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Surprise: Noted Climate Change Denialist Secretly Took Oil Co. Payouts

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 - 12:58am

By Nadia Prupis | (Commondreams.org)

A prominent climate change denier and researcher quietly took more than $1.2 million in payouts from the energy industry, including the Koch brothers and other oil lobbyists, for the past 14 years, newly released documents have shown.

Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, accumulated a total of $1.25 million from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, Southern Company, and a Koch brothers foundation, according to documents obtained by Greenpeace through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings.

For years, Soon’s work has been a go-to source for politicians angling to block climate change legislation, such as Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who has called climate change a hoax. Soon has also testified before the U.S. Congress and appeared on numerous conservative news shows to claim that greenhouse gases are not harmful and that recent global warming trends are not caused by human activity, but by variations in the sun’s energy.

Soon’s acceptance of oil lobby money was previously known, although he has denied that it influences his work. However, the documents reveal the full extent of his ties to the industry, which was not public knowledge. His single biggest funder was Southern Company, an electricity provider which relies on coal-burning power plants and has lobbied heavily against climate legislation. Southern Company gave Soon a total of $409,000.

He also received at least $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

In addition, the documents confirm that Soon neglected to disclose his close ties to the fossil fuel industry in most of his academic papers on climate change. At least 11 papers published since 2008 do not state any connection to the companies who paid him, and at least eight of those papers may have violated the ethical guidelines of the journals in which they appeared.

In correspondence with his funders, Soon called his research papers and Congressional testimony “deliverables,” which he completed in exchange for the money.

The Guardian reports:

“The question here is really: ‘What did API, ExxonMobil, Southern Company and Charles Koch see in Willie Soon? What did they get for $1m-plus,” said Kert Davies, a former Greenpeace researcher who filed the original freedom of information requests. Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center, of which Davies is the founder, shared the documents with news organizations.

“Did they simply hope he was on to research that would disprove the consensus? Or was it too enticing to be able to basically buy the nameplate Harvard-Smithsonian?”

While energy companies have long funded the work of useful allies, the new documents shed light on the role of scientists like Soon who help fuel the debate over climate change and its causes.

The New York Times writes:

“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”

… Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, acknowledged on Friday that Dr. Soon had violated the disclosure standards of some journals.

“I think that’s inappropriate behavior,” Dr. Alcock said. “This frankly becomes a personnel matter, which we have to handle with Dr. Soon internally.”

Davies told the Guardian, “The company was paying him to write peer-reviewed science and that relationship was not acknowledged in the peer-reviewed literature.

“These proposals and contracts show debatable interventions in science literally on the behalf of Southern Company and the Kochs.”

The Center for Astrophysics does not require its scientists to disclose their funding sources. Both Harvard University and the Smithsonian have acknowledged that climate change is caused by human activity. Harvard remains invested in the fossil fuel industry, despite long-running calls for the university to pull its money from those companies.

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

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Newsy Science: “Noted Climate Change Skeptic Took Corporate Payouts”

‘I would have come forward sooner’ – Snowden on NSA leak regrets

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 - 12:37am

RT | –

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has frequently said that he does not regret blowing the whistle on the agency’s mass surveillance programs. However, he has now stated that he would change one thing if he could do it all again.

He would have leaked the information earlier.

Snowden made the comment during an online question-and-answer session on Reddit, known as an AMA (Ask Me Anything). Joined by journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, who helped break the first batch of stories based on his leaks, Snowden answered a number of questions from Reddit members.

About one hour into the session, Snowden was asked if he would do anything differently if he “had a chance to do things over again.”

“I would have come forward sooner,” he stated. “Had I come forward a little sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers.”

“Once you grant the government some new power or authority, it becomes exponentially more difficult to roll it back. Regardless of how little value a program or power has been shown to have (such as the Section 215 dragnet interception of call records in the United States, which the government’s own investigation found never stopped a single imminent terrorist attack despite a decade of operation), once it’s a sunk cost, once dollars and reputations have been invested in it, it’s hard to peel that back.”

“Don’t let it happen in your country,” Snowden concluded.

READ MORE: Snowden documentary CitizenFour grabs Oscar

Another user asked if it was depressing to know that not much has changed since the NSA revelations became public, but both Greenwald and Snowden resisted that contention. Greenwald noted that while the American government has not tried to rein in its surveillance power, the court system has been activated and private companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple are being pushed to implement stronger protections into their products.

“The biggest change has been in awareness,” Snowden added. “Before 2013, if you said the NSA was making records of everybody’s phonecalls and the GCHQ was monitoring lawyers and journalists, people raised eyebrows and called you a conspiracy theorist.”

“Those days are over. Facts allow us to stop speculating and start building, and that’s the foundation we need to fix the internet. We just happened to be the generation stuck with fighting these fires.”

Funniest thing about that Snowden AMA so far is that his primary reddit account has been suspended. Hahaha the NSA has fingers everywhere!

— Richard Stanton (@RichStanton) February 23, 2015

With much of the media focusing its sights on the 2016 presidential election, Snowden was asked how to ensure the NSA’s surveillance practices become a significant issue on the campaign trail. He pointed towards activism and organizing as important factors, but added that governments will not reform themselves without consistent pressure from the people.

“We’d do well to remember that at the end of the day, the law doesn’t defend us; we defend the law. And when it becomes contrary to our morals, we have both the right and the responsibility to rebalance it toward just ends,” he said.

Meanwhile, Snowden also responded to reports that Russian state security services “control the circumstances of [his] life.”

READ MORE: Snowden docs reveal mass cell phone hack through ‘Great SIM Heist’

“The answer is ‘of course not,’” he said, dismissing the claim as speculation which has no proof behind it.

“If I were a spy for the Russians, why the hell was I trapped in any airport for a month? I would have gotten a parade and a medal instead,” he said.

“The reality is I spent so long in that damn airport because I wouldn’t play ball and nobody knew what to do with me. I refused to cooperate with Russian intelligence in any way (see my testimony to EU Parliament on this one if you’re interested), and that hasn’t changed.”

READ MORE: Gemalto says SIM cards ‘secure’ despite NSA, GCHQ hacking claim

On a lighter note, one user asked about a joke made during the Oscar ceremony by actor Neil Patrick Harris, during which he said that Snowden could not be at the show “for some treason.” Greenwald had called the joke petty and “irresponsible” – comments he told Reddit were blown out of proportion – but Snowden came at them from another direction.

“To be honest, I laughed at NPH. I don’t think it was meant as a political statement, but even if it was, that’s not so bad,” he said. “My perspective is if you’re not willing to be called a few names to help out your country, you don’t care enough.”

Via RT

WotchitEntertainment: “Snowden: I Laughed at Oscars ‘treason’ Joke”

Leak: Netanyahu’s 2012 Iran Bomb Warning refuted by Israeli Intel

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 - 12:32am

Cenk Uygur | (The Young Turks) –

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s dramatic declaration to world leaders in 2012 that Iran was about a year away from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service, according to a top-secret Mossad document.

It is part of a cache of hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s major intelligence services – one of the biggest spy leaks in recent times.

Brandishing a cartoon of a bomb with a red line to illustrate his point, the Israeli prime minister warned the UN in New York that Iran would be able to build nuclear weapons the following year and called for action to halt the process.

But in a secret report shared with South Africa a few weeks later, Israel’s intelligence agency concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”. The report highlights the gulf between the public claims and rhetoric of top Israeli politicians and the assessments of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment.”

The Young Turks: “LEAK: Netanyahu Lied About Iran Nuclear Threat”

In Egypt, the Law itself is an Enemy of Women’s Rights

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 - 12:20am

By Rana Allam | –

CAIRO, Feb 23 2015 (IPS) – In November 2013, a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey ranked Egypt as the worst of 22 Arab states with regards to women’s rights.

Several people argued that any country strictly following Islamic laws should rank lower, because Egypt and many other Arab and Muslim countries are not strict in following Islamic Sharia (religious laws), like in cutting off the hand of a thief, for example.
In Egypt, if you are a man, you can literally kill your wife and get away with it.


For women in Egypt, the general atmosphere is one of hostility and intimidation. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS

However, Egypt – along with most Muslim countries – incorporates a list of laws based on Islamic Sharia. Some of these are indisputable Sharia laws while others are based on individual interpretations, and both are indeed discriminatory.

Suffice to say that in the second highest ranking Arab state in the survey, Oman, women inherit 50 percent of what men do, a man can divorce his wife for any reason while a woman needs grounds to file for divorce, and there are no laws against female genital mutilation.

The starkest examples of sexist laws in Arab and Muslim countries come in the personal status laws.

Regardless of whether these laws are Islamic Sharia compliant or not, they are presented as such and thus are non-negotiable.

With the many interpretations of Islamic text, it falls on the legislators and the (so-called) Muslim scholars to enforce what laws they “understood” from the text. These laws should be revised if we are to enforce gender equality, here are some examples:

– Polygamy is legal for men only.

