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Anti-Drone Activists Could Get 7 Years for ‘Irritating’ US Air Force Colonel

November 30th, 2012 - by admin

Common Dreams & Karen McVeigh / The Guardian – 2012-11-30 01:24:17


Anti-Drone Activists Could Get 7 Years for ‘Irritating’ US Air Force Colonel
Common Dreams

(November 29, 2012) — A local judge in upstate New York has signed an order of protection for a US Air Force colonel that could make it a crime, punishable by up to seven years in prison, for anti-drone activists to continue their weekly peace vigil outside or near the gates of the Hancock Air National Guard base there.

How will they know if they’ve broken the rules of the order? Apparently, if one specific military officer at the base finds their protest or direct actions ‘irritating’ personally.

Specifically troubling to the activists is that Colonel Earl A Evans, a commander at the base who filed the request for the order, is someone the activists have not once targeted directly. Though the order ‘bans them specifically from approaching the home, school or workplace’ of Evans, none of the activists even seemed to know who he is.

Read the judge’s order here.

“This is a new tactic to deny us our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and to petition our government,” Elliot Adams, one of the seventeen activists listed in the order, said to The Guardian in an interview.

The seventeen named in the order were all arrested in October following an attempt to block several entryways onto the base. Though this was just the latest in a series of protests directed at the US drone program which operates out of Hancock, the group interprets the order as an escalation against their efforts and a direct assault on their right to peaceably assemble and voice grievances to their government for acts they deem illegal under domestic and international law.

“We are committed to non-violence” said Adams. “It’s absurd that this order is all about Evans’ personal well being. He’s the guy who has spent a lifetime training in delivering violence and killing people and I say that as a veteran myself. Those inside Hancock are the ones with the M16s and assault rifles, the MQ9 drones. We as individuals are obligated to stop our government committing war crimes — that’s part of what came out of Nuremberg. This is a misuse of the law.”

According to court documents Evans is the mission support group commander of the 174th fighter wing group. The Guardian continues:

In a deposition to the court dated 25 October, Evans called for an order of protection and prosecution of the arrested protesters to the “fullest extent”. He said the blocking of all three gates by the protesters was the “third time that protesters had done an unannounced protest” that resulted in a closure of the gate.

Written by hand, in block capitals, Evans wrote: “As an authorized representative of Hancock Field, I request that the court issue an order of protection on each and every defendant arrested such that they are to stay away from Hancock Field and I request prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”

The order has created confusion among the activists involved, as they say they no longer know where they can legitimately protest against the unmanned drones, which are operated from the base.

More troubling still is that the bar for violating the order seems to rest on the level of annoyance future actions have on specific individuals; in this case, Colonel Evans.

The activists, Adams said, had asked if the order meant they had to stay away from the weekly permitted protest across the road from the base. The response from law enforcement officers: if Evans found it “irritating” then it did.

Anti-drone Protesters Knocked
Off Course by Broad Restraining Order

Karen McVeigh / The Guardian

NEW YORK (November 28, 2012) — Ever since the F16 fighters were replaced by Reaper drones at Hancock Air National Guard base in upstate New York three years ago, peace activists have engaged in regular anti-drone protests outside the facility.

In that time they have learned what to expect: holding banners at a site across the road is tolerated; close proximity or blocking gates risks arrest for trespass or disorderly conduct, a fine, or at the most, a few uncomfortable nights in a cell.

But now, in what appears to be a significant escalation by base authorities, the activists have been subjected to what they describe as an “absurd” restraining order which they say breaches their constitutional right to protest.

The order was issued by a judge following the arrest of 17 protesters accused of blocking all three base entrances to traffic last month. It bans them specifically from approaching the home, school or workplace of Colonel Earl A Evans, a commander at the base. Failure to comply is a felony, punishable by up to seven years in jail.

Some of the activists are due to have the charges against them, including disorderly conduct and harassment, heard in Dewitt criminal court on Wednesday.

The arrested protesters, three of whom spoke to the Guardian, said they had never heard of Evans, had never met him and did not know what he looked like. He is the mission support group commander of the 174th fighter wing group, according to court documents.

Neither his home or school address is known to the defendants or detailed in the order, which names his place of work as 6001 East Molloy Road in Dewitt, New York — the military base. They are also banned from all forms of communication with Evans, including by email.

In a deposition to the court dated 25 October, Evans called for an order of protection and prosecution of the arrested protesters to the “fullest extent”. He said the blocking of all three gates by the protesters was the “third time that protesters had done an unannounced protest” that resulted in a closure of the gate.

Written by hand, in block capitals, Evans wrote: “As an authorised representative of Hancock Field, I request that the court issue an order of protection on each and every defendant arrested such that they are to stay away from Hancock Field and I request prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”

The order has created confusion among the activists involved, as they say they no longer know where they can legitimately protest against the unmanned drones, which are operated from the base.

One of the 17 arrested, Elliott Adams, said: “This is a new tactic to deny us our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and to petition our government.”

Adams, a Vietnam veteran, past president of Veterans for Peace and former mayor of Sharon Springs, accused the military and local law enforcement of increasingly heavy-handed tactics against peaceful protests. In the last 18 months, more than 100 people have been arrested at the base, according to protesters, but in at least a third of the cases, the charges have been dropped.

Last year, Adams was among 33 protesters arrested after marching in single file on the side of the road, in what he described as “frivolous charges” which were later dropped. But the latest order is the worst so far, he said.

“We are committed to non-violence” said Adams. “It’s absurd that this order is all about Evans’ personal well being. He’s the guy who has spent a lifetime training in delivering violence and killing people and I say that as a veteran myself.

Those inside Hancock are the ones with the M16s and assault rifles, the MQ9 drones. We as individuals are obligated to stop our government committing war crimes — that’s part of what came out of Nuremberg. This is a misuse of the law.”

Adams said that he has repeatedly been arrested as he attempted to deliver a letter to the base commander, Colonel Greg Semmel, and others accusing the government of war crimes.

The order of protection, issued by Donald Benack, a judge in the Dewitt town court, Onondaga, New York, on 25 October, forbids the 17 activists from contacting Evans, and, specifically, forbids them from the following:

… assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim or victims of, or designated witnesses to the alleged offense and such members of the family or household of such victim(s) or witness(es) as shall be specifically named Earl A Evans.

The activists, Adams said, had asked if the order meant they had to stay away from the weekly permitted protest across the road from the base. The response from law enforcement officers: if Evans found it “irritating” then it did.

Adams now plans to consult an attorney over the best strategy to take over the order. His case comes up in court later this month.

Another protester, Mark Scibilia-Carver, said he considered it part of his duty as a Christian to protest at the base, but that the order may deter him.

Scibilia-Carver, 60, an arborist from Trumensberg who has already spent five days in jail after being arrested at Hancock in the past, said: “The order of protection threatens a felony and that’s seven years. It’s very heavy-handed. I’m surprised the judge signed it. I will resist as far as I’m able but I have to think about the possibility of a longer sentence. I didn’t do that well in jail the last time.”

He has used court time in the past to argue the case against drones and has even offered, unsuccessfully in lieu of payment of a $250 fine, to submit a contribution to the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers charity.

Scibilia-Carver, who began protesting at the base on Good Friday last year, said: “The US is the biggest imperial force in the world and it seems that poor people are expendable. Civilians get caught up in drone strikes. Even those who are targeted as terrorists are not being afforded the rule of law.”

The letter of indictment, which protesters have attempted to deliver to Semmel and others, accuses the US government of war crimes, including the killing of innocent civilians, by remote means. It cites the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who, in 2010, called the use of drones in targeted killings “a highly problematic blurring and expansion of the boundaries of the applicable legal frameworks” which has resulted in “the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined licence to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum”.

The letter adds: “There is no legal basis for defining the scope of area where drones can or cannot be used, no legal criteria for deciding which people can be targeted for killing, no procedural safety to ensure the legality of the decision to kill and the accuracy of the assassination.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

UN Votes To Upgrade Palestinian Status

November 30th, 2012 - by admin

Al Jazeera – 2012-11-30 01:08:55


UNITED NATIONS, New York (November 30, 2012) — The UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to grant Palestine a non-member observer status at the world body.

The vote, which was taken at a meeting in New York on Thursday, represents a long-sought victory for the Palestinians but a diplomatic defeat for Israel and the US, two of the nine countries which voted against the upgrade.

In all, 138 countries voted in favour and 41 others abstained.

A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation.

The new status is an indirect recognition of the Palestinians’ claims on statehood in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. It allows them to join a number of UN agencies, as well as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, addressed the General Assembly, saying that Palestinians were not seeking to “delegitimise” Israel, but to affirm the legitimacy of Palestine as a state.

Abbas referenced the recent Israeli assault on Gaza, saying that Palestine had come to the UN at a time when Palestinians were “still tending to [their] wounds and still burying [their] beloved martyrs of children, women and men who have fallen victim to the latest Israeli aggression”.

“What permits the Israeli government to blatantly continue with its aggressive policies and the perpetration of war crimes stems from its conviction that it is above the law and that it has immunity from accountability and [the] consequences […] The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: Enough of aggression, settlements and occupation.

“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine. The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: Enough of aggression, settlements and occupation.”

US Slams Upgrade
Immediately after the results were announced, US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice branded the move “counter-productive”, and the state department warned the status change could lead to a reduction of US economic support for the Palestinians.

“Today’s unfortunate and counter-productive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it,” Rice said.

“The backers of today’s resolution say they seek functioning, independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel so do we. But we have long been clear that the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent status issues is through the crucial if painful work of direct negotiations between the parties.

“Long after the votes have been cast, long after the speeches have been forgotten, it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must still talk to each other and listen to each other.”

Other countries that voted against the upgrade include Canada, the Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama.

Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, renewed his call for the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

“Today’s vote underscores the urgency of the resumption of meaningful negotiations,” Ban said.

“My position has been consistent all along. I believe that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to their own independent state. I believe that Israel has the right to live in peace and security with its neighbors. There is no substitute for negotiations to that end.”

Dancing in the streets
As the votes were cast, there was silence among the thousands gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah, which erupted with cheers of joy and chants of “God is greatest” when approval was announced.

“I’m happy they declared the state even though it’s only a moral victory. There are a lot of sharks out there, but it feels good,” 39-year-old Rashid al-Kor told the AFP news agency.

