Saturday, November 19, 2011

If they can find a way to do it in Afghanistan, believe it - it will become SOP here too!

November 19, 2011
Afghanistan Has Big Plans for Biometric Data
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan has many dubious distinctions on the international-rankings front: 10th-poorest, third-most corrupt, worst place to be a child, longest at war. To that may soon be added: most heavily fingerprinted.

Since September, Afghanistan has been the only country in the world to fingerprint and photograph all travelers who pass through Kabul International Airport, arriving and departing.

A handful of other countries fingerprint arriving foreigners, but no country has ever sought to gather biometric data on everyone who comes and goes, whatever their nationality. Nor do Afghan authorities plan to stop there: their avowed goal is to fingerprint, photograph and scan the irises of every living Afghan.

It is a goal heartily endorsed by the American military, which has already gathered biometric data on two million Afghans who have been encountered by soldiers on the battlefield, or who have just applied for a job with the coalition military or its civilian contractors.

The Kabul airport program is also financed by the United States, with money and training provided by the American Embassy. Americans, like all other travelers, are subject to it.

“Some of the embassies are quite exercised about it,” one Western diplomat said. Such a program would be illegal if carried out in the home countries of most of the occupying coalition. The United States and Japan fingerprint all foreigners on arrival; South Korea plans to start doing so in January. (Brazil retaliated against the American program by fingerprinting arriving Americans only.) Officials at the American Embassy declined to comment specifically on the program; a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security denied it had anything to do with it.

Biometric data is also being gathered by the American military at all of Afghanistan’s eight major border crossings, in a program that it plans to hand over to the Afghan government at the end of this month. So far, that program gathers only random samples at border crossings, because traffic is so heavy, but since it began in April it has already added 200,000 people to the military’s biometrics database.

The military wants to use biometrics to identify known or suspected insurgents, and to prevent infiltration of military bases and Afghan security forces. “The technology removes the mask of anonymity,” said Capt. Kevin Aandahl of the Navy, a spokesman for the military’s detainee operations, which include the biometrics program.

Gathering the data does not stop at Afghanistan’s borders, however, since the military shares all of the biometrics it collects with the United States Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security through interconnected databases.

Even the civilian-run airport program collecting fingerprints and photographs feeds its information into computers at the American Embassy, as well as at the Afghan Ministry of the Interior and its intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, according to Mohammad Yaqub Rasuli, the head of the Kabul International Airport.

Mr. Rasuli acknowledges that the airport screening has had a rocky start. “We are happy with the system, but the airlines and the passengers are not that happy,” he said.

Delays of up to two hours have resulted from the screening, which takes at least three minutes per passenger. With six screening stations at most, the process becomes laborious, and so many travelers recently have been missing their flights that the airlines routinely delay takeoffs.

“Someone who is not used to this system, it can take 10 to 15 minutes each,” said Mohammed Fawad, deputy director of immigration at the airport.

Reporters at the airport have on several occasions witnessed immigration officers just waving through some passengers as crowds backed up; others were allowed to skip their thumbprints to speed things along. One man had his hand fingerprinted upside down, with nails facing the scanner.

“It is some sort of cultural deficiency,” Mr. Rasuli said. “After six months, everyone will be happy with it.” The next step will be a national identity card with biometric data on every citizen, he said. “A lot of our problems will be solved with this.”

As with the military’s biometric data, information on each person is fed into a computer to find those who are on terrorist watch lists, have outstanding criminal warrants or even are just businessmen under investigation.

In the first two and a half months, how many suspects have been apprehended with the new system, Mr. Rasuli was asked.

“None,” he said.

The military has done somewhat better with its program, according to Col. Fred Washington, director of the United States Army’s biometrics task force. Since 2007, when biometric collection began in Afghanistan, biometrics have been used to identify 3,000 suspects on either Watch List 1 or Watch List 2, the American military’s two most serious classifications for possible insurgents or terrorists. In many cases, fingerprints found on bomb remains have identified the bomb maker, he said.

“People are accepting it because they know it’s making their country secure,” Colonel Washington said.

Mohammad Musa Mahmoodi, executive director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said, “Given the circumstances in Afghanistan, fighting terrorism and insurgency, government can take measures to protect its citizens.”

“To be honest, we’ve got more important problems to worry about,” he said.

Civil liberties groups abroad are more concerned. “The situation in Afghanistan is unprecedented, but I worry that we could move into that situation in the United States without even realizing we’re doing it,” said Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.

There have been some signs of Afghan sensitivities as well. A military-financed program to gather biometric data in the city of Kandahar in 2010, during the push to control insurgency there, was so unpopular that President Hamid Karzai promised local elders to have it canceled, which it was, according to Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the governor in Kandahar Province.

And the Afghan government has yet to pass legislation providing for the biometric screening of the entire population that it has announced it plans to carry out for the national identity card.

As a result, the military has not conducted wholesale sweeps of communities to gather biometrics, Colonel Washington said, although in just the past year 12,000 soldiers have been trained to use the B.A.T. — the Biometric Automated Toolset. “We can’t go door to door,” he said.

The Commander’s Guide to Biometrics in Afghanistan, however, encourages documenting as many Afghans as possible.

“Every person who lives within an operational area should be identified and fully biometrically enrolled with facial photos, iris scans, and all 10 fingerprints (if present),” the guide says. (That was apparently a reference to Afghanistan’s many amputees.)

While the B.A.T. equipment is portable, it is not always easy to use, and the results can sometimes be unpredictable.

A reporter from The New York Times, an American of Norwegian rather than Afghan extraction, voluntarily submitted to a test screening with the B.A.T. system. After his fingerprints and iris scans were entered into the B.A.T.’s armored laptop, an unexpected “hit” popped up on the screen, along with the photograph of a heavily bearded Afghan.

The “hit” identified the reporter as “Haji Daro Shar Mohammed,” who is on terrorist Watch List 4, with this note: “Deny Access, Do Not Hire, Subject Poses a Threat.”

Ray Rivera contributed reporting from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar, Afghanistan.

NATO, too (like all the rest), lies - no one cares about the children

November 22, 2010
Criticism Sharp After NATO Official Portrays Kabul as Safe for Children


KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO’s senior civilian representative here provoked sharp criticism from children’s advocates on Monday after he said Kabul was safer for children than many Western cities.

“In Kabul and the other big cities, there are very few of these bombs,” the representative, Mark Sedwill, told an interviewer for a BBC children’s television program that was broadcast on Monday. “The children are probably safer here than they would be in London, New York or Glasgow or many other cities.”

“Most children can go about their lives in safety,” Mr. Sedwill added. “It’s a very family-orientated society. So it is a little bit like a city of villages.”

Children’s advocates were quick to dispute his characterization. Peter Crowley, Unicef’s Afghanistan representative, said the agency continued to regard Afghanistan “as being one of the worst countries in the world to be a child.”

“Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world, and one in five children dies before the age of 5,” Mr. Crowley said.

Mr. Sedwill served as the British ambassador here before taking over as NATO’s top civilian official in January.

As word of his remarks spread around Kabul, Mr. Sedwill sent out an e-mail statement that tried to reframe his comments.

“I was trying to explain to an audience of British children how uneven violence is across Afghanistan,” he said. “In cities like Kabul where security has improved, the total levels of violence, including criminal violence, are comparable to those which many Western children would experience. For most Afghans, the biggest challenges are from poverty — the absence of clean water, open sewers, malnutrition, disease — and many more children are at risk from those problems than from the insurgency.”

But the clarification appeared not to alter the jarring nature of his comments.

At the Aschiana Children’s Shelter in downtown Kabul, which provides schooling and social services to homeless and street children, 277 children — most under 12 — share three unheated classrooms and use floors for desks. The shelter can no longer afford to provide meals.

“More than 60 to 70 percent of these children are victims of the war in different ways,” said Raziya Forogh, a teacher who was instructing 25 boys in math on Monday. “And they have all been victims of crimes. Here, everything is possible to happen to a child when he is working on the streets. To say they are no worse off than children in London is illogical.”

Another teacher at the shelter, Abdul Bari Daad Khan, who had a class of 35 girls, said that Western children would in most cases not hear bombs go off in their neighborhoods, which had happened to his students repeatedly. “When suicide bombers hit the shopping center near here, all of the children were screaming, and two of them fainted,” he said.

Naziya, 11, said she had heard explosions “many times,” but was much more bothered by the frequent beatings by shopkeepers who were angry at her for selling plastic shopping bags for about a dime in front of their businesses.

While levels of insurgent violence are much lower in the capital than other parts of the country, crime is severe in impoverished neighborhoods.

Bismullah, a 7-year-old boy who sells chewing gum on the street, stood up in class and recalled the time he was attacked by an older boy, who stole his earnings of about $4. “I asked an old guy for help, and he caught him and beat him, but then he took my money.”

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says such episodes are increasingly common. A new report by the commission noted what it said was a worrying increase in violence against children as well as child labor in all Afghan provinces.

“Mr. Sedwill should come to the Human Rights Commission and consider the reports we receive on a daily basis,” said Hussein Mushrat, the report’s author. “Children are not safer here.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

Loreena McKennitt

Perhaps five years ago I came upon a YouTube of Loreena McKennitt singing "The Highwayman." Captivated, I simply listened, without thinking to find out more about the artist. FINALLY, tonight, just, I decided to look for more about the artist, and what treasures I have found!

My God in heaven above, this woman is DOING EXACTLY THE THING I'VE BEEN PLANNING TO DO SINCE March / April of this year!!!

A Brief Overview

Canadian singer/composer Loreena McKennitt is self-managed, self-produced, and the head of her own internationally successful record label, Quinlan Road. In a recording career spanning nearly two decades, McKennitt's “eclectic Celtic” music has won critical acclaim worldwide and gold, platinum and multi-platinum sales awards in fifteen countries across four continents.

Born in the province of Manitoba, Canada, Loreena moved to Stratford, Ontario, Canada in 1981, where she still resides. She has acted and sung in, and composed music for Stratford Festival of Canada productions ranging from The Tempest (1982) to The Merchant Of Venice (2001).

Her recording career began in 1985 with the album Elemental. In the fledgling years of her label Quinlan Road, Loreena ran its operations from her kitchen table, selling recordings by mail order and producing her own concert tours across the country. Quinlan Road's catalogue is currently distributed around the world by The Verve Music Group (US), Universal Music (Canada and other territories including Italy and Spain) and a number of independents including Keltia Music (France) and SPV (Germany).

Loreena continues to manage her career from her Stratford base. An active member of her community, she has founded and oversees important charitable undertakings in the fields of water safety and family/childhood support services.


Record Sales

Over 14 million albums sold worldwide, to date, over a catalogue spanning eight studio recordings, one double live CD, a DVD/two CD set and two DVDs.

Canadian sales awards include one five-times platinum certification for sales of over 500,000 copies (The Visit), two four-times platinum certifications for sales of over 400,000 copies (The Mask And Mirror, The Book Of Secrets ), and four gold certifications for sales of over 50,000 copies (Elemental, To Drive The Cold Winter Away, Parallel Dreams, A Winter Garden: Five Songs For The Season).
US sales awards include one double-platinum certification for sales of over two million copies for The Book Of Secrets, whose success was led by the radio-driven Top 20 Billboard success of hit single “The Mummers' Dance”, which would go on to meet similar success worldwide. US sales awards also include two platinum certifications for sales of over one million copies (The Mask And Mirror, The Visit).

Gold, platinum and multi-platinum sales awards in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and Turkey.

Composition and Music Use for Theatre and Film

Original music for The Merchant of Venice, The Stratford Festival of Canada, 2001.

Original music for the National Film Board of Canada Studio D documentary series Women And Spirituality, 1985 - 1989.

Film soundtrack contributions include Hollywood productions Highlander III and The Santa Clause, Jean-Claude Lauzon's feature film Léolo and the Canadian/Venezuelan feature film Una Casa Con Vista Al Mar.

Television soundtrack use includes TNT's epic miniseries The Mists Of Avalon (2001), Due South, Northern Exposure.

Awards and Honours

Juno Award, Best Roots/Traditional Album1992, for The Visit.

Juno Award, Best Roots/Traditional Album 1994, for The Mask And Mirror.

Billboard International Achievement Award, 1997.

Headline performer for HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, The Golden

Jubilee Celebrations, Province of Manitoba, 2002.

Honorary Doctor of Letters, Wilfrid Laurier University, 2002.

Order of Manitoba, July 2003.

Member of the Order of Canada, July 2004.

Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Manitoba, June 2005

Canadian Ambassador, Hans Christian Andersen Bicentennary, June 2005

Honorary Doctor of Laws, Queen's University, October 2005

Investiture as Honorary Colonel, 435 Squadron, Canadian Air Force, December 2006

Nominated for a GrammyTM award, Best Contemporary World Music Album, in 2007

Honorary Bachelor of Applied Business in Financial Services, George Brown College, 2010

Charitable Enterprises

Loreena founded The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety in 1998 and raised nearly $4,000,000 Canadian for the Fund's initiatives in the fields of water safety education and research. A major portion of the money raised for the CRMF came from sales of the Loreena McKennitt recording, Live In Paris And Toronto.

Donated monies raised by sales of Live In Paris And Toronto in Turkey and Greece to the earthquake relief funds of the Red Crescent Turkey and the Hellenic Red Cross, respectively.

Purchased the Falstaff School in Stratford in 2000 and, in 2002, founded the
Falstaff Family Centre, which offers facilities to a number of volunteer and not-for-profit community and family groups.

Established The Three Oaks Foundation, a charitable body which gives money to cultural, environmental, historical and social groups.


Elemental(Quinlan Road, 1985)
To Drive The Cold Winter Away(Quinlan Road, 1987)
Parallel Dreams(Quinlan Road, 1987)
The Visit(Quinlan Road, 1991)
The Mask And Mirror(Quinlan Road, 1994)
A Winter Garden: Five Songs For The Season(Quinlan Road, 1995)
The Book Of Secrets(Quinlan Road, 1997)
Live In Paris And Toronto(Quinlan Road, 1999)
An Ancient Muse (Quinlan Road, 2006)
Nights from the Alhambra(Perseus Productions/Quinlan Road, 2007)
A Moveable Musical Feast (Perseus Productions/Quinlan Road, 2008)
A Midwinter Night's Dream (Quinlan Road, 2008)

MEDIA INQUIRIES: for more information or a more comprehensive press kit, please contact:

Quinlan Road
Tel 1-519-273-3876; Fax 1-519-273-4553
PO Box 933, Stratford, Ontario, Canada N5A 7M3

Many people come to know the public persona of an artist and wonder what they are like off-stage. I may not be the best person to paint that picture, but let me try.

I grew up in rural Manitoba, Canada, the daughter of a nurse and a livestock dealer and enjoyed a fairly free and easy rural childhood. I aspired to be a veterinarian as a child but, in the way that “the best laid plans get sent sideways”, I found that music chose me rather than me, it. Interestingly, even after many years of performing, I don’t consider myself to have the strong extroverted personality best suited for a career in music, but rather one which is more comfortable on a farm, in an informal gathering of friends.

I became smitten with what is now referred to as Celtic music in the late 1970s, but it was only when I started to connect with its history that my journey really began. At an exhibition of Celtic artifacts in Venice in 1991, I learned about the geographic and historic spread of the Celts. I found myself drawn into a rich, ancient tapestry of sounds and rhythms and stories. I discovered myths and traditions that resemble one another from far corners of the globe, people who share traits and yet are distinctive.

My starting point is the belief that, in one way or another, we are all an extension of each other’s history. Wanting to learn about our neighbours is also a desire to learn about ourselves. I have simply chosen the Celtic vehicle in which to do this. No doubt I could have chosen another conduit for my music – let’s say the history of hats – and experienced just as interesting a journey as I have had with Celtic history. But that vehicle has taken me to so many places and people worldwide and also down paths and into themes with little Celtic connection whatsoever.

But music is not only a marvelous medium for self-education and creative expression. I am also in awe of music’s unique capacity to induce and enhance moods and psychological states and the great linkages it has to physiology. This is illustrated in the field of music therapy, not only for humans but also for animals. I think of dairy farmers who pipe in classical music to induce cows to give more milk, or of a recent film set in Mongolia called The Story of the Weeping Camel, in which a mother camel rejects her calf only to reclaim it following a musical ritual. I think of the MIT professor who uses MRI scans to study the impact on the brain of the meditation and chanting of Kundalini yoga.

I am deeply interested in these connections between physiology and our spiritual and psychological beings, and the many events and experiences that inspire us. Surely some creativity comes from this set of intersections.

Beyond music, I have a free-ranging curiosity about many things and a pretty hefty filing cabinet to prove it! My drawers are chock-a-block full of clippings and materials on subjects ranging from childhood development to environmental issues, agriculture, politics, food and nutrition, puppets, religion and many world issues.

