segunda-feira, 29 de junho de 2009

Paul Krugman: Treason Against the Planet

Betraying the Planet

by PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times, June 28, 2009
Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.

But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 °F by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 °F. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and across the country extreme, deadly heat waves — the kind that traditionally occur only once in a generation — may become annual or biannual events.

In other words, we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?

Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking — if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided — they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.

But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.

Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.

Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.

Given this contempt for hard science, I’m almost reluctant to mention the deniers’ dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.

Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?

Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.

Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.

Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.

Link to article:

sábado, 27 de junho de 2009

Zimbabwe’s diamond fields enrich ruling party, report says

Zimbabwe’s diamond fields enrich ruling party, report says

Miners in the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe in 2006, the year the fields were discovered. The New York Times

by CELIA W. DUGGER, New York Times, June 26, 2009

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe’s military, controlled by President Robert Mugabe’s political party, violently took over diamond fields in Zimbabwe last year and has used the illicit revenues to buy the loyalty of restive soldiers and enrich party leaders, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released Friday.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Associated Press

Human Rights Watch says the military killed more than 200 miners in the Marange fields.

The party, ZANU-PF, has used the money from diamonds — smuggled out of the country or illegally sold through the Reserve Bank — to reinforce its hold over the security forces, which seemed to be slipping last year as the value of soldiers’ pay collapsed with soaring inflation, Human Rights Watch researchers said.

On Friday, Zimbabwe’s government roundly denied the charges in the report, which cited visits by its researcher to the diamond fields in February and interviews with soldiers, miners and other witnesses.

The information minister, Webster Shamu, of ZANU-PF, said in a telephone interview that the report’s aim was to tarnish the country’s image, block the sale of its diamonds internationally and, “in so doing, deny Zimbabwe much needed foreign currency.”

“The whole report is just not true,” he said.

Last year Zimbabwe’s state media depicted the military blitz, code-named Operation No Return, in the Marange district as a push to restore order in the midst of a lawless diamond rush in the area.

But the Human Rights Watch report charged that the military killed more than 200 miners and used the push to seize the Marange fields.

Some miners died when soldiers opened fire from helicopters with automatic rifles mounted on them, the group said. Many of the dead were taken to the morgue at Mutare General Hospital, or buried in mass graves, the report says.

Army brigades are being rotated into the diamond fields, discovered in 2006, so more soldiers can profit from the illegal trade, the report says.

Villagers from the area, some of them children, are being forced to work in mines controlled by military syndicates and have complained of being harassed, beaten and arrested, the report says.

“It’s a big cash cow for the military and the police, especially since Zimbabwe is virtually bankrupt,” Dewa Mavhinga, the Zimbabwean lawyer who was the main researcher for the report, said in an interview.

Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled for 29 years, is now governing with his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, who spent the past three weeks in Western capitals seeking assistance for Zimbabwe’s devastated economy.

President Obama and European heads of state have generally declined to aid Zimbabwe’s government directly, in part because of concerns that it continues to flout the rule of law.

The Human Rights Watch report is the latest sign of growing international concern about charges of killings and human rights abuses in the diamond fields southwest of the city of Mutare.

“While Zimbabwe’s new power-sharing government, formed in February 2009, now lobbies the world for development aid, millions of dollars in potential government revenue are being siphoned off,” the report said.

The World Federation of Diamond Bourses, an umbrella group of 28 bourses in 20 countries, called on its members in April not to trade diamonds that originate in the Marange deposits in Zimbabwe.

“Somewhere along the line, we have to stand up and be counted,” Michael H. Vaughan, the federation’s executive director, said in an interview on Friday.

On Sunday, representatives of the Kimberley Process, an alliance of industry, civic and government officials set up to stop the flow of so-called blood diamonds, will be traveling to Zimbabwe to explore whether the country is complying with the alliance’s standards.

A coalition of nonprofit groups is lobbying to have Zimbabwe suspended from membership in the Kimberley Process. “There’s rampant smuggling out of the country,” said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness, one of the nonprofit groups. “The military is profiting from the trade and is directly involved in the sale of the diamonds.”

At a time when Zimbabwe is struggling to pay civil servants and soldiers a stipend of $100 a month, the extra income from diamond mining for soldiers is serving “to mollify a constituency whose loyalty to ZANU-PF, in the context of ongoing political strife, is essential,” the Human Rights Watch report said.

In December, soldiers rioted in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to protest pay that had become virtually worthless as inflation increased to astronomical levels. Analysts and Western diplomats said at the time that Mr. Mugabe might lose his grip on power if he were unable to sustain the patronage he had deployed for decades.

