Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Lingering Danger of Google & Facebook

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

"These Kids Can't Wait": New Win in Youth Climate Lawsuit in Washington

Judge orders state Department of Ecology to create new rules to cap emissions by end of 2016

Friday's ruling is "the first time [that] a U.S. court not only recognized the extraordinary harms young people are facing due to climate change, but ordered an agency to do something about it." (Photo: Joe Brusky/flickr/cc)
The young activists suing the U.S. government over its role in climate change scored another victory in court on Friday, as a judge in Seattle ordered the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) to announce an emissions reduction rule by the end of the year and make recommendations to reach those targets to the state legislature in 2017.

King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill also ordered the department to consult with the young plaintiffs on crafting those recommendations.

"This is an urgent situation," Hill said in issuing the order. "These kids can't wait."

The DOE in February withdrew its proposal to cap emissions, following a landmark ruling in November 2015 which found that the state's current standards fail to "preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations."

Friday's ruling is "the first time [that] a U.S. court not only recognized the extraordinary harms young people are facing due to climate change, but ordered an agency to do something about it," said Andrea Rodgers, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who represents the young plaintiffs. The DOE "is now court-ordered to issue a rule that fulfills its constitutional and public trust duty to ensure Washington does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the planet."

The case in Washington is one of several similar legal battles underway in the U.S., all supported by the environmental advocacy group Our Children's Trust, as youth activists take U.S. agencies to court to demand action over climate change. An Oregon judge ruled earlier this month that a complaint filed by more than a dozen young plaintiffs against the federal government—referred to by advocates as "the most important lawsuit on the planet right now"—can go to trial.

"It was absurd for [the DOE] to withdraw its proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions," petitioner Aji Piper, 15, who is taking part in both the state and federal lawsuits, said in a statement on Friday. "Especially after Judge Hill declared last fall that our 'very survival depends upon the will of [our] elders to act now…to stem the tide of global warming.'"

Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel at Our Children's Trust, added, "This case explains why youth around this country, and in several other countries, are forced to bring their governments to court to secure a healthy atmosphere and stable climate. Despite clear scientific evidence and judicial recognition of the urgency of the climate crisis, Washington and most governments across the U.S. and other countries are failing to take correspondingly urgent, science-based action."

"That failure unfairly consigns youth to a disproportionately bleak future against which they can only reasonably ask the courts to step in to address this most sensitive issue of our time," Olson said.

India drought: Bihar state bans daytime cooking

Bihar state forbids any cooking between 9am and 6pm in bid to prevent accidental fires that have killed dozens.

With sizzling temperatures claiming more than 300 lives this month in India, officials have banned daytime cooking in some parts of the drought-stricken country in a bid to prevent accidental fires that have killed nearly 80 more people.
"We call this the fire season in Bihar," Vyas, a state disaster management official who goes by one name, said. "Strong, westerly winds stoke fires which spread easily and cause great damage."
The eastern state of Bihar this week took the unprecedented step of forbidding any cooking between 9am and 6pm, after accidental fires exacerbated by dry, hot and windy weather swept through shantytowns and thatched-roof houses in villages and killed 79 people.
People were instead told to cook at night.
Among those who died were 10 children and five adults killed in a fire sparked during a Hindu prayer ceremony in Bihar's Aurangabad district last week.
Hoping to prevent more fires, officials have also banned the burning of spent crops and religious fire rituals. Anyone defying the ban risks up to two years in jail, the Times of India reported. 
Many politicians decried the move, according to the paper.
"[The] government should instead focus on increasing the number of fire tenders and repairing those which are not functional," said opposition politician Sanjay Mayukh, a member of the right-wing Indian People's Party (BJP). 

Danish Rizwan, a spokesperson for the centre-right Indian People's Front (HAM), said that "the main reason behind massive fire in rural areas is that huts have rooftops of straw", urging the government to provide them with alternative housing rather than ban cooking in the day hours.
Much of India is reeling under a weeks-long heat wave and severe drought conditions that have decimated crops, killed livestock and affected at least 330 million Indians - many of them left without enough water for their daily needs.
Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in parts of the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, and overall officials say that groundwater reservoirs are at just 22 percent capacity.
In some areas, the situation is so bad the government has sent tankers of water for emergency relief. Monsoon rains are still weeks away, expected to start only in June.
At least 300 people have died of heat-related illness this month, including 110 in the state of Orissa, 137 in Telangana and another 45 in Andhra Pradesh where temperatures since the start of April have been hovering around 44C.
That is about 4-5C hotter than normal for April, according to state meteorological official YK Reddy. He predicted the situation would only get worse in May, traditionally the hottest month in India.

Huge numbers of farmers have migrated to nearby cities and towns in search of manual labour, often leaving elderly and young relatives behind in parched villages.
This week, more than 150 leading Indian economists, rights activists and academics expressed their "collective anxiety about the enormous suffering of the rural poor" in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The letter says the official response to the crisis has been "sadly listless, lacking in both urgency and compassion," and urges Modi to restore funding for a government programme guaranteeing 100 days of paid work a year for the poor and unemployed.
This is the second consecutive year southern India has suffered from a deadly heat wave, after about 2,500 people died in scorching temperatures last year.

The sickening campaign to silence Corbyn and the Left by exploiting victims of the Holocaust

It is time to speak out against the concerted and, loosely, coordinated effort to silence Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and critics of Israel, by smearing them as anti-semites. As a journalist who has been engaged in the Israel-Palestinian conflict since I was 20 years old, this tactic is nothing new to me. But I have never witnessed (in the UK at least) the kind of sustained and widespread attacks that have happened in recent weeks. For this reason, it’s time to put forward a powerful statement on why our team at The Canaryrefuse to be censored by this hypocritical and cynical smear campaign.
How it works
It appears that enemies of Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive plans for the Labour party have discovered some common ground. Blairites within the party and the media, along with their conservative peers and the pro-Israel lobby, all lose out if Corbyn succeeds. So, in short, they are seeking to take him out of play by hitting him where it is mutually beneficial – his long-standing criticism of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
The efforts to deliberately confuse anti-Zionism (criticism of the political movement to establish an apartheid Jewish state), and anti-semitism (the prejudice and persecution of Jewish people) are longstanding. Israeli advocacy groups within the EU have been attempting to formalise the bogus definition of anti-semitism since at least 2005. As Ben White reports for Alternet, as recently as March 30 this year:
Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, revived the discredited definition by publishing it on the government’s website.
By setting up this framework, such groups simply have to wait for someone to make a criticism of Israel – then launch their attack. Here’s how it works:
Some journalist or pro-Israel group seize on an anti-Israel statement (generally scouring social media accounts over years). They then release it as a shocking revelation. Pundits and political opponents then whip up some mock outrage until they can force a resignation or suspension – and so they go on repeating with each subsequent target.
In the case of Labour activist Vicky Kirby, the allegations of anti-semitism absolutely bear true. Her statements were despicable and indefensible. However, since then, the project has expanded to include any and all expressions of outrage at Israeli atrocities.
The treatment of Naz Shah is a case in point. The contemptible conservative blogger Guido Fawkes released a Facebook post that Shah published during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza. The post stated that the solution for the conflict would be to relocate Israel to the US as a 51st state. Is that emotive? Yes. Does it make a powerful political point? Yes. Israel receives more than $3bn every year in defense funding from the US, which it uses to enforce a brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine. Israel is an apartheid state, and it was certainly not considered racist to call for British occupiers to get out of the colonies of Rhodesia, South Africa and elsewhere – even those colonialists who had lived in the country for generations.
It is also worth noting that none of these come-lately crusaders against anti-semitism utter a word against Israel when its statesmen and women call openly for the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinians. Jewish-Israeli journalist David Sheen provided staggering testimony to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine recently, which tore the hasbara veil from Israel. How much of this has ever been reported by the UK journalists currently expressing such horror at the thought of racism, ethnic cleansing and genocide? Answer: none.
Who are the real anti-semites?
The truth is, the scourge of anti-semitism is not the preserve of the left, or Labour, or any political or social group. Prejudice rears its ugly head everywhere, and should be dealt with powerfully – regardless of source. It should certainly not be used as some political football, and turned into a point-scoring effort. But this is exactly what the groups are doing to Corbyn and the progressive left.
If you want a glimpse into just how far such attackers are willing to go to smear critics of Israel, these examples provide a devastating insight.
During 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, 327 Holocaust survivors and their descendants wrote an open letter to Israel calling its treatment of Palestinians by its proper name — genocide.
These people, who survived the worst nightmares of the Nazi regime, said clearly:
“Genocide begins with the silence of the world.
‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”
So how did Israelis react to this letter?  Here are just a sample of the responses from Jewish Israelis on Facebook:
Katy Morali: Holocaust survivors who think like this are invited to go die in the gas chambers.
Shmulik Halphon: He’s invited to go back to Auschwitz.
Meir Dahan: No wonder Hitler murdered 6 million Jews because of people like you you’re not even Jews you’re disgusting people a disgrace to humanity and so are your offspring you are trash.
Asher Solomon: It’s a shame Hitler didn’t finish the job.
Sickening. But it isn’t just Jewish-Israeli yobs on Facebook who denounce the memory of holocaust victims and survivors for political ends. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did just the same when addressing US Congress last year. The Israeli PM echoed a distasteful trope – common in modern, muscular Israeli society – that victims of the Nazi holocaust were too weak. The libel won huge applause by Congress and mass support on Twitter.
However, Jewish-American journalist Max Blumenthal was quick to point out the implications of this slight on victims of the Nazi holocaust.
Here in the UK, Blairite columnist and Twitterati figurehead Dan Hodges was recently approached by a Jewish person who politely requested he stop exploiting anti-semitism for political ends. Hodges gave a breathtakingly anti-semitic response, denouncing him as a “useful Jewish idiot.”
Israel and her advocates have long advanced this plan of attack. Non-Jews who criticise Israel are anti-semites, and Jews who criticise Israel are “self-hating” or “traitors.”
It is not conspiracy theory, but fact, that Israel has a propaganda department devoted to producing ‘hasbara‘ – that is positive positioning of Israel, and the assault of critics. This is not just in the mainstream media, and corridors of power around the world, but on social media too. The Israeli government pays studentsthousands of dollars a year to praise Israel and attack critics online. These students report Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and other online forums in efforts to shut down criticism of Israel online – with accusations of anti-semitism. As veteran Jewish-Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz last year, in a devastatingly critical piece entitled “Israeli Propaganda Isn’t Fooling Anyone Except Israelis“:
propaganda shall cover for everything. We’ll say terrorism, we’ll shout anti-Semitism, we’ll scream delegitimisation, we’ll cite the Holocaust;…We’ll wail that the whole world is against us and wants to destroy us, no less.
You can blame the Palestinians for everything and obscure the simple fact that this brutal occupation is Israeli. You can tell the world that it all belongs to us because the Bible says so and believe that anyone will take you seriously. You can be sure that the memory of the Holocaust will serve us forever, and justify any injustice.
Levy has paid a high price for his long term support of the Palestinians and his role as one of Israel’s fiercest internal critics. When I interviewed him in 2014, shortly before I entered Gaza to report on Operation Protective Edge, the Chairman of the governing Likud Party coalition and member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) Yariv Levin actually called for Levy to be put on trial for treason.
“Gideon Levy is the lowest kind of provocateur,” Levin told Israel’s leading Channel 2 news. “When someone who lives among you turns himself into an enemy mouthpiece, while spreading lies, out of the hope that this will undermine your ability to wage war – this is called, in simple Hebrew, ‘treason’.
He is frequently accosted in the street, such as this incident in Ashkelon, where he was mobbed by angry fellow citizens, one of whom thrust money into his palm and told him to put it towards a new home in Gaza.
Bystanders yell at Gideon Levy in Ashkelon, July 14, 2014 Photo: Haaretz
This is how Israel deals with critics: it jails them, kills them, or denounces them.
We will not be silenced
Our organisation stands for the rights of Palestinians (and Israelis) to live in peace and justice. It is because of the lessons learned from racist, colonial travesties of the past, including the Nazi holocaust, that we cannot sit in silence while something equally horrid is perpetrated in Israel.
I write this as an LGBT woman who’s caribbean grandfather migrated to Britain in the 1950’s. He met and married a white Bristolian woman, and faced unimaginable prejudice. I am not prejudice-free, in fact I stumble upon unacknowledged prejudices of my own time and again. But I am committed to exposing and ending those prejudices.
Let us be honest, no one is more delighted by the atrocities of the likes of Mugabe, ISIS, or indeed Israel, than those who hold racial/religious prejudice towards the perpetrators. It is a toxic element of the human condition that people seek justification for their prejudices. So let me be clear: anyone seeking to cloak their bigotry under the petticoats of persecution meted out to the Palestinians will find no sanctuary here.
For enemies of Corbyn and the progressive left to leverage this into a sickening smear campaign against all those who stand against prejudice – to abuse the memory of holocaust victims for their own political ends – is almost beneath our contempt. We denounce these appalling tactics in the strongest terms. They are repulsive and repugnant, and they have no place in our public conversation.
The Canary exists to confront anti-semitism. Not only anti-semitism, but all prejudice, whether based on race, sexuality, gender or anything else. Which is more than can be said for those promoting the campaign against Corbyn and the progressive wing of the Labour party right now. If you agree, make this stand with us. Call out prejudice wherever you find it, and let’s have the same policy for bullshit too.

Remember the Golan Heights?

By Eric Margolis

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian forces had surprised Israel and were fast approaching the edge of the steep Golan Heights, captured by Israel during the 1967 war. It seemed as if Syrian armor and infantry would retake Golan, then pour down into Israeli Galilee.

Soviet recon satellites observed Israel moving its nuclear-armed, 500km-range Jericho missiles out of protective caves and onto their launch pads. At the same time, Israel was seen loading nuclear bombs on their US-supplied F-4 fighter-bombers at Tel Nof airbase.

Believing Israel was about to use nuclear weapons against Syria and Egypt, Moscow put huge pressure on both to rein in their advancing forces. Damascus, already in range of Israeli artillery on Golan, ordered its armored forces on Golan to halt, allowing Israel to mount powerful counter-attacks and retake the strategic heights.

In 1981, Israel formally annexed the 580 sq. mile portion of Golan that it occupied. This illegal annexation was condemned by the United Nations, the United States and Europe’ powers. But Israel held on to Golan and implanted 50,000 there in some 41 subsidized settlements.
The world has pretty much forgotten how close it came to nuclear war in 1973 over Golan. The heights became a primary nuclear trigger point along with Kashmir, Germany’s Fulda Gap, and the DMZ, Korea’s inner border.

The long basalt plateau is indeed a valuable prize. It extends from snow-capped, 9,200 ft. (2,814 meter Mt. Hermon in the north to the Sea of Galilee and Yarmouk River in the south.  Golan supplies 15% of Israel’s scarce water and may contain gas or petroleum deposits.

Israeli artillery on Golan can hit Syria’s capitol Damascus; Israeli electronic sensors blanket Damascus and cover all Syrian military movement below. Having walked much of the Golan on both Syrian and Israeli-held sides, I can attest to its remarkable military importance and thick defenses.

After the 1967 war, Israel ethnically cleansed Golan, leveling the capital, Kuneitra, with bulldozers and expelled almost all Golan’s 130,000 Druze and Arab inhabitants. Jewish settlers were brought in to replace them. The US shielded Israel from UN action and world-wide protests.

Before 2011, Israel hinted that it would return Golan to Syria as part of a comprehensive peace agreement – provided Damascus ceased supporting Palestinian claims to their lost lands. But once the Syrian civil war conveniently began, there was no more talk of Golan. 

In fact, it’s pretty much clear that Israel has been quietly fueling the Syrian conflict by discreet arms and logistics support to so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels and lobbying for the war in Washington and with the US media.  Netanyahu has even said – with a straight face – that Israel cannot return Golan or even negotiate, until calm returns to Syria and Iraq.

Netanyahu is clearly following the grand strategy of the founder of his rightwing Likud Party, Zeev Jabotinsky, a militant Russian Zionist. Jabotinsky asserted that the Arab states were an artificial, fragile mosaic of inimical Arab tribes.

Hit them hard enough, claimed Jabotinsky, and they will shatter into small pieces, leaving Israel master of the Levant (central Arab world). The destruction of Iraq and Syria have confirmed Jabotinsky’s theory.

Accordingly, Israel is delighted to see Syria, a primary foe, lying in ruins as a result of a US, British, French, Turkish and Saudi-instigated civil war. Damascus is in no shape to demand the return of Golan, and the rest of the world does not care.

The destruction of Syria as a unitary state offers the expansionist Likud government many opportunities to extend influence into Syria – as was the case in Lebanon during its bloody 1975-1990 civil war. Or even carve off more Syrian territory “to protect Israel’s security.”

The words of Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, still resonate: the state of Israel is a work in progress and its borders should not be fixed or even defined. Notably the borders with Syria and Jordan.

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

Sikh Man Falsely Accused of Terrorism Demands Accountability for Accusers


Daljeet Singh is demanding that Texas law enforcement agencies file criminal charges against individuals who allegedly falsely accused him of a terrorist bomb threat and who allegedly restrained him on a Greyhound bus while traveling through Amarillo, Texas, on Feb. 21, 2016, according to The Sikh Coalition, which is representing Singh.
"The only crime I committed was wearing a turban, having a beard, and speaking in a different language to another brown man on a bus," Singh said in a statement. "I still cannot believe that this happened to me in America."
As an observant Sikh originally from India, Singh wears a turban and beard as articles of his faith. Singh had recently been granted asylum and was travelling from Phoenix, Arizona, to Indianapolis, Indiana, to begin his new life in America. According to The Sikh Coalition, Singh speaks almost no English, and while on the bus, he met a Pakistani-American man, Mohammed Chotri, who spoke Punjabi. The two men sat and conversed together in Punjabi during the cross-country bus ride.
According to The Sikh Coalition, a woman on the bus reported to police that the two men were "acting weird," speaking Arabic, and discussing a bomb. In Amarillo, Texas, two other passengers detained Singh and Chotri in their seats until police came and arrested them at gunpoint. Police also removed Singh's turban and distributed mug shots of him without his turban to local media. He was detained for approximately 30 hours. After being interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation through a Punjabi language interpreter, both men were cleared of all allegations of wrongdoing, and no charges were filed.
"Whether it's a Sikh man on a Greyhound bus, or an Arabic speaker on a Southwest airplane, the xenophobic fear and bigotry in our country is out of control," Gurjot Kaur, senior staff attorney at The Sikh Coalition, told NBC News. "By filing this complaint, we hope to bring attention to the crisis facing minority communities today. The list of things brown people can't do on public transportation is growing — we can't get a can of Diet Coke, we can't switch seats on a bus or a plane, we can't speak in a language other than English, really we can't be human beings."
NBC News contacted Potter County Attorney Scott Brumley for comment Thursday morning. He has yet to respond.
Brumley told NBC Affiliate KAMR-TV that the investigation into the passenger who made the complaint is ongoing, but to prosecute he would have to show proof that the passenger knowingly filed a false police report.

Iran Asks UN Chief to Intervene on US Asset Seizure

FM Warns US Disregard for Sovereign Immunity Has 'Catastrophic Implications'

by Jason Ditz

Tensions over the US Supreme Court ruling allowing the seizure of nearly $2 billion in Iranian central bank assets to pay for the 1983 Beirut bombing continue to rise, with Iran’s Foreign Ministry asking UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intervene in the process.
The concept of sovereign immunity does not generally allow foreign states to be held accountable for their actions, and under US law there are very narrow exceptions. Indeed, US law explicitly forbids taking central bank money on top of this, though in the case of Iran multiple moves by presidents and a 2012 act of Congress allowed for this exception. Iran denies any involvement in the 1983 bombing at any rate.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif urged Ban to do something about the US moves, citing the “catastrophic implications” of the seizure of the frozen assets. Zarif has also been meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry regularly in recent days, though this seems to center more around the US blocking implementation of the sanctions relief under the nuclear deal than the asset seizure, as the former is potentially a matter of tens, if nor hundreds of billions of dollars.
Coincidentally, the question of sovereign immunity under US law is also a major one in a Congressional bill aiming to expose any nation found to be funding terrorism. This bill is aimed primarily at Saudi Arabia, and led the Saudi government to threaten to collapse the US economy through the sale of treasury assets.

Over 60 Killed in 24 Hours as Aleppo Violence Worsens

Airstrikes, Shelling Taking Heavy Toll on Civilians

by Jason Ditz, 

Dozens have been killed seemingly every day lately in the northern city of Aleppo, and seems to be escalating even further, with over 60 people killed, overwhelmingly if not exclusively civilians, in the past 24 hours as the Syrian military and al-Qaeda trade shots in the contested city.
Last night’s violence, which began the 24-hour span, saw an airstrike hitting and destroying a major hospital in the al-Qaeda-held eastern portion of the city, killing at least 27 civilians. 34 more civilians were killed on Thursday, including at least 14 civilians killed in al-Qaeda’s shelling of the city’s west.
Aleppo has been a contested city throughout the five year civil war, with initial pushes by rebels and military into the city being presented as likely to be decisive in the conflict. The predictions of victory didn’t pan out for either, but the presentation of Aleppo as a mirror for the overall war may have been prescient, as both the city and the nation have been war torn disasters ever since.
The surging death toll in Aleppo comes as the ceasefire, in place since late February, seems to be collapsing, though with al-Qaeda itself not a party to the pact, the violence there is largely symptomatic of an increased willingness to fight, as opposed to outright violations of the deal.