Archive for February, 2015

Naomi Klein: ‘The Economic System We Have Created Also Created Global Warming’

February 28, 2015
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Best selling author/activist Naomi Klein. (photo: Anya Chibis/Guardian UK)
Best selling author/activist Naomi Klein. (photo: Anya Chibis/Guardian UK)

By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel

28 February 15

 

PIEGEL: Ms. Klein, why aren’t people able to stop climate change?

Klein: Bad luck. Bad timing. Many unfortunate coincidences.

SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?

Klein: The worst possible moment. The connection between greenhouse gases and global warming has been a mainstream political issue for humanity since 1988. It was precisely the time that the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” the victory of Western capitalism. Canada and the US signed the first free-trade agreement, which became the prototype for the rest of the world.

SPIEGEL: So you’re saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?

Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.

SPIEGEL: You’re an activist, and you’ve blamed capitalism for all kinds of things over the years. Now you’re blaming it for climate change too?

Klein: That’s no reason for irony. The numbers tell the story. During the 1990s, emissions went up by 1 percent per year. Starting in 2000, they started to go up by an average of 3.4 percent. The American Dream was exported globally and consumer goods that we thought of as essential to meet our needs expanded rapidly. We started seeing ourselves exclusively as consumers. When shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?

Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we’re out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don’t act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to another question: Are you not misappropriating the issue of climate change for use in your critique of capitalism?

Klein: No. The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. I didn’t make this up. The system is broken, income inequality is too great and the lack of restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.

SPIEGEL: Your son Toma is two-and-a-half years old. What kind of world will he be living in when he graduates from high school in 2030?

Klein: That is what is being decided right now. I see signs that it could be a radically different world from the one we have today — and that change could either be quite positive or extremely negative. In any case, it’s already certain that it will at least in part be a worse world. We’re going to experience global warming and far more natural disasters, that much is certain. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. We also have time to change our economic system so that it does not become more brutal and merciless as it deals with climate change.

SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?

Klein: We have to make some decisions now about what values are important to us and how we really want to live. And of course it makes a difference if temperatures only rise by 2 degrees or if they rise by 4 or 5 degrees or more. It’s still possible for us humans to make the right decisions.

SPIEGEL: Twenty-six years have passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988. We have known at least since then that CO2 emissions from the burning of oil and coal is responsible for climate change. Yet little has been done to address the problem. Haven’t we already failed?

Klein: I view the situation differently given the enormous price we will have to pay. As long as we have the slightest chance of success or to minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.

SPIEGEL: Several years ago, the international community set a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Do you still consider that to be achievable?

Klein: Well, it’s still a physical possibility. We would have to immediately reduce global emissions by 6 percent a year. The wealthier countries would have to carry a greater burden, meaning the United States and Europe would have to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Immediately. It’s not impossible. It is just profoundly politically unrealistic under our current system.

SPIEGEL: You are saying our societies aren’t capable of doing so?

Klein: Yes. We need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.

SPIEGEL: Is a society focused on economic growth at all capable of fighting climate change successfully?

Klein: No. An economic model based on indiscriminate growth inevitably leads to greater consumption and to greater CO2 emissions. There can and must be growth in the future in many low carbon parts of the economy: in green technologies, in public transportation, in all the care-giving professions, in the arts and of course in education. Right now, the core of our gross domestic product is comprised of just consumption, imports and exports. We need to make cuts there. Anything else would be self-deception.

SPIEGEL: The International Monetary Fund makes the opposite claim. It says that economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive.

Klein: They’re not looking at the same numbers as I am. The first problem is that at all these climate conferences, everyone acts as if we will arrive at our goal through self-commitments and voluntary obligations. No one tells the oil companies that, in the end, they are really going to have to give up. The second problem is that these oil companies are going to fight like hell to protect what they don’t want to lose.

SPIEGEL: You seriously want to eliminate the free market in order to save the climate?

Klein: I am not talking about eliminating markets, but we need much more strategy, steering and planning and a very different balance. The system in which we live is overly obsessed with growth — it’s one that sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth that are clearly not good. It’s clear to me that my position is in direct conflict with neo-liberalism. Is it true that in Germany, although you have accelerated the shift to renewables, coal consumption is actually increasing?

SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.

Klein: To me that is an expression of this reluctance to decide on what is necessary. Germany is not going to meet its emissions targets in the coming years either.

SPIEGEL: Is the Obama presidency the worst thing that could have happened to the climate?

Klein: In a way. Not because Obama is worse than a Republican. He’s not. But because these eight years were the biggest wasted opportunity of our lives. The right factors came together in a truly historic convergence: awareness, urgency, the mood, his political majority, the failure of the Big Three US automakers and even the possibility of addressing the failed unregulated financial world and climate change at the same time. But when he came to office, he didn’t have the courage to do it. We will not win this battle unless we are willing to talk about why Obama viewed the fact that he had control over the banks and auto companies as more of a burden than as an opportunity. He was a prisoner of the system. He didn’t want to change it.

SPIEGEL: The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.

Klein: Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.

SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?

Klein: Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.

Klein: Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.

SPIEGEL: If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.

Klein: Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?

SPIEGEL: You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?

Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.

SPIEGEL: You don’t appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.

Klein: Because the system can’t think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example …

SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …

Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system’s self-preservation capacity isn’t that great.

SPIEGEL: A particularly unsettling chapter in your book is about Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group.

Klein: Yes. I wouldn’t have expected it.

SPIEGEL: Branson has sought to portray himself as a man who wants to save the climate. It all started after an encounter with Al Gore.

Klein: And in 2006, he pledged at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that he would invest $3 billion in research into green technologies. At the time, I thought it was truly a sensational contribution. I didn’t think, oh, you cynical bastard.

SPIEGEL: But Branson was really just staging it and only a fraction of that money was ever spent.

Klein: He may well have been sincere at the time, but yes, only a fraction was spent.

SPIEGEL: Since 2006, Branson has added 160 new airplanes to his numerous airlines and increased his emissions by 40 percent.

Klein: Yes.

SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?

Klein: That we need to question the symbolism and gestures made by Hollywood stars and the super rich. We cannot confuse them with a scientifically sound plan to reduce emissions.

SPIEGEL: In America and Australia, a lot of money is spent on efforts to deny climate change. Why?

Klein: It’s different from Europe. It’s an anger that is similar to that held by those who oppose abortion and gun control. It’s not only that they are protecting a way of life they don’t want to change. It’s that they understand that climate change challenges their core anti-government, free-market belief system. So they have to deny it to protect their very identity. That’s why there’s this intensity gap: Liberals want to take a little bit of action on climate protection. But at the same time, these liberals also have a number of other issues that are higher on their agenda. But we have to understand that the hardcore conservative climate change deniers will do everything in their power to prevent action.

SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?

Klein: With all of that, of course.

SPIEGEL: Does that explain why you are connecting all of these issues — the environment, equity, public health and labor issues — that are popular on the left? Is it out of purely strategic considerations?

Klein: The issues are connected, and we also need to connect them in the debate. There is only one way that you can win a battle against a small group of people who stand to lose a lot: You need to start a mass movement that includes all the people who have a lot to gain. The deniers can only be defeated if you are just as passionate as them, but also when you are superior in numbers. Because the truth is that they really are very few.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you believe that technology has the potential to save us?

Klein: There has been tremendous progress in the storage of renewable energies, for instance, and in solar efficiency. But climate change? I, in any case, don’t have enough faith to say, “We’ll come up with some invention at some point, so let’s just drop all other efforts.” That would be insane.

SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.

Klein: And I find their technology fetish naïve. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some really big failures where some of the smartest guys in the room screwed up on a massive scale, be it with the derivatives that triggered the financial crisis or the oil catastrophe off the coast of New Orleans. Mostly, we as people break things and we don’t know how to fix them afterwards. Right now, it’s our planet that we’re breaking.

SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that the climate crisis is a gender issue.

Klein: Why would you say that?

SPIEGEL: Bill Gates says we need to keep moving forward and come up with new inventions to get the problem, and ultimately our complicated Earth, under control. You on the other hand are saying: Stop, no, we have to adapt ourselves to this planet and become softer. The US oil companies are run by men. And you, as a critical woman, are described as hysterical. It’s not an absurd thought, is it?

Klein: No. The entire industrialization was about power or whether it would be man or nature that would dominate Earth. It is difficult for some men to admit that we don’t have everything under control; that we have amassed all this CO2 over the centuries and that Earth is now telling us: Well, you’re just a guest in my house.

SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?

Klein: That’s too cheesy. But you’re still right. The oil industry is a male-dominated world, a lot like high finance. It’s very macho. The American and Australian idea of “discovering” an endless country and that endless resources can be extracted is a narrative of domination, one that traditionally casts nature as a weak, prone woman. And the idea of being in a relationship of interdependence with the rest of the natural world was seen as weak. That’s why it is doubly difficult for alpha men to concede that they have been wrong.

SPIEGEL: There’s one issue in the book that you seem to steer clear of. Although you revile the companies, you never say that your readers, who are customers of these companies, are also culpable. You also remain silent about the price that individual readers will have to pay for climate protection.

