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US Sarin Gas Cover-up Continues

June 18th, 2015 - by admin

Barbara Koeppel / The Washington Spectator – 2015-06-18 01:09:21

http://washingtonspectator.org/sarin-gas-cover-up-continues-2/

US Sarin Gas Cover-up Continues
The Washington Spectator

(May 15, 2015) — Washington Spectator Editor’s Note: In April 2015, The Washington Spectator published investigative reporter Barbara Koeppel’s account of a cover-up in which Defense Department (DOD) officials refused to admit that veterans of the 1991 Gulf War were exposed to sarin gas when they blew up Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons bunkers at Khamisiyah.

Koeppel reported that despite veterans’ personal accounts, and DOD and CIA documents, Pentagon officials did not admit until 1997 that troops “may” have been exposed.

Also they claimed they didn’t know who was exposed and that exposure levels were too low to cause illness.

Early this month, Ron Brown, a Gulf War veteran disabled by sarin exposure in 1991, and a source for Koeppel’s story, met with Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Brad Carson.

Koeppel’s account follows. — L.D.

Assistant Secretary Brad Carson:
‘The Department of Defense
“cannot confirm exposure,
only the possibility of exposure”
of Gulf War veterans to sarin gas

Barbara Koeppel / The Washington Spectator

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Brown (one of the 20,000 troops exposed to sarin at Khamisiyah) hoped Carson would help the veterans get disability benefits, since 70 percent of claims have been denied. Brown told Carson that the veterans have trouble proving their illnesses — such as brain cancer and neurological diseases — are linked to the exposures.

Brown received a follow-up letter from Carson on May 9.

Carson wrote: “The Department took exceptional efforts after Operation Desert Storm to find evidence of exposures . . . and we agree that Service members attempted to destroy chemical warfare munitions by demolition at Khamisiyah.”

“We didn’t ‘attempt’ to destroy them. We did,” Brown said, adding that in 1996 and 1997, a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) and the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) verified the demolitions.

And the DOD testified it blew up 8.5 cubic metric tons of munitions that spewed out sarin at Khamisiyah’s Bunker 73 on March 4, 1991, and several hundred sarin-filled 122mm rockets on March 10 at nearby pits.

Carson repeats the line the DOD wrote to Desert Storm veterans in 2000: that investigations “to determine possible hazard areas created by the demolition,” identified service members “who may have been exposed to very low levels of chemical agents after the demolition” (italics added).

“How can he say may have been exposed?” Brown asks. “The DOD knew!”

Brown states that a DOD study listed the exact symptoms the troops reported after they were exposed, where they were located (for example, in the desert), if they were under the plume (the smoke from the demolitions), and what treatment they received.

[Click here to read PDF document showing the DOD knew troops were ill.]

Carson concludes the DOD “cannot confirm exposure, only the possibility of exposure.”

Brown says documents prove that 20,000 troops were within 15 kilometers of Khamisiyah — listing the names of the eight units — while about 80,000 more were within 50 kilometers.

“You don’t have to know the exact dose,” he says. “The PAC confirmed they were exposed. Today, the veterans who were closest are dying of brain cancer at two to three times the rate of those who were further away.”

Last, Carson writes that a DOD 2000 letter advised veterans that “if you had health concerns, which might be related to your Gulf War service, you were encouraged to enroll in the Department of Defense Clinical Evaluation Program, or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Persian Gulf Registry. The VA’s Gulf Registry is still available.”

Brown says many took up the offer.

“When we enrolled in the DOD program, it asked about 15 minutes worth of questions. With the VA Registry, they gave us a 15-minute physical exam. They checked my heart and lungs, hit me on my knee, and that was it.”

Morgan Plummer, Carson’s top advisor, told me that for those no longer in the military, “the VA sets the policy about their benefits. The principal responsibility of DOD is to ensure the VA has the information it needs to make its policy decisions, based on the in-service medical records.”

I told Plummer that the medical records of the veterans who were exposed to sarin have disappeared.

Morgan’s reply: “I can’t speak to that.”

However, Brown is still hopeful.

He says VA Secretary Robert McDonald launched a study a couple months ago to determine if veterans’ brain cancer should be considered “presumptive” in applications for disability claims, with results expected by the end of May.

“If the VA changes its policy and makes it presumptive, this is crucial. It means the veterans with brain cancer and the families of those who’ve died can file disability claims and won’t need to show the link to the sarin exposure that appeared in their lost records,” Brown says.

Barbara Koeppel is an investigative reporter in Washington, D.C.

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

The Myth of the Inevitable War

June 18th, 2015 - by admin

Philip Jenkins / The American Conservative – 2015-06-18 00:54:34

The Myth of the Inevitable War

The Myth of the Inevitable War
History should caution the United States from believing that armed conflict with “perpetual” enemies is unavoidable

Philip Jenkins / The American Conservative

(May 13, 2015) — US military forces planned to ultimately seize Canada’s rich mineral resources around Sudbury, Ontario, but in the interim, they would launch surprise attacks on the key ports of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Vancouver.

While many planners disliked the prospect of using poison gas on civilians, it was essential to knock out those strategic centers swiftly, before the British mounted their inevitable counter-offensive. The British amphibious invasion would most likely land between Ocean City, Md., and Rehoboth Beach, Del.

If the above sounds like a Harry Turtledove alternative history scenario, it isn’t. What I have just described is the War Plan Red developed by the US armed forces in the late 1920s, which remained on the books as a formal contingency plan through 1939.

Such planning — and many other imaginary scenarios developed before it — reminds us of how frequently the US and other nations have identified particular foes who would certainly demand to be defeated and destroyed. Often has the refrain gone: if war with such an enemy is utterly inevitable, why not start it now, and get it over with?

A little historical perspective, though, should make us quite humble about the whole notion of “inevitability,” not to mention the prospect of perpetual enemies.

Two centuries ago, in 1815, the British Empire was fighting two key enemies, respectively: France’s Emperor Napoleon and the new United States of America. Although Britain and the US formally concluded hostilities the previous year, the culminating Battle of New Orleans did not occur until the start of 1815. The decisive British victory at Waterloo followed in June.

Had you told any informed observer in 1815 that Britain would never again engage in formal hostilities against either of those nations — not even in two entire centuries — you would have probably have been labeled as insane. Rivalry with the French had been the absolutely consistent factor in British affairs since 1689, and was clearly not going to vanish overnight. As historian Jules Michelet sagely remarked later in the 19th century, in understanding world affairs, there is France and Britain, and that is all.

For the rest of the 19th century, the question of the next Anglo-French war would be when, not if. Tensions reached ugly heights in the late 1850s, immediately after the Anglo-French cooperation in the Crimean War. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, patriotic French newspapers suggested immediately sending the fleet to help the rebels evict the British Raj.

Britain suffered a full-scale invasion scare in 1859-60, when volunteer rifle companies sprang up across the country to resist the threat of French occupation. The two countries came within an ace of open warfare in 1898, over colonial rivalries on the Nile.

Somehow, though, the inevitable struggle never occurred. One can legitimately point out that the two armed forces were at war in the 1940s, when the British fought to evict the Vichy French from colonial territories like Syria and Madagascar. Technically, though, this fell short of actual declared warfare, and the resulting battles have slipped into the realm of polite oblivion.

But even if the French menace could somehow be contained, surely the next American war was truly only a matter of time.

In Herman Melville’s books, especially White-Jacket (1850), we repeatedly are given the sense that conflict on the seas was imminent and inevitable. Naval and imperial rivalries made warfare certain, as did US-Canadian border rivalries: frontier disputes in the Oregon territory stirred American war fever in the 1840s. Between 1840 and 1900, serious war scares were running at about one per decade.

At the start of the Civil War, heavy-handed US actions against Confederate envoys on the high seas almost brought the British into the struggle. The US owes an immense debt to Prince Albert, who drafted the diplomatic documents that kept the British out of war, and presumably saved the American Union.

Time and again, from the 1860s onwards, border-crossing activities by Irish guerrillas threatened to sabotage the fragile US-British modus vivendi. The two countries once more came close to war over Venezuela’s borders in the 1890s.

And that brings us to the 1920s, the era of War Plan Red. To US commanders observing the likely military future at that time, by far the deadliest danger they could foresee was a British-Japanese alliance that would overwhelm the US Navy.

Canada, tragically, would be the battleground between the two great English-speaking nations, those inevitable foes destined to fight until only one survived. Who can withstand destiny?

Needless to say, none of those nightmare scenarios ever came to fruition. Somehow, the British evolved from being our eternal foes to becoming those nice folk across the pond who send us Masterpiece Theatre and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Other seemingly inevitable crises likewise failed to materialize.

People of the boomer generation might remember the hyperventilated coverage of Chinese events during the Cultural Revolution of the post-1966 decade. According to most reports, the country had seemingly created a generation of tens of millions of crazed fanatics pledged to world conquest. How could they be stopped, short of a nuclear pre-emptive strike (which the Russians were actually contemplating in 1969)?

The Cultural Revolution was indeed a ghastly tragedy for the Chinese people, but the feared external aggressions never occurred. By the late 1970s, the main organizers of that fanaticism were themselves discredited and imprisoned, and China was ready to rejoin the world community.

Again, the “inevitable” proved to be an illusion. Somehow, too, the “unavoidable” global clash between the US and the Soviet Union was, well, avoided.

We can debate the best means of preventing wars, and sometimes, a strong and vigilant military might indeed be the best way of keeping the peace. But if anyone ever says today that conflict with a particular nation or cause is “inevitable,” whether that contemporary foe is Iran, China or Russia, history offers plenty of reasons to doubt such claims.

Somewhere down the road, in fact, those adversaries might become our best friends. Never say never.

Or to quote Lord Palmerston, speaking of England: We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies.

Philip Jenkins is the author of Images of Terror: What We Can and Can’t Know About Terrorism. He is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University and serves as co-director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion.

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

Focus on Ukraine: Unarmed Civilian Protection

June 18th, 2015 - by admin

The Nonviolent Peaceforce – 2015-06-18 00:41:09

http://www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org/what-we-do/ukraine

KIEV (June 2015) — In March 2015, Nonviolent Peaceforce and the Association for Middle Eastern Studies conducted a series of trainings for Ukrainian stakeholders from conflict-affected communities. These trainings were the first to introduce unarmed civilian protection (UCP) to Ukraine.

As of mid-April, 2015 the UN Human Rights Office reports that more than 6,225 people have been killed since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine in mid-April of 2014 and expressed fear that the real figure may be considerably higher. Additionally, the UN Refugee Agency has estimated that registered internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine number around 1,200,000.

Currently, civil society organizations, individual activists and voluntary networks throughout Ukraine are mobilized and trying to assist victims of the conflict, while at the same time they are attempting to find effective mechanisms for the prevention of violence and promotion of peaceful dialogue.

At this stage in the conflict, the role for experienced international civil society organizations knowledgeable in civilian protection and violence reduction is very apparent and immediately needed.

After multiple exploration missions that included several rounds of consultations with Ukrainian organizations, conflict-affected communities and various stakeholders, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) was invited to Ukraine by local organizations to introduce unarmed civilian protection (UCP) principles and methodologies to local communities and civil society actors.

NP has also partnered with a Ukrainian organization, the Association of Middle Eastern Studies (AMES), which is in the process of operationalizing a Ukrainian “Peace-building School” and has significant experience in peace-building work in the Black Sea region.

Strategy
In March of 2015,with generous support from the Human Rights Fund of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ukraine, NP and AMES were able to introduce UCP to civil society in Ukraine for the first time, conducting a series of trainings for 40 participants.

Trainings were held in two locations, Odessa and Kharkiv,with participants representingUkrainian civil society organizations, civilians in conflict-affected communities(as well border regions that have potential for escalation of violence or intercommunity tensions),IDP communities and local authorities.

The trainings covered a wide array of civilian protection and violence reduction topics, with a strong emphasis on rumor control and guiding participants in developing local rumor control monitoring mechanisms. The trainings also covered the principles of UCP, conflict mapping, early warning and response systems, and different understandings of civilian protection.

Stressing nonviolence, non-partisanship and the primacy of local actors, the trainings were designed to prepare participants to better protect themselves and those around them, to be able to de-escalate tensions, and to prevent further violence in their communities against civilians.

Participants in the trainings expressed that regardless of their background, work/life experience or age, all of them are ready to learn and work for peace because it is the job of every citizen to build a peaceful society where conflict can be managed by dialogue and mutual respect.

One participant best summed up the proactive and committed spirit of the groups, stating that “I am ready to step in to the shoes of each person involved in this conflict, find their needs and work with them with the hope that we can stop the suffering of the people living in the conflict zones or hundreds of people who lost their homes and became IDPs.”

The trainings had many positive outcomes, including locally designed protection tools that will be used in the coming months.These were the result of participants preparing local civilian protection risk analyses and conceptualizing the means for locally appropriate interventions and responses for their respective communities.

Importantly, participants also identified that a countrywide community-based protection mechanism could be an extremely effective tool for a unified civil society response to the protection needs of civilians in conflict-affected communities. This mechanism could then adapt to the needs of each community as well as the challenges and capacities of local civil society organizations.

NP and its partners are currently developing various interventions to support this new initiative and exploring more concrete partnership opportunities for this protection mechanism with international actors and the donor community.

The trainings were led by Atif Hameed (Director of Programs) and assisted by Salome Bakashvili (Program Manager) and other NP and AMES staff.

Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping and the United Nations

True Peacekeeping: The Growth in Unarmed Civilian Protection

June 18th, 2015 - by admin

Huibert Oldenhuis, Mel Duncan and Rolf Carriere / International Peace Institute Global Observatory – 2015-06-18 00:34:54

The Growth in Unarmed Civilian Protection

(April 29, 2015) — In conflict-afflicted South Sudan, displaced women leaving the safety of United Nations protection of civilian sites to gather firewood, food, and water face the threat of rape by soldiers and members of other armed groups.

These women routinely have to make difficult choices between providing for their family’s sustenance and for their personal safety. Yet, when two or more trained unarmed civilians accompany groups of up to 20-30 women, they have been able to avoid assault.

This is just one example of unarmed civilian protection (UCP), a growing set of methods for protecting civilians and reducing violence in conflict zones. Unarmed civilians trained to implement UCP are recruited from many countries and cultures to live and work with local civil society in conflict-affected areas. A recent study by the Mir Centre for Peace at Canada’s Selkirk College found over 50 civil society organizations have applied UCP methods in 35 conflict areas since 1990.

There is also increasing documentation of its effectiveness. An external evaluation of UCP proponent Nonviolent Peaceforce’s (NP) work in Mindanao, the Philippines, found that “Armed actors on both sides confirm that the presence of a third party ‘watching over them’, including NP, has served to temper their behavior.”

NP [with which the authors are all affiliated] worked with local NGOs to provide daily monitoring of ceasefire violations between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, intervening in cases where civilians came under threat.

A Northwestern University study of the group Cure Violence’s work in the urban setting of Chicago also showed statistically significant results across all communities where UCP had been employed. There were reductions in shootings by 41% and killings by 73%, a fall in shootings in particular hotspots of up to 40%, and the elimination of retaliation killings in five of eight communities surveyed.

UCP can be applied at all stages of a conflict, but can be particularly effective at an early stage, to prevent or mitigate an escalation of violence, and also after violent conflict has subsided, to support the transition to a peaceful society. The approach works in conflict areas where no UN peacekeepers are present, such as Mindanao, Myanmar, and Colombia, and it can also complement the work of UN missions, as in the case of South Sudan.

Unlike traditional military peacekeeping or armed private security firms, UCP is done without the use of, or reliance on, weapons, and is based on prioritizing the building of relationships over the employment of power. These relationships emphasize the achievement of three goals: the direct protection of civilians, violence prevention, and the strengthening of local peace infrastructures.

The elements of unarmed civilian protection

Although organizations implement UCP in a variety of ways, the approaches usually share four key methods. Civilian protectors engage proactively, e.g., by providing protective accompaniment; they monitor, as in the case of ceasefires or escalating tensions; they build relationships, e.g., through local mediation; and they develop local capacity across these other areas.

They also share a commitment to non-violence and non-partisanship; an emphasis on key sources of guidance such as international humanitarian law; and employing key skills such as humanitarian negotiating.

UCP methods are selected on a case-by-case basis, depending on the specific needs of the local population, the type of conflict and context, and the mandate and capacity of the implementing organization. This means UCP may look different in each deployment.

In conjunction with a range of other international groups, UCP methods have been pioneered, developed, and refined by civil society organizations such as NP, Cure Violence, Peace Brigades International, and The World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Project in Israel and Palestine.

In light of the changing nature of conflicts and human rights abuses, evolving peacekeeping mandates, and the vast unmet need for protecting civilians and preventing violence, the UN could look to formally recognize, support, and employ UCP.

This would facilitate more sustainable funding and a greater emergency response capacity. New partnerships could be forged, and existing ones strengthened, such as those with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Development Programme.

UCP is by no means a perfect instrument. It is not always the right tool for every situation, particularly if armed groups are purposely targeting international civilians. It can, however, be highly effective in many circumstances.

It is an option that can be used in coordination with UN interventions, or when UN intervention is not forthcoming. If creative and effective approaches such as these could be advanced and expanded, the evidence suggests it would help prevent escalation of violent conflicts and protect those already under threat.

Mel Duncan is a Founding Director, Rolf Carriere is a Board Member, and Huibert Oldenhuis is a Trainer, for Nonviolent Peaceforce.

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

Tales from the One Percent: Richest US Politician Says Poor ‘Are Doing Great’

June 18th, 2015 - by admin

Judd Legum / ThinkProgress & Chris McGreal / The Guardian and Matt Isaacs / The Investigative Reporting Program – 2015-06-18 00:09:00

America’s Richest Congressman,
Worth Almost $500 Million, Says
Poor Americans Are Doing Great

Judd Legum / ThinkProgress

(May 9, 2015) — Congressman Darrell Issa, America’s richest Congressman with a net worth of nearly $500 million, says the nation’s poor are actually doing very well. Issa told CNN that “our poor are. . . the envy of the world.”

Issa said that, compared to India, America’s poor were living with greater incomes, more opportunity to climb the economic ladder and better access to quality education. CNN reporter Cristina Alesci rejected the comparison. “We don’t want to compare ourselves to India, we want to set the bar pretty high,” she said.

But Issa persisted, suggesting that if wages for lower-income Americans grow too high, American products would not be able to compete on the global marketplace. Watch it:

In reality, economic mobility in American is lower than in many developed countries. According to research by Miles Corak, there is less economic mobility in America than in Switzerland, Pakistan, Singapore, France, Spain, Japan, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Finland, Norway and Denmark.

Even in terms of raw dollars, America’s poor are far behind “compared with their counterparts in other affluent countries.” At the 10th percentile of income, for example, Canadians make 30 percent more and Norwegians makes 60 percent more.

According to a study by Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin, “millions of Americans live on less than $2 a day — a threshold commonly used to measure poverty in the developing world.”


Sheldon Adelson Faces New Scrutiny
As Documents Challenge His Testimony

Chris McGreal / The Guardian and Matt Isaacs / The Investigative Reporting Program

LAS VEGAS (May 9, 2015) — Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino magnate and key Republican party donor, spent four combative days in a Las Vegas court this week defending his gambling empire from accusations of bribery and ties to organised crime.

By the time the hearing was over, Adelson had argued with the judge, contradicted the evidence of his own executives and frustrated his lawyers by revealing more information than he was required to in response to simple yes or no questions. But most importantly, far from laying the allegations against his Las Vegas Sands conglomerate to rest, the billionaire’s answers threw up yet more questions which he is likely to have to return to court to answer.

On the court docket, the case is merely a wrongful dismissal suit. The former CEO of Adelson’s highly profitable casinos in the Chinese enclave of Macau, Steven Jacobs, is suing because he claims to have been sacked for trying to break links to organised crime groups, the triads, and for attempting to halt alleged influence peddling with Chinese officials.

But the extent of what is at stake for Adelson was evident in the form of the Nevada gaming board official monitoring the case from the public gallery.

Adelson accused Jacobs of “squealing like a pig to the government” and of blackmail in taking his accusations to the US authorities. They include the allegation that Las Vegas Sands paid what amounted to bribes intended to influence the Macau authorities and the government in Beijing and that the casino did business with a notorious triad leader.

The information Jacobs provided to the authorities prompted continuing investigations by the US Justice Department and federal financial regulators. If these allegations are shown to be true, then Adelson’s gambling licences could be in jeopardy because associations with organised crime could prompt action by Nevada’s gambling authorities, always sensitive to Las Vegas’s history with the mafia.

That, in turn, may threaten the huge sums of money Adelson feeds into the Republican party. He is estimated to have spent $150m to try to secure a Republican victory over Barack Obama in the last presidential election.

The Las Vegas court hearing that ended on Thursday was called to decide where the full case should be heard – the US or Macau. That restricted the questions that could be asked of Adelson. But if the judge rules that the case belongs in an American court, then the 81-year-old billionaire will face some difficult questions raised by his testimony.

Those are likely to be reinforced by internal company documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) at the University of California, Berkeley, which appear to undermine some of Adelson’s statements in the witness box.

The casino magnate repeatedly told the court his company “was not doing business” with Cheung Chi Tai, a Hong Kong-born leader of the Wo Hop To triad. Cheung is barred from entering the US because of his “affiliation to organised crime”, a source in the homeland security department told the IRP. “We had no direct relationship with Cheung Chi Tai,” Adelson testified.

In court, Adelson steadfastly maintained that Cheung was merely a gambler and of no great significance to the company. That characterisation of the relationship is likely to come under strong challenge at a full trial.

The casino industry in Macau has for decades used what are known as “junket operators” to bring in high rollers from other parts of China who gambled in “VIP rooms” in return for a substantial cut of the take.

Although junkets are a legal business enterprise, organised crime has extensively infiltrated them, according to a 2003 investigative report on the triads commissioned by the Las Vegas Sands and obtained by the IRP.

“The companies and individuals who operate the [VIP] rooms are either triads or fronts for the triads,” said the report. It added that “the triads became an ongoing presence in the Macau casinos” from the 1980s. “Put simply, triad groups operating the VIP rooms are effectively able to make 5% to 10% on every dollar of chips that customer purchases. In addition, triad societies are often employed by the room operators for protection and they also provide ancillary services such as drugs, prostitution and loan sharking to patrons of the rooms,” the report said.

Cheung was the major stakeholder in a junket company called Neptune which began running a VIP room at Sands Macau in 2005, according to Hong Kong court records.

On the witness stand, Adelson played down Cheung’s connection with Sands’ Macau casinos. “To the best of my knowledge, he was a minority shareholder in one of the junket rackets,” he said.

But documents obtained by the IRP show that in 2008 one of the Sands casinos in Macau, the Venetian, extended $32m in credit to Cheung’s junket company. Cheung is named as the guarantor in the documents, headed “Venetian Macau Limited Junket Credit Agreement”.

Two years later, another Sands internal document said that Cheung was admitted to the casino’s exclusive Chairman’s Club, which normally comes with a personal letter from Adelson. Among the benefits are “extremely large lines of credit”, according to court records filed by Jacobs.

Las Vegas Sands finally broke with Cheung in 2010 following a Reuters report, based on the work of the IRP, identifying his triad links. The report said that Cheung was named in a criminal trial in Hong Kong as “the person in charge” of one of the VIP rooms at the Sands Macau. That trial heard that Cheung ordered the killing of a chip dealer in Macau who was suspected of helping a gambler cheat the casino out of millions of dollars. The murder was not carried out.

Adelson denied that the company had business ties to the alleged triad leader – “We were not doing business with Cheung Chi Tai,” he told the court – directly contradicting the evidence of his own deputy on the witness stand.

Robert Goldstein, Las Vegas Sands’ former head of global gambling operations and now Adelson’s No 2, told the court the Reuters report and “the other stuff” had prompted them to stop “doing business” with Cheung.

The company had decided to break with Cheung because of the “adverse publicity”, Goldstein said. “I was of the opinion that after the Reuters article and the other stuff, we should cease and desist doing business with Cheung Chi Tai.”

Yet Adelson also said that the company did the right thing in ending its relationship.

“The man had a bad reputation and the casino department wanted him thrown out,” he said. “It was the issue of maintaining relationships with desirable or undesirable characters.”

But in any future trial, he is likely to face questions as to why Las Vegas Sands waited until the Reuters report to act when Jacobs has said in court submissions that “those ties were well known to LVSC Chairman, Sheldon G Adelson, well before the Reuters’ article”.

As early as 1992, a US Senate report named Cheung as a leader of the Wo Hop To triad based on intelligence from the FBI and Hong Kong police. In 2007, Cheung’s business dealings with Las Vegas Sands were included in filings on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

A 2009 Las Vegas Sands document lists the top 10 junket companies in Macau. Five of them were controlled by “Tai Gor”, or “Big Brother Tai”, one of Cheung’s gang nicknames.

Last year, Hong Kong police raided Cheung’s flat and later froze his assets under anti-organised crime legislation.

For all the warnings about “junket reps”, Adelson clearly held them in high regard. In court, the billionaire said that Jacobs’ attempts to put an end to the Macau casinos’ use of them came close to “nearly destroying the business”.

“He wanted to throw out 50%, 60% of the income by throwing out the junkets,” said Adelson. “This was insanity. He purposely tried to kill the company.”

Adelson is also likely to face difficult questions about his denial that his company had ties to a senior Chinese official, Ng Lap Seng, who was described in court as “a courier” for Sands Macau and a link man to the Chinese government.

“I heard that he was a real estate developer or that he was the head of the real estate developers association or something,” Adelson testified.

Ng is perhaps better known as a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, a political advisory body in China dominated by the Communist party.

Adelson told the court he was not aware of any association between Las Vegas Sands and Ng. “I know of nobody in the company who had dealings with Ng,” he said.

Jacobs’ lawyer, James Pisanelli, told the Las Vegas court that Ng had acted as “a courier” for Adelson’s company. “We believe that there are connections and relationships,” said Pisanelli.

A 2010 internal email obtained by the IRP reveals that Jacobs wrote to the company’s legal counsel requesting a background check on Ng. In the email, Jacobs describes Ng as “Leonel’s contact with Beijing and the one who delivered msg from SGA”. SGA are Adelson’s initials and how he is regularly referred to in company communications.

Leonel is a reference to Leonel Alves, a Macau legislator and lawyer who was hired by Sands Macau. Jacobs tried to block a $700,000 payment to Alves by Las Vegas Sands because he said it was far above prevailing rates and smacked of buying influence. Company lawyers warned that it could breach US anti-bribery laws.

In court, Jacobs’ lawyers raised questions of whether Ng was also hired to curry influence, including with Beijing. Earlier, the court heard that Adelson was attempting to repair relations with Chinese officials damaged by his brusk manner.

The Las Vegas Sands investigative report from 2003 also names Ng. It says he is “highly regarded” by the Chinese government and has good contacts within it. It describes him as a hotel owner who is “believed to be a triad member and has been the focus of several investigations over the years”.

Several reports have noted that Ng’s hotel in Macau, the Fortuna, effectively operated as a brothel.

Ng drew attention in the US after a congressional investigation in 1998 found that he acted as an intermediary in delivering more than $1m to help fund Democratic party election campaigns.

“It is believed that some or all of the money contributed was actually from the Chinese Government and constituted illegal campaign contributions,” the Las Vegas Sands report said.

The case led to the conviction of others involved for breaching campaign funding laws but Ng was not charged. Ng was also photographed meeting then president Bill Clinton and made several visits to the White House.

Las Vegas Sands was approached for comment and had not responded at time of publication.


‘There’s a Lot of Ngs in Macau’
The billionaire casino magnate, the triad leader and the Chinese legislator

Sheldon Adelson, <.b> one of the world’s richest men and a Republican party financier, spent nearly a week in a Las Vegas courtroom denying his casinos in Macau had links to organised crime and influence-peddling with Chinese officials.

Forbes says Adelson is the world’s eighth richest man with a $36bn fortune as the major shareholder in the Las Vegas Sands casino empire he founded. He is fighting a lawsuit claiming that his highly profitable Macau casinos had ties to Chinese organised crime and bribed officials.

Steven Jacobs, former CEO of Adelson’s Macau casinos, is suing for wrongful dismissal. He claims he was sacked for trying to cut the company’s ties to organised crime and for ending a contract with a Macau legislator which the casino conglomerate’s lawyers warned could breach US anti-bribery laws. Adelson claims Jacobs was dismissed for incompetence and accuses him of “blackmail”.

Leonel Alves was a Macau legislator and lawyer hired by Adelson’s Macau casinos. Jacobs regarded payments to Alves as open to accusations of attempting to bribe Chinese officials and ended the contract. Adelson reinstated it after dismissing his Macau CEO.

Cheung Chi Tai is an alleged leader of a Chinese organised crime group which brought in high rolling gamblers to Adelson’s casinos in Macau. He was accused in a trial in Hong Kong of ordering the murder of a Macau dealer suspected of cheating the casino out of millions of dollars. Hong Kong police are investigating him for money laundering.

Ng Lap Seng is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee who was described in court as a “courier” and contact with Beijing for Adelson’s company. A US congressional investigation in 1998 implicated Ng in the illegal funding of American political campaigns.

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

US Tops for Income Inequality and Incarceration, but Near Bottom for National Health

June 17th, 2015 - by admin

Mark Karlin / Tikkun Magazine & TruthOut – 2015-06-17 23:57:37

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2015/05/05/u-s-tops-for-income-inequality-and-incarceration-but-near-bottom-for-national-health/

(May 5, 2015) — When the New York Times starts posting articles warning of a dystopian future in the United States due to income equality, you know that the alarm bells are starting to sound even in the corporate mass media.

On April 28, the Times posted an analysis by reporter Eduardo Porter in its economy section. Porter bluntly stated:

But when it comes to the health, well-being and shared prosperity of its people, the United States has fallen far behind. Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way.

Porter manages to find a glimmer of hope in the grim statistics about the real state of the union. However, his sliver of optimism is only due to the fact that the deterioration of the nation as a community is so bad that he believes it will ultimately force a political solution.

“The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics,” Porter writes, “is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it.”

That’s not a lot to hang your hat on.

Some of the statistics Porter cites are stunningly bleak. Take for instance, this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study from last fall:

In 2010, the US infant mortality rate was 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, and the United States ranked 26th in infant mortality among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

After excluding births at less than 24 weeks of gestation to ensure international comparability, the US infant mortality rate was 4.2, still higher than for most European countries and about twice the rates for Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.

Whenever you hear claims of the United States being “number one,” think about the statistic cited above for a moment. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research study, as Porter notes, ties the shameful infant mortality rate directly to income inequality:

The US has a substantial — and poorly understood — infant mortality disadvantage relative to peer countries . . . . This post neonatal mortality disadvantage is driven almost exclusively by excess inequality in the US: infants born to white, college-educated, married US mothers have similar mortality to advantaged women in Europe.

Our results suggest that high mortality in less advantaged groups in the post neonatal period is an important contributor to the US infant mortality disadvantage.

A Washington Post article from 2013 offers evidence that the US is also at the bottom of the list when it comes to life expectancy: “The US ranks 26th for life expectancy, right behind Slovenia.” From cradle to grave, the US is bottom feeding among industrialized nations.

Of course, as widely known, the US is number one in something besides concentration of wealth in the hands of few privileged individuals; we rank first in position for putting people in prison. According to Think Progress,

Both in raw numbers and by percentage of the population, the United States has the most prisoners of any developed country in the world — and it has the largest total prison population of any nation. That didn’t change in 2013. After several years in which the prison population dropped slightly, the raw number of inmates in United States custody went up again in 2013.

This is not a distinction; it is a grievous legacy of racial and class oppression.

In response to the impact of neoliberal globalization — lost jobs and lower or stagnant wages for laborers — Porter notes that the US government failed to respond in a way that would prevent the unraveling of the social fabric:

What set the United States apart — what made the damage inflicted upon American society so intense [as a result of moving jobs to lower paying economies overseas] — was the nature of its response. Government support for Americans in the bottom half turned out to be too meager to hold society together.

What this reinforces is that the United States is a tale of two nations: one that is privileged and wealthy; and another that consists of the majority of the population that is left behind.

This, in essence, is an economic feudalism that is creating a dysfunctional society which pits the haves against the have nots. It undermines US national security in the broadest sense, much more than any alleged “enemy threat.” It is an economic terrorism inflicted by one class — the richest — upon another.

Crossposted from Truthout. Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout.

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

How Students Are Rebuilding Gaza

June 17th, 2015 - by admin

American Friends Service Committee – 2015-06-17 23:48:57

http://www.afsc.org/story/gaza-students-put-relief-funds-work

Gaza Students Put Relief Funds to Work
American Friends Service Committee

SHESHAIYEH, Gaza (May 21, 2015) — Manal Hillis, 22, lives in Sheshaiyeh, one of many neighborhoods destroyed during Israel’s 51-day attack on Gaza last July and August. The attack rained bombs on the already fragile region, where civilians have been under blockade for eight years.

Manal recounts how her family came to flee their home on a July morning:
We received warnings from the Israelis to vacate the area, but we refused. We are used to targeted attacks and killings, not random shelling. Hence, we did not give any attention to the warnings. However, on an early morning at 6 a.m. my father, mother, three brothers, and myself fled in haste under the severe sounds of bombshells. We searched for protection elsewhere because the Israeli bombs were hitting the whole neighborhood randomly.

We arrived to the shelter, a regular school run by United Nations Relief and World Agencies that was opened for civilian protection. We stayed there until the end of the war.

Toward the end, every time a cease-fire was announced for a couple of hours, we rushed back home to either get more belongings or to check out the damage done. We stayed in the school until the official cease-fire was declared.

Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” was catastrophic for Palestinians in Gaza. Nearly 30 percent of Gaza’s population was displaced, with about 273,000 people sheltering in UN schools. Ten thousand homes were razed; an additional 89,000 were damaged. Over 2,100 people in Gaza lost their lives, including 513 children.

In the midst of the attacks, AFSC used the hours of temporary cease-fire to carry out an early aid intervention, delivering 1,500 kits containing urgently needed personal items to displaced Palestinians shetering in UN schools.

This was especially critical in a time when short cease-fires made movement difficult, and larger re-lief organizations were still working to put systems in place for delivering humanitarian aid.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Though bombs stopped falling months ago, recovery efforts have only just begun. Tight restrictions on the import of goods, including construction materials, have slowed efforts at reconstruction. Some estimate that it will take a generation to rebuild.

AFSC’s work for peace in the region extends well beyond Gaza, encompassing efforts by Palestinian, Israeli, and US activists working to end the Israeli occupation, uphold human rights, and promote economic activism. In Gaza, we continue to direct resources to the places they are most needed — and we are especially committed to supporting efforts by Palestinian youth like Manal who are helping their communities heal and rebuild.

As one of the local leaders carrying out early recovery projects with AFSC, Manal is part of a group of 25 young men and women from families whose houses were severely or completely destroyed in the two most hit neighborhoods of Beit Hanoun and Sheshaiyeh. Most are university students between 18 and 25 years old. Many now live with relatives or are renting apartments in other neighborhoods.

“We suffer from the lack of services, such as regular provision of electricity and water or Internet,” says Manal. This makes their work to rebuild move slowly; yet, they are making steady progress.

Manal says AFSC is one of the first organizations in Gaza to involve affected people in the process of assessing community needs. AFSC organized training sessions for the group. “I loved the training on needs assessment, especially the part where we learned how to conduct interviews with various types of people in order to identify their needs,” says Manal.

These trainings have helped Manal and others gather sufficient input to make decisions about where their efforts can make a difference. The trainings also help ensure that such skills stay in the community when AFSC’s relief aid ends.

In addition to needs assessment, participants learned about statistics and disaster risk reduction. Through questionnaires and focus groups, Manal and others surveyed 360 residents and interviewed eight community leaders. They organized a public meeting to share their findings and recommendations.

Now, they’re moving forward with projects they identified, including rehabilitating a medical clinic with physiotherapy equipment in Sheshaiyeh and repairing houses for people with special needs in Beit Hanoun.

Manal’s involvement with the project gives her a positive outlet for responding to her community’s dire circumstances. “I used to be relatively calm and happy, but now I live under constant emotional pressure and stress,” she says. While rumors of more war circulate around her, she does not endorse violence or extremism — instead she is asking questions about what people need to survive peacefully.

Since 1948, AFSC has worked in the US, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territory with Palestinians, Israelis, and other committed activists to support nonviolence, challenge oppression, and (since 1970) to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory.

This work is guided by AFSC’s “Principles for a Just and Lasting Peace in Palestine and Israel,” which supports the implementation of international human rights and humanitarian law and calls for an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory, implementation of refugees’ right of return, equality, and justice for Palestinians and Israelis.

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

Quaker Strategies for Peace: Peace-building Can Replace Weapons and War

June 17th, 2015 - by admin

American Friends Service Committee – 2015-06-17 23:44:05

http://www.afsc.org/story/taking-away-occasions-war

Taking Away Occasions of War
American Friends Service Committee

(May 21, 2015) — For almost 100 years, AFSC has brought relief in the aftermath of conflicts around the world. Nearly all of our international programs originated in war zones or amid political conflicts, often aggravated by disasters.

Though AFSC gained respect and renown for aid interventions, humanitarian assistance and development have never been the driving mission of the Service Committee — rather, the mission has always been to make peace viable.

Rebuilding requires harmony. Reconciling warring communities takes trust. And trust takes time to build.

The pace of building peace with justice — of taking away the occasions of war — requires faith in the practice of nonviolence. Lessons from the past century have taught AFSC to concentrate on preventing violence.

Often, that means staying in a post-conflict area long after the news cameras and emergency aid dollars have moved on.

Colin Bell, executive secretary in the 1950s and 60s, summed up AFSC’s approach: “The cup of cold water to the thirsty child is not a debatable proposition. It has to be given,” he said. But to fulfill their spiritual purpose, Quakers must continue beyond aid, finding direction by asking “Why the thirsty child? Why the breakdown into war?”

Love Is the First Motion
The Quaker peace testimony opposes war and violence, compelling Friends to pursue lasting, sustainable peace. Eliminating the causes of violent conflict — such as poverty, exploitation, and intolerance — is part of practicing nonviolence.

Led by this testimony, 14 Quakers created AFSC weeks after the United States entered World War I. The organization gave conscientious objectors ways to serve without joining the military or taking lives.

Members drove ambulances and ministered to the wounded in Europe. They collected clothing and canned food to distribute to displaced people in war-ravaged France.

Donations and volunteers kept coming after the war. Though AFSC was imagined as a wartime effort, support for its approach encouraged the early members to keep serving those suffering in post-conflict areas around the world.

Thus began a longtime AFSC practice of collecting and distributing material aid. That aid peaked in the two decades following World War II, when AFSC shipped over 124 million pounds of supplies to devastated areas of Europe and Japan. Medical supplies were shipped to hospitals during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Tractors to Israel in the 1950s. Vaccines for Algerian refugees in Morocco and Tunisia. In 1948, the Emergency Material Aid Program ran five export warehouses, in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York City, Pasadena, and Seattle.

AFSC was a conduit for a swelling amount of generosity in that period. The federal government subsidized shipping costs, and US supporters gave readily in the form of used clothing and donations. As Colin Bell said:
The efficient first aider who appears on the scene of an accident is a godsend, and is seen by others as one. For this reason, it is a tragic fact that the AFSC, a charity existing on the gifts of vast numbers of Americans, most of them not Friends, has been at its richest in funds during the aftermath of a number of wars.

We are most strongly supported when we are doing what we least want to do — namely, picking up the pieces, stanching the wounds caused by some violent breakdown in human relations. Doing that, it is easy to be everybody’s darling.

Preventive Medicine
AFSC’s founders protested taking up arms because they believed that humanity could exist without violence. “They were inwardly pledged to a way of life — which, if extended through the world, would eliminate the seeds of war,” said Rufus Jones, one of the founders and AFSC’s first chairperson. In caring for others and respecting each person’s dignity, the founders were transforming enemies into allies and conflict into peaceful coexistence.

Transformative peace-building has always been the core of the Service Committee’s approach, even when humanitarian assistance is the first response.

During the Vietnam War, AFSC ran a medical project in Quang Ngai, training residents to make artificial arms and legs for civilian amputees. Lady Borton volunteered on the project, running er-rands in the town to support volunteers with medical skills.

Years later, in 1988, Lady reflected that her presence interacting with townspeople made a lasting difference. “Our effort to learn Vietnamese, our willingness to let the Vietnamese on both sides know who we were and, most important of all, our commitment to listen and to care,” she said, were more critical than the medical projects they were there to provide.

“Commitment to listen and care is no small gift,” she said. “After the Vietnam War, the AFSC commitment meant fostering a relationship during years of Vietnamese reticence. And it meant continuing projects even when funding programs in Vietnam grew unfashionable.”

Being present in circumstances such as these makes a lasting difference. In the mid-2000s, AFSC made external and internal changes to better support that investment with its limited resources. The material aid program ceased sending used clothing overseas, as shipping grew costly and material goods had negative effects to local economies.

Directors for international programs moved from Philadelphia to international regions, bringing leaders closer to people affected by decisions and allowing them to act in deeper partnership with community and national leaders.

AFSC also expanded the work of international affairs representatives who focus on building bridges. In the midst of violence and in post-conflict situations where violence could easily erupt again, they have created important opportunities for underrepresented voices to be heard. They also created space for dialogue among divided leaders.

AFSC pioneered many of the peace-building methods practiced widely among international peace organizations today, such as bridging divides, meeting pressing needs while addressing underlying conflicts, and engaging respectfully with local partners. These principles continue to inspire our work with communities worldwide.


Peace-building Can
Replace Weapons and War

American Friends Service Committee

(May 21, 2015) — We’ve all heard the argument that violence is strategically necessary. Decision-makers may believe that nothing short of force will resolve conflicts, protect their interests, or keep in place systems that protect their interests. Leaders may feel the need to avoid loss of political capital or loss of face, to project strength, protect access to resources, and prevent the emergence of rival blocks of power. People are sometimes driven to extreme action in an effort to demonstrate personal resolve.

But as a means to secure peace, war is not working. In 2012, the world directed 11 percent of its gross product — a total of $9.46 trillion — toward containing violence, with half spent on militaries. Fighting violence with violence begets more violence.

Every day, all over the world, people from all walks of life resolve conflicts without killing anyone. Most do not espouse pacifism per se; yet communities, states — even rebel groups — achieve their desired ends without violent force time and again. Experience shows that peaceful approaches to conflict do work.

It’s a simple truth, but for those tasked with responding to conflict, it can be hard to see. That’s why AFSC is actively promoting the idea that conditions for peace can and must be built without resorting to violence. And we’re starting at home, with US lawmakers.

One problem encountered in policymaking circles is that those who realize war is not working do not have models for effective nonviolent approaches. Because the US leads the world in investing in war, examples of successful nonviolent interventions are more difficult to find.

AFSC’s experiments in building peace provide some of the best evidence. Our methods include engaging with local organizations, strengthening their capacity and effectiveness, and accompanying them in their grassroots work.

At the same time, we help forge connections between these local partners and policymakers, internationally and within the United States. As AFSC pushes or US foreign policymakers to adopt similar methods, examples from our work are coming into play.

“A lot of policymakers are engaged with the peace-building community,” says violence prevention expert Bridget Moix. She is currently compiling evidence from AFSC’s work to share with influential international organizations and academic institutes working on peace. “It is a way [for policymakers] to see important work and to open more evidence-based relationships,” she says.

Evaluating the impact of peace-building programs is not easy, Bridget says — it’s something the whole field is trying to figure out. “[Peace-building practitioners] are not yet good at showing how approaches impact the larger dynamics of a country,” she says, pointing out why AFSC’s examples are so important: “AFSC’s work shows how community work is linked to broader policy and structural policies.”

As AFSC calls on leaders to put the power of governments, civil society, and cooperative international institutions toward diplomacy rather than force, we recognize how critical it is to demonstrate the effectiveness of such decisions.

Case study:
Truth and Reconciliation in Burundi

Burundi is still healing from a civil war that ended in 2005. Individuals and communities are working to recover, but it is also a national effort.

To avoid falling back into conflict, the society must uncover and deal with the truth of past events. Victims’ frustrations must be heard, and perpetrators’ stories must be heard, too, if the root causes of violence are to be understood.

For years, AFSC supported government decision-makers as they considered how to forge a path to lasting peace. A turning point came at a conference on truth and reconciliation commissions (TRC) that AFSC organized in 2011.

Representatives from nine African and Latin American countries shared their experiences with building peace and stability through a TRC mechanism, which helps to address past human rights violations.

Generally, the truth is uncovered through widespread consultations with victims and witnesses. Reparations are offered, and individuals and institutions responsible for past human rights violations are named. Preventative measures are developed from a deep analysis of the root causes of conflict. And forms of peaceful conflict resolution are encouraged at the grassroots.

After three days of examining TRC experiences in South Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Kenya, participants at the conference identified three elements integral to a successful commission: political will of the government, a national consensus, and a guarantee of security for victims and witnesses.

Leaders in Burundi eventually developed a draft law for a TRC in their own country, but they recognized that they were missing a key ingredient: national consensus on its content. This missing component meant risking the integrity of the TRC process — and risking the country’s fragile peace — if the law was implemented as drafted.

So in 2013, AFSC coordinated another dialogue and exchange, this time bringing members of the Burundian parliament to South Africa. There, they were able to learn how similar issues arose and were addressed when South Africa developed its TRC process.

With this understanding, members of parliament were able to revise and pass a TRC law in 2014. The president of Burundi came out in support of the law, and now, the nominating process for commissioners is underway.

Solutions found within a group’s history, knowledge, and culture are more effective at making peace last. Supporting this process with resources such as space for dialogue and exchange is one way to make peace possible.

Case Study: Linking
Civil Society and Government Internationally

Chinese communities have been partnering with AFSC since 1920, when AFSC’s humanitarian assistance program — which delivered aid to people regardless of political affiliation, religion, or nationality — established a model village near Shanghai.

While other policies seek to isolate or criticize China, AFSC facilitates dialogue and builds connections among groups affected by Chinese interests. Recently, those groups have included Chinese companies developing assets in Southeast Asia and in Africa.

In January 2008, AFSC invited influential experts on Africa from Beijing’s leading official foreign policy think tank to a study tour in Zambia and South Africa. The delegation met with African labor unions, opposition party members, local nongovernmental organizations, and policy experts. They toured Chinese factories and copper mines and spoke with local Chinese businesspeople and Chinese ambassadors.

Upon returning to China, participants urged policymakers to build relationships with African civil society groups, address local environmental and labor concerns, and expand training for Chinese businesspeople and embassy staff in Africa.

Independent of AFSC support, the Chinese delegation also invited African experts to a return visit to Beijing, where African participants could raise their concerns directly with Chinese officials and academics.

Communities need to be able to engage directly with the public and policymakers whose decisions affect their lives. As a US organization, AFSC is reluctant to speak on behalf of affected communities around the world, instead creating opportunities for people to speak for themselves — and in the process laying foundations for a more just and peaceful world.

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

ACTION ALERT: Urge President Obama to Suspend Arctic Oil Drilling

June 17th, 2015 - by admin

Bob Fertik / EarthJustice & Rep. Scott Peters / House of Representatives – 2015-06-17 23:33:44

http://mail.democrats.com/CT00105301MTk4NzYyMg==.HTML

ACTION ALERT:
Urge President Obama to Suspend Arctic Oil Drilling

Bob Fertik / EarthJustice & Democrats.com

(June 15, 2015) — Please join Earthjustice in urging President Obama to suspend Arctic oil drilling.

Arctic oil drilling will accelerate climate change at a crucial moment in human history when we need to switch away from fossil fuels. Moreover, an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean like the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 would devastate endangered bowhead whales, walruses, polar bears, seals and other marine wildlife.

TAKE ACTION! Stop the Rush to Drill in the Arctic!
Shell Oil is rushing a plan to drill in the Arctic as early as this July!

Take Action Today!
Now is the time to say no to risky oil drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic Ocean is one of the worst places to drill for oil. It risks a pristine region with irreplaceable wildlife like walruses, polar bears, and bowhead whales with the threat of an oil spill that could not be cleaned.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean is a very bad idea. Tell the Obama administration that it’s not too late to get it right and keep drilling out of the Arctic Ocean. Mistakes like we saw from Shell Oil in 2012 show Big Oil isn’t ready for drilling in the Arctic.

Drilling for Arctic Ocean oil takes us away from a clean energy future. The science is clear that we cannot develop extreme fuels like Arctic Ocean oil if we are to reach climate goals and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Earthjustice is fighting reckless drilling in the Arctic Ocean on multiple fronts, as we have done for almost a decade. Since we stepped in, Big Oil has not been allowed to complete a single exploration well in the Arctic Ocean.

But with an army of oil and gas lawyers and lobbyists working against us, we need you by our side to protect the Arctic for good.


Plan for the Future:
Use the Social Cost of Carbon

Rep. Scott Peters, California’s 52nd Congressional District

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (April 23, 2015) — While scientists resoundingly agree that climate change is occurring, and that we should be taking action to address greenhouse-gas emissions now, opinion in Congress on the topic is dismayingly split.

Recently, the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee reviewed legislation that contained a provision that took me aback: Bar government agencies from considering the social cost of increasing levels of carbon in their analyses and rules. That approach is dangerous to our environment, economy, and security.

The social cost of carbon is the monetary estimate of how much small increases in carbon dioxide emissions would harm the economy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that damage can come in a decline in net agricultural productivity, human health, and property damages from increased flood risk.

Scientists estimate that for each ton of carbon dioxide emitted, the economic damage could be worth as much as $220.

As Duke University Professor Drew Shindell noted recently:
[D]amages from a typical mid-range gasoline-powered vehicle total nearly $2,000 a year. In comparison, annual damages associated with an electric vehicle are around $1,000 if the power comes exclusively from coal, about $300 if the power is generated using natural gas, and minimal if the electricity is from renewable sources.

The World Health Organization estimates that around 7 million people die per year as a result of air pollution exposure, and, as organizations across the board are noting, ocean acidification that hurts fisheries is a threat to both local economies and the people who rely on the ocean as a food source.

While we are planning for the economic future we must also be considering how our economic growth will impact our public health and the sustainability of our communities. Including the social cost of carbon in policy and rule making is the smart, and responsible, thing to do.

As our mothers taught us, we should pray for the best but prepare for the worst. That is why businesses and the military are leading the way in preparedness and resiliency efforts while pairing with the White House to reduce emissions from super pollutants like hydroflourocarbons (HFCs) and methane.

Business leaders, insurance groups, and corporations are including the social cost of carbon and the changing climate in their business plans not for moral reasons but because it makes financial sense to plan ahead.

The “Risky Business” report, published last year by a bipartisan group of business and government leaders, laid out the risks to American businesses should we not act to address the root causes of climate change while simultaneously preparing for the pending damage from increasingly extreme weather.

As the report notes, and as Americans have witnessed first-hand, “extremes will become the ‘new normal.'” Rising temperatures in California could reduce snowmelt into the Colorado River basin by 10 percent in the next 50 years and increase the number of extreme wildfires that have damaged communities across the West in recent years. Rising sea levels will threaten ports across the country, including in California, where 45 percent of all containers arrive in the US.

It also states that if we continue on our current path, by 2050 between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of existing coastal property will likely be below sea level nationwide.

Eighty-seven percent of all Californians, including coastal communities that I represent in San Diego, live in coastal counties, and 80 percent of the state’s GDP is derived from those counties.

The military, including Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, has also focused on climate change in their planning for the future security of our country. That doesn’t arise from an environmental mission but because climate change will challenge our national security in new ways that require us to get to work preparing now.

Let’s take a cue from the Pentagon and the private sector — enterprises that already account for the costs of carbon. The idea that we have to choose between economic growth and environmental sustainability is a false one and should be rejected.

Barring agencies from including the social cost of carbon is not just a backward approach but one that threatens our country’s ability to create high-quality jobs and to ensure our nation’s future security. Congress should embrace the use of the social cost of carbon as a way to increase informed policymaking.

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

NATO: The Military Impacts of an “Undivided Democratic Europe”

June 17th, 2015 - by admin

Gar Smith / Earth Island Journal – 2015-06-17 23:23:28

Special to Environmentalists Against War

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 to protect Western Europe from an invasion by the USSR. With the collapse of the Soviet Republic and the dismantling of the Warsaw Pact, one might have expected NATO to follow suit.

Instead, NATO (supposedly created as a bulwark against Soviet expansion into Europe) began to expand eastward, incorporating former Soviet countries in the process. NATO’s initial movement into Eastern Europe — embracing Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – was undertaken at an estimated cost to US taxpayers of $100 billion. The question is: Why?

In his 1997 State of the Union speech, President Bill Clinton claimed that NATO expansion was essential to build “an undivided democratic Europe.” But, as David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, observed, “the president’s statement provided no indication of how NATO expansion would further the goal of ‘an undivided democratic Europe,’ nor why NATO must be expanded by 1999, nor why countries once our adversaries could not be our allies without being members of NATO.”

George Kennan, former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, has called NATO expansion “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era” and a move that threatens to “have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy.”

The Center for Defense Information warned that expansion “may undercut a decade’s worth of arms control treaties.” In fact, NATO expansion prompted the Russians to halt progress on the START II nuclear reduction talks. And in May 1997, Russia instituted a dangerous new military policy permitting a “first use” of nuclear weapons. (This reversed the November 1993 Gorbachev era pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries. Russia’s policy now mirrors the US-backed policy that NATO employed during the Cold War.)

In a December 23, 1996 Newsweek column, Michael Mandelbaum, professor of foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, observed that expanding NATO “is a rarity in public policy: an initiative that promises no benefits whatsoever.” While Mandelbaum agreed that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic “have problems,” he noted that “protecting democracy is not one of them.”

The central European countries are the most unstable, and any potential Russian offensive first would imperil Ukraine and the Baltic states. “Thus, the countries that need NATO won’t get it, and the countries that get it don’t need it,” Mandelbaum marveled.

As Peter Rudolf observed last year in the German foreign affairs journal Aussen-Politik, “The enlargement of NATO is primarily attributable to the interest of the USA in a continuation of its role as a European power, not to any desire for the ‘neocontainment’ of Russia.” In Rudolf’s analysis, it is simply an extension of the US policy of “benign hegemony.”

There are four basic requirements for admission to NATO: democratic institutions, rule of law, free markets and civilian control of the armed forces and secret service. (Under these guidelines, Russia might one day legitimately demand to become a member of NATO. Arguably, the US is ineligible to be a NATO member since the Pentagon’s “black budget” activities and many of the intelligence communities’ operations lie beyond civilian control.)

There is little evidence that expanding a country’s military budget helps preserve free markets or democracy. If anything, the opposite appears to be true.

NATO’s War on the Environment
In expectation of its admittance to NATO, the Czech Republic commenced joint military exercises with French forces on Czech soil. Nearly 100 exercises were scheduled in 1997, with French trucks, tanks, jets and infantry churning up roads, plowing across fields, streaking through the skies and discharging rounds of live ammunition in the woods surrounding Czech villages.

NATO’s Committee on Challenges of Modern Society (CCMS) has identified some of the problems caused by more than 25 years of NATO activities. These include: exposure of civilian populations to toxic material spills during movement of military goods; air pollution over coastal urban areas; air pollution from marine engines; hazardous constituents in defense-related activities; transport of contaminants through rivers, deltas and estuaries; disposal of radioactive and mixed waste; contaminated land and ground water; environmental noise; and chemical accidents.

On November 10, 1992, a CCMS report titled “Cross-Border Environmental Problems” noted that problems “with respect to chemical pollution are more widespread, and most of them constitute long-term hazards to ecosystems.

The main pollutants, which pose a threat to both local groundwater and the oceans, are oil derivatives and chemical components from weapons production, testing and dumping.” CCMS also recommended that “priority should be given to promoting safe management and storage of spent uranium fuel and radioactive waste.”

CCMS reported that the deadly legacy from the “unsound disposal of chemical weapons, smoke and munitions” had contaminated existing NATO facilities with explosives (TNT and aminotoluenes), chemical warfare agents (viscous mustard and arsenic), chlorinated hydrocarbons, hydrocarbons (kerosene, lubricants), poly-chlorinated biphenyls, DDT, dioxins, heavy metals (cadmium, chromium, copper, zinc, mercury) and corrosive red and white phosphorus.

After joining NATO, West Germany had to endure needy 600,000 military flights per year–one-sixth of which occurred at altitudes as low as 225 feet above the ground.

F-16 jets contain nearly seven gallons of hydrazine, a toxic and corrosive reserve jet fuel. The lethal dose of hydrazine is one gram.

Between 1966 and 1988, jets released an estimated 220,000 tons of exhaust pollutants — nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and soot — over West Germany.

Kerosene dumped by jets caused forest fires near the US base at Ramstein. A Canadian air base at Lahr leaked 700,000 liters (184,920 gallons) of kerosene, oil and gasoline into the groundwater. One liter of kerosene can contaminate 1 million liters (264,172 gallons) of groundwater,

Urea-based de-icing compounds poisoned groundwater and caused a mass fish-kill in the Kallenbach River near the US Bitburg air base.

Incidents of Vogelschlag (jet crashes caused by “bird strikes”) continued to climb with faster-flying NATO aircraft. In 1988, almost 120 people died in jet crashes — most involved US aircraft.

Low-flying jets caused hens to atop laying eggs and devour those already laid. Wild birds abandoned screamed over treetops.

Low-flying jets were linked to increases in the incidence of heart disease and spontaneous abortions in pregnant women. Children exposed to jet noise suffered hearing loss. Some children terrorized by NATO overflights refused to ventura outside on sunny clays when jets were in the air; other children became frightened by the shadows of birds.

The Expansion Dividend
One of the unstated functions of military exercises is to assure the continued health of the weapons industries, even in the abscence of “hot” wars. Every time a rifle is fired, a missile is launched or a multimillion-dollar fighter crashes, the arms industry knows that its contracts will be reliably and predictably renewed.

The Center for Defense Information warned that NATO expansion masked a hidden agenda – i.e., to create markets for the “merchants of death” in the US arms industry.

This may explain why the Republican Party, which usually opposes funds for foreign aid, is beating the drums to pour billions of tax dollars into high-risk investments in regions where the US never has had any defined vital interests.

Military exercises in the Czech Republic and other aspiring NATO nations served another monumental purpose — the Westernization of Eastern Europe’s military. Warsaw Pact artillery, T-72 tanks and Soviet-era MiG fighters and existing analog communications systems were declared passé and replaced with NATO-compatible digital technology.

Integrating the armies of the East into NATO required the new members to spend billions of florints, zlotys and korunas on NATO-approved rifles, NATO standard-caliber ammunition, updated communications gear and revised air defense systems. The conversion also included the cost of teaching officers how to communicate in NATO’s official language — English.

With fortunes to be made in this latest westernization, it is no wonder that British Aerospace, Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas quickly established offices in the aspiring NATO countries’ capitals.

While the Clinton White House envisioned spending $27-35 billion on NATO expansion over 13 years, the RAND Corp. and the Congressional Budget Office set the costs between $30 and $125 billion through the year 2010. Independent estimates have placed costs as high as $1.4 billion annually.

Whatever the amount, the big winners will be the arms makers. US tax dollars sent to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO-ize their militias came equipped with the usual strings, including a requirement that the money had to be spent on US-made arms.

NATO seamlessly morphed into another example of “Armscam” opportunism with foreign military assistance programs used to funnel millions of tax dollars back into the coffers of a few powerful US corporations — and subsequently to politicians in the form of campaign contributions.

An Alternative
Despite its provocative agenda and high costs to the public treasury, there has yet to be any public debate on the question of extending and expanding NATO’s foreign presence.

As David Krieger has argued: “Before expanding NATO eastward, it would seem prudent to engage in a full analysis of the security implications of doing so, including the implications for future US-Russian relations. Such an analysis would be analogous to the kind of environmental impact statement required for any large-scale development that could effect the environment.”

There is an even more straightforward alternative: Admit that there is no longer any legitimate security or political need for the organization and abolish it.

Letting NATO go the route of the dismantled Warsaw Pact (as the US promised but failed to do) would liberate billions of dollars that otherwise would be wasted on weapons conversion and environmentally damaging military activities. The money saved could be transferred to the United Nations and used to cleanse and repair the land ravaged by nearly half a century of military abuse.

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

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