You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2017.

 

30.06.2017 Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research

Washington’s new threat against Syria, Russia and Iran: Invitation to false flag operation
Syrian refugee Oum Ali wipes a tear while recounting her harrowing escape from besieged Aleppo. (Image by Mohamed Azakir/World Bank/Flickr Creative Commons)

By Farhang Jahanpour

On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It went on to say: “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, followed that statement by tweeting, “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

On Tuesday morning, speaking on BBC 4 Today programme, the British Defence Minister Sir Michael Fallon was asked how Britain would respond to another American attack on Syria, and he responded “we will support” future US action in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

With these unsubstantiated statements on Syria, the Trump Administration is dragging the world towards the law of the jungle. As if the situation in the Middle East was not bad enough, these warlike statements have made the situation much worse, and are in fact leading us towards a major confrontation in the Middle East with unimaginable consequences.

Some 14 years ago, in total violation of international law and without any authorization by the Security Council, former US President George W. Bush launched a barbaric attack on Iraq, which destroyed the country, killed and wounded more than a million people, and gave rise to ISIS that has since waged a campaign of terrorism throughout the world.

Far from having learned any lessons from that disastrous mistake, the Trump Administration seems intent on committing a similar mistake on a grander scale. During the campaign, Candidate Trump accused the former US Administration of having created ISIS, not indirectly but deliberately. He spoke about America having spent six trillion dollars on illegal wars in the Middle East and having nothing to show for it. He vowed that he would not be interested in regime change and was intent on resolving international disputes through negotiations and deals.

Whether he has changed his mind or whether the neocons in the Administration and the deep state have infiltrated and dominated his administration makes little difference. The clear fact is that the Trump Administration is acting in a dangerous and arrogant way and is dragging the world towards another catastrophe.

Shortly after coming to power, President Donald Trump and his disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn singled Iran out for condemnation and put her on notice, despite the fact that the Iranian government had spent hundreds of hours in constructive talks not only with the United States, but with all the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany and had reached a landmark agreement that was then endorsed by the Security Council.

The agreement blocked all the paths to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, even if she ever had any intention of manufacturing them, something that Iran has denied, and years of investigation have not provided a shred of evidence to the contrary.

President Trump chose Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahhabi fundamentalism that has provided the ideological framework for nearly all the militant Sunni terrorist groups from Al Qaeda, to the Taliban, to Boko Haram and finally to ISIS and its various affiliates, which have created mayhem throughout the world, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, as the venue for his first foreign visit. While in Riyadh, he bizarrely formed a “coalition against extremism” with Saudi leaders at its head.

However, as Trump made absolutely clear in his speech to the unelected Arab monarchs, the main aim of the coalition was to unite those Sunni potentates against Iran.

In the past few weeks, America has launched a number of attacks on the positions of the forces allied with the Syrian government in their battle against ISIS. On 18th May and 6th June, American aircraft bombed pro-Syrian militias in southern Syria. They shot down two Iranian-made drones on 8th and 20 June, and on 18th June a US fighter shot down a Syrian aircraft near the town of Tabqah, west of Raqqa, while the Syrian aircraft was attacking ISIS forces in Raqqa. American and Israeli forces have also frequently attacked the forces affiliated with the Syrian government.

On 6th April, the day when Trump was playing host to the Chinese President, he fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the air base from which a Syrian aircraft that had allegedly used chemical weapons had taken off. This was despite the fact that the United Nations was still investigating the source of the attack and some evidence produced since, including an article by award winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, have cast doubt on the veracity of those accusations.

As Syrian forces, backed by Russia and Iran, are gaining the upper hand and pushing the terrorists and the insurgents out of Syria, the intensity of Israeli and American attacks on Syrian government forces has increased.

From the start of the crisis in Syria, there have been a number of theories based on some leaked information that claimed that the entire debacle in Syria was part of a vicious plot by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States, initially supported by Turkey and Qatar, to isolate Iran and to cut off any links between Iran and Hezbollah through Syria.

Sadly, all the recent events seem to confirm those assumptions. The US Secretary of State has openly spoken about the need for regime change in Tehran, and many members of Congress have also backed those calls. The US Congress has again imposed new sanctions on Iran in clear violation of the JCPOA. American courts have blocked huge Iranian assets and have turned them over to the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, despite the fact that 15 out of the 19 terrorists were Saudi citizens.

A court is considering at the moment the confiscation of a major building belonging to an Iranian foundation in New York again on flimsy charges.

However, whether those theories about US involvement in Syria in support of Israel and against Iran were correct or not, the fact remains that the Trump Administration, once again supported by Britain, is engaged in an illegal and dangerous course of action that may result in a major confrontation between Russia and Iran on the one hand, and the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other.

There is no need to point out that these actions are in clear violation of the UN Charter and are aggressive actions taken illegally in a sovereign state. However, there are a number of points that need to be stressed in this connection:

1. On the basis of which authority is the United States engaging in hostile acts in Syria against that country’s legal government? Russian and Iranian forces have been invited by the Syrian government to fight against the terrorists. By what authority does the United States station her forces in that country and attack Syrian forces?

2. Is the Trump Administration sincere in wanting to fight against ISIS or not? If it is, then why has it intensified its attacks on Syrian and allied forces just at a time when ISIS is on the verge of collapse?

3. Does the Trump Administration believe in democracy, free elections and the rule of law or not? If it does, then how is it possible to side with a number of autocratic rulers in Riyadh on the day when millions of Iranians took part in competitive and vibrant elections with 76 per cent turnout to choose their new president?

4. Is the Trump Administration interested in changing the behavior of the Iranian government, with greater freedoms and more emphasis on human rights, or is it intent on regime change no matter what, in order to please its Israeli and Arab clients? Iran has moved a long way towards greater openness at home and greater coexistence with the West, as evidenced by the JCPOA. Is it not wiser to allow these democratic practices to take their course in the only country in the Middle East with the greatest potential for democracy and cooperation with the West?

5. Has the Trump Administration calculated the cost of another major war in the Middle East, which might prove to be even more disastrous than the invasion of Iraq and Libya? If it hasn’t, is it not time for the international community to tell the US Administration that it will not bear the brunt of another unnecessary catastrophe in the Middle East?

