Revolutionizing Awareness

helping humanity, make choices, more so through awareness, than ignorance

Archive for June 1st, 2010

U.S. Kills Al-Qaeda’s Number 3 for Nine Thousandth Time

Posted by Admin on June 1, 2010

ISLAMABAD (The Borowitz Report) – The US confirmed today that it has killed al-Qaeda’s number three for the nine thousandth time, setting a new world’s record for killing the number three man in a terrorist organization.

“No matter how many times you do it, it’s always a special feeling when you nail their number three,” a U.S. military official said today. “I’m sure I’ll feel this way when we do it for the 9001st time.”

The termination of al-Qaeda’s number three sets up a power vacuum within al-Qaeda, with candidates to replace the fallen Mustafa Abu al-Yazid scrambling to remove themselves from consideration.

According to one candidate within the terror group, “The words no al-Qaeda member ever wants to hear are, ‘Congratulations – you’re our new number three.'” More here.

The Los Angeles Times says Andy Borowitz has “one of the funniest Twitter feeds around.” Follow Andy on Twitter here.

Advertisements

Posted in Press Releases | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on U.S. Kills Al-Qaeda’s Number 3 for Nine Thousandth Time

Scientists warn of unseen deepwater oil disaster

Posted by Admin on June 1, 2010

By MATTHEW BROWN | Posted: Monday, May 31, 2010 4:11 pm

Independent scientists and government officials say there’s a disaster we can’t see in the Gulf of Mexico’s mysterious depths, the ruin of a world inhabited by enormous sperm whales and tiny, invisible plankton.

Researchers have said they have found at least two massive underwater plumes of what appears to be oil, each hundreds of feet deep and stretching for miles. Yet the chief executive of BP PLC _ which has for weeks downplayed everything from the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf to the environmental impact _ said there is “no evidence” that huge amounts of oil are suspended undersea.

BP CEO Tony Hayward said the oil naturally gravitates to the surface _ and any oil below was just making its way up. However, researchers say the disaster in waters where light doesn’t shine through could ripple across the food chain.

“Every fish and invertebrate contacting the oil is probably dying. I have no doubt about that,” said Prosanta Chakrabarty, a Louisiana State University fish biologist.

On the surface, a 24-hour camera fixed on the spewing, blown-out well and the images of dead, oil-soaked birds have been evidence of the calamity. At least 20 million gallons of oil and possibly 43 million gallons have spilled since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank in April.

That has far eclipsed the 11 million gallons released during the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska’s coast in 1989. But there is no camera to capture what happens in the rest of the vast Gulf, which sprawls across 600,000 square miles and reaches more than 14,000 feet at its deepest point.

Every night, the denizens of the deep make forays to shallower depths to eat _ and be eaten by _ other fish, according to marine scientists who describe it as the largest migration on earth.

In turn, several species closest to the surface _ including red snapper, shrimp and menhaden _ help drive the Gulf Coast fishing industry. Others such as marlin, cobia and yellowfin tuna sit atop the food chain and are chased by the Gulf’s charter fishing fleet.

Many of those species are now in their annual spawning seasons. Eggs exposed to oil would quickly perish. Those that survived to hatch could starve if the plankton at the base of the food chain suffer. Larger fish are more resilient, but not immune to the toxic effects of oil.

The Gulf’s largest spill was in 1979, when the Ixtoc I platform off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula blew up and released 140 million gallons of oil. But that was in relatively shallow waters _ about 160 feet deep _ and much of the oil stayed on the surface where it broke down and became less toxic by the time it reached the Texas coast.

But last week, a team from the University of South Florida reported a plume was headed toward the continental shelf off the Alabama coastline, waters thick with fish and other marine life.

The researchers said oil in the plumes had dissolved into the water, possibly a result of chemical dispersants used to break up the spill. That makes it more dangerous to fish larvae and creatures that are filter feeders.

Responding to Hayward’s assertion, one researcher noted that scientists from several different universities have come to similar conclusions about the plumes after doing separate testing.

No major fish kills have been reported, but federal officials said the impacts could take years to unfold.

“This is just a giant experiment going on and we’re trying to understand scientifically what this means,” said Roger Helm, a senior official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2009, LSU’s Chakrabarty discovered two new species of bottom-dwelling pancake batfish about 30 miles off the Louisiana coastline _ right in line with the pathway of the spill caused when the Deepwater Horizon burned and sank April 24.

By the time an article in the Journal of Fish Biology detailing the discovery appears in the August edition, Chakrabarty said, the two species _ which pull themselves along the seafloor with feet-like fins _ could be gone or in serious decline.

“There are species out there that haven’t been described, and they’re going to disappear,” he said.

Recent discoveries of endangered sea turtles soaked in oil and 22 dolphins found dead in the spill zone only hint at the scope of a potential calamity that could last years and unravel the Gulf’s food web.

Concerns about damage to the fishery already is turning away potential customers for charter boat captains such as Troy Wetzel of Venice. To get to waters unaffected by the spill, Wetzel said he would have to take his boat 100 miles or more into the Gulf _ jacking up his fuel costs to where only the wealthiest clients could afford to go fishing.

Significant amounts of crude oil seep naturally from thousands of small rifts in the Gulf’s floor _ as much as two Exxon Valdez spills every year, according to a 2000 report from government and academic researchers. Microbes that live in the water break down the oil.

The number of microbes that grow in response to the more concentrated BP spill could tip that system out of balance, LSU oceanographer Mark Benfield said.

Too many microbes in the sea could suck oxygen from the water, creating an uninhabitable hypoxic area, or “dead zone.”

Preliminary evidence of increased hypoxia in the Gulf was seen during an early May cruise aboard the R/V Pelican, carrying researchers from the University of Georgia, the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi.

An estimated 910,000 gallons of dispersants _ enough to fill more than 100 tanker trucks _ are contributing a new toxin to the mix. Containing petroleum distillates and propylene glycol, the dispersants’ effects on marine life are still unknown.

What is known is that by breaking down oil into smaller droplets, dispersants reduce the oil’s buoyancy, slowing or stalling the crude’s rise to the surface and making it harder to track the spill.

Dispersing the oil lower into the water column protects beaches, but also keeps it in cooler waters where oil does not break down as fast. That could prolong the oil’s potential to poison fish, said Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

“There’s a school of thought that says we’ve made it worse because of the dispersants,” he said.

___

Associated Press writer Jason Dearen contributed to this report from San Francisco.

Posted in Press Releases | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Scientists warn of unseen deepwater oil disaster

What does Israel fear from media coverage?

Posted by Admin on June 1, 2010

This video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH Monday May 31, 2010 purports to show Israeli soldiers aiming a gun on the deck of a Turkish ship, part of an aid convoy heading to the Gaza Strip, after Israeli soldiers boarded the vessel in international waters off the Gaza coast.

The New York Times, today:

A day after Israeli commandoes raided an aid flotilla seeking to breach the blockade of Gaza, Israel held hundreds of activists seized aboard the convoy on Tuesday . . . .Reuters reported thatIsrael was holding hundreds of activists incommunicado in and around the port city of Ashdod, refusing to permit journalists access to witnesses who might contradict Israel’s version of events.

Physically blocking journalists from reporting on their conduct is what Israel does (as well as others); recall this from The New York Times on January 6, 2009, regarding Israel’s war in Gaza:

Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza

Three times in recent days, a small group of foreign correspondents was told to appear at the border crossing to Gaza. The reporters were to be permitted in to cover firsthand the Israeli war on Hamas in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling against the two-month-old Israeli ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza.

Each time, they were turned back on security grounds, even as relief workers and other foreign citizens were permitted to cross the border. On Tuesday the reporters were told to not even bother going to the border.

And so for an 11th day of Israel’s war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it waited in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering, but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups financed mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.

Like all wars, this one is partly about public relations. But unlike any war in Israel’s history, in this one the government is seeking to entirely control the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy.

Isn’t it strange how Plucky, Democratic Israel goes to such extreme lengths to prevent any media coverage of what they do, any journalistic interference with their propaganda machine, in light of the fact that — as always — They Did Absolutely Nothing Wrong?  Is physically blocking the media from covering what happens the act of a government that is in the right?  Thomas Jefferson answered that question quite some time ago:

Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.