Link to article:

sábado, 20 de junho de 2009

Charles M. Blow: Hate in a Cocoon of Silence

Hate in a Cocoon of Silence

Charles M. Blow . Credit Earl Wilson/The New York Times

by Charles M. Blow, New York Times, June 12, 2009

We were warned.

An April assessment by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis said pointedly: “Lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

Slowly, but steadily, these bigots are slithering from beneath their rocks, armed and deadly.

The most recent was an octogenarian-hater named James von Brunn, who, officials said, opened fire this week in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, killing a security guard.

Just as disturbing as the incidents themselves are the lineups of family, friends and neighbors who emerge to talk about the vitriol they heard and the warning signs they saw. I always want the interviewer to stop and ask them this simple question: “And when he said or did that, how did you respond?”

I would ask: What did you say or do as the shooters retreated into their xenophobic silo and consumed the bile slouching about the Internet? What did you say or do as the darkness in their hearts obscured the light of their reasoning, and the vacuum of hate consumed them?

My suspicion is that far too many do far too little.

While many might say that they would be quick to condemn and excoriate such hatred, they can often passively condone and fail to expostulate the hater when they see it firsthand.

That’s the gist of a January study that was written about in ScienceDaily. It was led by Kerry Kawakami, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, and it found that although people predicted “that they would be very upset by a racist act and would take action,” their actual reactions were “much more muted.” Why? Because people are “much less willing to pay the emotional cost” of the confrontation than they thought they would be.

The authorities won’t be able to stop every “lone wolf” with a gun and a gripe. But we, as a society, can do a much better job of creating an environment where hateful beliefs are never ignored and suspicious behavior never goes unreported.

In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in a letter from a Birmingham jail, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” That’s still true.

Hateful people are loud — to disguise their cowardice and shame. But good, decent people are by far the majority, and we dare not be silent. There can be no family too close and no friend too dear for hatred to go unchecked. Allowing it to do so diminishes the better, more noble parts of ourselves.

These confrontations won’t be easy, but doing the right thing rarely is. There is someone reading this column who knows someone who could be the next shooter. What will that reader do?

Link to article:

segunda-feira, 8 de junho de 2009

Peru: death toll reaches 60 -- Asháninka indigenous Indians fighting to prevent confiscation of their lands for logging, Brazil's hydroelectric dams

From Lou Gold's blog: Vision Share

Monday, June 08, 2009


Indigenous Protesters in Peru
Indigenous protesters fighting logging and drilling blocked a road in northern Peru on Friday as police tear gas hung in the air. Photo: Associated Press

[Update 1: Reuters reports that the death toll has risen to more than 60 and that thousands of Indians are still blocking roads. Here's an activist's report about the actions likely this week.]

[Update 2: Simon Romero, reporting for the NY Times, points out that the issue is not only over oil and timber leases. For instance, leaders from the Asháninka indigenous group are trying to derail a plan by Eletrobrás, a company controlled by Brazil’s government, to spend more than $10 billion to build five hydroelectric plants in Peru.]

This morning (Jun 6) I received an email from our dear friend Anjo who is in Peru. She says: "heading into the jungle in a few days. mad stress to get all done. 35 people dead this morning. hundreds wounded. many I know. a curfew. feels like back in Palestine."

Anjo is not exaggerating. Here is some video from May 22, 2009.

According to AMAZON WATCH 25 civilians and 9 police have been killed in the current clashes. Peru's Amazon Indigenous Peoples need you to TAKE ACTION now.


Since April 9th communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon have been protesting new laws that usher in an unprecedented wave of extractive industries into the Amazon Rainforest. President Alan Garcia's government passed these laws under "fast track" authority he had received from the Peruvian congress to make laws to facilitate the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and to make Peru more economically "competitive".

Over 30,000 indigenous people have taken to blockading roads, rivers, and railways to demand the repeal of these new laws that allow oil, mining and logging companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking prior consultation or consent. The protests have led to disruptions of transport as well as the interruption of oil production.

In the early morning of June 5, Peruvian military police staged a violent raid on a group of indigenous people at a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua, in a remote area of northern Peruvian Amazon. Several thousand indigenous peoples were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and real bullets. Initial reports of fatalities include at least eleven indigenous people, along with nine police officers.

We need you to immediately TAKE ACTION adding your voice in solidarity with thousands of indigenous people. Send a letter today to the Garcia Administration demanding and end to the violent repression and respect for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples.

As one of the Earth's largest tropical rainforests, the Amazon plays a critical role in safeguarding the global climate. Its destruction releases massive amounts of global warming gases into the atmosphere, worsening climate change. Indigenous peoples are the guardians of the Amazon rainforest. They need your support.

There's more from AmazonWatch and an excellent roundup at DailyKos that covers how US Free Trade agreements have been contributing to the problem.

Link to Lou Gold's blog: