“WASHINGTON — The United Nations opened a major new investigation on Thursday into the United States’ use of drones and targeted assassinations.
The U.N. investigation, led by special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson, is expected to focus on the legal justification for America’s expansive drone program, which has largely remained secretive and unexamined.
“The exponential rise in the use of drone technology in a variety of military and non-military contexts represents a real challenge to the framework of established international law,” Emmerson said in a statement released by his office.”
“A federal committee has published a draft of the nation’s third climate assessment report, a comprehensive analysis of the latest and best peer-reviewed science on the extent and impacts of global warming on the United States.
None of the body’s findings are entirely new, but the report suggests that evidence is now stronger and clearer than ever that the climate is rapidly changing — primarily as a result of human activities, including the copious burning of fossil fuels. Observed weather extremes are on the rise, and the possible connection between at least some of these events and human-induced climate change is also more strongly supported by the science.”
“The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said. As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the “precursor” chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs. […]
U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn’t been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn’t issued a final order to use them. But if he does, one of the officials said, “there’s little the outside world can do to stop it.”“
“Meanwhile, a significant milestone looms: The number of militants and civilians killed in the drone campaign over the past 10 years will soon exceed 3,000 by certain estimates, surpassing the number of people al-Qaeda killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.
‘The problem with the drone is it’s like your lawn mower,’ said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and Obama counterterrorism adviser. ‘You’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.’”
“Washington — Without concerted and expensive efforts to restore the dwindling ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico, vital national resources will continue to deteriorate and eventually disappear, according to a report released today by the America’s Wetland Foundation. Based in part on a $4.2 million study and meetings with community representatives at 11 forums, “Beyond Unintended Consequences: Adaptation for Gulf Coast Resiliency and Sustainability” says an investment of about $50 billion is needed to save the Louisiana coast.
“The price tag may seem high, but will we again make a tragic miscalculation and wait until the damage is done?” wrote R. King Milling, chairman of the board of America’s Wetland Foundation, in an introduction to the report.”
“America is currently engaged in the most expensive presidential contest in world history. In the United States, money doesn’t just talk – it dictates. How can we hope to make progress on the path to sustainability when the road is blocked by barricades of bullion backed by battalions of billionaires? How do we break through the political gridlock?
Dave Brower’s wife, Ann, once put a wise spin on this dilemma. “What we need,” she said, is “a cure for greedlock.”
Earth’s richest 1,000 individuals now control as much wealth as the poorest 2.5 billion people on the planet. This super elite uses its vast wealth to control the media, influence politicians, and bend laws to their favor. In the US, the wealthy dominate our government: 47 percent of US representatives are millionaires, as are 67 percent of US senators. The Center for Responsive Politics reports Congressional wealth has increased 11 percent between 2009 and 2011.
Not only is our economy out of balance with nature, our economy is also out of balance with the practical limits of physical and fiscal reality. As the Occupy movement has indelibly framed it, we are now a society divided not only by haves and have-nots, but we are a nation – and a world – divided into the 99 percent and the 1 percent.
Imagine if a tree were engineered like the US economy – with half of its mass centered in the top 10 percent of its height and 40 percent of its mass concentrated in the very topmost branches. Whether redwood or oak, such a tree would not be stable in a windstorm. It would be destined to topple. Of course, nature has better sense.”
“With states as our innovators we know what we need to do on drug reform. Which is good, because the cost of the alternatives has gotten completely out of hand. The U.S. currently spends no less than $51 billion — per year — on the war on drugs. That’s double what Apple profited last year. It’s a horribly depressing number when you think how far even a fraction of that money would have gone if invested in prevention and rehabilitation efforts. With so much rhetoric on the economy in this election year, it is startling that no one has looked to drug reform to unlock resources.
A large portion of the money spent on the war on drugs goes toward criminalization. I recently had the privilege of spending time with Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative. I was shocked when he pointed out that back in the 1970s there were only 300,000 people in prison in the U.S.! Forty years later, the number of people incarcerated — 2.3 million — is greater than the population of Houston, Texas. He attributes much of the increase to American drug policy, with minorities taking the hardest hit. Stevenson shared that 1 in 3 black men in the U.S. will be incarcerated between the ages of 18 and 30. (Michelle Alexander has written a book, The New Jim Crow, which illustrates how the war on drugs has in fact created this system of mass incarceration.)
A focus on criminalization also undercuts future economic development. A recent Pew study revealed that incarceration reduces former inmates’ earnings by 40 percent — further devastating their families and their communities.
This type of blanket incarceration dismisses root causes, disenfranchises millions and most likely results in repeat offenses rather than cleaning up the problem. We need new approaches that treat drug use as a health issue and not a criminal one.”
“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have one big problem that must have Barack Obama walking on air: They’re running against themselves.
Between Ryan’s convention speech, in which he denounced Obama policies and maneuvers that closely resemble some of his own, to Romney’s relentless humility, the Republican ticket consists of two men trying hard to be anything but who they are.
Ryan has been called out on some of his statements that were not-quite-true, or at least not complete. These were simple, factual misrepresentations that could be easily checked — and were — or that were well known to those who know a little about recent history.
In one instance, Ryan criticized Obama for ignoring the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission. What Ryan didn’t mention is that he served on the commission and that he voted against its proposals.
There’s nothing wrong with either of those facts except their omission. His criticisms would have carried more weight had he mentioned them and elaborated. What’s wrong with saying, “I served on the commission and, while I had problems with it and voted against it, it was the right approach. We just didn’t go far enough, and the president simply looked the other way.”
Or words to that effect. Instead, Ryan ignored his role in the process, essentially deleting his participation and his past. Whom does this serve? Certainly not the Romney/Ryan ticket, which now risks being perceived as less than straightforward. This is crucial, given a recent Gallup poll that found Obama leading Romney (48 percent to 36 percent) on the question of who is more trustworthy.
In another example, Ryan criticized Obama’s plan to cut $700 billion from the growth of Medicare. Ryan’s own plan also calls for $700 billion in cuts, though with different details. Why not acknowledge this? Everyone knows it — unless Ryan believes that his audience isn’t really up to speed — so why not set the record straight?”
- Lupe Fiasco
(Source: Rolling Stone)
“WHEN Mitt Romney was governor of liberal Massachusetts, he supported abortion, gun control, tackling climate change and a requirement that everyone should buy health insurance, backed up with generous subsidies for those who could not afford it. Now, as he prepares to fly to Tampa to accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president on August 30th, he opposes all those things. A year ago he favoured keeping income taxes at their current levels; now he wants to slash them for everybody, with the rate falling from 35% to 28% for the richest Americans.”
“Let me unpack the saga. Back in 2010, the Times reported on a scuffle within the FDA involving radiological screening devices made by General Electric. Agency scientists had expressed concern about excessive cancer risk posed by GE’s products, and feared that the agency would ignore their concerns and side with the powerful corporation. Here’s how the Times described it:”
Maybe we should stop growing grass, and plant gardens to feed our family and our community, no?
“[President Obama] could not have guessed that the demand for Arab democracy would instead become one of his presidency’s greatest foreign policy challenges, forcing whoever wins the November election to confront tough trade offs between American values and interests.
The popular uprisings that have swept the region since Mr. Obama’s speech in Cairo have upended an authoritarian order that was largely congenial to the United States. While they may have brought Arab nations closer than ever to fulfilling of the promise of self-determination that has echoed through the speeches of American presidents since Woodrow Wilson at the end of the First World War, they have also imperiled crucial American allies, empowered antagonistic Islamists, and unleashed sectarian animosities that threaten to drag the whole region toward chaos.”
“Dear Governor Jindal,
You have created a voucher program that allows public money to be used to fund schools that teach young earth creationism, which is not part of Louisiana’s approved state science standards. This is unconstitutional and wrong.
It is an unconstitutional promotion of religion to fund schools that teach creationism. You are promoting one specific fundamentalist variety of Christianity, a clear violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
It is wrong to teach Louisiana students creationism, especially under the pretense that these schools will provide our students with a better education.
You are unconstitutionally wasting our money and misleading our children, providing them with an education that is worse than any in our public schools, an education that will not prepare them for college or a job working with the technology of tomorrow.
Please halt the implementation of your unconstitutional voucher program.
Please stop funding schools that miseducate our students by teaching creationism.
Please do the right thing.”