– A man can divorce his wife with no grounds and without going to court, while a woman has to have strong reasons for divorce, must convince a court of law of some ordeal about her marriage, and the judge may or may not grant her divorce. A new law introduced in Egypt in 2000, called Khula law where a woman can file for divorce on no grounds, but then she has to forfeit her financial rights and reimburse her husband the dowry (and any gifts) paid when contracting the marriage.

– A woman inherits half what a man inherits.

– In some Muslim countries, like the UAE, a woman’s testimony is half that of a man’s in court. In most Muslim countries, if a contract requires a certain number of witnesses, a woman is counted as “half” a man.

– There is no set minimum age for marriage in Islam, so some countries like Sudan can marry off a 10-year-old girl, and in Bahrain, a 15-year-old, however, in Libya the minimum age is 20.

– A Muslim man can marry a non-Muslim woman, but a Muslim woman is not granted the same right.

– In most Muslim countries, spousal rape is not recognised in the laws.

– Abortion is illegal unless there is risk to the mother’s life and even this has to be with the husband’s consent.

It is one thing to fight culture and an intimidating environment and another thing to have sexist laws, where even in a court of law, a woman has no equal rights. For women in Egypt, the general atmosphere is one of hostility and intimidation, prevalent aggressions and complete impunity with regards to violence against women.

Amnesty International titled its latest briefing on the subject “Circles of Hell: domestic, public and state violence against women in Egypt.” Women in Egypt must not only fight such culture, but must also deal with discriminatory laws.

Muslim men have a unilateral and unconditional right to divorce, while women can only divorce by court action. A man need only say the words “I divorced you” and then register the divorce.

Actually, an Egyptian Muslim man may not even tell his wife he is divorcing her, he can register the divorce (regardless of her consent or attendance), and it is the duty of the registrar to “inform” her. On top of this, there is such a thing as a “revocable divorce” which means the husband has the right to revoke the divorce at his own accord during the waiting period and without having to sign another marriage contract.

Such a waiting period is only a woman’s burden. She has to remain unmarried for three months after she gets divorced, and such waiting period is nonexistent for men.

Adding insult to injury, Egypt has an “Obedience Law”. This law stipulates that a man may file an obedience complaint against his wife if she leaves the marital home without his permission.

The woman is this case has 30 days to file an objection detailing the legal grounds for “her failure to obey”, a judge may not be convinced of course. If she fails to file such objection, and does not return home, she is considered “deviant” and is denied her financial rights upon divorce – if she was ever granted one. Naturally, such proceedings delay her divorce lawsuit, and risk a just financial settlement.

Although legislators in Egypt have always cited Islamic Sharia when enforcing such strict personal status laws, when it comes to adultery, Egyptian laws stray far from Islamic teachings and are outrageous.

The issue is such a taboo that no one even dares mentioning it. In Egypt, if you are a man, you can literally kill your wife and get away with it, if you catch her “red-handed” committing adultery.

Laws pertaining to the crime of adultery are an embodiment of sexism and discrimination:

– A married woman would be charged with adultery if she commits the crime anywhere and with anyone. A married man would only be accused of adultery if he commits the crime in his marital house; otherwise there is no crime and no punishment.

– The punishment for a married man (who committed the crime in his marital home) is imprisonment for six months, but women are given a sentence of two years in prison (regardless of where the crime took place).

– If a married man commits adultery with a married woman in her marital house, he would merely be an accessory to the crime.

– If both are unmarried, and the female is over 18, he receives no punishment, while she may face charges of prostitution.

– If a married man catches his wife red-handed in the crime, and kills her and her partner, he does not face intentional murder charges or even manslaughter, he only gets a sentence as low as 24 hours. If a wife catches her husband red-handed and kills him, she immediately faces murder charges with its maximum sentence as the judge sees fit.

Not only do we have to fight taboos, sexist culture, violence on the streets and at home, gender-bias in every police station, court of law or place of business, but we also have a long way to go to at least have equality in the eyes of the law.

Rana Allam is a former editor-in-chief of Daily News, Egypt, and commentator on women’s rights issues.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Licensed from Inter Press Service

Israel denies Gaza govt floodwater allegations

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 - 12:06am

NB AFP has withdrawn the original story.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel on Monday rejected allegations by the government in the Gaza Strip that authorities had released storm water into the coastal enclave.

Children clear water after flooding in Gaza. (MaanImages)

In a statement, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said Israel did not operate dams in the south, contrary to claims that it had opened them deliberately to alleviate flooding.

“The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams,” the COGAT statement said. “Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel.”

“Prior to the storm,” the statement added, Israel “allowed the transfer of four water pumps belonging to the Palestinian Water Authority from Israel into Gaza to supplement the 13 pumps already in the Gaza Strip in dealing with any potential flooding throughout the area.”

Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated from their homes Sunday morning amid flooding in the Gaza Valley in the wake of a recent severe winter storm.

The Gaza Ministry of Interior said Sunday that civil defense services and teams from the Ministry of Public Works had evacuated more than 80 families from both sides of the Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) after their homes flooded as water levels reached more than three meters.

Gaza has experienced flooding in recent days amid a major storm that saw temperatures drop and frigid rain pour down.

The storm displaced dozens and caused hardship for tens of thousands, including many of the approximately 110,000 Palestinians left homeless by Israel’s assault over summer.

Gaza civil defense services spokesman Muhammad al-Midana warned Sunday that further harm could be caused if Israel opens up more dams in the area, noting that water is currently flowing at a high speed from the Israel border through the valley and into the Mediterranean sea.

Evacuated families have been sent to shelters sponsored by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, in al-Bureij refugee camp and in al-Zahra neighborhood in the central Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) is a wetland located in the central Gaza Strip between al-Nuseirat refugee camp and al-Moghraqa. It is called HaBesor in Hebrew, and it flows from two streams — one whose source runs from near Beersheba, and the other from near Hebron.

Via Ma’an News Agency

In New Gilded Age, Social Protest dominates Academy Awards Ceremony

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 - 4:26am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

If social and economic inequality were a mine, and if America were deep in this mine with a canary in tow, the canary would long since have expired. Some 400 billionaires have more wealth than the bottom half of Americans. We lived through a year of dramatic incidents underscoring the continued second-class citizenship of African-Americans. Women still don’t make as much for the same work as their male counterparts and their right to choice and control over their own bodies has been de facto curtailed by theocratic state legislatures. Gay people still face prejudice and resistance to same sex marriage rights.

The committed artists honored at the 87th Academy Awards took advantage of their bully pulpits to make an amazing series of eloquent statements on behalf of minorities and the discriminated-against. Referring to the controversy over the all-white nominees in acting categories, host Neil Patrick Harris quipped at the opening, ““Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest — I mean brightest.” For all this hoopla about the overwhelmingly white, elderly and male character of the Academy voting members, however, the stage they provided to honorees was the scene of many poignant pleas for equality and decency.

Graham Moore won for his screenplay for “Imitation Game” (the story of how Alan Turing broke the Nazis’ communication code during World War II, saving countless Allied lives). Turing was later arrested for being gay and sentenced to two years of hormone treatment, which probably led to his suicide. Moore in his acceptance speech spoke of having been treated as the weird kid when young, and revealed that he had tried to commit suicide at age 16. He said:

“Here’s the thing. Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out at all of these disconcertingly attractive faces. I do! And that’s the most unfair thing I’ve ever heard. So in this brief time here, what I wanted to do was say this: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different , and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here… and so I would like this moment to be for this kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along. Thank you so much!”

John Legend and Common performed “Glory” from the film “Selma,” bringing tears to eyes and provoking a standing ovation from the attendees. The song won an Oscar.

John Legend & Common performance Glory – Oscars 2015

Afterwards Legend said,

“We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country . . . We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real,” he said. “We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.”

Referring to the Edmund Pettus Bridge where King and his followers were confronted by Selma police, Mr. Legend remarked,

“This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation but now is the symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status.”

Patricia Arquette, who won “Best supporting actress” for her role in “Boyhood,” spoke up for gender equality:

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation: We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Likely, Arquette’s complaint referred in part to new revelations about unequal remuneration in her own industry. The hackers who attacked Sony Pictures last summer over the film, “The Interview,” leaked correspondence that male stars getting better pay than their female co-stars across the board. Charlize Theron, on finding out that she was to be paid substantially less than male co-star Chris Hemsworth for “Huntsman,” demanded and got a $10 million raise.

Alejandro González Iñárritu won for best director for “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” and the film won “Best Picture.”

At the end of his acceptance speech for “Best Director,” he briefly shouted out to “mi compatriotes mexicanos”– my Mexican compatriots. It wasn’t clear whether he meant all his fellow Mexicans, or he was playfully referring to his dear friends in Hollywood, Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro.

