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U.N. Panel Questions Vatican Officials on Child Sex Abuse January 16, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Criminal Justice, Religion.
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Roger’s note: This paragraph knocked me off my seat:

“Written answers from the Vatican emphasized the distinction between the Holy See and the Catholic Church and said that although it encouraged adherence to the principles of the convention globally, it was responsible only for implementing the convention in the territory of the Vatican City State.”

The Vatican, whose long vindictive arm reaches to the farthest corner of the glove to punish a priest or theologian who dares to advocate, for example, the ordination of women priests, this poor powerless Vatican, perhaps the most centralized authoritarian institution on the face of earth, this poor impotent Vatican finds that its hands are tied when it comes to enforcing the law that protects children from its abusive priests.  Five stars for chutzpah and hypocrisy.  But kudos to the Pope and his Cardinals for “encouraging” their priests to keep their hands (or worse) off children.  Not to mention protecting all those children running around the halls of the Vatican.

NICK CUMMING-BRUCEJAN. 16, 2014, New York Times

GENEVA — In an unusual appearance before a United Nations committee, Vatican officials faced questions on Thursday about the Holy See’s handling of sexual abuse of children by the clergy.

The officials, including Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, who served as the Vatican’s chief sex crimes prosecutor for a decade up to 2012, are appearing before the Committee on the Rights of the Child to show how the Vatican is implementing a legally binding convention promoting child rights, which it signed in 1990.

Human rights organizations and groups representing victims of clerical abuse welcomed the hearing as the first occasion the Vatican has had to publicly defend its record.

“It’s a moment that has given hope and encouragement to victims across the globe,” Barbara Blaine, president of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in Geneva ahead of the hearing.

Amid the shake-up launched by Pope Francis in the 10 months since he took office, rights groups also saw Thursday’s hearing as an occasion that could shed light on the pontiff’s approach to dealing with the clerical abuse scandal.

Pope Francis announced last month the creation of a new committee to tackle clerical abuse but has so far said little on the scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church around the world.

In questions posed by the U.N. committee before the hearing, the Vatican was asked to provide details of cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy that were brought to its attention, to detail measures for ensuring clergy accused of sexual abuse did not remain in contact with children, and to explain what explicit instructions it had given to ensure compulsory reporting of sexual abuse to the competent national authorities together with the cases where instructions had been given not to report abuse.

Written answers from the Vatican emphasized the distinction between the Holy See and the Catholic Church and said that although it encouraged adherence to the principles of the convention globally, it was responsible only for implementing the convention in the territory of the Vatican City State.

“It was quite shocking. It was a pretty direct, pretty blunt effort to sidestep the questions,” Pam Spees, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which is seeking to hold Vatican officials responsible for sexual abuse crimes, said in an interview.

 

Masters of disaster bring cholera to Haiti and polio to Syria November 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Haiti, Hillary Clinton, Imperialism, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: you will observe that the Clintons are key players in both of the disasters chronicled here.  Full disclosure: they are not my favorite couple.  Hubby as president with his so-called welfare reform paved the way for today’s ongoing destruction of the social safety net, and his foreign policy, like that of the Missus in her role as Secretary of State, was oriented toward protecting U.S. corporate interests abroad at the cost of the social, economic and environmental welfare of the peoples of the various nations involved.  Both Clintons are already there or at least on the way to being multi millionaires, while third world suffering increases abroad and at home.  And these are the Democratic Party’s leadership, the so-called good guys.  Hillary for President.

 

By (about the author)  http://www.opednews.com,

OpEdNews Op Eds 11/1/2013 at 03:54:20

Haiti and Syria are victims of their rescuers.  The two nations are now sites of major disease outbreaks.  Cholera in Haiti and polio in Syria didn’t just happen.   Through negligence, those who claim to rescue the people imported the disease entities and fostered the conditions for wider outbreaks.

680,000 cases of cholera in Haiti since UN rescue mission

The 7.0 Mw earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010 collapsed an already fragile society and infrastructure.   The United States and major European powers sprung into action.  Bill Clinton was the front man for the relief effort.  The United Nations provided the vehicle to deliver much of the aid.  Welcome to the new Haiti said former president Clinton boasting of the relief effort that would transform the near failed state.  Within ten months, the vaunted relief efforts lead to a major outbreak of cholera.