6. During the campaign, candidate Trump often talked about how good it would be to cooperate with Russia to fight ISIS. Russia and Iran have been the two countries that have been fighting ISIS both in Syria and Iraq ever since that terrorist organization was formed. If Trump meant what he said, why is he not cooperating with Russia to finish the job in Syria, instead of hampering Russian and Iranian efforts in support of the Syrian government to restore peace to that country? Have Trump and his generals thought about the consequences of a confrontation with Russia for America and the world?

7. Does the Trump Administration believe in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict with some justice for the hard-pressed Palestinians who have lived under a brutal occupation for more than 50 years, or is it going to turn a blind eye to their suffering by supporting Israel’s illegal occupation? For the sake of sustainable peace in the Middle East, would it not be better to put some pressure on Israel to reach a fair settlement with the millions of Palestinians either on a one-state or a two-state solution, instead of destabilizing the Middle East in support of unreasonable Israeli demands?

8. During the campaign, Mr. Trump strongly criticized President Obama for having set a red line for Syria not to use chemical weapons, and then did nothing when Syria allegedly used chemical weapons. Does he realize that by issuing such statements he is making an open invitation to the terrorists to undertake such false flag operations and then he will be boxed in and would have no option but to launch a heavy attack on Syria, whether the government was responsible for the use of chemical weapons or not?

9. Finally, does the Trump Administration believe in the rule of law, the supremacy of the Security Council and the need for negotiations and talks, or does it believe in the law of the jungle? If it believes in the rule of law and peaceful resolution of conflicts, it should clearly stop any action that is not authorized by the Security Council and that goes against international law.

The world is poised at a very critical juncture.

The events in Syria could either lead to the restoration of stability in that war-torn country whose people have gone through unimaginable hardships, or it can pave the way for a global confrontation the outcome of which is too frightening to contemplate.

28.06.2017 Pressenza London

A fatwa against sexual violence: the story of a historic congress of female Islamic scholars
One of the religious deliberation sessions. (Image by Dr Nur Rofiah via openDemocracy)

By Mirjam Künkler and Eva Nisa 26 June 2017 for openDemocracy.

Can women interpret Islamic law? Scholars who think so recently gathered in Indonesia, where fatwas were also issued against child marriage and environmental degradation.

Can women interpret Islamic law? This question would have been a ‘no-brainer’ to a Muslim from Damascus in the 12th century, when women served as renowned teachers of the Islamic tradition, and the opinions of women jurists on questions of Islamic law carried weight comparable to that of male jurists.

Yet, if one asks a Muslim today: have you ever asked a woman for an interpretation of Islamic law?, the answer from Dakar to Dhaka, from Sarajevo to Cape Town, from Jakarta to Ann Arbor will usually be “no”.

Women are not asked to interpret Islamic law, and few expect them to do so. Very often, this is because women are not sufficiently trained for this work. If they are, they tend to be consulted only on so-called ‘women’s issues’ such as child rearing, a wife’s duties towards her husband and towards others in the family, household organisation, and hygiene.

In recent years, however, Muslims in different parts of the world have started to address gender imbalances in juristic expertise. In India, Turkey and Morocco, programs have been set up to train women as muftis (jurists who can issue fatwas or expert legal opinions). Judicial bureaucracies in Malaysia and the Palestinian Authority have begun to hire female judges in their sharia courts.

Recently, Indonesian organisations also joined forces to convene the Muslim world’s first congress of ulama perempuan: women Islamic scholars.

This historic event, held in late April in Cirebon, West Java, was nothing short of a breakthrough in terms of re-establishing the long-lost juristic authority of women to produce Islamic legal recommendations and rulings. It concluded with the issuance of three historic fatwas – against sexual violence, child marriage, and environmental degradation exacerbating gender inequality.

Between us, we have studied Islamic authority and gender for decades. We interviewed several of the women scholars, as well as some of the male attendees, involved in the event to learn more about it and the deliberations process. We have also been able to analyse some of the copious explanatory material issued by the congress.

It was nothing short of a breakthrough in terms of re-establishing women’s juristic authority

Women’s juristic authority was squarely on the agenda. Such authority can manifest itself in Islam in several ways including by leading prayer, reciting the Qur’an, delivering a sermon, transmitting a hadith (a saying of the prophet). The pinnacle of this authority is the ability to interpret Islamic sources to make recommendations of behaviour in the here and now.

In most contemporary Muslim societies, this is exercised in two main ways. The first is by issuing fatwas. These are legal recommendations based typically on interpretations of the Qur’an and hadith. (Different sects in Islam regard different hadiths as authentic, and therefore the specific source material differs from sect to sect.)

A person trained to issue a fatwa is called a mufti, with the feminine form in Arabic muftiya. Fatwas are only recommendations and they are not binding. But they can carry great weight. In some countries, policy makers take fatwas of leading Islamic authorities into account when, for example, considering reforms to family law, inheritance, Islamic finance or food and medicines regulations.

The second way this authority is exercised is by serving as a judge in an Islamic court. This requires deep engagement and expertise interpreting religious sources, and the needed erudition and experience can take decades of study and training to acquire.

In Indonesia, for instance, family courts for the Muslim majority apply Islamic law (non-Muslims are subject to civil family law). Since the 1950s, judges for these courts have been trained in the country’s Islamic state institutes.

Although female judges of Islamic law were unheard of at the time – and remain a minority – admission to these institutes was not restricted to men. And so women also completed this advanced training and, from the 1960s, some have been appointed judges in Indonesia’s Islamic courts.

 In 1970, Sudan also appointed women as judges in courts applying what’s known as “non-codified” Islamic law (under which judges must interpret original sources, as there is no codified text issued by the state, like a statute or book of law).

However, it would take another 35 years before women would be appointed to Islamic courts in other countries. Malaysia did so in 2005, the Palestinian Authority in 2009, and Israel just a few months ago appointed the first woman judge to its Islamic courts.

The congress in Indonesia aimed to raise awareness about these developments and strengthen local initiatives to promote women’s juristic authority in Islam. Importantly, it showed that it’s not only women who stand behind this struggle. Male scholars, while a minority, were also among the speakers and attendees.

It’s not only women who stand behind this struggle. Male scholars were also at the congress. 