Klein: Oh, I think that most people would be happy to pay for it. They know that climate protection requires reasonable behavior: less driving, less flying and less consumption. They would be happy to use renewable energies if they were offered them.

SPIEGEL: But the idea isn’t big enough, right?

Klein: (laughs) Exactly. The green movement spent decades educating people that they should compost their garbage, that they should recycle and that they should ride their bikes. But look at what has happened to the climate during these decades.

SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?

Klein: Not enough. I bike, I use transit, I try to give speeches by Skype, I share a hybrid car and I cut my flying to about one-tenth of what it was before I started this project. My sin is taking taxis, and since the book came out, I’ve been flying too much. But I also don’t think that only people who are perfectly green and live CO2-free should be allowed to talk about this issue. If that were the case, then nobody would be able to say anything at all.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, we thank you for this interview.

 

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The True Nobel Candidates for the true Nobel Peace Prize 2015

February 28, 2015
OpEdNews Op Eds 2/27/2015 at 08:44:23

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Source: http://www.nobelwill.org/index.html?tab=7

The Norwegian Nobel Committee ignores the testament of Nobel. They claim that the “champions of peace” Nobel described in his will no longer exist. To end this charade we have seen no alternative to lifting the curtain of secrecy they hide their waywardness behind.

The Nobel Committee has pursued its own ideas and failed to see how the expressions Nobel used and the promise he gave to Bertha von Suttner to “do something big for themovement” (italics added) leave no room for doubt what “champions of peace” Nobel intended to support. Expressed in modern language:

When Nobel wished to support the “champions of peace,” he meant the movement and the persons who work for a demilitarized world, for law to replace power in international politics, and for all nations to commit to cooperating on the elimination of all weapons instead of competing for military superiority.

This is the content of the prize and as the legally binding scope of all selections it was presented to the Nobel Committee 7 years ago. The committee has never contested this description of the purpose of Nobel, just used their power to ignore it. We think the peace idea of Nobel is of imperative urgency in the world today, and that everyone should know these ideas and be able to see and discuss them. That is why we have decided to publish the following list of qualified candidates.

Below is the list of those we know who are nominated AND qualified, under a wide understanding of the purpose of Nobel, either
1) by direct work for the global disarmament plan Nobel had in mind, or
2) by peace work with high utility and relevance to realizing the Nobel “uniting of disarmed nations,” particularly the work to abolish nuclear weapons, and to promote non-violence, conflict resolution and prevention, develop international law and institutions, etc.
3) by contributing new ideas and research, develop new methods for civilized, non-violent interrelation between peoples that enables a demilitarization of international relations.

The list is not final. We welcome information of nominations we are not aware of or of candidates that we — based on the Nobel purpose — should have included in our list. If you miss certain “champions of peace” in the list this year, please take steps to have them included among the nominations for 2016 — deadline: Feb 1, 2016. The Nobel Peace Prize is happy to give advice and guidance in the hope of realizing Nobel’s true purpose and idea. Contact us

LIST — VALID CANDIDATES FOR THE TRUE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE 2015

Abolition 2000, Global network organization

Article 9, Japan

Bolkovac, Kathryn, USA

Bryn, Steinar, Norway

Ellsberg, Daniel, USA

Falk, Richard, USA

International Assosiation of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms, IALANA, (NY, Geneva, Colombo)

Juristen und Juristinnen gegen atomare, biologische und chemische Waffen , Germany

Krieger, David , USA

Lindner, Evelin, main basis Norway

Mayor, Federico, Spain

Nansen Dialogue Network

Nihon Hidankyo, Japan

Oberg, Jan, Sweden

Snowden, Edward, USA

Mr. Taniguchi, Sumiteru, Japan

Ms. Thurlow, Setsuko, Canada

UNESCO culture of peace program (Paris)

Ware, Alyn, New Zealand

Weiss, Peter, USA

Women’s international League for Peace and Freedom, WILPF (Geneva)

Waiting list – Insufficient information

The following appear to be nominated, but we have not been able to get
the actual nomination. The list of valid candidates will be supplemented
as soon as we get additional valid nominations.

The International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear arms, ICAN

http://davidswanson.org

David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more…)

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Fukushima Daiichi 2-27-15 Leaks, lies and dieoffs

February 28, 2015
Exclusive to OpEdNews:
General News 2/27/2015 at 09:31:50

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http://www.thepetitionsite.com/136/663/239/dont-dump-radioactive-water-into-the-pacific-
from-fukushima-tanks/

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/352/112/859/radioactive-tokyo-resign-as-host-of-2020-olympics/
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition

/STOP_FUKUSHIMA_RADIATION_UN_ACTION_NEEDED/

Dear Friends,

Several new leaks have made the news from the stricken nuclear complex at Fukushima Daiichi,
which was wrecked 4 years ago by the earthquake/tsunami of
March 2011. A leak from the roof of Building 2 was known for a year by TEPCO,
and not reported. The highly contaminated water
is flowing directly into the Pacific, and fish are showing high levels of radioactivity.
International outrage is growing, and local fishermen are shocked.

In a separate incident, the level of strontium 90 in one of the trenches which drains into the ocean
showed a jump of 70x the usual level for that location. This problem may have been caused
by a series of strong earthquakes in the region, which may have
shifted the flow of groundwater.

Other articles below give expert opinions on how bleak the situation is.

Yet the government wants to release thousands of tons of radioactive water currently stored
at the site into the Pacific!

And the governor of Tokyo wants to divert funds from the disaster repair to the 2020 Olympics!

And Prime Minister Abe is still pushing to restart reactors,
even though there is no good plan to dispose of nuclear waste!

Meanwhile, dead birds and sea mammals continue to pile up at an alarming rate on the US West Coast!

Please sign the three petitions here-


http://www.thepetitionsite.com/136/663/239/dont-dump-radioactive-water-into-the-pacific-
from-fukushima-tanks/

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/352/112/859/radioactive-tokyo-resign-as-host-of-2020-olympics/
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/STOP_FUKUSHIMA_RADIATION_UN_ACTION_NEEDED/

Peace, Carol Wolman

http://nuclear-news.net/2015/02/25/rain-is-bringing-a-new-source-of-radioactive-water-
to-fukushima-nuclear-power-plant/

The operator of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant said on Tuesday it had found a pool of highly contaminated water on the roof of a plant building and that it had probably leaked into the sea through a gutter when it rained. The finding comes four years after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc’s Fukushima reactors, and 1-1/2 years after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the International Olympic Committee that radiation leaks at the plant were “under control”.
click here
officials-kept-problem-secret-year-

stop-going-ocean-contamination-coming-debris-top-unit-2-gundersen-pressure-reactor
Nuclear waste on roof of Fukushima reactor flowing directly in ocean — Officials kept secret for past year & did nothing to stop it — Coming from highly radioactive debris on top of Unit 2; Gundersen: Reactor pressures got so high “it blew top off” — Amount of leakage ‘unknown’ — “Fallout far from over” International fury rising”
Japan Times, Feb 25, 2015 (emphasis added): Radioactive isotopes [have] beendraining into the
Pacific
from the roof of the No. 2 reactor building, which is highly contaminated“.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Tepco reported water contaminated withhigh levels of radiation
was flowing into the ocean
at the plant’s port. Kyodo News, Feb 25, 2015:Highly toxic water leaks into ocean from Fukushima plant
Highly radioactive rainwater [is] accumulating on the rooftop of the No. 2 reactor building”
In a separate incident” highly contaminated water leaked into the nearby bay
through a different gutter” The cause and the amount of water leakage remainunknown. [Tepco] decided against making the findings public until now
as it did not have results of the analysis on
the accumulated liquid’s radioactivity levels.
Newsweek, Feb 25, 2015: The fallout from the Fukushima disaster is far from over
Local commercial fishermen are reportedly outraged” “I don’t understand why [Tepco] kept silent”
Fishery operators are absolutely shocked,” [said] Masakazu Yabuki,
chief of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative”
[The] plant has been plagued by a staggering number of accidents.
NHK, Feb. 24, 2015: [TEPCO] did not take any measures to prevent radioactive water”
flowing into the Pacific
TEPCO was aware” April last year [yet] has not installed floodgates [and]
does not plan to install any devices
in the channel.
Japan’s top government spokesperson reiterated the government’s long-standing mantra”
“The
situation is completely under control
Any negative impact of radioactive water on the environment is completely blocked.”
http://nuclear-news.net/2015/02/25/record-concentration-of-radioactive-cesium-
in-fish-near-fukushima-nuclear-station-port/

A record quantity of radioactive cesium — 7,400 times the country’s limit deemed safe
for human consumption — has been detected in a greenling fish in the waters
near the crippled Fukushima plant, two years after the nuclear disaster.

