliferation programs. A new analysis of nuclear security spending published by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government notes that the administration’s 2015 budget reduces funding for the Energy Department’s nuclear nonproliferation programs by $399 million, while increasing spending on its nuclear weapons programs by $655 million. For fiscal 2014, Congress approved $1.95 billion for NNSA to spend on nonproliferation programs. The White House fiscal 2015 budget proposed a 20% reduction.”

The sheer cost of the modernization is raising eyebrows in Washington, even among those who agree with the program, and there are strong hints some of the cost may be cut in FY2016. Adding to fiscal concerns, the Government Accountability Office asserted recently that the planned nuclear arsenal will cost tens of billions of dollars more than the Obama Administration initially indicated, not counting overruns.

The breakthrough Times article noted: “The looming crackup between trillion-dollar plans and tight budgets is starting to get Washington’s attention. Modernization delays are multiplying and cost estimates are rising. Panels of experts are bluntly describing the current path as unacceptable. A new generation of missiles, bombers and submarines ‘is unaffordable,’ a bipartisan, independent panel commissioned by Congress and the Defense Department declared in July.” Some reductions in cost seem probable, but an extremely expensive nuclear modernization program will continue.

Many constituencies welcomed Barack Obama when he entered the White House in January 2009. Among those with high hopes were tens of millions of people the world over who believed his rhetoric about ending the nuclear danger. They were disappointed, as were so many others. Hans Kristensen summed up the situation well:

“The Obama administration entered office with a strong arms control and disarmament agenda, but despite efforts by some officials and agencies to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons, the administration may ironically end up being remembered more for its commitment to prolonging and modernizing the traditional nuclear arsenal.”

The good news is that a Review Conference of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) will be held at the United Nations in New York in April and May 2015 and mass demonstrations opposed to nuclear weapons are being planed by a large international coalition of NGOs, peace groups and many others. (The Activist Newsletter will supply all the details when available.)

According to a co-convener of the project, Jackie Cabasso of the Western States Legal Foundation: “The nuclear powers have refused to honor their legal and moral obligation to begin negotiations to ban and completely eliminate their nuclear arsenals. As we have seen at the United Nations High-Level Meeting for Disarmament and at the Oslo and Nayarit Conferences on the Human Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, the overwhelming majority of the world’s governments demand the implementation of the NPT. We are working with partner organizations in the U.S. and other nations to mobilize international actions to bring popular pressure to bear on the 2015 Review Conference.”

Judith LeBlanc of Peace Action, also a co-convener, reported that “Plans include a major international peace conference and march to the United Nations on the eve of the Review Conference, the presentation of millions of petition signatures to the Review Conference urging the abolition of nuclear weapons, creative nonviolent protests in New York and in national capitals around the world, and student and youth organizing campaigns.”

Perhaps today’s conditions are conducive to the building of a mass international antinuclear movement. These same conditions brought forward a mass climate change march of 400,000 activists in New York last month as well as many large international demonstrations. If both these movements have staying power and adopt strategy and tactics commensurate to the struggle without being coopted, there is a chance for progress.

It certainly won’t do to depend on Obama in his last two years. And whoever replaces him in the 2016 elections, Republican or Democrat, is hardly going to do anything about nuclear disarmament. But a strong anti-nuclear movement can continue to grow under such circumstances (and so, hopefully, can the climate movement).

The leftist Professor István Mészáros, the Hungarian philosopher, identified what must be done: “The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself.” Clearly, any progress on these fronts will derive from popular, prolonged struggle.



From the very top...
[International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde said earlier this this month that the “staggering rise in inequality” over recent decades may well “haunt us” deep into the 21st century. The following information about global income and asset distribution derives from The Economist of Oct. 14, the Oxfam 2014 report on “Working for the Few,” and Bloomberg Business Week earlier this year. They are based on slightly different percentages of wealth and low income, but the figures and conclusions are quite similar. These figures shed light on the most important social aspect of the world capitalist system — innate and inevitable economic inequality afflicting the great majority of the human population.

By the Activist Newsletter

Before discussing the global picture our first paragraph is devoted to wealth in the United States for the sake of comparison: The U.S. is the richest country in the world, but about half its population of 319 million people are low income or poor. These people generally have very little, if any, wealth (i.e., assets over liabilities).  Indeed, the bottom 90% of the U.S. population, including the working class and middle class as well as low income and poor, possess 25.6% of private national assets. Those in the  90 to 99th percentile own 34.6% of the assets. The top 1% enjoys 39.8% of America’s assets. And within that 1%, the top 0.01% has grabbed 11.1% of the assets. This most powerful  one hundredth of one percent includes 16,000 families who own $6 trillion in assets — equal to the total wealth of the bottom two-thirds of American families combined.

Oxfam reports the top %1 of the global population of 727 billion people accounts for 48.2% of total wealth, and the bottom 50% own less than 1%.

The Economist reports that global wealth has increased from $117 trillion in 2000 to $262 trillion this year. That comes to $56,000 for each adult on earth. But the fortune is far from evenly distributed: 94.5% of the world’s household wealth is held by 20% of the adult population, according to new data from Credit Suisse.

Wealth is so unevenly distributed, that you need just $3,650 (less debts) to count yourself among the richest half of the world’s population, the publication continued. A mere $77,000 in assets brings you among the wealthiest 10%. And  $798,000 puts you into the ranks of the 1% — within the reach of many white-collar urban professionals in the West. Hence, more than 35 million people carry such a plump purse. Among the three billion adults at the bottom with less than $10,000 in wealth, 90% reside in developing countries.

Oxfam reported:    The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world. • 70% of people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. • The richest 1% increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries between 1980 and 2012.

Oxfam surmised: “This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a significant threat to inclusive political and economic systems. Instead of moving forward together, people are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown.”

Back home again, Forbes reports that “2014 was another record year for American wealth: The aggregate net worth of the richest 400 Americans was $2.29 trillion, up $270 billion from a year ago. These richest of Americans were helped by the fact that in the U.S. the wealthiest 1% captured 95% of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90% became poorer.
…to the very bottom.
 From time to time  an American government official or member of Congress mentions economic inequality in the United States. In a speech Oct. 17, for instance, Federal Reserve chairwomen Janet L.Yellen bemoaned this galloping phenomenon. The problem is that nothing is being done by the government, whether at the hands of Republicans or Democrats, to change this dreadful situatioin. Indeed, there has been no serious effort in  this regard since the 1960s.

We close with a comment by Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926), union leader and five time socialist candidate for President of the U.S.  He obviously didn’t win but obtained nearly a million votes for president in the 1920 election while he was in fedceral prison for criticizing U.S. involvement in World War I.:

“I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.”


What two things does Malala Yousafzai share with Albert Einstein?

First, they both won the Nobel Prize. Pakistani Malala, just 17, was notified she won the Peace Prize Oct. 10 for her struggle for the right of girls and all children around the world to acquire an education. Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics in1921. Most people know this.

