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Republicans Admit Their Tax Plan Is All About Rich Donors

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:36am

By Peter Certo | (Otherwords.org) | – –

It’s unpopular. It’s expensive. But the donors want it.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that people in “real America” with “real jobs” don’t while away their mortal hours reading about politics. But God help me, if you’ve suffered through any coverage of the Republican tax plan, you’ve probably heard three things.

First, it’ll dramatically slash taxes on corporations and billionaires, raise them for nearly a third of us in the middle class, and blow a $1.5 trillion hole in the deficit.

Second, it’s unpopular. Less than a third of Americans support it, Reuters reports. That’s worse than Trump’s own approval rating, which remains mired in the 30s.

And third, the Republicans who control Congress believe it simply must pass.

In fact, this third point sets the tenor for the entire debate. “Republicans are desperate to rack up a legislative win after a series of embarrassing failures,” TIME observes. “If tax reform doesn’t pass, many in the party fear an all-out revolt in 2018.”

“All of us realize that if we fail on taxes, that’s the end of the Republican Party’s governing majority in 2018,” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told Fox News recently. In fact, “that’s probably the end of the Republican Party as we know it.”

If the tax giveaway doesn’t pass, adds Utah Republican Mike Lee, “We might as well pack up our tent and go home.”

The thing is, that doesn’t make any sense. Gallup polls have shown over and over that most Americans think rich people and corporations should pay more, not less. Even a majority of Republican voters worry about what this wealth grab will do to the deficit.

If they were looking for a win, then, Republicans would be running against their own plan. So what gives?

Well, New York Republican Chris Collins recently offered a clue: “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’” Ah!

Many voters in Collins’ high-tax district will likely pay more, since the GOP wants to end federal deductions for state and local taxes. But it doesn’t have a lick to do with voters. It has everything to do with the affluent donors who bankroll GOP campaigns.

A similar dynamic played out in the health care debate. GOP leaders trotted out plan after plan that would eliminate coverage for anywhere from 20 to 24 million Americans — plans that never topped the low 20s in public support.

But those plans would have reduced taxes on the wealthy. So they had to pass.

“Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who has been deeply involved in health policy for years, told reporters back home that he could count 10 reasons the new health proposal should not reach the floor,” the New York Times reported back in September, “but that Republicans needed to press ahead regardless.”

When those bills met their righteous demise, elite GOP fundraising took a huge dive. Senate Republicans lost $2 million in planned contributions alone, The Hill noted this summer. Fundraising in those months fell some $5 million below where it had been in the spring.

So there it is, team: Follow the money. It’s no wonder Princeton researchers found a few years ago that rich people matter to Congress, but ordinary folks generally don’t. That’s probably why many of us prefer to tune it out entirely.

It’s also exactly why we do have to pay attention. Especially in those rare moments when members admit exactly what’s going on.

Via Otherwords.org

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Vox: “Republicans admit that ceos and donors really need the tax cut bill to pass — or else”

Militant Buddhism is on the march in South-East Asia; Why Now?

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:27am

By Peter Lehr | (The Conversation) | – –

Even ten years on, the first mental image that comes to mind with regard to Theravāda Buddhism is that of Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution of August-September 2007: thousands of Buddhist monks peacefully demonstrating in the streets of Yangon, Mandalay, Pakokku, Sittwe and other towns against the ruling military junta. These peaceful monks still exist, although many of them went into hiding, or fled abroad. But the Burmese monks in the headlines today are preaching violence instead of peace, and “firm action” instead of meditation.

It’s not just in Myanmar that this militant Buddhism is on the rise: it’s also surfacing in the other two leading Theravādin countries: Sri Lanka and Thailand. In all three countries, Buddhists make up the vast majority of the population: 70% in Sri Lanka, 88% in Myanmar, and 93% in Thailand. One could be excused for thinking that there is nothing to worry about: with such towering demographic majorities, Buddhists are surely to some extent safe and secure in their respective countries.

This is not how the militant monks see things. They are convinced that Buddhism is under siege, and in grave danger of being wiped out. To explain this, they point out that while Muslims or Hindu Tamils (in the case of Sri Lanka) are in the minority in these countries, they enjoy significant support from beyond their national borders.

In Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the notion that a non-Buddhist minority is the vanguard of an imminent invasion is very strong indeed. It is believed that firm action has to be taken to prevent “them” from taking over Buddhist lands and eradicating Buddhism. Basically, the militant monks see their communities as targets of a relentless “holy war”, and see it as their duty, to respond in kind with their own variant of “holy war”.

Justifying violence

The conviction that Buddhism is under threat also allows these leaders to justify the use of violence. Militant monks usually start their argumentation by pointing out that even the Buddha himself showed some understanding for the wars conducted by his benefactor King Pasenadi instead of condemning them. He did still warn him that “killing, you gain your killer, conquering, you gain the one who will conquer you” – the message being that violence begets violence. Even for the Buddha, then, nonviolence was not necessarily an absolute value – a point seized on by many of today’s militant monks. Although they readily concede that an offensive use of violence should never be allowed, they point out that peaceful and nonviolent Buddhist communities still have the right to defend themselves, especially if and when the survival of the religion as such is at stake.

This point of view is dated. As soon as Buddhist-majority states came into being, the monkhood had to find ways to justify violence, including war, especially that perpetrated by their virtuous sovereign against an opponent. Indeed it was by the monarch’s benevolence, and under the law and order he created, that the monastic order was able to survive.

An early example of such a justification comes from the Sinhalese Mahāvamsa (the Great Chronicle): After a battle against a Hindu-Tamil army, Buddhist King Dutugāmunu felt remorse for all the deaths he had caused, and asked senior monks for advice. They basically told him not to worry since he had caused the deaths of only one and a half persons – one who had just converted to Buddhism, and another who had been a Buddhist lay follower. All the rest had just been “unbelievers and men of evil life […], not more to be esteemed than beasts”.

This notable verdict implies that killing is excusable as long as the intention behind it is in the defence of the religion. Not surprisingly, this quote still is used to condone the use of violence – most recently by the Sitagu Sayadaw, an esteemed Burmese monastic leader, in order to justify the current persecution of perceived enemies of both state and religion – in this case, the Rohingya.

Sanctioning the violent actions of one’s ruler or one’s government is one thing; actively inciting lay-followers to commit such acts in defence of the religion is something completely different. Compared to “preachers of hate” from Abrahamic religions, today’s militant monks have a difficult tightrope to walk, since incitement to murder constitutes one of Buddhism’s four disrobing offences (pārājikas) – offences resulting in the automatic expulsion from the monkhood. In September for example, a Thai monk was forced to disrobe because he had publicly demanded that for each monk killed in Thailand’s deep south, a mosque should be torched.

Most militant monks are therefore very careful in avoiding open calls to violence – instead, they attend mass rallies and demonstrations to stoke anti-Muslim sentiments and to preach “passive resistance” or “pro-Buddhist affirmative action”: not buying from Muslims, not selling to Muslims, not fraternising with Muslims, not allowing one’s children to marry Muslims. They leave it to their followers, especially those organised in pro-state vigilante groups or Buddhist militias, to draw the right conclusions.

Although there is anecdotal evidence of armed monks actively taking part in violence, the majority of militant monks shy away from directly becoming involved: again, this would be a grave violation of the monastic code. Ashin Wirathu, a monk and leader of the Burmese anti-Muslim movement, describes this passive role very eloquently: “I am only warning people about Muslims. Consider it like if you had a dog, that would bark at strangers coming to your house – it is to warn you. I am like that dog. I bark.”

The rise of this strain of militant Theravāda Buddhism can be explained in ethnic, social and economic terms, but from the perspective of the militant monks themselves, it’s about religion. It’s not about the control of resources or worldly goods, but a defensive “holy war” or “Dhamma Yudhaya” in response to a perceived aggressive “jihad” against Buddhism that has been waged for centuries, from the destruction of the Buddhist library in Nalanda/Bihar at the end of the 12th century, to the destruction of the famous Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001.

This somewhat simplistic reading of history, reminiscent of Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis, reinforces the militant monks’ belief that now is the time not for peaceful meditation, but for firm action. The Buddha’s warning that violence begets violence seems to have fallen on deaf ears for the time being.

Peter Lehr, Lecturer in Terrorism Studies, University of St Andrews

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Sky News: “Special Report: The Rohingya refugee crisis”

Is Saudi King Salman about to be pushed aside by Son?

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 - 12:13am

TeleSur | – –

Speculation has mounted that the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz, will step down and pass the throne to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman next week.

The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail quoted a source “close to the royal family” by saying that the 81-year-old King Salman plans to abdicate and hand power over to his son, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, that has recently taken a de facto leadership role in Saudi Arabia.

The source claims that Salman plans to “continue only as a ceremonial figurehead” while “handing over official leadership of the country to his son.”

His son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly referred to as “MBS”, already holds key positions within the government and has promised to usher in sweeping changes such as granting more rights to women and returning to a “moderate Islam.”

