Truthout Stories http://truth-out.org Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:36:55 -0500 en-gb An Angry White Man Kills Again http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/29349-an-angry-white-man-kills-again http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/29349-an-angry-white-man-kills-again

"The stand your ground and open carry laws are a return to the days when white supremacy was openly expressed through conquest of the native population, slavery, and lynch law terror."

Craig Hicks was a human time bomb in his Chapel Hill, North Carolina neighborhood. He was constantly spoiling for a fight, about noise or parking or anything else that he found irritating. Hicks was always armed, a resident of an "open carry" state which allowed him to wear a holstered gun anywhere at any time. On February 10, 2015, Hicks turned himself in to the police and confessed to murdering three people that day.

The victims were identified as Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha. Hicks had argued with the family about parking spaces but it seems any reason to pull the trigger would have been good enough.
Hicks motive for the killing is murky. Some of his political views could be called liberal and others conservative. But more than anything Hicks was serious about being a white man. He loved his guns and he asserted his right to be armed at all times. It is likely that he had mental health issues, but the sickness did not emerge solely from this particular individual.

Where Hicks fell on the political spectrum is really beside the point. He expressed support for the right to bear arms, marriage equality and abortion rights but more than anything he supported his right to be violent. Because of their passivity everyone around him did as well.

His neighbors are now telling the media about his constant arguments and confrontations while being armed but there are no reports of anyone ever calling the police about his behavior. The Barakats told relatives they feared Hicks but ultimately decided not to call the police either. Hicks' neighbors discussed their concerns among themselves but took no other action. The complicity led to unintentional enabling and that made the killings inevitable.

"Open carry laws are obviously reserved for white people only."

The inaction stands in stark contrast to the treatment meted out to black people who are at risk of being killed even when they don't threaten anyone. North Carolina allows open carry of firearms but so does the state of Ohio. That fact didn't keep John Crawford or Tamir Rice from being shot down in Dayton and Cleveland respectively. They had toy guns and weren't a danger to anyone. Yet both of them are now on the long list of black people killed by the police. Open carry laws are obviously reserved for white people only.

It is important to ask if the Hicks murders were a hate crime but there are questions which must be explored and they may be harder to deal with than legal definitions. The most fundamental questions is this. Why are white people seen as benign and their behavior as normative, no matter what they do?

Try to imagine a black man picking fights with his neighbors while armed. Then try to imagine that no one ever calls the police in this hypothetical scenario. In Tampa, Florida a black man named Clarence Daniels was legally carrying a gun when he walked into a Walmart. A white man took it upon himself to confront and assault Daniels. The white assailant was arrested but as a black man Daniels was lucky not to have ended up dead.

Hicks got the kid glove treatment despite the obvious risk he posed to other people. Fealty to whiteness trumps all else including the desire for safety. In 2014 a Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy sparked a white power movement which threatened the lives of federal marshals. Bundy owed the government thousands of dollars in payment for his cattle grazing on federal land. He didn't just refuse to pay. He gathered a group of armed followers. Two of them, Jerad and Amanda Miller, went on to kill two police officers.

"Fealty to whiteness trumps all else including the desire for safety."

At least one person knew that the Millers were armed and dangerous. She saw their arsenal of weapons and heard them say they were going to start a revolution. "I should have called the cops," was the lame admission. That much is obvious but the expression of regret doesn't explain very much.

The stand your ground and open carry laws are a return to the days when white supremacy was openly expressed through conquest of the native population, slavery, and lynch law terror. Those acts should not be seen as events of long ago history. They became part of this country's DNA and give angry, unstable white people a pass to do what they want. They aren't thought of as potential killers or terrorists as they should be. Bystanders aren't sufficiently concerned because they too give white people the benefit of the doubt even when they don't deserve it.

Hicks strongly believed in the right to bear arms and had four handguns, two shotguns and six rifles in his home at the time of the killings. No one knows what twisted thoughts finally sparked the violence but the sickness of this country's history helped him to carry it out. There are thousands of dangerous people like him who call themselves patriots or sovereign citizens or doomsday preppers. But mostly they just believe in being white.

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Opinion Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:23:58 -0500
Replace the Gospel of Money: An Interview With David Korten http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/29348-replace-the-gospel-of-money-an-interview-with-david-korten http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/29348-replace-the-gospel-of-money-an-interview-with-david-korten

David Korten began his professional life as a professor at the Harvard Business School on a mission to lift struggling people in Third World nations out of poverty by sharing the secrets of U.S. business success. Yet, after a couple of decades in which he applied his organizational development strategies in places as far-flung as Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and the Philippines, Korten underwent a change of heart. In 1995, he wrote the bestseller When Corporations Rule the World, followed by a series of books that helped birth the movement known as the New Economy, a call to replace transnational corporate domination with local economies, control, ownership, and self-reliance.

This month, Korten, who is also the co-founder and board chair of YES!, publishes a new book challenging readers to rethink their relationship with Earth—indeed, with all creation, from the smallest quantum particle to the whole of the universe. The world needs "a new story," he says. "If most species, including Homo sapiens, are to survive, we must recognize Earth as a living being." Korten talked about his ongoing metamorphosis with YES! Executive Editor Dean Paton.

Dean Paton: Tell me how somebody who was an organizational management specialist, and then a new-economy thought leader, made this leap into what is as much a spiritual proposition as it is a political one—that Earth is a living organism, that we all are essentially a part of this one big life form.

"It comes back to this: Are we a part of nature? Or apart from nature?"
David Korten: It's not that hard, actually—once you get into the living-Earth frame—to see that Earth is essentially this organization of living organisms creating and maintaining the conditions essential to life. If you're an organizational expert, or theorist, that raises a really fascinating question: How do these millions of organisms work in concert to maintain life?

Paton: As if everything has an intelligence and everything has a purpose? How is that relevant to your new book, Change the Story, Change the Future?

Korten: The new book sets up the juxtaposition between the old "Sacred Money and Markets" story and an emerging "Sacred Life and Living Earth" story. They're two totally different frames that lead to two totally different ways of thinking about organizing society. You either see life as a means to make money, or you see money as simply a number useful for keeping accounts in service to life, but of no value in itself. Buying into the "Sacred Money and Markets" story that money is wealth and the key to happiness locks us into indentured servitude to corporate rule.

Paton: You're saying it's the traditional development model, or transnational capitalism, that damages Earth as a living community, including not just humans but all life forms. Yet we all depend on money, on the market economy. Do you really think we can just stop that dependence?

Korten: We will still use money and markets, but strip away Wall Street's control of money's creation and allocation. There was a time in the United States when most of our financial institutions were local. Which essentially meant that local communities were able to create their own credit, or their own money, in response to their own needs. We still depended on banks, but it was a much more democratic process.

Paton: Like George Bailey's building and loan in It's a Wonderful Life.

Korten: Exactly. If more of our money circulated in our communities rather than the Wall Street casino, it would facilitate people organizing locally to meet more of their economic needs with local resources. Control of money is the ultimate mechanism of social control in a society in which most every person depends on money for the basic means of living—food, water, shelter, heat, transportation, entertainment. This leads us into the voluntary simplicity movement: The less I'm dependent on money, the freer I am. Realize that the only legitimate purpose of the economy is to serve life, is to serve us as living beings making our living in co-productive partnership with living Earth.

Paton: How does that translate into actions? If we get a thousand people to say, "I'm a living being born of and nurtured by a living Earth," how does that stop fracking? How does that stop the Russians from pumping all the oil out of Kazakhstan and selling it around the world?

Korten: It makes very clear that destroying the natural living systems on which our existence depends, in order to get a quick energy fix or a quick profit, is literally insane.

Paton: So if we're all living beings "born of a living Earth," as you say, where does that start to show up in our lives?

Korten: A big piece of it has to do with recognizing the implications of our dependence on money. This goes back to development as a process of separating people from their means of subsistence production. The more people become alienated from their self-production, the more they become dependent on money—and the more they become dependent on the people who control the creation and allocation of money.

Paton: You mean when I'm dependent, I accept fracking.

Korten: Yeah, you say, "I need that money. They're going to pay me to frack my property."

Paton: Do you really think Americans are going to be able to cast off the belief that money is king?

Korten: I'd say a lot of people are casting it off.

Paton: Most of us respond to a 10-dollar bill. Or a bonus at work. Or a new car.

Korten: But we respond to that because we accept the "Sacred Money and Markets" story that money is wealth, a fabrication that is literally killing us.

Paton: So you say that our choice is between working with Earth and working against her?

Korten: It comes back to this: Are we a part of nature? Or apart from nature?

Paton: Why do you insist we adopt this "Living Earth" story?

Korten: Because we humans live by stories.

Paton: And that means...?

Korten: It means that to organize as ordered societies, we need a shared framework—basic values and assumptions—so that when I relate to you, I've got some idea of how you're going to respond, because we share our basic story.

Paton: Do we have a choice?

Korten: Yeah, change or die. Quite literally. You really can't grasp the new story—as a society—and continue to live the way we live. First you begin to move toward more voluntary simplicity, which is, literally, reducing your dependence on money. You start doing more things yourself. You pay much more attention to your relationships, to the gift economy. You perhaps get a deeper sense of being part of and a contributor to a living universe evolving toward ever greater complexity, beauty, awareness, and possibility. What would that mean for society, and then what does it mean for how I live? What is my contribution to the change society needs? I have a responsibility to be part of this change—which begins by changing the story.

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Opinion Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:09:42 -0500
Buffalo's Bomb Trains http://truth-out.org/news/item/29347-buffalo-s-bomb-trains http://truth-out.org/news/item/29347-buffalo-s-bomb-trains

They span over a mile long containing up to 140 tank cars and as much as 4.5 million gallons of some of the nastiest forms of crude oil on earth, pumped from "extreme" extraction operations in North America's new oil boomtowns. They cross rivers and transverse open plains, wilderness forest and some of the most densely populated urban areas in the country. Occasionally, with alarmingly increasing frequency, they careen off into rivers, catch fire and explode, or both. When spilled in water, their heavy oil exterminates river ecosystems. When they blow up, they release the fires of hell, with one oil train accident in 2013 wiping out most of the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and gutting its downtown. That's when folks started referring to these explosive steel snakes as "Bomb Trains."

This is one of the dark sides of North America's fossil energy boom—the backstory on cheap fuel. The uptick in oil production comes from using extreme means to recklessly drill oil, using carbon-intensive methods like fracking to extract environmentally dangerous low grade oils such as Bakken crude from Montana and North Dakota. This oil, pumped from the dolomite layer of the Bakken geological formation, which also underlies portions of the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, is more volatile than conventional oils, with a lower flashpoint for explosion. When rail cars started to blow in Lac-Mégantic, The National Post reported a blast radius of over one half mile.

The United States National Transportation Safety Board estimates that about 400,000 barrels a day of this oil make the trip to Atlantic Coast refineries, with 20 to 25 percent moving through the port of Albany. Much of this Albany-bound oil moves across New York utilizing rail lines passing though the hearts of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica. Oil from Canada crosses the Niagara river, entering the US both in Niagara Falls, and via Buffalo's 142 year old International Railroad Bridge, as well as taking a northern route, dropping down from Quebec on tracks passing through the Adirondack Park, including about 100 miles of Lake Champlain watershed shoreline. Non Albany-bound oil, such as some shipments from Buford, North Dakota to Houston, Texas, also take an unlikely route through Buffalo.

Though much of this oil winds up moving through New York State, federal law limits the state's authority to regulate it. While crude oil can be stabilized to make it less volatile in transit, whether or not it receives such treatment is up to the discretion of regulators in the state that produces it—not necessarily the states through whose cities it will roll. Most of the explosive Bakken crude coming our way originates in North Dakota, where the energy industry all but owns the legislature, fertilizing the state's anti-regulatory zeitgeist with a healthy dose of cash. The end result is, whatever passes for a state government in North Dakota fails to meet even Texas's modest safety standards for anti-explosive fuel stabilization.

The Association of American Railroads reports that, thanks to the Bakken and Tar Sands oil booms, the amount of oil moving across the country by train has increased 45 fold (4,500 percent) from 2008 through 2013, with the volume continuing to increase through 2014 and 2015. As a result, more oil spilled from oil trains in the U.S. in 2013 than in the preceding 37 years. The number of accidents increased in 2014, and seems to be steadily increasing this year, with oil trains derailing and blowing up last week in West Virginia and northern Ontario. The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Department of Transportation now predicts an average of ten derailment accidents a year involving crude oil or ethanol tank cars over the next twenty years, "causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S." It's no longer a matter of "if" there will a catastrophic oil train derailment.

Both the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, and the United States Department of Transportation recommend evacuating a one half mile perimeter around accidents involving railroad tanker cars carrying flammable liquids. Karen Edelstein, a researcher and the New York Program Director for the FracTracker Alliance, mapped oil train routes across the state, adding overlays for this evacuation zone, and for schools and hospitals. Her data shows that statewide, there are 502 public schools situated within potential evacuation zones. In Buffalo, about one third of the population live within one half mile of these bomb train routes, and 27 public schools and eight private schools lie within potential evacuation perimeters as well. This includes PS 42, which serves students with disabilities, and is located adjacent to the track. Sister's Hospital and the Buffalo Zoo are well within this perimeter, which skirts the Buffalo State and Erie County Medical Center campuses. If we freak out when it snows, how well are we going to handle what appear to be atomic fireballs, should one of these trains blow up?

While the profits from this oil boom have been privatized, much of the cost associated with reckless extraction have been externalized, meaning dumped on the public. Aside from the obvious environmental costs that we and future generation will have to bear, are the less visible emergency preparation costs that every school, hospital and municipality within a half mile of bomb train routes must now cover. In Buffalo, this means 35 schools need to work with local emergency services providers to develop plans to quickly evacuate students not just from buildings, but from neighborhoods, all with a possible backdrop of explosions, sirens and billowing smoke.

While it's not statistically likely that a train will explode in Buffalo or any other specific place, it is a certainty that trains will keep exploding with increasing frequency across the U.S. and Canada. This means that cash strapped municipalities across the continent will have to develop plans to address a catastrophe we know for certain will befall some of our communities.

Addressing this risk involves not just planning to respond to it, and maintaining an emergency response network capable of responding, but also working to prevent such a catastrophe. A report from the Cornell University Community and Regional Development Institute points out that this involves a multitude of responsibilities, such as monitoring surface rail crossings to prevent vehicle train collisions that can lead to a derailment. Such responsibility, the report notes, usually falls to local police forces that often lack the personnel to do this. Likewise, federal regulators lack the personnel to inspect the nation's rail infrastructure, and state Departments of Transportation lack the resources to adequately inspect bridges crossing railroad tracks. All of these costs fall not on the oil or railroad industries, but on government agencies, with much of this work not being done due to budget constraints.

What little planning there is to deal with an oil train explosion is alarming to read. A three car fire requires, according to the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control , 80,000 gallons of water for laying down a fire retardant foam blanket and cooling adjacent rail cars. Hence, the state recommends, if there is "NO life hazard and more than 3 tank cars are involved in fire OFPC recommends LETTING THE FIRE BURN unless the foam and water supply required to control is available" [sic.]. The wording here is ominous, with the availability of the required foam and water not being the default expectation, but instead, simply a possibility. This language is there for a reason, however. The Auburn Citizen, in central New York, quotes Cayuga County Emergency Management Office Director Brian Dahl, who, in response to a question about his county's ability to respond to an oil train fire, unequivocally states, "The amount of foam and water you would need, there's just not enough in central New York."

While oddly inferring that maybe you should put the fire out if you have adequate foam and water, even if there is no "life hazard," the state's instructions don't mention what to do if there is a life hazard, but no foam or water. Also troubling is their inference that if more than three cars are on fire you should just give up. Last week's fires in Ontario and West Virginia saw seven and fourteen cars ablaze respectively, with each fire burning for over 24 hours. In all caps, the state's instructions warn responders,

"All resources must be available prior to beginning suppression."

It doesn't give any suggestions as to what to do if you can't move the water to the fire, or have the foam necessary to smother a dragon. None of the suggested responses are tolerable should an oil train explode in an urban environment.

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News Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:01:11 -0500
Lying http://truth-out.org/art/item/29346-lying http://truth-out.org/art/item/29346-lying ]]> laurenayo@gmail.com (Lauren Walker) Art Fri, 27 Feb 2015 09:48:38 -0500 Economic Update: It's the System of Capitalism http://truth-out.org/news/item/29343-economic-update-it-s-the-system-of-capitalism http://truth-out.org/news/item/29343-economic-update-it-s-the-system-of-capitalism

This episode provides updates on German anti-capitalism, student debt default, credit card economics and unregulated chemicals. We also respond to questions on pension scandals and Harvard economic research.

To see more stories like this, visit Economic Update: Your Weekly Dose of Revolutionary Economics

To listen in live on Saturdays at noon, visit WBAI's Live Stream

Economic Update is in partnership with Truthout.org

Your radio station needs Economic Update! If you are a radio station, check this out. If you want to hear Economic Update on your favorite local station, send them this.

Visit Professor Wolff's social movement project, democracyatwork.info.

Permission to reprint Professor Wolff's writing and videos is granted on an individual basis. Please contact  profwolff@rdwolff.com to request permission. We reserve the right to refuse or rescind permission at any time.

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News Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:02:40 -0500
Obamacare Is Not Some Left-Wing, Socialist Plot; It Is a Republican Plot http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/29341-obamacare-is-not-some-crazy-left-wing-socialist-plot http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/29341-obamacare-is-not-some-crazy-left-wing-socialist-plot

Most of the tenets of Obamacare were introduced way back in 1971 by Richard Nixon, a Republican president. (Photo: Tim Pierce)Most of the tenets of Obamacare were introduced way back in 1971 by Richard Nixon, a Republican president. (Photo: Tim Pierce)Obamacare is not some communist, left-wing, socialist plot.

It's a Republican plot.

Back in 1971, then President Richard Nixon was extremely concerned that he would have to face then Sen. Ted Kennedy in the 1972 presidential election.

At that time, Senator Kennedy was pushing a proposal for a national single-payer health care plan that would extend coverage to all Americans.

Nixon knew that Kennedy's proposal would be popular with the American people, and could threaten his re-election chances, so he came up with a health care proposal of his own.

Nixon's proposal for health care in the US included different plans for four categories of Americans.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Under Nixon's plan, employers would have been required to buy health insurance providing a basic package of benefits for 150 million working US residents and their families.

For 20 million people who were considered the working poor at the time and their families, Nixon's plan would have replaced Medicaid services with private health insurance plans fully paid for by the government for the poorest, with a sliding scale of contributions for families earning over $3,000 (roughly $17,300 in today's dollars).

Nixon's plan also dropped Medicare premiums for 21 million "aging" Americans, and instead adjusted Social Security taxes to make up for the costs.

Finally, Nixon's plan lowered health care costs for 30 million self-employed Americans by allowing them to buy health care policies at lower group rates through insurance pools.

Now, what does all of that sound like to you? It sounds an awful lot like Obamacare, right?

That's because most of the tenets of Obamacare were introduced way back in 1971 by Richard Nixon, a Republican president.

But Nixon wasn't the only Republican to get behind a health care plan that sounds a lot like Obamacare.

Back in 1993, then-President Bill Clinton tried desperately to reform healthcare in the US. He created a special health care task force that was charged with finding solutions to rising healthcare costs and an increasing number of uninsured Americans.

While that task force was trying to find solutions, Republicans in Congress were trying to create a health care reform alternative of their own.

They came up with the Health Equity and Access Reform Today bill, or HEART.

That bill was spearheaded by then Republican Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island, and co-sponsored by 18 other Republican senators, including current Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, both of whom are now opposed to Obamacare.

It was also supported by the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, which at the time was pushing particularly heavily for an individual mandate.

Among other things, the HEART bill proposed by Republican senators included an individual mandate (to appease the folks over at the Heritage Foundation), the creation of insurance purchasing pools, standardized benefits, vouchers for poor Americans to buy insurance and a ban on insurance companies denying coverage based on preexisting conditions.

Again, what does that sound like?

Speaking about the HEART bill, Sheila Burke, former chief of staff for former Sen. Bob Dole told PolitiFact's PunditFact that,

"You would find a great deal of similarity to provisions in the Affordable Care Act. The guys were way ahead of the times! Different crowd, different time, suffice it to say."

So, yet again, you have Republicans introducing a national health care reform plan that contained a lot of the key tenets of today's Obamacare.

The facts speak for themselves. Republicans have been pushing Obamacare-like health-care principles for more than 40 years!

So, why in 2015, are Republicans suddenly so opposed to policies they have crafted and supported in years past?

Because today, Republicans aren't operating on principle, they're operating on politics.

They're doing everything in their power to sabotage President Obama's presidency and tarnish his legacy.

They're fulfilling the plans of a group of powerful Republican lawmakers and strategists who sat down to a private dinner at the Caucus Room restaurant here in Washington on the night of January 20, 2009, and vowed to filibuster and obstruct any and all legislation supported by President Obama.

Republicans aren't morally opposed to Obamacare; after all, it's helped millions of people, and it's making the insurance industry even richer.

Republican opposition to Obamacare is entirely about politics, and that's no way to run a country.

If you're going to run a country, which Republicans basically are by being in control of Congress, you should be operating on principle and on legitimate policy disagreements.

It's time for Republicans to stop playing politics, and start doing what's right for the people of the United States.

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Opinion Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:14:29 -0500
Net Neutrality Is Back! But the Fight Isn't Over Yet http://truth-out.org/news/item/29340-net-neutrality-is-back-but-the-fight-isn-t-over-yet http://truth-out.org/news/item/29340-net-neutrality-is-back-but-the-fight-isn-t-over-yet

Depending on whom you talk to, today's vote is either a victory for consumers, civil rights activists and a ragtag coalition of grassroots advocates that formed an alliance with Silicon Valley to take on the behemoth telecoms, or a government power grab that will turn the internet into a lumbering public utility and squash technological innovation and investment. (Photo via Shutterstock)Depending on whom you talk to, today's vote is either a victory for consumers, civil rights activists and a ragtag coalition of grassroots advocates that formed an alliance with Silicon Valley to take on the behemoth telecoms, or a government power grab that will turn the internet into a lumbering public utility and squash technological innovation and investment. (Photo: Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com)

Federal regulators approved tough net neutrality rules today. Still, the fight for internet freedom continues, and advocates say public participation will be as important as ever.

Depending on whom you talk to, today's vote is either a victory for consumers, civil rights activists and a ragtag coalition of grassroots advocates that formed an alliance with Silicon Valley to take on the behemoth telecoms, or a government power grab that will turn the internet into a lumbering public utility and squash technological innovation and investment. (Photo via Shutterstock)Depending on whom you talk to, today's vote is either a victory for consumers, civil rights activists and a ragtag coalition of grassroots advocates that formed an alliance with Silicon Valley to take on the behemoth telecoms, or a government power grab that will turn the internet into a lumbering public utility and squash technological innovation and investment. (Photo: Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com)

Federal regulators approved tough net neutrality rules today. Still, the fight for internet freedom continues, and advocates say public participation will be as important as ever.

It's official: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to reclassify the internet as a "common carrier" service under Title II of the Communications Act to enforce strong net neutrality rules. The vote marks a victory for internet freedom activists and a historic national shift toward treating quality internet access more like an essential public good.

Still, the battle over the future of the internet is far from over.

The FCC approved the rules in a 3-2 vote along party lines, with Democrats in the majority. The rules prevent internet providers like AT&T and Verizon from blocking legal content; degrading or slowing down their competitors' traffic; and favoring traffic in exchange for special fees.

"The internet has redefined commerce, and as the outpouring from 4 million Americans has demonstrated, the internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, referring to the 4 million people who commented on the agency's net neutrality proposals over the past year. "The internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules."

The open internet debate has taken some twists and turns since last January, when a federal appeals court threw out the FCC's last batch of net neutrality rules and sent regulators back to the drawing board. As public comments piled up and activists rallied across the country, Wheeler eventually shed the skin of a former industry insider and scrapped a milquetoast proposal in favor of a plan rooted in Title II, which advocates say gives the FCC the legal authority it needs to defend the rules against inevitable court challenges from the industry.

The Title II decision could also have a deep impact on the effort to hold broadband companies accountable to the needs of the public and close the "digital divide" that has left low-income and rural consumers, as well as people of color, with few options to stay connected.

"We are moving as a country to saying that this service is an essential service like [landline] telephone was, and so everybody should have the opportunity to get it. That’s what Title II does," said Harold Feld, vice president of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, in a recent interview with Truthout. "By making, as a society, the decision that broadband is an essential communications service, we are embracing our digital future."

Depending on whom you talk to, today's vote is either a victory for consumers, civil rights activists and a ragtag coalition of grassroots advocates that formed an alliance with Silicon Valley to take on the behemoth telecoms, or a government power grab that will turn the internet into a lumbering public utility and squash technological innovation and investment.

The truth is a bit more complicated, and it remains unclear if and how the FCC will use the new rules to hold incumbent telecoms like AT&T and Verizon accountable to the public. Here's the good news: Like the debate that brought us to today's historic ruling, the public can have a say in how this implementation plays out. In fact, advocates say public participation is crucial.

"[Today] we celebrate. Friday we get back to work," said Craig Aaron, CEO of Free Press, one the groups that has spent years campaigning for tough net neutrality rules.

Aaron said the most immediate threats to net neutrality would come from Congress, where Republicans could introduce legislation that would defund the FCC, overturn the new rules or undermine the agency's enforcement authority. Such legislation would face Obama's veto pen, however, and industry-backed compromise legislation that would establish net neutrality rules but undermine the FCC's enforcement authority has already failed to find bipartisan support.

"Congress is going to have to decide, and the Republican leadership in Congress is going to have to decide, if this is the thing they want to go to war on," Aaron said.

Republicans are currently furious over the Title II reclassification, which they have billed as a government takeover of the internet that President Obama bullied the FCC into orchestrating.

The saber rattling was already underway on Wednesday at a heated committee hearing in the House that served as a perfect example of how net neutrality, an issue wrapped in industry lingo and fine print, is subject to such heavy spin that opponents and proponents don't even seem to be talking about the same thing.

"The closer we get to the FCC rubber-stamping President Obama's internet grab, the more disturbing it becomes," said committee Chair Rep. Greg Walden, in a statement. "Consumers, innovators and job creators all stand to lose from this misguided approach."

Walden is a Republican from Oregon who has received hefty donations from the telecom industry and cosponsored the GOP's alternative net neutrality legislation in the House.

"What’s more, this plan sends the wrong signal around the globe that freedom and openness on the internet are best determined by governments - a far cry from decades of bipartisan commitment to light-touch regulation," Walden continued.  

Don't worry. Obama will not be billing you for broadband anytime soon, and the new rules exempt broadband providers from certain utility-style regulations, like rate regulations, at least up front. By reclassifying the internet under Title II, however, the FCC has expanded its powers to intervene if it finds that internet service providers charge unreasonable rates or engage in unjust practices that fail to serve the public.

Larry Downes, an author and industry analyst who opposes Title II reclassification, claimed in his testimony before the committee that virtually every aspect of the internet's infrastructure could soon be under government oversight.

"As Chairman Wheeler noted in his recent 'fact sheet,' the rulemaking will now, 'for the first time,' grant the FCC oversight of potentially every link in the connections between networks that make up the internet’s unique, engineering-driven architecture," Downes said in his written testimony.

In fact, Wheeler's fact sheet, released earlier this month to outline the proposed net neutrality rules, says that, "For the first time the Commission would have authority to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if necessary" if it finds that interconnection deals between internet service providers and content providers fail to meet Title II's "just and reasonable" standard.

"Disappointed parties will no doubt choose to invoke the agency’s new self-granted authority rather than continuing to rely on market negotiations," Downes warned.

This is exactly why advocates like Aaron say Title II is so important. Internet providers have an advantage in "market negotiations" because they enjoy monopolies and duopolies in communities across the country, leaving consumers and content providers with few choices.

Under the FCC's recently updated standards of what defines high-speed broadband, 82 percent of consumers in the United States have one or fewer options when it comes to high speed internet providers. This makes it tough to vote with your dollar and leave a company that is charging unreasonable rates, providing shoddy service or striking "fast lane" deals that make some parts of the internet more accessible than others.

"That's why Title II is so important, it actually allows [the FCC] to respond to things that are going wrong in the marketplace," Aaron said. "All the major providers have indicated that they want to discriminate . . . so we need some kind of recourse."

The new rules also protect free speech online and ensure that everyone's voice can be heard regardless of their economic status. For this reason, people of color and civil rights activists have rallied around the issue, because their movements rely on a free and open internet to organize, express dissent and address issues ignored by the corporate media.

"With the internet, net neutrality creates an opportunity for somebody other than the most powerful corporations to control the internet," said civil rights activist Malkia Cyril in a recent interview with Truthout. "It creates some room for an everyday person like myself. I can't own a TV station, but I can own a website."

The FCC's rules are not designed to change the internet as it stands, but to protect it from the future whims of profit-hungry broadband barons. Aaron said the "bright line" rules unveiled today would be shaped through a series of complaints and rulemakings. Depending on the scope, these will be subject to public comment, allowing consumers and tech companies to weigh in on issues like data caps and zero-rating as they arise.

"The FCC . . . is going have their radar up as well," Aaron said. "The most powerful thing about rules like this is the threat to use them."

The FCC also took a step toward promoting broader broadband competition by voting to intervene and challenge state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that have prevented highly successful municipal broadband networks from expanding into neighboring communities.

None of this seemed likely a year ago when Wheeler, a fresh nominee of the Obama administration, began diving into the contentious issues facing the FCC. The chairman did something that advocates weren't exactly expecting, however. When the people spoke up - and thanks to online activism, millions of them did - Wheeler listened.

"The internet has changed the rules for what is and what isn’t possible in Washington, DC, and politics in general," said Evan Greer, an organizer with Fight for the Future, a grassroots group that galvanized public support for net neutrality with online campaigns. "It's changed the rules for democracy."

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News Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:10:48 -0500
How Gazan Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of an International Power Struggle http://truth-out.org/news/item/29338-how-gazan-natural-gas-became-the-epicenter-of-an-international-power-struggle http://truth-out.org/news/item/29338-how-gazan-natural-gas-became-the-epicenter-of-an-international-power-struggle

Guess what? Almost all the current wars, uprisings, and other conflicts in the Middle East are connected by a single thread, which is also a threat: these conflicts are part of an increasingly frenzied competition to find, extract, and market fossil fuels whose future consumption is guaranteed to lead to a set of cataclysmic environmental crises.

Amid the many fossil-fueled conflicts in the region, one of them, packed with threats, large and small, has been largely overlooked, and Israel is at its epicenter. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began sparring over rumored natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza. In the ensuing decades, it has grown into a many-fronted conflict involving several armies and three navies. In the process, it has already inflicted mindboggling misery on tens of thousands of Palestinians, and it threatens to add future layers of misery to the lives of people in Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. Eventually, it might even immiserate Israelis.

Resource wars are, of course, nothing new. Virtually the entire history of Western colonialism and post-World War II globalization has been animated by the effort to find and market the raw materials needed to build or maintain industrial capitalism. This includes Israel's expansion into, and appropriation of, Palestinian lands. But fossil fuels only moved to center stage in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship in the 1990s, and that initially circumscribed conflict only spread to include Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, and Russia after 2010.

The Poisonous History of Gazan Natural Gas

Back in 1993, when Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed the Oslo Accords that were supposed to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and create a sovereign state, nobody was thinking much about Gaza's coastline. As a result, Israel agreed that the newly created PA would fully control its territorial waters, even though the Israeli navy was still patrolling the area. Rumored natural gas deposits there mattered little to anyone, because prices were then so low and supplies so plentiful. No wonder that the Palestinians took their time recruiting British Gas (BG) -- a major player in the global natural gas sweepstakes -- to find out what was actually there. Only in 2000 did the two parties even sign a modest contract to develop those by-then confirmed fields.

BG promised to finance and manage their development, bear all the costs, and operate the resulting facilities in exchange for 90% of the revenues, an exploitative but typical "profit-sharing" agreement. With an already functioning natural gas industry, Egypt agreed to be the on-shore hub and transit point for the gas. The Palestinians were to receive 10% of the revenues (estimated at about a billion dollars in total) and were guaranteed access to enough gas to meet their needs.

Had this process moved a little faster, the contract might have been implemented as written. In 2000, however, with a rapidly expanding economy, meager fossil fuels, and terrible relations with its oil-rich neighbors, Israel found itself facing a chronic energy shortage. Instead of attempting to answer its problem with an aggressive but feasible effort to develop renewable sources of energy, Prime Minister Ehud Barak initiated the era of Eastern Mediterranean fossil fuel conflicts. He brought Israel's naval control of Gazan coastal waters to bear and nixed the deal with BG. Instead, he demanded that Israel, not Egypt, receive the Gaza gas and that it also control all the revenues destined for the Palestinians -- to prevent the money from being used to "fund terror."

With this, the Oslo Accords were officially doomed. By declaring Palestinian control over gas revenues unacceptable, the Israeli government committed itself to not accepting even the most limited kind of Palestinian budgetary autonomy, let alone full sovereignty. Since no Palestinian government or organization would agree to this, a future filled with armed conflict was assured.

The Israeli veto led to the intervention of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sought to broker an agreement that would satisfy both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. The result: a 2007 proposal that would have delivered the gas to Israel, not Egypt, at below-market prices, with the same 10% cut of the revenues eventually reaching the PA. However, those funds were first to be delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York for future distribution, which was meant to guarantee that they would not be used for attacks on Israel.

This arrangement still did not satisfy the Israelis, who pointed to the recent victory of the militant Hamas party in Gaza elections as a deal-breaker. Though Hamas had agreed to let the Federal Reserve supervise all spending, the Israeli government, now led by Ehud Olmert, insisted that no "royalties be paid to the Palestinians." Instead, the Israelis would deliver the equivalent of those funds "in goods and services."

This offer the Palestinian government refused. Soon after, Olmert imposed a draconian blockade on Gaza, which Israel's defense minister termed a form of "'economic warfare' that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular uprising against Hamas." With Egyptian cooperation, Israel then seized control of all commerce in and out of Gaza, severely limiting even food imports and eliminating its fishing industry. As Olmert advisor Dov Weisglass summed up this agenda, the Israeli government was putting the Palestinians "on a diet" (which, according to the Red Cross, soon produced "chronic malnutrition," especially among Gazan children).

When the Palestinians still refused to accept Israel's terms, the Olmert government decided to unilaterally extract the gas, something that, they believed, could only occur once Hamas had been displaced or disarmed. As former Israel Defense Forces commander and current Foreign Minister Moshe Ya'alon explained, "Hamas... has confirmed its capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations... It is clear that, without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement."

Following this logic, Operation Cast Lead was launched in the winter of 2008. According to Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, it was intended to subject Gaza to a "shoah" (the Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster). Yoav Galant, the commanding general of the Operation, said that it was designed to "send Gaza decades into the past." As Israeli parliamentarian Tzachi Hanegbi explained, the specific military goal was "to topple the Hamas terror regime and take over all the areas from which rockets are fired on Israel."

Operation Cast Lead did indeed "send Gaza decades into the past." Amnesty International reported that the 22-day offensive killed 1,400 Palestinians, "including some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians, and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground, leaving many thousands homeless and the already dire economy in ruins." The only problem: Operation Cast Lead did not achieve its goal of "transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel."

More Sources of Gas Equal More Resource Wars

In 2009, the newly elected government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inherited the stalemate around Gaza's gas deposits and an Israeli energy crisis that only grew more severe when the Arab Spring in Egypt interrupted and then obliterated 40% of the country's gas supplies. Rising energy prices soon contributed to the largest protests involving Jewish Israelis in decades.

As it happened, however, the Netanyahu regime also inherited a potentially permanent solution to the problem. An immense field of recoverable natural gas was discovered in the Levantine Basin, a mainly offshore formation under the eastern Mediterranean. Israeli officials immediately asserted that "most" of the newly confirmed gas reserves lay "within Israeli territory." In doing so, they ignored contrary claims by Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, and the Palestinians.

In some other world, this immense gas field might have been effectively exploited by the five claimants jointly, and a production plan might even have been put in place to ameliorate the environmental impact of releasing a future 130 trillion cubic feet of gas into the planet's atmosphere. However, as Pierre Terzian, editor of the oil industry journal Petrostrategies, observed, "All the elements of danger are there... This is a region where resorting to violent action is not something unusual."

In the three years that followed the discovery, Terzian's warning seemed ever more prescient. Lebanon became the first hot spot. In early 2011, the Israeli government announced the unilateral development of two fields, about 10% of that Levantine Basin gas, which lay in disputed offshore waters near the Israeli-Lebanese border. Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil immediately threatened a military confrontation, asserting that his country would "not allow Israel or any company working for Israeli interests to take any amount of our gas that is falling in our zone." Hezbollah, the most aggressive political faction in Lebanon, promised rocket attacks if "a single meter" of natural gas was extracted from the disputed fields.

Israel's Resource Minister accepted the challenge, asserting that "[t]hese areas are within the economic waters of Israel... We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law."

Oil industry journalist Terzian offered this analysis of the realities of the confrontation:

"In practical terms... nobody is going to invest with Lebanon in disputed waters. There are no Lebanese companies there capable of carrying out the drilling, and there is no military force that could protect them. But on the other side, things are different. You have Israeli companies that have the ability to operate in offshore areas, and they could take the risk under the protection of the Israeli military."

Sure enough, Israel continued its exploration and drilling in the two disputed fields, deploying drones to guard the facilities. Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government invested major resources in preparing for possible future military confrontations in the area. For one thing, with lavish U.S. funding, it developed the "Iron Dome" anti-missile defense system designed in part to intercept Hezbollah and Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli energy facilities. It also expanded the Israeli navy, focusing on its ability to deter or repel threats to offshore energy facilities. Finally, starting in 2011 it launched airstrikes in Syria designed, according to U.S. officials, "to prevent any transfer of advanced... antiaircraft, surface-to-surface and shore-to-ship missiles" to Hezbollah.

Nonetheless, Hezbollah continued to stockpile rockets capable of demolishing Israeli facilities. And in 2013, Lebanon made a move of its own. It began negotiating with Russia. The goal was to get that country's gas firms to develop Lebanese offshore claims, while the formidable Russian navy would lend a hand with the "long-running territorial dispute with Israel."

By the beginning of 2015, a state of mutual deterrence appeared to be setting in. Although Israel had succeeded in bringing online the smaller of the two fields it set out to develop, drilling in the larger one was indefinitely stalled "in light of the security situation." U.S. contractor Noble Energy, hired by the Israelis, was unwilling to invest the necessary $6 billion dollars in facilities that would be vulnerable to Hezbollah attack, and potentially in the gun sights of the Russian navy. On the Lebanese side, despite an increased Russian naval presence in the region, no work had begun.

Meanwhile, in Syria, where violence was rife and the country in a state of armed collapse, another kind of stalemate went into effect. The regime of Bashar al-Assad, facing a ferocious threat from various groups of jihadists, survived in part by negotiating massive military support from Russia in exchange for a 25-year contract to develop Syria's claims to that Levantine gas field. Included in the deal was a major expansion of the Russian naval base at the port city of Tartus, ensuring a far larger Russian naval presence in the Levantine Basin.

While the presence of the Russians apparently deterred the Israelis from attempting to develop any Syrian-claimed gas deposits, there was no Russian presence in Syria proper. So Israel contracted with the U.S.-based Genie Energy Corporation to locate and develop oil fields in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by the Israelis since 1967. Facing a potential violation of international law, the Netanyahu government invoked, as the basis for its acts, an Israeli court ruling that the exploitation of natural resources in occupied territories was legal. At the same time, to prepare for the inevitable battle with whichever faction or factions emerged triumphant from the Syrian civil war, it began shoring up the Israeli military presence in the Golan Heights.

And then there was Cyprus, the only Levantine claimant not at war with Israel. Greek Cypriots had long been in chronic conflict with Turkish Cypriots, so it was hardly surprising that the Levantine natural gas discovery triggered three years of deadlocked negotiations on the island over what to do. In 2014, the Greek Cypriots signed an exploration contract with Noble Energy, Israel's chief contractor. The Turkish Cypriots trumped this move by signing a contract with Turkey to explore all Cypriot claims "as far as Egyptian waters." Emulating Israel and Russia, the Turkish government promptly moved three navy vessels into the area to physically block any intervention by other claimants.

As a result, four years of maneuvering around the newly discovered Levantine Basin deposits have produced little energy, but brought new and powerful claimants into the mix, launched a significant military build-up in the region, and heightened tensions immeasurably.

Gaza Again -- and Again

Remember the Iron Dome system, developed in part to stop Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel's northern gas fields? Over time, it was put in place near the border with Gaza to stop Hamas rockets, and was tested during Operation Returning Echo, the fourth Israeli military attempt to bring Hamas to heel and eliminate any Palestinian "capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations."

Launched in March 2012, it replicated on a reduced scale the devastation of Operation Cast Lead, while the Iron Dome achieved a 90% "kill rate" against Hamas rockets. Even this, however, while a useful adjunct to the vast shelter system built to protect Israeli civilians, was not enough to ensure the protection of the country's exposed oil facilities. Even one direct hit there could damage or demolish such fragile and flammable structures.

The failure of Operation Returning Echo to settle anything triggered another round of negotiations, which once again stalled over the Palestinian rejection of Israel's demand to control all fuel and revenues destined for Gaza and the West Bank. The new Palestinian Unity government then followed the lead of the Lebanese, Syrians, and Turkish Cypriots, and in late 2013 signed an "exploration concession" with Gazprom, the huge Russian natural gas company. As with Lebanon and Syria, the Russian Navy loomed as a potential deterrent to Israeli interference.

Meanwhile, in 2013, a new round of energy blackouts caused "chaos" across Israel, triggering a draconian 47% increase in electricity prices. In response, the Netanyahu government considered a proposal to begin extracting domestic shale oil, but the potential contamination of water resources caused a backlash movement that frustrated this effort. In a country filled with start-up high-tech firms, the exploitation of renewable energy sources was still not being given serious attention. Instead, the government once again turned to Gaza.

With Gazprom's move to develop the Palestinian-claimed gas deposits on the horizon, the Israelis launched their fifth military effort to force Palestinian acquiescence, Operation Protective Edge. It had two major hydrocarbon-related goals: to deter Palestinian-Russian plans and to finally eliminate the Gazan rocket systems. The first goal was apparently met when Gazprom postponed (perhaps permanently) its development deal. The second, however, failed when the two-pronged land and air attack -- despite unprecedented devastation in Gaza -- failed to destroy Hamas's rocket stockpiles or its tunnel-based assembly system; nor did the Iron Dome achieve the sort of near-perfect interception rate needed to protect proposed energy installations.

There Is No Denouement

After 25 years and five failed Israeli military efforts, Gaza's natural gas is still underwater and, after four years, the same can be said for almost all of the Levantine gas. But things are not the same. In energy terms, Israel is ever more desperate, even as it has been building up its military, including its navy, in significant ways. The other claimants have, in turn, found larger and more powerful partners to help reinforce their economic and military claims. All of this undoubtedly means that the first quarter-century of crisis over eastern Mediterranean natural gas has been nothing but prelude. Ahead lies the possibility of bigger gas wars with the devastation they are likely to bring.

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News Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:35:34 -0500
Climate Deniers Exposed: Top Scientist Got Funding From ExxonMobil, Koch Brothers, Big Coal http://truth-out.org/news/item/29331-climate-deniers-exposed-top-scientist-got-funding-from-exxonmobil-koch-brothers-big-coal http://truth-out.org/news/item/29331-climate-deniers-exposed-top-scientist-got-funding-from-exxonmobil-koch-brothers-big-coal

A new investigation exposes how one of the top scientists involved in denying climate change has failed to disclose his extensive funding from the fossil fuel industry. Dr. Wei-Hock Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has downplayed global warming and rejected human activity as its cause, arguing the sun is more responsible than greenhouse gases from pollution. Climate denialists - including Republican Senator James Inhofe, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee - frequently cite Soon’s work to reject concrete action. But documents obtained by the Climate Investigations Center show Soon received more than $1.2 million from fossil fuel corporations and conservative groups over the last decade and failed to disclose those ties in most of his scientific papers. Funders include ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, coal utility Southern Company and the Charles G. Koch Foundation. In letters with his funders, Soon referred to his scientific papers or congressional testimony as "deliverables." We are joined by Kert Davies, executive director at Climate Investigations Center.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: Kert Davis, I want to turn now to your new investigation that exposes how one of the top scientists involved in denying climate change has failed to disclose his extensive funding from the fossil fuel industry. Dr. Wei-Hock Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has downplayed global warming, rejected human activity as its cause, argued the sun is more responsible than greenhouse gases. Climate denialists, including Republican Senator James Inhofe, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, frequently cite his work to reject concrete action. But documents obtained by your group, by the Climate Investigations Center, show Dr. Soon received more than $1.2 million from fossil fuel corporations and conservative groups over the last decade and failed to disclose those ties in most of his scientific papers. Funders include ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, coal utility Southern Company, and Charles G. Koch Foundation. In letters with his funders, Dr. Soon referred to his scientific papers or congressional testimony as, quote, "deliverables." These new details confirm earlier concerns about Dr. Soon’s funding, which he downplays in this clip from 2013.

WEI-HOCK SOON: I have received funding from federal government, but I stopped receiving. I have no penny of that money from the government since 2004 or so. And I’ve been receiving money from whoever that wants to give me money. I write my scientific proposal. I have received money from ExxonMobil, but ExxonMobil no longer give me any money for a long time, American Petroleum Institute. Anything you wish for, from Southern Company, from all these companies, I write proposal. I let them judge whether they will fund me or not, always for a very small amount. If they choose to fund me, I’m happy to receive it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Dr. Soon from 2013. Kert Davies, you’re the executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, which obtained the new documents through public records requests that shed new light on the influence of fossil fuel interests on the research of Dr. Willie Soon. Can you talk about what you found?

KERT DAVIES: Well, first, to clarify, it is a Greenpeace investigation going back to 2009, when I was there. We started with a FOIA, a Public Records Act request to the Smithsonian, asking for any information on Soon’s sources of outside income. We knew from 2007 that he was getting money from the Charles Koch Foundation, American Petroleum Institute and ExxonMobil. So we asked a simple question: Show us where he’s getting his funding from. We got a spreadsheet back. Then we said we want to see the communication with these funders. Years go by. We got some email. Then, in the email, it showed that there were attachments, there were contracts. We said, "Let’s see the contracts, and let’s see the proposals." We finally got those. And it is a very rare window into this universe and an amazing moment, actually, probably the most important investigation that Greenpeace has done on climate denial.

What we’ve discovered is that these contracts are explicit in keeping the funder quiet, keeping the funder secret. In the case of the Southern Company, one of the largest polluters in the country, a massive utility that stretches from Georgia to Alabama to Mississippi, owns some of the largest coal plants in the world and in the country, burns Powder River Basin coal, you know, trains going a mile long going to these plants every day and up into the atmosphere—they want to keep us in the dark about climate change, and Willie Soon is one of their pawns, actually. They’re using him, and they’re using the Harvard-Smithsonian name to get that word out that there’s misinformation—that is, that there’s no scientific consensus, rather.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says it’s launched an inquiry into whether Dr. Soon properly reported the more than $1.5 million in private funding he received to the journals that have published his research. The Center said it, quote, "does not support Dr. Soon’s conclusions on climate change." But it has previously insisted its scholars are peer-reviewed and vetted by other scientists, saying, quote, "This is the way the scientific process works. The funding entities, regardless of their affiliation, have no influence on the research." Your reaction, but also the impact on these journals and the scientific community of these undisclosed donations to Dr. Soon?

KERT DAVIES: Well, we’ve written all the journals to ask them what their reaction is. This is the key part of this investigation, is that we’ve uncovered basic conflict of interest in science. If a doctor, if a medical doctor wrote a paper saying, you know, a drug was bad for you, and was taking money from its competitor, that would be pretty immoral, if not illegal and unethical, to tell people that a drug was harmful and while they’re taking money from the other side. This is what’s happening here. This is a guy taking money from polluters to say that greenhouse gases are not the problem, it’s actually variation in the sun’s radiation that causes the warming we’re experiencing. And he’s taking money from the other side and not disclosing it in the papers, then telling the corporation, "This is what I did for you. I wrote these papers." So, that—

AMY GOODMAN: These "deliverables."

KERT DAVIES: Deliverables, exactly. Like anybody who’s ever written a grant, you have "Here are the outcomes of the grant, here’s what I promised to do with your money." This is—so this is a pretty important thing. And Senator Markey has launched an investigation. The House Science Committee, House Resource Committee are looking into it. There’s a lot of people who are very concerned that other rules may have been broached. There’s a—you know, the IG’s investigation at Smithsonian, we hope, will look into a lot of things, and we’re posting on ClimateInvestigations.org a piece about what they might ask, the questions they might ask internally.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he should be fired?

KERT DAVIES: I’m not the judge of that. I mean, if he wants to do his science, if he wants to, you know, go back to studying plasmas in the atmosphere and the sun’s corona and whatever he’s an expert at, that’s fine. If he discloses who’s funding it, that’s fine. I mean, when he did a paper in 2007 that said—was funded by Exxon, Koch and the American Petroleum Institute, saying that polar bears are just fine and the Arctic is not melting, you know, why are those entities interested in telling that story? It’s a pretty simple line: because they don’t want us to know that polar bears are in trouble and the Arctic is melting. They want us to think differently about that. So, he can go on doing whatever he wants to do. I don’t care if he stays there or gets fired, as long as it’s transparent and the world knows that he’s being paid by polluters.

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News Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:23:06 -0500
Who Is Bankrolling the Islamic State? Private Donors in Gulf Oil States Cited as Key to ISIS Success http://truth-out.org/news/item/29330-who-is-bankrolling-the-islamic-state-private-donors-in-gulf-oil-states-cited-as-key-to-isis-success http://truth-out.org/news/item/29330-who-is-bankrolling-the-islamic-state-private-donors-in-gulf-oil-states-cited-as-key-to-isis-success

Militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State have reportedly abducted at least 220 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria during a three-day offensive. Meanwhile, the Islamic State militant nicknamed "Jihadi John," who has been featured in several beheading videos, has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born former resident of London. In other news, two U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have reportedly killed over three dozen people in Iraq, including at least 20 civilians. Also this week, UNESCO is has condemned the Islamic State for destroying the Mosul public library, which housed more than 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. UNESCO described the incident as "one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history." Earlier today, video was posted online that appears to show members of the Islamic State smashing ancient artifacts inside a Mosul museum. The video shows men toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C. Live from Iraq, we are joined by Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent. His latest book is The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Please check back later for full transcript.

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News Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:13:50 -0500