Some of these interests are knit deeply into my daily life and our work at Quinlan Road, as I think it’s important to give to and be part of our greater communities. In 1998, I started the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety, when three people very dear to me – Ronald Rees, Richard Rees and Gregory Cook – perished in a boating incident not far from where I live. Thanks to the generosity of friends and families in Stratford and around Canada and the world, we’ve been able to support a range of initiatives involving water safety education as well as search, rescue and recovery exercises. I cannot tell you how inspiring it has been for me to get to know the wonderful, dedicated people working in this area, many of whom go out to risk their lives on our behalf every day.

Another project close to my heart has been the establishment of the Falstaff Family Centre. This initiative began as an effort to rescue a redundant school house in the city where I live and bring it to its next incarnation. It is a lovely, sturdy building, very close to the river and by working with people in the community, we’ve been able to turn this historic building into a centre for community and children’s activities.

Each spring, I carve out time to plant my garden in order to keep some remnants of an intimate relationship with food, the land and the seasons and every autumn, I set aside time to celebrate the harvest at Thanksgiving.

And just as one builds a company’s mission statement based on values and principles, I have done the same thing for myself. Certain principles have become my compass points. I reference them whenever I make important choices and decisions, professionally or personally. They are things to which I strive and am pleased to share some of them with you.

Be compassionate and never forget how to love.

Think inclusively.

Reclaim noble values such as truth, honesty, honour, courage.

Respect one's elders and look to what they have to teach you.

Be empathetic.

Look after the less fortunate in society.

Promote and protect diversity.

Respect the gifts of the natural world.

Set your goals high and take pride in what you do.

Cherish and look after your body, and, as the ancient Greeks believed, your mind will serve you better.

Put back into the community as there have been those before you have done the same and you are reaping what they sowed.

Participate in and protect democracy. It does not thrive as a spectator sport.

Undertake due diligence in everything.

Seek balance and space, and solitude.

Don't be afraid to feel passionate about something.

Learn to be an advocate and an ambassador for good.

Be mindful of your limitations.

Indulge and nurture your curiosity as it will keep you vital.

Take charge of your life and don't fall into the pit of entitlement.
Assume nothing and take nothing for granted.

Things are not necessarily what they seem.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ode to the greatest collection of football geniuses Ever assembled as a team

Oh Good Lord but we Chicago Bears football fans have been blessed.
Those of us alive and aware enough to have cheered on
The '85-86 World Champion Chicago Bears
Mike Singletary, the steely eyed linebacker,
If you thought he was reading the offensive sets,
Think again; he was staring into the mind of their QB
Reading that mind like an open book
(a thing which can be done by anyone, but few have
(imagined, much less trained their minds to do).
To KNOW, not merely to have anticipated well
what was coming next, and, oh, what a giant of a human being
Not first a football player, perhaps not even a close third
But first, a God-loving Family man
Who insisted that his children all share a bedroom
in preparation for the college days that would be inevitable,
such great import did he and his beloved wife place
on education and learning, that they not be spoiled young
only to be confounded older by having to learn
such lesssons as how to share, how to go with the flow,
how to get along, how to compromise
And secondly, again, even before a football player, he,
was a community man, who believed that a man must live
in the community where he earns his daily bread
and that his family should live there too, and immerse themselves
in the local legends, the local culture, the local values,
the local traditions, and a speaker, oh such a brilliant speaker
never embarrassed to speak of the Love of the Lord,
the Giver of Life to all, of his most wondrous love for we
the jewel and crown of His creations
So inspirational, so motivational, such a singular man,
such a magnificent example.
Then too, a leader, by example, and by dint of understanding
his own limited physical gifts of necessity needed to be enhanced
by a deeper understanding of the game that he played
a mirror of life itself, where one must sublimate one's own talents
and desires and impulses to be a team player,
to hold the ground that must be held, so that no space
could be available for those brilliantly gifted and oh so talented runners
so swift, able to change directions by almost 90º in mid-air
no, sometimes the ground that was his needed to be patroled
and other left to do the exciting work of tackling,
of creating turn overs, and yet,
when the time was right, and the moment presented itself
THEN, to be cobra-quick-cat-like and pounce, and bounce
and pull that runner or that receiver to the ground,
to deflect (even to intercept) that pass
to sack that quarterback.
You moved the family to Indy when you took that job,
and left your lovely home, and that school system
that had so much to offer. And then came Frisco,
smart enough to hire you, and way to impatient in firing you
scapegoating you, and while Harbaugh is given the credit,
whom is kidding whom – this was YOUR team, which
you took over midseason and made THE DECISION
to put NOT the most talented QB in the starter's slot,
but the QB whose will to win was the strongest,
and whose leadership skills were the greatest.
You coached that team to 8-8, a veritable miracle,
but then 8-8 the next year was not good enough?
For a young team that made the mistakes that a young team
will always make, and is it really any wonder that THIS year,
the 'niners are a force of nature, and likely to be one of
only two teams with any chance to beat the Pack in the NFC?
(I'm a believer, and Tice has worked a miracle with the Bears' offensive line;
And Jeff Fisher too, whom I first met when he was but a
22-year old rookie, on the links, playing in the March of Dimes /
Chicago Bears fund raiser, again, a community thing,
and young Jeffrey, he, oh so wise beyond his years,
“Yes, I understand that I'm only 5' 7”, and that I'm not fast,
BUT – in my entire football career, I've never fair caught a punt,
and never fumbled a punt return, and I know that on third and long
I can play nickel back in the prevent defense, and I truly believe
that there will always be a place for players like me
on the Chicago Bears football team. Yes sir, Jeff, there will
ALWAYS be a place for players such as you on the Chicago Bears
and may we always be so blessed, as Chicago Bears football fans
to have players such as you to represent our team.
And even when you were injured, COACH Ditka knew,
that you could contribute and mightily on the field in
a coach's capacity and man, were you EVER destined to greatness,
to be denied that ring with Tennessee only because
time ran out and your team was but one and a half yards short
of that game-winning TD. And how your greatest coaching perofrmance ever
occurred that year your team started oh and six, and you refused
to let them give up on themselves and phone it in,
NO – you became a force to be reckoned with, you willed them
to will themselves to greatness, and how for all those years
your teams won, even though they were seldom in the top eight
as far as individual talent – because individual talent
can only take a team so far – it is the willingness of the players
to buy into the team concept – to be role players
and to KNOW their roles, and te embrace their roles,
and this, THIS was your true genius; the x's and the o's
well, there are many, perhaps thousands every bit as good with them
as you are, but, and again, we see this word: LEADERSHIP,
you led by example, you taught by example, and you coached by example,
never losing your temper with a player who had given his all
(100% was all you ever demanded or expected) and perhaps
was beaten by a miraculous catch, or a stunning move,
or just a loose piece of turf, no, you NEVER made
the mistake the COACH would make (time and again)
to take out your frustrations on a player who had perforemd
as he had been taught,
OH, and the ability of you all to read character,
to know when the less talented player was THE ONE
that was needed despite the screams of the fans for the more talented one
who had not the heart; and this was the true genius
of all of you, for whom this is written
You understood character, and knew, instinctively who possessed it
in abundance, and who lacked it, and finally, the pressure
got too much for Titans' management, and you too were scapegoated,
So much simpler to fire the coach, lay on him the blame
for the under performances of the team. Fire, trade or retire half the team?
Well, it would have been right; rebuild it with men of character,
take the hits for a couple of seasons, and groom them for
that ultimate success – to play in the Super Bowl – no, that's not right,
that's only the pentultimate success – to WIN the Super Bowl
and enter into that legendary circle of Super Bowl Winners
My next pick to be head coach of the Chicago Bears
comes from a very holy trinity of coaching talent,
Singeltary, Fisher, or Tice, and it is truly a shame
That one must pick just one (or is there another way? Could in fact and deed
(a troika be employed, working together for common cause
(each paid THE SAME, because with THIS kind of coaching talent
(there ain't one that is better than the rest,
(and they would ALL be better as part of a team of coahces
(and yes, I fully understand that ultimate responsibility is vested
(in one – the primary scapegoat – in point of fact
(with the primary delineation of responsibilities clearly defined,
(why not have the head coach delegate unto the offensive coordinator
({virtually} unquestioned authority over the offense,
(and similarly, unto the defensive coordinator
({again, virtually} unquestioned authority over the defense,
(and unto special teams coordinator, unquestioned authority over special teams
(why wouldn't THAT model work?
(and the VIRTUALLY part, well, that is the part understood so well
(by the Zen-Master, Phil Jackson, who basically knew that his team
(knew what to do, and that very little was required of him during the game,
(so well did they know and understand their roles
(yes, once every so often, a vision will come to the one unto whom
(is given responsibility for receiving the vision, and for doing
(the unorthodox thing at the orthodox moment
(for knowing, sensing, on the wind, that almost silent, and yet so important
(voice that calls, “now is the time that this MAN will rise up
(and become more than he had ever glimmered before,
(now is this man's moment, and thus unto you, head coach
(is given that spiritual gift of insight, inspiration, understanding and confidence
(to know to turn it over; and THIS, this too is part of football
(but, oh, so rarely required, because the hard work, the ground work
(all that has been lain, all that preparation has been done, long before the season's
(opening kick off).
Yes, that would work, and in fact, except for the very few
and these can only do it in tandem with a field leader who mind-melds with
the head coach – e.g., Parcels and Brady; Lombardi and Starr,
Landry and Stauback, Stabler and Madden, Flutie and Ditka,
Yes, Doug Flutie, don't ever overlook THAT winning force of nature,
Tarkenton and Grant, Shannahan and
but these examples are so rare, so few and far between,
that while in theory, THIS is what a team NEEDS to establish
prior to being Super Bowl Champions, the knowledge of how to develop it,
and the acquisition of the right coach and the right QB coterminously,
well, what ought to be and what is are usually two (very) different things.
And Al Harris, he, who with me, loved the Lions in 2010,
and was not at all surprised at their successin 2011,
who went with his comrade in pads, Singletary to 'Frisco and Minnesota,
who understood so well that the niners were simply young,
and needed to learn first how to win, and then would make winning habitual,
as he and Mike molded that young team into a unit,
fully trained to be wholly accountable and to be able to make
on field executive decisions; to be FOOTBALL players,
to play as a team, to play as one, to carefully defend
that territory which was assigned, and yet to be fully confident
that they could even APPEAR to fail for having trusted their instincts,
when, without that trust, the play they ALMOST made to stop
that which was most unexpected would not have even been close,
and the unexpected play would have left the entire defense
looking foolish and ill-prepared, BUT, as is so 'oft the situation,
when a player HEARS that soft voice of the universe calling
“Statue of Liberty, stay deep” or “end around, switch ground,”
that in such moments as those, they are IN the moment,
in that Zen-like almost trance-like state that they could not explain
or perhaps even recollect as they instinctively foresaw
that insprired unorthodoxy was required to counter that thing
which was coming down and to fully embrace and run full bore
to plug the gap, to fill the hole, to make the tackle,
to RIP the ball from out of the receivers' hands, to create the fumble
to recover the fumble, to pick up and run with the fumble,
and, oh, Good Lord, to leteral the fumble to the streaking teammate
who read too what was a' comin' down,
TOUCHDOWN from out of nowhere, and the barely hanging on to the
three point lead just turned in to a 10-point margin, NOT
comfortable, but with some wiggle room, especially since NOW
you have forced them into an onsides kicking situation,
and as long as your special teams coach ensures
that only the sure handed are up front and that they
fully understand their mission is to catch and hold on to the kick
this game has now gotten out of reach,
but, the ground work was lain much earlier, and the special teams' coach
doesn't really have to remind the players what to do
BUT HE WILL BECAUSE HE MUST, just to reinforce,
game over, victory win – celebrate now – Monday off -
except for the coaches, because NOW their real job begins -
watching film, watching film, watching film all through Sunday night,
all through Monday, sacrificing family (family understands, they simply must)
in order to perform the job they are paid to do
to win by dint of working harder and more diligently,
preparing completely, and that is the coach's lot,
that is the coach's life – we celebrate not until the season is done -
for as long as there is another game to be won,
we must prepare and prepare some more so that the players
can be told what's in store, and on what they must give extra focus to
because no two opponents are the same, and we must always
expect that next week's foe will be at the top of their game,
and we cannot let down, we, ever-prepared must be
to lead on to another victory.
God Bless you All, our Chicago Bears – forever Orange and Blue -
Papa George is watching over you, and we too, and we too.

Mother Earth Will Swallow You - Better Lay Your Bodies Down

Suppose somebody (Terrorists Inc) were to detonate nuclear war heads on all of the world's major oil fields. That would force our leaders into doing some important planning, which would involved commandeering the world's fresh water resources, which truly ARE needed to sustain and enhance on the planet.

Tomgram: Bill McKibben, Puncturing the Pipeline
By Bill McKibben

Posted on November 15, 2011, Printed on November 17, 2011

What's the biggest story of the last several weeks? Rick Perry’s moment of silence, all 53 seconds' worth? The Penn State riots after revered coach JoePa went down in a child sex abuse scandal? The Kardashian wedding/divorce? The European debt crisis that could throw the world economy into a tailspin? The Cain sexual harassment charges? The trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor?

The answer should be none of the above, even though as a group they’ve dominated the October/November headlines. In fact, the piece of the week, month, and arguably year should have been one that slipped by so quietly, so off front-pages nationwide and out of news leads everywhere that you undoubtedly didn’t even notice. And yet it’s the story that could turn your life and that of your children and grandchildren inside out and upside down.

On the face of it, it wasn’t anything to shout about -- just more stats in a world drowning in numbers. These happen to have been put out by the U.S. Department of Energy and they reflected, as an Associated Press headline put it, the “biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases.” In other words, in 2010, humanity (with a special bow to China, the United States, and onrushing India) managed to pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than at any time since the industrial revolution began -- 564 million more tons than in 2009, which represents an increase of 6%.

According to AP’s Seth Borenstein, that’s “higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.” He’s talking about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which is, if anything, considered "conservative" in its projections of future catastrophe by many climate scientists. Put another way, we’re talking more greenhouse gases than have entered the Earth’s atmosphere in tens of millions of years.

Consider as well the prediction offered by Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency: without an effective international agreement to staunch greenhouse gases within five years, the door will close on preventing a potentially disastrous rise in the planet’s temperature. You’re talking, that is, about the kind of freaky weather that will make October’s bizarre snowstorm in the Northeast look like a walk in the park. (That storm had all the signs of a climate-change-induced bit of extreme weather: New York City hadn’t recorded an October snowfall like it since the Civil War and it managed to hit the region in a period of ongoing warmth when the trees hadn’t yet had the decency to lose their leaves, producing a chaos of downed electrical wires.) And don’t get me started on what this would mean in terms of future planetary hot spells or sea-level rise.

Honestly, if we were sane, if the media had its head in the right place, this would have been screaming headlines. It would have put Rick Perry and Herman Cain and the Kardashians and Italy and Greece and Michael Jackson’s doctor in the shade.

The only good news -- and because it unsettled the politics of the 2012 election, it did garner a few headlines -- was that the movement Bill McKibben and spearheaded to turn back the tar-sands pipeline from Hades (or its earthly global-warming equivalent, which is Alberta, Canada) gained traction in our Occupy Wall Street moment. Think of it as a harbinger. Mark my words on this one: sooner or later, Americans are going to wake up to climate change, just as they have this year on the issue of inequality, and when they do, watch out. There will be political hell to pay. Tom

Obama’s Positive Flip and Romney’s Negative Flop
Is Global Warming an Election Issue After All?
By Bill McKibben

Conventional wisdom has it that the next election will be fought exclusively on the topic of jobs. But President Obama’s announcement last week that he would postpone a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election, which may effectively kill the project, makes it clear that other issues will weigh in -- and that, oddly enough, one of them might even be climate change.

The pipeline decision was a true upset. Everyone -- and I mean everyone who "knew" how these things work -- seemed certain that the president would approve it. The National Journal runs a weekly poll of “energy insiders” -- that is, all the key players in Washington. A month to the day before the Keystone XL postponement, this large cast of characters was “virtually unanimous” in guaranteeing that it would be approved by year’s end.

Transcanada Pipeline, the company that was going to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from the tar-sands fields of Alberta, Canada, through a sensitive Midwestern aquifer to the Gulf of Mexico, certainly agreed. After all, they’d already mowed the strip and prepositioned hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pipe, just waiting for the permit they thought they’d bought with millions in lobbying gifts and other maneuvers. Happily, activists across the country weren’t smart enough to know they’d been beaten, and so they staged the largest civil disobedience action in 35 years, not to mention ringing the White House with people, invading Obama campaign offices, and generally proving that they were willing to fight.

No permanent victory was won. Indeed, just yesterday Transcanada agreed to reroute the pipeline in Nebraska in an effort to speed up the review, though that appears not to change the schedule. Still, we're waiting for the White House to clarify that they will continue to fully take climate change into account in their evaluation. But even that won't be final. Obama could just wait for an election victory and then approve the pipeline -- as any Republican victor certainly would. Chances are, nonetheless, that the process has now gotten so messy that Transcanada’s pipeline will die of its own weight, in turn starving the tar-sands oil industry and giving a boost to the global environment. Of course, killing the pipeline will hardly solve the problem of global warming (though heavily exploiting those tar sands would, in NASA scientist James Hansen’s words, mean “game over for the climate.”)

In this line of work, where victories of any kind are few and far between, this was a real win. It began with indigenous activists, spread to Nebraska ranchers, and eventually turned into the biggest environmental flashpoint in many years. And it owed no small debt to the Occupy Wall Street protesters shamefully evicted from Zuccotti Park last night, who helped everyone understand the power of corporate money in our daily lives. That these forces prevailed shocked most pundits precisely because it’s common wisdom that they’re not the sort of voters who count, certainly not in a year of economic trouble.

In fact, the biggest reason the realists had no doubts the pipeline would get its permit, via a State Department review and a presidential thumbs-up of that border-crossing pipeline, was because of the well-known political potency of the jobs argument in bad economic times. Despite endless lazy reporting on the theme of jobs versus the environment, there were actually no net jobs to be had from the pipeline. It was always a weak argument, since the whole point of a pipeline is that, once it's built, no one needs to work there. In addition, as the one study not paid for by Transcanada made clear, the project would kill as many jobs as it would create.

The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson finally demonstrated this late in the game with a fine report taking apart Transcanada’s job estimates. (The 20,000 jobs endlessly taken for granted assumed, among other stretches, that modern dance troupes would move to Nebraska, where part of the pipeline would be built, to entertain pipeline workers.) Still, the jobs trope remained, and you can be sure that the Chamber of Commerce will run 1,000 ads during the 2012 presidential campaign trying to hammer it home. And you can be sure the White House knew that, which was why it was such a tough call for them -- and why the pressure of a movement among people whose support matters to them made a difference.

Let’s assume the obvious then: that one part of their recent calculations that led to the postponement decision might just be the suspicion that they will actually win votes thanks to the global-warming question in the next election.

For one thing, global warming denial has seen its apogee. The concerted effort by the fossil-fuel industry to underwrite scientific revision met its match last month when a team headed by Berkeley skeptic and prominent physicist Richard Muller -- with funding from the Koch Brothers, of all people -- actually found that, what do you know, all the other teams of climate-change scientists were, um, right. The planet was indeed warming just as fast as they, and the insurance companies, and the melting ice had been insisting.

Still, scientific studies only reach a certain audience. Weird weather is a far more powerful messenger. It’s been hard to miss the record flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and across the Northeast; the record drought and fires across the Southwest; the record multi-billion dollar weather disasters across the country this year; the record pretty-much everything-you-don’t-want across the nation. Obama certainly noticed. He’s responsible for finding the cash every time some other state submerges.

As a result, after years of decline, the number of Americans who understand that the planet is indeed warming and that we’re to blame appears to be on the rise again. And ironically enough, one reason may be the spectacle of all the tea-partying GOP candidates for the presidency being forced to swear fealty to the notion that global warming is a hoax. Normal people find this odd: it’s one thing to promise Grover Norquist that you’ll never ever raise taxes; it’s another to promise that you’ll defeat chemistry and physics with the mighty power of the market.

Along these lines, Mitt Romney made an important unforced error last month. Earlier in the primaries, he and Jon Huntsman had been alone in the Republican field in being open to the idea that global warming might actually be real. Neither wanted to do anything about it, of course, but that stance itself was enough to mark them as realists. It was also a sign that Romney was thinking ahead to the election itself, and didn’t want to be pinned against this particular wall.

In late October, however, he evidently felt he had no choice but to pin himself to exactly that wall and so stated conclusively: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.” In other words, he not only flip-flopped to the side of climate denial, but did so less than six months after he had said no less definitively: “I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer… And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.” Note as well that he did so, while all the evidence, even some recently funded by the deniers, pointed the other way.

If he becomes the Republican presidential candidate as expected, this may be the most powerful weathervane ad the White House will have in its arsenal. Even for people who don’t care about climate change, it makes him look like the spinally challenged fellow he seems to be. But it’s an ad that couldn’t be run if the president had okayed that pipeline.

Now that Obama has at least temporarily blocked Keystone XL, now that his team has promised to consider climate change as a factor in any final decision on the pipeline’s eventual fate, he can campaign on the issue. And in many ways, it may prove a surprise winner.

After all, only people who would never vote for him anyway deny global warming. It’s a redoubt for talk-show rightists. College kids, on the other hand, consistently rank it among the most important issues. And college kids, as Gerald Seib pointed out in the Wall Street Journal last week, are a key constituency for the president, who is expected to need something close to the two-thirds margin he won on campus in 2008 to win again in 2012.

Sure, those kids care about student loans, which threaten to take them under, and jobs, which are increasingly hard to come by, but the nature of young people is also to care about the world. In addition, independent voters, suburban moms -- these are the kinds of people who worry about the environment. Count on it: they’ll be key targets for Obama’s presidential campaign.

Given the economy, that campaign will have to make Mitt Romney look like something other than a middle-of-the-road businessman. If he’s a centrist, he probably wins. If he’s a flip-flopper with kooky tendencies, they’ve got a shot. And the kookiest thing he’s done yet is to deny climate science.

If I’m right, expect the White House to approve strong greenhouse gas regulations in the months ahead, and then talk explicitly about the threat of a warming world. In some ways it will still be a stretch. To put the matter politely, they’ve been far from perfect on the issue: the president didn’t bother to waste any of his vaunted “political capital” on a climate bill, and he’s opened huge swaths of territory to coal mining and offshore drilling.

But blocking the pipeline finally gave him some credibility here -- and it gave a lot more of the same to citizens' movements to change our world. Since a lot of folks suspect that the only way forward economically has something to do with a clean energy future, I’m guessing that the pipeline decision won’t be the only surprise. I bet Barack Obama talks on occasion about global warming next year, and I bet it helps him.

But don’t count on that, or on Keystone XL disappearing, and go home. If the pipeline story (so far) has one lesson, it’s this: you can’t expect anything to change if you don’t go out and change it yourself.

Bill McKibben is a founder of, a TomDispatch regular, and Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Copyright 2011 Bill McKibben

© 2011 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.

Dey be strivin' but dey t'ain't naught but murderin' mauradin' imperialist pigs - dat be Israel, case you couldn't guess-tit

Israel strives to impress
By Victor Kotsev

Despite all the noise of the past few weeks, Israel is unlikely to attack Iran in the immediate future - but the escalations are remarkable indeed, and the warning has been received, not just by Iran, but also by Europe and to a lesser extent by the United States. It is a well-timed warning which serves both offensive and defensive goals - it concerns not only the Iranian nuclear program, but also all other developments in the Middle East that threaten Israel's security.

It is hard to tell how much is true of speculation that Israel was behind the explosion at an Iranian missile base on Saturday. [1] Iranian officials themselves have made contradictory claims to the media. Surely, however, the incident was a major setback for the Iranian missile program, one of the worst in recent years. ''The incident happened during a research program which could have become a severe punch on Israeli regime's mouth,'' a high-ranking Iranian military official reportedly acknowledged on Wednesday. [2]

A top Iranian missile expert, General Hassan Moghaddam, was killed, alongside at least 16 other Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Dozens were wounded, and the blast - according to some sources, two separate blasts - was so powerful that it reverberated throughout Tehran, over 40 kilometers away.

A probable alternative to the theory that Israel was behind it, acting through local Iranian militants, is worth noting: the Iranians may have unsuccessfully tested a new missile, or at least a new warhead for an existing missile (the base where the blast occurred is reported to store Shehab-3 and Zelzal missiles, both of which can reach Israel). The presence of Moghaddam at the base seems to suggest that something unusual was going on.

''Testing new types of ballistic missiles is dangerous,'' American think-tank Stratfor writes. ''Numerous instances of failed missile launches have caused significant casualties, most notably the October 24, 1960, death of Soviet Marshal of Artillery Mitrofan Nedelin during a failed test of the newly introduced R-16 ballistic missile. It is not inconceivable that Moghaddam died during a similar missile test mishap.''

The truth could also be somewhere in the middle: sabotage could take many subtle forms, including cyber-warfare and supply of faulty equipment. It is not inconceivable that Russia or China, two of Iran's main suppliers of sophisticated technology, helped (or at least closed their eyes to) a clandestine effort to sabotage the Iranian missile program.

