Monday, February 18, 2008

On a mule: the first American visitor to Iraq

" ... The next eight weeks, filled with danger and exhilaration, were the high point of Grant’s life.  In Hakkari he discovered a wonderland of snow-crusted peaks, rushing rivers, and terraced gardens.  He met the Christians’ patriarch, Mar Shimun, and made plans for American schools in the mountains.  The Nestorians flocked to greet him and receive medical care, and the Kurds came as well.  A terrifying encounter with Nurullah, the murderer of Schulz, ended in triumph when Grant “cured” the Kurd of a flu-like illness using a powerful dose of tartar emetic.  By Christmas 1839 he had returned to the American mission station in Urmia, northwest Iran, where he had begun his long journey ten months before.

Grant’s goals were plain: to heal the sick, to bolster the area’s Nestorian Christians for the fight against “Mohammedan delusion,” and to prepare them to lead in the “spiritual regeneration of Asia.”  The grandiosity of this plan did nothing to keep him, in the remaining four years of his life, from striving for its fulfillment.  Reality, of course, steered him in quite a different direction.

Mountain life, Grant discovered, was hard.  Hakkari’s windowless hovels were built of mud and stone.  Its terraced fields, hacked from the rock, shuddered beneath the assaults of winter avalanches and spring floods.  From their caves, bears emerged to ravage crops and kill sheep; and the wolves were never far behind.

Among humans, intrigue abounded.  The Kurdish emir, Nurullah, plotted against the Nestorian patriarch, Mar Shimun, a prelate who carried a loaded rifle whenever he went abroad.  Nurullah’s nephew, also a Muslim and a good friend of the patriarch, plotted against his uncle. Some Christian tribesmen wanted to kill the emir; others planned to kill their own patriarch. The Turkish pasha in Mosul wanted to hang all of them.  And all the while the raiding, blood feuds, brigandage, and sheep-stealing went back and forth in every possible Christo-Kurdish combination, with the Christians making a special point every Good Friday to attack the Jews.

Dr. Grant’s arrival, all parties believed, foretold European encroachment and conquest.  Thus, though he abjured politics, his very presence made a political statement.  Strictly honest in his dealings, generous and kindly to a fault, Grant and his motives were always suspect. When he built a mission house in Asheetha, a Nestorian village, all assumed that he was building a fortified castle.  In a world where only “my enemy’s enemy” was a friend, the man who loved all people was building on sand. ... "

 

~ From Asahel Grant: The First American to Fail in Iraq ~

 

We worry about a nutcase U.S. president destroying the world to save it

At a press conference in Islamabad today, Pakistani Brig. Gen. Atta M. Iqhman expressed concern about U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. Iqhman, who oversees the safety and security of the Pakistani nuclear force, said that U.S. protocols for storing and handling nuclear weapons are inadequate. "In Pakistan, we store nuclear warheads separately from their delivery systems, and a nuclear warhead can only be activated if three separate officers agree," Iqhman said. "In the United States, almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons still sit atop missiles, on hair-trigger alert, and it only takes two launch-control officers to activate a nuclear weapon. The U.S. government has persistently ignored arms control experts around the world who have said they should at least de-alert their weapons."

Iqhman also questioned the adequacy of U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. He expressed particular concern about the August 29, 2007, incident in which six nuclear weapons were accidentally loaded under the wing of a B-52 by workers who did not observe routine inspection procedures and thought they were attaching conventional weapons to the B-52. The flight navigator should have caught their mistake, but he neglected to inspect the weapons as required. For several hours the nuclear weapons were in the air without anyone's knowledge. "The United States needs to develop new protocols for storing and loading nuclear weapons, and it needs to do a better job of recruiting and training the personnel who handle them," Iqhman said.

Iqhman added the Pakistani government would be willing to offer technical advice and assistance to the United States on improving its nuclear weapons handling procedures. Speaking anonymously because of the issue's sensitivity, senior Pentagon officials said it is Washington's role to give, not receive, advice on nuclear weapons safety and surety issues.

