07.02.2018 – Manila, Philippines Karina Lagdameo Santillan

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

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

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

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

In his speech, King Abdullah II said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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05.02.2018 – Santiago de Chile Pía Figueroa

This post is also available in: Spanish

The nonviolent revolution is beginning to become a value

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

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

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

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

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

 

05.02.2018 Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research

The world’s most dangerous document hits the front pages…

Did you see the in-depth coverage today on top of your news media?

By Jan Oberg

No it didn’t.

The mainstream media are totally irresponsible in their priorities. At the moment of writing, five hours after the world’s most dangerous document was presented, no major Western media has featured it prominently. This means it won’t be. No chance it would go viral. The increasing risk of nuclear war isn’t important.

While people talk about fake, a much larger issue is omission:

What is hidden to you? What world order issues are deliberately down-graded?

What threats to humanity end up at the bottom of page 38 after 10 pages of sports, entertainment and celebrity stories.

Another technique is cover-up, talking about something else such as the ever convenient North Korean “threat” or Russia’s latest evil plot.

It’s not only ignorance. There are media and other power elites who know exactly what to hand out to you and how. And what to fake, omit and cover up instead of covering.

And then tonight happened the Pentagon “rollout” of this formal document on which the U.S. is going to base its nuclear policies in the future.

Watch the whole event here on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist.

Watch and listen carefully to how the Pentagon experts explain and rationalize it all, from within their box: So natural as if talking about pleasant everyday affairs.

And take note of the lame, cliquish questions asked by what must be highly selective media people who, it seems, have never read a book about nuclear policies. Don’t challenge a single underlying assumption or point to dangers.

The central words are “the safety of the American people”, the capabilities and it’s all held within the weapons technological framework and blurred security environment and deterrence. Not a single, intellectually defensible argument given.

No questioning of the framework – legal, political, ethical, psychological, civilisational…

This is not only what the leading US psychiatrist of war, Nazi doctors and sect psychology, Robert Jay Lifton calls ‘psychic numbing’.

Or what Yale psychologist Irving Janis in his classical study called ‘groupthink’.

No, seldom has the Theatre of the Absurd of the MIMAC – the Military-industrial MEDIA-Academic Complex – been performed so well.

In a calm and rational manner, we learn how natural it is to perceive, to talk about – and never question – what is in reality directly and fundamentally related to the unthinkable omnicide – destruction of humanity and the world as we know it.

All in the name, of course, of maintaining the US-based, military-dominated post-1945 world order against America’s beloved enemies. What would it do without them? How would it develop new nukes at trillions of dollars if it did not invent enemies all around. Imagine it had a policy of co-operation with the world instead of dominating it?

It’s well known that one of the defining characteristics of terrorism is the targeting, wounding or killing of innocent people, of people who are in no way fighters or otherwise related to the conflict – like children on a school bus, patients at a hospital.

The Nuclear Poster Review is a plädoyer for mega-terrorism, dwarfing ISIS and everybody else.

It’s about the use of nuclear weapons – NUTs meaning Nuclear Use Theory – not for the deterrence business as usual, or MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction.

It is a document that argues in favour of nuclear weapons being use-able, for the theory that the US can start, fight and survive a nuclear exchange. In other words, for making the unthinkable not only thinkable but acceptable.

You can’t use nuclear weapons without killing and wounding millions and making life uninhabitable for billions. Every thought about nuclear use is based on a terror philsophy – and practised today only by the United States of America.

The NPR 2018 lowers the psychological threshold and increases the likelihood vastly that nuclear weapons will be used in the future.

This kind of thinking brings huge dangers to the world. There are lots of vested interests that don’t want you to know.

This document should be condemned – as it would have been throughout the homogenised Western mainstream media had it been Russia or China or some other nuclear weapons state that had presented a similarly perversely dangerous and exceptionalism nuclear-use policy.

There is a simple solution to this nuclear madness: Nuclear abolition. That’s what the world’s huge majority wants and has voted for at the UN.

And if you don’t believe that, let’s try a little experiment in democracy – after all that’s what the US is, isn’t it? Get all the nuclear weapons states to hold free and fair referendums asking their citizens whether they want their own countries defended by nuclear weapons.

For the first time in human history. Then we take the struggle for nuclear abolition from there…

 

03.02.2018 – New York City Amy Goodman

This post is also available in: Spanish

The Stateless of the Union: Trump’s War on Immigrants
(Image by Reto Thumiger)

President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address Tuesday night. It was to be his clarion call to bipartisanship. Instead, under the guise of a compromise position on the fate of nearly 800,000 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, Trump bashed Latino immigrants just like he did on the day he launched his presidential campaign in 2015, when he said of Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Hours before the State of the Union, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in New York released a scathing rebuke of Trump during a court hearing on whether Trump’s cancellation of DACA was illegal. Garaufis said he would not ignore the president’s “vicious … recurring, redundant drumbeat of anti-Latino commentary.” The judge’s words could have served as a summary of Trump’s address.

Many members of Congress had invited special guests to attend the State of the Union, among them “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants and their advocates. Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona asked the U.S. Capitol Police to check the identification of all those attending, and to arrest undocumented immigrants in attendance. His request was ignored.

For millions of immigrants and their family members around the U.S., the State of the Union was not just a political speech; their lives hang in the balance. President Barack Obama enacted DACA through executive order in 2012, allowing people who were brought to the U.S. as children, without proper documentation, to register with the federal government in order to receive a work permit and protection from deportation. Among other things, they undergo a background check and provide their address and biometric data.

Commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” they are, in essence, stateless. Their status in the U.S. is uncertain, and they have little or no connection to their nation of origin. Older immigrants, the more than 10 million people here without documentation but who do not qualify for DACA, are in similar straits, living under the daily threat of arrest and deportation, living in the shadows.

Trump cited the U.S.-based Salvadoran criminal gang MS-13 four times in his speech, fanning the flames of racism and fear of violent crime. As a sop to Democrats, he suggested that 1.8 million Dreamers (who he referred to only as “illegal immigrants”) might be given a pathway to citizenship. But in exchange, he demanded a slew of restrictive changes to U.S. immigration policy, which would be the most significant overhaul in more than 50 years, including the elimination of the green-card lottery, limiting family unification by preventing immigrants from joining family members already in the U.S., and $25 billion to build a border wall and to further militarize the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington invited a woman who has been targeted for deportation by the Trump administration. Maru Mora Villalpando is a leader with the group Northwest Detention Center Resistance. The morning after the speech, Mora Villalpando told us on the “Democracy Now!” news hour: “He scapegoated my community, along with many other communities. But it was important to show that we’re not afraid, and we’re going to continue in the struggle.”

Despite boycotting the speech herself, Brooklyn Congressmember Yvette Clarke invited immigrant leader Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New York City-based New Sanctuary Coalition. Remarkably, he had been released from nearly three weeks of detention just the night before. He was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Jan. 11 and rushed into deportation proceedings. Mass protests and legal action prevented his deportation to Trinidad and Tobago on Jan. 12. A judge then ordered him returned from the Krome Detention Center in Florida back to a New York detention center while his case proceeded. Then, in a stunning decision Monday, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ordered Ravi Ragbir immediately released.

She wrote: “It ought not to be—and it has never before been—that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home, and work. And sent away. We are not that country, and woe be the day when we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it. We have a law higher than any that may be so interpreted — and that is our Constitution.”

The opening words of the U.S. Constitution are “We the People.” Far more powerful than any single president, it is that collective force that will save us.

03.02.2018 Pressenza New York

This post is also available in: Spanish

Fabricating a fig Leaf of Democracy in Egypt

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali,

A fig leaf of democracy is being developed in Egypt amid persecution of opposition, mass executions and imposition of state of emergency to give wide powers to suppress all kind of dissent of a quazi-military government of US-client President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi who deposed Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohammad Morsi in July 2013.

The presidential election in Egypt is scheduled for March 26-28. However, a complicated election process has been evolved to ensure that there should not be any meaningful challenge to the incumbent president Al-Sisi who is seeking re-election.

To be eligible to run for president, a candidate must collect 25,000 signatures from constituents across 15 governorates (with at least 1,000 signatures from each area), or the signatures of 20 members of the pro-Al-Sisi parliament.

On January 23, the army arrested presidential contender Sami Anan, former head of the Egyptian armed forces. Anan was accused of committing violations that “warrant official investigation”, according to the Supreme Committee of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

The army said the 69-year-old had not obtained the army’s approval to run for president and accused him of seeking to divide the armed forces and citizens of Egypt.

Amnesty International has described Anan’s arrest  “an attack on the rights to public participation and freedom of expression” in Egypt.

“It appears that Sami Anan has been detained because he was widely considered to be a serious contender” against Al-Sisi, said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s director of North Africa campaigns.

“This is not the first time such a contender has been prevented from running against the incumbent.”

Indeed, a handful of presidential hopefuls have abandoned their campaigns in recent weeks.

Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik’s plan to run was short-lived after he withdrew his potential candidacy earlier this month. “I saw that I would not be the ideal person to lead the state during the coming period,” Shafik said in a statement posted on Twitter. One of Shafik’s lawyers accused the Egyptian government of putting pressure on the 76-year-old by threatening to re-investigate previous corruption allegations against him.

Timothy Kaldas, non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy told Al-Jazeera that the Sisi government has “made it so untenable and so undesirable and so dangerous to run” for president today, that it is “fairly discouraging for anybody who would seriously entertain” the idea.

He also said the Egyptian government appears unconcerned by whether anyone views the election as credible. “The question is: what’s worse, a convincing sham, or one that’s transparently a sham?” Kaldas said.

In December, Ahmed Konsowa, an Egyptian army colonel, was sentenced to six years in prison after he announced his intention to run for president. Konsowa was charged with “stating political opinions contrary to the requirements of military order”, his lawyer said.

Another high-profile potential candidate, Mohamed Anwar el-Sadat, the nephew of Egypt’s assassinated former president, Anwar Sadat, also recently cancelled his campaign. A spokesperson for el-Sadat’s campaign told Reuters that at least three Cairo hotels reportedly refused to rent el-Sadat a space from which to officially launch his candidacy and printers refused to print his campaign manifesto. “It’s a systematic campaign to kill off candidates. I call it a political assassination process,” Osama Badie told the news agency.

Egypt extends state of emergency

The presidential election will be held under the state of emergency that was extended on January 2. Egypt has extended by another three months a nationwide state of emergency, citing security reasons.

Not surprisingly, state news agency MENA said the move was taken to allow security forces to “take (measures) necessary to confront the dangers and funding of terrorism and safeguard security in all parts of the country”.

Egyptian authorities first imposed a nationwide state of emergency in April 2017, after two church bombings killed at least 45 people. Similar extensions were announced in July and October last year.

The measure grants the president, and those acting on his behalf, the power to refer civilians to State Security Emergency Courts for the duration of the three-month period.

There is no appeal process for State Security Emergency Court verdicts.

It also allows the president to intercept and monitor all forms of communications, imposing censorship prior to publication and confiscating extant publications, impose a curfew for or order the closure of commercial establishments, sequestration of private properties, as well as designating areas for evacuation.

The emergency measures allow security forces to detain people for any period of time, for virtually any reason. They also grant broad powers to restrict public gatherings and media freedom.

Human Rights Watch

The presidential election will be held in an atmosphere of untamed repression.

Human Rights Watch said on January 18, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government during 2017 observed few boundaries on its untamed repression of all forms of dissent. While the country faced major security threats and attacks by armed groups, the government introduced a host of repressive laws, reinstated the abusive state of emergency, and sent thousands of civilians to military courts that, along with civilian courts, issued scores of death sentences in flawed trials, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2018.

Al-Sisi is unlikely to face a serious challenge for a second term in the 2018 presidential elections, planned for March and April. His government tightly controls local media outlets, prosecutes critical journalists and activists, and maintains a zero-tolerance policy for exercising the right to peaceful assembly, effectively eliminating basic requirements for fair elections.

“Reviewing Egypt’s 2017 record, it appears that applying violence and repression to decimate the rule of law and peaceful opposition is al-Sisi’s primary ‘accomplishment,’” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The way things are trending, the government crackdown will continue to stifle citizens’ legitimate aspirations and rights.”

Tellingly, on the Al- Sisi’s  watch 109 had been sentenced to death in 2013, 509 in 2014, 538 in 2015 and 237 in 2016.

UN experts call on Egypt to halt executions

 

Egypt must stop executions until it has reviewed all death sentences and retry any convictions that are found to rest on unfair trials, five independent UN human rights experts said on January 26.  “We have raised multiple specific cases with the Egyptian authorities and continue to receive more. In the light of these persistent serious allegations, we urge the Government to halt all pending executions,” the experts said in a statement.

The experts were José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Agnes Callamard, Bernard Duhaime, Nils Melzer, and Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, who report to the Council on arbitrary detention, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and the protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

“We are particularly concerned by an apparently continuing pattern of death sentences handed out on the basis of evidence obtained through torture or ill-treatment, often during a period of enforced disappearance,” they said.

NGOs urge Egypt to revoke death sentences

Fifty-four non-governmental organizations issued Wednesday (Jan. 24) a joint declaration urging Egypt to revoke death sentences that came after the 2013 military coup.

Turkish and Egyptian NGOs called on the international public and international institutions which Egypt is part of — including the UN, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the African Union — to discourage the executions from being carried out.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent execution of the death sentences of these people, most of whom are young political prisoners,” said the declaration.

US-client General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi (who later adopted the title of Field Marshal) deposed Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president, in a 2013 military coup after one year in power.

Among the NGOs gathered in Istanbul, there were 10 Egyptian NGOs.

The statement added that most were not involved in violence and were pacifist activists, scholars or journalists.


Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net). He is the author of several books including Islam & Muslims in the 21st Century published in 2017.

 

31.01.2018 – Vancouver, CA Pressenza New York

Canada’s North Shore Traffic Congestion: A Cataclysmically Frayed Rope
Lion’s Gate Bridge Traffic Merges Four Lanes into One

Vancouver and its North Shores are considered among the worst congested areas in Canada. A recent column in the North Shore News by Jonathan Wilkinson, Member of Parliament for North Vancouver (“A Promising Step Forward on Congestion”, Friday, January 19th, 2018) calls for immediate action to address the ever-mounting traffic congestion on the North Shore.

North Shore residents and governments sorely do need to take some action to address its mounting traffic congestion, but what kind of action? The establishment of any kind of so-called Integrated North Shore Transportation Process will indeed most certainly fail in the long run because whatever analysis of the North Shore’s crippling traffic problems occurs it will never address the underlying fundamental cause behind the source of the North Shore’s crippling traffic problem; which is the ever-abiding predisposition of a philosophy that forever drives Canada’s municipal, regional, provincial and federal governments forward regarding what constitutes the future vision and direction of Canadian civilization.

The driving force of its civilization, since the arrival of its many emigrant European cultures, followed now by a host of emigrant Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, have all been predicated upon perpetual economic and population growth that never has learned some critically important lessons from the North Shore an Canada’s original First Nation host nations about what it means to live in size and scope with wisdoms of understanding about such principles as: Living in Balance & Sustainability between the human, non-human and natural worlds. In short, the modern-day history of the immigrant, colonial North Shore fails to recognize one of the most important of all lessons of Reconciliation by continuing to follow a European, Asian, Middle Eastern philosophy and way of life that believes in the vision that Bigger or More is Always Better than an indigenous vision where Smaller or Less is Always More.

This is the root cause behind every pressing issue of the North Shore’s myriad pressing issues: transportation, traffic congestion, affordable housing, economic-community development, building codes, standards and variances and the lack thereof of the necessary kind of real collective vision needed to significantly change the direction and course of life on the North Shore.

Thus, the North Shore’s political and governmental infrastructure at the local, regional, provincial and federal levels, not to mention the majority of resident North Shore voters and general public, are incapable of implementing the kind of sweeping vision that is required.

If the issue happens to be some pandemic disease or world leader who threatens the world with nuclear annihilation, panic sets in and immediate steps are undertaken to eliminate the threat. But when it comes to curbing, say, population explosion or endless economic growth and expansion societies and civililization remain passive and fatalistic about the outcome.

So any notion of a so-called 30-year Translink Transportation strategy is utterly doomed to fail just as the need for more affordable housing, single family neighborhoods, more green spaces and smaller scale density is doomed to fail until the North Shore has no other choice but to opt for a third or fourth bridge crossing, sky train tunnel and/or other major east-west thoroughfares until it finally hits the proverbial wall as it turns into some new 21st century form of an impacted Hong Kong, Mexico City or Metrotown on steroids.

At the end of the day, what is needed to “up our game” on the North Shore, as Jonathan Wilkinson puts it, isn’t more support transit, carpooling or vanpooling but a total rethink and re-visioning of where Canada originally came from, where it’s going, and what kind of collaboration, innovation and resolve is needed between all the immigrant and indigenous cultures of the North Shore. ‘Til then the ride will only continue to get hairer and the age-old cataclysmic metaphor of a frayed rope continues to unravel as governments and modern civilization forever futiley struggles to play catch-up with the endless chaos of development and population expansion!

First Nation peoples have lived in relative balance on the North Shore for thousands of years. But the way things are so rapidly spinning out of control now, begs the question, “Will the newcomer colonial races and cultures be able to also say they will likewise do the same in the future for as many more thousands of years, as well?”

 

31.01.2018 – Paris, France Prensa Latina

This post is also available in: Spanish

French electricity company proposes to close nuclear reactors from 2029

The French electricity generation and distribution company, EDF, today proposed the closure of several nuclear power plants from 2029 onwards as part of a new long-term energy strategy.

Speaking to journalists, Philippe Sasseigne, head of the company’s nuclear division, defended the relevance of shutting down several reactors by that date, while only the closure of the Fessenhiem reactor, the first to be put into operation in this European nation in 1978, is planned for now.

According to the specialist, EDF’s suggestion – which manages the 58 plants currently in operation – is aimed at contributing to the government’s objective of reducing nuclear electricity production.

At the end of 2017, the Ministry of Ecological Transition confirmed its intention to reduce electricity generation from nuclear power plants by 2025.

To this end, consultations are currently being held with specialists, institutions and organizations to develop a long-term energy strategy.

The action plan in this area is expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

29.01.2018 eldiario.es

A group of US hospitals will create their own generics to avoid pharmaceutical manipulation
(Image by IH vía eldiario.es))

Tired of the scarcity and high prices, more than 450 hospitals in the US have come together to create a non-profit pharmaceutical company.

Several companies are being investigated in the US and the European Union for trying to manipulate the generic drug market.

“It is a very necessary initiative and it would be interesting if we could copy it in Spain and in the European Union”, explains the expert in health planning, Fernando Lamata.

By Teguayco Pinto

Last week, a network of more than 450 hospitals in the US announced its intention to create a non-profit pharmaceutical company to manufacture generic drugs, with the aim of fighting against shortages and high prices imposed by the industry. With this movement, the hospital groups intend to exert pressure on some companies that have dedicated themselves to buying low-cost medicines, and then drastically raise prices, actions that have generated great controversy and that have led to several sanctions and investigations on violations of competition, both in the US and in the European Union.

“The creation of a non-profit company for the manufacture of generics seems to me a very interesting and promising idea,” the health planning expert, Fernando Lamata, told eldiario.es, “and I think it is a logical reaction of a consumer , as it is a hospital, before the escalation of prices and the forced shortage by some pharmaceutical companies “.

During the last decade several companies have been dedicated to acquire old drugs that no longer have a patent and that have a low cost, and then drastically raise their prices. This practice is usually done with drugs for which there was no generic competition, as in the case of epinephrine injections, EpiPen, which increased its price by five times in just 9 years.

The manipulation of the generic market

However, the current problem is not only in the “exorbitant and unjustified” prices of some brand-name drugs, but also in the generic market itself, says Lamata, who was Secretary General of Health between 2004 and 2005 and General Director of the National School of Health. “Sometimes generic cartels are made to agree on prices” or even “cheap drugs have been withdrawn from the market to force administrations to raise the price”.

The problem of manipulation of the generic market exploded definitively in October of last year, when the general prosecutors of 45 US states presented a document accusing 18 companies of reaching agreements to divide the generic market and fix, for advance, the prices of up to 15 different medications.

Cases in this regard are also being investigated in the EU, such as that of Aspen Pharma. In February of last year, the National Securities Market Commission initiated a disciplinary action against this pharmaceutical company for “possible abusive practices, which would consist in refusing to supply certain medications and applying excessive prices to them”.

It was not the first time that this company was facing a suit in a European country. In 2016, the Italian authorities imposed a fine of more than 5 million euros on this company after verifying that it had threatened the Italian Drug Agency with interrupting the supply of certain medicines if its price increases were not accepted.

After these two complaints, the European Commission launched an investigation in May last year for a possible abuse of a dominant position. The Commission suspects that Aspen may have used “unfair and abusive bargaining practices with national authorities,” including “the reduction of direct supply of drugs and the threat of supply reductions.”

A strategic option for Spain

The four hospital groups in the United States that have proposed the creation of a non-profit company are Intermountain Health, Ascension and the Catholic health systems, Trinity Health and SSM Health. In addition, they will also have the support of the health system for veterans of the US Army.

Although the health systems of the US and Spain are diametrically opposed, Lamata believes that “it would be interesting to copy this initiative in the European Union”, since, “national governments are being overwhelmed by the alteration of prices.” “For a country like Spain,” says Lamata, the creation of a public company of this type “would be a very interesting strategic decision”, since “the manufacture of generics has a very low cost and can be addressed without much difficulty”.

However, the idea raised by these hospital groups has also received some criticism that they consider it difficult to carry out a company of this type. In an opinion article published in the journal Science, pharmaceutical market expert Derek Lowe points out the regulatory problems that this new company would face.

“If this company is going to start its own effort to manufacture generic products, it will have to stand in line for the FDA to grant it authorization,” Lowe says. In addition, he affirms that there is already an important regulatory “bottleneck” with many companies queuing to receive authorization from the agency, so adding a new request would only further complicate the process. Even so, the FDA has already announced its intention to streamline procedures for all those companies that are developing projects to alleviate the shortage of generics.

29.01.2018 David Swanson

The Post should be viewed by current editors of The Post

I was afraid that The Post would give us a Hollywood film version of the publication of the Pentagon Papers and manage never to say what was in the Pentagon Papers. I was afraid it would be turned into a pro-war movie. I was afraid we’d be told that the Washington Post was a courageous institution while Daniel Ellsberg was a dirty traitor. I am pleased to have had no reason for such concerns.

The Post is not exactly an anti-war movie, Ellsberg is not a main character, the peace movement is just rabble scenery, and the major focus is split between journalism’s struggle against government and Katherine Graham’s struggle against sexism. But we are in fact told in this film that the Pentagon Papers documented decades of official war lies and the continuation of mass-slaughter year-after-year purely out of cowardly unwillingness to be the one to end it. The Postleaves Ellsberg looking like the hero he is and Robert McNamara looking like the Nazi he was. And I’m left to complain that I have nothing to complain about.

Well, except this: We’re supposed to believe that the fact that the U.S. government had been blatantly lying about its motivations, actions, and analyses of its warmaking for decades came as a shocking revelation to every intern, reporter, editor, and publisher at the Washington Post, that they all had simply had no idea, bless their hearts, and that they all immediately believed that this brand-new truth needed to be told (with the only hurdle being the willingness of the publisher to stick to the obvious course of action when faced with legal threats from the Justice Department).

This story obscures the fact that senators, Congress members, independent reporters like I.F. Stone, and many others had been exposing the lies in real time for years. And, of course, many statements appeared to be lies without the need for any exposure. We’re expected to overlook the willful suspension of disbelief required to believe, for example, that predicting imminent success in Vietnam over and over again for years was all driven by honest reflection on facts. The peace movement was the massive recognition of the lies. The peace movement persuaded Ellsberg to act. The people running the Washington Post cannot have been quite as oblivious as we’re led to believe.

The same tale of innocence also may leave the moviegoer with the entirely false impression that the Washington Post has instinctively challenged the most blatant war lies ever since the days of Tricky Dick. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ellsberg has said that Trump should see this movie. I’d rather Jeff Bezos and each of his employees at the current Post see it.

Here are some of the wars that the Washington Post has helped to promote since the moment the credits rolled: Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War (the Post outdid itself promoting a fictional account of babies being taken out of incubators), Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and drone wars in general.

Here are the wars I am aware of the Washington Post having opposed: _______________.

The current U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen is unusual for the Post‘s pretense that the U.S. military isn’t actively engaged in it, even while admirably asking the U.S. to ask the Saudis to open the ports.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, War Is A Lie:

In May and June 2005, the most repeated excuse by U.S. media outlets, including the Washington Post, for not covering the Downing Street Minutes and related documents demonstrating the dishonesty of the planners of the War on Iraq, was that the documents told us nothing new, that they were old news. This conflicted, of course, with the second most common excuse, which was that they were false.

Those of us trumpeting the story as new and important scratched our heads. Of course we’d known the Bush-Cheney gang was lying, but did everyone know that? Had corporate media outlets reported it? Had they informed the public of confirmation of this fact in the form of memos from top government officials in the United Kingdom? And if so, when? When had this particular piece of news been new news?

At what point did it become stale and unnecessary to report that Bush had decided by the summer of 2002 to go to war and to use false justifications related to weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorism? Judging by opinion polls in spring 2005, we hadn’t reached that point yet. Much of the public still believed the lies.

If you went back, as I did, and reviewed all the issues of the Washington Post that had come out in June, July, and August 2002, you found that, while what was happening behind closed doors in Washington and London may have been known to the Washington Post, it certainly never informed its readers.[i] In fact, during that three month period, I found a flood of pro-war articles, editorials, and columns, many of them promoting the lies the debunking of which was supposedly old news.

On August 18, 2002, for example, the Washington Post ran an editorial, an ombudsman column, and three op-eds about a potential U.S. attack on Iraq, as well as three related “news” articles. One article, placed on the top of the front page, reported on a memo that Secretary of “Defense” Donald Rumsfeld had sent to the White House and the media. Defense officials were worried that countries such as Iraq or Iran could use cruise missile technology to attack U.S. installations or the American homeland.

The article contained the admission that no particular piece of new intelligence prompted the warning. What prompted the reporting?

The second Post article –- by Dana Milbank urged Bush to hurry up and argue for an attack on Iraq before opponents of such an attack raised their voices too loudly. The headline was, White House Push for Iraqi Strike Is On Hold: Waiting to Make Case for Action Allows Invasion Opponents to Dominate Debate. While the article did touch on some of the opponentsarguments, it mainly focused on arguments about how best to persuade the American public and European politicians to support a war.

A third article by Glenn Kessler was called Rice Details the Case for War With Iraq. It began:

The United States and other nations have little choice but to seek the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said. This is an evil man who, left to his own devices, will wreak havoc again on his own population, his neighbors and, if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, on all of us, Rice told the BBC. There is a very powerful moral case for regime change. We certainly do not have the luxury of doing nothing.’”

The Post’s editorial on August 18 urged the White House to make its case for war, and advised it to do so on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had refused to get rid of weapons. Heres the last paragraph of the editorial:

A preemptive war carries another danger: that it will seem to legitimize aggression by any stronger nation against a weaker regime in disfavor. It has long seemed to us that targeting the weapons of Saddam Hussein carries a legitimacy that other such attacks would not, because the U.N. Security Council more than a decade ago demanded that he rid himself of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and he has refused to do so. That is also a case that the administration must make more persuasively.

The Post’s ombudsman column on the same day was titled Covering the War Before it Starts,and lamented the Post’s biased coverage in favor of attacking Iraq. Unfortunately, this admirable observation was overshadowed by three much longer op-eds on the next page.

The best of them, David Broders, questioned the accuracy of CIA information on Iraq, briefly mentioned a few concerns, and then joined the chorus urging Bush to make his case.

The worst of the op-eds which was placed at the top and center of the page, illustrated by a clenched fist with an Uncle Sam sleeve pounding on a map of Iraq was by former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. The title was If We Must Fight . . . . It didnt call proponents of peace assisters of terrorism, as a Post column had done some months earlier, but it did assume there was no reason to work for peace.

Brzezinski offered advice to the President in a list of five recommended steps to war: First, Brzezinski joined the chorus in suggesting that the President must articulate some sort of reason for attacking Iraq. Second, Brzezinski suggested that the reason the President articulates must be that Hussein is producing weapons in defiance of the Security Council. (Brzezinski was good enough to add that Hussein did not use chemical weapons in the last war and that some reason must be provided to believe he would use them in the future). Third, the United States must take the lead in a new proposal for weapons inspections. Europe would support this, and Hussein would not, giving the United States a good excuse to attack. (Here we have Brzezinski plotting publicly as Prime Minister Tony Blair was privately to “wrong-foot Saddam” — the phrase Britain’s ambassador to the United States used privately in March 2002 to describe a process of manipulating Hussein into refusing inspections, thereby creating an excuse for war). Fourth, the United States must work for peace between Israel and Palestine, so that an attack on Iraq is not viewed together with the U.S.-backed Israeli assaults on Palestinians a combination bound to anger quite a lot of people. And fifth, the United States should plan to occupy Iraq after demolishing it.

The Post’s final op-ed was by Charles liberals are stupid Krauthammer. He attacked the New York Times for its allegedly biased coverage against attacking Iraq. Krauthammer was upset that the Times had covered some of the stories that the Post’s ombudsman criticized the Post for not covering including the expression of opposition to or concern about attacking Iraq on the part of various legislators and officials.

Remember this was the same objective media that had been so upset with President Clinton for missing a chance to launch a war on Iraq in 1998. This was the same media that didnt blink when Bush’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card explained the delay until September 2002 of the most aggressive war propaganda by remarking You dont introduce new products in August.

The war would be built on a planned marketing campaign, not resorted to as a last resort. This fact was not a scandal to be reported in the news or to legal authorities; this was what the Washington Post had repeatedly and publicly requested. The Post wanted war but wanted the President to sell the war well.

This was the same Washington Post that had written of the rising pro-war fever in the country in 1918: In spite of excesses such as lynching [peace activists] it is a healthy and wholesome awakening.[ii]

[i] David Swanson, “Remember When Bush’s Lies Weren’t ‘Old News?’” June 20, 2005. Accessed October 9, 2010. http://old.warisacrime.org/node/407

[ii] Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class, p. 80.

26.01.2018 Pressenza London

We’re climate researchers and our work was turned into fake news
(Image by rawpixel.com / shutterstock – via The Conversation)

Michael Grubb, UCL

Science is slow. It rests on painstaking research with accumulating evidence. This makes for an inherently uneasy relationship with the modern media age, especially once issues are politicised. The interaction between politics and media can be toxic for science, and climate change is a prominent example.

Take the recent “deep freeze” along the US east coast. To scientists, it was one more piece of a larger jigsaw of climate change disrupting weather systems and circulation patterns. This includes dramatic changes seen in Arctic sea ice and the knock-on effect on temperatures elsewhere in northern latitudes – both warming and relative cooling. To President Donald Trump the cold snap was a chance to mock climate change, and some sceptics suddenly talked about an impending ice age.

Colleagues and I experienced similar frustrations in late 2017, after we published a paper in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience, in which we concluded that there was more headroom than many had assumed before we breach the goals of the Paris Agreement. We found ourselves not only on the front page of the main British newspapers, but globally, as far-right website Breitbart ran with a story that a small band of buccaneering scientists had finally admitted that the models were all wrong – a fiction rapidly picked up by the more rabid elements in the media.

The essence of good science is to continually update, challenge, improve and refine, using as much evidence as possible. Single events rarely make for good science. And if every painstaking evaluation, updating work from years ago, may be portrayed as demolishing everything that went before – particularly at the whim of non-scientific agendas – then we have a major dilemma. The edifice of science is built with small bricks and this research was no exception.

We emphatically did not show that climate change was “less bad” or “happening slower” than previously thought. Our work built on the many previous scientific studies that had looked at the risks of unchecked emissions and the prospects for limiting warming to 2℃ above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement went further, aiming to “pursue efforts” towards a more ambitious goal of just 1.5℃. Given we’re already at around 1℃ of warming, that’s a relatively short-term goal. Greater ambition therefore requires greater precision.

Our study took a microscope to that question. Where previous estimates were drawn from a range of mostly long-run models that looked at century-long changes, we instead focused on a precise definition and current starting point, and other factors which matter far less in the long term, but a lot if the goal is much closer.

Some of the earlier estimates seemed to imply a “headroom to 1.5℃” of less than a decade of current emissions – clearly unachievable given the long timespans and huge inertia. We estimated about 20 years – equivalent to global CO₂ emissions falling steadily from now until hitting zero in around 40 years – and made it plain that it still looks, to put it mildly, a formidable ambition.
Other studies have since come to similar conclusions.

A (non-)story of revolution

The more detailed reporting by those correspondents who attended the scientific briefing was accurate enough (even if some of their headlines and lead-ins weren’t), but that was soon lost in the misrepresentations that followed. Doubtless we could have done more to explain how our conclusions arose from what were actually quite minor scientific developments. Some instead turned it into a story of revolution in climate science. Scientists are also human, and these sceptic reactions reinforced a natural initial inclination among other researchers to defend their previous numbers. Some took to Twitter to do so, but themselves seemed to confuse the media headlines with our actual conclusions.

Some challenges could yet be proved right. There could, for example, be more pent-up warming currently being masked by other pollutants or already lurking in the oceans. When the goal is close, other heat-trapping emissions (like methane) also matter a lot more. Our study – like earlier work – had its share of caveats and uncertainties.

Unfortunately, while good science embraces uncertainty, politics abhors it and the media seems confounded by it. That in turn pressures researchers to simplify their message, and treat existing estimates – often, from a range – like a position to be defended. It is a risky trap for scientists, however eminent and well-intentioned, to wield overnight reactions to parry months of painstaking peer review and refinement that lie behind analyses published in leading journals.

Science against spin

So how should science respond? The climate policy implications are easy: nothing significant has changed. We have but one planet, and both the physical and economic processes that are driving climate change have enormous inertia. If a big ocean liner were steaming into dense fog in polar seas, only a fool would maintain full speed on the basis that the technicians were still discussing the distance to the first big iceberg.

One underlying challenge is indeed around the communication of uncertainty. This is a well-worn track, but it bears repeating. The job of science is not just to narrow uncertainties, but to educate about the risks that flow logically from it. Like a medical prognosis from smoking, the fact that things might turn out better or worse than the average is not a good reason to keep puffing. You won’t know until it is too late whether the damage has been slight, or terminal.

But science also needs to embrace and embed another obvious feature of medical practice: a doctor would never look at just your temperature to diagnose your condition. So part of the problem stems from using a single indicator for complex processes. Too much debate treats temperature (and especially the most recent global average) as the sole indicator, whereas many other factors are at play including sea levels, ocean acidity, ice sheets, ecosystem trends, and many more.

The ConversationThese other trends need to be reported in context, just as economics news reports not only GDP but debt, employment, inflation, productivity and a host of other indicators. And scientists themselves need to improve the art of communication in a world where research can be spun, within hours, into a story of past failure, rather than the reality of continuous improvement.

Michael Grubb, Professor of Energy and Climate Change, UCL

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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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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