At the congress’s core was “musyawarah keagamaan” (religious deliberation) to formulate fatwas. In many Muslim countries fatwas are associated with individual Islamic leaders, but Indonesia has a long tradition of fatwas issued by Islamic institutions’ ‘fatwa commissions.’

The women ulama at the congress issued three fatwas. This in itself was historic as fatwa issuing has long been monopolised by male clerics. (There are, for example, only seven women ulama out of 67 members of the fatwa commission of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) – a prominent Islamic organisation, set up by the government in the 1970s).

The first fatwa issued focused on sexual violence. It emphasises that such violence including within marriage (marital rape) is forbidden under Islamic law (haram). It also distinguishes zina (adultery and fornication) from rape. It emphasises that victims must receive psychological, physical and social support – not punishment.

The second fatwa concerns child marriage. It says these practices bring harm (mudarat) to society. The ulama’s accompanying commentary calls for raising the Indonesian legal marriage age for girls from 16 to 18 years. Importantly, as most child marriages are not registered with the state in the first place, the fatwa also tells ordinary Muslims and imams that it is obligatory (wajib) to prevent them.

The third fatwa links environmental destruction and social inequality. It describes environmental degradation for economic gain as haram and says it has in recent decades in Indonesia exacerbated economic disparity with women the most affected. It notes how drought, for example, adds to the burdens of rural women typically responsible for preparing food and fetching water.

Participants told us that deliberations on this fatwa also touched on issues of land and forest governance, and how deforestation affects women in particular. It demanded that the Indonesian government should impose strict punishments on perpetrators of environmental destruction. Among other things, the discussion noted illegal deforestation campaigns in Indonesia to make space for vast palm oil plantations.

Like the best judges in any society, the women ulama are also experts in diverse contemporary issues.

The women ulama based their religious interpretations on four sources: the verses of the Qur’an, hadith, aqwal ‘ulama (views of religious scholars), and the Indonesian constitution. They used a methodology called “unrestricted reasoning” (istidlal), with stated aims to maximise maslaha (public interest) and reduce mudarat (harm) to arrive at rulings.

The three fatwas show that women ulama also have the ability and the expertise in Islamic sources to formulate these recommendations. They also show that the ulama perempuan do not restrict themselves to the Qur’an, hadith, other classical Islamic texts, and talking about the past. Like the best judges in any society, they are also experts in diverse contemporary issues.

Indeed, Nur Rofi’ah, an expert in Qur’anic and gender studies who took part in the congress, told us that it produced more than fatwas, which usually consist of only a few pages of argumentation. The congress considered a larger range of sources during its deliberations, including evidence of conditions and challenges faced by women. It also produced far longer and more in-depth textual explanations.

Some Indonesian gender rights activists, and Indonesian fatwa committees themselves, use the term sikap keagamaan (religious views) for recommendations that come out of this more complex deliberation process and outcome.

But whether one calls these fatwas or sikap keagamaan, their significance was clear: This congress was a historic step towards reestablishing the long-lost juristic authority of women to produce Islamic legal recommendations and rulings.

About the authors

Dr. Mirjam Künkler is senior research fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study and author of Democracy and Islam in Indonesia, (Columbia University Press, 2013). She has recently published a special journal issue on female Islamic authority in southeast Asia, in the Asian Studies Review 40, 4 (December 2016).

Dr. Eva Nisa is a lecturer in religious studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She has a bachelor’s degree from Al-Azhar University in Cairo in 2002 and a PhD from Australian National University. Her research focuses legal and illegal marriages in Indonesian Islam.

28.06.2017 Countercurrents

The Supreme Court Partially Unblocks Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The Supreme Court Monday (June 25) allowed parts of President Donald Trump’s controversial Muslim ban to go into effect and will hear oral arguments on the case this fall.

The apex Court ruled that despite rulings in two different federal courts – that the ban should be put on hold while judges decide whether it’s constitutional – the Trump administration should be allowed to enforce the ban starting on Thursday, June 29, 72 hours after the court’s ruling was issued.

However, people from the six countries listed in President Trump’s travel ban ― Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Yemen ― can travel to the U.S. if they possess a “bona fide” relationship with the U.S.

It is believed that the vast majority of people who would be coming to the U.S. from these countries can easily prove that relationship. Neither refugees being resettled in the U.S. nor visa holders will be impacted.

President Trump hails Supreme Court decision

President Donald Trump was quick to celebrate the Supreme Court verdict by saying that the court’s unanimous decision was “a clear victory for our national security”.

“It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective,” he said in a statement.

“As President, I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm. I want people who can love the United States and all of its citizens, and who will be hardworking and productive.

“My number one responsibility as Commander in Chief is to keep the American people safe. Today’s ruling allows me to use an important tool for protecting our Nation’s homeland. I am also particularly gratified that the Supreme Court’s decision was 9-0.”

American Civil Liberties Union

Shortly after the court issued its opinion, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said on Twitter it would “head back into court to fight the fundamentally unconstitutional Muslim ban this October”.

Omar Jadwat, the director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project who had argued the case in court, said in a statement the travel ban “violates the fundamental constitutional principle that government cannot favor or disfavor any one religion”. “Courts have repeatedly blocked this indefensible and discriminatory ban. The Supreme Court now has a chance to permanently strike it down,” he said.

Lara Finkbeiner, from the International Refugee Assistance Project, which also sued the administration over the ban, said she was “incredibly disappointed with the decision”. “We are a nation that values acceptance and diversity, and in making this decision and putting this executive order back into effect, the Supreme Court is sending a very clear message and it’s putting the executive’s discriminatory policy back into effect.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, said the decision “ignores the Islamophobic origins of the policy” and emboldened Islamophobes in the Trump administration. “It also ignores the almost-unanimous rejection of the Muslim ban by lower courts due to its religious intolerance and racial animus,” said Nihad Awad, the group’s national executive director.

Both sides declared victory on the travel ban

Writing under the title “Both sides declared victory on travel ban” the Mother Jones said in different ways, both sides are right. It went to say:

“In one of the most contentious and important battles of the Trump presidency to date, the Supreme Court may have found a way to appease both sides without handing a full victory to either. For Trump, who manages to spin even the most dubious outcomes as big wins, Monday’s order may have given him plenty of fodder—after all, a ban with exceptions is still more of a success than Trump’s gotten from the lower courts, which have universally ruled against him. For the ban’s opponents, the narrowness of the ban that will go into effect could also constitute a win. Finally, the court set up the case such that it may never ultimately issue a final ruling—allowing the ban’s critics to declare a substantive victory over the administration but sparing the president what would likely be an embarrassing loss this fall.”

For Los Angeles Times, the Supreme Court on Monday took a pragmatic approach to resolving the dispute over President Trump’s foreign travel ban with a middle-ground ruling that may defuse the controversy — for now.

“The decision allowed much of the ban to take effect, but it also applied significant restrictions that will narrow the order’s impact. In a short, unsigned but unanimous opinion, the justices avoided taking a stance on the larger constitutional questions concerning religious discrimination or presidential authority, the LA Times said adding:

“But they also largely rejected the lower court rulings that had blocked Trump’s order as unconstitutional, handing a partial victory to the president and his lawyers after a string of rebukes in federal courts from Hawaii to Maryland. The justices also strongly hinted that they may never need to settle the larger constitutional issues because the case could be moot by the time they hear it in the fall.”

The Supreme Court ruling was unsigned

The ruling was unsigned, with 6 justices — the court’s four liberal justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) joined Justice Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts in partially lifting the hold on the ban, while conservative justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito argued that the Trump administration should be allowed to enforce the ban in all cases. Justices Neil Gorsuch was appointed by President Trump in April this year.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas warned that requiring officials to differentiate between foreigners who have connection to the US and those who do not will prove “unworkable”. “Today’s compromise will burden executive officials with the task of deciding – on peril of contempt – whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country”. He added that the decision would result in a “flood of litigation” until the court issued its ruling.

The court’s order released Monday said a “close familial relationship is required” for individuals who wish to live with or visit a family member. When the relationship is with an entity like a university, it must be “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading” the executive order.

As an example, they said, students and lecturers would have a formal relationship, as would someone who accepted employment with an American company. But it would not apply to someone who “enters into a relationship simply to avoid” the executive order. For example, the order said, “a nonprofit group devoted to immigration issues may not contact foreign nationals from the designated countries, add them to client lists, and then secure their entry by claiming injury from their exclusion.”

The court’s opinion noted the government is free to work on the new vetting procedures for immigrants from the six countries. This was the ostensible purpose of the order in the first place.

“We fully expect that the relief we grant today will permit the executive to conclude its internal work and provide adequate notice to foreign governments within the 90-day life of Sec. 2c,” the court said, referring to the key clause in the travel ban order.

How experts interpret the verdict?

Margo Schlanger, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, who also headed the civil rights and civil liberties division at the Department of Homeland Security under Barack Obama from 2010-11, said the supreme court had actually paved the way for the bulk of travelers affected by the ban to come into the US.

“In reality, the travel ban remains largely enjoined,” Schlanger said. “If [travelers] didn’t have a real connection – a job, or enrollment at a school, or a family member – they wouldn’t be able to get visas. Most of the travel that’s covered by the travel ban remains stayed,” she added. “I think the Trump administration is spinning,” Schlanger was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

Schlanger acknowledged that the supreme court’s ruling did not represent a “home run” for the plaintiffs, since the court had not chosen to simply uphold the injunctions by district courts in both Hawaii and Maryland that had previously blocked the Trump administration from enforcing either the travel or refugee ban at all.

“I think it’s a vast exaggeration to say this is a victory for the president,” Jennifer Gordon, a professor of law at Fordham University who focuses on immigration was quoted as saying.

Noting that at least five justices agreed on the need to grant visas to individuals with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”, Gordon argued that the court’s decision reflected a seemingly majority consensus that the Trump administration could not implement an outright ban on immigrants from the six-Muslim countries.

“In fact, you might read it as a signal … that the president might well lose on this,” she said.

In essence, the court agreed to hear oral arguments on the merits of the executive order. At least three conservative justices on the bench – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch – would have preferred to have allowed the travel ban to go into full effect, but ultimately the court significantly narrowed the scope of Trump’s order.

Trump’s controversial Muslim Ban orders

President Trump first signed an executive order on this issue in January 27, a week after he became President. In addition to the scenes of chaos at airports, the signing of the order also triggered widespread protests from those opposed to Mr Trump’s actions. Several courts said the ban was unconstitutional and put it on hold.

The President then signed a second order in early March that excluded Iraq from the list of countries.

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump campaigned for “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States. The travel ban was a signature policy of Trump’s first few months as president.

Last month, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia upheld a district judge in Maryland who blocked Trump’s order. The appeals court, in a 10-3 decision, said the executive order reflected an unconstitutional discrimination based on religion. Its opinion cited Trump’s campaign pledge to enact a “Muslim ban.”

Shortly afterward, the 9th Circuit Court in California upheld a district judge in Hawaii and ruled Trump’s order was illegal because the president did not demonstrate a threat to national security.

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, who successfully challenged the ban in lower courts, said that students from affected countries due to attend the University of Hawaii would still be able to do so.

Top Democrats voiced concern that the court had enabled Trump to at least partially see through his pledge to ban both Muslims and Syrian refugees from the US. “The Trump Administration has consistently shown that discrimination, not national security, is the purpose of this ban,” said Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader. “The Supreme Court’s move to largely lift the injunctions against the open prejudice of the Muslim and refugee ban sends the wrong message to our partners on the front lines of the fight against terror,” she added. “We hope that the Court will ultimately come to the only conclusion consistent with our values, our national defense and the Constitution.”

Abus Sattar Ghazali, the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.jurnalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com

 

U.S. Conference of Mayors Opposes Military-Heavy Trump Budget

By David Swanson

The U.S. Conference of Mayors on Monday unanimously passed three resolutions opposing the military-heavy Trump budget proposal, urging Congress to move funding out of the military and into human and environmental needs rather than the reverse.

The three resolutions are numbers 59 and 60 found on this page http://legacy.usmayors.org/resolutions/85th_Conference/proposedcommittee.asp?committee=Metro Economies

and number 79 found on this page http://legacy.usmayors.org/resolutions/85th_Conference/proposedcommittee.asp?committee=International Affairs

“We are very excited that the entire US Conference of Mayors, from major metropoles such as New York City and Los Angeles to small rural townships, understand that the resources being sucked up by the Pentagon to wage endless wars overseas should be used to address our crumbling infrastructure, the climate crisis and poverty at home and abroad. Congress and the Trump administration should listen to these mayors, as they reflect the needs and hopes of their constituents, not the greed of corporate donors,” said Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK.

