United for Peace of Pierce County, WA - We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy.

TRANSLATION: Did European antiterrorism efforts 'fail' in recent Thalys attack?

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On Monday, in an article translated below, the left-leaning independent French news website Mediapart provided a useful review of the background to the investigation being carried out into the Aug. 21, 2015, attack on a high-speed Thalys train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris in which the heroism of three Americans, one Frenchman, and one Briton prevented a considerable massacre of innocents.  --  Michel Deléan described some of the difficulties of what one antiterrorism judge with twenty years of experience qualified as "a long-term problem, with sources of terrorism both at home and abroad . . . I get a little discouraged when after every event people talk about agencies failing.  --  I know folks who are risking their lives every day in undercover missions for our common security."[1]  --"For security, what more can you do?" he said.  --  "After the attempted Villejuif attack, public authorities told us to protect religious buildings.  --  After Charlie, it was press organs.  --  After Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, it was every Seveso factory.  --  And now every train and every railroad station?  --  That's impossible -- it's like protecting every beach in Tunisia.  --  The system is saturated." ...

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BACKGROUND: Culture wars politics roil Hugo Awards

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A political protest upset this year's Hugo Awards, Wired reported on Sunday in a lengthy piece.  --  "The mainstream press first started reporting on the gaming of the Hugos’ nomination system back in April, when fan-favorite authors who were women and people of color had been largely edged out of the final ballot," Amy Wallace said.[1]  --  "But few outside the field really cared.  --  They treated it like nerd-on-nerd violence -- unfortunate and ugly, but confined to one of literature’s crummier neighborhoods."  --  One writer, Annie Bellet of Portland, Oregon, refused a Hugo nomination lest it be a pawn in a political struggle.  --  "I love the Hugo Awards," she said.  --  "To be nominated was awesome.  --  But I’m a writer.  --  That’s what I want my public face to be.  --  I don’t want people to think of me as some political figure, or some ball in the political game.”" ...

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BACKGROUND: How and why the IMF broke with the EU (NYT)

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Sunday's New York Times noted that there is "one glaring omission" from the most recent Greek bailout (which amounts to 86 billion euros).  --  None of the money will be coming from the IMF, thought it "has, until now, played a crucial role in virtually every bailout, in Greece and elsewhere around the world."[1]  --  The reason, Landon Thomas Jr. explained, is simple:  "the IMF says that Greece [is] simply incapable of repaying its staggering debt."  --  The key moment in this drama took place on Jun. 25 (in the Times account presented hazily, for rhetorical purposes, as "late June") and involved the Eurogroup (since this group has no legal status whatsoever and is acting (without any legal or institutional mandate) as an agency of German hegemony, it is for reasons of journalist tact described even more hazily in this article as "representatives of European countries and the IMF gather[ing] at a private meeting at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels" or, later, as a "Brussels meeting of European finance ministers"; Thomas never uses the term "Eurogroup," and indeed it is worth noting that the Times dislikes using the term "Eurogroup," the word appearing only rarely in its columns -- most recently two weeks ago in a piece not by a Times journalist [Hugh Dixon, "End the Call for a Centralized Eurozone"], where its significance was not explained -- though Reuters and the Associated Press are less prim and use the term "Eurogroup" freely, even speaking of its "president" or "chairman" as though it were a regularly constituted body).  --  In this background piece, Thomas explains that though the IMF has been sticking it to third-world countries for decades, it was only after 2008 that it began to commit funds to bailing out European nations.  --  Though this practice started so recently, already the amount committed to European countries (Ireland, Portugal, and Greece) constitutes 61% of its loan portfolio, which is one reason the IMF decided to call a halt to it this time; another is the growing discontent from the IMF's non-European members).  --  Landon Thomas describes how in the IMF's 2010 loan to Greece of 30 billion euros, as part of an overall 110-billion-euro package, it suspended its own rules against unsound lending on the ground that it was acting to avoid a "broad financial panic."  --  In 2012 the IMF kicked in another 38 billion euros, as part of a 130-billion-euro package (again, the Times gives no numbers).  --  Landon Thomas concludes that the IMF's break with the EU was long overdue, implying that the IMF bears considerable responsibility for the ongoing international disaster of the Greek financial crisis.  --  On Monday Yannis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister so detested by European financiers, commented on the  article on his blog.  --  He said that in the Jun. 25 meeting, after Varoufakis forced IMF Director Christine Lagarde to state that the IMF did not consider the relief being proposed to be a financially viable plan, "the Eurogroup President Dijsselbloem interrupted the proceedings and addressed me with the express threat that, if the Greek government insisted on discussing a debt restructure, there would be no deal.  --  I shall have a lot more to say on this and related matters in due course."[2] ...

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BOOK REVIEW: The sources of violent jihadism

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In this London Review of Books review, a BBC journalist speculates at length that identity issues are probably the most significant factor that explains those who embrace violent jihadism.  --  But Owen Bennett-Jones then reverses field and concludes on a cautionary note:  "Even if we could reach a more widely shared understanding of the sources of violent jihadism it is not clear that there would then be agreement about the policies needed to deal with it.  --  [British Prime Minister] David Cameron wants people not only to have greater loyalty to liberal values but also to say so in public.  --  But even if you could agree on a definition of British values, you can’t use legislation to make people believe in them.  --  In fact, attempting to use the law to oppose extremist thought is not only illiberal in itself but risks deepening the divisions that need to be bridged."[1] ...

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 August 2015 05:01 Read more...
 

COMMENTARY: 'EU has become a machine for creating conflict among nations' (J.-W. Müller)

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The principal reason that Greece was unable to reverse the E.U.'s austerity policies, writes Jan-Werner Müller of Princeton in the latest London Review of Books, is that German Chancellor Angela Merkel "insisted that whatever concessions were made to Tsipras should under no circumstances constitute an incentive for Syriza-style offensives across Europe . . . there was from the beginning a strategic imperative to make Syriza fail."[1]  --  That public opinion in Greece supported Syriza mattered nothing.  --  The E.U. is now in open defiance of the principle of national soveriegnty and the principle of democracy.  --  "The continuation of such a system risks a resurgence of the nationalism that the creation of the E.U. was meant to extinguish," writes Müller, whose academic specialty is European politics and who recently wrote an article entitled "History's Postscript: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy."  --  "The real issue is the lack of any democratic basis for decisions affecting the lives of millions of people," he writes in the LRB.  --  What is even more outrageous is the fact that "the burden of austerity [has been] shifted onto the most vulnerable."  --  Müller provides a useful one-paragraph summary of the history of the Greek debt crisis:  "In 2009, a new Pasok government revealed that its predecessor had been hiding big deficits.  --  Private investors started to panic about whether they’d get their money back; banks used the money with which they had been bailed out to bet on Grexit.  --  Initially, Merkel and Sarkozy forced investors to swallow their losses in what analysts have described as the biggest debt write-down in Europe since the war.  --  It seemed possible, in late 2011, that other Southern states might go the same way; the euro teetered on the brink of disaster.  --  In the end, Merkel decided that the way to resolve the crisis was to flood Europe with money, shift the credit risks from banks to taxpayers (thereby setting the course for confrontations between one European citizenry and another) and beef up the European Commission’s powers to control the budgets of E.U. member states."  --  The future, Müller concludes, is very uncertain:  "Things don’t have to end with a bang.  The E.U. could slowly fragment, leading to resentment all round." . . .

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BACKGROUND: NY Times confirms ISIS has organized 'system of rape & sexual assault'

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(WARNING: Quite a few readers of the New York Times story described and disseminated below have reported in comments on the Times website that reading it made them physically sick.)  --  Some four months after Human Rights Watch issued an extensive report on what it called "a system of organized rape and sexual assault, sexual slavery, and forced marriage by ISIS forces," and three months after Zainab Bangura, the United Nation Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, gave media interviews about her own investigation of the claims, Friday's New York Times led with investigative reporter Rukmini Callimachi's extensive article on the shocking development.  --  Callimachi is a forty-two-year-old Bucharest-born journalist and poet with degrees from Dartmouth and Oxford who before working for the Times was West Africa bureau chief for the Associated Press, and who in October 2014 wrote about Western hostages who fell into the hands of the Islamic State.  --  She presented her investigation as an independent one based on "interviews with twenty-one women and girls" and "an examination of the group’s official communications," saying that the practice of organized sexual slavery has now "been enshrined in the group’s core tenets."[1]  --  It was the abduction of several thousand Yazidi women in 2014 that enabled ISIS to organize a "trade in Yazidi women and girls," Callimachi said, arguing that the principal goal of ISIS's assault on Yazidi communities appeared to be the abduction of young women for sexual slavery.  --  "The Islamic State’s sex trade appears to be based solely on enslaving women and girls from the Yazidi minority."  --  The Yazidis "are seen as polytheists, with an oral tradition rather than a written scripture.  --  In the Islamic State’s eyes that puts them on the fringe of despised unbelievers, even more than Christians and Jews, who are considered to have some limited protections under the Quran as 'People of the Book.'"  --  "In much the same way as specific Bible passages were used centuries later to support the slave trade in the United States, the Islamic State cites specific verses or stories in the Quran or else in the Sunna, the traditions based on the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, to justify their human trafficking, experts say."  --  "The Islamic State recently made it clear that sex with Christian and Jewish women captured in battle is also permissible, according to a new thirty-four-page manual issued this summer by the terror group’s Research and Fatwa Department.  --  Just about the only prohibition is having sex with a pregnant slave, and the manual describes how an owner must wait for a female captive to have her menstruating cycle, in order to 'make sure there is nothing in her womb,' before having intercourse with her." ...

Last Updated on Friday, 14 August 2015 22:16 Read more...
 

COMMENTARY: Netanyahu's campaign against Iran accord a 'disgrace'

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In an article posted last week, David Bromwich made a number of important points in castigating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign to subvert the P5+1 nuclear accord with Iran.  --  Bromwich found disgraceful Netanyahu's speech "singling us [American Jews] out in a speech carried in U.S. media, which was addressed peculiarly to Jewish Americans and implicitly separated our interests from those of other Americans.  The gesture embodied by such a speech bears a family resemblance to incitement to treason."[1]  --  As for Netanyahu's claim to speak for all Israel, "How many Americans know that the Iran deal is supported by the vast majority of Israel's defense and security establishment? . . . [Israeli] security [officials'] support for the deal is an open secret in the Israeli press, and in an American Jewish paper like Forward, but the evidence is subordinated to a point of near invisibility in the New York Times and other mainstream outlets."  --  And he especially takes to task Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who on Aug. 6, the day before Bromwich's piece was published, announced that he would vote against the accord.  --  COMMENT:  UFPPC supports the P5+1 accord with Iran and urges readers to call their senators and representatives in Congress to express their support.  --  According to the Washington Post as of Aug. 11 neither Sen. Maria Cantwell nor Sen. Patty Murray have indicated how they will vote....

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TRANSLATION: 'The Europe we don't want to see'

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Below is a translation of the lead article in this month's Le Monde diplomatique denouncing the policies of the Eurozone.[1]  --  Editor-in-chief Serge Halimi develops an important historical parallel: the struggle over Germany's payment of war reparations in the aftermath of WWI.  --  He concludes with a ringing denunciation of the Eurozone:  "When nineteen dreams lie side by side, does a single bed become too narrow?  --  To impose in a few years the same currency on peoples who have neither the same history, nor the same political culture, nor the same standard of living, nor the same friends, nor the same language, constituted a quasi-imperial undertaking.  --  How can a country still come up with economic and social policy subject to democratic discussion and compromise if every mechanism of monetary regulation is out of its hands?  --  And how can one imagine that peoples who sometimes do not even know each other will accept a solidarity of the sort that today links Florida and Montana?  --  Everything rested on one hypothesis: that a forced-march federalism would bring Europe's nations together.  --  But fifteen years after the birth of the euro, there has never been more animosity." ...

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 August 2015 22:45 Read more...
 

COMMENTARY: Populism & nationalism, not GOP, account for Trump's rise in polls

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A focus on GOP politics is causing those commenting on Donald Trump's popularity to miss its larger significance, said a Slate commentator on Friday.  --  Around the world, Reihan Salam observed, "the parties of the center-right and center-left that have dominated the political scene since the Second World War are losing ground to new political movements."[1] ...

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COMMENTARY: Greece now 'semi-colonial appendage of EU' (Tariq Ali)

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The day after Alexis Tsipras's capitulation to the European Union was endorsed by Greece's parliament, Tariq Ali called the event a vote "to give up [Greece's] sovereignty and become a semi-colonial appendage of the E.U."[1]  --  "Greece has been betrayed by a government that when elected only six months ago offered hope," Ali wrote in the London Review of Books.  --  The chief significance of the vote, for Tariq Ali, is that "The E.U. has now succeeded in crushing the political alternative that Syriza represented" (and he included as an addendum Syriza's abandoned platform, since it has not been publicized by the mainstream media.)  --  Ali, an influential voice in British left politics, said that he's had it with the European Union.  --  "I hadn’t been thinking of voting in the E.U. referendum in Britain whenever it takes place.  --  Now I will.  --  I’ll vote ‘No.’"  --  COMMENT:  The fundamental injustice in E.U.'s dictation of terms to Greece is a refusal to acknowledge that the debt crisis was by no means due solely to Greek misdeeds.  --  The crisis could not have occurred without the connivance of the very financial élites that are profiting from it.  --  This responsibility is eloquently symbolized by the fact that Mario Draghi, the director of the European Central Bank, was managing director of Goldman Sachs International in 2002, at the time it advised Greece how to cook its books and mask its debt so as to circumvent Maastricht rules and make Greece seem to satisfy the financial requirements for joining the Eurozone.  --  You can see why Mario Draghi was named by Forbes the eighth most powerful person in the world in 2014 and by Fortune the second "greatest leader" in the world in 2015....

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ANALYSIS: The concept of Islamophobia in Europe

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Nasar Meer, who teaches sociology at Glasgow's University of Strathclyde and has written extensively on Islamic identity and modern society, co-authored with Christina Späti, an expert on anti-Semitism, a critical discussion of the matter of Islamophobia in Europe in the current number of Discover Society.  --  They review recent controversies over the aptness of the term "Islamophobia."  --  Meer and Späti conclude that while the term "Islamophobia" appears to refer to religion, in Islamophobic discourse religion is "raced" and "Muslims are racialized," so that "what is primarily and fundamentally at stake in this is not a matter of the protection of belief per se, but rather of unequal power, legal protection, and institutional clout, in the context of entrenched social inequalities."  --  Meer and Späti conclude:  --  "When talking about Islamophobia we need to be able to grasp the ways in which discrimination against Muslim minorities picks out people on the basis of supposedly discernible characteristics.  --  The latter may involve the attribution to those individuals an alleged group tendency, or it may emphasize those features that are used to stigmatize or to reflect pejorative or negative assumptions based on his or her real or perceived membership of the group.  --  We therefore maintain that instead of trying to neatly separate things that are intertwined, we should understand Islamophobia as another form of racialization or race making."  --  COMMENT:  While their piece provides many useful links, Meer and Späti choose to ignore the complex history of post-WWII Muslim immigration to Europe.  --  Unfortunately, without this background, discussion of Islamophobia in Europe cannot be very illuminating, just at discussions of racism in the United States cannot go very far without a discussion of the history of slavery.  --  This piece is another example of how the concept of "race" has evolved in contemporary discourse from a reference to membership in a group based on qualities, traits, etc., imagined to have a physical foundation, to membership in a group that is based on a cultural affiliation.  --  Is it a belief in the supremacy of the concept of Culture that in the West dooms thinkers, even, as here, scholars, to turn the "religious" into the "racial"? ...

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BACKGROUND: Front-page NY Times indictment of 'Berlin consensus'

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In a front-page analysis censorious of German policy in the Greek debt crisis, Thursday's New York Times said that "Greece’s economic crisis not only has done nothing to soften Germany’s insistence on adherence to rules, fiscal austerity, and dire consequences for countries that fail to live up to their obligations, but it has also actually reinforced the willingness of Germany’s allies in Europe to impose even harsher conditions on Athens."[1]  --  Germany has imposed on the European Union "austere, market-based policies that are a break with Europe’s past" and that are marked by "a deep aversion to government spending as a tool to fight economic slumps and faith in deregulated labor markets," Neil Irwin wrote.  --  Germany is only pretending to help the Greek economy, Irwin indicated, which "is stuck in a depression-like slump" and is unlikely to emerge from it with assistance like the aid Germany is organizing  --  "The latest package tightens austerity rather than relieving it."  --  Neil Irwin's piece notes that Germany's approach to an economic crisis has created a social crisis that is rapidly becoming a political crisis, one of ever-increasing gravity as anti-E.U. nationalist parties rise in popularity.  --  COMMENT:  All things considered, the Times is surprisingly explicit in its acknowledgment that Germany has made an example of Greece chiefly to discourage the populist revolt brewing in a number of E.U. countries.  --  Perhaps the outspokenness of columnist Paul Krugman has emboldened the newspaper's reporters and editors.  --  But the aggressiveness of the Times has limits.  --  This piece fails to recognize how undemocratic European governance has become.  --  It also neglects to point out that the maintenance of return on capital to fund the pensions of Germany's aging population is a principal motivation of its insistence on E.U. austerity....

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ANALYSIS: Awed by ISIS, New York Review of Books embraces 'clash of civilizations'

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In what way can one explain "how something so improbable" as the Islamic State "became possible"?  --  This is the question asked by an anonymous contributor to the New York Review of Books, identified only as a person who "has wide experience in the Middle East and was formerly an official of a NATO country."[1]  --  No one, the anonymous contributor says, has presented "a convincing theory of the movement’s success."  --  Nothing apparent in what is known of ISIS's origins, ideology, leadership, or tactics can explain its success.  --  In fact, what is known of these would seem to guarantee ISIS's failure, yet this group is becoming a veritable territorial state that rules over much of what used to be Syria's and Iraq's territory.  --  Also, attempts to blame the number of foreign fighters flocking to its cause on the characteristics of the societies in which they live fail:  "new foreign fighters seemed to sprout from every conceivable political or economic system."  --  They have come from Britain, where communitarianism is embraced, and they have come from France, where communitarianism is opposed.  --  "They came from very poor countries (Yemen and Afghanistan) and from the wealthiest countries in the world (Norway and Qatar).  --  Analysts who have argued that foreign fighters are created by social exclusion, poverty, or inequality should acknowledge that they emerge as much from the social democracies of Scandinavia as from monarchies (a thousand from Morocco), military states (Egypt), authoritarian democracies (Turkey), and liberal democracies (Canada).  --  It didn’t seem to matter whether a government had freed thousands of Islamists (Iraq), or locked them up (Egypt), whether it refused to allow an Islamist party to win an election (Algeria) or allowed an Islamist party to be elected.  --  Tunisia, which had the most successful transition from the Arab Spring to an elected Islamist government, nevertheless produced more foreign fighters than any other country."  --  Most mystifying of all is the fact that "Much of what ISIS has done clearly contradicts the moral intuitions and principles of many of its supporters."  --  So how can ISIS maintain their support?  --  No one has offered a convincing explanation.  --  Another sign of incomprehension is the utter failure of observers to be able to predict future developments.  --  To the anonymous author of this article, "Nothing since the triumph of the Vandals in Roman North Africa has seemed so sudden, incomprehensible, and difficult to reverse as the rise of ISIS."  --  COMMENT:  A close reading of this essay reveals that buried in this apparently dispassionate analysis is a quasi-theological endorsement of civilizational conflict.  --  The invocation of "the triumph of the Vandals in Roman North Africa" is an oblique way of referring to the Fall of Rome.  --  In effect, the New York Review of Books is declaring that the barbarians are at the gate.  --  It will be recalled that the death in 430 of Saint Augustine, a figure canonical both in the history of Christian theology and the history of Western civilization as the author of the influential De Civitate Dei ('The City of God') (410), took place three months into the Vandal siege of Hippo Regius in North Africa, the city the Vandals made their initial capital when their campaign triumphed over Rome in 435.  --  The Vandals went on to sack Rome in 455.  --  Thus our anonymous author's allusion is to the fall of the Roman Empire itself, a.k.a. the Fall of Rome, the event upon which Western historians have placed so much significance.  --  What is more, the publication of this article under the cloak of anonymity is doubtless an allusion to the famous article George Kennan published as "X" in Foreign Affairs in July 1947, advocating containment of Soviet Communism as the policy the West should follow.  --  The liberal New York Review of Books, then, can be said with the publication of this article to be obliquely endorsing the neoconservative Huntingtonian doctrine of the clash of civilizations, to which it has hitherto been hostile.  --  (In 1997, the New York Review gave Huntington's book to William McNeill, author of the influential world history The Rise of the West (1963), to review and dismiss;  McNeill declared that "I disagree with the conclusions [Huntington] draws; for it seems to me that increasing connections among civilizations simultaneously sustain a contrary trend toward global cosmopolitanism.")  --  Robert Silvers, the venerable editor of the New York Review, has, it appears, changed his mind and enlisted in the Huntingtonian camp.  --  What has been called "the premier literary-intellectual magazine in the English language" can be considered on board for an all-out campaign against the Islamic State....

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BOOKS: In WWII, Europe was 'on trial' and 'did badly'

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In the Aug. 13 New York Review of Books, Christopher Browning [aet. 71], formerly of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma and now at UNC Chapel Hill, reviews Europe on Trial, a recent indictment of European fecklessness before, during, and immediately after World War II by István Deák [aet. 79].  --  Deák is a frequent contributor to the NYR and anything but an objective observer of the events he writes about: born in Hungary in 1928, his life was thoroughly disrupted by World War II and its aftermath.  --  Europeans, Deák argues (and Browning agrees), do not see World War II as the "last 'good war.'"  --  It was, rather, a "morass" in which it is hard to say that principles of justice triumphed very often.  --  "World War II provided the opportunity for virtually every state to increase ethnic homogeneity by ridding itself of unwanted minorities."[1]  --  Despite a few minor criticisms, Browning praises Deák's 250-page book as "a sweeping survey of some of the bleakest aspects of a bleak period in European history," one that "dispenses with comforting national myths and unexamined assumptions of national virtue.  World War II was, [Deák] writes, 'one of the greatest tragedies that humans ever brought upon themselves,' in which 'compassion and good will were two qualities in short supply.'"  --  COMMENT:  That seems a fair assessment, but doubt is permitted whether Browning is right, in the final sentence of his review, to endorse Deák's celebration of "the remarkable transformation that has subsequently led to 'a new, unified, and better Europe,'" since a rising populism in virtually every European country criticizes today's Europe as under the thumb of a dictatorial bureaucracy that lacks democratic legitimacy.  --  To many, it appears that Europe is failing again, devoted chiefly to the Euro and globalization-fueled corporate profits that promote social inequality while distorting the social fabrics of European nations beyond recognition, often rending them irreparably....

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 July 2015 04:13 Read more...
 

UFPPC STATEMENT: The Iran accord: Will sanity prevail?

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UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY

"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."

THE IRAN ACCORD:  WILL SANITY PREVAIL?

July 23, 2015

Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, a sixty-day review period began on Monday, July 20. During this period, Congress will review the historic P5+1 accord with Iran on its nuclear program that was announced on July 14.

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BACKGROUND: On high seas, 'anonymity is the rule,' life is cheap & piracy is on the increase

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Monday's New York Times posted a gruesome videoclip of the murder of several men shot while floating in the ocean, explaining that the images, with sound, were found on a cellphone left in a taxi last year on the island of Fiji.  --  (Viewing of the video is not recommended for the faint-hearted.)  --  The Times, to its credit, undertook an investigation and reviewed the worsening problem of violence and summary justice on the high seas.  --  The Times created a database containing the reports of thousands of incidents of violence and piracy (defined in international law as crime that takes place at least twelve miles offshore), since, surprisingly, "No international agency comprehensively tracks maritime violence," Ian Urbina said.[1]  --  "The oceans, plied by more ships than ever before, are also more armed and dangerous than any time since World War II, naval historians say.  --  Thousands of seamen every year are victims of violence, with hundreds killed, according to maritime security officials, insurers, and naval researchers."  --  "Violence among fishing boats is widespread and getting worse" as "[h]eavily subsidized Chinese and Taiwanese vessels are aggressively expanding their reach."  --  Many complicated dramas unfold.  --  "Typical culprits included:  rubber-skiff pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenades, night-stalking fuel thieves, hit-and-run bandits wielding machetes.  --  But a variety of other actors appear too, and many of them are not as they initially seem:  hijackers masquerading as marine police officers, human traffickers posing as fishermen, security guards moonlighting as arms dealers." ...

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NEWS: Historic pact signed on Iran nuclear program

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The official name of the agreement signed in Vienna on Jul. 14, 2015, by Iran and the P5+1 powers (U.S., France, Russia, U.K., China, Germany) is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  --  Based on a 2013 interim framework agreement, the accord is a huge step toward resolving an international dispute dating from 2002, when an Iranian dissident group revealed that Iran was building a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak.  --  See here for more on the background of Iran's nuclear program.  --  USA Today provided a succinct summary of the concessions made by each side to reach agreement on the contentious issues of lifting sanctions, the right to enrich uranium, the ability to conduct inspections, openness about weapons research, and the duration of the agreement.[1]  --  This deal is a major achievement, resolving through diplomacy a dispute that for many years seemed to threaten war.  --  CNN collected responses from leaders around the world, most of them positive, except those from Israel and the Israel lobby.[2]  --  These forces have focused their efforts on the U.S. Congress, but according to *USA Today* they will probably not be able to block the agreement.[3]  --  The Washington Post devoted a piece to Israel's apocalyptic rhetorical response to the signing of the accord, but also noted, implicitly, that it is the Jewish State, not Iran, that is the nuclear renegade, since Israel "has an undeclared, but widely suspected, nuclear program that is not under international monitoring.  --  Israel is not a signer of the Non-Proliferation Treaty."[4]  --  William Booth and Ruth Eglash noted widespread criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that "On the evening news in Israel, a rough consensus among political commentators concluded that Netanyahu has been rendered irrelevant, dismissed by the U.S. administration." ...

