Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Trial of anti-nuclear activists ends with unusual sentence

Published on National Catholic Reporter (http://ncronline.org) ________________________________________ Trial of anti-nuclear activists ends with unusual sentence Megan Fincher | Dec. 30, 2013 Kansas City, Mo. Defense attorney Henry Stoever meekly approached the bench of Presiding Judge Ardie Bland Dec. 13, complaining that security had refused to let him bring certain pieces of evidence into the courthouse: a full-sized wooden door with a banner proclaiming, "Open the door to a nuclear weapons free world!", as well as an array of picket signs. Stoever was representing eight nuclear protesters on this unlucky trial date, and Bland, who had sentenced other nuclear activists to jail just two years prior, was the inauspicious icing on the cake. Bland's eyebrows rose at Stoever's odd request and the packed courthouse tensed for the inevitable ridicule. "Well, I permit it!" Bland said. With that statement, Bland set the tone for the next three hours, as protest songs, jokes about national security and even the elderly reveries of Oblate Fr. Carl Kabat, 80, and Franciscan Fr. Jerome Zawada, 76, were permitted in the Kansas City municipal courtroom. The eight activists were pleading not guilty to charges of trespassing onto the relocated National Nuclear Security Administration's Kansas City Plant July 13. Since 1949, the plant has produced or acquired "about 85 percent of the components that go into a typical nuclear weapon," according to the Government Accountability Office. It took a year to move the nearly 3 million-square-foot facility 8 miles, and the relocation alone cost $80 million, according to a plant press release. On July 13, around 80 people gathered outside the plant's new location, including priests, sisters, Catholic Workers and local activists. They came to protest nuclear weapons stockpiling, as well as the environmental destruction and exorbitant cost of the plant's relocation. Twenty-four people were arrested after they walked through a full-sized wooden door (the same door that Stoever ultimately hefted into the courtroom) and onto plant property. William Birkner, the plant's lieutenant of protective forces, was prosecutor Kendrea White's only witness. When White asked him to explain why he called in the arrest, Birkner pointed to the door that was leaning against the wall near the witness stand. "They actually went through this door and crossed onto the property after they held a prayer session," Birkner testified. During Birkner's cross-examination, Stoever received permission from Bland to play a 10-minute video of the July 13 protest. Stoever's laptop was connected to a large, flat-screen television, and as the video began, the courtroom was assailed with Louis Armstrong loudly singing: "I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield/Down by the riverside/Ain't gonna study war no more." People in the gallery glanced at one another in surprise, and when Bland did not tell Stoever to turn off the video, the courtroom filled with whispers, and then outright laughter. In the video, protesters held signs and banners outside of the Kansas City Plant amid dozens of security officers. Armstrong faded out, his voice replaced by the activists' singing and drumming, including a raucous song led by the gruff voice of Kabat. This time, Bland laughed. Jane Stoever, organizer of the protest and wife of Henry Stoever, was the first to take the witness stand for the defense. Her husband's first question was about the door. Bland smiled as Jane meticulously explained how the door was made. "We got the door from the Habitat for Humanity thrift store, and the Catholic Workers helped make a stand for the door, and the banner was made from my mother's old clothes ..." "Your honor, I'm not sure of the relevance of the door," objected White, cutting off Jane's ruminations. Jane appeared unfazed, and she apologized to Bland for leaving the door's original banner at home. Stoever continued to ask his wife a multitude of questions, and Jane responded by musing over the history of nuclear weapons and her decades of activism against them. At one point, as Jane explained the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Stoever pulled a copy of the U.S. Constitution out of his pocket. He couldn't find what Jane was referring to, so Catholic Worker Brian Terrell, husband of one of the defendants, called out from the gallery, "Henry! It's Article VI!" When it was White's turn, she appeared visibly annoyed and immediately asked Jane why she thought getting arrested was more effective than running for City Council. This question made the gallery, most of them activists themselves, laugh heartily. Kabat, who has spent more than 18 years in prison for civil resistance to nuclear weapons, took the stand. He began talking about his years as a missionary in the Philippines and Brazil, and Bland eventually cut him off with the request, "Can you please try and get to this decade?" Kabat responded, "Well, I celebrated July 4th out there," in reference to his solitary action at the plant in 2012, in which he cut the perimeter fence in order to let in "all of the Holy One's deer and other animals that once used the former bean field for its habitat." Stoever tried to bring up the 1980 Plowshares action in which Kabat also caused "minor damage" to nuclear nose cones, but Kabat interrupted him to say, "I'm sorry, but it wasn't minor damage." The courtroom erupted with laughter, yet Kabat seemed confounded. He later told NCR that he had arranged to represent himself, so he couldn't understand why Stoever wouldn't just let him talk. White fixated on one question for Kabat. "Don't you teach your parishioners to obey the rules?" "God's rules," Kabat responded. "Aren't those rules the same as the law?" "Well, I went to school in Mississippi [pre-civil rights] ..." The prosecutor, a black woman, interrupted: "OK, let me rephrase the question. Should you obey rules?" "If they are wrong, we should disobey them!" Kabat yelled out, and many people in the gallery audibly agreed. "We each have our own conscience to follow," he continued. "If there was a gas chamber across the street, I would say that we should all go right now and destroy it!" "So you would tell everyone to trespass on private property?" "You betcha, if it's a gas chamber!" "But is it OK to disobey the law?" "It was absolutely right for Rosa Parks not to get up and move to the back of the bus." In exasperation, White asked, "Are you the one deciding the rules?" "Well, yes," responded Kabat. "I have my own conscience and I'm 80 years old." White seemed to visibly give up at this point -- slumping over her notes and facing a wall for the remainder of the trial. She also refused to cross-examine any of the remaining four defendants, including Zawada. "You're not a Johnny-come-lately," Stoever said to Zawada. "In 1988, you came before federal Judge Joseph Stevens three times for resisting the Minuteman II missiles in Missouri." "Not correct," Zawada replied. "Five times." When Zawada later said, "We must transform our preoccupation with nuclear weapons. ... We need to become people of conscience," he asked him, "You mean by causing destruction to missile silos?" "I would want to propose alternatives to them," Zawada explained. "I just wanted to know if I was going to see you again in a few weeks," Bland said mischievously. "If you're inviting me, I'll come," Zawada answered, to more laughter. After listening to Stoever's impassioned closing argument, Bland invited the eight defendants to approach the bench. Offhandedly, he pronounced them guilty of trespassing. "I volunteered to take this case because I've done this before with Mr. Stoever and I find it interesting," Bland said, in reference to the activists he sentenced to jail two years ago. "If you're not getting to anyone else, you're getting to me. I think you're educating, because every time I learn something." The gallery murmured their approval, and the defendants nodded. "I want to do something a little different," Bland continued. "I want to say, I totally understand the argument made about Rosa Parks. I've done a significant amount of research on the civil rights movement, and they all suffered the consequences. ... However, I think the more significant thing is that the world was changed by their actions. I can sit here before you, as a black man, doing justice." Then Bland announced the sentence, shocking the courtroom. "I want each one of you to write a one-page, single-spaced essay on each of the following six topics," Bland said. "Your responses will be attached to the court record, which is a public record. They will exist as long as Kansas City exists. My way will give you a chance to say what you want to say." (See sidebar below.) The defendants were not given a printed copy of the essay questions. It appeared that Bland had come up with the questions during the trial. The courtroom erupted in applause and cheers, and the court clerk said in laughter, "I know you're all excited, but the judge is still on the bench!" After the trial, people lined up to shake hands with Bland. NCR asked Kabat, who has been sentenced countless times, what he thought about the unusual punishment. "I will not promise anything, sign anything, pay anything," Kabat said. Then he paused, musing, "I will probably write something." A sentence of six essay questions The following are six questions posed on the spot by Presiding Judge Ardie Bland in the Dec. 13 trial against eight nuclear protesters charged with trespassing onto the Kansas City Plant. Bland found the defendants guilty of the crime, but instead of jail or community service, he sentenced the group to writing a one-page, single-spaced answer to each of the questions. 1. If North Korea, China or one of the Middle Eastern countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion about nuclear weapons? 2. If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, do you think that would have changed your opinion? 3. What would you say to those who say, "If we [the U.S.] do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back"? 4. You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Fr. [Carl] Kabat says that you should disobey ungodly laws. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for example, when Christians used God to justify slavery and the Crusades? 5. How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue that their religion is to crush others into dust? 6. Who determines what "God's law" is, given the history of the USA and the world? -- Compiled from notes taken in the courtroom by NCR and defense attorney Henry Stoever Local activists march to the Kansas City Municipal Courthouse Dec. 13 with a door that was entered into evidence. (Photos courtesy of Jim Hannah) Defendants Betsy Keenan of Maloy, Iowa (center), and Charity Sr. Cele Breen of Kansas City, Mo. (right), march with other activists to the trial Dec. 13. ________________________________________ Source URL (retrieved on 12/31/2013 - 18:56): http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/trial-anti-nuclear-activists-ends-unusual-sentence Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Japan's Homeless Recruited for Murky Fukushima Clean-Up

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/312-16/21234-japans-homeless-recruited-for-murky-fukushima-clean-up Saito and Slodkowski report: "Seiji Sasa hits the train station in this northern Japanese city before dawn most mornings to prowl for homeless men. He isn't a social worker. He's a recruiter." Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old homeless man from Hokkaido, rests on a bench at a park near Sendai Station in Sendai, northern Japan December 18, 2013. (photo: Reuters/Issei Kato) Japan's Homeless Recruited for Murky Fukushima Clean-Up By Mari Saito, Antoni Slodkowski, Reuters 30 December 13 Seiji Sasa hits the train station in this northern Japanese city before dawn most mornings to prowl for homeless men. He isn't a social worker. He's a recruiter. The men in Sendai Station are potential laborers that Sasa can dispatch to contractors in Japan's nuclear disaster zone for a bounty of $100 a head. "This is how labor recruiters like me come in every day," Sasa says, as he strides past men sleeping on cardboard and clutching at their coats against the early winter cold. It's also how Japan finds people willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong. Almost three years ago, a massive earthquake and tsunami leveled villages across Japan's northeast coast and set off multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Today, the most ambitious radiation clean-up ever attempted is running behind schedule. The effort is being dogged by both a lack of oversight and a shortage of workers, according to a Reuters analysis of contracts and interviews with dozens of those involved. In January, October and November, Japanese gangsters were arrested on charges of infiltrating construction giant Obayashi Corp's network of decontamination subcontractors and illegally sending workers to the government-funded project. In the October case, homeless men were rounded up at Sendai's train station by Sasa, then put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima City for less than minimum wage, according to police and accounts of those involved. The men reported up through a chain of three other companies to Obayashi, Japan's second-largest construction company. Obayashi, which is one of more than 20 major contractors involved in government-funded radiation removal projects, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the spate of arrests has shown that members of Japan's three largest criminal syndicates - Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai - had set up black-market recruiting agencies under Obayashi. "We are taking it very seriously that these incidents keep happening one after another," said Junichi Ichikawa, a spokesman for Obayashi. He said the company tightened its scrutiny of its lower-tier subcontractors in order to shut out gangsters, known as the yakuza. "There were elements of what we had been doing that did not go far enough." OVERSIGHT LEFT TO TOP CONTRACTORS Part of the problem in monitoring taxpayer money in Fukushima is the sheer number of companies involved in decontamination, extending from the major contractors at the top to tiny subcontractors many layers below them. The total number has not been announced. But in the 10 most contaminated towns and a highway that runs north past the gates of the wrecked plant in Fukushima, Reuters found 733 companies were performing work for the Ministry of Environment, according to partial contract terms released by the ministry in August under Japan's information disclosure law. Reuters found 56 subcontractors listed on environment ministry contracts worth a total of $2.5 billion in the most radiated areas of Fukushima that would have been barred from traditional public works because they had not been vetted by the construction ministry. The 2011 law that regulates decontamination put control under the environment ministry, the largest spending program ever managed by the 10-year-old agency. The same law also effectively loosened controls on bidders, making it possible for firms to win radiation removal contracts without the basic disclosure and certification required for participating in public works such as road construction. Reuters also found five firms working for the Ministry of Environment that could not be identified. They had no construction ministry registration, no listed phone number or website, and Reuters could not find a basic corporate registration disclosing ownership. There was also no record of the firms in the database of Japan's largest credit research firm, Teikoku Databank. "As a general matter, in cases like this, we would have to start by looking at whether a company like this is real," said Shigenobu Abe, a researcher at Teikoku Databank. "After that, it would be necessary to look at whether this is an active company and at the background of its executive and directors." Responsibility for monitoring the hiring, safety records and suitability of hundreds of small firms involved in Fukushima's decontamination rests with the top contractors, including Kajima Corp, Taisei Corp and Shimizu Corp, officials said. "In reality, major contractors manage each work site," said Hide Motonaga, deputy director of the radiation clean-up division of the environment ministry. But, as a practical matter, many of the construction companies involved in the clean-up say it is impossible to monitor what is happening on the ground because of the multiple layers of contracts for each job that keep the top contractors removed from those doing the work. "If you started looking at every single person, the project wouldn't move forward. You wouldn't get a tenth of the people you need," said Yukio Suganuma, president of Aisogo Service, a construction company that was hired in 2012 to clean up radioactive fallout from streets in the town of Tamura. The sprawl of small firms working in Fukushima is an unintended consequence of Japan's legacy of tight labor-market regulations combined with the aging population's deepening shortage of workers. Japan's construction companies cannot afford to keep a large payroll and dispatching temporary workers to construction sites is prohibited. As a result, smaller firms step into the gap, promising workers in exchange for a cut of their wages. Below these official subcontractors, a shadowy network of gangsters and illegal brokers who hire homeless men has also become active in Fukushima. Ministry of Environment contracts in the most radioactive areas of Fukushima prefecture are particularly lucrative because the government pays an additional $100 in hazard allowance per day for each worker. Takayoshi Igarashi, a lawyer and professor at Hosei University, said the initial rush to find companies for decontamination was understandable in the immediate aftermath of the disaster when the priority was emergency response. But he said the government now needs to tighten its scrutiny to prevent a range of abuses, including bid rigging. "There are many unknown entities getting involved in decontamination projects," said Igarashi, a former advisor to ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan. "There needs to be a thorough check on what companies are working on what, and when. I think it's probably completely lawless if the top contractors are not thoroughly checking." The Ministry of Environment announced on Thursday that work on the most contaminated sites would take two to three years longer than the original March 2014 deadline. That means many of the more than 60,000 who lived in the area before the disaster will remain unable to return home until six years after the disaster. Earlier this month, Abe, who pledged his government would "take full responsibility for the rebirth of Fukushima" boosted the budget for decontamination to $35 billion, including funds to create a facility to store radioactive soil and other waste near the wrecked nuclear plant. 'DON'T ASK QUESTIONS' Japan has always had a gray market of day labor centered in Tokyo and Osaka. A small army of day laborers was employed to build the stadiums and parks for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. But over the past year, Sendai, the biggest city in the disaster zone, has emerged as a hiring hub for homeless men. Many work clearing rubble left behind by the 2011 tsunami and cleaning up radioactive hotspots by removing topsoil, cutting grass and scrubbing down houses around the destroyed nuclear plant, workers and city officials say. Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup. The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say. "I don't ask questions; that's not my job," Sasa said in an interview with Reuters. "I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That's it. I don't get involved in what happens after that." Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi's top contractor made it to the workers Sasa had found. The rest was skimmed by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about $6, just below the minimum wage equal to about $6.50 per hour in Fukushima, according to wage data provided by police. Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted, police say. Sasa was arrested in November and released without being charged. Police were after his client, Mitsunori Nishimura, a local Inagawa-kai gangster. Nishimura housed workers in cramped dorms on the edge of Sendai and skimmed an estimated $10,000 of public funding intended for their wages each month, police say. Nishimura, who could not be reached for comment, was arrested and paid a $2,500 fine. Nishimura is widely known in Sendai. Seiryu Home, a shelter funded by the city, had sent other homeless men to work for him on recovery jobs after the 2011 disaster. "He seemed like such a nice guy," said Yota Iozawa, a shelter manager. "It was bad luck. I can't investigate everything about every company." In the incident that prompted his arrest, Nishimura placed his workers with Shinei Clean, a company with about 15 employees based on a winding farm road south of Sendai. Police turned up there to arrest Shinei's president, Toshiaki Osada, after a search of his office, according to Tatsuya Shoji, who is both Osada's nephew and a company manager. Shinei had sent dump trucks to sort debris from the disaster. "Everyone is involved in sending workers," said Shoji. "I guess we just happened to get caught this time." Osada, who could not be reached for comment, was fined about $5,000. Shinei was also fined about $5,000. 'RUN BY GANGS' The trail from Shinei led police to a slightly larger neighboring company with about 30 employees, Fujisai Couken. Fujisai says it was under pressure from a larger contractor, Raito Kogyo, to provide workers for Fukushima. Kenichi Sayama, Fujisai's general manger, said his company only made about $10 per day per worker it outsourced. When the job appeared to be going too slowly, Fujisai asked Shinei for more help and they turned to Nishimura. A Fujisai manager, Fuminori Hayashi, was arrested and paid a $5,000 fine, police said. Fujisai also paid a $5,000 fine. "If you don't get involved (with gangs), you're not going to get enough workers," said Sayama, Fujisai's general manager. "The construction industry is 90 percent run by gangs." Raito Kogyo, a top-tier subcontractor to Obayashi, has about 300 workers in decontamination projects around Fukushima and owns subsidiaries in both Japan and the United States. Raito agreed that the project faced a shortage of workers but said it had been deceived. Raito said it was unaware of a shadow contractor under Fujisai tied to organized crime. "We can only check on lower-tier subcontractors if they are honest with us," said Tomoyuki Yamane, head of marketing for Raito. Raito and Obayashi were not accused of any wrongdoing and were not penalized. Other firms receiving government contracts in the decontamination zone have hired homeless men from Sasa, including Shuto Kogyo, a firm based in Himeji, western Japan. "He sends people in, but they don't stick around for long," said Fujiko Kaneda, 70, who runs Shuto with her son, Seiki Shuto. "He gathers people in front of the station and sends them to our dorm." Kaneda invested about $600,000 to cash in on the reconstruction boom. Shuto converted an abandoned roadhouse north of Sendai into a dorm to house workers on reconstruction jobs such as clearing tsunami debris. The company also won two contracts awarded by the Ministry of Environment to clean up two of the most heavily contaminated townships. Kaneda had been arrested in 2009 along with her son, Seiki, for charging illegally high interest rates on loans to pensioners. Kaneda signed an admission of guilt for police, a document she says she did not understand, and paid a fine of $8,000. Seiki was given a sentence of two years prison time suspended for four years and paid a $20,000 fine, according to police. Seiki declined to comment. UNPAID WAGE CLAIMS In Fukushima, Shuto has faced at least two claims with local labor regulators over unpaid wages, according to Kaneda. In a separate case, a 55-year-old homeless man reported being paid the equivalent of $10 for a full month of work at Shuto. The worker's paystub, reviewed by Reuters, showed charges for food, accommodation and laundry were docked from his monthly pay equivalent to about $1,500, leaving him with $10 at the end of the August. The man turned up broke and homeless at Sendai Station in October after working for Shuto, but disappeared soon afterwards, according to Yasuhiro Aoki, a Baptist pastor and homeless advocate. Kaneda confirmed the man had worked for her but said she treats her workers fairly. She said Shuto Kogyo pays workers at least $80 for a day's work while docking the equivalent of $35 for food. Many of her workers end up borrowing from her to make ends meet, she said. One of them had owed her $20,000 before beginning work in Fukushima, she says. The balance has come down recently, but then he borrowed another $2,000 for the year-end holidays. "He will never be able to pay me back," she said. The problem of workers running themselves into debt is widespread. "Many homeless people are just put into dormitories, and the fees for lodging and food are automatically docked from their wages," said Aoki, the pastor. "Then at the end of the month, they're left with no pay at all." Shizuya Nishiyama, 57, says he briefly worked for Shuto clearing rubble. He now sleeps on a cardboard box in Sendai Station. He says he left after a dispute over wages, one of several he has had with construction firms, including two handling decontamination jobs. Nishiyama's first employer in Sendai offered him $90 a day for his first job clearing tsunami debris. But he was made to pay as much as $50 a day for food and lodging. He also was not paid on the days he was unable to work. On those days, though, he would still be charged for room and board. He decided he was better off living on the street than going into debt. "We're an easy target for recruiters," Nishiyama said. "We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we're easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven't eaten, they offer to find us a job." © 2013 Reader Supported News Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Elephants Pushed Toward Extinction as Terrorist Groups Bankrolled With Ivory Trade to US and China

