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President Obama has sidestepped the political hole he had dug for himself (what we might call the "red line" hole) over his proposed attack on Syria. Having insisted there must be "consequences" for a breach of international law, specifically the alleged use of banned chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he was faced with both popular American reluctance to support military action and Congressional pique over not being included in the decision process.

As a consequence President Obama announced on 31 August 2013 that he now supports a Congressional debate and vote on the issue of attacking Syria. Then he told us how he sees the situation, "This [Syrian chemical] attack is an assault on human dignity.... It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.... Ultimately this is not about who occupies this [White House] office at any given time, its about who we are as a country."

The finding of a long-term study that questioned the reason there are so few women in Science, Technology and Engineering professions was recently released (1). Electrical Engineering is my professional career, and sometimes in the role of engineering manager, I had often wondered why this was the case; I could find no rational reason for this phenomenon. What the study found was that in the absence of simply the thought of an engineering career, the possibility of such a career never entered into the conversation. In addition, the lack of role models in the local community also contributed to women not even considering an engineering profession - it just never entered into their consciousness as a possible career choice.

This is part two of the good news episode. Three inventions that could save the world. 

If we lie to our government it's a serious crime. Why isn't it an even more serious crime when our government lies to us? If crime is willful action that harms others, and we punish crime based on the extent of its harm, why aren't we criminalizing and severely punishing political lies, which often result in great harm - including massive death and suffering throughout the world?

Is the upper echelon of the American intelligence community running the country? I know that’s an explosive idea, and easily dismissed as being so far out of the mainstream that it’s got no stream at all.

But if you’re willing to ask the question, and then consider it along with what we know so far, it may not be too off the mark.

Obviously I don’t know the answer (though I do have a guess). Everything we know, however, says that this could be true if the generals in charge of the NSA want it to be true. After all, J. Edgar Hoover got quite far down that road with far fewer tools. It’s not like it can’t be done.

Secretary of State John Kerry: “There is no doubt that Saddam al-Assad has crossed the red line. … Sorry, did I just say ‘Saddam’?”

A US drone has just taken a photo of Mullah Omar riding on a motorcycle through the streets of Damascus.

So what do we have as the United States refuses to rule out an attack on Syria and keeps five warships loaded with missiles in the eastern Mediterranean?

Sep 06

The Syrian Catastrophe

By Tom Reifer, Anti War | Op-Ed

Though the world dodged a bullet with the British parliamentary vote Thursday against going to war, it also brought with it great dangers, notably that of complacency, today being registered in various places. Though the tactical victory in England over the parliamentary vote is important, it arguably makes the very short term dangers possibly greater, not less. The screaming front page massive headlines in the New York Times, "Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No: Seeking Allies – Another Ship Moves In," the Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Prepares for Solo Strikes on Syria After Britain Balks," andWashington Post, "Obama Can Go it Alone on Syria: Lawmakers Clamor for a vote," in today’s morning papers say it all. One hopes against hope that one is wrong on this, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. US Secretary of State John Kerry invoked the catastrophe of World War I but seemed to understand none of its lessons about the dangers of using military force in a region already boiling over from ethnic and religious conflict, tension and violence, including by outside powers. The danger is that an already brutal internationalized Syrian civil war will become the flashpoint for even larger regional and global conflict. The stakes are enormous for as former US National Security Advisor and Dean of the American Foreign Policy Establishment Zbigniew Brzezinski states in a Wednesday, August 28, 2013 Financial Timesop-ed, "The Steps That Obama Must Now Take On Syria,"

Sep 06

Who the Missiles Will Hurt

By David Swanson, Let's Try Democracy | Op-Ed

Believe it or not -- after John McCain played video games on his phone during a hearing on bombing Syria, and Eleanor Holmes Norton said she'd only vote to bomb Syria out of loyalty to Obama -- there are decent people in the United States government who mean well and take their responsibilities seriously.  One of them, who works on actual humanitarian aid (as opposed to humanitarian bombs) spoke to me. He said that, beyond those who will inevitably be killed by U.S. missiles in Syria, and those who will die in the escalated violence that is very likely to follow, a great many additional people may suffer for reasons we aren't paying attention to.

As an interfaith community of religious and secular members who believe in the power of love to overcome hatred and the power of mercy to conquer vengeance, while affirming the world’s common humanity and the sacredness of human life, we urge President Obama and Congress to reject any military intervention in Syria, including any military attack, arming the rebels, or creating a no-fly zone, and instead to focus on increasing humanitarian assistance through the United Nations and building active multilateral diplomacy without preconditions with all involved parties for an immediate ceasefire, a full arms embargo, and negotiations to end Syria’s civil war.

Over the last year, a religious antipoverty organization has met with U.S. Treasury and White House officials to encourage them to declare the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad an illegitimate government. This action would impose restrictions on lending to Syria that supports its military or the needs of the Assad regime. When governments or financial institutions make this declaration it lets lenders know that if they lend to Syria they may not receive a return on their investment. Types of lending and financing that could be affected are arms contracts with Russia and oil investment from Iran.