Iqhman pointed out that the August 29 event was not an isolated incident; there have been at least 24 accidents involving nuclear weapons on U.S. planes. He mentioned a 1966 incident in which four nuclear weapons fell to the ground when two planes collided over Spain, as well as a 1968 fire that caused a plane to crash in Greenland with four hydrogen bombs aboard. In 1980, a Titan II missile in Arkansas exploded during maintenance, sending a nuclear warhead flying 600 feet through the air. In a remark that visibly annoyed a U.S. official present at the briefing, Iqhman described the U.S. nuclear arsenal as "an accident waiting to happen."

Jay Keuse of MSNBC News asked Iqhman if Pakistan was in any position to be lecturing other countries given Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan's record of selling nuclear technology to other countries. "All nuclear weapons states profess to oppose proliferation while helping select allies acquire nuclear weapons technology," Iqhman replied. "The United States helped Britain and France obtain the bomb; France helped the Israelis; and Russia helped China. And China," he added coyly, "is said by Western media sources to have helped Pakistan. So why can't Pakistan behave like everyone else?"

Iqhman's deputy, Col. Bom Zhalot also expressed concern about the temperament of the U.S. public, asking whether they had the maturity and self-restraint to be trusted with the ultimate weapon. "Their leaders lecture us on the sanctity of life, and their president believes that every embryo is sacred, but they are the only country to have used these terrible weapons--not just once, but twice. Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the plane that bombed Hiroshima, said he never lost a night's sleep over killing 100,000 people, many of them women and children. That's scarcely human."

While Iqhman glared reproachfully at Zhalot for this rhetorical outburst, Zhalot continued: "We also worry that the U.S. commander-in-chief has confessed to having been an alcoholic. Here in Pakistan, alcohol is 'haram,' so this isn't a problem for us. Studies have also found that one-fifth of U.S. military personnel are heavy drinkers. How many of those have responsibility for nuclear weapons?"

John G. Libb of the Washington Times asked if Americans were wrong to be concerned about Pakistan's nuclear stockpile given the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. Colonel Zhalot replied: "Millions of Americans believe that these are the last days and that they will be raptured to heaven at the end of the world. You have a president who describes Jesus as his favorite philosopher, and one of the last remaining candidates in your presidential primaries is a preacher who doesn't believe in evolution. Many Pakistanis worry that the United States is being taken over by religious extremists who believe that a nuclear holocaust will just put the true believers on a fast track to heaven. We worry about a nutcase U.S. president destroying the world to save it."

U.S. diplomats in Pakistan declined comment.

 

~ Source: A Pakistani view of U.S. nuclear weapons ~

 

Karachi: People's Resistance Street Theater

I do not remember if I have called to your attention the exemplary work being done for the cause of freedom and justice in Pakistan by the People’s Resistance - “a coalition of civil society organizations that includes Karachi WAF, HRCP, Women’s Peace Commission, lawyers, journalists, and other professionals.”

They have participated in marches, rallied, held candle-light vigils, and hosted banned TV shows on the streets. You can go through abro’s flickr set to see the amazing work.

It is their public theater that has intrigued me the most. The plays are the brainchild of Shahid Shafaat. This description from Emergency Times:

Yesterday (Feb.5th, Tuesday), the street theatre group of PR did three chilling performances on sea view. It was an 8 minutes long theatre which highlighted the plight of a poor household, where a ‘chowkidaar’ takes absolute control by promising ‘khushhaali’ to its inhabitants. Instead of their situation getting any better, the family is fed-up by the chowkidaar’s demands for security measures in their home. Finally, complete chaos takes place as the situation of the family and of society in general goes from bad to worst. During the pandemonium, the narrator stops everyone and interacts with the crowd.

A lot of different and interesting views were exchanged with people on the beach. However, probably because of my green army cap and crude punjabi-accented portrayal of the ‘chowkidaar’, people immediately answered Musharaff as the main culprit for the family’s plight. When asked what could be the solution for the household’s problems, many people simply suggested the removal of the army from civilian affairs, while others stated that all of us have to work together for the nation’s betterment.

You can see pictures and also read about their first play, Jadugar at Teeth Maestro as well.