The source of the outbreak was identified quickly.  UN enlisted troops from Nepal set up camp and began their work.  Someone forgot to screen the troops for cholera, a known problem in Nepal.  Prior to these arrival of these peacekeepers, Haiti had never experienced a cholera outbreak.  The recent suit for compensatory relief from the UN describes the situation elegantly:

“In or around October 2010, human waste from the base seeped into and contaminated the Meille Tributary with cholera. From the Meille Tributary, the contaminated waters flowed into the [320 km long]Artibonite River, resulting in explosive and massive outbreaks of cholera along the river and eventually throughout the entire country.”  Haitian citizen class action suit versus the UN, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Oct 9, 2013

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon responded that the suit was “not receivable” in an attempt to fabricate sovereign immunity for the UN (See Inner City Press, Feb 21, 2013 and Oct 10).  Ki-Moon’s initial gambit was to deny any UN role in the outbreak. When it became abundantly clear that the UN’s failure to screen outside forces for infectious diseases caused the outbreak,  the secretary switched to fictitious legalisms at odds with international law.

The bottom line is simple.  The UN’s negligence caused the cholera outbreak.  It is massive.  The Centers for Disease Control reported that:  “As of October 17, 2013, 684,085 cases and 8,361 deaths have been reported since the cholera epidemic began in Haiti. Among the cases reported, 380,846 (55.4%) were hospitalized.” CDC, Oct 30.

Polio comes to Syria

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed multiple reports of an outbreak of wild poliovirus 1 in Syria.  The disease is showing up among the very young.  WHO went on to warn of a regional outbreak absent coordinated efforts to beat back the disease.  Due to, “frequent population movements across the region and subnational immunity gaps in key areas, the risk of further international spread of wild poliovirus type 1 across the region is considered to be high.”  WHO, Oct 29

Since the domestic political conflict turned violent in Syria in 2011, the Syrian Arab Army has fought domestic and foreign fighters funded and armed by the Gulf oil oligarchs and the U.S. and its NATO allies.  Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the lead on U.S. support for the rebels through her insistance that Assad must go.  Clinton traveled the world announcing her command that the elected president of Syria leave the country.

This effort at regime change by the same crew that sought to rescue Haiti is apparently doing an encore in war torn Syria.

A senior WHO official announced that Pakistan was the likely source of the Syrian poliovirus outbreak.  Taliban controlled areas of Pakistan refuse to cooperate with vaccination programs.  One reason for the reluctance was a U.S. organized fake vaccination drive to gather intelligence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.  Pakistan is a known source of foreign fighters in the Syria rebel cause.

DNA testing will confirm the Pakistan speculation.   Regardless of the source, however, the conditions created by the attack on Syria by the largely foreign fighter manned brigades created the basis for an outbreak of poliovirus and other infectious diseases.

A legion of fools

Imagine that a friend or acquaintance with an opinion on just about everything that turned out to be wrong on a consistent basis.  His actions made any situation worse than it was before he got involved.

Now, imagine that your friend or acquaintance was multiplied by a factor of ten and controlled the most powerful nation on earth.

Instead of an annoying individual with poor judgment, someone whom you could ignore without much effort, the carriers of consistent bad judgment, mistakes, and suffering are everywhere.  Whatever these powerful fools touch turns to utter disaster.

Some rescue; some rescuers.

At UN, Record Number of Countries Condemn US Embargo Against Cuba October 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note; The U.N.vote against U.S. embargo against Cuba: the United States and Israel against the rest of the world.  A metaphor for today’s geopolitical reality.  And the Ambassadors justification for the embargo “to encourage respect for the civil and human rights.”  Does the phrase “supreme hypocrisy” ring a bell?

 

 

- Common Dreams staff

For the 22nd year in a row, the UN General Assembly resoundingly denounced the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Photo: Pabel Rock/cc/flickr

At the symbolic vote on Tuesday for the resolution called “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” 188 members of the 193-member body voted for the resolution.

The U.S. was joined only by Israel in voting against the resolution. There were three abstentions—Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

“The US policy against Cuba is suffering from an absolute international isolation and discredit and lacks every ethical or legal ground,” said Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla.

“Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower,” he said. “The human damages caused by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba are incalculable.”

“Seventy-six percent of Cubans have lived under its devastating effects since the day they are born,” he added.

Ambassador Ronald Godard, U.S. Senior Area Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs, defendend the embargo, saying, “Our sanctions policy toward Cuba is just one of the tools in our overall effort to encourage respect for the civil and human rights consistent with the Universal Declaration, to which the United Nations itself is committed.”