TEPCO has also discovered a record 740,000 becquerels per kilogram of
radioactive cesium in the fish, Kyodo News reported.

http://l.facebook.com/l/LAQFwMuvoAQEnTFe6Rp27yTL_NzbWz8pxrQ7Nb6nD54KDqg/
fukushima-diary.com/2015/02/strong-quakes-successively-hit-north-east-japan
-tepco-publishing-reports-fukushima-plant-status/ On 2/17/2015, multiple major quakes hit North East Japan. The first one occurred at 8:06 JST,
magnitude was 6.9. Epicenter was Sanriku offshore , depth was 10km. Japan meteorological agency announced
http://nuclear-news.net/2015/02/22/strong-quakes-successively-hit-north-east-japan-
tepco-publishing-no-reports-on-fukushima-plant-status-7230000-bqm3-of-all-β-
nuclide-leaked-from-drain-to-the-sea-contamination-lev/ On 2/22/2015, Tepco announced the radiation level suddenly jumped up in the plant area drain
to let it flow to the sea. According to Tepco, 2 radiation monitors detected the rapid increase of all Î nuclide density
(to include Strontium-90) around 10:00AM. The indicated radiation level was 5,050,000 ã 5,630,000 Bq/m3. It made Tepco check the potential leakage of the contaminated water tanks upstream
and contaminated water transferring system, but they did not shut down the drain outlet for nearly 3 hours for some reason. Extremely high level of all Î nuclide was detected from seawater near the outlet,
which was 3,000,000 Bq/m3. The contaminated water flowed to the sea. The highest density detected by the monitor was 7,230,000 Bq/m3,
which was 10 to 100 times much as usual. After all, Tepco found no leakage from contaminated water related facility upstream.
There is a possibility that highly contaminated groundwater moved and flowed to the drain. Currently they are collecting the water from drain by vacuum truck.

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/312-16/28656-japan-
fukushima-radioactive-leak-continues-in-ocean The Fukushima power plant in Japan is pouring growing amounts of radioactive water
into the ocean, warned international nuclear authorities. “The situation … remains very complex, with the increasing amount of contaminated water
posing a short-term challenge that must be resolved in a sustainable manner,” stated the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its report Tuesday. Strong quakes successively hit North East Japan / Tepco publishing no reports on Fukushima plant…


http://enenews.com/nuclear-engineer-new-video-appears-show-molten-corium-
melted-fukushima-reactor-oozing-weve-talking-about-criticalities-going-causing-continued-heat-long-time-audio-video Chris Harris, former licensed Senior Reactor Operator & engineer, Feb 19, 2015 (at 30:15 in)

  • The buildings are really in a state of disrepair at Fukushima. There’s been some new video released
  • of what could be the molten.. some of the corium that has leeched out. We talked a long time ago
  • that some of it is not solid and still oozing in that respect. And this video showed something,
  • that if it werent just metal melted, but it sure looked like if it was corium,
  • then it would be oozing. Which would lend credibility to our lava lamp effect
  • that we’ve been talking about for a long time now, thus little criticalities going on
  • and causing continued heat Certainly there were some pretty interesting images of it.
  • You can see how frustrating the attempts are to contain the mess into some area, let alone treat it.
  • The fuel was never designed to leave the cladding, that was the first line of defense.
  • Once that gets broken and then the containment gets broken, or even before that
  • the reactor gets broken, the genie is long out of the bottle.

http://nuclear-news.net/2015/02/18/fukushima-nuclear-catastrophe-changed-the-world/
Fukushima catastrophe changed the world; Worst nuclear accident in history, like two Chernobyls;
Poisoned entire landscapes for centuries ” Study: Fukushima overwhelms the peak radioactivity
from nuclear bomb testing in ice core samples; Affected the global environment

http://enenews.com/abc-tours-fukushima-work-plant-could-last-centuries-tepco-admits-
doesnt-extent-meltdowns-official-dont-real-situation-melted-fuel-need-around-world-video
Matthew Carney, ABC North Asia correspondent: Sorting out Reactor No. 4 will be the easy part.
Fixing Reactors No. 1, 2, and 3 will be much more difficult. Theyre full of molten nuclear fuel.
Humans cant enter, it would result in instant death. And robots have yet to be invented
that can withstand the massive radiation levels near the melted cores.
TEPCO admits it doesnt know the exact location and extent of the meltdowns.
They claim it will take 40 years to fix, but others say centuries.
Kenichiro Matsui, TEPCO public affairs department (voiceover translation):
We dont know the exact situation in detail. Fuel has been melted down,
but nobody has seen it. We need to develop technology with help from around the world
to know the real situation. .

http://nuclear-news.net/2015/02/18/inspectors-urge-japan-to-dump-water-from-fukushima-plant-into-ocean/
However, the nearly 160 million gallons of contaminated water stored on-site
pose massive logistical challenges, and examiners strongly urged Japan to consider
controlled discharges of the liquid into the Pacific Ocean once it is treated.
About half of the water stored on-site has been treated to remove most radioactive contaminants,
the IAEA team noted, though current technology does not allow for the easy removal of tritium,
an isotope of hydrogen.

http://nuclear-news.net/2015/02/18/fukushima-disater-recovery-funds-to-be-used-for-olympic-events/
Tokyo Gov. Masuzoe wants to use disaster recovery funds for Olympic events in
Tohoku Mainichi, 18 Feb 15
Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe says he will ask the central government
to use part of the Tohoku tsunami disaster reconstruction budget to cover the costs
of staging some events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics
in areas that were severely affected by the 2011 disaster……..

http://nuclear-news.net/2015/02/23/abe-government-irresponsible-about-nuclear-wastes-
science-council-of-japan/
Even as the Abe administration pushes for reactivating idled nuclear power reactors
after they have cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety screening,
an open question remains: How will Japan dispose of highly radioactive waste
produced by the nuclear reactors. Due to the lack of an established scheme
for final disposal of the waste that would be generated after spent fuel is reprocessed,
Japan’s nuclear power generation has long been likened to a condominium without a toilet


http://enenews.com/alarming-increase-dead-birds-along-california-coast-nasty-cheese-like-lesions-mouth-throat-
epidemic-blamed-newly-discovered-parasite-experts-surprising-very-concerning-sudden-increase-mortali
San Francisco Chronicle, Feb 2, 2015: Mass pigeon deaths alarm biologists
An alarming increase in the number of dead and dying band-tailed pigeons along the California coast”
apparent victims of a parasite” The sudden increase in mortality is disturbing,
[Krysta Rogers, Calif. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife] said” “[It] is very concerning” Right now, it’s really hard to estimate mortality because” if there are deaths in remote locations, we’re not getting reports.”” [The parasite] lives in the mouth and throat of infected birds, causing lesions in the mouth or esophagus that eventually block the passage of food. Infected birds die from starvation or suffocation.

http://enenews.com/fox-dozens-dead-sea-lions-litter-la-beaches-families-shocked-
many-calls-911-about-dying-animals-bogging-down-system-
scientists-year-worst-history-devastating-scene-horrifying-video

Fox News, Feb 23, 2015: A heartbreaking and troubling mystery for the third year in a row” Johnson: “They’re so thin, they’re like 15-16 pounds” they should be 30-40″” Scientists say this year is the worst in history — 10 times the normal number of strandings” Johnson: “It’s obvious that the ocean is changing, and the sea lions are sentinels of the seas. They’re telling us that there are major changes going on out there in the oceans today.”

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Carol S. Wolman, MD is a psychiatrist in Northern California. A lifelong peace activist, she is helping to distribute a Peace Plan for the Holy Land- email her for a copy. As the Green candidate for Congress in California District 1 in ’08, she (more…)

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10 Reasons why the Federal Reserve is not a Government Agency

February 28, 2015
OpEdNews Op Eds 2/27/2015 at 10:23:13

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From flickr.com/photos/52816253@N00/3052016140/: Federal Reserve Bank protest in Charlotte
Federal Reserve Bank protest in Charlotte
(image by Justin Ruckman)

There is considerable ambiguity over whether the Federal Reserve is a government agency, a private institution, or something in between. The Fed itself says:

The Federal Reserve System fulfills its public mission as an independent entity within government. It is not “owned” by anyone and is not a private, profit-making institution.

As the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve derives its authority from the Congress of the United States. It is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding appropriated by the Congress, and the terms of the members of the Board of Governors span multiple presidential and congressional terms.

However, the Federal Reserve is subject to oversight by the Congress, which often reviews the Federal Reserve’s activities and can alter its responsibilities by statute. Therefore, the Federal Reserve can be more accurately described as “independent within the government” rather than “independent of government.”

This still leaves quite a bit of ambiguity.

However, here’s more than 10 reasons why the Federal Reserve is not a government agency:
1. The U.S. has to borrow its money and pay interest on it (plus pay broker-dealer middlemen a substantial fee in between). We don’t have to do that with true government money like coins and U.S. Notes (until 1996 when they were phased out). True, the interest is small right now, but it hasn’t always been so, and we are reliant on the Fed keeping a near Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP), when the Constitution’s coinage clause gave us the ability to produce paper money, debt-free(Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5).

2. Only 18% of Treasuries in value are held by the Federal Reserve. The rest are either sold by the Fed itself to other parties, often foreign, or directly by Treasury at auction. There is no need to do either of these things in a truly sovereign money system.

3. Coins and U.S. Notes produce immediate seigniorage for the government account. Federal Reserve Notes don’t and are a cost.