 

~ From Chapati Mystery ~


 

Subsidy tease for a solar grand plan

A recent issue of Scientific American featured a "Solar Grand Plan." Its authors described a way for the United States to obtain nearly 100 percent of its electricity and 90 percent of its total energy, including transportation, from solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal resources by end-of-century. Electricity would cost a comfortable 5 cents per kilowatt hour.

U.S. carbon emissions would be reduced 62 percent from their 2005 levels. Some 600 coal and gas-fired power plants would be displaced. The federal investment would be $400 billion over the next 40 years ($10 billion a year) to deploy renewable technologies and suitable transmission infrastructure.

If that future seems too good to be true, then look at two other studies during the past 13 months that have reached similar conclusions: one sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (PDF), the other by the Nuclear Policy Research Institute and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. All three concur that energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies can satisfy the nation's demand for power without additional nuclear or fossil-fueled power plants.

If $400 billion seems unaffordable, consider: It's less money than the federal government already has spent on the Iraq war, only a third of the $1.2 trillion that some experts now predict the war will cost, and only a sixth of the federal government's current annual subsidies for fossil and nuclear energy...

~ Read on... ~

 

Plight of the Homeless Veteran - A Tale as Ancient as Rome

The financial strain from extended tours of duty is part of the reason for this travesty, where one in four members of the National Guard have lost their jobs while serving overseas and the government refuses to do anything about it.

It's a very old tradition that repeats over and over again throughout history, where the bravest and most patriotic of the working class get screwed first. It is particularly likely to occur when a republic begins to drift towards empire.


"The wild beasts that roam over Italy have every one of them a cave or lair to lurk in; but the men who fight and die for Italy enjoy the common air and light, indeed, but nothing else; houseless and homeless they wander about with their wives and children. And it is with lying lips that their imperators exhort the soldiers in their battles to defend sepulchres and shrines from the enemy; for not a man of them has an hereditary altar, not one of all these many Romans an ancestral tomb, but they fight and die to support others in wealth and luxury, and though they are styled masters of the world, they have not a single clod of earth that is their own."
-Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus
 
[ ... ]
 
By Roman law, legionaries were required to serve in a complete campaign, no matter how long it took. Soldiers were forced to leave their farms in the hands of their wives and children.
Starting with the Punic Wars, the typical military campaign was extended from a couple seasons to a couple years. These small farms gradually went into bankruptcy and were bought up by the wealthy families, creating huge estates. Also, the successful wars brought in huge numbers of captured slaves from the conquered regions, which were used to work the plantations.
When soldiers returned from the wars they no longer had a farm to return to, so they wound up being part of the teaming masses of homeless on the streets of Rome.

On top of that, the enormous number of soldiers killed fighting Carthage fell disproportionately on these small farmers and working poor, as did the destruction of thousands of farms and villages by Hannibal's armies.
In all, the Punic Wars caused a dramatic shift in power and wealth to the patricians and away from the plebeians. If left unaddressed, this shift would undermine the foundations of the Roman Republic.
 
[ ... ]
 
 In his crusade to help the homeless veterans, Tiberius reached back into ancient Roman history to a law more than two centuries old called Lex Licinia Sextia.
The law was a combination of constitutional and agrarian demands. The constitutional demands had been met centuries before, but the agrarian demands had been largely ignored and unenforced. The law was intended to limit the amount of common and newly conquered lands that the patricians could own.
Tiberius decided that now was the time to enforce this ancient law, which would buy out the illegally occupied land and distribute it to the poor.

The plantation owners reacted to this proposal as one would expect.
 
[ ... ]
 
 On the day of the vote, Tiberius appeared in the Forum in mourning costume, implying that his defeat would mean his impeachment and death. The Senators had had enough. They marched on the Forum armed with clubs and spears.
Tiberius' followers made a stand, but they were overwhelmed by superior numbers. Tiberius was beaten to death on the floor of the Forum.
 
[ ... ]
 
 But the story doesn't end here.

Nine years after Tiberius was slain, Gaius Gracchus was elected tribune of the people.
If they suspected that Gaius would take up where his brother left off, they were wrong - Gaius' plans were even more revolutionary.
 