Israel is now not only detaining the victims of its aggression, but also threatening to prosecute and imprison them.  Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said yesterday:  “All those who lifted a hand against a soldier will be punished to the full extent of the law.”  So when Israel seizes ships in international waters and kills anyone who resists (and others standing near them), that is an act of noble, plucky self-defense.  But those who fail to submit completely to this lawless and barbarous act of aggression are the Real Criminals who will be prosecuted and imprisoned “to the fullest extent of the law.”  In other words, not only is Israel — which seized ships in international waters and killed civilians — the Real Victim, but the Real Criminals are those on the ship.  But doesn’t the victim of a crime usually want media coverage of what the criminal did?  How odd for the victim in this case to take such extreme steps to ensure that the world cannot hear from the witnesses.

* * * * *

Two other related points:  (1) as I noted yesterday, the real question for Americans is our own country’s responsibility for what Israel does; asvirtually the entire world vehemently condemns Israel’s conduct, the U.S. — as usual — acts to protect the Israelis at the U.N. and joins it in heaping blame on its victims; and (2) Robert Farley highlights a small though typical piece of false Israeli propaganda, this one from supreme propagandist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, which pervades our discourse in unchallenged form.

Posted in Press Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What does Israel fear from media coverage?

Interview: At Least 15 Dead After Israel Attacks Gaza-Bound Aid Flotilla

Posted by Admin on June 1, 2010

I interviewed Adam Shapiro, board member of the Free Gaza Movement, hours after the attack on the Free Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

Listen Here – Transcript below.

Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza strip. Dubbed the Freedom Flotilla, the ships were aiming to break Israel’s 3-year blockade of Gaza. At least 15 people were killed and dozens injured when Israeli troops attacked the lead ship in the convoy-the Turkish “Mavi Marmara”-early Monday morning. The attack happened in international waters, 75 miles off the coast of Israel and Gaza. We reached Adam Shapiro in New York a few hours after the attack. He’s a board member of the Free Gaza movement, one of the groups that coordinated the Freedom Flotilla. His wife Huwaida Arraf is the chairperson of the Free Gaza movement and is on the flotilla.

Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: “No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters.”

More information on the Israeli attack:

Live coverage from Al Jazeera English

FreeGaza.org

Witness Gaza

Follow #flotilla, @JamalDajani, @avinunu on Twitter for the latest updates.

TRANSCRIPT

Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman. We have on the line with us Adam Shapiro. He is a board member of the Free Gaza Movement. Adam, we got word several hours ago that the Israeli military had attacked the Free Gaza Flotilla. We are speaking to you at about 3:30 AM Eastern Standard Time. Can you tell us what you understand has happened?


Adam Shapiro:
The Israelis launched a military operation involving about a thousand soldiers, using ships, using helicopters, and using airplanes to attack the flotilla of six ships – three passenger and three cargo ships, at approximately between 8 and 9 pm Eastern Standard Time. All the ships have been captured. One of the ships that we know for sure, which had a satellite communication ability, the large Turkish ship with about 600 passengers including members of Parliament from different countries, was attacked by Israeli soldiers using live ammunition. We now know that at least 14 people have been confirmed killed, and perhaps as many as 20 killed, with over 60 injured, and currently all the ships are being brought into the Israeli port of Haifa.

Amy Goodman: We are reading Israeli military reports that say when they boarded the Turkish ship, that they were attacked by sticks and knives. What do you understand has happened?

Adam Shapiro: Our people on the ship reported live as the soldiers came onto the ship, and reported that soldiers were opening fire as they were coming onto the ship, and they were descending from helicopters. So, our understanding is that the Israeli soldiers opened fire first. I have not seen or heard any thing else about – and there are many journalists on board that ship – anything else about our people, the passengers on that ship, posing any kind of threat. There was a live feed coming from the ship using satellite, video satellite, on satellite, that has been rebroadcast on CNN, on CNN Turk, on Al Jazeera, on Press TV, on numerous media outlets, not one image from this entire footage shows any of the passengers holding any kind of object that could be construed as a weapon. So, I mean, I am sure that the Israelis would like the world to believe that they were the ones being attacked as they assaulted these ships, but this is just Israeli spin.

Amy Goodman: Adam Shapiro, what is the purpose of the Free Gaza Flotilla?

Adam Shapiro: The purpose of the Free Gaza Freedom Flotilla was to literally break the Israeli blockade that it is imposing on Gaza, a form of collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians who are trying to survive at this point, basically, especially after the Israeli attacks in December, 2008-January, 2009, in which much of Gaza was reduced to rubble, and has not been able to have been rebuilt, where Palestinians can’t get basic food and medicine in, to just survive with. And so, this effort was, yes, to deliver the goods and materials that Gaza, the Palestinians in Gaza need, but also to awaken the international community to the abuse that the Palestinians are suffering that has been regarded by the Goldstone Report, by many other reports and by human rights organizations, including the E.U. and other groups, calling this blockade and this siege criminal, as well as cruel and inhuman.

