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27.09.2017 – Lisbon, Portugal Redacción Madrid

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Great mobilisation for the 17th world congress on Universal Basic Income

The international BIEN congress (Basic Income Earth Network) dealing with universal and unconditional basic income took place from the 25th to the 27th of September.  The number of participants, level of exchange and harmony of opinions has surpassed the organisers’ expectations and common images are starting to be launched.

By Mayte Quintanilla and Álvaro Orus

The event organised by Portuguese activists from BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network) was supported by the National Assembly which gave space in the main hall of the San Benito Palace for the congress’s first day sessions.  The ISEG (The Economics and Management Higher Institution of Lisbon) provided space for the second and third days.

Around 400 activists from 35 countries and five continents took part in 37 simultaneous sessions with different activities (panels, exhibitions, round tables, film showings, etc).

The intense activity of exchanging experiences has created connections that in turn have given rise to new ideas and joint projects that will allow international actions to reach an ostensibly higher level of quanlity.

Proposals such as an international ambit for studying Unconditional Basic Income pilot projects and an international film festival on Universal Basic Income have been born from the enthusiasm and communication of these days.

Horizontality and openness of mind have been the dominant tone in a setting in which famous authors such as Guy Standing and Philippe Van Parijs, and recognised activists such as Scott Santens and Stanislas Jourdan, could share initiatives with grassroots and creative activists as well as with associations and academics from around the world.

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29.09.2017 Pressenza New York

The System Failed –  excerpt from Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People

Every day Donald Trump is in the White House is an indictment of American democracy.

By Danny Katch

Donald Trump participates in a “Made in America showcase” with cabinet members in July 2017. Shawn T Moore / Department of Labor

Until 2016, political consultants were widely seen as master manipulators, which never quite made sense to me. After all, if guys like Karl Rove and David Axelrod were such geniuses at propaganda, why could they never convince more than half of eligible voters to show up on Election Day?

Despite (or perhaps because of) the effort that goes into focus groups, press releases, and speechwriting, most Americans despise politicians. The main focus of any campaign is not to reverse this dynamic but to selectively enhance it, to kindle our fear and hatred of the opposition to the point that we’ll come up with our own reasons to support their candidate.

This is now obvious. Donald Trump did everything wrong during his campaign. He insulted the family of a fallen soldier, fired two campaign managers, and was caught on tape bragging about being a sexual predator. He was wildly disliked, not just among “coastal elites” but everywhere. Here’s a remarkable Associated Press report from April 2016:

Seven in 10 people, including close to half of Republican voters, have an unfavorable view of Trump. . . . It’s an opinion shared by majorities of men and women; young and old; conservatives, moderates and liberals; and whites, Hispanics and blacks — a devastatingly broad indictment of the billionaire businessman.

Even in the South, a region where Trump has won GOP primaries decisively, close to 70 percent view him unfavorably. And among whites without a college education, one of Trump’s most loyal voting blocs, 55 percent have a negative opinion.

And yet Trump managed to win the presidency because, like an unskilled but dirty basketball team, he has a genius for bringing everyone around him — opponents, reporters, debate moderators — down to his grubby level.

Trump’s campaign was the logical culmination of a political culture that was already almost entirely based on demonizing the opposing candidate. Long ago, the American political class mastered the jujitsu of using the force of our dissatisfaction with the status quo against us by channeling it into the two status quo parties.

It wasn’t an ideal arrangement — I’m sure our politicians would prefer to be loved than to be grudgingly tolerated — but it maintained stability while the 1 percent vacuumed up the national wealth, and that was good enough.

Each election, candidates would praise the courage and wisdom of the American people, but you could always feel the contempt they really had for us in the unbearably bad campaign materials.

A typical ad is about as subtle as a World War I propaganda poster: twenty seconds of creepy music and grainy black-and-white footage of the opponent, followed by a montage of the smiling candidate in the bright sunshine with family, soldiers, and the flag.

If corporate ad guys made a spot like this, it’d be dripping in hipster self-awareness — annoying, most likely, but at least acknowledging our intelligence: you know and we know that we are trying to sell you this Whopper, so let’s have some fun.

By contrast, the analysis that goes into most campaign ads is astonishingly primitive. Democratic consultant Carter Eskew, explaining the conventional wisdom about the initial wave of general election commercials in 2012, had this to say: “The first ads that are run are in many ways the most important because the mind is the most open and uncluttered at that point.”

Sigmund Freud created modern psychoanalysis over a hundred years ago, and since then, I don’t know anyone who isn’t a political hack describe the human brain as an empty vessel just waiting to be filled.

We assume that campaign ads are effective because more money is spent on them each election. But could it be that we only think they work because the people who tout their supreme effectiveness are the same folks who are paid to produce them and the media outlets paid to run them? As with most advertising, it’s hard to find definitive proof of their effectiveness, but here’s some anecdotal evidence: everybody hates them.

Imagine how much more fun campaign ads would be if they borrowed from the corporate world and adopted the old strategy of marketing weakness as a strength. In 2012, Mitt Romney could have embraced his reputation as an out-of-touch billionaire with a Polo-style ad featuring Mitt and a crew of gorgeous young blonde women and men on a yacht, frolicking in crisp white linen shirts and drinking gin and tonics.

Obama could have countered with a “most interesting man in the world”—style campaign, featuring him laughing with imams in Indonesia, dancing with the Masai in Kenya, and speaking to hundreds of thousands at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany. “I don’t often run for president, but when I do . . .”

Trump has had expert training in flaunting his weaknesses, since that’s pretty much the job description of a reality television star. So Hillary needed to respond in kind. Instead of her doomed attempt at posing as a cuddly grandma, she and Bill should have bumped Kevin Spacey, taken over the last season of House of Cards, and finally given us all a chance to get some enjoyment out of their ruthless scheming. The episode where they dump Anthony Weiner’s body in the lake would have been worth it alone.