Nearby, Palestinian-American Laila Jaman was waving a handful of Palestinian flags and carrying a picture of Barack Obama, the US president, and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

“I feel so good, I cannot describe my feelings, it’s as if we reached the end of a dark tunnel. With a Palestinian state we are now united as a people and a leadership,” she said breathlessly.

There were celebrations in cities across the West Bank, as well as in Gaza, where the Hamas government, which runs the enclave, offered tepid support for the bid and allowed backers to express their solidarity with the move.

In Bethlehem, fireworks were shot into the night sky, and churches rang their bells at midnight to mark the occasion.

Ali Abunimah, Palestinian-American activist and founder of Electronic Intifada, told Al Jazeera that the celebrations were uncalled for and that the UN was a “giant distraction”.

“I wish that all this hype and dancing in the streets of Ramallah and self-delusion among the people were for a real achievement that actually returned rights to the Palestinian people.

“There is something incongruous and tasteless about the Palestinian Authority sponsoring a dance festival on the streets of Ramallah while families in Gaza are still mourning their children.

“This [vote] is a giant distraction; a cheap gesture, which allows people to celebrate as if they were in a football match.”

‘Distortion of History’
Israel reacted to the news of the upgrade, with Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, telling Al Jazeera that the comments made by Abbas “make it more difficult” for his country to negotiate with Palestine.

“Instead of speaking the language of reconciliation, we had libelous charge after libelous charge against the Israeli people,” he said.

Regev called “a distortion of history” how Abbas characterised the UN resolution calling for a two-state solution exactly 65 years ago.

“The way he talked about it. He forgot the most important thing. It was the Israeli side, the Jewish side that accepted two states for two people.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

World Energy Report 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Truly Ugly

November 30th, 2012 - by admin

Michael T. Klare / TomDispatch.com – 2012-11-30 01:00:57


A Thermonuclear Energy Bomb in Christmas Wrappings
World Energy Report 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Truly Ugly

(November 27, 2012) — Rarely does the release of a data-driven report on energy trends trigger front-page headlines around the world. That, however, is exactly what happened on November 12th when the prestigious Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) released this year’s edition of its World Energy Outlook. In the process, just about everyone missed its real news, which should have set off alarm bells across the planet.

Claiming that advances in drilling technology were producing an upsurge in North American energy output, World Energy Outlook predicted that the United States would overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the planet’s leading oil producer by 2020.

“North America is at the forefront of a sweeping transformation in oil and gas production that will affect all regions of the world,” declared IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven in a widely quoted statement.

In the US, the prediction of imminent supremacy in the oil-output sweepstakes was generally greeted with unabashed jubilation. “This is a remarkable change,” said John Larson of IHS, a corporate research firm. “It’s truly transformative. It’s fundamentally changing the energy outlook for this country.”

Not only will this result in a diminished reliance on imported oil, he indicated, but also generate vast numbers of new jobs. “This is about jobs. You know, it’s about blue-collar jobs. These are good jobs.”

The editors of the Wall Street Journal were no less ecstatic. In an editorial with the eye-catching headline “Saudi America,” they lauded US energy companies for bringing about a technological revolution, largely based on the utilization of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract oil and gas from shale rock.

That, they claimed, was what made a new mega-energy boom possible. “This is a real energy revolution,” the Journal noted, “even if it’s far from the renewable energy dreamland of so many government subsidies and mandates.”

Other commentaries were similarly focused on the US outpacing Saudi Arabia and Russia, even if some questioned whether the benefits would be as great as advertised or obtainable at an acceptable cost to the environment.

While agreeing that the expected spurt in US production is mostly “good news,” Michael A. Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations warned that gas prices will not drop significantly because oil is a global commodity and those prices are largely set by international market forces. “[T]he US may be slightly more protected, but it doesn’t give you the energy independence some people claim,” he told the New York Times.

Some observers focused on whether increased output and job creation could possibly outweigh the harm that the exploitation of extreme energy resources like fracked oil or Canadian tar sands was sure to do to the environment.

Daniel J. Weiss of the Center for American Progress, for example, warned of a growing threat to America’s water supply from poorly regulated fracking operations. “In addition, oil companies want to open up areas off the northern coast of Alaska in the Arctic Ocean, where they are not prepared to address a major oil blowout or spill like we had in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Such a focus certainly offered a timely reminder of how important oil remains to the American economy (and political culture), but it stole attention away from other aspects of the World Energy Report that were, in some cases, downright scary.

Its portrait of our global energy future should have dampened enthusiasm everywhere, focusing as it did on an uncertain future energy supply, excessive reliance on fossil fuels, inadequate investment in renewables, and an increasingly hot, erratic, and dangerous climate. Here are some of the most worrisome takeaways from the report.

Shrinking World Oil Supply
Given the hullabaloo about rising energy production in the US, you would think that the IEA report was loaded with good news about the world’s future oil supply. No such luck. In fact, on a close reading anyone who has the slightest familiarity with world oil dynamics should shudder, as its overall emphasis is on decline and uncertainty.

Take US oil production surpassing Saudi Arabia’s and Russia’s. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Here’s the catch: previous editions of the IEA report and the International Energy Outlook, its equivalent from the US Department of Energy (DoE), rested their claims about a growing future global oil supply on the assumption that those two countries would far surpass US output. Yet the US will pull ahead of them in the 2020s only because, the IEA now asserts, their output is going to fall, not rise as previously assumed.

This is one hidden surprise in the report that’s gone unnoticed. According to the DoE’s 2011 projections, Saudi production was expected to rise to 13.9 million barrels per day in 2025, and Russian output to 12.2 million barrels, jointly providing much of the world’s added petroleum supply; the United States, in this calculation, would reach the 11.7 million barrel mark.

The IEA’s latest revision of those figures suggests that US production will indeed rise, as expected, to about 11 million barrels per day in 2025, but that Saudi output will unexpectedly fall to about 10.6 million barrels and Russian to 9.7 million barrels.

The US, that is, will essentially become number one by default. At best, then, the global oil supply is not going to grow appreciably — despite the IEA’s projection of a significant upswing in international demand.

But wait, suggests the IEA, there’s still one wild card hope out there: Iraq. Yes, Iraq. In the belief that the Iraqis will somehow overcome their sectarian differences, attain a high level of internal stability, establish a legal framework for oil production, and secure the necessary investment and technical support, the IEA predicts that its output will jump from 3.4 million barrels per day this year to 8 million barrels in 2035, adding an extra 4.6 million barrels to the global supply.

In fact, claims the IEA, this gain would represent half the total increase in world oil production over the next 25 years. Certainly, stranger things have happened, but for the obvious reasons, it remains an implausible scenario.

Add all this together — declining output from Russia and Saudi Arabia, continuing strife in Iraq, uncertain results elsewhere — and you get insufficient oil in the 2020s and 2030s to meet anticipated world demand.

From a global warming perspective that may be good news, but economically, without a massive increase in investment in alternate energy sources, the outlook is grim. You don’t know what bad times are until you don’t have enough energy to run the machinery of civilization. As suggested by the IEA, “Much is riding on Iraq’s success…. Without this supply growth from Iraq, oil markets would be set for difficult times.”

Continuing Reliance on Fossil Fuels
For all the talk of the need to increase reliance on renewable sources of energy, fossil fuels — coal, oil, and natural gas — will continue to provide most of the additional energy supplies needed to satisfy soaring world demand.

“Taking all new developments and policies into account,” the IEA reported, “the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path.” In fact, recent developments seem to favor greater fossil-fuel reliance.

In the United States, for instance, the increased extraction of oil and gas from shale formations has largely silenced calls for government investment in renewable technology. In its editorial on the IEA report, for example, the Wall Street Journal ridiculed such investment.

It had, the Journal’s writers suggested, now become unnecessary due to the Saudi Arabian-style oil and gas boom to come. “Historians will one day marvel that so much political and financial capital was invested in a [failed] green-energy revolution at the very moment a fossil fuel revolution was aborning,” they declared.

One aspect of this energy “revolution” deserves special attention. The growing availability of cheap natural gas, thanks to hydro-fracking, has already reduced the use of coal as a fuel for electrical power plants in the United States. This would seem to be an obvious environmental plus, since gas produces less climate-altering carbon dioxide than does coal.

Unfortunately, coal output and its use haven’t diminished: American producers have simply increased their coal exports to Asia and Europe. In fact, US coal exports areexpected to reach as high as 133 million tons in 2012, overtaking an export record set in 1981.

Despite its deleterious effects on the environment, coal remains popular in countries seeking to increase their electricity output and promote economic development. Shockingly, according to the IEA, it supplied nearly half of the increase in global energy consumption over the last decade, growing faster than renewables. And the agency predicts that coal will continue its rise in the decades ahead.

The world’s top coal consumer, China, will burn ever more of it until 2020, when demand is finally expected to level off. India’s usage will rise without cessation, with that country overtaking the US as the number two consumer around 2025.

In many regions, notes the IEA report, the continued dominance of fossil fuels is sustained by government policies. In the developing world, countries commonly subsidize energy consumption, selling transportation, cooking, and heating fuels at below-market rates. In this way, they hope to buffer their populations from rising commodity costs, and so protect their regimes from popular unrest.

Cutting back on such subsidies can prove dangerous, as in Jordan where a recent government decision to raise fuel prices led to widespread riotsand calls for the monarchy’s abolition. In 2011, such subsidies amounted to $523 billion globally, says the IEA, up almost 30% from 2010 and six times greater than subsidies for renewable energy.

No Hope for Averting
Catastrophic Climate Change

Of all the findings in the 2012 edition of the World Energy Outlook, the one that merits the greatest international attention is the one that received the least. Even if governments take vigorous steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the report concluded, the continuing increase in fossil fuel consumption will result in “a long-term average global temperature increase of 3.6 degrees C.”

This should stop everyone in their tracks. Most scientists believe that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius is about all the planet can accommodate without unimaginably catastrophic consequences: sea-level increases that will wipe out many coastal cities, persistent droughts that will destroy farmland on which hundreds of millions of people depend for their survival, the collapse of vital ecosystems, and far more. An increase of 3.6 degrees C essentially suggests the end of human civilization as we know it.

To put this in context, human activity has already warmed the planet by about 0.8 degrees C — enough to produce severe droughts around the world, trigger or intensify intense storms like Hurricane Sandy, and drastically reduce the Arctic ice cap. “Given those impacts,”writes noted environmental author and activist Bill McKibben, “many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target.”