Amy Goodman: What is your response to what has happened in these last hours, to the Israeli military assault on the Free Gaza Flotilla?

Adam Shapiro: We have always been prepared that the Israelis might attack the ships and try, obviously, try to take control of them, and prevent us from reaching Gaza, but the opening of fire against unarmed civilians who pose no threat to Israel, is something, I think, it is absurd in a way that can’t even be described. We all remember what happened to Rachel Corrie in Gaza, standing in front of a home to protect it and being crushed and run over by a bulldozer driver. In this case, I think in a way, it is almost even worse, because Israel said that they were sending their best commandos on this mission, that they were sending their most professional soldiers, and so if these are their professional soldiers, and they opened fire, then we must assume, then, and I don’t think we are incorrect to assume, that they had orders to open fire, because I don’t think that soldiers operating in this way, if they were truly professional, and they were truly the best, well-trained commandos that Israel had, they would have no reason to shoot, unless they were ordered to do so.

And I really hope that the United States, the Europeans, and Turkey, and the other governments who had citizens on board press for an independent investigation, not an Israeli investigation, an independent investigation. This attack took place in international waters, not in Israeli waters.

Amy Goodman: Who was on the Turkish ship?

Adam Shapiro: On board the Turkish ship were over, approximately about 600 passengers. We had quite a large number of Turkish activists. Of course, the boat was secured in Turkey, and purchased by a Turkish organization, so many of their people were on board. We also had members of the European Parliament on board, we had members of Arab parliaments on board, including Egypt and Jordan, we had others activists who have been active in trying to raise the awareness of what’s happening to Palestinians in general and specifically in Gaza, and we had media. We had Al Jazeera on board, we had a couple of Turkish broadcasting channels on board, as well as other print and other forms of media on board.

Amy Goodman: Adam Shapiro, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Adam Shapiro: Thank you very much.

Amy Goodman: Adam Shapiro is a board member of the Free Gaza Movement.


Follow Amy Goodman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/democracynow

Posted in Press Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Interview: At Least 15 Dead After Israel Attacks Gaza-Bound Aid Flotilla

In a financial crisis, what counts is what works

Posted by Admin on June 1, 2010

In a financial crisis, what counts is what works

Free-market capitalism has imploded, and Europe’s moment has not come: big-picture explanations of the world rarely hold good for long

Grievous, but perhaps not grievous enough. Sufficient to prompt swift action to prevent the global economy sliding into depression, but perhaps so successful that the option of a return to business as usual has been kept alive.

Almost three years into the financial crisis , all regions are growing, albeit at varying speeds. There is pressure on heavily indebted governments to abandon unorthodox economic policies and return to rigid fiscal austerity. Banks, hedge funds and private equity firms are lobbying hard to water down attempts to rein in their activities.

Adrian Blundell-Wignall, an official at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, spoke for many last week when he said: “How big is big enough?”

Speaking in a personal capacity at the OECD’s annual ministerial forum, Blundell-Wignall warned there was likely to be a second, even bigger, meltdown unless there was radical reform of the financial sector, including splitting up banks with both retail and speculative arms.

Although this is a sombre conclusion, it may prove accurate. The current crisis has yet to have the cathartic impact of the slump of the 1930s, when the economic cost was far higher and the links between the failure of the old laissez-faire model and the drift to political extremism were plain.

Nouriel Roubini, one of the few economists to spot the sub-prime crisis coming , says in his new book, Crisis Economics (with Stephen Mihm, published by Allen Lane), that it is precisely because the downturn has been handled more deftly this time that the impetus for deep, structural reform has faltered. “Had policymakers failed to arrest the crisis, as they failed during the Depression, the calls for reform today would be deafening: there’s nothing like ubiquitous breadlines and 25% unemployment to focus the minds of legislators.”

But, thankfully, policymakers did avoid most of the mistakes of the 1930s and we are where we are. In the circumstances, what the future holds is either full-blown recovery courtesy of the breathing space provided by central banks and finance ministries; another crash preceded by what the late socialist thinker Chris Harman described as “zombie capitalism”; or reform and renewal.

Full recovery would mean that the global economy could continue to prosper even when governments withdraw the support provided by low interest rates, tax cuts and higher public spending. That looks improbable, particularly since there is likely to be a simultaneous tightening of fiscal policy in many countries.

Zombie capitalism is where governments continue to buy up worthless paper from banks, where fundamentally insolvent institutions are kept alive for fear that their failure would cause systemic risk, where every country tries to export its way out of trouble, where the shrinkage of the financial sector depresses growth rates, and where the global imbalances between surplus and deficit countries remain worryingly large. That looks a more likely option.

What, then, are the prospects for reform and renewal? At the very least, this route is likely to be long, hard and strewn with setbacks. It may not be chosen, as Blundell-Wignall and Roubini fear, until there is system failure. The good news, though, is that the ideological vacuum left by the crisis creates the intellectual and political space for change. Since the demise of communism at the end of the 1980s, the west has had three competing belief systems. The first, free-market capitalism, imploded three years ago. The second, Europe, has taken a fearful battering over the past few months. A third, environmentalism, still has only a limited number of devotees.

Simon Tormey, professor of social and political sciences at Sydney University, put it well during a debate on the future of capitalism at the OECD. This, he said, is a pagan world where there is a scepticism about meta-narratives.

Rightly so. History shows that big-picture explanations of the world rarely hold good for long, and end with a fanatical core of true believers seeking to impose their will on the rest of us. If, as Jimmy Porter says in Look Back in Anger, there are no great causes left to fight for, that’s almost certainly a good thing. The demise of the meta-narrative doesn’t mean the end of politics or the abandonment of the search for making life better. On the contrary, it means a messier world in which there is less dogma but greater experimentation.

Let’s put this into some sort of context. Up until 2007, the credo was that markets worked, period. The world would be a better place if the role of government was diminished and financial markets allowed to get on with making money. If there was a role for the state, it was to champion structural reform of economic life: removing barriers to trade and, by investment in human capital, making their workforces more employable.

What actually happened was that endless financial innovation destabilised the global economy, while the benefits of growth accrued to a small cadre at the top and not to the rest of the newly flexible labour market. There was growth, but only because policymakers actively connived in the creation of bubbles. Indebtedness masqueraded as wealth.

The shorthand term for this model was Anglo-Saxon capitalism, and when it blew up it was thought that Europe’s moment had come. The European Union offered a kinder, more civilised way of running the economy in the 21st century, providing solidarity instead of cut-throat competition, protection for its citizens rather than low wages and welfare cuts.

Bonkers beliefs

Belief in Europe was just as messianic – and just as bonkers – as belief in the market. The idea was that you could take a dozen or more countries of wildly differing economic performance, with entirely disparate cultures, and bolt them harmoniously together. What’s more, you could do this without a common language to facilitate labour mobility or a common budget to transfer resources from rich countries to poor countries.

During the bubble years these fundamental design flaws were kept hidden, but they have been exposed by the crisis. Low interest rates allowed countries on the periphery to grow strongly for a while, covering up their steady loss of competitiveness against the country at Europe’s core, Germany. The financial crash resulted in a deep recession, soaring budget deficits and fears in the financial markets of debt default.

For all the talk of European solidarity, there is absolutely no evidence that German taxpayers will agree to a common fiscal policy to provide the budgetary support for the weaker parts of the euro area that Washington provides for the poorer US states. As such, the only options for countries like Greece , Ireland and Spain are devaluation (ruled out by monetary union), default (ditto) or years of deflation. They have opted for the third course, even though this will lead to slower growth and make it even harder to reduce budget deficits. Europe, touted as a progressive alternative to Anglo-Saxon economics, has become neo-liberalism on steroids.

Ultimately, the problem with the meta-narratives is that they don’t deliver. The postwar era of strong trade unions, full employment policies and capital controls produced stronger, more equitable growth than three decades of deregulation, liberalisation and flexible labour markets. The more integrated Europe has become, the worse it has performed.

China and India prove that it is possible to thrive without a meta-narrative. Both countries have systems of managed capitalism fully in the tradition of the mixed economies that prevailed in the west during the heyday of social democracy. What counts is what works. There is a lesson in that somewhere.

Economics Financial crisis European debt crisis Economic policy Banking Recession Greece Spain Ireland Europe European Union Germany Larry Elliott

Posted in Press Releases | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on In a financial crisis, what counts is what works