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/312-16/21242-elephants-pushed-toward-extinction-as-terrorist-groups-bankrolled-with-ivory-trade-to-us-and-china Schiffman writes: "Carved ivory elephants may already outnumber living elephants, which are being slaughtered at the unsustainable rate of 35,000 per year." An elephant in Kenya. (photo: Reuters) Elephants Pushed Toward Extinction as Terrorist Groups Bankrolled With Ivory Trade to US and China By Richard Schiffman, AlterNet 30 December 13 Carved ivory elephants may already outnumber living elephants, which are being slaughtered at the unsustainable rate of 35,000 per year. I was choking back tears by the end of my interview with Andrea Turkalo. Turkalo,who works for the Wildlife Conservation Society,is one of the founding members of the Elephant Listening Project, which is documenting elephants' ability to communicate, often using low-frequency sounds below the threshold of human hearing. She is conducting her fieldwork at Dzanga Bai, an idyllic clearing in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic (CAR) where elephants come to drink the mineral-rich waters and wallow in the mud. Unlike their cousins on the open savannah, forest elephants are typically hidden by thick jungle and difficult to track. Scientists often locate the reclusive animals by monitoring their vocalizations, some of which can be detected from miles away. Despite being one of the best protected sites in the region, heavily armed poachers entered Dzanga Bai last May butchering 26 elephants, mostly mothers and their calves. They fired their automatic weapons from the observation platforms used by researchers themselves, leaving behind a horrific crime scene. The grassy glade, usually teeming with elephant family groups emotionally reuniting after weeks of wandering in small bands through the forest, was littered with piles of elephant parts, bones and blood-soaked scraps of skin. Tragically, such scenes are becoming commonplace throughout Central Africa. An astonishing 60 percent of the region's forest elephants have been lost in the first decade of the 21st century, and they have disappeared entirely from over half of their range in just the past 30 years.The forest elephant is regarded by biologists as a separate species from the more numerous and larger bush elephants of the African plains, but it is under the same unrelenting pressure from poachers, who are slaughtering them in order to hack off their tusks. Elephant ivory is fashioned into intricately carved statues, jewelry and religious icons, which are in demand worldwide, but especially prized in East Asia and the Philippines-a $7 billion to $10 billion a year business. Most ivory is processed in Elephants Pushed Toward Extinction as Terrorist Groups Bankrolled With Ivory Trade to US and China, but a lot of the carving is now being done in Africa itself, particularly in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The prime subject for African carvers, ironically enough, is elephants. Ivory elephants may already outnumber the living creatures, which are being killed at the unsustainable rate of 35,000 per year. Fully eight out of 10 elephants now die as a result of poaching rather than from natural causes. The frenzy to obtain ivory is accelerating, as many Asian economies boom and prices for the increasingly rare luxury items soar. Andrea Turkalo knows all about this frenzy. Last March, she managed to escape from advancing Séléka guerilla fighters who were descending on the nation's capital Bangui to stage the coup that ousted former CAR President François Bozizé. Turkalo is now back in the states waiting for things to settle down before returning to Africa. Groups like the Séléka train their guns on innocent civilians as well as the wild elephants in their path. The attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September in which 68 people perished, was carried out by the Somali terror group Al-Shabaab, which routinely sends teams over the Somali border into Kenya to poach elephants. An undercover investigation by the Elephant Action League (EAL) found that 40% of Al-Shabaab's income-as much as half a million dollars a month-comes from trafficking in illicit ivory, and the even rarer rhino horn. "As the West continues to fight radical terrorist organizations through seizing assets in offshore bank accounts, straw companies and "charities"," the EAL reports, "these organizations, including Al Shabaab, will rely increasingly on trafficking in contraband as a source of finance." A couple of dozen elephant tusks are all it took to fund the deadly attack on the mall, or to pay the yearly salaries for roughly 600 Al Shabaab fighters who are now wreaking havoc in the Horn of Africa.Darfur's Janjaweed and Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army are just a two of the other violent groups that have bankrolled their activities with the white gold of elephant ivory.The same thing is happening in the Central Africa Republic, where the Séléka, a coalition of rebel bands from the desert nation Chad and elsewhere which are now sowing chaos in the troubled region, have been poaching elephants to finance their attacks. Few places are safe from poaching. The once remote region where Andrea Turkalo does her fieldwork has been opened in the past decades to logging, which has brought armed gangs of poachers in its wake. "Everything has changed," Turkalo says. "Before you'd have people in the area poaching elephants for local officials or corrupt game wardens. Nowadays, the poaching is often run by international syndicates, or by outsiders, refugees who have emigrated into our area from Muslim savannah to the north. It is very well organized." Poaching is an increasingly high-tech activity often employing helicopters, night vision goggles, an array of high-powered weapons, satellite phones, and critically, information gleaned on the Internet. Poachers can now track some elephant movements from satellite images and other freely available information including, ironically, the research of scientists like Turkalo. When the Elephant Listening Project put a photo of one old elephant with beautiful two-meter long tusks on their website, they got a flurry of hits, largely from the Far East and Elephants Pushed Toward Extinction as Terrorist Groups Bankrolled With Ivory Trade to US and China, most likely from individuals who were "scouting to find out where these animals still exist" Turkalo guesses. The Chinese are the largest foreign investors in much of Central Africa. Chinese workers may themselves be supervising some of the poaching operations, and smuggling the ivory back home. "Wherever Chinese loggers and road builders go," Turkalo observes, "we see a fall-off in the number of elephants." International organized crime groups are believed to be behind much of the poaching. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the dismantling of the shadowy Laos-based Xaysavang Network, one of the globe's most successful crime syndicates trafficking in wildlife, as well as drugs, guns and sex slaves. Little of the wealth generated by illegal poaching trickles down to the people who actually do it. Local pigmy hunters are paid as little as a carton of cigarettes for a pair of elephant tusks, which will eventually fetch upward of $1,500 a kilo in Asia, and even more than that when the finished ivory carvings are sold on the retail market worldwide. Wildlife poaching is still not perceived as a real crime in much of Africa, although it is illegal on the books. Turkalo explained that, "Many locals see elephants as pests," who trample their gardens and endanger local residents. Poachers who are caught frequently get little more that a token slap on the wrist before they are sent back to their villages to continue their illegal hunting. This is beginning to change as international pressure is forcing governments to at least look like they are getting serious about the problem. But the problem will never be solved in Africa alone. The poorest people on earth won't be able to resist the runaway foreign greed for ivory, if consuming countries don't crack down on their own demand. That means Elephants Pushed Toward Extinction as Terrorist Groups Bankrolled With Ivory Trade to US and China for sure, but also the United States, which is, surprisingly, the second largest market in the world for ivory, according to a study conducted of thousands of retail outlets in 16 American cities by British-based conservation group Care for the Wild International (CWI) in 2007. Last year, the New York District Attorney's office pursued two high-profile prosecutions against retailers in Manhattan who were selling nearly a ton of illicit ivory worth $2 million in their curio shops.Both merchants, who pled guilty, were spared jail time, but had their ivory confiscated in addition to being slapped with hefty fines, which they paid directly to the Wildlife Conservation Society for use in its elephant conservation programs worldwide. Federal officials are also trying to crack down. Earlier this month, in a symbolic gesture, six tons of elephant tusks and ivory trinkets worth tens of millions of dollars on the black market, were ground to gravel between the jaws of a huge steel rock-crusher at the National Wildlife Property Repository just north of Denver. This trove represented the better part of 20 years of contraband seized by customs officials. One reason our domestic trade in ivory is flourishing is an ambiguity in the law. While it is prohibited to sell new ivory smuggled in after a 1989 ban by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), you can still sell ivory objects that were imported before that date. Ivory sellers have used this exception to stain new ivory to make it look old; there is currently no good way to distinguish authentic antique ivory from the artificially aged newer material. Another loophole is that tusks from African elephants can be legally brought into the U.S. as hunting trophies, many of which eventually make their way into carvings in the marketplace. Both here and in Elephants Pushed Toward Extinction as Terrorist Groups Bankrolled With Ivory Trade to US and China, the legal ivory market serves as a front and a cover for the illegal market, according to Elizabeth Bennett the Vice President of Species Conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Bennett argues that the U.S. needs to employ its vast intelligence capacity to track the money from ivory trafficking as thoroughly as it has been tracking money in the drug and arms trade and international terrorist networks.When I asked her if the U.S. should put more pressure on Elephants Pushed Toward Extinction as Terrorist Groups Bankrolled With Ivory Trade to US and China to clean up its act, Bennett responded that, "We need to clean up our own act first. The U.S. can't throw stones while its own laws are a mess." Bennett and the WCS are calling for a moratorium on the sale of all forms of ivory, which, if implemented, would potentially cripple the illegal trade and set a powerful example for other countries to follow. There is currently legislation in New York and other states to enact this. Meanwhile, the WCS is working on a social media outreach in Elephants Pushed Toward Extinction as Terrorist Groups Bankrolled With Ivory Trade to US and China to educate the countries new computer-literate generation on the tragic consequences of the trafficking in ivory for Africa's elephants. Another hopeful development is the three-year, $80 million program of the Clinton Global Initiative to help beef up enforcement in Africa and around the world. "Unless the killing stops, African forest elephants are expected to be extinct within 10 years," Hillary Clinton told the Initiative's supporters in New York this September. "I can't even grasp what a great disaster this is ecologically, but also for anyone who shares this planet to lose a magnificent creature like the African forest elephant seems like such a rebuke to our own values." Clinton, was flanked on stage for the announcement by seven African heads of state, signaling perhaps a new willingness of governments there to put serious pressure on poachers. Andrea Turkalo, however, has a wait-and-see attitude. "I just hope this isn't another top-down approach," she told me. "We need to give support to people on the ground because that is where it starts"-people like her friend, local game warden Christian Ndadet who has toughed it out through the chaos in the Central African Republic and held the worst of the poaching at bay. Guards like Ndadet risk their lives every day (hundreds have already been killed) in the effort to protect Africa's elephants. Until these courageous individuals are backed up fully by governments and ordinary citizens around the world, the prospect for Africa's elephants remains grim. © 2013 Reader Supported News Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lessons from the Christmas Truce of 1914

https://portside.org/ Lessons from the Christmas Truce of 1914 Gary G. Kohls, MD December 10, 2013 Portside Military chaplains seem to be another cog in the apparatus of making war maximally effective. Christian chaplains seem to not pay much attention to the Ten Commandments either, especially the ones that say "thou shalt not kill" or "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's oil". 99 years ago one of the most unusual aberrations in the bloody history of warfare - never allowed to be repeated again - occurred. The Christmas Truce, The Guardian / Illustration by David Roberts, 99 years ago this month one of the most unusual aberrations in the bloody history of warfare - never allowed to be repeated again - occurred. Europe was in the fifth month of the 52 month-long World War (the one that was supposed "to end all wars") that was to end with the armistice four years later on November 11, 1918. British, Scottish, French, Belgian, Australian, Canadian, German, Austrian, Hungarian, Serbian and Russian pulpits in those overwhelmingly Christian nations back home (far from the satanic carnage in the trenches) were doing their part in contributing to the un-Christ-like patriotic fervor that was destined to result in a holocaust that destroyed four empires, killed upwards of 20 million soldiers and resulted in the psychological and physical decimation of an entire generation of young men in France, Germany and England. Tragically, Christianity, which began as a pacifist religion because of the pacifist teachings and actions of the nonviolent Jesus of Nazareth (and his nonviolent apostles), has, for the past 1700 years, been anything but a peacemaking church that follows Jesus by actively resisting its nation's imperial aspirations, its nation's wars, its nation's war-makers and its nation's war profiteers. So, it wasn't any surprise to note that the religious leaders on every side of that war were convinced that God was on their particular side - and, therefore not on the side of the Christians that they were trying to kill. The obvious contradiction - that both sides were praying to the same god - escaped most of them. Pulpits and pews all over Europe - with few exceptions - reverberated with flag-waving fervor, sending clear messages to their doomed and baptized warrior-sons that it was their Christian duty to march off to kill, maim and even torture - if necessary - the equally doomed Christian soldiers on the other side. Five months into the mass destruction of the perpetually stale-mated war (featuring the indiscriminate slaughter via artillery, machine gun and, eventually, poison gas), the first Christmas of the war on the Western Front was upon the exhausted and demoralized troops. Christmas was the holiest of Christian holidays for all sides, and in this time of hunger, thirst, sleep deprivation, shell shock, TBIs, mortal wounds and homesickness, Christmas 1914 had special meaning. Christmas reminded the soldiers of the good food, safety, warm homes and beloved families that they had left behind and which they now suspected they might never see again. The physically exhausted, spiritually deadened and combat-traumatized soldiers on both sides of the battle lines desperately sought some respite from the misery of the water-logged, putrid, rat-infested, louse-infested, corpse-infested and increasingly frozen trenches. credit Diana Overbey - Presently in the Past The cold reality of trench warfare in 1914 By this time, the frontline soldiers on both sides were probably wondering how they could possibly have believed the ridiculous propaganda from their leaders that had convinced them that their side was pre-destined to be victorious and "home before Christmas" - where they would be celebrated as conquering heroes. Instead every soldier was at the end of their emotional ropes because of the unrelenting artillery barrages against which they were defenseless. If they weren't killed or physically maimed by the artillery shells and bombs, they would eventually be emotionally destroyed by "shell-shock" (now known as posttraumatic stress disorder - PTSD), suffering horrifying nightmares, sleep deprivation, suicidality, depression, hyper-alertness and any number of other mental and neurological abnormalities. Other common "killers of the soul" included perpetual hunger, malnutrition, infections such as typhus and dysentery, louse infestations, trench foot, frostbite and gangrenous toes and fingers. Poison gas attacks wouldn't appear until 1915, but both British and Germans scientists were working hard to perfect that new technology. Tank warfare - which proved to be a humiliating disaster for the British - wouldn't be operational until the Battle of the Somme in 1916. One of the most stressful realities for the frontline soldiers was the suicidal "over the top" infantry assaults against German machine gun nests and the rows of coiled barbed wire that stopped them in their tracks and made them sitting ducks. Artillery barrages commonly resulted in tens of thousands of casualties in a single day. Over the top infantry assaults were stupidly and repeatedly ordered by senior officers like Sir John French and his replacement as British Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig (apparently preparing for the classical but hopelessly out-dated horse and sabre cavalry charges across the muck of No-Man's Land). The general staff planners of those uniformly disastrous attempts to end the war quickly or at least end the stalemate were safely out of the range of enemy artillery barrages. As they made their plans they were comfortably back at headquarters, eating well, being dressed by their orderlies, drinking their tea, none of them at any risk of experiencing the lethality of war themselves. The frequent shoveling to improve the comfort of the trenches was frequently interrupted by preparations for attack. Screams of pain would often came from the trapped soldiers out in No-Man's Land who had been wounded by machine gun fire but who were helplessly hanging on the barbed wire or bleeding to death in the bomb craters - their deaths often lingering for days. The effect on the troops in the trenches who had to listen to the desperate, unanswerable pleas for help was psychologically devastating for the troops back in the trenches. By Christmas, the morale of the troops on both sides of No Man's Land had hit rock bottom. Christmas in the Trenches So on December 24, 1914, the exhausted troops settled down to Christmas with gifts from home, special food, special liquor and special rest. A magnanimous (and deluded) Kaiser Wilhelm had ordered 100,000 Christmas trees with millions of ornamental candles to be sent up to the front, expecting that such an act would boost troop morale. Using the supply lines for such militarily unnecessary items was ridiculed by the most hardened military officers, but nobody suspected that the Kaiser's Christmas tree idea would backfire and instead be a catalyst for an unplanned-for cease-fire, a singular event previously unheard of in the history of warfare and one that was ultimately censored out of mainstream histories, especially military histories, for most of the last century. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was a spontaneous event that happened at a multitude of locations all along the 600 miles of trenches that stretched across Belgium and France, and it was an event that would never again be duplicated although an attempt at a Christmas Truce in 1915 was quickly put down by the authorities. Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton have written an important book about the 1914 event entitled "Christmas Truce: The Western Front, December 1914". The movie "Joyeux Noel" (French for Merry Christmas) received an Academy Award nomination in 2005 for best foreign film. It tells the moving tale that has been adapted from the many surviving stories revealed in letters from soldiers who had been there. One of the stories that emerged from the event was that, in the quiet of Christmas Eve night, some young German started singing "Stille Nacht". Soon the British, French and Scots on the other side of No Man's Land (oftentimes measuring only a hundred yards wide) joined in in their own tongues. Before long, the spirit of peace and "goodwill towards men" prevailed over the demonic spirit of war, and the troops on both sides sensed their common humanity. The natural human aversion to killing broke through to consciousness and overcame the patriotic fervor and brain-washing to which they had been subjected. Once the spirit of peace was felt, soldiers on both sides dropped their weapons and came out of their trenches to meet their former foes face-to-face. To get through to the other side they had to step around shell holes and over frozen corpses (which were soon given respectful burials, soldiers from both sides helping one another with the gruesome task). The spirit of retaliation had dissipated and the desire for peace on earth emerged. New friends shared chocolate bars, cigarettes, beer, wine, schnapps, soccer games and pictures from home. Addresses were exchanged, photos were taken and every soldier who genuinely experienced the emotional drama was forever changed - and the generals and the gung-ho politicians were appalled. Fostering Peace on Earth in times of war is treason Fraternization with the enemy (as in refusing to obey orders in time of war) has historically been regarded by military commanders and politicians as an act of treason, severely punishable, even with death by summary execution. In the case of the Christmas Truce of 1914, most officers tried hard not to draw public attention to the rather wide-spread and therefore potentially contagious incident. Some commanding officers even threatened courts martial if fraternization persisted (it was considered bad for the killing spirit) but relatively few executions took place. There were still punishments however, including the re-assignment of many of the German "traitors" to the Eastern Front to kill and die on the Eastern Front in the equally suicidal battles against their Orthodox Christian co-religionists from Russia. This unique story of war resistance needs to be retold over and over again if our modern-era false flag-generated wars of empire are to be effectively de-railed. These futile, unaffordable wars are being fought by thoroughly indoctrinated, macho, pro-war, World of Warcraft expert gamers who, unbeknownst to them, are at high risk of having their lives permanently altered by the physical, mental and spiritual damage from participating in war and violence, after which they might be doomed to a life overwhelmed by the realities of PTSD, sociopathic personality disorder, suicidality, homicidality, loss of religious faith, traumatic brain injury (shell shock), neurotoxic, addictive drug use (from either legal or illegal drugs) and a host of other nearly impossible-to-cure problems that were preventable. Society's ethical duty to warn It seems to me that it would be helpful if moral leadership in America, especially Christian leaders, would discharge their duty to warn the adolescents that are in their spheres of influence about all of the serious consequences that participation in the killing professions can have on their souls and psyches. War planners do whatever it takes to keep soldiers from experiencing the humanity of their enemies, whether they are Iranians, Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Vietnamese, Chinese or North Koreans. I have been told by many military veterans that military chaplains, who are supposed to be nurturers of the souls of the soldiers who are in their "care", never seem to bring up, in their counseling sessions, Jesus' Golden Rule, his clear "love your enemies" commands or his ethical teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. Military chaplains seem to just be another cog in the apparatus of making war maximally effective. Christian chaplains seem to not pay much attention to the Ten Commandments either, especially the ones that say "thou shalt not kill" or "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's oil". In their defense, military chaplains, in their seminary training and perhaps even in their Sunday School upbringings, may have never been schooled adequately in the profoundly important gospel truths about humility, mercy, non-violence, non-domination, non-retaliation, unconditional love and the rejection of enmity. Theological blind spots of war These theological blind spots are illustrated near the end of the "Joyeux Noel" movie in a powerful scene depicting a confrontation between the Christ-like, antiwar Scottish chaplain and his pro-war bishop, just as the chaplain was mercifully administering the "last rites" to a dying soldier. The bishop had come to chastise the chaplain for having been merciful to a wounded soldier in No Man's Land and for fraternizing with the enemy. The bishop was relieving the chaplain of his duties because of such "treasonous and shameful" behavior on the battlefield. The authoritarian, German-hating bishop refused to listen to the chaplain's story about his having performed "the most important mass of my life" (with German troops scandalously participating in the celebration) and that he wished to stay with the troops that needed him because they were losing their faith. The bishop angrily denied the chaplain's request to remain with his men. The bishop then delivered a rousing pro-war sermon, taken word-for-word from a homily that had actually been delivered by an Anglican bishop from England later in the war. The sermon was addressed to the fresh troops that had to be brought in to replace the veterans who, because of their consciences having been awakened, had suddenly become averse to killing, and were refusing to shoot their weapons. The image of the dramatic but subtle response of the chaplain to his sacking should be a clarion call to the Christian church leadership of our militarized, so-called "Christian" America - both clergy and lay. This good man of God hung up his cross and walked out of the field hospital. "Joyeux Noel" is an important film that deserves to be annual holiday fare. It has ethical lessons far more powerful than "It's A Wonderful Life" or "A Christmas Carol". One of the lessons of the Christmas Truce story is summarized in the concluding verse of John McCutcheon's famous song about the event, "Christmas in the Trenches": "My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell. Each Christmas come since World War I - I've learned its lessons well: That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame And on each end of the rifle we're the same." Check out the video of McCutcheon singing his song -- Christmas in the Trenches - written and performed by John McCutcheon and, for a good pictorial history of the reality of WWI's trench warfare, check out Christmas in the Trenches Music Video. The official trailer of "Joyeux Noel" is available here. [Dr. Gary G. Kohls is a founding member of The Community of the Third Way, a Duluth-area affiliate of Every Church A Peace Church.]

Energy Game Changer? Scientists Turn Algae into Crude Oil in Less Than an Hour

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org) Climate News Network [1] / By Tim Radford [2] Energy Game Changer? Scientists Turn Algae into Crude Oil in Less Than an Hour December 23, 2013 | LONDON, 23 December - US scientists believe they may have cracked one of the great biofuel conundrums. They have turned a thick soup of algae into a mix of crude oil, gas, water and plant nutrients in less than an hour. That is, they have taken 60 minutes to do what Nature does – at great pressures and temperatures – over millions of years. Better still, the researchers at the US Government's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) believe they have invented a continuous process that is not only faster than the experimental methods pioneered so far for making oil from natural growing things, but cheaper, and more self-sustaining. So far, the PNNL reactor handles only 1.5 litres of algae an hour. But, the team reports in the journal Algal Research, somewhere between 50% and 70% of the algal carbon is converted to potential energy in the form of crude oil, which in turn can be made into aviation fuel, gasoline or diesel. The leftovers are clean water, a mix of fuel gases and nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that can be used to nourish more algae. Pea soup It helps to be able to recover fuel gases, because there are still serious energy costs. The system has to run at 350°C and a pressure of 3,000 pounds per square inch. “It’s a bit like using a pressure cooker, only the processes and temperatures we use are much higher”, says Douglas Elliott, who led the research. “In a sense we are duplicating the process in the Earth that converted algae into oil over the course of millions of years. We’re just doing it much faster.” The experiment, part of the US Department of Energy's National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bio-products, eliminates two stages in the laborious laboratory process of converting algae to oil. Researchers don’t have to expend fuel to dry the algae before sticking it in the reactor. Instead, the mix goes into the reactor as a well-stirred slurry with the consistency of pea soup: as much as 90% water, the rest algae rich in lipids (molecules which can store energy). Nature's way preferred And the scientists don't have to process the mix with solvents to get the oil out of what's left of the algae: gravity does that for them. Both steps will reduce the costs. That the team can also recover something that could be turned into natural gas, and therefore energy, is one bonus. Another is that they can get back water and nutrients to sustain the process. The big engineering challenge, however, will be to scale up the system to something that could ever compete commercially with the stuff that gushes from an oil well. The PNNL scientists may have accelerated a natural process, but the petroleum industry can still benefit from the huge reservoir of natural crude that has been stewing and brewing in the rocks over vast periods of geological time. Still, says James Oyler, president of Genifuel, the research team’s commercial partner: “This is a huge step in the right direction.” Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/environment/scientists-turn-algae-crude-oil-less-hour Links: [1] http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/ [2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/tim-radford Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Christmas in Community

Published on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 by Waging Nonviolence Christmas in Community by Frida Berrigan When my brother, sister and I were young, we would celebrate Christmas every year in Syracuse, N.Y. with my dad’s older brother and his family. It was a six-hour drive, often in the snow. In the days before booster seats, car seats and seat belts, my brother and I would stretch out across the back seat, reading and wrestling our way through the long trip while our sister tried to ignore us. For a while, when it got too loud, Dad would threaten to turn the car around. But we never believed him. Then he happened upon the greatest kid-mollifier of all times. He would just pull over to the side of the road if we got too loud or obnoxious. He and Mom would pull out books and start to read. A freakish quiet would descend on the car, interrupted only by the vibrations of the passing semis. Minutes would go by before we worked up the courage to break the silence with promises of never misbehaving again — if they would just please, please turn the car back on and start driving again. Our aunt and uncle did it up at Christmas — a beautiful tree, stockings for everyone over the fireplace, decorations all over the house, a big delicious meal. There were always presents for us. My brother and I struggled with what to get our cousins, who were all at least 10 years older than us. One year, my brother and I wrapped a container of Whoppers for one cousin. I still remember how she exclaimed that they were her favorite. It was great to be in Syracuse for the holidays. It always snowed and their backyard was great for sledding. We would wake up early and watch TV. Sometimes, we’d get up so early that there was nothing on TV but the color blocks (back when TV had business hours). While this yearly ritual was wonderful in many ways, it meant that our family never fully developed our own holiday traditions. There was no tree, no stockings, no decorations, no ritual of gift giving at home when we were young. There was one Christmas tradition that was not so great. We lived in a tough neighborhood of Baltimore in a row house that was called Jonah House — a radical, pacifist, Christian resistance community. December was often the only time this crowded communal house was empty. No matter how well the doors were locked and the windows barred, every year someone managed to break into our house and make off with some of our “valuables” — a 20-year-old boombox, a jar full of change, a case of well-used and temperamental power tools, the check book, an alarm clock, a third-hand bicycle. It wasn’t so much the stuff that bothered me — although that was my boombox they took and it had my favorite cassette tape in the deck — it was the fact that strangers had been in our house. We never had that much to begin with. In some ways, we were just as poor as our neighbors. But in many ways — including the fact that we could drive to Syracuse for the holiday — we were so much richer. Mom and Dad would inventory the losses, investigate the security breach (a window left open on the third floor, a busted pane in the basement, the backdoor off its hinges) and shrug their shoulders, reminding us that “they must have needed it more than we did. These are desperate times.” And they were, but in many ways the times are even more desperate today. Fifteen percent of Americans live below the poverty line — with 1.65 million U.S. households below the line for “extreme poverty” and3.55 million children living in those households. This seems especially egregious at a time of year when most of us devolve into at least some sort of greedy fugue. For example, I am presently preoccupied with this burning question: Should I cook goose or pork for the Christmas meal? There were a few holiday traditions growing up, but they revolved more around Advent than Christmas. We lit Advent candles every night and read scriptures. We also put up a crèche and would move the wooden Magi closer to the stable every night, but we always missed putting the baby in the manger. One new ritual was established in 1986. We would read and hang on a strand of garland the Advent cards my mom had made when she was in prison in West Virginia for the better part of two years. Mom and six others symbolically disarmed a B-52 bomber (capable of “delivering” half a dozen nuclear warheads to targets just about anywhere in the world) outside of Syracuse on Thanksgiving Day, 1983. I was nine. The government said the protesters did $65,000 in damage and Mom was sentenced to three years in prison. She served 25 months at Alderson women’s prison in West Virginia. We visited every month and continued to go to Syracuse for Christmas in her absence. The cards are two pieces of paper connected by a piece of yarn. One card is a picture — flowers, a star, a manager, a road, an infant’s hand holding a parent’s — that my mom drew. On the other she wrote a Bible passage and then a short reflection on that passage. I keep that holiday tradition going. This week, I read one on the theme of justice. It said, “Justice shall be the band on his waist, then the lion will lie down with the lamb, the calf and the leopard shall browse together with a child to lead them … there shall be no harm or hurt on all my holy mountain, for earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11). On the other side, my mom wrote: “The justice Christ comes to bring is a whole new order of life and relationships, a whole new order of being. In many ways it is easier to live within laws that foresee and determine everything. It is difficult to create a norm of behavior inspired by love because love knows no limit. It calls for creative imagination or putting ourselves at the service of others. The birth and life of Christ is for us a permanent and disturbing memory of what we ought to be and are not. It tells us that which is until the promise is fulfilled.” I don’t get it all. She wrote them for us as kids, but I am not sure my 11-year-old self would understand it any better than my 39-year-old self does. But I read the cards every day of Advent nonetheless, hoping for enlightenment and insight. Of course, as we grew up, we did add traditions for Christmas — making as many as a dozen yule log cakes and delivering them to family friends on Christmas Eve, very simple gift exchanges called Advent Angels (like secret Santa in every way but the name), wearing silly sweaters, stealing small things from one another and wrapping them up as gifts for Christmas morning (okay, that was just my sister and I), going for a brisk walk in a beautiful place at some point on Christmas day. Now that I’m an adult with my own kids — and expecting another one early in the new year — I find a whole new plateau of pleasure in the Christmas season: the magic, the mystery, the generosity of spirit and of time, the holiness (as antiquated and quaint as that word sounds). This is a time of waiting, preparation and expectation — not for what Santa brings, but for what faith and family create, what a new child promises and what we make happen as we spend time together. Happy Advent, everyone. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Frida Berrigan, a columnist for WagingNonviolence.org, serves on the board of the War Resisters League and organizes with Witness Against Torture. Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/12/24-3 Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Lockheed Martin Campaign

Hi, Everyone, See the note below from Kate Planco Waybright of Progressive MD on the fate of the Lockheed Martin campaign. I encourage you also to look at the interesting analysis on the MD Juice Web site that Kate links to and to send a note to O'Malley asking him to veto the bill: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/mail/ If you could also ask your contacts to email the governor at that link with the same ask, that would be terrific. We'd like O'Malley to get lots of feedback on this. Kathleen "Kate" Planco Waybright Monday, April 08, 2013 11:24 PM Sine Die Update on Lockheed Martin Campaign Hello- Unfortunately, the Lockheed bill passed the House today and will be headed to the Governor's desk for signing. Here's a link to Maryland Juice's roll call: http://www.marylandjuice.com/2013/04/roll-call-maryland-house-senate-approve.html#more It should be noted though that Del. Hixson's vote was originally recorded incorrectly and as such, her vote in the link above is reported incorrectly. She voted NO on Lockheed. While we weren't victorious in our efforts to kill the bill, I've been told that our strong advocacy was responsible for the most outrageous part of the bill being amended out, the retroactive payment of 1.4 million to Lockheed. Thanks to our efforts, this bill became a major issue this session, as opposed to the quiet bill originally intended. Using PM's Action Center alone, 3,925 emails were sent to lawmakers in opposition. The bill made the Washington Post's list of key bills and received 23 additional press hits-- print and radio. Many, many thanks for all you have done! Best, Kate See also http://ourfunds.org

Obama Administration Understated Nuclear Weapons Costs

http://www.nationofchange.org/obama-administration-understated-nuclear-weapons-costs-1388319722#comments Obama Administration Understated Nuclear Weapons Costs By R. Jeffrey Smith The Obama administration's plan for maintaining and upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal will likely cost around 66 percent more over the next decade than senior Pentagon officials have predicted, according to a new assessment by the independent Congressional Budget Office. Under the administration’s plan, operating, maintaining and upgrading the nuclear stockpile will cost a total of $355 billion from 2014 through 2023, said the CBO report, published just before the holidays and shortly after Congress finished action on a 2014 budget bill that restored some planned Pentagon spending cuts. James Miller, the Pentagon’s outgoing policy chief, had said in 2011 congressional testimony that the 10-year tab would be around $214 billion, or an average of $21 billion a year, an amount he pegged at around 3 percent of the Pentagon’s likely overall budget for that period. His boss at the time, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, cited an even lower yearly total when he told a security conference in Colorado last summer that nuclear weapons are “just not that expensive.” Carter’s remarks ignited substantial controversy, including criticism from anti-nuclear activists as well as challenges from military budget experts. The squabble stemmed in part from the fact that the federal budget has no consolidated nuclear weapons spending category, and instead lists discrete tallies for related programs in the energy and defense departments. Congress requested the budget office report to help settle the squabble, and the office’s analysts began by hunting down all the discrete listings. They also projected spending into the future, using Pentagon estimates wherever possible, and studied historical cost growth data to predict how much the total spending might grow beyond current estimates. The $355 billion estimate is thus based not only on a higher calculation of what the government is spending now but also on a projection that unforeseen technical problems or mismanagement will cause costs to grow by an extra $59 billion. The $355 billion tally, moreover, still does not reflect the full panoply of costs associated with having a robust nuclear arsenal, according to the CBO. It projected that “other nuclear-related costs” — a category not mentioned by Pentagon officials that includes environmental cleanup efforts, arms control-related work, and a system of defenses against nuclear attack — will likely cost the government an additional $215 billion over the next decade. That makes a grand total of $570 billion. All of these programs are meant to persist for more than 10 years, of course, which means that nuclear weapons-related spending during the next 30 years or so could easily approach $1 trillion. “Nuclear weapons aren’t cheap as some high-ranking Pentagon officials have suggested,” said Kingston Reif, Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, an advocacy group in Washington. He said that unless the Obama administration scales back its plans in line with current budget realities, the result will be “nuclear disarmament by financial default” instead of a more careful reshaping of the U.S. nuclear posture. Of the $241 billion needed solely for nuclear delivery systems — such as missiles and bombers — and warheads, the CBO said that $152 billion will be spent to maintain existing systems. Under the administration’s ambitious modernization plans, another $89 billion will be needed to replace them. Although the overall federal budget is shrinking, these plans would require annual nuclear weapons-related spending to increase by as much as 60 percent over the period, the report said. The lion’s share of the costs over the next decade — $82 billion — will be borne by the U.S. ballistic missile submarine program, which is about to undergo a costly modernization. Strategic bombers, which also are slated for an upgrade, will cost $40 billion. Keeping the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons-related laboratories humming over this period will cost $77 billion. Programs related to nuclear weapons command and early warning will cost $56 billion. None of these individual tallies includes the cost growth that CBO analysts projected. The CBO report cautioned that eliminating some of the programs, or even a category of nuclear weapons, would not produce savings equivalent to what’s now being spent, since compensatory measures would likely have to be taken. It made no specific recommendations, but noted that simply deferring some of the nuclear weapons modernization efforts — to fit current budget limits — instead of cancelling them outright will likely make them more costly in the long run. When Miller, who is slated to retire in January, was asked at the Nov. 2011 House Armed Services committee hearing about claims that nuclear weapons-related spending over the next decade could be as high as $600 billion, he said, “suffice it to say there was double counting and some rather curious arithmetic involved.” But that’s pretty much where the CBO came out. This article was published at NationofChange at: http://www.nationofchange.org/obama-administration-understated-nuclear-weapons-costs-1388319722. All rights are reserved. Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Chris Hedges | Overthrow the Speculators

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/20927-chris-hedges-overthrow-the-speculators Chris Hedges | Overthrow the Speculators Monday, 30 December 2013 12:16 By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed Money, as Karl Marx lamented, plays the largest part in determining the course of history. Once speculators are able to concentrate wealth into their hands they have, throughout history, emasculated government, turned the press into lap dogs and courtiers, corrupted the courts and hollowed out public institutions, including universities, to justify their looting and greed. Today’s speculators have created grotesque financial mechanisms, from usurious interest rates on loans to legalized accounting fraud, to plunge the masses into crippling forms of debt peonage. They steal staggering sums of public funds, such as the $85 billion of mortgage-backed securities and bonds, many of them toxic, that they unload each month on the Federal Reserve in return for cash. And when the public attempts to finance public-works projects they extract billions of dollars through wildly inflated interest rates. Speculators at megabanks or investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are not, in a strict sense, capitalists. They do not make money from the means of production. Rather, they ignore or rewrite the law—ostensibly put in place to protect the vulnerable from the powerful—to steal from everyone, including their shareholders. They are parasites. They feed off the carcass of industrial capitalism. They produce nothing. They make nothing. They just manipulate money. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged. We can wrest back control of our economy, and finally our political system, from corporate speculators only by building local movements that decentralize economic power through the creation of hundreds of publicly owned state, county and city banks. The establishment of city, regional and state banks, such as the state public bank in North Dakota, permits localities to invest money in community projects rather than hand it to speculators. It keeps property and sales taxes, along with payrolls for public employees and pension funds, from lining the pockets of speculators such as Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. Money, instead of engorging the bank accounts of the few, is leveraged to fund schools, restore infrastructure, sustain systems of mass transit and develop energy self-reliance. The Public Banking Institute, founded by Ellen Brown, the author of “Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free,” Marc Armstrong and other grass-roots activists are attempting to build a system of public banks. States such as Vermont and Washington and cities such as Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Reading, Pa., have begun public banking initiatives. Public banks return economic power, and by extension political power, to the citizens. And because they are local they are possible. These and other grass-roots revolts, including sustainable agriculture, will be the brush fires that will, if they succeed, ignite the overthrow of the corporate state. “The debate about public or private control of the monetary system has been going on for hundreds of years,” Armstrong, the executive director of the Public Banking Institute, said when I reached him by phone. “The American Revolution had everything to do with who controlled our economic destiny. The money supply is central to that control. North Dakota has proven that a state can use a public bank to further the economic interests of its people. North Dakota funds its own infrastructure and capital investment projects. It provides funding for commercial lending throughout the state. It develops the areas of its economy it wants to prioritize, areas that are often not funded by private banks.” “When a public bank such as the bank in North Dakota funds infrastructure projects the interest costs, which [otherwise] are often 50 percent or more of a project, in essence fall to zero because the interest is returned to same people who own the bank and paid the interest in the first place,” said Armstrong, who previously worked for IBM Finance. “[Americans typically] hold labor costs under a microscope, but ... don’t hold interest costs under a microscope. North Dakota can offer commercial loans as low as 1 percent. Compare this with Wall Street banks that charge 14 or 15 percent. We can use bank credit, the tool Wall Street banks use to amass wealth and power, to empower ourselves.” And because credit, Armstrong notes, is the source for 97 percent of the nation’s money supply, this power would be huge. The Bank of North Dakota, the vision of socialists from a century ago, has been in operation for 90 years. It offers the state’s farmers and businesses low interest rates on loans. After floods destroyed much of Grand Forks in 1997 the bank provided a six-month moratorium on mortgage payments and gave low-interest loans to the community to rebuild, a sharp contrast with the raw exploitation that marked the arrival of Wall Street bankers and speculators in Gulf Coast areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. Public banks in the United States, like the public banks in Germany, fund things such as solar power because it is good for communities rather than the portfolios of speculators. Public banks also protect us from the worst forms of predatory capitalism. Reporters Trey Bundy and Shane Shifflett last January wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle on how one of Wall Street’s numerous scams works. When the Napa Valley Unified School District in California needed funds in 2009 to build a high school in American Canyon it took out a $22 million loan with no payments due for 21 years. “By 2049, when the debt is paid,” the paper noted, “the $22 million loan will have cost taxpayers $154 million—seven times the amount borrowed.” And Napa, the paper reported, is one of at least 1,350 school districts and government agencies across the nation that have engaged in this form of borrowing, called capital appreciation bonds, to finance major projects. Capital appreciation bonds mean billions in debt for the public and hundreds of millions of dollars for the speculators, the reporters pointed out. And this kind of scam is writ large across the entire society. “California public schools received $9 billion in loans over the last seven years,” said Armstrong, who is from California. “In 25 to 30 years the interest due on that $9 billion will be $27 billion. This is just one example of the massive societal crisis being caused by big banks. Wall Street investment banks should not be permitted to handle public financing, which has become simply another way for Wall Street to monetize and extract our nation’s wealth.” The potential windfall for communities through the establishment of public banks is huge. In a study prepared in Vermont in support of establishing a public bank it was estimated that a public bank could make loans equal to 66 percent of state funds on deposits, or $236.2 million in credit for economic development in the state. This would expand the total credit supply available for state lending agencies by $236.2 million. Furthermore, the credit would be at a low cost to the state because public banks do not have to borrow money by selling bonds. Public banks make loans based on deposits. Interest returns to the state on loans and deposits. In essence, the state lends money to itself. The availability of $236.2 million in new lending, the study estimates, would create 2,535 new jobs, $192 million in value added (gross state product) and a $342 million increase in state output. “If used to finance state capital expenditures, funding through a public bank could save close to $100 million in interest costs on [fiscal year] 2012-13 capital spending, due to most interest payments no longer leaving the state,” the report says. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon have called for a national infrastructure bank. The U.S. Postal Service would fund the proposed bank. The Postal Service—which from 1911 until 1967 provided basic checking and savings services to the public—with its offices in nearly every community has the physical infrastructure to jump-start a national public bank. Deposits would be invested in government securities. These securities would be used to finance infrastructure projects. And the proposal would not require raising taxes. The plan, which I doubt the banking lobbyists and their lackeys in Congress will ever permit, would in addition to saving the Postal Service itself provide access to banking for the one in four households that cannot get such services. We won’t be saved by anyone in Washington. We will have to save ourselves. We will have to transform our communities, cities and states into places where the consent of the governed is no longer a joke. We will have to take back power, which in a corporate state is financial power, from the venal class of speculators who hold us hostage. In open defiance we will have to build our own independent institutions. Of course the speculators will fight back. And they will fight dirty—they know the consequences of this revolt. Public banks are not just about the economy. They are about liberty. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Capitalism, Ecology and the Official Invisibility of Women

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/20849-capitalism-ecology-and-the-official-invisibility-of-women Capitalism, Ecology and the Official Invisibility of Women Sunday, 29 December 2013 09:05 By Chris Williams, Truthout | News (Image: Invisible questions via Shutterstock) When it comes to the world economy, what you "see" is not usually what you get - especially when it comes to gender. Capitalism has fueled a world in which women are rendered invisible and saddled with the majority of labor. They are responsible for two-thirds of all working hours, produce 50 percent to 90 percent of the world's food and 100 percent of the world's children. Yet, for all this, they receive only 10 percent of the world's income and own less than 1 percent of the world's property. As a result, women make up 70 percent of the world's poor. Moreover, gender violence is more of a threat to women's health than the sum of traffic accidents and malaria. Often, when women are "seen," they are seen as simply bodies, to be manipulated in ways that lead to profit. In a very real sense, as people, women are invisible. Stephen Lewis, the former UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, wrote in his 2006 book, Race Against Time, that the World Bank, the UN and other international organizations repeatedly emphasize the need for greater and more effective action to counter gender inequality to achieve sustainability and other economic goals - but continue to work contrary to that type of action. Lewis wrote, "There is no greater emblem of international hypocrisy than the promise of women's rights." More recently, Elizabeth Arend, programs coordinator at Gender Action, has documented the "alarming gap" between the World Bank's "rhetoric and reality." Apart from ignoring issues of unequal access to land, credit, technical inputs, education, decision-making power and the extra demands of child care and other domestic commitments, "the bank's declining support for rural agriculture disproportionately harms poor women, who constitute the majority of small-scale farmers and play a critical role in growing, processing and preparing food." While gender inequity is expressed and felt differently in the Global North and South, the phenomenon is self-evidently universal in scope, even as it varies by region, race and class. Dominant media have supplied a number of "solutions" to this inequity, all of which emphasize women changing their ways. Writing in The New York Times, novelist Stephen Marche, noting that housework overwhelmingly remains the purview of women, suggests there's a simple answer, which puts the burden of change on women themselves - don't do it: "The solution to the gender divide in housework generally is just that simple: don't bother. Leave the stairs untidy. Don't fix the garden gate. Fail to repaint the peeling ceiling. Never make the bed." According to Jonathan Chait, writing in New York magazine, the underlying reason for the continuing disparity in housework is simple. Cleaning makes women happy because they like cleaning: "[A] possibility that probably explains a big part of the gap: Women in general just have higher standards of cleanliness than men do. People who care a lot about neater homes spend more time cleaning them because that makes them happy." Thus far, mainstream attempts to document and analyze economic gender disparities tend not only to blame women, they tend to assign women dated "essential" characteristics that frame the disparities as permanent. Capitalist Social Relations, Gender and "Brain Chemistry" What is it that prevents us breaking what Lewis calls "the monolith of indifference and paralysis" - and how does this relate to ecological concerns? Although various gender disparities have existed throughout history, the construction of a new ideology of gender oppression goes back to the scientific revolution and the dawn of capitalist social relations, which sought to place men above women, closer to heaven, more rational and desiring to dominate and control not only women, but also the Earth. Francis Bacon, one of the most influential early philosophers of the scientific worldview, consistently applied the language of the courthouse and the forcible extraction of knowledge from those accused of witchcraft to describe how the "secrets" of Earth (which is gendered as female) should be wrenched from her. Bacon, in highly sexualized language, explains his thinking on scientific endeavor in the preface to The New Organon: "But any man whose care and concern is not merely to be content with what has been discovered and make use of it, but to penetrate further; and not to defeat an opponent in argument but to conquer nature by action; and not to have nice, plausible opinions about things but sure, demonstrable knowledge; let such men (if they please), as true sons of the sciences, join with me, so that we may pass the ante-chambers of nature which innumerable others have trod, and eventually open up access to the inner rooms." As urban commodity manufacture for exchange replaced rural production for use, men were converted into propertyless workers; the Earth was reimagined as a lifeless machine, ripe for exploitation, and women were driven systematically and forcibly from production into unremunerated - and therefore valueless - reproductive activities in the home. Fast-forward to today, and a new scientific "study" posits men and women's divergent ways of interacting with the world as a matter of gendered differences in "brain chemistry." As Marx noted, the ascendant ideas in any society are those of the dominant social class. Notions about "how the world works" slip seamlessly into the common sense of societal thinking, yet at the same time, always magically align with the interests of the ruling elite. In the realm of food production and population, it doesn't matter how many times Malthusian arguments of overpopulation are factually refuted. Those arguments buttress the dominant classes' explanations for hunger and environmental degradation, and refute alternative, less palatable, explanations and, thus, continue to resurface as "truth." Similarly, ideas about the supposedly large and unalterable differences between men and women are resurfacing, this time in the guise of the latest scientific studies of the synaptic passages and wiring differences of our brains. Before one even gets to the details of the research, one has to wonder: Why is this research being carried out in the first place? What is it that makes scientists, with their supposed objective search for truth, so enthralled with trying to prove that "stark differences exist in the wiring of male and female brains", as one article reported the findings of a recent brain study of 1000 males and females, by a research team at the University of Pennsylvania. As researcher Ragini Vermi commented on how the team's results "surprisingly" validated gender stereotypes, "If you look at functional studies, the left of the brain is more for logical thinking, the right of the brain is for more intuitive thinking. So if there's a task that involves doing both of those things, it would seem that women are hardwired to do those better. ... Women are better at intuitive thinking. Women are better at remembering things. When you talk, women are more emotionally involved - they will listen more." Conversely, if Vermi "wanted to go to a chef or a hairstylist, they are mainly men." Moreover, the study allowed no acknowledgment - let alone a serious consideration of - the varieties of gender, and the ways in which transgender and gender-nonconforming people might fit into the supposed "brain chemistry" mix. If the supposedly extreme differences in brain connectivity as an explanation for the abundance of male chefs and hairstylists were not sufficiently preposterous, Vermi also put the putative ability of men to ski better down to the male brain's extra connections in the cerebellum. All of this would be dismissed easily as fatuous nonsense were it not so influential - and part and parcel of the much larger effort to keep women second-class citizens to maintain the profitability of capitalism and the dominant social order. Similarly, a study from UCLA recently proposed to show that women have less interest in casual sex than men for evolutionary reasons, rather than another plausible explanation: the social stigma and negative cultural values to which society subjects women who engage in one-night stands. In a classic example of finding what you want to find, and the reversal of cause and effect, in the University of Pennsylvania study, scientists used the differences they somehow inevitably found in male and female brains to explain why men behave differently from women, ignoring how their contrasting treatment and behavior in society might have given rise to their differing brain structure. The study, published in the highly prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was one of the largest to be done on "healthy" brains. But can one legitimately talk about "healthy" brains when they have been exposed to an exploitative and oppressive system from the first moment of their conscious existence, where every nanosecond of sensory input is skewed by incoming data parsed through compromised societal sources that constantly validate sexist ideology? Even the nature of the premise - that there are very distinct "left brain" and "right brain" people whose skill set skill set and personalities are predetermined - is scientifically dubious when not wildly overstated. Another distinction is drawn based on false premises: that there are two immutable categories, male and female, into which gender falls. Gender needs to be seen for what it is: a flexible continuum, rather than a permanent, genetically predetermined binary opposite. As Simone de Beauvoir noted, "A woman is not born; she is made." Did no scientist carrying out the study stop to wonder why "male" and "female" brains before the age of 13 showed very few brain connectivity differences, but that they grew with age? As many other studies have shown, and as Cecilia Fine outlines in her excellent book The Delusion of Gender, despite all the much-hyped claims, differences in cognition and interests assigned to gender are repeatedly found to be trivial. Professor Dorothy Bishop, of Oxford University, commenting on the latest study, noted that the authors act, "as if there is a typical male and a typical female brain - they even provide a diagram - but they ignore the fact that there is a great deal of variation within the sexes in terms of brain structure. You simply cannot say there is a male brain and a female brain." Marco Catani, of London's Institute of Psychiatry, determined the conclusions to be "purely speculative." Ancient cave paintings were until recently never examined for the gender of the unknown artists. Why look for something when the answer is assumed to be so obvious? Contrary to popular assumption, however, in findings that overturn conventional wisdom on the cultural norms of early humans, and thereby call into question our notions of gender relations, 70 percent of the handprints on cave walls were those of women. (Clearly, these don't allow for the reality of the gender continuum, but they do contradict traditional notions of gender dominance.) What these ideas have in common of course - besides being based on flimsy science - is they just happen to validate societal norms under capitalist social relations, one of which is the systematic oppression of women. Russell Brand, Climate Change and Misogyny In a related controversy, British comedian Russell Brand's methodical demolition of the supposedly fearsome interviewing talents of the BBC's long-serving frontman Jeremy Paxman on "Newsnight," the broadcaster's flagship news program, quickly became an internet sensation. Brand rapidly reduced Paxman's initially assertive demeanor to awkward, and his forthright questioning dissolved into hectoring humbug, as Brand argued for the necessity of an ecosocialist revolution to overthrow and replace capitalism. Over the course of the interview, Paxman became increasingly and visibly disconcerted. He wasn't sure what to do with someone who stuck to his argument that voting for any mainstream party was to democracy what the game of charades is to real life, that climate change was essentially unsolvable with methods allowed by capitalism and that only a revolutionary movement capable of recognizing these two things has a chance of preventing social and ecological breakdown in the near-term future. The successful public take-down of such an establishment figure, and the fact that revolutionary solutions to climate change were being brought before a mass audience caused considerable tumult among radicals actively trying to build a movement to put into practice his suggestions for comprehensive revolt. On the one hand, having ecosocialist politics and the need for revolution reach a mass audience, channeled through a popular, international celebrity, is quite a piece of publicity. As increasing numbers of people are beginning to do all across the world, Brand stitched together the ecological, economic and democratic crises into a single narrative with a unitary, root cause: capitalism. On the other hand, as many people highlighted, Brand has a deeply problematic history with regard to misogynist comments and has in part built his career through the sexual objectification and degradation of women. To compound these contradictions, Brand, in an article attacking capitalism and putting forward the need for revolution, began his guest editorship at the venerable lefty British publication New Statesman (emphasis on the man) in its October 24 issue with the sentence: "When I was asked to edit an issue of the New Statesman I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me." Someone who could so effortlessly belittle both women and the issue of climate change in the opening sentence of an article purporting to care about the future of the planet and be "inclusive of everyone" raised further controversy about whether Brand was a spokesperson worth having. Brand has since responded to criticism of his sexism by suggesting that he has "an unaddressed cultural hangover" and that he doesn't "want to be a sexist." Of course, in his discussion of climate change, he neglected to note that climate change only compounds the issues of gender-based disparities for the 50 percent of the world's population who already are living systematically disadvantaged and disproportionately impoverished lives, as I have written elsewhere. Brand's glaring blind spot when it comes to gender is pervasive on the left. One common demand of environmentalists and ecological economists is for corporations to internalize the unaccounted for pollution costs from which they so handsomely profit but for which they do not pay. As far as it goes, this is obviously a worthy demand. Yet, there are far larger unaccounted for costs within capitalism and these are much less talked about and remain, to a large extent, invisible. The $2.2 trillion of corporate costs of pollution assessed in 2010 are a fraction of the $11 trillion of externalized and unaccounted-for wealth the UN calculated was generated in 1995 by the "invisible contribution of women." At the time, the total figure of $16 trillion in externalized costs represented 70 percent of the global economy. As the UN noted in 1995: "The general problem of unpaid or non- market work has long been noted. At the start of this century, Arthur Cecil Pigou, the pioneer of welfare economics, wrote that if a woman employed as a housekeeper by a bachelor were to marry him, national income would fall, since her previously paid work would now be performed unpaid. But unpaid work goes far beyond housekeeping, and its omission leaves a major gap in national income accounting." Apart from working longer hours, because household and community work is unvalued by capitalism, men's total work time is two-thirds financially compensated (itself made possible by the "co-production" of women staying home), while for women, the figure is only one-third. Echoing Marx on the different types of value and the higher human worth of its non-monetized form, the UN's 1995 Development Report recognized that: "This activity has an intrinsic use value or human value that is not captured by its value for exchange. At the heart of human development is the expansion of human choices by developing human capabilities. Income becomes one of the means to ensure the development of capabilities, but it is not an end in itself. The pursuit of good health, the acquisition of knowledge, the time devoted to fostering social relationships, the hours spent in the company of relatives and friends - all are worthwhile activities, yet they carry no price tag." Even when women are at work, as a study from Columbia Business School documented, they are much more likely to be expected to do unremunerated extra "favors" for co-workers and bosses, which, if done by a man, would be seen as befitting the term "work." This prompted Heidi Moore to comment, "No matter what profession a woman works in, she's actually in the service profession." Hence, while capital has a significant problem financially addressing environmental damage and remaining profitable, it would be utterly impossible to socialize and financially value the role of women in society. Environmentalists need to recognize this profound contradiction and understand that for capitalism, gender inequality is an intrinsic property and fundamental economic requirement. While the UN's 2012 report on gender, economic development and sustainability recognized the need for far greater gender equity as essential to the achievement of sustainability goals, its report 17 years earlier noted that this would be possible only when financial entitlements "change radically, and the legal system would be overhauled accordingly. Rights to property and inheritance would change, as would access to credit based on collateral, direct entitlement to Social Security benefits, tax incentives for child care and terms of divorce settlements." In other words, we'd be talking about a completely different system. Capitalism cannot measure or value non-monetized, more human and relational sources of wealth. Were it to attempt to systematically do so by internalizing all costs - not just the costs of pollution, but also including those tasks performed predominantly by women - capitalism wouldn't come close to being profitable and, hence, would be a nonviable system. One can now answer why the oppression and subservient, invisible position of women is so necessary for the continuation of capitalism - and why our fight for a more ecologically sustainable society also must challenge those entrenched iniquities. The recognition of the intensity of gender inequality and its relationship to capitalism elevates the importance and centrality of fighting both if we are to live in a truly sustainable and socially just world. Notwithstanding the fact that there are obvious ethical complications connected to the idea of, for example, attaching monetary value to the raising of children, there are other ways in which it could be done in a society not predicated on profit. In a critique of how some concepts within second-wave feminism have been co-opted by neoliberal ideologues and even adopted by some feminists, Nancy Fraser suggests some ways in which to reformulate our demands to reignite the liberatory message within: "First, we might break the spurious link between our critique of the family wage and flexible capitalism by militating for a form of life that de-centres waged work and valorises unwaged activities, including - but not only - carework. Second, we might disrupt the passage from our critique of economism to identity politics by integrating the struggle to transform a status order premised on masculinist cultural values with the struggle for economic justice. Finally, we might sever the bogus bond between our critique of bureaucracy and free-market fundamentalism by reclaiming the mantle of participatory democracy as a means of strengthening the public powers needed to constrain capital for the sake of justice." Privatized, unvalued and invisible work carried out mostly by women - the raising of children, the caring for other humans and so much else - would be valued and socialized. At times, it can seem that the hand of human consciousness slips so smoothly into the glove of capitalist ideology; we appear content. Unfortunately for the capitalist class, and despite its best efforts to have us buy in, looks are deceiving. As Marx pointed out, the lived reality of ordinary people constantly chaffs against the inner confines of our mental prison and the limits of our physical lives. If this were not so, absolute propaganda from absolute dictatorships would be the end of human history and make the goal of liberation and equality impossible. But it is so - and it means that, given a sustained fight for both gender justice and ecological transformation, liberatory goals are indeed within reach. Copyright, Truthout. Chris Williams is an environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is chairman of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University in the department of chemistry and physical science. His writings have appeared in Z Magazine, Green Left Weekly, Alternet, CommonDreams, ClimateandCapitalism.com, Counterpunch, The Indypendent, Dissident Voice, International Socialist Review, Truthout, Socialist Worker and ZNet. He reported from Fukushima and was a Lannan writer-in-residence in Marfa, Texas. He recently was awarded a Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship. Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs