Posts Tagged ‘political’
CAMPBELL CLARK, The Globe and Mail, Jul. 04 2012A group of nine senators has warned the United Church of Canada that it could spark a rift with the Jewish community if it approves the boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in occupied lands.
The senators, all United Church members and from both the Conservative and Liberal parties, have waded publicly into a controversial issue before it comes to a vote in mid-August.
It’s a debate in which the lines between church and state have already been crossed several times as the United Church considers a new foray into the electrified world of Mideast politics.
A working group established by the church has issued a report that proposes a boycott of all products from Jewish settlements in occupied lands, arguing the settlements are illegally eating away Palestinian lands and the hope for a two-state solution. But it also rejects a wholesale boycott of all Israeli goods.
The nine senators have warned in a letter to United Church moderator Mardi Tindal that the distinction drawn with the narrower boycott will “be lost upon” Israelis and Canada’s Jewish community.
“What will be made clear to them is that the United Church has chosen sides, declaring Israel guilty and the Palestinians the only injured party,” the senators wrote.
Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth noted that she has no objection to the church wading into weighty international politics, but fears that members of the Jewish community will see itself as being singled out by an anti-Israel-sentiment.
“I’d say it’s a matter of diplomacy,” she said. “I don’t think it will be helpful for Jewish-Christian relations.
The church’s working group said it struggled with that issue. But its report maintained that arguments about the complexity of affairs in the Middle East are not an excuse for silence.
Staff, July 3, 2012 by Common Dreams“This is just the beginning,” warns Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, of what life with the impacts of climate change will look like. His message follows a week in which 2000 heat records were matched or broken and the month of June in which over 3200 heat records were matched or broken.
Yet during that time, with little exception, there was no mention of climate change during weather broadcasts in which viewers were told to expect little relief from steamy temperatures.
Speaking on Democracy Now! on Tuesday, Masters said, “I think it’s important for the public to hear that what we’re seeing now is the future. We’re going to be seeing a lot more weather like this, a lot more impacts like we’re seeing from this series of heatwaves, fires and storms. And we better prepare for it. We better educate people what’s going on, give the best science that’s out there on what climate change is doing and where it’s likely to head. I think we’re missing a big opportunity here—or our TV meteorologists are—to educate and tell the population what is likely to happen. This is just the beginning, this kind of summer weather we’re having.”
Like Masters, scientist and former TV host Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” connected the dots of extreme weather and climate change on The Ed Show on Monday. “The last 16 years have been the hottest ever, and so this is consistent with models of climate change. The big hurricanes are consistent with models of climate change. The big storms. The dehydration of the forest in Colorado and the forest fires are consistent with models of climate change.”
“This is a chance for us all to pull together and address climate change,” said Nye.
Last week, even before record heat and storms struck much of the nation this weekend, several scientists confirmed — this is what we’ve been telling you would happen with climate change.
“This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level,” said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. “The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”
LES PERREAUX, The Globe and Mail, Jul. 03 2012The announcement was described as a national embarrassment, the crass political manoeuvre of a desperate Quebec government trying to hold on to a Liberal seat at the cost of public health.
Critics lined up with speed and in number on the long weekend to blast Premier Jean Charest for green-lighting a $58-million loan to Canada’s last asbestos mine late on the Friday of the unofficial start of summer vacation season.
The loan stunned environmentalists, the medical community and cancer-fighting groups while promoters of the controversial relaunch of the Jeffrey Mine were more difficult to find. Even the province’s own public-health doctors are outraged.
Mr. Charest “has good reason to be ashamed,” said Yv Bonnier Viger, head of Quebec’s association of public-health specialists. “He is relaunching the exploitation of an extremely dangerous material that will cause the suffering and death of thousands of people in poor countries, at only marginal benefit to a desperate community.”
The province, led by retiring minister and local Liberal member of the legislature, Yvon Vallières, announced the loan and reopening before hundreds of thrilled residents of the economically depressed town of Asbestos.
Bernard Coulombe, the mine’s president and tireless promoter, had worked for years to find private investors willing to put in the balance of the $83-million start-up cost. “It was not easy to convince partners to work with us,” he said, adding that the mine will run 20 years on the investment.
Kathleen Ruff, an activist who has fought against government funding for the mine for years, said there was good reason for the difficulty: “The marketplace had spoken, this mine can only survive with artificial government life support.”
By Frank Cocozzelli, Talk to Action, 25 June 12In recent weeks we’ve watched the Vatican try to stifle a vital part of the Catholic Church: the nuns. Indeed, the Church fathers seem to have become quite unhinged in their efforts to quiet women who have dedicated their lives not only to Catholicism, but to betterment of all.
Why is this? Its simply because the good Sisters have the ability to redirect the Church to a place where conservative men do not want to go.
Chris Hedges once wrote “faith is how we treat each other.” Perhaps no other group of Catholics embodies Hedges’ definition of faith than the various orders of Catholic nuns. The women’s orders and individual nuns perform a wide range of services; from teaching in parochial schools; to providing health care; to making great contributions in theology. It has often been nuns who reported their suspicions of priestly pedophilia and forced transparency in how these matters were handled.
Nuns have also been at the forefront of a potential Catholic remonstrance. Is it any wonder that the hierarchy and their friends on the Catholic Right are trying to reign them in?
The Vatican has revealed itself in the current spectacle as more reactionary than conservative. Even the suggestion of discussing progressive takes on dogma is often denounced as heresy. Arguably, moderate and liberal Catholics live in a new reign of terror whose principal players are Bernard Law, disgraced former Boston Cardinal; Cardinal William Levada, Prefect for the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura; and well-placed, movement conservative-friendly bishops and cardinals in cities such as Madison, Wisconsin, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
These clerics apparently recognize that the nuns could become a rallying point and potential leadership for reform for those of us unhappy with the turn away from Vatican II’s Aggiornamento – “bringing up to date” that has occurred since the ascendancy of Pope John Paul II.
In fact, that is exactly how many of us who oppose the reactionary doctrine and culture trickling down from the hierarchy see the nuns’ potential for leadership. They are not a dissident lay group such as Call to Action, but part of the institutional Church. It would be a change from within.
While many in the hierarchy are courting reactionary movements such as Opus Dei and SSPX, groups that seek a more insulated, doctrinaire – and smaller Church.
But the sisters toil in the real world; rubbing elbows with everyday people; dealing with the grey issues of life. This provides them with perspectives sorely missing in the Vatican, notably women’s points of view. The nuns understand pregnancy; they understand glass ceilings; they live with being marginalized by gender. And they see how related injustices play out in the lives of real people.
Many of the country’s leading companies have taken contradictory actions when it comes to climate change science while pumping a tremendous amount of resources into influencing the discussion, according to an analysis released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The science advocacy group examined 28 companies in the S&P 500 that participated in climate policy debates over the past several years. All of them publicly expressed concern about climate change or a commitment to reducing emissions through websites and public statements, but half (14) also misrepresented climate science in their public communications. Many more contributed to the spread of misinformation about climate science in less direct ways, such as through political contributions, trade group memberships, and think tank funding.
“Corporations’ increased ability to influence policy should come with an increased responsibility to let the public know how they are doing so,” said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program and a contributor to the report. “Companies may play a role in policy discussions, but right now, it’s simply far too easy for them to get away with misrepresenting science to achieve their goals.”
Utilizing an array of publicly available data, the report systematically examines how corporate influence fosters confusion on climate change. The analysis found that some American companies, including NRG Energy, Inc., NIKE, Inc. and AES Corporation, accept the findings of climate science and have taken actions in support of science-based policy. Other corporations, including Peabody Energy Corporation, Valero Energy Corporation, and FMC Corporation, have worked aggressively to undermine climate policies and have misrepresented climate science to do so.
Several companies stand out for taking contradictory actions on climate change. Caterpillar Inc., for instance, highlights its commitment to sustainability and climate change mitigation on its website. But the company also serves on the boards of two trade groups that regularly attempt to undermine public understanding of climate science: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. Caterpillar also funds the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, two think tanks that have misrepresented climate science.
Similarly, ConocoPhillips says on its website that it recognizes human activity is “contributing to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that can lead to adverse changes in global climate.” But in comments to the Environmental Protection Agency, the company criticized scientific evidence on the ways climate change can harm public health.
“The difference between what many of these companies say and what they actually do is quite stark,” said Gretchen Goldman, an analyst in the Scientific Integrity Program and a report contributor. “And because we know only limited amounts about their activities, it’s relatively simple for companies to show one face to the public and another to policymakers.”
Climate-heating carbon emissions set a record high in 2011, in a 3.2 percent increase over the previous year, the International Energy Agency reported this week. The main reason for this dangerous increase is that governments are failing to implement policies to prevent catastrophic increases of global temperatures.
By Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service, 29 May 12
A new report released on the last days of international climate talks in Bonn, Germany this week reveals that the planet is heading to a temperature rise of at least 3.5 degrees Celsius, and likely more, according to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), despite an international agreement to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.
Not only are pledges inadequate, but countries are unable to fulfill even those pledges, a new CAT analysis shows. CAT is a joint project of Dutch energy consulting organisation Ecofys, Germany’s Climate Analytics, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“When we compared the emission reduction pledges of countries like Brazil, Mexico and the U.S., we found they did not have the policies in place to meet those pledges,” said Niklas Höhne, director of energy and climate policy at Ecofys.
Höhne told IPS that they looked only at the policies of a few countries, but no country’s policies were enough to meet their targets.
While Mexico introduced a solid new framework climate legislation, it has yet to implement actual policies and measures to reach its pledge, the report found. At the moment, Mexico is set to achieve only 12 percent of its pledged 30 percent reduction from business-as-usual by 2020.
Brazil has an ambitious target but a proposed new forest code, if adopted, could reverse this trend. “Scientific analysis shows that the code could increase its emissions gap substantially,” the report said.
The United States pins many of its hopes on having lower emissions by 2020 due mainly to effects of the recessions and a shift from coal to gas driven by low gas prices.
Yet regulations on coal-fired power plants and on fuel efficiency in vehicles would still leave the United States “some 350 million tonnes of CO2 short of its already inadequate pledge, a gap that is the size of half of Canada’s annual emissions,” the report found.
“We haven’t looked at Canada yet but it’s pretty clear they do not have the policies they need,” Höhne added.
Climate Talks Deadlocked
The Bonn climate talks this week saw little appetite for increasing pledges. “No country wants to move. This is not a positive trend,” Höhne said.
“The Bonn meeting underscores the deep divisions that remain between key countries on how to meet the climate challenge,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“It’s clear we have the technology, know-how, and ability to meet this challenge, but we’re missing the political will, which was in short supply during these last two weeks in Bonn,” said Meyer in a statement from Bonn. Meyer has attended nearly every climate negotiation since they began 18 years ago.
In fact, commitments to reduce emissions have been deadlocked since the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. Even if governments implemented the most stringent reductions they have proposed, world emissions would still need to decline another 9 billion tonnes by 2020 and every year after.
Meanwhile, 2011 emissions are one billion tonnes greater than 2010.
The YouTube video of 12-year-old Victoria Grant speaking at the Public Banking in America conference last month has gone viral, topping a million views on various web sites.
Monetary reform – the contention that governments, not banks, should create and lend a nation’s money – has rarely even made the news, so this is a first. Either the times they are a-changin’, or Victoria managed to frame the message in a way that was so simple and clear that even a child could understand it.
Basically, her message was that banks create money “out of thin air” and lend it to people and governments at interest. If governments borrowed from their own banks, they could keep the interest and save a lot of money for the taxpayers.
She said her own country of Canada actually did this, from 1939 to 1974. During that time, the government’s debt was low and sustainable and it funded all sorts of remarkable things. Only when the government switched to borrowing privately did it acquire a crippling national debt.
Borrowing privately means selling bonds at market rates of interest (which in Canada quickly shot up to 22 percent), and the money for these bonds is ultimately created by private banks. For the latter point, Victoria quoted Graham Towers, head of the Bank of Canada for the first twenty years of its history. He said:
Each and every time a bank makes a loan, new bank credit is created – new deposits – brand new money. Broadly speaking, all new money comes out of a Bank in the form of loans. As loans are debts, then under the present system all money is debt.
Towers was asked, “Will you tell me why a government with power to create money, should give that power away to a private monopoly and then borrow that which Parliament can create itself, back at interest, to the point of national bankruptcy?” He replied, “If Parliament wants to change the form of operating the banking system, then certainly that is within the power of Parliament.”
In other words, said Victoria, “If the Canadian government needs money, they can borrow it directly from the Bank of Canada.
Foreign Minister John Baird told a U.S. audience that Canada went soft on defending fundamental rights like religious freedom some time after the Second World War, but he argued the Harper government is showing a stiffer spine now.
In a speech promoting Ottawa’s plans to open an Office of Religious Freedom in the Foreign Affairs department, Mr. Baird spoke of the “moral call” that people like his grandfather answered in fighting the Second World War.
“And yet, after the war, some decision makers lost sight of our proud tradition to do what is right and what is just,” he said in a draft of the speech. “Some decided it would be better to paint Canada as an honest broker. I call it being afraid to take a clear position, even when that’s what’s needed.”
Mr. Baird was speaking to the Religious Liberty Dinner, an annual fixture on Washington’s busy political dinner schedule organized by religious-liberty associations and the Seventh Day Adventist Church – and for the first time ever, hosted at Canada’s Embassy.
Mr. Baird was invited, according to government officials, as a nod from organizers to Canada’s plans to open a $5 million-a-year Religious Freedom Office, inside Foreign Affairs, some time this year.