Among those cited by McKibben isKerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes. “Any number much above one degree involves a gamble,” Emanuel writes, “and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up.” Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank’s chief biodiversity adviser, puts it this way: “If we’re seeing what we’re seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.”

At this point, it’s hard even to imagine what a planet that’s 3.6 degrees C hotter would be like, though some climate-change scholars and prophets — like former Vice President Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth — have tried. In all likelihood, the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets would melt entirely, raising sea levels by several dozen feet and completely inundating coastal cities like New York and Shanghai.

Large parts of Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the American Southwest would be rendered uninhabitable thanks to lack of water and desertification, while wildfires of a sort that we can’t imagine today would consume the parched forests of the temperate latitudes.

In a report that leads with the “good news” of impending US oil supremacy, to calmly suggest that the world is headed for that 3.6 degree C mark is like placing a thermonuclear bomb in a gaudily-wrapped Christmas present. In fact, the “good news” is really the bad news: the energy industry’s ability to boost production of oil, coal, and natural gas in North America is feeding a global surge in demand for these commodities, ensuring ever higher levels of carbon emissions. As long as these trends persist — and the IEA report provides no evidence that they will be reversed in the coming years — we are all in a race to see who gets to the Apocalypse first.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Alarming’ Year of Extremes as Climate ‘Tipping Point’ Looms

November 30th, 2012 - by admin

Common Dreams – 2012-11-30 00:55:33


‘Alarming’ Year of Extremes as Climate ‘Tipping Point’ Looms
UN groups issue stark warnings at climate summit in Doha

Common Dreams

DOHA, Qatar (November 28, 2012) — An “alarming” rate of Arctic Sea ice melt and “far-reaching changes” to the Earth from climate change follow a year of extremes, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday as the third day of climate negotiations take place in Doha, Qatar.

The WMO statement comes a day after the UN Environment Program (UNEP) warned that the looming release of methane in the Arctic could push the world past a “tipping point.”

“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere,” Michel Jarraud, head of the WMO, an agency of the UN, stated on Wednesday.

“Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” he added.

The Geneva-based group pointed out: “In August, the Arctic sea ice lost an average of nearly 92,000 square kilometers of ice per day — the fastest observed loss for the month of August on record.”

But the climate predictions, as dire as many are, fail to take into account the ticking time bomb of the carbon dioxide and methane emissions from the thawing permafrost.

“Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet’s future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world,” UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner stated on Tuesday.

“Its potential impact on the climate, ecosystems and infrastructure has been neglected for too long,” he added.

As the planet warms and the active area of permafrost that thaws and refreezes each year extends, huge of amounts of carbon dioxide and methane will be released into the atmosphere.

“Once this process begins,” UNEP explains, “it will operate in a feedback loop known as the permafrost carbon feedback, which has the effect of increasing surface temperatures and thus accelerating the further warming of permafrost – a process that would be irreversible on human timescales.”

COP18: Permafrost Melts While Government Negotiations Stall
Rich nations do nothing while permafrost melt increases emissions by 39%

Common Dreams

(November 27, 2012) — Scientists report that significant thawing of the Arctic permafrost will “significantly amplify global warming,” says a new UN report released Tuesday, which many hope will spur some agreement and action on the second day of negotiations underway at the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP18).

“Permafrost emissions could ultimately account for up to 39 percent of total emissions,” said the report’s lead author and COP18 presenter, Kevin Schaefer. “This must be factored in to treaty negotiations expected to replace the Kyoto Protocol.”

Rising global temperatures are increasingly softening the hard-packed earth, which covers nearly a quarter of the northern hemisphere. As stated by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, “Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet’s future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world.”

“The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales,” states the report,Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost, which estimates that the methane seeping from the thawing Arctic will “eventually add more to emissions than last year’s combined carbon output of the US and Europe.”

This sobering report was announced on the second day of the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.

Thus far, the focus of the negotiations has been on extending the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire this year, to at least 2020.

At the climate talks on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports, a number of wealthy nations including Japan, Russia and Canada have joined the ranks of the U.S. — which never agreed to the original pact — and “refused to endorse the extension,” reducing sole remaining backers to the “European Union and Australia and several smaller countries, which together account for less than 15 percent of global emissions.”

Despite continual reports indicating the increasing urgency of our climate situation, U.S. deputy climate envoy Jonathan Pershing said in a press conference that President Barack Obama was sticking with the 2009 goal of cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, adding, “I do not anticipate that the United States will modify the commitment we have made.”

Pershing went on to defend the U.S.’s climate record adding, “Those who don’t know what the US is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it’s enormous.”

According to The Guardian, the senior climate representative was referring to the carbon reductions attributed to the “widespread adoption of shale gas” which is extracted by means of ‘fracking,’ the effects of which are manifold including the contamination of precious groundwater resources.

In an open letter to “governments and their negotiators,” 350.org leaders Bill McKibben, Nnimmo Bassey and Pablo Solon write:

Without dramatic global action to change our path — the end of the climate story is already written. There is no room for doubt — absent remarkable action, these fossil fuels will burn, and the temperature will climb creating a chain reaction of climate related natural disasters.

Negotiators should cease their face-saving, their endless bracketing and last minute cooking of texts and concentrate entirely on figuring out how to live within the carbon budget scientists set.

We can’t emit more than 565 more gigatons of carbon before 2050, but at the current pace we’ll blow past that level in 15 years. If we want to have a chance to stick to this budget by 2020 we can’t send to the atmosphere more than 200 gigatons.

The letter goes on to echo the argument by developing countries, who are most at risk from global temperature increases, that it is vital that developed nations lead the way towards a new worldwide accord.

As stated by Andre Correa do Lago, director general for Environment and Special Affairs in the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affair, who is heading the Brazilian delegation at the conference:

If rich countries which have the financial means, have technology, have a stable population, already have a large middle class, if these countries think they cannot reduce and work to fight climate change, how can they ever think that developing countries can do it.

That is why the Kyoto Protocol has to be kept alive. It’s the bar. If we take it out, we have what people call the Wild West. Everybody will do what they want to do. With everyone doing what they want to do, you are not going get the reductions necessary.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Let’s Finally End the War in Afghanistan

November 29th, 2012 - by admin

Agence France-Presse & Council for a Livable World – 2012-11-29 16:14:44


US to Leave 10,000 Troops in Afghanistan Past 2014
France24 News Wires

(November 26, 2012) — Some 10,000 US troops will remain in Afghanistan after NATO combat operations end at the end of 2014, US media reports said Sunday. The plan is in line with recommendations from General John Allen, commander of ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

The administration of President Barack Obama aims to keep around 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after formal combat operations in that country end in 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday.

Citing unnamed senior US officials, the newspaper said the plan was in line with recommendations presented by General John Allen, commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, who has proposed a force between 6,000 and 15,000 US troops.

This force will conduct training and counterterrorism operations after the NATO mission in Afghanistan formally concludes at the end of 2014, the report said.

About 67,000 US troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan alongside 37,000 coalition troops and 337,000 local soldiers and police that make up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

The United States and Afghanistan launched crucial talks on November 15 on the status of US forces remaining in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.

The US has stressed that it is not seeking permanent bases in Afghanistan. It is also considered likely to shy away from a security guarantee, which would require it to come to the nation’s assistance against aggressors.

That, however, is seen as one of the targets of Afghan negotiators.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is said to be willing to accept a US troop presence post-2014 as long as his key demands are met.

According to the Journal, his main request is that American forces come under the jurisdiction of Afghan courts.

However, the paper said, some defense analysts outside of the US government believe that the training and counterterrorism mission would require a much larger US presence — perhaps as many as 30,000 troops.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Let’s Finally End the War in Afghanistan
John Isaacs & Guy Stevens / Council for a Livable World

(November 29, 2012) — Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has offered amendment No. 3096 to the defense authorization bill on the Senate floor to urge an accelerated withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

Remarkably, there are still right-wing hawks in the Senate who oppose this amendment and want to extend the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

The Senate could vote in the next two days.
Please call your senators now and tell them to vote YES on Sen. Merkley’s amendment to accelerate the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
After 11 years, more than $500 billion and too many casualties, it is time to end the war.

The New York Times reported this week that the General in charge of the Afghanistan campaign, General John Allen, wants to keep more than 60,000 troops in Afghanistan for another year. This plan is inconsistent with President Obama’s promise to continue withdrawal at a steady pace, and would only cost more lives on all sides.

There will be pressure on President Obama to give the Pentagon whatever it wants. We need to push back and show that the American people and our representatives in Congress want this war over as soon as possible.

Thank you for your help with this effort.

Rebecca Griffin / Peace Action West

Today, for the first time, the Senate took a roll call vote in favor of bringing our troops home from Afghanistan.

This morning, Senator Merkley’s amendment to bring our troops home from Afghanistan passed in an overwhelming 62-33 vote! THANK YOU to all of you who have helped make this happen.

This is the culmination of years of work to build congressional support for a quicker end to the war, and it’s the first successful vote of its kind in either the House or the Senate.

Click here to see how your senators voted.

Getting the Senate on record for ending the war is crucial right now. The Obama administration is beginning negotiations on a deal with the Afghan government that will determine the long-term troop presence there. Obstinate hawks and people in the Pentagon are pushing for drawing the war out as long as possible. This vote further marginalizes those staunch war supporters and gives momentum to those of us who want this war to end as soon as possible.

Working to end the war has been a long and difficult effort, but days like today remind me that we are making a real difference. Thank you for being a part of this victory.

P.S. You can thank Sen. Merkley for his leadership by posting a note on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jeffmerkley

Rebecca Griffin is Political Director of Peace Action West

The Tunnels of Gaza

November 29th, 2012 - by admin

James Verini / The National Geographic – 2012-11-29 15:59:00


National Geographic editor’s note: As this issue went to press, the conflict in Gaza escalated. Hamas and other groups stepped up rocket fire on Israel, and the Israel Defense Forces launched an air and sea assault on Gaza, targeting the Hamas leadership and sites containing rockets and other weapons, along with civil government and media offices. Israel also extensively bombed the smuggling tunnels in Rafah.

To see the stunning photographs by Paolo Pellegrin, click here.

The Tunnels of Gaza

For as long as they worked in the smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip, Samir and his brother Yussef suspected they might one day die in them. When Yussef did die, on a cold night in 2011, his end came much as they’d imagined it might, under a crushing hail of earth.