Second, Malala is a socialist, as was Einstein. Most people do not know this.

Malala, then 15, was almost murdered Oct. 9, 2012, when a Taliban religious fanatic followed the young woman into a school bus and fired a bullet into her forehead in an effort to end her campaign for the education of girls. She barely survived and eventually improved enough to be transferred to an English hospital for rehabilitation. As soon as she was able she continued her campaign— but this time she had a worldwide audience of supporters.

According to a report from the International Marxist Tendency Malala sent a message from England to the 32nd congress of Pakistani section of IMT that opened March 9, 2013, five months after she was shot. Here is their account:

“A Pakistani comrade from Birmingham in the UK, intervened to read out a message that had been sent from Malala Yousafzai, the young sympathizer of the Marxist Tendency famous for her part in the struggle for the right to education for girls in Pakistan. [A sympathizer is not a member.] She had taken part in the national Marxist Summer School in July of last year [2012] in Swat [Valley sector of northwest Pakistan where the Taliban had been very active]. She was tragically shot in the head in a barbaric attack by fundamentalists, and made headlines worldwide.

Protests in Pakistan the day after the shooting.
“The message she sent reads as follows:

“‘First of all I’d like to thank The Struggle and the IMT for giving me a chance to speak last year at their Summer Marxist School in Swat and also for introducing me to Marxism and Socialism. I just want to say that in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for any one else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves?

“‘I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the congress. I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.’

“This was also one of the several moving moments of the congress. A close friend of Malala was also present at the congress, who was on the bus when the girls were attacked. She spoke, making some comments and reading out a poem.”

Einstein’s political views are rarely mentioned. Here’s a sample: “The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil.... Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society.... I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.”

— Malala’s extraordinary speech at the UN on her 16th birthday, July 12, 2013, is here. Don’t miss it.


Told to leave Kurdish village, Paul is trucked out. He will continue walk on new trail.
[Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek is retracing on foot our ancestors’ migration out of Africa and across the globe. His 21,000-mile odyssey began in Ethiopia and will end seven years later at the tip of South America. National Geographic is funding Paul’s storytelling from the Out of Eden Walk trail and prints his dispatches at intervals. Here is his message of Oct. 17. For readers interested in this extraordinary hike and its purpose, a link to further articles is below.]

By Paul Salopek

SOUTHEASTERN TURKEY: The Earth rolls in its silent groove about the sun. The planet spins. It leans 23 degrees off plumb. The northern hemisphere tilts away from the warm hearth of its star. Grass steppes begin to grow stiff, to yellow. Temperatures drop. Winter deepens the long blue shadows of the barren hills. In one corner of a continent, on an iron plain where civilization was born, a war bleeds into its fourth year. Intelligent animals kill each other en masse. With metal pellets propelled by exploding gases. With flying machines. With swords.

My new walking guide, Murat Yazar, and I retreat from it. We step briskly, aiming north, for the snowline of the Caucasus. We make more than 20 miles a day. But it is not enough. It is too late. The war catches up. It stops us.

The men appear as we trek the high, cool, stony pastures of southeastern Turkey, a hinterland of sheep nomads, of hardy shepherds.

A ring of dark figures on foot. Some wrapped in keffiyehs, the checkered scarves of the Middle East. They carry old shotguns. They close in, surround us. We stop in our tracks. They order us to their cinderblock village. There, crowds of schoolboys skip beside us, hooting and swinging wooden clubs. All are Kurdish. They are as frightened as we are. They think Yazar and I are infiltrators sneaking up from the south, from Syria. They demand: “Are you Daesh?”—the head-chopping zealots of the Islamic State? They rummage through our pack mule’s load.

“This man” — Yazar says bleakly, gesturing at an armed villager — “he says he wants to kill me.” Then they serve us tea. It comes on a silver tray. The glass cups are shaped like belled flowers.
Briefly, here is what is going on:

The cancer of Syria is spreading. The war’s death toll approaches 200,000. More than three million civilians are uprooted — a humanitarian calamity of historic scale. This festering chaos has dismembered Iraq. And now it is infecting Turkey, only a few weeks ago a stable Western ally. Turkey’s case is complex. (Of course it is: This is old Byzantium, the crossroads of shifting empires, of dueling interests, of the entanglements of history, of geography.) The brutal fanatics of the Islamic State, having gained the upper hand among the rebels battling the Assad regime in Syria, are firing artillery within a mile of the Turkish border. They are bombarding a rival Syrian rebel group that consists mainly of ethnic Kurds: the suddenly famous battle of Kobani.

And yet Turkey, with the hounds of war baying at its door, seems oddly apathetic. True, it has admitted 180,000 terrified Kurdish refugees. But while it opposes the rise of the Islamist terrorists, its troops massed at the border do not intervene. They watch. They wait. Why? Because Turkey has waged its own bloody civil war against separatist Kurds for more than 30 years. It fears that saving the besieged Syrian Kurds will empower its homegrown insurgents. It demands instead that Syria’s regime be toppled—preferably with U.S. involvement. This hands-off stance to the deepening violence has enraged Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Nearly 40 people have died in pro-Kurdish riots in Turkish cities. Turkey’s fragile peace process with its Kurdish rebels is unraveling fast. The country’s southeast, the Kurdish heartland, is quaking. And fear of the Islamic State ripples far, stoking paranoia. We are more than a hundred miles from the border. The village posse releases us. “Don’t call the police,” one of them says, angrily. “No police.”

We cannot sleep in this terrified village. We cannot walk on: The villagers will not permit us. For the first time on land, in roughly 3,000 miles of journeying out of Africa, I must load my pack animal onto a truck and drive away from my footprints. Yazar and I have no idea where we are bound. Nobody does in this part of the world. We are simply going. The rocky plains of Mesopotamia stretch away grayly in the dusk. And winter is closing in.

The next stories from the Out of Eden Walk trail will be about Kurdish culture, about maternal rivers, about neurotic mules — about the now-familiar ritual of leaving old walking guides and greeting new ones. But war will hum in the background.

  Paul Salopek’s occasional dispatches are available at


Cuban health workers arrive in Sierra Leone.      Florian Plaucheur/Agence France-Presse Getty Images
[Cuba has received well-deserved editorial praise for dispatching 461 doctors and nurses to West Africa in October to help combat the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that has killed thousands already. They will serve in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The text of this thoughtful and unique Oct. 20 editorial is below. It should be noted that Cuba, a country of only 11 million people, has more than 50,000 doctors and nurses posted in 66 developing countries around the world, including more than 4,000 in 32 African countries.]

By the New York Times Editorial Board

Cuba is an impoverished island that remains largely cut off from the world and lies about 4,500 miles from the West African nations where Ebola is spreading at an alarming rate. Yet, having pledged to deploy hundreds of medical professionals to the front lines of the pandemic, Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus.

Cuba’s contribution is doubtlessly meant at least in part to bolster its beleaguered international standing. Nonetheless, it should be lauded and emulated.

The global panic over Ebola has not brought forth an adequate response from the nations with the most to offer. While the United States and several other wealthy countries have been happy to pledge funds, only Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.

Doctors in West Africa desperately need support to establish isolation facilities and mechanisms to detect cases early. More than 400 medical personnel have been infected and about 4,500 patients have died. The virus has shown up in the United States and Europe, raising fears that the epidemic could soon become a global menace.

It is a shame that Washington, the chief donor in the fight against Ebola, is diplomatically estranged from Havana, the boldest contributor. In this case the schism has life-or-death consequences, because American and Cuban officials are not equipped to coordinate global efforts at a high level. This should serve as an urgent reminder to the Obama administration that the benefits of moving swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba far outweigh the drawbacks.

The Cuban health care workers will be among the most exposed foreigners, and some could very well contract the virus. The World Health Organization is directing the team of Cuban doctors, but it remains unclear how it would treat and evacuate Cubans who become sick. Transporting quarantined patients requires sophisticated teams and specially configured aircraft. Most insurance companies that provide medical evacuation services have said they will not be flying Ebola patients.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday praised “the courage of any health care worker who is undertaking this challenge,” and made a brief acknowledgment of Cuba’s response. As a matter of good sense and compassion, the American military, which now has about 550 troops in West Africa, should commit to giving any sick Cuban access to the treatment center the Pentagon built in Monrovia and to assisting with evacuation.

The work of these Cuban medics benefits the entire global effort and should be recognized for that. But Obama administration officials have callously declined to say what, if any, support they would give them.

The Cuban health sector is aware of the risks of taking on dangerous missions. Cuban doctors assumed the lead role in treating cholera patients in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake in 2010. Some returned home sick, and then the island had its first outbreak of cholera in a century. An outbreak of Ebola on the island could pose a far more dangerous risk and increase the odds of a rapid spread in the Western Hemisphere.

Cuba has a long tradition of dispatching doctors and nurses to disaster areas abroad. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Cuban government created a quick-reaction medical corps and offered to send doctors to New Orleans. The United States, unsurprisingly, didn’t take Havana up on that offer. Yet officials in Washington seemed thrilled to learn in recent weeks that Cuba had activated the medical teams for missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

With technical support from the World Health Organization, the Cuban government trained 460 doctors and nurses on the stringent precautions that must be taken to treat people with the highly contagious virus. The first group of 165 professionals arrived in Sierra Leone in recent days. José Luis Di Fabio, the World Health Organization’s representative in Havana, said Cuban medics were uniquely suited for the mission because many had already worked in Africa. “Cuba has very competent medical professionals,” said Mr. Di Fabio, who is Uruguayan. Mr. Di Fabio said Cuba’s efforts to aid in health emergencies abroad are stymied by the embargo the United States imposes on the island, which struggles to acquire modern equipment and keep medical shelves adequately stocked.

In a column published over the weekend in Cuba’s state-run newspaper, Granma, Fidel Castro argued that the United States and Cuba must put aside their differences, if only temporarily, to combat a deadly scourge. He’s absolutely right.


Cuban troops defeated South Africa in Angola.

By Roger Hamilton-Martin

NEW YORK, Oct 2, 2014 (IPS) - In a new book cataloguing the recent history of clandestine exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, the reliance on secret intermediaries belies the common perception that the two governments rarely communicated during the decades that followed the Cuban revolution in 1959.

Documents detail how Jimmy Carter acted as a secret intermediary for the Clinton administration during the 1994 Balseros immigration crisis and how Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ordered contingency plans drawn up to “clobber” Havana in 1976 in response to Cuba’s military intervention in defense of Angola’s government, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

The new book, “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana” was launched Oct. 1 at New York’s Pierre Hotel by co-authors Peter Kornbluh, a Cuba expert at the non-governmental National Security Archive, and William LeoGrande, a veteran Cuba foreign-policy specialist at American University in Washington, DC.

“It’s an odd place to hold a press conference, but for a historic reason,” said Kornbluh. “It’s the place where the first secret talks to normalize relations with Cuba were held, during a three-hour meeting here almost 40 years ago.”

The book is filled with a cast of secret intermediaries who have shuttled back and forth between the two countries even during times of intense hostility.

Despite Nixon’s opening to China in 1972 followed by the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, U.S. relations with Havana, which has been subject to a U.S. trade embargo since 1960, have remained antagonistic.

Most Cubans who fled to the U.S. in the decade after the 1959 Revolution – the majority of whom settled in Florida – have long opposed all attempts by U.S. administrations to engage Havana in any way that, in their view, would serve to legitimize the Communist government there.

One of the book’s novel revelations is the role of Jimmy Carter in acting as a secret intermediary between Washington and Havana during the 1994 Balseros crisis. The crisis saw a flood of so-called Cuban “rafters” traverse the dangerous route to Florida in what the U.S. administration saw as a politically fraught replay of the 1980 Mariel boatlift that helped defeat Carter’s re-election bid.
The former president, writing to Fidel Castro, talked of his “hope of finding common ground on which to resolve the crisis, and to prepare for a future resolution of long-term differences.”

With his support, an agreement was forged between the Clinton and Castro administrations of a “wet feet, dry feet” policy whereby Cubans who fled to the United States would be allowed to pursue residency if they reached shore. Through the Cuban mission at the United Nations, Carter negotiated the numbers of immigrants who would legally be allowed to remain in the U.S.

As president, Carter himself tried hard to normalize the U.S.-Cuban relationship. It was during his tenure that the U.S. and Cuba established Interest Sections in their respective capitals. But the intensification of Cold War tensions during the latter half of his term – in addition to the growing political clout of Cuban Americans opposed to any improvement in ties – significantly reduced his room for maneuver.

Even before Carter, Kissinger had himself tried to promote a détente with Havana, sending representatives Frank Mankiewicz and Lawrence Eagleburger to a meeting at LaGuardia airport in January 1975, to “explore the possibilities for a more normal relationship between our two countries,” and “determine whether there exists an equal determination on both sides to settle the differences that exist between us.”

That, in turn, set the stage for the meeting at the Pierre Hotel six months later. Eagleburger was again present, alongside Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs William D. Rogers.

But Cuba’s intervention in Angola as various foreign-backed factions jostled for power in the run-up to that country’s independence from Portugal in November 1975 put paid to that effort. According to the new book, the former national security adviser and secretary of state was infuriated by Castro’s move, which proved decisive in the MPLA’s victory over rival factions backed variously by South Africa, Zaire, the U.S., and China, as well as South African troops and mercenaries.

During a White House conversation with President Gerald Ford, Kissinger argued that Havana’s intervention raised the prospect of a “race war.”

Cuba had intervened in Angola on the eve of the new country’s independence from Portugal in November 1975 in support of the MPLA against South African, the U.S., and Chinese-backed factions, as well as South African and Zairean mercenary forces.

[Note from the Activist Newsletter: China was still a revolutionary communist country at the time but in this instance was in league with the most dubious of political partners to prevent the avowed Marxist-Leninist MPLA from taking power in the Angola war against both the racist South African troops and a U.S.-supported rival organization, UNITA. Beijing backed UNITA because the Soviet Union, with which it had an ideological falling out, backed the MPLA.

[Cuba fought for and protected the MPLA government for 16 years, leaving in 1991 when South Africa troops were defeated. UNITA faught on but MPLA held firm and hostilities ended in 2002. At its high point in 1988, 55,000 Cuban soldiers were fighting. Nelson Mandela, when he left prison in 1990, elaborately praised President Castro and the Cuban people for years of selfless internationalism and sacrifice that contributed toward the subsequent victory over the racist regime in South Africa.]

Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, comrades in arms. 

In the document, Kissinger says “I think we are going to have to smash Castro. We probably can’t do it before the [November 1976 U.S. presidential] elections.”

Kissinger and Ford were concerned that Cuba would repeat “Angola-style” military action in other African nations amidst intensified rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union across the continent in an African version of the “domino theory” that was used to justify Washington’s ultimately disastrous intervention in Indochina beginning in the late 1950s.

“If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favour of clobbering them,” Kissinger said, according to the transcripts published in the new book. “That would create a furor … but I think we might have to demand they get out of Africa.”

Having won in Angola, Kissinger believed that Cuban forces could play a similar role in South-West Africa (now Namibia), Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and ultimately South Africa itself within five years. [At the time the U.S. was a major supporter of apartheid South Africa]. He thought it would be “easier to bring pressure on Cuba, as the closer and weaker partner in a tightly interwoven relationship, than on the Soviet Union” which supported both Cuba and the MPLA.

Wide discrepancies between public and private relations between Cuba and the United States have long characterised bilateral ties, LeoGrande told IPS.

“At the tail end of the Kennedy administration, there were secret initiatives to open up a dialogue with Cuba and a hope that in the aftermath of the [October 1962] missile crisis, the Cubans were so angry with the Soviets [for promising to never deploy nuclear weapons to the island] that they would be enticed back into the orbit of the United States. The initiative was taken through the Cuban representative at the United Nations to reopen relations.

“At the same time, if you read some of President Kennedy’s speeches on Cuba, it’s as hard-line Cold War as ever. Just the president and a handful of people knew about [the secret initiative], so you didn’t see any reflection of it in the public dialogue.”

A key theme of the book is the common use of these back channels. Cutting through bureaucratic red tape has been attractive to both countries. “Presidents will always use some kind of channel,” LeoGrande told IPS. “Using diplomatic channels but keeping it secret is probably necessary for solving complex diplomatic issues.”

Successive presidents have preferred to use a personal envoy rather than go through the layers of the diplomatic process that increased the risks of press leaks. In fact, every single president has used these intermediaries since the revolution in 1959.

The authors are convinced that there are positive steps that could be taken to open formal channels with the Caribbean island. “If we didn’t have the embargo, and the democracy promotion programs, we could have a normal and productive relationship with Cuba,” said LeoGrande.



Firefighter in Upstate New York  tries to stop forest fire.   (AP photo)    
By Robin McKie, Science Editor, The Observer, 9-27-14

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.
In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet's warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country's president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. "He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating," Tony de Brum, the islands' foreign minister, revealed recently.

"Our airport retaining wall that keeps the saltwater out of the landing strip has also been breached. Even our graveyards are also being undermined – coffins and bodies are being dug out from the seashore."
Across the planet, it is getting harder and harder to find shelter from the storm. And things are only likely to get worse, say researchers.

 Denver couple lost home in flash  flood.
As Europe continues to heat up, energy demands are expected to drop in northern countries, but equally they are destined to soar around the Mediterranean and in the south where there will be a desperate need for cooling and air-conditioning that will drive up power costs.

By the middle of the century, forest fires and severe heatwaves will be increasingly common while crops will be devastated and vineyards will be scorched.

Other parts of the world face different problems created by the billions of tons of carbon dioxide that we now pump into the atmosphere from factories, power plants and cars. In Asia the main issue concerns the presence and absence of water. In the southeast of the region, continued sea-level rises threaten to further erode farmlands and coastal towns and cities, while inland it will be water scarcity that will affect most people's lives. In this latter case, higher temperatures will combine with lack of water to trigger major reductions in rice yields.

Latin America’s biggest metropolis— São Paulo, Brazilmay soon run out of water. Taps are already running dry for some of its 20 million residents.The four-lake complex that supplies half of São Paulo has already been drained of 96% of its water capacity amid Brazil’s worst drought in eight decades.

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that up to 139 million people could face food shortages at least once a decade by 2070.

Perhaps most alarming of all the forecasts that concern the future warming of our planet is the work of Camilo Mora at the University of Hawaii. His research – which involved using a range of climate models to predict temperatures on a grid that covered the globe – suggests that by 2047 the planet's climate systems will have changed to such an extent that the coldest years then will be warmer than even the hottest years that were experienced at any time in the 20th century.

"Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced," Mora said in an interview with the New York Times recently. "What we are saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm."

In other words, our species – which is already assailed by the impact of mild global warming – is now plunging headlong into an overheated future for which there are no recorded precedents.

By the Houston Chronicle (10-7-14) and the Activist Newsletter

Methane emissions from oil and gas wells on federal lands and waters jumped 135% from 2008 to 2013, an analysis shows, driven by a drilling boom in New Mexico and North Dakota that has outpaced the building of pipelines and processing centers.

The study, completed by Stratus Consulting for the Wilderness Society and the Center for American Progress, documented the uptick in methane being vented or burned as waste from wells on public lands and waters. Researchers used data from the Interior Department's Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

Burning off methane to the
near site of gas  drilling.
They reported a big jump in recent years, with methane emissions tied to venting and flaring on federal lands and waters rising 61% from 2010 to 2013. The study builds on a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office that said 5% of all natural gas produced from federal lands and waters was wasted through venting and flaring."

[From the Activist Newsletter: The Obama Administration is a major advocate of fracking for natural gas, the primary component of which is methane. According to the environmental Protection Agency:

 [“Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. In 2012, CH4 accounted for about 9% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Methane is emitted by natural sources such as wetlands, as well as human activities such as leakage from natural gas systems and the raising of livestock.... Methane's lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), but CH4 is more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is over 20 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.”]

By the Activist Newsletter

Environmental News Service announced Oct. 14 that a new statewide poll of New Yorkers found that 80% support the state’s moratorium on fracking, underlining concern over the safety of the practice. Instead, the overwhelming majority support more renewable energy development. The poll was commissioned by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, from independent firm Franklin, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. It was conducted among 802 voters from both major political parties and represented different age groups and ethnicities. The polling took place Sept. 18 to 22, 2014, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.

Climate Central reports: “Like August before it, September 2014 was the warmest September on record, according to newly updated NASA data. The warm month makes it even more likely that 2014 will become the warmest year on record.”

From The New York Times: “The Pentagon on Oct. 13 released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises. The report lays out a road map to show how the military will adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms and widespread droughts.

According to the Guardian Oct. 13: “The rise in sea levels seen over the past century is unmatched by any period in the past 6,000 years, according to a lengthy analysis of historical sea level trends. The reconstruction of 35,000 years of sea level fluctuations finds that there is no evidence that levels changed by more than 20cm (7.87 inches) in a relatively steady period that lasted between 6,000 years ago and about 150 years ago. This makes the past century extremely unusual in the historical record, with about a 20cm rise in global sea levels since the start of the 20th century. Scientists have identified rising temperatures, which have caused polar ice to melt and thermal expansion of the sea, as a primary cause of the sea level increase.”

USA Today wrote: “California has completed the highest number of goals to prepare for climate change, followed by Massachusetts and New York, according to a first-of-its-kind 50-state tracking tool unveiled Oct. 9. In the last five years, there's been a burst of state efforts to deal with already occurring climate impacts such as more frequent storms and rising sea levels. They've ranged from elevating wastewater treatment plants to insulating roads, building micro-grids for backup power or buying out homes in flood-prone areas. New York, which has achieved 17 or 14% of its 121 goals, has a new law (signed last month by Governor Andrew Cuomo) that requires state agencies to consider climate impacts when approving the siting of hazardous waste facilities, oil and gas drilling permits or other projects. It's using disaster relief funds to buy out repeatedly flooded homes.”

The journal Seismological Research Letters published a new study Oct. 14 that connects some 400 micro-earthquakes in Harrison County, Ohio, to hydraulic fracturing wells. The three wells operated from September through October 2013 in the Utica Shale. Ten of the quakes registered between magnitude 1.7 and magnitude 2.2, but the tremors were too deep to cause damage or to be easily felt by people.

By Liza Frenette

You've seen them: Students with drawn faces, grumbling bellies and repeat clothing. Or maybe they're not as obvious; maybe they're withdrawn or sullen. But they are here, in the classrooms, and beyond that, anywhere.

They are homeless. And their numbers are growing. Nearly 110,000 New York State students were homeless during the 2012-13 school year, according to State Education Department (SED) figures. That's up 74% from 2007-08, the first year of the Great Recession.

The problem is becoming acute in the state's 26 designated rural counties, among the poorest in the state, where shelters and services are severely limited and schools are often the only lifeline.

In St. Lawrence County, which borders Canada, the number of homeless students spiked to a staggering 697 in 2012-13 from 193 just three years earlier.

At the highest mark last year, the Parishville-Hopkinton school district had 46 temporarily housed students out of 460 pre-K-12 students.

"We have so many homeless students," said school counselor and homeless student liaison Melissa Scudder, a member of the Parishville-Hopkinton Teachers Association. "There's so many different, sad reasons."

One family's stark circumstances recently drew national attention. School staff discovered the Wieczorek family — 11 members, including grandparents — living in tents in the woods. The encampment was set up alongside the St. Regis River on land the family owned....

Students being temporarily housed throughout the state tallied 109,916 in 2012-13. That's an increase of 46,794 from 2007-08, according to SED figures.

Families may become homeless or temporarily housed if there is a divorce, a job loss, a cut in hours at work or abuse. Many service jobs do not pay enough for parents to afford rent and childcare. Some parents have mental health issues or substance abuse problems.

And some families have to leave their homes because of raunchy living conditions created by landlords who won't take care of leaks or rodents.

For a student identified as homeless, the roof overhead at night could be a shelter, a motel, somewhere awaiting foster care placement, or "doubled up" in shared housing — "couch surfing," said Ira Schwartz, SED assistant commissioner in the Office of Accountability.

"Many students who are homeless may have experienced trauma," he said. "Having teachers aware of which students in their classrooms are living in temporary housing better enables teachers to tailor their strategies, for example, by incorporating trauma-sensitive approaches," Schwartz said....

[From the Activist Newsletter: All told there are 220,000 homeless children in New York State. Those not included in the school figure of 110,000 are either too young for school, youthful dropouts, or simply overlooked.

[The rural county description omits the state’s other 32 counties included in the total of student homelessness. In upstate urban areas, Rochester City School District has the highest number of homeless students — 1,820 in 2012-2013. That compares to 957 in Syracuse and 909 in Buffalo. More than 2,000 school-age children in the four-county Capital Region were classified as homeless during the 2012-2013 year.

[The number of homeless students in NYS is highest in New York City. In 2012-2013 the number rose to 76,816 — a jump of 16% over the previous year. Most of the students share housing with another family, sleeping on couches or floors. About 22,000 sleep in public shelters.]

—A longer version of this article is the Sept.-Nov. issue of NYSUT United, the magazine of New York State United Teachers.

By the Activist Newsletter

The Obama Administration’s “pivot” to Asia has been slowed down by the continuing eruptions in the Middle East, but it has moved forward in the effort to contain China by revising its bilateral military cooperation guidelines with Japan.
Recent Tokyo protest against militarization.

In an interim agreement announced Oct. 8, “the new guidelines will not be confined by geography, a major departure from the 1997 guidelines, and will emphasize the ‘global nature’ of the Japan-U.S. military alliance,” according to the Japan Times. Previously Tokyo was essentially confined to defending only Japan.

The move is intended to transform Japan into a formidable military partner of the United States throughout the region. Though greatly outnumbered by China in terms of troop strength, Japan’s navy and air force are considered second only to the U.S. in Asia.

According to the Japan Times account:  “The overhauled guidelines will elaborate on cooperative efforts in cases where Japan can resort to force based on the July 1 decision by the Cabinet to reinterpret war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution. That decision paves the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or aiding an ally under military attack.

“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed that Japan may use this right to support an allied country — which would most likely be the United States — with ‘the minimum necessary’ force when Japan’s vital interests are threatened.

“This stance is a major departure from past government policy. The Constitution had long been interpreted to prohibit Japan from using the right to collective self-defense or sending troops overseas, except with United Nations peacekeeping missions.”

Japan “forever” renounced war after its defeat in World War II, but Tokyo began rebuilding its shattered military machine decades ago, theoretically only for self-defense. That’s changed now under the right wing Abe government, which has accelerated the remilitarization of Japan and has removed the barrriers to foreign wars.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai  this year.
By Pepe Escobar

A specter haunts the fast-aging “New American Century”: the possibility of a future Beijing-Moscow-Berlin strategic trade and commercial alliance. Let’s call it the BMB.

Its likelihood is being seriously discussed at the highest levels in Beijing and Moscow, and viewed with interest in Berlin, New Delhi, and Tehran. But don’t mention it inside Washington’s Beltway or at NATO headquarters in Brussels. There, the star of the show today and tomorrow is the new Osama bin Laden: Caliph Ibrahim, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive, self-appointed beheading prophet of a new mini-state and movement that has provided an acronym feast—ISIS/ISIL/IS—for hysterics in Washington and elsewhere.  

No matter how often Washington remixes its Global War on Terror, however, the tectonic plates of Eurasian geopolitics continue to shift, and they’re not going to stop just because American elites refuse to accept that their historically brief “unipolar moment” is on the wane.  For them, the closing of the era of “full spectrum dominance,” as the Pentagon likes to call it, is inconceivable.  After all, the necessity for the indispensable nation to control all space—military, economic, cultural, cyber, and outer—is little short of a religious doctrine.  Exceptionalist missionaries don’t do equality. At best, they do “coalitions of the willing” like the one crammed with “over 40 countries” assembled to fight ISIS/ISIL/IS and either applauding (and plotting) from the sidelines or sending the odd plane or two toward Iraq or Syria. 

NATO, which unlike some of its members won’t officially fight Jihadistan, remains a top-down outfit controlled by Washington. It’s never fully bothered to take in the European Union (EU) or considered allowing Russia to “feel” European. As for the Caliph, he’s just a minor diversion. A postmodern cynic might even contend that he was an emissary sent onto the global playing field by China and Russia to take the eye of the planet’s hyperpower off the ball.

Divide and Isolate
So how does full spectrum dominance apply when two actual competitor powers, Russia and China, begin to make their presences felt?  Washington’s approach to each—in Ukraine and in Asian waters—might be thought of as divide and isolate. 
In order to keep the Pacific Ocean as a classic “American lake,” the Obama administration has been “pivoting” back to Asia for several years now. This has involved only modest military moves, but an immodest attempt to pit Chinese nationalism against the Japanese variety, while strengthening alliances and relations across Southeast Asia with a focus on South China Sea energy disputes. At the same time, it has moved to lock a future trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in place.

In Russia’s western borderlands, the Obama administration has stoked the embers of regime change in Kiev into flames (fanned by local cheerleaders Poland and the Baltic nations) and into what clearly looked, to Vladimir Putin and Russia’s leadership, like an existential threat to Moscow. Unlike the U.S., whose sphere of influence (and military bases) are global, Russia was not to retain any significant influence in its former near abroad, which, when it comes to Kiev, is not for most Russians, “abroad” at all. 

For Moscow, it seemed as if Washington and its NATO allies were increasingly interested in imposing a new Iron Curtain on their country from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with Ukraine simply as the tip of the spear. In BMB terms, think of it as an attempt to isolate Russia and impose a new barrier to relations with Germany. The ultimate aim would be to split Eurasia, preventing future moves toward trade and commercial integration via a process not controlled through Washington.

From Beijing’s point of view, the Ukraine crisis was a case of Washington crossing every imaginable red line to harass and isolate Russia. To its leaders, this looks like a concerted attempt to destabilize the region in ways favorable to American interests, supported by a full range of Washington’s elite from neocons and Cold War “liberals” to humanitarian interventionists in the Susan Rice and Samantha Power mold.  Of course, if you’ve been following the Ukraine crisis from Washington, such perspectives seem as alien as any those of any Martian.  But the world looks different from the heart of Eurasia than it does from Washington—especially from a rising China with its newly minted “Chinese dream” (Zhongguo meng).
As laid out by President Xi Jinping, that dream would include a future network of Chinese-organized new Silk Roads that would create the equivalent of a Trans-Asian Express for Eurasian commerce. So if Beijing, for instance, feels pressure from Washington and Tokyo on the naval front, part of its response is a two-pronged, trade-based advance across the Eurasian landmass, one prong via Siberia and the other through the Central Asian “stans.” 

In this sense, though you wouldn’t know it if you only followed the American media or “debates” in Washington, we’re potentially entering a new world.  Once upon a time not so long ago, Beijing’s leadership was flirting with the idea of rewriting the geopolitical/economic game side by side with the U.S., while Putin’s Moscow hinted at the possibility of someday joining NATO. No longer. Today, the part of the West that both countries are interested in is a possible future Germany no longer dominated by American power and Washington’s wishes.

Moscow has, in fact, been involved in no less than half a century of strategic dialogue with Berlin that has included industrial cooperation and increasing energy interdependence. In many quarters of the Global South this has been noted and Germany is starting to be viewed as “the sixth BRICS” power (after Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

In the midst of global crises ranging from Syria to Ukraine, Berlin’s geostrategic interests seem to be slowly diverging from Washington’s. German industrialists, in particular, appear eager to pursue unlimited commercial deals with Russia and China.  These might set their country on a path to global power unlimited by the EU’s borders and, in the long term, signal the end of the era in which Germany, however politely dealt with, was essentially an American satellite.

It will be a long and winding road. The Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, is still addicted to a strong Atlanticist agenda and a preemptive obedience to Washington. There are still tens of thousands of American soldiers on German soil. Yet, for the first time, German chancellor Angela Merkel has been hesitating when it comes to imposing ever-heavier sanctions on Russia over the situation in Ukraine, because no fewer than 300,000 German jobs depend on relations with that country. Industrial leaders and the financial establishment have already sounded the alarm, fearing such sanctions would be totally counterproductive. 
Beijing  seeks to build a high speed rail connection to Europe.  (Map: Yunus Emre Hatunoğlu)

China’s Silk Road Banquet
China’s new geopolitical power play in Eurasia has few parallels in modern history. The days when the “Little Helmsman” Deng Xiaoping insisted that the country “keep a low profile” on the global stage are long gone. Of course, there are disagreements and conflicting strategies when it comes to managing the country’s hot spots: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, competitors India and Japan, and problematic allies like North Korea and Pakistan. And popular unrest in some Beijing-dominated “peripheries” is growing to incendiary levels.

The country’s number one priority remains domestic and focused on carrying out President Xi’s economic reforms, while increasing “transparency” and fighting corruption within the ruling Communist Party. A distant second is the question of how to progressively hedge against the Pentagon’s “pivot” plans in the region—via the build-up of a blue-water navy, nuclear submarines, and a technologically advanced air force—without getting so assertive as to freak out Washington’s “China threat”-minded establishment.

Meanwhile, with the U.S. Navy controlling global sea lanes for the foreseeable future, planning for those new Silk Roads across Eurasia is proceeding apace. The end result should prove a triumph of integrated infrastructure—roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports—that will connect China to Western Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, the old Roman imperial Mare Nostrum, in every imaginable way.

In a reverse Marco Polo-style journey, remixed for the Google world, one key Silk Road branch will go from the former imperial capital Xian to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, then through Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey’s Anatolia, ending in Venice. Another will be a maritime Silk Road starting from Fujian province and going through the Malacca strait, the Indian Ocean, Nairobi in Kenya, and finally all the way to the Mediterranean via the Suez canal. Taken together, it’s what Beijing refers to as the Silk Road Economic Belt.

China’s strategy is to create a network of interconnections among no less than five key regions: Russia (the key bridge between Asia and Europe), the Central Asian “stans,” Southwest Asia (with major roles for Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey), the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe (including Belarus, Moldova, and depending upon its stability, Ukraine). And don’t forget Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, which could be thought of as Silk Road plus.

Silk Road plus would involve connecting the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor to the China-Pakistan economic corridor, and could offer Beijing privileged access to the Indian Ocean. Once again, a total package—roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, and fiber optic networks—would link the region to China.

Xi himself put the India-China connection in a neat package of images in an op-ed he published in the Hindu prior to his recent visit to New Delhi. “The combination of the ‘world’s factory’ and the ‘world’s back office,’” he wrote, “will produce the most competitive production base and the most attractive consumer market.”

The central node of China’s elaborate planning for the Eurasian future is Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province and the site of the largest commercial fair in Central Asia, the China-Eurasia Fair. Since 2000, one of Beijing’s top priorities has been to urbanize that largely desert but oil-rich province and industrialize it, whatever it takes. And what it takes, as Beijing sees it, is the hardcore Sinicization of the region—with its corollary, the suppression of any possibility of ethnic Uighur dissent.  People’s Liberation Army General Li Yazhou has, in these terms, described Central Asia as “the most subtle slice of cake donated by the sky to modern China.”
Most of China’s vision of a new Eurasia tied to Beijing by every form of transport and communication was vividly detailed in “Marching Westwards: The Rebalancing of China’s Geostrategy,” a landmark 2012 essay published by scholar Wang Jisi of the Center of International and Strategic Studies at Beijing University. As a response to such a future set of Eurasian connections, the best the Obama administration has come up with is a version of naval containment from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, while sharpening conflicts with and strategic alliances around China from Japan to India. (NATO is, of course, left with the task of containing Russia in Eastern Europe.)   

An Iron Curtain vs. Silk Roads
The $400 billion “gas deal of the century,” signed by Putin and the Chinese president last May, laid the groundwork for the building of the Power of Siberia pipeline, already under construction in Yakutsk.  It will bring a flood of Russian natural gas onto the Chinese market.  It clearly represents just the beginning of a turbocharged, energy-based strategic alliance between the two countries. Meanwhile, German businessmen and industrialists have been noting another emerging reality: as much as the final market for made-in-China products traveling on future new Silk Roads will be Europe, the reverse also applies. In one possible commercial future, China is slated to become Germany’s top trading partner by 2018, surging ahead of both the U.S. and France.

A potential barrier to such developments, welcomed in Washington, is Cold War 2.0, which is already tearing not NATO, but the EU apart. In the EU of this moment, the anti-Russian camp includes Great Britain, Sweden, Poland, Romania, and the Baltic nations. Italy and Hungary, on the other hand, can be counted in the pro-Russian camp, while a still unpredictable Germany is the key to whether the future will hold a new Iron Curtain or “Go East” mindset.  For this, Ukraine remains the key.  If it is successfully Finlandized (with significant autonomy for its regions), as Moscow has been proposing—a suggestion that is anathema to Washington—the Go-East path will remain open. If not, a BMB future will be a dicier proposition. 

It should be noted that another vision of the Eurasian economic future is also on the horizon.  Washington is attempting to impose a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Europe and a similar Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Asia.  Both favor globalizing American corporations and their aim is visibly to impede the ascent of the BRICS economies and the rise of other emerging markets, while solidifying American global economic hegemony.

Two stark facts, carefully noted in Moscow, Beijing, and Berlin, suggest the hardcore geopolitics behind these two “commercial” pacts. The TPP excludes China and the TTIP excludes Russia. They represent, that is, the barely disguised sinews of a future trade/monetary war.  On my own recent travels, I have had quality agricultural producers in Spain, Italy, and France repeatedly tell me that TTIP is nothing but an economic version of NATO, the military alliance that China’s Xi Jinping calls, perhaps wishfully, an “obsolete structure.” 

There is significant resistance to the TTIP among many EU nations (especially in the Club Med countries of southern Europe), as there is against the TPP among Asian nations (especially Japan and Malaysia).  It is this that gives the Chinese and the Russians hope for their new Silk Roads and a new style of trade across the Eurasian heartland backed by a Russian-supported Eurasian Union. To this, key figures in German business and industrial circles, for whom relations with Russia remain essential, are paying close attention. 

After all, Berlin has not shown overwhelming concern for the rest of the crisis-ridden EU (three recessions in five years). Via a much-despised troika—the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission—Berlin is, for all practical purposes, already at the helm of Europe, thriving, and looking east for more.

Three months ago, German chancellor Angela Merkel visited Beijing. Hardly featured in the news was the political acceleration of a potentially groundbreaking project: an uninterrupted high-speed rail connection between Beijing and Berlin. When finally built, it will prove a transportation and trade magnet for dozens of nations along its route from Asia to Europe. Passing through Moscow, it could become the ultimate Silk Road integrator for Europe and perhaps the ultimate nightmare for Washington.

“Losing” Russia
In a blaze of media attention, the recent NATO summit in Wales yielded only a modest “rapid reaction force” for deployment in any future Ukraine-like situations. Meanwhile, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a possible Asian counterpart to NATO, met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In Washington and Western Europe essentially no one noticed.  They should have. There, China, Russia, and four Central Asian “stans” agreed to add an impressive set of new members: India, Pakistan, and Iran.  The implications could be far-reaching. After all, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now on the brink of its own version of Silk Road mania. Behind it lies the possibility of a “Chindia” economic rapprochement, which could change the Eurasian geopolitical map. At the same time, Iran is also being woven into the “Chindia” fold.

So the SCO is slowly but surely shaping up as the most important international organization in Asia.  It’s already clear that one of its key long-term objectives will be to stop trading in U.S. dollars, while advancing the use of the petroyuan and petroruble in the energy trade. The U.S., of course, will never be welcomed into the organization. 

All of this lies in the future, however.  In the present, the Kremlin keeps signaling that it once again wants to start talking with Washington, while Beijing has never wanted to stop. Yet the Obama administration remains myopically embedded in its own version of a zero-sum game, relying on its technological and military might to maintain an advantageous position in Eurasia.  Beijing, however, has access to markets and loads of cash, while Moscow has loads of energy. Triangular cooperation between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow would undoubtedly be—as the Chinese would say—a win-win-win game, but don’t hold your breath.

Instead, expect China and Russia to deepen their strategic partnership, while pulling in other Eurasian regional powers. Beijing has bet the farm that the U.S./NATO confrontation with Russia over Ukraine will leave Vladimir Putin turning east. At the same time, Moscow is carefully calibrating what its ongoing reorientation toward such an economic powerhouse will mean. Someday, it’s possible that voices of sanity in Washington will be wondering aloud how the U.S. “lost” Russia to China.

In the meantime, think of China as a magnet for a new world order in a future Eurasian century.  The same integration process Russia is facing, for instance, seems increasingly to apply to India and other Eurasian nations, and possibly sooner or later to a neutral Germany as well. In the endgame of such a process, the U.S. might find itself progressively squeezed out of Eurasia, with the BMB emerging as a game-changer. Place your bets soon.  They’ll be called in by 2025.

— Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times (Hong Kong), an analyst for RT (Russia Today) and contributor to TomDispatch, where this article was posted Oct. 5. Nimble Books will publish his new book, “Empire of Chaos,” in November.


   Islamic State militants atop a hill in the Syrian town of Kobani.  (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

By Andrew J. Bacevich

As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.

With our 14th front barely opened, the Pentagon foresees a campaign likely to last for years. Yet even at this early date, this much already seems clear: Even if we win, we lose. Defeating the Islamic State would only commit the United States more deeply to a decades-old enterprise that has proved costly and counterproductive.

Back in 1980, President Jimmy Carter touched things off when he announced that the United States would use force to prevent the Persian Gulf from falling into the wrong hands. In effect, with the post-Ottoman order created by European imperialists — chiefly the British — after World War I apparently at risk, the United States made a fateful decision: It shouldered responsibility for preventing that order from disintegrating further. Britain’s withdrawal from “east of Suez,” along with the revolution in Iran and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, prompted Washington to insert itself into a region in which it previously avoided serious military involvement.

At the time, oil — not freedom, democracy or human rights — defined the principal American interest, and stability was the goal. Military power offered the means by which the United States hoped to attain that goal. Armed might would keep a lid on things. The pot might simmer, but it wouldn’t boil over.

In practice, however, whether putting boots on the ground or relying on missiles from above, subsequent U.S. efforts to promote stability have tended to produce just the opposite. Part of the problem is that American policymakers have repeatedly given in to the temptation to unleash a bit of near-term chaos, betting that longer-term order will emerge on the other end.

Back in Vietnam, this was known as burning down the village to save it. In the Greater Middle East, it has meant dismantling a country with the aim of erecting something more preferable — “regime change” as a prelude to “nation building.” Unfortunately, the United States has proved considerably more adept at the former than the latter.
Syrian man runs to escape military truck.

Mostly, coercive regime change has produced power vacuums. Iraq offers a glaring example. Although studiously ignored by Washington, post-Gaddafi Libya offers a second. And unless the gods are in an exceptionally generous mood, Afghanistan will probably become a third whenever U.S. and NATO combat troops finally depart.

In place of governing arrangements that Washington judged objectionable, the United States has found itself coping with the absence of any effective governments whatsoever. Instead of curbing bad behavior, spanking induced all sorts of pathologies.

By inadvertently sowing instability, the United States has played directly into the hands of anti-Western radical Islamists intent on supplanting the European-imposed post-Ottoman order with something more to their liking. This is the so-called caliphate that Osama bin Laden yearned to create and that now exists in embryonic form in the portions of Iraq and Syria that Islamic State radicals control.

Want to measure what America’s war for the Middle East has accomplished through its first 13 iterations? The Islamic State has to rank prominently on any list of achievements. If Iraq possessed minimally effective security forces, Islamic State militants wouldn’t have a chance. But the Iraqi army we created won’t fight, in considerable measure because the Iraqi government we created doesn’t govern.

President Obama did not initiate the long and varied sequence of military actions that has produced this situation. Yet he finds himself caught in a dilemma. To give the Islamic State a free hand is to allow proponents of the caliphate to exploit the instability that U.S. efforts, some involving Obama himself, have fostered. But to make Syria the latest free-fire zone in America’s never-ending Middle East misadventure will almost surely prolong and exacerbate the agonies that country is experiencing, with little ability to predict what consequences will ensue.

Even if U.S. and allied forces succeed in routing this militant group, there is little reason to expect that the results for Syrians will be pretty — or that the prospects of regional harmony will improve. Suppress the symptoms, and the disease simply manifests itself in other ways. There is always another Islamic State waiting in the wings.

Obama’s bet — the same bet made by each of his predecessors, going back to Carter — is that the skillful application of U.S. military might can somehow provide a way out of this dilemma. They were wrong, and so is he.

We may be grateful that Obama has learned from his predecessor that invading and occupying countries in this region of the world just doesn’t work. The lesson he will bequeath to his successor is that drone strikes and commando raids don’t solve the problem, either.

We must hope for victory over the Islamic State. But even if achieved, that victory will not redeem but merely prolong a decades-long military undertaking that was flawed from the outset. When the 14th campaign runs its course, the 15th will no doubt be waiting, perhaps in Jordan or in a return visit to some unfinished battleground such as Libya or Somalia or Yemen.

Yet even as the United States persists in its determination to pacify the Greater Middle East, the final verdict is already in. U.S. military power has never offered an appropriate response to whatever ails the Islamic world. We’ve committed our troops to a fool’s errand.

And worse, the errand is also proving unnecessary. With abundant North American energy reserves now accessible — all that shale oil and fracked gas — we don’t need the Persian Gulf oil that ostensibly made our post-1980 military exertions imperative. For whatever reasons, Washington’s national security elites seem oblivious to the implications these resources have for policy in the Middle East.

No matter how long it lasts, America’s war for the Greater Middle East will end in failure. And when it does, Americans will discover that it was also superfluous.

—Andrew J. Bacevich, the George McGovern fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, is writing a history of U. S. military involvement in the Greater Middle East.
— From Outlook, WP

By Mercy for Animals

A new Mercy For Animals undercover investigation reveals appalling animal abuse at a Leprino Foods dairy supplier. Leprino Foods is the world’s largest mozzarella cheese producer and a supplier to virtually all of the major pizza chains in the country, including Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Domino’s.

The shocking hidden-camera video footage shows:

·      Workers viciously kicking and punching cows, and stabbing them with screwdrivers, causing bloody wounds and injuries
·      Cows being violently whipped in their faces and bodies with chains and metal wires
·      Workers maliciously shocking sick and injured cows and dragging them with tractors
·      Sick or injured cows suffering from open wounds, infections, and injuries left to suffer without proper veterinary care

Treated as mere milk-producing machines, cows exploited and killed for cheese used on pizzas endure lives of near constant misery and deprivation. This has to stop!

To sign a petition calling on Leprino Foods to immediately implement meaningful animal welfare policies, go to


1.  It’s amazing the number of young people involved in the environmental movement, especially climate change. If you didn’t see the Sept. 30 half hour Bill Moyers and Company program on public TV here is an opportunity to see and listen to his guest, an 18-year-old women from Oregon named Kelsey Juliana, who is walking from west to east across America to draw attention to climate change. It is inspiring.

2.  Marshall Islands poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner read a poem, written for her seven month old daughter, to heads of state and government today at the UN climate summit Sept. 23. First she makes a very brief speech, then recites her moving poem. Her country is one of the most vulnerable to climate change, as rising sea levels threaten to submerge the low-lying coral atolls that make up the nation

3.  The extraordinary Palestinian film “Omar,” released earlier this year and nominated for an academy award, is now on DVD available at Mid-Hudson and other libraries (waiting list) or Netflix. We recommend it highly. It is very informative about how both sides interact between the West Bank and Israel, where the action takes place and the characters live. There are quite surprising elements and plot twists and a dramatic ending. Here are some reviews: