Category: Big Picture

Pope Francis is Taking on Climate Change

ETHICAL MARKETS – The encyclical from Pope Francis [the week of June 1, 2015] marks yet another significant milestone in our planet’s march toward a global climate change agreement in Paris this December. The fact that the leader to more than 1 billion Catholics—roughly 14 percent of the world’s population—is urging action on climate change is undeniable evidence of growing support for an agreement that even global warming naysayers cannot refute.

Supreme Court Rejects EPA’s Regulation of Power Plants’ Emissions of Mercury and Other Toxins

METEOR BLADE (TIMOTHY LANGE) – The U.S. Supreme Court plunked a setback into the lap of the Environmental Protection Agency Monday [6-29-15] by trashing the agency’s regulation of emissions of mercury and other air toxins (MATS) from electricity-generating plants. The court overturned a lower-court decision in the case of Michigan v. EPA stating that the agency had acted reasonably when it chose not to consider compliance costs first in its effort to control those emissions. The justices split 5-4, with the four liberals on the side of the EPA and the four conservatives and Justice Anthony Kennedy on the side of industry and the states that had sued.

Subsidies at 16 Times Carbon Prices Stymie Pollution Curbs

MATHEW CARR – Subsidies for fossil fuels are overwhelming efforts to curb pollution, the International Energy Agency said. Tax-breaks, subsidized fuel prices and other government support amount to an incentive to pollute worth $115 per metric ton of carbon-dioxide, the agency said Monday in its Energy and Climate Change report. That compares with an average $7 cost to buy emission permits in carbon markets, according to the Paris-based group.

US Officials: ‘Saudis Set to Buy Nuclear Weapons from Pakistan’

YASMIN KAYE – Saudi Arabia is said to have taken the “strategic decision” to acquire “off-the-shelf” nuclear weapons from ally Pakistan, senior US officials told the Sunday Times. Sunni Arab states are increasingly concerned of the repercussions of a deal currently being negotiated between world powers and Shi’ite rival Iran, which they fear may still be able to develop a nuclear bomb.

Time to Ban the Bomb

ALICE SLATER – Global Momentum is building for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. While the world has banned chemical and biological weapons, there is no explicit legal prohibition of nuclear weapons, although the International Court of Justice ruled unanimously that there is an obligation to bring to a conclusion negotiations for their total elimination. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), negotiated in 1970 required the five existing nuclear weapons states, the US, Russia, UK, France and China (P-5) to make “good faith efforts” to eliminate their nuclear weapons, while the rest of the world promised not to acquire them (except for India, Pakistan, Israel, who never signed the NPT). North Korea relied on the NPT Faustian bargain for “peaceful” nuclear power to build its own bomb, and then walked out of the treaty.

Controversial Trade Deal’s Text Leaked by Wikileaks

JONATHON TASINI – This is an advanced January 2015 version of the confidential draft treaty chapter from the Investment group of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks between the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei Darussalam. The treaty is being negotiated in secret by delegations from each of these 12 countries, who together account for 40% of global GDP. The chapter covers agreements on investments from one TPP nation to another, including empowering foreign firms to “sue” other states’ governments, as well as regulations around investor-state dispute settlements and tribunals. This document was prepared by TPP investment chapter negotiators in advance of the informal round of negotiations held in New York City 26th January to 1st February, 2015.

Scientists Set Doomsday Clock Closer to Armageddon

ROBERT F. DODGE, M.D. – The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just announced its latest nuclear Doomsday Clock moving ahead the minute hand to three minutes till midnight. The clock represents the count down to zero in minutes to nuclear apocalypse – midnight. This significant move of two minutes is the 22nd time since its inception in 1947 that the time has been changed.

Intervention in Civil Wars ‘Far More Likely in Oil-rich Nations’

DAVID SWANSON – Conspiracy theorists have long insisted that modern wars revolve around oil. Now research suggests hydrocarbons play an even bigger role in conflicts than they had suspected. According to academics from the Universities of Portsmouth, Warwick and Essex, foreign intervention in a civil war is 100 times more likely when the afflicted country has high oil reserves than if it has none.

Why Tesla’s Battery for Your Home Should Terrify Utilities

JOSH DZIEZA – Earlier this week, during a disappointing Tesla earnings call, Elon Musk mentioned in passing that he’d be producing a stationary battery for powering the home in the next few months. It sounded like a throwaway side project from someone who’s never seen a side project he doesn’t like. But it’s a very smart move, and one that’s more central to Musk’s ambitions than it might seem.

Meet The 80 People Who Are As Rich As Half The World

MONA CHALABI – Eighty people hold the same amount of wealth as the world’s 3.6 billion poorest people, according to an analysis just released from Oxfam. The report from the global anti-poverty organization finds that since 2009, the wealth of those 80 richest has doubled in nominal terms — while the wealth of the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population has fallen.

Obama Proposes to Boost Spending for Nuclear Armaments

DOUGLAS BIRCH – The Obama administration has proposed to boost spending on the U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads at a higher rate than for many other military programs, according to White House budget documents published February 2. Arms control advocates call the ambitious program both bloated and wasteful, and based on an outdated view of the importance of nuclear weapons to U.S. security. Meanwhile, nonproliferation efforts have been downplayed.

Editor Of Major Newspaper Says He Planted Stories For CIA

RALPH LOPEZ – Becoming the first credentialed, well-known media insider to step forward and state publicly that he was secretly a “propagandist,” an editor of a major German daily has said that he personally planted stories for the CIA. Saying he believes a medical condition gives him only a few years to live, and that he is filled with remorse, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s largest newspapers, said in an interview that he accepted news stories written and given to him by the CIA and published them under his own name. Ulfkotte said the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war. Dr. Ulfkotte says the corruption of journalists and major news outlets by the CIA is routine, accepted, and widespread in the western media, and that journalists who do not comply either cannot get jobs at any news organization, or find their careers cut short.

CIA on Trial in Virginia for Planting Nuke Evidence in Iran

DAVID SWANSON – Since Tuesday and continuing for the coming three weeks, an amazing trial is happening in U.S. District Court at 401 Courthouse Square in Alexandria, Va. The trial is open to the public, and among the upcoming witnesses is Condoleezza Rice, but — unlike the Chelsea Manning trial — most of the seats at this somewhat similar event are empty. The media is mostly MIA, and during lunch break the two tables at the cafe across the street are occupied, one by the defendant and his lawyers, the other by a small group of activists, including former CIA officer Ray McGovern, blogger Marcy Wheeler (follow her report of every detail at ExposeFacts.org), and Norman Solomon who has organized a petition at DropTheCharges.org — the name of which speaks for itself.

Three Members of Congress Just Reignited the Cold War While No One Was Looking

DENNIS KUCINICH – Late Thursday night [December 11], the House of Representatives unanimously passed a far-reaching Russia sanctions bill, a hydra-headed incubator of poisonous conflict. The second provocative anti-Russian legislation in a week, it further polarizes our relations with Russia, helping to cement a Russia-China alliance against Western hegemony, and undermines long-term America’s financial and physical security by handing the national treasury over to war profiteers.

America is on a “Hot War Footing”: House Legislation Paves the Way for War with Russia?

MICHAL CHOSSUDOVSKY – America is on a war footing. While a World War Three Scenario has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon for more than ten years, military action against Russia is now contemplated at an “operational level.” Similarly, both the Senate and the House have introduced enabling legislation which provides legitimacy to the conduct of a war against Russia. We are not dealing with a “Cold War.” None of the safeguards of the Cold War era prevail. There has been a breakdown in East-West diplomacy coupled with extensive war propaganda. In turn the United Nations has turned a blind eye to extensive war crimes committed by the Western military alliance.

Germany Does Something the U.S. Hasn’t for Peace

DAVID SWANSON – Imagine a letter co-signed by former presidents, former representatives from both sides of the aisle, House speakers, former governors, attorneys general, cabinet members, ambassadors, CEOs, movie stars and directors, writers, astronauts, religious leaders, mayors, academics, mainstream media correspondents, and more — all united in stating “Nobody wants war.” Imagine the New York Times publishing this letter. The equivalent happened in Germany just a few days ago.

U.N. Predicts New Global Population Boom

DAVID TALBOT – A new analysis suggests that the world’s population will keep rising through 2100, and not flatten around 2050 as has been widely assumed. Such an increase would have huge implications, but the prediction’s reliability is debatable, given that it does not take into account future hardships a large population would likely face.

DeFazio Stakes Out Anti-War Position on ISIS

PETER DEFAZIO – Thank you for contacting me with your opposition to President Obama’s plan to take military action against the terrorist organization the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). We are in complete agreement on this issue. You will be pleased to know that I voted against the authorization to arm Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. Unfortunately, the McKeon Amendment to train and equip Syrian rebels passed the House of Representatives 273-156.

Progress in Pakistan Depends on Women’s Participation

RIZWAN ZULFIGAR BHUTTA – Women have a vital role in the progress of human society. Yet, women’s contributions to progress aren’t always acknowledged by or even included in history books. In her 1998 book, “You Can’t Kill the Spirit: Women and Nonviolent Action,” writer Pam McAllister spotlights stories, struggles and contributions of women all over the world – stories that are often hidden in plain sight. The latest story comes from Pakistan, where local women are actively working toward social and political change at this very moment.

Study Shows Effects of Biomass Burning on Climate, Health

GLEN MARTIN – A Stanford University professor’s calculations indicate that wildfires and other types of fires involving plant matter play a much bigger role in climate change and human health than previously thought. It has long been known that biomass burning — burning forests to create agricultural lands, burning savannah as a ritual , slash-and-burn agriculture and wildfires — figures into both climate change and public health. But until the release of a new study by Stanford University Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, the degree of that contribution had never been comprehensively quantified.

Pentagon Preparing for Mass Civil Breakdown

DR. NAFEEZ AHMED – A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.” Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”

Kitzhaber Comes Out Against Coal Exports

GOVERNOR JOHN KITZHABER – The future for Oregon and the West Coast does not lie in nineteenth century energy sources. The 21st century will mark the transition to clean energy sources, and the regions that lead this transition will be the places where our families will find the jobs of the future. I intend that this will be one such region.

Evangelicals Call for Action on Climate Change

ALAN NEUHAUSER – Hundreds of evangelical Christians gathered across the country Thursday for a “Day of Prayer and Action” on climate change. The event, made up of vigils, speeches and discussions, was part of a weeklong series being held on 20 Christian college campuses this week, all geared toward spurring churches and local communities to reduce harmful carbon emissions, educate local residents about the effects of climate change, and fight the rise of temperatures and greenhouse gases worldwide.

NSA Phone Collection Does Not Prevent Terrorism, According to Report

ANITA KUMAR – [January 13, 2014] A new analysis of 225 terrorism cases in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks indicates that the National Security Agency’s massive collection of phone records had a “minimal” on preventing acts of terrorism, according to a report released Monday by the New America Foundation, a Washington nonprofit group.

The Man Behind the Exploding Trains

ERIC DE PLACE and RICH FELDMAN – In our previous installment, we explored how unsafe DOT-111s, the Ford Pinto of rail cars, make up the vast majority of oil-filled tank cars now riding the rails in North America. With DOT-111s, there is no margin for error. A serious derailment will almost always lead to oil spills or explosions. But if they are so clearly dangerous, why are these tank cars still on the rails? The reason, in short, is because the railroad and rail car industries have opposed new safety regulations. (The oil and ethanol industries have abetted their cause.)

Encouraging News from Oregon’s Junior Senator

JEFF MERKLEY – As a new member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve fought to invest in, rather than undermine, our environment. And I have some good news: in the compromise spending bill that passed Congress (in late January), we secured renewed support for our Northwest environment, and succeeded in pushing back on several policy riders that could have devastated our air, our water, and our efforts to combat climate change.

Update: Radiation Leaks from New Mexico Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Facility

SUSAN GORDON – [February 21, 2014] Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) has carefully followed information about the radiation leak from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) that was first identified at approximately 11:30 pm on Friday, February 14, 2014. (See PeaceWorker article, “Excessive Radiation Levels Detected at New Mexico Waste Site,” published Feb. 22, 2014.)

Kentucky Senators Boost Your Electric Bill

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON – Kentucky’s two Republican senators, who built their political careers railing against unions and government spending, stuck people and businesses in the Pacific Northwest with hundreds of millions of dollars of debts plus higher costs for electricity. They did it to save union jobs by wasting millions in federal dollars. Confused? Hold tight. It gets worse. (Or better, if you live in Kentucky.)