Friday, March 28, 2014

This is Climate Change: This is Reality

IPlil Plait has been saying for a long time that to communicate science effectively, we need to connect with people. Scientists have a habit of just relaying facts to each other, since that’s how nature itself works. But people don’t work that way at all, and just reciting facts doesn’t work.

If we want to connect with people, especially over the sound and fury of the anti-science noise machine, we need to be passionate. We need to be emotional. And we need to tell the human story.

That’s exactly what it looks like Showtime is doing with its new big-budget eight-part series Years of Living Dangerously, which will show the impact of climate change on our planet. It looks phenomenal, gorgeously shot, and features journalists and celebrities who travel the world to investigate what we’re doing to our planet. Among the people in it are Jessica Alba, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lesley Stahl, and Thomas L. Friedman.

This isn’t a fluff piece, from what I can tell: Their science adviser team includes scientists Michael Mann, Katharine Hayhoe, James Hansen, and Joe Romm, among other top-flight climatologists.*

They’ve also set up a really nice website with more information, including links to the stories they cover and the science of climate change. The trailer looks great, and there’s also a version of it on YouTube: More


UN backs resolution presented by Pakistan on drones

GENEVA: The United Nations called on all states on Friday to ensure that the use of armed drones complies with international law, backing a proposal from Pakistan seen as taking aim at the United States.

A resolution presented by Pakistan on behalf of co-sponsors including Yemen and Switzerland did not single out any state. The United States is the biggest drone user in conflicts including those in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

“The purpose of this resolution is not to shame or name anyone, as we are against this approach,” Pakistan's ambassador Zamir Akram told the UN Human Rights Council.

“It is about supporting a principle.”

The United States prizes drones for their accuracy against al Qaeda and Taliban militants. Pakistan says they kill civilians and infringe its sovereignty.

“The United States is committed to ensuring that our actions, including those involving remotely piloted aircraft, are undertaken in accordance with all applicable domestic and international laws and with the greatest possible transparency, consistent with our national security needs,” Paula Schriefer, US deputy assistant secretary of state, told the talks.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 27 states in favour to six against, with 14 abstentions at the 47-member Geneva forum. The United States, Britain and France voted against.

The Council “urges all states to ensure that any measures employed to counter terrorism, including the use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones, comply with their obligations under international law ... in particular the principles of precaution, distinction and proportionality.”

The text voiced concern at civilian casualties resulting from the use of remotely-piloted aircraft or armed drones, as highlighted by the UN special investigator on counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson in a recent report.

It called on UN human rights boss Navi Pillay to organise expert discussions on armed drones and report back in September.

The United States, Britain and France said it was not appropriate for the forum to put weapons systems on its agenda.

The Obama administration preferred to discuss drones under an initiative of Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which it hoped would provide a “non-politicised forum” where military experts can discuss law of war issues, Schriefer said.

Akram, speaking before the vote, said opposition “can only lead to the conclusion that these states are guilty of violating applicable international law and demonstrate that they are afraid of being exposed in the expert panel.”

A separate UN human rights watchdog called on the Obama administration on Thursday to limit its use of drones and to curb US surveillance activities.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ashrawi Calls on US to Stand Up for International Law

PLO Executive Committee member, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, called the U.S. to stand up for international law, and to have the political will to curb Israeli violations of international and humanitarian law.

PLO Executive Committee member, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Catherine Russell

She stressed that, "unless there is an American commitment to treat Palestinians equally and to hold Israel accountable, there is no hope for peace."

Ashrawi's statements came during her meeting with Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Catherine Russell, at the PLO Headquarters in Ramallah, the Palestinian News Network (PNN) reports.

Ashrawi highlighted the accomplishments of women in Palestine in the face of tremendous odds: "Despite the gender discrimination in Palestine and obstacles imposed by Israel's military occupation, among other barriers, Palestinian women persist in their struggle for equality, dignity, and social justice."

Both parties discussed the role of women in the "peace process," the importance of the women's movement in Palestine, the ongoing negotiations, and Israel's facts on the ground.

