In Iraq : Nonviolent Resistance against ISIS

… over the weekend, residents of Mosul pushed back against ISIS destruction of local landmarks and shrines. When fighters from the Islamic State group loaded with heavy explosives converged on the site of the Crooked Minaret Mosulis living nearby rushed to the courtyard below the minaret, sat on the ground and linked arms to form a human chain to protect it, two residents who witnessed the event told The Associated Press on Monday.

They told the fighters, If you blow up the minaret, you’ll have to kill us too, the witnesses said.

The militants backed down and left, said the witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the militants.

AP News


Changing Climate: A Couple of Changes in Response

It’s damn hard to find much good news about national response to climate change these days.  The car is going over the cliff and a few maniacs are slapping at those trying to pull it back.  Here are hands on the bumper though, trying to pull.

New Mexico has a five-year, $1 million grant from the federal Highway Authority to research methods for boosting carbon capture along the 7,500 miles of state road in its semi-arid environment.

Testing different plantings and techniques over the past year, the state boosted carbon capture on roadsides to from 35 percent to 350 percent over areas that weren’t actively managed. Native grasses produced the biggest gains, in the state’s prairie regions.

The claim, and hope, is that some 4 million miles of roadside vegetation, could be tweaked to draw in, and hold, more carbon from the atmosphere, than it now is.

Climate Central

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And at the federal level a  National Drought Resilience Partnership has been set up to coordinate policies and actions and to give Internet resource access to communities and individuals in rural America.  (We hope those who don’t believe in climate change will not dirty their hands with logging in.)

NOAA

If you haven’t seen the President’s Climate Action Plan, here’s a link.

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”


Another Treasury Secretary Warns About Costs of Climate Change

Last week Henry Paulson, the Bush Secretary of Treasury who had his hands on the wheel during the near Titanic sinking of the US/World economy, and whom most would credit with averting a catastrophe, while suffering gaping holes in the side of the ship (in the steerage decks, natch), came out as the spokesman for “Risky Business,” a call to action on climate change.

Now another Secretary of the Treasury, who arguably set the table for the near catastrophe, Robert Rubin, joins Paulson in an urgent warning — and along with it, a long-called for change in how national well being is measured.

The U.S. economy faces enormous risks from unmitigated climate change. But the metrics we currently use to measure economic growth, fiscal prospects and business earnings do not incorporate these risks. If we are going to have a well-informed and accurate debate about the economic costs of action vs. inaction, the public and private sectors need metrics that honestly reflect climate-related risk.

We do not face a choice between protecting our environment or protecting our economy. We face a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment — or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc. And a major step toward changing the debate is to change the way we measure the health of our economy, our fiscal conditions, and the health of individual companies and businesses to better reflect the world as it will be.

 … gross domestic product — the current standard measure of national economic health — is inadequate and misleading, because it fails to account for significant externalities, beginning with climate change. Others might think we should incorporate additional externalities beyond climate impacts, and that’s a good discussion to have. But we should start with a parallel GDP that incorporates the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. Without that, we are using an incomplete measure of economic output to inform policy decisions. Currently, GDP simply reflects the goods and services produced by our economy. However, it does not account for the present and future damage resulting from the emissions involved in producing those goods and services. And bad data leads to bad policy.

WaPo

As Climate Progress points out, this pointing to the GDP as a misleading indicator of the nation’s health, was a point made decades ago by Robert Kennedy as he campaigned for president, though Kennedy, of course, made an even bolder argument:

the Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads….

But I’m OK with Rubin’s more incremental call.  If we could get the bottom-liners to factor so-called externalizes into the P&Ls and Balance Sheets, we would be a long way towards seeing the world as it is, and therefore, except for the usual right wing renegades, seeing where the real bottom line could be brought back from the extreme red into something that approaches black.

 


High Heat and More of It — and More Insects, Fewer Trees

DaysAbove_sacramento

The term “extremely hot” means different things in different places … . A reading of 100°F is rare in Madison, Wis., but on the other hand, in Phoenix 100°F days are not rare at all. These days, 115°F is considered an extremely hot day there. The mercury matches or tops that scorching number only about once a summer; but by 2100, more than 53 are projected. By contrast, a generally cooler city like Madison gets about 10 days at or above 90°F each year, so the temperature threshold there is lower. By 2100, Madison is expecting more than 67 days of 90°F-plus temps.

The graphic shows your city’s extremely hot threshold: the number of days that temperature is matched/topped on average during the period 1986-2005, and the number times that temperature is expected to be reached/topped by 2050 and by 2100. This assumes there’s no significant cutback in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Hot and more of it…

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And it’s not just the maximum heat…

Phoenix set a record high temperature of 115°F at 1:32p.m. on Thursday afternoon. Then, 43 minutes later, it set another as the temperature gauge at Sky Harbor International crept up again to 116.

Yuma, Arizona tied its record high of 117 for this date, and nearby Tacna hit 120.

Arizona hasn’t just been suffering high maximum temperatures — it’s the high minimum temperatures too. Thursday set a record high minimum temperature of 93, up from the previous record of 90 set back in 2006. “We have not dropped below the 90 degree mark since Tuesday morning, if you can believe that,” said Dr. Matt Pace of Phoenix’s NBC 12 News.

“More people die from heat than any other weather event,” Dr. Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told the Arizona Republic.

Think Progress

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And if the heat isn’t enough there are the insects…

New research from North Carolina State University shows that urban “heat islands” are slowly killing red maples in the southeastern United States. One factor is that researchers have found warmer temperatures increase the number of young produced by the gloomy scale insect — a significant tree pest — by 300 percent, which in turn leads to 200 times more adult gloomy scales on urban trees.

Gloomy Scale

Gloomy Scale

“We’d been seeing higher numbers of plant-eating insects like the gloomy scale in cities, and now we know why,” says Adam Dale, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of two papers describing the work. “These findings also raise concerns about potential pest outbreaks as temperatures increase due to global climate change.”

Gloomy scales suck sap from trees, removing nutrients and energy. This reduces tree growth and can eventually kill trees.

Science Daily


From Global Voices

The new United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has concluded a visit in the country and issued an initial reportabout Myanmar’s human rights situation:

The opening up of democratic space for people to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to freedom of assembly and association is widely acknowledged as one significant achievement in Myanmar’s continuing reform process. Yet, in recent months many of my interlocutors have seen the shrinking of that space for civil society and the media.

There are also continuing reports of the excessive use of force by the police and the authorities in breaking up protests.

Yanghee Lee also expressed concern about the “spread of hate speech and incitement to violence, discrimination and hostility in the media and on the Internet, which have fuelled and triggered further violence” against minority ethnic groups and Muslims.


War Itself is an Act of Terror

IN THIS war, both sides have the same aim: to put an end to the situation that existed before it started.Once And For All!

To put an end to the launching of rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, Once And For All!

To put an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt, Once And For All!

So why don’t the two sides come together without foreign interference and agree on tit for tat?

They can’t because they don’t speak to each other. They can kill each other, but they cannot speak with each other. God forbid.

THIS IS NOT a war on terror. The war itself is an act of terror.

Uri Avnery

The Toll, day by day

West Bank Protest of Gaza Shelling

West Bank Protest of Gaza Shelling

Now, the West Bank joins in. As Avnery says, “History has shown time and again that terrorizing a population causes it to unite behind its leaders and hate the enemy even more,” and is so showing now.

What would a self-defense  look like that had as a strategic objective diminishing the motivation to attack? It wouldn’t start out with round ups, lock ups, shooting back regardless of the consequences.  If Gary Cooper in High Noon had gotten into the show-down while towns people stood in the path of fire, let’s say a tow-headed little boy got his face blown away, he would have been run out of town, not hailed a hero.

In this year of a terrible war starting, 100 years ago, we can see the slow drift again, of bad intelligence, wrong predictions, miscalculation,  contempt for them, blinding pride in us, though it’s worse now.  Then the Austrians didn’t like the Serbs nor the Serbs their Imperial occupiers; now Israelis loath the Palestinians and vice-versa.  Exterminist rhetoric is coming from both sides and any, small, good ideas are lost in the din.

I wonder sometimes, in my cynicism, if pictures of dead pets were shown instead of people, if the will to cease-fire would be found?


More Bunko-Steerers in the Health Care Fight

“The television ad sponsored by the advocacy arm of the National Federation of Independent Business featured a small-business owner in Arkansas, frustrated at what he said are the higher bills he has seen since the Obama administration’s health care plan went into effect — and pointing blame at Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents facing re-election this fall.

“But the largest chunk of the money donated to the nonprofit group’s advocacy came not from small-business owners, but rather from health insurance companies trying to repeal a health care tax, the most recently available federal tax records show.

“The largely hidden role of the for-profit health insurers highlights the increasingly confusing world of campaign finance, as nonprofit groups like theNational Federation of Independent Business and its Voice of Free Enterprise program can keep their donor lists secret, and then present their carefully crafted message, financed in large part by big business, as if it is coming from, perhaps, a more sympathetic voice.

NY Times


Poland Allowed it (The US Did it)

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that Poland had violated the rights of two terrorism suspects by allowing their transfer to a secret detention center run by the C.I.A. in Poland, where the two men were tortured .. and in doing so became  ” the first court anywhere to publicly confirm the existence of the secret prisons operated by the C.I.A. in Europe.”

Amrit Singh of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a rights advocacy group that brought the case on behalf of Mr. Nashiri, said the ruling ended the impunity for those engaged in abuses connected with the rendition program. The group emphasized that the court had ordered Poland to secure assurances from the United States that Mr. Nashiri would not be subject to the death penalty.

“In stark contrast to U.S. courts that have closed their doors to victims of C.I.A. torture,” Ms. Singh said, “this ruling sends an unmistakable signal that these kind of abuses will not be tolerated in Europe, and those who participated in these abuses will be held accountable.”

See here for a a detailed report on the rendition program.

Here’s the press release from the European Court of Human Rights.

NYTimes

As of yet, no warrants issued for the perpetrators who continue to reside comfortable on their US ranches….


Laos: Still Clearing American Bombs

Un effing believable

“Women are on the frontline of the effort to find and destroy millions of unexploded cluster bombs which are still claiming lives decades after being dropped on Laos.

The US dropped up to 260 million cluster bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War – the equivalent of one bombing mission every eight minutes, for nine years.

It left Laos as the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world.”

ABC News


Cambodia: Protests Erupt in Phnom Penh

Another note to travelers ( see earlier posts). Know where you are traveling and to whom your money is going.

Clashes between security forces and Cambodian opposition supporters in Phnom Penh have left nearly 60 people injured.

The violence occurred early Tuesday when Mu Sochua, an elected member of parliament from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, led hundreds of supporters to Freedom Park, which has been closed to rallies since January.

A group of security guards moved to beat back the protesters when they tried to hang a banner on the razor wire barring entry to the park.

The protesters, however, fought back and about 40 security guards were injured in the ensuing violence. According to witnesses, some were stripped of their uniforms while others were beaten with flags.

VOA