Sunday, July 31, 2011

Israel looking into revoking Oslo Accords in response to Palestinian UN bid

Barak Ravid
Prime Minister's Bureau confirmed that the National Security Council is discussing alternatives ahead of September, and would present them to the political echelon for a decision when it is done.

Ya'akov Amidror
A team headed by National Security Adviser Ya'akov Amidror is looking into calling off the Oslo Accords in response to the Palestinian Authority's unilateral plan to gain United Nations recognition for an independent state.

The Prime Minister's Bureau confirmed yesterday only that the NSC was discussing many alternatives ahead of September, and would be presenting them to the political echelon for a decision when it was done.

Israeli officials did confirm that recent discussions held by Amidror had mentioned the option of voiding the Oslo Accords. However, this is not considered a leading alternative, they said.

"It is one of the options that will be presented to the political echelon," a source said.

Meanwhile, the PA is continuing its preparations ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting in September. Palestinian ambassadors who met in Istanbul over the past two days were informed that a meeting on the final draft of the UN resolution would be held in Doha, Qatar, with representatives of the PA, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on August 4.

The resolution will call on the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders as a full UN member.

The Palestinian diplomats were instructed to launch a public relations campaign among international Jewish communities, in an attempt to explain the significance of the move.

Meanwhile, Israel is working to rally support from states to oppose the UN move. It is also making preparations for the "day after."

A senior Israeli official said that three weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Amidror to start drafting day-after plans with other government bodies. These include recommending a potential Israeli political response.

Skirting the Security Council 
Israeli officials believe the Palestinians will skirt the Security Council and will appeal directly to the General Assembly, in order to avoid a potential American veto. The Palestinian proposal is expected to receive the backing of more than 140 UN members.

Another senior Israel official noted that Amidror has started initial discussions at the NSC with representatives from the foreign, defense, finance, industry and trade, and justice ministries, as well as from the Israel Defense Forces Planning Bureau and the Military Advocate General's Department of International Law.

The NSC asked the various government offices to consider the implications of Israel announcing that it considers the Oslo Accords void due to the unilateral Palestinian move, should the General Assembly approve the bid.

Forget Compromise: The Debt Ceiling Is Unconstitutional

Web of Debt Blog
Ellen Brown

The debt ceiling crisis can be averted by enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment, which mandates the  government to pay its debts already incurred, including pensions.  That means Social Security, which IS an “entitlement,” in the original sense of the word.  We’re entitled to it because we’ve paid for it with taxes. 

The game of Russian roulette being played with the U.S. federal debt has been called a “grotesque political carnival” and political blackmail.  The uproar stems from a statute that is unique to the United States and never did make much sense.  First passed in 1917 and revised multiple times since, it imposes a dollar limit on the federal debt.  What doesn’t make sense is that the same Congress that voted on the statute votes on the budget, which periodically exceeds the limit, requiring the statute to be revised.  The debt ceiling has been raised 74 times since 1962, 10 of them since 2001.  The most recent increase, to $14.294 trillion by H.J.Res. 45, was  signed into law on February 12, 2010.
Taxes aren’t collected until after the annual budget is passed, so Congress can’t know in advance whether or how much additional borrowing will be required.  Inevitably, there will be some years that the budget pushes the debt over the limit, requiring new legislation.  And inevitably, now that this tactic has been discovered, there will be a costly battle over the increase, wasting congressional time, destabilizing markets, and rattling faith in the American financial and political systems.  There will be continual blackmail, arm-twisting and concessions.  The situation is untenable and cries out for a definitive resolution.

Fortunately, there is one.  A bevy of legal scholars are recommending that the issue be eliminated altogether by playing the Constitutional trump card.  The Fourteenth Amendment provides at Section 4:

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Where statute and the Constitution collide, the Constitution prevails.  Whether the government should pay the bills it has already incurred is not a matter of negotiation.  It is a Constitutional mandate.  And those are the bills we are talking about here, as President Obama stressed in his remarks on the issue last Friday.  He said:

“Raising the debt ceiling simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up.  I want to emphasize that.  The debt ceiling does not determine how much more money we can spend, it simply authorizes us to pay the bills we already have racked up.  It gives the United States of America the ability to keep its word.”

Ignoring the debt ceiling on Constitutional grounds would not, as Michelle Bachmann declares, make President Obama a “dictator.”  It would simply mean he is complying with his Constitutional mandate to pay the government’s bills on time and in full.

Social Security Is Not Welfare.  It Is a Debt Due and Owing.

The President could have a clean resolution of the issue, but he is not jumping at the opportunity.  Rather, he appears to be ready to throw Granny under the bus by slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all in the name of “compromise.”

The Fourteenth Amendment says debts already incurred shall not be questioned, “including debts incurred for payment of pensions.”  That includes Social Security, which is an “entitlement” in the true sense of the word: we’re entitled to it because we’ve already paid for it.  In fact, the Social Security Act was originally sold to Congress and the nation in 1935 not as a government benefit, but as a retirement savings program. Earlier this year, the Urban Institute published a study evaluating the program in this way, concluding that the average worker who retires today will withdraw from Social Security just about the same amount he put in over the years, with a modest 2% real interest rate (after inflation).

A deal is a deal.  We paid for it, we are owed it, and the U.S. government is good for it.  To change the terms of the deal ex post facto is both a breach of contract and a violation of the Constitution.

Where to Get the Money: Ron Paul’s Creative Plan

A sovereign nation can always find the money to pay debts owed in its own currency.  The U.S. could, if it wished, pay its bills using debt-free U.S. Notes or Greenbacks, just as President Lincoln did to avoid a crippling debt during the Civil War.  Alternatively, it could eliminate the deficit with Ron Paul’s plan, which amounts to the same thing.  As Stephen Gandel explains Paul’s solution in Time Magazine:

“In the last year or two the Fed has been buying up U.S. Treasury bonds in an effort to lower interest rates and boost the economy. The most recent round of that buying has been dubbed QE2, and has come under a good deal of criticism, though most economists agree that it was a generally helpful policy. The result is that the Fed now holds nearly $1.7 trillion in U.S. debt. But that is really phony debt. The Treasury pays the interest on the debt on behalf of the U.S. government to the Fed, which in turn returns 90 percent of the payments it gets back to the Treasury. Nonetheless, that $1.7 trillion in U.S. bonds that the Fed owns, despite the shell game of payments, is still counted in the debt ceiling number, which caps that amount of total federal debt at $14.3 trillion.

“Paul’s plan: Get the Fed and the Treasury to rip up that debt. It’s fake debt anyway. And the Fed is legally allowed to return the debt to the Treasury to be destroyed. A trillion and a half dollars is currently about what spending is expected to exceed tax revenue in 2011.”

The biggest drawback to the plan, says Gandel, is just that it “looks bad.”  It looks as if the government is paying off its debts by printing money.  But that is what government-issued money is: a note acknowledging a debt due and owed from the public, good for an equivalent value from the public, traded in the marketplace.  A U.S. Note or Greenback and a Federal Reserve Note or dollar bill are both forms of promissory notes.  The government can as easily issue a dollar bill as a dollar note or a dollar bond, as Thomas Edison pointed out in the 1920s.