But when “Birdman” won for best film, introducer Sean Penn attempted a joke: “Who gave all these Mexicans green cards?” The reference was that it was the second year in a row that a Mexican-American won for best director. The jest was poorly received on Twitter, though no one thinks it was meant in a negative way.

In his acceptance speech for best film, Iñárritu said he hoped Mexicans would “find and build a government that we deserve.” Mexico has been roiled in the past year by the disappearance of dozens of students and indications that they were murdered by police at the behest of drug smugglers, pointing to a web of governmental corruption that has finally become a matter of public discussion after being whispered for years.

Of his fellow Mexican-Americans he said, “I just pray they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones that came before and built this incredible, immigrant nation.”

The LA Times notes, “His speech prompted an outpouring of praise and pride for Mexico, with the hashtag #VivaMexico and Iñárritu trending on social media.”

Eddie Redmayne won best actor for “The Theory of Everything,” a biopic about astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). In his acceptance speech he spoke up for the ALS community.

Along with all these pleas for social justice and respectful treatment of women, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, gays and the differently abled, one award provided the opportunity for awardees to speak up for us all. Laura Poitras won best documentary for “Citizenfour,” her film about Edward Snowden and his leaks. Poitras was joined on the stage by reporter Glenn Greenwald, who also played a central role in blowing the whistle on unconstitutional spying on Americans by the National Security Agency.

Poitras said in her acceptance speech,

“The disclosures that Edward Snowden revealed don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and for the many other whistleblowers.” Snowden, in a statement released after the award was announced, said, “My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”

All Americans suffer when the government disregards the Fourth Amendment and violates our right to the privacy of our papers and effects. We have no idea how this information is being used, and there is reason to fear that it is being used in sinister ways. Even Orwell’s Big Brother was not as efficient at domestic surveillance as today’s NSA. In the absence of privacy, democracy cannot flourish. Most public people have secrets and can be blackmailed by security agencies to fall silent on key issues. Privacy is the cornerstone of individual dignity. It has been stolen from us by a government out of control.

There you have it, the most politically progressive Oscars ever, provoked by the sacrifices of Ferguson and many other such instances of racial injustice and by discrimination against a wide range of groups in US society. Artists do not have the levers of power the way politicians do, but they can influence public opinion. It takes courage for a performer to take a stand (there is a danger of losing half of one’s fans in an evening). We saw a lot of courage and a lot of high ethics last night. The ceremonies began with a musical duel between Neil Patrick Harris and Jack Black over the good Hollywood of art and ideals and the bad Hollywood of back room deals and backstabbing. The good Hollywood won last night.

Snowden Reacts as Documentary about his Leaks wins Oscar

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 - 2:39am

By Rainey Reitman | (EFF) –

CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras’ riveting documentary about Edward Snowden’s efforts to shed light on gross surveillance abuses by the United States government and its partners, just won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Tonight’s Oscar win recognizes not only the incredible cinematography of Poitras, but also her daring work with a high-stakes whistleblower and the journalism that kick-started a worldwide debate about surveillance and government transparency. We suspect this award was also, as the New York Times pointed out, “a way for Academy members to make something of a political statement, without having to put their own reputations on the line.”

We’re thrilled to see Poitras take home this prestigious award. CITIZENFOUR distilled a multi-year battle against untargeted surveillance and delivered it to the world with a compelling human interest story. The work of Poitras, Snowden, and journalist Glenn Greenwald helped shape the political course of nations across the globe. That’s worth at least an Oscar.

This award means that more people will be no doubt be watching CITIZENFOUR, and thus learning about both Snowden’s sacrifice and the surveillance abuses by the United States government. For those watching the movie for the first time, there’s often a sense of urgency to get involved and fight back against mass untargeted surveillance. Here are some suggestions for getting started:

  1. Tell President Obama to amend Executive Order 12333, which is the primary legal authority the NSA uses to engage in surveillance of people worldwide.
  2. Start using encryption when communicating digitally.
  3. Speak out against reauthorization of a much-abused section of the Patriot Act which is set to expire this summer.

And as always, help promote freedom online by becoming a member of EFF.

We extend our congratulations to Laura Poitras and everyone who helped create CITIZENFOUR.

More on CITIZENFOUR:

Disclosures: I serve on the board of directors of Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit working to champion press freedom, along with filmmaker Laura Poitras, her colleague Glenn Greenwald, and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Via Electronic Frontier Foundation

Appendix added by Juan Cole:

Edward Snowden wrote to ACLU on seeing the news on television:

“When Laura Poitras asked me if she could film our encounters, I was extremely reluctant. I’m grateful that I allowed her to persuade me. The result is a brave and brilliant film that deserves the honor and recognition it has received. My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”

—-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

RT: And the Oscar goes to… Snowden documentary CitizenFour wins award

Ten-Fold Increase in Extreme Weather events since 1975 most Threatens Poorest Countries

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 - 2:15am

Analysis by Manipadma Jena

A woman watches helplessly as a flood submerges her thatched-roof home containing all her possessions on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar city in India’s eastern state of Odisha in 2008. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

NEW DELHI, Feb 19 2015 (IPS) - … The little progress that is made in curbing carbon emissions and containing global warming often pales in comparison to the scale of natural disasters that continue to unfold at an unprecedented rate, from record-level snowstorms, to massive floods, to prolonged droughts.

The year 2011 saw 350 billion dollars in economic damages globally, the highest since 1975 — The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)

Attempting to sift through all the information is a gargantuan task, but it has been made easier with the release of a new report by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a think-tank based in New Delhi that has, perhaps for the first time ever, compiled an exhaustive assessment of the whole world’s progress on climate mitigation and adaptation.

The assessment also provides detailed forecasts of what each country can expect in the coming years, effectively providing a blueprint for action at a moment when many scientists fear that time is running out for saving the planet from catastrophic climate change.

Trends, risks and damages

The Global Sustainability Report 2015 released earlier this month at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, ranks the top 20 countries (out of 193) most at risk from climate change based on the actual impacts of extreme climate events documented over a 34-year period from 1980 to 2013.

The TERI report cites data compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) based at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, which maintains a global database of natural disasters dating back over 100 years.

The study found a 10-fold increase to 525 natural disasters in 2002 from around 50 in 1975. By 2011, 95 percent of deaths from this consistent trend of increasing natural disasters were from developing countries.

In preparing its rankings, TERI took into account everything from heat and cold waves, drought, floods, flash floods, cloudburst, landslides, avalanches, forest fires, cyclone and hurricanes.

Mozambique was found to be most at risk globally, followed by Sudan and North Korea. In both Mozambique and Sudan, extreme climate events caused more than six deaths per 100,000 people, the highest among all countries ranked, while North Korea suffered the highest economic losses annually, amounting to 1.65 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The year 2011 saw 350 billion dollars in economic damages globally, the highest since 1975.

The situation is particularly bleak in Asia, where countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Philippines, with a combined total population of over 300 million people, are extremely vulnerable to climate-related disasters.

China, despite high economic growth, has not been able to reduce the disaster risks to its population that is expected to touch 1.4 billion people by the end of 2015: it ranked sixth among the countries in Asia most susceptible to climate change.

Sustained effort at the national level has enabled Bangladesh to strengthen its defenses against sea-level rise, its biggest climate challenge, but it still ranked third on the list.

India, the second most populous country – expected to have 1.26 billion people by end 2015 – came in at 10th place, while Sri Lanka and Nepal figured at 14th and 15th place respectively.

In Africa, Ethiopia and Somalia are also considered extremely vulnerable, while the European nations of Albania, Moldova, Spain and France appeared high on the list of at-risk countries in that region, followed by Russia in sixth place.

In the Americas, the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia ranked first, followed by Grenada and Honduras. The most populous country in the region, Brazil, home to 200 million people, was ranked 20th.

More disasters, higher costs

In the 110 years spanning 1900 and 2009, hydro-meteorological disasters have increased from 25 to 3,526. Hydro-meteorological, geological and biological extreme events together increased from 72 to 11,571 during that same period, the report says.

In the 60-year period between 1970 and 2030, Asia will shoulder the lion’s share of floods, cyclones and sea-level rise, with the latter projected to affect 83 million people annually compared to 16.5 million in Europe, nine million in North America and six million in Africa.

The U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) estimates that global economic losses by the end of the current century will touch 25 trillion dollars, unless strong measures for climate change mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction are taken immediately.

As adaptation moves from theory to practice, it is becoming clear that the costs of adaptation will surpass previous estimates.

Developing countries, for instance, will require two to three times the previous estimates of 70-100 billion dollars per year by 2050, with a significant funding gap after 2020, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report released last December.

Indicators such as access to water, food security, health, and socio-economic capability were considered in assessing each country’s adaptive capacity.

According to these broad criteria, Liberia ranks lowest, with a quarter of its population lacking access to water, 56 percent of its urban population living in slums, and a high incidence of malaria compounded by a miserable physician-patient ratio of one doctor to every 70,000 people.

