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Archive for June, 2007

>Undoing Bush

>How to repair eight years of sabotage, bungling, and neglect

Part 4: The Environment

by Bill McKibben

Harper’s Magazine (June 2007)

George W Bush has done more to transform the nation than any American president since Franklin D Roosevelt. Indeed, he may well be the perfect anti-Roosevelt. He has taken a prosperous nation and mired it in war, replaced our national composure with terror, and left behind him a legacy of damage so profound that repairing it will likely be the work of generations. Before the next administration can return to solving the already considerable problems the nation faced in 2000, it must begin to correct the misdeeds and missteps of the current one. And as Roosevelt demonstrated, the road back from perdition cannot be found without a good map. To that end, Harper’s Magazine has assembled a group of journalists and thinkers to survey the damage, to determine what may (or may not) be remedied, and to find our way forward. The other essays in this series are (1) “The Constitution” by David Cole, (2) “The Courts” by Dahlia Lithwick, (3) “Civil Service” by Ken Silverstein, (5) “Science” by Dean Baker, (7) “The Market of Ideas” by Jack Hitt, “Intelligence” by James Bamford, “The Military” by Edward N Luttwak, (10) “Diplomacy” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, and (11) “The National Character” by Earl Shorris.

The Environment, by Bill McKibben

One of the best things about the departure of the Bush Administration will be the end of headache- creating cognitive dissonance. It has taken over institutions ostensibly devoted to defending the natural world – the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality – and turned them into organizations devoted to environmental degradation. And it has passed a set of anti- environmental laws that sound like they were dreamed up by wild-eyed nature lovers – the Clear Skies Act turns out to gut the old Clean Air Act, for instance, and the Healthy Forests Initiative has initiated a great deal of unhealthy deforestation. (“No Tree Left Behind”, someone quickly dubbed it.) We’ll not be in some new green nirvana when Bush finally leaves, but at least we might start trying to solve real problems.

We already faced daunting environmental challenges in 2000, of course, challenges that would have taken decades of good-faith effort to overcome. But rather than attempt the difficult and slow reversal of our cheap-energy economy, Bush has eagerly raced forward into whole new worlds of environmental turmoil. You can see this reckless disregard most plainly, alas, when you look at the worst problem the country faces: climate change.

Bush came into office promising that he would require US power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and if he’d stuck to the plan, our country would already look quite different. Solar panels would have begun to sprout in real numbers, cars would be smaller, we’d be building more passenger trains. Instead, Bush repudiated the promise within a few weeks of taking office. He said he didn’t want to do anything that would raise the price of energy. His energy task force, chaired by Dick Cheney, barely even mentioned the possibility of global warming. It concentrated on new places to find fossil fuel, new pipelines to carry it, new refineries to refine it – and indeed, just as Cheney suggested, there are about 159 new coal-fired power plants in some stage of planning or construction around the country. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide output has increased an average of 1.6 percent every year – and the average price for a gallon of gas has nearly doubled.

But Bush’s folly at home isn’t the worst of it. As soon as he took office, he also repudiated America’s participation in the Kyoto treaty process, the one international attempt to begin reining in carbon emissions. And he did it at the critical moment when China and India were just beginning their rapid energy takeoffs. It’s possible that this is what history will judge Bush most sternly for, even more than the Iraq war. With real effort and real resources, we might have nudged the emerging economies onto a different energy trajectory in 2000, but by now their path appears set. Plans call for some 600 new coal-fired plants in China and India alone; the Chinese open a new plant every week.

Still, there is much that can be done. As the head of a vast regulatory body, the next president can exert significant influence on environmental rules. The Bush years began with the news that rules for allowable arsenic concentration in drinking water were being revised – and not in the direction of more protection. The trend continues. Earlier this winter a Senate hearing revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency was considering weakening lead standards and ceasing the testing for perchlorate – a potent endocrine the plants – in the nation’s water supply. The EPA has also narrowed its “new source review” policy, which requires power companies to install modern pollution controls when they expand their plants. The result, according to a 2006 study, will be 2.7 million additional tons of nitrogen oxide, thirteen million additional tons of sulfur dioxide, and 660 million additional tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the lifetime of the plants – unless the next president changes the rules once again.

Such changes, though , will require appointing people who care about the environment to positions of real responsibility. The Bush environmental team has come straight from the industries it now regulates. Mark Rey, the Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment, spent eighteen years as a timber lobbyist; Jeffrey Holmstead, the assistant EPA administrator for air and radiation, was a lawyer who represented the Alliance for Constructive Air Policy, an electric-utility trade group; and the list goes on. Do these insider links have consequences? Well, the New York Times reported in March that Philip A Cooney, the onetime chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality – and a former “climate team leader” at the American Petroleum Institute – had “repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming”. It shouldn’t be too hard to find
people to run regulatory agencies who don’t come from the organizations being regulated.

Even if these agencies wanted to enforce the law, though, they’d have trouble doing so on their sharply reduced budgets. This year, for instance, EPA funding for research and development is at its lowest level since 1987, and the agency’s own internal watchdog, the Office of Inspector General, faces deep cuts in personnel. And it’s not just enforcement money that’s disappearing. Take the National Park system, which Bush, running for president in 2000, declared needed $5 billion in additional funding. Instead, national parks over the course of his administration have been required to do more with less, and those budget shortfalls have all kinds of unintended consequences. A cash-poor Redwood National Park, for instance, was forced to reduce its park patrols, and now lumber peddlers are sneaking in at night and poaching fallen trees.

Most important, the next president will have to put the environment, and especially carbon policy, at the center of every diplomatic effort. That will be a novel experience for a war-oriented foreign policy elite – but the notion that “terror” represents our greatest threat is impossible to maintain once you’ve read the scientific predictions for rising seas, looming droughts, falling harvests. The Kyoto Protocol we didn’t sign will expire in 2012, and negotiations are beginning for whatever will succeed it. Unless there’s a US-led effort to produce something truly dramatic, the world might as well not bother.

_____

Bill McKibben is the author of many books, including The End of Nature (Random House, 2006) and, most recently, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future (Times Books, 2007). His last article for Harper’s Magazine, “The Great Leap”, appeared in the December 2005 issue.

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>Resource Wars: Can We Survive Them?

2007/06/30 1 comment

>by Stephen Lendman

Countercurrents.org (June 06 2007)

Near the end of World War Two, Franklin Roosevelt met with Saudi King ibn Saud on the USS Quincy. It began a six decade relationship guaranteeing US access to what his State Department called a “stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history” – the region’s oil and huge amount of it in Saudi Arabia. Today, the Middle East has two-thirds of the world’s proved oil reserves (around 675 billion barrels) and the Caspian basin an estimated 270 billion barrels more plus one-eighth of the world’s natural gas reserves. It explains a lot about why we’re at war with Iraq and Afghanistan and plan maintaining control over both countries. We want a permanent military presence in them aimed at controlling both regions’ proved energy reserves with puppet regimes, masquerading as democracies, beholden to Washington as client states. They’re in place to observe what their ousted predecessors ignored: the rules of imperial management, especially Rule One – we’re boss and what we say goes.

The Bush administration is “boss” writ large. It intends ruling the world by force, saying so in its National Security Strategy (NSS) in 2002, then updated in even stronger terms in 2006. It plainly states our newly claimed sovereign right allowed no other country – the right to wage preventive wars against perceived threats or any nations daring to challenge our status as lord and master of the universe. Key to the strategy is controlling the world’s energy reserves starting with the Middle East and Central Asia’s vast amount outside Russia and China with enough military strength to control their own, at least for now. These resources give us veto power over which nations will or won’t get them and assures Big Oil gets the lion’s share of the profits.

In Iraq, the new “Hydrocarbon Law”, if it passes the puppet parliament, is a shameless scheme to rape and plunder the country’s oil treasure. It’s a blueprint for privatization giving foreign investors (meaning US and UK mainly) a bonanza of resources, leaving Iraqis a sliver for themselves. Its complex provisions give the Iraqi National Oil Company exclusive control of just seventeen of the country’s eighty known oil fields with all yet-to-be-discovered deposits set aside for foreign investors. It’s even worse with Big Oil free to expropriate all earnings with no obligation to invest anything in Iraq’s economy, partner with Iraqi companies, hire local workers, respect union rights, or share new technologies. Foreign investors would be granted long-term contracts up to 35 years, dispossessing Iraq of its own resources in a scheme to steal them.

That’s what launched our road to war in 1991 having nothing to do with Saddam threatening anyone. It hasn’t stopped since. The Bush (preventive war) Doctrine spelled out our intentions in June, 2002. It then became NSS policy in September getting us directly embroiled in the Middle East and Central Asia and indirectly with proxy forces in countries like Somalia so other oil-rich African nations (like Sudan) get the message either accede to our will or you’re next in the target queue.

With the world’s energy supplies finite, the US heavily dependent on imports, and “peak oil” near or approaching, “security” for America means assuring a sustainable supply of what we can’t do without. It includes waging wars to get it, protect it, and defend the maritime trade routes over which it travels. That means energy’s partnered with predatory New World Order globalization, militarism, wars, ecological recklessness, and now an extremist US administration willing to risk Armageddon for world dominance. Central to its plan is first controlling essential resources everywhere, at any cost, starting with oil and where most of it is located in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The New “Great Game” and Perils From It

The new “Great Game’s” begun, but this time the stakes are greater than ever as explained above. The old one lasted nearly 100 years pitting the British empire against Tsarist Russia when the issue wasn’t oil. This time, it’s the US with help from Israel, Britain, the West, and satellite states like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan challenging Russia and China with today’s weapons and technology on both sides making earlier ones look like toys. At stake is more than oil. It’s planet earth with survival of all life on it issue number one twice over.