4. The banks get to elect some (7) of the Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) directors. They also have strong backdoor influence over the rest. It is hard to imagine a FRB Chair appointed whom the banks and Wall Street did not want. In fact, current chair Janet Yellen was chosen over more hawkish FRB Governors because of their preference, though the public spin is that people didn’t want controversial Larry Summers instead.

5. Monetary Reformer and founder of the American Monetary Institute, Stephen Zarlenga, in his article on the Federal Reserve, says

The Federal Reserve System puts itself forward as a non-profit organization that turns over its operating profits to the U.S. Treasury, after all expenses, including the 6% dividend to member banks. However this misses the point on several scores. First, the banking profits coming through the privileged money creation process mainly occurs at the member bank level of operation, and those profits are not turned over to the Treasury.” – http://www.monetary.org/is-the-federal-reserve-system-a-governmental-or-a-privately-controlled-organization/2008/02


6% a year is about average for the stock market or a little less, but of course this 6% comes with much less risk. In any case, this is money NOT going to the public. Zarlenga also points out that the money the Fed pays itself is quite high (they are highly paid bankers, after all), though this has not been audited.

6. The Fed bailed out the banks to the tune of $16 Trillion (Bernie Sanders and the GAO)$29 Trillion (L. Randall Wray) …and counting, in a series of revolving loans, many of which went to European banks ($12T says Sanders). (One of the reasons progressives like Krugman oppose further audits is that those calling for audits, like the Paul father and son, are gold bugs looking to establish hard money. Modern progressive economists know this would be a deflationary disaster and rightly oppose gilding the Fed for that reason). Clearly, that is an entity acting independently. What they did NOT do is suggest Sovereign Debt-Free money: OpEdNews Article: Fantasy Fed Speech

7. Zarlenga lists other important facts:

It will be clear from the following points that the Fed is definitely not part of the US Government:

* The Fed is not organized within the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches of our government.

* Who pays the Fed’s bills and determines its budget? Not any part of our government. The Fed gets its funding from its own specially privileged operations. The Fed Board determines Fed budgets.

* Who monitors and oversees Fed activities? Again the Fed itself. While some important elements of proper auditing have taken place, there has not yet been a comprehensive independent audit, by the Government Accountability Office as proposed in a recent letter from Ralph Nader to new Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, calling for greater monetary transparency.

* Federal Reserve Employees are not part of the US Civil Service System and are not covered by government employees’ health insurance or pension programs. Who does the hiring and firing? Except for the highly publicized Chairman and 7 member Washington Board, this is in private, unelected hands.

* Federal Reserve Banks are not listed as government organizations by the telephone companies, a small but telling fact.

8. The Fed has been notoriously lax in monitoring the member banks, even well within its legal power to do so. That’s a big reason we got the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from Elizabeth Warren, even over the vociferous objections of the banks and Wall Street who ultimately got their way in not having her head the new Bureau (perhaps they would have preferred that to having her as a Senate adversary now?).
9. Zarlenga also cites:1) JOHN L. LEWIS, Plaintiff/Appellant, vs. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant/Appellee.(No. 80-5905, UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS, NINTH CIRCUIT680 F.2d 1239; 1982 U.S. App. LEXIS 20002; March 2, 1982, Submitted; April 19, 1982, Decided)

to show that the Federal Reserve is not a government agency, saying

The district court dismissed, holding that the Federal Reserve Bank is not a federal agency within the meaning of the Federal Reserve Act and that the court therefore lacked subject matter jurisdiction”.

“Federal agency” is defined as: the executive departments, the military departments, independent establishments of the United States, and corporations acting primarily as instrumentalities of the United States, but does not include any contractors with the United States….

There are no sharp criteria for determining whether an entity is a federal agency within the meaning of the Act (28 U.S.C. 2671), but the critical factor is the existence of federal government control over the “detailed physical performance” and “day to day operation” of that entity”. Other factors courts have considered include whether the entity is an independent corporation”, whether the government is involved in the entity’s finances”. and whether the mission of the entity furthers the policy of the United States” Examining the organization and function of the Federal Reserve Banks, and applying the relevant factors, we conclude that the Reserve Banks are not federal instrumentalities for purposes of the FTCA, but are independent, privately owned and locally controlled corporations.

Each Federal Reserve Bank is a separate corporation owned by commercial banks in its region. The stockholding commercial banks elect two thirds of each Bank’s nine member board of directors.

10. Historically, when faced with price stability vs. its other, and more recent, mandate to control inflation, the Fed chooses to control inflation. This results in a tight monetary policy, in which there is often insufficient currency to meet productive capacity. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said, until last year, that there was a trillion dollar/year output gap (the difference in money between would could be produced vs. what is being produced, without inflation).

That’s just 10 reasons the Fed is not a government agency. There are more.

A true government money issuing agency, in contrast, could issue dollars into the real economy via spending bills, without debt, without interest, and without propping up the rentier banking system that has so threatened our economic stability ever since inception in 1913.

We could End the Debt Crisis with debt-free United States Notes.

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http://newthinking.blogspot.com/

Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.His anthology of updated Opednews articles was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:
https://tayen-lane.squarespace.com/america-is-not-broke/Scott is President of Common Ground-NYC (http://commongroundnyc.org/), a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written (more…)

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Terrorists or “Freedom Fighters”? Recruited by the CIA

February 28, 2015
Che_pathi_ox

The barbarous phenomenon we recently witnessed in France has roots that go back to at least 1979 when the mujahedeen made their appearance in Afghanistan. At that time their ire was directed at the leftist Taraki government that had come into power in April of 1978. This government’s ascension to power was a sudden and totally indigenous happening – with equal surprise to both the USA and the USSR.

In April of 1978 the Afghan army deposed the country’s government because of its oppressive measures, and then created a new government, headed by a leftist, Nur Mohammad Taraki, who had been a writer, poet and professor of journalism at the University of Kabul. Following this, for a brief period of time, Afghanistan had a progressive secular government, with broad popular support. As I pointed out in an earlier publication, this government “. . . enacted progressive reforms and gave equal rights to women. It was in the process of dragging the country into the 20th century, and as British political scientist Fred Halliday stated in May 1979 (1), ‘probably more has changed in the countryside over the last year than in two centuries since the state was established.’”

The Taraki government’s first course of action was to declare non-alignment in foreign affairs and to affirm a commitment to Islam within a secular state. Among the much needed reforms, women were given equal rights, and girls were to go to school and be in the same classroom as boys. Child marriages and feudal dowry payments were banned. Labour unions were legalized, and some 10,000 people were released from prisons. Within a short time hundreds of schools and medical clinics were built in the countryside.

The landholding system hadn’t changed much since the feudal period; more than three-quarters of the land was owned by landlords who composed only 3 percent of the rural population. Reforms began on September 1, 1978 by the abolition all debts owed by farmers – landlords and moneylenders had charged up to 45 percent interest. A program was being developed for major land reform, and it was expected that all farm families (including landlords) would be given the equivalent of equal amounts of land. (2)

What happened to this progressive government? In brief, it was undermined by the CIA and the mujahedeen, which triggered a series of events that destroyed the country – and ironically led to the disaster of September 11, 2001 in the USA and to the present chaos and tragedy in Afghanistan.Even before the CIA got involved, as would be expected, the rich landlords and mullahs objected to not only land reform but to all the reforms. Most of the 250,000 mullahs were rich landlords who in their sermons told people that only Allah could give them land, and that Allah would object to giving women equal rights or having girls go to school. But the reforms were popular, so these reactionary elements left for Pakistan, as “refugees.” With assistance from Pakistan, they proceeded to conduct raids on the Afghan countryside where they burned clinics and schools, and if they found teachers teaching girls, they would kill the teachers, often disembowelling them in the presence of the children – to instill fear and panic in the population.Although having no right to interfere in another country’s affairs, the USA viewed the new government as being Marxist and was determined to subvert it. At first unofficially, but officially after July 3, 1979 with President Carter’s authorization, the CIA, along with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, began to provide military aid and training to the Muslim extremists, who became known as the mujahedeen and “freedom fighters.”

In addition, the CIA recruited Hafizullah Amin, an Afghan Ph.D. student in the USA, and got him to act as a hard-line Marxist. He successfully worked his way up in the Afghan government and in September of 1979 he carried out a coup, and had Taraki killed. With Amin in charge, he jailed thousands of people and undermined the army and discredited the government. To ward off the thousands of well-armed mujahedeen invaders, many being foreign mercenaries, Amin was forced by his government to invite some Soviet troops.(3) Shortly afterwards, Amin was killed and was replaced as president by Babrak Karmal, a former member of the Taraki government who had been in exile in Czechoslovakia. Although still clouded by cold war politics and uncertain history, Karmal “invited” the USSR to send in thousands of troops to deal with the mujahedeen forces. What’s not widely known is that the USA through the CIA had been actively involved in Afghan affairs for at least a year, and it was in response to this that the Soviets arrived on the scene.