On the other end of the adaptive capacity scale, Monaco ranks first, with 100 percent water access, no urban slums, zero malnutrition, 100 percent literacy, 71 doctors for every 10,000 people, and not a single person living below one dollar a day.

Cuba, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands also feature among the top five countries with the highest adaptive capacity; the United States is ranked 8th, the United Kingdom 25th, China 98th and India 146th.

The study also ranks countries on responsibilities for climate change, taking account of their historical versus current carbon emission levels.

The UK takes the most historic responsibility with 940 tonnes of CO2 per capita emitted during the industrialisation boom of 1850-1989, while the U.S. occupies the fifth slot consistently on counts of historical responsibility, cumulative CO2 emissions over the 1990-2011 period, as well as greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity per unit of GDP in 2011, the same year it clocked 6,135 million tonnes of GHG emissions.

China was the highest GHG emitter in 2011 with 10,260 million tonnes, and India ranked 3rd with 2,358 million tonnes. However, when emission intensity per one unit of GDP is additionally considered for current responsibility, both Asian countries move lower on the scale while the oil economies of Qatar and Kuwait move up to into the ranks of the top five countries bearing the highest responsibility for climate change.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

Licensed from Inter Press Service

Modern Silk Roads and China’s Brave New World

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 - 1:25am

By Pepe Escobar | (Tomdispatch.com) –

BEIJING — Seen from the Chinese capital as the Year of the Sheep starts, the malaise affecting the West seems like a mirage in a galaxy far, far away. On the other hand, the China that surrounds you looks all too solid and nothing like the embattled nation you hear about in the Western media, with its falling industrial figures, its real estate bubble, and its looming environmental disasters. Prophecies of doom notwithstanding, as the dogs of austerity and war bark madly in the distance, the Chinese caravan passes by in what President Xi Jinping calls “new normal” mode.

“Slower” economic activity still means a staggeringly impressive annual growth rate of 7% in what is now the globe’s leading economy. Internally, an immensely complex economic restructuring is underway as consumption overtakes investment as the main driver of economic development. At 46.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP), the service economy has pulled ahead of manufacturing, which stands at 44%.

Geopolitically, Russia, India, and China have just sent a powerful message westward: they are busy fine-tuning a complex trilateral strategy for setting up a network of economic corridors the Chinese call “new silk roads” across Eurasia. Beijing is also organizing a maritime version of the same, modeled on the feats of Admiral Zheng He who, in the Ming dynasty, sailed the “western seas” seven times, commanding fleets of more than 200 vessels.

Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing are at work planning a new high-speed rail remix of the fabled Trans-Siberian Railroad. And Beijing is committed to translating its growing strategic partnership with Russia into crucial financial and economic help, if a sanctions-besieged Moscow, facing a disastrous oil price war, asks for it.

To China’s south, Afghanistan, despite the 13-year American war still being fought there, is fast moving into its economic orbit, while a planned China-Myanmar oil pipeline is seen as a game-changing reconfiguration of the flow of Eurasian energy across what I’ve long called Pipelineistan.

And this is just part of the frenetic action shaping what the Beijing leadership defines as the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the twenty-first century. We’re talking about a vision of creating a potentially mind-boggling infrastructure, much of it from scratch, that will connect China to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe. Such a development will include projects that range from upgrading the ancient silk road via Central Asia to developing a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor; a China-Pakistan corridor through Kashmir; and a new maritime silk road that will extend from southern China all the way, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, to Venice.

Don’t think of this as the twenty-first-century Chinese equivalent of America’s post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe, but as something far more ambitious and potentially with a far vaster reach.

China as a Mega-City

If you are following this frenzy of economic planning from Beijing, you end up with a perspective not available in Europe or the U.S. Here, red-and-gold billboards promote President Xi Jinping’s much ballyhooed new tagline for the country and the century, “the Chinese Dream” (which brings to mind “the American Dream” of another era). No subway station is without them. They are a reminder of why 40,000 miles of brand new high-speed rail is considered so essential to the country’s future. After all, no less than 300 million Chinese have, in the last three decades, made a paradigm-breaking migration from the countryside to exploding urban areas in search of that dream.

Another 350 million are expected to be on the way, according to a McKinsey Global Institute study. From 1980 to 2010, China’s urban population grew by 400 million, leaving the country with at least 700 million urban dwellers. This figure is expected to hit one billion by 2030, which means tremendous stress on cities, infrastructure, resources, and the economy as a whole, as well as near-apocalyptic air pollution levels in some major cities.

Already 160 Chinese cities boast populations of more than one million. (Europe has only 35.) No less than 250 Chinese cities have tripled their GDP per capita since 1990, while disposable income per capita is up by 300%.

These days, China should be thought of not in terms of individual cities but urban clusters — groupings of cities with more than 60 million people. The Beijing-Tianjin area, for example, is actually a cluster of 28 cities. Shenzhen, the ultimate migrant megacity in the southern province of Guangdong, is now a key hub in a cluster as well. China, in fact, has more than 20 such clusters, each the size of a European country. Pretty soon, the main clusters will account for 80% of China’s GDP and 60% of its population. So the country’s high-speed rail frenzy and its head-spinning infrastructure projects — part of a $1.1 trillion investment in 300 public works — are all about managing those clusters.

Not surprisingly, this process is intimately linked to what in the West is considered a notorious “housing bubble,” which in 1998 couldn’t have even existed. Until then all housing was still owned by the state. Once liberalized, that housing market sent a surging Chinese middle class into paroxysms of investment. Yet with rare exceptions, middle-class Chinese can still afford their mortgages because both rural and urban incomes have also surged.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is, in fact, paying careful attention to this process, allowing farmers to lease or mortgage their land, among other things, and so finance their urban migration and new housing. Since we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people, however, there are bound to be distortions in the housing market, even the creation of whole disastrous ghost towns with associated eerie, empty malls.

The Chinese infrastructure frenzy is being financed by a pool of investments from central and local government sources, state-owned enterprises, and the private sector. The construction business, one of the country’s biggest employers, involves more than 100 million people, directly or indirectly. Real estate accounts for as much as 22% of total national investment in fixed assets and all of this is tied to the sale of consumer appliances, furnishings, and an annual turnover of 25% of China’s steel production, 70% of its cement, 70% of its plate glass, and 25% of its plastics.

So no wonder, on my recent stay in Beijing, businessmen kept assuring me that the ever-impending “popping” of the “housing bubble” is, in fact, a myth in a country where, for the average citizen, the ultimate investment is property. In addition, the vast urbanization drive ensures, as Premier Li Keqiang stressed at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, a “long-term demand for housing.”

Markets, Markets, Markets

China is also modifying its manufacturing base, which increased by a multiple of 18 in the last three decades. The country still produces 80% of the world’s air conditioners, 90% of its personal computers, 75% of its solar panels, 70% of its cell phones, and 63% of its shoes. Manufacturing accounts for 44% of Chinese GDP, directly employing more than 130 million people. In addition, the country already accounts for 12.8% of global research and development, well ahead of England and most of Western Europe.

Yet the emphasis is now switching to a fast-growing domestic market, which will mean yet more major infrastructural investment, the need for an influx of further engineering talent, and a fast-developing supplier base. Globally, as China starts to face new challenges — rising labor costs, an increasingly complicated global supply chain, and market volatility — it is also making an aggressive push to move low-tech assembly to high-tech manufacturing. Already, the majority of Chinese exports are smartphones, engine systems, and cars (with planes on their way). In the process, a geographic shift in manufacturing is underway from the southern seaboard to Central and Western China. The city of Chengdu in the southwestern province of Sichuan, for instance, is now becoming a high-tech urban cluster as it expands around firms like Intel and HP.

So China is boldly attempting to upgrade in manufacturing terms, both internally and globally at the same time. In the past, Chinese companies have excelled in delivering the basics of life at cheap prices and acceptable quality levels. Now, many companies are fast upgrading their technology and moving up into second- and first-tier cities, while foreign firms, trying to lessen costs, are moving down to second- and third-tier cities. Meanwhile, globally, Chinese CEOs want their companies to become true multinationals in the next decade. The country already has 73 companies in the Fortune Global 500, leaving it in the number two spot behind the U.S.

In terms of Chinese advantages, keep in mind that the future of the global economy clearly lies in Asia with its record rise in middle-class incomes. In 2009, the Asia-Pacific region had just 18% of the world’s middle class; by 2030, according to the Development Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that figure will rise to an astounding 66%. North America and Europe had 54% of the global middle class in 2009; in 2030, it will only be 21%.

