Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tantrums and Terror Alerts: Obama in the Age of Snowden

Obama Tantrum and US Global Terror Alert Belie Washington’s Inner Panic over Russia and Snowden

by Finian Cunningham - SCF

It’s the diplomatic equivalent of the proverbial spoiled child picking up the ball and walking off in a huff – because the others “won’t play by my rules”.

After weeks of threatening to cancel the G20 one-to-one meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the White House has finally gone into full temper tantrum mode. The day after US President Barack Obama appeared on a TV chat show earlier this week complaining about Putin “slipping into Cold War mentality”, the White House announced that the planned bilateral meeting between the two leaders will not now be taking place.

Obama and Putin were scheduled to have one-on-one discussions early next month in Moscow just days before the G20 summit in St Petersburg. The last time the two leaders met was on 17 June during the G9 conference held in Northern Ireland. That encounter was markedly frosty, largely because Putin rebuffed Obama and other Western leaders who had attempted to pressure the Russian president into cutting ties with the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

Since then, US-Russia relations have nosedived – largely at Washington’s insistence – with the emergence of the Snowden row. Former CIA contractor Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow on 23 June to escape an extradition bid by the US government to arraign him in Hong Kong. Snowden’s revelations of massive illegal spying and information gathering by the US National Security Agency have been making international headlines since early June when he first made his disclosures.

The US immediately began pressuring Russia to hand over Snowden to face charges of espionage. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty, but as Obama made clear during his TV chat show appearance this week, the US fully expected Russia to comply with its demands. Obama told his host, Jay Leno: “Even though we don’t have an extradition treaty with them [Russia], traditionally we have tried to respect if there’s a law breaker or alleged law breaker in their country, we evaluate it, and we try to work with them.”

For five weeks, Snowden was forced to live in a netherworld at Moscow’s international airport because Washington took the unprecedented step of revoking his passport. That meant the 30-year-old American could not travel on to Latin American where he originally planned to seek political asylum, and had to then apply for temporary sanctuary in Russia. Russian officials granted a one-year asylum last week and Snowden has since been able to leave the airport transit lounge for a relatively normalised life.

From the outset of Snowden’s arrival in Moscow, Putin had said matter-of-factly that Russia would not extradite the whistleblower. Russian officials calmly explained that they were obligated under international law to offer asylum to anyone seeking to avoid political persecution. Given the mistreatment of other American whistleblowers under the Obama administration, including US soldier and Wikileaks source, Bradley Manning, currently undergoing a court martial trial after years of solitary confinement, there are strong grounds to believe that Snowden would likewise face similar persecution, not to mention a prejudiced trial, if he were returned to the US.

By contrast, however, Washington has become increasingly petulant, even hysterical, in its demands to Russia. One week after arriving in Moscow, US secretary of state John Kerry said that Russia should be “calm and hand over” the fugitive. Before Russia’s official granting of asylum, US attorney general Eric Holder proffered the bizarre and somewhat desperate-sounding deal with Moscow that if it sent Snowden back to face prosecution that “he would not be tortured or face the death penalty”.

Prominent US senators have in recent weeks even called for the complete cancellation of the G20 summit in St Petersburg. Before the latest announcement of Obama snubbing his one-to-one meeting with Putin, White House spokesman Jay Carney had said the administration was “evaluating the utility” of that meeting – words that were intended as a slight to Putin’s authority.

Now the White House has finally shown its scornful hand by scrubbing the two leaders’ forthcoming discussions – a move that is widely seen as an unprecedented diplomatic blow.

Ironically, American Senator Charles Schumer, one of the most outspoken on Capitol Hill pushing for the G20 summit to be moved to a different country, said of the cancellation: “President Putin is acting like a school-yard bully and doesn’t deserve the respect a bilateral summit would have accorded him.” Senator Schumer found the apt metaphor all right, but applied it to the wrong person.

Even prior to the latest snub from Obama to Putin, Russian officials have voiced bewilderment at Washington’s foot stamping over the Snowden case.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency: “The US administration is bringing into question bilateral contact at the highest level. I think this is an absolute distortion of reality; it’s looking at the world in a crooked mirror,” adding that it was “unclear why the United States is blowing up the situation with Snowden”.

The conclusion is hard to miss: Washington at the highest levels is panicked by what further embarrassing revelations will emerge from Snowden. Snowden has been granted asylum by Russia on condition that he does not reveal any more damaging leaks about US illegal spying and other illicit covert US government conduct. But as the whistleblower has said he is no longer in control of the leaked information that he has already divulged to journalists. One of those journalists, Glenn Greenwald, disclosed that he is in possession of as many as 20,000 top-secret files furnished to him by Snowden from up to a month ago – way before his asylum conditions were set – and that he intends to go ahead with publishing the contents of those files in coming weeks.

Greenwald, who works for the British Guardian newspaper, has said that those classified files contain even more damaging information than has already been published with regard to unconstitutional practices of the US government, and its international lawlessness towards foreign governments, including supposed allies.

For the US authorities that prospect must be deeply unsettling. The massive surveillance programs already revealed have shown that the US agencies, such as the NSA and CIA, have been willfully violating the constitutional rights of American citizens. Not only have the rights of millions of Americans been violated, so too have those of citizens and governments all over the world.

Furthermore, Snowden’s disclosures have also shown that President Obama and senior officials at the NSA have been lying to the American Congress and people about the invasiveness of the surveillance. That is an impeachable offence under US law. This week, Obama again reiterated the official claim that the US intelligence agencies are not spying on the American population and are not collecting the contents of phone calls, email and other communications. These claims have been exposed as barefaced lies by Snowden’s revelations of systematic, warrant-less tapping by the NSA spy programs, such as XKeyscore, Prism, and Boundless Informant.

There is also the very real prospect that Snowden’s files may reveal explosive secrets going back to the 9/11 alleged terror attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. It has been long suspected by many analysts and experts that the official narrative on those purported attacks is a cover-up for something much more sinister, such as US government collusion for secret strategic interests. Then there are the US overseas’ military interventions and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that were supposedly premised on the “global war on terror”, as well as the countless emergency powers that the US government enforced under the draconian Patriot and Homeland Security Acts.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Washington’s temper tantrum towards Russia following its granting of asylum to Edward Snowden also comes with the US issuing a global terror alert. The closure of some 20 embassies and consular sites by Washington is, we are led to believe, due to “increased chatter” of “imminent terror attacks”. That dramatic move is based on vague, unspecified information that only Washington allegedly knows the secret details of. But it smacks of a propaganda stunt with two-fold hidden purposes: to give a semblance of legitimacy to the US criminal spying programs; and, secondly, to undermine the credibility of Edward Snowden and, by extension, Russia…

The extraordinary escalation of Washington’s diplomatic spat with Moscow suggests that the US is deeply rattled by what more damage may emerge for its international standing – a standing that is already in tatters. Before any further damage is done, Washington is trying to pick up the ball and change the rules of the game.

Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism.

This article was originally published at SCF

Syria's Permanent Palestinian Refugee Camps Become Battlegrounds

Vows of ‘Occupation Until Martyrdom’

by Franklin Lamb

Homs Palestinian Camp, Syria - Jihadists are entering Syria at an accelerating pace, according to Syrian, UNWRA, and Palestinian officials as well as residents in the refugee camps here. For the now-estimated 7000 imported foreign fighters, Palestinian camps are seen as optimal locales for setting up bases across Syria.
“Syria’s Palestinian camps have become theaters of war,” said UNWRA Commissioner Filippo Grandi.
The Syrian people compassionately host 10 official, UN-mandated Palestinian camps, along with three unofficial ones, whose populations total at least 230,000. Eight of these are “Nakba (“catastrophe”) camps,” organized soon after Palestinians were expelled from their homes in 1948, while two, Qabr Essit and Dera’a (emergency camp), are “Naksa (“day of setback”) camps.” The latter were set up in 1967 as a result of the internationally condemned Zionist-colonial aggression against the two sister-Arab-nationalist regions—Palestine’s West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights.

And it was on the Ides of March of the year 2011 we saw an explosion of violence near one of these camps, the Dera’a camp established in 1950, in the south near the Jordanian border.

But first, perhaps a simple listing of the camps, along with their populations and dates of establishment, would be in order here:

  • 1950, Dera’a, 5,916
  • 1967, Dera’a (Emergency), 5,536
  • 1950, Hama, 7,597
  • 1949, Homs, 13,825
  • 1948, Jaramana, 5,007
  • 1950, Khan Dunoun, 8,603
  • 1949, Khan Eshieh, 15,731
  • 1948, Neirab, 17,994
  • 1967, Qabr Essit, 16,016
  • 1948, Sbeineh, 19,624
  • 1955-6, Latakia camp, 6,534 registered refugees
  • 1957, Yarmouk Camp, 112,550 registered refugees
  • 1962, Ein Al-Tal, 4,329 registered refugees

As of 8/8/13, seven of the camps—two in the north and five in the Damascus area and in the south of Syria—are presently with their throats under the jackboot of foreign Salafi-Jihadists. These jihadist cells moved against the camps early in the current crisis for purposes of forced recruitment, to benefit from a supply of noncombatant human shields, to shakedown the residents and take over UNWRA facilities, and to make use of the erstwhile “refugee camp security zones.” All these steps were precursory to the setting up of military bases from which to launch operations aimed at toppling the current government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

How do the jihadists infiltrate the camps?

How is it possible that more than half of the Palestinian camps in Syria not only fell, but did so, regrettably, without all that much resistance, to the point at which we see them now—dominated by largely foreign jihadists who continue to impose their unwanted extremist religious beliefs on a largely progressive secular Palestinian community? It is a subject currently much discussed here.

This observer has deduced from a number of conversations—with former and current camp residents, as well as members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Palestinian NGO’s, and also with academics—that there is a ‘model of occupation’ metastasizing in Syria in a manner strikingly similar to what we saw six years ago at Nahr al Bared Palestinian camp near Tripoli Lebanon. The stories we hear today are quite similar to those from among the nearly 30,000 refugees at Nahr al Bared who were forced to flee to the nearby Badawi camp or to Lebanon’s ten other camps—reports related to this observer in visits to Nahr al Bared in May of 2007.

What we hear today in Syria bears an almost uncanny likeness. For instance one lady, whose family is from Safad in occupied Palestine explained: “First they (the intruders) appeared only a few in number. We noticed them and that some had ‘foreign’ accents and wore conservative clothes, most had beards. They were polite and friendly. Then more arrived, a few followed by women and children. They stayed to themselves at first and they began using the local mosque—even being welcomed at first by local sheiks who sometimes expressed admiration for the sincerity and devoutness. Then some of them began to preach their versions of the Koran, and at some point their gentle teaching became more strident, and soon these men were commenting on how some of the Palestinian women dressed in an un-Islamic fashion and even lectured young women about modesty and that they must change their ways, including stop smoking, and to leave public meetings if they were the only women present, and wear a full hijab.”

The lady’s sister interrupted: “Then guns appeared and some of the men appeared to be very skilled when they would use, for example, a school or playground to train. They were so serious and seemed to be in a trance of some kind. There was no possibility to talk or reason with them. All they seemed to want was martyrdom! Some actually believe that Syria was Palestine and they were here to liberate Al Quds!”

Upon some in the camps it began to dawn that the newcomers intended imposing their ideas, and that they fully intended that camp residents should submit to “pure Islam,” as they view it. Some resistance began to jell from camp residents, but the camp popular committees did not have the power to confront them, and a few actually joined them. The fighting with Syrian government troops accelerated the takeover process, and soon the camp residents were presented with a demand: join the gunmen and “liberate” the camps.

With respect to Ahmad Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command—and no offense meant to them and their officials, with whom this observer met in July and early August—but several of their best Palestinian patriot commanders jumped ship in protest against the plan to “liberate” Yarmouk. At the same time many of the PFLP-GC rank-and-file fighters split and joined the opposition for various reasons, including better pay and wanting to be on the presumed winning side. That being said, however, camp residents overwhelmingly rejected the PFLP-GC “defense” project, and insisted that their camp was neutral, that it was to be maintained as a safe zone for its residents, who were guests in Syria pending their return to still-occupied Palestine.

Again, this chain of events is singularly similar to what we saw (too late as it turned out) in Lebanon’s Nahr al Bared, a process which, like the one unfolding now in Syria, was accelerated by the civil war raging here.

There is fear that the Syrian army will sooner or later attack and destroy the camps in order to confront the rebel militias—similar to what the Lebanese army did during the 75 days of shelling in 2007. At that time it took vengeance on the camp and demolished it in an unjustifiable frenzy of shelling for the criminal attack and killing of some Lebanese troops, an attack that had been carried out by camp invaders, not Palestinians. For Palestinians in Syria, it is the all too familiar fate of outsiders entering and seeking to control their camps, coupled with the threat of a host army attacking them to confront the invaders. The residents are once more killed or forced to flee and their homes are destroyed.

Here once more comes to mind the cliché: “Where is the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Council, the EU or the UN? Where’s Waldo?

In order to gain control of the camps in Syria, two main processes appear to be made use of by the al Qaeda affiliates. One is what this observer labels the ‘Nahr al Bared model”. A Popular Committee member from Yarmouk, who just barely escaped the camp before his home was destroyed by a direct hit mortar round, put it this way:
“Some come bearing gifts. They usually set up small problem solving centers. Maybe a little cash, offers of medical aid, bread distribution, pledges of camp security, these sorts of currently absent social services.”
But the camps quickly become petri dishes, and the explosive growth of the foreign implantations is sometimes dazzling. By the time government supporters report the camp invaders it’s too late. And what can the government do anyhow? Guns appear everywhere, and suddenly it’s no longer ‘nicely nicely’ polite treatment from the Islamic brothers. Residents are told they must help liberate the camp from the Assad regime or face the wrath of Allah. Consequently, fleeing for one’s life becomes an utmost urgency, often literally as the snipers arrive and intense fighting, and rooftop targeting, ensues.

Dodging the snipers

So what happens next to the Palestinian camps in Syria? Is a hopeful, positive or peaceful resolution possible? This observer’s 2-cents worth of analysis suggests that the answer is no. The camps will stay largely under the domination, militarily and socially, of the jihadist elements that continue building fortifications and ‘digging in.’ What is happening is a God-awful calamity, one being foisted upon those whose only prayers and wishes are to leave Syria and return home to reclaim their stolen lands.

A central question is the precarious situation in Yarmouk and the fate of the 18-20 percent of its population still remaining. These are people risking their lives daily trying to avoid snipers from both sides. One can hear speculation on the prospects that the Syrian Army, aided by Hezbollah, will move on Yarmouk to try and expel the rebel militia. Some PLO officials with offices inside the Yarmouk neighborhood claim that Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC is being beefed up and armed by the government with more than just AK47’s and RPG’s. Last winter, some of Jibril’s forces were expelled when they tried to eject the foreign militia, while others, as mentioned above, went over to the opposite side. At the same time, three PFLP-GC commanders quit over tactics while questioning Jibril’s decision to violate the camp’s neutrality, a decision leading to the destruction of parts of Yarmouk.

As to speculation on the possibility of the Syrian government and/or Hezbollah moving to eject the foreign forces from Yarmouk, this observer does not give the reports much credit. The Syrian Army has more urgent and prioritized battles being waged today, with others being planned. Hezbollah, likewise, is facing challenges at present, and fighting in Yarmouk against unknown numbers of rebel militia would surely add to them. Moreover, any force invading a Palestinian camp faces being roundly condemned over violations of the Cairo agreement forbidding host governments from entering UNRWA refugee camps.

This observer and contacts in the Palestinian community cannot verify the recent report for a foreign media source that al Nusra has fled Yarmouk and is on the run. On the run from whom? Currently they are not being seriously challenged. On the contrary, the al-Qeada affiliates are busy digging more tunnels under the camps to store weapons and move freely. Their ranks are growing not dwindling.

Grim as it sounds, they who reside in Syria’s camps, along with the 12 million Palestinian refugees worldwide, will continue to be at the mercy of events they had no part in creating. It is a fate they share at this moment with much of the rest of Syria’s population, and things are not likely to improve in the immediate term.

But on a more positive note, the Palestinians of Syria persist in their resistance and opposition to the illegal occupation of their country. Theirs is a determination to return to their homeland that simply will not fade or wither, and speaking with Palestinian refugees these past several days in Damascus and Homs has convinced this observer more than ever that on this they will not retreat a single inch—and that in time they will liberate their country.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o

Friday, August 09, 2013

It Can Wait: Ending Texting While Driving

It Can Wait

by Werner Herzog

Xzavier, Chandler, Debbie, and Reggie all know the horrors of texting & driving firsthand. Watch their stories in this It Can Wait Documentary.


Visit to take the pledge, and 
learn more about the dangers of texting while driving.

Not Just Following Orders: Nuremberg and Manning

Bradley Manning, the Nuremberg Charter and Refusing to Collaborate with War Crimes

by TRNN (Pt 3 of 4)

In this segment of Reality Asserts Itself, Paul Jay and Vijay Prashad discuss the Bradley Manning case in light of the 68th anniversary of signing the Nuremberg Charter which states it is illegal to follow orders to commit a war crime.

Vijay Prashad is a professor of international studies at Trinity College. Among the many books he has authored are The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World and Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. He also writes regularly for Asia Times Online, Frontline magazine and Counterpunch. 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

What Missiles Brought Low TWA 800

The Missiles that Brought Down TWA Flight 800

by David Swanson - War is a Crime

If the U.S. public began to raise a fuss about U.S. missile strikes that blow up large numbers of civilians at wedding parties abroad, it's not beyond the realm of the imaginable that the U.S. government would begin blaming the explosions on faulty candles in the wedding cakes. A similarly implausible excuse was used to explain the 1996 explosion of TWA flight 800 off Long Island, New York, and the U.S. public has thus far either swallowed the story whole or ignored the matter.

If you watch Kristina Borjesson's new film, TWA Flight 800, you'll see a highly persuasive case that this passenger jet full of passengers was brought down by missiles, killing all on board.

A CIA propaganda video aired by U.S. television networks fits with none of the known facts, makes the claim that there were no missiles, and offers no theory as to what then did cause the explosion(s) and crash into the sea.

A coverup by the FBI and the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) was blatant and extensive, involving intimidation of witnesses and investigators, tampering with evidence, false testimony before Congress, censoring reports, and numerous violations of normal protocols. Some of the government's own official investigators concluded that the explosion(s) occurred outside the airplane. They were not permitted to write analyses in their reports, as in every other investigation. Their reports were censored. They were forbidden to testify. Some 200 eyewitnesses -- people on the ground and in other planes, at least many of whom described seeing one or more missiles rising from the ground to the airplane -- were censored as well. Not a single witness was permitted to testify at the public hearing.

The military staged a test firing of missiles with witnesses, in an attempt to prove that the witnesses would either not see the missiles or testify inaccurately about what they saw. However, the witnesses all reported seeing the missiles well. The report on this test came to the opposite conclusion of what had been hoped for, but the government fed the original, hoped-for line to the media, which dutifully reported it.

Investigators thought and still think a missile or missiles brought down the plane. Eye-witnesses thought and still think the same. Explosives residue in the plane wreckage and other physical evidence in the wreckage suggests missile(s). Data from several different radars at the time of the disaster show pieces of the plane being blown off at speeds that could only have been generated by high explosives, not by a fuel tank exploding. Radar data also show the plane falling, not rising. (The CIA claimed, without offering any evidence, that the plane rose into the sky as it was exploding, thus accounting for witnesses' reports of seeing objects rising.) The damage to the seats and passengers in the plane was random, not greater closer to a fuel tank.

No more evidence was ever offered for a fuel tank exploding than could be offered in the theoretical fiction of a wedding cake exploding, or -- for that matter -- was ever offered for the Maine having been attacked by the Spanish in Havana harbor or for the Gulf of Tonkin incident having occurred or for the WMDs piling up in Iraq, or than has been offered thus far for the dreaded Iranian nuclear bomb program. There was no wiring near the fuel tank that could have caused it to explode and no other explanation than faulty wiring even hypothesized.

The film concludes that likely three missiles were shot from near the Long Island coast, including at least one from a ship at sea. The film does not address the question of who did this or why. But it presents the evidence that it happened, and that the coverup began immediately, with the disaster site being quickly closed off and guarded by roughly 1,000 police officers, roughly half of them FBI -- not the normal procedure for a plane crash. The likely speculation is, of course, that the U.S. military committed this crime. Was someone on the plane targeted for murder, and everyone else killed in the process? Was this a test of technology? Was it a mistake? Was it part of some larger plot that failed to develop? I don't know.

But I do know that the nation didn't go into a collective state of vicious rabid insanity, demanding vengeance against evildoers who hate us for our freedoms. No nations were destroyed in a sick parody of justice following the destruction of TWA flight 800. But neither were those responsible held publicly accountable in any way.

The New York Times seems impressed by the film and favors a new investigation but laments the supposed lack of any entity that could credibly perform an investigation. Think about that. The U.S. government comes off as so untrustworthy in the film that it can't be trusted to re-investigate itself. And a leading newspaper, whose job it ought to be to investigate the government, feels at a loss for what to do without a government that can credibly and voluntarily perform the media's own job for it and hold itself accountable.

The New York Post, too, takes the film quite seriously, and simply recounts its arguments without adding any commentary other than agreement. But the Daily News offers instead a textbook example of how self-censorship and obedience to authoritarianism work. Here's the complete Daily News review with my comments inserted:

"If you need to get a person's attention fast, just whisper, 'There's something the government isn't telling you.'

"Works every time."

Like the time the NSA claimed to be complying with the Fourth Amendment? Like the time nobody was being tortured in Iraq? Like the time the fracking studies showed no damage to ground water? Like the time drones weren't killing any civilians with their missile strikes?

Sure, there are bound to be times when the government is honest with us. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but it stands to reason that there are. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And it's certainly possible to invent all sorts of fantasies to allege the government to be lying about. I'm not convinced Obama was born in Africa, aliens visited New Mexico, the World Trade Center was blown up from within, or every person who emails me to complain about it is really being zapped with invisible mind-control weapons (for all I know they just watch television and come away feeling like that). But shouldn't we take claims of government deception as possibly right and possibly wrong and follow the evidence where it leads? I'm not willing to swear any of the things I list here isn't true unless evidence establishes that.

"In this case, filmmakers Kristina Borjesson and Tom Stalcup are convinced that ill-fated TWA Flight 800, which exploded over Great South Bay on July 17, 1996, was shot down by a missile."

And does the evidence suggest that they are right or wrong? Should we just pretend to know that they're wrong because the government says so? Yep:

"The original government investigation and later a second probe by the National Transportation Safety Board disagreed. Both concluded the explosion was caused by a spark in the center fuel tank."

Yet they offered no explanation for where such a spark might have come from, or why so many airplanes have been permitted to fly since, in danger of falling victim to such a spark.

"So someone is wrong. But 'TWA Flight 800' says it's more insidious than that. The government also knows it was a missile, the film strongly suggests, and simply chooses to lie. Charges of conspiratorial coverups are as common as jaywalking, of course, but 'TWA Flight 800' has more evidence than most. The advocates here include several original investigators as well as aircraft engineers, transportation and safety experts. There also are a half dozen people, civilians with no agendas, who all say they saw something streaking across the sky toward the plane before it exploded."

Why is that insidious? You don't know whether all these people are right, but the suggestion that they might be is insidious? The film in fact doesn't say the government "simply" chooses to lie. In fact, many in the government choose to speak out, forming much of the basis for the film. Others choose to cover up what happened. Most of them are clearly just following orders. Others must have motivations, but whether those motivations are simple or complex is not touched on in the film -- as this review goes on to acknowledge:

"The film doesn't really address two of the biggest questions raised by most conspiracy charges. First, why would someone cover up the truth, and second, given the number of people involved in this investigation, could they all keep a secret this big for 17 years?"

In fact, they aren't all keeping it secret. Many have been shouting the truth, as they see it, from the rooftops. Others recount why they've kept quiet. One woman explains that she was applying for U.S. citizenship and was threatened that her application would be rejected if she spoke out. The film does not address motivations for the coverup, but let me take a wild stab at doing so: If the U.S. military blew up a passenger jet full of passengers, including U.S. citizens, for no damn good reason, wouldn't we need an explanation for its wanting to go public with that? Doesn't the military's wanting to keep that quiet require no explanation at all? When the Joint Special Operations Command murders Afghan women in a night raid and then digs bullets out of their bodies with knives and claims that they were killed by their families, and then later admits the truth, are we shocked by the routine lies or by the vicious crime? Wouldn't we be more seriously shocked if the U.S. military gratuitously blurted out something true? Wouldn't taking responsibility for TWA 800 be a remarkable act of civic virtue worthy of the record books?

"But the film isn't after 'why.' It just wants to say that a lot of physical and circumstantial evidence points to a missile.

"Toward that goal, it's on target."

It is indeed, though one wouldn't have guessed that from the beginning of this newspaper's review, from media coverage in general, from history books, or from how most people have been conditioned to react to the next suspicious disaster yet to come.

Educating ALEC: Pushing Back Against Privatizing Public School

Protesters Condemn ALEC's Push to Privatize Public Education


Demonstrators Crash ALEC convention in Chicago, a city impacted by the privatization of public schools.

Joining us to talk more about the protest and the history of ALEC and its influence on public education around the country are two guests. We are joined by Julie Mead. She's a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She researches, teaches, and writes about topics related to legal aspects of education. Her research centers on legal issues related to special education and raised by forms of school choice. We're also joined by Brendan Fisher. He is general counsel with the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of and He has worked extensively on the ALEC Exposed project.  

Spooks, Bezos, Amazon, and Washington's Grey Lady

What will happen when Bilderberger Jeff Bezos takes over the Washington Post?

by Patrick Henningsen - 21st Century Wire founder and Bilderberg member Jeff Bezos is all set to take control of the Washington Post from the Graham family who have owned the media publication for four generations.

Bezos paid $250 million for the Washington Post, along with the Express newspaper and several local weeklies bundled in.
Interestingly, the Bezos deal comes on the heals of another major media move, with the New York Times announcing that it’s selling its ownership in The Boston Globe. When the NYT purchased The Boston Globe in 1993 it had paid $1.1 billion for it. 20 years later, it’s had to dump it for a paltry $70 million.

So is Jeff Bezos betting on a dead horse? Some believe that both the Graham family and New York Times have seen the writing on the wall, and that traditional print titles are nothing but a dying breed – and a liability.

When Don Graham took over the helm of his family’s icon newspaper title in 1979, the Washington Post shared the responsibility of setting America’s news agenda with another media giant, The New York Times. But the old media paradigm has shift drastically in the 21st century, where titles like the Post and Times have to compete with online.

Former Post managing editor, Raju Narisetti believes that Don Graham was right to let go of his American icon, stating:

“If it is a matter of spending a lot of time, energy and resources in trying to keep fixing The Washington Post newspaper or growing the Washington Post Company, Don, as the steward of a publicly held company, has clearly done right by shareholders and his family (who are big shareholders) and he should be applauded for putting reason ahead of romanticism.”

Media power is no longer concentrated in the hands of four newspapers on either side of the Atlantic. The competition for the digital English language market is not only restricted to other US mainstream print publications online, it’s also spread across a wide sector of online majors like Gawker, Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Drudge Report, top name only a few. Behind them are thousands of blogs and aggregators. Another rising trend is also cutting into America and the UK’s monopoly on English language news and commentary, as global English language news outlets continue to pop up in Europe, Asia, Russia and even Iran. All of this cuts into a market which used to be sewn up by a handful of majors.

Some pundits remained stunned that a dotcom kingpin is acquiring a major US news gathering institution like the Washington Post. For some, it brought back memories of AOL’s deal which scooped up another American media institution – Time Warner. That merger deal turned out to be an epic lemon, and the scars are still around. One former AOL employee remarked on Twitter this week:

Ted Leonsis, a former AOL executive believes that Amazon’s Bezos has somehow saved the Post from falling into the wrong hands, as he explains, “Jeff Bezos is one of the best businessmen in the world and one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet. He will be a fantastic steward of this media property.”

Only two months ago, Jeff Bezos was locked away in steering committee meetings, along with 150 of the global corporate and political elite at the Grove Hotel in Watford, England, for the Bilderberg Group’s annual private global planning summit. So will he now be steering our media on behalf of his fellow Bilderbergers?

Struggling to compete

The Washington Post is still regarded as a ‘paper of record’ in the US and even though print news is dwindling technology, papers of record are still important because they provide the official “backstop” to the aggregate of all news – print, online, radio and TV. Some stories do break online, but the world still looks to titles like The Post and The Times for verification and official statements emanating from government and business.

But even the old big boys need to stay out of the red. Some are forward thinking and some are struggling to keep up with the rapid changes taking place in the digital streams. For example, News Corporation has now opted for a subscription firewall for at least two of its top UK titles, The Times and The Sun.

Conversely, another top UK title, The Independent newspaper, had gone the route of paid online content, but eventually dropped the program after promise of online revenues didn’t live up to expectations.

Subscription firewalls have three major problems which mainstream corporate outlets are finding very difficult to crack.

Firstly and most importantly, almost all online surfers will not pay for content which they can essentially access elsewhere for free. This means online readership will drop significantly.

Secondly, brand awareness is where the value is online. By not participating in the scrum, a news title runs the risk of losing its brand’s influence over the news cycle online – which is already choppy waters for the majors.

Lastly, major advertisers and sponsors generally do not like online subscription firewalls because it means they will be pitching their products to a smaller market.

If the mainstream media were actually doing their jobs consistently – by maintaining long term investigations, challenging the government’s hegemony over both domestic and foreign policy narratives, or by exposing the activities of the elite who like to meet in secret – like Jeff Bezos does with his fellow Bilderbergers – then we’d all be lining up for our paid online subscriptions to major online newspaper titles - even me. Instead, they have all opted in favour of holding up one side of the wall in the government media complex.

Driving digital sales

Critics will be quick to point out that the Washington Post has managed to lose 44% of its revenue in only six years, but don’t expect the paper to wither and die just yet. If Amazon is anything to go by, deal watchers should know by now that any content that Amazon owns it has monetised.

One thing is certain – and that is that Bezos will want to grow the business of the Washington Post and you can expect him to be implementing a more aggressive marketing strategy for the Post’s digital products in order to increase sales. Amazon’s Kindle platform comes to mind immediately – a ready-made subscription market already in place. Not to mention a huge added value for the Post’s online advertisers.

Such a level of digital leveraging is something that News Corp and New York Times are not capable of, not just because they are stuck in the old media paradigm, but because they probably could not convince any major digital platform that there is deal to be done. Bezos is able to play both sides of this deal, which will ultimately result in a growing market share for the Post and more dynamic news delivery systems for Kindle users.

For those nostalgic readers who love the fresh smell of newsprint in the morning, this deal may not be great news over the coming years. Amazon critic David Carr of the New York Times read the tea leaves, explaining:

“Given that The Post still has potency as a political symbol, the fact that it could be acquired by a man who made his fortune taking apart book-publishing — another traditional business — served as more evidence that the power center in the media world has turned away from the East Coast.”

He’s not kidding. In 2012, Amazon shifted 114 Kindle e-books for every 100 hardback and paperback book. If Bezos is on a mission to save trees, he’s winning that one.

Jeff Bezos: partnering with the CIA and the NSA

There is a dark side to this deal as well. Bezos’s love of data and digital scale means that he’s a part of the problem now facing American society. The man now controlling America’s paper of record is not only a secret society member in Bilderberg, he is already heavily in bed with two highly unpopular secretive US federal agencies. You cannot overlook the fact that is currently raking in US taxpayer dollars.

Emily Bell from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia Journalism School, points out Bilderberger Bezos’s obvious conflicts of interest:
“What we cannot know about Bezos, because he has never been tested, is how he will like the irrational world of newspaper ownership, where the media gaze is more intense per dollar invested than in any other domain. How will he react – especially after Amazon’s recent clinching of a $600m contract to provide cloud services to the CIA – to the flow of stories from his own publication on the NSA and its covert pact with the tech industry to trace our every move? How will he like his Amazon workplace practices scrutinised by his own paper? How will he like being in a world where they greatest measure of success is to irritate, damage or, at best, remove a president and other public officials?”

The Washington Post does offer an excellent range of content to its readers and is one of the only mainstream media machines that hasn’t jumped completely off of the political cliff. But it is still seen as a White House gatekeeper and for whatever reason, does zero investigative journalism these days.

The fact that it’s now owned by one of Bilderberg’s Young Turks who’s Amazon creation is also whoring out our private data to the NSA – and who knows who else – will raise many more questions than answers.

It’s a changing of the guard, in more ways than one.

Burn: Welcome to Carbon Age 3.0

The Third Carbon Age: Don’t for a Second Imagine We’re Heading for an Era of Renewable Energy

by Michael T. Klare - TomDispatch 
When it comes to energy and economics in the climate-change era, nothing is what it seems. Most of us believe (or want to believe) that the second carbon era, the Age of Oil, will soon be superseded by the Age of Renewables, just as oil had long since superseded the Age of Coal.
 President Obama offered exactly this vision in a much-praised June address on climate change. True, fossil fuels will be needed a little bit longer, he indicated, but soon enough they will be overtaken by renewable forms of energy.

Many other experts share this view, assuring us that increased reliance on “clean” natural gas combined with expanded investments in wind and solar power will permit a smooth transition to a green energy future in which humanity will no longer be pouring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. All this sounds promising indeed. There is only one fly in the ointment: it is not, in fact, the path we are presently headed down. The energy industry is not investing in any significant way in renewables. Instead, it is pouring its historic profits into new fossil-fuel projects, mainly involving the exploitation of what are called “unconventional” oil and gas reserves.

The result is indisputable: humanity is not entering a period that will be dominated by renewables. Instead, it is pioneering the third great carbon era, the Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas.
Tomgram: Michael Klare, How to Fry a Planet

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: The next TD post will be on Tuesday, August 13th.]

Look at it any way you want, and if you’re not a booster of fossil fuels on this overheating planet of ours, it doesn’t look good. Hardly a month passes, it seems, without news about the development of some previously unimaginable way to extract fossil fuels from some thoroughly unexpected place. The latest bit of “good” news: the Japanese government's announcement that natural gas has been successfully extracted from undersea methane hydrates. (Yippee!) Natural gas is gleefully touted as the “clean” fossil-fuel path to a green future, but evidence is mounting that the newest process for producing it also leaks unexpected amounts of methane, a devastating greenhouse gas. The U.S. cheers and is cheered because the amount of carbon dioxide it is putting into the atmosphere is actually falling. Then Duncan Clark at the British Guardian does the figures and discovers that “there has been no decline in the amount of carbon the U.S. is taking out of the ground. In fact, the trend is upwards. The latest year for which full data is available -- 2011 -- is the highest level on record.” It’s just that some of it (coal, in particular) was exported abroad to be burned elsewhere.

In the meantime, the next set of articles come out of scientific circles suggesting that the results of all this are far from cheery. An example: a recent paper in the prestigious journal Science indicates that “climate change is now set to occur at a pace ‘orders of magnitude more rapid’ than at any other time in the last 65 million years,” and we should prepare for a wave of species extinctions. In other words, the much-ballyhooed coming of North American energy “independence” is an upbeat way of saying that we will continue to heat the planet till hell boils over. (Of course, those who run the giant energy companies, the politicians in their pay, and their lobbyists and associated think tanks -- the real global “terrarists” for their urge to make historic profits off the heating of the planet -- will, of course, continue to cheer. Though it is notoriously hard to claim climate change as the author of any specific weather event, in the ever-hotter continental U.S., the experience of what’s being called “extreme weather” -- from drought to record wildfires, record heat waves to devastating tornadoes -- is increasingly part of the warp and woof of everyday life.

In this context, the latest post by Michael Klare, author of The Race for What’s Left, is singularly important, if also singularly unnerving. Klare, who has long been ahead of the curve in his work on energy and resources, offers a clear-eyed look at the energy road chosen, and the view to the horizon is anything but pretty. Tom

The Third Carbon Age: Don’t for a Second Imagine We’re Heading for an Era of Renewable Energy

by Michael T. Klare

That we are embarking on a new carbon era is increasingly evident and should unnerve us all. Hydro-fracking -- the use of high-pressure water columns to shatter underground shale formations and liberate the oil and natural gas supplies trapped within them -- is being undertaken in ever more regions of the United States and in a growing number of foreign countries. In the meantime, the exploitation of carbon-dirty heavy oil and tar sands formations is accelerating in Canada, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

It’s true that ever more wind farms and solar arrays are being built, but here’s the kicker: investment in unconventional fossil-fuel extraction and distribution is now expected to outpace spending on renewables by a ratio of at least three-to-one in the decades ahead.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an inter-governmental research organization based in Paris, cumulative worldwide investment in new fossil-fuel extraction and processing will total an estimated $22.87 trillion between 2012 and 2035, while investment in renewables, hydropower, and nuclear energy will amount to only $7.32 trillion. In these years, investment in oil alone, at an estimated $10.32 trillion, is expected to exceed spending on wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, hydro, nuclear, and every other form of renewable energy combined.

In addition, as the IEA explains, an ever-increasing share of that staggering investment in fossil fuels will be devoted to unconventional forms of oil and gas: Canadian tar sands, Venezuelan extra-heavy crude, shale oil and gas, Arctic and deep-offshore energy deposits, and other hydrocarbons derived from previously inaccessible reserves of energy. The explanation for this is simple enough. The world’s supply of conventional oil and gas -- fuels derived from easily accessible reservoirs and requiring a minimum of processing -- is rapidly disappearing. With global demand for fossil fuels expected to rise by 26% between now and 2035, more and more of the world’s energy supply will have to be provided by unconventional fuels.

In such a world, one thing is guaranteed: global carbon emissions will soar far beyond our current worst-case assumptions, meaning intense heat waves will become commonplace and our few remaining wilderness areas will be eviscerated. Planet Earth will be a far -- possibly unimaginably -- harsher and more blistering place. In that light, it’s worth exploring in greater depth just how we ended up in such a predicament, one carbon age at a time.

The First Carbon Era

The first carbon era began in the late 1800s, with the introduction of coal-powered steam engines and their widespread application to all manner of industrial enterprises. Initially used to power textile mills and industrial plants, coal was also employed in transportation (steam-powered ships and railroads), mining, and the large-scale production of iron. Indeed, what we now call the Industrial Revolution was largely comprised of the widening application of coal and steam power to productive activities. Eventually, coal would also be used to generate electricity, a field in which it remains dominant today.

This was the era in which vast armies of hard-pressed workers built continent-spanning railroads and mammoth textile mills as factory towns proliferated and cities grew. It was the era, above all, of the expansion of the British Empire. For a time, Great Britain was the biggest producer and consumer of coal, the world’s leading manufacturer, its top industrial innovator, and its dominant power -- and all of these attributes were inextricably connected. By mastering the technology of coal, a small island off the coast of Europe was able to accumulate vast wealth, develop the world’s most advanced weaponry, and control the global sea-lanes.

The same coal technology that gave Britain such global advantages also brought great misery in its wake. As noted by energy analyst Paul Roberts in The End of Oil, the coal then being consumed in England was of the brown lignite variety, “chock full of sulfur and other impurities.” When burned, “it produced an acrid, choking smoke that stung the eyes and lungs and blackened walls and clothes.” By the end of the nineteenth century, the air in London and other coal-powered cities was so polluted that “trees died, marble facades dissolved, and respiratory ailments became epidemic.”

For Great Britain and other early industrial powers, the substitution of oil and gas for coal was a godsend, allowing improved air quality, the restoration of cities, and a reduction in respiratory ailments. In many parts of the world, of course, the Age of Coal is not over. In China and India, among other places, coal remains the principal source of energy, condemning their cities and populations to a twenty-first-century version of nineteenth-century London and Manchester.

The Second Carbon Era

The Age of Oil got its start in 1859 when commercial production began in western Pennsylvania, but only truly took off after World War II, with the explosive growth of automobile ownership. Before 1940, oil played an important role in illumination and lubrication, among other applications, but remained subordinate to coal; after the war, oil became the world’s principal source of energy. From 10 million barrels per day in 1950, global consumption soared to 77 million in 2000, a half-century bacchanalia of fossil fuel burning.

Driving the global ascendancy of petroleum was its close association with the internal combustion engine (ICE). Due to oil’s superior portability and energy intensity (that is, the amount of energy it releases per unit of volume), it makes the ideal fuel for mobile, versatile ICEs. Just as coal rose to prominence by fueling steam engines, so oil came to prominence by fueling the world’s growing fleets of cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships. Today, petroleum supplies about 97% of all energy used in transportation worldwide.

Oil’s prominence was also assured by its growing utilization in agriculture and warfare. In a relatively short period of time, oil-powered tractors and other agricultural machines replaced animals as the primary source of power on farms around the world. A similar transition occurred on the modern battlefield, with oil-powered tanks and planes replacing the cavalry as the main source of offensive power.

These were the years of mass automobile ownership, continent-spanning highways, endless suburbs, giant malls, cheap flights, mechanized agriculture, artificial fibers, and -- above all else -- the global expansion of American power. Because the United States possessed mammoth reserves of oil, was the first to master the technology of oil extraction and refining, and the most successful at utilizing petroleum in transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, and war, it emerged as the richest and most powerful country of the twenty-first century, a saga told with great relish by energy historian Daniel Yergin in The Prize. Thanks to the technology of oil, the U.S. was able to accumulate staggering levels of wealth, deploy armies and military bases to every continent, and control the global air and sea-lanes -- extending its power to every corner of the planet.

However, just as Britain experienced negative consequences from its excessive reliance on coal, so the United States -- and the rest of the world -- has suffered in various ways from its reliance on oil. To ensure the safety of its overseas sources of supply, Washington has established tortuous relationships with foreign oil suppliers and has fought several costly, debilitating wars in the Persian Gulf region, a sordid history I recount in Blood and Oil. Overreliance on motor vehicles for personal and commercial transportation has left the country ill-equipped to deal with periodic supply disruptions and price spikes. Most of all, the vast increase in oil consumption -- here and elsewhere -- has produced a corresponding increase in carbon dioxide emissions, accelerating planetary warming (a process begun during the first carbon era) and exposing the country to the ever more devastating effects of climate change.

The Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas

The explosive growth of automotive and aviation travel, the suburbanization of significant parts of the planet, the mechanization of agriculture and warfare, the global supremacy of the United States, and the onset of climate change: these were the hallmarks of the exploitation of conventional petroleum. At present, most of the world’s oil is still obtained from a few hundred giant onshore fields in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Venezuela, among other countries; some additional oil is acquired from offshore fields in the North Sea, the Gulf of Guinea, and the Gulf of Mexico. This oil comes out of the ground in liquid form and requires relatively little processing before being refined into commercial fuels.

But such conventional oil is disappearing. According to the IEA, the major fields that currently provide the lion’s share of global petroleum will lose two-thirds of their production over the next 25 years, with their net output plunging from 68 million barrels per day in 2009 to a mere 26 million barrels in 2035. The IEA assures us that new oil will be found to replace those lost supplies, but most of this will be of an unconventional nature. In the coming decades, unconventional oils will account for a growing share of the global petroleum inventory, eventually becoming our main source of supply.

The same is true for natural gas, the second most important source of world energy. The global supply of conventional gas, like conventional oil, is shrinking, and we are becoming increasingly dependent on unconventional sources of supply -- especially from the Arctic, the deep oceans, and shale rock via hydraulic fracturing.

In certain ways, unconventional hydrocarbons are akin to conventional fuels. Both are largely composed of hydrogen and carbon, and can be burned to produce heat and energy. But in time the differences between them will make an ever-greater difference to us. Unconventional fuels -- especially heavy oils and tar sands -- tend to possess a higher proportion of carbon to hydrogen than conventional oil, and so release more carbon dioxide when burned. Arctic and deep-offshore oil require more energy to extract, and so produce higher carbon emissions in their very production.

“Many new breeds of petroleum fuels are nothing like conventional oil,” Deborah Gordon, a specialist on the topic at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in 2012. “Unconventional oils tend to be heavy, complex, carbon laden, and locked up deep in the earth, tightly trapped between or bound to sand, tar, and rock.”

By far the most worrisome consequence of the distinctive nature of unconventional fuels is their extreme impact on the environment. Because they are often characterized by higher ratios of carbon to hydrogen, and generally require more energy to extract and be converted into usable materials, they produce more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy released. In addition, the process that produces shale gas, hailed as a “clean” fossil fuel, is believed by many scientists to cause widespread releases of methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

All of this means that, as the consumption of fossil fuels grows, increasing, not decreasing, amounts of CO2 and methane will be released into the atmosphere and, instead of slowing, global warming will speed up.

And here’s another problem associated with the third carbon age: the production of unconventional oil and gas turns out to require vast amounts of water -- for fracking operations, to extract tar sands and extra-heavy oil, and to facilitate the transport and refining of such fuels. This is producing a growing threat of water contamination, especially in areas of intense fracking and tar sands production, along with competition over access to water supplies among drillers, farmers, municipal water authorities, and others. As climate change intensifies, drought will become the norm in many areas and so this competition will only grow fiercer.

Along with these and other environmental impacts, the transition from conventional to unconventional fuels will have economic and geopolitical consequences hard to fully assess at this moment. As a start, the exploitation of unconventional oil and gas reserves from previously inaccessible regions involves the introduction of novel production technologies, including deep-sea and Arctic drilling, hydro-fracking, and tar-sands upgrading. One result has been a shakeup in the global energy industry, with the emergence of innovative companies possessing the skills and determination to exploit the new unconventional resources -- much as occurred during the early years of the petroleum era when new firms arose to exploit the world’s oil reserves.

This has been especially evident in the development of shale oil and gas. In many cases, the breakthrough technologies in this field were devised and deployed by smaller, risk-taking firms like Cabot Oil and Gas, Devon Energy Corporation, Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, and XTO Energy. These and similar companies pioneered the use of hydro-fracking to extract oil and gas from shale formations in Arkansas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and later sparked a stampede by larger energy firms to obtain stakes of their own in these areas. To augment those stakes, the giant firms are gobbling up many of the smaller and mid-sized ones. Among the most conspicuous takeovers was ExxonMobil’s 2009 purchase of XTO for $41 billion.

That deal highlights an especially worrisome feature of this new era: the deployment of massive funds by giant energy firms and their financial backers to acquire stakes in the production of unconventional forms of oil and gas -- in amounts far exceeding comparable investments in either conventional hydrocarbons or renewable energy. It’s clear that, for these companies, unconventional energy is the next big thing and, as among the most profitable firms in history, they are prepared to spend astronomical sums to ensure that they continue to be so. If this means investment in renewable energy is shortchanged, so be it. “Without a concerted policymaking effort” to favor the development of renewables, Carnegie’s Gordon warns, future investments in the energy field “will likely continue to flow disproportionately toward unconventional oil.”

In other words, there will be an increasingly entrenched institutional bias among energy firms, banks, lending agencies, and governments toward next-generation fossil-fuel production, only increasing the difficulty of establishing national and international curbs on carbon emissions. This is evident, for example, in the Obama administration’s undiminished support for deep-offshore drilling and shale gas development, despite its purported commitment to reduce carbon emissions. It is likewise evident in the growing international interest in the development of shale and heavy-oil reserves, even as fresh investment in green energy is being cut back.

As in the environmental and economic fields, the transition from conventional to unconventional oil and gas will have a substantial, if still largely undefined, impact on political and military affairs.

U.S. and Canadian companies are playing a decisive role in the development of many of the vital new unconventional fossil-fuel technologies; in addition, some of the world’s largest unconventional oil and gas reserves are located in North America. The effect of this is to bolster U.S. global power at the expense of rival energy producers like Russia and Venezuela, which face rising competition from North American companies, and energy-importing states like China and India, which lack the resources and technology to produce unconventional fuels.

At the same time, Washington appears more inclined to counter the rise of China by seeking to dominate the global sea lanes and bolster its military ties with regional allies like Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. Many factors are contributing to this strategic shift, but from their statements it is clear enough that top American officials see it as stemming in significant part from America’s growing self-sufficiency in energy production and its early mastery of the latest production technologies.

“America’s new energy posture allows us to engage [the world] from a position of greater strength,” National Security Advisor Tom Donilon asserted in an April speech at Columbia University. “Increasing U.S. energy supplies act as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions [and] affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

For the time being, the U.S. leaders can afford to boast of their “stronger hand” in world affairs, as no other country possesses the capabilities to exploit unconventional resources on such a large scale. By seeking to extract geopolitical benefits from a growing world reliance on such fuels, however, Washington inevitably invites countermoves of various sorts. Rival powers, fearful and resentful of its geopolitical assertiveness, will bolster their capacity to resist American power -- a trend already evident in China’s accelerating naval and missile buildup.

At the same time, other states will seek to develop their own capacity to exploit unconventional resources in what might be considered a fossil-fuels version of an arms race. This will require considerable effort, but such resources are widely distributed across the planet and in time other major producers of unconventional fuels are bound to emerge, challenging America’s advantage in this realm (even as they increase the staying power and global destructiveness of the third age of carbon). Sooner or later, much of international relations will revolve around these issues.

Surviving the Third Carbon Era

Barring unforeseen shifts in global policies and behavior, the world will become increasingly dependent on the exploitation of unconventional energy. This, in turn, means an increase in the buildup of greenhouse gases with little possibility of averting the onset of catastrophic climate effects. Yes, we will also witness progress in the development and installation of renewable forms of energy, but these will play a subordinate role to the development of unconventional oil and gas.

Life in the third carbon era will not be without its benefits. Those who rely on fossil fuels for transportation, heating, and the like can perhaps take comfort from the fact that oil and natural gas will not run out soon, as was predicted by many energy analysts in the early years of this century. Banks, the energy corporations, and other economic interests will undoubtedly amass staggering profits from the explosive expansion of the unconventional oil business and global increases in the consumption of these fuels. But most of us won’t be rewarded. Quite the opposite. Instead, we’ll experience the discomfort and suffering accompanying the heating of the planet, the scarcity of contested water supplies in many regions, and the evisceration of the natural landscape.

What can be done to cut short the third carbon era and avert the worst of these outcomes? Calling for greater investment in green energy is essential but insufficient at a moment when the powers that be are emphasizing the development of unconventional fuels. Campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions is necessary, but will undoubtedly prove problematic, given an increasingly deeply embedded institutional bias toward unconventional energy.

Needed, in addition to such efforts, is a drive to expose the distinctiveness and the dangers of unconventional energy and to demonize those who choose to invest in these fuels rather than their green alternatives. Some efforts of this sort are already underway, including student-initiated campaigns to persuade or compel college and university trustees to divest from any investments in fossil-fuel companies. These, however, still fall short of a systemic drive to identify and resist those responsible for our growing reliance on unconventional fuels.

For all President Obama’s talk of a green technology revolution, we remain deeply entrenched in a world dominated by fossil fuels, with the only true revolution now underway involving the shift from one class of such fuels to another. Without a doubt, this is a formula for global catastrophe. To survive this era, humanity must become much smarter about this new kind of energy and then take the steps necessary to compress the third carbon era and hasten in the Age of Renewables before we burn ourselves off this planet.

Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left, just published in paperback by Picador. A documentary movie based on his book Blood and Oil can be previewed and ordered at You can follow Klare on Facebook by clicking here.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Michael Klare

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Case of Mike Roy and Bailey Lamon: Canadian Justice Follows US Lead

Official Statement from Mike Roy and Bailey Lamon

by Mike Roy and Bailey Lamon - The

To whom it may concern; our names are Mike Roy and Bailey Lamon, and we are students, activists and journalists in London, Ontario.

In the afternoon on Wednesday, July.24th, 2013, several police officers entered our apartment with a search warrant and aggressively arrested us as well as Bailey’s partner, Dan.

We were both charged with mischief and conspiracy to commit mischief, for allegedly painting on a brick in an alleyway, which read “I’m not just another brick in the wall”. All three of us were also charged with possession after a small amount of marijuana was found in the apartment.

At no point did the authorities sit down with us and explain why we were arrested, show us any evidence, or explain why there was a search warrant issued for a simple act of graffiti. Apparently this was not necessary.

We were both held in custody for several hours before being offered release under the conditions that we would not associate with one another, not have access to the internet or own a computer, camera or recording device of any kind (which implies that cell phones would also be forbidden). We were held overnight in the police station after refusing to sign the papers, and appeared before a justice of the peace the next afternoon. We were in custody for approximately 24 hours for again, an act of graffiti. When we returned home we found that our apartment was in ruins and the police had taken every computer, laptop, camera, external hard drive, cell phone and basically every data-storing device for the reason of possibly finding video footage of the graffiti taking place. We are university students as well as journalists who run a media organization, so this is extremely problematic for both of us. This equipment is an integral part of what we do to document and create awareness of positive activism in our community. It is also necessary to be able to aid and continue our academic studies.

Upon inquiring about if and when we could retrieve our possessions, we were told that it is not possible to even look into this until August.15th, when the investigating officer returns from his vacation. This is particularly bad for Bailey, as she still has school responsibilities from last semester that were delayed due to being hospitalized in April.

The reason we are sending this letter is because we do not believe that the arrests, raid on our apartment and seizing of possessions has anything to do with “graffiti” at all. We strongly believe that the “graffiti” charge is a scapegoat for a political targeting by the London Ontario Police Department due to our involvement in the Occupy movement as well as our continued involvement in activism through our media organization, The Indignants.

The Indignants are an independent alternative media team based out of London, Ontario, Canada. We identify as an anarchist collective and seek to fill in the gaps left by the mainstream corporate-controlled media and their lack of accurate representation at the community level.

We are here to help promote the voices of the oppressed, marginalized, and underrepresented. We make every effort to present our ideas within an anti-colonial and anti-oppression framework. It is our belief that we need to collectively develop a culture of intellectual self-defense to protect ourselves from manipulation and build a movement based on diversity of tactics, direct action, civil disobedience and participatory democracy.

We have many contributors and supporters from which we have formed a steering committee to democratically decide our direction.

We feel that we have been unfairly targeted as leaders of a group that operates in a horizontal democracy, as well as for our beliefs and activism in general. In constitutional terms, the attack by police and attempt to separate and silence us, is an infringement of our rights to association and expression. We need to create awareness of recent events and seek support from our community and allies. Thousands of dollars worth of equipment was taken by the police, all things that we need to continue our media work, academic studies, and to promote community outreach programs such as Food Not Bombs, Really Really Free Market and Critical Mass, among other things. We are asking for support in whatever way possible, including monetary donations so that we can get some new equipment and continue our work.

More information on how to donate can be found here:

We realize that this may not be possible for everyone, so we also ask that you help us by spreading this message so that more are aware of our situation. Most importantly, we need to engage more heavily in the discussion about the criminalization of dissent and the behaviour of the police in London and all over Canada and the world. 

Thank you for your time and consideration in aiding our cause.

Mike Roy and Bailey Lamon.

Real History on the Atomic Bombing of Japan

68th Anniversary of Hiroshima & Nagasaki Bombing 


In our Untold History series, we speak with Peter Kuznick about the real message behind the 1945 dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th & 9th.

Peter Kuznick, Professor of History; Director, American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute; Co-writer (with Oliver Stone) "Untold History of the United States"  

Is Thorium the "Clean" Nuclear Energy Solution?

The Thorium Reactor Energy Option

by Ray Grigg - Shades of Green

Nothing summarizes the nuclear power debacle better than the old adage, “ we begin, so shall we go.” For half a century, the electrical power industry has been trying to make success of failure, safety of danger, and efficiency of wastefulness because it chose the wrong nuclear fuel to produce electricity from reactors. Instead of using thorium, it used uranium, and the economic, political and environmental costs of this mistake have been incalculable.

But “mistake” is technically not the correct word. The decision to use uranium rather than thorium was more a tragic misjudgment, a foolish choice based on the worst of reasons. At the end of World War II, the United States was flush with political and military power — and the atom bomb.

Uranium was the element that released the explosive power of this bomb, and it was the element favoured by the military because it produced the fissile plutonium needed for escalating the nuclear arms race that came to be called the Cold War. Prototypes of thorium reactors had been operated successfully and their safe production of electricity had already been demonstrated. This was the reactor favoured for commercial use by physicists like Alvin Weinberg, a thorium proponent (Superfuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source of the Future, by Richard Martin). But a proliferation of thorium reactors was opposed by military minds such as Hyman Rickover, an admiral in the US navy, who wanted to preserve the dominance of uranium reactors because its byproducts could be easily weaponized — not one of thorium's qualities. When the upper echelons of the military migrated to the corporations building nuclear reactors, they brought with them their preference for uranium, even though it was a far more unstable and dangerous fuel than thorium.

History has demonstrated this danger. The arms race effectively contaminated the energy equation so that we now have the worst of both possibilities. We have a planet loaded with nuclear bombs, massive amounts of persistent radioactive wastes, reactors capable of catastrophic meltdowns, unmanageable radioactive contamination, expensive power, terrorist threats, and weaponized political brinkmanship. We also have a continuing dependence on fossil fuels, the filthy and polluting energy that creates a host of its own messy problems.

Although most of the world's 400-plus uranium-powered nuclear power stations have produced electricity safely, the exceptions of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima Daiichi have been sufficiently traumatic to make the public wary of all nuclear power. The storage and disposal of radioactive wastes, far more plentiful and enduring than from thorium reactors, continue to be an unsolved problem.

Thorium reactors, their proponents argue, are far safer than uranium reactors, are incapable of melt-downs, are much cheaper to build (most of the construction costs of uranium-based reactors are in safety features), can be scaled down to fit the energy needs of small communities, need almost no maintenance, consume all their thorium fuel, would produce only 10 percent of uranium's radioactive wastes, and are even capable of utilizing existing uranium wastes as a supplemental fuel. Furthermore, thorium is about four times more plentiful than uranium and can be found almost anywhere (NewScientist, May 26/12).

The secret to thorium's safety is its reluctance to become fissile — nuclear science deems it “fertile” rather than “fissile”. Unlike uranium-235, which is neutron rich and unstable, thorium's emission of neutrons during radiation breakdown is termed “sub-critical”, not sufficiently plentiful to cause a chain reaction and an uncontrolled meltdown. To make thorium fissile enough to generate energy, neutrons must be forcibly added to it, so a simple safety feature that removes the neutron source causes a thorium reaction to die down. By using neutrons from the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of dangerous nuclear wastes created by the world's uranium-based reactors, thorium reactors could be designed to convert most of this waste to useful energy.

Given the present threat of global climate change from the excessive burning of fossil fuels for energy, thorium appears to be a tempting option in the world's energy equation. Thorium's radioactive wastes would be dangerous for a mere 200 years rather than the tens of thousands of years for uranium's wastes, and its byproducts would provide almost no fissile material for making bombs. China and India are now building models of thorium reactors with the intention of testing their promising capabilities.

The current candidate presented to the Department of Energy in the US is a so-called SSTAR thorium reactor, an acronym for “small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor”. It is a large cylinder about 3 metres in diameter by 15 metres long, weighing about 500 tonnes. The price for this 100 megawatt reactor could eventually be reduced to about $220 million, one-fifth the cost of a conventional uranium reactor. It would be moveable by truck, rail or ship, does not need containing walls, could be used safely within ordinary industrial buildings, or even be buried for 20-year periods without maintenance. Its size could be scaled down for specific uses — a 5 tonne thorium reactor of 1 megawatt output could provide power to a small town and cost as little as $250,000.

Thorium reactors may not be the perfect energy source. But, if we cannot find sufficient renewable power to fill the needs of our energy-hungry civilization, thorium reactors would be a far better alternative than uranium reactors, and preferable to unleashing the catastrophic environmental effects of burning fossil fuels.

Manning and the Moment for Us All to Seize Courage

The courage of Bradley Manning will inspire others to seize their moment of truth

by John Pilger

8 August 2013

The critical moment in the political trial of the century was on 28 February when Bradley Manning stood and explained why he had risked his life to leak tens of thousands of official files. It was a statement of morality, conscience and truth: the very qualities that distinguish human beings. This was not deemed mainstream news in America; and were it not for Alexa O'Brien, an independent freelance journalist, Manning's voice would have been silenced. Working through the night, she transcribed and released his every word. It is a rare, revealing document.

Describing the attack by an Apache helicopter crew who filmed civilians as they murdered and wounded them in Baghdad in 2007, Manning said: "The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have. They seemed not to value human life by referring to them as 'dead bastards' and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety [who] is seriously wounded... For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass." He hoped "the public would be as alarmed as me" about a crime which, as his subsequent leaks revealed, was not an aberration.

Bradley Manning is a principled whistleblower and truth-teller who has been vilified and tortured - and Amnesty International needs to explain to the world why it has not adopted him as a prisoner of conscience; or is Amnesty, unlike Manning, intimidated by criminal power?

"It is a funeral here at Fort Meade," Alexa O'Brien told me. "The US government wants to bury Manning alive. He is a genuinely earnest young man with not an ounce of mendacity. The mainstream media finally came on the day of the verdict. They showed up for a gladiator match - to watch the gauntlet go down, thumbs pointed down."

The criminal nature of the American military is beyond dispute. The decades of lawless bombing, the use of poisonous weapons on civilian populations, the renditions and the torture at Abu Graib, Guantanamo and elsewhere, are all documented. As a young war reporter in Indochina, it dawned on me that America exported its homicidal neuroses and called it war, even a noble cause. Like the Apache attack, the infamous 1968 massacre at My Lai was not untypical. In the same province, Quang Ngai, I gathered evidence of widespread slaughter: thousands of men, women and children, murdered arbitrarily and anonymously in "free fire zones".

In Iraq, I filmed a shepherd whose brother and his entire family had been cut down by an American plane, in the open. This was sport. In Afghanistan, I filmed to a woman whose dirt-walled home, and family, had been obliterated by a 500lb bomb. There was no "enemy". My film cans burst with such evidence.

In 2010, Private Manning did his duty to the rest of humanity and supplied proof from within the murder machine. This is his triumph; and his show trial merely expresses corrupt power's abiding fear of people learning the truth. It also illuminates the parasitic industry around truth-tellers. Manning's character has been dissected and abused by those who never knew him yet claim to support him.

The hyped film, We Steal Secrets: the Story of WikiLeaks, mutates a heroic young soldier into an "alienated... lonely... very needy" psychiatric case with an "identity crisis" because "he was in the wrong body and wanted to become a woman". So spoke Alex Gibney, the director, whose prurient psycho-babble found willing ears across a media too compliant or lazy or stupid to challenge the hype and comprehend that the shadows falling across whistleblowers may reach even them. From its dishonest title, Gibney's film performed a dutiful hatchet job on Manning, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The message was familiar - serious dissenters are freaks. Alexa O'Brien's meticulous record of Manning's moral and political courage demolishes this smear.

In the Gibney film, US politicians and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are lined up to repeat, unchallenged, that, in publishing Manning's leaks, WikiLeaks and Assange placed the lives informants at risk and had "blood on his hands". On 1 August, the Guardian reported: "No record of deaths caused by WikiLeaks revelations, court told." The Pentagon general who led a 10-month investigation into the worldwide impact of the leaks reported that not a single death could be attributed to the disclosures.

Yet, in the film, the journalist Nick Davies describes a heartless Assange who had no "harm minimisation plan". I asked the film-maker Mark Davis about this. A respected broadcaster for SBS Australia, Davis was an eyewitness, accompanying Assange during much of the preparation of the leaked files for publication in the Guardian and the New York Times. His footage appears in the Gibney film. He told me, "Assange was the only one who worked day and night extracting 10,000 names of people who could be targeted by the revelations in the logs."

While Manning faces life in prison, Gibney is said to be planning a Hollywood movie. A "biopic" of Assange is on the way, along with a Hollywood version of David Leigh's and Luke Harding's book of scuttlebutt on the "fall" of WikiLeaks. Profiting from the boldness, cleverness and suffering of those who refuse to be co-opted and tamed, they all will end up in history's waste bin. For the inspiration of future truth-tellers belongs to Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and the remarkable young people of WikiLeaks, whose achievements are unparalleled. Snowden's rescue is largely a WikiLeaks triumph: a thriller too good for Hollywood because its heroes are real.

This article first appeared in the New Statesman
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