What makes the incident particularly important is its timing - the mere suggestion that Israel was involved amplifies the Israeli threats against the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Israeli war games over the past weeks have included simulations of long-distance air strikes and home-front drills of attacks with chemical weapons. More recently, on Monday, the Israeli Air Force leaked information to the press that its new unmanned long-distance drone which can reach Iran, the Eitan, would become operational shortly. [3]

These developments come on top of some ever tougher Israeli rhetoric. ''[Last week's] IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] report [alleging that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons] only detailed information that can be proven; facts that can be presented in court,'' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly announced at a government meeting on Sunday. ''In practice there are many other things we see, and hence the leading states in the world must decide what to do in order to stop Iran ... The efforts thus far did not prevent Iran from progressing towards a bomb, and it is closer to acquiring it, sooner than what people think.'' [4]

Netanyahu seemingly did not forget those analysts who are more concerned when Israeli leaders fall silent than when they make loud proclamations, either. (In terms of military strategy, Israel has generally preferred to use surprise when launching daring military operations in the past). For them, the Israeli propaganda machine provided a media leak; on Wednesday, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz wrote:
According to sources in Jerusalem, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned to [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman asked them not to give speeches on Iran, which is one of the main subjects of the conference [the Saban Forum in Washington in December], due to the current international sensitivity of the issue and Israel's desire to keep a ''low profile'' on the matter in order to avoid harming efforts to impose further sanctions on Iran. [5]
Even the admonitions of Meir Dagan, the legendary former chief of the Mossad [Israeli spy service] who has been preaching to Netanyahu publicly not to attack, could be seen as a kind of bluff, a way to amplify the Israeli threats. All this suggests that there is more rhetoric than real intent to act on the part of the Israelis at present, but the balance is clearly delicate, and could tilt the other way.

The message behind the Israeli muscle-flexing seems to have several layers. On the one hand, Netanyahu is clearly telling the world to do something about Iran unless it wants Israel to do it. The more loudly the Europeans protest a possible Israeli attack (France and Germany, among others, have spoken out against it), [6] the more clearly they demonstrate they have understood the message. It will be hard, later, to claim that an Israeli attack took them unaware, and to criticize the Jewish State for not letting others try out peaceful means first.

Just as importantly, in the meantime Israel could reap some diplomatic benefits by allowing the European protests to seemingly stay its hand. In the context of the Palestinian bids for international recognition and internal reconciliation, as well as of the Jewish State's relative diplomatic isolation, an extra bargaining chip is more than welcome to its leaders.

Whether Israel can convince Russia or China of its seriousness is another matter altogether, and we ought to pay close attention to any developments at the United Nations Security Council. The US is reportedly trying hard to twist the arms of Russia and China into allowing tougher sanctions against Iran, [7] and Israel seems happy to supply the bells and whistles - or, to put it more precisely, the sticks in the "carrots and sticks" metaphor - as needed.

Proponents of ''soft'' pressure against Iran claim that there is still a chance to convince the leaders of the Islamic Republic to give up their nuclear program. [8] Failing that, however, the Israeli show of force might convince US President Barack Obama to grudgingly take tougher unilateral measures against the Islamic Republic. These may include, down the road, military strikes.

According to prominent analyst David Rothkopf, an American strike on Iran is not inconceivable:
[I]n the end, as dangerous as an attack might be militarily and politically, if the President believes there is no other alternative to stopping Iran from gaining the ability to produce highly enriched uranium and thus manufacture nuclear weapons, he will seriously consider military action and it is hardly a certainty he won't take it. From a domestic political perspective, right now Obama's strong suit is his national security performance ... [I]f Iran were to detonate a nuclear bomb, Obama would be blamed and fiercely attacked for a policy of engagement that ultimately proved to be toothless. [9]
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that the US Air Force had received a new bunker-buster bomb that weighs 15 tons, or six times as much as its most powerful predecessor. [10] It is hardly a coincidence that this is precisely the kind of bomb that would be useful in an attack against Iran's heavily fortified nuclear facilities.

A military confrontation between the US and Iran, moreover, could potentially start on several other fronts, including in Iraq or Syria. Over the weekend, the Arab League suspended Syria's membership, starting a dialogue with opposition groups based in Turkey.

According to Israeli analyst Zvi Bar'el, this could serve to legitimize a future foreign intervention in Syria. ''[T]he Arab League is assuming the role of ''regime maker,'' which acts rather than merely responds,'' he writes. [11]

On Wednesday, the League gave Assad three days to stop the crackdown, without making any specific threats. Simultaneously, France withdrew its ambassador to Syria, while some of the rebels in the country, the so-called Free Syrian Army, announced they had formed a special military council.

Meanwhile, the clashes on the ground escalated further, with dozens of civilians and soldiers killed. Days ago, mobs reportedly stormed the embassies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Damascus, as well as a number of consulates in the country. With the country in chaos and the economy in tatters, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days seem numbered, but the manner in which he will go is uncertain.

''Al-Assad does not want to create a situation in which the regime's external rivals, from the United States to Turkey and France, reach the limits of their rhetoric,'' wrote Stratfor in an analysis from last week. Given the spiraling violence, that limit might be very close.

In this context, the Israeli muscle-flexing serves also as a general warning to its regional enemies to refrain from striking it in the event of limited hostilities. Those limited hostilities may or may not initially involve Israel, and could take place in Iran, Syria, or even in Gaza, where the last days have witnessed a new spike in violence.

1. See 1. Was Israel Behind a Deadly Explosion at an Iranian Missile Base?, Time, November 13, 2011 and 2. Mossad - In Eulogy of 'Martyred' Revolutionary Guard Commander, Tehran Mayor Concedes Enemies Killed Him, Tikun Olam, November 15, 2011.
2. Top Iran general: Blast disrupted anti-Israel weapons program, Ha'aretz, November 16, 2011.
3. Israel's giant UAV becomes operational, Ynet, November 14, 2011.
4. Netanyahu: Iran closer to bomb than assumed, Ynet, November 14, 2011.
5. Barak, Lieberman to skip U.S. forum to avoid public debate on Iran, sources say, Ha'aretz, November 16, 2011.
6. Germany, France join opposition to attack on Iran nuclear program, Ha'aretz, November 15, 2011.
7. US says discussing more Iran sanctions with Russia, Ynet, November 9, 2011.
8. How to target the Islamic Republic diplomatically, Jerusalem Post, November 13, 2011.
9. The world is misreading Obama on Iran, Foreign Policy, November 4, 2011.
10. B-2 Bomber Gets Boeing's New 30,000-Pound Bunker-Buster Bomb, Bloomberg, November 15, 2011.
11. Arab League may pave way for military action in Syria, Ha'aretz, November 13, 2011.
12. Free Syrian Army forms military council to oust Assad, Ma'an, November 16, 2011.

Victor Kotsev is a journalist and political analyst.

Dem Bankstah's bee gwine afturd dey Ur-a-peein cun-trees

Existential Euro Debate
Franco-German Battle over the ECB Intensifies

Germany remains adamantly opposed to using the European Central Bank as the lender of last resort to prop up the common currency. But with debt contagion rapidly spreading to several more euro-zone countries, France has upped the pressure. The future of the EU may be at stake.

In early 2010, when Greece first ran into serious debt problems and required an immediate €110 billion bailout, the debate in Europe was more of a philosophical one. European Union member states, said many, should not be forced to pay the debts of fellow members.

This year, the discussion has taken a much more existential turn. With an ever-increasing number of countries becoming infected by the debt contagion spreading across the Continent, serious questions have been raised as to whether the EU is even able to help out its struggling members. And the heart of the increasingly tense debate as to what should happen next has become the ongoing clash between France and Germany. Should the European Central Bank (ECB) become the lender of last resort or not?

France on Wednesday reiterated its affirmative answer to that question. In comments to the newspaper Les Echos, French Finance Minister Francois Baroin demanded that the ECB step in to do everything in its power to prop up the common currency. "We want to deploy all European institutions, including the ECB, to find the best possible answers to the crisis," he said.

Baroin added that the US Federal Reserve "actively intervenes" in case of need, as do the central banks of Britain and Japan. The ECB, he demands, should do the same.

Deep-Seated Phobia

Berlin, however, is adamantly opposed to such a move. Were the ECB to flood the market with liquidity in the form of unlimited purchases of government bonds from debt-stricken euro-zone member states, rapidly climbing inflation could be the result. And Germany, for historical reasons stretching back to the 1920s hyperinflation which smoothed Adolf Hitler's rise to power, has a deep-seated phobia of rapidly rising prices.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday reiterated her government's opposition. Speaking in Berlin, she said: "We interpret the treaties such that the ECB doesn't have the authority to solve the problems." She insisted that the primary problem at the moment is that, while European Union leaders agreed to boost the firepower of the euro backstop fund -- the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) -- at a summit in late October, the resolutions agreed upon have not yet been put into effect.

She would seem to have gotten some high-powered support for her position on Thursday. Wolfgang Franz, head of the influential German Council of Economic Experts -- which advises the government on economic issues -- expressed vehement opposition to unlimited ECB bond purchases.

"History has shown us, and not just in Germany, that the monetization of state debt is a deadly sin for central banks," Franz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview published on Thursday. "Doing so not only results in a loss of independence, but it also raises the risk of inflation. Finally, it also represents the undemocratic collectivization of debt under the auspices of the ECB."

Limited Eagerness to Invest

The debate between Paris and Berlin has increased in volume in recent days as indications grow that the EFSF, despite the adjustments to the fund made in late October, may not be large enough to put a halt to Europe's debt crisis. Furthermore, the plan to leverage the fund from its current lending capacity of €440 billion to €1 trillion, in part by attracting outside investors, may ultimately fail. Given recent political chaos in Greece and Italy, along with indications that financial markets have lost faith in Rome's ability to manage its outsized debt load, not many have shown much eagerness to invest in the EFSF.

Indeed, even despite the departure of Silvio Berlusconi and the Wednesday swearing-in of a new cabinet of experts under the leadership of respected banker Mario Monti, interest rates on sovereign bonds issued by Rome remain high. On Thursday, the rate was just over the 7 percent mark, the level which is considered unsustainable in the long term.

Furthermore, danger signs have cropped up in several additional euro-zone member states in recent days. Interest rates on French sovereign bonds have crept upwards this week and are now double the rates that Germany has to pay. Furthermore, the country's economy is set to grow less than 1 percent next year -- partially as a result of the €18 billion austerity package recently passed in Paris. Concerns are rising that France could lose its top AAA credit rating before long.

Critical Debt Auction

Austria too has run into difficulties on the financial markets, with its bond interest rates having climbed as high as those of France. While the country's public debt remains at a relatively low 72 percent of gross domestic product, the large exposure of Austrian banks to Eastern Europe have analysts assuming that the government will have to spend billions to prop them up.

Belgium, which has been stuck in a political crisis for well over a year now as the country has been unable to assemble a government, has also been hit by rising interest rates, with yields on 10-year-bonds rising to 4.8 percent this week, a record high. In Spain, bond yields have risen sharply in recent days and hit 6.6 percent on Thursday ahead of a critical debt auction.

Given the uneasiness, it seems likely that the debate over the ECB's future role in the euro crisis will only become more heated. Furthermore, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Wednesday reiterated his cautious support for the idea of "euro bonds," which would essentially collectivize European debt. Berlin is adamantly opposed to that deal as well for fear of risking its own AAA rating.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned that the ongoing crisis poses a serious risk to the cohesion of the European Union. "We are facing a truly systemic crisis," he said in comments before the European Parliament on Wednesday.

cgh -- with wire reports

Elections in Spain: Euro Crisis Set to Claim Next Victim (11/17/2011),1518,798032,00.html
Ciao Silvio: Italy Looks Beyond Mess Left by Berlusconi (11/15/2011),1518,797933,00.html
'Good Friends Are There to Help': Chinese Investors Take Advantage of Greek Crisis (11/16/2011),1518,797751,00.html
Bond Yields Soar: Speculators Bet Against Spain, Belgium and France (11/15/2011),1518,798007,00.html
'Now Europe Is Speaking German': Merkel Ally Demands that Britain 'Contribute' to EU Success (11/15/2011),1518,798009,00.html
Saving the Euro: Germany's Central Bank against the World (11/15/2011),1518,797666,00.html
Accidental Downgrade or Glimpse of Future?: Why France Should Be Worried About Its Rating (11/15/2011),1518,797667,00.html


Oh, those wiley Iranians

Interview With Iranian Foreign Minister
'We Are Prepared for Everything'

In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, 62, dismisses accusations that Iran is building a nuclear bomb as Western propaganda and accuses Tehran's enemies of waging a secret war against it.

SPIEGEL: Anyone reading the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report can't help but wonder how long it will be until Iran completes its first nuclear bomb.

Salehi: Our revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa, a ruling according to religious law, describing nuclear weapons as un-Islamic. They are "haram," forbidden, which means these weapons of mass destruction play no role in our defense strategy. That's the truth, and anything else is propaganda.

SPIEGEL: Evidence indicating a secret nuclear program is overwhelming. The IAEA report includes a 12-page appendix laying out substantial evidence that makes it impossible to draw any other conclusion: Iran wants the bomb.

Salehi: That allegation is unfair and unjustified. The report seems to be interpreting many things, which is dangerous. The IAEA risks its credibility by making such interpretations.

The IAEA HAS no crdibility; it's a wholly bought and paid for propaganda arm of the Israeli government, and Israel's suzerain, the United States of America (USA - u suck always)

SPIEGEL: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stresses in the report his "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."

Salehi: The IAEA is acting under pressure from certain countries ...

SPIEGEL: ... You mean Israel and its ally, the United States ...

Salehi: ... so we are prepared for everything. But we have no fear of the discussion at the IAEA concerning this document. Mr. Amano is facing difficult times. We will hold him and the IAEA accountable for their conclusions.

SPIEGEL: The report says its information is drawn from multiple, independent sources, including evidence provided by more than 10 member states, as well as the IAEA's own information.

Salehi: These so-called facts are nothing new. Amano's predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, knew the basic facts as well. We previously responded in a 117-page statement, but ElBaradei didn't draw the same conclusions as Amano now. The IAEA has let go of its former objectivity.

SPIEGEL: The international community has good reason to mistrust Iran, considering how often your government has provided false information concerning its nuclear program.

Salehi: We have never provided false information. We have always cooperated with the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the IAEA treaty. But if more is demanded of us than the international treaties stipulate, then we refuse.

SPIEGEL: Your criticism notwithstanding, this report threatens to bring about another round of sanctions. Do you really expect the people of your country to put up with an intensified economic boycott?

Salehi: These are inconveniences we're willing to accept. With 3,000 years of history behind us, 30 or even 50 years spent under an embargo are a mere footnote. We won't give up our independence and we will continue our civilian nuclear program. There is great unanimity on this point both within our government and among the people.

SPIEGEL: Instead of criticizing the nuclear weapons inspectors' report, you might do better to offer your suggestions on how to solve this conflict.

Salehi: Several countries, including Iran, have proposed approaches that could have led to a satisfactory solution. There was, for example, Turkey and Brazil's initiative for the removal of enriched material, which was initially well received by US President Barack Obama, but then never came to pass. A suggestion from Russia was likewise ignored. We also discontinued uranium enrichment as a trust-building measure, but were never thanked for doing so. Do you honestly believe further suggestions will yield results? I believe there's no longer any point in making additional concessions. The nuclear question is simply a pretense for weakening us by any means possible.

SPIEGEL: And you want to use any means possible to gain time in which to continue enriching uranium, bringing yourselves a step closer to building a bomb.

Salehi: As a nuclear scientist, I can't conceive what uranium enrichment for civilian purposes is meant to have to do with building a bomb. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty expressly allows us to enrich uranium. We even signed the treaty's Additional Protocol to satisfy skeptics.

SPIEGEL: You can't dispel the suspicions that you're abusing your right to enrich uranium.

Salehi: It's good we're talking about abuse. What is it that gives some nations the right to use computer viruses against us and murder our nuclear scientists, while still claiming to work for human rights?

SPIEGEL: Israel's government fears nothing more than a nuclear bomb in your government's hands, and appears to be preparing an attack on your nuclear facilities.

Salehi: We don't anticipate an attack. Israel knows how delicate the situation is. As proof that our nuclear program is peaceful in nature, we have established the conditions necessary for the required IAEA monitoring. I'd also like to point out here that no other country has worked as intensively with the IAEA in this area as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

SPIEGEL: So you claim.

Salehi: During the most recent visit from Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA's head of nuclear inspections, we cooperated with the inspectors beyond the scope of our obligations. Mr. Nackaerts and his boss, Mr. Amano, even thanked us for our cooperation.

SPIEGEL: The United States and Europe are determined to keep Iran from carrying out further uranium enrichment. You'll have to come around eventually.

Salehi: No, we won't have to, and I'd like to point you to our history as proof. From its creation to the present day, the Islamic Republic of Iran has never given in to those who wanted to force it to do something. But those who met the country with logic and fair-mindedness instead of a double standard have always been able to count on Iran's cooperation.

SPIEGEL: On the contrary, your unwillingness to cooperate suggests you're very much looking for the situation to escalate. There are certainly radical elements in Iran for whom an attack on their own country would be a convenient development.

Salehi: Those beating the drums of war are the same people who want to slow our progress. Iraq under Saddam Hussein forced us into an eight-year war. We don't want another war. Every politician in our country shares this opinion. But if we are attacked, we do know how to defend ourselves. Every attack, of any kind, will meet with retaliation. Immediately, without a second's hesitation.

