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Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.



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News and Opinion


'Some Cuts Don't Heal!' Simpson-Bowles Face Protest for Attack on Medicare, Social Security

As influential 'deficit scolds' present new plan, community members speak out

Community activists in Washington, DC on Tuesday took the opportunity of a morning Q&A breakfast with the nation's premiere 'deficit scolds'—former Republican senator from Wyoming Alan Simpson and establishment Democrat Erskine Bowles—to declare that the pair's recommended policies unfairly punish the sick, the elderly and working people in the name of a 'deficit reduction' plan backed by the nation's wealthiest beneficiaries and corporate elite.

Five protestors, rising at intervals, disrupted the Politico-sponsored event held at a Newseum conference room, pressed the two men to defend the inequity and misguided nature of their proposals. Each was removed, in turn, by security officials.

"Some cuts don't heal," the National Journal reports one protester repeating as he was escorted from the room. "How could you entertain the fact that you want to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?" he asked, before being escorted out by security.

Media and the Keystone March - Little coverage of large climate action

Tens of thousands of climate activists marched in Washington D.C.on February 17. Did the corporate media notice them?

The event brought together religious leaders, climate campaigners and Canadian indigenous rights activists. 350.org's Bill McKibben said they were "the antibodies kicking in as the planet tries to fight its fever."

But television newscasts made just passing references to what the activists were calling the biggest climate change action in many years, perhaps ever. It was not mentioned on any of the Sunday chat shows. ABC World News on February 17 gave the protest all of 43 words and CBS Evening News 49, while NBC Nightly News turned in a more generous 63. The CBS report did find time to assert that "the pipeline would create 20,000 jobs," which is an estimate that pipeline proponents have touted; other estimates, including one by the U.S. State Department, are much lower. ...

On public broadcasting, the PBS NewsHour turned in a decent summary of the action on its February 18 newscast, followed by a debate between a spokesperson from the Natural Resources Defense Council and an oil company lobbyist:

Indeed, it was a historic action. And when history looks back on how we responded to the climate change crisis, the fact that most of the corporate media missed its importance will be remembered.

Keystone XL Exec: To Support Dirty Tar Sands Is To Support 'American Values'

Despite 'largest climate rally ever,' industry leader says public opposition, media interest 'going down'

Following comments made at an industry roundtable with reporters on Tuesday, Sierra Club president Michael Brune said that 'no fact or truth' would penetrate the wall of denial put up by the world's oil and pipeline company executives or their lobbyists.

Asked about the 'Forward on Climate' rally in Washington, DC on Sunday that organizers say brought close to 50,000 people out in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Alex Pourbaix, president of oil pipelines and energy at TransCanada, said: “My experience is the events over the weekend are not getting nearly the coverage in the media they would have a year, year and a half ago. So I’m of the view that the temperature is going down on this issue.”

In a response garnered by Politico, Sierra Club's Brune said:

That TransCanada would say ‘the temperature is going down’ on dirty and dangerous tar sands that would only cause global temperatures to rise shows just how out of touch they are with reality. Whether they’re denying that Keystone XL is an export pipeline or ignoring the significant international news created by the nearly 50,000 Americans who stood up for climate solutions, it’s clear that no fact or truth is sacred to TransCanada.
Revealing the industry's clear public relations strategy at the roundtable, the oil industry reps pushed the oft-repeated canard about 'job creation' with Pourbaix going even further by saying that supporting the tar sands project was synonymous with supporting 'American values.'
Delaware Riverkeeper Calls For Help Stopping Fracking Pipeline

Pipeline Company Rushes in to Cut the Forest – Citizens Stand in Protest

Less than 24 hours after FERC approval was granted for tree clearing of “Pipeline Loop 323” that would cut through the Delaware River Watershed, Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) chainsaw crews, arriving in trucks with Wisconsin license plates, began invading the forests and cutting thousands of 70-year old trees to make way for the Northeast Upgrade Pipeline project (NEUP).  The NEUP is being constructed to carry fracked shale gas from drilling zones in Pennsylvania across into New Jersey and on to other markets.

TGP clearly rushed its tree clearing plans in order to avoid any possibility that they might be stopped by the efforts of citizens to get the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to step in and require a DRBC review and docket before the project could proceed within the boundaries of our watershed.

Why would TGP be so fearful?

The past two weeks the Delaware Riverkeeper Network along with a rising tide of concerned citizens have been demanding their intervention and we are on solid legal and moral footing when doing so.

The DRBC Rules of Practice and Procedure require DRBC review and docketing for pipeline projects that “pass in, on, under or across an existing or proposed reservoir or recreation project area as designated in the Comprehensive Plan.”  The NEUP is one such pipeline project -- it passes through the Delaware State Forest and High Point State Park, both Comprehensive Plan areas.  Therefore DRBC's obligation to conduct a review that considers impacts on water resources is clear, and mandatory.  

DRBC has acknowledged its failure to apply this element of the Rules of Practice and Procedure (i.e. with regards to the passage of pipelines through Comprehensive Plan areas) for two other upriver pipeline projects — namely the TGP 300 Line (of which the NEUP is a part) and the 1278 Columbia Line.  

Citizens and organizations from around the region are joining us in our call for the DRBC to act.  Please send your email to the DRBC and all its Commissioners today.  March 6 is the next meeting of the DRBC Commissioners.

Twenty Myths About Unions

Thousands of Greeks rally in anti-austerity strike

"A social explosion is very near."

Beating drums, blowing whistles and chanting "Robbers, robbers!" more than 60,000 people angry at wage cuts and tax rises marched to parliament in the biggest protest for months over austerity policies required by international lenders. ...

The two biggest labor unions brought much of crisis-hit Greece to a standstill with a 24-hour protest strike against policies which they say deepen the hardship of people struggling through the country's worst peacetime downturn. ...

Anger at politicians and the wealthy elite has been boiling during the crisis, with many accusing the government of making deep cuts to wages and pensions while doing too little to spread the burden or go after rich tax evaders. ...

"The strike highlights the growing gap between the plight of ordinary Greeks and the demands of Greece's international creditors," said Martin Koehring, analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, forecasting more social unrest this year. ...

Six years of recession and three of austerity have tripled the rate of unemployment to 27 percent. More than 60 percent of young workers are jobless.

Most business and public sector activity came to a halt with schoolteachers, train drivers and doctors among those joining the strike. Banks pulled down their shutters and ships stayed docked as seamen defied government orders to return to work.

DC’s quest to silence Elizabeth Warren
For the liberal star, DC's establishment perversely defines success as keeping her head down and not making waves

No, what’s important here is what Politico actually got right in its story: namely, that the assumption in Washington is, indeed, that silence is a virtue – that, in other words, the best thing for a newly elected liberal senator to do is shut her mouth, go along to get along, play by the club’s rules and not make any waves. Summing up that Beltway conventional wisdom, Politico writes that only by “flying under the radar” can a liberal “star” like Warren develop a “reputation as a serious legislator.”

Before pondering the implications of that assumption, let’s first remember that in a capital city which tilts everything to the right, the same standard is not applied to conservative lawmakers. When, like Tea Party darling Marco Rubio, they “keep (their) head down and nose to the grindstone,” it is newsy precisely because a refusal to rock the boat is seen as out of character for newly elected Republicans. Meanwhile, rarely – if ever – do you see the Washington media portray junior boat-rocking firebrands like Rand Paul or Ted Cruz as unserious, stupid or politically harmed by refusing to “fly under the radar.” On the contrary, their iconoclasm is often presented as predictable, politically acceptable and even laudable – but definitely not a threat to their establishment credibility/credentials.

CAN A PRESIDENT USE DRONES AGAINST JOURNALISTS?

In thinking about drones strikes and targeted killings, it can be instructive to picture them hitting people you know, either deliberately or as collateral damage. Doing so may not even be much of a stretch, nor should it be. (It’s already the case for people living in parts of Pakistan and Yemen.) Last week, I moderated a live chat on the ethics of drone warfare with Michael Walzer, the author of “Just and Unjust Wars”; Jeff McMahan, a professor of philosophy at Rutgers, who has also written about just-war theory; and The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who is a master of the subject. The discussion took some interesting turns, touching on the idea of a secret committee that the President would be asked to check with before killing an American and the question of whether China would ever assert the right to call in a drone strike on a dissident living in San Francisco. After Walzer and McMahan suggested some criteria for strikes—criminality, risk of American lives—I asked them this:

Doesn’t a journalist working abroad who is about to release classified information about a war crime—thus committing a crime—that will provoke retribution or a break with allies—endangering Americans—fit this definition of a target?
London Review of Books.  This is a long piece, well worth reading. It's the best summary of events that I've read to date.  The section that comes before what I've excerpted talks about the earlier part of the Syrian civil war/revolution and it's a fascinating read and should be read to get a sense of the evolution of this, what happened with the Syrian militias, etc., what's happening now, and how the blame is now aimed toward the Americans.
How to Start a Battalion (in Five Easy Lessons)
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reports from Syria

Last November, under pressure from the Americans, and with promises of better funding and more weapons from the Gulf nations, all the opposition factions met in Doha. A new council was created, called the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Under its aegis a new military command structure was supposed to include all fighting groups, commanders inside and outside the country. But the promised flow of weapons never materialised: there were small amounts of ammunition, but no major shipments. Only weapons bought from Iraqi and sometimes Turkish smugglers were still getting through.

I stood with Abu Abdullah on a muddy hill not far from the Turkish border. Nearby was a makeshift refugee camp, with sewage water trickling between the tents and children shivering in front of a water truck, where they were playing with the shiny pots distributed by a relief agency. Some put them on their heads like helmets, others sat on them. The fence separating us from Turkey had collapsed; two Turkish army jeeps rumbled up and down the road.

Abu Abdullah pointed at a Turkish military outpost further down the hill. ‘This is where we did the handovers of shipments: they drove them to the post and we took over from there, but now we’re only getting ten to fifteen thousand rounds a week. It’s nothing. Iraq has been the main provider, but we can’t get anything interesting from there either. I sent people looking for weeks and we only found one anti-aircraft gun.’

After giving up on the Turks and their Armament Room, Abu Abdullah and his friends turned to the Libyans. Libya is both a fervent revolutionary power and a huge weapons market. ‘In Iraq we buy a certain number of bullets but in Libya they sell them by the weight, by the ton, and it’s dirt cheap. But we can’t ship them by sea. Thirteen countries control the waters in the Mediterranean and we need permission from all of them or from the Americans. So the Qataris fly the weapons to Doha and then they ship them down from Turkey.’

We drove along the border looking for a place to cross, but stopped by mistake in front of the wrong gate. A bearded man in a military jacket appeared carrying a Kalashnikov. He waved us in with his flashlight, but then an older man came over and ordered us to halt.

‘We want to cross into Turkey,’ Abu Abdullah said.

‘You can’t, this is private property,’ the old man said in heavily accented Arabic. There were three tents behind him and material for more. ‘You have to leave immediately,’ he said, politely but firmly. This camp, right on the Turkish border, was for foreign jihadis – the only people, as Abu Abdullah complained, who were getting money and equipment these days. Hakim al-Mutairi, a Kuwaiti Salafi preacher, was sending them millions of dollars. ‘I confronted him at a meeting a few weeks ago,’ Abu Abdullah said. ‘I told him you are hijacking our revolution. The jihadis are buying weapons and ammunition from the other units. They have no problem with money.’

At the end of January, I met a friend of Abu Abdullah; he’d once been a wealthy man, a merchant, but he’d seen his wealth dwindle as all his businesses came to a halt. His lips were quivering with anger and he kept thumping the table with his fist.

‘Why are the Americans doing this to us? They told us they wouldn’t send us weapons until we united. So we united in Doha. Now what’s their excuse? They say it’s because of the jihadis but it’s the jihadis who are gaining ground. Abu Abdullah is $400,000 in debt and no one is sending him money anymore. It’s all going to the jihadis. They have just bought a former military camp from a battalion that was fighting the government. They went to them, gave them I don’t know how many millions and bought the camp. Maybe we should all become jihadis. Maybe then we’ll get money and support.’





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The Pretenders - Back On The Chain Gang
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