Ashrawi stressed, "For decades, we have been subjected to a system of direct control and captivity; Israel is violating our human rights and freedoms and annexing Palestinian land and resources, while completing the siege and ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem."

Hanan Ashrawi is a Palestinian legislator, activist, and scholar. She is the first woman ever elected to the Palestinian National Council. More


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oil Company’s Restraining Order Bars Anti-Fracking Protestor From Grocery Store, Friends’ Houses

In October of 2013, Cabot Oil & Gas secured a court order that effectively banned an anti-fracking activist from entering any land owned or leased by the company. But because of the broad scope of the court order, that activist is now claiming she legally can’t go to the grocery store, the hospital, restaurants, and even her friends’ homes.

Vera Scroggins

“It’s tough to try to figure out, where can I stand? Where can I walk?” Vera Scroggins told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “It’s not a pleasant thing to endure.”

Cabot, one of the biggest names in Pennsylvania’s natural gas rush, had sought a preliminary injunction against Scroggins in October after alleging that she had repeatedly trespassed onto several of the company’s leased and owned properties, giving unauthorized tours of their operations. After hearing testimony from employees and security personnel, Susquehanna County Judge Kenneth Seamans granted Cabot’s request to have Scroggins legally barred from not only the land Cabot owns, but from all the land it holds mineral leases on.

The problem with that, according to Scroggins’ attorneys, is that nearly 40 percent of Susquehanna County land is owned or leased by Cabot. This includes the grocery store, the local recycling center, the hospital that is nearest to her home, and several of her friends’ houses.

“In short, the right to extract gas is, according to the company, also the right to banish,” Scroggins’ attorneys said in a motion asking Susquehanna County Judge Kenneth Seamans to undo his October order. A ruling on that motion could come this week, the Associated Press reports.

In arguing for the ban, Cabot allegedly said that its leases for the mineral rights below properties like the grocery store and hospital granted the company an “exclusive property interest” in that land. But Scroggins — who elected not to have attorney representation at the time of the October order — is now arguing alongside her attorneys that Cabot’s leases contain no language that grant the company such a broad right.

Additionally, her attorneys are saying that Cabot’s request and Judge Seamans’ decision violated Scroggins’ Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and movement.

“The injunction sends a chilling message to those who oppose fracking and wish to make their voices heard or to document practices that they fear will harm them and their neighbors,” the motion said. “That message is loud and clear: criticize a gas company, and you’ll pay for it.”

According to the motion, Cabot isn’t even continuing to seek the broad restraining order. In an amended complaint against Scroggins filed in January, Cabot said it would prefer a more specific but permanent injunction barring Scroggins from entering onto properties owned and leased by Cabot, but only where it is actually conducting operations. The company also wants to ban Scroggins from coming anywhere within 150 feet of that land.

This is hardly the first time an activist fighting against fossil fuel development has find herself in legal hot water.

In Australia, Jonathan Moylan is facing jail time after a fake press release he distributed led to temporary stock market confusion. In the U.S., activist and journalist Mike Stark is being sued for defamation after writing a strongly opinionated article about coal baron Robert Murray. And in November, Canadian environmental writer, illustrator and activist Franke James was blacklisted by the Canadian government for making art that was critical of the Canadian government’s policies with respect to tar sands and climate change.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Air pollution linked to seven million deaths globally

Seven million people died as a result of air pollution in 2012, the World Health Organization estimates.

Its findings suggest a link between air pollution and heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer.

One in eight global deaths were linked with air pollution, making it "the world's largest single environmental health risk", the WHO said.

Nearly six million of the deaths had been in South East Asia and the WHO's Western Pacific region, it found.

The WHO said about 3.3 million people had died as a result of indoor air pollution and 2.6 million deaths were related to outdoor air pollution, mainly in low- and middle-income countries in those regions.

'Heavy price'

WHO public health, environmental and social determinants of health department director Dr Maria Neira said: "The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes.

"Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution.

"The evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe."

Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives, said the WHO.