Iceland’s loud No

Le Monde Diplomatique
by Silla Sigurgeirsdóttir and Robert H Wade

The people of Iceland have now twice voted not to repay international debts incurred by banks, and bankers, for which the whole island is being held responsible. With the present turmoil in European capitals, could this be the way forward for other economies?

The small island of Iceland has lessons for the world. It held a referendum in April to decide, more or less, whether ordinary people should pay for the folly of the bankers (and by extension, could governments control the corporate sector if they depended on it for finance). Sixty per cent of the population rejected an agreement negotiated between Iceland, the Netherlands and the UK to pay back the British and Dutch governments for the money they spent to recompense savers with the failed bank Icesave. That was less resistance than the first referendum last spring, when 93% voted no.

The referendum was significant since European governments, pressured by speculators, the IMF and the European Commission, are imposing austerity policies on which their citizens have not voted. Even devotees of deregulation are worried by the degree of the western world’s servitude to unconstrained financial institutions. After the Icelandic referendum, even the liberal Financial Times noted with approval on 13 April that it had been possible to “put citizens before banks”, an idea which does not resonate among European political leaders.

Iceland is an unusually pure example of the dynamics that blocked regulation and caused financial fragility across the developed world for 20 years. In 2007, just before the financial crisis, Iceland’s average income was the fifth highest in the world, 60% above US levels; Reykjavik’s shops were stuffed with luxury goods, its restaurants made London seem cheap, and SUVs choked the narrow streets. Icelanders were the happiest people in the world according to an international study in 2006 (1). Much of this rested on the super-fast growth of three Icelandic banks that rose from small utility institutions in 1998 to being among world’s top 300 banks eight years later, increasing their assets from 100% of GDP in 2000 to almost 800% by 2007, a ratio second only to Switzerland.

The crisis came in September 2008 when money markets seized up after the Lehman meltdown. Within a week, Iceland’s three big banks collapsed and were taken into public ownership. Moody now listed them among the 11 biggest financial collapses in history.

Towards modernisation

After more than 600 years of foreign rule, Iceland’s social structure was the most feudal of all Nordic countries at the beginning of the 20th century. Fishing dominated the economy, generating most of the foreign-currency earnings and allowing the development of an import-based commercial sector. This created urban economic activities: construction, services, light industry. After the second world war the economy grew strongly, because of Marshall Plan aid (there was a large US-Nato military base); an abundant export commodity, cold-water fish, unusually blessed with high income elasticity of demand; and a small, literate population with a strong sense of national identity.

As Iceland became more prosperous it established a welfare state, in line with the tax-financed Scandinavian model, and by the 1980s had attained a level and a distribution of disposable income equal to the Nordic average. Yet it remained both more regulated and more patron-client-dominated than its European neighbours; a local oligopoly restricted the political and economic landscape.
There is a direct line of descent from the quasi-feudal power structures of the 19th century to the modernised Icelandic capitalism of the later 20th century, when a bloc of 14 families, popularly known as The Octopus, were the economic and political ruling elite. The Octopus controlled imports, transport, banking, insurance, fishing and supplies to the Nato base and provided most top politicians. The families lived like chieftains.

The Octopus controlled the rightwing Independence Party (IP) which dominated the media and decided on senior appointments in the civil service, police and judiciary. The local, state-owned banks were effectively run by the dominant parties, the IP and the Centre Party or CP (2). Ordinary people had to go through party functionaries to get loans to buy a car, or for foreign exchange for travel abroad. Power networks operated as webs of bullying, sycophancy and distrust, permeated with a macho culture, something like the former Soviet Union.

This traditional order was challenged from within by a neoliberal faction, the Locomotive group, which had coalesced in the early 1970s after law and business administration students at the University of Iceland took over a journal, The Locomotive, and promoted free-market ideas. Their aim was not just to transform the society but also to open career opportunities for themselves, rather than wait for Octopus patronage. At the end of the cold war their position strengthened materially and ideologically, as the communists and social democrats lost public support. The future IP prime minister, Davíð Oddsson, was a prominent member.

Oddsson, born in 1948 with a middle-class background, was elected as an IP councillor to the Reykjavik municipal council in 1974; by 1982 he was mayor of Reykjavik, leading privatisation campaigns, including selling off the municipality’s fishing industry, to the benefit of members of the Locomotive group. In 1991 he led the IP to victory in the general election, and reigned (not too strong a word) as prime minister for 14 years, overseeing the growth of the financial sector, before installing himself as governor of the Central Bank in 2004. He had little experience or interest in the world beyond Iceland. His Locomotive group protégé Geir Haarde, finance minister from 1998 to 2005, took over as prime minister shortly after. These two men most directly steered Iceland’s great experiment to create an international financial centre in the North Atlantic, midway between Europe and America.

Iceland liberalises

The liberalisation of the economy began in 1994, when accession to the European Economic Area, the free-trade bloc of EU countries, plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, lifted restrictions on cross-border flows of capital, goods, services and people. The Oddsson government then sold off state-owned assets and deregulated labour. Privatisation began in 1998, implemented by Oddsson and Halldór Ásgrímsson, the leader of the CP. Of the banks, Landsbanki was allocated to IP grandees, Kaupthing to their counterparts in the CP, its coalition partner; foreign bidders were excluded. Later, Glitnir, a private bank formed from the merger of several smaller ones, joined the league.

So Iceland roared into international finance aided globally by abundant cheap credit and free capital mobility, and domestically by strong political backing for the banks. The new banks merged investment banking with commercial banking, so that both shared government guarantees. And the country had low sovereign debt, which gave the banks high marks from the international credit-rating agencies. The major shareholders of Landsbanki, Kaupthing, Glitnir and their spin-offs reversed the earlier political dominance of finance: government policy was now subordinated to the ends of finance.

Oddsson and friends relaxed the state-provided mortgage rules, allowing 90% loans. The newly privatised banks rushed to offer even more generous terms. Income tax and VAT rates were lowered to turn Iceland into a low-tax international financial centre. Bubble dynamics took hold. City planners aimed to move Reykjavik from the trajectory of an ordinary city to that of a world city (despite its small population of 110,000) and approved several grandiose new public and private buildings, saying “If Dubai, why not Reykjavik?”

Iceland’s new banking elite were intent on expanding their ownership of the economy, competing and cooperating with each other. Using their shares as collateral, some took out large loans from their own banks, and bought more shares in the same banks, inflating share prices. It worked like this: Bank A lent to shareholders in Bank B, who bought more shares in B using shares as collateral, raising B’s share price. Bank B returned the favour. The share prices of both banks rose, without new money coming in. The banks not only grew bigger, they grew more and more interconnected. Several dealings of this kind are now under criminal investigation by the special prosecutor, as cases of market manipulation.

The War on Libya: Divisions within The Transitional Council and Rebel Forces

Global Research
Michel Chossudovsky and  Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

The death of General Abdel Fattah Al-Younes, Commander in Chief of Rebel Forces was announced on July 28. Younes was Colonel Qaddafi’s former interior minister who defected to the rebels. Younes was also key leader of the Transitional Council based in Benghazi.

His death has created a vacuum in the military command structure, which will inevitably contribute in the short-run to weakening the military capabilities of the insurgency. It will also have repercussions on the timing of NATO operations.

Unconfirmed reports state that Younes died in the battlefield in fighting on the ground against the Libyan military. For several days there were rumors that Al-Younis was dead. These reports stated that he was fighting in the Western Mountains and he could have been killed in battle. Other reports state that he was killed by the Transitional Council.

Even within rebel circles there are claims that Al-Younes was killed "because he was a traitor".

The official release of the Transitional Council states that  General Al-Younes and two top military commanders aides were killed by gunmen.on Thursday July 28.

"Abdel Fattah Younes was killed after being summoned to the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi to appear before a judicial inquiry, opposition leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil announced at a press conference late on Thursday night."

Secret Negotiations with Tripoli?

Al-Younes may have been attempting to return to Tripoli. There have also been reports regarding secret negotiations between Transitional Council members and the Libyan government. A faction within the Transitional Council may have been searching for a negotiated solution with Tripoli.

Barely two weeks earlier, top level talks were held in Brussels (Wednesday, July 13) between a Transitional National Council delegation and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The delegation also met with the North Atlantic Council, NATO's governing body. Fogh Rasmussen confirmed that "NATO would continue its bombing campaign in Libya as long as Gadhafi's forces threaten civilians". "As long as that threat continues, we must continue to deal with it,"

While in Brussels, rebel NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jabril categorically denied the holding of talks with Tripoli: "All this talk about negotiations taking place between the regime and the National Transitional Council are totally false claims," The Associated Press: Rebels deny talks with Gadhafi, July 13, 2011)

Divisions within the Transitional Council and the Military

The death of Al-Younes has resulted in internal fighting within the Transitional Council. The leadership of  Mustafa Abdel Jibril is being questioned, particularly by members of Al-Younes' Obeide tribe. Jibril had been seeking a surge in NATO's bombing campaign in support of "a military advance" on Tripoli by rebel forces.

Following the death of General Younes and two top military commanders, rebel forces are in disarray. Factional divisions are developing within rebel forces.

The CIA Connection

There have also been accusations that Younes was assassinated by a rival faction of the insurgency headed by military commander Khalifa Hifter, who is known to be a CIA asset:

General Hifter retired to suburban Virginia, where he has lived for the last 20 years in Vienna (a small town) which is five minutes from CIA headquarters in Langley. ... Manipulations Africaines, a book published by Le Monde Diplomatique in 2001, traces Hifter's CIA connection back to 1987, stating that he was then a colonel in Gaddafi's army and was captured fighting in Chad against the U.S.-backed government of Hissène Habré. Hifter defected to the Libyan National Salvation Front (LNSF), the main anti-Gaddafi group, which was CIA-backed. He organized his own militia, which stopped functioning once Habré was defeated by Idriss Déby (supported by France) in 1990. ....  "The Hifter force, created and financed by the CIA in Chad, vanished into thin air with the help of the CIA shortly after the government was overthrown by Idriss Déby." The book quotes a U.S. Congressional Research Service report dated December 19, 1996, to the effect that "the U.S. government was providing financial and military aid to the LNSF, and that a number of LNSF members were relocated to the United States."  (Asad Ismi The Middle East Revolution: The Empire Strikes Back: Libya Attacked by the US and NATO, Global Research, May 18, 2011)

Commander Khalifa Hifter tends to support the Islamic faction of the rebellion which is integrated by members of the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ice age threat should ease EPA global warming regs

The Washington Examiner
Shannon Goessling

Rather than spiraling into a global warming meltdown, we may be heading into the next ice age.

The U.S. National Solar Observatory, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and astrophysicists across the planet report that the nearly all-time low sunspot activity may result in a sustained cooling period on Earth.

The news has sent global warming theory advocates scrambling to discount and explain away the impact on global temperatures. However, the "news" is not really that new.

Many reputable scientists have been warning for decades that we are nearing the end of the 11,500-year average period between ice ages. And the last similar crash in sunspot activity coincided with the so-called "Little Ice Age" in the 1600s that lasted nearly a century.

Despite increasing evidence that "global warming" climate change is not the unified scientific theory it has been promoted to be, vested interests continue to push for stringent limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

Certain investment banks and trading houses that stand to make billions on so-called "carbon credits," and the environmental sociologists who have as a stated purpose to change our way of life, are a powerful bloc.

In the Obama administration, this cabal has a willing "big stick" in the form the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has enacted draconian measures that will, by President Obama's admission, make energy costs "skyrocket."

The subject of intense litigation, the EPA regulations were enacted this year without congressional approval as required by the Clean Air Act and other laws. Estimates put the economic damage of these regulations at $1 trillion over the next 20 years, with a loss of between four and 10 million jobs.

Ironically, the current rush by global warming advocates to uncouple mounting evidence of global cooling from the global warming regime is not the first time they've backpedaled.

As referenced in ongoing litigation, the EPA admitted that generally applicable regulations would lead to "absurd" results, leading the agency to create a so-called "Tailoring Rule."

For example, global warming alarmists admit by their own calculations that reducing carbon emissions among a sample of large U.S. "emitters" to EPA-required levels might reduce the surface temperature by .00071 degree Celsius -- or 70 times lower than what is detectable.

Annual emission reductions sought would be replaced in 13 days by industrial growth in China. "Absurd" is understatement. So how do we handle "global cooling?"

In the 1970s and '80s, climatologists and astrophysicists were setting off alarms about pending global cooling and "the new ice age." Headlines in major weekly news magazines warned of a cooling catastrophe, with experts like famed astronomer Carl Sagan calling on industrialized countries to produce more carbon dioxide to offset the pending disaster.


Desert Peace
Kristin Szremski

New moves to curb criticism of Israel in US and Canada

New legislation in the US threatens to conflate campus
criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism

A number of new initiatives to curtail freedom of speech by conflating opposition to Israeli crimes with anti-Semitism are underway in the United States and Canada.

The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) issued a report in early July recommending the adoption of strict new standards defining anti-Semitism and the types of speech and campus activities that would violate them. Its report urged the Canadian government to adopt the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s definition of anti-Semitism (“Report on the Inquiry Panel,” 7 July 2011 [PDF]). That definition suggests that any questioning of whether Israel has the right to exist as a state that privileges Jews over people of other religions or ethnic backgrounds amounts to anti-Semitism.

Though the Canadian group is not linked to the Ottawa government, it has 22 parliamentarians as members. Activities it deems as anti-Semitic and, therefore, calls to be banned, include events such as the Israeli Apartheid Week that was founded in Toronto and now takes place on college campuses internationally every March.

The Canadian report is just the latest attempt at stifling public discourse about Israel. Free speech and the unimpeded exchange of ideas are also under attack on America’s college campuses. Pro-Israel supporters have targeted federal funding for academic institutions, including support for research and academic conferences, under the pretext that criticism of Israel is “hate speech.”

Federal authorities from the Office of Civil Rights with the US Department of Education are investigating charges of anti-Semitism against the University of California Santa Cruz, as well as at other institutions within the California university system, according to published reports. These are the first investigations taking place since Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was re-interpreted in October 2010, allowing Jewish students, as members of a religious group, to claim discrimination under a provision that previously applied only to racial and ethnic bigotry.

A “dear colleague” letter issued by the Office of Civil Rights in October 2010 said that discrimination against a student who is a member of a religious group violates Title VI when the discrimination is based on the group’s “actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics … or when it is based upon the student’s actual or perceived citizenship or residency in a country whose residents share a dominant religion or a distinct religious identity,” David Thomas, a US Department of Education spokesman, explained by email.

Bowing to the Zionist lobby

Major pro-Israel organizations such as the Zionist Organization of America and the Anti-Defamation League have lobbied for this re-interpretation for years. Title VI now can be applied to Jewish students who claim universities create hostile campus environments if they allow pro-Palestinian events or even class lectures critical of Israeli policies.

In other words, since Israel bills itself as a Jewish state, of which all Jews everywhere are automatic citizens, Jewish students can file complaints of anti-Semitism and discrimination based upon their perceived ethnicity and citizenship or residency in a country that has a “dominant religion.”

9/11: Explosive Evidence - Experts Speak Out

Banks love student loans

William Heuisler

Last year the Department of Education released statistics on default rates of student loans. Arizona scored last, with a cumulative score of 10.9 percent. And, according to Jeannie Carlisle’s article on September 15, 2010 in, Tucson College was highest in 2008 student loan defaults at 34.6 percent. (Carlisle, 2010)

Why should taxpayers care about student loan defaults?

Student loans, or “money from the government” is really money from taxpayers, backed by taxpayers, insured by taxpayers with losses reimbursed by taxpayers. Banks get the commissions, interest, penalties and fees on all that taxpayer money. And student loans are real big money in the twenty first century. From 2005 to 2008, college tuition increased four times faster than the Consumer Price Index. (Lewin, 2008)

US Student debt - less than $200 billion in 2000 - surpassed US credit-card debt to top $1 trillion in 2011. And per-student-debt now averages $23,000 - up 8 % from last year. (Lowry, 2011)
For more background see Examiner article, 7/5/11,  “Is college tuition a crime?”

Federally insured student loans are different than most debt. Students making loans for the last twenty years have had many ways to temporarily avoid payment. According to Dave Swindle, former “collector” of student loans, payment deferrals are relatively easy.

A lost job means 2 to 3 years “unemployment deferment”. A job not paying well can mean 3 years’ worth of “economic hardship deferment”. If there are other more important bills to be paid, some lenders offer as much as 5 years of “forbearance time”. If the loan is still a problem, the government offers a Title IV administrative forbearance - with the same qualifications as the “economic hardship deferment”. Many student loans go years without payments being made and, of course, the loan’s interest grows and grows, as does the bank’s eventual profit. (Swindle, 2011).

Does the bank lose money if a student actually defaults on their loan? No. After about a year of no payments and no deferrals - the Federal Government reimburses the bank and the loan is sold to a collection agency. (Swindle, 2011)

This inverted money tree – in Tucson and Arizona and nationwide – in the name of education for all, is one reason the cost of Government has skyrocketed.

Carlisle, J. (2010). Tucson has the highest student loan default in the US.

Lewin, T. (2008). New York Times. Downturn expected to drive tuition up.

Lowry, R. (2011). Real Clear Politics. Tuition skyrockets…while learning plummets.

Swindle, D. (2011). PJ Tatler. Yes, the higher education bubble will pop this decade and here’s one reason why.

Useless Studies, Real Harm

New York Times
Carl Elliott

LAST month, the Archives of Internal Medicine published a scathing reassessment of a 12-year-old research study of Neurontin, a seizure drug made by Pfizer. The study, which had included more than 2,700 subjects and was carried out by Parke-Davis (now part of Pfizer), was notable for how poorly it was conducted. The investigators were inexperienced and untrained, and the design of the study was so flawed it generated few if any useful conclusions. Even more alarming, 11 patients in the study died and 73 more experienced “serious adverse events.” Yet there have been few headlines, no demands for sanctions or apologies, no national bioethics commissions pledging to investigate. Why not?

One reason is that the study was not quite what it seemed. It looked like a clinical trial, but as litigation documents have shown, it was actually a marketing device known as a “seeding trial.” The purpose of seeding trials is not to advance research but to make doctors familiar with a new drug.

In a typical seeding trial, a pharmaceutical company will identify several hundred doctors and invite them to take part in a research study. Often the doctors are paid for each subject they recruit. As the trial proceeds, the doctors gradually get to know the drug, making them more likely to prescribe it later.

In an age of for-profit clinical research, this is the new face of scandal. Pharmaceutical companies promote their drugs with pseudo-studies that have little if any scientific merit, and patients naïvely sign up, unaware of the ways in which they are being used. Nobody really knows how often companies conduct such trials, but they appear with alarming regularity in pharmaceutical marketing documents. In the marketing plan for the antidepressant Lexapro for the 2004 fiscal year, Forest Laboratories described 102 Phase IV trials — the classification under which seeding trials fall — in a section labeled “Marketing Tactics.”

Oversight bodies like the Food and Drug Administration generally don’t view seeding trials as research scandals: seeding trials are not illegal, and the drugs in question have already received F.D.A. approval. But even after particularly egregious seeding trials have been exposed, the F.D.A. has not issued sanctions. Take the notorious Advantage study, a seeding trial of the pain reliever Vioxx conducted by Merck. According to a 2008 report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, litigation documents show that the Advantage study was conceived and managed by Merck’s marketing department. Three subjects died in the Advantage trial; five more subjects experienced heart attacks. Oversight bodies should treat the Advantage study as a violation of research ethics.

How can studies that endanger human subjects attract so little scrutiny? Forty years ago, when most clinical research took place in academic settings, the main dangers to research subjects came in service to genuine scientific aims. A large regulatory apparatus was developed to protect human subjects from the ambitions of overweening academic researchers. In the early 1990s, however, pharmaceutical companies realized that it was faster and less expensive to conduct trials in the private sector, where the driving force is not knowledge, but profit. And the regulatory apparatus designed for the old era has proved woefully inadequate for the new one.

Poland Says Russians Partly To Blame For Plane Crash That Killed President

 Free Internet Press

A Polish report into the 2010 plane crash in Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others says Russian air traffic controllers gave pilots incorrect and confusing landing instructions, a finding that could test already strained ties between the two countries.

It challenges a Russian aviation commission report that put sole blame for the disaster on Polish officials – and struck Poles as an attempt to avoid any responsibility for the plane crash in heavy fog near Smolensk.

Poles have eagerly awaited their government's findings, hoping for a more balanced picture of the crash. The accident on 10 April 2010, killed the president, first lady and dozens of senior officials, in the worst Polish air disaster since the second world war.

The Polish report does not shy away from putting much of the blame on Polish officials and procedures, saying the pilots had had insufficient training to fly the plane, a Tupolev 154. It also blames a lack of co-operation among the crew and a slow reaction to an automatic terrain warning system that warned pilots they were flying too low.

The main pilot was inexperienced and, as the only crew member who spoke much Russian, he was overwhelmed by the difficult conditions, said the report.

But it insisted Russian air traffic controllers were also to blame. Polish investigators found that the Polish plane was flying about 60 meters (200 feet) lower than the pilots believed in the moments before it clipped a tree and crashed. The Polish commission said the Russian air traffic controllers led the pilots to believe they were on course. It said the Russian airstrip had insufficient lighting, contributing to a lack of visibility that morning.

Russian investigators said in January that the Polish pilots faced undue pressure from political officials to try to land in thick fog – a sensitive issue. They said a Polish air force general who had alcohol in his blood entered the cockpit and pressured the pilots to risk a dangerous landing.

But the Polish commission says it did not find evidence of such pressure and that the pilots were not actually trying to land when they clipped the tree. They had abandoned one landing attempt and were circling the area to try to determine whether they should make another attempt, it says.

Kaczynski and his delegation were on their way to honor some 22,000 Polish officers killed during the war by Stalin's secret police in the Katyn forest massacres.

At first it seemed the accident had helped Poland and Russia heal some of their historic differences. An outpouring of Russian sympathy was met with much gratitude.

But the Russian report again strained relations. Poles remain bitter about the Katyn massacres, the Soviet Union's occupation of Poland's eastern half during the war and Moscow's domination of Poland during the cold war.

US Sponsored "Democracy" in Colombia: Political Assassinations, Poverty and Neoliberalism

Global Research
José David Torrenegra

Not a week goes in Colombia without reports of assassinations and persecution of labor and political activists.

Ana Fabricia Cordoba, gender activist and leader of displaced peasants, was shot dead on June 7th inside a street bus, after she foretold her own death due to constant threats and abuses against her family.(1)

Manuel Antonio Garces, community leader, Afro-descendent activist and candidate for local office in southwestern Colombia received on July 18th a disturbing warning that read “we told you to drop the campaign, next time we’ll blow it in your house” next to an inactive hand grenade.(2)

Keyla Berrios, leader of Displaced Women’s League was murdered last July 22nd, after continuous intimidation of her organization and threats on behalf of death squads linked to Colombian authorities (3), a fact so publicly known after hundreds of former congressman, police and military personnel are either jailed or investigated for colluding with Paramilitaries to steal elections, murder and disappear dissidents, forcefully displace peasants and defraud public treasury, in a criminal network that extends all the way up to former president Alvaro Uribe and his closest aides (4).

The official explanation for these crimes is also well known; Bacrim, an acronym which stands for “Criminal Gangs”, a term created from the Colombia establishment including its omnipresent corporate media apparatus to depoliticize the constant violence unleashed against union leaders, peasants and community activists.

Human Rights defenders point to the unequal and unjust structures of power and wealth which rely heavily on repression. However, no matter how much effort is put into misleading public opinion about the nature of this violence, the crimes are so systematic and their effects always turning out for the benefit of the elite that a simple class analysis debunks the façade of these “gangs” supposedly acting on their own, and exposes the insiduous relationship between the armed thugs and seats of political power in Colombia.

What we are dealing with is the expression of present-day fascism in Latin America.

In a country overwhelmed with unemployment and poverty - nearly 70% - and 8 million people living on less than U$2 a day who daily look for their subsistence in garbage among stray dogs or selling candies at street lights and city buses, is also shockingly common and surreal to see fancy cars - Hummers, Porsches - million dollar apartments, country clubs and a whole bubble of opulence just in front of over-exploited workers, ordinary people struggling merely to make ends meet, or at worst, children, single mothers, elderly, and people with disabilities, without social security and salaries, much less higher education and decent housing.

For instance, in Cartagena, a Colombian Caribbean colonial city plagued with extreme poverty, beggars, child prostitution and U$400 a night resorts, you can pretend to feel in Miami Beach or a Mediterranean paradise, and in less than five minutes away you can also visit slums which would make devastated Haiti look like suburbia.

The same shocking contrast can be experienced in all major cities in Colombia. Thus, in order to keep vast privileges of a few amidst inhuman conditions of the majority, the elite needs to have an iron grip on political power. And once its power is contested or mildly threatened by the collective action of social movements, democratic parties and conscious individuals, a selective burst of state violence is unleashed effectively dismantling any kind of peaceful organizing by fear and demoralization.

The high levels of attrition suffered by activists raising moderate democratic banners such as the right to assembly, collective bargaining, freedom of expression and reparation from political violence, are the result of decentralized state repression carried out by death squads led by high state officers (5) who supply them with intelligence and economic resources extracted from defrauding public treasury and money laundry in the narcotics chain, where social investigators claim that most of the profit accounts for institutional economy, the banks and the state (6). This elaborated repressive strategy differs from the one perpetrated by the military juntas the ruled Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, among others, where public forces exercised directly the political violence against dissidents without pretentious democratic credentials, such as the ones constantly regurgitated by the Colombian establishment, making it more difficult to expose its deep dictatorial mechanisms that have disappeared more than 30000 Colombians (7) in the last years of US backed “counterinsurgency” policies, far surpassing Pinochet’s reign of terror.

In Colombia, where the dominant social elite prevails, thousands of bodies of the "disappeared" have been buried into mass graves, the assassination of trade union leaders is the highest in the world (on a per capita basis rate). Meanwhile, several million peasants have displaced and impoverished. In a context of brutal social repression backed by neoliberal policies, an atmosphere of generalized fear prevails.

This state of affairs raises a basic question, as James Petras puts it: “How does one pursuit equitable social policies and the defense of human rights under a terrorist state aligned with death squads and financed and advised by a foreign power, which has a public policy of physically eliminating their adversaries?”(8). Some in Colombia already found and an answer in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that constitutes the basis for all modern states:

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law (9).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Volcanoes Now Blamed for Lack of Global Warming

Editor's Note:  Previously, mainstream media began the slow, tacit admission that global warming hasn't manifested in the way it was so definitively predicted 10 years ago.   This admission was presented last month through a recent study suggesting that Çhina's sulfur emissions were to blame for the lack of global warming.  Floods resulting from late melting mountain snow-packs  offer unique challenges this summer to the country's eroding infrastructure.   Little preparation for anticipated heavy winters will be the norm as the propaganda for disastrous anthropomorphic global warming will only increase in the near future.

If you have a group of environmentalists in your area that refer to global warming as one of the reasons for cool concepts like localization, cleaning up the eco-sphere or reducing automobile exhaust, introduce some of the contradictory information involving climate change and see how they react to you.  Pay close attention to the way they try to  dismiss you or shape the argument away from what you present in support of recent conventional climate research.   See if they actually answer your questions or address the specific points you present.  Turning over this rock may involve an ugly discovery underneath.

Study: volcanoes curbing warming

Volcanic particles high in the atmosphere might have had a cooling effect over the past decade, perhaps easing global warming, a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows.
The finding could have important implications for projections of future warming as well, the study's authors say.
Article Tab: image1-Study: volcanoes curbing warming
The scientists examined satellite measurements of sulfuric acid droplets called aerosols in the upper atmosphere, most of which come from volcanic eruptions.

The particles can reflect sunlight back into space, the researchers said, perhaps reducing the warming effects climate scientists say are driven mainly by release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by humans.

The study, led by Susan Solomon, an atmospheric scientist who recently retired from NOAA, showed that such particles have been gradually increasing over the past decade.

That was enough to cool the Earth's atmosphere by 0.1 watts per meter squared between 2000 and 2010.

But while it might have blunted the effects of global warming, it would not be enough to overcome the trend; carbon dioxide emissions warmed the planet during the same period by 0.3 watts per meter squared.

A separate NOAA study showed that the 2000s were the warmest decade on record.

"It's almost certain that, without volcanic aerosols in the stratosphere, Earth would be warmer," said Charlie Zender, an Earth System Science professor and atmospheric physicist at UC Irvine. "It did mask some of the warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases."