The source continued to the Daily Mail: “Unless something dramatic happens, King Salman will announce the appointment of MBS as King of Saudi Arabia next week. King Salman will play the role of the queen of England. He will only keep the title ‘Custodian of the Holy Shrines.’”

According to reports, this comes as a reaction to recent events in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and recent turmoil in Lebanon.

“MBS is convinced that he has to hit Iran and Hezbollah,” the Daily Mail source said.

“MBS’s plan is to start the fire in Lebanon, but he’s hoping to count on Israeli military backing. He has already promised Israel billions of dollars in direct financial aid if they agree.”

“MBS cannot confront Hezbollah in Lebanon without Israel. Plan B is to fight Hezbollah in Syria,” said the source.

Analysts have suggested that Israel is not willing to engage in a costly war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, especially at the behest of Saudi Arabia.

The report by the Daily Mail hinted that King Salman may be suffering from dementia, which would explain a swift exchange in power while attempting to save face by keeping quiet on the matter.

These statements are unconfirmed and have not been corroborated by Saudi officials.

TeleSur

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

WION: “Report: Saudi King is planning to step down”

Lebanese PM Hariri arrives in or Escapes to France

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 2:13am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri arrived Saturday morning with his family in Paris, after a two-week stay in Saudi Arabia, where he is a dual citizen and has a mansion. Lebanese president Michel Aoun had charged that Saudi Arabia had taken Hariri hostage, but the latter denies the charge. The trip (or escape) to Paris was arranged by French president Emmanuel Macron on a trip to Riyadh earlier this week. France is the former colonial power in Lebanon and has excellent relations with Saudi Arabia because of security cooperation and substantial arms sales to the kingdom by Paris.

Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil had visited Moscow on Thursday and while there said that Hariri’s resignation was an attempt to force out President Aoun (a long-time ally of the Shiite Hizbullah). What is more likely is that Bin Salman is trying shape the outcome of the May, 2018, parliamentary elections.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, resigned by telephone from his post from Saudi Arabia, but the resignation was not accepted by Christian President Aoun, on the grounds that it had to be submitted while the PM was actually in Lebanon. It is rumored that he was forced to resign by Saudi crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman because he declined to take a strong stance against Hizbullah, the Shiite party-militia allied with Iran. Since 2016 Hariri has served in a national unity government dominated by Hizbullah and its Christian allies. Given the current shape of Lebanese politics, however, any Sunni prime minister (the prime minister in Lebanon is always Sunni) would have to cooperate with Hizbullah to keep power. President Aoun, a Christian, became president through such cooperation.

It is also rumored that Saudi authorities are annoyed that Hariri appears to have run through the $4 bn family wealth he inherited from his father, Rafiq Hariri, a fortune gained in Saudi Arabia. That wealth had allowed the formation of Future (al-Mustaqbal) TV, which aims at bolstering Sunni and Saudi soft power in Lebanon. And perhaps it was intended to back the formation of a Sunni militia at one point, but those plans have failed. The Saudis may be tired of bankrolling the allegedly profligate Hariri. That is, Hariri may have gotten caught in the crown prince’s anti-corruption campaign, in the course of which he has detained several other wealthy Saudi citizens.

The Hariri affair is raising tensions inside Lebanon but also more generally. Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador to Germany to protest remarks of foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, who said that Lebanon must not become a Saudi plaything and implied that it was under Saudi influence.

On Thursday, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France was disturbed by the hegemonic temptation of Iran in the Middle East, drawing a sharp rebuked from Iran, which accused France of taking sides.

Hariri’s actions and decisions in the coming month will help analysts predict the economic health of Lebanon and the Middle East in the coming year or two.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

FR24 Eng. Hariri to visit France: “Lebanon is increasingly caught between Saudi Arabia and Iran”

US-Led Bombings in Iraq Killed 31 Times More Civilians Than Reported: NYT

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 12:35am

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer| ( Commondreams.org ) | – –

New York Times reporters uncovered “consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate” in what “may be the least transparent war in recent American history”

An 18-month investigation by a pair of New York Times reporters reveals far more civilians are killed in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—particularly in the air war—than the U.S.-led coalition reports.

After visiting nearly 150 bombing sites in northern Iraq between April 2016 and June 2017, as well as the American base in Qatar where decisions are made about coalition air strikes, Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal “found that one in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.”

Since the U.S.-war against ISIS began in August 2014, the coalition has released monthly reports in which it claims tens of thousands of ISIS combatants and 466 civilians have been killed in Iraq. While the coalition claims civilians have died in only 89 of its more than 14,000 airstrikes in Iraq, Khan and Gopal’s on-the-ground reporting suggests the civilian death toll from coalition bombings in well into the thousands. U.K.-based Airwars estimates at least 3,000 civilians have been killed, but the group’s director told the reporters Airwars “may be significantly underreporting deaths in Iraq” due to lack of reliable reporting.

In addition to touring and satellite mapping the destroyed sites, Khan and Gopal pored over local news reports, and interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants, and local officials. At the air base in Qatar, they “were given access to the main operations floor and interviewed senior commanders, intelligence officials, legal advisers, and civilian-casualty assessment experts.” The also handed over data they collected on 103 air strikes from ISIS-controlled regions and examined analysts’ responses.

“Our reporting,” they write, “revealed a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all,” concluding, “this may be the least transparent war in recent American history.”

In addition to poor record-keeping and neglecting investigations, the reporters point to civlians unexpectedly being near to an ISIS target and “flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants” as common reasons for civilian casualties.

The coalition and the U.S. Department of Defense post videos of bombings to their websites, which “are presented as evidence of a military campaign unlike any other—precise, transparent and unyielding,” Khan and Gopal write. A Central Command spokesperson insists that “U.S. and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes,” and that the coalition is “conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history”—but one such clip previously featured on the sites is a bombing of two homes with a caption claiming they were operating an ISIS car-bomb factory.

The homes were in fact owned by Iraqi civilians—Basim Razzo and his brother. The reporters recount the killings of Razzo’s loved ones in vivid detail. Razzo is a 56-year-old who worked as account manager for a Chinese multinational telecommunications company; in the 1980s, while he studied engineering at Western Michigan University, his wife Mayada sold Avon products to their neighbors. A few days after the attack, the badly wounded Razzo wrote on Facebook: “In the middle of the night, coalition airplanes targeted two houses occupied by innocent civilians. Is this technology? This barbarian attack cost me the lives of my wife, daughter, brother, and nephew.”

In response to Razzo’s effort to seek compensation and an apology, and the reporters’ investigation, Razzo was offered a “condolence payment” from the coalition several months after the attack—which he declined—but, through documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, he was able to learn a bit more about how their homes had been misidentified, surveilled, and destroyed.

“Despite everything, Basim could not bring himself to hate Americans,” Khan and Gopal write. “In fact, this experience was further evidence for a theory he had harbored for a while: that he, fellow Iraqis and even ordinary Americans were all bit players in a drama bigger than any of them.”

Because of his ties to the U.S, Razzo occasionally video conferences with university students about his experiences. “I have nothing against the regular American citizen. I lived among you guys for eight years,” he recently told a Penn State class of about 750 students. “This situation of war, big corporations are behind it.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Via Commondreams.org

————

Related video added by Juan Cole:

PBS Newshour: “Report finds disparities in civilian deaths from U.S.-led ISIS bombing campaign”

Despite Trump Pledge: Keystone Pipeline Spills 210,000 Gallons of Oil in Dakota

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 12:18am

TeleSur | – –

Environmental activist group Greenpeace said the leak demonstrated that approval should not be given for another section of the 2,600-mile pipeline planned for Nebraska.

At least 210,000 gallons of oil have leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota in the United States, just days before a crucial decision due on whether to grant a permit for a long-delayed sister pipeline.

The spill, which amounts to some 5,000 barrels, is the largest oil spill to date in South Dakota, said a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Crews immediately shut down the Marshall County pipeline on Thursday morning, and officials are now investigating the cause of the leak. So far, there have been no reports of damage to waterways or wildlife, CNN reports.

The pipeline’s operator, TransCanada, said in a statement: “The safety of the public and environment are our top priorities and we will continue to provide updates as they become available.”

But environmental activist group Greenpeace said the leak demonstrated that approval should not be given for another section of the 2,600-mile pipeline, which delivers crude oil from Canada to Texas, to be built in Nebraska.

In March, President Donald Trump’s administration officially issued a permit that approved construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Environmentalists oppose the project because it would cut across the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground freshwater deposits. And Native American groups have argued the pipeline would cut across their sovereign lands.

“The Nebraska Public Service Commission needs to take a close look at this spill,” said Greenpeace spokesman Rachel Rye Butler. “A permit approval allowing Canadian oil company TransCanada to build Keystone XL is a thumbs-up to likely spills in the future.”

Jane Kleeb, head of the Nebraska Democratic Party and a longtime activist opposed to Keystone XL, told the Washington Post: “TransCanada cannot be trusted. I have full confidence that the Nebraska Public Service Commission is going to side with Nebraskans, not a foreign oil company.”