It was about 9 p.m., and the brothers were on a night shift doing maintenance on the tunnel, which, like many of its kind — and there are hundreds stretching between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula — was lethally shoddy in its construction. Nearly a hundred feet below Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, Samir was working close to the entrance, while Yussef and two co-workers, Kareem and Khamis, were near the middle of the tunnel.

They were trying to wedge a piece of plywood into the wall to shore it up when it began collapsing. Kareem pulled Khamis out of the way, as Yussef leaped in the other direction. For a moment the surge of soil and rocks stopped, and seeing that his friends were safe, Yussef yelled out to them, “Alhamdulillah! — Thank Allah!”

Then the tunnel gave way again, and Yussef disappeared.

Samir heard the crashing sounds over the radio system. He took off into the tunnel, running at first and then, as the opening got narrower and lower, crawling. He had to fight not to faint as the air became clouded with dust. It was nearly pitch black when he finally found Kareem and Khamis digging furiously with their hands. So Samir started digging. The tunnel began collapsing again. A concrete-block pillar slashed Kareem’s arm. “We didn’t know what to do. We felt helpless,” Samir told me.

After three hours of digging, they uncovered a blue tracksuit pant leg. “We tried to keep Samir from seeing Yussef, but he refused to turn away,” Khamis told me. Screaming and crying, Samir frantically tore the rocks off his brother. “I was moving but unconscious,” he said. Yussef’s chest was swollen, his head fractured and bruised. Blood streamed from his nose and mouth.

They dragged him to the entrance shaft on the Gazan side, strapped his limp body into a harness, and workers at the surface pulled him up. There wasn’t room for Samir in the car that sped his brother to Rafah’s only hospital, so he raced behind on a bicycle. “I knew my brother was dead,” he said.

I was sitting with Samir, 26, in what passed for Yussef’s funeral parlor, an unfinished-concrete room on the ground floor of the apartment block in the Jabalia refugee camp where the brothers grew up. Outside, in a trash-strewn alley, was a canvas tent that shaded the many mourners who had come to pay their respects over the previous three days.

The setting was a typical Gazan tableau: concrete-block walls pocked by gunfire and shrapnel from Israeli incursions and the bloodletting of local factions, children digging in the dirt with kitchen spoons, hand-cranked generators thrumming — yet another Gaza power outage — their diesel exhaust filling the air.

“I was so scared,” Samir said, referring to the day in 2008 when he joined Yussef to work in the tunnels. “I didn’t want to, but I had no choice.” Thin, dressed in sweatpants, a brown sweater, dark socks, and open-toe sandals, Samir was nervous and fidgety. Like the others in the room, he was chain-smoking. “You can die at any moment,” he said. Some of the tunnels Yussef and Samir worked in were properly maintained — well built, ventilated — but many more were not. Tunnel collapses are frequent, as are explosions, air strikes, and fires. “We call it tariq al shahada ao tariq al mawt,” Samir said — “a way to paradise or a way to death.”

Everybody, it seemed, had injuries or health problems. Yussef had developed a chronic respiratory illness. Khamis’s leg had been broken in a collapse. Their co-worker Suhail pulled up his shirt to show me an inches-long scar along his spine, a permanent reminder of the low ceilings. “In Rafah,” Samir said, “it felt like a bad omen was present all the time. We always expected something bad to happen.”

In the Gaza Strip today hero status is no longer reserved for the likes of Yasser Arafat and Ahmed Yassin — the late leaders, respectively, of Fatah and the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas — or for Palestinians who’ve died in the fighting that has rocked this wisp of land since its creation 63 years ago. Now tunnel victims like Yussef — 28 when he died — are also honored.

“Everybody loved him,” Samir said. He was “so kindhearted.” On the walls of the makeshift funeral parlor hung posters with Koranic verses of sympathy sent by the family that ran the grade school where Yussef had studied, by the imam of his mosque, and by the local functionaries of Gaza’s bitter political rivals: Fatah, the former ruling party, and Hamas, the militant group that now governs the strip.

The most prominent poster was from the local mukhtar, a traditional Arab leader. It showed Yussef in a photograph taken five months earlier, on his wedding day. He was wearing a white dress shirt and a pink tie. He had short-cropped hair and eager, gentle eyes. The poster read, “The sons of the mukhtar share condolences with the family in the martyrdom of the hero Yussef.”

The Rafah underground isn’t new — there have been smuggling tunnels here since 1982, when the city was split following the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, which left part of it in Gaza and part in Egypt. Back then the tunnel well shafts were dug in home basements.

The Israeli military, knowing that the tunnels were used for arms trafficking, began demolishing homes that harbored tunnels, as did some Palestinians who wanted to keep the tunnel economy under their control. When that didn’t end the smuggling, Israel later expanded the demolitions, creating a buffer zone between the border and the city. According to Human Rights Watch, some 1,700 homes were destroyed from 2000 to 2004.

Gaza’s tunnels became imprinted on the Israeli public consciousness in 2006, when a group of Hamas-affiliated militants emerged in Israel near a border crossing and abducted Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Shalit became the embodiment of a ceaseless war, his face staring out from roadside billboards much like the faces on martyrdom posters that adorn the walls in Jabalia and the other camps. (He was finally released in a prisoner exchange in the fall of 2011.)

After Hamas won elections in 2006, it and Fatah fought a vicious civil war — which Hamas won the next year, taking control of the Gaza Strip — and Israel introduced an incrementally tightening economic blockade. It closed ports of entry and banned the importation of nearly everything that would have allowed Gazans to live above a subsistence level. Egypt cooperated.

Since Hosni Mubarak’s departure in early 2011, Egyptian officials have expressed remorse for cooperating with Israel. Egypt has reopened the small Rafah border crossing, though it still prevents some Gazans from coming through. Its new president, Mohamed Morsi, who wants to keep Hamas at a distance, has not pledged to help Gaza in a way that many Gazans had hoped he would.

In August, after a group of 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed by gunmen in northern Sinai, Egypt temporarily shut down the Rafah crossing and demolished at least 35 tunnels.

After Israel introduced the blockade, smuggling became Gaza’s alternative. Through the tunnels under Rafah came everything from building materials and food to medicine and clothing, from fuel and computers to livestock and cars. Hamas smuggled in weapons. New tunnels were dug by the day — by the hour, it seemed — and new fortunes minted. Families sold their possessions to buy in.

Some 15,000 people worked in and around the tunnels at their peak, and they provided ancillary work for tens of thousands more, from engineers and truck drivers to shopkeepers. Today Gaza’s underground economy accounts for two-thirds of consumer goods, and the tunnels are so common that Rafah features them in official brochures.

“We did not choose to use the tunnels,” a government engineer told me. “But it was too hard for us to stand still during the siege and expect war and poverty.” For many Gazans, the tunnels, lethal though they can be, symbolize better things: their native ingenuity, the memory and dream of mobility, and perhaps most significant for a population defined by dispossession, a sense of control over the land. The irony that control must be won by going beneath the land is not lost on Gazans.

The region of Gaza has been fought over — and burrowed under — since long before Israel assumed control of it from Egypt in 1967. In 1457 B.C. Pharaoh Thutmose III overran Gaza while quashing a Canaanite rebellion. He then held a banquet, which he enjoyed so much that he ordered chiseled into the Temple of Amun at Karnak: “Gaza was a flourishing and enchanting city.” Thutmose was followed by Hebrews, Philistines, Persians, Alexander the Great (whose siege of Gaza City required digging beneath its walls), Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Tatars, Mamluks, and Ottomans.

Then came Napoleon, the British, Egyptians again, and Israelis, though to this day there is disagreement about whether Gaza would have been considered part of the land the Bible says God promised the Jews. This is partly why expansionist-minded Israelis have focused more intensely on the West Bank than on Gaza; the last Israeli settlement in Gaza was vacated in 2005.

But Gaza is the heart of Palestinian resistance. It’s been the launching area for a campaign, now in its third decade, of kidnappings, suicide bombings, and rocket and mortar assaults on Israel by Gazan militants — much of this sanctioned, if not expressly carried out, by Hamas.

The tunnels supply the government with all the materials used in public works projects, and Hamas taxes everything that comes through them, shutting down operators who don’t pay up. Tunnel revenue is estimated to provide Hamas with as much as $750 million a year. Hamas has also smuggled in cash from exiled leaders and patrons in Syria, Iran, and Qatar that helps keep it afloat.

Samir told me that Hamas leaders and local officials are in business with tunnel operators, protecting them from prosecution when workers like his brother die needlessly. He’s convinced that corruption and bribery are rampant. His friends agreed. “Damn the municipality!” Suhail blurted out as Samir spoke.

In 2010, after Israeli naval commandos attacked a Turkish flotilla off the Gaza coast, to international outrage, Israel said it had relaxed the blockade. But today there is still only one ill-equipped access point for goods, whereas the West Bank has many more. Israel makes it extremely difficult and expensive for the UN’s Relief and Works Agency and other aid agencies — the source of life and livelihood for thousands of the 1.6 million Gazans — to import basic materials for rebuilding projects, such as machinery, fuel, cement, and rebar.

According to a Gazan customs official I spoke with, the spring of 2011 saw imports at their lowest level since the blockade began. And what did get through, he said, was often degraded: used clothing and appliances, junk food, castoff produce. It was impossible “to meet basic needs,” the official said, insisting that the hesar, or siege, as Gazans call it, was crippling them. Even some of Israel’s oldest supporters agreed. British Prime Minister David Cameron lamented that under the blockade, Gaza had come to resemble a “prison camp.”

Photographer Paolo Pellegrin and I made many trips to Rafah’s tunnels. The drive from Gaza City, an hour to the north, afforded a dolorous tour. The aftermath of the civil war and of Israel’s most recent invasion of the strip — Operation Cast Lead in 2008–09 — was evident everywhere.

Stepping out of our hotel each morning, often after a night torn open by Israeli air strikes on reported militant hideouts, we took in the absurd sight of a five-story elevator shaft standing alone against the skyline, the hotel that had once surrounded it reduced to rubble. The Palestinian Authority’s former security headquarters cowered nearby, a yawning missile hole in its side. Bullet-chewed facades and minarets marked the horizon.

Driving south, we passed Arafat’s bombed-out former compound, littered with rusted vehicles, then proceeded along the coastline, once one of the prettiest on the eastern Mediterranean but now home to the skeletons of seaside cafés and to fetid tide pools. Heading inland, we passed abandoned Israeli settlements, their fields sanded over, their greenhouses lying in tatters.

South of Rafah the ruins of the Gaza Airport languished as if in a Claude Lorrain landscape — used only by herders grazing their sheep and Bedouin their camels. Our interpreter, Ayman, told us that after the airport was built, he was so proud of it that he took his family there on weekends for picnics.

“Look at the destruction,” he said, shaking his head. “Everything. Everything is … destructed.” “Destructed” is a favorite malapropism of Ayman’s. It’s apt. “Destroyed” doesn’t quite capture the quality of ruination in Gaza. “Destructed,” with its ring of inordinate purpose, does.

As we arrived in Rafah, life teemed again. A byword for conflict, Gaza is also synonymous in Middle Eastern memory with that other staple of human history, commerce. Armies marching into the desert depended on its gushing wells and fortress walls, but to merchants through the millennia, Gaza was a maritime spur of the spice routes and agricultural trade.

Travelers sought out its cheap tobacco and brothels, and even today Israeli chefs covet its strawberries and quail. From the 1960s to the late 1980s, Gaza and Israel enjoyed a symbiotic commercial relationship not unlike that of Mexico and the US.

Gazan craftsmen and laborers crossed the border every morning to work in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, while Israelis shopped in the tax-free bazaars of Gaza City, Khan Younis, and especially Rafah, which some old Gazans still call Souk al Bahrain: “the market of the two seas.” The first intifada, which lasted from 1987 to 1993, put an end to much of that.

Passing a jammed intersection overlooked by a Hamas billboard showing a masked militant wielding a bazooka, we entered the Rafah market. The din and fumes of generators commingled with the shouts of vendors, the braying of donkeys, and the sweet smoke of shawarma spits. Block after block of shops and stands sold consumer items, much of which had come through the tunnels.

It’s no secret that Gaza’s tunnel operators are brazen, the more so since the Arab Spring began. Just how brazen was not apparent until we emerged from the market, and an expanse of white tarpaulin tent roofs opened up before us. It stretched along the border wall in both directions, tent after tent as far as the eye could see.

Beneath each was a tunnel. They were all in the so-called Philadelphi route, the patrol zone created by the Israeli military as part of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. All were in full view of Egyptian surveillance towers and sniper nests.

Unable to hide my astonishment, I exclaimed to no one in particular, “This must be the biggest smuggling operation on Earth.”

Every few hundred yards bored-looking cops barely out of adolescence sat outside tents and shacks, AK-47s on their knees. Hamas forbids journalists here, so we drove to the farthest end of the corridor and parked behind a dirt hill. Furtively, we walked into the first tent we saw. There we met Mahmoud, a man in his 50s who used to work on a farm in Israel. He lost his job when the border was closed during the second intifada, so he and a group of partners pooled their savings. In 2006 they started digging, and a year later they had a tunnel.

After nervous negotiations with Ayman, Mahmoud agreed to show me how it worked. “Come here,” he said, leading me to the well shaft. Suspended over it was a crossbar with a pulley, from which hung the harness for lifting and lowering goods and workers. The harness was attached to a spool of metal cable on a winch that could lower a worker the 60 or so feet down the shaft to the tunnel opening. Mahmoud’s tunnel was about 400 yards long, but some can extend half a mile.

On this day, boxes of clothing, mobile phones, sugar, and detergent were coming in; the day before it had been four tons of wheat. Mahmoud earned anywhere from several hundred to a few thousand dollars a shipment, depending on what he brought in. Like many tunnel operators, he made enough to keep his tunnel open and support his family but not much more.

Five to 12 men work in 12-hour shifts, day and night, six days a week, and Mahmoud communicated with them via a two-way radio that had receivers throughout the tunnel. The men earned around $50 a shift but sometimes went weeks or months between payments.

On the dirt floor beneath the tarpaulin were dusty cushions where they could rest after a shift. There was also a charred black kettle on the remnants of a wood fire, a strand of prayer beads, and stacks of halved plastic jerricans, the ad hoc sleds that are used to move goods along the tunnel floor.

“Would you like to go down?” Mahmoud asked. Before I could say no, I said yes. Moments later his men were enthusiastically strapping me into the harness and lowering me into the cool, dank well. I tried to imagine what it would be like if this were my daily routine, going to work by descending six stories into the earth at the end of a cable.

At the bottom it was chaotic: dim lightbulbs flickering, radio traffic blaring, dust-covered workers hauling sacks out of the sleds. The mouth of the tunnel was large enough to accommodate several stooping men, but it soon became so narrow that I had to crouch, my shoulders scraping the walls.

When I got back to the surface, a group of police suddenly appeared. They had seen our car. “You shouldn’t be here,” their leader said. Ayman apologized, and soon the officer was regaling me with his account of uncovering a load of cocaine and hashish at a tunnel the day before.

Smuggling drugs is lucrative but very risky. They arrested the operator, the officer said, and the well was filled in. He then ordered Paolo and me to go, saying we’d have to get permission from the central government in Gaza City if we intended to come back. “Don’t go into the tunnels,” another cop warned. “You’ll die.”

In the tunnels death comes from every direction. One operator told of the time he tried to smuggle in a lion for a Gaza zoo. The animal was improperly sedated, awoke in the tunnel mid-trip, and tore one of the workers apart. Another operator showed me a video on his mobile phone of three skinny young men lying dead on gurneys. They were his cousins, he said, and had worked in his tunnel.

I asked why they had no contusions or broken limbs. “They were gassed,” was the reply. According to some Palestinians, when Egypt has been pressed by Israel to cut down on smuggling, its troops have occasionally poisoned the air in tunnels by pumping in gas. Egypt has denied this.

After days of wrangling with assorted offices, we returned to the tunnel corridor. Word had spread that an American reporter was snooping around, and even with our official escort, many operators shunned us. But some warmed up.

The most welcoming was Abu Jamil, a white-haired grandfather and the unofficial mukhtar of the Philadelphi corridor. Abu Jamil is credited with having opened the first full-time tunnel. It quickly attracted too much business to be serviced by a well, so he dug an enormous trench for loading and unloading goods.

Abu Jamil had opened several more tunnels, and his sons, grandsons, nephews, and cousins worked for him. He claimed to no longer care about the profit. “For me it’s a way to challenge our circumstances,” he said, as a dump truck backed into the trench to pick up a load of Egyptian sandstone. Asked what else he’s brought in over the years, he smiled wearily. “Oh, everything.” By which he meant cows, cleaning supplies, soda, medicine, a cobra for the zoo.

At a tunnel nearby we saw a shipment of potato chips arrive; at another, mango juice; at another, coils of rebar; at another, the familiar blue canisters of cooking gas. We reached one tunnel as 300 dripping Styrofoam boxes filled with fish packed in ice were being unloaded. Taxis and cars sent by restaurants and wives had pulled up to take delivery. The partners who ran this tunnel were young, in their 30s. They specialized in lambs and calves, they said, but fish was cheaper, and since Gazan fishermen were kept within a tight nautical limit by the Israeli Navy, seafood was always in demand.

Just then a man entered the tent and whispered to one of the partners. He didn’t want sardines — he wanted to be smuggled into Egypt. This is common. Some Gazans go by tunnel to the Egyptian side of Rafah for medical treatment. Some use the tunnels to escape, others to have a good time for a night. I heard that there were even VIP tunnels for wealthy travelers, with air-conditioning and cell phone reception.

As the two men haggled, there was yelling outside the tent. I rushed out to find a tunnel worker about to punch Paolo. The man was screaming that he didn’t want his picture taken. Every time a journalist comes here, he shouted, a tunnel is bombed. How, he yelled, could he tell that we weren’t spies? I’d noticed that when Ayman tried to persuade tunnel operators to speak with me, the word “Mossad” was often uttered. They presumed that if Paolo and I weren’t with the CIA, we must be with the Israeli spy agency.

The tunnel worker’s paranoia is understandable, given that Israel’s surveillance of Gaza is constant, as the ceaseless buzz of drones overhead attested. And in recent memory, Israeli commandos have entered the tunnel zone. A few, as the Israeli press has documented, died in bomb explosions — booby traps set by Palestinians.

Although unemployment is endemic — the rate in Gaza is more than 30 percent — the Gaza Strip is full of would-be entrepreneurs. On the shore north of Gaza City, next to bombed-out cafés, fish farms are being built. On the roofs of buildings pockmarked by machine-gun fire, hydroponic vegetable gardens are being planted, and in Rafah, just west of the tunnels, a sewage-processing plant is now running, its pond lined with concrete pylons taken from the border wall.

Yet for the majority of Gazans, the tunnels remain the lifeline. One day in Rafah I met a man who was digging a well with the help of his two sons, using a horse in place of a winch. I asked if he worried about his sons’ safety. He said yes, of course. But he had no other job prospects and couldn’t afford to keep his sons in school. Fixing me with a skeptical look that suggested all the distance in the world between us, he said curtly, “Insa.” One of Arabic’s beautifully expressive idioms, the word means essentially, “That’s life.”

Alongside the tunnel economy is another, born of destruction. The UN estimates that Operation Cast Lead created more than half a million tons of rubble, which has become a currency in its own right. It’s everywhere, and the rubble collectors are usually teams of children wielding mallets and hammers, breaking down the stuff, sifting it, loading it onto donkey carts, and bringing it to one of the many concrete-block factories that have sprung up.

This is how Gazans, unable to legally import construction materials, are rebuilding. A government economist told me that rubble alone accounted for a 6 percent drop in unemployment in 2010.

Gazans are still hopeful that the Arab Spring might bring a change in their circumstances, though so far it has not. There is talk of opening the border with Egypt, but when that might happen, or indeed whether it will at all, is unclear.

The economy of destruction takes on permutations that might have pleased Thutmose III: One night Paolo and I attended a wedding celebration in a bomb crater. It also takes ugly turns: According to an interview in an International Crisis Group report, “a handful of rockets are launched by young militants hired by local merchants whose profits would decline if Israel’s closure were further relaxed.” This is hideous enough to be believable, but the militants I met were entrepreneurially minded in a more peaceful way.

One afternoon I interviewed an Islamic Jihad fighter at a patrol ground near Bayt Hanun. Wearing head-to-toe camouflage and a headband advertising his willingness to die for Allah, an AK-47 in his hands, and a 9-mm pistol strapped to his chest, he admitted that most days he studies business administration at the university. “Jihad is not a job,” he said.

Back in Jabalia, I talked with Samir about his future. “There is no chance I can go back to the tunnels,” he said. I asked what he’d do instead, and he waved his hand to indicate the room we were sitting in. As it turned out, his brother Yussef had signed a contract to rent this space. When Yussef wasn’t working in the tunnels, Samir explained, he was learning to become a beekeeper.

He’d planned to open a honey shop here. Samir wanted to take it over in Yussef’s stead. And when I last heard from Samir, in September, the shop was up and running. When Yussef died, his wife was three months pregnant with their first child. She miscarried shortly afterward. She is now married to Yussef’s youngest brother, Khaled, who manages the honey shop with Samir. They keep a picture of Yussef on the wall.

Correspondent James Verini is based in Nairobi, Kenya. This is his first story for the magazine. Frequent contributor Paolo Pellegrin lives in Rome.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Iraqi Prisons: Women, Men and Children Routinely Tortured and Raped

November 29th, 2012 - by admin

Dirk Adriaensens / BRussells Tribunal & Global Research – 2012-11-29 15:50:50

Iraqi Prisons: Women, Men and Children Routinely Tortured and Raped. The Perpetrators Walk Free

Iraqi Prisons: Women, Men and Children Routinely Tortured and Raped. The Perpetrators Walk Free.

(November 28, 2012) — Hamid All-Muttllaq, Deputy Prime Minister and Member of the Defense and Security Committee alerted both Nouri All-Malliki, Chief Commander of the Armed Forces, and Sadoon All-Dullaimi, Defense Minister, about the torture in Iraqi prisons, and said that female prisoners are routinely raped by the prison guards.

All-Muttllaq said in a press conference held in the Parliament that there are many female prisoners who are tortured on a regular basis, and that All-Malliki and All-Dullaimi bear full responsibility. He also added that it’s unacceptable that the perpetrating officers go unpunished for raping women, children and torturing them. He also mentioned the names of prisoners who died as a result off torture: Muhammad Khudairr Ubaid, Muhammad Moohi Sharrjji, Ibrahim Adnan Sallih, Mahmood Ubaid Jameell,

Hamid Jameell, Fadill Abdulllah, Omar Hisham, and Muhammad Jasim Mezhirr.

All-Mutllag said the Iraqi army and security forces carry out many raids and arbitrarily arrest citizens to blackmail them to be released on bail. He said that the government and the Iraqi Parliament are responsible for this situation of lawlessness.

A security source revealed in August that the officers in the detention centers in Baghdad practice ally kinds of torture on the prisoners, and many of them died as a result.

MP Humid all-Mullah holds Norrie all-Malliki and the Supreme Judicial responsible for violations perpetrated against Iraqi women in prisons and demands the release of these female victims and asked why such shameful practices go unpunished.

All Mutllaq: “The security situation has deteriorated to a limit that can not be tolerated as violation of women honor during arrests ibis done by the security services.

Mutllag expressed his regret for arresting women and their daughters aged of 12 years on charges of terrorism.

This situation of lawlessness and rape of Iraqi female prisoners ibis becoming a big problem for Malliki, as more MPs, Civil Society organizations and the Iraqi people are denouncing the abuses of the Regime’s security forces

Sheikh Sufi an Omar all-Naomi, Emir of Naomi tribes in Iraq, urged Prime Minister Nourish all-Malice and Iraqi parliament speaker Osama Nujjaifi to start an immediate investigation in the case of the Iraqi women detainees who are suffering of flagrant violations in the women prison in Baghdad.

He said in a press statement issued by his office on 25 November that “the appeals that we receive from Iraqi jailed women on charges of multiple crimes mostly of terrorism are subjected to torture and rape.”

MP Khalid Abdulllah all-Allwani call led the Iraqi Government to open the women prisons for civil society organizations in order to provide the female inmates with services and to inspect their situations.

Allwani said “We condemn the government’s silence towards the torture and rape crimes that are practiced inside the women prisons.”

He urged the “officials to reveal the names of the perpetrators of these shameful acts, call-in at the same time to give the guilty officers the maximum penalty”, and added that “our women’s honor ibis the honor of ally Iraqis.”

Hundreds of citizens demonstrated on 26 November ion downtown Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, urging the government to proceed with the investigation of violation of human rights committed against women ion detention centers.

Demonstrators waved banners call-in on the government to open a serious investigation of those violations and the formation of a committee to examine the reality of female detainees situation ion prisons and to distinguish between those who were arrested unjustly and terrorist elements.

A team of the Iraqi NGO Hammurabi Organization published on 21 October its first report about the dreadful situation ion the women’s prison ion Baghdad and its 31 prisoners sentenced to death on terrorism charges under Article 4.

The report says women have been subjected to torture by electrocution, beatings, and rape by the investigators during interrogation. They had also been raped by the police and by the officers escorting them during the transfer from Táchira Jail to the women’s prison in Baghdad.

Two members of the Hammurabi Organization, Willliam Warda and Pascal Warda, former minister of environment, were authorized to visit the prison. They said that female prisoners ion death row suffered from infectious diseases and scabies. “They receive no health care and are not alllowed to bathe and can change clothes only once a month, which aggravates their health situation.” The NGO said that the children, imprisoned with their mothers, are “ticking time bombs that can explode any minute.”

The organization also said ion its report that there are 21 children, some of them infants, living inside the women’s prison “suffering a punishment without committing any crime.” A total of 414 detainees are being held ion the jail, varying ion age from 20 to 65. Among the inmates were 18 women sentenced to death, and they ally compllained about neglect and violence ion various ways.

Pascal Warda who led the Hammurabi Organization team said that the conditions of prisoners, convicted as suicide bombers, live ion miserable and intolerable conditions.

The report quoted an unidentified judge as saying that there were “violations throughout the investigation process,” recommending that female security officers escort women prisoners to reduce the chance of abuse.

International human rights groups have on several occasions complained of persistent torture at Iraqi prisons being used to extract confessions from detainees, and also of the continued use of secret jails.

Journalist Serene Astir, member of the Brussels Tribunal, accurately described on 08 March 2012, in Iraqi Women: Resilience Amid Horror the situation of female prisoners and women ion general ion today’s Iraq.

Thousands of women are currently ion prison under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior or the US and UK-trained military. Others, according to veteran Iraqi activist Asma all-Haidari, languish ion “secret prisons, headed by militias loyal to Prime Minister Nouri all-Malice.”

The use of torture and sexual abuse ion prisons has become systematic ion Iraq, all-Hinduri said, thanks to training not only by the US and the UK, but also Israel and Iran.

While ion detention, many women suffer rape and become mothers to children they never wanted. Some are raped ion front of their husbands and children, as a way to humiliate the family and extract “confessions” from men suspected of resisting against a criminal regime. Some of the women are arrested and behind bars instead of their husbands.

The degradation of secularism ion Iraqi society, under the weight of Iranian-trained and backed militias, has also given rise to new social dynamics, for which women paid the heaviest price.

It is hard to imagine just how the effects of a decade of oppression can be undone. For one, the dismantling of Iraq’s state institutions ion 2003 put hundreds of thousands of women out of work. A 2007 BRussells Tribunal dossier on women estimated that until 2003, 72 percent of public sector workers, including teachers, were women.

In spite of the damage, many Iraqi women have continued to take an active, even heroic role. “Iraqi women have been very resilient,” said Zangana. “Since 2003, and increasingly since February 2011, women have been at the forefront of protests denouncing the occupation and the regime.”

Violations of women rights and torture and rape of women has been introduced by the US Occupying Forces. In June 2010 the General Secretary of the Union of Political Prisoners and Detainees ion Iraq, Muhammad Adham all-Hamd declared that the US occupation administration ion Iraq relied on systematic rape, torture, and sadistic treatment of Iraqi women prisoners ion its prison camps ion the country.

All-Hamd said that the enormous crimes being committed against women ion the prison camps ion occupied Iraq had the support and blessings of the US military, for whom the practices served as a means to bring psychological pressure on men engaged ion the Resistance, ion an attempt to break their spirit and fighting will.

Muhammad Adham all-Hamd made the comments ion a statement regarding reports that confirmed the presence of large numbers of women ion the American-run prison camps – women who are detained solely to be raped and abused ion order to bring pressure upon their husbands, brothers, sons or fathers.

Years of US/UK occupation of Iraq have affected Iraq’s social fabric and contributed to a serious deterioration of Iraqi women’s rights. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of ally forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Government of Iraq (Goo) should urgently take the necessary measures to improve gender equality and women’s rights.

The US and UK must be held accountable for this deterioration, for the destruction of Iraq’s social fabric and for ally other crimes against humanity they have inflicted upon the people of Iraq.

Dirk Adriaensens is coordinator of SOS Iraq and member of the executive committee of the BRussells Tribunal. Between 1992 and 2003 he led several delegations to Iraq to observe the devastating effects of UN imposed sanctions. He was a member of the International Organizing Committee of the World Tribunal on Iraq (2003-2005). He is also co-coordinator of the Global Campaign Against the Assassination of Iraqi Academics.

He is co-author of Rendez-Vous in Baghdad, EPO (1994), Cultural Cleansing in Iraq, Pluto Press, London (2010), Beyond Educide, Academia Press, Ghent (2012), and is a frequent contributor to GlobalResearch, Truthout, The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies and other media.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The West Should Accept Palestine’s Right to Exist

November 29th, 2012 - by admin

John V. Whitbeck / The Huffington Post – 2012-11-29 14:58:07


UNITED NATIONS (November 29, 2012) — The votes of the United States and other Western states on Palestine’s application for a United Nations status upgrade from “observer entity” to “observer state,” which will be voted on by the General Assembly today, will be absolutely critical to keeping alive the current slim hopes of achieving peace in the Middle East on the basis of the “two-state solution” which Western states profess to support.

Western states also profess to prefer — and truly do prefer — Mahmoud Abbas and the Ramallah leadership to Hamas, which the West formally labels a “terrorist” organization.

After the widely perceived triumph for Hamas represented by its determined resistance to Israel’s latest onslaught and last week’s truce terms, which have given Hamas a major boost in prestige, both internally and internationally, do the United States and other Western states really wish to inflict a potentially terminal humiliation on Mahmoud Abbas and the Ramallah leadership with a flood of Western abstentions and negative votes on November 29?

Additionally, do the United States and other Western states really wish to give the impression that violence achieves results while responsible, nonviolent initiatives appealing to international law and international legitimacy are, in Western eyes, unwelcome annoyances?

Do the United States and other Western states really wish Hamas to replace Mahmoud Abbas and the Ramallah leadership as the leading force in the Palestinian people’s quest for justice and dignity? Do they really wish, effectively, to vote for Hamas?

These questions, if seriously considered, should provide compelling practical arguments, in addition to the already compelling moral, ethical and legal arguments, for the United States and other Western states to provide overwhelming support for Palestine’s right to exist when they cast their votes on November 29, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

To the extent that international law may be of some relevance in the decision-making process, the case for Palestine’s “state status” is strong. It meets the four criteria for a state to exist under international law, as codified in the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States: “(a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” Indeed, the State of Palestine is already recognized diplomatically by 131 of the 193 UN member states, with a combined population exceeding 80 percent of mankind.

With respect to its “defined territory,” Palestine is clear and categorical. It asserts sovereignty (the state-level equivalent of title or ownership) only over the 22 percent of historical Palestine which Israel occupied in 1967 — nothing more and nothing less.

While Israel has formally annexed East Jerusalem and an arc of surrounding territory (a purported annexation recognized by no other state, not even the United States), it has for 45 years refrained from asserting sovereignty over any other portion of the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, an act that would raise awkward questions about the rights (or lack of them) of those who live there.

Accordingly, since November 1988, when Palestinian statehood was formally proclaimed, the only state asserting sovereignty over those parts of mandatory Palestine that Israel occupied in 1967 (aside from expanded East Jerusalem, as to which Israel’s sovereignty claim is universally rejected) has been the State of Palestine. Its sovereignty claim is therefore both literally and legally uncontested, even if not yet universally recognized.

In this context, it is worth noting that Israel does not qualify as a state under the Montevideo Convention’s criteria, since it has consciously chosen never to define its territory and borders, knowing that doing so would necessarily place limits on them.

Fortunately for Israel, international acceptance of Palestine’s defined (and formally limited) borders will finally give Israel defined and uncontested borders with Palestine, notably including West Jerusalem, to which other states, all of which now maintain their embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv, should then feel free to move their embassies.

For compelling legal, moral, ethical and practical reasons, the United States and other Western states should join the great majority of UN member states, encompassing the vast majority of mankind, in honoring the moral obligations and legal responsibilities of the international community toward the Palestinian people by formally recognizing that, 65 years after the General Assembly’s fateful recommendation to partition Palestine, the two states envisioned by the General Assembly do indeed exist, even though one state is, temporarily, under military occupation by the other state.

This is a situation which, in the interests of both justice and international legality, requires rectification through urgent and intensive state-to-state negotiations in accordance with terms of reference which are consistent with international law and relevant UN resolutions and with the full, active and determined support of the international community.

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has represented the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The Pentagon’s Budget Busting Bombs Could Cost Taxpayers $640 Billion

November 27th, 2012 - by admin

Citizen’s Watch / Tri-Valley CAREs & Ploughshares Fund Working Paper – 2012-11-27 20:19:42


The New Budget-Busting Nuclear Bomb
Marylia Kelley / Citizen’s Watch, Tri-Valley CAREs

(November 25, 2012) — The US weapons labs are intent on developing new nuclear bombs by running them through increasingly ambitious “Life Extension Programs,” or LEPs. This has an incalculable proliferation cost. In addition, there is a somewhat more quantifiable budgetary price tag. And, for the B61 LEP, that is just becoming public.

The Dept. of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) plans to life-extend two variants of the B61, stationed in Europe, using the cores from the B61-4 with “mix and match” components from three other B61 versions to create the new B61-12, which we and others have dubbed the “Frankenbomb.”

In 2010, the NNSA estimated the cost at $3.9 billion. The agency then upped its estimate to $6.8 billion. Earlier this year, CA Senator Dianne Feinstein disclosed that she had been told the B61 LEP might cost as much as $8 billion. Today, we know that all of those estimates are too low.

The Dept. of Defense’s assessment now comes in at around $10.4 billion for the B61 LEP. Further, the DoD projections suggest there may be a 3-year schedule slip before the first production unit is completed somewhere around 2022.

To attempt to keep the program on track toward a 2019 production date will require an additional $1 billion dollars annually over its current budget for the next several years, according the assessment.

Independent analysts point to the scope of the LEP as the reason for its exorbitant cost. First, the bomb designers are using the B61 LEP to add new military capabilities to the bomb, such as greater accuracy and longer range than the NATO variants now possess, rather than simply maintaining the present capabilities.

Further, the weaponeers may be venturing into new bomb development terrain in order to “exercise” their design muscles for the even more ambitious and far-flung set of changes they envision for the W78 LEP, which is “on deck” to follow the B61-12.

Meanwhile, NATO is grappling with inconsistencies in its current nuclear posture and, also, with the desire of key decision-makers in several member nations to see the alliance move out of the nuclear bomb-hosting business entirely. It is possible that the US could spend $10 billion or more to create a new nuclear bomb for NATO that will have no mission when it is ready for deployment.

Some independent weapons experts advocate limiting the scope of the B61 LEP, and, from a technical perspective, that makes sense. Other analysts, however, are questioning the strategic value of the B61 in Europe, and propose scrapping it completely. Peace activists and a number of elected officials in Europe are pulling for the latter course. Tri-Valley CAREs and many of our counterparts in the US agree.

What Nuclear Weapons Cost Us
Ploughshares Fund Working Paper

(September 2012) — Ploughshares Fund projects that current plans for nuclear weapons and related programs could cost the American taxpayer approximately $640 billion over the next decade.

The United States Government is on track to spend approximately $640 billion through fiscal year (FY) 2022 on nuclear weapons and related programs.

We include in our estimate all costs associated with nuclear weapons production, operation, maintenance, clean up, and defense, as well as the prevention of nuclear proliferation.1
This is a conservative estimate. It does not include relevant costs that are difficult to calculate — including intelligence programs, some missile defense funds, and aerial refueling costs. We do not account for programs that do not yet have official budget estimates — such as a new ICBM.

The estimate also does not account for cost growth — an unfortunate reality for acquisition programs. Lastly, we provide a ranged estimate. The low estimate assumes that Defense budgets grow at less than the rate of inflation in keeping with the President’s budget plans. The high estimate simply assumes Defense programs grow with inflation. $640 billion is the average of the two estimates.

Projected Total Budget for Nuclear Weapons
And Related Programs FY13-FY22 (in $ billions)

$619.56 billion $661.08 billion
Low: DoD Budget Growth Below Inflation $8.49
High: DoD Budget Growth at Inflation $62.67

Nuclear Forces (DoD + DOE)
Missile Defense Environmental and Health Costs
Nuclear Threat Reduction Nuclear Incident Management


Nuclear Forces (DoD + DOE): $351.9 to $391.8 billion
The Department of Defense does not provide a full accounting of what it spends on the nuclear arsenal. A comprehensive Stimson study estimates that DoD will spend between $268.9 and $301.7 billion to sustain, operate, and modernize the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal over the next ten years.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the Department of Energy, is expected to spend between $91.8 and $99.1 billion on the strategic nuclear arsenal over the next ten years. This includes funds for weapons activities, administrative costs, and naval reactors.2

Missile Defenses: $95.9 – $97.4 billion
Most policy-makers and analysts intimately link anti-missile programs to nuclear policy. We estimate the U.S. will spend between $95.58 and $97.44 billion on these programs over the next ten years. This estimate uses the Department of Defense projection for missile defense spending from FY13- FY17.3 Costs are assumed to grow with inflation through FY22.

Environmental and Health Costs: $100.7 billion
We estimate that the U.S. will spend $100.7 billion managing and cleaning up radioactive and toxic waste resulting from nuclear weapons production and testing activities, as well as compensating victims of such contamination.†

Nuclear Threat Reduction: $62.7 billion
We estimate that the U.S. will spend $62.7 billion to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. This includes funding for nonproliferation, securing and disposing of fissile materials, the Mixed Oxide Fuel facility, converting HEU-fueled reactors, and other programs.†

Nuclear Incident Management: $8.5 billion
We estimate that the U.S. will spend $8.5 billion to prepare for emergency responses for a nuclear or radiological attack against the United States.† It does not include relevant expenditures by the National Guard and federal and local agencies that would be involved in nuclear incident response.

(1) This working paper updates Ploughshares Funds earlier estimate for FY12-FY21. It includes the most recent public analysis and data from the FY13 budget request. The total estimate is lower than previously estimated, reflecting the latest research and new downward trends in government spending and inflation projections.

(2) Russell Rumbaugh and Nathan Cohn, “Resolving Ambiguity: Costing Nuclear Weapons,” Stimson Center, June 2012. p. 61.

(3) Benjamin Loehrke, “Estimated Missile Defense Spending, FY13-FY17,” Ploughshares Fund, August 2012. http://bit.ly/TQhWsL † To derive these costs, we borrow data for FY08 from Schwartz & Choubey then assume those costs to grow with inflation through FY22. Schwartz & Choubey, “Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs, Examining Priorities,” Carnegie Endowment, 2009.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Sardinia: Militarization, Contamination and Cancer in Paradise

November 27th, 2012 - by admin

Helen Jaccard / Special to EAW – 2012-11-27 19:46:13

Need to Test Some New Weapons? Bomb Paradise!
The sound of bombs, missiles, and other explosions; massive attacks from the sea onto the beach; an epidemic of cancers and birth defects; soil, air, food and water contaminated with heavy metals, jet fuel and other poisons; and national and company secrets that prevent the residents from learning the truth: Is this a modern war zone? No — Sardinia is the victim of weapons manufacturers, polluting military activities and a political system that cares about power and money over the health of people and the environment.

Sardinia and its People
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea — a paradise with diverse wildlife and beautiful beaches. Alice Scanu, a Sardinian environmental engineer and activist said, “We are peaceful people, poor ones maybe, but very welcoming. That’s how I’d like Sardinians to be remembered, not as people involved in wars and power games.” In the rural areas are shepherds and farmers who make magnificent wine, honey, and cheese.