Of the laws which he now proposed, with the object of gratifying the people and abridging the power of the senate, the first was concerning the public lands, which were to be divided amongst the poor citizens; another was concerning the common soldiers, that they should be clothed at the public charge, without any diminution of their pay, and that none should be obliged to serve in the army who was not full seventeen years old; another gave the same right to all the Italians in general, of voting at elections, as was enjoyed by the citizens of Rome; a fourth related to the price of corn, which was to be sold at a lower rate than formerly to the poor; and a fifth regulated the courts of justice, greatly reducing the power of the senators.
 
In 122 B.C. Gaius illegally ran for re-election, and succeeded with overwhelming support of the people. However, when he ran for a third term as tribune he failed.
The conservative government that replaced him immediately nullified many of his progressive laws. When some of Gaius' supporters resorted to murder, that was all the excuse his opponents needed...
 
 

Level 3 phase of alert in WHO global influenza preparedness plan

Current phase of alert in the WHO global influenza preparedness plan

- WHO global influenza preparedness plan
 
[ Phase 3 - Pandemic alert - No or very limited human to human transmission ]
 
Experts at WHO and elsewhere believe that the world is now closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, when the last of the previous century's three pandemics occurred. WHO uses a series of six phases of pandemic alert as a system for informing the world of the seriousness of the threat and of the need to launch progressively more intense preparedness activities.

The designation of phases, including decisions on when to move from one phase to another, is made by the Director-General of WHO.

Each phase of alert coincides with a series of recommended activities to be undertaken by WHO, the international community, governments, and industry. Changes from one phase to another are triggered by several factors, which include the epidemiological behaviour of the disease and the characteristics of circulating viruses.

The world is presently in phase 3: a new influenza virus subtype is causing disease in humans, but is not yet spreading efficiently and sustainably among humans.

~ From Current WHO phase of pandemic alert ~

 

USDA Orders Nation's Largest Beef Recall

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sunday ordered the recall of 143 million pounds of frozen beef from a California slaughterhouse, the subject of an animal-abuse investigation, that provided meat to school lunch programs.

Officials said it was the largest beef recall in the United States, surpassing a 1999 ban of 35 million pounds of ready-to-eat meats. No illnesses have been linked to the newly recalled meat, and officials said the health threat was likely small.

The recall will affect beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006, that came from Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., the federal agency said.

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said his department has evidence that Westland did not routinely contact its veterinarian when cattle became non-ambulatory after passing inspection, violating health regulations.

"Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection, Food Safety and Inspection Service has determined them to be unfit for human food and the company is conducting a recall," Schafer said in a statement.

A phone message left for Westland president Steve Mendell was not immediately returned.

Federal officials suspended operations at Westland/Hallmark after an undercover video from the Humane Society of the United States surfaced showing crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts.

Two former employees were charged Friday. Five felony counts of animal cruelty and three misdemeanors were filed against a pen manager. Three misdemeanor counts — illegal movement of a non-ambulatory animal — were filed against an employee who worked under that manager. Both were fired.

Authorities said the video showed workers kicking, shocking and otherwise abusing "downer" animals that were apparently too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse. Some animals had water forced down their throats, San Bernardino County prosecutor Michael Ramos said.

No charges have been filed against Westland, but an investigation by federal authorities continues.

Officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school programs, but they believe most of the meat probably has already been eaten...

~ Read on... ~

 

Ralph Nader: Open Letter To George W. Bush

Dear President Bush:

I was listening to your address before the self-described Conservative Political Action Committee gathering in Washington, D.C. last week, while reviewing materials on occupational hazards in the workplace. The contrast between your declarations and the ongoing annual tragedy of 58,000 Americans losing their lives due to workplace diseases and traumas (OSHA figures) was astonishing and deplorable.

Your remarks included such phrases as “You and I believe in accountability;” “People should be responsible for their actions;” “Maintaining a culture of life;” and that “My number one priority is to protect you;” “All human life is precious and deserves to be protected.”

These are words and phrases that you have been using year after year in your capacity as a judicially-selected President who has sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land.