TransCanada said the latest leak occurred about 35 miles south of the Ludden pump station, which is in southeast North Dakota, and that it was “completely isolated” within 15 minutes.

The company said it has obtained permission from the landowner to assess the spill and plan the clean-up operation.

Via TeleSur

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Related Tweet added by Juan Cole:

Wow!

The genius of Trump the Brilliant!

"Keystone" "South Dakota" "TransCanada" pic.twitter.com/aUQBTB7FLH

— Paul Michael

Our heat trapping gas Emissions hit Record High in Planetary Threat

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 12:13am

The Conversation: Pep Canadell, CSIRO; Corinne Le Quéré, University of East Anglia; Glen Peters, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo; Robbie Andrew, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo; Rob Jackson, Stanford University, and Vanessa Haverd, CSIRO

Global greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels and industry are on track to grow by 2% in 2017, reaching a new record high of 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to the 2017 Global Carbon Budget, released today.

The rise follows a remarkable three-year period during which global CO₂ emissions barely grew, despite strong global economic growth.

But this year’s figures suggest that the keenly anticipated global peak in emissions – after which greenhouse emissions would ultimately begin to decline – has yet to arrive.

The Global Carbon Budget, now in its 12th year, brings together scientists and climate data from around the world to develop the most complete picture available of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In a series of three papers, the Global Carbon Project’s 2017 report card assesses changes in Earth’s sources and sinks of CO₂, both natural and human-induced. All excess CO₂ remaining in the atmosphere leads to global warming.

We believe society is unlikely to return to the high emissions growth rates of recent decades, given continued improvements in energy efficiency and rapid growth in low-carbon energies. Nevertheless, our results are a reminder that there is no room for complacency if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which calls for temperatures to be stabilised at “well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels”. This requires net zero global emissions soon after 2050.

After a brief plateau, 2017’s emissions are forecast to hit a new high.
Global Carbon Project, Author provided
National trends

The most significant factor in the resumption of global emissions growth is the projected 3.5% increase in China’s emissions. This is the result of higher energy demand, particularly from the industrial sector, along with a decline in hydro power use because of below-average rainfall. China’s coal consumption grew by 3%, while oil (5%) and gas (12%) continued rising. The 2017 growth may result from economic stimulus from the Chinese government, and may not continue in the years ahead.

The United States and Europe, the second and third top emitters, continued their decade-long decline in emissions, but at a reduced pace in 2017.

For the US, the slowdown comes from a decline in the use of natural gas because of higher prices, with the loss of its market share taken by renewables and to a lesser extent coal. Importantly, 2017 will be the first time in five years that US coal consumption is projected to rise slightly (by about 0.5%).

The EU has now had three years (including 2017) with little or no decline in emissions, as declines in coal consumption have been offset by growth in oil and gas.

Unexpectedly, India’s CO₂ emissions will grow only about 2% this year, compared with an average 6% per year over the past decade. This reduced growth rate is likely to be short-lived, as it was linked to reduced exports, lower consumer demand, and a temporary fall in currency circulation attributable to demonetisation late in 2016.

Trends for the biggest emitters, and everyone else.
Global Carbon Project, Author provided

Yet despite this year’s uptick, economies are now decarbonising with a momentum that was difficult to imagine just a decade ago. There are now 22 countries, for example, for which CO₂ emissions have declined over the past decade while their economies have continued to grow.

Concerns have been raised in the past about countries simply moving their emissions outside their borders. But since 2007, the total emissions outsourced by countries with emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol (that is, developed countries, including the US) has declined.

This suggests that the downward trends in emissions of the past decade are driven by real changes to economies and energy systems, and not just to offshoring emissions.

Other countries, such as Russia, Mexico, Japan, and Australia have shown more recent signs of slowdowns, flat growth, and somewhat volatile emissions trajectories as they pursue a range of different climate and energy policies in recent years.

Still, the pressure is on. In 101 countries, representing 50% of global CO₂ emissions, emissions increased as economies grew. Many of these countries will be pursuing economic development for years to come.

Contrasting fortunes among some of the world’s biggest economies.
Nigel Hawtin/Future Earth Media Lab/Global Carbon Project, Author provided
A peek into the future

During the three-year emissions “plateau” – and specifically in 2015-16 – the accumulation of CO₂ in the atmosphere grew at a record high that had not previously been observed in the half-century for which measurements exist.

It is well known that during El Niño years such as 2015-16, when global temperatures are higher, the capacity of terrestrial ecosystems to take up CO₂ (the “land sink”) diminishes, and atmospheric CO₂ growth increases as a result.

The El Niño boosted temperatures by roughly a further 0.2℃. Combined with record high levels of fossil fuel emissions, the atmospheric CO₂ concentration grew at a record rate of nearly 3 parts per million per year.

This event illustrates the sensitivity of natural systems to global warming. Although a hot El Niño might not be the same as a sustained warmer climate, it nevertheless serves as a warning of the global warming in store, and underscores the importance of continuing to monitor changes in the Earth system.

The effect of the strong 2015-16 El Niño on the growth of atmospheric CO₂ can clearly be seen.
Nigel Hawtin/Future Earth Media Lab/Global Carbon Project, based on Peters et al., Nature Climate Change 2017, Author provided
No room for complacency

There is no doubt that progress has been made in decoupling economic activity from CO₂ emissions. A number of central and northern European countries and the US have shown how it is indeed possible to grow an economy while reducing emissions.

Other positive signs from our analysis include the 14% per year growth of global renewable energy (largely solar and wind) – albeit from a low base – and the fact that global coal consumption is still below its 2014 peak.

These trends, and the resolute commitment of many countries to make the Paris Agreement a success, suggest that CO₂ emissions may not return to the high-growth rates experienced in the 2000s. However, an actual decline in global emissions might still be beyond our immediate reach, especially given projections for stronger economic growth in 2018.

To stabilise our climate at well below 2℃ of global warming, the elusive peak in global emissions needs to be reached as soon as possible, before quickly setting into motion the great decline in emissions needed to reach zero net emissions by around 2050.

Pep Canadell, CSIRO Scientist, and Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project, CSIRO; Corinne Le Quéré, Professor, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia; Glen Peters, Research Director, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo; Robbie Andrew, Senior Researcher, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo; Rob Jackson, Chair, Department of Earth System Science, and Chair of the Global Carbon Project, globalcarbonproject.org, Stanford University, and Vanessa Haverd, Senior research scientist, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Iraq defeated ISIL, but can it defeat Extremism?

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 - 12:03am

By Mustafa Habib | (Baghdad) | (Niqash.org) | – –

The military campaign against the Islamic State is almost over. But now, locals and politicians alike say, the Iraqi government must work to ensure they cannot return to recruit more followers.

Even as Iraq’s pro-government forces close in on Rawa, one of the very last strongholds of the extremist group known as the Islamic State, ordinary Iraqis everywhere are wondering where the extremists will turn up next.


An Iraqi soldier holds a flag up to celebrate the liberation of the town of Al Qaem recently.

A series of recent attacks and arrests are cause for concern. In Kirkuk, the headquarters of the Shiite Muslim militias in that city was attacked and a day after that, authorities announced they had arrested a terrorist network inside the city.

Last Saturday in Baghdad, local security forces announced that they had discovered an extremist cell in the city that had been planning to target pilgrims heading to the southern city of Karbala for special religious events as well as to mount an attack on locals in the capital’s central Karrada neighbourhood.

The government has chosen instead to remain silent about retaliatory acts like the destruction of homes and assassination of family members.

And in August, just a few days after the Iraqi government announced victories over the extremist group in Mosul and Tal Afar, the Islamic State, or IS, group managed to carry out an attack elsewhere in the country, on the outskirts of Dhi Qar province, that killed 74 people and injured almost 100.

Just like Al Qaeda before them, the IS group will use guerrilla and terrorist tactics to continue to harass the military and sew division among civilians. Even before the IS group occupied a single city, Al Qaeda succeeded in ratcheting up political and cultural tensions in the country for years.

“While the army was fighting in Mosul we saw hundreds of families trying to escape the city,” Abdul-Kareem al-Lami, a captain in the Iraqi army, told NIQASH. “We knew that some of them must have been members of the IS group, or at least sympathisers. It would have taken thousands of people to administrate big cities like Mosul and in Anbar province – so the IS group would have recruited many locals to help with this. But we could not arrest or interrogate them all.”

It is a major problem, al-Lami argues. Intelligence officers are continuing to investigate and to interrogate residents of former IS-occupied areas and they’re making arrests, he notes. “But a lot of people also succeeded in hiding. And there are also many families where one, or maybe more, members joined the IS group. These families need to be assured that they will not be victimized or considered terrorists. If that happens, then those families would become the next recruits for the IS group.”