WHO family, woman and children's health assistant director-general Dr Flavia Bustreo said: "Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents non-communicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly.

"Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves."

'Robust and accurate'

The WHO assessment found the majority of air pollution deaths were linked with cardiovascular diseases.

For deaths related to outdoor pollution, it found:

  • 40% - heart disease
  • 40% - stroke
  • 11% - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • 6% - lung cancer
  • 3% - acute lower respiratory infections in children

For deaths related to indoor pollution, it found:

  • 34% - stroke
  • 26% - heart disease
  • 22% - COPD
  • 12% - acute lower respiratory infections in children
  • 6% - lung cancer

University of Birmingham professor of environmental and respiratory medicine Jon Ayres said the review needed to be taken seriously.

"The estimates for the impact of outdoor air pollution are robust and as accurate as can be developed at the moment," he said.

The WHO estimates were based on:

  • satellite data
  • ground-level monitoring
  • modelling how pollution drifts in the air
  • pollution-emissions data
  • more


Saturday, March 22, 2014

U.N. Rights Investigator Accuses Israel of 'Ethnic Cleansing'

A U.N. human rights investigator accused Israel on Friday of "ethnic cleansing" in pushing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and cast doubt that the Israeli government could accept a Palestinian state in the current climate.

Richard Falk

A U.N. human rights investigator accused Israel on Friday of "ethnic cleansing" in pushing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and cast doubt that the Israeli government could accept a Palestinian state in the current climate.

He spoke against a backdrop of deadlocked peace talks and accelerating Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem which Palestinians say is dimming their hope of establishing a viable state on contiguous territory.

Israel says Palestinian refusal to recognise it as a Jewish state is the main obstacle. U.S. President Barack Obama this week pressed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to help break the impasse, saying both sides must take political risks before the April 29 deadline for a framework deal.

Richard Falk, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, told a news conference that Israeli policies bore "unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing".

"Every increment of enlarging the settlements or every incident of house demolition is a way of worsening the situation confronting the Palestinian people and reducing what prospects they might have as the outcome of supposed peace negotiations."

Asked about his accusation of ethnic cleansing, Falk said that more than 11,000 Palestinians had lost their right to live in Jerusalem since 1996 due to Israel imposing residency laws favouring Jews and revoking Palestinian residence permits.

"The 11,000 is just the tip of the iceberg because many more are faced with possible challenges to their residency rights."

This compounded the "ordeal of this extended, prolonged occupation", according to Falk, an international law expert and professor emeritus at Princeton University in the United States.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed the latter, declaring it part of its eternal, indivisible capital, a move never recognised internationally.

Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as their capital. In 2005 Israel quit Gaza, now run by Hamas Islamists opposed to Abbas' peace efforts, but settlement growth continues in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Falk said that Israel had made a systematic effort to "change the ethnic composition" of East Jerusalem by making it more difficult for Palestinians to reside there while encouraging the spread of settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

In a report last month, Falk said Israeli policies in the West Bank appeared to amount to "apartheid and segregation" with a de facto annexation of parts of the territory, denying the Palestinian right to self-determination.

There was no immediate Israeli response to his remarks on Friday. Israel has not responded officially to Falk's February report via the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council, the usual channel, U.N. officials in Geneva said.

In the past Israel has strongly denied accusations of persecuting Palestinians, accusing them of inciting anti-Israeli violence and being unwilling to make permanent peace with the Jewish state.


Direct peace negotiations usually coincide with intensified Israeli settlement activity, he told reporters.

The U.S.-brokered peace process seemed to be primarily a project of Secretary of State John Kerry who had received only "minimal support from Obama himself", Falk said.

"There are other reasons for encouraging the idea that it's still possible to negotiate a settlement based on the two-state model, even though most informed observers regard it as highly implausible given the changes that have taken place during the period of occupation and given the outlook of the Netanyahu government," he said, making clear he was among the sceptics.

Even entering negotiations, he said, is seen as a "betrayal" by Israeli political factions and parties that are to the right of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"A few years ago it would be hard to imagine that there was something to the right of Netanyahu. But gradually this drift to the right has created a whole new sense of the political debate within Israel," Falk said. "And there is a strong internal Israeli opposition to any sense that the Palestinian people in any diminished way deserve a state of their own."

Falk, an American law professor who is Jewish, has come to the end of a six-year term in the independent post and the U.N. Human Rights Council is expected to name a successor soon.

He has long drawn controversy in Israel, in 2008 comparing Israeli military strikes against Hamas in Gaza - during which 1,400 Palestinians were killed and there was widespread destruction in densely populated areas - to those of the Nazis.

Last June he said critics who called him anti-Semitic sought to divert attention from his scrutiny of Israeli policies.

He is to address the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday, but it was not clear whether Israeli delegates would attend due to an ongoing strike by Israeli foreign ministry staff. More


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Confessions of a Drone Warrior

From the darkness of a box in the Nevada desert, he watched as three men trudged down a dirt road in Afghanistan.

The box was kept cold—precisely sixty-eight degrees—and the only light inside came from the glow of monitors. The air smelled spectrally of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. On his console, the image showed the midwinter landscape of eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Province—a palette of browns and grays, fields cut to stubble, dark forests climbing the rocky foothills of the Hindu Kush. He zoomed the camera in on the suspected insurgents, each dressed in traditional shalwar kameez, long shirts and baggy pants. He knew nothing else about them: not their names, not their thoughts, not the thousand mundane and profound details of their lives.

He was told that they were carrying rifles on their shoulders, but for all he knew, they were shepherd’s staffs. Still, the directive from somewhere above, a mysterious chain of command that led straight to his headset, was clear: confirmed weapons. He switched from the visible spectrum—the muted grays and browns of “day-TV”—to the sharp contrast of infrared, and the insurgents’ heat signatures stood out ghostly white against the cool black earth. A safety observer loomed behind him to make sure the “weapon release” was by the book. A long verbal checklist, his targeting laser locked on the two men walking in front. A countdown—three…two…one…—then the flat delivery of the phrase “missile off the rail.” Seventy-five hundred miles away, a Hellfire flared to life, detached from its mount, and reached supersonic speed in seconds.

It was quiet in the dark, cold box in the desert, except for the low hum of machines.

He kept the targeting laser trained on the two lead men and stared so intently that each individual pixel stood out, a glowing pointillist dot abstracted from the image it was meant to form. Time became almost ductile, the seconds stretched and slowed in a strange electronic limbo. As he watched the men walk, the one who had fallen behind seemed to hear something and broke into a run to catch up with the other two. Then, bright and silent as a camera flash, the screen lit up with white flame.

Airman First Class Brandon Bryant stared at the scene, unblinking in the white-hot clarity of infrared. He recalls it even now, years later, burned into his memory like a photo negative: “The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg, and it’s hitting the ground, and it’s hot. His blood is hot. But when it hits the ground, it starts to cool off; the pool cools fast. It took him a long time to die. I just watched him. I watched him become the same color as the ground he was lying on.”

That was Brandon Bryant’s first shot. It was early 2007, a few weeks after his twenty-first birthday, and Bryant was a remotely-piloted-aircraft sensor operator—a “sensor” for short—part of a U.S. Air Force squadron that flew Predator drones in the skies above Iraq and Afghanistan. Beginning in 2006, he worked in the windowless metal box of a Ground Control Station (GCS) at Nellis Air Force Base, a vast sprawl of tarmac and maintenance hangars at the edge of Las Vegas.

The airmen kept the control station dark so they could focus on controlling their MQ-1B Predators circling two miles above the Afghan countryside. Bryant sat in a padded cockpit chair. He had a wrestler’s compact build, a smooth-shaved head, and a piercing ice blue gaze frequently offset by a dimpled grin. As a sensor, his job was to work in tandem with the drone’s pilot, who sat in the chair next to him. While the pilot controlled the drone’s flight maneuvers, Bryant acted as the Predator’s eyes, focusing its array of cameras and aiming its targeting laser. When a Hellfire was launched, it was a joint operation: the pilot pulled a trigger, and Bryant was responsible for the missile’s “terminal guidance,” directing the high-explosive warhead by laser to its desired objective. Both men wore regulation green flight suits, an unironic Air Force nod to the continuity of military decorum in the age of drone warfare.

Since its inception, the drone program has been largely hidden, its operational details gathered piecemeal from heavily redacted classified reports or stage-managed media tours by military public-affairs flacks. Bryant is one of very few people with firsthand experience as an operator who has been willing to talk openly, to describe his experience from the inside. While Bryant considers leakers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden heroes willing to sacrifice themselves for their principles, he’s cautious about discussing some of the details to which his top-secret clearance gave him access. Still, he is a curtain drawn back on the program that has killed thousands on our behalf.

Despite President Obama’s avowal earlier this year that he will curtail their use, drone strikes have continued apace in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan. With enormous potential growth and expenditures, drones will be a center of our policy for the foreseeable future. (By 2025, drones will be an $82 billion business, employing an additional 100,000 workers.) Most Americans—61 percent in the latest Pew survey—support the idea of military drones, a projection of American power that won’t risk American lives. More


Chatham House Conference - Stop Killer Robots


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Here's how we take back the Internet

Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. "Your rights matter,” he say, "because you never know when you're going to need them." Chris Anderson interviews, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Collapse' Of Modern Civilization A Real Possibility: Study

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."

Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:

"... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels."

The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:

"Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from "increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput," despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions "closely reflecting the reality of the world today... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid." In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:

".... appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."

Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."

In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."

Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:

"While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory 'so far' in support of doing nothing."

However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:

"Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."

The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business - and consumers - to recognise that 'business as usual' cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.

Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative. More

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Soldiers Kidnap Nine Palestinians In The West Bank

Local sources in Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, have reported that the army kidnapped Issa Yousef Shahin, age 66, after breaking into his home in Emresh village, south of Doura.

Soldiers also invaded the home of Jamil Shahin, a Palestinian security officer, and searched it, causing property damage.

They also invaded Wad al-Harya neighborhood, in Hebron city, and kidnapped Tha’er Nabil Ghanayem, 18,

The army invaded various neighborhoods in the city, installing roadblocks at the entrances of Sa’ir town, north of Hebron, the Halhoul Bridge, and the al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of the city, stopping and searching dozens of vehicles and interrogated the passengers.

Dozens of Israeli military vehicles also invaded Nablus city, in the northern part of the West Bank, the al-Ein refugee camp and the al-Makhfiyya area, in the city, kidnapping three Palestinians.

Local sources have reported that the soldiers invaded the al-Makhfiyya area, west of Nablus, broke into the home of Dr. Mohammad Shareeda, and kidnapped his son Hotheifa, 21 years of age.

The soldiers also violently searched the property, and confiscated computers and a mobile phone.

One Palestinian, identified as Mohammad Basyouni, 21, was kidnapped after the soldiers invaded and searched his home in the Ein Beit al-Maa’ refugee camp, in the city.

Military choppers were seen flying over various homes and lands in Nablus, local sources said.

Another Palestinian, identified as Ahmad Suleiman Othman, age 28, was kidnapped from his home in the al-Majdal village, south of Nablus.

Several Israeli military jeeps also invaded Awarta village, south of Nablus, while the soldiers broke into and searched several homes before kidnapping one Palestinian, identified as Tha’er Majed Awwad, age 22.

