Category Archives: International Agreements

‘Outrageous’ Gold Rush-Style Grab of Public Lands To Begin in Less Than 48 Hours

Conservationists, local tribe leaders, Democratic legislators, and even a UN expert decry this “serious attack on indigenous peoples’ rights.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-31-2018

Activists and politicians are opposing the Trump administration’s move to allow mining at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. (Photo: ksblack99/Flickr)

Despite protests from conservationists, local tribe leaders, Democratic lawmakers, and even the United Nations’ expert on indigenous rights, at 6am on Friday the Trump administration will allow citizens and companies to start staking claims on sections of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah so the new stakeholders can conduct hard rock mining on the formerly protected lands.

“It is outrageous to witness the dismantling of the Bears Ears national monument, in what constitutes a serious attack on indigenous peoples’ rights in the United States,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. Continue reading

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US Surpasses Cayman Islands to Become Second Largest Tax Haven on Earth

“This is not a ranking in which the U.S. wants to be number one or even number two. We have one of the strongest economies and one of the most secret. It’s a perfect recipe for attracting the proceeds of crime, corruption, and tax evasion.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-30-2018

The U.S. holds 22 percent of global offshore services, up from 14 percent in 2015. (Image: Offshore Shell Games)

Proving its role in the global race to the bottom on tax avoidance and  contributing to a multitude of abuses around the world, the United States is now second-largest tax haven on the planet, according to an updated international index.

The Tax Justice Network found that the U.S. has surpassed the Cayman Islands as the number-two place where corporations can easily stash their money to avoid tax liabilities. Switzerland retained its top place on the list. Continue reading

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Sanctions? What Sanctions?

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Donald Trump in the Oval Office the day after James Comey’s firing. Photo: YouTube,

In July of last year, Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill that put new sanctions on Russia. The support was as close to unanimous as you see in Congress these days; only three dissenting votes in the House and two in the Senate.

Facing sure backlash and a veto override if he either vetoed the bill or refused to sign (a pocket veto), President Donald Trump held off until the final day until signing the sanctions bill. Signed without the usual spectacle of a ceremony that the Toddler in Chief seems to thrive on, he called parts of the bill “clearly unconstitutional,” and went on to say they “displace the President’s exclusive constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments” while others exceed Congress’ authority by imposing time limits on the executive branch.

The Trump administration then raised the ire of Congress by missing the deadline for the first part of the sanctions to be put in effect. Which brings us to today’s deadline.

Today was to be the day that the Treasury Department was to begin imposing economic sanctions against people and businesses doing business with Russia’s intelligence and defense sectors. They were also supposed to provide a list of oligarchs maintaining close ties to Putin.

So what did the administration do? They said that they wouldn’t be imposing sanctions. “Sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent,” said a State Department official.

When Donald Trump became President, he took the oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Overriding Congress and unilaterally deciding not to enforce a sanctions bill that you yourself signed is not faithfully executing the office. It is not preserving, protecting or defending the Constitution. It’s the type of stunt you see in a third rate banana republic, and not in the United States – until now.

So, what happens next? Will Congress grow a spine and demand that he put sanctions in place? Will they finally admit to themselves that this overgrown toddler has no business being where he is? That every day he stays in office means further degradation of us as a nation? Will they finally figure that their Faustian compact isn’t worth the damage it does to the country? Or will they keep on making excuses for this wretched imitation of a human being?

 

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Doomsday Clock Now ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ as Trump Drives Up Nuclear and Climate Threats

“It’s always sobering to be reminded just how close humanity is to destroying itself with nuclear weapons.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-25-2018

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced on Thursday it has moved up the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight. (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists/Facebook)

In response to rising nuclear tensions and concerns about inadequate action to address the climate crisis, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Thursday the hands of the Doomsday Clock have been moved and it is now just two minutes midnight, a signal to the world that international scientists and policy experts are increasingly worried about the likeliness of global catastrophe.

“In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II,” said a statement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Continue reading

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Is it time for a 21st-century version of ‘The Day After’?

Marsha Gordon, North Carolina State University

 

Screenshot from ‘The Day After’.

It’s beginning to feel like the 1980s all over again.

Already this year, we’ve seen Donald Trump tweeting provocative nuclear threats about North Korea. A terrifying (but false) incoming missile alert set Hawaiians on edge, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention planned (and then postponed) a nuclear attack preparedness session. The Pentagon has also proposed a policy of possible nuclear retaliation for cyberattacks.

As a teenager, I remember being horrified about the possibility of nuclear war. I watched daily news reports about the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and listened to music about “what might save us, me and you,” as Sting’s 1985 song “Russians” put it (the answer: “If the Russians love their children too”).

But I especially remember the television event of 1983: “The Day After,” a fictional, made-for-TV movie that imagined a nuclear attack on American soil. The debates and discussions the film spurred make me wonder if a similar sort of high-profile cultural event would serve the country well today.

The water cooler event of the decade

At my junior high school in Southern California, “The Day After” was what everyone was talking about leading up to (and following) the night it aired on ABC on Nov. 20, 1983.

By all measures, it was a major media event. An estimated 100 million viewers tuned in. The White House phone lines were jammed and ABC headquarters in New York received more than 1,000 calls about the movie during its East Coast broadcast.

“The Day After” imagines a scenario in which America’s policy of deterrence fails. It depicts a nuclear attack through the experiences of Midwesterners – doctors, students, children, the pregnant and the engaged – followed by an extended (and, though grim, fairly unrealistic) consideration of post-blast repercussions.

Leading up to the attack, there is quotidian normality, followed by localized shock at the terrifying sight of missiles being launched out of the ground from Kansas missile silos. Panicked anticipation of an incoming nuclear attack follows, replete with period novelties such as huge lines at pay phones.

Although dated and artless in many ways, the representation of the blast remains horrific, if only by virtue of what it forces us to consider: the fire, wind and chaos; the widespread damage and suffering; the desperate need for medical care; and the futile desire for order and assistance.

Society as the characters in the movie knew it – just a day before – was a thing of the past.

Political television

“The Day After” was controversial even before it aired, with critics like Tom Shales of The Washington Post deeming it “the most politicized entertainment program ever seen on television.” Reverend Jerry Falwell organized a boycott against the show’s advertisers, and Paul Newman and Meryl Streep both tried (unsuccessfully) to run anti-nuclear proliferation advocacy ads during the program.

In the text that scrolls at the end of the film, “The Day After” declares its intention to “inspire the nations of this earth, their people and leaders, to find the means to avert the fateful day” – to, in essence, scare some sense into anyone tuning in.

Pro- and anti-nuclear groups used the film as a rallying cry for their positions. An Oct. 4, 1983 LA Times article (“‘The Day After’ Creating a Stir”) detailed a “conservative counteroffensive” that attempted to “discredit the film and write it off as a media conspiracy against Ronald Reagan’s strong defense posture.” Reagan supporters also hoped to defuse potential public backlash against American nuclear missile proliferation in Europe.

After the film aired, two simultaneous events at the epicenter of the film’s setting, the University of Kansas, are telling. A Los Angeles Times article titled “‘The Day After’ Viewed Amid Debate, Fear” described how a candlelight vigil in support of nuclear disarmament was joined by counterdemonstrators who “urged peace through military strength.”

As The New York Times’s John Corry wrote, “Champions of the film say it forces us to think intelligently about the arms race; detractors say it preaches appeasement.”

A trigger for serious reflection

Outside of partisan lobbying, “The Day After” opened the door for public debate about nuclear weapons.

Immediately after the movie’s broadcast, Ted Koppel moderated a riveting discussion that featured a formidable group of pundits, including Henry Kissinger, Elie Wiesel, William F. Buckley, Carl Sagan and Robert McNamara. During this special edition of “Viewpoint,” Secretary of State George Shultz also appeared to tell audiences that “nuclear war is simply not acceptable.”

After the movie aired, Ted Koppel moderated a discussion that featured an all-star cast of public intellectuals and politicians.

 

The most prescient and horrifying questions from the audience and responses from the panelists on “Viewpoint” anticipate a future that’s eerily indicative of where we are today – a time of multi-state nuclear capability, where one unstable leader might trigger nuclear catastrophe.

In the weeks after the broadcast, schools and community centers around the country held forums during which people could discuss and debate the issues the film raised. Psychologists and communication scholars were also eager to study the movie’s impact on viewers, from how it influenced their attitudes about nuclear weapons, to its emotional consequences, to whether they felt empowered to try to influence America’s nuclear policies.

That was then, this is now

In the early 1980s, of course, it was the Soviet Union that posed the nuclear threat to America.

Today’s adversaries are more diffuse. The world’s nuclear situation is also much more volatile, with greater destructive potential than “The Day After” imagined.

A modern-day remake of “The Day After” would have to reckon with this bleaker scenario: a world in which there may be no day after.

The bellicose posturing that prevails in the White House today resonates, in some ways, with the public bickering between Soviet Head of State Yuri Andropov and Ronald Reagan in the months leading up to the broadcast of “The Day After.” After the film’s release, New York Times columnist James Reston hoped “the two nuclear giants” would “shut up for a few weeks” – that “some civility or decent manners” might prevail in the wake of public concern about the consequences imagined in ABC’s somber nuclear fable.

But as then-Secretary of State George Shultz pointed out in the Koppel interview, the aim of the Reagan administration was to never have to use nuclear weapons. It was to deter our nuclear adversary and to reduce our nuclear storehouse. Shultz’s words of assurance are a contrast to today’s rhetoric of nuclear one-upmanship that is totally removed from the devastating reality of nuclear war.

Trivializations of nuclear warfare on the order of “my button’s bigger than yours” undermine the grave reality of nuclear cataclysm. Such rhetoric is no longer the domain of farce, as in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” in which erratic, incompetent leaders bumble their way into the apocalypse.

Perhaps some modernized version of “The Day After” could function as a wake-up call for those who have no real context for nuclear fear. If nothing else, “The Day After” got people talking seriously about the environmental, political and societal consequences of nuclear war.

The ConversationIt might also remind our current leaders – Trump, foremost among them – of what modern nuclear war might look like on American soil, perhaps inspiring a more measured stance than has prevailed thus far in 2018.

Marsha Gordon, Professor of Film Studies, North Carolina State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Why the US Wants 30,000 Troops on Syria’s Border With Turkey

By Darius Shahtahmasebi. Published 1-18-2018 by The Anti-Media

On Saturday, the Defense Post reported that the U.S.-led coalition in Syria was building a 30,000-member “border force,” made up predominantly of Kurdish and Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as well as some unspecified new recruits.

“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale told Defense Post. Continue reading

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Extreme Digital Vetting of Visitors to the U.S. Moves Forward Under a New Name

ICE officials have invited tech companies, including Microsoft, to develop algorithms that will track visa holders’ social media activity.

By George Joseph. Published by ProPublica 11-22-2017

The door of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement vehicle.. Photo: ICE

The Department of Immigration & Customs Enforcement is taking new steps in its plans for monitoring the social media accounts of applicants and holders of U.S. visas. At a tech industry conference last Thursday in Arlington, Virginia, ICE officials explained to software providers what they are seeking: algorithms that would assess potential threats posed by visa holders in the United States and conduct ongoing social media surveillance of those deemed high risk.

The comments provide the first clear blueprint for ICE’s proposed augmentation of its visa-vetting program. The initial announcement of the plans this summer, viewed as part of President Donald Trump’s calls for the “extreme vetting” of visitors from Muslim countries, stoked a public outcry from immigrants and civil liberties advocates. They argued that such a plan would discriminate against Muslim visitors and potentially place a huge number of individuals under watch. Continue reading

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Continued Detention of Ahed Tamimi Denounced as Symptomatic of Israel’s Flouting of Int’l Law

“It is clear that detaining and prosecuting Palestinian children in Israeli military courts has little to do with justice,” says Brad Parker of Defense for Children International Palestine

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-17-2017

Demonstrators, including members of the Tamimi family, rallied on Dec. 22, 2017 in Manhattan’s Union Square to demand the release of Ahed Tamimi. (Photo: Joe Catron/flickr/cc)

Human rights experts sounded alarm on Wednesday after an Israeli military judge ruled that 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi—a child who has not been convicted of a crime—must remain in custody during her trial.

While the court ruled there was no “alternative to custody,” Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said, “There is nothing that can justify Ahed Tamimi’s continued detention.” Continue reading

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Donald Trump doesn’t understand Haiti, immigration or American history

File 20180112 101483 169uyt2.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

After Haiti signed its Declaration of Independence from France, in 1804, the U.S. started a 60-year political and economic embargo that hobbled the young nation’s growth. Wikimedia

Chantalle F. Verna, Florida International University

Donald Trump’s denigrating comments about Haiti during a recent congressional meeting shocked people around the globe, but given his track record of disrespecting immigrants, they were not actually that surprising.

Despite campaign promises that Trump would be Haiti’s “biggest champion,” his administration had already demonstrated its disregard for people from this Caribbean island. In November 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would end the Temporary Protected Status that had allowed 59,000 Haitians to stay in the U.S. after a calamitous Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

Their TPS was extended after Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti again in 2016. Without protected status, these Haitian migrants have until July 2019 to get a green card, leave voluntarily or be deported. Continue reading

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Rising Concerns About Nuclear War as Trump Prepares to Loosen Constraints on Weapons

“We are flirting with unacceptably high risks that carry catastrophic consequences for the country and the world. No one can afford to not take Trump’s threats seriously.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-10-2018

Photo: YouTube

Advocates of nuclear disarmament are raising alarms about reports that the Trump administration is planning to loosen constraints on the U.S. nuclear weapons program, warning that the Pentagon’s forthcoming plan “makes nuclear war more likely.”

Jon Wolfsthal, an official who worked on arms control in the Obama administration and has reviewed what he believes is the final version of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), told the Guardian the Pentagon’s new review includes plans to develop more nuclear weapons and expand “the circumstances in which the U.S. might use its nuclear arsenal, to include a response to a non-nuclear attack that caused mass casualties, or was aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear command and control sites.” Continue reading

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