Disengagement, Life, Freedom of Expression, Exchange with Seyla Benhabib, Survey on Israeli Arabs, Iran Elections, Preserving Our Planet, Darfur, US Congress Votes To Curb Patriot Act, Terri Schiavo, Carnegie Endowment Website, Film, Photos
The settlers' anti-disengagement campaign seems to be effective. Recent public polls show that the support for the Plan is declining quite rapidly. According to Professor Yaar's Peace Index 57.5% of the Jewish public support the unilateral-disengagement plan, 35.5% oppose it, and 7% do not know (last month the rates of support and opposition stood at 56.1% and 38.0%). At the same time, the majority—52%—prefers the position that Israel should try to coordinate the disengagement with the Palestinian side so as to reduce the chances of implementing the plan under fire while transferring control of the territories to the Authority as smoothly as possible. Only 38% agree with the contrary view that, since the Palestinian side can promise neither an evacuation without fire nor a smooth transfer of control in Gaza, there is no point in devoting efforts to coordination with it.
It was not only the effective campaign of "A Jew does not throw out a Jew" that brought about the decline of support for the disengagement plan. Cynically, the relative tranquility makes people forget how bad the situation was, and how bad it can be. People tend to develop short memory and do not understand that the tranquility is misleading, because the crux of the matter is the occupation. As long as the occupation continues, the Palestinians will obviously suffer, and we are also doom to suffer. Gaza is the first step to end the occupation, as explained many times in the past when I outlined the Gaza First Plan. In addition, demography is a threat not to be ignored. This does not mean that Israel should not secure its borders and see that terrorism becomes obsolete. Of course we have every right to defend ourselves, and do any effort to fight down terrorism. But fighting down terrorism should not be done by continuing the occupation. Quite the opposite.
Yesterday, 29 June 2005, there was escalation in the activities. Supporters of Gush Katif who oppose Gaza First closed almost the entire country, blocking major roads and having violent confrontations with the police that tried to clear the roads for traffic. The day before yesterday the major newspapers in Israel warned about the blockage and suggested people to stay at their homes. Many took the advice. The settlers disrupt our lives, and things are going from bad to worse. The government should understand, sooner rather than later, that it could always get worse, if no deterrent measures are taken. The cynical thing is that the settlers – to mitigate what they are doing – also provide drivers in traffic jams cakes, ice cream and drinks. I am touched by their concern.
Yesterday security officials met to discuss a proposal to bar the entrance of Israelis into the Gaza Strip, to prevent far-right extremists from carrying out violent protests against disengagement. The Israel Defense Forces is increasingly supportive of the move, even though it would mean alerting large amounts of troops to block all the entrances to Gaza, to prevent pullout opponents from reaching the Gush Katif bloc of settlements. As said in the past, common sense does prevail. Sometimes it hesitates but eventually people reach the right conclusions. You may recall that I suggested this in my April Newsletter.
Abu-Mazen's strategy is simple: fight the occupation, not Israel per se. I do not believe that behind the missiles is only the Hamas, without Abu-Mazen's tacit blessing. The Kassams will continue, the fighting will continue as long as Israel does not change its strategy and see the territories as part of Israel. More and more pressure is mounting in Israel internationally. I feel it when I travel around the globe and meet with people, listening to their minds. The ban on Israeli academia is one sign of it. We may win some battles but we will not succeed in the long run, as long as the occupation continues.
Like Old Cato I reiterate: Stop the Occupation!!
(Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, orator, writer, and defender of conservative Roman Republican ideas who lived between 234 and 149 BC. He was born into a wealthy family of Roman landholders during the early Republican period on a farm in the city of Tusculum, southeast of present–day Rome. His early farm upbringing resulted in a lifelong interest in agriculture and the writing of his De Agri Cultura in 160 BC which is the oldest Latin literary encyclopedia in existence today. His conservative views of traditional Roman Republican culture and the importance of the development of Latin literature and its survival as a written language resulted in his fear and dislike of the increasing Greek influence on the Romans. Cato helped insure the survival of Latin by being the first to write an encyclopedic history of Rome in Latin called Origines, of which only small fragments survive.
Cato was born Marcus Porcius Priscus but, due to his abilities as a skillful orator, he became known as Marcus Porcius Cato. The Romans called an experienced or skillful man Catus. The Latin word catus means sharp intellect.
Cato was also known as Cato the Censor for his monitoring of the behavior of public officials and his desire to extricate any Greek influence or capitalist ideas and to return to conservative Roman conduct and morality.
Cato’s historical writings were considered didactic and presented forcefully in “unadorned directness”, rather than with graceful form. His disdain of the indulgent aristocracy led to his suppressing of the names of the generals, thus denying the powerful and influential families their rightful glory and pride. See http://www.geocities.com/~kashalinka/cato_bio.html)
Life in Gush Katif, in the Gaza Strip, are difficult. Missiles on a daily basis causing a lot of destruction but luckily almost no life. Life inside Israel continue to be tranquil. The impact is immediate. People at the tourism industry told me that the past two months were heaven for them. The hotels are full, or almost full. Many people are coming from all over the world. June is a conference time in Israel and I attended some, most of them included guests from abroad. I had personal guests on a weekly basis, sometimes more than one each week. It is always a joy to see you. You are always welcome to my humble home.