Therefore, let us apply your verbal sensitivities about accountability, responsibility and the safety of working Americans, to your sworn duty to uphold the job safety laws of your Administration.

Having been deeply involved in the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1970-during the Nixon Administration, I know that its principal mission was regulatory: to establish federal workplace safety standards, enforce them and upgrade them to avoid obsolescence.

Although in its 37 year history, OSHA regulations and inspections saved many lives, the latter two-thirds of its history has witnessed a serious deterioration in its performance. It is now a captive of industry, under budgeted, understaffed with a consulting attitude rather than a law-and-order, live-saving determination.

Under the Clinton Administration, not one chemical control regulation was initiated and issued in eight years. Under your regime, OSHA is dormant. Your Secretary of Labor ignores it where she does not actually operate to keep it asleep. Yet, on average, every week over 1000 Americans die from the workplace exposures.

Under the Reagan Administration, the White House rejected an urgent request by the physicians at the Centers for Disease Control for a three million dollar budget to send certified letters to 250,000 workers found in a lengthy field study to be exposed to significant hazards-chemical and particulate-in their factories, foundries and mines. The letters were to urge the workers to have their doctors check them out for actual or incipient diseases. Instead, the workers were left defenseless.

Last week, an explosive fireball imploded the century-old Dixie Crystal sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, taking, at latest count, seven lives and causing many serious injuries. This is only the latest of a steady series of explosions, mine collapses, cave-ins at construction sites and other fatally traumatic occurrences.

And who can forget the gripping, prize-winning series in The New York Times in January, 2003 that began with these words:

“Tyler, Texas-It is said that only the desperate seek work at Tyler Pipe, a sprawling, rusting pipe foundry out on Route 69, just past the flea market. Behind a high metal fence lies a workplace that is part Dickens and part Darwin, a dim, dirty, hellishly hot place where men are regularly disfigured by amputations and burns, where turnover is so high that convicts are recruited from local prisons…”

Tyler Pipe is owned by McWane, Inc. of Burmingham, Alabama, which is a very large manufacturer of cast-iron sewer and water pipe. Since 1995, according to a nine-month investigation by the Times, PBS and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “at least 4,600 injuries have been recorded in McWane foundries, many hundreds of them serious ones.” They included fatalities.

Numerous coal companies were finally caught a few years ago faking their coal dust samples to avoid federal regulations designed to diminish coal miners’ Pneumoconiosis. Fines for these deliberate violations were, as usual, slaps on the companies’ wrists. Since 1900, more coal miners have lost their lives from coal dust and mine collapses than all the Americans lost in World War II. And that is just one industry!

So, where is George W. Bush? The man who says his Job One is to protect the safety of Americans. Has he visited any of their disasters caused by corporate wrongdoing, not by natural disasters? Has he ever made a major speech or proposed a decent budget and stronger enforcement and authority for the federal worker safety and health agencies?

Has he been maintaining “a culture of life” under an “accountability” framework? Does he believe that he and his top appointees have “been responsible for their actions.” Not at all.

Perhaps you are not worried about this lonely epidemic of death, disease and injury day after day, since it is not caused by terrorists. Even if every three weeks, workplace conditions lead to a fatality toll greater than 9/11. Imagine, every three weeks, on average.

Remember Mr. Bush, you said “all human life is precious and deserves to be protected.” This is especially so when the perils are so preventable by timely regulatory inspections and enforcement of up-to-date life-saving standards.

It comes back, in the final analysis, to that oath of office you took, doesn’t it, to enforce the laws under our Constitution whose preamble starts with “We the People.” Not “We the Corporations.”

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is The Seventeen Traditions.

 

~ Link ~

 

 

Federal Bureau of Intimidation by Howard Zinn

" ... A report was made for the Southern Regional Council of Atlanta on the events in Albany. The report, which was very critical of the FBI, came out in the New York Times. And King was asked what he thought of the role of the FBI. He said he agreed with the report that the FBI was not doing its job, that the FBI was racist, etcetera, etcetera.

At that point, the FBI also inquired who the author of that report was, and asked that an investigation begin on the author. Since I had written it, I was interested in the FBI's interest in the author. In fact, I sent away for whatever information the FBI had on me, through the Freedom of Information Act. I became curious, I guess. I wanted to test myself because if I found that the FBI did not have any dossier on me, it would have been tremendously embarrassing and I wouldn't have been able to face my friends. But, fortunately, there were several hundred pages of absolutely inconsequential material. Very consequential for the FBI, I suppose, but inconsequential for any intelligent person.

I'm talking about the FBI and U.S. democracy because here we have this peculiar situation that we live in a democratic country-everybody knows that, everybody says it, it's repeated, it's dinned into our ears a thousand times, you grow up, you pledge allegiance, you salute the flag, you hail democracy, you look at the totalitarian states, you read the history of tyrannies, and here is the beacon light of democracy. And, of course, there's some truth to that. There are things you can do in the United States that you can't do many other places without being put in jail.

But the United States is a very complex system. It's very hard to describe because, yes, there are elements of democracy; there are things that you're grateful for, that you're not in front of the death squads in El Salvador. On the other hand, it's not quite a democracy. And one of the things that makes it not quite a democracy is the existence of outfits like the FBI and the CIA. Democracy is based on openness, and the existence of a secret policy, secret lists of dissident citizens, violates the spirit of democracy. There are a lot of other things that make the U.S. less than a democracy. For instance, what happens in police stations, and in the encounters between police and citizens on the street. Or what happens in the military, which is a kind of fascist enclave inside this democracy. Or what happens in courtrooms which are supposedly little repositories of democracy, yet the courtroom is presided over by an emperor who decides everything that happens in a courtroom -what evidence is given, what evidence is withheld, what instructions are given to the jury, what sentences are ultimately meted out to the guilty and so on.

So it's a peculiar kind of democracy. Yes, you vote. You have a choice. Clinton, Bush and Perot! It's fantastic. Time and Newsweek. CBS and NBC. It's called a pluralist society. But in so many of the little places of everyday life in which life is lived out, somehow democracy doesn't exist. And one of the creeping hands of totalitarianism running through the democracy is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. ... "

~ Read more... ~

 

Civil Resistance In the Age of Bush and Cheney

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” - Mohandas Gandhi

The late Philip Berrigan, Dissenter Emeritus, wrote in 1997: “The empire’s wars are killing us.” (1) One of the big props for that empire is the clique in our society, known as the “Military-Industrial Complex.” This is the same powerful special interest that President Dwight D. Eisenshower warned the nation about in his “Farewell Address.” (2) Peace activist Berrigan felt, as a result of the arms race, that the world was moving towards a nuclear holocaust. In any event, Professor Francis A. Boyle’s new book, “Protesting Power: War, Resistance, and Law,” reveals how some courageous individuals have successfully challenged the many outrageous, and ongoing, crimes of our national regimes, via their arrest in a Civil Resistance-type action, and, subsequently, as a defendant in a court of law before a jury of their peers.

One of the initial things that Professor Boyle does in his excellent tome is to distinguish between the terms “civil resistance” and “civil disobedience.” Often they are confused in the minds of the public. Professor Boyle said that in “civil resistance” cases, you have individuals, acting “peaceably,” who are attempting to “prevent the ongoing commission of international crimes...They are acting for the express purpose of upholding the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution, international, and human rights.” An example of civil resistance would be protesters risking arrest by trespassing in order to the prevent the production and use of “First Strike” nuclear weapons, which Professor Boyle claims are “illegal” under International Law.

Classic civil disobedience cases, on the other hand, involved activists, who deliberately choose, by their conduct, to violate domestic laws for the “express purpose of challenging and changing those laws.” As an example, Professor Boyle cited the activists, particularly from the African-American community, during the 1950s and 1960s, who went to jail for various offenses, like in the historic sit-ins, in order to spotlight racially discriminatory laws and to bring about equal Civil Rights for all Americans.

In his demanding role as an educator, attorney, consultant and respected expert witness on International Law, Professor Boyle has been in the trenches taking on the “State Crimes” of various U.S. administrations for close to thirty years. Civil Resistance has been the primary tool utilized by the activists in their legal-based, court room battles. As a result, the civil resisters, he insists, have become the “Sheriffs and the U.S. government officials committing the crimes, the outlaws.”