As I stated some years ago: “The advent of Soviet troops on Afghan soil tragically set the stage for the eventual destruction of the country. Zbigniew Brzezinski, president Carter’s National Security Advisor, afterwards bragged that he had convinced Carter to authorize the CIA to set a trap for the Russian bear and to give the USSR the taste of a Vietnam war.(4) Brzezinski saw this as a golden opportunity to fire up the zeal of the most reactionary Muslim fanatics — to have them declare a jihad (holy war) on the atheist infidels who defiled Afghan soil — and to not only expel them but to pursue them and “liberate” the Muslim-majority areas of the USSR. And for the next 10 years, with an expenditure of billions of dollars from the USA and Saudi Arabia, and with the recruitment of thousands of non-Afghan Muslims into the jihad (including Osama bin Laden), this army of religious zealots laid waste to the land and people of Afghanistan.”

Sending in troops to Afghanistan was acolossal blunder on the part of the USSR. If the Soviets had simply provided weapons for the Afghan government, they may have survived the “barbarians at the gates” – because ordinary Afghan people were not fanatics and most of them had supported the government’s progressive reforms.

Being unable to entice enough Afghanis for this war, the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan recruited about 35,000 Muslim radicals, from 40 Islamic countries to conduct the war against the Afghan government and the Soviet forces. The CIA covertly trained and sponsored these foreign warriors, hence the fundamentalism that emerged in Afghanistan is a CIA construct. Although the mujahedeen were referred to as “freedom fighters,” they committed horrific atrocities and were terrorists of the first order.

As reported in US media, a “favourite tactic” of the mujahedeen was “to torture victims [often Russians] by first cutting off their noses, ears, and genitals, then removing one slice of skin after another,” leading to “a slow, very painful death.” The article describes Russian prisoners caged like animals and “living lives of indescribable horror.” (5) Another publication cites a journalist from the Far Eastern Economic Review reporting that “one [Soviet] group was killed, skinned and hung up in a butcher’s shop”. (6)

Despite these graphic reports, President Reagan continued to refer to the mujahedeen as “freedom fighters” and in 1985 he invited a group of them to Washington where he entertained them in the Whitehouse. Afterwards, while introducing them to the media, he stated, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.” (7)

Surely Soviet soldiers were every bit as human as American soldiers – just suppose it had been American soldiers who had been skinned alive. Would President Reagan in such an instance still refer to the mujahedeen as “freedom fighters” . . . or might he have referred to them correctly as terrorists, just as the Soviets had done? Indeed, how these actions are portrayed depends on whose ox is gored.

 

President Reagan meets Afghan Mujahedeen Commanders at the White House in 1985 (Reagan Archives )

The Soviets succumbed to their Vietnam and withdrew their troops in February of 1989, but the war raged on, with continuing American military aid, but it took until April of 1992 before the Afghan Marxist government was finally defeated. Then for the next four years the mujahedeen destroyed much of Kabul and killed some 50,000 people as they fought amongst themselves and conducted looting and rape campaigns until the Taliban routed them and captured Kabul in September of 1996. The Taliban, trained as fanatic Muslims in Pakistan, “liberated” the country from the mujahedeen, but then established an atrocious reactionary regime. Once in power the Taliban brought in a reign of Islamist terror, especially on women. They imposed an ultra-sectarian version of Islam, closely related to Wahhabism, the ruling creed in Saudi Arabia.

The US “communist paranoia” and their policy to undermine the USSR was such that they supported and recruited the most reactionary fanatic religious zealots on the earth — and used them as a proxy army to fight communism and the USSR — in the course of which Afghanistan and its people were destroyed. But it didn’t end there. The mujahedeen metastasized and took on a life of their own, spreading to various parts of the Muslim world. They went on to fight the Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo, with the full knowledge and support of the USA. But then, ironically, having defeated what they called Soviet imperialism, these “freedom fighters” turned their sights on what they perceive to be American imperialism, particularly its support for Israel and its attacks on Muslim lands.And so a creation of the USA’s own making turned on them – the progeny of Reagan’s wonderful “freedom fighters” lashed out and America experienced September 11, 2001. But what have the US government and most American people learned from this? From their inflated opinion of themselves as the world’s “exceptional” and “indispensible” nation, as President Obama arrogantly keeps reminding the world, neither the American government nor its people have ever connected the dots. Is there anything in their recent history that could explain 9/11 to them? In a nutshell, it never occurs to them that if the USA had left the progressive Afghan Taraki government alone, there would have been no army of mujahedeen, no Soviet intervention, no war that destroyed Afghanistan, no Osama bin Laden, and hence no September 11 tragedy in the USA.Instead of reflecting on the possible causes of what occurred, and learning from this, the USA immediately resorted to war, to be followed by a series of additional wars, which brings to mind Marx’s sardonic comment in which he corrected Hegel’s observation that history repeats itself, adding that it does so “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”In response to the USA’s demand for Osama bin Laden, the Afghan Taliban government offered to turn him over to an international tribunal, but they wanted to see evidence linking him to 9/11.(8) The USA had no such evidence and bin Laden denied having anything to do with 9/11.(9) To corroborate bin Laden’s denial, the FBI has in its records that “. . . the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.”(10) Right till the present time, the FBI has never changed its position on this.As became known later, the 9/11 plot was hatched in Hamburg, Germany by an Al-Qaeda cell so the 9/11 attack had nothing to do with Afghanistan. Despite the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and that the USA had no evidence linking Afghanistan or bin Laden to the 9/11 attack, the US launched a war on Afghanistan, and of course without UN approval, so this was an illegal war.

Even if the USA wanted to depose the Taliban government, there was no need for a war. In rare unanimity, all the anti-Taliban Afghan groups pleaded with the US government not to bomb or invade the country. (11) They pointed out that to remove the Taliban government all that the USA had to do was to force Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to stop funding the Taliban, and shortly after the regime would collapse on its own. So the USA could have had its regime change without destroying the country and killing hundreds of thousands of Afghanis as well as thousands of its own troops, and having the war continue from 2001 into 2015 . . . America’s longest war. If this is not farce, what is it?

And the farce continued. Once in war mode, in 2003 the US launched another illegal war, this time on Iraq, a war based on outright lies and deception – a war crime of the first order. This war was even more tragic. It killed over a million Iraqis, basically destroyed the country, and destroyed a secular society, replacing it with on-going religious fratricide. In the course of this war, the Afghan al-Qaeda moved into Iraq and served as a model for young Iraqis to fight the American invaders. Although the American forces conquered Iraq quickly, they were faced with unrelenting guerrilla warfare, which eventually led to their departure in 2011. During these years the Americans jailed thousands of young Iraqi men, and inadvertently turned most of them into fervent jihadists. Prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Bucca had an incendiary effect on the ongoing insurgency, but now these jihadists weren’t called “freedom fighter” – they lost this endearing appellation in Afghanistan when American soldiers replaced Soviet soldiers.

As if the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq weren’t enough, in the spring of 2011 the US surreptitiously launched the beginnings of a further war, long in planning, and this one was on Syria. Somehow “spontaneously” there was an uprising of “freedom fighters” whose objective was to overthrow Syria’s secular government, which displeased the USA. Right from the beginning it was suspected that the USA was behind the uprising, since as early as 2007 General Wesley Clark stated in an interview that in 2001, a few weeks after 9/11, he was told by an American high ranking general about plans “to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” Also in 2007, Seymour Hersh, in a much cited article, stated that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad of Syria.”

The so-called “Free Syrian Army” was a creation of the US and NATO, and its objective was to provoke the Syrian police and army and once there was a deployment of tanks and armored vehicles this would supposedly justify outside military intervention under NATO’s mandate of “responsibility to protect” – with the objective of doing to Syria what they had done to Libya. However, with Russia’s veto at the UN this didn’t work out as planned.

To resolve this setback, the CIA, together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, proceeded to do exactly what had been done in Afghanistan – hordes of foreign Salafist Muslim “freedom fighters” were brought into Syria for the express purpose of overthrowing its secular government. With unlimited funds and American weapons, the first mercenaries were Iraqi al-Qaeda who, ironically, came into existence in the course of fighting the American army in Iraq. They were then followed by dozens of al-Qaeda’s other groups, notably al-Nusra, with its plans to change Syria’s multi-racial secular society into a Sunni Islamic state.

Right from the beginning of the uprising in Syria, the US was telling the world that “Assad had to go” and that they were intervening by helping “moderates” in the Free Syrian Army to overthrow the Syrian “regime.” However, to no one’s surprise, the ineffective “moderate” Free Syrian Army was soon inundated with Salafist Muslim groups who proceeded to launch a series of terrorist attacks throughout Syria. The Syrian government correctly identified these attacks as being the work of terrorists, but this was dismissed by the mainstream media as propaganda. The fact that the country was beset by suicide bombings and the beheading of soldiers, civilians, journalists, aid workers, and public officials was simply ignored.

Despite these reports, the USA insisted it was only providing “assistance” to those who identified themselves as being part of the Free Syrian Army. As reported in June 2012 by the New York Times, “CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government… The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.”

In addition, after the Gaddafi Libyan government was deposed in August 2011 by al-Qaeda forces, supported by NATO bombing, the CIA arranged for the transfer of Libyan weapons to Syrian rebels. As reported in the UK Times and by Seymour Hersh, a Libyan ship docked in Turkey with 400 tonnes of armaments, including forty SAM-7 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, and other munitions. Then in early 2013 a further major arms shipment, known as the Great Croatian Weapons Airlift, consisted of 3,000 tonnes of military weaponry from Croatia, Britain and France, coordinated by the CIA. This was flown out of Zagreb, Croatia, in 75 transport planes to Turkey for distribution to “worthy” Syrian mercenaries. In a further report, the New York Times (March 24, 2013) stated that it was Saudi Arabia that paid for these weapons and that there were actually 160 military cargo flights.

Despite all the efforts of the USA, NATO, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to support the various groups that formed the Free Syrian Army, Syrian government forces continued to rout and defeat them. Moreover, many of these ‘moderate’ forces were defecting and joining militant jihadist groups. Then in early 2014 an apparently unknown military force appeared on the scene, seemingly from “out of nowhere” and began to make spectacular military gains. It had a number of names, one being the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) but then it became simply the Islamic State (IS) or Daesh in Arabic. It got worldwide attention when in a matter of days it took over a quarter of Iraq, including the second largest city, Mosul – caused the Iraqi army to flee and disintegrate, and threatened to attack Baghdad. Shortly after, the beheading of two American journalists baited the US to once again send forces to Iraq and to begin a bombing campaign on ISIS forces in both Iraq and Syria.

Before its attack on Iraq, ISIS already had a strong base in Syria, and then with tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul, ISIS now controls almost a third of Syria. Hence at present it covers an area almost the size of Britain, with a population of about six million. ISIS does not recognize the borders of Syria and Iraq and considers the area under its control to be the frontiers of a Caliphate state with a militant vision of Islam. This is the direct result of the desert storm of Saudi cash that has been spent on global Wahhabi proselytizing and indoctrination, resulting in a reactionary medieval, toxic “religion” – that has nothing to do with legitimate Islam.

At the beginning, the “Islamic State” was nothing more than an appendage of al-Qaeda – with al-Qaeda itself being directly armed, funded, and backed by stalwart US allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with the full support Turkey. And behind all this was the desire of the USA and NATO to undermine and destroy the secular government of Syria. As Patrick Cockburn stated in a recent perceptive article, ”The foster parents of Isis and the other Sunni jihadi movements in Iraq and Syria are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey.” He cites the former head of MI6 saying that ‘Such things do not happen spontaneously.’ Cockburn states further that “It’s unlikely the Sunni community as a whole in Iraq would have lined up behind Isis without the support Saudi Arabia . . . . Turkey’s role has been different but no less significant than Saudi Arabia’s in aiding Isis and other jihadi groups. Its most important action has been to keep open its 510-mile border with Syria. This gave Isis, al-Nusra and other opposition groups a safe rear base from which to bring in men and weapons. . . . Turkish military intelligence may have been heavily involved in aiding Isis when it was reconstituting itself in 2011.”

Following its policy of trying to have full spectrum dominance in the world, the US has not hesitated to support terrorist groups when it was in their interests, e.g., the creation of the mujahedeen and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. While they fought the Soviets they were “freedom fighters,” but then came the blowback of 9/11 . . . and they instantly became terrorists, resulting in America’s “War on Terror.” The illegal war of aggression on and military occupation of Iraq resulted in the creation of a resistance movement – a new variant of al-Qaeda, viewed of course as terrorists. Then came the “attack” on the Assad government in Syria, launched by American, NATO, Saudi, Qatar and Turkish campaigns. At first it was in the guise of indigenous “freedom fighters”, the Free Syrian Army, but when they made little headway, additional “freedom fighters” appeared, in the form of al-Qaeda, in all its varieties, culminating in ISIS. These erstwhile terrorists now became allies in the campaign to depose Syria’s Assad government. Although Syria viewed them correctly as foreign terrorists, their claims were largely ignored . . . until two American journalists were beheaded.

At about the same time that the American journalists were beheaded there was fierce fighting going on in Syria and wherever Syrian soldiers were captured they were summarily executed, with many being beheaded, all this being meticulously filmed. A large number ofwebsites show this but one in particular, entitled “Syrianfight: Documenting War Crimes in Syria” shows dozens of gruesome execution scenes, including the mass execution in August 2014 of 220 Syrian soldiers near the Tabqa airbase. Just imagine if 220 American soldiers had been executed and beheaded what an outcry there would have been. Instead, the mainstream media concentrated solely on the two beheaded journalists, which indeed was an outrage, but where was the outrage for the hundreds of beheaded Syrian soldiers? Basically, nothing was said about what ISIS was doing in Syria.

Although there was outrage in the USA about what ISIS had done to two American citizens, there was practically no soul searching about the cause of this religious extremism and the possibility that this was just another case of blowback from what the USA had done to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Not surprisingly, the USA’s response was to announce a series of air strikes to “degrade” the capability of ISIS, but there were also to be “no boots on the ground” so actually the military defeat of ISIS was left unresolved – perhaps purposefully. In reality, the sudden military power of ISIS left the West and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – with a quandary: their official policy is to depose Assad, but ISIS is now the only effective military force in Syria so if the Syrian government is deposed, it would be ISIS that would fill the vacuum. So, was the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the assault on Syria in 2011 going to result in the creation of a powerful jihadi state spanning northern Iraq and Syria? Under such a fanatic Wahhabi regime, what would happen to the multicultural and multi-religious society of Syria?

In the face of this stark reality, as summed up by Patrick Cockburn: “. . . the US and its allies have responded to the rise of Isis by descending into fantasy. They pretend they are fostering a ‘third force’ of moderate Syrian rebels to fight both Assad and Isis, though in private Western diplomats admit this group doesn’t really exist outside a few beleaguered pockets.” Moreover, as soon as such forces are trained and equipped great numbers of them proceed to join al-Nusra or ISIS, e.g., 3,000 of them this past January. But is there method behind this obvious delusion? Is it really the intent of the US and its allies to bumble along and let ISIS proceed to defeat the Syrian army? And once this fanatic Sunni Wahhabi regime takes over Syria, is the next stage to be an attack on Shiite Iran, the next Muslim country to be destroyed? The boots on the ground in such a venture would be those of ISIS.

To counter this Machiavellian possibility, there has recently been evidence that perhaps at some level there is the realization that the permanent establishment of a fanatic Caliphate state with a militant vision of Islam is perhaps not such a good idea. What until recently has seemed to be a matter beyond the realm of possibility, there now appears evidence the US may be prepared to actually deal with President Assad of Syria. As reported in the New York Times (Jan. 15 and Jan. 19, 2015) the UN envoy for the crisis in Syria is trying to convince the Syrian government and ISIS to “freeze” the fighting on the ground, in area by area, and then somehow try to end the war. President Assad has been receptive to the idea, but there has been no response from ISIS. Also, on Russia’s initiative, a meeting is taking place in Moscow to prepare for a conference that will try to resolve the Syria crisis. The good news is that the US has become supportive of both courses of action.

Another sign of encouragement has been the publication in Foreign Affairs (Jan 27, 2015) of a lengthy wide-ranging interview with President Assad. This is important for both the members of the US government and the American public in general. Assad has stated that he would be prepared to meet with anyone but not with “a puppet of Qatar or Saudi Arabia or any Western country, including the United States, paid from the outside. It should be Syrian.” Also he stated that any resolution that comes from a conference would have to “go back to the people through a referendum” before it would be adopted. What could be more democratic than such a procedure? Through such a course of action Syria could retain its secular status and evolve into a true democratic state.

Hence despite the viciousness of the ongoing war in Syria, these events offer a glimmer of hope that might end this foreign-inspired conflagration that has left over 220,000 dead, a million wounded and millions more displaced. But if it turns out that ISIS will refuse to end its attacks on Syria, the rational thing for the US to do would be to stop its campaign to overthrow the Syrian government and to then cooperate with Syria to defeat the ISIS forces. With coordinated US and Syrian air strikes, the Syrian army would provide the necessary “boots on the ground” to defeat Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi gift to this area. But is this simply beyond the realm of possibility?

A short summary is in order. First, to what extent are the US and its allies responsible for the creation of ISIS and its co-partner al-Qaeda as well as its various spin-off groups? At the very beginning, we must recall that it was the USA that created the mujahedeen and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, and later got the blowback of 9/11. It was the US invasion of Iraq that created al-Qaeda as a resistance movement. It was the USA that fomented the uprising in Syria and when their Free Syrian Army was facing defeat, to the rescue came Iraqi al-Qaeda, with unlimited financial support and direction from the USA’s allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and tactical assistance from Turkey. And it’s this al-Qaeda that metastasized into ISIS. Also, the US has generated additional enemies through its drone campaign, especially in Yemen and Pakistan.

But is this all there is to this story? An offshoot from it is the recent attack in Paris on Charlie Hebdo magazine that left 12 people dead, including its editor and prominent cartoonists. It was apparently done by men connected to al-Qaeda who had been outraged by the magazine’s derogatory cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad. The attack sparked a massive outcry, with millions in France and across the world taking to the streets to support freedom of the press behind the rallying cry of “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie.”

It’s instructive to put this matter in historical context. In Nazi Germany, there was an anti-Semitic newspaper called Der Stürmer, noted for its morbid caricatures of Jews. Its editor, Julius Streicher, was put on trial at Nürnberg and hanged because of his stories and cartoons about Jews. In 1999 during its bombing campaign on Serbia, NATO deliberately bombed a Radio/TV station in Belgrade, killing 16 journalists. The US bombed the Al Jazeera headquarters in Kabul in 2001 and in 2003 Al Jazeera was bombed in Baghdad, killing journalists. In its attacks on Gaza, Israel has deliberately killed a large number of journalists.

The issue of “freedom of the press” was hardly raised in the above instances – certainly there were no mass street protests. In the case of Charlie Hebdo, this was not a model of freedom of speech. In reality, Charlie Hebdo’s political pornography of Muslims is hardly any different from the way Jews were portrayed in Der Stürmer.

The US and its various allies have launched wars, death and destruction in many Muslim countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Gaza, Yemen, Syria. To add to this, Saudi Arabia has apparently spent more than $100 billion trying to propagate its fanatical Wahhabism, a relatively small sect that is despised in the Muslim world at large, but which has nevertheless tarnished the Muslim image. And because of this, for some people in the West it’s somehow become acceptable to degrade, demean, humiliate, mock and insult Muslims. It was in this spirit that the cartoonists chose to mock Mohammad, under the guise of freedom of expression. It’s noteworthy that Charlie Hebdo had once fired a journalist because of one line he had written that was criticized by a Zionist lobby, but when it comes to Muslims, it was open season on them. In a judgment issued by US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, freedom of speech does not give one the right to “falsely shout fire in a crowded theater.” Also there is a provision in the US constitution that prohibits publishing “fighting words” which could result in violence. All this was ignored by the editors and publishers of Charlie Hebdo. The penalty should not have been death but they bear considerable responsibility for what happened. Sadly, the West’s uncritical embrace of the Charlie Hebdo caricatures was because the drawings were directed at and ridiculed Muslims. There is no question that the “desperate and despised people” of today are Muslims.

When ISIS beheaded two American journalists, there was outrage and denunciation throughout the West, but when the same ISIS beheaded hundreds of Syrian soldiers, and meticulously filmed these war crime, this was hardly reported anywhere. In addition, almost from the very beginning of the Syrian tragedy, al-Qaeda groups have been killing and torturing not only soldiers but police, government workers and officials, journalists, Christian church people, aid workers, women and children, as well as suicide bombings in market places. All this was covered up in the mainstream media, and when the Syrian government correctly denounced this as terrorism, this was ignored or denounced as “Assad’s propaganda.”

So why weren’t these atrocities reported in the western media? If this was reported it would have run counter to Washington’s proclaimed agenda that “Assad has to go,” so the mainstream media followed the official line. There is nothing new in this. History shows that the media supported every Western-launched war, insurrection and coup – the wars on Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and coups such as those on Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile, and most recently in Ukraine.

And so when terrorist acts are carried out against “our enemies” they are often viewed as the actions of “freedom fighters”, but when the same types of acts are directed at “us” they are denounced as “terrorism.” So it all depends on whose ox is gored.John Ryan, Ph.D., Retired Professor of Geography and Senior Scholar, University of Winnipeg.jryan13@mymts.net

Notes:

  1. Fred Halliday, “Revolution in Afghanistan,” New Left Review, No. 112, pp. 3-44, 1978.
  2. I was in Afghanistan in November 1978 working on an agricultural research project while on sabbatical leave and all these reforms and government measures were explained to me at considerable length by the Dean of Agriculture and some of the professors during a lengthy session at Kabul University. Halliday (cited above) also reported on the land-redistribution program.
  3. Washington Post, December 23, 1979, p.A8. Soviet troops had started arriving in Afghanistan on December 8, to which the article states: “There was no charge [by the State Department] that the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, since the troops apparently were invited.”
  4. “How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen”: Interview of Zbigniew Brzezinski Le Nouvel Observateur (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76http://www.counterpunch.org/brzezinski.html
  5. Washington Post, January 13, 1985.
  6. John Fullerton, The Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan, (London), 1984.
  7. Eqbal Ahmad, “Terrorism: Theirs and Ours,” (A Presentation at the University of Colorado, Boulder, October 12, 1993)http://www.sangam.org/ANALYSIS/Ahmad.htm; Cullen Murphy, “The
  8. Gold Standard: The quest for the Holy Grail of equivalence,” Atlantic Monthly, January 2002 http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200201/murphy
  9. “Taliban repeats call for negotiations,” CNN.com, October 2, 2001, includes comment: “Afghanistan’s ruling Taiban repeated its demand for evidence before it would hand over suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Ladin.”http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/central/10/02/ret.afghan.taliban/; Noam Chomsky, “The War on Afghanistan,” Znet, December 30, 2001http://www.globalpolicy.org/wtc/targets/1230chomsky.htm
  10. “Bin Laden says he wasn’t behind attacks,” CNN.com, September 17, 2001.http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/16/inv.binladen.denial/
  11. Ed Haas, “FBI says, it has ‘No hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11’,” Muckraker Report, June 6, 2006. http://www.teamliberty.net/id267.html
  12. Noam Chomsky, “The War on Afghanistan,” Znet, December 30, 2001http://www.globalpolicy.org/wtc/targets/1230chomsky.htm; Barry Bearak, “Leaders of the Old Afghanistan Prepare for the New,” NYT, October 25, 2001; John Thornhill and Farhan Bokhari, “Traditional leaders call for peace jihad,” FT, October 25, 2001; “Afghan peace assembly call,” FT, October 26, 2001; John Burns, “Afghan Gathering in Pakistan Backs Future Role for King,” NYT, October 26, 2001; Indira Laskhmanan, “1,000 Afghan leaders discuss a new regime, BG, October 25, 26, 2001.

Officials ‘Alarmed’ at Press Conference on Dam with Nuclear Plants Downstream:

February 28, 2015

ENENews


Officials ‘Alarmed’ at Press Conference on Dam with Nuclear Plants Downstream: ‘Movement’ in foundation 100s of feet underground; Rock dissolving — “Sinkhole is indication of bigger problem” — “Urgency of issue is obvious” — Examining “every possible type of failure” (VIDEO)

Posted: 26 Feb 2015 10:30 PM PST

As Antarctica Melts Away, Seas Could Rise Ten Feet Within 100 Years

February 28, 2015
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Based on rapid thawing, continent has become ‘ground zero of global climate change without a doubt,’ says geophysicist

Though 97 percent of the Antarctic peninsula is still covered with ice, entire valleys are now free of it, ice is thinner elsewhere, and glaciers have retreated, Peter Convey of the British Antarctic Survey tells the Associated Press. (Photo: Natalie Tapson/flickr/cc)

Rapid melting of Antarctic ice could push sea levels up 10 feet worldwide within two centuries, “recurving” heavily populated coastlines and essentially reshaping the world, theAssociated Press reported Friday.

Parts of Antarctica are thawing so quickly, the continent has become “ground zero of global climate change without a doubt,” Harvard geophysicist Jerry Mitrovica told AP.

The Antarctic Peninsula, including the vulnerable West Antarctic ice sheet, is the region of the continent warming fastest because the land juts out in the warmer ocean. According to NASA, it is losing 49 billion tons of ice each year.

And why does that matter?

Because, as the AP declares: “The world’s fate hangs on the question of how fast the ice melts.”

“[I]f all the West Antarctic ice sheet that’s connected to water melts unstoppably, as several experts predict, there will not be time to prepare,” explain AP journalists Luis Andres Henao and Seth Borenstein.

“Scientists estimate it will take anywhere from 200 to 1,000 years to melt enough ice to raise seas by 10 feet, maybe only 100 years in a worst case scenario,” they write. “If that plays out, developed coastal cities such as New York and Guangzhou could face up to $1 trillion a year in flood damage within a few decades and countless other population centers will be vulnerable.”

Earlier this week, news outlets reported a “very unusual” short-term surge in sea levels along North America’s northeast coast, which scientists also linked to climate change.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Clause Everyone Should Oppose

February 27, 2015

Senator Elizabeth Warren. (photo: Rick Friedman/Corbis)
Senator Elizabeth Warren. (photo: Rick Friedman/Corbis)

By Elizabeth Warren, The Washington Post

26 February 15

 

he United States is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries. Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?

One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.

ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.

If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but itwouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?

If the tilt toward giant corporations wasn’t clear enough, consider who would get to use this special court: only international investors, which are, by and large, big corporations. So if a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wanted to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage, it could use ISDS. But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts.

Why create these rigged, pseudo-courts at all? What’s so wrong with the U.S. judicial system? Nothing, actually. But after World War II, some investors worried about plunking down their money in developing countries, where the legal systems were not as dependable. They were concerned that a corporation might build a plant one day only to watch a dictator confiscate it the next. To encourage foreign investment in countries with weak legal systems, the United States and other nations began to include ISDS in trade agreements.

Those justifications don’t make sense anymore, if they ever did. Countries in the TPP are hardly emerging economies with weak legal systems. Australia and Japan have well-developed, well-respected legal systems, and multinational corporations navigate those systems every day, but ISDS would preempt their courts too. And to the extent there are countries that are riskier politically, market competition can solve the problem. Countries that respect property rights and the rule of law — such as the United States — should be more competitive, and if a company wants to invest in a country with a weak legal system, then it should buy political-risk insurance.

The use of ISDS is on the rise around the globe. From 1959 to 2002, there were fewer than 100 ISDS claims worldwide. But in 2012 alone, there were 58 cases. Recent casesinclude a French company that sued Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage, a Swedish company that sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and a Dutch company that sued the Czech Republic because the Czechs didn’t bail out a bank that the company partially owned. U.S. corporations have also gotten in on the action: Philip Morris is trying to use ISDS to stop Uruguay from implementing new tobacco regulations intended to cut smoking rates.

ISDS advocates point out that, so far, this process hasn’t harmed the United States. And our negotiators, who refuse to share the text of the TPP publicly, assure us that it will include a bigger, better version of ISDS that will protect our ability to regulate in the public interest. But with the number of ISDS cases exploding and more and more multinational corporations headquartered abroad, it is only a matter of time before such a challenge does serious damage here. Replacing the U.S. legal system with a complex and unnecessary alternative — on the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong — seems like a really bad idea.

This isn’t a partisan issue. Conservatives who believe in U.S. sovereignty should be outraged that ISDS would shift power from American courts, whose authority is derived from our Constitution, to unaccountable international tribunals. Libertarians should be offended that ISDS effectively would offer a free taxpayer subsidy to countries with weak legal systems. And progressives should oppose ISDS because it would allow big multinationals to weaken labor and environmental rules.

Giving foreign corporations special rights to challenge our laws outside of our legal system would be a bad deal. If a final TPP agreement includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the only winners will be multinational corporations.

 

Drop everything and watch this video of our gorgeous planet

February 26, 2015

Complicated science, political buffoonery, social injustice, terrible jokes — keeping up with the fate of our planet is an overwhelming endeavor. That’s why today (in fact, right now) you should take a break from all that noise to remind yourself what exactly it is that we’re trying to save.For inspiration, check out this time-lapse of the Earth that filmmaker Phil Selmes put together using footage taken from the International Space Station (ISS). Selmes has made time-lapses with ISS footage before, but this is the first time he’s used a tracking shot — the seamless one-shot filmmaking trick that we all now know about thanks to Birdman — and the results are pretty breathtaking.

So put whatever you’re doing on hold (come on, it’ll only take a few minutes), throw on some headphones, and go full screen. If you get little choked up watching this, know that you’re not alone.

Last October, Selmes told Universe Today what attracted him to ISS footage:

I didn’t see politics, races, borders, countries, religions or differences […]. I saw one planet, one world, one incredibly beautiful miracle in the absolute vastness of the universe. It gave me some perspective, ironically it brought me ‘back to earth.’

Come on, team. It’s time to save that big beautiful orb.

California communities seize control of their energy futures

February 26, 2015
CCA, OMG

An energy revolution is breaking out in California and a few other states, one that could radically increase the amount of renewable energy available to citizens and end the tyranny of foot-dragging utilities. Outside of the rapidly falling costs of solar power, it’s just about my main source of domestic optimism these days.

I’m talking about community choice, or, in the horrid legalese, “community choice aggregation.” I’ve discussed it before in passing, but it’s starting to seriously catch on, so I want to take a closer look.

Say a town, city, or county is dissatisfied with the power it gets from its utility — it’s too expensive, or too dirty. One option would be for each municipality to leave its utility and form its own “municipal utility.” That has its advantages, but it’s a pretty huge step, since the municipality would have to take over not only power procurement but grid operation and maintenance, billing, customer service, etc. In many smaller towns, it’s not practical.

The other, emerging option is community choice aggregation, whereby a county or municipality takes over only the job of buying and selling power, leaving grid management and billing to the utility. It aggregates customers from every participating city, town, and county and uses their collective purchasing power to procure exactly the kind of electricity it wants.

The two main motivations to opt for CCA are cheaper power and cleaner power. At least to date, those two goals have not come into conflict. In most cases, CCAs get power that’s cheaper and cleaner than what they were getting from their utility. (Whether those goals conflict in the future will be of keen interest.)

CCA must be enabled by legislation and it has been in six states: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island. According to the website Local Power, which tracks these things:

Today, 5% of the U.S. population is under CCA service for electricity in 1300 municipalities, including well-known population centers like City of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cape Cod, Sonoma County as well as hundreds of less known small towns and rural counties. CCA formation by municipal ordinance or local election is allowed and provided for under state laws governing 25% of the U.S. electricity market.

California has been particularly on the ball. Marin County startedthe state’s first CCA program — it now serves 125,000 customers. Sonoma County has followed suit. San Mateo County isconsidering it; county supervisors just voted to do a study of the proposal. The mayor of San Francisco, who’s running for reelection this year, has reversed his previous opposition to the city joining a CCA. Now he says his only objection was that there wasn’t enough local power required!

Perhaps the most interesting battle is happening in San Diego. Whereas San Francisco represents only about 5 percent of utility giant PG&E’s customer base, San Diego represents over 40 percent of San Diego Gas & Electric’s. That’s a big chunk to lose!

CCA is a key part of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, which among other things commits the city to a legally binding target of 100 percent renewables by 2035. There is effectively no way for it to hit that target if it has to accept whatever power SDG&E sees fit to buy for it.

There have been various efforts to kill CCA at the state level, some supported by the state chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), many of whose members work for utilities. The local San Diego chapter of IBEW, however, supports the city’s 100 percent renewables target. The fate of the San Diego’s climate plan, or at least CCA’s place in the plan, remainsuncertain. It if did go through, it would represent something of a watershed for the CCA movement.

CCAs vary from place to place, but Cali’s share a few common features. They are opt-out rather than opt-in — customers can choose to remain with the utility, but they have to affirmatively indicate as much. That alone ensures high participation rates (readers of Nudge will understand why).

There are tiers of participation: in Marin, you can choose a base level 50 percent renewables or pay a premium for 100 percent renewables; in Sonoma, it’s 33 percent or 100 percent. Some also include a premium option for 100 percent local renewables. The tiered system allows low-income customers to choose an affordable option while more eco-minded or well-off residents can indulge their aspirations.

CCA can also give a huge boost to a bunch of other policies that utilities typically fight or slow-walk, including net metering, feed-in tariffs, and efficiency programs. This post by Woody Hastingslists a few of the benefits that came along with the Sonoma County CCA. In addition to the basic benefit — giving those consumers more choices in energy — it also has 30 percent lower emissions than the utility, and it boasts rates that are 5 to 8 percent lower than the utility’s (depending on the tier).

Sonoma’s CCA features a robust net metering program, “NetGreen,” that compensates solar customers better than the utility. It features a version of my own favorite policy, feed-in tariffs, in the form of “ProFiT,” which guarantees clean energy developers favorable terms for the power they feed into the grid. It has doubled the amount of solar in Sonoma County’s energy mix and established power purchase agreements for 70 megawatts of new solar. And it will bring the level of geothermal in the county’s mix up to around 23 percent by 2018.

Perhaps best of all, enrollment in the plan’s phase-one rollout was much higher than expected: 85 percent of customers stayed with the CCA.

Not every CCA is going to spur all those policies. But that’s kind of the point: they will enable the exact mix of policies that best expresses the needs and values of their customers. It will give consumers some power and agency in the process, something they haven’t had for some time.

Is CCA power really cheaper? At least in California, at least so far, yes. These charts come via San Diego reporter Lisa Halverstadt:

As you can see, the Marin and Sonoma CCAs are charging slightly lower rates than the utilities they left behind, despite providing substantially more clean energy.

How do they do it? This post from lawyer Ty Tosdal hits the basics. First, CCA represents competition for utilities, putting pressure on them to keep costs down and keep customers happy. (Utilities aren’t used to competition, to say the least.) And this:

An alternative energy provider behaves differently than a utility. CCA programs, for example, have used the political and legal process to advocate for lower transmission and distribution charges, utility fees and rates in general. You’re not going to see that kind of advocacy from utilities, who must serve shareholders, or regulators that are struggling with proper oversight.

(If you read the linked story, you’ll see that “struggling with proper oversight” is a rather charitable characterization.)

In other words, CCA provides not just an economic and environmental but a civic counterweight to utilities. It enables electricity consumers to organize on behalf of their interests and values. Why, you could almost call it democratic.

Naturally California utilities hate this. Just hate it. In all the stories I read, this passage was the most poignant:

A PG&E representative did not respond to a request for comment. A 2011 law prohibits the company from using ratepayer revenue to market against community choice aggregation.

Aww. I doubt utilities will be similarly restrained in other states. Watch for them to go after CCA with even greater fury than they’ve attacked net metering. It is a strike directly at the heart of their business model.

For all the same reasons utilities hate CCA, I love it. It completely cuts through the utility Gordian knot — the tangle of restructured and unrestructured regions, corrupt PUCs and broken business models, obscure political maneuvering and big-money deals — and puts power directly in the public’s hands. It opens up opportunities for all the talk about Utilities 2.0 to become reality, to start experimenting in the real world.

Most of all, it enables citizens who want clean energy to get it. That seems like the kind of thing Americans could rally around.

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