Zender says the idea of mimicking the effects of volcanoes by injecting aerosols into the stratosphere in order to cool the planet should be studied more extensively.

The study on volcanic particles was published this month in the journal, Science.

US not to probe Israel data theft


The Office of the US Trade Representative, USTR, has refused an investigation into Israel's theft and use of classified US industrial data.

 In May, the Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy, IRmep, submitted a 62-page petition to the USTR, seeking $4.6 billion in damages from Israel over theft of classified trade data, Business Wire reported.

The petition claimed that Israeli exporters' access to data has materially harmed the US industry.

The USTR argued that the IRmep is not in a position to represent victimized US industry organizations.

It also denied IRmep's argument that the industry data theft constituted an "act, policy or practice of … Israel that might be actionable."

However, the USTR did not question the veracity of the IRmep's evidence based on a series of FBI files.

The FBI files revealed that in 2009, an Israeli cabinet minister admitted to obtaining the classified information and even passing it on to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, for lobbying and public relations in the US.

American industry groups had provided the data in confidence to the International Trade Commission in 1984. 

The Norway Shooter’s Zionist Streak

The Daily Beast
Michelle Goldberg

Anders Breivik’s embrace of Israel is the latest sign of a shift among reactionaries in Europe—with fascism and Zionism going hand in hand, fueled by Islamophobia, says Michelle Goldberg.

Anders Breivik is a Christian nationalist terrorist obsessed with preserving the “Nordic/Germanic” people. He is also an ardent Zionist. Though he finds elements of Nazi ideology appealing, his 1,500-page manifesto condemns anti-Semitism. He argues that Hitler should have used his “military capabilities…to liberate Jerusalem and the nearby provinces from Islamic occupation” and give them to the Jews. Breivik calls on his imaginary comrades: “So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists.

Coming from a Scandinavian fascist, this is a remarkable sentiment. The European far right has long been rooted in Nazism, and for decades, anti-Semitism was its hallmark. But Breivik’s embrace of Israel, far from being unique, is just the latest sign of a great shift among the continent's reactionaries. Indeed, in European politics, fascism and an aggressive sort of Zionism increasingly go together.

You can see it in country after country. While Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France’s ultraright Front National, is a Holocaust denier, his daughter and successor, Marine Le Pen, is working to cleanse the party of its reputation for Jew hatred, telling the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that it “has always been Zionistic.” In the early 1990s, the British National Party organized a violent neo-Nazi gang called Combat 18. In 2009, the party’s leader, Nick Griffin, boasted that his was the only British party to support Israel’s war “against the terrorists” in Gaza.
Anders Behring Breivik, left, the suspect in the mass killing in Oslo on July 22, sits in
an armored police vehicle after leaving the courthouse following a hearing on July 25.

Earlier this year, Newsweek ran a story about this phenomenon titled “Europe’s Extreme Righteous: Far-right European politicians find love—and common cause—in Israel.” It opened with three politicians, “a Belgian politician known for his contacts with SS veterans, an Austrian with neo-Nazi ties, and a Swede whose political party has deep roots in Swedish fascism,” visiting the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem. They met with members of the Knesset and signed something called the Jerusalem declaration, which affirmed, “We stand at the vanguard in the fight for the Western, democratic community” against the “totalitarian threat” of Islamic fundamentalism.

Obviously, Islamophobia is responsible for the bizarre alliance between Israel and European white nationalists. Muslims have come to occupy the place Jews once held in the reactionary European imagination; they’re seen as agents of an apocalyptic conspiracy that threatens Europe’s very survival. The specter of the coming caliphate has crowded out the old myth of the scheming elders of Zion. Naturally, the self-described agents of the counter-jihad see the enemy of their enemy as an ally. It’s the inverse of the anti-Semitic alliance between Hitler and Haj Amin el-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem.

"The specter of the coming caliphate has crowded out the old myth of the scheming elders of Zion."
But alliances are necessarily two-way. If the European far right is increasingly cozy with Israel, it’s in part because Israel itself has lurched to the right and now shows increasing tolerance for fascism. Israeli politicians warmly welcomed the delegation that signed the Jerusalem Declaration. Last year, MK Aryeh Eldad of the far-right National Union party invited the Dutch anti-Islamist Geert Wilders, who lived in Israel as a teenager, back to the country. While there, he gave a speech urging Jews to take over all of Palestine and had a friendly meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. And, of course, Glenn Beck, who has a history of both anti-Semitism and wild anti-Muslim demagoguery, received a rapturous reception when he addressed the Israeli Knesset in June and is planning a huge rally in Jerusalem in August. (Incidentally, on his radio show on Monday, Beck compared Breivik’s victims to “Hitler youth.”)

There are even hints that some Israelis sympathize with Breivik. Wrote J.J. Goldberg in The Forward on Monday, “Judging by the comments sections on the main Hebrew websites, the main questions under debate seem to be whether Norwegians deserve any sympathy from Israelis given the country’s pro-Palestinian policies, whether the killer deserves any sympathy given his self-declared intention of fighting Islamic extremism and, perhaps ironically, whether calling attention to this debate is in itself an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic act.”

In response to the massacre, the Jerusalem Post ran a shocking column urging Norway to take the murder’s demands seriously. “Perhaps Breivik’s inexcusable act of vicious terror should serve not only as a warning that there may be more elements on the extreme Right willing to use violence to further their goals, but also as an opportunity to seriously reevaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere,” it said. “While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.”

Like most of Israel’s new far-right friends, Breivik has nothing but contempt for the majority of Jewish people, who tend to be overwhelmingly liberal. Addressing his fellow violent European nationalists, he urges, “[P]lease learn the difference between a nation-wrecking multiculturalist Jew and a conservative Jew…Never target a Jew because he is a Jew, but rather because he is a category A or B traitor.”

Nevertheless, he’s very clear that he views the Jewish right as a partner. “We expect the support of all cultural conservative Jews in our future consolidation efforts,” he writes. It’s not hard to see where he got this idea, or to suspect that the loss of the hatred of a man like Breivik is something to mourn.

Michelle Goldberg is a senior contributing writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World, winner of the 2008 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award and the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. Goldberg's work has appeared in Glamour, Rolling Stone, The Nation, New York magazine, The Guardian, and The New Republic. Her third book, about the world-traveling adventuress, actress, and yoga evangelist Indra Devi, will be published by Knopf in 2012.

Former top intel official calls drone strikes counterproductive, war on terror too expensive

Washington Post

ASPEN, Colo. — Former U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair said Friday the U.S. should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan, and reconsider the $80 billion a year it spends to fight terrorism.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Blair said the CIA’s unmanned aircraft operation aimed at al-Qaida is backfiring by damaging the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The former director of national intelligence suggests giving Pakistan more say in what gets hit by drone strikes and when, despite Pakistan’s record of tipping off militants when it gets advance word of U.S. action.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who previously headed the CIA, has lauded the drone campaign as a key tool to take out al-Qaida and other militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Strikes, which have more than tripled year-to-year under the Obama administration, are done with tacit Pakistani assent, though publicly, Pakistani officials decry the hits. That tension has grown worse after the U.S. unilateral raid into Pakistan May 2 to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and an earlier incident in January, when a CIA contractor was held for killing two Pakistani men in Lahore that he said were trying to rob him.