On June 13, Israel celebrated Shavuot, the Feast of the Weeks, is the Jewish holiday celebrating the harvest season in Israel. Shavuot, which means "weeks", refers to the timing of the festival which is held exactly 7 weeks after Passover. Shavuot also commemorates the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai. During the past weeks the atmosphere during the festivals was somewhat relaxed. This year, Shavuot was booming. Festivals everywhere. People went out to celebrate in many kibbutzim, moshavim and local municipalities. Festivals of food, wine, music, dance from north to south. This is the Shavuot spirit.
Freedom of Expression
The colour of Gush Katif, in the Gaza Strip, is orange. During the past year we became very much aware of this as all their activities were coloured with orange. Residents of Jerusalem even more so as most of their protests, parades and demonstrations were on Government Hill in Jerusalem. The demonstrators are usually dressed with orange T-Shirts, orange flags, orange banners, orange cars, orange oranges. You got the point.
A few months ago, the action headquarters of the settlers decided to colour the entire country with orange. The method was simple: orange ribbons on cars. Those of you who visited Israel recently and wondered about the significance of those ribbons now have the answer. All those who oppose Gaza First tie orange ribbons to their cars' antennas, mirrors, etc. As the campaign progressed, and the public became more divided, more cars are seen carrying the orange ribbons. It is like the reversed yellow Magen David. There is a sense of unified ideological pride among those who put the orange ribbons, as if they are saying: "We belong to one cherished camp; you are excluded". The ribbons became a dividing mechanism, and those who "do not belong" to the so-called Jewish-national camp look at this with growing unease. Don't get me wrong. Those with the orange ribbons are still minority, and hopefully remain a minority. As the polls clearly show, the majority supports the Gaza First Plan, and not all those who don't support necessarily put on the ribbons. Still, the ribbons are quite vivid and noticeable.
I believe in free expression, and undoubtedly those who oppose the Gaza First plan have every right to protest, as long they do this in peaceful ways. But like many I am more and more troubled by those ribbons that divide the country. The majority is quite, too quite to my taste, leaving the arena to the opposition. My proposal is simple: Let us all put ribbons on our cars, ribbons of all colours but orange: white, blue, blue and white, red, yellow, green. Let us make this country colourful and cheerful. Let us make a celebration of colours. We should not leave the stage to one point of view, one colour that dominates the country. Israel is comprised of many people, with different points of view. We all cherish freedom of expression, so let's be active. We have a red ribbon on our car. Let's make orange one of the colours on the streets, not the only dominating colour.
A colleague at the University of Haifa suggested: Instead of ribbons of any color, which may confuse people, I recommended blue. To avoid a confusing plethora of colors and unify the message, I'm hoping you'll join the blue ribbon campaign. Many colors might mean many policies: neutrality, general patriotism, a vague wish for unity . . . anything. The message of the blue ribbons is clear: Yes to the evacuation of settlements.
To which I answered: The settlers wish to divide the nation: We with orange. You with nothing. We are unified around one colour. You are on the "other camp". Adding one more colour will only increase the divide. It will now be "we are orange; you are blue" and vice versa. I wish to break this divide. Instead of two colours, let us have a celebration of colours, then orange will be one of the playing colours, and will lost its significance.
Exchange with Seyla Benhabib
Recently I attended a conference with Professor Seyla Benhabib, of Yale University (http://www.yale.edu/polisci/people/sbenhabib.html). In her lecture she attacked Israel for its policy on guest workers. After the opening of the terror attack on Israel by Arafat in late 2000, many Palestinians who used to work inside the Green Line were refused to enter the country. This resulted in opening the borders for workers from all over the globe who are coming to work in hard manual jobs that Israelis conceive with disfavour, mainly construction (Turkey, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Thailand, China, Portugal, to name a few countries of origin), agriculture (mainly Thailand), nursing (Philippines), cleaning and home keeping (Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Ghana, other English-speaking African countries) (well, also prostitution). Israel tries to monitor the numbers and after a few years cancel work permits and order the workers to return to their home countries. People, who live here for a number of years, establish families, learn the language, send their kids to Israeli schools, are ordered to pack and live. This unjust policy is in violation of basic human rights and I oppose and criticize it. So does Benhabib in a very strong language, calling upon Israel to change its policy.
Listening to her I wondered whether Benhabib is aware of the rational behind this discriminatory and brute behaviour, namely keeping the Jewish character of the State of Israel, and not opening a precedent that could later be stretched also to Palestinians from the occupied territories to become citizens, and by this potentially change the demography of Israel. During question time I asked her what does she think of Israel's efforts to maintain a Jewish State. Her answer was revealing. Benhabib believes there is no need to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel, that Israel could strive to keep its Jewish symbols, its culture, tradition, literature, poetry, identity, but there is no need to insist on being the majority. Thus, Israel should behave like European countries: opening its borders to people of different nationalities and religions and transform itself from a Jewish-Democracy to a universalistic liberal-democracy.
This suggestion is not new. It is common nowadays in Israel among post-Zionists, and Palestinians. The wide majority in Israel, however, is wishing to maintain the Jewish character of the state also by keeping Jews as the majority. To what extent it is democratic to impose on people, in the name of liberalism, "universalism" they do not want? What guarantees do we have, from Benhabib and others who endorse the end of Jewish Israel, that our security will be protected? Who could vouch that the new majority, in Benhabib's vision, will adopt liberalism and maintain civil and political rights to all people, notwithstanding their religions and ethnic origins?
The problem with many liberals is that they think all people are like them. In my writings I speak of the "catch of democracy", that the principles that underlie democracy might open the gates for its destruction. I do not endorse Benhabib's vision for Israel. Instead, I propose less radical solutions: Citizenship to people who see their future in Israel, who tie their lives with Israel and its destiny. Quotas for immigrants will be set like other European countries. Israel should remain the only Jewish state in this planet. Jews after the Holocaust cannot afford the elimination of Israel as a Jewish State.
Benhabib also raised the issue of Israel's discriminatory policy vis-à-vis Palestinians in the occupied territories who wish to marry Palestinians inside the Green Line. Israel has a temporary law that is extended from time to time that in effect does not recognize marriage as justification for citizenship. Thus, Palestinians from the occupied territories who wish to marry Israeli spouses need special permission and authorization to become citizens. Again, this is a discriminatory law that should be changed. I do not accept its sweeping language and its resulting discriminatory outcome. So does Benhabib but again we differ on the remedy. While she says that this policy reminds her of the Nuremberg Laws, equating Israel in this respect to Nazi Germany and to South Africa under the apartheid, I wondered to what an extent Benhabib is aware of the rationale behind the law. I told her that Israeli intelligence is raising an alarm in this regard, pointing to real incidents in which people who were allowed to marry in the past, and became Israeli citizens, were later involved in terrorist attacks against Israel. Benhabib was not impressed. Security does not override basic human rights. This, for me, is a too easy answer. People who speak like this can afford this tone and language because they do not take responsibility. They have the privilege of criticizing from their ivory tower. Just think of the person who is making the decisions, allowing a certain Palestinian to marry and reside in Israel, and later this same person is becoming a terrorist responsible for the murder of a dozen Israelis. Would he then sleep well at night as a true liberal acting upon the best of motives? Again, instead of endorsing sweeping policies – of Israel and of Benhabib – I opt for refined policy: examine marriage requests case-by-case; investigate the backgrounds of those who seek citizenship through marriage, their histories, and their families. Decide to what extent they can be trusted with Israeli IDs. You cannot ignore security in Israel. This is a luxury we cannot afford. Jewish Liberals at Yale can.
Benhabib also made some interesting observations on different policies in Europe regarding immigrants. Various forms of citizenship are conferred with different voting rights: some are allowed to vote on the local level; some also on the municipal level. Europe tends to be more restrictive on voting on the national level. So the concept of "citizenship" is now different than it used to be some thirty years ago. In addition, the concept is also stretching out of boundaries as it outreaches the continental level: Many are citizens of Europe, and more and more countries want to become part of the European Union and community. Maybe Israel one day.
Survey finds Israeli Arabs accept Jewish, not Zionist, nature of state
Yoav Stern of Haaretz newspaper reported that (June 20, 2005) the vast majority of Israeli Arabs accept the definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, but reject the description of it as a Zionist state. These were the findings of a survey conducted by Prof. Sami Smooha and funded by the Jewish-Arab Center at the University of Haifa and the the Citizens' Accord Forum.
Around 70 percent of the Arabs who participated in the survey agreed with the statement that "Israel, within the Green Line, has the right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state in which Jews and Arabs coexist." However, according to the study, the vast majority of Israeli Arabs believe that Zionism equals racism, and reject all of the state's Zionist goals.
The survey also found that most of the Jewish population wants Arab citizens to accept Israel as a Zionist state, as it is accepted by the international community, even though these Zionist ideals are often at the expense of Arab citizens.
The results of the survey appear in "The Arab-Jewish Index 2004." The survey was conducted in late 2004, and includes personal interviews with a representative sample of 700 Israeli Arabs aged over 18, and telephone interviews with 700 Jewish citizens.According to the results, while 70 percent of Israeli Arabs are able to accept Israel as a Jewish, democratic state, only 13.8 percent agree to the concept of Israel as a Zionist state. Over 72 percent believe that "Israel as a Zionist state, in which Jews and Arab live together, is racist."Given the prevailing assumption that most of the Arab citizens of Israel reject the Jewish nature of the state, the results of the survey are rather surprising. According to my colleague, Prof. Smooha, Israeli Arabs differentiate between Israel's Jewish character and its Zionist nature. Israeli Arabs believe that a Jewish state is a state in which most of the citizens are Jewish, whereas a Zionist state is a state for the Jewish people from around the world."For Zionists, one of the goals Israel should set itself is maintaining its Jewish majority at all costs," says Smooha. "That is a Zionist goal, and includes settlement in the Jewish sense and the ingathering of exiles by means of the Law of Return. But the Arabs are not willing to accept this situation in perpetuity."The survey also found that 75 percent of the Jewish respondents agreed with the statement, "Israeli Arabs have the right to live here as equal citizens with full rights." Some 80 percent of the Jewish respondents, however, said that an Israel Arab who defines himself as "a Palestinian Arab in Israel cannot be loyal to the state and its laws."According to Smooha's analysis of the findings, Jewish respondents believe that Israeli Arabs' right to be full and equal citizens of Israel is conditional on them renouncing any nationalistic inspirations of their own and recognizing the Jewish people's national and exclusive rights to the State of Israel. This stems from the fact that Jews appear to believe that Israeli Arabs need to fulfill their right to self-determination in a Palestinian state, rather than at the expense of the Jewish state.
Democracy Digest commented on the Iranian elections by saying: Iran's president-elect Mahmood Ahmadinejad should not expect the international community to "go soft" on Tehran's nuclear policy, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said. "It would be a serious mistake if he thought that we are going to go soft on them, because we are not," Blair insisted.
In elections marred by disqualification of candidates, polling irregularities and intimidation by Revolutionary Guards, many poorer voters were clearly motivated by a blend of class and ideology to vote against the corruption personified by Ahmadinejad's rival, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Jack Straw, the UK foreign secretary, complained of "serious deficiencies" in "an already flawed" electoral process. The European Union criticized the election, expressing regret that candidates were excluded and reaffirming "the importance of free expression and assembly in terms of a free and just election process."
Ahmadinejad's victory is the first time in the 26-years of the Islamic Republic that a secular candidate beat a mullah in a high profile electoral contest, notes Iranian observer Amir Taheri. His win also confirms supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's decision to "abandon any idea of Western-style reforms to please the restive middle classes." Instead, the regime will mobilize its "real base", Taheri suggests, "the Revolutionary Guard and its reservists, the so-called Baseej or 'mobilization of the dispossessed' movement, the various organizations of families of 'martyrs', the occult Hezbollah (Party of God) networks and, in broader terms, the masses of the poor."
The election represents both an obituary for the reformist movement and the culmination of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's long-term strategy to consolidate power around a fresh cadre of radicals and revive an Islamic revolution that had fallen into disrepute through association with corruption and other abuses of power. Ahmadinejad, and such allies as Majlis chairman Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, are members of the "middle" generation of the Islamic Revolution, "faithful to the revolution's values, and who grew up in the establishment apparatuses" but with the political advantage of not being clerics, now widely despised across Iranian society. Yet the West knows little about Iran's new foreign policy protagonists, including the younger security service operatives and Revolutionary Guards. "Many of those Iranian conservatives have little time for Westerners," notes Brookings' Daniel Byman, "but we must take the time to know them -- their agendas, hierarchies, and ideological subtleties."
By mobilizing this new generation of conservatives, Khamenei has removed the "competing centers of power, says Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the US-based Council on Foreign Relations. He has ended the perennial struggle between elected and unelected institutions" that characterized the non-democratic but pluralist Islamic Republic and "gradually translated his constitutional powers into actual institutional dominance." "A supreme leader widely contemptuous of democratic accountability and confident of his mandate from heaven has finally consolidated his rule," says Takeyh, " ending one of the most vibrant reform movements in the history of the modern Middle East."
Reflecting the prevalent sentiment of the new generation, Ahmadinejad openly expresses his disdain for liberal democracy. "We did not have a revolution in order to have democracy," he said last week. With his populist appeal, anti-democratic sentiment and success in exploiting resentments towards ruling elites, Ahmadinejad has already been compared to another authoritarian. "The obvious comparison is (President) Hugo Chavez in Venezuela," said an observer with experience of both oil-producing countries.
Reformists accepted blame for Ahmadinejad's victory, conceding that eight years of President Mohammad Khatami's incremental approach had yielded little real progress. "The vote for Ahmadinejad was a vote against reformist inefficiency," wrote the editor of the liberal Sharq daily. But former vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, an ally of the hapless Khatami, blamed fellow reformists for splitting their vote by fielding three candidates in the first round and for neglecting economic issues. "We focused our attention on the elite and forgot the ordinary people who are trying to get their daily bread."
Some Iranian exiles welcomed a more conservative regime, hoping it would prompt greater assistance for the regime's opponents. Others believed Ahmadinejad's victory was not so significant given the conservatives' de facto control of other state institutions and would at least reveal the true nature of the regime. "You don't want to have a smiley face covering up the true face of the regime," said Pooya Dayanim of the Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee. "This is just going to highlight how out of step Iran is with the international community and pro-democracy trends in the Middle East."
But some feared the result would play into the hands of regime change proponents eager to promote civil disobedience and other direct action tactics. "In some perverse way, there may be people who think that this can now result in some bloody upheaval in Iran," says one exile. "I don't think most people here share that desire." Others look to alternative means of cementing a common front of dissidents based on mobilization to demand an internationally monitored referendum for a new constitution founded on universal human rights.
Ahmadinejad's election presents the US with a dilemma, says one observer: "to come to terms with the Islamic regime and pursue a course of understanding and reconciliation, or opt for a policy of confrontation that could prove very costly for all sides." It is here that the European Union might play a useful bridging role to avoid conflict," argues Amin Saikal. Yet the West's approach has already been criticized as too lax on Iran's human rights abuses.
The extensive economic interests, patronage networks and corruption of the theocracy cast doubt on Ahmadinejad's ability and inclination to deliver the qualitative improvements in living standards his campaign promised. And in ending the ersatz pluralism and monopolizing power, the regime can no longer deflect responsibility or blame for its failures. "What is both worrying and hopeful," says one observer, "is that this consolidation of power has a last-ditch aspect about it. Khamenei has increased control, but the regime has lost flexibility and much of whatever legitimacy remained."
Source: DEMOCRACY DIGEST, The Bulletin of the Transatlantic Democracy Network, Volume 2, Number 7 (June 28, 2005), www.demdigest.net
Preserving Our Planet
I wonder when the world will wake up. I hope soon rather than later. Human tendency is to postpone things until they are on the verge of destruction. We are destroying our planet, leaving our children and grand children a much less pleasant and safe planet, letting them crack their heads to find solutions to problems we create. Very little thinking on the long run. Below some information on the way we behave, and moderate steps that are taken to redeem the situation. This is not enough. We should put the issues on the table, evoke awareness, change. Europe is much more conscious regarding this issue. North America has other interests. Oil. Geopolitics. Michael Jackson. Sports, now NBA.
The Independent (UK)
G8 scientists tell Bush: Act now - or else...
An unprecedented warning as global warming worsens
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
08 June 2005
An unprecedented joint statement issued by the leading scientific academies of the world has called on the G8 governments to take urgent action to avert a global catastrophe caused by climate change.
The national academies of science for all the G8 countries, along with those of Brazil, India and China, have warned that governments must no longer procrastinate on what is widely seen as the greatest danger facing humanity. The statement, which has taken months to finalise, is all the more important as it is signed by Bruce Alberts, president of the US National Academy of Sciences, which has warned George Bush about the dangers of ignoring the threat posed by global warming.
It was released on the day that Tony Blair met Mr Bush in Washington, where the American President was expected to reaffirm his opposition to joining the Kyoto treat to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Over dinner at the White House last night, Mr Blair appeared to make little progress on one of his main priorities for Britain's year chairing the G8 - a new international effort to combat climate change. The Prime Minister is trying to draw the US, China and India into the discussion, but there is little sign that the Bush administration will accept the growing scientific evidence about the problem.
Lord May of Oxford, the president of the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of sciences, lambasted President Bush yesterday for ignoring his own scientists by withdrawing from the Kyoto treaty.
"The current US policy on climate change is misguided. The Bush administration has consistently refused to accept advice of the US National Academy of Sciences ... Getting the US on board is critical because of the sheer amount of greenhouse gas emissions they are responsible for," Lord May said.
Between 1990 and 2002, the carbon dioxide emissions of the US increased by 13 per cent, which on their own were greater than the combined cut in emissions that will be achieved if all Kyoto countries hit their targets, he said.
"President Bush has an opportunity at Gleneagles to signal that his administration will no longer ignore the scientific evidence and act to cut emissions," Lord May said. "The G8 summit is an unprecedented moment in human history. Our leaders face a stark choice - act now to tackle climate change or let future generations face the price of their inaction.
"Never before have we faced such a global threat. And if we do not begin effective action now it will be much harder to stop the runaway train as it continues to gather momentum," he added.
The joint statement by the national science academies of the 11 countries does not mention Kyoto but it does refer repeatedly to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change that spawned the 1995 protocol to limit future greenhouse gas emissions, which the US has signed up to.
Climate change is real, global warming is occurring and there is strong evidence that man-made greenhouse gases are implicated in a potentially catastrophic increase in global temperatures, the statement says. "It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities. This warming has already led to changes in the Earth's climate."
Human activities are causing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to rise to a point not reached for at least 420,000 years.
Meanwhile average global temperatures rose by 0.6C in the 20th century and are projected to increase by between 1.4C and 5.8C by 2100.
"The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions," the statement says.
In a veiled reference to President Bush's reluctance to accept climate change by claiming that the science is unclear, the academies emphasise that action is needed now to reduce the build-up of greenhouse gases.
"A lack of full scientific certainty about some aspects of climate change is not a reason for delaying an immediate response that will, at a reasonable cost, prevent dangerous anthropogenic [man-made] interference with the climate system," the statement says.
"We urge all nations... to take prompt action to reduce the causes of climate change, adapt to its impacts and ensure that the issue is included in all relevant national and international strategies."
The national academies warn that even if greenhouse gas emissions can be stabilised at existing levels, the climate would continue to change as it slowly responds to the extra carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere. "Further changes in climate are therefore unavoidable.
Nations must prepare for them," the statement says.
CO2 on the increase
1958: A US scientist, Charles Keeling, begins measuring the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) on an extinct volcano in Hawaii. It stands at 315 parts per million (ppm).
1968: The US spacecraft 'Apollo 8' takes the first pictures of Earth from a distance, beautiful but fragile - which help start modern environmentalism. The C02 level has reached 323ppm.
1972: The UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm - the moment when the world first recognises environmental threats to the Earth as a whole. CO2 now at 327ppm.
1988: The world wakes up to the danger of climate change, with an outspoken warning from scientists, and a speech by Margaret Thatcher.
CO2 level stands at 351ppm.
1992: The Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro sees more than 100 countries sign the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the first global warming treaty. CO2 now at 356ppm.
1995: The Kyoto protocol to the UN's climate treaty is signed in Japan, binding countries, including the US, to make cuts in their CO2 emissions. The CO2 level has now reached 360ppm.
2000: Obvious that the 1990s were the hottest decade in the global temperature record, with 1998 the hottest year in the northern hemisphere for 1,000 years. CO2 is 369ppm.
2001: George Bush withdraws the US, the world's biggest CO2 emitter, from Kyoto, alleging it will damage America's economy - jeopardising the whole process. CO2 level now at 371ppm.
2003: First two weeks of August are the hottest period ever recorded in western Europe: 35,000 people die. New record high temperature for Britain. CO2 now at 375ppm.
2004: After much dithering, Russia ratifies Kyoto, enabling the protocol to enter into force despite the desertion of the United States. But that doesn't stop the CO2 level rising to 377ppm.
US scientists pile on pressure over climate change
David Adam, science correspondent
Wednesday June 8, 2005
The Guardian (UK)
US scientists have increased the pressure on George Bush and other world leaders to tackle climate change by signing a joint statement calling on G8 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The statement, from the science academies of the G8 countries, says the scientific evidence on climate change is now clear enough to compel their leaders to take action.
It says: "There is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities...
"The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions."
The statement has been issued ahead of the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July. It follows months of negotiations between the UK's Royal Society, which published it yesterday, and the other academies.
One source close to the negotiations called the support of the US National Academy of Sciences "unprecedented".
In 2001 the US academy declined to sign a similar joint statement because it was preparing its own report on the issue for the Bush administration.
In a separate 1992 report it concluded: "Despite the great uncertainties, greenhouse warming is a potential threat sufficient to justify action now," but until now it has stopped short of making specific policy recommendations.
President Bush has consistently stressed the uncertainties of climate science but the new statement makes it more difficult for him to dispute the scientific consensus.
The statement calls on G8 nations to "recognise that delayed action will increase the risk of adverse environmental effects and will likely incur a greater cost."
It was released as Tony Blair was meeting Mr Bush in Washington. Mr Blair has made action on climate change and aid to Africa his priorities for the G8 summit.
Lord May, president of the Royal Society, said current US policy on climate change was "misguided".
He said: "Getting the US on board is critical because of the sheer amount of greenhouse gas emissions they are responsible for.
President Bush has an opportunity at Gleneagles to signal that his administration will no longer ignore the scientific evidence and act to cut emissions."
Vicki Arroyo, director of policy analysis at the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, a US thinktank in Virginia, said the statement "makes it harder for the [Bush] administration to do what it generally does, which is to focus on the uncertainty."
Along with the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, the statement is signed by the G8 science academies of France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada, along with those of Brazil, China and India - among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the developing world.
Lord May said: "It is clear that developed countries must lead the way in cutting emissions but developing countries must also contribute. The scientific evidence forcefully points to a need for a truly international effort. Make no mistake, we have to act now."
Levels of carbon dioxide - the most common greenhouse gas in the atmosphere produced by burning fossil fuels - have increased from 280 parts per million in 1750 to over 375ppm today. Scientists say this warmed the Earth's surface by about 0.6C during the 20th century. The statement says this warming has already led to climate changes.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that average temperatures will rise further by 2100, to between 1.4C and 5.8C above 1990 levels.
Catherine Pearce, climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said:
"The national science academies are right to call for prompt action on climate change. But this document lacks targets or a timetable for urgent action.
"G8 countries must accept their historic responsibility in creating the problem, and show genuine leadership through annual reductions in emissions."
On June 6, 2005 the International Criminal Court launched a formal investigation into suspected war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region, where tens of thousands of people have died since a rebel uprising began in early 2003. "The investigation will be impartial and independent, focusing on the individuals who bear the greatest criminal responsibility for crimes committed in Darfur," the ICC said in a statement, but did not name any suspects.
Here are some key facts about the conflict in Darfur:
* Rebels rose up against the government in February 2003 saying Khartoum discriminated against non-Arab farmers in Darfur in favour of Arab tribes. More than 2 million Darfuris, mainly subsistence farmers from a wide variety of ethnic groups, have fled their homes.
* Arab militias known as the Janjaweed drove farmers from their land in a campaign rights groups said amounted to ethnic cleansing and the United States has called genocide.
* The government admits arming some militias to quell the rebellion but denies links to the Janjaweed. It has vowed to disarm them, but the United Nations says Sudan has done very little to neutralise the militias.
* The U.N. estimates at least 180,000 people have died in Darfur from disease and hunger. There are no official tolls of those killed in violence.
* The African Union has about 2,300 troops in Darfur with a mandate to monitor a shaky ceasefire agreed in April 2004 and limited power to protect those displaced in the camps.
US Congress Votes To Curb Patriot Act
"House Votes To Curb Patriot Act", By Mike Allen, Washington Post, Thursday, June 16, 2005; A01
The House handed President Bush the first defeat in his effort to preserve the broad powers of the USA Patriot Act, voting yesterday to curtail the FBI's ability to seize library and bookstore records for terrorism investigations.
Bush has threatened to veto any measure that weakens those powers. The surprise 238 to 187 rebuke to the White House was produced when a handful of conservative Republicans, worried about government intrusion, joined with Democrats who are concerned about personal privacy.
One provision of the Patriot Act makes it possible for the FBI to obtain a wide variety of personal records about a suspected terrorist -- including library transactions -- with an order from a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where the government must meet a lower threshold of proof than in criminal courts.
Under the House change, officials would have to get search warrants from a judge or subpoenas from a grand jury to seize records about a suspect's reading habits.
Some libraries have said they are disposing of patrons' records more quickly because of the provision, which opponents view as a license for fishing expeditions.
House Administration Committee Chairman Robert W. Ney (Ohio), one of three House Republicans who opposed the Patriot Act when it was enacted in 2001, voted yesterday to curtail agents' power to seize the records.
"Everybody's against terrorism, but there has to be reason in the way that we fight it," Ney said. "The government doesn't need to be sifting through library records. I talked to my libraries, and they felt very strongly about this."
The Justice Department said in a letter to Congress this week that the provision has been used only 35 times and has never been used to obtain bookstore, library, medical or gun-sale records. It has been used to obtain records of hotel stays, driver's licenses, apartment leases and credit cards, the letter said.
"Bookstores and libraries should not be carved out as safe havens for terrorists and spies, who have, in fact, used public libraries to do research and communicate with their co-conspirators," Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella said in the letter.
The vote -- on an amendment to limit spending in a huge bill covering appropriations for science as well as the departments of Justice, State and Commerce -- came as Bush is traveling the country to build support for reauthorizing 15 provisions of the Patriot Act that are scheduled to expire at year's end.
House Republican leadership aides said they plan to have the provision removed when a conference committee meets to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. "The administration has threatened to veto the bill over this extraneous rider, and there are too many important initiatives in the bill for that to happen," said Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield.
Last year, the House leadership barely staved off the amendment with a 210 to 210 tie, engineered by holding the vote open to pressure some Republicans to switch their votes.
Democrats contend that the reversal is the first sign of growing wariness about some of the more intrusive elements of the Patriot Act, which was passed just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union called the vote a rare victory for civil liberties.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a leader in the drive to curtail the act's reach, said in an interview that the original measure had passed "in an atmosphere of panic" and that a wide spectrum of lawmakers is beginning to conclude it went too far.
"If some terrorist checks out a book about how to make an atomic bomb, that might be legitimate for the government to know, and they can get a search warrant or a subpoena the way we've done it throughout American history," Nadler said. "Otherwise, what you're reading is none of the government's business."
House Republican leaders are not accustomed to losing, and they did not hide their anger about the result. One aide to a House leader referred to the victorious coalition as "the crazies on the left and the crazies on the right, meeting in the middle."
Justice Department spokesman Kevin Madden issued a statement reiterating the administration's insistence that the provision is vital. The statement said the section "provides national security investigators with an important tool for investigating and intercepting terrorism while at the same time establishing robust safeguards to protect law-abiding Americans."
The measure was supported by 38 Republicans and opposed by 186. Among the Republicans who voted for it were Reps. Jack Kingston (Ga.), Ron Paul (Tex.), C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho) and Ray LaHood (Ill.).