Resources and wars for them means militarism is increasing, peace declining, and the planet’s ability to sustain life front and center, if anyone’s paying attention. They’d better be because beyond the point of no return, there’s no second chance the way Einstein explained after the atom was split. His famous quote on future wars was : “I know not with what weapons World War Three will be fought, but World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones”.

Under a worst case scenario, it’s more dire than that. There may be nothing left but resilient beetles and bacteria in the wake of a nuclear holocaust meaning even a new stone age is way in the future, if at all. The threat is real and once nearly happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. We later learned a miracle saved us at the 40th anniversary October 2002 summit meeting in Havana attended by the US and Russia along with host country Cuba. For the first time, we were told how close we came to nuclear Armageddon. Devastation was avoided only because Soviet submarine captain Vasily Arkhipov countermanded his order to fire nuclear-tipped torpedos when Russian submarines were attacked by US destroyers near Kennedy’s “quarantine” line. Had he done it, only our imagination can speculate what might have followed and whether planet earth, or at least a big part of it, would have survived.

Now we’re back to square one, but this time a rogue administration, with nineteen months left in office, marauds the earth endangering all life on it. It claims a unilateral right in its Nuclear Policy Review of December, 2001 to use first strike nuclear weapons as part of our “imperial grand strategy” to rule the world through discretionary preventive wars against nations we claim threaten our security, because we said so.

Orwell would love words like “security” and “stability” meaning we’re boss so other countries better subordinate their interests to ours, or else. To avoid misunderstandings, we spell it out further. The May, 2000 Joint Vision 2020 claims a unilateral right to control all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems. It gives us the right to use overwhelming force against any nation challenging our dominance with all present and future weapons in our arsenal including powerful nuclear ones.

Here’s the danger. The Bush administration effectively threw out the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) over 180 nations are signatories to including the US. Under NPT’s Article Six, nuclear nations pledged to make “good faith” efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons because having them heightens the risk they’ll be used endangering the planet. That doesn’t concern Washington now developing new ones, ignoring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It’s no longer hampered by the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty either, and it rescinded and subverted the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention. In addition, it won’t consider a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty preventing additions to present stockpiles already way too high, and spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined, plans big future increases, and is unrestrained using the weapons it has.

As things now stand, that’s an agenda for disaster according to former NATO planner, Michael McGwire. He thinks “a nuclear exchange is ultimately inevitable” by intent, accident or because, sooner or later, terrorist/rogue groups will get hold of nuclear weapons or materials and use them. Harvard international relations specialist Graham Allison agrees in his 2004 book, Nuclear Terrorism {1}, saying “consensus in the national security community (is that a) dirty bomb (attack is) inevitable”, and/or one with nuclear bombs, unless all fissionable materials are secured. At present they’re not.

This raises the specter Noam Chomsky developed in his 2003 book, Hegemony or Survival {2}. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez admired it enough to hold it up during his impassioned September, 2006 speech before the UN General Assembly. In the book, Chomsky cited the work of Ernst Mayr he called “one of the great figures of contemporary biology” who said human higher intelligence is no guarantee of our survival. He noted beetles and bacteria have been far more successful surviving than we’re likely to be, especially since “the average life expectancy of a species is about 100,000 years” or about how long we’ve been around.

Mayr feared we might use our “alloted time” to destroy ourselves taking planetary life with us. Chomsky observed we have the means to do it, may recklessly try them out in real time, and if so, may become the only species ever to deliberately make ourselves extinct. Chomsky went further in his 2006 book, Failed States {3}, addressing the three issues he believes are of greatest concern – “the threat of nuclear war, environmental disaster, and the fact that the government of the world’s only superpower is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of (causing) these catastrophes” by its recklessness.

In the book, Chomsky raises a fourth issue heightening the overall risk further. He wrote the “American system” is in danger of losing its “historic values (of) equality, liberty and meaningful democracy” because of the course it’s on. And in his newest book, Interventions {4}, he quotes Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell saying fifty years ago when waging nuclear war was unthinkable under Dwight Eisenhower: “Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?”

The Environmental Threat to Our Survival

Human activity has consequences for the environment. It’s been mostly negative in the face of technological advances that should be as friendly to the earth as to the profits industrial corporations get from them. Instead, the opposite is true because Wall Street only cares about next quarter’s bottom line, Washington wants unchallengeable military dominance and the right to use it freely, and threatening planetary life from wars or ecological havoc is someone else’s problem later on – provided there is one.

Jared Diamond, for one, studied the way societies fail or survive in his 2005 book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed {5}, that hold lessons for the planet overall. He says ecological devastation brought down earlier failed ones citing one or more proximate causes:

— deforestation and habitat destruction;

— soil degradation through erosion, salinization or fertility decline;

— water management problems;

— over-hunting and/or fishing;

— over-population growth;

— increased per capita impact on the environment; and

— the impact of exotic species on native plant and animal ones.

In modern industrial states, add to these contaminated air, water and soil from toxic chemicals, biological agents and radioactive pollutants creating irremediable hazards threatening human survival. And to these add the inexorable warming of the earth’s air and surface from fossil fuel burning greenhouse gas emissions causing:

— arctic ice cap melting;

— rising sea levels;

— changed rainfall patterns;

— increased frequency and intensity of weather extremes like floods, droughts, killer heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes and cyclones.

— a plague of infectious diseases;

— water scarcity;

— agricultural disruption and loss of arable land;

— as many as one-third of plant and animal species extinct by 2050, according to some predictions; and

— increasing disease, displacement and economic losses from natural calamities like hurricanes, other extreme weather-related events, lowering of ocean pH, reductions in the ozone layer, and the possible introduction of new phenomena unseen before or never extreme enough to threaten human life or environmental sustainability that will when we experience them.

Is global warming a threat to the planet? The debate is over beyond increasing state-of-the-art knowledge further. The scientific community is almost unanimous except for outliers in it allied to the Bush administration, Big Oil or Big Chemical willing to say anything if it pays enough. These fraudsters spurn what scientific academies from all G-8 countries plus China, India and Brazil acknowledged prior to the 2005 G-8 summit in Perthshire, Scotland. Their alarming low-key statement read: “The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Bush administration’s failure to address what’s now accepted as fact means America may one day face the dark future Peter Tatchell wrote about last November in the London Guardian after joining 20,000 protesters at a Saturday rally in Britain’s capital. They “call(ed) for urgent international action to halt global warming” with Tatchell disturbed one million weren’t in the streets demanding it.

He painted a grim picture of life in the UK with a glimpse of what’s ahead for the US and other nations, especially in coastal areas, if drastic remediable action isn’t undertaken soon. He began by calling “unchecked climate change … likely to be a thousand times worse than the horrors of Iraq. By 2080, England may no longer be green and pleasant. Instead, we’ll probably be living in a brown, sunburnt country (like the Australian outback or US desert southwest)”.

He described a scenario only Hollywood filmmakers might conceive – scorching drought, unpredictable semi-tropical downpours, flash floods with coastal cities waste-deep in water, rising sea levels and tidal surges turning streets into canals “with much of low-lying London becoming a British version of Venice”, and all of London, Manchester and Liverpool frequently swamped by rising sea levels and tidal surges. This is the England he sees in less than eight decades unless global warming is stopped.

And that’s just “phase one” with a nastier “phase two” ahead in the 22nd century – “a Siberian-style ice age blanketing Britain and all of Europe for most of the year, with blizzards so strong and temperatures so low that food production will almost cease and our economies will be just a shadow of what they are today”. Already we’ve had a foretaste, he noted, with recent European heat waves killing thousands and many more devastated by flash floods.

Tatchell continued saying most climatologists predict a two to five degree average global temperature increase by 2100 as things now stand. That will produce all the devastating consequences listed above an island nation like Britain won’t be able to handle – loss of “low-lying coastal and river estuary regions” shrinking and changing the country’s geography permanently and harming inland areas as well.

He noted researchers at the government’s Office of Science and Technology believe “catastrophic mega floods”, having the negative economic impact of a major war, can be expected over the next two decades, and “lower-level floods will become routine causing around ($40 billion in) damage annually”. Regular flooding in a country Britain’s size “could put two million houses and five to six million people at constant risk” making homes uninsurable and unsellable “causing a cataclysmic melt-down in house prices” in flood-prone regions and a “corresponding astronomical rise in house prices” in secure areas.

Further, millions of flooded out refugees will have to leave unusable homes behind. With no ability to pay for new accommodations, they’ll need government help to get by. And businesses, too, will suffer. Many will have to relocate to safer areas at great cost meaning job losses will follow making things even worse. Power generating plants will be hit as well including coastal nuclear reactors with potential calamitous risks from that possibility alone.

Tatchell continued with much more painting an overall picture so dire, Britain no longer will be a fit place to live in. But bad as that prospect is, poorer countries around the world will fare even worse. One billion people in river delta areas (the rice bowl parts of the countries) of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, and China will see their land disappear under rising sea water causing a catastrophic drop in essential food production unlikely able to be made up.

Sometime around 2100, forests will have died, plankton will be gone by rising sea temperatures, and “these two important ‘carbon sinks’ will no longer be able to absorb dioxide emissions. (In addition, higher) sea temperatures will also release … vast amounts of methane … trapped in the world’s oceans … sending temperatures soaring”. Further, the disappearance of polar ice caps will raise sea levels at least five meters removing vast areas of the earth’s land mass.

Now, imagine how much worse things may be in the US, facing future hazards this great, with a land mass 39 times greater than Britain and a population five times the size. Democrat and Republican leaders ignore the threat meaning manana is someone else’s problem.

A day of reckoning may be approaching faster than earlier thought based on information Environment Editor Geoffrey Lean wrote June 3 in the London Independent. His article is titled “Global Warming ‘Is (accelerating) Three Times Faster Than Worst Predictions’ ” according to new “starting, authoritative studies”. One of them by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) shows carbon dioxide emissions increasing three per cent a year now compared to 1.1% in the 1990s. It’s causing seas rising twice as rapidly and Arctic ice cap melting three times faster than previously believed.

The NAS report is even grimmer than this year’s “massive reports” and worst case scenario by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggesting their forecasts of “devastating harvests, dwindling water supplies, melting ice and loss of species (likely understate) the threat facing the world”. Another study by the University of California’s National Snow and Ice Data Center shows “Arctic ice has declined by 7.8 per cent a decade over the past fifty years, compared with an average estimate by IPCC computer models of 2.5 per cent”.

Sum it up everywhere, underscored by these most recent findings, and it spells apocalypse made worse with many governments having to rule by decree to control chaos and disorder. It means democracy, civil liberties, human rights and most essential amenities are out the window in tomorrow’s world sounding more like Dante’s hell on earth because today we didn’t care enough to prevent it. Moreover, it’s wishful thinking imagining new technologies will emerge solving everything. Nor will market-based economies where profits trump common sense. How could they ever improve in the future what they’ve only worsened up to now.

Change cuts both ways though, and despite the apocalyptic title of his book, Collapse, Jared Diamond notes his sub-title is “How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail” saying that better states his sense of things. Ending an interview published in the spring, 2005 issue of New Perspectives Quarterly, he says “We are in a horse race between the forces of destruction and … a solution. It is an exponentially accelerating race of unknown outcome (with his gut feeling being) it is up for grabs.” He continues saying we have a “fighting chance” to solve a “crisis of unsustainability … if we choose to do so (but) It will be fatal to our civilization, or near fatal, if we don’t”.

Nuclear Power Is Not the Solution

In the interview cited above, Diamond doesn’t address nuclear power, but he did in a July 2005 public lecture in San Francisco. Mark Hertsgaard featured his comments in his August 12 2005 Tom Paine.com and Common Dreams.org articles titled “Nukes Aren’t Green”. Diamond surprised his audience saying global warming is so grave “we need everything available to us, including nuclear power” to deal with it, disagreeing with most environmentalists believing otherwise and then some.

Nuclear power won’t solve, or even alleviate global warming, according to Helen Caldicott in her important 2006 book, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer {6}. That’s aside from the catastrophic consequences from commercial reactor malfunction-caused meltdowns, terror attacks on them with the same result, or fissionable material falling into the wrong hands and used against us. Caldicott explained, contrary to government and industry propaganda, nuclear power generation discharges significant greenhouse gas emissions plus hundreds of thousands of curies of deadly radioactive gases and other radioactive elements into the environment every year.

The 103 US nuclear power plants are also sitting ducks to retaliatory terror attacks experts say will happen sooner or later. It means if one of Chicago’s eleven operating commercial reactors melts down from malfunction or attack, and the city is downwind from the fallout, the entire area will become uninhabitable forever and would have to be evacuated quickly with all possessions, including homes, left behind and lost.

Caldicott explains much more noting commercial plants are atom bomb factories. A 1000 megawatt reactor produces 500 pounds of plutonium annually while only ten pounds of this most toxic of all substances are needed for a bomb powerful enough to devastate a large city. She also exposes the myth that nuclear energy is “cleaner and greener”. Although commercial reactors emit no carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary greenhouse gas causing global warming, they require a vast infrastructure, called the nuclear fuel cycle, which uses huge and rapidly growing amounts of fossil fuels. Each stage in the cycle adds to the problem starting with the largest and unavoidable energy needed to mine and mill uranium fuel needing fossil fuel to do it. Then there are the tail millings and what to do with them. They require great amounts of greenhouse-emitting fossil fuels to remediate.

Other steps in the nuclear fuel cycle also depend on fossil fuels including the conversion of uranium to hexafluoride gas prior to enrichment, the enrichment process, and the conversion of enriched uranium hexafluoride gas to fuel pellets. Then there’s nuclear plant construction, dismantling and cleanup at the end of their useful life, and all this requires huge amounts of energy. So does contaminated water cooling reactors, and the enormous problem of radioactive nuclear waste handling, transportation and disposal/storage. In sum, nuclear power isn’t the solution to global warming or anything else. Its risky technology plays nuclear Russian roulette with planet earth betting against long odds where losing means losing everything.

If that’s not bad enough, Caldicott shows how much worse it is summarized briefly below:

— the economics of nuclear power don’t add up for an expensive technology, aside from the risks involved, the pollution generated, and the cost of insuring commercial plants needing billions in government subsidies private insurers won’t cover.

— the toll on human health to uranium miners, nuclear industry workers and potentially everyone living close to reactors including those downwind from them.

— accidental or terrorist-induced nuclear core meltdowns, already addressed, in one or more of the 438 operating plants in 33 countries worldwide and huge numbers of new ones under construction or planned increasing the danger further.

— nuclear waste storage that in the US will be Yucca Mountain known to be unsafe as it’s located in an active earthquake zone unable to assure no leakage or seepage will occur for the 500,000 years needed to guarantee safety.

— Newer planned so-called Generation III, III + and Generation IV reactor designs even more dangerous than earlier ones now in operation with plans to build hundreds of them worldwide despite the safety risk.

— the unacceptable madness of nuclear weapons proliferation assuring eventually a rogue nation or group will have enough fissionable material for a crude bomb and will use it with devastating consequences.

— the unacceptable threat of nuclear war causing nuclear winter ending all life on the planet if it happens.

In light of Caldicott’s convincing case, the solution seems clear for friends of the earth and everyone else. Western and allied major nations need a cooperative joint “Manhattan-type Project” to develop safe, non-nuclear, non-greenhouse gas emitting, alternative energy sources replacing ones now used harming the planet and threatening our survival. In addition, conservation must be emphasized and wasteful western lifestyles must change voluntarily or by law because there’s no other choice.

Final Thoughts

This article addresses reckless living unmindful of the consequences. It’s about endless wars and resources they’re waged for. It’s about gaining control of what we can’t do without, but must learn to, or we’ll risk losing far more, including the planet’s ability to sustain life. If we reach that point, it won’t matter except to resilient beetles and bacteria free at last from us. Instead of being an asset, superior human intelligence has us on the brink of our own self-destruction. It proves Ernst Mayr right saying greater brain power won’t guarantee our survival even though it may have helped him live 100 years till 2005.

The human species teeters on the edge putting excess personal gratification and living for today ahead of the long-term consequences of bad behavior. That assures one day Nixon and Ford Council of Economic Advisors chairman Herb Stein’s maxim will bite us. Back then, he noted “Things that can’t go on forever, don’t”. He meant bad economic policy, but his comment applies to all excesses, especially the worst ones, and what’s worse than endless wars, the threat of nuclear ones, and the sure threat ecological havoc will destroy us if nuclear war doesn’t do it first.

We know this and can explain it in precise, sensible, scientific terms, but what good does it do when we won’t heed our own advice. The privileged are rolling in good times, but look at the problem this way. We’re all at Cinderella’s ball and have till midnight to leave or turn into pumpkins losing everything. At this ball, clocks have no hands, so guessing right plays Russian roulette with planet earth. This article asks: can we survive our resource wars? The answer is only if we stop waging them and start using our superior intelligence to protect the earth, not destroy it as we’re doing now.

Notes

{1} http://www.powells.com/biblio/17-9780805076516-2

{2} http://www.powells.com/biblio/17-9780805076882-0

{3} http://www.powells.com/biblio/7-9780805079128-1

{4} http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780872864832-0

{5} http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780140279511-1

{6} http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9781595582133-0

_____

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen Saturdays to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com at noon US central time.

http://www.countercurrents.org/lendman060607.htm

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>It is time to put right the wrongs

2007/06/29 1 comment

>Hundreds of new documents appear to show many aspects of the Lockerbie prosecution were at best incompetent and at worst amounted to an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

by Marcello Mega

Scotsman.com (June 24 2007)

Evidence against the Lockerbie bomber was fabricated and manipulated on both sides of the Atlantic, according to leaked defence documents which appear to undermine the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

Investigators for Megrahi claim to have compelling new evidence of widespread tampering with evidence, missing or overlooked statements, and a concerted attempt to lead investigators away from the original Iranian-backed suspects and towards Libya.

Hundreds of new documents and photographs examined by Scotland on Sunday appear to show many aspects of the Lockerbie prosecution were at best incompetent and at worst amounted to an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

Last night, legal experts and families of the victims reacted with astonishment and outrage to the revelations. Jim Swire, whose daughter died in the disaster, said: “Scottish justice obviously played a leading part in one of the most disgraceful miscarriages of justice in history. The Americans played their role in the investigation and influenced the prosecution.”

Megrahi, who was convicted in 2001 of the murder of 270 people in the Lockerbie bombing, will learn on Thursday whether his case will, as expected, be sent back to court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC).

Megrahi was convicted for the December 1988 bombing on crucial evidence that he bought items of clothing packed into the suitcase containing the bomb and that he was closely associated with the firm that made part of the bomb timer. Evidence that a fragment of bomb timer was implanted in a shirt sealed Megrahi’s fate.

But the defence papers to the commission, seen by this newspaper, appear to undermine that chain of evidence. Among the key findings are:

* Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who sold the clothes to the bomber, gave two earlier statements in which he identified convicted Egyptian terrorist Abu Talb;

* Gauci gave earlier statements saying he did not sell a shirt to the man but six months later remembered selling shirts and the price;

* Two of Gauci’s statements are missing altogether;

* A babygro said to have been wrapped around the bomb and shown to the court blown to pieces was recovered intact, according to a statement from the woman who found it;

* A manual for the Toshiba radio containing the bomb was in pieces when shown to the court but was intact when recovered, according to statements from mountain rescuers;

* The discovery of the all-important shirt containing the bomb timer fragment was recorded in May 1989 by a UK forensic scientist and in January 1990 by German investigators. Examination of forensic records shows a “new” page on the discovery was inserted into the record of evidence.

* The same Slalom shirt was in a different condition when shown to the court than when photographed by German investigators.

The defence team believes it was necessary in 1990 for the prosecution to alter evidence, for political reasons. The Gulf War meant it was essential to keep Iran onside and Libya became a suitable scapegoat. Investigators switched from the current known suspects, a Palestinian terror group, the PFLP-GC, and Abu Talb, an Egyptian currently serving life in Sweden.

While the main perpetrators appear to have been CIA officers, according to the defence papers, there is also damning evidence suggesting police officers and other investigators took part in preparing false evidence.

It can also be confirmed today that a former senior Scottish police officer, who worked at a high level on the Lockerbie inquiry, has given statements to the SCCRC in which he is understood to support claims of planted evidence.

A document seen by this newspaper reveals the officer – codenamed “Golfer” – believes “labels and productions from the locus have been interfered with”. Golfer also reveals there was no “investigative or operational” reason for the inquiry to switch the inquiry to Libya.

Last night, retired MP and Lockerbie campaigner Tam Dalyell said: “It is time we tried to put right the wrongs that have been perpetrated. This was the most high profile trial internationally that there has ever been, and the conduct of it and the verdict were simply outrageous.”

Related topic: “Lockerbie evidence was tampered with, destroyed and overlooked”
http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=184

Last updated: 23-Jun-07 00:59 BST

(c) 2007 Scotsman.com

http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=986842007

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>Inconvenient Truths

>by Hugh Miles

London Review of Books | Vol 29 No 12 | June 21 2007

On 21 December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was 38 minutes into its journey when it was blown up at 31,000 feet. The explosion was so powerful that the nose of the aircraft was torn clean off. Within three seconds of the bomb detonating, the cockpit, fuselage and No 3 engine were falling separately out of the sky. It happened so quickly that no distress call was sent out and no oxygen masks deployed. With the cockpit gone, the fuselage depressurised instantly and the passengers in the rear section of the aircraft found themselves staring out into the Scottish night air. Anyone or anything not strapped down was whipped out of the plane; the change in air pressure made the passengers’ lungs expand to four times their normal volume and everyone lost consciousness. As the fuselage plummeted and the air pressure began to return to normal, some passengers came round, including the captain. A few survived all the way down, until they hit the ground. Rescuers found them clutching crucifixes, or holding hands, still strapped into their seats.

The fuselage of the plane landed on a row of family houses in the small Scottish town of Lockerbie. The impact was so powerful that the British Geological Survey registered a seismic event measuring 1.6 on the Richter scale. The wing section of the Boeing 747, loaded with enough fuel for a transatlantic flight, hit the ground at more than 500 miles an hour and exploded in a fireball that lit the sky. The cockpit, with the first-class section still attached, landed beside a church in the village of Tundergarth.

Over the next few days rescuers made a fingertip search of the crash site: 243 passengers, sixteen crew members and eleven people on the ground had been killed. Bodies and debris were strewn along an 81-mile corridor of Scottish countryside. Ten thousand pieces of debris were retrieved; each was meticulously logged. Among the items recovered were the remains of a Samsonite suitcase, which investigators later established had been used to transport the bomb. The suitcase had contained clothes, clothes that were subsequently traced to the shop of a Maltese man called Tony Gauci. Gauci later became a key prosecution witness. Fragments of a circuit board and a Toshiba radio were also recovered and identified as parts of the bomb.

Twelve years later, on 31 January 2001, a panel of three Scottish judges convicted a former Libyan intelligence officer for mass murder at Lockerbie. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was tried at a specially convened court on a former US air force base near the Dutch town of Zeist. Under a special international arrangement, the court, which sat without a jury, was temporarily declared sovereign territory of the United Kingdom, under the jurisdiction of Scottish law.

Al-Megrahi is still the only person to have been found guilty in connection with the attack. He was sentenced to 27 years in jail. His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, a fellow Libyan intelligence officer, was acquitted. Al-Megrahi was initially told that he would spend at least twenty years in prison, but the Crown, which was prosecuting, protested that this sentence was unduly lenient and petitioned the judges for a longer one. In 2003 the judges reconvened to rule that he must serve no less than 27 years before the parole board would consider his eligibility for release. Al-Megrahi’s defence team had already lodged an appeal against the conviction, but in March 2002 the guilty verdict was upheld.

From the outset the Lockerbie disaster has been marked by superlatives. The bombing was the deadliest terror attack on American civilians until 11 September 2001. It sparked Britain’s biggest ever criminal inquiry, led by its smallest police force, Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. It spelled the end of Pan Am, which never recovered from the damage to its reputation. The trial at Camp Zeist was the longest and – at a cost of GBP 75 million – the most expensive in Scottish legal history. The appeal hearing was the first Scottish trial to be broadcast live on both television and the internet.

Lawyers, politicians, diplomats and relatives of Lockerbie victims now believe that the former Libyan intelligence officer is innocent. Robert Black QC, an emeritus professor of Scottish law at Edinburgh University, was one of the architects of the original trial in Holland. He has closely followed developments since the disaster happened and in 2000 devised the non-jury trial system for the al-Megrahi case.

Even before the trial he was so sure the evidence against al-Megrahi would not stand up in court that he is on record as saying that a conviction would be impossible. When I asked how he feels about this remark now, Black replied: ‘I am still absolutely convinced that I am right. No reasonable tribunal, on the evidence heard at the original trial, should or could have convicted him and it is an absolute disgrace and outrage what the Scottish court did.’

Al-Megrahi lost his appeal in 2002, but under Scottish law he is entitled to a further legal review, to be conducted by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), an independent public body made up of senior police officers and lawyers. Its job is to re-examine cases where a miscarriage of justice may have occurred: it handles cases after the appeal process has been exhausted, and if it finds evidence that a miscarriage of justice may have taken place it refers the case to the High Court to be heard again. Al-Megrahi applied to the SCCRC for a review of his case in 2003 and the commission has been reinspecting evidence from the trial for the last four years. It will submit its findings at the end of June. It looks likely that the SCCRC will find that there is enough evidence to refer al-Megrahi’s case back to the appeal court. The Crown Office has already begun reinforcing its Lockerbie legal team in anticipation of a referral.

If al-Megrahi is granted a second appeal, it will, like the original trial, be held before a panel of Scottish judges, without a jury. This time the trial will take place in Scotland, and if the glacial pace of proceedings in the past is anything to go by, it will probably not be heard before the summer of 2008. Al-Megrahi’s defence team would be ready to launch an appeal in a matter of weeks, but the prosecution would be likely to delay the hearing for as long as possible. If an appeal takes place, al-Megrahi’s defence team will produce important evidence that was not available at the time of the first appeal, evidence that seems likely not only to exonerate al-Megrahi but to do so by pointing the finger of blame at the real perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing and revealing some inconvenient truths.

Even the judge who presided over the Lockerbie investigation and issued the 1991 arrest warrants for the two Libyans has cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. In an interview with the Sunday Times in October 2005, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, Scotland’s larger-than-life lord advocate from 1989 to 1992, questioned the reliability of the shopkeeper Tony Gauci, the prosecution’s star witness. ‘Gauci was not quite the full shilling. I think even his family would say [that he] was an apple short of a picnic. He was quite a tricky guy, I don’t think he was deliberately lying but if you asked him the same question three times he would just get irritated and refuse to answer.’ Lord Fraser made it clear that this did not mean he thought al-Megrahi was innocent. But he had presented Gauci as a reliable witness; he went on to become the heart of the prosecution’s case. Now he was casting doubt on the man who identified al-Megrahi.

Since al-Megrahi’s last appeal, many thousands of pages of reports, detailing freight and baggage movements in and out of Frankfurt airport, have been handed over to the defence. Largely in German and many handwritten, the papers were translated by the Crown at the taxpayer’s expense, but the Crown refused to share the translations with the defence and left it no time to commission its own. The Privy Council’s judicial committee, made up of law lords and senior judges, has declared that the Crown’s refusal to disclose this evidence is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. More damaging still, an unnamed senior British police officer – known to be a member of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), which implies that his rank is assistant chief constable or higher – has testfied to al-Megrahi’s defence team that crucial evidence at the trial was fabricated. If the SCCRC finds that the prosecution played foul, the Crown may decide it would be better not to continue with its case, allowing al-Megrahi to be freed immediately.

This anonymous senior officer’s testimony chimes with the well-trodden theory that the American government had a hand in fixing the trial. Hans Kochler, the UN observer at Camp Zeist, reported at the time that the trial was politically charged and the verdict ‘totally incomprehensible’.

In his report Kochler wrote that he found the presence of US Justice Department representatives in the court ‘highly problematic’, because it gave the impression that they were ‘”supervisors” handling vital matters of the prosecution strategy and deciding … which documents … were to be released in open court and what parts of information contained in a certain document were to be withheld’. ‘The alternative theory of the defence’, he went on, ‘was never seriously investigated. Amid shrouds of secrecy and national security considerations, that avenue was never seriously pursued – although it was officially declared as being of major importance for the defence case. This is totally incomprehensible to any rational observer.’ The prosecution, Kochler noted, dismissed evidence on the grounds that it was not relevant; but now that that evidence has finally – partially – been released, it turns out to be very relevant indeed: to the defence.

Whatever happens, al-Megrahi may not have to wait long. As soon as a further appeal is scheduled, he can make an application to be released from custody: the convicted Lockerbie bomber, who was supposed to serve no fewer than 27 years in a Scottish jail, might well be free this summer. Whether al-Megrahi is freed pending his appeal – and what conditions would be applied if he were – depends largely on whether his defence team can convince the judge that he is not a flight risk. This may be hard to do. The judge might decide that if he left the country, he might choose to stay in Libya rather than come back next year for another round in court. If al-Megrahi is exonerated, many tricky questions will resurface, not least what to do about the $2.7 billion compensation paid by Libya to the relatives of the victims of the bombing. And then, of course, there is the question of who really bombed Flight 103.

In the first three years following the bombing, before a shred of evidence had been produced to incriminate Libya, the Dumfries and Galloway police, the FBI and several other intelligence services around the world all shared the belief that the Lockerbie bombers belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC), a Palestinian rejectionist organisation backed by Iran. The PFLP-GC is headed by Ahmed Jibril, a former Syrian army captain; its headquarters are in Damascus and it is closely allied with the Syrian president and other senior Syrian officials. In the 1970s and 1980s the PFLP-GC carried out a number of raids against Israel, including a novel hang-glider assault launched from inside Lebanon. Lawyers, intelligence services and diplomats around the world continue to suspect that Jibril – who has even boasted that he is responsible – was behind Lockerbie.

The case against Jibril and his gang is well established. It runs like this: in July 1988, five months before the Lockerbie bombing, a US naval commander aboard USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf shot down an Iranian airbus, apparently mistaking it for an attacker. On board Iran Air Flight 655 were 270 pilgrims en route to Mecca. Ayatollah Khomeini vowed the skies would ‘rain blood’ in revenge and offered a $10 million reward to anyone who ‘obtained justice’ for Iran. The suggestion is that the PFLP-GC was commissioned to undertake a retaliatory bombing.

We know at least that two months before Lockerbie, a PFLP-GC cell was active in the Frankfurt and Neuss areas of West Germany. On 26 October 1998, German police arrested seventeen terrorist suspects who, surveillance showed, had cased Frankfurt airport and browsed Pan Am flight timetables. Four Semtex-based explosive devices were confiscated; a fifth is known to have gone missing. They were concealed inside Toshiba radios very similar to the one found at Lockerbie a few weeks later. One of the gang, a Palestinian known as Abu Talb, was later found to have a calendar in his flat in Sweden with the date of 21 December circled. New evidence, now in the hands of al-Megrahi’s defence, proves for the first time that Abu Talb was in Malta when the Lockerbie bombing took place. The Maltese man whose testimony convicted al-Megrahi has also identified Abu Talb. During al-Megrahi’s trial Abu Talb had a strange role. As part of a defence available in Scottish law, known as ‘incrimination’, Abu Talb was named as someone who – rather than the accused – might have carried out the bombing. At the time he was serving a life sentence in Sweden for the bombing of a synagogue, but he was summoned to Camp Zeist to give evidence. He ended up testifying as a prosecution witness, denying that he had anything to do with Lockerbie. In exchange for his testimony, he received lifelong immunity from prosecution.

Other evidence has emerged showing that the bomb could have been placed on the plane at Frankfurt airport, a possibility that the prosecution in al-Megrahi’s trial consistently ruled out (their case depended on the suitcase containing the bomb having been transferred from a connecting flight from Malta). Most significantly, German federal police have provided financial records showing that on 23 December 1988, two days after the bombing, the Iranian government deposited GBP 5.9 million into a Swiss bank account that belonged to the arrested members of the PFLP-GC.

The decision to steer the investigation away from the PFLP-GC and in the direction of Libya came in the run-up to the first Gulf War, as America was looking to rally a coalition to liberate Kuwait and was calling for support from Iran and Syria. Syria subsequently joined the UN forces. Quietly, the evidence incriminating Jibril, so painstakingly sifted from the debris, was binned.

Those who continued to press the case against the PFLP-GC seemed to fall foul of American law. When a New York corporate investigative company asked to look into the bombing on behalf of Pan Am found the PFLP-GC responsible, the federal government promptly indicted the company’s president, Juval Aviv, for mail fraud. Lester Coleman, a former Defense Intelligence Agency operative who was researching a book about the PFLP-GC and Lockerbie, was charged by the FBI with ‘falsely procuring a passport’. William Casey, a lobbyist who made similar allegations in 1995, found his bank accounts frozen and federal agents searching through his trash. Even so, documents leaked from the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 1995, two years after the Libyans were first identified as the prime suspects, still blamed the PFLP-GC.

Suspicions and conspiracy theories have swirled around Lockerbie from the beginning. Some of them are fairly outlandish. In Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse (2005), Brigid Keenan, the wife of the British diplomat Alan Waddams, reported that over dinner in Gambia, a former Interpol agent told her and her husband that the bombing had been a revenge attack by Iran, in retaliation for the downed airliner (though she didn’t say how he knew this). The Interpol agent claimed the cargo had not been checked because the plane was carrying drugs as part of a deal over American hostages held by Hizbullah in Beirut. Militant groups were being allowed to smuggle heroin into the US in exchange for information; the bomb had gone on board when the PFLP-GC found a loophole in this drug-running operation.

At least four US intelligence officers, including the CIA’s deputy station chief in Beirut, were on the Flight 103 passenger list. In the days following the bombing, CIA agents scoured the Scottish countryside, some reportedly dressed in Pan Am overalls. Mary Boylan, then a constable with Lothian and Borders police, has said that senior police officers told her not to make an official record of the CIA badge she recovered from the wreckage, asking her instead to hand it over to a senior colleague. Her testimony, too, is now in the hands of the SCCRC. Jim Wilson, a farmer from the village of Tundergarth, reported shortly after the bombing that he had found in his field a suitcase packed with a powdery substance that looked ‘like drugs’. He last saw the suitcase when he handed it over to the police, he said; he was never asked about it again.

In December 1998, Susan Lindauer, a US congressional aide, submitted a sworn deposition to the court in which she claimed that Richard Fuisz, a CIA agent, had given her a guarantee that he knew who was behind the Lockerbie bombing. Lindauer’s affidavit describes a conversation in Fuisz’s ‘business office’ in Chantilly, Virginia, in which he said he knew for sure the perpetrators were based in Syria. ‘Dr Fuisz has told me that he can identify who orchestrated and executed the bombing. Dr Fuisz has said that he can confirm absolutely that no Libyan national was involved in planning or executing the bombing of Pan Am 103, either in any technical or advisory capacity whatsoever.’ ‘If the government would let me, I could identify the men behind this attack’, Lindauer says Fuisz told her. Lindauer has since been accused by the US government of being an Iraqi agent; her case is pending. But her earlier deposition has been submitted to the SCCRC. It can’t count for much, however, since Fuisz himself is not able to comment. In October 1994, a month after Lindauer spoke to him, Fuisz was gagged by a Washington court. The US government ruled that under state secrecy laws he faced ten years in prison if he spoke about the Lockerbie bombing. UN observers have since criticised this apparent restraint of a key witness.

When Libya handed al-Megrahi over for trial, sanctions on Libya authorised by the Security Council were suspended and diplomatic relations with Britain restored. Tony Blair claims the Libyan detente was one of his most important foreign policy victories, and last month, as the long shadow began to fall across his premiership, Blair swung by Tripoli to meet again with Libya’s leader. Gaddafi has always contested that al-Megrahi is not the Lockerbie bomber and that he should be allowed to return home. Maybe the two leaders touched on the prickly topic of what should be done about the compensation paid by Libya, in the event al-Megrahi is exonerated. When al-Megrahi was handed over for trial, Libya declared that it would accept responsibility for his actions. But it never accepted guilt. This distinction was spelled out clearly in Libyan letters to the UN Security Council. In a BBC radio interview in 2004, the Libyan prime minister, Shukri Ghanem, underlined once again that compensation had been paid because this was the ‘price for peace’ and to secure the lifting of sanctions. When asked if Libya did not accept guilt, he said: ‘I agree with that’.

If the court that convicted al-Megrahi now reverses its decision, then Libya would clearly have a case for demanding its money back. Since recovering the compensation from the relatives would be unthinkable, it is more likely Libya would pursue those responsible for the miscarriage of justice. ‘What they might try to do’, Black suggests, ‘is to recoup the money from the British and American governments, who after all are responsible for the initial farce and the wrongful conviction in the first place. They paid that money on the basis of a miscarriage of justice perpetrated by the British courts’. Al-Megrahi’s acquittal on appeal would not ipso facto make a compelling case for Libya to have its money back: even if guilt can’t be proved beyond reasonable doubt – the test of the criminal burden of proof – it could still be shown that it was more likely than not (which is the burden applied to civil cases such as compensation cases). If Libya paid the money for purely political reasons then, one could argue, it might have to live with that decision. When I asked the Foreign Office whether Britain would consider reimbursing Libya in the event of al-Megrahi’s exoneration, a spokesman declined to comment.

If al-Megrahi is acquitted, he will also have the right to sue for wrongful conviction. He could claim compensation to the tune of several tens of thousands of pounds. The Crown Office, which is headed by the Scottish lord advocate, is responsible for what happened, which means that al-Megrahi would sue the Scottish Executive. The lord advocate is now one of the ‘Scottish ministers’, whereas previously he – now she – was one of the law officers of the UK Government. The Scottish Executive might refuse to pay, blaming Westminster. Westminster, meanwhile, would argue that Lockerbie is and always has been a Crown Office matter and that the UK government has no say. A political storm is on its way, especially now that the SNP is in charge in Scotland.

Since the case against al-Megrahi was so weak, it is hard to understand how the judges who presided over the trial could have got it so wrong. Black has a view:

“It has been suggested to me, very often by Libyans, that political pressure was placed upon the judges. I don’t think for a minute that political pressure of that nature was placed on the judges. What happened, I think, was that it was internal politics in Scotland. Prosecutions in Scotland are brought by the lord advocate. Until just a few years ago, one of the other functions of the lord advocate in Scotland was that he appointed all Scottish judges. I think what influenced these judges was that they thought that if both of the Libyans accused are found not guilty, this will be the most fiendish embarrassment to the lord advocate.”

The appointment system for judges has changed since the trial, but another controversial aspect of the al-Megrahi case may also be re-examined: the policies on disclosure. Compared to almost any other similar criminal justice system, Scotland does not have a proper system of disclosure of information. In England and Wales, the Crown has to disclose all material to the defence, according to rules set out in statute. In Scotland the Crown is allowed to modify or withhold evidence if it considers that withholding is in the ‘public interest’. At least the Scottish criminal justice system doesn’t have the death penalty.

_____

Hugh Miles has lived in Libya, Egypt and Yemen. He works in London.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n12/print/mile01_.html

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>Denying Inflation: Who, Why, and How

>by Mason Gaffney (December 2005, Revised May o4 2007)

Henry George foreboded that landowners might take a growing wedge of the national “pie”, or product. Labor’s wedge might grow absolutely, as the whole pie grows, but still fall as a fraction.

In our times, George’s grimmer scenario is coming true. Since about 1975, labor’s wedge of the pie is shrinking as an absolute. “Real” wage rates have been falling since about 1975. “Family wage” used to mean a breadwinner’s wage high enough to support a family; now it means the combined wages of two adults. Many of these are “DINKS” (Double Income, No Kids) because that is all they can afford without cutting their customary material and educational standards.

What is this “real” wage rate? It is a ratio: the nominal money wage rate on top, divided by an index to the Cost of Living (COL) on the bottom. The higher the COL, the lower the real wage. Landowners cut into labor’s share from both the top and the bottom, because the COL includes many products of land (like building materials and energy) and land itself (like homesites). Shelter costs are by far the largest part of household budgets.

The standard index to the COL is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), calculated and published regularly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This index is, we will see, a political
football.

Henry George said little about inflation because it was not a threat in his day. That was a time of “hard money” and the gold standard. Prices were stable or falling; DEflation was the great bugbear. Today, though, to check on George’s forecast, we have to distinguish between nominal money wages, and real wages.

An old Kingston Trio classic offered the following folk wisdom about survival in The Everglades: “If the skeeters don’t gyitcha then the gators will”. If the skeeters of life are nicks taken from money wages, the big gator now is the price of buying and owning a home.

Why deny inflation? Those in power have several reasons to understate rises in the cost of living (COL), measured by the CPI.

1. To mask the fall of real wage rates. This is supposed to placate working voters. It is supposed to support orators declaiming that our standard of living is ever rising, and we should all feel good. Actually, real wage rates have fallen steadily since peaking in about 1975. That is using the official Consumer Price Index (CPI) to measure rises in the COL. If the CPI understates rises in the COL, real wage rates have fallen even faster than the data show.

As a by-product, this denial of inflation supports those who like to dismiss George as a false prophet of doom.

2. To mask the fall of real interest rates, making savers and lenders feel better, and more willing to lend to governments. In this age of massive and growing federal debts, the U.S. Treasury depends on willing lenders more and more, to stay solvent.

3. To slow the rise of income tax brackets, which are indexed to the CPI. That is, when the CPI rises by, say, 5%, the income level at which you pass into a higher tax bracket also rises by 5%. Congress, for once in a reasonable mood, enacted this sensible provision when enough people became aware that they were victims of “bracket creep”. Bracket creep is when inflation boosts your money income into a higher tax bracket, although your real income has not risen.

However, if the true COL rises by 10%, while the CPI rises by only 5%, this provision no longer protects us against bracket creep. It just gives a talking point to those who claim to protect us. Sneaky! That is why you, dear reader, may have had a hard time following the bean under one of the three shells. Politicians, of course, are good at withdrawing promises. The sneakier the method, the easier it is for them to cover their tracks.

4. To cut the real value of social security payments. This point is straightforward. These payments are also indexed to the CPI. If the CPI understates the COL, real social security benefits fall every year. Congress gets to spend the savings on wastes like Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere”, redundant imperialistic ventures, tax cuts for major campaign contributors, and no-bid contracts for the well-connected.

5. To cut rises in labor union and other wage contracts that are indexed to the CPI. The Federal minimum wage, like most state minima, is also indexed to the CPI.

6. To give the Federal Reserve Bank credit for having “tamed inflation”, when in fact inflation of land prices is running wild.

That is the “Why” of veiling inflation. Now let us look at the “How”. There have been two major steps in recent decades.

First was removing the costs of buying and owning homes from the CPI. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the agency that calculates the CPI, did this from 1983 onwards. They didn’t remove it altogether, that would have been too transparent. Instead they substituted the “rental equivalent” of housing. This is supposed to be what your house would rent for, or what you would pay to rent a similar house. It is a hypothetical and casual figure – sloppy and unverifiable, that is – based simply on questionnaires to a sample of homeowners. It takes no account of the fact that some people will, and therefore everyone must pay a premium to own, because of expected higher future rents and resale values.

Thus the land boom of 1983-89 was mostly blanked out of the official published CPI of those years. The CPI rose gently as though the land boom never happened. Again, in 2004 housing prices rose by 13%, while these “rental equivalents” rose only by 2%.

The CPI also takes no account of the price of extra land around some houses. It takes no account of recreational lands, which now have displaced farming and forestry over whole counties and regions.

The second major step was the Boskin Commission Report of 1995 (Newt Gingrich was dominating Congress), and its acceptance and implementation. Michael Boskin of the Hoover Institution was called upon to legitimize allegations that the CPI overstated inflation. He and his Commission obliged, and supplied the rationale for several rounds of trimming down the CPI even more.

The Boskin Commission’s advanced methodology included a lot of old-fashioned cherry-picking. They accumulated evidence supporting the foregone conclusion, and omitted contrary evidence. Most tellingly, they were silent about the biggest factor by which the CPI understates inflation: that is the use of “rental equivalence” in place of home prices. Now, shelter costs are about 40% of consumer budgets, and hence of the true COL. To accept an extreme understatement of shelter costs, while distracting us with lesser factors and arcane methodology, shows bias.

Most professional economists, sad to say, treat Boskin’s report as holy writ. They come on like preachers, salesmen, or just cheer-leaders, not like scientists exercising independent judgment. I have recently surveyed 20 current texts in Macroeconomics. They all list the same four “biases”, in the same order, that they allege make the CPI overstate inflation. These are:

a. Substitution bias. When the price of something rises, you use less of it, so it should be weighted less in the index.

b. Quality improvement bias. Products of the same name keep getting better, so they say.

c. New product bias. The CPI lags in showing how new gadgets raise our welfare. Microchip products, of course, are the example of choice.

d. “Discount bias”. The CPI scriveners assume that products sold in discount stores are of lower quality, when they really are just as good.

Let’s just take point “b”, above, quality improvement bias. The texts give some examples, but not a single counter-example. Here are a few of the latter.

* 2×4 dimensional lumber is no longer 2×4, but 15-20% smaller in cross-section, and of lower grade stock

* salmon is no longer wild, but farm raised in unsanitary conditions, and died pink (ugh)

* “wooden” furniture is now mostly particle-board

* “wooden” doors are now mostly hollow

* new houses have remote locations, far from desired destinations

* ice cream is now filled out with seaweed products

* the steel in autos is eked out with fiberglass, plastic, and other ersatz that crumbles in minor collisions

* airline travel is no longer a delight but a series of insults and abuses

* gasoline used to come with free services: pumping the gas, checking tire pressure and supplying free air, checking oil and water, cleaning glass, free maps, rest rooms (often clean), mechanic on duty, friendly attitudes and travel directions. They served you before you paid. Stations were easy to find, to enter and exit. Competing firms wanted your business: now most of them have merged.

* cold fresh milk was delivered to your door

* clerks in grocery and other stores brought your orders to the counter; now, many clerks, if you can find one, can hardly direct you to the right aisle

* suits came with two pairs of pants and they fitted the cuffs free. Waists came in half-sizes

* socks came in a full range of sizes

* shoes came in a full range of widths; the clerk patiently fitted the fussiest of customers

* the post office delivered mail and parcels to your door or RFD, often twice a day

* public telephones were everywhere, not just in airport lobbies. Information was free; live operators actually conversed with you, and might give you street addresses

* public transit service was frequent, and served many routes now abandoned

* live people used to answer commercial telephones, and tell you what you actually wanted to know

* autos used to buy “freedom of the road”; now they buy long commutes at low speeds and rage-inducing delays. One must now travel farther and buck more traffic to reach the same number of destinations. Boskin et al dwell on higher performance of cars, and the bells and whistles, but take no note of the cost-push of urban sprawl.

* classes keep getting larger, with less access to teachers and top professors, and more use of mind-numbing “scantron” testing.

* before world war II, an Ivy-league college student lodged in a roomy dorm with maid service and dined in a student union with table service, and a nutritionist planning healthy meals. All that, plus tuition and incidentals, cost under $1,000 a year. Now, to maintain your children’s place and status in the rat race, you’d put out $40,000 a year for a claustrophobic dorm and junk food. But a B.A. no longer has the former value and cachet. Now you need time in graduate and professional schools to achieve the same status. Many students emerge with huge student loan balances to pay off over life.

* warranties on major appliances cost extra, aren’t promptly honored, and expire too soon. Repair services and fix-it shops used to abound to maintain smaller appliances. Now, most of them are throwaway.

* replacement parts for autos are hard to find, exploitively overpriced, and are often ersatz or recycled aftermarket parts

* musical instruments are mass-produced and tinny instead of hand-crafted and signed

* piano keys were ivory; now plastic

* many new “wonder drugs”, if you can afford them, have bad side-effects, while old aspirin still gets the highest marks

One could go on, but the point is that Boskin et al seem not to have considered counterexamples to their foregone conclusions. If they did this where we can observe them, what else did they do under cover of black box models? The BLS, succumbing to the political pressure, keeps modifying the CPI to show less inflation, even while our daily experiences and shrinking savings tell us there is more.

George warned that landowners might take most of the fruits of progress, leaving labor barely enough to survive. Critics then and now have urged us, instead, to don rose-colored glasses. The rosiest of these is the CPI as manipulated to screen out bad news, especially news about soaring land prices. Let us be aware of who is manipulating the news, why, and how.

http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/gaffney-mason_on-inflation.html

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

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>The wrath of 2007: America’s great drought

>by Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles

The Independent & The Independent on Sunday

Independent.co.uk (June 11 2007)

America is facing its worst summer drought since the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression. Or perhaps worse still.

From the mountains and desert of the West, now into an eighth consecutive dry year, to the wheat farms of Alabama, where crops are failing because of rainfall levels twelve inches lower than usual, to the vast soupy expanse of Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida, which has become so dry it actually caught fire a couple of weeks ago, a continent is crying out for water.

In the south-east, usually a lush, humid region, it is the driest few months since records began in 1895. California and Nevada, where burgeoning population centres co-exist with an often harsh, barren landscape, have seen less rain over the past year than at any time since 1924. The Sierra Nevada range, which straddles the two states, received only 27 per cent of its usual snowfall in winter, with immediate knock-on effects on water supplies for the populations of Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The human impact, for the moment, has been limited, certainly nothing compared to the great westward migration of Okies in the 1930 – the desperate march described by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath.

Big farmers are now well protected by government subsidies and emergency funds, and small farmers, some of whom are indeed struggling, have been slowly moving off the land for decades anyway. The most common inconvenience, for the moment, are restrictions on hosepipes and garden sprinklers in eastern cities.

But the long-term implications are escaping nobody. Climatologists see a growing volatility in the south-east’s weather – today’s drought coming close on the heels of devastating hurricanes two to three years ago. In the West, meanwhile, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests a movement towards a state of perpetual drought by the middle of this century. “The 1930s drought lasted less than a decade. This is something that could remain for 100 years”, said Richard Seager a climatologist at Columbia University and lead researcher of a report published recently by the government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

While some of this year’s dry weather is cyclical – California actually had an unusually wet year last year, so many of the state’s farmers still have plenty of water for their crops – some of it portends more permanent changes. In Arizona, the tall mountains in the southern Sonoran desert known as “sky islands” because they have been welcome refuges from the desert heat for millennia, have already shown unmistakable signs of change.

Predatory insects have started ravaging trees already weakened by record temperatures and fires over the past few years. Animal species such as frogs and red squirrels have been forced to move ever higher up the mountains in search of cooler temperatures, and are in danger of dying out altogether. Mount Lemmon, which rises above the city of Tucson, boasts the southernmost ski resort in the US, but has barely attracted any snow these past few years.

“A lot of people think climate change and the ecological repercussions are fifty years away”, Thomas Swetnam, an environmental scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, told The New York Times a few months ago. “But it’s happening now in the West. The data is telling us that we are in the middle of one of the first big indicators of climate change impacts in the continental United States.” Across the West, farmers and city water consumers are locked in a perennial battle over water rights – one that the cities are slowly winning. Down the line, though, there are serious questions about how to keep showers and lawn sprinklers going in the retirement communities of Nevada and Arizona. Lake Powell, the reservoir on the upper Colorado River that helps provide water across a vast expanse of the West, has been less than half full for years, with little prospect of filling up in the foreseeable future.

According to the NOAA’s recent report, the West can expect ten to twenty per cent less rainfall by mid-century, which will increase air pollution in the cities, kill off trees and water-retaining giant cactus plants and shrink the available water supply by as much as 25 per cent.

In the south-east, the crisis is immediate – and may be alleviated at any moment by the arrival of the tropical storm season. In Georgia, where the driest spring on record followed closely on the heels of a devastating frost, farmers are afraid they might lose anywhere from half to two-thirds of crops such as melons and the state’s celebrated peaches. Many cities are restricting lawn sprinklers to one hour per day – and some places one hour only every other day.

The most striking effect of the dry weather has been to expose large parts of the bed of Lake Okeechobee, the vast circular expanse of water east of Palm Beach, Florida, which acts as a back-up water supply for five million Floridians. Archaeologists have had a field day – dredging the soil for human bone fragments, tools, bits of pottery and ceremonial jewellery thought to have belonged to the natives who lived near the lake before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.

Environmentalists are not entirely upset, because the lake is notoriously polluted with pesticides and other farm products that then poison nearby rivers. River fish stocks in the area are now booming.

Nothing, though, was so strange as the fires that broke out over about 12,000 acres on the northern edge of the lake at the end of May. They were eventually doused by Tropical Storm Barry last weekend. State water managers, however, say it will may take a whole summer of rainstorms, or longer, to restore the lake.

The great Dust Bowl disaster

The Dust Bowl was the result of catastrophic dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American prairies in the 1930s. The fertile soil of the Great Plains had been exposed by removal of grass during ploughing over decades of ill-conceived farming techniques. The First World War and immense profits had driven farmers to push the land well beyond its natural limits.

When drought hit, the soil dried, became dust, and blew eastwards, mostly in large black clouds. This caused an exodus from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the surrounding Great Plains, with more than half a million Americans left homeless in the Great Depression.

(c) 2007 Independent News and Media Limited

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article2643033.ece

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>Cuba’s Cure

>Why is Cuba exporting its health care miracle to the world’s poor?

by Sarah van Gelder

YES! Magazine Summer 2007 Issue: Latin America Rising

Cubans say they offer health care to the world’s poor because they have big hearts. But what do they get in return?

They live longer than almost anyone in Latin America. Far fewer babies die. Almost everyone has been vaccinated, and such scourges of the poor as parasites, TB, malaria, even HIV/AIDS are rare or non-existent. Anyone can see a doctor, at low cost, right in the neighborhood.

The Cuban health care system is producing a population that is as healthy as those of the world’s wealthiest countries at a fraction of the cost. And now Cuba has begun exporting its system to under-served communities around the world – including the United States.

The story of Cuba’s health care ambitions is largely hidden from the people of the United States, where politics left over from the Cold War maintain an embargo on information and understanding. But it is increasingly well-known in the poorest communities of Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa where Cuban and Cuban-trained doctors are practicing.

In the words of Dr Paul Farmer, Cuba is showing that “you can introduce the notion of a right to health care and wipe out the diseases of poverty”.

Health Care for All Cubans

Many elements of the health care system Cuba is exporting around the world are common-sense practices. Everyone has access to doctors, nurses, specialists, and medications. There is a doctor and nurse team in every neighborhood, although somewhat fewer now, with 29,000 medical professionals serving out of the country – a fact that is causing some complaints. If someone doesn’t like their neighborhood doctor, they can choose another one.

House calls are routine, in part because it’s the responsibility of the doctor and nurse team to understand you and your health issues in the context of your family, home, and neighborhood. This is key to the system. By catching diseases and health hazards before they get big, the Cuban medical system can spend a little on prevention rather than a lot later on to cure diseases, stop outbreaks, or cope with long-term disabilities. When a health hazard like dengue fever or malaria is identified, there is a coordinated nationwide effort to eradicate it. Cubans no longer suffer from diphtheria, rubella, polio, or measles and they have the lowest AIDS rate in the Americas, and the highest rate of treatment and control of hypertension.

For health issues beyond the capacity of the neighborhood doctor, polyclinics provide specialists, outpatient operations, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and labs. Those who need inpatient treatment can go to hospitals; at the end of their stay, their neighborhood medical team helps make the transition home. Doctors at all levels are trained to administer acupuncture, herbal cures, or other complementary practices that Cuban labs have found effective. And Cuban researchers develop their own vaccinations and treatments when medications aren’t available due to the blockade, or when they don’t exist.

Exporting Health Care

For decades, Cuba has sent doctors abroad and trained international students at its medical schools. But things ramped up beginning in 1998 when Hurricanes George and Mitch hammered Central America and the Caribbean. As they had often done, Cuban doctors rushed to the disaster zone to help those suffering the aftermath. But when it was time to go home, it was clear to the Cuban teams that the medical needs extended far beyond emergency care. So Cuba made a commitment to post doctors in several of these countries and to train local people in medicine so they could pick up where the Cuban doctors left off. ELAM, the Havana-based Latin American School of Medicine, was born, and with it the offer of 10,000 scholarships for free medical training.

Today the program has grown to 22,000 students from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the United States who attend ELAM and 28 other medical schools across Cuba. The students represent dozens of ethnic groups, 51 percent are women, and they come from more than thirty countries. What they have in common is that they would otherwise be unable to get a medical education. When a slum dweller in Port au Prince, a young indigenous person from Bolivia, the son or daughter of a farmer in Honduras, or a street vendor in the Gambia wants to become a doctor, they turn to Cuba. In some cases, Venezuela pays the bill. But most of the time, Cuba covers tuition, living expenses, books, and medical care. In return, the students agree that, upon completion of their studies, they will return to their own under-served communities to practice medicine.

The curriculum at ELAM begins, for most students, with up to a year of “bridging” courses, allowing them to catch up on basic math, science, and Spanish skills. The students are treated for the ailments many bring with them.

At the end of their training, which can take up to eight years, most students return home for residencies. Although they all make a verbal commitment to serve the poor, a few students quietly admit that they don’t see this as a permanent commitment.

One challenge of the Cuban approach is making sure their investment in medical education benefits those who need it most. Doctors from poor areas routinely move to wealthier areas or out of the country altogether. Cuba trains doctors in an ethic of serving the poor. They learn to see medical care as a right, not as a commodity, and to see their own role as one of service. Stories of Cuban doctors who practice abroad suggest these lessons stick. They are known for taking money out of their own pockets to buy medicine for patients who can’t afford to fill a prescription, and for touching and even embracing patients.

Cuba plans with the help of Venezuela to take their medical training to a massive scale and graduate 100,000 doctors over the next fifteen years, according to Dr Juan Ceballos, advisor to the vice minister of public health. To do so, Cuba has been building new medical schools around the country and abroad, at a rapid clip.

But the scale of the effort required to address current and projected needs for doctors requires breaking out of the box. The new approach is medical schools without walls. Students meet their teachers in clinics and hospitals, in Cuba and abroad, practicing alongside their mentors. Videotaped lectures and training software mean students can study anywhere there are Cuban doctors. The lower training costs make possible a scale of medical education that could end the scarcity of doctors.

US Students in Cuba

Recently, Cuba extended the offer of free medical training to students from the United States. It started when Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi got curious after he and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus repeatedly encountered Cuban or Cuban-trained doctors in poor communities around the world.

They visited Cuba in May 2000, and during a conversation with Fidel Castro, Thompson brought up the lack of medical access for his poor, rural constituents. “He [Castro] was very familiar with the unemployment rates, health conditions, and infant mortality rates in my district, and that surprised me”, Thompson said. Castro offered scholarships for low-income Americans under the same terms as the other international students – they have to agree to go back and serve their communities.

Today, about ninety young people from poor parts of the United States have joined the ranks of international students studying medicine in Cuba.

The offer of medical training is just one way Cuba has reached out to the United States. Immediately after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 1,500 Cuban doctors volunteered to come to the Gulf Coast. They waited with packed bags and medical supplies, and a ship ready to provide backup support. Permission from the US government never arrived.

“Our government played politics with the lives of people when they needed help the most”, said Representative Thompson. “And that’s unfortunate”.

When an earthquake struck Pakistan shortly afterwards, though, that country’s government warmly welcomed the Cuban medical professionals. And 2,300 came, bringing 32 field hospitals to remote, frigid regions of the Himalayas. There, they set broken bones, treated ailments, and performed operations for a total of 1.7 million patients.

The disaster assistance is part of Cuba’s medical aid mission that has extended from Peru to Indonesia, and even included caring for 17,000 children sickened by the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine.

It isn’t only in times of disaster that Cuban health care workers get involved. Some 29,000 Cuban health professionals are now practicing in 69 countries – mostly in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. In Venezuela, about 20,000 of them have enabled President Hugo Cha’vez to make good on his promise to provide health care to the poor. In the shantytowns around Caracas and the banks of the Amazon, those who organize themselves and find a place for a doctor to practice and live can request a Cuban doctor.

As in Cuba, these doctors and nurses live where they serve, and become part of the community. They are available for emergencies, and they introduce preventative health practices.

Some are tempted to use their time abroad as an opportunity to leave Cuba. In August, the US Department of Homeland Security announced a new policy that makes it easier for Cuban medical professionals to come to the US. But the vast majority remain on the job and eventually return to Cuba.

Investing in Peace

How do the Cuban people feel about using their country’s resources for international medical missions? Those I asked responded with some version of this: We Cubans have big hearts. We are proud that we can share what we have with the world’s poor.

Nearly everyone in Cuba knows someone who has served on a medical mission. These doctors encounter maladies that have been eradicated from Cuba. They expand their understanding of medicine and of the suffering associated with poverty and powerlessness, and they bring home the pride that goes with making a difference.

And pride is a potent antidote to the dissatisfaction that can result from the economic hardships that continue fifty years into Cuba’s revolution.

From the government’s perspective, their investment in medical internationalism is covered, in part, by ALBA, the new trade agreement among Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba. ALBA, an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, puts human needs ahead of economic growth, so it isn’t surprising that Cuba’s health care offerings fall within the agreement, as does Venezuelan oil, Bolivian natural gas, and so on. But Cuba also offers help to countries outside of ALBA.

“All we ask for in return is solidarity”, Dr Ceballos says.

“Solidarity” has real-world implications. Before Cuba sent doctors to Pakistan, relations between the two countries were not great, Ceballos says. But now the relationship is “magnificent”. The same is true of Guatemala and El Salvador. “Although they are conservative governments, they have become more flexible in their relationship with Cuba”, he says.

Those investments in health care missions “are resources that prevent confrontation with other nations”, Ceballos explains. “The solidarity with Cuba has restrained aggressions of all kinds”. And in a statement that acknowledges Cuba’s vulnerabilities on the global stage, Ceballos puts it this way: “It’s infinitely better to invest in peace than to invest in war”.

Imagine, then, that this idea took hold. Even more revolutionary than the right to health care for all is the idea that an investment in health – or in clean water, adequate food or housing – could be more powerful, more effective at building security than bombers and aircraft carriers.

_____

Sarah van Gelder, executive editor of YES!, was in Cuba (legally) in December 2006 visiting medical schools, clinics, and hospitals. Her travel was supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies, and MEDICC provided program consulting.

_____

Salud! Cuba’s Global Health Mission

The film Salud! follows Cuban doctors to Honduras, Venezuela, the Gambia, and other poor countries where they offer medical care and training. The ninety-minute documentary also tells of the thousands of international medical students studying in Cuba, and what it means to their communities when they return. Visit: www.saludthefilm.net or read about Salud! at http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=1785 .

MEDICC (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba), distributes Salud! and supports international medical students and graduates trained in Cuba who are returning to under-served areas to practice medicine. MEDICC publishes MEDICC Review, a peer-reviewed journal on Cuban medical and public health, and Cuba Health Reports, an online news service, and assists US health professionals exploring the Cuban public health experience. www.medicc.org

_____

A vaccine with proven effectiveness against Meningitis B was developed in Cuba in the 1980s. Since then, 55 million doses have been administered in Cuba and other countries. But not in the US, where outbreaks still kill children. Dr Robert Fortner, MD, wanted to find out why. His findings are at: www.yesmagazine.org/vaccine

http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=1733

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

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