Blair said the continuing the drone strikes are more of a nuisance than a real threat to al-Qaida, and that only a ground campaign by Pakistan would truly threaten it and other militant organizations.

“It can sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign,” he said.

The retired admiral also suggested cutting the cost of hunting terrorists by relying more on local forces in places like Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. is already working with indigenous forces in both countries, but also sustains a large and expensive offshore presence aboard a ship off the Yemeni coast, as well as flying armed and observation drones from Djibouti and other sites in the region.

He estimated that there are some 4,000 terrorists worldwide, and a budget of some $80 billion devoted to fighting them — a figure he said did not include the wars of Afghanistan or Iraq.

“That’s $20 million for each of these people ... Is that proportionate?” he asked. He pointed out that 17 Americans have been killed inside the U.S. by terrorists in the decade since Sept. 11, including the 14 killed in the Ft. Hood massacre, while car accidents and daily crime combined have killed some 1.5 million people during the same 10 years.

“What is it that justifies this amount of money on this narrow problem?” he asked.

Blair, who was forced to resign by the Obama administration, says the White House undermined his authority as director of national intelligence by siding with the CIA, instead of telling it to listen to him.

“They sided enough with the CIA in ways that were public enough that it undercut my position,” Blair said.

Norway to fly last Libya mission


Norway will fly its last combat mission in Libya on Saturday, two days before the official end of its role in the Nato-led air war, an alliance official told AFP.

Norway, one of eight Nato members that have conducted air strikes in the four-month-old operation, was the first to set an end-date for its participation when it decided last month to withdraw on August 01.

"The last day Norwegian aircraft will fly on July 30," the Nato official said.

"We appreciate and respect the decisions of all contributing nations to provide what they can to the mission," the official said. "Norway has done a great deal but, at the end of the day, the mission continues."

Norway originally deployed six F-16 fighters to the mission before reducing it to four last month. The government explained that its small air force could not sustain a large air contribution for a long period of time.

Only eight of Nato's 28 member states have flown bombing missions since the alliance took command of the operation on March 31: Norway, Britain, France, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and the United States.

London has increased its contribution by adding four Tornado jets, effectively making up for the loss of the Norwegian planes.

Nato officials say Norway's departure will not affect the tempo of air operations, which have averaged more than 100 sorties per day including around 50 missions aimed at hitting targets.

The Scandinavian country, beset by a bombing and shooting spree committed by a confessed far-right extremist, will continue its involvement in the operation with 10 officers posted at the Libya air command centre based in Italy.

Netanyahu's popularity reels as Israel protests take root

Global Post
Noga Tarnopolsky

TEL AVIV, Israel — Sebastian Engelbrecht, a German radio correspondent stationed in Israel, found himself on the wrong side of a microphone the other day in Tel Aviv.

Semi-amused, Razi Barkai, Israel’s top morning news maven was asking him “Are you covering this? Are Germans really that interested in social protests in Israel?”

Engelbrecht responded, “Not that interested so far, but this German is interested.”

“What are you finding so interesting in this situation?” replied Barkai, saddling up for a proper interview.

“After a year in Israel, my landlord decided to raise my rent by 100 percent,” Engelbrecht said. “One hundred percent! It’s outrageous! Where can you imagine such chutzpah?”

As a late-July heat wave rolls up Israel from the Sinai desert, the country has been seized by a different kind of Egyptian fever: massive and unrelenting social protests taking over almost every last inch of public space.

What started as two unrelated social actions over a month ago — a Facebook campaign against inflated cottage cheese prices (an Israeli staple) and a doctors’ strike — has blossomed into a nationwide, multipronged collective revolt unprecedented in recent Israeli history.

It has also caught the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unprepared as he faces what is turning out to be the first serious threat to his government’s stability.

Two weeks into the tenant’s revolt and after urban tent camps mushroomed across Israeli cities, a clearly discomfited Netanyahu hastily called a press conference. He announced the future construction of reasonably-priced rental units and (addressing the cottage cheese people) the reduction of raw milk prices by one and a half pennies per liter.

Arnon Oshry, chairman of the Israeli Dairy Association, articulated the collective response the next morning: “Is he joking?”

Netanyahu’s approval ratings, meanwhile, have plummeted to 30 percent.

The Arab Spring, it appears, is turning into a hot, hot Israeli summer.

Nachum Barnea, senior political analyst for the daily Yedioth Acharonoth, couldn’t hide the admiration in his voice when he said, “I don’t think this has anything to do with Syria or Libya, of course, but I can’t help but feel there is something of Tahrir Square in these protests, in the relentlessness of them and also in their lack of focus. People are simply fed up and unhappy, and they are taking to the streets until things change. Without specific demands for negotiation or anything. They just want change. And they are patient.”

Barnea thus elegantly revealed a truth few here have dared to utter: as revolts toppled Arab leaders this past spring and Israeli government officials raced to sow the fear of regional instability among the population, regular Israelis sipping tea in cafés and chatting with friends at work could not restrain their esteem for what their neighbors had peacefully wrought.

“This is for our brave brothers in Egypt,” boomed a jazz singer at Jerusalem’s popular Israel Festival, in June.

The day following Netanyahu’s press conference, opposition leader Tsippi Livni got up at 6 a.m. and marched with striking doctors on their way from Tel Aviv to Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem.

“I hope and think these protests will bring about a change of government. The earlier, the better,” she said, uttering a sentiment unthinkable only days earlier.

Netanyahu’s own interior minister, Eli Yishai, a member of the religious Shas party that has historically identified itself as fighting for the poor, told Israel Radio he would “be out there on the streets with these people if I wasn’t part of the government.”

Jumping with some delay into the fray, Ofer Eini, chairman of the Histadrut Labor Union, called for talks about tenants’ rights with the government.

Israel’s citizenry seems to have collectively blown a fuse. The first unlikely indication this took place was six weeks ago, when Israelis returning from early summer weekends abroad began to notice that the same Israeli-made cottage cheese they bought abroad, particularly in Sofia, Berlin and London, cost more than double in their local supermarkets.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Israeli Home Demolition Terrorism


Co-founded (with Meir Marglit) and directed by Jeff Halper, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) "is a non-violent, direct-action organization established in 1998 to resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories."

ICAHD also helps rebuild homes. In addition, it resists "land expropriation, settlement expansions, by-pass road construction, policies of 'closure' and 'separation,' " as well as destruction of agricultural land and crops. It also works for peace, equity, and ending Israel's illegal occupation.

Access its web site through the following link:

It estimates over 24,800 West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza houses demolished since 1967 (4,247 during Cast Lead, according to the UN).

It classifies demolition types as:

-- punishment for actions associated with the structures (about 8.5%);

-- administrative for lacking building permits (about 26%);

-- land-clearing/military demolitions for any reason, including achieving IDF goals or accompanying extrajudicial assassinations (about 65.5%); and

-- other undefined reasons.

In fact, Israel's demolition and displacement policies are serious international law breaches for any reason. Nonetheless, they continue as official state policy to steal Palestinian land for Israelis, an issue Western media ignore, as well as other Israeli crimes of war and against humanity.

On June 27, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee passed a first draft of a law requiring Palestinians to pay house demolition costs with no judicial review.

ACRI and Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights petitioned the committee, calling the measure extreme, adding that without judicial review "there is no option for the owners to demolish the structure themselves," a much cheaper procedure.

Moreover, this legislation gives administrative authorities "unbalanced" demolition freedom, including to bulldoze homes in "structurally disadvantaged communities such as Bedouins in unrecognized communities" and Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

A "softened version of the bill" lets courts decide whether costs should be imposed and how much. It's expected to become law.

On July 21, a new UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report documented alarming numbers of West Bank Area C demolitions and forced displacements, saying more occurred (342) so far in 2011 than in 2009 and 2010 combined.

Based on field visits to 13 Area C communities, the report said "restrictive policies and practices of the Israeli authorities, including movement and access restrictions, settlement activity and restrictions on Palestinian construction" force most Palestinians to leave.

It added that thousands more are at risk because 3,000 demolition orders have been issued, including against 18 schools.

On July 18, ICAHD reported "a new wave of demolition orders, stop-building orders, property confiscations, settler harassment and multiple warnings of imminent eviction(s) by the Israeli Civil Administration...."

Most affected are Jerusalem periphery Bedouin communities, "exhausted of alternative coping strategies." As a result, they're appealing for international protection against demolitions, forced displacements and relocations, what many of them have experienced before.

Khan al Ahmar and Wadi Abu Hindi communities (near Maale Adumim settlement) are especially targeted. Since May, all Wadi Abu Hindi structures got stop-building orders. The community was also told that their land was expropriated for the Separation Barrier.

Khan al Ahmar got four new stop-building orders and notification that final stop-work/demolition orders for 10 - 12 houses will be executed. Moreover, Jahilin community residents fear they may be next.

More Land Theft Planned

On July 22, Haaretz writer Akiva Eldar headlined, "IDF Civil Administration pushing for land takeover in West Bank," saying:

According to an internal IDF document, new construction is planned "not only around settlement blocs like Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, but also in strategic areas like the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea."

Prepared by Lt. Col. Zvi Cohen, it says the custodian of government property may take possession of undefined ownership lands, including in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea. Doing so, however, will further cantonize Palestine, making it harder than ever to establish an independent continuous territory state.

In response, Rabbis for Human Rights said:

"(A) politically motivated land policy must not come at the expense of the rights of a population subjected to occupation, which is excluded from the decision-making processes of those shaping its destiny. The procedures empower the ability to use the mechanism Israel set up for declaring 'state lands' for the purpose of dispossessing Palestinian communities and individuals of their rights and lands."

According to Dror Etkes, an activist monitoring settlement construction, the IDF document reveals how political and military officials work against Palestinians' interests. Nearly always, procedures for declaring state lands benefit settlers alone.

"That's the main way Israel enforces its discriminatory land policy which aims to evict the Palestinians from most of the West Bank and take possession of these territories."

Moreover, Israel's Interior Ministry recently authorized "the enlargement of 2,000 illegal homes" in East Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.

And now this, according to Haaretz writer Jack Khoury. On July 27, he headlined "Israel sues 34 Bedouin(s) for costs of repeated demolitions of their homes," saying:

The unprecedented suit seeks 1.8 million NIS (New Israeli Shekels) in damages. About 3.4 NIS = one dollar.

Despite Bedouins and other Palestinians building on their own land, the Israel Land Administration (ILA) claims those charged built homes in Al-Arakib, northeast of Be'er Sheva, "on what had been state land since the time of Ottoman rule."

It ended in 1918. Israel became a state in 1948. ILA's claim is bogus, offensive and illegal, but it's not deterred from its longstanding policy to steal as much Palestinian land as possible, destroying their property and dispossessing them lawlessly.

According to ILA:

"The squatters against whom the suit was brought, of the Abu Madigham and the Abu Jaber families, already have houses built on land the state gave them in the area of Rahat." It said they keep returning to disputed land, despite court orders prohibiting them from doing so.

Israeli audacity gives chutzpah new meaning, calling Palestinian land "disputed," prohibiting them from living on it, demolishing their property when they do, and now suing them for demolition costs.

ILA also claimed Bedouins use PR deception, accusing Israel of repression when they're in breach of the law. It said the disputed land was leased until 1998 for seasonal agricultural activities. However, "defendants ousted the leasees and began squatting on the land."


James Dellingpole

This is too good a story not to repeat, not least for the headline it invites: (H/T Ed West; Julian Morris)
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A federal wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.
Charles Monnett, an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE, was told July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into “integrity issues.”
Something about this story is very odd. Surely, under the Obama administration any government official who was discovered to have been “emotionalising the issue” in order to raise public awareness of the terrible dangers of ManBearPig would be given a promotion, and a Congressional Medal of Honor at the very least? Can it really be possible that BOEMRE remains so principled and inviolate that it still insists its employees cleave to the truth?

It’s definitely one to watch, anyway. After all, the “drowning polar bear” story was instrumental in the US Interior Department’s controversial decision in 2008 to have Ursus maritimus declared a “threatened species.” (Despite evidence that polar bear populations have increased roughly five-fold in the last 50 years: not so much a threatened species, you might say; more like a plague or an infestation). It also prompted the silly scene in Al Gore’s fantasy movie An Inconvenient Truth where an animated polar bear is shown drowning because of “global warming.”

At Watts Up With That you’ll find an excellent World Climate Report essay reporting on the background to the “drowning polar bear” story.
But the part of the study that garnered the press attention so much so that it has become ingrained in global warming lore was that Monnett et al. reported the sighting of four polar bear carcasses floating in the sea several kilometers from shore, presumably having drowned. All four dead bears were spotted from the plane a few days after a strong storm had struck the area, with high winds and two meter high waves. Since polar bears are strong swimmers, the authors concluded that it was not just the swimming that caused the bears to drown, but that the swimming in association with high winds and waves, which made the exertion rate much greater, sapping the bears of their energy and leading to their deaths. The authors also suggested that the frequency and intensity of late summer and early fall storms should increase (as would the wave heights) because of global warming and thus the risk to swimming bears will increase along with the number of bears swimming (since there will be less ice) and subsequently more bears will drown. But they didn’t stop there—they suggested that the increased risk will not be borne by all bears equally, but that lone females and females with cubs will be most at risk—putting even more downward pressure of future polar bear populations. And thus a global warming poster child (or cub) is born.
But does all of this follow from the data? Again, we haven’t heard of any reports of polar bear drownings in Alaska in 2005, 2006, or 2007—all years with about the same, or even less late-summer sea ice off the north coast of Alaska than in 2004, the year of the documented drownings.
Lubos Motl, as is his splendid way, has some trenchant things to say on the subject.

One of the commenters at Watts Up With That thinks this story could turn out to be really juicy. His rationale is that no way would BOEMRE bring an action against an employee for something as innocent as having honest, peer-reviewed research twisted, misrepresented and exaggerated by the media. No, it would have to be way more serious than that.

The news is especially tragic for those of an eco-alarmist persuasion, coming as it does on the same day as new research from NASA (of all places: where’s Jimmy “death train” Hansen when he’s needed to put the correct spin on things?) blows yet another massive hole in CAGW theory.
NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.
Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA’s Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.
“The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”
Anyhoo, weep not for the polar bear. The polar bears are doing just fine.