Professor Boyle underscores how successive U.S. administrations have manipulated the public in order to justify their lawless ways. The Bush-Cheney Gang is one of his prime examples. He said that it is hell bent on stealing the “hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and people living in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.” Essentially, it sells its foreign policy wrongdoings, like the war in Iraq, by posing a “Hobessian” choice to the people. It suggests that there are only two alternatives: Either threaten or use U.S. military force in a particular situation, or allow “the enemies to prevail.” Professor Boyle insisted that they ignore a third way, which embraces diplomacy, peaceful resolutions of disputes, the application of the rules of law and the traditions of fair play. Professor Boyle labeled the conflict in Iraq as “criminal,” and the foreign policy of the Bush-Cheney Gang, which was fueled, in part, by the rabid Neocon ideologues, “as out of control.”

How does civil resistance work within the framework of the American judicial system? Well, Professor Boyle cited the “People v. Jarka” case, among other landmark litigation, to illustrate some of his key points. In 1984, activists protested in front of the Great Lake’s Naval Station base, which is located in Illinois, on Lake Michigan. The focus of the demonstration centered on the issues of U.S.’s violence-producing “intervention in Central America” and also on our country’s buildup of “offensive nuclear weapons.” Ronald Reagan was the president at the time. The defendants were arrested, when they sat in front of the naval base, locked arms, and refused to be moved. They were charged by authorities with the crimes of “mob action and resisting arrest.”

The defendants, in “Jarka,” elected a trial by jury...

~ Read on... ~

 

And in Vietnam, another generation laid to waste by Agent Orange

Long after the last bullet has been fired in a war, unexploded bombs, landmines and toxic chemicals continue to maim and kill civilians. This is particularly true of the Vietnam war. Three decades after US soldiers and diplomats scrambled aboard the last planes out of Saigon in April 1975, the toxins they left behind still poison Vietnam. Relations with the United States have been normalized since the 1990s, but the denial of justice to the victims of Agent Orange remains a major bone of contention.

Not only are Vietnamese still maimed from treading on unexploded bombs, they are also victims of this insidious scourge that poisons water and food supplies, causing various cancers and crippling deformities. Eighty million liters of Agent Orange were sprayed on the jungles of Vietnam, destroying swathes of irreplaceable rainforest through massive defoliation and leaving a toxic trail of dioxin contamination in the soil for decades. The legacy of this chemical warfare can even be inflicted on the unborn, with Agent Orange birth deformities now being passed on to a third generation.

In the 3,160 villages in the southern part of Vietnam within the Agent Orange spraying zone, 800,000 people continue to suffer serious health problems and are in need of constant medical attention. Last month, members of a US Vietnamese working group reported that it will cost at least $14 million to remove dioxin residues from just one site around the former US airbase in Danang. The cost of a comprehensive clean-up around three dioxin hot spots and former US bases is estimated at around $60 million. The $3 million pledged by US Congress last year is a pathetically inadequate amount set against the billions spent in waging war and deploying weapons of mass destruction.

The recent study of one Agent Orange hot spot, the former US airbase in Danang, found dioxin levels 300 to 400 times higher than internationally accepted limits. The study confirmed that rainwater had carried dioxin into city drains and into a neighboring community that is home to more than 100,000 people...

~ Read on... ~

 

Saving the world's most beautiful bird

The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird is the title of the new book by Bruce Barcott.

Part nature writing, part travel writing, Barcott writes what the NYT calls, “mashing up adventure travel, biography and nature writing in a steamy climate of corruption and intrigue.”

Publishers Weekly has said, “Barcott's compelling narrative is suspenseful right up to the last moment.”

Taken from the book description, “As the dramatic story unfolds, Barcott addresses the realities of economic survival in Third World countries, explores the tension between environmental conservation and human development, and puts a human face on the battle over globalization. In this marvelous and spirited book, Barcott shows us how one unwavering woman risked her life to save the most beautiful bird in the world.”

More can be read courtesy of the NYT article here.

~ Link ~

 

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