The plans for the office, with a projected budget half as big as its U.S. counterpart, has been criticized by some as an attempt to appeal to religious conservatives in Canada.
Mr. Baird said the office will “help our diplomats around the world support religious freedom.”
His speech argued that defending religious freedoms cannot be separated from defending other basic human rights.
Mr. Baird’s speech mentioned the persecution of religious groups including Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and Baha’i. But it dealt most extensively with the targeting of Jews and Christians.
By Gwynne Dyer, May 25, 2012, Embassy
Last weekend’s NATO summit in Chicago was mostly about how to get NATO troops out of Afghanistan without causing too much embarrassment to the Western governments that sent them, and a little bit about how to ensure that the Taliban don’t take over again once the Western troops leave.
The timetable for NATO’s withdrawal is now graven in stone: all Western troops will be withdrawn from actual combat by the end of 2013, and they will all be out of the country by the end of 2014 (except the French, who will all leave by December of this year).
This timetable will be adhered to no matter how the situation on the ground develops—or more likely, degrades—in the next two years. After that, it’s entirely in the Afghans’ hands.
There was some pretty rhetoric to soften this harsh fact: “As Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone,” declared President Barack Obama. But alone is exactly where they will be, although NATO is promising to send the Afghan government $4 billion a year to enable its army to stand up to the Taliban.
The Western alliance has finally accepted that if the foreign troops cannot defeat the Taliban in 11 years, they are most unlikely to do so in 13 or 15 years.
The Russians could have told them that. “Our soldiers are not to blame,” General Sergei Akhromeyev told the Soviet Politburo in 1986. “They’ve fought incredibly bravely in adverse conditions. But to occupy towns and villages temporarily has little value in such a vast land where the insurgents can just disappear into the hills.”
According to the Pentagon’s own numbers, each American soldier in Afghanistan costs about $1 million a year. Pashtun teenagers, eager to show their worth fighting against the foreigners, can be had for about $200 a month each—and there is an almost inexhaustible supply of young Pashtun males. The war was unwinnable from the start.
It may also have been unnecessary.
By Harriet Sherwood, Guardian UK, 28 April 12
PM and defence chief not fit to lead Israel and are misleading the public over Iran, warns former Shin Bet boss Yuval Diskin.
Israel’s former security chief has censured the country’s “messianic” political leadership for talking up the prospects of a military stike on Iran’s nuclear programme.
In unusually candid comments set to ratchet up tensions over Iran at the top of Israel’s political establishment, Yuval Diskin, who retired as head of the internal intelligence agency Shin Bet last year, said he had “no faith” in the abilities of the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the defence minister, Ehud Barak, to conduct a war.
The pair, who are the foremost advocates of military action against Iran’s nuclear programme, were “not fit to hold the steering wheel of power”, Diskin told a meeting on Friday night.
“My major problem is that I have no faith in the current leadership, which must lead us in an event on the scale of war with Iran or a regional war,” he said.
“I don’t believe in either the prime minister or the defence minister. I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings. Believe me, I have observed them from up close … They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off.
“They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.”
Government aides described Diskin’s comments as irresponsible and motivated from personal frustration.
Diskin’s remarks followed a furore over comments made on Wednesday by Israel’s serving military chief, Benny Gantz, which starkly contrasted with Netanyahu’s rhetoric on Iran. Gantz said he did not believe the Iranian leadership was prepared to “go the extra mile” to acquire nuclear weapons because it was “composed of very rational people” who understood the consequences.
In what was seen as a veiled rebuke to the prime minister, Gantz added: “Decisions can and must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria.”
By Jean-Louis Santin, Agence France-Presse Apr 9, 2012 – National PostWASHINGTON — U.S. conservative Christians and science advocates are clashing again, this time in Tennessee over a bill that would allow debate in public schools over theories such as evolution.
Lawmakers from the southeastern U.S. state home to a strong base of Tea Party activists have approved the bill, which now awaits the signature of Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican.
The measure, which could pass by a Tuesday deadline, would allow public schoolteachers to challenge accepted science on topics such as climate change and evolution in their classrooms without facing sanctions.
If it passes, Tennessee would join nine other states with similar laws promoting creationism, more or less explicitly.
Critics have labeled the legislation the “Monkey Bill” in reference to the highly publicized 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” in which Tennessee charged high school science teacher John Scopes of violating a state law against teaching “that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”
The Tennessee Science Teachers Association and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union rights group, the measure’s biggest critics, are calling for Haslam to veto it. They say it would provide legal cover for educators to teach pseudoscientific ideas.
“They are not talking that much about creationism but rather about Intelligent Design,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU’s Tennessee branch.
“It’s a very nuanced and clever way… to challenge the theory of evolution and allow teachers to inject Intelligent Design and neo-creationism.” Intelligent Design is the idea that scientific evidence can show that life forms developed under the direction of a higher intelligence.
The measure states that “teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.”
It also says the legislation “shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine.”
In a letter to lawmakers, the Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences argued that the bill would “miseducate students, harm the state’s national reputation and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy.”
The Tennessee Education Association, meanwhile, blasted the “unnecessary legislation.”
But Haslam has already indicated he would “probably” sign the measure into law.
Half-empty buildings are costing Ontario taxpayers big time.
One public school system would not only save billions of dollars, it would end the discriminatory practice of having taxpayers fund religious schools for only one denomination.
BY CHRISTINA BLIZZARD,QMI AGENCY, MARCH 31, 2012, Toronto Sun
Education Minister Laurel Broten announced last week the government will change the per-student funding formula to school boards, so that it will no longer pay for under-utilized schools.
It all sounds so rational and reasonable.
With declining enrolment, 16.2% of the province’s schools are under-used.
At a news conference, Broten said it didn’t make sense to heat and light half-empty schools.
Going forward, school boards will have to take a long, hard look at their space requirements because the Liberal government won’t be giving them funding for students they don’t have.
This, of course, sounds oh-so-familiar for those of us who covered education during the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves years at Queen’s Park.
Both Conservative premiers, they, too, realized school boards were wasting millions of dollars on half-empty schools.
But closing schools is easier said than done.
The attachment of communities to their local place of learning is strong and emotional.
One of many reasons why the McGuinty government lost so many votes in rural Ontario last year was the ham-fisted way it forced boards to close schools.
The village school is often the heart of the community. It’s not just the place where the kids go to school, it’s where the whole community gets together for meetings and group activities.
Shutting down a school in one village often means youngsters have to sit half-an-hour or more on a bus to get to class.
But Broten’s latest announcement, one suspects, will hit hardest in cities.
By Brian Merchant, TreeHugger, 27 March 12Would you let corporations decide how climate science gets taught in your kids’ classroom? That is exactly what is happening – Tennessee just became the 4th state to pass corporation-written laws dictating how global warming is taught in public schools. And they did it with ALEC.
The American Legislative Exchange Council represents one of the most pernicious trends in modern governance: the increasingly substantial extent to which corporations and wealthy individuals buy direct access to the policy-making process. ALEC may be little known at this point, despite being one of the targets of recent Occupy Wall Street protests, but it is already influencing just about every sphere of our lives.
ALEC Exposed, a group working to do exactly what its moniker would imply, sums it up thusly: “Through the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, global corporations and state politicians vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern your rights. These so-called “model bills” reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations.” In other words, it’s a pay-to-play regime that allows corporations to draft ‘model bills’ that go directly into the hands of sympathetic policymakers, who can then adopt them for actual legislation.
One such model bill has just passed the Tennessee state legislature, and this one mandates that schools teach climate science as a theory alongside other ‘credible’ theories – like those ones preferred by fossil fuels companies, for example, that hold that global warming is caused by solar cycles and other nonsense. Sound familiar? This is the same structural tactic employed by creationists to try to discourage the teaching of evolution in schools.
DeSmogBlog explains that the bill was opposed by almost every respectable scientific institution – and was passed by a margin of 70-23 anyway. Tennessee joins Texas, Louisiana, and South Dakota in passing such ‘model’ legislation. As a result, children in each of these states are apt to receive a confusing, less fact-based climate science education. Of course, climate change is widely accepted by scientists; an overwhelming consensus agree that human activity is indeed causing the planet to warm. But many corporations, especially those in the oil and coal industries, have an acute interest in stirring as much doubt as possible amongst the public about that consensus view.
Published on Monday, March 26, 2012 by Common Dreams
Okonjo-Iweala : ‘My biggest hope is that this will be a fair contest’Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been nominated to run for World Bank President by African leaders from Nigeria, South Africa and Angola. The nomination comes as an unprecedented challenge to the US nomination — this year’s Jim Yong Kim.
The World Bank president has traditionally been selected by Washington, according to an ‘informal agreement’ between Western powers. Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination comes as an unconventional challenge to the process. “Okonjo-Iweala, a respected economist and diplomat, painted the convention as a vestige of a bygone era,” Reuters reports.
Okonjo-Iweala has used the platform as a plea for a fair process whereby ’emerging economies’ may have a stronger voice in the global institution. “We’re not asking the U.S. not to compete, we’re just asking for a level playing field where candidates can be evaluated on their merits,” stated Okonjo-Iweala.