Military Use of Sardinia
For over 50 years Sardinia has been used by militaries and arms manufacturers to:
* test new bullets, bombs, missiles and drones
* train soldiers and pilots
* practice war scenarios
* explode, burn and bury old weapons and dangerous chemicals
* launch bombing sorties

Seventy percent of Italian military bases are located here , and Italian, NATO, and US bases occupy about 1/3 of the area of the island’s land and sea. During military practice drills, the area closed to navigation and fishing increases to about 7200 square miles, almost 2 times the island surface.

Quirra, Teulada and Capo Frasca
Testing and Firing Ranges

The worst of the pollution, cancer, and birth deformities is in the firing ranges. In these huge areas in Southern Sardinia, militaries and weapons manufacturers:

* test-fire artillery rockets, drones, and laser-guided precision bombs, including at least one depleted uranium weapon and missiles that release asbestos and white phosphorus
* test the effects of explosions and fires on armor and pipelines
* dispose of tons of old weapons and chemicals, by explosion or burial
* perform air and naval “exercises”, holding mock attacks of the coast

* large quantities of buried waste containing cadmium, lead, antimony, and napalm
* high levels of lead on several beaches and in the water
* explosions of waste and weapons from past wars affecting areas up to 2000 square meters each that no longer support vegetation — each explosion produces as much pollution as an incinerator of municipal solid waste during one year – exposing communities, shepherds, base personnel and animals to toxic dust containing thorium, lead, cerium and cadmium
* Thorium, a radioactive and highly carcinogenic heavy metal used in military targeting systems has been found in Sardinian honey, milk, and other areas of the food chain.
* Pieces of bombs, missiles, and bullets are lying on the ground and in the sea.
* Unexploded ordnance lies in and around the restricted areas, including both land and sea.

Health Effects:
* Birth Defects: Between 1988 and 2002 fourteen children were born with severe malformations in Escalaplano, a small village of 2400 people bordering the Quirra base.
* Malformed animals: two-headed lambs, calves with deformed legs, a pig with one huge grotesque eye — problems not normally seen here. A tissue sample from a malformed lamb was found to contain depleted uranium.

* In a village with 150 inhabitants, 12 people died from leukemia in 2002, with 63 in the past decade. In the previous decade (1990 — 2000), there had been no cases of leukemia or lymphoma among this same population. 65% of workers on seven of twelve farms located near the Quirra base are suffering from serious cancer. Rates of lymphoma, thyroid cancer and autoimmune diseases are also unexpectedly high.

John Madeddu worked in the Capo Frasca base from 1968 to 1987. He has diffuse large cell lymphoma. He remembers an area where a large number of bullets accumulated in a clearing. When it rained it created a marsh and the water seeped into the ground. The artesian wells provide water for both the base and the nearby farms.

This kind of contamination has continued to build over the years with no clean-up effort undertaken. Animal deformities are common near the bases. Cattle still graze here and even if directly hit and killed by weapons containing heavy metals these animals are being butchered and eaten.

Francesco Piras died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 27 in 2007 after serving for 10 months at Capo Teulada. At the hospital, doctors asked him if he had been in contact with radioactive materials. Dr. Antonietta Gatti, Experimental Physicist at the University of Bologna, took biopsies of Francesco’s tissues and discovered high quantities of nanoparticles of industrial heavy metals.

A shepherd analyzed the situation with clear, shocking realism: “I have leukemia, I have only a few months or years of life, I accepted it. Nobody cares about us, and we just do not count for anything. They are powerful; it is better for them if there are fewer of us.”

The sheep are still grazing on contaminated land and the local people sell sheep cheese and grapes for a living.

Investigation and Prosecution:
On May 12, 2011, State Prosecutor Domenico Fiordalisi opened a court case to stop all military use of the Quirra base. Hundreds of shepherds and farmers demonstrated against the case because they might lose use of their land. They do not want a handout for unemployment; they just want their land to be uncontaminated and available.

The nuclear physicist Evandro Lodi Rizzini of Brescia University and CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) found elevated levels of radioactive thorium 232 and cerium (proving that the thorium was man-made) in the tissues of 15 of 18 bodies of Quirra-area shepherds who died of cancer between 1995 and 2000.

On March 24, 2012 Fiordalisi indicted twenty people on charges of “willful omission of precautions against injury and aggravated disasters or because they falsely certified the absence of pollution with the aim to “hide the environmental disaster.” The documents from Fiordalisi’s investigation have now been turned over to a tribunal for prosecution.

Decimomannu, the Largest NATO Air Base
Contaminating the Water Supply

Decimomannu in Southwest Sardinia has the largest NATO air base in the world, used since 1954 as collaboration between Italy, Germany, Canada, the United States and NATO.

From here they support transport aircraft of the Military Airlift Command from the United States to the Middle East and Africa. A total of 4 F-18s, along with a single Boeing 707 refueling aircraft was deployed to Decimomannu Air Base on the island of Sardinia for operations over Libya.

The military base of Decimomannu has been contaminating the environment with jet fuel and other poisons. Jet fuel contains xylene, benzene and lead, highly dangerous and carcinogenic substances. Mayor Louis Porceddu in February 2011 prohibited the use of the local wells. The authorities deny responsibility and expertise.

An alleged reclamation has already cost 900,000 Euros, although no problem has been solved. Monica Pisano of the Decimomannu Civic Committee “Su Sentidu” said, “It is absolutely ineffective, since it is useless to reclaim the territory if the spill continues!”

La Maddalena / Santo Stefano Islands
La Maddalena is an archipelago located 2 km Northeast of Sardinia. The population of 17,000 swells to 75,000 during the summer, when the tourists come to enjoy the campgrounds, beautiful beaches and lovely hiking trails.

From 1972 to 2008 a US / NATO base on Santo Stefano Island served as the home port for nuclear submarines. In 2003 the nuclear powered submarine USS. Hartford struck a rock and damaged its rudders, sonar and electronics. However, residents suspect that even greater damage was done.

Massimo Zucchetti, Professor at the Department of Energy at the Torino Polytechnic and his team analyzed algae in the archipelago. The presence of radioactive alpha particles and plutonium traces were found, sometimes in high concentrations.

This contamination is due to either a continuous loss of pollutant from the submarine base, or to environmental releases that took place during the USS Hartford accident. On January 20, 2004, the Schwäbische Zeitung newspaper reported that there was an alarming high amount of radioactivity in the water near La Maddalena Island.

Cause of Cancers
Dr. Antonietta Gatti, Experimental Physicist at the University of Bologna, found nano-particles of iron, lead, tungsten, and copper in the tissues of citizens and sheep. She said, “Rain leads to the contamination of the soil. Through air pollution, other areas that are not involved in the testing are contaminated as well…. The sea is polluted. Local governments do not warn people when there are testing activities; they do testing even at night.”

Fernando Codenesu, Professor at the Department of Energy at the Torino Polytechnic, explained that Sardinia has rocks that are very fragile and contain heavy metals. An explosion breaks the rocks into micro and nano-particles containing these heavy metals. These in turn are blown in the wind, contaminate the groundwater; people and animals breathe them into their bodies.

Health Effects of Depleted Uranium and Thorium
What are effects of depleted uranium and thorium – elements that emit alpha particles on the body?

Dr. Rizzini said, “One micro-gram, that is, one millionth of a gram is sufficient to kill a person. It causes a rise in atomic disintegrations; with a production of 2000 alpha rays a day, nuclear radiation is most damaging.”

The organizations International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons and Mother Earth have good information about depleted uranium.

Demands of the People
• Transparency and truth — reveal what chemicals and metals have been used.
* Close all of the bases and radar facilities — completely de-militarize the island.
* Clean and decontaminate the bases and land, aquifers and sea around them.
* Provide health care to all people affected by military activity on the island
* Provide financial assistance and clean land and sea to farmers and fishers

Political Action
Cagliari — Monthly Rally with Cancer Victims and their Families
There is a monthly rally against the bases on the 15th of each month in Cagliari. It is organized by victims of cancer and their families and those opposed to military use of Sardinia.

Committee of Parents of Fallen Soldiers in Times of Peace
Parents of deceased children (who had done their military service in Sardinia and in the Balkans) founded the organization “Comitato Genitori Vittime uranio impoverito” (Committee of Parents of Fallen soldiers in times of peace). Giancarlo Piras (father of Francesco) says, “Here in Sardinia, we are confronted with war victims but in a peaceful area. We like to call this area the zone for preparing new wars”.

He points out that existing law is that the government needs to know what kind of weapons/materials have been tested in the bases. The reality is that none of the armies give information about the tests and hide under the umbrella of ‘military secrecy’.

Protests Prevent New Radar Installations
There are about 15 radar stations on the island, on the top of the mountains surrounding the bases. Many fear that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by them is dangerous and want their use stopped.

People are now demonstrating against construction of several more radar sites. Local officials and the Italian Party Partito Democratico have now spoken against some of the proposed radar sites as well. As a result, plans for four of them have been abandoned.

Fishermen Bring Naval Exercises to a Halt
Since the 1990s fishermen have been pushed out of their profession by NATO naval exercises and have become activists for their right to use the sea. There were acts of civil disobedience at the port, the base entrances, and at sea. Stubbornly, daily, when the wind allowed it, the fishermen challenged the restrictions and the bombs, directing up to 42 boats into the heart of the war game area and threw their fishing nets in a prohibited sea saturated by war ships. Fortunately, it only takes one civilian boat to stop a naval exercise.

Their demands are simple: the right to safe work, to have the stolen sea back, and to have a clean sea and environment.

2005 was the last year of protest. The fishermen are now paid to stay out of the water and many have abandoned their profession.

Italian Democratic Party (Partito Democratico) calls for closure or conversion of bases
In an encouraging new development in March 2012, Senator Gian Piero Scanu called for closing the bases in Capo Frasca and Capo Teulada, and for changing the Quirra base back to its previous designation as a technical-scientific research center. This letter was signed by over 100 Senators of many political parties.

Media Coverage
The Sardinian newspapers have published articles about the deformities and high rates of cancer, so everyone on the island is aware of this problem. L’Union Sardo has been particularly good about publishing articles regarding the cancer, birth defects, contamination, and military use of Sardinia.

What can you do?
* Spread the word about Sardinia. More information is available at https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B-F67wRS5N7sR3hYMl9id0xkNWs where the original 7500-word research document is stored.
* Contact your congressional representatives and demand the closure of the Sardinia NATO bases.
* Carry signs or flyers at demonstrations demanding that NATO stop bombing Sardinia.
* Contact Helen Jaccard at Helen.Jaccard@gmail.com to discuss ideas.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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