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ALERT: Pacific NW at risk of 'worst natural disaster in history of N. America'

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An article in the July 20, 2015, New Yorker alerted readers to the likelihood that the Pacific Northwest will, sometime relatively soon, be the site of "the worst natural disaster in the history of North America."[1]  --  Should the Cascadia subduction zone undergo a full-margin rupture, the magnitude of the resulting earthquake will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2, and will be accompanied by a massive tsunami, staff writer Kathryn Schulz reported.  --  Some 7 million people live in the area that will be affected, including all the residents of Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, Salem, and Olympia.  --  "Thanks to work done by [seismologist Chris Goldfinger] and his colleagues, we now know that the odds of the big Cascadia earthquake happening in the next fifty years are roughly one in three."  --  The odds of it being an 8.7-9.2 earthquake are one in ten.  --  The last big earthquake, geologists have determined, took place on Jan. 26, 1700.  --  The study of seafloor cores shows that the average span of time between subduction zone quakes is 243 years.  --  "Counting from the earthquake of 1700, we are now 315 years into a 243-year cycle."  --  Those who are at home have the best chance of surviving, and much can be done to make buildings safer.  --  The 71,000 people who live in the inundation zone of a tsunami (many more during the summer beach season) have the poorest chance.  --  A 20-to-100 foot wall of water traveling about 13 mph and carrying "pickup trucks and doorframes and cinder blocks and fishing boats and utility poles and everything else that once constituted the coastal towns of the Pacific Northwest" will overwhelm those on the coast....

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LETTER: The Montreal Protocol, 'the world's most effective treaty'

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On Sunday a letter to the Financial Times of London from the president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development praised the 1987 Montreal Protocol and the potential for an upcoming amendment to it to stand as "a strong push and a big down payment" on the U.N. Climate Change Conference, to be held during the first two weeks of December in Paris.[1] ...

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BACKGROUND: How climatologists are coping with prospects of planetary disaster

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The news about the pace of climate change is so dire that dealing with it is becoming a mental health issue for climate scientists, a piece in the August 2015 Esquire reports.[1]  --  John Richardson's article focuses on Jason Box, an expert in glaciology who left his position at Ohio State to work for the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.  --  Box's willingness to evoke publicly the likelihood of worst-case climate scenarios has made him a minor celebrity.  --  Richardson also portrays Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist with NASA's Godard Institute who thinks that Box's approach is a rhetorical mistake, Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas, and Michael Mann, a Penn State climatologist who has responded bravely to a concerted campaign of intimidation....

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 July 2015 03:54 Read more...
 

BACKGROUND: Where are they now?

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On the Fourth of July, Philip Giraldi was wondering where the men and women who precipitated the global conflict in which we now find ourselves embroiled are at present.  --  Not only has none of them been held accountable for their crimes, almost all are prospering.  --  "The over-rewarding of former officials who have in reality done great harm to the United States and its interests might well seem inexplicable, but it is all part of a style of bureaucracy that cannot admit failure and truly believes that all its actions are ipso facto legitimate because the executive and its minions can do no wrong."[1]  --  Even the hapless Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz's former deputy, who "left the Defense Department to take up a visiting professorship at the school of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, which was subsequently not renewed," is doing O.K.  --  "He is reported to be again practicing law and thinking deep thoughts about his hero Edmund Burke, who no doubt would have been appalled to make Feith’s acquaintance.  --  Feith is a senior fellow at the neoconservative Hudson Institute and the Director of the Center for National Security Strategies."  --  It's fortunate for Feith that the neocon establishment does not forget its own, since his memoir, War and Decision, "did not make the best seller list and is now available used on Amazon for $.01 plus shipping." ...

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 07:00 Read more...
 
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