Unsurprisingly, an exhaustive autopsy found that Terri Schiavo's brain had withered to half the normal size since her collapse in 1990 and that no treatment could have remotely improved her condition, medical examiners said on June 15, 2005.
"Schiavo Autopsy Says Brain Was Untreatable", NY Times, June 16, 2005
The autopsy results, released almost three months after Ms. Schiavo died after the court-ordered removal of her feeding tube, effectively quashed allegations by her parents that she had been abused by her husband. Yet the findings also questioned the prevailing theory that an eating disorder had prompted Ms. Schiavo's collapse, stating there was not enough hard evidence.
The report generally supported the contention of Ms. Schiavo's husband, Michael, accepted by judges in six courts over the years, that she was unaware and incapable of recovering. And it countered arguments by her family, who badly wanted to win custody of Ms. Schiavo, that she
was responsive and could improve with therapy.
But the autopsy left unresolved the mystery, which haunted not just her husband and parents but ultimately much of the nation, of why Ms. Schiavo's heart stopped beating late one night when she was 26. The ensuing brain damage left her able to breathe on her own but not, most doctors said, to think or to have emotions.
"The only diagnosis that I know for sure is that her brain went without oxygen," said Dr. Jon R. Thogmartin, the medical examiner who led the autopsy in Pinellas County, where Ms. Schiavo had spent her final years in a hospice. "Why? That is undetermined."
The autopsy also found that the brain deterioration had left her blind. That finding, along with the determination that the brain damage was irreversible, caused some Republicans in Washington, who had pushed so hard for federal intervention in her case, to have second thoughts. And Democrats cited the autopsy results as proof that critics of the federal intervention had been vindicated.
Ms. Schiavo had lost more than 100 pounds between her teenage years and the time of her collapse, and some doctors had theorized that her heart had stopped due to bulimia. Her husband even won a malpractice lawsuit on that premise, persuading a jury to award $1 million in damages on the grounds that Ms. Schiavo's obstetrician had failed to diagnose bulimia.
I have dealt with PCU patients in my The Right to Die with Dignity: An Argument in Ethics, Medicine, and Law (Piscataway, NJ.: Rutgers University Press, 2001). My research showed it was quite meaningless to prolong Schiavo's life to the extent the doctors did. For people in her condition I recommended a grave period of two years. After this period the likelihood of returning to any cognition is almost nil. The problem is that usually PCU patients in the USA do not receive this grace period. Schiavo is a very exceptional case.
Carnegie Endowment Website
The Carnegie Endowment has launched a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate online resource with baseline data and information about Arab political systems and the reforms being implemented in various countries. These country studies provide factual, up-to-date information on state institutions, human rights, political forces, election results, constitutional revision, corruption, and ratification of international conventions—with links to official documents and websites.
The resource was developed jointly with FRIDE (Fundación para Relaciones Internacionales y el Dialógo Exterior) in Madrid. Access it at www.carnegieendowment.org/arabpoliticalsystems.
The database currently covers Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, with more country studies already being prepared. All major countries will be covered by the end of 2005. Carnegie and FRIDE researchers will regularly update entries as reforms take place or come under discussion.
Hotel Rwanda is a very strong and moving film. We all should see it. We need to know what is happening in our world in the name of ulterior motives, be it "cultural differences", "heritage" or "history". We need to know about atrocities that are taking place, to exert pressure on the UN and governments to stop them, and to hand humanitarian aid to people in need. Hotel Rwanda makes you appreciate the power of the word, realizing how instrumental and influential was the radio station in inciting the mass murders. I read about it, and the film depicts its influence vividly.
Indeed, Radio Television Libre de Mille Collines (RTLM) became the most widely reported symbol of "hate radio" throughout the world. Its broadcasts, disseminating hate propaganda and inciting to murder Tutsis and opponents to the regime, began on July 8, 1993, and greatly contributed to the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands. RTLM, aided by the staff and facilities of Radio Rwanda, the government-owned station, called on the Hutu majority to destroy the Tutsi minority. The programmes were relayed to all parts of the country via a network of transmitters owned and operated by Radio Rwanda. See Jon Silverman, "Rwanda's
'hate media' on trial," BBC News (29 June, 2002),
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2075183.stm. See also http://www.rnw.nl/realradio/dossiers/html/rwanda-h.html, and C. Edwin Baker, "Genocide, Press Freedom, and the Case of Hassan Ngeze," University of Pennsylvania Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 46 (June 17, 2004).
We are living in a crude world, where colour matters, geography matters, culture matters. Sometimes they matter in a horrifying way.
With my very best wishes for a relaxed summer, as ever,
My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page: http://lib-stu.haifa.ac.il/staff/rcohen-Almagor
Books archived at http://almagor.fetchauthor.info
Center for Democratic Studies http://hcc.haifa.ac.il/~rca/center/
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