“One of the government’s biggest challenges after victories over the IS group is how to deal professionally and humanely with the IS families,” suggests Hisham al-Hashimi, a researcher into armed militias in Iraq who also advises the Iraqi government. Al-Hashimi notes that many of the families have been corralled into camps and kept separate from the rest of the population – this has happened in Mosul, and the provinces of Anbar and Salahaddin. Often the families’ homes were destroyed, or they were simply not allowed to return to them.

“The government has chosen instead to put them into inhumane camps and to remain silent about retaliatory acts like the destruction of homes and assassination of family members,” Al-Hashimi continues. “It’s bad for the government’s reputation. But it’s not just that. There are around 100,000 people in families with a connection to the IS group and there is a likelihood that, if the harsh treatment continues, they will make up the next generation of the IS group.”

Then again it is also very difficult for the Iraqi government to do much about this problem in some areas. They only barely control security in cities formerly run by the IS group and have not managed to restore all sorts of state services or been able to accomplish much reconstruction. Security in the different areas is often controlled by a patchwork of official, semi-official, and unofficial groups, including the military, militias and tribal groups.

The next fight against the extremists will be one that focuses on intelligence, says Iraqi MP Iskandar Wattout, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s security committee. “The battle against the extremists will continue but we have to change tactics, because it’s not about fighting a war anymore,” he told NIQASH. “Over the coming months we need to work harder with the intelligence community and with sharing information with other nations. We need information on sleeper cells and on the places where IS fighters have fled, such as into the desert between Anbar, Salahaddin and Mosul, which is often called their ‘desert island’.”

The extremists thrive on community division, say analysts and politicians alike. Bombings or terrorist acts that target one community and not another, only deepen existing discord in Iraq and have often resulted in politicians slinging insults and accusations, and increased enmity between different groups of Iraqis both in real life and online.

The latest events in northern Iraq are a good example of how political conflict works in extremists’ favour. The conflict between the country’s Kurds and Arabs over who should be in charge of the city of Kirkuk and its surrounds is something that the IS group can easily exploit.

The Iraqi government really needs to support people in the provinces from which the extremists have just been pushed, adds Noura al-Bijari, an MP for Ninawa province, of which Mosul is the capital. “Exclusions, marginalization and ignoring people’s needs for jobs and reconstruction is what creates resentment,” al-Bijari told NIQASH. “The government really needs to come up with serious plan for reconstruction or the extremists will continue to make good use of citizens’ dissatisfaction to recruit new members.”

Via Niqash.org

———-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

TRT World: “Iraqi army retakes Rawa, the last Daesh-held town in the country”

World, horrified at Trump, sends US Ranking Plummeting

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 - 3:28am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The US is usually number 1 in the German research firm Gfk’s rankings, headed up by political consultant Simon Anholt. They ask some 22,000 people around the world to rank countries on six scales.

This year it fell five full places to number 6. No such fall has taken place since 2004, when Americans elected George W. Bush to a second term. And in the past, falls only lasted for a year.

Angela Merkel is the leader of the free world, not Trump.

The Gfk’s poll doesn’t just measure favorability, but looks at 6 dimensions of a country, so that the US fall from grace is all the more surprising. The dimensions are governance, people, culture, exports, immigration-investment and tourism.

In governance, the US had been in 19th place. It is now in 23rd. Out of 50 countries. People think the US is worse governed than nearly half of the developed countries in the world. This dramatic fall in the governance score is pretty obviously caused by Trump.

There are categories where the US still performs very well. It is second in Culture and in Exports. So they like our music and films, and want to buy our cars. It is fifth for immigration-investment, which is a significant statistic. There are four other countries people from around the would rather invest in over the US, and four other countries they’d rather emigrate to than the US. I think the word got out that we as a country voted for Trump.

Germany has risen to the top of the list, displacing the US from global leadership. The only category where Germany is not in the top 5 is tourism. (Not sure why– Germany is *nice*.).

Germany improved its standing markedly in some countries. It was up 5 points in the view of Egyptians, e.g. But Americans are suspicious of it– it did not break the top ten with them.

France came in second, propelled by the popularity of Emmanuel Macron for governance but also benefiting from the impression that its culture and tourism are first rate.

Japan also climbed up the rankings this fall, in part on the quality of its exports.

The finding about the US decline is alarming and could be a sign that Trump is dragging the country down. In turn, that is important because many US goals require international cooperation.

————–

Lebanon PM Hariri will go to France from Saudi Arabia

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 - 2:27am

Middle East Monitor | – –

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his family are expected to visit Paris within 48 hours after he accepted an invitation from French President Emmanuel Macron.

After speaking with both Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman and Hariri himself by telephone, Macron made the invitation yesterday hours after Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun, said that there is no justification for the apparent Saudi imprisonment of Hariri.

The date and time of Hariri’s departure for France has not yet been announced, but a member of Hariri’s political party, the Future Movement, said yesterday that the former prime minister would arrive in Paris within the next 48 hours.

The invitation has sparked rumours that France is offering Hariri and his family exile, but when confronted with this question, Macron replied: “No, not at all. I hope that Lebanon will be stable, and that political choices should be in accordance with institutional rule.”

Read more: Lebanese president calls on Saudi to explain why Hariri has not returned

The offer of the visit comes amid a week of turmoil and confusion in Lebanon after Hariri suddenly and unexpectedly resigned during a visit to Saudi Arabia and did not return; causing fears that the Saudis are keeping him as a prisoner and are forcing his hand.

Hariri, however, has promised to return to Lebanon soon, though this has done little to dispel fears that he has been detained.

Last year, a political deal was reached in Lebanon in which a coalition was formed with Hariri as prime minister and Aoun as president. Hezbollah also joined the unity government, which incensed Saudi Arabia and convinced it that Iran was attempting to gain influence over the country. Following Hariri’s resignation, Saudi Arabia announced that Lebanon had declared war on it, prompting Hezbollah to claim that the Kingdom has declared war on Lebanon.

Via Middle East Monitor

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

——-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

France24: “Lebanon: Ex-PM Saad Hariri accepts Macron’s invitation to visit France”

Can a Free Internet Survive FCC End to Net Neutrality?

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 - 2:10am

TeleSur | – –

The Trump administration plans to deregulate internet access, effectively handing over the ‘free internet’ to private corporations.

Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, FCC, Ajit Pai, an appointee of U.S. President Donald Trump, will be presenting a plan next week to draw a December vote to reverse a 2015 net neutrality decision.

The administration of former U.S. President, Barack Obama, had reclassified internet services as a telecommunication service rather than an information service. This gave the federal government the power to regulate internet services under Title II of the Communications Act, which in turn diverted power away from private internet companies that hold all the mechanisms to control services and content.

Former FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, promised that this policy would guarantee “that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.”

Gabe Rottman, the ACLU’s legislative counsel at the time, remarked:

“This is a victory for free speech, plain and simple. Americans use the Internet not just to work and play, but to discuss politics and learn about the world around them. The FCC has a critical role to play in protecting citizens’ ability to see what they want and say what they want online, without interference. Title II provides the firmest possible foundation for such protections. We are still sifting through the full details of the new rules, but the main point is that the Internet, the primary place where Americans exercise their right to free expression, remains open to all voices and points of view.”

One of the dissenting votes against this landmark decision was Ajit Pai, who argued that the federal government had overstepped its authority by inserting itself into the internet.

According to sources speaking on the condition of anonymity to Reuters, the new FCC under Pai is expected to drop regulations against “paid prioritization,” where some websites are able to receive increased speeds and load times — at a price. This would have serious consequences for smaller sites that don’t have the money to pay higher internet service provider fees.

Industry leaders such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp, and Verizon Communications Inc say that this decision could generate billions in revenue and investments for the industry and that FCC deregulation could eliminate price controls on internet.

Critics say that ultimately the burden would be passed on to consumers, small businesses, and low-income households that struggle to maintain internet access.

Some tech companies such as Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc have retaliated against Pai’s proposal by urging the chairman to walk back the deregulation plan. These tech giants could face manipulations on their generated web traffic if Obama-era regulations are eliminated.

Free Press, an internet advocacy group, said that “we’ll learn the gory details in the next few days, but we know that Pai intends to dismantle the basic protections that have fueled the internet’s growth.”

Pai’s FCC is also planning to remove monopoly regulations in the media sector, including bans on cross ownership of TV stations and newspapers in major sectors.

Via TeleSur

————

The Ring of Fire: “How Trump’s FCC Chair Is Undermining Journalism & Democracy”

Groping for Manhood: Time for the Bystanders to Challenge the Bullies

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 - 12:15am

By Robert Lipsyte | (Tomdispatch.com) | – –

Almost 80, I’ve been stunned and bewildered by the ever-expanding list of sexually predatory males, from movie mogul Harvey Weinstein to former New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier to comedian Louis C.K. And it’s triggered a list of questions for me: Who raised these louts? How did they give themselves permission to harass and assault women the way they did? Why did they think they could get away with it? And above all, who enabled them to advance along this vicious spectrum from creepy remarks to groping to rape?

Slowly, I’ve come to a realization I probably should have had long ago.  It’s men like me, the bystanders, who enabled them. However righteous we may feel as they’re exposed and punished, the truth is we’re the problem, too.

But we’re at least part of the solution as well.

One lesson from Donald Trump’s boasts to a sycophantic TV broadcaster, revealed during his run for president, about grabbing “’em by the pussy”: sexual harassment — or even claiming to have done it — is just another way of preening for the pack. Trump obviously saw the female objects of his faux-macho lust as props. He might as well have put his hands on Billy Bush or me for that matter (as Kevin Spacey evidently did to young men on his movie sets). Alpha dogs like them have always been able to do more or less what they wanted — until, that is, people started listening to the women speaking up. And that reality reinforces who the cowards were: we bystander bros.

I learned that 70 years ago in my elementary school playground in Queens, New York. At recess, Crazy Ronnie pinned girls against the chain-link fence and cackled as he felt them up. We boys, maybe nine, ten, eleven years old, were afraid of Ronnie. No one of us could “take” him, so we just watched. Of course, three or four of us could have pulled him off and stopped it all. Even at that age, what were we thinking? Didn’t we read books and see movies about heroic male saviors of women and children? Could we have been getting our own secondhand thrills from his acts?

Eventually, a teacher would notice and drag him away, ending the show.  Nothing would be said and life would go on, except that the young girl probably wouldn’t forget the assault (and, as it turns out, neither would I).

When I started working at the New York Times in 1957 as a 19-year-old copyboy, there were few more approachable older guys in the newsroom than the motion picture editor and third-string movie critic known as Doc. The culture departments were next to sports, where I worked, and Doc was friendly, loud, and inclusive, especially when he lurched back from lunch, waving to the guys and squeezing the women.

Even then, though everyone seemed officially amused, it was discomfiting to watch. When I first arrived at the paper, he was 50-ish, short, with curly dark hair and a push-broom moustache. He played cute, acted puppy-ish as he stood on his toes to kiss cheeks or encircle a woman from behind. Mostly, he pawed young news assistants and secretaries. The few female editors and reporters at the Times in those days wouldn’t have been likely to tolerate his advances. He wasn’t that important.

It was a year or two before l worked up the nerve to ask any of the women why they suffered him that way. “Oh, that’s the way he is,” came the typical, slightly embarrassed answer, or “He’s really nice, he means no harm.” It took a lot longer for a few of them to trust me enough to confide that, while they thought he was a jerk, he still had the juice to drop a negative remark that could stall a promotion or hurt a future career.  He could have done that to me, too, then, had I intervened.

But once I was a reporter, presumably beyond his reach when it came to doing damage, why didn’t I step up?  Did I feel that such a move would also mean stepping beyond the brotherhood, marking myself as a grandstander, an outsider? Did I prefer to identify with the perp instead of the victim? Had I forgotten all the chivalric novels I’d read growing up and decided it just wasn’t my fight?

And then, one day, it was.

I began dating Marjorie, an ambitious secretary in the paper’s music department.  One necessity of her job was friendly relations with the culture editors since they controlled the assignments for the sorts of feature stories and reviews that would advance her career. In those years, that meant she’d grin and bear a little rubbing, which offended me — territorially.

So I made a show of sitting on the edge of her desk and glaring Doc away. In what I assumed was a gesture of macho courtesy, he then left her alone, even threw her some ideas for feature stories. Soon enough, some of those pieces got her a “promotion” to sub-editor in the women’s department, hardly what she wanted.

That was a systemic aspect of the routine sexism at the Times in those days, one that only added to the vulnerability of the women it employed.  It was so much harder to crack the “men’s departments” (that is, the rest of the paper). Marjorie soon left the Times and we got married. Doc was effusive in his congratulations.

It Starts With Jock Culture

For a while I assumed that Crazy Ronnie and Doc were discreet episodes, a boyhood psychopath and a jerk. But as a sportswriter for the next 50-odd years, I began to see both of them somewhat differently: as damaged victims of what I’ve come to think of as jock culture, that web of male attitudes and behavior that’s most commonly absorbed through sports participation, but can affect computer geeks and drama club nerds just as surely as it does varsity athletes.

The same jock-culture codes that we bumped up against in school — the ones that insisted that real men are tough, aggressive, take risks, and trust no one who isn’t on their team, especially women (by definition on the other team) — were waiting for us in the military, business, medicine, the law, and beyond.

Journalism, which expends a great deal of energy examining and carping about all forms of popular culture, rarely criticizes jock culture in any fundamental way. It may finally be ready to kick any celebrity caught with his pants down, but not even now does it expose the system that made him feel entitled to do whatever he wanted to do to whomever he could reach and abuse.  Not surprisingly, journalism itself has been exposed as a cesspool of abusive personal power, thanks to Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and most recently Mark Halperin.

In the 1980s, I found myself on air at the CBS Sunday Morning show where the executive producer indulged in some of the most vile and provocative language I’d ever heard directed at women. I never saw him actually touch anyone, but female producers winced and sometimes cried after he verbally assaulted and insulted them. At a meeting for my first assignment for his show, the executive producer, known as Shad, described my producer, who was standing right next to me, as a “crazed slut” who had to be watched every minute while we were on the road lest she embarrass us. I was flabbergasted. Once outside, I asked if she was all right. “Oh, he’s like that,” she told me. “Forget it. It’s like dues for working here and getting the good stories.”

I felt that Shad was not only reminding her but also showing me, as a newcomer, who was the boss. Since my dreams had never included a TV career (and I wasn’t a woman), I didn’t feel trapped by him the way my producer undoubtedly did. Unlike Crazy Ronnie, Shad, though taller than me, couldn’t “take” me. Unlike Doc he couldn’t damage my future, one I always assumed was in print, not on screen.

Nevertheless, as much as I could, I stayed away from him, feeling both resentful and diminished in his presence. Somehow, the fact that he was acclaimed as a brilliant television journalist only made matters worse. If that was the case, why did he need to flaunt his power in such a petty and repulsive way?

Several years later, after Shad had briefly left the show for a network assignment, he returned to discover that I was doing a piece on novelist Ernest Hemingway with his temporary replacement, a male senior producer. He called me into his office, slammed the door, and started screaming. How dare I do that behind his back!  That was his territory! What did I know about manhood or the sensibilities that he and Papa Hemingway shared? I had flashbacks to other bullies in my life and for the first time began yelling back. I told him that he was a sick man. I used unprintably worse names and even raised my hands to threaten him, which shocked us both. All of a sudden, we fell silent. My hands dropped to my side.  He opened the door and, as I marched out, he sneered, “You think that’s going to make you taller?” It was the best he could do. I felt triumphant… briefly.

A few days later, the senior producer told me that our Hemingway story was dead, no further explanation offered. I had no more problems with Shad, but my brief burst of pride in standing up to him faded fast. I hadn’t won because nothing had changed.  He still cursed at and made suggestive remarks about women, just not in my presence. Those who loved the show and needed the job had little choice but to take it. Others left.

I told the story to a male producer, my best friend on the show, a big former college athlete and ex-military officer, who admitted that he felt emasculated by Shad. He had long dreamed of punching him. Like me, however, he ended up just working around him. We never reported the hostile atmosphere he had created or confronted it in any public way. Looking back, I now understand that such behavior was another way of enabling him.  Think of us as the bystanders, a situation too common for the majority of men who don’t consider abusing women reasonable behavior. But how many of us could be judged complicit in the post-Harvey flood of accusations against the likes of filmmaker James Toback, Senate candidate Roy Moore, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, not to mention a directory of male Silicon Valley types? 

Rallying the Bystanders

Such “bystanding” attacks the heart of manhood, or at least what I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s thinking manhood entailed: taking responsibility for protecting those, women in particular, who couldn’t protect themselves from bullies. I understand now that none of this is so simple. Not all bullies cut and run when challenged and it’s increasingly obvious that women are anything but the “weaker sex” or necessarily want to be protected by men, especially if that protection represents just another example of male chauvinism. The male savior (still relentlessly promoted in pop books and films) is generally just using women as props in his rivalry with other men — a subtler version of what the sexual bullies are doing.

The real job, the hard job, for all of us male bystanders, isn’t to rescue women, but to rescue other men from their own worst behavior and so prevent abuse in the first place, be it by a heroic and possibly dangerous personal intervention or the more difficult political mission of, say, passing an Equal Rights Amendment. One of the crises of contemporary manhood and contemporary bystanderdom, perhaps the very reason for our passivity, our cowardice, is the realization that most of the time we can’t even protect ourselves from the men who intimidate us, who take pleasure in treating us like “girls.”

No wonder we, too, derive some pleasure from the precipitous falls of Harvey Weinstein, Leon Wieseltier, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Halperin, and the other celebs, politicians, and male eminences going down at the present moment. We sense with satisfaction that they’re finally paying for whatever they did or tried to do to women (or young men) sexually, for reducing them to powerless objects, just as they’ve always done, even if far less directly, to men like us, like me.

Women are finally rising up, spreading the net, pulling it tight. Maybe, at last, it’s our turn as well. So applaud #metoo, then raise #ustoo, where men can begin to be as courageous as the women who brought down the pigs. We have a lot of catching up to do. 

We need to keep expanding the “Harvey effect” into all the corrupt and abusive pockets of politics, entertainment, and business, as perilous as that can sometimes be.  It’s time, too, to begin bucking the trend of rewarding aggressive men.

And count on it, there will be a bro-lash. There are too many underdogs in the pack who think their fates are entwined with those of the alpha dogs, including those generals like White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in Washington, too many producers and actors in Hollywood, too many hedge-fund vice presidents in New York, too many engineers in Silicon Valley. But there are also millions of us dudes ready to become ex-bystanders, including old guys like me, who need to redeem ourselves from our histories with the Crazy Ronnies, Docs, and Shads, and young guys who need to be woken to the thrilling power of standing up to such bullies.

Someday soon — or so I dream — we’ll march, blow whistles, kick butt, but at least for today we’ll start small. We’ll just say something if we see something.

We’ll just say, “Don’t do that, brother. Be a man.”

Robert Lipsyte, a TomDispatch regular and author of the memoir An Accidental Sportswriter, was a sports and city columnist for the New York Times, a correspondent for CBS and NBC news and the Emmy-award winning host of WNET’S nightly public affairs show, The Eleventh Hour. In 1992, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary. In 1966 and 1996, he won Columbia University’s Mike Berger Award for Distinguished Reporting. He is the author of 20 books, including the young adult bestseller The Contender.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Robert Lipsyte

Pres. Aoun: Saudi Holding Hariri an Act of Aggression

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 - 3:20am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Beirut newspaper Al-Nahar [The Day] reports that President Michel Aoun of Lebanon said Wednesday, “Nothing justifies Prime minister Saad Hariri’s failure to return to Beirut after the passage of 12 days from his announcement of his resignation.” Aoun said he considered Hariri to have been detained in Saudi Arabia, and suffering from limited mobility in the place where he is being held.

He branded the detaining of Hariri, still legally the prime minister of Lebanon (you can’t resign long distance in Lebanese law) “a demonstration of enmity” against Lebanon. He said that Saudi Arabia had violated the International Declaration of Human Rights of the UN, given that the prime minister is being held without charge.

He called the detention of Hariri by the Saudi royal family an act of aggression against Lebanon and its independence and dignity and on the relationships that bind Lebanon to Saudi Arabia.

He asked Lebanese media to join in a campaign to reinforce national unity.

Addressing a Lebanese audience, Aoun asked them to have no fear for the country’s economy or security, since there was no sign of any economic fall out from the crisis.

He said that Hariri was welcome to come to Lebanon and resign properly, after which a new government would be formed in accordance with parliamentary rules. Or, he said, Hariri was welcome to rethink and withdraw the resignation. “It’s a perfectly free country,” the president remarked.

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

France24: “Lebanon: President Aoun accuses Saudi Arabia of detaining former PM Saad Hariri”

From Slights to Kow-Towing, Trump does Ugly American in Asia

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 - 2:16am

By John Feffer | (Foreign Policy in Focus) | – –

Fresh off an Asia trip where he showed surprising deference to dictators, Trump looks ready to start a renewed assault on critics at home.

As a candidate, Donald Trump rallied voters against a variety of enemies. He vilified Mexicans. He stereotyped Muslims. And he went after the Chinese for “raping” the United States.

President Trump still wants to build that wall along the border with Mexico. He’s still trying to keep out Muslim immigrants.

As for China, all signs have pointed to more conflict.

The trade gap between the United States and China during the first nine months of Trump’s term is even larger than it was before he took office: $273 billion at the end of September in favor of China compared to $257 billion a year ago at the same time.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping finished up a Communist Party congress in October with a nearly four-hour speech that stressed his country’s great power status and his plan to boost military preparedness. Although Beijing has pledged to help reel back North Korea’s nuclear program — and supported sanctions toward that end — Pyongyang has shown no sign of budging from its position. And China recently negotiated a deal with South Korea that scrapped its economic pressure tactics in exchange for Seoul scaling back on its participation in U.S. plans for regional missile defense.

Indeed, on the eve of Trump’s recent 12-day trip to Asia, pundits were predicting a strong anti-China swerve in administration policy.

But touching down in Beijing, Donald Trump was all smiles when he met with Xi Jinping. His arrival was greeted with all the pomp of a visiting king. And the American president reciprocated by speaking of a special economic relationship with China.

Actually Trump went much further. He was positively 18th century in the way he took a knee in Beijing (I’m talking kowtow, not Colin Kaepernick). Writes Adam Taylor in The Washington Post:

Trump was bizarrely deferential to President Xi Jinping, with the American president lavishing personal — and unreciprocated — praise upon his counterpart. It was a remarkable approach for a president who has so frequently talked tough on China, as well as a contrast to Trump’s condescending treatment of [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe, the ally whom Trump belittled a number of times during his time in Japan.

Trump’s performance in Beijing went beyond even the man-crush he seems to develop with any autocrat who exercises the free rein of power that the president so desperately craves.

Instead of pretending that China had not gotten the best of the trade deal with the United States, Trump decided to compliment his hosts for outfoxing his predecessors. China, in other words, was not to blame for working hard to make China great again at America’s expense. “I give China great credit,” Trump said. The blame, instead, fell squarely on past presidents.

The implication: Only Trump works on behalf of America’s interests. All other American leaders are dupes — or, worse, traitors.

Trump’s Tactics

As Trump toured Asia over the last two weeks, he put on a show of alpha male behavior not seen in an American president since Mr. Bully Pulpit himself, Teddy Roosevelt.

In Japan, for instance, Trump treated the deferential Shinzo Abe as a servant of American power. He made sure to emphasize that Japan would always be number two, a reality that previous American leaders have always taken pains to obscure. Writes David Nakamura in The Washington Post,

“The Japanese people are thriving, your cities are vibrant, and you’ve built one of the world’s most powerful economies,” Trump said, before looking up from his prepared remarks. Turning his head to face Abe next to him, Trump ad-libbed: “I don’t know if it’s as good as ours. I think not, okay?” He emphasized the “okay” by drawing it out leadingly as a parent might with a child.

It would have been instructive to put Trump on an Amtrak train and then on the Washington metro before whisking him over to Japan to ride a Shinkansen high-speed train and then the Tokyo metro. Then perhaps he wouldn’t have been so condescending about Japan’s “second-class” economy. (On my trip to Japan last month, I took the Shinkansen between Fukuoka and Kyoto, a 400-mile trip that took a little less than three hours. That’s the equivalent of the distance between DC and Boston, which can take two to three times as long on Amtrak — and the trains run as frequently as the DC metro on the weekend.)

In the Philippines, Trump made no effort to diminish President Rodrigo Duterte. Maybe that’s because Duterte has boasted of the ultimate alpha male activity — personally killing people. Duterte also stands accused of ordering the murder of a journalist (take that, fake news). And the Philippine leader has disparaged former President Obama in even more graphic terms than Trump has himself.

Trump almost seemed a little cowed before Duterte, like a capo before the boss. If Trump raised any human rights concerns about Duterte’s record of extrajudicial killings, as his press spokesperson claimed, he did it so briefly and quietly that it never even registered with the Philippine president.

In Vietnam, because he wanted something, Trump did more wheedling than posturing. As elsewhere, the president tried to get foreign leaders to agree to buy U.S. weapons. But in Hanoi, he revealed his desperation. He told people in the room that he needed quick wins because he would soon be running for office again. Trump didn’t need to say that his standing in the polls is the lowest ever of any president in their first year.

But it was with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Trump really crouched down and waited for his ears to be scratched. Back home, the Russiagate investigations are heating up. Putin, however, denied any interference in the U.S. elections. That was good enough for Trump. “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump told reporters.

Former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, whom Trump has derided as “political hacks,” both expressed outrage that Trump would take the word of Putin over the analysis of U.S. intelligence agencies.

From Tokyo to Beijing, Trump excelled at punching down and toadying up. He is America’s number one alpha male, beating his chest and roaring — except when he encounters another male more alpha than he is. Welcome to the World Wrestling Federation version of international relations.

The Enemy Within

On this Asian road trip, Trump also revealed his own one-track mind.

On Trump’s watch, multilateralism has died, strangled that first week in office when the new president withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership. Pointedly, on the sidelines of the same APEC meeting that Trump attended, the remaining signatories declared that the agreement will rise from the ashes without U.S. participation. Although his trip was extended so that he could attend the East Asia Summit, Trump decided to bow out early. It was an important symbol that Trump doesn’t play with groups. He’s a one-on-one kind of guy. He just doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle more than that.

China traditionally favored bilateral relations over multilateral ones because it could use its size to advantage in negotiating better deals with smaller Asian countries. But now the United States and China have traded places. Trump is suspicious of any grouping larger than two (a boxing ring can’t accommodate more than that). And China has seized the opportunity to present itself as the country that cares about the world and not just what it can gain in any set of bilateral negotiations.

Trump’s flip-flop on China doesn’t mean that he’s gone soft on America’s adversaries. In his UN speech, Trump singled out four countries for censure — Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and North Korea. Other countries have also fallen into that category as well. Trump has tried to dictate to Mexico how it should spend its money. He approved of Saudi Arabia’s embargo of Qatar and its war in Yemen. He routinely uses drones to intervene in the affairs of other countries such as Pakistan and Somalia.

But what Trump said to Xi Jinping was quite extraordinary. He recognized that a previously “bad” country was simply acting in its own interests and extracting the best deal it could from the United States. The bottom line: Trump needs China. What he doesn’t need, however, are all his domestic adversaries, beginning with Barack Obama. Trump knows that he can rouse his base more effectively by going after the enemy within than the enemy abroad.

In this way, the president is beginning to shift the narrative. In coming months leading up to the mid-term elections, Trump will sharpen his criticism of liberal judges, an ineffectual Congress, and traitorous members of America’s civil society (ACLU, Sierra Club, etc.).

It’s not that the world is arrayed against Donald Trump. As he has pointed out repeatedly, he gets along with everybody, even Angela Merkel.

No, the problem isn’t them. It’s us — anyone who dares to oppose the president’s brazen attempt to shift all wealth to the wealthy and all power into his own grasping hands. That’s why the Trump administration is conducting its purge of federal institutions. That’s why Trump blasts the media and Hollywood. Even Republicans who dare to resist, including outright conservatives like John McCain and Bob Corker, have been raked over the coals.

An alpha male needs a whole mess of betas to reinforce his status. Now that he’s back from his imaginary victory lap in Asia, Trump is preparing to go after the so-called traitors on the home front. In 1934, Germany endured its Night of Long Knives when the Nazis purged their own ranks along with establishment conservatives and anti-Nazis.

Brace yourself for three more years of long knives.

Via FPIF

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus and the author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands.

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The Star Online: “Trump’s effigy set on fire in protests against his Philippines visit”

The Trump/GOP war on Science targets Grad Students

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 - 2:01am

By Jill Richardson


Imagine having to pay thousands of dollars of taxes on virtually no income.

The Republican tax plan winding its way through Congress includes a special middle finger to the nation’s graduate students.

It’s a little bit wonky, so stay with me here. I’ll explain how it affects me, since I’m an actual graduate student.

Going to grad school would’ve been entirely out of reach for me if I had to pay full tuition for my education. Getting a PhD takes at least five years and often more. I don’t have a spouse, trust fund, or parents to cover my cost of living or my tuition.

If I had to pay for my own education, it would’ve been simply out of the question. This is hardly uncommon.

How many adults do you know can forego five or more years of income while simultaneously paying thousands of dollars in college tuition each year?

Since the answer to that question is “not many,” universities employ graduate students as poorly paid labor in exchange for an education, health insurance, and a very low wage.

In my case, I’ve worked as a teaching assistant for the past three years while also attending classes at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Other students worked as research assistants. A lucky few got funding that allowed them to pursue their own research. The rest of us had to work.

Forbes mentions some magical places where graduate students are given stipends up to $50,000 per year. At Wisconsin, we weren’t so lucky.

My take home pay was about $1,300 per month, nine months of the year. The other three months (summer) I got nothing. No, it wasn’t enough to live on. I’m deeply in debt with student loans.

Then there’s the matter of tuition. Graduate students like me often don’t have to pay it.

If a school charges $20,000 per year in tuition but waives it for graduate students who work as teaching or research assistants, the new Republican tax plan wants to count that as $20,000 in taxable income.

You do the math: If a student is living on a tiny stipend and maybe some loans, how on earth can he or she afford to pay thousands of extra dollars in taxes?

You may not care about graduate students. It affects 3 million of us, but you may not be one yourself.

Odds are, however, that you’re affected by graduate students. Graduate students do a lot of the grunt work in universities while working on their doctorate degrees. They teach students, do research, and develop new technologies.

And they go on to become professors and experts themselves.

Without graduate students, we won’t have scientists. Every PhD scientist was once a graduate student.

Without graduate students, we won’t have professors. If you have an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, that was only possible because your professors were able to get a graduate education.

Gut graduate education in America and you’ll gut education as a whole.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson writes about food, agriculture, the environment, health, tolerance, and well-being. Currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, she’s the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.

Via . Otherwords.org

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Newsy: “GOP tax plan could hurt grad students”

US Military Budget soars to $700 bn., as much as next 14 Countries

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 - 12:52am

TeleSur | – –

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, U.S. military spending will be three times that of China and 10 times more than Russia.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, NDAA, with an overwhelming 357 votes supporting the increase in budget and 70 voting against, including 127 Democrats backing the bill.

The defense bill will pump nearly US$634 billion in the fiscal year 2018 for key Pentagon operations, with about US$66 billion alone for the war operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries.

Citing North Korea as a threat, the bill aims to bulk up of the military with more ships, aircraft, and troops. Part of the bill is also supposed to strengthen the missile technology against North Korea.

North Korea’s U.N. ambassador, Ja Song Nam, wrote in a letter to the UN chief, Antonio Guterres, on Monday, warning that it seems impossible to predict when a nuclear war would break out, pointing to the U.S. aircraft carrier groups for “taking up a strike posture” around the Korean peninsula. The carriers are taking part in joint naval exercises with North Korea.

“The large-scale nuclear war exercises and blackmails, which the U.S. staged for a whole year without a break in collaboration with its followers to stifle our republic, make one conclude that the option we have taken was the right one and we should go along the way to the last,” Ja’s letter states.

The compromise bill will now have US$626.4 billion in base spending, with US$20.6 billion for nuclear national security programs that fall under the Energy Department. US$65.7 billion will be used for a separate Pentagon war account.

Some of the war machines U.S. plans to deploy in its war missions include nearly “28 additional Ground-Based Interceptors which are anti-missile missiles that would be launched from underground silos in Alaska in the event the U.S. decided to try to shoot down a North Korean missile heading toward the United States. The interceptors are designed to directly hit the enemy missile outside the Earth’s atmosphere, obliterating it by the force of impact,” Associated Press noted. The budget will have room for 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighters, which are 20 and 10 respectively, more than Trump requested.

The bill will move to the Senate after Thanksgiving for the final approval. The proposed budget, the largest in the U.S. history, exceeds the initial budget ceiling of US$549 billion set by the Budget Control Act, along with Trump’s initial budget request of US$603 billion, so the House and Senate leaders will need to “strike a budget deal that increases the caps in order to boost defense spending as prescribed by the bill,” Politico reported.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, U.S. military spending will be three times that of China and 10 times more than Russia.

The bill has been widely criticised for pushing a budget focused on spending for wars whereas vital policies affecting US taxpayers such as universal healthcare, education and climate continue to suffer from neglect in budget spending, amounting to US$80 billion which in itself would suffice to make public colleges and universities in the U.S. free, the Intercept noted.

Via TeleSur

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ARIRANG NEWS: “U.S. House of Representatives passes annual National Defense Authorization Act”

Saudis Bomb Yemen’s International Airport, Amid Devastating Blockade

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 - 12:25am

TeleSur | – –

A Houthi statement said that the attack “is an explicit violation of international covenants and treaties, which stipulate that civilian airports are not targeted.”

The U.S. and U.K.-backed Saudi coalition carried out a bombing attack on the civilian airport in Yemen’s capital Sana’a on Tuesday, further cutting off crucial relief shipments to a country on the verge of catastrophic famine due to the coalition’s near entire blockade

An air strike damaged parts of the runway and navigation equipment, at an airport used to deliver life-saving United Nations aid.

The coalition said last week it had closed all air, land and seaports in Yemen. The war on Yemen has led it to the brink of famine, with massive shortages, and cholera epidemics tearing through the country’s civilian population.

“This attack is intended to cause maximum damage and deprive millions of Yemenis from receiving life-saving food and medicines,” a Houthi official said to Al Jazeera.

A Houthi statement said that the attack “is an explicit violation of international covenants and treaties, which stipulate that civilian airports are not targeted.”

The United Nations has also condemned the brutal blockade, saying that without all ports and airports fully functioning, the situation will progress toward one of the more severe famines in recent history.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric urged the coalition on Tuesday to open all ports and airports immediately.

“The continued closure by the Saudi-led coalition of critical seaports and airports is aggravating an already dire humanitarian situation. I think it poses a critical threat to the lives of millions who are already struggling to survive,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick said.

The coalition has attempted to justify their actions by saying that the blockade is necessary to prevent supposed Irani arms from getting into the country to the Houthi rebels. Iran has consistently denied these claims.

The kingdom, along with other allied states and Western material backing, has waged a war on Yemenis since 2015 when the Saudi-allied President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was overthrown.

Saudi Arabia is one of the largest purchasers of United States and United Kingdom produced arms.

Via TeleSur

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After Trump lets hundreds of ISIL Leave Raqqa, Turkey Enraged

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 - 3:00am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

On Tuesday, Turkey lambasted the US and its largely Kurdish allies in Syria, the YPG, for having made a deal that allowed 250 Daesh fighters and all their children and relatives to flee from Raqqa.

Turkey’s prime minister Binali Yildirim said,
“The YPG terrorists let Daesh [terrorists] leave Raqqa with their weapons instead of eliminating them from the city. One terror group left Raqqa and another settled in. Is this your rational policy?”

Turkey views the leftist YPG as a branch of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which is Turkey-based and seeking more autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds. The Syrian YPG has only distant ties to the PKK, however, and is mainly focused on Syria. Syrian Kurds, now backed by the US as the “Syrian Democratic Forces,” were the only local group of fighters willing to take on Daesh. With US air support and an influx of US weapons, they defeated it on the Syrian side of the border in Raqqa province. The Syrian regime only became interested in taking on Daesh once it seemed clear that otherwise the YPG would do the job and gain control over Deir al-Zor as well.

The BBC broke the bombshell report that the United States and its local allies worked out a deal with Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) in Raqqa, Syria, to allow them to depart. There were still 250 hardened fighters along with 3500 family members in the capital of the phony “caliphate.”

Raqqa had largely been reduced to rubble, but the 250 fighters could have continued, challenging and imposing high casualty rates on the largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces who were besieging the city.

The YPG made this deal, with US military officers in the room, after weeks of hard fighting had not resulted in the complete fall of Raqqa. It is also alleged that the Trump administration was impatient for the YPG Kurds to take over hydrocarbon resources in Syria, which they could not do if they remained bogged down in Raqqa, so safe passage for the ISIL fighters and their arsenal was the price of that strategy.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis had vowed to “annihilate” Daesh members in Syria, so that no foreign fighters went home to fight another day or to damage Western capitals. But apparently he acquiesced when he heard of the YPG plans.

The 250 trained and battle-hardened Daesh could go on to do substantial damage to Turkey or to their home countries (they included some foreign fighters as it turned out).
———–

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The Civil War inside Buddhism caused Ethnic Cleansing of Muslims

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 - 1:44am

Paul Fuller | (The Conversation) | – –

There is a desperate humanitarian crisis underway in Myanmar, centring around the Rohingya Muslims.

There is what has been described as a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” against the approximately one million Rohingya who live in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine. As well as retaliations from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – a militant group of Rohingyas – which has been held by the Burmese military to have attacked a number of police and army posts.

And there is also what was seen as a newly emerging democracy with a prominent international figure, Aung San Suu Kyi – the state counsellor of Myanmar and the nation’s de facto leader – guiding the country against a backdrop of Islamophobic Buddhist nationalism.

Buddhists are often regarded in the West as a peaceful people, so to hear of this kind of public prejudice may come as a shock to many. But looking at it from a Buddhist cultural perspective, one can begin to see why this is happening.

Militant Buddhism

Suu Kyi has used her own Buddhist faith to explain her ideas in the past. But it was only in a televised speech to the Burmese nation, in mid-October 2017, that she used some standard Buddhist rhetoric for the first time in her comments on recent events. Suu Kyi evoked the Buddhist principles of “compassion”, “loving-kindness” and “sympathetic joy” to overcome hatred. A “close adviser” later briefed the media, explaining that Suu Kyi’s speech marked an attempt to wrestle Buddhism out of the “hands of extremists”.

One could say that the Buddhist sentiments expressed in Suu Kyi’s speech are in line with the modern Western understanding of Buddhism. But look deeper into modern Asia and you will see Western perceptions aren’t wholly accurate. There is now a form of militant Buddhism, which often promotes the supremacy of Buddhism, and can be Islamophobic, ethnocentric and chauvinistic in its preaching.

This is a Buddhism alien to the romantic, pacifistic, meditative and compassionate Buddhism of popular imagination, and – one would hope – much of Buddhist history. It is a Buddhism in which the Buddhist faith should be protected against the supposed threat of other religions (primarily Islam) overrunning Buddhist Myanmar.

Led by the Mandalay-based monk Ashin Wirathu, it is a religion which campaigns to punish those who offend Buddhism. In its organised form in Myanmar these nationalistic Buddhist ideas coalesce around a group popularly known as MaBaTha – the organisation for the protection of race and religion.

Religious core

The battle between the two emerging forms of Buddhism in modern Myanmar is linked back to two core principles of the religion.

The first is the familiar Buddhism of calm, non-attachment, and compassion. Until recently one could say this was dominant within Myanmar. Lay meditation movements were important in the revitalisation of modern Buddhism and aspects of popular mindfulness meditation originate from them. The Saffron Revolution of 2007 displayed little of the aggressive nationalism of the MaBaTha movement, with monks evoking the “discourse on loving-kindness” – The Metta-sutta – as a Buddhist path of compassion to overthrow military rule.

The other form of Buddhism has a more ritualised focus. At the risk of oversimplification, this practice is based upon the performance of personal and state rituals in order to protect society from danger. To be a practising Buddhist is to have recited certain texts, and to have paid homage at Buddhist shrines. To be a good Buddhist is to be a good Burmese, and, as it now appears, to “stand with Aung San Suu Kyi”.

It would be too simplistic to argue that Buddhist teachings are irreconcilably at odds with ideas of nationalism and patriotism. However, a sense of superiority and discrimination against minority groups does appear to be indefensible from a Buddhist perspective. Could Suu Kyi’s speech, and the idea that she wishes to use Buddhist teachings in a way at odds with Buddhist nationalism be an acknowledgement that Buddhism needs to become part of the solution in modern Myanmar, rather than an aggressive symbol used by Buddhist nationalists?

If Myanmar is to emerge from military rule and become a modern democratic state then it must save its Buddhism from descending into extremism. If Buddhist identity is focused upon a narrow and uncompromising view of what it means to be Burmese, then it seems likely that Buddhism will become a form of state-sponsored religion promoted by the military. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this type of Buddhism, but it is clearly engendering a form of nationalistic fervour, and atrocities are being committed and justified.

Can Suu Kyi see beyond the flags and slogans and use Buddhist narratives of compassion and loving kindness? Observers expected this of her, and of the Buddhist nation, many weeks ago, yet we are still waiting.

Paul Fuller, Lecturer in Buddhist Studies, Cardiff University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Rohingya crisis: ‘Rape and murder’ in the Village of Tula Toli – BBC News

50% of World’s Wealth Is Controlled by Wealthy 1%

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 - 1:23am

TeleSur | – –

Nearly 35 billion lower income people reside in developing nations and have less than US$10,000 in income.

50 percent of the world’s wealth is controlled by the wealthy 1 percent, according to a new Global Wealth report which sheds light on the stunning wealth inequality.

The annual report published by Credit Suisse states the wealth gap has widened since the 2008 financial crisis in the U.S. According to the report, the world’s wealthiest people held 42.5 percent of the global wealth at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, compared to the 50.1 percent in 2017.

“The share of the top 1% has been on an upward path ever since [the crisis], passing the 2000 level in 2013 and achieving new peaks every year thereafter,” the annual report said. Adding, “global wealth inequality has certainly been high and rising in the post-crisis period.”

“This report highlights the huge gulf between the haves and the have-nots—the world’s richest one percent own more than everyone else combined while the poorest half of the population share less than a penny of every pound of wealth,” Katy Chakrabortty, head of advocacy for Oxfam, said in a statement.

Chakraborty also pointed towards the recent investigation, Paradise Papers, that exposed the offshore havens of some of the world’s richest people, including Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s main campaign funder and his senior adviser, Stephen Bronfman, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, and several of Trump’s cabinet members.

“Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality,” Gabriel Zucman, an economist, told the Guardian. “As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”

“There is this small group of people who are not equally subject to the laws as the rest of us, and that’s on purpose,” sociologist Brooke Harrington, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. These people “live the dream” and enjoy “the benefits of society without being subject to any of its constraints.”

Nearly 35 billion lower income people reside in developing nations and have less than US$10,000 in income, with 90 percent living in India and Africa.

“In some low-income countries in Africa, the percentage of the population in this wealth group is close to 100%,” the report states. “For many residents of low-income countries, life membership of the base tier is the norm rather than the exception.”

Meanwhile, those who are at the top of the global wealth pyramid and with an estimated wealth of at least US$ 1 million have a collective wealth of over US$128.7tn. A vast majority of these millionaires live in the United States, Japan, and the UK, with nearly two-fifths in the U.S.

Referring to millennials as “unlucky,” the document states that adults between the ages 20 and 29 are better educated compared to their parents’ generation, yet overwhelming student debt is crippling the generation and preventing them from accumulating wealth, the report points out.

The adults, report states, “faced the rigors of the financial crisis and the high unemployment that followed in many countries, and have also been widely hammered by high housing prices, rising student debt, and increasing inequality.”

Via TeleSur

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Wochit News: “The richest 1% now own a staggering portion of the world’s wealth”