___________________

The Little Engine that Can and Will? October 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: With some very rare exceptions, self-styled leftist/socialist  politicians, especially presidents, are almost always a disappointment.  I expect Evo Morales to someday have his moment, but for now let’s enjoy someone in power telling it like it is.  Bolivia may not be a military  threat to U.S. world hegemony, but to use Noam Chomsky’s phrase, it poses a serious “threat by good example.”

 

http://thenacirema.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/the-little-engine-that-can-and-will/

http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/general-assembly/general-debate/68th-session/watch/bolivia-general-debate-68th-session/2695838899001

Image

Bolivia’s willingness to stand-up and express their discontents with American policies; and express their own ideologies.

Judging from the empty seats while the President of Bolivia Evo Morales spoke at the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, not much attention might have been paid to him, compared to that of the United States or Israel. Nonetheless, President Morale’s message was diplomatic, assertive, to the point and clear. He and his nation are anti-empirical, anti-United States but peaceful.

So as to set up his main point of anti US imperialism, President Morales made it clear that all economic and social gains in his country have been reached and achieved, not by outside help, but by a free and sovereign state. Bolivia’s advancement in the economic and social sector are all to evident with a 4.8% economic growth, (over twice as much compared to when the United States and transnational corporations were involved in Bolivian affairs)

But, you know that President Morales couldn’t stop there. He wanted to make his analysis of the United Sates and other empirical powers more descriptive. He made it clear that Bolivia’s advancements are because of a state “Free from the claws of the North American empire and economically free from the International Monetary Fund.”

You might ask yourself, Claws? As if the United States or the International Monetary Fund are some sort of demons or savage animals. Why so much hate towards the US and the IMF? Well, these organizations in the past where the ones responsible for pressuring the Bolivian government into privatizing their natural resources into the hands of transnational corporations who basically robbed the Bolivian people and government from their resources, with a measly 18% for the Bolivians profit cut and 82% for the transnational corporations.

Their subsequent message was clear. They are a nation with disputes but resort to peaceful means to obtain a resolution. Their disputes over land, or any disputes overall should not be handled violently, but rather peacefully, and diplomatically. Bolivia does not solely preach, they also practice what they say. In that, Bolivia wants back their land which was unjustly taken from them in 1879 and was their only access to an ocean. But, after unjust and unfulfilled treaties between Bolivia and Chile (this is where the peaceful Bolivian ideology kicks in) the Bolivian government has resorted not to violence or hostility but to the International Court of Justice. Demanding that the Chilenian government negotiate effectively the land which was unjustly taken from the Bolivians.

What is most impressive and interesting about Bolivia is their willingness to speak their minds and not afraid to drift from the status quo. Bolivian President Evo Morales called out the United States for using their war on terrorism as an excuse for unilateral interventions for capitalist gains. While speaking on the same topic he went as far as to say that, the business of capitalist is war. If you think he was done, President Morales got even more personal and asked for a consideration of submitting a demand against President Obama and his administration for crimes against humanity, due to their involvement with the bombardments in Libya. Reiterating that the Nobel peace prize president Obama was awarded was an award for peace, not a war prize.

Shockingly enough calling the United States capitalist mercenaries in their home land wasn’t enough. President Morales brought back up the topic of moving United Nation headquarters out of New York and out of American soil completely. As supporting statements president Morales brought to light the concept that UN headquarters should be in a place where the host nation has ratified all United Nation treaties. Indicating to the fact that the United States has not ratified treaties related to human rights nor Mother Earth. He also noted that US policies “scare away” representative because roughly 60 or 70 presidents out of the 193 attended the General Assembly. What seems to have bothered President Morales most was that the United States does not guarantee visas to visiting delegates, nor presidents. And if the United States does give out temporary visas they can give them for a few days only. Which visibly offended President Morales, as he noted that this caused them to “keep looking at the time because then they take our visas away.”

President Morales did not come out aggressive but assertive and expressing his concerns; his concerns with American imperialistic ideologies and policies; the concern that American policies not only affect Americans, but the rest of the world. Now, Evidently Bolivia does not pose a military threat to the United States. But, the Bolivians do pose an influencing threat to US interest and ideologies -especially in South America- which can be just as harmful to US relations.

United Nations: US Must Return Stolen Land to Native Americans May 5, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Genocide, Human Rights, Racism.
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Roger’s note: reading this article, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Return stolen land to Native Americans?  Well, that would be most of the country, wouldn’t it?  Can you imagine the racist US government doing anything constructive, much less returning actual real estate, to a People with little or no political clout?  And, why the UN rapporteur on indigenous rights?  Where is the UN rapporteur on genocide when you need him?

Published on Saturday, May 5, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

UN wraps up ‘contentious study’ of Native American communities

 
- Common Dreams staff

In an investigation monitoring ongoing discrimination against Native Americans, the United Nations has requested that the US government return some of the stolen land back to Native Americans, as a necessary move towards combating systemic racial discrimination.

A Native American at his home on Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, which has some of the US’s poorest living conditions. Photograph: Jennifer Brown/Star Ledger/Corbis

 James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, “said that in nearly two weeks of visiting Indian reservations, indigenous communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and Native Americans now living in cities, he encountered people who suffered a history of dispossession of their lands and resources, the breakdown of their societies and ‘numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination,’” the Guardian reports.

“You can see they’re in a somewhat precarious situation in terms of their basic existence and the stability of their communities given that precarious land tenure situation. It’s not like they have large fisheries as a resource base to sustain them. In basic economic terms it’s a very difficult situation. You have upwards of 70% unemployment on the reservation and all kinds of social ills accompanying that. Very tough conditions,” Anaya stated.

“I’m talking about restoring to indigenous peoples what obviously they’re entitled to and they have a legitimate claim to in a way that is not divisive but restorative. That’s the idea behind reconciliation.”

* * *

The Guardian/UK: US should return stolen land to Indian tribes, says United Nations

A United Nations investigator probing discrimination against Native Americans has called on the US government to return some of the land stolen from Indian tribes as a step toward combating continuing and systemic racial discrimination.

James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said no member of the US Congress would meet him as he investigated the part played by the government in the considerable difficulties faced by Indian tribes.

Anaya said that in nearly two weeks of visiting Indian reservations, indigenous communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and Native Americans now living in cities, he encountered people who suffered a history of dispossession of their lands and resources, the breakdown of their societies and “numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination”.

“It’s a racial discrimination that they feel is both systemic and also specific instances of ongoing discrimination that is felt at the individual level,” he said.
Anaya said racism extended from the broad relationship between federal or state governments and tribes down to local issues such as education.

“For example, with the treatment of children in schools both by their peers and by teachers as well as the educational system itself; the way native Americans and indigenous peoples are reflected in the school curriculum and teaching,” he said.

“And discrimination in the sense of the invisibility of Native Americans in the country overall that often is reflected in the popular media. The idea that is often projected through the mainstream media and among public figures that indigenous peoples are either gone or as a group are insignificant or that they’re out to get benefits in terms of handouts, or their communities and cultures are reduced to casinos, which are just flatly wrong.”

* * *

Inter Press Service: U.N. Wraps Up Contentious Study of Native American Communities

A United Nations special envoy on Friday called on the U.S. government to step up efforts to address historical injustices that continue to affect the country’s indigenous population.

James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, warned that historical wrongs, particularly the loss of land, continue to have an overriding impact on the well-being of Native American communities.

Anaya has just finished a 12-day research mission probing the current status and experience of the U.S.’s roughly 5.2 million-strong Native American population.

The trip marked the first time that the U.N. has waded into the contentious issue of U.S. treatment of its indigenous communities, one of the poorest and most marginalized populations in the United States.

The unemployment rate for American Indians has typically been double that of the white population. On reservations – self-governed tracts of land given to Native American communities by the U.S. government – Anaya reported a 70 percent unemployment rate.

Native Americans have also long suffered from disproportionately low statistics in health and education, as well.

* * *

Reuters: UN official: US must return control of sacred lands to Native Americans

The United States must do more to heal the wounds of indigenous peoples caused by more than a century of oppression, including restoring control over lands Native Americans consider to be sacred, according to a U.N. human rights investigator.

James Anaya, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, just completed a 12-day visit to the United States where he met with representatives of indigenous peoples in the District of Columbia, Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington State, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. He also met with U.S. government officials.
“I have heard stories that make evident the profound hurt that indigenous peoples continue to feel because of the history of oppression they have faced,” Anaya said in a statement issued by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva Friday.

That oppression, he said, has included the seizure of lands and resources, the removal of children from their families and communities, the loss of languages, violation of treaties, and brutality, all grounded in racial discrimination.

Anaya welcomed the U.S. decision to endorse the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 and other steps the government has taken, but said more was needed.

 

A President Who is Helpless in the Face of Middle East Reality September 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Published on Friday, September 23, 2011 by The Independent/UK

Obama’s UN speech insists Israelis and Palestinians are equal parties to conflict

  by  Robert Fisk

Today should be Mahmoud Abbas’s finest hour. Even The New York Times has discovered that “a grey man of grey suits and sensible shoes, may be slowly emerging from his shadow”.Barack Obama made the ‘preposterous’ suggestion that Palestinians and Israelis were ‘equal’ parties to the conflict. (Reuters)

But this is nonsense. The colourless leader of the Palestinian Authority, who wrote a 600-page book on his people’s conflict with Israel without once mentioning the word “occupation”, should have no trouble this evening in besting Barack Hussein Obama’s pathetic, humiliating UN speech on Wednesday in which he handed US policy in the Middle East over to Israel’s gimmick government.

For the American President who called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, an end to the theft of Arab land in the West Bank – Israeli “settlements” is what he used to call it – and a Palestinian state by 2011, Obama’s performance was pathetic.

As usual, Hanan Ashrawi, the only eloquent Palestinian voice in New York this week, got it right. “I couldn’t believe what I heard,” she told Haaretz, that finest of Israeli newspapers. “It sounded as though the Palestinians were the ones occupying Israel. There wasn’t one word of empathy for the Palestinians. He spoke only of the Israelis’ troubles…” Too true. And as usual, the sanest Israeli journalists, in their outspoken condemnation of Obama, proved that the princes of American journalists were cowards. “The limp, unimaginative speech that US President Barack Obama delivered at the United Nations… reflects how helpless the American President is in the face of Middle East realities,” Yael Sternhell wrote.

And as the days go by, and we discover whether the Palestinians respond to Obama’s grovelling performance with a third intifada or with a shrug of weary recognition that this is how things always were, the facts will continue to prove that the US administration remains a tool of Israel when it comes to Israel’s refusal to give the Palestinians a state.

How come, let’s ask, that the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, flew from Tel Aviv to New York for the statehood debate on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own aircraft? How come Netanyahu was too busy chatting to the Colombian President to listen to Obama’s speech? He only glanced through the Palestinian bit of the text when he was live-time, face to face with the American President. This wasn’t “chutzpah”. This was insult, pure and simple.

And Obama deserved it. After praising the Arab Spring/Summer/ Autumn, whatever – yet again running through the individual acts of courage of Arab Tunisians and Egyptians as if he had been behind the Arab Awakening all along, the man dared to give the Palestinians 10 minutes of his time, slapping them in the face for daring to demand statehood from the UN. Obama even – and this was the funniest part of his preposterous address to the UN – suggested that the Palestinians and Israelis were two equal “parties” to the conflict.

A Martian listening to this speech would think, as Ms Ashrawi suggested, that the Palestinians were occupying Israel rather than the other way round. No mention of Israeli occupation, no mention of refugees, or the right of return or of the theft of Arab Palestinian land by the Israeli government against all international law. But plenty of laments for the besieged people of Israel, rockets fired at their houses, suicide bombs – Palestinian sins, of course, but no reference to the carnage of Gaza, the massive death toll of Palestinians – and even the historical persecution of the Jewish people and the Holocaust.

That persecution is a fact of history. So is the evil of the Holocaust. But THE PALESTINIANS DID NOT COMMIT THESE ACTS. It was the Europeans – whose help in denying Palestinian statehood Obama is now seeking – who committed this crime of crimes. So we were then back to the “equal parties”, as if the Israeli occupiers and the occupied Palestinians were on a level playing ground.

Madeleine Albright used to adopt this awful lie. “It’s up to the parties themselves,” she would say, washing her hands, Pilate-like, of the whole business the moment Israel threatened to call out its supporters in America. Heaven knows if Mahmoud Abbas can produce a 1940 speech at the UN today. But at least we all know who the appeaser is.

© 2011 The Independent

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Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Canada Tries to Hide Alberta Tar Sands Carbon Emissions June 1, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment.
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Published on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

Greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands are on the rise, but try finding that in Canada’s official report to the UN

  by Suzanne Goldenberg

Barely a day goes by it seems when someone from Stephen Harper‘s government is not touting the benefits of the Alberta tar sands.

Emissions from tar sands mining, such as this pit in Alberta, were left out of Canada’s carbon emissions reporting. (Photograph: Jiri Rezac/eyevine) But when it came to counting up the carbon emissions produced by the tar sands – big and growing bigger – a strange amnesia seems to have taken hold.

The Canadian government admitted this week that it deliberately left out data indicating a 20% rise in emissions from the Alberta tar sands when it submitted its annual inventory to the United Nations.

The deliberate exclusion does not amount to an attempt to deceive the UN about Canada‘s total emissions. Emissions from the tar sands were incorporated in the overall tally in the report. But it does suggest that the government is anxious to obscure the source of its fastest-growing source of climate pollution: the Alberta tar sands.

Greenhouse gases from the tar sands grew by 21% in the last year reported, despite the economic receission. Even more troubling, the tar sands is becoming even more carbon intensive, with emissions per barrel of oil rising 14.5% in 2009. And overall production is set to triple by 2020, according to some projections.

So that’s an increasingly significant share of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions – 6.5% now and rising.

“It is not as if they were left out of the total, but no matter where you looked in the report you couldn’t find out what sector the emissions were from,” said Clare Demerse, director of climate change at the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank.

Environment Canada told reporters it was just fulfilling UNFCC reporting requirements.

It’s not entirely clear what motivated the decision to obscure the data. The government reported GHG from the tar sands last year. But here are some possibilities:

International image. The tar sands are becoming increasingly high profile and are a growing source of embarrassment to Canada in the international arena. No matter how popular the industry in Harper’s native Alberta, it is probably not pleasant being called a climate villain or a carbon bully several times a year at Bonn and the other fixtures of the UN climate change negotiations.

Timing. The government may have been concerned about jeopardising an important pipeline deal. Canadian firms are awaiting final approval from the State Department for a pipeline that would carry up to barrels of a oil a day from Alberta to the refineries of Texas. Opposition from landowners along the 1,700-mile route has already delayed the project til later this year. Last week, a group of legislators from Nebraska asked Hillary Clinton, who has final say, to delay a decision until 2012 to give them time to put environmental safeguards in place. Members of Congress are said to be preparing a similar protest letter.

The PR consultant told them to. Mike De Souza, the same reporter who broke the story on the GHG reporting, has written another story suggesting that the Canadian government last year considered hiring a PR firm to help promote the tar sands. It also weighed the benefits of tar sands tourism: paid-for trips for European journalists and elected officials.

“Consideration should be given to hiring a professional PR firm to help the Pan European Oil Sands Team further develop and implement a serious public advocacy strategy,” the report was quoted as saying.

That’s my current favourite theory. The provincial and federal governments have made an enormous effort to lobby US officials on the tar sands. So what’s the big deal then in burying a little factoid or two even deeper in a 567-page technical report to a bunch of UN bureaucrats?

Except of course that those kind of dodges reek strongly of the faith-based/anti-reality views of the George Bush presidency, when political considerations repeatedly took precedence over evidence-based standards.

As environmental groups and others have regularly noted, Harper has been too focused on the tar sands as an image problem, rather than an environmental one. Now it seems as if that approach has infected government institutions, with Environment Canada aiding the effort to obscure irksome figures and facts

“It’s a consistent pattern that we have seen on the part of the Harper government to really attempt to spin the tar sands,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy campaigner at the Council of Canadians, the country’s biggest citizens’ group.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited

UN vote a rebuff to Harper’s I’m right-you’re-wrong approach to the world October 13, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Foreign Policy.
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(Roger’s note: This article describes Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s taking the Canadian government into the world of the Bush Doctrine.  Unfortunately, this will be irreversible [at least in the short run].  The reason for this is that the only possible successor to the Harper government is a Liberal government led by Michael Ignatieff, who is no less hawkish or slavishly beholden to US foreign policy than is Harper.  We have seen in the US, the transition for the Bush government to the fraudulent Obama has not changed its foreign policy one iota .  An NDP government in Canada is perhaps the only possible means of altering the course of Canadian foreign policy, but that would take a minor miracle to happen.)

 By Thomas Walkom National Affairs Columnist, Toronto Star, October 13, 2010

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Free beer and maple syrup aren’t enough. By denying Canada a seat on the United Nations Security Council, the rest of the world has served notice that – in its view – this country’s foreign policy is bankrupt.

That’s not because the 192 other nations that make up the UN General Assembly particularly dislike Canada. They don’t.

But clearly, a vast majority prefer the Canada they thought they knew, a Canada that strove to defuse international tensions by focusing not just on who was right or wrong but on what was fair and reasonable.

In that sense, Tuesday’s vote was the world’s response to Prime Minister Stephen Harper – a great, big raspberry for the man who has attempted to introduce what he calls a new morality into the realm of Canadian foreign affairs.

The theory of this new morality was outlined by Harper in a 2003 magazine article.

Writing at a time when many thought George W. Bush’s Iraq War defensible, Harper excoriated Canada’s then-Liberal government for not taking part in that conflict – a reluctance that he said stemmed from the “moral relativism, moral neutrality and moral equivalency” of the left.

A truly conservative government, he pledged, would sweep away this “moral nihilism” and base its foreign policy on rock-ribbed values.

Once in office, Harper attempted to do just that. His stubborn defence of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen imprisoned in China, threatened trade relations with Beijing. But the prime minister held firm, vowing that Canada’s foreign policy would note be governed by “the almighty dollar.”

This repudiation of dollar diplomacy didn’t last long. Under business pressure, Harper soon moved to improve relations with China’s dictators. These days, the prime minister rarely mentions Celil’s name.

But the so-called new morality lived on in a different form, focusing less on abstract principles like human rights, and more on choosing sides.

In this view of the world, there are few grey areas. If Colombia’s government is fighting terrorists, then it is right – no matter how vicious its own death squads.

If Israel is fighting suicide bombers, then its actions – however dubious in terms of international law – are justified.

With Harper, Canada’s more measured approach to the Middle East came to an abrupt end. Under the new morality, Israel was right, period.

Harper lauded both its 2006 incursion into Lebanon and its later attack on Gaza. When a Canadian soldier on duty as a UN observer in Lebanon was targeted and killed by Israeli forces, the prime minister made little fuss.

In the new, Conservative moral universe, Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener was merely collateral damage in an apocalyptic battle between good and evil

Indeed, the Harper government’s new morality applied to the UN itself. To those looking for certainty in foreign affairs, the UN – an organization based on compromise – is by definition corrupt, a haven of moral relativists.

Last year, Harper showed his disdain for the world body by skipping out of a meeting of the UN General Assembly to attend a photo op at an Oakville doughnut shop.

This year Canada cut off its aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (which works in Hamas-controlled Gaza and is deemed suspect by Israel), channeling it instead to the anti-Hamas Palestinian Authority.

Belatedly, when he recognized the political embarrassment he could suffer from failing to win a security council seat, Harper switched his approach. He spoke of his respect for the world body. He lobbied the leaders of small countries.

In New York, Canadian diplomats reportedly tried to woo their counterparts with cases of free beer and maple syrup.

But it was too late. The world had seen enough of Canada’s new, I’m-right-you’re-wrong approach to foreign affairs. And it decided it preferred us the way we used to be.

Undo the Coup July 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Published on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 by TruthDig.com by Amy Goodman
The first coup d’etat in Central America in more than a quarter-century occurred last Sunday in Honduras. Honduran soldiers roused democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya from his bed and flew him into exile in Costa Rica. The coup, led by the Honduran Gen. Romeo Vasquez, has been condemned by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Organization of American States and all of Honduras’ immediate national neighbors. Mass protests have erupted on the streets of Honduras, with reports that elements in the military loyal to Zelaya are rebelling against the coup.The United States has a long history of domination in the hemisphere. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can chart a new course, away from the dark days of military dictatorship, repression and murder. Obama indicated such a direction when he spoke in April at the Summit of the Americas: “[A]t times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations.”

Two who know well the history of dictated U.S. terms are Dr. Juan Almendares, a medical doctor and award-winning human rights activist in Honduras, and the American clergyman Father Roy Bourgeois, a priest who for years has fought to close the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning, Ga. Both men link the coup in Honduras to the SOA.

The SOA, renamed in 2000 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), is the U.S. military facility that trains Latin American soldiers. The SOA has trained more than 60,000 soldiers, many of whom have returned home and committed human rights abuses, torture, extrajudicial execution and massacres.

Almendares, targeted by Honduran death squads and the military, has been the victim of that training. He talked to me from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital: “Most of this military have been trained by the School of America. … They have been guardians of the multinational business from the United States or from other countries. … The army in Honduras has links with very powerful people, very rich, wealthy people who keep the poverty in the country. We are occupied by your country.”

Born in Louisiana, Bourgeois became a Catholic priest in 1972. He worked in Bolivia and was forced out by the (SOA-trained) dictator Gen. Hugo Banzer. The assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the murders of four Catholic churchwomen in El Salvador in 1980 led him to protest where some of the killers were trained: Fort Benning’s SOA. After six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were murdered in El Salvador in 1989, Bourgeois founded SOA Watch and has built an international movement to close the SOA.

Honduran coup leader Vasquez attended the SOA in 1976 and 1984. Air Force Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, who also participated in the coup, was trained at the SOA in 1996.

Bourgeois’ SOA Watch office is just yards from the Fort Benning gates. He has been frustrated in recent years by increased secrecy at SOA/WHINSEC. He told me: “They are trying to present the school as one of democracy and transparency, but we are not able to get the names of those trained here-for over five years. However, there was a little sign of hope when the U.S. House approved an amendment to the defense authorization bill last week that would force the school to release names and ranks of people who train here.” The amendment still has to make it through the House-Senate conference committee.

Bourgeois speaks with the same urgency that he has for decades. His voice is well known at Fort Benning, where he was first arrested more than 25 years ago when he climbed a tree at night near the barracks of Salvadoran soldiers who were training there at the time.

Bourgeois blasted a recording of the voice of Romero in his last address before he was assassinated. The archbishop was speaking directly to Salvadoran soldiers in his country: “In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: Stop the repression.”

Almost 30 years later, in a country bordering Romero’s El Salvador, the U.S. has a chance to change course and support the democratic institutions of Honduras. Undo the coup.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2009 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

US Hypocrisy on North Korea: Let’s Talk About Israel’s Nukes April 6, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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by Jeremy Scahill

President Obama’s administration is pressing for diplomatic retaliation, perhaps in the form of more sanctions against North Korea, after Pyonyang launched a rocket into space. There are conflicting reports about the success of the launch. North Korea says the rocket carried a satellite, which is now orbiting the earth. That’s according to state-run media in North Korea, which reportedly broadcast patriotic songs and images of Kim Jung Il, praising him for the launch. The US, meanwhile, said the launch failed to reach orbit, landing in the Pacific Ocean. According to The New York Times, “Officials and analysts in Seoul said the North’s rocket, identified by American officials as a Taepodong-2, flew at least 2,000 miles, doubling the range of an earlier rocket it tested in 1998 and boosting its potential to fire a long-range missile.”

There is disagreement at the Security Council over whether North Korea violated any UN resolutions with the US on one side and Russia, backed by China, on the other. The Obama administration has called the launch a “provocative act.” “We think that what was launched is not the issue; the fact that there was a launch using ballistic missile technology is itself a clear violation,” said UN ambassador Susan Rice, who is pressing for more sanctions against North Korea at the Security Council. Chinese officials said North Korea, like other nations, had a right to launch satellites. “Every state has the right to the peaceful use of outer space,” said Russia’s deputy U.N. envoy, Igor N. Shcherbak.

Obama used the launch in his major address in Prague, which has been characterized as an anti-nuclear speech. “Rules must be binding,” he said of North Korea’s launch. “Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.”

Many countries around the world certainly see hypocrisy in the Obama administration’s position on North Korea. Israel has repeatedly been condemned by the UN for its occupation of Palestinian lands. Moreover, it has hundreds of nuclear weapons with estimates ranging from 200-400 warheads. What’s more, Israel and the US are in league with North Korea in the small club of nations that have refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Other nations include: China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan. In his Prague speech, Obama said his administration “will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification,” saying, “After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.”

All of this must be kept in context as the “crisis” with North Korea continues to unfold. US hypocrisy on the nuclear issue takes away credibility the US has in its condemnations of North Korea, or Iran, for that matter. “Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies,” Obama said in Prague. Obama used Iran to justify a controverisal central European missile system, saying, “As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward… with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.” Obama did not mention Israel once in his speech and has never acknowledged its nuclear weapons system. Perhaps Obama should ask Arab and Muslim nations in the region what country they see as the biggest nuclear threat.

And this historical fact, which to Obama’s credit he acknowledged, should never be forgotten: One nation in the world has used nuclear weapons-the United States.

In a statement, Peace Action, cautiously welcomed some of Obama’s positions outlined in Prague, but said, “President Obama’s statement that [a nuclear weapons-free] world might not be achieved in his lifetime is very disappointing.  Obama can and should announce the initiation of negotiations on the global elimination of nuclear weapons.  Similarly, his promotion of nuclear power, missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic and his escalation of troops in Afghanistan are all moves in the wrong direction.”

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