20.02.2018 – London UK Silvia Swinden

Brexit between the lines: plot to ditch EU safety standards on food and drugs
The UK/Republic of Ireland border at Killeen marked only by a speed sign marked in km/h (Image by Oliver Dixon Wikimedia Commons)

A document uncovered by Greenpeace’s investigative unit (published accidentally by the Initiative for Free Trade) has revealed “a drive to lobby ministers to ditch strict EU safety standards in order to secure a US trade deal is being drawn up by a transatlantic group of conservative thinktanks”.

The report according to the Guardian involved right wing conservative groups such as “the Heritage Foundation, which has pushed for the lifting of environmental protections, and the Cato Institute, co-founded by billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch. In Britain the project is being overseen by the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT), an organisation founded by the hard-Brexit advocate and Tory MEP Daniel Hannan.”…”Such a move would allow imports of chlorinated chicken and hormone-reared beef to be sold in the UK for the first time.” It has also become known that the US use far more antibiotics in farming and imports of such animals may contribute to antibiotic resistance, a huge problem already.

It would also imply abandoning the EU “precautionary principle” that means testing properly new products before allowing them into the market in favour of the looser American model of earlier approval in the process and intervening only if problems arise. This leads to cheaper but lower quality products and standards.

It is no coincidence that many of the strong “hard” Brexit supporters have their eye on the profits to be made out of US-UK trade deals depicting the Brussels bureaucracy as an unfair constrain, when in reality in many areas it is a source of safety standards, in food, medicines, environmental protection and working practices.

The threat to British farming businesses which ‘could be wiped out after Brexit transition’ has already been highlighted, with its resulting increase in food prices. At present British farmers receive £3bn from the EU in subsidies that would of course stop after Brexit.

The National Health Service is haemorrhaging European workers uncertain about their position after Brexit (and fearful of the growing nationalist bigotry) at the same time that the (absence of) border between Northen Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the great success of the European guaranteed Friday Agreement which did so much to largely eliminate the violence in the conflict, is being discussed in search for a creative solution to prevent a return to the clashes of the past as being out of the EU will establish a hard border between North and South with immigration and customs controls, but for the time being none has been found. It does not help that the Conservative Government depends now on a group of ten Northern Irish MPs, the DUP, to have a tiny, and very conditional on having their way, majority in the Commons.

What is emerging more and more clearly is the human cost of Brexit for the sake of profit.




18.02.2018 – US, United States Pressenza New York

The US Needs “Eureka!” Moments Re: ‘Vetting’; ‘Displacement’; ‘Discernment’; ‘Integration’!

By Gary Corseri

“Eureka! Eureka! (I have found it!)”

“Having played with fire, one knows inner forms, inner function.”
-–Kijima Hajime

Let’s first debunk the “fake news”! Famed scientist and mathematician, Archimedes, probably did not cry out “Eureka! Eureka!” (Greek for “I have found it!”) when he sat in a public bath in Syracuse, Sicily, discovering one of his—and our—“laws of buoyancy”!

But, as with most good, apocryphal stories—the parables in the Bible, for example—there are grains of truth, lessons to be vetted and discerned—pieces to be integrated into the bigger puzzle.

Here’s the story/myth: Hiero, the local tyrant, suspects a goldsmith of replacing a measure of gold with silver in a golden crown. Hiero contacts Archimedes to verify his suspicions. But…, how?

During a trip to a local bathhouse, “the Arch” observes that the more he sinks in the bath, the greater the displacement of water. And, that displaced water correlates with his body’s weight and volume! Now he reasons: gold is heavier than silver; therefore, a crown of silver and gold would be bulker than a crown solely of gold—thus displacing more water! “Voila!” he cries (or, more precisely, “Eureka!”) And he leaps out of the bath, runs naked through the Greek colony, declaring his discovery. (Whether or not the ladies were amused or alarmed is not reported….)

It’s a good story about the way critical minds work: they “vet.” They test ideas and propositions. They theorize and test their theories and then they vet their own conclusions with careful observations, records and consideration. They test—again and again. It’s a shining example of “trust, but verify”: The critical mind trusts the methodology—the sceintific/methodical/hypothetical approach. But the results need to be noted, verified, repeated. Modulations of methodology and results also need to be noted and recorded.

Can the US Empire learn a thing or two about critical thinking?

In addition to his “laws of buoyancy”—much less apocryphal than the bathhouse story—the Arch thought a lot about levers. “Give me a lever big enough,” he said—“and a place to stand…and I will move the Earth.” (When imperialist Theodore Roosevelt spoke about his “big stick,” was he echoing the ancient Greek? Or merely being “salacious”?) Do we have levers big enough now to “move the Earth”? Do we have “a place to stand”?

Let’s start with “vetting”!

In 2017 it seemed to have become a wing-sprouting, ubiquitous neologism. That’s because Trump had campaigned on “building a big, beautiful wall” along America’s southern border—“vetting” illegal aliens, as well as legal immigrants, passing through Mexico. Now that the victorious presidential candidate intended to carry through with his campaign promise, the opposition party suddenly balked: unfair to immigrants! Unfair to “dreamers.” Not in the “tradition” of America’s “nation-of- immigrants” policies.

What balderdash!

Odd how our “opposition party”—either one–always seems to make its strongest case—and loudest complaint—at just the wrong time! I recall John McCain squawking about “campaign finance reform” before that (s)election. After defeat, not a peep! (Why would he bother? He had lost, and he was a one-trick pony!) Back to the old system! After the 2016 election, we suddenly heard much more strident voices about the phoniness of the “electoral college”! When those vocal chords had belonged to those convinced they would win both popular and electoral votes—they had been mum on the subject! Not justice, not fairness, but opportunism rules our day.

Overload the system, and there can be no “vetting”! Much of our problem in the US today is not so much about “fake news” (a major problem in itself), but about a glut of news—both the fake and the legit. We are overwhelmed! What, and whom, to believe?

Don’t like “vetting”? Do you like your skin? If you don’t like “vetting,” remove your skin—a “vetting” agent between your internal organs and the enveloping world…of dust, toxins, microorganisms, etc. How about your lungs—“vetting” the air you breathe, taking in oxygen, expelling CO2? How about ideas? If we are lucky, we are “vetting” throughout our lives: determining what works, what doesn’t; who are the “good kids,” who are the “bullies”; what’s smart and what’s dumb; what lessons to take from teachers, parents, books, the arts; and what to file away—there if we need it (if we can discern). Cerebellum and cerebral “vetting”…to maintain physical and mental balance! And moral balance, too!

Why wouldn’t we want to “vet” who comes into America and who does not? Trump is right about this: “without borders, you have no country.” He might have said, “without skin, no body; just an exoskeletal-muscular system and a blob of organs.”

Our “nation of immigrants” mantra is nonsense. We’ve been a nation of conquerors from the beginning! The greatest growth in our numbers occurred in the 16-year period following the French and Indian War to our American Revolution! Americans don’t like to pay much attention to that war—probably because it had much more to do with defeating France’s “Indian” allies than with defeating the 60,000 French colonists. Britain’s 1,600,000 American colonists (in what would become the US eastern states), led by our “Great White Father”—General Washington—easily made mincemeat of the “savages” allied with the French. (“Savages,” btw, is how Jefferson referred to our “Original Peoples” in our “sacred” Declaration of Independence. Of course, most Americans never get past the first few flourishing, hyperbolic sentences. “All men are created equal”! Really?)

Having defeated the uppity, dandified French and their “savage” allies, we—i.e., the Brits–were now free to import boatloads of folks from Europe—mostly poor Brits, some Dutch, some Germans. “Immigrants!”—though, of course, only weathy white men could vote! (We were also mercilessly packing non-immigrant African Blacks into sailing “cattle cars,” destined for “concentration camps–i.e., “plantations–in the South.) We had nearly doubled our population by 1776—the year of our own “Glorious Revolution.” And we’ve been growing like crazy ever since—more than 160-fold since 1763! (And about 150% in just the past allotted 3-score and ten—about my lifetime up to now!)

And what was all that “largesse” about? Helping out “the wretched of the earth”? Much more to do with getting wealthy on slave labor in the South, indentured servitude and close-to (and sometimes worse than)-“slave labor” in the factories in the North. Much more to do with constant displacement of those remaining “savages” in that vast Western “territory” conquered from Mexico. More to do with consolidating the Empire, knitting it together with railroads, and stretching past its borders (it’s skin!) to conquer the Caribbean (by 1898; we already had the “Monroe Doctrine” justifying all that, didn’t we?), and then across the Pacific to conquer the kingdom of Hawaii, the betrayed Philippines (handy “coaling stations there!), butting heads with land-starved Japan, and always justifying all our conquests, all our “interventions,” with pleasant-sounding platitudes; e.g.:

“Give me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

Pretty good for a platitude…, but, what about “displacement”? Archimedes discovered the correlation between body weight, volume and displacement of water. It was measurable, quantifiable. In the US, we ignore “displacement.” Yeah, sure—we brought in all these “pioneers” from Britain, etc.—but what about the “savages” displaced? Yeah, sure, we bring in all these tawny, olive-skinned people from southern Europe—some relatives of mine included!–but what about the people “displaced” in our factories, spewing pollution to the now unemployed, no-longer-needed “deplorable” masses? (And consider this, George M. Cohan, et. al.: No doubt we would have far fewer people wishing to immigrate here if we made far fewer wars “over there”! And, is it not strange that no one talks about the Ehrlichs’ “Population Bomb” anymore?) The more the merrier? Really?

Is our “Labor Movement” getting a bit too big for its britches? Let’s pollute the “Movement”—bring in more immigrants! Let’s crowd our laboring masses into crime-ridden cities like Chicago and Detroit where they can be better “managed” by political “bosses” and our militarized police. And let’s just keep feeding the masses their fast-food slop, and fake-news and glut-of-news B.S.! The people are overwhelmed! They cannot “vet.” Education has been displaced by political, rhetorical nonsense. Media, including “the Arts”—their own kind of “media”—for the most part: titilate, inundate, reiterate, eviscerate and regurgitate! They don’t educate, certainly don’t elevate. Whether it’s a TV “anchor,” late-night mouthpiece “host,” Hollywood predator-producer, or some other hyped-on-self-importance android…for the most part the name of the game is degrade and evade. Students at the “best” universities do not learn “how” to think, but “what” to think. Techno-humans (and non-humans) displace the extended family, the nuclear family, the individual, et. al..

It takes most of us a long time to “discern”: to put the puzzle pieces together, to vet ideas and notions, weigh, observe and correlate. Do people still read books? Is there time? I finally got around to reading Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” last year! (One upsetting, unsettling capsule of a lesson learned: “Adulteration”!—of food, of truth. It’s been an egregious, omnipresent fact of life since Sinclair’s time…and before….) I still haven’t read “War and Peace”! Much as I like Mark Twain for work like “The Mysterious Stranger,” isn’t it time for our public schools to replace “Tom Sawyer” with “The Jungle”? Might we replace “Julius Cesar” with Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children”? Could we be a little more “relevant”?)

Life is short; and the grains of sand flow ever-faster through the hour-glass, and the algorithms now reach “conclusions” before we passing mortal beings can even stammer out a premise. What are our “human” values now? The very notions of “humanity” and “The Humanities” seem fading flowers.

One idea still lingers: after the vetting, and the discernment and recognition of the pain of “displacement”–the idea of “integration” remains.

After the old monuments are dismantled, what new monuments can we assemble? Do I have the right to destroy a man or woman’s pride in his/her heritage because it differs radically from my understanding? Does that “other” have a right to destroy my pride? Where are the teachers to help us understand our history, to help us reconcile our differences; to help us recognize who we are, who we have been, who we may become?

It is not a dreamy, nationalist, “melting-pot” fantasy we’ve nurtured, about forming a “greater Union”—as Lincoln had it. (Shall we tear down the Lincoln Memorial or blow up Mt. Rushmore? The greatest mass-hanging in American history was ordered by “rail-splitter!” and “Indian-fighter!” President Lincoln, when hungry, destitute and desperate Sioux “Indians” wandered off their open-air-prison-“reservation” to gather food for their starving families. Over 30 hanged in a few shivering moments. A spectacle to teach them kind their place!)

Whom shall we lionize; whom condemn? While victorious and prosperous Americans were jitter-bugging during the “Roaring Twenties,” German children were starving in the streets…and their parents prayed for a “savior”! Who is “innocent”; who is “guilty”? What generation has been free of folly…or delusions of grandeur…or solipsistic violence? Is the pain of disenfranchised Palestinian children less keen than the “never-forgotten” pain of the Jewish holocaust? Is that holcaust less terrible, or more terrible, than the holocausts of North and South American native peoples…, or those holocausts in Ukraine under Stalin, or in Russia during World War II when 20 million died; and Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Dresden? Their embers burn in our hearts evermore.

Not a greater “nation-state” to win the competitive economic battles ahead—and possible sanguinary battles—with an emergent China, a peristent Russia, or some new alliance based on the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) or OBOR (“One Belt, One Road”—China’s own super-version of the American rail system that knit our land-empire together, and our Interstate highways that changed our culture forever)! Nein! Nyett! No! We need a greater Eureka vision now!

When I think about “integration” it is Martin Luther King’s words that I hear—about “all God’s children” being “free at last.” That is the “freedom” and “integration” of a greater vision, a greater calling. But, how can there be “freedom” without knowledge, without understanding? (“Where shall wisdom be found?” Job wondered. “Where is the place of understanding?” And, a long time after, “The Preacher” pondered: “In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” And yet, he pondered: “A wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.”)

On this tiny, threatened planet–this electron whirling around our flash-bulb-sun–can we possibly transcend to a higher vision—a Carl Sagan/Archimedes kind of vision of that miniscule “blue-dot” of Earth in a spiraling galaxy? Transcend to a sensibility that courageously vets ideas and concepts rationally, educates our children honestly, and recognizes/discerns the pain we have inflicted by displacement, “deplorable” put-downs, and our ignorance and prejudices?

Can we rectify the names (as Kung Fu-tzu/Confucius taught)? Can we correlate, and balance the equations?…judge between real gold and fool’s gold? Is it too late? Is it time to give up?

Then…, who will tell the children?

Dr. Gary Corseri’s articles, poems, fiction and dramas have appeared in hundreds of global periodicals and websites. He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has published 2 novels, 2 collections of poems, and a literary anthology (edited). He has taught in US public schools and prisons, and in universities in the US and Japan. Contact: Gary_Corseri@comcast.net.

16.02.2018 Aram Aharonian

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NGOs, the attack on Oxfam’s credibility and the accidental coincidences

Oxfam, the Non-Governmental Organization, the same organization that in recent weeks had launched a devastating report on inequality in the world, has been left with its once high reputation on the ground, following a synchronized attack by the hegemonic press.

It is not about defending the disfunction of the NGO and its officials, but about making sure that only those who do not follow the scripts of the powerful are persecuted. The big NGOs have the same sins as the United Nations and the big corporations that send part of their staff to poor countries.

The Oxfam report noted that the crisis of inequality is worsening: 82% of the world’s wealth generated during the past year went into the hands of the richest 1% of the world’s population, while the poorest 50% -3. 700 million people- did not benefit in the least from said “growth”.

Our failed economic model is widening the gap between rich and poor. This model allows the wealthiest to continue to accumulate immense fortunes while hundreds of millions of people are undermined in their fundamental rights and have to struggle every day to survive with poverty wages, especially women, it added. Obviously the powerful did not like it.

When conservative politics return to power there are two budgets they eliminate or try to minimize: the social rights of citizens and development aid, always with the support of the local and transnational press. And while these denunciations take place, the international weakening of multilateralism is observed, the only way capable of curbing the risk of the use of cooperation as a business.

The truth is that NGOs in Latin America not only infiltrate ideologically the popular sectors – penetration from below and inside – with which they work directly in self-help and microenterprise development projects, in schools, neighborhoods, cooperatives, marginal communities, rural areas, factories, but also infiltrate ideologically the cadres of organizations and these, potentially qualified to invigorate the popular movement, give it political-ideological training and become promoters and companions of political-social change.

Local activity, an emblem of NGO action, is an ideological trap, since it dismantles the popular movement through false paradigms such as “helplessness” and also through competition for financial resources. And it works in parallel with the hegemonic project, because it allows the neoliberal regimes, transnationals and international financial entities to dominate macro-economic policy and channel most of the State’s resources as subsidies to export capital and to the payment of the external debt.

Oxfam International, a federation of civilian humanitarian organizations, is accused of violations committed by some of its members in South Sudan and Liberia, as well as members of its mission to Haiti after the earthquake that struck that nation in 2010 hiring prostitutes with money from the humanitarian organization itself.

Meanwhile, the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) admitted that during the past year it has registered 24 cases of sexual harassment or abuse and 146 complaints of harassment in general. Therefore, 19 people were dismissed and another five sanctioned with various disciplinary measures. The count does not include the cases directly managed by the teams in the field and not reported to the headquarters.

Various foundations and NGOs have been identified by public scrutiny, even subjected to judicial processes, because they worked, in fact, as a screen for the commission of crimes, some of them serious. Others have been denounced as façade institutions for political and propaganda purposes of various governments, and some others, as instruments for the realization of fraud and diversion of resources, points out the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

Oblivious to all control and all regulation, some of these organizations arrogate to themselves the power to judge and condemn governments, companies, media and partisan formations, using the mantle of purity in which they have previously been covered, it adds.

Oxfam, Malcorra, the Clintons

Oxfam, which receives millions of euros from British and European institutions, and thousands of people, commissioned Helen Evans in 2012 to set up a mechanism to receive and process complaints about cases of sexual exploitation and all kinds of abuses such as those that occurred in 2010 in Haiti (relations with prostitutes and rape accusations) and several years before in Chad.

After leaving Oxfam, Evans communicated her findings to the Charity Commission (public body that oversees the NGOs and charities) and the Ministry of Cooperation. The Oxfam scandal will be used by all those who believe that development aid is wasteful.

The concealment existed: when the man who organized parties with prostitutes in Haiti agreed to leave and was able to find employment in another NGO that also sent him to Bangladesh. Seven years before the events in Haiti, that same man, Roland van Hauwermeiren, had been responsible for similar acts in Liberia, with another NGO.

But a similar event involving UN peacekeepers and the DAAT, responsible for cooperating with the deployment of the UN “peace missions” around the world (the then Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, accused of covering up sexual abuse of children in Africa) did not have the same treatment.

Anders Kompass, veteran Swedish human rights fighter and until then UN Field Operations Director, resigned after presenting an internal document denouncing the abuse documented by Unicef ​​of 16 children in the Central African Republic by the troops French Peace Corps and not having a single answer.

Both The Guardian and Foreign Policy pointed directly to the negligence of Malcorra and the UN high command to deal with this case, suspicions that increased when the world organization Aids-Free World leaked an interchange of internal UN mails between Malcorra, the person in charge of the Ethics Office Joan Dubinsky and the Deputy General Secretary of Internal Oversight Services Carman LaPointe, in which they planned how to deal with and diminish the impact of the Kompass accusations: an attempt to cover up at Machiavellian level.

A month earlier, Malcorra had organized a meeting in Turin, Italy, with Dubinsky, Lapointe and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, where the plan to cover up the scandal was designed.

German judge Thomas Laker, of the UN Dispute Court, decided months after the suspension of Kompass it was “prima facie illegal” and before such pressure, the then Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon appointed an independent panel of three judges, who carried out the investigation. The resolution was clear: there was a “serious institutional failure, to pass the investigation -of violations- from table to table without stopping to study it”, and pointed to the responsibility of Malcorra. But there was no scandal of the dimensions of Oxfam.

The never-cleared death of former Haitian Klaus Eberwein who was to appear before the Ethics and Anticorruption Committee of the Senate of this country to declare against the Clinton Foundation for the appropriation of international donations by billions of dollars for humanitarian aid, but never reached the island.

It was not until 2016 that US media began to address a problem that Haitians have raised for years: that Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill had a terrible record in Haiti, where they have manipulated elections, poorly targeted earthquake reconstruction funds and undermined Haitian sovereignty.

The Washington Post reviewed how Secretary of State Clinton “pressured then-President René Préval with the loss of US and international aid unless the election results changed to conform to the OAS recommendation” (his), and that was how Michel Martelly came to power.

In June 2011, Haïti Liberté, in association with the magazine The Nation, began to publish a series that analyzed about 2,000 WikiLeaked secret cables, which among other facts indicated that “even before the Haitian government authorized it, Washington began to deploy 22,000 troops in Haiti after the earthquake of January 12, 2010, although officials of the US embassy said there was no serious security problem.”

The article “Washington supports famous brand contractors” explained how the Clinton State Department continued the policy of George W. Bush to work “closely with factory owners hired by Levi’s, Hanes and Fruit of the Loom to aggressively block a miser increase in the minimum wage for workers in the area, the lowest paid in the hemisphere. ”

To conclude, one of Hillary’s brothers, Tony Rodham, is in charge of a major gold mine on the island and has a contract for 26 years, after – together with his partners – he proposed a project to rebuild homes by a value of 22 million dollars after he proposed a housing reconstruction project with funds from the Clinton Foundation.

The role of NGO-ism

Since the 1980s, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have spread throughout the world, opening an important political, cultural and socio-economic space, practically in every corner of the planet. It is estimated that there are currently more than 10 million NGOs on the planet.

In India, for example, there is one NGO per 600 people. In order to achieve this, the globalized media highlighted day by day their role in education, the fight against poverty and illiteracy, the protection of the environment, the promotion of civil liberties, the protection of human rights, etc., but they hid its dark side. When their action bothers them, the scandals arrive.

There are approximately 40,000 NGOs subsidized by the US and European governments and created for the specific purpose of being instruments of the globalizers of Washington and Brussels.

The idea of ​​creating non-governmental organizations that could be used by intelligence services for the creation of social networks in Africa, Asia and Latin America for the purpose of promoting American interests emerged at the end of the first half of the 20th century, but it was only launched in 1961, driven by the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959, when the US Agency was created by an executive order. US for Development (Usaid).

The American William A. Douglas in Developing Democracy (1972) noted that people in developing countries were like “children” who needed “a tutelage, regulation and control by the US government.” For Douglas, the process of global transformation could not be done through governments, it was necessary to create grassroots organizations in every place of the planet under the control of specialized American agencies.

These grassroots organizations in the 1980s took the form of non-governmental organizations that, under the control of the State Department, had to destabilize governments not related to US policy through subtle work, concealing their subversive purposes with some real programs like the fight against extreme poverty.

At the same time, it was precisely USAID that sent the famous American torture specialist Dan Mitrione to Brazil in 1960-1967, the Dominican Republic in 1965 and Uruguay in 1969-1970. USAID also actively participated in all the coups and attempted coups that took place in Africa, Asia and Latin America from 1961 until now, in close collaboration with the CIA, the MIS (Military Intelligence Service), the FBI, the DEA , the NSA (National Security Agency), etc.

While the Soviet Union and the socialist camp existed, USAID, along with other NGOs such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), did everything possible to contain the ideological influence of the USSR, being ideological and operative missionaries of the empire during the Cold War.

The revelations about the participation of the CIA and its covert organization, Usaid, in the murder of Patricio Lumumba in the Congo, in the death of Salvador Allende in Chile and in hundreds of attacks against Fidel Castro forced the NED to be put out of operation in 1983.

Its creator, Georgetown professor Allen Weinstein, was more specific when he declared in 1991: “The great number of tasks that we fulfilled today were 25 years ago the responsibility of the CIA.” A few years earlier, in 1986, the first director of the NED, Carl Gershman, recognized that his organization was a facade of the CIA.


There are no coincidences. There is no doubt about the violations carried out by members of NGOs, UN peacekeepers, and the United Nations Stabilization Mission In Haiti (UNSTAMIH). But the broadside against Oxfam is more like a demonstration of strength by the world’s powerful against those who denounce the inequality and inequities of their model of plunder and subjection.

13.02.2018 Pressenza London

Jeremy Corbyn: nationalize, democratize electricity grid to avert climate crisis

[UK] Labour Party leader calls for ‘radical’ action to help avert climate catastrophe

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said making the nation’s electricity grid publicly-owned is the best course to “put tackling climate change at the heart of our energy system.”

Speaking Saturday at a conference in London, Corbyn decried the failure of privatization of public services and laid out an economic vision that addresses the climate crisis while narrowing inequality.

“The challenge of climate change requires us to radically shift the way we organize our economy,” he said.

The Attlee administration that presided over Britain following World War II and created the welfare state, he said, “knew that the only way to rebuild our economy was through a decisive turn to collective action.”

“Necessary action to help avert climate catastrophe requires us to be at least as radical,” he said.

The Tory-led government of Prime Minister Theresa May has not taken that radical action, Corbyn charged, instead having “licensed fracking, declared a moratorium on renewable levies while massively subsidizing fossil fuels, dithered over tidal, held back onshore wind, U-turned on making all new homes zero carbon, and is failing to take the necessary measures to meet our legal commitments to reduce CO2 emissions.”

As such, “A green energy system will look radically different to the one we have today,” he said. “The past is a centralized system with a few large plants. The future is decentralized, flexible, and diverse with new sources of energy large and small, from tidal to solar.”

“The greenest energy is usually the most local,” he said, “but people have been queuing up for years to connect renewable energy to the national grid.”

“With the national grid in public hands we can put tackling climate change at the heart of our energy system, committing to renewable generation from tidal to onshore wind.”

Such a grid would “act as the great leveler, distributing energy from where it is plentiful to where it is scarce and guaranteeing that everyone has access to clean, affordable energy all of the time,” he said.

“Anything else is not only unjust, it risks doing immeasurable harm to the climate cause.”

“Because we will only win support for the changes that are needed if we make sure that everyone shares in the benefits,” he said, echoing themes of his party’s manifesto. The benefits, Corbyn argued, are “not just in cheaper energy, an end to fuel poverty, cleaner air, and a sustainable planet, but also in the creation of new good jobs and industries in renewable energy and green tech across the country.”

According to the Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group, Corbyn’s speech is a “must read for anyone who recognizes that ‘business as usual’ won’t cut it to tackle the climate crisis.”

11.02.2018 – Paris Rédaction France

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Paris: Jean-Luc Mélenchon meets Tomás Hirsch

The humanist deputy [Member of Parliament] of the Chilean Broad Front [Frente Amplio], Tomás Hirsch, met today in Paris with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Sabine Rubin and Alexis Corbière, deputies of the France Insoumise caucus, in the offices of the National Assembly.

In a close dialogue and in perfect Spanish, Mélenchon was very enthusiastic about the strengthening of Frente Amplio, which led the coalition to elect 20 deputies and a senator in the last election in Chile. The French referent highlighted the coincidence between the concerns, proposals and experiences of France Insoumise with those of the Frente Amplio.

“Together we will put the Latin American pseudo-democracies in check, the processes of that region are a mirror of French. We must be professional, serious, work hard and not just be a new force”, said the former French presidential candidate.

Tomás Hirsch highlighted “the warmth, energy and passion of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, as well as the group of young deputies in France Insoumise that broke into French politics.”

Both leaders agreed to strengthen the relationship between the Humanist Party and the Broad Front, with France Insoumise.

After this meeting, Tomás Hirsch met with the parliamentary friendship group France-Chile, where he was formally asked to form a similar group in the Chilean Chamber of Deputies, in order to establish a new instance of permanent communication between both parliaments. Tomás Hirsch undertook to take the necessary steps so that this request could be implemented.

The elected deputy will meet on Wednesday and Thursday in Madrid with Pablo Iglesias, of Podemos, as well as with other Spanish leaders, holding working meetings to reach agreements that allow projecting the relationship with the Humanist Party and the Chilean Broad Front.

How a GM giant ‘bought control’ of what millions of Londoners read

10.02.2018 Pressenza London

How a GM giant ‘bought control’ of what millions of Londoners read
GM foods (Image by Sudhir Gandotra Facebook)

By JAMES CUSICK and CRINA BOROS 8 February 2018 for openDemocracy (see reference pictures in the original article)

The Evening Standard’s lucrative deal with Swiss chemical giant Syngenta shows how commercial giants pay for news – with readers left in the dark.

London’s Evening Standard, the city’s flagship free newspaper read by millions of commuters every week, struck a lucrative deal that helped to varnish the reputation of one of the world’s largest agribusiness companies – with readers unaware that the firm was paying for positive coverage, openDemocracy can reveal today.

Billion dollar lawsuits the company was facing from farmers in the US were not mentioned in the paper’s coverage, and the ongoing controversy over UK plans to soften post-Brexit rules on GM seeds in farming was also bypassed.

As part of a major commercial deal in 2017 between the Swiss giant Syngenta and ESI Media – a major UK media company owned by Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev and run by his son Evgeny – a series of public ‘debates’ and articles on the ‘future of food’ were run by London’s Evening Standard.

In the debates and related content, paid for by Syngenta, there was no examination of the financially damaging billion-dollar legal challenges Syngenta was facing across the United States.

Also omitted from the Standard’s coverage was the emerging political controversy over plans by the UK government to rewrite post-Brexit rules on the use of genetically modified seeds in farming – which Syngenta continues to back through expensive lobbying.

Syngenta’s paid-for debates and coverage in the Evening Standard are part of a growing practice inside ESI Media which deliberately blurs the division between advertising and editorial content, senior inside sources have told openDemocracy.

As part of a wider investigation by openDemocracy into the commercial pressures now affecting Europe’s media, former executives, journalists, and other insiders at ESI described a culture where senior editors play a subservient role to commercial masters who effectively run ESI’s operations – with readers left in the dark about who pays for their news, and on what terms.

Coverage ‘money can’t buy’
“Content creators” are described by ESI’s own marketing materials as “embedded” within the company’s editorial departments. High-profile brands like Virgin and Sainsbury’s are promised an “emotional relationship” with Evening Standard readers. As an ESI client, Syngenta, one of the world’s largest crop chemical producers that has previously been accused of orchestrating attacks on scientists who challenge the safety of their products, would have been promised “cut through” content and coverage that “money can’t buy.”

Inside sources claim that the difference between commercial and editorial content at ESI has become so weak at the paper, now edited by former Conservative chancellor George Osborne, that one former executive told openDemocracy: “The sleight of hand is so routine that if they renamed it the London Advertiser, that would be more appropriate.”

Former chancellor George Osborne arrives at the Evening Standard offices to begin new role as editor. Victoria Jones/PA Images. All rights reserved.

China takeover and a new commercial “partnership”
When the lucrative deal between Syngenta and ESI Media was agreed in early 2017, the Swiss agri-chemical company was on course to be taken over by ChemChina, the state-owned Chinese chemical company. The $43 billion take-over figure was mentioned in a March 2017 article in the Evening Standard.

But it is what the Standard omitted to tell its readers about Syngenta – and what it failed to highlight in the public debates it hosted, paid for by Syngenta – that marks the difference between editorial information intended to inform readers, and commercial content paid for by a company looking to boost its balance sheet.

An executive source from within ESI has confirmed to openDemocracy that the March 8 piece last year, written by a Standard news and technology reporter, was part of the commercial “partnership” between Syngenta and ESI. (ESI Media also owns the Independent, now an online-only UK newspaper, and the London Live TV channel.)

In the article, pictured below, there was nothing to tell readers the piece was part of a lucrative commercial relationship with Syngenta.

However, under a sub-heading, ‘Join the debate’, the Standard said it had 25 pairs of tickets to “give away” to a series of debates on the future of food that were being run “in conjunction with Syngenta.” A deadline and internet address for the ticket offer was included.

The piece described Syngenta as “one of the world’s leading crop protection firms” and stated that the Swiss firm believed “future shoppers face a stark compromise” – accept innovation or face higher prices and supply shortages.

The company, whose net income in 2016 was put at $1.2 billion, was described as “believing that ‘technology is key to sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture, including new genetic techniques, such as genome-editing…’”

Almost two thirds of the article was devoted to a positive presentation of Syngenta by senior company executives. Although GM (Genetic Modification) is still regarded as highly controversial by many UK farmers and consumers, the Standard described GM as simply a “more rapid process of what has been undertaken by seed breeders for centuries.”

The Swiss company’s often controversial technologies were described in the article as “the best possible outcome”, with those campaigners critical of genetically engineered crops dismissed as holding a “deep suspicion of technology.”

Public ‘education’ – paid for by Syngenta

The first of the ESI-Syngenta ‘future of food’ events, on March 22, was chaired by the then-editor of the Standard, Sarah Sands, now editor of BBC Radio 4’s prestigious Today Programme.

Industry sources told openDemocracy that given the high profile involvement of the editor (Sarah Sands) in the event, and the global importance of well-timed positive editorial, Syngenta would have been expected to pay north of £100,000 to ESI for their overall deal. The marketing agency, Green Street Media, were also paid to assist ESI with the public events.

Both Syngenta and ESI have declined to reveal what the deal was worth.

But for ESI, revenues from the Syngenta “partnership” and other paid-for content which blur the divide between editorial and advertising have become increasingly important. Three months after the food conference, the paper announced that profits had fallen by a third, down from £3.3m the previous financial year, to £2.2m. A further fall in profits is anticipated by City analysts when new figures are released later this year, linked to the fall in traditional advertising revenue and increased costs in distributing the freesheet across London.

Although the March 22 ‘future of food’ discussion panel in Somerset House, chaired by Sands, was described as containing “industry experts”, discussions were dominated by those making the case for the importance of technology, with the North Europe head of Syngenta, Alex Steel, given a prominent role in the event.

A Standard staff reporter covered the debate, later stating it was between “Syngenta at one end and the co-owner of the healthy eating restaurant chain Leon [Henry Dimbleby] at the other.”

Yet Dimbleby – a long-term friend of the current environment secretary, Michael Gove – repeated what others on the panel had stated: that technology was critical and that UK consumers were not technology-averse. Concluding, Dimbleby said: “I’m very optimistic that technology is going to solve our problems.”

Michael Gove, Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent from Leon Restaurants visit the breakfast club at Lauriston School in Hackney on 4 July 2012. Image used under Fair Use: Flickr/educationgovuk. All rights reserved.

Syngenta’s own company website used the content from the Standard debate, stating it had been a “pioneering example of the mainstream media highlighting the issues we face and educating the public on how food is produced.” There was no mention that the public’s “education” had been bought by the company itself.

What they also failed to mention…
At the time of the Standard extolling the virtues of Syngenta’s technology, legal trials in the US were pending, with lawsuits from some 350,000 corn growers across 20 US states claiming as much as $13 billion in losses.

In 2013 China had tested corn shipments from the United States and discovered they contained a specific genetically modified corn seed. Two years earlier Syngenta had marketed two varieties of corn seed to farmers in the US – Viptera and Duracade. Both were approved in the United States, but several other markets, including China, had not given formal approval for their use.

Farmers claimed Syngenta had rushed the genetically modified seed to market before getting export approval from China. The legal actions also claimed that Syngenta had misled them over when China would licence the GM seed.

Lawsuits against the Swiss company began piling up. The loss of the Chinese export market decreased overall demand for US corn, resulting in falling prices for US crops. Farmers affected included big producers in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

Devastating losses’

Syngenta logo in a corn field near Basel, Switzerland. Xu Jinquan/PA Images. All rights reserved.

With more than 90% of corn grown in the US genetically engineered, the loss of the Chinese market was devastating. Farmers and other companies involved in the corn industry filed a series of lawsuits against Syngenta. Studies by the US National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association estimated the minimum damage to the industry was north of $3 billion.

The Swiss multinational claimed it had done nothing wrong and that the Chinese had not been interested in food safety, but were instead intent on lessening its dependence on the US corn market.

The massive China-related lawsuits had featured in coverage by international wire services such as Reuters, with Syngenta’s financial difficulties also spelled out in articles in the Financial Times and the Mail. Rumours early last year that the scale of Syngenta’s lawsuit liabilities in the United States would lead to a credit-rating downgrading were confirmed later in 2017 when the two ratings agencies, Standard & Poor, and then Fitch, both put Syngenta “on notice” for a potential downgrade. In October last year, Fitch rated Syngenta at BBB, two notches above junk.

However, the ESI-Syngenta coverage focused only on the positives of new genetic technology.

One international trade broker in London, who asked not to be named because of his continuing involvement in global agribusiness, told openDemocracy: “The scale of Syngenta’s problems in early 2017 pointed to a potential credit rating downgrading. And though Syngenta has now reached settlement with a large number of litigants, there still remains concern about how these high-level settlements will be funded. I’d want to know all of this kind of stuff if I was attending a conference or reading about global food safety.”

The Brexit context
The timing of the Standard’s “partnership” was also politically critical for Syngenta. Early last year, Andrea Leadsom, then agriculture secretary, told a conference in Oxford: “as we prepare to leave the EU, I will be looking at scrapping the rules that hold us back and focusing instead on what works best for the UK.”

After Leadsom’s hint, the government confirmed that as part of the preparations for Brexit it would be reviewing regulations surrounding genetically modified organisms. It remains possible that GM crops could be licensed for commercial purposes as part of the UK’s post-Brexit regime, and the “precautionary” principles that have been a signature of Brussels’ rules could be ended.

This agricultural turnaround, given the enduring scepticism about the merits of GM, will not come without a loud public debate. In anticipation of this, leading GM companies including Monsanto and Syngenta are understood to have increased their budgets for high-profile lobbying campaigns to change public hearts and minds on genetic biotechnology.

Lobbying for GM
What the ESI Media partnership indicates, according to a leading UK lobbyist, is that in addition to some much-needed reputation-boosting after the China-related lawsuits, Syngenta “wanted to begin the assault on changing consumer attitudes to GM. From the highly controlled debate [in the Evening Standard], it would appear the message the company wants the public to hear, and were prepared to pay for, is: ‘accept-our-technology or face more expensive food’”.

Tamsin Cave at the transparency group Spinwatch said: “Syngenta is doing what lobbyists always do: trying to shape public opinion. It’s the only thing standing in the way of GMOs in the UK. So, it is framing the debate as this fictional choice between food shortages and price increases (the problem) and GMOs (the solution). Plus, we’re being told not to listen to their critics, who are apparently all Luddites. None of this is fact, it’s all just manufactured PR, and the Evening Standard is just the latest vehicle willing to spread it.

“Expect to see a lot more of this as we approach Brexit, which lobbyists see as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to roll back regulations. We should all be extra vigilant.”

openDemocracy asked Syngenta how its content contract with ESI Media was intended to work, and whether image and reputation was considered a key ingredient of its deal with Evgeny Lebedev’s company. We also asked if the London debates were deliberately timed to address the difficult commercial backdrop that at one point was looking to cost the company billions of dollars. In addition we asked what ESI Media was paid for the deal, and whether the company stipulated that background details from Syngenta’s global operations should be “held back” from London’s Evening Standard readers.

The full statement from a Syngenta spokesman reads:

“Syngenta partnered with the London Evening Standard in 2017 to undertake a series of events in London with the aim of engaging Londoners in open debate about the challenge of sustainably feeding major cities worldwide. Whilst many living in the rural environment have a direct understanding and relationship to farming and food production those in cities are sometimes less engaged despite forming the largest number of food consumers.
“Through the events Syngenta demonstrated that it is open, engaged and responsible in promoting its technologies and responding to concerns of consumers. The events were fully advertised and included a fully public all-day pop up at Kings Cross Station. At both of the events held in 2017 we were happy to engage and discuss any issue with anyone.”
ESI Media were also asked to comment on the commercial details of their deal with Syngenta, and why there was no mention of the global financial difficulties the Swiss company was experiencing that had been widely reported elsewhere.

The company’s managing director, Doug Wills, said the partnership had been “news driven” and claimed the public debate about the future of food had been “an issue of considerable interest to our readers.” Wills said the Standard’s coverage around the event and a subsequent article later in the year “reflected both sides of the debate”.

This article is part of openMedia a project funded by the Adessium and Democracy and Media foundations to investigate and expose commercial interference in editorial decisions across Europe’s media. If you are a journalist who recognises any of the issues described here, please fill out our confidential survey below, anonymously if you wish. Thank you.

09.02.2018 – London, UK Silvia Swinden

This post is also available in: Spanish

Not guilty verdict for 4 campaigners against the London Arms Fair Sep 2017
(Image by CAAT Facebook)

According to the Newham Recorder four anti-DSEI (Arms Fair) campaigners have been found not guilty by a Magistrates Court.

The newspaper article states that “District Judge Hamilton today dismissed the case against the three women and one man accused of wilfully obstructing the highway ahead of the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) gun show….[they] were among more than 100 people arrested for blocking weapons arriving at the ExCeL for the fair last September. All four defendants accepted they had “locked on”, a peaceful technique making it hard for them to be removed, in the road leading to the exhibition centre, only to be arrested minutes later.”

“On the day after the actions of the suffragettes were lauded, it is apt that today’s generation of direct action protesters do not have to wait 100 years to be vindicated,” said lawyer Raj Chada, who represented one of the accused. “These defendants seek to bring to our attention to the evil of the arms trade – it is to that cause that we must focus.”

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade Facebook page reports:

“More good news today as the 4 abseiling activists during #StopDSEI protests were all acquitted! They’re another group who were arrested on the No Faith in War day of action, and the judge has again thrown out the charges under the grounds of their actions being ‘reasonable’. If you’re available to support the other #StopDSEI defendants in person, check out the other court dates: http://www.facebook.com/events/263815450809367/”

The UK is now the second largest arms exporter and it has been criticised for selling weapons to repressive regimes, in particularly Saudi Arabia over its actions in Yemen. Protesters have been opposing the Arms Fair for several years in order to prevent greater crimes, such as genocide and torture, as well as the promotion of banned weapons.


08.02.2018 Robert Burrowes

The Fear Driving US Nuclear Strategy
(Image by youtube.com)

The United States Department of Defense released its latest ‘Nuclear Posture Review 2018’ (NPR) on 2 February, updating the last one issued in 2010 during the previous administration. See ‘Nuclear Posture Review 2018’.

The Executive Summary of the NPR is also available, if you prefer. See ‘Nuclear Posture Review 2018 Executive Summary’.

Several authors have already thoughtfully exposed a phenomenal variety of obvious lies, invented threats, strategic misconceptions and flaws – such as the fallacious thinking behind ‘deterrence’ and significantly increased risk of nuclear war given the delusional ‘thinking’ in the document – as well as the political fear-mongering in the NPR. For example, eminent scholar Professor Paul Rogers has pointed out: ‘The risk now is that we are on a slippery slope towards “small nuclear wars in far-off places”, which themselves could either escalate or at the very least break the 70+ year taboo on treating nuclear weapons as useable.’ See ‘Nuclear Posture Review: Sliding Towards Nuclear War?’

Stephen Lendman has reminded us that US ‘defense spending far exceeds what Russia, China, Iran and other independent countries spend combined’ and that the US ‘nuclear arsenal and delivery systems can destroy planet earth multiple times over’ with the document suggesting ‘preparation for nuclear war’. Moreover, the NPR ‘falsely claims the nation must address “an unprecedented range and mix of threats” posed by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and other countries’ and this despite the incontrovertible fact that no nation has threatened US security since World War II and none threatens it now.

He further points out that the NPR’s claim that there is ‘an unprecedented range and mix of threats, including major conventional, chemical, biological, nuclear, space, and cyber threats, and violent nonstate actors’ is ‘utter rubbish’ and that ‘America’s rage for endless wars of aggression, along with its rogue allies, poses the only serious threat to world peace and stability.’ See ‘Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review’.

Even Andrew C. Weber, an assistant defense secretary during the Obama administration, has warned that

‘Almost everything about this radical new policy will blur the line between nuclear and conventional’ and ‘will make nuclear war a lot more likely.’ See ‘Pentagon Suggests Countering Devastating Cyberattacks With Nuclear Arms’.

Despite the obvious belligerence in the document, we are supposed to believe, according to words in the NPR, that ‘The United States remains committed to its efforts in support of the ultimate global elimination of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons’ despite the US denunciation of the ‘UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’ negotiated by 122 countries just a few months ago in mid-2017. See ‘U.S., UK and France Denounce Nuclear Ban Treaty’.

Presumably, we are supposed to have shorter memories than members of the US administration or to be even more terrified and unintelligent than are they. This would be difficult.

Rather than further critique the document, which several authors have done admirably, I would like to explain my observation immediately above.

Let me start by explaining why those who formulated the current US nuclear strategy, wrote the Nuclear Posture Review, now promote it and are responsible for implementing it, are utterly terrified and quite delusional, and constitute a threat to human civilization.

The NPR is full of language such as this: ‘There now exists an unprecedented range and mix of threats, including major conventional, chemical, biological, nuclear, space, and cyber threats, and violent nonstate actors. These developments have produced increased uncertainty and risk.’

Are these individuals, notably including Donald Trump, Secretary of Defense General Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, Chief of Staff Marine General John Kelly and National Security Adviser General H. R. McMaster, really frightened of countries such as Iran (with its non-existent nuclear arsenal) or North Korea (with its handful of ‘primitive’ nuclear weapons and inadequate delivery systems)? Or are they really frightened of countries such as Russia and China, whose nuclear arsenals pale in comparison to that of the United States and whose strategic posture in any case is decidedly non-aggressive (particularly towards the United States) despite its ongoing provocations of them?

Are US government leaders really so terrified of possible conventional, chemical, biological, space and cyber attacks that they need to threaten nuclear annihilation should it occur?

Well, the answer to each of these questions is that Trump, Mattis, Kelly, McMaster and other US political and military leaders are, indeed, terrified.

However, they are projecting their obvious terror away from its original source and onto a ‘safe’ and ‘approved’ target so that they can behave in accordance with their terror. They do this because the original cause of their terror – their parents and/or other significant adults in their childhood – never allowed them to feel their terror and to direct and express it safely and appropriately. For a full explanation of why this happens, see Why Violence?’ and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.

Unfortunately, and in this case potentially catastrophically, this dysfunctional behavioural response to deeply suppressed terror cannot ‘work’ either personally or politically for the individuals concerned. Let me explain why.

Evolution devised an extraordinarily powerful response to threats: it gave many organisms, including human beings, the emotion of fear to detect threats as well as other tools that can be used in conjunction with fear to respond powerfully to threats. Hence, in response to a threat, humans are meant to feel their fear and, while doing so, engage other feelings, conscience and intelligence so that the source of the threat can be accurately identified and the most powerful and effective behavioural response to that threat can be devised and implemented. In simple language: We need our fear to tell us we are under threat and to play a part in defending ourselves. In evolutionary terms, this was highly functional.

If, however, during childhood, the fear is suppressed because the individual is too frightened to feel it (usually because their parents deny them a safe opportunity to do so), then they will be unconsciously compelled to project their fear onto those who pose no threat (precisely because these people do not immobilize them with terror) and to endlessly seek to control these people (during childhood this usually means their younger siblings and/or friends, and during adulthood it usually means people of another sex, race, class, religion or nation) so that they can gain relief from experiencing their suppressed (childhood) fear.

The relief, of course, is delusionary. But once someone is terrified, it is not possible for them to behave functionally or powerfully. They will live in a world of delusion and projection, endlessly blaming those who they (unconsciously) project to be a threat precisely because these people are not frightening and not a threat and seem more likely to be able to be ‘controlled’.

This projection and behaviour happen all of the time, both in personal interactions and geopolitically, but it doesn’t usually threaten imminent annihilation, even if, to choose another example, it endlessly and perhaps disastrously impedes efforts to tackle the environmental and other assaults on our biosphere.

It is because parents are frightened to feel and experience their own fear that they also fear their child’s fear and they act (consciously or unconsciously, depending on the context) to prevent the child from feeling this fear, perhaps by doing something as simple as reassuring them.

However, parents also use a variety of methods to distract their child from feeling their feelings. They might offer the child a toy or food to distract them. But another important way in which fear is suppressed is by teaching children to use play as a distraction from having their feelings. This fear might then remanifest in the form of the child wanting others to play with them but particularly by doing so in a game of their choosing and over which they have control (so that they can ensure that their fear is not raised).

Once the child has learned to use gaining control over play to distract themselves from their terror, it might well become a lifetime addiction, subsequently manifesting as a dysfunctional desire for control within a family or perhaps even economically, politically or militarily.

Unfortunately, as some of these children grow up and the nature of their ‘game’ changes, the outcome can have deadly consequences. This is simply because there is never any guarantee that others will submit willingly to control by others. And, if they do not, this can trigger the original person’s (unconscious) terror ‘necessitating’ action – a higher-risk strategy in an attempt to secure this higher degree of control over others – to resuppress their terror.

However, for example, even if the terrified person ends up owning a major corporation and exercising a great degree of control over employees, markets and possibly countries, the terror driving their delusional need for control can never be satisfied. See ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’. But the same principle applies in other domains as well, including the political and military.

And in the most dangerous collective manifestation of this major psychological disorder, the current US political/military leadership, which has been effectively merged by Trump’s appointment of military generals to his political staff, we now have the situation where a collection of individuals who are terrified and also project their dysfunctional desire for control onto other nations, are willing to threaten (and use) nuclear weapons in a delusionary attempt to feel (personally) ‘in control’.

It is little wonder that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight! See It is now two minutes to midnight: 2018 Doomsday Clock Statement.

So what can we do?

Well, I would tackle the problem at several levels and I invite you to consider participating in one or more of these.

To help prevent this problem from emerging at its source, you are welcome to consider making ‘My Promise to Children’. This will play a vital role in ensuring that children do not grow up suppressing their fear.

Given the extraordinary emotional and other damage inflicted by school, you might consider educational opportunities for your child(ren) outside that framework. See ‘Do We Want School or Education?’

If you suspect that you are not as powerful as you would like, you might consider ‘Putting Feelings First’ so that you can learn to behave with awareness – a synthesis of all of the feedback that your various mental functions give you and the judgments that arise, in an integrated way, from this feedback. This will enable you to love yourself truly and always courageously act out your own self-will, whatever the consequences.

If you wish to work against the many threats, including military threats, to our environment simultaneously, you are welcome to join those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’.

And if you wish to be part of efforts to end violence and war, including the threat of nuclear annihilation, you are welcome to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ and/or using sound nonviolent strategy for your campaign or liberation struggle. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy or Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.

Our world is poised perilously on the brink of catastrophic nuclear war. This has happened because we have given responsibility for holding the nuclear trigger to a handful of men who, emotionally speaking, are terrified little boys cowering from the imaginary threat of the bogeyman under their bed.

There is no easy way back from this brink. But you can help, both now and in the future, by doing one or more of the suggestions above.


07.02.2018 – Manila, Philippines Karina Lagdameo Santillan

This post is also available in: Greek

Love of the Good and Love of Neighbor: Celebrating UN World Interfaith Harmony Week

It was a Saturday afternoon, usually the busiest day of the week in Metro Manila. Streets were jammed as people went about their weekend activities and chores. Amidst the hustle and bustle, a motley group of people braved the traffic and converged in a humble center located in a quiet subdivision where The Peacemakers’ Circle was celebrating the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Several women in Muslim garb. Hare Krishna, with their musical instruments. Catholic priests. Young teachers. Students… One of the directors of the Peacemakers Circle is Indian; another, a teacher who belongs to an indigenous tribe from the North. From Japan came the directors of Shumei Philippines, a Shinto inspired organization promoting natural agriculture. The group represented different faith traditions practiced in the Philippines— Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, Muslim, Baha’i—and even from a non- denominational spiritual group, The Community for the Message of Silo. Together they shared a simple yet heartfelt afternoon, sharing with each other their chants and prayers, their faiths’ beliefs and insights, on the theme of Loving God, Loving One’s Neighbor.

Seven years ago, King Abdullah II of Jordan proposed a World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Plenary Session of the 65th United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

In his speech, King Abdullah II said:

“It is essential to resist forces of division that spread misunderstanding and mistrust especially among peoples of different religions. The fact is, humanity everywhere is bound together, not only by mutual interests, but by shared commandments to love God and neighbor; to love the good and the neighbor. This week, my delegation, with the support of our friends on every continent, will introduce a draft resolution for an annual World Interfaith Harmony Week. What we are proposing is a special week, during which the world’s people, in their own places of worship, could express the teachings of their own faith about tolerance, respect for the other and peace”

A month later, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, Special Advisor and Personal Envoy to the King Abdullah II and author of the resolution, presented the proposal before the UN General Assembly in New York. The Resolution was adopted unanimously.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of The Common Word initiative which called for dialogue between Muslim and Christian leaders based on two common fundamental religious Commandments– Love of God, and Love of the Neighbor– without having to compromise any of their own religious beliefs. These two commandments are at the heart of the three monotheistic religions and can provide solid theological ground for dialogue. By extending it to ‘Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbor’, this dialogue allows all people of goodwill, those of other faiths, and even those with no religious faith, to be included.

Since then, The World Interfaith Harmony Week has been celebrated during the first week of February by thousands of interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill in all parts of the world. These events are often not covered by the media and go unnoticed by the public. Nevertheless, the week gives the opportunity for diverse groups to become aware of each other’s efforts, to strengthen and inspire each other. The week-long celebrations can provide a powerful impetus of peace and harmony to their respective communities, recognizing that inter-religious dialogue and joint activities are important aspects in creating a culture of peace.

In the Philippines, the WIHW was celebrated by the CBCP-endorsed Uniharmony Partners Manila with various events and activities organized by different faith groups). This was coordinated by Fr. Carlos Reyes (Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) and Pablito “Bong” Baybado (Religions for Peace, UST). The Peacemakers’ Circle, as a member of the UniHarmony Partners Manila, organized an interfaith dialogue afternoon to celebrate friendships and harmony among its members and partners.

Peacemakers’ Circle founder, Dr. Maritess Guingona-Africa, began the sharing with reflections on the teachings of her Catholic Faith, reading some verses from the Bible. Mahendra Das and his fellow Krishna practitioners from ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) explained the meaning of the Hare Krishna Chant and enlivened the event with chanting, complete with drumbeating and music. Different faith practitioners in the circle shared their reflections and gave an introduction of their faith’s beliefs on God and Neighbor– Dr. Genevieve Balance Kupang (indigenous faith tradition), Dr. Potre Dirampatan-Diampuan(Islam), Dr. Shakuntala Vaswani and Mahendra Das (Hinduism), Reimon Sonam Cosare (Buddhism), Rogel Silva (Baha’i), and Tomomi Shima (Shumei).

In today’s world where religious strife and tensions grow daily, dialogue and interfaith exchange can serve as a powerful antidote, a means by which different faith traditions can find points of convergence and a way forward towards a planetary civilization of peace and harmony. A common ground for peace-building is the Golden Rule of treating others as you would have them treat you. Expressed in different ways, the Golden Rule can be found in all faith traditions and can serve as a global ethic to build universal peace

Synthesizing the reflections shared within the circle, the following insights came forth. Love is the message of all religions. In love, fear has no place. Fear makes distinctions between the I and the You. But, in reality, we are all one and interconnected.

This interconnectedness can also be seen in the core belief of the Filipino value system, embodied in the word: “pakikipagkapwa” or “ kapwa”, a richly connotative Filipino word hard to translate directly but which is a worldview that sees the self in the other, a sentiment of shared identity and way of relating that doesn’t see oneself as separate from the other.

In the spirit of interchange generated within this Peacemakers’ Circle event, here are some verses from the Bodhicharyavatara (The Way of the Bodhisattva)—Shantideva, shared by Reimon Sonam Cosare:

Strive first to meditate
Upon the sameness of yourself and others
In joy and sorrow, all are equal.
Thus be a guardian of all, as yourself.

The hands and the limbs are many and distinct,
But all are one—one body to be kept and guarded.
Likewise, different beings in their joys and sorrows
Are, like me, all one in wanting happiness.

My pain does not in fact afflict
Or cause discomfort to another’s body
Through clinging to my I, this suffering is mine.
And being mine, is very hard to bear.

And other being’s pain
I do not feel, and yet
Because I take them from my own,
Their suffering is likewise hard to bear.

And therefore I’ll dispel the pain of others,
For it is simply pain, just like my own.
And others I will aid and benefit,
For they are living beings, just like me.

Since I and other beings both,
In wanting happiness are equal and alike,
What difference is there to distinguish us,
That I should strive to have my own bliss alone?

Since I and other beings both,
In fleeing suffering, are equal and alike,  

What difference is there to distinguish us,
That I should save myself and not the other?

Note: The Peacemakers Circle is a non-stock, non-profit, non-partisan organization composed of people from diverse religions and cultures, different spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions, working together for peace, guided by the principles of unity in diversity, goodwill, and cooperation.  https://thepeacemakerscirclefdn.org/

As one of the organizations who supported the First World March for Peace and Non-violence in the Philippines, there has been interchange and support between the Peacemakers’ Circle and members of the Humanist Movement’s organisms and The Community for the Message of Silo.

05.02.2018 – Santiago de Chile Pía Figueroa

This post is also available in: Spanish

The nonviolent revolution is beginning to become a value

We found very interesting an article published in the section of Science, Education and Technology by El País, written by José L. Álvarez Cedena which highlights the initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, and specifically its Media Lab, to establish the Disobedience Award.

Alvarez gives us the context by reminding us of the time when Mahatma Gandhi, in 1930, took a handful of salt to his mouth in Dandi, shouting “with this salt I will make the foundations of the empire tremble”. He continues with John Ford, who in 1950, when speaking briefly at a meeting of the directors’ union organised by Cecil B. De Mille to expel Joseph Leo Mankiewicz as a communist, said: “My name is John Ford. I do westerns. There is no one in this room who knows what the American public wants and how to give it to Cecil B. De Mille. But I do not like you Cecil, I do not like what he represents and I do not like what he’s saying tonight. ” Also the case of Rosa Parks in Alabama, sitting on the side of the bus reserved for whites in 1955; a gesture that turned a humble woman into a symbol. And also Henry David Thoreau, and Leon Tolstoy, and Nelson Mandela. There are in history examples of rebels who with their attitude and their actions have managed to change things. Women and men who refused to obey the established order and, with nonviolence, could modify laws, organize movements and even face whole countries. Many of them – even getting out of their battles – have been repressed, ignored, isolated or punished for their attitude. But now MIT, one of the most prestigious educational centres in the world, wants to recognize their contributions with a prize.

The Disobedience Award, whose first edition was held this year, wants to recognize the audacious, those who promote a positive change in human history by facing any institution (be they governments, courts, laboratories, universities or businesses). Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, believes that “institutions can be very hierarchical and based on obedience. But some systems get stronger the more you attack them. The prize we have created tries to amplify the message of those people who disobey, who take risks”. In an article published by MIT, Ito himself said that when they opened the registration period for the prize (endowed with the not insignificant amount of $250,000) they did not know what to expect. But, in a very few weeks, they received almost 8,000 proposals from candidates around the world.

The winners of this first edition were Mona Hanna-Attisha and Marc Edwards, scientists and activists who confronted the authorities in the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. For years, the water consumed by the inhabitants of the area was contaminated by levels of lead that could become deadly. Hanna-Attisha and Edwars risked their academic prestige, were ridiculed and punished for taking the side of Flint’s neighbors, until they were able to prove that they were right and forced to correct the rulers. “When you face power, it has consequences. I’m going to pay a price for this for the rest of my career”, Edwards said, but he does not regret the decisions he made. He does not do so because, as Joi Ito assures, these disobedient people who fight to change things deserve to be recognized for a task – and that  is a greater reward than any economic reward – guided by a “higher purpose and ethics”.

We know of so many non-violent rebels, whom in Pressenza we interview and whose struggles we continue, giving them dissemination with our journalism. We know the effort of so many people with a good heart to modify favourably the living conditions of the people, of entire communities, of countries and of the eco-system, according to how far each one’s influence radius reaches. These awards undoubtedly stimulate, by giving value and recognition to that rebellion against the imposed conditions and the option of not resorting to violence but to more coherent ways to overcome them.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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