“The Peace Council applauds the resolve of major city mayors to dramatically cut the U.S. military budget and to take the funds saved to provide money for jobs, education, housing, transportation, seniors, youth, rebuild our roads, bridges, public transportation much more,” said Henry Lowendorf of the US Peace Council. “The mayors understand how pouring the wealth of our great country into building war machines and waging wars around the globe does not make us more secure. To the contrary, this gigantic military budget is strangling our country and the many unnecessary wars only generate death, destruction and enemies. We fully support the mayors’ call both for inviting the public and city leaders to hearings expressing on how funds saved by cutting the Pentagon budget can be used in our cities and for passing resolutions to our members of Congress demanding that they respond to cities to begin prioritizing the needs of our residents over war profiteering.”

“These three resolutions should be read carefully by every member of Congress,” said David Swanson, director of World Beyond War. “These are the considered statements of the mayors of this country, as prompted by the citizens of numerous cities that moved their city councils to pass similar resolutions and their mayors to support these.”

Information on a campaign to pass resolutions through city councils, and those that have been passed thus far, can be found here:
http://worldbeyondwar.org/resolution

Over 20,000 people signed a petition similar to Resolution 59 here:
https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/un-trump-the-budget

Resolution 59 was introduced by the mayor of Ithaca, NY, and had been passed by that city. It concludes with this:

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors urges the United States Congress to move our tax dollars in exactly the opposite direction proposed by the President, from militarism to human and environmental needs.”

It also includes these Whereas clauses:

“WHEREAS, President Trump has proposed to move $54 billion from human and environmental spending at home and abroad to military spending, bringing military spending to well over 60% of federal discretionary spending; and

“WHEREAS, polling has found the U.S. public to favor a $41 billion reduction in military spending, a $94 billion gap away from President Trump’s proposal; and

“WHEREAS, part of helping alleviate the refugee crisis should be ending, not escalating, wars that create refugees; and

“WHEREAS, President Trump himself admits that the enormous military spending of the past 16 years has been disastrous and made us less safe, not safer; and

“WHEREAS, fractions of the proposed military budget could provide free, top-quality education from pre-school through college, end hunger and starvation on earth, convert the U.S. to clean energy, provide clean drinking water everywhere it’s needed on the planet, build fast trains between all major U.S. cities, and double non-military U.S. foreign aid rather than cutting it; and

“WHEREAS, as even 121 retired U.S. generals have written a letter opposing cutting foreign aid; and

“WHEREAS, a December 2014 Gallup poll of 65 nations found that the United States was far and away the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world; and

“WHEREAS, a United States responsible for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others would be more secure and face far less hostility around the world; and

“WHEREAS, our environmental and human needs are desperate and urgent; and

“WHEREAS, the military is itself the greatest consumer of petroleum we have; and

“WHEREAS, economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program,”

Resolution 60 was introduced by the Mayor of New Haven, CT, and had been passed by that city.

It concluded:

“NOW,THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on the Mayors of each of our cities to promptly hold public hearings that examine what each of city’s Departments needs to carry out the goals of the Department and the work it is assigned and what they could accomplish if funds were available that now go to the military; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that each city is urged to include in its public hearings a report on how much of its resident’s federal taxes go toward paying the military budget; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that each city government is urged to pass a resolution calling on our federal legislators and the US government to move significant funds away from the military budget to human needs; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that each city is urged to send a copy of the resolution passed to its federal legislators with a request that they respond with their plans to reduce the military budget in favor of the human needs budget.”

Sponsors of Resolution 79 were:

The Honorable T.M. ‘Frank’ Franklin Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines
The Honorable Alex B. Morse III, Mayor of Holyoke
The Honorable Ardell F. Brede, Mayor of Rochester
The Honorable Chris Koos, Mayor of Normal
The Honorable Denny Doyle, Mayor of Beaverton
The Honorable Frank C. Ortis, Mayor of Pembroke Pines
The Honorable Geraldine ‘Jeri’ Muoio Ph.D., Mayor of West Palm Beach
The Honorable Helene Schneider, Mayor of Santa Barbara
The Honorable John Dickert, Mayor of Racine
The Honorable John Heilman, Mayor of West Hollywood
The Honorable Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland
The Honorable Lucy Vinis, Mayor of Eugene
The Honorable Mark Stodola, Mayor of Little Rock
The Honorable Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton
The Honorable Patrick L. Wojahn, Mayor of College Park
The Honorable Paul R. Soglin, Mayor of Madison
The Honorable Pauline Russo Cutter, Mayor of San Leandro
The Honorable Roy D. Buol, Mayor of Dubuque
The Honorable Salvatore J. Panto Jr., Mayor of Easton

The resolution recognized some of the cities that have passed resolutions:

“The United States Conference of Mayors welcomes resolutions adopted by cities including New Haven, CT, Charlottesville, VA, Evanston, IL, New London, NH, and West Hollywood, CA urging Congress to cut military spending and redirect funding to meet human and environmental needs.”

It further resolved (at least as drafted; there were slight modifications):

“NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) calls on the United States Government, as an urgent priority, to do everything in his power to lower nuclear tensions though intense diplomatic efforts with Russia, China, North Korea and other nuclear-armed states and their allies, and to work with Russia to dramatically reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors welcomes the historic negotiations currently underway in the United Nations, involving most of the world’s countries, on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors deeply regrets that the United States and the other nuclear-armed states are boycotting these negotiations; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on the United States to support the ban treaty negotiations as a major step towards negotiation of a comprehensive agreement on the achievement and permanent maintenance of a world free of nuclear arms, and to initiate, in good faith, multilateral negotiations to verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons within a timebound framework; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors welcomes the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017, introduced in both houses of Congress, that would prohibit the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls for the Administration’s new Nuclear Posture Review to reaffirm the stated U.S. goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons, to lessen U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons, and to recommend measures to reduce nuclear risks, such as de-alerting, improving lines of communication with other nuclear-armed states, and ending nuclear sharing, in which Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey host U.S. nuclear bombs; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement; and . . .

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reverse federal spending priorities and to redirect funds currently allocated to nuclear weapons and unwarranted military spending to restore full funding for Community Block Development Grants and the Environmental Protection Agency, to create jobs by rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and to ensure basic human services for all, including education, environmental protection, food assistance, housing and health care,

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors urges all U.S. mayors to join Mayors for Peace in order to help reach the goal of 10,000 member cities by 2020, and encourages U.S. member cities to get actively involved by establishing sister city relationships with cities in other nuclear-armed nations, and by taking action at the municipal level to raise public awareness of the humanitarian and financial costs of nuclear weapons, the growing dangers of wars among nuclear-armed states, and the urgent need for good faith U.S. participation in negotiating the global elimination of nuclear weapons.”

25.06.2017 Democracy Now!

This post is also available in: Spanish

Medicare for All: A Prescription for What Ails Us

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

President Donald Trump’s long-promised repeal of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, edges closer to reality, as the Senate releases its secretly written version of the House’s American Health Care Act—the very bill that Trump first championed, then recently reportedly called “mean.” The Republican majority in the Senate is intent on passing the bill before the July Fourth holiday. Obamacare has led to tens of millions of Americans getting at least some health insurance, but it has problems of its own. Since health care represents one-sixth of the U.S. economy, the political debate between the very bad Republican bill and the less bad Obamacare may create an opening for the sensible solution enjoyed in just about every developed nation outside the US: single-payer health care.

Single-payer is already in practice in the U.S., and is immensely popular. It’s called Medicare, the taxpayer-funded program that guarantees health care for seniors and people with permanent disabilities. Public polling soon after World War II showed widespread support for the proposal; Medicare became law in 1965. Trump, in his notorious June 2015 campaign announcement in which he attacked Mexicans as “rapists,” also promised: “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.”

If the current bill continues on its trajectory and gets passed, Donald Trump will have to decide if he is going to break that promise. While the bill has to first pass the Senate and then go through a process in which the Senate and House bills are reconciled, it will, at the very least, massively cut Medicaid.

The reason why many opponents call Trumpcare “wealth care not health care” is the elimination of an Obamacare tax on the wealthiest Americans. They’ll get a tax cut, while tens of millions will lose insurance. Others will remain unable to afford it, or will be forced to buy hollow plans that offer minimal coverage, or plans with enormous deductibles and copays. People with so-called pre-existing conditions will find themselves virtually uninsurable in most states. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that there are over 52 million non-elderly people with pre-existing conditions. Kaiser specifies “non-elderly,” as the elderly, covered by Medicare, can’t be excluded because of pre-existing conditions.

Currently, 57 million seniors and people with disabilities are on Medicare, out of a U.S. population of 320 million. There is no rational reason why Medicare couldn’t be expanded to cover all Americans, regardless of age, from birth to death. This is what single-payer health care advocates call “Medicare for All.”

Medicare for All would maintain the current system of private and nonprofit hospitals, doctor offices and all the other familiar aspects of the U.S. health system. The single most important difference is that health insurance companies as we know them would cease to exist. Insurance companies don’t actually deliver health care. They act as administrators, processing bills, making unconscionable profits off people’s pain and paying enormous executive salaries. The savings would be extraordinary, and the system would most likely be as popular as Medicare is today.

There are hopeful signs for single-payer. Representative John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress (he’s been in office since 1965, the year Medicare launched), has put forth H.R. 676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act. It currently has a remarkable 112 co-sponsors (all Democrats). Since the Republican majorities in both houses are unlikely to support this bill, activists are taking the fight to the states. The Healthy California Act, SB 562, would cover all residents of California, and has already passed the state Senate there. The Democratic-controlled Assembly is considering it now. In New York state, a similar bill has passed the Assembly and will be debated in the state Senate, where Republicans control the chamber by one vote.

Behind all the legislation is a diverse and growing grass-roots movement. National groups have been working on it for years, including Healthcare-NOW!, Physicians for a National Health Program and unions like National Nurses United. Statewide coalitions educate, organize, lobby and pressure lawmakers, and prominent politicians like Bernie Sanders rally the troops, building momentum.

Canada’s Medicare system, which covers all residents, started in the rural province of Saskatchewan and then went national. As Trumpcare versus Obamacare dominates the cable news channels, the unreported movement for single-payer health care grows. As with all great shifts in history, when the people lead, the leaders follow.

25.06.2017 Democracy Now!

This post is also available in: Spanish

Medicare for All: A Prescription for What Ails Us

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

President Donald Trump’s long-promised repeal of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, edges closer to reality, as the Senate releases its secretly written version of the House’s American Health Care Act—the very bill that Trump first championed, then recently reportedly called “mean.” The Republican majority in the Senate is intent on passing the bill before the July Fourth holiday. Obamacare has led to tens of millions of Americans getting at least some health insurance, but it has problems of its own. Since health care represents one-sixth of the U.S. economy, the political debate between the very bad Republican bill and the less bad Obamacare may create an opening for the sensible solution enjoyed in just about every developed nation outside the US: single-payer health care.

Single-payer is already in practice in the U.S., and is immensely popular. It’s called Medicare, the taxpayer-funded program that guarantees health care for seniors and people with permanent disabilities. Public polling soon after World War II showed widespread support for the proposal; Medicare became law in 1965. Trump, in his notorious June 2015 campaign announcement in which he attacked Mexicans as “rapists,” also promised: “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.”

If the current bill continues on its trajectory and gets passed, Donald Trump will have to decide if he is going to break that promise. While the bill has to first pass the Senate and then go through a process in which the Senate and House bills are reconciled, it will, at the very least, massively cut Medicaid.

The reason why many opponents call Trumpcare “wealth care not health care” is the elimination of an Obamacare tax on the wealthiest Americans. They’ll get a tax cut, while tens of millions will lose insurance. Others will remain unable to afford it, or will be forced to buy hollow plans that offer minimal coverage, or plans with enormous deductibles and copays. People with so-called pre-existing conditions will find themselves virtually uninsurable in most states. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that there are over 52 million non-elderly people with pre-existing conditions. Kaiser specifies “non-elderly,” as the elderly, covered by Medicare, can’t be excluded because of pre-existing conditions.

Currently, 57 million seniors and people with disabilities are on Medicare, out of a U.S. population of 320 million. There is no rational reason why Medicare couldn’t be expanded to cover all Americans, regardless of age, from birth to death. This is what single-payer health care advocates call “Medicare for All.”

Medicare for All would maintain the current system of private and nonprofit hospitals, doctor offices and all the other familiar aspects of the U.S. health system. The single most important difference is that health insurance companies as we know them would cease to exist. Insurance companies don’t actually deliver health care. They act as administrators, processing bills, making unconscionable profits off people’s pain and paying enormous executive salaries. The savings would be extraordinary, and the system would most likely be as popular as Medicare is today.

There are hopeful signs for single-payer. Representative John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress (he’s been in office since 1965, the year Medicare launched), has put forth H.R. 676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act. It currently has a remarkable 112 co-sponsors (all Democrats). Since the Republican majorities in both houses are unlikely to support this bill, activists are taking the fight to the states. The Healthy California Act, SB 562, would cover all residents of California, and has already passed the state Senate there. The Democratic-controlled Assembly is considering it now. In New York state, a similar bill has passed the Assembly and will be debated in the state Senate, where Republicans control the chamber by one vote.

Behind all the legislation is a diverse and growing grass-roots movement. National groups have been working on it for years, including Healthcare-NOW!, Physicians for a National Health Program and unions like National Nurses United. Statewide coalitions educate, organize, lobby and pressure lawmakers, and prominent politicians like Bernie Sanders rally the troops, building momentum.

Canada’s Medicare system, which covers all residents, started in the rural province of Saskatchewan and then went national. As Trumpcare versus Obamacare dominates the cable news channels, the unreported movement for single-payer health care grows. As with all great shifts in history, when the people lead, the leaders follow.

23.06.2017 Inter Press Service

The World Is Burning
A view of rusted, abandoned ships in Muynak, Uzebkistan, a former port city whose population has declined precipitously with the rapid recession of the Aral Sea. (Image by UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Record high temperatures are gripping much of the globe and more hot weather are to come. This implies more drought, more food insecurity, more famine and more massive human displacements.

In fact, extremely high May and June temperatures have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported, adding that the heat-waves have arrived unusually early.

At the same time, average global surface temperatures over land and sea are the second highest on record for the first five months of 2017, according to analyses by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Europe

In Portugal, extremely high temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius contributed to the severity of the devastating, fast-moving weekend wildfires that ripped through the country’s forested Pedrógão Grande region, some 150 kilometres (95 miles) north-east of Lisbon, leaving dozens dead and more injured.

WMO on 20 June also reported that Portugal is not the only European country experiencing the effects of the extreme weather, as neighbouring Spain – which had its warmest spring in over 50 years – and France, have seen record-breaking temperatures. France is expected to continue see afternoon temperatures more than 10 degrees above the average for this time of year.

Meantime in Spain, spring (from 1 March to 31 May 2017) has been extremely warm, with an average temperature of 15.4 ° C, which is 1.7 ° C above the average of this term (reference period 1981-2010), the UN specialised body informs. Many other parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom, also witnessed above average temperatures into the low to mid 30°s.

United States

On the other side of the Atlantic, the US is also experiencing record or near-record heat, WMO reported. In parts of the desert southwest and into California, temperatures have hovered near a blistering 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).

Media reports on 20 June suggested that some plane traffic was halted in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport in Arizona because it was too hot to fly. The flight cancellations came amidst of one of the hottest days in the past 30 years of record keeping in the US state.

Near record-to-record heat has also been reported in the desert South West US and into California, with highs near 120°F (49°C) in places. More than 29 million Californians were under an excessive heat warning or advisory at the weekend. Phoenix recorded 118°C (47.8°C) on 19 June. A number of flights to Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport were reportedly cancelled because it was too hot to fly.

And the so-called Death Valley National Park, California, issued warnings to visitors to expect high temperatures of 100°F to over 120°F (38°C to over 49°C). Death Valley holds the world record for the highest temperature, 56.7°C recorded in 1913.


Herders collect water with camels at one of the few remaining water points in drought-affected Bandarero village, Moyale County, Kenya. Credit: Rita Maingi/ OCHA.

North Africa, Middle East and Asia

Meantime, temperature in United Arab Emirates topped 50°C on 17 May, while in the centre of Iran’s Kuzestan province in the South-East of the country, neighbouring Iraq, temperatures reached 50°C on 15 June, said the UN specialised agency.

The heat-wave in Morocco peaked on 17 May, when there was a new reported record of 42.9°C Larach Station in northern Morocco.

The high June temperatures follow above average temperatures in parts of the world at the end of May. The town of Turbat in South-Western Pakistan reported a temperature of 54°C. WMO will set up an international committee of experts to verify the temperature and assess whether it equals a reported 54°C temperature recorded in Kuwait last July.

Unprecedented Record of Displacements

Meanwhile, the world has marked New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Second. Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) informed in its report Global Trends, released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20.

The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence.

Such an unprecedented high records of human displacements is not only due to conflicts. In fact, advancing droughts and desertification also lay behind this “tsunami” of displaced persons both out of their own countries and in their own homelands.

On this, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on June 17, alerted that by 2025 –that’s in less than 8 years from today– 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.

Now it is feared that advancing drought and deserts, growing water scarcity and decreasing food security may provoke a huge ‘tsunami” of climate refugees and migrants. See The Relentless March of Drought – That ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse’

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, reminded that the world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees. Neither desertification nor drought on its own causes conflict or forced migration, but they can increase the risk of conflict and intensify on-going conflicts, Barbut explained. See: Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?

An Urgent, Potentially Irreversible Threat

In Parallel, the United Nations leading agency in the fields of agriculture has issued numerous warnings on the huge impacts that droughts have on agriculture and food security, with poor rural communities among the most hit victims.

As a ways to help mitigate the effects of the on-going heat waves, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 20 June signed with WMO an agreement to deepen cooperation to respond to climate variability and climate change, “represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies, natural ecosystems and food security.”

Through this joint work, the two organisations will work on strengthening agro-meteorological services and making them more accessible to farmers and fishers; improve global and region-specific monitoring for early warning and response to high-impact events like droughts.

The agreement was signed on June 19 by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas on the sidelines of an international seminar on drought organised by Iran, the Netherlands, and FAO in Rome.

“Saving livelihoods means saving lives – this is what building resilience is all about,” said Graziano da Silva.
Recalling the 2011 drought in Somalia that saw over 250,000 people perish from hunger, he said, “People die because they are not prepared to face the impacts of the drought – because their livelihoods are not resilient enough.”

“For years, the focus has been responding to droughts when they happen, rushing to provide emergency assistance and to keep people alive,” he said, noting that while “of course, that is important,” investing in preparedness and resilience is essential.

21.06.2017 Pressenza New York

Photos: World Refugee Day in NYC
Rally in observance of World Refugee Day in front of Trump Tower near the United Nations (Image by David Andersson)

New Yorkers sanding for Refugees on World Refugee Day. The March organized by African Communities Together (ACT) and City of Refuge Coalition went form 59th St and 5th Ave to Trump World Tower and Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in front of the United Nations.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on the international community to provide support and solidarity to refugees. “We reflect on the courage of those who fled and the compassion of those who welcome them,” the Secretary-General said

Many are concerned about how President Donald Trump’s decisions may impact refugees. In his first days in office, Trump signed an executive order restricting travel from several Muslim majority countries, including Syria, where conflicts have displaced 12 million people.

Photo Gallery

20.06.2017 Countercurrents

We Will Soon Be Using More Than The Earth Can Provide
Young woman standing on the empty plowed field and looking away at the view

By David Korten

Four days after President Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the Global Footprint Network (GFN) reported that Earth Overshoot Day 2017 will fall on August 2. Most Americans likely have no idea what that means.

The basic point is quite simple: From January 1 to August 2, the world’s 7.5 billion people will have used as much of Earth’s biological resources—or biocapacity—as the planet can regenerate in a year. During the remaining five months of 2017, our human consumption will be drawing down Earth’s reserves of fresh water, fertile soils, forests, and fisheries, and depleting its ability to regenerate these resources as well as sequester excess carbon released into the atmosphere.

Stated slightly differently, humans are depleting living Earth’s capacity to support life.

The GFN methodology can also generate an ecological footprint for individual cities, states, and nations, based on the burden each generates relative to its local biocapacity. It can also compare a personal footprint generated by a distinctive lifestyle to both national and global averages.

The U.S. has a relatively abundant per capita biocapacity compared to most other nations. We are also one of the world’s highest per capita consumers. Consequently, the net outcome is a total national biocapacity deficit second only to that of China—a country with a population roughly four times ours.

Knowing that, collectively, the world is consuming far more than the planet can sustain, how do we bring ourselves into balance with Earth’s capacities? GFN outlines four critical global priorities:

1. Decarbonization

Humanity’s carbon energy use accounts for 60 percent of the global ecological footprint. By GFN’s estimate, “Reducing the carbon component of the global Ecological Footprint by 50 percent would get us from consuming the resources of 1.7 Earths down to 1.2 Earths, or move the date of Overshoot Day forward by 89 days, or about three months.” That would place Overshoot Day on October 30.

2. Population

“We cannot ignore population growth if we are truly committed to people having secure lives in a world of finite resources,” noted Susan Burns, GFN co-founder. She urges empowering women and assuring that every child is wanted. By GFN’s analysis, reducing the current global average family size by half a child would push back Overshoot Day by 31 days.

3. Food production and consumption

By GFN’s calculation, sourcing food locally, avoiding highly processed foods, reducing meat consumption, and cutting food waste by half could move Overshoot Day forward by 11 days.

4. Urban built environment

GFN estimates that increasing the energy efficiency of the urban built environment through measures such as efficient mass transit could advance Overshoot Day by 2 days.

If we achieved all four of these priorities, we would bring Overshoot Day to December 13 and almost be in balance with Earth’s capacity to sustain us.

There is considerable truth to the adage that we can manage only what we measure. Measure the wrong thing, and the consequences can be catastrophic.

Unfortunately, our governments currently invest heavily in reporting financial indicators, such as gross domestic product, that tell us little either about actual human well-being or our long-term viability on Earth. In measuring the right things, GFN shatters the illusions of such measures and analyses. Still, we need a clearer and more complete, and coherent reporting and analysis of the global footprint measurements than the GFN offers.

The responsibility for such statistical gathering and reporting should fall, not to a small non-profit, but rather to the United Nations and the statistical services of the world’s national governments. Producing detailed global footprint measurements, reporting, and analysis should be among the top priorities of such official agencies. That will be a far greater contribution to national and global well-being than the grossly misleading economic indicators to which they now devote the bulk of their resources.


David Korten wrote this article for YES! Magazine as part of his series of biweekly columns on “A Living Earth Economy.” David is co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, president of the Living Economies Forum, a member of the Club of Rome, and the author of influential books, including When Corporations Rule the World and Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth. His work builds on lessons from the 21 years he and his wife Fran lived and worked in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on a quest to end global poverty. Follow him on Twitter @dkorten and Facebook. As do all YES! columnists, he writes here in his personal voice.

18.06.2017 Pressenza New York

This post is also available in: Italian

Women’s March to Ban the Bomb in New York
(Image by https://www.facebook.com/ellen.thomas.161?fref=ts)

“It started raining as soon as people gathered, poured during the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb and the program outside the UN, then stopped raining, but only after it was all over! A good turnout for a rainy day, estimated about 1.000, including 50 Japanese” activist Ellen Thomas explains.

“The Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) spoke and delivered nearly 3 million signatures on a petition to the chief negotiator for the nuclear weapons ban treaty. There were three Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom banners in the march, and a lot of blue WILPF t-shirts. Veterans for Peace, Peace Action, drummers, Buddhists, nuns, and vibrant young activists had a soggy but wonderful time”.

The march was hosted by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and supported by dozens of co-sponsor and partner organizations that are representative of peace, disarmament, women’s rights, indigenous, environmental, and human rights communities, among others.

Over 60 sister events took place in other cities across the United States and in Australia, Cameroon, Canada, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Nigeria, New Zealand, Philippines, Switzerland, and the UK.

 

Blog Stats

  • 6,391 hits
June 2017
S M T W T F S
« May   Jul »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Support 2007, 2008 and 2009

More Light Presbyterians

Visite recenti

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)

Blog Stats

  • 6,391 hits
Follow Ecumenics and Quakers on WordPress.com