Off the Rails

The presidential reality show worked smoothly for many decades, taking the country on a wild ride every four years that would eventually and inevitably weed out anyone deemed too extreme, through a lack of fundraising or media exposure or approval, and then safely return to one of the handful of establishment-approved candidates. But in 2016, the rickety contraption finally went off the rails.

If I had to sum up the 2016 election in one sentence, it would be this: the Republican Party was too divided and discredited to stop Trump, the Democratic Party closed ranks to block Bernie Sanders, and, as a result, Trump was the only alternative in November to the hated Wall Street–funded status quo represented by Hillary Clinton. I do have more than one sentence, however, so let’s dig into how we got to that explosive point.

The central story of mainstream US politics over the past few decades is the Republicans’ steady evolution from the leading party of world capitalism to a semi-unhinged fringe that wants an effective prison state for racial minorities and the poor, free rein for corporations, and politicians who will pander to their every Internet conspiracy — while still commanding the resources and power befitting one of the major two parties.

This relentless rightward trajectory has been accelerated by the party’s need to differentiate itself from a Democratic Party also moving rightward, as well as by its unmooring from its three main ideological strengths in recent years.

First, the disastrous consequences of the Iraq War, supported by most Democrats but infamously and incompetently led by George W. Bush, weakened the Republicans’ reputation as the party of national security. Second, the global financial crisis and bank bailouts undermined the dogma of the free market — a belief system also shared by most Democrats but traditionally associated with the GOP. Lastly, the incomplete but profound victories of the movement for LGBTQ equality, legally but especially culturally, have deprived the Republicans of one of their key battlegrounds in the culture wars.

So while the party was able to dominate many states and regions — sometimes through dirty tricks like gerrymandering — on a national level it didn’t have any coherent message other than “Things were better back in my day!” In this vacuum, the party became a collection of loudmouths and lowlifes competing for the attention of a shrinking but passionate base of pure reaction.

As a result, con artists have had fertile ground to pose as presidential candidates. In 2008 and 2012, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain took full advantage of the Republican primaries to audition for Fox News and sell their books. By many accounts, Trump also initially saw his presidential run as a simple exercise in brand building. But his timing was different.

By 2016, the party diehards had moved too far to the right to accept another Mitt Romney type, and the strain of pandering to them while simultaneously appealing to the general public was too much for early favorites like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who came across like traumatized Ken dolls after years of rough play.

Trump’s “America First” nationalism was an echo of Pat Buchanan’s Republican primary campaign in 1992. Like Buchanan, Trump had the support in the early primaries of roughly a third of the electorate. But the same degree of backing that left Buchanan a clear loser in a one-on-one race with George H. W. Bush was enough to win Trump many of the early states, thanks to a the comically overcrowded Republican field.

Trump may not have been that popular among Republican voters, but the party leadership was liked even less. Trump only started winning more than 35 to 40 percent in state primaries when his opponents tried to unite against him and publicly floated the idea of blocking his nomination at the convention.

It was an elaborate plan that never factored in the part where voters were supposed to choose someone else, and it only succeeded in allowing Trump to claim that, once again, the elites were conspiring against him.

Lowering Expectations

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party was being rocked by its own internal rebellion, as an aging, self-described socialist — whose thick Brooklyn accent amusingly belied his “senator from Vermont” label — came out of nowhere to seriously challenge what the entire country had assumed would be Hillary Clinton’s yearlong coronation.

Bernie Sanders’s proposals for funding universal health care and college education through major tax increases on the rich reignited the fire of protest that, for almost two decades, has made explosive appearances every few years: in the 1999 “Battle in Seattle” against the World Trade Organization; in the enormous protests against the Iraq War in 2003; in the resistance to anti-immigrant legislation in 2006; and in the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements in the Obama years.

For the most part, the Democrats had successfully defused these movements by convincing their constituents that protesting is less important than voting for Democrats in order to stop the latest Republican apocalypse. Demands for amnesty for all immigrants or for bringing the troops home disappeared replaced by Beltway talking points about bipartisan immigration reform and responsibly waging the war on terror.

Incredible though it may seem, our systems are better girded against a soft left than a hard right.

And so Democratic Party leaders were far more united and confident than their Republican counterparts about shoving an unpopular candidate down their voters’ throats. After all, they figured, even if Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate, the Republicans were in such disarray that they were about to nominate someone who couldn’t possibly beat her in November.

Take a step back to look at the overall process, and you’ll notice a striking result. The essentially New Deal program of Bernie Sanders was barred from the political system on the grounds that it was too extreme, but the door to the world’s most powerful office was left wide open to an erratic racist with far-right advisers. As Dan O’Sullivan concluded in a post-election article, “Incredible though it may seem, our systems are better girded against a soft left than a hard right.”

We’re told that our system of checks and balances, the Electoral College, and the rest may be inefficient and even borderline dysfunctional, but at least they work to promote stability and prevent despotism.

Well, guess what? We now have an unstable despot for a president — and it’s because of this same vaunted system, which at every turn instinctively supports the few over the many and treats a rogue, racist billionaire as a harmless nuisance while seeing danger in the raised expectations of tens of millions of working-class people that a better life is possible.

Adapted from Why Governments Happen to Good People.

27.09.2017 Robert Burrowes

Gandhi’s Truth: Ending Human Violence One Commitment at a Time
(Image by Pressenza’s Archives)

Gandhi’s Truth: Ending Human Violence One Commitment at a Time

Gandhi Jayanti – 2 October, the date of Mohandas K. Gandhi’s birth in 1869 and the International Day of Nonviolence – offers an opportunity to reflect on human violence and to ponder ways to end it. There may be a fast way to end human violence but, if there is, Gandhi did not know it. Nor do I. Nor does anyone else that I have read or asked either. But this does not mean there is no way to end human violence.

Human violence has a cause. See Why Violence?’ and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’. It has many manifestations. And it can be ended. But if this is to happen, then many of us must make the commitment to work towards that end. This is because, as Gandhi noted: ‘The future depends on what we do in the present.’

In other words, if human violence is to end, it will happen because individuals and organizations commit themselves to joining the effort to do so. Here is a sample of individuals around the world who have made that commitment, each in their own unique way. You are invited to join them.

HRH Prince Simbwa Joseph was born to a Ugandan Royal Family in Kampala. He abhors violence and is involved in many charities for helping those in need, as well as human rights organisations. He is currently manager of Nsambu and Company Advocates – a law firm and one of the oldest legal chambers in Uganda and East Africa, having been established in 1970. Among other engagements, he is also president of the African Federation Association in Uganda, which is a member of the World Federalist Movement Institute for Global policy. Following negotiations with Prince Simbwa as project manager in 2014, and involving the Ugandan Vice-President in launching the project, the World Sustainability Fund and its partners agreed to provide €1.5m to launch the AFA-WFM permanent office in Kampala in support of efforts to assist Uganda to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals. In Prince Simbwa’s words: ‘Today the world is on tension due to so many things in social, economic, political disparities and pending nuclear wars. We are concerned as global citizens because if violence or war escalates those whom we call “Nalumanya ne Salumanya” in our local Luganda language (literally meaning “those concerned and less concerned”) shall be trapped equally…. Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and elder statesman appealed to the world during his lifetime to reinvent Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent approach to solving conflicts.’

Lily Thapa is the inspirational founder president, in 1994, of Women for Human Rights, single women group (WHR) in Nepal. WHR is an NGO ‘dedicated to creating an active network of single women on a regional, national and international level. By working exclusively with and for them, WHR is dedicated to addressing the rights of single women and creating a just and equitable society where the lives of single women are strengthened and empowered.’ Rejecting the label ‘widow’, WHR ‘issued a national declaration to use the term “single women” instead of “widow”. The word “widow” (“Bidhwa” in Nepali) carries negativity and disdainful societal views which leaves many single women feeling humiliated and distressed.’ Working to empower women economically, politically, socially and culturally in order to live dignified lives and enjoy the value of human rights, WHR works at the grassroots, district, regional, national, South Asian and international levels. Lily has pointed out that there are ‘285 million single women in the world, among them 115 million fall below the poverty line and 38 million conflict-affected single women have no access to justice; these women are last.’ You can read more about Lily and WHR’s monumental efforts on their website. Recently, Lily was awarded the South Asian ‘Dayawati Modi Stree Shakti Samman’, which is ‘presented annually to a woman who has dared to dream and has the capability to translate that dream into reality’.

John McKenna’s commitment is to end discrimination in all of its forms against those with disabilities. In one recent article, the Australian surveyed the value of recent disability-mitigating technologies becoming available. In his thoughtful article ‘What’s App?’ he assessed the value of technologies that, for example, assist people who are blind, people who have problems with speech, and people with disabilities who are getting older.

In a nonviolent action to draw attention to the horror of drone murders, US grandmother Joy First was one of four nonviolent activists arrested at the Wisconsin Air National Guard Base (Volk Field) during one of the monthly vigils (held for over five years now) by Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. Volk Field is a critical component of the drone warfare program being conducted by the US government in a number of countries in the Middle East and Africa. At Volk Field personnel are trained to operate the RQ-7 Shadow Drone, which has been used for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition. You can read more about drone warfare and resistance to it in Joy’s highly informative article ‘Four Citizen Activists Arrested at Volk Field as they Attempt to Identify the Base as a Crime Scene’.

Father Nithiya is the National Programme Coordinator of the Association of Franciscan Families of India (AFFI). Their inspirational work is focused on two campaigns: the Violence of Extreme poverty and hunger and the Right to Food Campaign, as well as the National Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women. In relation to the latter campaign, AFFI has released a DVD and a booklet as a result of a four day intensive national consultation and training organised by them in 2016. Through their vast network of educational, social and medical ministries, AFFI has committed itself to stopping violence against women using various strategies all over the country, especially through their schools and colleges. Identifying ten types of violence against women – gender selection, female foeticide, child marriage, child abuse, harassment at work, prostitution and trafficking, domestic violence and Eve teasing, child labour, effects of alcoholism of men, and unemployment and underemployment of women – the DVD and booklet include analytical data, information about the legal framework and redress mechanisms. The aim is to empower women for their safety and security. Fr. Nithiya has given seminars to teachers and students to raise awareness of how they can stop any form of violence against women in their personal life, in their families, communities and society at large. The aim is to make these AFFI resources available in various Indian languages.

In one of her many engagements, Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland continues her ongoing solidarity work in support of the Rohingya, the ethnic group in Burma currently suffering the genocidal assault of the Burmese government and its military forces, the Tatmadaw. In a recent evocative appeal to their fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, signed by Mairead and four other laureates, they asked ‘How many Rohingya have to die; how many Rohingya women will be raped; how many communities will be razed before you raise your voice in defence of those who have no voice? Your silence is not in line with the vision of “democracy” for your country that you outlined to us, and for which we all supported you over the years.’ See ‘Five Nobel Laureates urge Aung San Suu Kyi to defend Rohingya Muslims’.

So if you would like to join the individuals above, as well as those individuals and organizations in 101 countries who have made the commitment to work to end human violence, you can do so by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ which, thanks to Antonio Gutiérrez Rodero in Venezuela, is also available in Spanish.

If you also subscribe to Gandhi’s belief that ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every [person’s] needs, but not every [person’s] greed’, then you might consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ which he inspired as well.

And if you wish to use nonviolence, as Gandhi developed and employed it, for your campaign or liberation struggle, you will be given clear guidance on how to do so on these websites that draw heavily on his work: Nonviolent Campaign Strategy and Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.

Will enough people make the commitment to end human violence? Will you? As Gandhi warns us, fear of inadequate outcomes is no excuse for inaction: ‘You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing there will be no results.’

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is here

26.09.2017 World beyond War

Stones to Drones: A Short History of War on Earth

Gar Smith / World Beyond War #NoWar2017 Conference,
September 22-24 at American University in Washington, DC.

War is humanity’s deadliest activity. From 500 BC to AD 2000 history records more than 1000 [1,022] major documented wars. In the 20th Century, an estimated 165 wars killed as many as 258 million people — more than 6 percent of all the people born during the entire 20th century. WWII claimed the lives of 17 million soldiers and 34 million civilians. In today’s wars, 75 percent of those killed are civilians — mostly women, children, the elderly, and the poor.

The US is the world’s leading purveyor of war. It’s our biggest export. According to Navy historians, from 1776 through 2006, US troops fought in 234 foreign wars. Between 1945 and 2014, the US launched 81% of the world’s 248 major conflicts. Since the Pentagon’s retreat from Vietnam in 1973, US forces have targeted Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Bosnia, Cambodia, El Salvador, Grenada, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and the former Yugoslavia.

***
Wars against nature have a long history. The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest tales, recounts a Mesopotamian warrior’s quest to kill Humbaba — a monster who reigned over a sacred Cedar Forest. The fact that Humbaba was the servant of Enlil, the god of earth, wind, and air didn’t stop Gilgamesh from killing this protector of Nature and felling the cedars.

The Bible (Judges 15:4-5) relates an unusual “scorched-earth” attack on the Philistines when Samson “caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail-to-tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails . . . and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines.”

During the Peloponnesian War, King Archidamus began his attack on Plataea by felling all the fruit trees surrounding the town.

In 1346, Mongol Tartars employed biological warfare to attack the Black Sea town of Caffa — by catapulting bodies of plague victims over the fortified walls.

***
Poisoning water supplies and destroying crops and livestock are a proven means of subduing a population. Even today, these “scorched-earth” tactics remain a preferred way of dealing with agrarian societies in the Global South.

During the American Revolution, George Washington employed “scorched-earth” tactics against Native Americans who allied with British troops. The fruit orchards and corn crops of the Iroquois Nation were razed in hopes that their destruction would cause the Iroquois to perish as well.

The American Civil War featured Gen. Sherman’s “March through Georgia” and Gen. Sheridan’s campaign in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, two “scorched-earth” assaults aimed at destroying civilian crops, livestock, and property. Sherman’s army devastated 10 million acres of land in Georgia while Shenandoah’s farmlands were turned into fire-blackened landscapes.

***
During the many horrors of World War I, some of the worst environmental impacts occurred in France. At the Battle of the Somme, where 57,000 British soldiers died in the first day of combat, the High Wood was left a burnt tumble of blasted, mangled trunks.

In Poland, German troops leveled forests to provide timber for military construction. In the process, they destroyed the habitat of the few remaining European buffalo — which were quickly cut down by the rifles of hungry German soldiers.

One survivor described the battlefield as a landscape of “dumb, black stumps of shattered trees which still stick up where there used to be villages. Flayed by splinters of bursting shells, they stand like corpses upright.” A century after the carnage, Belgian farmers are still unearthing the bones of soldiers who bled to death in Flanders Field.

WWI inflicted damage inside the US as well. To feed the war effort, 40 million acres were rushed into cultivation on acreage largely unsuited for agriculture. Lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands were drained to create farmland. Native grasses were replaced with wheat fields. Forests were clear-cut to serve wartime needs. Extensive overplanting of cotton depleted soils that eventually succumbed to drought and erosion.

But the biggest impact came with the oil-fueled mechanization of war. Suddenly, modern armies no longer needed oats and hay for horses and mules. By the end of WWI, General Motors had built nearly 9,000 [8,512] military vehicles and turned a tidy profit. Air power would prove to be another historic game-changer.

***
With the outbreak of World War II, the European countryside suffered a renewed onslaught. German troops flooded 17 percent of Holland’s lowland farms with saltwater. Allied bombers breached two dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, destroying 7500 acres of German farmland.

In Norway, Hitler’s retreating troops methodically destroyed buildings, roads, crops, forests, water supplies, and wildlife. Fifty percent of Norway’s reindeer were killed.

Fifty years after the end of WWII, bombs, artillery shells, and mines were still being recovered from the fields and waterways of France. Millions of acres remain off-limits and the buried ordnance still claims occasional victims.

***
WWII’s most destructive event involved the detonation of two nuclear bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fireballs were followed by a “black rain” that pelted survivors for days, leaving behind an invisible mist of radiation that seeped into the water and air, leaving a chilling legacy of cancers and mutations in plants, animals, and newborn children.

Before the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963, the US and USSR had unleashed 1,352 underground nuclear blasts, 520 atmospheric detonations, and eight sub-sea explosions — equal to the force of 36,400 Hiroshima-sized bombs. In 2002, the National Cancer Institute warned that everyone on Earth had been exposed to fallout levels that had caused tens of thousands of cancer deaths.

***
In the closing decades of the 20th century, the military horror show was unrelenting.

For 37 months in the early 1950s, the US pounded North Korea with 635,000 tons of bombs and 32,557 tons of napalm. The US destroyed 78 Korean cities, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, 600,000 homes, and killed perhaps as many as 9 million people — 30% of the population by some estimates. Pyongyang has good reason to fear the US.

In 1991, the US dropped 88,000 tons of bombs on Iraq, destroying homes, power plants, major dams and water systems, triggering a health emergency that contributed to the deaths of a half-million Iraqi children.

Smoke from Kuwait’s burning oil fields turned day to night and released vast plumes of toxic soot that drifted downwind for hundreds of miles.

From 1992 to 2007, US bombing helped destroy 38 percent of the forest habitat in Afghanistan.

In 1999, NATO’s bombing of a petrochemical plant in Yugoslavia sent clouds of deadly chemicals into the sky and released tons of pollution into nearby rivers.

Africa’s Rwandan war drove nearly 750,000 people into the Virunga National Park. 105 square miles were ransacked and 35 square miles were “stripped bare.”

In Sudan, fleeing soldiers and civilians spilled into the Garamba National Park, decimating the animal population. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, armed conflict reduced the resident elephant population from 22,000 to 5,000.

During its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon spread more than 1,000 tons of radioactive depleted uranium over the land, triggering an epidemic of cancers and a generation of horrifically deformed children in Fallujah and other cities.

***
When asked what triggered the Iraq War, former CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid admitted: “Of course it’s about oil. We can’t really deny that.” Here’s the awful truth: The Pentagon needs to fight wars for oil to fight wars for oil.

The Pentagon measures fuel use in “gallons-per-mile” and “barrels-per-hour” and the amount of oil burned increases whenever the Pentagon goes to war. At its peak, the Iraq War generated more than three million metric tons of global-warming CO2 per month. Here’s an unseen headline: Military pollution is a major factor driving climate change.

And here’s an irony. The military’s scorched Earth tactics have become so devastating that we now find ourselves living – literally – on a Scorched Earth. Industrial pollution and military operations have driven temperatures to the tipping point. In pursuit of profit and power, extractive corporations and imperial armies have effectively declared war on the biosphere. Now, the planet is striking back — with an onslaught of extreme weather.

But an insurgent Earth is like no other force a human army has ever faced. A single hurricane can unleash a punch equal to the detonation of 10,000 atomic bombs. Hurricane Harvey’s airstrike on Texas caused $180 billion in damage. Hurricane Irma’s tab could top $250 billion. Maria’s toll is still growing.

Speaking of money. The Worldwatch Institute reports that redirecting 15 percent of the funds spent on weapons globally could eradicate most of the causes of war and environmental destruction. So why does war persist? Because the US has become a Corporate Militocracy controlled by the Arms Industry and Fossil Fuel Interests. As former Congressmember Ron Paul notes: Military spending mainly “benefits a thin layer of well-connected and well-paid elites. The elites are terrified that peace may finally break out, which will be bad for their profits.”

It’s worth recalling that the modern environmental movement arose, in part, in response to the horrors of the Viet Nam war — Agent Orange, napalm, carpet-bombing — and Greenpeace got its start protesting a planned nuclear test near Alaska. In fact, the name “Greenpeace” was chosen because it combined “the two great issues of our times, the survival of our environment and the peace of the world.”

Today our survival is threatened by gun barrels and oil barrels. To stabilize our climate, we need to stop wasting money on war. We can’t win a war directed against the very planet we live on. We need to put down our weapons of war and plunder, negotiate an honorable surrender, and sign a lasting Peace Treaty with the Planet.


Gar Smith is an award-winning investigative journalist, editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, co-founder of Environmentalists Against War, and author of Nuclear Roulette (Chelsea Green). His new book, The War and Environment Reader (Just World Books) will be published on October 3. He was one of many speakers at the World Beyond War three-day conference on “War and the Environment,” September 22-24 at the American University in Washington, DC. (For details, include a video archive of the presentations, visit: http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2017.)

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25.09.2017 La Comunidad para el Desarrollo Humano

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October 2, 2017: International Day of Nonviolence
(Image by Juan Carlos Marín)

To aware, learn and produce concrete actions based on the Methodology of Non-violence is the only way to banish violence in the World”

In 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) established the 2nd of October, the day of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, as the “International Day of Nonviolence”. So, this year we celebrate its tenth anniversary.

Violence strikes the world and spreads over the planet in the form of conventional wars, occupied territories, nuclear threats (that could lead to a future nuclear catastrophe), famines, massive migrations, economic exploitation, crises of millions of refugees, terrorist attacks, violence at schools, in the cities, in the homes, and violence also in the interior of the people that expresses itself as internal suffering. Violence, in all its expressions (physical, economic, racial, religious, moral and psychological) is a fundamental part of an individualistic and dehumanizing system whose methodology of action always generates more violence.

The solution to the problem of different forms of violence exists, and lies in applying a precise methodology: the “Methodology of Active Non-Violence”.

Non-violence is a methodology of action that promotes a profound individual and social transformation.

Non-violence is a force capable of changing the violent and inhuman direction of current events.

Non-violence promotes a new internal and external attitude towards life, having as main tools:

  • Personal change, strengthening and internal development, and simultaneous social transformation

  • The rejection and emptiness of different forms of discrimination and violence.

  • Non-collaboration with violent practices.

  • The denunciation of all the facts of discrimination and violence.

  • Civil disobedience to institutionalized violence.

  • The organization and social mobilization, voluntary and solidarity.

  • The development of personal virtues and the best and deepest human aspirations.

The Methodology of non-violence has been expressed in history with clear actions and developments in its attempt to transform the world. Contributions such as those made by Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mandela, and more recently by the Guide to Nonviolence and founder of the current of thought known as New Humanism, Silo.

The Non-Violence Methodology is also expressed in the thousands and thousands of common actions that millions of people propel daily around the planet. Organizations, groups of volunteers and isolated people who, with a spirit of solidarity, try to transform the situations of violence that exist around them.

They are signs of non-violence, signs of a new spirituality and a new solidarity. Signs of a new personal and social horizon, that we need to build. They are signs of a non-violent evolution of which each one of us can be a part.

It is the right time for expressing the calm and powerful message of Nonviolence. A moment of great need, in which we must express our best qualities to build a non-violent future.

Next 2nd of October we will radiate with Force to the world
the message that says:
“The Methodology of Non-violence is the only way out”

25.09.2017 – Albany, New York Kristin Christman

Humanity sadly lacking in both Koreas
(Image by Jeff Boyer / Times Union)

In 1905, Japan made Korea its protectorate. Under the Japanese, Koreans were deprived of land and food, forced into labor, forbidden to publish newspapers, required to adopt Japanese names and worship Shinto shrines, victimized by medical experiments, bullied in school, insulted, raped, tortured and killed.

Some Koreans rebelled. Thousands traveled north to Manchuria, becoming guerrilla fighters to combat the Japanese occupation. Many, including Kim Il Sung, were attracted to Communism’s promise of equality. As North Korea’s future first president (1949-94), Kim insisted on creating a self-reliant North Korea, independent of foreign influence.

Some Koreans fled, including Syngman Rhee, who unsuccessfully tried in 1905 to convince U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt to preserve Korean independence. As South Korea’s first president (1948-60), Rhee was anti-Communist, English-speaking and Christian, a religion whose message of equality appealed to Korean lower classes oppressed by the Japanese and traditional Korean hierarchy. Yet Rhee was violently authoritarian and corrupt. He incensed the U.S. by trying to sabotage Korean War armistice negotiations.

Some Koreans cooperated with the Japanese, including Park Chung Hee, who fought within Japan’s Imperial Army against Korean guerrillas. As South Korea’s third president (1963-79), Park secured economic aid from Japan, pushed for more U.S. troops, bribed U.S. legislators for military aid, imposed martial law and authorized nuclear weapons development before yielding to U.S. pressure.

When World War II Allies liberated Korea from Japan, Soviet troops in the North were rapaciously cruel to Koreans until Stalin, of all people, ordered Soviets to behave. Meanwhile in the South, because of noble U.S. intentions of treating Japan with respect, U.S. leaders infuriated Koreans by initially allowing hated Japanese officials to continue governing Korea.

Popular left-wing movements became increasingly shunned by the U.S. military government, which found it easier to work with conservative, wealthier, right-wing Koreans who spoke English and had typically cooperated with the Japanese.

Like a magnet, the peninsula grew polarized. In the North, those suspected of supporting Japanese, Americans, or Korean upper classes were executed or fled. In the South, those suspected of supporting left-wing movements were executed or fled.

With the Korean War’s outbreak, atrocities continued on both sides. U.S. troops were revolted by South Korean atrocities against suspected Communists, yet U.S. forces carpet-bombed street after street of North Korea, dropping napalm and pulverizing most cities and residences.

After the war, North Korea was engulfed by the brutal, hypocritical leadership of Kim Il Sung, whose commands for non-selfish labor fed his selfish desire to be worshipped as the all-perfect Father, a compassionate Santa Claus whose molten iron grip mercilessly punished the population. Koreans who didn’t believe Kim Il Sung was magnificent learned to fake it. Even the USSR and China favored stationing U.S. troops in South Korea to deter Kim.

Like a sick, abusive parent, Kim sealed off North Koreans from the world community. Even Russians were considered too dangerously liberal. Using thousands of informers, Kim bred a climate of distrust and psychological isolation and divided North Koreans into a hierarchy of castes based upon loyalty.

Until the 1990s, South Korea also suffered under dictatorships. It continues to rank low in gender equality. Its impoverished economy lagged behind North Korea until the 1960s when Park sent South Korean troops into the Vietnam War, thus winning millions of dollars annually in U.S. aid and jumpstarting South Korea’s “economic miracle.”

Meanwhile, when the USSR dissolved in 1991, North Korea’s foreign aid nose-dived and North Korea plunged into horrific famine.

In 1994, Kim’s son, Kim Jong Il, continued the pathological policies as North Koreans dropped dead from starvation. If you sold the frame of your required Kim Il Sung portrait to buy food, you’d be executed. If you crossed the border in search of food, you’d be executed. Yet all were required to worship the Kims as benevolent gods rather than ungodly frauds.

Since 2011, the grandson, Kim Jong Un, has continued state oppression, with an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 languishing in political prison camps and eating corn stalks. Violence and sexual abuse of women are routinely allowed. Meanwhile, across the border, more than 44,000 South Koreans, primarily women, underwent surgery in 2010 to Westernize their eyelids, an operation popular in the 1950s among Korean prostitutes eager to attract American GIs.

Kim Jong Un’s current interest in nuclear weapons has unclear purposes: To wage aggressive war? To ward off U.S. aggression? To raise his self-image? Or to use as a bargaining chip for aid? For an end to U.S.-South Korean military exercises or South Korea’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system?

Korea’s history is complicated, with good and bad not neatly dividing along geographical or ideological lines. What is clear is that violence, whether of oppression or war, has neither helped good defeat evil nor helped Koreans better their lives. Like so many of us, perhaps what Koreans need more than military capacity is social capacity: the will to refrain from following cruel orders, the spirit to engage openheartedly in cooperative dialogue, and the heart to understand that none deserve mistreatment.

This article was first published in the Albany Times Union.

23.09.2017 – London, UK Silvia Swinden

Big Data v Intentionality
Visualization created by IBM of daily Wikipedia edits . At multiple terabytes in size, the text and images of Wikipedia are an example of big data. (Image by Fernanda B. Viégas, Wikimedia Commons)

To err is human but to make a real mess you need a computer.’

Pressenza reported recently how algorithms used by social media were creating fake news without human intervention.

Not the only cybercock up.

‘Instagram uses ‘I will rape you’ post as Facebook ad in latest algorithm mishap’: ‘Instagram used a user’s image which included the text “I will rape you before I kill you, you filthy whore!” to advertise its service on Facebook, the latest example of social media algorithms boosting offensive content.’ The Guardian

And again in Facebook, this time an experiment widely reported in the media as an AI threat appeared to have been (according to Fb, that is) exaggerated: ‘Facebook shut down a pair of its artificial intelligence robots after they invented their own language.
Researchers at Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research built a chatbot earlier this year that was meant to learn how to negotiate by mimicking human trading and bartering.

´But when the social network paired two of the programs, nicknamed Alice and Bob, to trade against each other, they started to learn their own bizarre form of communication.The chatbot conversation “led to divergence from human language as the agents developed their own language for negotiating,” the researchers said.’ The Telegraph

Who feels clear enough about this event to make a judgement about how dangerous it could be for robots to start to communicate in a language nobody but them understands?

Technology is entering a new stage which escapes the moral codes that attempt to regulate human behaviour because very few people (if any) can really understand the consequences. This leads to make people switch off and ‘leave it to the experts’. Who are The Experts?
Many are celebrating the end of science as we know it. Thanks to Big Data now it is not necessary to propose a hypothesis, collect sufficient data, make a statistical analysis and decide whether the hypothesis was proven or disproven.

In ‘Facebook’s war on free will: How technology is making our minds redundant’ Franklin Foer describes in great detail how the analysis of huge amounts of data collected by social media is mechanically finding patterns and reaching conclusions about human behaviour (but not exclusively) without the intervention of minds:
‘For the entirety of human existence, the creation of knowledge was a slog of trial and error. Humans would dream up theories of how the world worked, then would examine the evidence to see whether their hypotheses survived or crashed upon their exposure to reality. Algorithms upend the scientific method – the patterns emerge from the data, from correlations, unguided by hypotheses. They remove humans from the whole process of inquiry. Writing in Wired, Chris Anderson, then editor-in-chief, argued: “We can stop looking for models. We can analyse the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.”  The Guardian

The analysis of faces by algorithms could detect people’s sexual orientation according to research from Stamford University reported by the Economist
‘AI’s power to pick out patterns is now turning to more intimate matters. Research at Stanford University by Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang has shown that machine vision can infer sexual orientation by analysing people’s faces. The researchers suggest the software does this by picking up on subtle differences in facial structure. With the right data sets, Dr Kosinski says, similar AI systems might be trained to spot other intimate traits, such as IQ or political views. Just because humans are unable to see the signs in faces does not mean that machines cannot do so.’

As expected the LGBT community found this problematic. The results are not 100% accurate but in future employers and authorities may use these algorithms to make judgements about people.

Intentionality cannot be switched off

Human consciousness perceives the world as well as itself and structures those perceptions into a model of ‘reality’ by comparing the new data with memory and adding elements from the emotional tone of the moment and a deeper omnipresent direction, away from pain and suffering and seeking happiness and meaning. Unlike mechanistic (eg Newtonian) and probabilistic (eg Chaos, quantum) processes this intentionality is ‘pulled’ by an image launched into the future. In spite of all the violence and dehumanisation that reigns in our present system where the prevailing ideology promotes individualism and selfishness there is an intention for humanity to move towards love and compassion. It may not be visible in the media but it is in communities and in response to disasters. So, when scientists propose a hypothesis they are not simply trying to see what correlates with what, but are seeking a way to emerge from pain and suffering. The hypothesis may turn out to be wrong but in that case the scientist will look for other ways to solve the problem. Because human beings care.

Even when in some people the structuring leads to violence we can find some element of self preservation or compassion towards themselves or their own kind.

No doubt the mechanical analysis of Big Data will throw amazing insights into different correlations, but there is no guarantee that any of them will serve the purpose of overcoming essential problems for humanity. Because machines do not care. Only those who programme them may do. And if the main intention is to make money, that’s what the machines will seek.

Medical analysis of Big Data is already showing great promise, therefore it is not a case of throwing the baby with the bath water.

Automated killing machines are programmed to kill, a soldier, trained to kill is still capable of feeling compassion, the killer robot is not. We have several examples of people preventing a nuclear holocaust where a machine would not have done so. Such is the case of the recently deceased Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet military officer who decided to dismiss a computer warning that the US had launched a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union as a false alarm. Intentionality includes in its construction of ‘reality’ what others may be processing, ‘I think therefore you think’, ‘I care therefore you may care’. It may be wrong, but there remains a choice.

Moreover, the assumption that the information that is being evaluated by algorithms is reliable is incorrect. People do not enter their true thoughts and intention into social media, but rather they, we, input a partial and biased self-image according to certain social trends and intentions. And as we have seen earlier, even the most sophisticated algorithms are capable of making mistakes.

Perhaps the paranoia that the robots will take over the world is still too unlikely to contemplate as it would mean they can develop intentionality. Since for the time being only human intention gives direction to Big Data we must concentrate in eliminating war, revenge and greed, all rooted in fear, and create international agreements about putting data at the service of overcoming pain and suffering. The dictatorship of Big Data is not a cyber abstraction, the people who manage it have names, faces and intentions, and ordinary people can reach out to them to demand a humanised use of our information.

 

22.09.2017 – New York, USA International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

This post is also available in: Spanish

First US bank annouce public position against nuclear weapons

On Wednesday 20 September, the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons officially opened for signature and over 50 countries signed.  The US was not one of the signers, but US advocates for the Treaty have succeeded in making the first US bank annouce that it will not invest in nuclear weapons production.

New York-based Amalgamated Bank used the day of the signature of the Treaty to publish its investment policy around weapons.  The bank’s vice-President Robert Mante wrote on its website how Amalgamated doesn’t invest in weapons.  This is the first time Amalgamated has made public its investment position around weapons – including nuclear weapons.

“This is a great step for Amalgamated, a bank that seeks to embrace transparency to share some more specific information about its investment policies.  We hope that it leads to a full fledged policy against investing in nuclear weapon producers soon,” said Susi Snyder, who coordinates Don’t Bank on the Bomb report.

A growing part of the financial sector recognizes its responsibility in contributing to and upholding global norms such as the norm against nuclear weapons represented by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is clear from the increased activity on and attention to socially responsible standards and investments in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.

During the negotiations for the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, around 20 states explicitly indicated they supported either an explicit inclusion of a prohibition on financing/investments in the treaty, or the prohibition of these activities as part of assistance.  Most nuclear-armed states rely on private companies for the production, maintenance and modernization of their nuclear weapons. Financial institutions provide crucial and necessary support to these companies, so that they are able to carry out projects like producing key components for nuclear weapons.

“While states without nuclear weapons cannot eliminate any nuclear weapons themselves, this announcement from Amalgamated shows that this treaty can have a significant impact on nuclear weapons producers” said Snyder. “Ending the financing of nuclear weapon producers is a way that the treaty and its supporters can have an effective impact on the companies and states that remain outside of the treaty that are involved with the production and retention of nuclear weapons,” she continued.

For more information about financial institutions and investments in nuclear weapons production, see Don’t Bank on the Bomb

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

22.09.2017 – New York, USA International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

First US bank annouce public position against nuclear weapons

On Wednesday 20 September, the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons officially opened for signature and over 50 countries signed.  The US was not one of the signers, but US advocates for the Treaty have succeeded in making the first US bank annouce that it will not invest in nuclear weapons production.

New York-based Amalgamated Bank used the day of the signature of the Treaty to publish its investment policy around weapons.  The bank’s vice-President Robert Mante wrote on its website how Amalgamated doesn’t invest in weapons.  This is the first time Amalgamated has made public its investment position around weapons – including nuclear weapons.

“This is a great step for Amalgamated, a bank that seeks to embrace transparency to share some more specific information about its investment policies.  We hope that it leads to a full fledged policy against investing in nuclear weapon producers soon,” said Susi Snyder, who coordinates Don’t Bank on the Bomb report.

A growing part of the financial sector recognizes its responsibility in contributing to and upholding global norms such as the norm against nuclear weapons represented by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is clear from the increased activity on and attention to socially responsible standards and investments in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.

During the negotiations for the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, around 20 states explicitly indicated they supported either an explicit inclusion of a prohibition on financing/investments in the treaty, or the prohibition of these activities as part of assistance.  Most nuclear-armed states rely on private companies for the production, maintenance and modernization of their nuclear weapons. Financial institutions provide crucial and necessary support to these companies, so that they are able to carry out projects like producing key components for nuclear weapons.

“While states without nuclear weapons cannot eliminate any nuclear weapons themselves, this announcement from Amalgamated shows that this treaty can have a significant impact on nuclear weapons producers” said Snyder. “Ending the financing of nuclear weapon producers is a way that the treaty and its supporters can have an effective impact on the companies and states that remain outside of the treaty that are involved with the production and retention of nuclear weapons,” she continued.

For more information about financial institutions and investments in nuclear weapons production, see Don’t Bank on the Bomb

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

21.09.2017 Redazione Italia

This post is also available in: Italian

Nuclear Weapons Ban is Entering into Force!
(Image by Wikimedia Commons)

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been signed by 50 nations.

3  nations (Guyana, Holy See, Thailand) have already ratified it.

Once 50 nations have ratified or acceded to it, it will enter into force.

Here is the list of supporting nations:

STATE SIGNED RATIFIED
Guyana 20/09/17 20/09/17
Holy See 20/09/17 20/09/17
Thailand 20/09/17 20/09/17
Algeria 20/09/17
Austria 20/09/17
Bangladesh 20/09/17
Brazil 20/09/17
Cabo Verde 20/09/17
Central African Republic 20/09/17
Chile 20/09/17
Comoros 20/09/17
Congo 20/09/17
Costa Rica 20/09/17
Cote d’Ivoire 20/09/17
Cuba 20/09/17
DRC (Congo) 20/09/17
Ecuador 20/09/17
El Salvador 20/09/17
Fiji 20/09/17
Gambia 20/09/17
Ghana 20/09/17
Guatemala 20/09/17
Honduras 20/09/17
Indonesia 20/09/17
Ireland 20/09/17
Kiribati 20/09/17
Libya 20/09/17
Liechtenstein 20/09/17
Madagascar 20/09/17
Malawi 20/09/17
Malaysia 20/09/17
Mexico 20/09/17
Nepal 20/09/17
New Zealand 20/09/17
Nigeria 20/09/17
Palau 20/09/17
Palestine 20/09/17
Panama 20/09/17
Paraguay 20/09/17
Peru 20/09/17
Philippines 20/09/17
Samoa 20/09/17
San Marino 20/09/17
Sao Tome & Principe 20/09/17
South Africa 20/09/17
Togo 20/09/17
Tuvalu 20/09/17
Uruguay 20/09/17
Vanuatu 20/09/17
Venezuela 20/09/17

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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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