Furthermore, soldiers invaded Ya’bad village, west of Jenin, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, kidnapping two Palestinians identified as Abed Abu Bakr, 22, and Kamal Harzallah, 23. More


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Remembering Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Second Bill of Rights

Seventy years ago, on January 11, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his 11th Annual Message on the State of the Union. The United States was at war. But the president spoke not only of the struggle and of what Americans had to do to hasten victory over the Axis Powers. He also spoke of what Americans needed to do to win the peace to come. Reaffirming his administration’s commitment to the vision he had articulated in his 1941 Annual Message – the vision of the Four Freedoms: Freedom of speech, Freedom of worship, Freedom from want, Freedom from fearRoosevelt now called for an Economic Bill of Rights for all Americans. More


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Legally Recognize Non-Binary Genders

Legally Recognize Non-Binary Genders

Legal documents in the United States only recognize "male" and "female" as genders, leaving anyone who does not identify as one of these two genders with no option. Australia and New Zealand both allow an X in place of an M or an F on passports for this purpose, and the UK recognizes 'Mx' (pronounced "Mix") as a gender-neutral title.

This petition asks the Obama administration to legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary, and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records. More

Created: Feb 19, 2014

Issues: Civil Rights and Liberties


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Study links BP oil spill to dolphin deaths

US government scientists have for the first time connected the BP oil disaster to dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico, in a study finding direct evidence of toxic exposure.

The study, led by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found lung disease, hormonal abnormalities and other health effects among dolphins in an area heavily oiled during the BP spill.

The diseases found in the dolphins at Barataria Bay in Louisiana – though rare – were consistent with exposure to oil, the scientists said.

"Many disease conditions observed in Barataria Bay dolphins are uncommon but consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity," the scientists said.

Half of the dolphins were given a guarded prognosis, and 17% were expected to die of the disease, the researchers found.

"I've never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals – and with unusual conditions such as the adrenal hormone abnormalities," Lori Schwake, the study's lead author, said in a statement.

The scientists caught, examined and released about 30 bottlenose dolphins from Barataria Bay in 2011, one year after the disaster. The area was one of the most heavily oiled areas following the April 2010 blowout of BP's deepwater well, that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf.

Government scientists and conservation groups had been concerned from the outset about the effects on marine life of the vast amounts of oil that entered the water.

But Wednesday's study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, produced the strongest evidence to date of the effects of the spill on marine life.

"The severe disease documented by this study and the continued elevation of mortalities raise significant concerns regarding both short-term and long-term impacts on the Barataria Bay dolphin population," the study said.

Jacqueline Savitz, senior campaign director of the Oceana conservation group, said the findings confirmed her fears at the time that the oil spill would take a high toll on dolphins, whales and other marine life in the Gulf.

"After the spill I saw dolphins swimming in and out of oil slicks, breathing air at the surface that I knew contained hydrocarbons from the spill since I could smell them myself," Savitz said. "The dolphins were likely exposed to the oil in other ways as well, by swallowing water, and through their food. While we have seen an unusual number of dolphin deaths during and after the spill, this report verifies that the oil took a larger toll on dolphins."

None of the symptoms in the Barataria Bay dolphins were reported among wild dolphin populations in Sarasota Bay, Florida, which was not oiled during the spill, the scientists said.

BP has in the past disputed any connection between the oil spill and a mysterious spike in dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico that was first reported three months before the oil spill.

"The agency still has not provided BP with any data demonstrating that the alleged poor health of any dolphins was caused by oil exposure," Jason Ryan, a company spokesman, said.

He said the symptoms observed in the study had been seen in other wild dolphin populations exposed to other contaminants, and that there had been a number of unexplained die-offs of dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico over the years. More


For the sake of peace, it is time to put an end to negotiations

After 20 years of a failed and fictitious peace process, there is no more room for ‘processes’ that serve as substitutes for peace. There is nothing left to clarify between the two sides. The only possible compromise for a peace agreement is well known.

By Rona Moran and Hana Amouri (Translated from Hebrew by Itamar Haritan)

The ongoing “peace” negotiations are headed for failure. Everyone knows it. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu know it, as do the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, who are participating in the negotiations under heavy American pressure. The US knows it too — since the collapse of negotiations in 2000, all those grandiose declarations periodically issued by US presidents and state secretaries have a tendency to evaporate quickly, leaving behind them momentary glory for the declarers, and additional legitimacy for preserving the status quo, deepening the occupation and the perpetuating the conflict for the residents of this country.

The current situation is comfortable for the ruling parties in Israel. Most Israeli ministers do not bother to hide their intention to continuing the colonization process in every part of the country. A small minority in the governing coalition, along with the Labor Party, expresses consistent support for “the peace process,” which may fool the well-intentioned observer to think that it wants a process that ends in an agreement. In practice, however, they support a peace process and not a peaceagreement. In other words, they support an endless process that makes it possible to preserve American support and good relations with the international community, while shoring up the major settlement blocs and allowing various corporations to continue to enjoy enormous profits from the ongoing occupation and from thetotal dependency of the Palestinian economy on the Israeli economy.

It may be that the present situation is comfortable for Israel’s ruling parties. It may be that for many in the Israeli-Jewish public, the words “occupation” and “peace” sound like echoes from the past, words that are no longer relevant for present-day discussion. But for a great many Palestinians, this dummy peace process, a process that reinforces the existing situation, is insufferable. First and foremost, because it perpetuates occupation and colonization, which put enormous pressure, perpetrate daily violence and dispossess more and more Palestinians of their lands.

The colonization process sentences Palestinians to a life of oppression and poverty; tens of thousands live in the shadow of fences and walls under harsh restrictions; tens of thousands of people in Hebron live at the whim of a group of Israeli settlers, led by a lawless gang of extremists; over 200,000 Palestinians live without civil rights in East Jerusalem, while countless others live in villages or towns subjected to constant harassment by Israeli settlers. They cannot, and they will not, accept the continuation of a “negotiation process” that perpetuates and exacerbates their suffering. This dead-end process is creating a deadly bomb under the feet of both our peoples, a bomb that will explode with tremendous force in the near future.

After 20 years of a failed and fictitious peace process, there is no more room for “processes” that serve as substitutes for peace. There is nothing left to clarify between the two sides. The only possible compromise for a peace agreement is known; there is no other alternative. The last and only historic compromise that the Palestinian people can accept and live with is well-known: a sovereign Palestinian state in all areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem; a full Israeli retreat to the Green Line; dismantling the settlements and rehabilitating the settlers within Israel; and full realization of the right of the Palestinian refugees to return. There is room for negotiations whose aim is to determine exactly how and in what ways and conditions this compromise will be carried out. There is no point to any other negotiation.

It is possible to reach a peace agreement on the basis of a partition of the land into two states, with the Green Line as the border and a solution to the refugee problem. Even so much as a sketch of such an agreement, however, is absent from the negotiation table. But it is not only what isn’t on the negotiation table that points to the real position of the Israeli negotiators, but also what is. Netanyahu’s condition that Israel be recognized as an exclusive Jewish state is not only a ridiculous demand that Palestinians declare their acceptance of Zionist ideology. Along withLieberman’s proposals for territorial and population swaps, this demand exposes the Israeli intention to act against Palestinian citizens of Israel if should the government be required to carry out another pullout from the West Bank.

In other words, the Israeli government views one part of the Palestinian people as a hostage that can be threatened and perhaps even forced to pay the price for any compromise with another part of the Palestinian people. Under such conditions, there is no partner for peace among the Israeli political leadership.

About a month ago, we, members of the Tarabut–Hithabrut movement, participated in a conference in Hebron together with activists representing three Palestinian left-wing organizations in the West Bank: the People’s Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). With great courage, the Palestinian left-wing activists made it very clear that despite their desire for peace, they oppose continuing the present negotiations. As their partners in the struggle against the occupation, we surely agree.

Together with our partners in the Palestinian left in Hebron, we want to say loud and clear: stop the negotiations now! In their present form, the negotiations are no more than just another tool used to expand Israeli control and deepen the occupation. They hold neither hope nor a chance for a better life in this country and mainly serve as a provider of raw material for Israeli hasbara. Anyone who desires to live a joint Jewish-Arab life in this country, in conditions of democracy and justice, can pressure the Israeli government to choose a solution that has already achieved international legitimacy — a Palestinian state alongside Israel with the Green Line as the border. However, the longer this theater of peace lasts, the more distant this solution becomes. More