Jonathan Schell

Op-Ed

Then came the attack of September 11th. Like the starting gun of a race that no one knew he was to run, this explosion set the pack of nations off in a single direction -- toward the trenches. Although the attack was unaccompanied by any claim of authorship or statement of political goals, the evidence almost immediately pointed to al-Qaeda, the radical Islamist, terrorist network, which, though stateless, was headquartered in Afghanistan and enjoyed the protection of its fundamentalist Islamic government. In a tape that was soon shown around the world, the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden, was seen at dinner with his confederates in Afghanistan, rejoicing in the slaughter.

Historically, nations have responded to terrorist threats and attacks with a combination of police action and political negotiation, while military action has played only a minor role. Voices were raised in the United States calling for a global cooperative effort of this kind to combat al-Qaeda. President Bush opted instead for a policy that the United States alone among nations could have conceivably undertaken: global military action not only against al-Qaeda but against any regime in the world that supported international terrorism.

The president announced to Congress that he would "make no distinction between the terrorists who commit these acts and those who harbor them." By calling the campaign a "war," the administration summoned into action the immense, technically revolutionized, post-Cold War American military machine, which had lacked any clear enemy for over a decade. And by identifying the target as generic "terrorism," rather than as al-Qaeda or any other group or list of groups, the administration licensed military operations anywhere in the world.

 

 

In the ensuing months, the Bush administration continued to expand the aims and means of the war. The overthrow of governments -- "regime change" -- was established as a means for advancing the new policies. The president divided regimes into two categories -- those "with us" and those "against us." Vice President Cheney estimated that al-Qaeda was active in 60 countries. The first regime to be targeted was of course al-Qaeda’s host, the government of Afghanistan, which was overthrown in a remarkably swift military operation conducted almost entirely from the air and without American casualties.

Next, the administration proclaimed an additional war goal -- preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In his State of the Union speech in January 2002, ...

Citizen Scientists Track Bee Health and Shed Light on Colony Collapse Disorder
Maureen Wise
News Report

You’ve probably heard that bees—their honey, their awesome pollinating powers and their stingers—are on the decline. It’s a global problem that affects more than just the little yellow and black buzzers; it can and will interrupt the way we produce food if it continues. Bees pollinate most of the crops farmers grow worldwide, so without them, we don’t have food. Most scientists agree that pesticides, drought, habitat loss, pollution and other major environmental concerns are all contributing to colony collapse disorder. It’s a big deal and there are a lot of people working to keep bees buzzing. A new project has set out to help understand the issue in individual colonies and bring the problem to the people called Open Source Beehives. This multi-continent partnership betweenOpen Tech Collaborative and Fab Lab Barcelona proposes public participation through easily made backyard hives in conjunction with software that will track hive health. Individuals can be part of the solution—and the fun—by keeping bees themselves. To construct the hives, keepers don’t need glue or screws, only a 4 foot by 8 foot piece of plywood and a CNC router. Those who aren’t quite as tech savvy with computer controlled saws can buy a prefabricated kit. There are two models: the smaller Colorado Top Bar (pictured) and the multi-tiered Barcelona Warre. They are easily shipped due to their flat design and packaging. These “smart hives” will be connected to Smart Citizen through a piece of hardware installed within the hives. Users can view data online as well as through a mobile app. Information such as CO levels, humidity, bee count, noise intensity and more will be sent via Wi-Fi. An upcoming feature will notify beekeepers when there is something amiss within their hive. The partnership is an open source project, meant to be shared and improved upon through community. Web programmers can find the code for the monitoring software on GibHub, the world’s largest code sharing site. Those with other talents and knowledge are also encouraged to help with the project. To contribute, visit Open Source Beehives’ collaboration page. The partnership is finding that many citizens want to participate. Tristan Copley Smith, co-founder and communications director of Open Source Beehives, said, “What we find very interesting is the difference between the public and the political appetite for action on the bee issue—and other ecological issues. Citizens understand the urgency, and are supporting our project, building hives, and helping us improve. Political actors on the other hand have yet to take any meaningful steps on the issue. Citizen science projects in general are giving the public avenues to participate in solving issues themselves, rather than sitting around waiting for solutions from the dysfunctional and corrupt bureaucracies that are failing to protect our planet.” You can help by reminding your local government officials how important the issue of colony collapse disorder is and urging them to get involved. Learn more about Open Source Beehives:

Jim Hightower
Op-Ed

Media outlets across the country trumpeted the stunning news with headlines like this: "Citigroup Punished."

At last, went the storyline, the Justice Department brought down the hammer on one of the greed-headed Wall Street giants that are guilty of massive mortgage frauds that crashed our economy six years ago. While millions of ordinary Americans lost homes, jobs, and businesses — and still haven't recovered — the finagling bankers were promptly bailed out by Washington and continue to get multimillion-dollar bonuses. So, hitting Citigroup with $7 billion in penalties for its role in the calamitous scandal is a real blow for justice!

Well, sort of. Actually ... not so much. While seven billion bucks is more than a slap on the wrist, it pales in contrast to the egregious nature of Citigroup's crime and the extent of the horrendous damage done by the bankers. In fact, when it announced the settlement, the Justice Department itself pointed out that Citigroup's fraudulent acts "shattered lives."

For most of us, paying billions is impossible to imagine, much less do. But this is a Wall Street colossus with $76 billion in revenue last year alone. It rakes in enough profit in six months to more than cover this "punishment." Also, the bank will get to deduct 40 percent of the penalty from its income tax. Then there's this little number that the prosecutors failed to mention when they announced the settlement: Citigroup's taxpayer bailout in 2008 was $45 billion — six times more than it is now having to pay back!

Even by Wall Street standards, pulling a 600 percent profit from grand larceny is a pretty sweet deal. One clear indicator that this "punishment" is way too light is that on the same day it was announced, jubilant Wall Street investors jacked up Citigroup's stock price by 3.6 percent.

So it was no surprise then, when Wall Street wrongdoer Citigroup accepted what the media hailed as a whopping $7-billion penalty for defrauding its own investors and wrecking our economy, that the bank's CEO just shrugged, saying: "We believe that this settlement is in the best interest of our shareholders and allows us to move forward and to ...

Studies Sound Red Alert on Beef’s Global Warming Toll
Ari Philips
News Report

The best way to cut your food-related carbon footprint is probably not to eat any meat, but if you’re not willing to go that far a new study breaks down the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of different types of meat and beef is by far the worst. Research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that livestock emissions are on the rise and that beef cattle are responsible for far more GHGs than other animals, including chicken and pork. Meat production’s heavy environmental toll is not new, but the scale is surprising: The study found that beef requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water, and results in five times more GHG emissions. A similar study published in the journal Climate Change this week found that from 1961 to 2010 global GHGs from livestock increased 51 percent. Much of this is due to increased demand for meat, especially in developing countries. So even as developed countries curtail demand and become more efficient producers, the scale of the problem is growing along with global GHG concentrations. “The developing world is getting better at reducing greenhouse emissions caused by each animal, but this improvement is not keeping up with the increasing demand for meat,” said Dario Caro, a researcher on the study. “As a result, greenhouse gas emissions from livestock keep going up and up in much of the developing world.” Researchers found that beef and dairy cattle account for just about three-fourths of livestock-related GHG emissions, with 54 percent coming from beef cattle and 17 percent from dairy cattle. This is partly due to the sheer abundance of the animal but also from the higher levels of methane and nitrous oxide that they emit. Sheep comprised nine percent, buffalo seven percent, pigs five percent, and goats four percent. On an energy-required-per-calorie assessment, pork, poultry, and eggs have roughly the same degree of environmental cost, and dairy is comparable as well. However demand for all these foods is predicted by some scientists to double by 2050, making GHG reductions a tall order. Agricultural emissions account for about 15 percent of all GHGs, half of which come from livestock. With some two billion more people to feed expected by 2050 some are calling for help in getting people to eat less meat, especially beef. “The big story is just how dramatically impactful beef is compared to all the others,” Prof. Gidon Eshel, at Bard College in New York state, told the Guardian. “I would strongly hope that governments stay out of people’s diet, but at the same time there are many government policies that favor of the current diet in which animals feature too prominently. Remove the artificial support given to the livestock industry and rising prices will do the rest. In that way you are having less government intervention in people’s diet and not more.” In the ...

Chris Hamby
News Report

In an extraordinary rebuke to a doctor at one of America's top hospitals, the U.S. Department of Labor has informed about 1,100 coal miners that their claims for black lung benefits may have been wrongly denied because of the actions of a powerful physician at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, the department's deputy secretary told senators Tuesday. That doctor, Paul S. Wheeler, systematically found that miners did not have black lung when, in fact, many of them did. Medical opinions by the doctor should be assumed not to be credible, senators and affected miners were told. The government's outreach and the Senate hearing were both prompted by a series of stories released last year by The Center for Public Integrity in partnership with ABC News. Miners who get black lung, a debilitating and incurable disease caused by breathing in coal dust, are entitled by federal law to compensation, often from their former employer. But the series, which was the result of a yearlong investigation, revealed two ways that coal companies undermined miners' claims to benefits: Lawyers for coal companies withheld evidence that miners had the disease, and doctors consistently failed to diagnose black lung. One installment detailed how Wheeler had read X-rays in more than 1,500 cases decided since 2000 without finding a single case of severe black lung, even as other doctors saw the disease in hundreds of cases and other evidence repeatedly proved him wrong. The Senate subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety invited Wheeler or a representative from Johns Hopkins to testify at Tuesday's hearing but was told no one would be available, a staff member for subcommittee chairman Sen. Robert Casey said. A spokesperson for Johns Hopkins issued a statement to BuzzFeed: "Johns Hopkins commends the Subcommittee for its efforts to review the federal Black Lung Benefits Program to ensure the claims process is fair and just for all parties involved. At Johns Hopkins, we are taking this very seriously." Two days after the initial stories last fall, Johns Hopkins suspended the work of Wheeler's unit. Referencing an internal investigation, the spokesperson said, "While our review is ongoing, nobody at Hopkins — including Dr. Wheeler — is performing black lung [X-ray readings]." Casey announced that he would soon introduce legislation to strengthen the benefits program, developed with Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both of West Virginia, along with Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and U.S. Rep. George Miller of California. A bill might be ready before the August recess, a Casey staffer said. "We often talk about how coal produces the cheapest energy in this country," Harkin, whose father had black lung, said during the hearing. One reason, he said, is "because those who mine the coal have not been adequately compensated." The hearing featured testimony from top government labor officials, an insurance consultant, and miners from West Virginia battling the disease on a daily basis, including a retired miner on oxygen because of his severe disease. The only testimony in support of coal companies came from the insurance industry consultant, who contended that many claims were being incorrectly awarded to miners whose health problems were attributable primarily to smoking. Christopher Lu, the deputy secretary of the Labor Department, said that, in response to the CPI-ABC stories, "We conducted an extensive review of the program." This led to a series of new initiatives. Two major obstacles miners face: Coal companies have more resources to develop medical evidence, and miners often can't find a lawyer willing to take a black lung case. This February, the department began pilot programs intended to improve the quality of medical reports provided by government-paid doctors and to allow department lawyers to intervene in unrepresented miners' cases. In May, ...

VOICES FOR CHANGE

Can a $7 Billion Penalty Be a Good Deal?
Jim Hightower
"

Media outlets across the country trumpeted the stunning news with headlines like this: "Citigroup Punished."At last, went the storyline, the Justice Department brought down ...

" ::
Professor of Chemistry Turns India’s Plastic Trash into Useable Roadways
Christina Sarich
"

Scenes from the movie Slumdog Millionaire accurately depict India’s latest consumer-influenced economy. Tree groves are littered with a rainbow color of plastic bags like some kind of ominous carnival wreckage. Plastic bottles, candy wrappers, and other ‘garbage’ liters the streets in a land where city officials have long forsaken their ...

" ::
Will the Blabbermouths Wake Democrats Up?
Froma Harrop
"

It is often said, believed and undoubtedly right that the Republicans' ace in midterm elections is apathetic Democrats not showing up at the polls. But that once predictable waltz into November is threatened by blabbermouths of the right's seeking self-aggrandizement by hurling darts at the sleeping Democratic bear.  It's not that they don't know better. It's that their fame and fortune rests not on electing Republicans but on ...

" ::
The Actor and the Minister
Chris Hedges
"

On June 30 I was at the First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist, which had turned its hall over to Michael Milligan, traveling the country performing his one-man play about a husband and wife trapped in our dysfunctional health care system. I arrived early at the stone church, whose present structure was erected in 1853, to help set up the chairs and clear the stage. The minister, the Rev. Terry Burke, who was a classmate of mine at Harvard Divinity School, officially ...

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Are Solar Roadways Next on Our Clean Energy Horizon?
Christina Sarich
"

Do you remember the last time you stepped out on some hot asphalt or concrete on a sweltering summer day? You likely felt a tinge of the intense energy of the sun compacted into the over 4 million miles of roads that stretch across the United States. The US transportation system is vast, and it could just be ready for an enormous green facelift utilizing solar technologies.This doesn’t include the ...

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Are Solar Roadways Next on Our Clean Energy Horizon?
Christina Sarich
"

Do you remember the last time you stepped out on some hot asphalt or concrete on a sweltering summer day? You likely felt a tinge of the intense energy of the sun compacted into the over 4 million miles of roads that stretch across the United States. The US transportation system is vast, and it could just be ready for an enormous green facelift utilizing solar technologies. This doesn’t ...

" ::
Are Solar Roadways Next on Our Clean Energy Horizon?
Christina Sarich
"

Do you remember the last time you stepped out on some hot asphalt or concrete on a sweltering summer day? You likely felt a tinge of the intense energy of the sun compacted into the over 4 million miles of roads that stretch across the United States. The US transportation system is vast, and it could just be ready for an enormous green facelift utilizing solar technologies. This doesn’t ...

" ::
Rand Paul to Rick Perry: Why Send US Troops to an Iraq that Won’t Defend Itself?
Juan Cole
"

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, apparently considering another run for president ...

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Requiem for the American Century
Tom Engelhardt
"

First Paragraphs on Turning 70 in the American Century That Was* Seventy-three years ago, on February 17, 1941, as a second devastating global war approached, Henry Luce, the publisher of Time and Life magazines, called on his countrymen to “create the first great American Century.”  Luce died in ...

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Biotech Bullying: French Government Withdraws from Long-Term GMO Study
Christina Sarich
"

Has the biotech industry successfully scared another government silly, so much so that they are unwilling to carry out true scientific research on the long-term damage that GMOs could cause animals, people, and the environment? With the latest formal withdrawal of the CRIIGEN organization from a previously ...

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FROM AROUND THE WEB

Food Health

Republican legislators have railed against around the new federal school lunch standards, but a study suggests 70 percent of students now like the new lunches.

Immigration

It's still mostly teens that travel solo to the United States, but an alarming 7,500 kids under are 13.

Climate Change

A group of top scientists recently called for an essential change to how the United States deals with risks to its Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Wall Street

GOP sabotage and bureaucratic foot-dragging have combined to prevent full implementation of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.

Obamacare

A federal judge has thrown out a U.S. Senator’s legal challenge to a part of President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

Corporate Tax

Corporations get enormous benefits, like limited liability, that regular “persons” do not.

Food Health

While the movement is an upward trend, it might play a significant role on the environment.

Religion

Young Americans are tired of “partisan crap.”

Israeli/Palestinian Peace Process

This is the third time the hospital has been under attack since the Israel land offense started.

Ukraine News

Reports say remains of 196 victims of jet disaster loaded on to train, with destination said to be a rebel-held town.

Immigration

Central American leaders are asking President Obama to support a regional development and security plan to stem the tide of illegal child migrants to the United States.

Organic Food

Just because food is labeled organic doesn’t mean it’s what you’re expecting.

Religion

Hundreds of families reported to have left Iraqi city Mosul after group said they must convert, leave, pay tax or die.

Gun Rights

Single-shot handguns have been banned in California.

Politics

Due to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, unlimited money is pouring into politics.

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