Monday, November 29, 2010

The AMBO Declaration: Where the Vulnerable are Disposable

The Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC), took place from November 9th -11th in Tarawa, Kiribati, a highly threatened atoll in the Ocean Pacific. It concluded with the release of the Ambo Declaration that was endorsed by Australia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Fiji, Japan, Kiribati, Maldives, Republic of the Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, and Tonga. Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, attended the conference as observers, yet did not sign the declaration. With observer status states are able to participate in the deliberation process.

On November 17, 2010: a new study published by Maplecroft, rated 183 countries on their CO2 emissions from energy use and identified Australia (#2), USA (#3), Canada (#4) as three of the top six nations guilty of the worst performance in relation to CO2 emissions. Furthermore the group of 6 are the only countries rated as 'extreme risk' by Maplecroft on the basis of their high CO2 emissions from energy use. The tons of carbon emissions per capita for these countries are as follows: Australia: 20.82, United States: 19.18 and Canada at 17.27. Compare these amounts to the drowning citizens of Kiribati whose per capita emissions are a mere 0.3 tons.

The speaker of the Kiribati parliament called for the 18 countries taking part in the Tarawa Climate Change Conference to reach a consensus and agree on common goals. But how do vulnerable countries whose goal is simply to survive, find common ground with the participating major Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitting countries that demand economic growth be allowed to continue under the current economic system – that being the capitalist system – the root cause of climate change in the first place? Such conferences which have the mandate to seek common ground through consensus, more often than not, lead to the lowest common denominator with the voice of those most vulnerable being crushed.

Behind the Veil

Given that Canada, Australia and the United States are three of the highest per capita GHG emitters in the world, as well as being the leading climate change obstructionists within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) processes, it seems reasonable to assume that these three states were in attendance to ensure the vulnerable states would not present a declaration reflecting strong demands at the upcoming climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico. While Canadians understand the consequences of climate change for the world's most vulnerable, the Canadian Harper minority Government nonetheless muses that climate change is a great opportunity to expand economic growth by further exploiting natural resources in a melting North.

Why was it that the world leaders on climate change such as Bolivia and Tuvalu were not in attendance? The non-participation of Tuvalu, which is one of the most threatened island states, and of Bolivia, which has been at the forefront of climate change negotiations should raise red flags and alarm bells. The fact that these world leaders on climate change were either not invited, or they made a conscious decision not to participate, begs the question if one critical purpose of this conference, in the eyes of the major GHG emitting developed states, was an opportunity to undermine Bolivia, as well as, further isolate Tuvalu's position.

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South Korea: Despatch From the Frontline of World War Three

If Hollywood ever needs somewhere to start World War Three, Yeonpyeong would be a good choice. North Korea is in plain view, about as far away as Portsmouth is from Ryde. A notice at the ferry terminal warns you to call a hotline number if you see enemy frogmen. On Tuesday afternoon, from an artillery base close enough to be visible through binoculars, the North Koreans launched a rather more direct assault.




A whole street of houses and shops in the village stands charred and ruined. Blackened bar-stools and twisted bicycles show the force of the blast, and even three days later the smell of burning remained. Dogs, some of them wounded, run or limp through the streets, abandoned by their owners in the panic to get away. The village is empty of all but journalists. On the boat back, I spoke to a policeman who collected the bodies of the two civilians killed. “One of them was just a totally burnt-out shell, a skeleton,” he said. “The other was scattered, blown apart.”


According to local media, the North Koreans used “hyperbaric,” or fuel-air, explosives – rare and unusually destructive weapons, only just this side of breaching international law. But then the attack itself, Pyongyang’s first, in its own words, “precisely aimed” land assault on South Korea's civilians since the end of the war in 1953, broke wholly new and dangerous ground.

In the five days since it happened, South Koreans’ behaviour has mirrored that of Jang Gee-Yeon. Like the tanker driver, they were quite slow to react. The South Korean military took 13 minutes to return fire. President Lee Myung-bak’s first response was emollient: the country should, he said, “carefully manage the situation to prevent an escalation of the clash.” Street protests and manifestations of public outrage were notable by their absence.


But over the last forty-eight hours, the fear and tension here have grown. The country has almost palpably decided to get angry and scared. The defence minister resigned, or was sacked. Yesterday and on Friday, spreading demonstrations demanded stronger action from the government. In-Jae Lee, the mayor of Paju, only a few miles from the North Korean border, said the demo in his town was “not a protest, but a shout for survival.” He added: “If a government does not show strong resolution, then it is not capable of protecting its people.”

In Seoul, the capital, a few hundred former soldiers fought the police. Also yesterday, at the televised funeral of the two marines who were the raid’s other casualties, their top commander, Major-General You Nak-jun, promised to “repay North Korea a hundred and thousand-fold” for their deaths. The national alert status has been raised to Watchcon 2, the second-highest level. In this, perhaps the world’s most technologically-enabled country, even drivers are obsessively watching the rolling news channels, on little screens in their cars – and 22 people have been charged with spreading war rumours online or on Twitter.

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Spanish Woman Claims Ownership of the Sun

(AFP) – After billions of years the Sun finally has an owner -- a woman from Spain's soggy region of Galicia said Friday she had registered the star at a local notary public as being her property.

Angeles Duran, 49, told the online edition of daily El Mundo she took the step in September after reading about an American man who had registered himself as the owner of the moon and most planets in our Solar System.

There is an international agreement which states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals, she added.

[ ... ]

Duran, who lives in the town of Salvaterra do Mino, said she now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government and 20 percent to the nation's pension fund.

She would dedicate another 10 percent to research, another 10 percent to ending world hunger -- and would keep the remaining 10 percent herself.

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Predicting the Future With Porn?

An upcoming study to be published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology claims that test subjects were able to accurately predict future events--and that pornography was one of the tools used in research for the project. But the methodology is sound. Skeptics are impressed. Do humans really have extra-sensory perception (ESP)? Can it really be triggered by the latest issue of Penthouse?

The paper, "Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Effect," has a pre-publication version available online. Professor Daryl Bem of Cornell University carried out nine separate experiments with 1,000 university students. These experiments were intended to find evidence of "psi"--precognition or premonition. Bem defines it this way:

The term psi denotes anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms. Two variants of psi are precognition (conscious cognitive awareness) and premonition (affective apprehension) of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known inferential process. Precognition and premonition are themselves special cases of a more general phenomenon: the anomalous retroactive influence of some future event on an individual's current responses, whether those responses are conscious or nonconscious, cognitive or affective.

The most interesting of the nine experiments used pornography to test for ESP. Experimentees were asked 36 times to guess whether an image of "couples engaged in nonviolent but explicit consensual sexual acts" or a blank picture would show up on different sectors of a video screen. Subjects were able to predict the appearance of the pornographic picture 53.1% of the time--significantly above the statistical average of 50%.

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Join in on the World's Biggest Bank Run This December

By Robert E. Prasch, Alternet

"A spectre is haunting Europe." Its not the revolution that Karl Marx supposed would come about. Nor is it Parisian students and workers taking to the streets as in May 1968. It is the vision of hordes of Europeans striking back at those who caused the 2008 financial crash. This time, organizers are calling for the use of a new weapon, one available to any of us with a bank account. It is the simple act of removing all of our money from the banks, and doing so in mass on the same day - December 7th.

While it is hard to know who first thought of this marvelous act of political theater, it has begun to take serious traction in France and is now spreading across Europe. It has especially taken off since a ringing endorsement of the idea began making the rounds on YouTube and Facebook by the always amusing, and surprisingly thoughtful, ex-soccer star Eric Cantona. Cantona, already famous for his performances with Leeds United, Manchester United, and the French National Team, has remained in the public eye while developing new interests in photography, film, and live theater (Happily for the discerning taste of the French public, he is an excellent photographer, and in the latter endeavors he has the advantage of being mentored by a well-established and highly-talented young actress - his wife, Rachida Brakni).

Of late, the famously mercurial temper that Cantona exhibited on and off the soccer pitch has been redirected from rivals and unruly fans. A prominent target is French President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal to create a ministry, museum, and mass public debate on "national identity, all of which Cantona publically ridiculed as "idiotic." His sights are now trained on the banking and financial system that he - correctly - holds responsible for France's current economic problems. This is important because Sarkozy and the EU leadership is using this crisis to erode welfare state protections even as ostensibly scarce public monies are deployed to shore up the banks most responsible for the problem.

Which brings us to the economics of a mass withdrawal of deposits from the banks. Will it bring about an actual bank run or financial crash? Certainly not. For one thing, an organized and deliberate action such as Cantona proposes lacks the element of panic so characteristic of bank runs. Additionally, the banks and the central banks overseeing them will have time to prepare for the event, and should be able to reallocate their holdings of cash, reserves, and other assets in advance. If necessary, banks can always borrow short-term funds on the inter-bank market or even directly from the central bank. A mass withdrawal should, however, shrink the profitability of banks, as retail deposits are normally considered cheap and stable sources of funds with which to finance loans. Large European banks, relative to their American peers, are more dependent on retail deposits, so they will especially miss these funds when the time comes to calculate profits and bonuses.

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WikiLeaks Under Denial of Service Attack (DDoS)

From Security Week:

WikiLeaks has reported that its Web site is currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack. The whistleblower Web site posted an update via Twitter early Sunday afternoon.

The attack comes around the time of an expected release of classified State Department documents, which the Obama administration says will put "countless" lives at risk, threaten global counterterrorism operations and jeopardize U.S. relations with its allies. The expected released of State Department documents is expected to be seven times the size of the 400,000 Iraq war documents released in October.

WikiLeaks noted that media outlets including El Pais, Le Monde, Speigel, Guardian & NYT will publish many US embassy cables tonight, even if WikiLeaks goes down from the DDoS attack.

The Web site seems to be inconsistent over the past 15 minutes or so, responding to some requests successfully and timing out other times.

WikiLeaks: US Senators Call for WikiLeaks to Face Criminal Charges

American Psychosis: What Happens to a Society That Cannot Distinguish Between Reality and Illusion?…

By Chris Hedges

The United States, locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips dying empires, is a country entranced by illusions. It spends its emotional and intellectual energy on the trivial and the absurd. It is captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. This celebrity culture giddily licenses a dark voyeurism into other people's humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Day after day, one lurid saga after another, whether it is Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or John Edwards, enthralls the country … despite bank collapses, wars, mounting poverty or the criminality of its financial class.

The virtues that sustain a nation-state and build community, from honesty to self-sacrifice to transparency to sharing, are ridiculed each night on television as rubes stupid enough to cling to this antiquated behavior are voted off reality shows. Fellow competitors for prize money and a chance for fleeting fame, cheered on by millions of viewers, elect to "disappear" the unwanted. In the final credits of the reality show America's Next Top Model, a picture of the woman expelled during the episode vanishes from the group portrait on the screen. Those cast aside become, at least to the television audience, nonpersons. Celebrities that can no longer generate publicity, good or bad, vanish. Life, these shows persistently teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition and a constant quest for notoriety and attention.

Our culture of flagrant self-exaltation, hardwired in the American character, permits the humiliation of all those who oppose us. We believe, after all, that because we have the capacity to wage war we have a right to wage war. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Those who fail, those who are deemed ugly, ignorant or poor, should be belittled and mocked. Human beings are used and discarded like Styrofoam boxes that held junk food. And the numbers of superfluous human beings are swelling the unemployment offices, the prisons and the soup kitchens.

It is the cult of self that is killing the United States. This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt. Michael Jackson, from his phony marriages to the portraits of himself dressed as royalty to his insatiable hunger for new toys to his questionable relationships with young boys, had all these qualities. And this is also the ethic promoted by corporations. It is the ethic of unfettered capitalism. It is the misguided belief that personal style and personal advancement, mistaken for individualism, are the same as democratic equality. It is the nationwide celebration of image over substance, of illusion over truth. And it is why investment bankers blink in confusion when questioned about the morality of the billions in profits they made by selling worthless toxic assets to investors.

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image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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