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Archive for November, 2012

Posted by Just Foreign Policy on November 30th, 2012

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

Yesterday, an overwhelming majority (62-33) of US Senators—including every Senator who caucuses with the Democrats save two—voted in favor of a measure that calls upon President Obama to continue withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan at a steady pace, as he promised in his address to the nation in June 2011. The “sense of the Senate”, which was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), also calls upon President Obama to end all regular US combat missions in Afghanistan no later than December 31, 2014, and to “take all possible steps” to end such operations earlier.

Why is this vote significant? At present, there is no timetable for removing the 68,000 US troops that remain in Afghanistan. President Obama does not plan to announce such a timetable until after his administration has decided how many troops to leave in Afghanistan post-2014. This decision is expected to happen within the next few weeks, which means that a decision on a drawdown timetable for 2013-2014 may also be imminent.

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Posted by Just Foreign Policy on November 30th, 2012

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

Yesterday, an overwhelming majority (62-33) of US Senators voted in favor of a measure that calls upon President Obama to continue withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan at a steady pace, as he promised in his address to the nation in June 2011. The “sense of the Senate”, which was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), also calls upon President Obama to end all regular US combat missions in Afghanistan no later than December 31, 2014, and to “take all possible steps” to end such operations earlier.

Why is this vote significant? At present, there is no timetable for removing the 68,000 US troops that remain in Afghanistan. President Obama does not plan to announce such a timetable until after his administration has decided how many troops to leave in Afghanistan post-2014. This decision is expected to happen within the next few weeks, which means that a decision on a drawdown timetable for 2013-2014 may also be imminent.

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Posted by Peace Action West on November 29th, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

Today, for the first time, the Senate took a roll call vote in favor of bringing our troops home from Afghanistan.

This morning, Senator Merkley’s amendment to bring our troops home from Afghanistan passed in an overwhelming 62-33 vote! THANK YOU to all of you who have helped make this happen.

This is the culmination of years of work to build congressional support for a quicker end to the war, and it’s the first successful vote of its kind in either the House or the Senate.

Click here to see how your senators voted.

Getting the Senate on record for ending the war is crucial right now. The Obama administration is beginning negotiations on a deal with the Afghan government that will determine the long-term troop presence there. Obstinate hawks and people in the Pentagon are pushing for drawing the war out as long as possible. This vote further marginalizes those staunch war supporters and gives momentum to those of us who want this war to end as soon as possible.

Working to end the war has been a long and difficult effort, but days like today remind me that we are making a real difference. Thank you for being a part of this victory.

 

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Posted by Peace Action West on November 28th, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is offering an amendment to end the war in Afghanistan, and the Senate could vote very soon.

Please call your senators now and tell them to vote YES on Sen. Merkley’s amendment to end the war in Afghanistan.

Congressional switchboard number: 202-224-3121. Find your senators here.

Click here to tell me how your calls went.

The New York Times reported this week that General Allen wants to keep more than 60,000 troops in Afghanistan for another year. This plan would contradict President Obama’s promises to continue withdrawal at a steady pace, and only cost more lives on both sides.

There will be pressure on President Obama to give the military whatever it wants. We need to push back and show that the American people and our representatives in Congress want this war over as soon as possible.

Please call your senators now and tell them to vote YES on the Merkley amendment to end the war in Afghanistan. Then, click here to tell me how your calls went.

Thank you.

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on November 26th, 2012

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Last night we saw how the GOP seems to have learned not a thing from the drubbing women voters gave them in the election earlier this month. But misogyny is a worldwide problem, a very old habit of conservatives and one that will take a very long time to break. Their War Against Women has helped define what conservatives are, going back a very long way in man’s history. Last week we saw the uproar in the Church of England when the Church’s Synod decided– against the wishes of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, retiring Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and the next Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby– that women priests are not qualified to become bishops. That was big news worldwide. A mob of Egyptian men in Tahrir Square attacking 3 women and ripping off their clothes was less reported.

On Friday, as tens of thousands converged on the main Egyptian square in Cairo, more and more reports of sexual assaults against women once again came to fruition.

One incident that sparked a fervor of worries occurred near the Pizza Hut on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, with dozens of men allegedly brutally assaulting a woman on the street. According to a doctor, the woman was the victim of “mass rape.”

…Sunday is also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

As crowds continue to maintain positions in Tahrir in opposition to President Mohamed Morsi’s decrees that put him above the rule of law, women’s safety is again a growing concern.

Unfortunately, this is a never-ending problem facing Egyptian women when large demonstrations are called for in central Cairo.

In June, an anti-sexual harassment demonstration organized by over 20 Egyptian women’s groups in protest against the recent escalation of assaults in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was attacked about an hour and half after it began by unknown troublemakers.

The participants reported being attacked by a mob of “thugs” who attempted to throw rocks and glass at them, but the clash was over quickly as volunteers securing the protest intervened to stop it.

This was not the first time a women’s rights march was attacked in Tahrir Square.

Last March, and on International Women’s Day, a march of tens of women was attacked by a cynical mob of men who did not like women protesting for more rights.

Several female protesters were injured and one woman had to have 8 stitches in her head. Almost all of them were groped and sexually assaulted in the attack.

A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) found that well over two-thirds of Egyptian women are sexually harassed daily in the country.

The participants held signs that read “It is my right to protest safely,” “Groping your sister is shameful for the square” and “Be a man and protect her instead of harassing her.”

I’m finishing up on one of historian Tom Holland’s earlier books, Millenium– The End of The World And The Forging of Christendom and he chances by a scene from the Egyptian Middle Ages that presages what went on in Tahrir Square last week. The Fatimid dynasty in Cairo– the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter Fatima–fancied themselves the gatekeepers of the end of days and in the late 900s the Caliph, al-Hakim bin Amr Allah was working on reordering their world and getting ready for the end by doing some strange things– like banning the playing of chess and the selling of watercress. And he ordered every single dog in Cairo killed. The corpses were dumped in the desert but what pious Muslim could object “when everyone knew the creatures to be unclean. Or indeed against his campaign to check the potentially even filthier appetites of women?”

A conviction that these merited regular chastisement had often been a caliphal trait: of Abd al-Rahman, for instance, it was said that he had never visited his harem without a sword and an executioner’s leather mat. Even when set against such precedents, however, al-Hakim’s terrors of where female promiscuity might lead the faithful were extreme. So too his plans to counter them. First he ordered women everywhere to be veiled when out in public; then he banned them from leaving their homes; finally he forbade them even so much as to peer out of windows or doors. Cobblers were instructed to stop making them shoes. Those whose voices disturbed the Caliph as he walked through the streets might expect to be walled up and left to starve.

I haven’t found any evidence of caliphs demanding vaginal ultrasounds though– or countenancing rapes of their own women as the will of God.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 23rd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Sabbath eve.

We’re saved! Or so says the TV anchor. Americans flocked to Wal-Mart and other similar stores on black Friday to buy and haul away semi-disposable plastic items by the cartful. If only it were so easy.

Meanwhile, a front passed through, dry again, the third in succession to defy prognoses of rain. We’re not terribly dry. Yet. But a look at the national drought monitor map reveals something disconcerting. Over 60% of the country is in some stage of drought, and among the driest regions are the Midwest states of Kansas and Nebraska, where significant amounts of grains for human consumption happen to be grown. Don’t ask me how I know, because I can’t tell you. I feel it in the air. We’re headed back into severe drought.

The Eagle Ford shale play just south of my home continues full-bore, pumping money into the local economy, but a surprisingly large number of people seem not to enjoy the benefits of this activity. It’s as though those that have lease and royalty money are fearful and socking away what they have rather than investing into businesses close to home. The money to drill and produce these wells comes from somewhere else; the money produced by these wells goes back where it came from.

Furthermore, the cost of producing shale oil is high, and activity will likely come to a halt should oil fall below $80/barrel, while anything above $80 oil seems to kill the rest of the country’s economy. We succeed at the failure of others, or visa-versa.

I’ve heard the depression of the 30’s described as want in a time of plenty. Version 2.0 will be more like want in a time of scarcity. (The words are not original, but I don’t know who coined the phrase.) Either you’ll have worthless money and expensive goods, or cheap goods and no money to buy them.

Tensions continue to brew worldwide. Supposed fixes to the economy address symptoms while ignoring the underlying diseases. It took thirty years of theft and fraud to get where we are; those that committed these heinous acts remain in power. There will be no solution until these grievances are addressed, and even then the damage done is irreparable.

It’s easy to call for a debt jubilee until you consider that each unpaid debt has at least one counterparty, and many holding the notes are not those responsible for the fraud, but instead are pensioners and innocent investors that socked away life savings into what they thought were safe investments for retirement years. When it comes down to it, even deposits in banks will be in jeopardy once the daisy chain begins to fail.

I don’t know exactly how this mess ends, but I can tell you we have fixed nothing and that we remain in critically dangerous territory on so many fronts that it’s hard to keep up.

I’d say plant a garden, but it may be too late for that. Perhaps you’d be better off stocking a panty with canned and dried goods. While you’re at it, get to know your neighbor.

Hard times lie ahead.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 23rd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Middle East Online, By Assaad Abboud

Saudi government is now monitoring women electronically by informing their male guardians about their cross-border movements. More at the link

More news from the Middle East

*Gaza ceasefire holds but mistrust runs deep

*Many Israelis denounce cease-fire accord: say job is unfinished

*Another soft coup: Morsi grants himself far-reaching powers

*Is Jordan regime collapsing?

* Rebels capture key base in Syria East

 

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Posted by The Agonist on November 22nd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

A US District Court Judge in New York has ordered Argentina to pay more than $1.3billion to vulture funds that held out and refused to do a deal when Argentina restructured its debt in 2001. She also decided that Argentina should immediately pay the whole amount into an escrow fund pending any appeal, and that Argentina isn’t allowed to pay any of its other bond holders until it does so – which means it now faces default on around $3.billion in payments to creditors who did take part in the restructing – and that in turn would mean default on over $20 billion in national debt.

The Argentinian president has previously said she’ll not pay a single dollar to the vultures and I’ve some sympathy with that – after all, they should’ve gone along with the restructuring instead of being predatory capitalist douchebags. But what the hell is with the escow part of the judge’s decision? I mean, what’s Argentina going to do – move address in the middle of the night and not tell anyone?

You know you’re an Empire when a single local judge can so severely affect the lives of millions in another country a whole continent away. You know you’re a douchebag Empire when judges can place the selfishness of a few corporate robbers ahead of the interests of 42 million people who happen not to be American.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 22nd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

My wife is the “general manager” of a the single outlet of a certain restaurant chain here in town, rhymes with Benny’s, and she works every holiday because it is always open. We’ve long since gotten used to having our Thanksgivings, Christmasses and Birthdays on her next day off rather than the actual day. This year it’ll be next Thursday. So…I’ll be blogging through tomorrow, though probably only weekend-style as we won’t be getting the traffic in any case, then I’ll be taking next Thursday off. (Edited for clarity – in the chain’s parlance “general manager” means you run a single store, not the whole business as one commenter leaped to conclude.)

Here’s an extra jukebox to celebrate the holiday, and an open thread for whatever you wish to post too.

This one is for my darling wife, for whom I am truly thankful. Thank you, accushla.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 21st, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Telegraph, By Geoffrey Lean

Will the next financial crisis be caused by environmental stress? It might seem, on the face of it, to be an unlikely prospect – but it proved a real enough risk to draw hundreds of experts from top financial institutions to a conference in the City of London this week. Hosted by Bloomberg – and sponsored by the French group Caisse de Dépôts, the German bank KfW Bankengruppe and the Swiss MAVA Foundation – it examined “to what extent natural resource risks can impact a country’s economy and, thus, its ability to pay its debts.”

Sovereign bonds used to be thought of as virtually risk-free before the financial crisis hit in 2008. They have looked less so since. But a report for this week’s conference argued that one major area of risk was still being neglected – the decline of the natural world as both population and levels of consumption increase.

“Natural resources – both renewable, biological resources such as food and fibre, and non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels, ore and minerals – are critical to each nation’s economy”, says the report, produced by the Global Footprint Network, a California-based think tank, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Financial Initiative.

“Yet, to date, risks stemming from renewable resources, in particular, are not well considered in sovereign credit risk assessments. As resource constraint tighten globally, countries that depend, in net terms, on levels of renewable natural resources and services beyond what their own ecosystems can provide may experience profound economic impacts as resources become more unreliable or costly.”

More at the link

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