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The following claims have attained quasi-canonical status in Washington: The presence of US forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances US influence; the Persian Gulf constitutes a vital US national security interest; Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies; the interests of the United States and Israel align; and, terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat. Subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.
Palestinian youth have dug a hole in Israel’s separation wall with the Palestinian territories, as a symbolic gesture to mark 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Palestinians refer to the current wall separating the West Bank from Israel as the “apartheid wall”. The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that the Israeli barrier “causes serious humanitarian and legal problems” and goes “far beyond what is permissible for an occupying power”.
Twelve Nobel Peace Prize winners penned an open letter to President Barack Obama urging his administration to release a U.S. Senate report on the CIA’s use of torture. The laureates spoke out sharply against any use of torture, but said that the U.S.’ tactics were particularly troubling. Advocates have been urging the White House for months to no avail to make the report public.
It’s unrealistic to expect individuals to inquire, broker by broker, about their files. Instead, we need to require brokers to make targeted disclosures to consumers. Uncovering problems in Big Data (or decision models based on that data) should not be a burden we expect individuals to solve on their own.
It is official: US President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama is at war again. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq was so controversial that it fractured the global consensus to fight terror. After Obama took office, he sought to introduce a gentler, subtler tone. But the rhetorical shift did not translate into a change in strategy. America’s war on terror now risks becoming a permanent war against an expanding list of enemies – often inadvertently created by its own policies. It is time for the US to recognize that since it launched its war on terror, the scourge has only spread.
Did you know that the US government’s counterterrorism chief Matthew Olson said that “there’s no credible information” that ISIS is planning an attack on America and that there’s “no indication at this point of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States”? Probably not, because as the nation barrels towards yet another war in the Middle East and President Obama addresses the nation on the “offensive phase” of his military plan, mainstream media pundits and the usual uber-hawk politicians are busy trying to out-hyperbole each other over the threat ISIS poses to Americans. Thanks to this wall-to-wall fear mongering, a once war-weary public is now terrified. The administration openly admits it has no idea how long it will take, only that it won’t be quick. “It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years,” John Kerry said. He didn’t add, “it might take another 13”, but he might as well have.
After decades of cynical and often secret interventions by the US, Britain, France, Russia, and other outside powers, the Middle East’s political institutions are based largely on corruption, sectarian politics, and brute force. The damage in Libya, Gaza, Syria, and Iraq demands that a political solution be found within the region, not imposed from the outside.
According to the survey jockeys at Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who think global warming is “very serious” or “somewhat serious” has declined since 2006 (from 79 percent to 65 percent). Public alarm over the topic has receded over a period during which the scientific, journalistic, and political consensus on the topic has surged the other way.
The four founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, cosmologist Martin Rees, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, economic theorist Sir Partha Desgupta and philosopher Huw Price, are in the business of “horizon scanning” – identifying low-probability-but-high-consequence events – and are concerned mainly with risks we have created ourselves – the consequences of being too clever for our own good. One prominent risk is that artificial intelligence (AI) will outcompete our own for predominance, ultimately allowing AI to relate to humans much as humans currently do to chimpanzees. There is also the risk of the deliberate or accidental release of a virus with a modified genome, the adoption of stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering, and the use of 3-D printers to create military-grade weapons.
Making money from water? Is this what Wall Street wants next? Bottled mineral water have always existed alongside a robust municipal water system that delivers clean water to the home. This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity. At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.
Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others have used open sources – media reports, court affidavits, NGO reports and independent field investigations – to piece together a strike-by-strike picture of more than 450 strikes in the US’s covert campaigns, revealing at least 2,681 reported deaths, including 480 people or more who are described as civilians.
Over the last decade, the United States has provided hundreds of thousands of small arms to the Afghan security forces. But the US and its Afghan counterparts are doing an inadequate job of tracking these weapons increasing the likelihood that they could wind up in the hands of the resurgent Taliban, which has recently made key military advances that are threatening Afghanistan’s fragile stability.
The OECD has a clear message for the world: for the rich countries, the best of capitalism is over. For the poor ones – now experiencing the glitter and haze of industrialisation – it will be over by 2060. If you want higher growth, says the OECD, you must accept higher inequality. And vice versa.
For more than a year now, the revelations disclosed by former American intelligence worker Edward Snowden have fueled an at times fierce debate over the sense and legality of the NSAs sheer greed for data. Der Spiegel conducted two interviews. The first is with two major critics of the NSA’s work — human rights activist and lawyer Jesselyn Radack, who represents Snowden, and former spy Thomas Drake. The second interview is with John Podesta, a special advisor to United States President Barack Obama.
For all the slick technology, there are grave moral and legal questions going unanswered in the government’s use of armed drones to kill people considered terrorist threats. The problems involving these secretive executions are ably underlined by a bipartisan panel of military and intelligence veterans who warn in a new report that without adequate controls and public accountability, the United States could be on a “slippery slope” into a form of perpetual warfare that invites other nations to follow suit and never explain themselves.
The Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a “slippery slope” into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials.
President Obama should be asking the same question in Iraq and Syria. What course of action will be best, in the short and the long term, for the Iraqi and Syrian people? What course of action will be most likely to stop the violence and misery they experience on a daily basis? What course of action will give them the best chance of peace, prosperity and a decent government?
Cell site simulators, also known as “stingrays,” are devices that trick cellphones into reporting their locations and identifying information. Initially the domain of the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies, the use of stingrays has trickled down to federal, state and local law enforcement. This sort of invasive surveillance raises serious questions about whether our tax dollars are funding violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
While Attorney General Eric Holder recently pledged that under his watch, journalists will not go to jail, the administration has continued to use the judicial system to harass journalists into revealing their sources. Journalists and press freedom advocates say the administration’s war on journalists has chilled national security reporting, with potential sources afraid to speak to reporters for fear of being prosecuted.
Policy must assure the security of state authority and concentrations of domestic power, defending them from a frightening enemy: the domestic population. Information about the enemy makes a critical contribution to controlling it. Obama’s contributions have reached unprecedented levels.
There’s only one country that has been consciously excluded from Glenn Greenwald’s tour – in fact, only one country in the world that he says he absolutely will not visit. It is the UK. The wounds left by the detention under the Terrorism Act of his partner, Miranda, at Heathrow airport last August, are still open and deep.
Offensive “Terminator-style” autonomous robots that are programmed to kill could soon escape Hollywood science fiction and become reality. This actual rise of the machines raises important strategic, moral, and legal questions about whether the international community should empower robots to kill.
Humans can survive weeks without food, but only days or hours without water. Water is life. So what happens when private companies control the spigot? Evidence from water privatization projects around the world paints a pretty clear picture: Skyrocketing water prices, unsafe supply, failing infrastructure. These problems fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable among us. This is why public institutions, not private corporations, must lead the development of water systems and delivery.
The root of extreme sentencing is legislative: Eighty-three percent of those serving life without parole for a nonviolent offense as of 2012 received a mandatory minimum sentence prescribed by law. Judges protest the harsh sentences even as they hand them down. President Barack Obama, the inheritor of a war on drugs created by his predecessors, has criticized excessive sentences. But he has done little to undo the damage.
Slavery, in its various forms of physical and mental torment, has been a part of U.S. history from the beginnings of our country to the present day. There are numerous modern-day corporations who profited immensely from slave labor. The 13th Amendment bans slavery “except as punishment for crime.” The 14th Amendment bans debt servitude. But each inmate in a modern-day private prison, according to Chris Hedges, “can generate corporate revenues of $30,000 to $40,000 a year.”
Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.
A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.
By 2020 there could be over 30 billion devices connected to the Internet. Once dumb, they will have smartened up thanks to sensors and other technologies embedded in them and, thanks to your machines, your life will quite literally have gone online. Techno-evangelists have a nice catchphrase for this future utopia of machines and the never-ending stream of information, known as Big Data, it produces: the Internet of Things. With the rise of the networked device, what people do in their homes, in their cars, in stores, and within their communities will be monitored and analyzed in ever more intrusive ways by corporations. Yes, imagine it. Welcome to a world where everything you do is collected, stored, analyzed, and, more often than not, packaged and sold to strangers — including government agencies.
The FISA court and intelligence committees were supposed to be bulwarks against the dangers of secret spying programs but the shortcomings of these institutions are now clear. It’s troubling to think about all the times the CIA interfered with congressional oversight without so much as a public peep from Feinstein or her colleagues.
UN member States have affirmed that the rights to water and sanitation are legally binding in international law, yet their agreement is marred by the reluctance of the United States to join in a universal agreement on the definition of these rights. The U.S. government’s position works against the interests of the billions of people who lack adequate access to water and sanitation.
All of our current knowledge about surveillance is thanks to one man, Edward J. Snowden. It’s embarrassing that democratic European countries, where the rule of law should reign supreme, have until now shied away from confrontation with the United States and have preferred to place Mr. Snowden’s fate and security in Russia’s hands.
Novelist John Lancaster, given access to the Snowden Files, discusses his impressions. At a moment of austerity and with a general sense that our state’s ability to guarantee prosperity for its citizens is in retreat, that same state is about to make the biggest advance ever in its security powers. Our spies and security services can, for the first time, monitor everything about us, and they can do so with a few clicks of a mouse and – to placate the lawyers – a drop-down menu of justifications. Looking at the GCHQ papers, it is clear that there is an ambition to get access to everything digital. And yet nobody, at least in Britain, seems to care. Snowden’s revelations are not just interesting or important but vital, because the state is about to get powers that no state has ever had, and we need to have a public debate about those powers and what their limits are to be.
Obama would be standing on stronger ground in demanding that Syria’s government eliminate its stocks of poison gas if the US would sign onto the UN’s 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. He should order the US military to destroy its massive stockpiles of cluster weapons, and vow never to use them again.
The Kerry-Kissinger meeting, and the public outcry against the proposed attack on Syria to which both men are publicly committed, should be viewed through the lens of another Sept. 11…1973. On that day, 40 years ago, the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was violently overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup.
The United States has been a supplier, supporter and even employer of a wide range of weapons of mass destruction, including sarin gas. The Syrian government may or may not have done what the Obama administration is claiming but the United States has its own dark history with biological and chemicals weapons, which we ignore at our peril.
For decades American politicians have assumed that mass incarceration works, wooing voters with ever-tougher sentencing laws. The dramatic fall in crime since the 1990s has persuaded many that they were right. Prison has diminishing returns, and America long ago passed the point where jailing more people makes sense.
Josette Sheeran is president and CEO of Asia Society. She is responsible for leading and advancing the organization’s work throughout the U.S. and Asia, and across its disciplines of arts and culture, policy and business, and education. Formerly, Sheeran was Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum and Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme.
The NSA programs represent a troubling increase in state power, even if—so far, and so far as we know—they have not occasioned a troubling increase in state wrongdoing. The harm is to the architecture of trust and accountability that supports an open society and a democratic polity. The harm is to the reputation of the United States as such a society, such a polity.
Viewed in isolation, the Supreme Court term that just ended had elements of modesty, but Chief Justice Roberts is a canny strategist with a tough side whose methodical approach has allowed him to establish a robustly conservative record. When the court struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act, Roberts harvested seeds he had planted four years before.
In an opinion brimming with a self-confidence that he hides behind a cloak of judicial minimalism, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for a conservative Supreme Court majority in Shelby County v. Holder, cripples Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The decision is characteristic of a pattern in the Roberts court, in which the conservative justices tee up major constitutional issues for dramatic reversal.
In defending the NSA’s sweeping collection of Americans’ phone call records, Obama administration officials have repeatedly pointed out how it could have helped thwart the 9/11 attacks. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has invoked the same argument. They have all ignored a key aspect of historical record.
The combination of a strong, rising China and economic stagnation in Europe and America is making the West increasingly uncomfortable. By buying companies, exploiting natural resources, building infrastructure and giving loans all over the world, China is pursuing a soft but unstoppable form of economic domination.
The Obama administration, resolving years of internal debate, is on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet rather than by traditional phone services, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.
In 2001, George W. Bush signed a military order concerning the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism.” Suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without charge, denied knowledge of the evidence against them, and, if tried, sentenced by courts following no previously established rules.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns eighty this month. There is some irony in Ginsburg’s reputation for reserve, because she is, by far, the current Court’s most accomplished litigator. Ginsburg, during the 1970s, argued several of the most important women’s-rights cases in the Court’s history.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a challenge to a federal law that broadened the government’s power to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails. The ruling illustrated how hard it is to mount court challenges to a wide array of antiterrorism measures, including renditions of terrorism suspects to foreign countries and targeted killings using drones.
Now, more than ever, the United States might be tempted to pull back from the world. That would be a mistake, since an engaged grand strategy has served the country exceptionally well for the past six decades — helping prevent the outbreak of conflict in the world’s most important regions, keeping the global economy humming, and facilitating international cooperation.
The United States has consistently spent hundreds of billions of dollars per year on its military. This undisciplined, expensive, and bloody strategy has done untold harm to U.S. national security. This undisciplined strategy has done untold harm to U.S. national security. It is time to abandon the United States’ hegemonic strategy and replace it with one of restraint.
The Brennan nomination crystallizes the ways in which Obama has also cemented and expanded the Bush approach to counterterrorism. We have a far-flung drone campaign that deals death, even to American citizens, on the say-so of the president and a secret administration “nominations” process.
President Barack Obama has closely followed the policy of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to tactics used in the “war on terror” — from rendition, targeted killings, state secrets, Guantanamo Bay to domestic spying, according to Michael Hayden, Bush’s former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.
Ceres has been working for more than 20 years to advocate for sustainability leadership. Ceres mobilizes a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices to build a healthy global economy.
The Center for International Environmental Law works to strengthen and use international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human health, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL provides legal counsel and advocacy, policy research and capacity building services.
Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes.
Amnesty International works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. As the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization, it investigates and exposes abuses, educates the public, and helps transform societies to create a safer, more just world.
The CPR believes sensible safeguards in the areas of health, safety, and the environment, serve important values including doing the best we can to prevent harm to people and the environment, distributing environmental harms and benefits fairly, and protecting the earth for future generations.
Maybe it’s a sign that the public has given up on honesty from presidential candidates. The assumption seems to be that politicians will always lie and that voters’ defense against that is fact checking by journalists. But … why do voters let politicians lie to them?
Since 2003, Worldchanging has brought together a global network of independent journalists, designers and thinkers to cover the world’s most innovative solutions to the planet’s problems, and inspire readers around the world with stories of new tools, models and ideas for building a bright green future.
Rainforest Action Network envisions a world where each generation sustains healthy forests, where the rights of all communities are respected, and where corporate profits never come at the expense of people or the planet. Our campaigns seek to push companies to balance profits with principles.
The Government Accountability Office provides public access to its wide-ranging research related to International Affairs. Covered topics include Terrorism, Human Rights, Aids Relief, Export Controls, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Humanitarian and Development Assistance, and Diplomacy.