Follow the money, and the value you get for that money, too. For instance, no less than 200,000 Chinese workers were involved in the production of the first iPhone, overseen by 8,700 Chinese industrial engineers. They were recruited in only two weeks. In the U.S., that process might have taken more than nine months. The Chinese manufacturing ecosystem is indeed fast, flexible, and smart — and it’s backed by an ever more impressive education system. Since 1998, the percentage of GDP dedicated to education has almost tripled; the number of colleges has doubled; and in only a decade, China has built the largest higher education system in the world.

Strengths and Weaknesses

China holds more than $15 trillion in bank deposits, which are growing by a whopping $2 trillion a year. Foreign exchange reserves are nearing $4 trillion. A definitive study of how this torrent of funds circulates within China among projects, companies, financial institutions, and the state still does not exist. No one really knows, for instance, how many loans the Agricultural Bank of China actually makes. High finance, state capitalism, and one-party rule all mix and meld in the realm of Chinese financial services where realpolitik meets real big money.

The big four state-owned banks — the Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the China Construction Bank, and the Agricultural Bank of China — have all evolved from government organizations into semi-corporate state-owned entities. They benefit handsomely both from legacy assets and government connections, or guanxi, and operate with a mix of commercial and government objectives in mind. They are the drivers to watch when it comes to the formidable process of reshaping the Chinese economic model.

As for China’s debt-to-GDP ratio, it’s not yet a big deal. In a list of 17 countries, it lies well below those of Japan and the U.S., according to Standard Chartered Bank, and unlike in the West, consumer credit is only a small fraction of total debt. True, the West exhibits a particular fascination with China’s shadow banking industry: wealth management products, underground finance, off-the-balance-sheet lending. But such operations only add up to around 28% of GDP, whereas, according to the International Monetary Fund, it’s a much higher percentage in the U.S.

China’s problems may turn out to come from non-economic areas where the Beijing leadership has proven far more prone to false moves. It is, for instance, on the offensive on three fronts, each of which may prove to have its own form of blowback: tightening ideological control over the country under the rubric of sidelining “Western values”; tightening control over online information and social media networks, including reinforcing “the Great Firewall of China” to police the Internet; and tightening further its control over restive ethnic minorities, especially over the Uighurs in the key western province of Xinjiang.

On two of these fronts — the “Western values” controversy and Internet control — the leadership in Beijing might reap far more benefits, especially among the vast numbers of younger, well educated, globally connected citizens, by promoting debate, but that’s not how the hyper-centralized Chinese Communist Party machinery works.

When it comes to those minorities in Xinjiang, the essential problem may not be with the new guiding principles of President Xi’s ethnic policy. According to Beijing-based analyst Gabriele Battaglia, Xi wants to manage ethnic conflict there by applying the “three Js”: jiaowang, jiaoliu, jiaorong (“inter-ethnic contact,” “exchange,” and “mixage”). Yet what adds up to a push from Beijing for Han/Uighur assimilation may mean little in practice when day-to-day policy in Xinjiang is conducted by unprepared Han cadres who tend to view most Uighurs as “terrorists.”

If Beijing botches the handling of its Far West, Xinjiang won’t, as expected, become the peaceful, stable, new hub of a crucial part of the silk-road strategy. Yet it is already considered an essential communication link in Xi’s vision of Eurasian integration, as well as a crucial conduit for the massive flow of energy supplies from Central Asia and Russia. The Central Asia-China pipeline, for instance, which brings natural gas from the Turkmen-Uzbek border through Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan, is already adding a fourth line to Xinjiang. And one of the two newly agreed upon Russia-China pipelines will also arrive in Xinjiang.

The Book of Xi

The extent and complexity of China’s myriad transformations barely filter into the American media. Stories in the U.S. tend to emphasize the country’s “shrinking” economy and nervousness about its future global role, the way it has “duped” the U.S. about its designs, and its nature as a military “threat” to Washington and the world.

The U.S. media has a China fever, which results in typically feverish reports that don’t take the pulse of the country or its leader. In the process, so much is missed. One prescription might be for them to read The Governance of China, a compilation of President Xi’s major speeches, talks, interviews, and correspondence. It’s already a three-million-copy bestseller in its Mandarin edition and offers a remarkably digestible vision of what Xi’s highly proclaimed “China Dream” will mean in the new Chinese century.

Xi Dada (“Xi Big Bang” as he’s nicknamed here) is no post-Mao deity. He’s more like a pop phenomenon and that’s hardly surprising. In this “to get rich is glorious” remix, you couldn’t launch the superhuman task of reshaping the Chinese model by being a cold-as-a-cucumber bureaucrat. Xi has instead struck a collective nerve by stressing that the country’s governance must be based on competence, not insider trading and Party corruption, and he’s cleverly packaged the transformation he has in mind as an American-style “dream.”

Behind the pop star clearly lies a man of substance that the Western media should come to grips with. You don’t, after all, manage such an economic success story by accident. It may be particularly important to take his measure since he’s taken the measure of Washington and the West and decided that China’s fate and fortune lie elsewhere.

As a result, last November he made official an earthshaking geopolitical shift. From now on, Beijing would stop treating the U.S. or the European Union as its main strategic priority and refocus instead on China’s Asian neighbors and fellow BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa, with a special focus on Russia), also known here as the “major developing powers” (kuoda fazhanzhong de guojia). And just for the record, China does not consider itself a “developing country” anymore.

No wonder there’s been such a blitz of Chinese mega-deals and mega-dealings across Pipelineistan recently. Under Xi, Beijing is fast closing the gap on Washington in terms of intellectual and economic firepower and yet its global investment offensive has barely begun, new silk roads included.

Singapore’s former foreign minister George Yeo sees the newly emerging world order as a solar system with two suns, the United States and China. The Obama administration’s new National Security Strategy affirms that “the United States has been and will remain a Pacific power” and states that “while there will be competition, we reject the inevitability of confrontation” with Beijing. The “major developing powers,” intrigued as they are by China’s extraordinary infrastructural push, both internally and across those New Silk Roads, wonder whether a solar system with two suns might not be a non-starter. The question then is: Which “sun” will shine on Planet Earth?  Might this, in fact, be the century of the dragon?

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times, an analyst for RT and Sputnik, and a TomDispatch regular. His latest book is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Pepe Escobar

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

TomoNews: “China plans to revive ancient Silk Road trade route stretching from Western Europe to Southeast Asia”

Yemen: Saudi backs Sunni revolution against Shiite Houthi Rebels linked to Iran

Sun, 22 Feb 2015 - 4:13am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Yemen Voice reports that Wahhabi Saudi Arabia has launched an all out political offensive against the Shiite Houthi rebels who have taken over the north of the country. The Houthis took the capital last September but kept the government in place until recently, when they made a full coup and established a governing council. Saudi Arabia sees the Houthis as cat’s paws of Iran, but this point of view is a vast exaggeration.

Zaidi Shiites in Yemen, about a third of the population, do not belong to the same branch of Shiite Islam as most Iranians, and they are a local Yemeni movement reacting against Sunni and secular dominance of politics. (About two-thirds of Yemenis are Sunni Muslims and they predominate in the south of the country.)

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, elected in a referendum in February 2012, was forced to resign and was placed under house arrest. This weekend, Mansour Hadi escaped to the southern city of Aden, which is not in Houthi hands. In fact, several southern provinces have announced that they would not take orders from a Houthi government in the capital of Sanaa. The Houthis have subdued some nearby Sunni provinces by main force, but likely cannot forcibly take over the whole country. In the capital of Sanaa on Saturday, crowds demonstrated in favor of President Mansour Hadi.

Even before that happened, Yemen Voice alleges, Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman was trying to put together an anti-Houthi coalition. It would include the secular, nationalist General National Congress Party, which had ruled the country until last September, and its rival, the Islah (Reform) Party, a party of the religious right. Both have been sidelined by the tribal, rural Zaidi Shiites who flooded into the capital and have also taken other cities, including Ta’izz.

The Saudi-backed coalition also included Sunni tribal leaders in Maarib and Baida, oil-producing regions that are dead set against Shiite rule. One problem: some of the regions the Saudis are said to be encouraging to rise up against the Houthis have al-Qaeda cells, and if Yemen falls into civil war, they will reap the consequences.

Mansour Hadi has the support of provincial governors and their bureaucracies in the south, as well as of many in the public. Yemen has just been partitioned into a Shiite-dominated north and a Sunni-dominated south.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni economy continued its collapse, with oil revenues down in the past year by one billion dollars, to $1.6 billion instead of last year’s $2.6 billion. Political unrest and the destruction of pipelines was the major cause of the fall, though the lower oil prices of recent months have also hurt.

Saudi Arabian interference in the domestic affairs of the Zaidi Shiite north of Yemen is widely held to have produced the militant Zaid movement as a local phenomenon. It began clashing with the nationalist government (which was allied with the Saudis) in 2004. After the 2011 revolution, which removed a president for life, the state institutions were weakened, including the Army, allowing the Houthis to take over last fall.

The struggle in Yemen is now joined, with two fairly clear camps. One side is the nationalists of Mansour Hadi and possibly a new alliance between them and the Sunni fundamentalist Islah. The other is the Shiite Houthis. One has the south, the other the north. The future of Yemen depends on whether they go to open war or negotiate, and who ultimately wins.

Related video:

Reuters: “Anti-Houthi protest in Yemen as former leader escapes house arrest”

New York: Solar Panels demand increasing despite drop in natural gas prices

Sun, 22 Feb 2015 - 3:21am

CCTV America | –

“The demand for renewable power resources such as wind and solar is not only holding steady, but growing. CCTV America’s Jessica Stone reported the story from Albany, New York.”

CCTV America: “Solar demand increasing despite drop in natural gas prices”

Men in miniskirts protest against female student death in Turkey

Sun, 22 Feb 2015 - 2:20am

Latest News | –

“I would walk around in Taksim wearing a skirt, if you can do that…”

For many Turkish men, this is a common phrase they use when they want to assert a claim or make a bet. It has turned into reality when a group of men went to Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square wearing skirts, keeping their word they have been pledging for the past few days on social media.

On Feb. 17, Erkan Doğan had donned a skirt in Istanbul’s Asian side neighborhood of Kadıköy to demonstrate in memory of slain 20-year-old student Özgecan Aslan.

Doğan’s individual action had inspired social media calls for a massive “skirt-wearing” march over the weekend to show Turkish men’s support for the women who were victimized by the recent wave of male violence in Turkey.

The burned body of Özgecan Aslan was discovered on Feb. 13 in a riverbed in the southern Turkish province of Mersin, triggering a public debate in which a woman’s attire had also stressed as a factor in sexual assault and harassment cases by several conservative critics.

The record-breaking snowfall during the weekdays in Istanbul had lowered the expections for the participation in the planned “skirt march” in Taksim, but a group of men showed up in the square and İstiklal Avenue that connects it to the Galata neighborhood on Feb. 21. Some of them came with their children.” – MadeInTurkey

Video:

Latest News: “Men in miniskirt protest against student death in Turkey”

Report: Attacks on Iraqi Women are a War Tactic

Sun, 22 Feb 2015 - 1:44am

By Leila Lemghalef

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) – Iraqi women continue to be subject to physical, emotional and sexual violence, according to a new report by Minority Rights Group International and Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights.

No Place to Turn: Violence against women in the Iraq conflict concludes that attacks on women – conducted by both pro- and anti-government militias across the country – are a war tactic in Iraq, and emphasises that while women are punished for the aggressions they have endured, their perpetrators are absolved from punishment under Iraqi Penal Code.

“Women are threatened by all sides of the conflict: by the armed groups which threaten, kill, and rape them; by the male-dominated security and police forces which fail to protect them and are often complicit in violence against them; and by criminal groups which take advantage of their desperate circumstances.

“They are simultaneously betrayed by a broader political, legal and cultural context that allows perpetrators of gender-based violence to go free and stigmatizes or punishes victims,” the report says in its opening remarks.

The rights of women are based on conditions and Taliban-style “moral” codes forbidding women from wearing gold or leaving home without a male relative.

The report also points out the development of threats against female doctors, educators, lawyers and journalists.

Sexual assault is another major preoccupation, along with the commodification, disappearances, captivity and torture of women.

Yezidi (Kurdish) women are reported to be targeted on a massive scale, and many are said to be sold as sexual slaves or forced to marry ISIS fighters.

Human trafficking “has mushroomed in recent years” according to the report, which describes related prostitution rings.

Breakdown in Iraqi society

IPS spoke with Mark Lattimer, director of the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, which delivered the report.

He said part of the challenge is Iraq’s “very poor rule of law”, and elements of its criminal code that “discriminate against women and enable abusers to get away with assaulting and even sometimes killing women”.

He also spoke of a long-term breakdown in Iraqi society, which has led to an explosion of violence against women in Iraq.

“What has happened in Iraq is not the story just of the last six months,” Lattimer told IPS. “It’s a story of the last 12 years.”

Before coming up with top-down military strategies that involve arming factions and further engaging in violence, he said, Iraqi civilians – especially the women – need to be listened to.

“The trouble is that the voices of female civilians there are effectively ignored in Iraq, and they’re ignored internationally.”

The international community

“It’s no longer possible to talk about Iraq, which doesn’t involve international engagement, or involvement,” Lattimer told IPS.

“There are many other states that are intimately involved in what is happening in Iraq,” he said, referring to countries like neighbouring Gulf States that give large amounts of money to various armed opposition groups.

The Iranian government supports the Iraqi authorities militarily, and the U.S. and members of the coalition are engaged in bombing raids and airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.

He stressed that the states with influence over the Iraqi government, including the U.S. and parts of Europe “need to make it very clear, that their support for Iraq doesn’t involve or shouldn’t include giving a carte blanche to the Shi’a militias”.

Numerous recommendations are made in the report, to the federal government of Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government and the international community.

They include amending the criminal code in Iraq, preventing the transfer of resources to dangerous parties, recruiting women into the police force, improving support to female survivors of abuse, and promoting the accountability of those responsible for violations of international law.

Shatha Besarani is a woman’s rights activist and member of the Iraqi Women’s League and public relations person for the league in the UK.

She says she has seen similar reports come out in previous years with nearly identical recommendations.

“(There are) so many reports on exactly the same subject of concern to Iraqi women, which is violence. All these years, since 2003, it got worse and worse and worse, and now it’s got to the point where the women started to be sold and bought like cattle,” she told IPS.

“I have one concern, while these reports are coming out,” she said.

“I want to know how much these reports are getting into women’s lives, how much they’re improving women’s lives, and how much they are affecting this bloody Iraqi government, which one after another is coming with all these Islamist issues, and they don’t do anything about women.”

According to Besarani, what has happened to Iraqi women cannot even be measured.

“Do we really have a justice system, which brings a man who burns his wife to justice?” she asks.

“No.”

“We have women to be blamed but we never heard of a man to be blamed.”

She wishes to see a body hold the government or responsible party to account, and have them be asked “again and again and again: What have you done? Is there anything really factual and statistical and real on real grounds being done?”

In her view, women’s organizations, NGOs, and small independent organizations are needed for this cause as much as the U.N. and big alliances.

No Place to Turn: Violence against women in the Iraq conflict will be presented at the U.N. Human Rights Council, March 2015.

Edited by Roger Hamilton-Martin

Licensed from Inter Press Service

—-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

NAP 1325 NL: “Women, Peace and Security in Iraq”

Muslims form ‘Ring of Peace’ around Oslo Synagogue, after Denmark Attack

Sun, 22 Feb 2015 - 1:18am

Reuters | –

“Norwegian Muslims form a human shield around a synagogue in Oslo, offering symbolic protection after an attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark. Gavino Garay reports.”

Reuters: “‘Human shield’ wraps around Oslo synagogue”

Top 5 Reasons Palestinian-Israelis Could shape the Israeli Election

Sat, 21 Feb 2015 - 4:13am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Israel, despite the attempts of current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to cast it as a monochrome “Jewish state,” has a divided and complicated population. Some 21 percent or 1.7 million of the 8 million Israelis are of Palestinian heritage, the majority of those being Muslim. About 300,000 Israelis are not Jewish or Palestinian-Israeli, many of them being immigrants from Russia or Eastern Europe who claim some Jewish antecedents but who are not recognized as Jews by the Israeli rabbinate. Of the 6 million Jews, about one million are recent immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe. Another 1.7 million are European Jews (Ashkenazis) who mostly came to Israel before the 1990s. Nearly 3 million are Eastern Jews originally from the Middle East or the Iberian Peninsula, called Sephardim or in the case of the Middle Easterners, Mizrahim (“Easterners”). Many Israeli Jews are secular-minded. Some 13% don’t believe in God and 24% are agnostics. But 750,000 or 9% are fundamentalist Haredis (“Ultra-Orthodox”).

Since Israel has a list-based parliamentary system, voters tend to elect many small parties to the 120-member Knesset, who then must put together a coalition of 61 in order to have a majority. In the last election, the far right Likud Party of Binyamin Netanyahu got 27 seats and the center-right Kadima Party led by Tzipi Livni received 28 seats. But Netanyahu was able to get the requisite further 35 allies (and more) among the smaller right wing parties, whereas Livni was not, so Netanyahu became prime minister–even though Livni’s party had more seats.

1. That is why it is significant that the traditionally Palestinian-Israeli parties have joined together with the Communists (which are mixed Jewish and Palestinian) to form a single coalition party. They did this in part because the ruling Likud coalition passed a law raising the threshold of the proportion of votes a party list needs to be seated in parliament to 3.25%, from 2%. The threshold is intended to exclude from parliament tiny fringe parties, some of them extremists. But it could have excluded fairly mainstream Palestinian-Israeli parties because each is relatively small on its own.

2. Palestinian-Israeli voter turnout used to be 80% decades ago but has fallen to only 57% more recently. In polling they said it was because of the disunity of the parties they favored and their marginalization. Palestinian-Israeli members of parliament will be able to work against an increasing tendency in Israeli society toward discrimination against and marginalization of them. They oppose, for instance, Netanyahu’s formula that Israel is a Jewish state. Palestinian-Israeli politicians are hoping the united list will produce a much bigger turnout.

3. Because of the threat the 3.25% threshold poses, of disenfranchising Palestinian-Israelis if their parties remain small and disunited, it is possible that the Islamic Movement of Sheikh Raed salah will not boycott this election. The “Southern” branch of the Islamic Movement is already committed to the coalition. In the past Salah has held that to participate in an Israeli election is a surrender on the part of the Palestinian-Israelis to Israeli hegemony. But in parliamentary systems, boycotting the vote typically just leaves a group voiceless in government.

4. If the United List of the Palestinian-Israelis can in fact get the vote out, they could get between 12 and 15 seats. (They only won 11 seats in 2009).

5. This showing might allow them to help give a majority to the centrist coalition of Labor and Tzipi Livni’s HaTenua (she and some others on the left of the old Kadima have defected to this small liberal party). This outcome is a little unlikely but not out of the bounds of possibility.

The last time I was in Israel, I mentioned to a colleague that I thought Israel was becoming a multicultural state, what with the decline of dominance by the old Ashkenazi elite and its major institutions. He objected. “Israel already *is* a multicultural state,” he said. We’ll see if that assertion is borne out in the March 17 elections.

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Related video:

WotchitGeneralNews: ” Israel’s Arab Parties Unite, Could Help Netanyahu Rivals”

Negev Bedouin Resist Israeli Demolitions “To Show We Exist”

Sat, 21 Feb 2015 - 1:06am

By Silvia Boarini

AL ARAQIB, Negev Desert, Israel (IPS) – Lehavim Junction in the northern Negev in Israel has been the backdrop to protests against home demolitions in Bedouin localities for the past four and half years.

Every Sunday, inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Al Araqib and their supporters stand behind a large banner reading ‘Stop Demolishing Al Araqib’ in English, Arabic and Hebrew. To the rhythm of clapping hands, the younger ones shout slogans into the PA system, ‘Jews and Arabs can live together’, ‘Stop demolishing our homes’.

Mariam Abu Madegham Al Turi sits with her niece in her family’s tent in Al Araqib village in the Negev desert. The tent was built following the latest demolition of the village by Israeli government authorities on Jan. 14, 2015. Credit: Silvia Boarini/IPS

Last month, the ‘unrecognised’ village of Al Araqib was demolished for the eightieth time in four and half years. Despite the absence of a ruling adjudicating ownership of the lands of Al Araqib, the state is planting a forest on the Al-Turi Arab Bedouin tribe’s ancestral lands.
“Planting a forest is not in my view a reasonable excuse to demolish a village. And neither is making room for a Jewish settlement. These are racist and discriminatory excuses” – Michal Rotem, Arab-Jewish NGO Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF)

“The newspapers here don’t write about Al Araqib,” Mariam Abu Madegham Al Turi, a young inhabitant of Al Araqib told IPS. “These weekly protests are a way to show that we exist. It is part of our sumoud (steadfastness), our resistance.”

Once in a while, a sympathetic driver passing the junction honks the horn in support, a sign of the niche interest that the situation of the Bedouin in the Negev still arouses in the wider Israeli public.

And yet according to a recent report titled ‘The House Demolition Policy in the Negev-Naqab’, published by the Arab-Jewish Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF) non-governmental organisation, the situation in Al Araqib is far from unique.

NCF advocates for civil equality in the Negev-Naqab and is the only NGO methodically documenting house demolitions affecting Bedouins. They counted 859 in the twelve-month period between July 2013 and June 2014

The level, it confirms, has remained virtually unchanged in the past four years and the high numbers “attest to the incompetence of the state in offering durable solutions” to the crisis affecting the region.

Since the Prawer Plan bill ‘to regulate Bedouin settlement’ was frozen at the end of 2013 following mass outcry from the Bedouin community, NCF claims that “in the absence of a legislated plan”, the government is using home demolitions as a policy to limit Bedouin land rights and still implement its vision of development for the Negev.

Naif Agele stands with his children and nephews by the ruins of his brother’s house in an ‘unrecognised’ section of the township of Kuseife in the Negev desert. The house took one month to build and was demolished by government authorities in 10 minutes in March 2014. Credit: Silvia Boarini/IPS

Development for whom and at what cost is the question posed in the NCF report. “The state does not need this land for development,” Michal Rotem who co-authored the report, told IPS.

“They just want it clear,” she said. “Planting a forest is not in my view a reasonable excuse to demolish a village. And neither is making room for a Jewish settlement. These are racist and discriminatory excuses.”

Bedouins are indigenous to the Negev, are Israeli citizens and number roughly 220,000, or 30 percent of the region’s population. About 140,000 of them have been forcibly urbanised and live in seven failing townships planned by the government in the 1960s and 70s, as well as in ten ‘recognised’ villages.

The remaining 80,000 live in 40 localities that are not recognised by the state, do not appear on any map and are at constant risk of demolition, as is the case with Al Araqib.

As Rotem explained, these communities often pre-date the state of Israel but a policy of nationalisation of land turned their inhabitants into ‘invaders’ of state land. “Imagine,” she said, “a state came, legislated its new laws and declared all of the Bedouin community in the Negev criminals, that’s what happened.”

In the past forced urbanisation was offered as the only path to becoming ‘not criminals’, but today those who did urbanise have very little to show for what they gave up.

The NCF report reveals that 54 percent of all demolitions in the period assessed took place in ‘legal’ localities. This means that no provisions were made to accommodate the lifestyle or the natural growth of the Bedouin community, which has the highest fertility rate in Israel.

“This completely contradicts state plans,” Rotem told IPS. “First they tell Bedouins to live in recognised localities and then they go and demolish there too.”

Jalal Abo Bneah is a field coordinator with NCF. He lives in the ‘unrecognised’ village of Wadi Al Nam and knows all too well how these ‘contradictions’ affect people’s lives. “For example,” he told IPS, “the government wants to move the 15,000 people of Wadi al Nam to the township of Segev Shalom. But there is barely enough space in the township for the people already living there. How is this going to work?”

Abu Bneah stressed that there is growing dissatisfaction amongst the Bedouin community with unilateral governmental plans that ignore their needs. “They show no respect for anyone. Not for the people in the recognised localities nor for the ones in the unrecognised villages. Where do they want us to go?” he asked.

Last October, the United Nations Human Rights Committee adopted a number of concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Israel. For example, it stressed that the state refrain from executing demolitions based on discriminatory planning policies and that it consult Bedouins on plans regarding their future.

Abo Bneah welcomes pressure from global actors but given the current right-wing political climate in Israel, he holds little hope that change will come soon.

In the meantime, to counteract state efforts to erase the Bedouin, NCF has launched a website that seeks to set the record straight regarding the true topography of the Negev. The ‘Arab Befouin Vilages in the Ngev-Naqab’ project puts all 40 ‘unrecognised’ villages on the map of Israel, something the state has so far refused to do.

The website allows visitors to learn basic facts about each village, such as date of establishment, number of inhabitants or distance from public services and to see photos of the homes, the nature or the inhabitants. The residents themselves will soon be providing more images, especially documenting demolitions

Just like the weekly demonstrations at Lehavim, the ‘Arab Bedouin Villages project’ helps make the Bedouin more visible, their experience of state power public and their narrative of the past known, but there is more work ahead says Abu Bneah.

“There is still a lot of ignorance out there, especially among the Jewish public,” he stressed. “They still think we took the lands of the state and that is not true.”

For Mariam and the others in Al Araqib, being told by their state that the Bedouin do not exist or that they are ‘criminal invaders’ only makes their commitment to sumoud stronger. “We are here and we are not going anywhere,” Mariam said. “This is our land and, until we live, we will stay.”

Edited by Phil Harris

Licensed from

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Mother Jones Catches Bill O’Reilly Lying About Falkland Island War Coverage

Sat, 21 Feb 2015 - 12:27am

Ben Mankiewicz, Jimmy Dore, John Iadarola, and Cenk Uygur | (The Young Turks) | –

“After NBC News suspended anchor Brian Williams for erroneously claiming that he was nearly shot down in a helicopter while covering the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly went on a tear. On his television show, the top-rated cable news anchor declared that the American press isn’t “half as responsible as the men who forged the nation.” He bemoaned the supposed culture of deception within the liberal media, and he proclaimed that the Williams controversy should prompt questioning of other “distortions” by left-leaning outlets. Yet for years, O’Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don’t withstand scrutiny—even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.

O’Reilly has repeatedly told his audience that he was a war correspondent during the Falklands war and that he experienced combat during that 1982 conflict between the United Kingdom* and Argentina. He has often invoked this experience to emphasize that he understands war as only someone who has witnessed it could. As he once put it, “I’ve been there. That’s really what separates me from most of these other bloviators. I bloviate, but I bloviate about stuff I’ve seen. They bloviate about stuff that they haven’t.”

Read more at Mother Jones

Fox News and O’Reilly did not respond to multiple requests for comment.*”

The Young Turks: “Mother Jones Catches Bill O’Reilly Lying About Falkland Island War Coverage”

Post-Hostilities Gaza an ‘Increasingly Toxic Environment’ UN Warns

Sat, 21 Feb 2015 - 12:18am

By IMEMC News & Agencies

A top United Nations official warned, on Wednesday, of an ‘increasingly toxic environment’ in the besieged Gaza Strip and called on Israel to release Palestinian tax revenues.

Briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman discussed what he described as ‘another tumultuous and deadly month in the Middle East’, taking the opportunity to warn about “steadily increasing tensions and swelling violence.”

“We see the circumstances in Gaza as becoming increasingly worrisome as we approach the six-month mark since the end of last summer’s conflict. The combination of the failure to rectify the persistent governance and security issues and the slow pace of reconstruction has created an increasingly toxic environment.”

Expressing his concerns about the adverse impacts on the two-state solution, Feltman said, according to WAFA: “The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians continues to threaten further escalation. As we warned this Council last month, if this occurs it may have highly damaging, and potentially irreversible, consequences for both parties and for the two-state solution.”

Pointing to a total of $200 million in Palestinian tax revenues withheld by the Israeli Government, Feltman said that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing “acute fiscal challenges that must be urgently addressed,” and described PA’s approach to lend from private banks to pay portion of its civil servants’ salaries as “neither sufficient nor sustainable.”

“Paralyzing the Palestinian Authority from conducting essential Government business – including functions related to health services and law and order – is in no one’s interest. Israel’s action is a violation of its obligations under the Paris Protocol of the Oslo Accords and we, again, call for an immediate reversal of this decision.”

Conveying the Secretary-General’s call for both sides to refrain from unilateral steps that could further aggravate the situation, Feltman highlighted the Quartet’s call for Gaza reconstruction to be accelerated and stressed the need for ‘concrete actions’ and ‘clear unity of purpose’ from the international community so that the Quartet can play an effective role.

Feltman expressed his concerns about the fragile security situation, the volatile political dynamics and the persistently slow pace of reconstruction:

“The often-repeated political challenges in Gaza endure and represent clear dangers for stability. They include the moribund effort to consolidate ceasefire arrangements and the absence of genuine intra-Palestinian reconciliation, including the outstanding issues of unpaid salaries to Gaza public sector employees and civil service reform.”

The UN political chief claims that the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism was “functioning and delivering concrete results,” pointing to 50 construction projects that were under consideration and to the fact that over 75,000 Palestinians have been cleared to receive construction material for shelter repairs, over 47,000 have already procured construction material to date.

Feltman stated that a key factor is that international donors to fulfill their pledges without further delay, warning that failing to do so threatens another escalation in the Strip.

“While the primary obligation evidently lies with the parties, a key component of reversing these negative trends is implementation of the financial commitments made by donors at the Cairo conference. Failure to deliver the necessary support is putting an almost unbearable strain on an already highly fractious environment.”

He noted in this respect that UNRWA urgently needs $100 million for its cash assistance programme and that another $705 million are needed for addressing the humanitarian needs of 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

He reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for Egyptian authorities to re-open the Rafah crossing and expressed his concerns about the continued clashes in the occupied West Bank during the reporting period.

Referring to the demolition of Palestinian houses by Israel, Feltman urged Israel to cease such demolitions and displacements of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and Area C and to facilitate international assistance to vulnerable communities, stressing that Area C is fundamental to the contiguity of the West Bank and the viability of Palestine and its economy.

He also expressed his disappointment about the latest tenders to construct settler’s units in West Bank settlements, reiterating that “settlement activity is illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace,” and calling for it to be halted and reversed.

In conclusion, Feltman underscored the priority of “establishing a framework that could lead to a comprehensive peace” and expressed his hopes that the international community, possibly through a reinvigorated Quartet, “can help the parties avoid a downward slide and support a return to negotiations.

“However, international efforts cannot succeed in isolation. A genuine and lasting peace can only be reached by the commitment of the parties to overcome their mistrust and make the difficult compromises necessary to achieve a resolution to this conflict.”

Via IMEMC

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Medical and Surgery Education: “Health care in Gaza: Priorities and challenges”

Giuliani & Obama: Immigrant Families and Really Loving America

Fri, 20 Feb 2015 - 1:38am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Rudy Giuliani maintains that Barack Obama doesn’t love the United States of America because of the way he was brought up.

Obama was largely brought up after age 10 by his grandmother and grandfather on his mother’s side, Madelynn Dunham and Stanley Armour Dunham.

Stanley Dunham enlisted in the U.S. Army in January of 1942. His unit, the 1830th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Company, Aviation, supported the 9th Air Force during the Allied landing at Normandy Beach in France on D-Day. Stanley and his unit were sent to France 6 weeks later, as was his brother.

As for his wife Madelyn, she made the sacrifice during the war of working the night shift in Wichita, Kansas, at a factory making the Boeing B-29.

Barack’s maternal uncle, Charlie Payne (Madelyn’s brother) served in the 89th Infantry Division. That division liberated one of the Buchenwald death camp complexes, Ohrdruf.

Somehow I feel that the Dunhams loved America and raised their grandson that way.

And it seems pretty clear that by referring to how Obama was brought up, Giuliani has just spit on the graves of the Dunham family.

In contrast, Rudy Giuliani never served in the US military and nor did his father (his grandparents immigrated from Italy). As for how he was brought up (and this isn’t his fault), his father Harold served time in Sing Sing for robbery and then was a soldier in an organized crime operation in Brooklyn that ran a gambling racket and did loan sharking.

I don’t know, maybe Harold raised Mr. Giuliani to love the country that offered him the opportunity to break people’s legs for not paying their vig.

And here you have to wonder if Giuliani’s bizarre trashing of Obama is a form of projection, if it is Rudy Giuliani who wasn’t raised to love his grandparents’ adopted country.

Obama and Giuliani are both from relatively recent immigrant backgrounds, but no one asked to see Giuliani’s birth certificate.

In fact there is an interesting reversal going on here, since Obama’s father came as a student and was from a rising family in the old country. Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. earned an MA in economics from Harvard. He rose to become senior economist for the Kenyan Ministry of Finance. Obama’s mother was from a Midwestern middle class family of old standing (it goes back to a signatory of the Magna Carta in England).

Obama’s antecedents were respectable ones and both of his parents had higher degrees. In the racist American system, though, he faced the challenge of low African-American social status.

Giuliani’s parents in contrast were children of Italian workers from the Tuscany region, who struggled to survive in the American urban jungle and cut some corners. Giuliani growing up also faced status issues in being Roman Catholic in a country with a Protestant establishment.

Both Obama and Giuliani overcame the challenges that their immigrant background presented to them, rising to high office despite not being WASPS. Both served the country to which their forebears came with high distinction. Giuliani as prosecutor helped clean up New York, though he later appointed corrupt officials once he became mayor. But his methods were unconstitutional, and involved constant pat-downs of minorities. Precisely because he was an outsider to the New York elite, Giuliani needed someone to look down on, someone on whom to blame crime, and for him it was the minorities (though his grandparents would have been viewed as minorities themselves on arrival here).

Giuliani should stop and consider that love for America is not just a statement of the sort, he says, Reagan and Clinton made. It is also honoring the central document of Americanness, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Giuliani is contemptuous of the fourth and eighth amendments and demonstrated it practically in the way he ran New York City.

That Obama is president and Giuliani is not clearly sticks in the latter’s craw. It is shameful that he should question Obama’s love of country. But surely he is just compensating in public for his own family’s shady background and his own mistakes such as violating the guarantee against unreasonable search, and promoting crooks such as Bernie Kerik. He should realize that he can’t convince people he loves America, after all his undermining of the US constitution, by denigrating the patriotism of the president of the United States.

Oklahoma: AP History Abandoned For Christian Agenda

Fri, 20 Feb 2015 - 12:31am

TheLipTV | –

“An Oklahoma legislative committee just approved an “emergency” bill introduced by Representative Dan Fisher that would cut state funding for Advanced Placement (AP) US History. Fisher’s agenda seems to be related to an attack on the separation between church and state and the exclusion of a Christian perspective in school history courses. What does this say about how the government handles public school curriculums? We discuss it, in this Lip News clip with Gabriel Mizrahi and Jackie Koppell.”

TheLipTV: “AP History Abandoned For Christian Agenda?”