SPIEGEL: You have also had to face accusations of state-sponsored terrorism. Just a few weeks ago, the US accused your Quds Force, an elite unit of Revolutionary Guards, of planning an assassination attempt on Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir.

Salehi: Not a single document supports that claim. The entire thing was staged by Washington. It's a farce with an unemployed loser as the supposed hit man, and it provides the US with a diversionary tactic to distract from the financial crisis. The US government is presumably also hoping to destroy relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two brother nations in Islam. Don't forget, the US also justified its war against Iraq with falsified evidence.

SPIEGEL: After the plot was uncovered in mid-October, you promised to investigate the accusations. Where are the results?

Salehi: So far, our investigations have shown only that all of it must be a completely invented story. The main suspect in the affair has denied all accusations in court in the US. Why would we commit such a pointless act? In fact, we insist that the US apologize.

SPIEGEL: Accusations of state-sponsored terrorism in Iran are nothing new. Your intelligence services have been involved in assassinations outside your country several times.

Salehi: The Islamic Republic of Iran itself has been the victim of terrorism in the past three decades and has suffered many losses in combating it. We recently held a conference in Tehran on combating terrorism. All of these are illogical accusations.

SPIEGEL: Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly confirmed the accusations concerning the planned assassination. Are you claiming both of them have been deceived by their own intelligence agents?

Salehi: All of these measures are part of an American strategy of tacit warfare against Iran. They want to present us to the world as evildoers, while distracting people in the West from their own terrorist activities, such as murdering our scientists and waging cyberwar. We have submitted a complaint with the United Nations over these unjustified accusations.

SPIEGEL: The US president has written a letter asking Iranian leaders to extradite Gholam Shakuri, a Quds Force officer in Tehran and the individual allegedly behind the attempt, to the US, along with another suspect living in Iran.

Salehi: We have not received sufficient evidence from the US giving us precise information about the true identity of this alleged suspect. Why is he supposed to be in Iran? And where is he supposed to be there? There are thousands of people in Iran named Shakuri. Besides, there is no extradition agreement between Iran and the US. Such treaties exist only between nations that are friends.

Interview conducted by Dieter Bednarz

Berlin Considers Stronger Sanctions: US and Israel Demand Greater Measures against Tehran (11/14/2011),1518,797570,00.html
Halting Iran's Nuclear Program: Former Mossad Chief Seeks to Avert Israeli Attack (11/08/2011),1518,796320,00.html
IAEA Lambasts Iran Nuclear Progam: Israel Hails Report as Turnaround for Atomic Watchdog (11/09/2011),1518,796849,00.html
The World from Berlin: Iran's Nuclear Denials Are 'an Oriental Fairytale' (11/10/2011),1518,796997,00.html


My Kraut Kin have a lot of imagination!

11/16/2011 11:40 AM

When Heaven Freezes Over
German Village Rebuilds Its Snow Church 100 Years Later

Hotels and bars made out of ice have been common for a while -- now a church is the latest project to get the cold treatment. In the Bavarian Forest, one congregation wants to build a place of worship out of 1,400 cubic meters of snow, just as their ancestors did 100 years ago.

Everything is in place in Mitterfirmiansreut for the mountain village's biggest construction project in a century -- everything, that is, but the snow. Because residents in the Bavarian village near the Czech border are planning to erect a full-size church made entirely out of snow, in homage to their ancestors who did the same thing 100 years ago.

Once completed, the church will be able to accommodate up to 190 people. The plans call for a sweeping design, with a main room 26 meters long and 6.5 meters high and a tower soaring 17 meters high. Inside there will be sculptures, an altar and pews -- all made out of ice. In total, 1,400 cubic meters of snow will be needed.

Although the snow church doesn't even exist yet, requests for weddings and baptisms have already been flooding in to Bernd Stiefvater. The 45-year-old restaurateur has worked with friends on plans for the church for two years. Some 200 people have since become involved in a booster club.

An Unusual Protest

Stiefvater wants the snow church to serve as a reminder of an extraordinary event in local history. At the beginning of the 20th century, a trip to Sunday mass for people living in the remote mountain village of Mitterfirmiansreut meant an arduous 90-minute walk to the neighboring town of Mauth. After their pleas for a church of their own fell on deaf ears, the villagers decided to mount an unusual protest during the Christmas season of 1911: They built their own church out of snow.

"For me this is a really touching story of how people of faith can achieve anything," says Stiefvater. He wants the new version of the snow church to honor this commitment 100 years later. The planning and construction of the church will cost about €100,000 ($135,000), according to the booster club. The money for the church is coming from sponsors, and the organizers are hoping to win financial support from an EU program.

The plans for the snow church have been drawn up by architect Alfons Doeringer. "Nothing in this project is routine. There were no standards and no norms," he says. Designs for the church's vaulting shape were created in collaboration with structural engineers. Doeringer is very aware of the potential risks: "That is an extremely heavy mass of snow, and people will be underneath it."

The architect says 20 centimeters of snow is needed before construction can begin, with the grand opening planned for Dec. 17. There will be concerts and prayers held in the church, as well as an ice sculpture exhibition from Jan. 22 to 28 and a market with traditional handicrafts on Feb. 12.

Interest in the project has been brisk, and Stiefvater says numerous tour groups have registered to visit the church. And if there is not enough snow in Mitterfirmiansreut this year?

"That is very unlikely," says Stiefvater. "But then we would just build the church next winter."

dsk -- with wires

Photo Gallery: German Village Plans Snow Church
Assessing the Pope's Visit: Germany At Odds With Benedict XVI (09/26/2011),1518,788388,00.html
The Pope Comes Home: Benedict Criticizes Lack of Religiosity in Germany (09/22/2011),1518,787791,00.html
Let Us Spray: Graffiti Artist Saves Church from Closure (06/10/2011),1518,767856,00.html
Photo Gallery: Spray Paint Savior
Software for Sinners: Confession App Comes Under Fire in Germany (04/19/2011),1518,757933,00.html

My German kin are doing the skin head

>11/16/2011 05:38 PM

Possible Target List
Neo-Nazis May Have Planned to Target Politicians

By Florian Gathmann, Matthias Gebauer and Veit Medick

New evidence suggests Germany's Zwickau neo-Nazi terror cell may have been planning attacks on politicians, including two members of parliament. Two members of the Green Party and the conservatives who appeared on the list expressed their dismay in Berlin on Wednesday.

Was a trio of suspected neo-Nazi terrorists in eastern Germany also planning to target politicians in addition to a murderous crime wave that left at least 10 people, mostly immigrants, dead in Germany?

Officials investigating the Zwickau neo-Nazi terror cell have uncovered what could be a list of targets created by the suspected terrorists. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the list includes the names and addresses of 88 people, including at least two politicians who are members of the German federal parliament, the Bundestag, and representatives of Turkish and Muslim organizations.

So far, investigators have been unable to determine why the three suspects in the case might have put together the list. Nor are they certain whether it was intended as a list of possible targets or just as a listing of political opponents. The number of entries alone is enough to raise eyebrows among those with knowledge of the far right, given that 88 is used by neo-Nazis as code for an abbreviation of the phrase "Heil Hitler" (H being the eighth letter of the alphabet).

Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper first reported on the findings in its Wednesday edition, noting that the list originated from 2005.

Among those on the list are Jerzy Montag, a member of parliament with the Green Party, and Hans-Peter Uhl, a parliamentarian with Bavaria's Christian Social Union, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union. Montag told SPIEGEL ONLINE he had contacted the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA), which had confirmed the discovery. The BKA has since shared the discovery with its counterparts at the state level in order to obtain a more precise assessment of the threat.

'A Dreadful Feeling'

Montag has since revealed his deep concerns. "This is a dreadful feeling for me," the Green politician said. "The fact that the known members of the terror cell have been deactivated does not mean that this is over." Montag added: "If someone can think this up, then there could also be others." The member of parliament said he is firmly convinced "that there are more right-wing extremists in Germany who have the ability to carry out similar acts."

CSU politician Uhl told SPIEGEL ONLINE: "When I heard that my name was on the list, I was shocked." He tried, he said, to "make sense of how one ends up on such a list."

Both Montag and Uhl are best known as legal and domestic policymakers in Germany; both represent Munich constituencies in the Bundestag. The Green politician and lawyer Montag has been actively engaged for years in the fight against right-wing extremism.

Michael Hartmann, the domestic policy spokesman for the center-left Social Democratic Party, said he shares the concerns of his colleague Montag. "For me, the address lists should not be taken any more or less seriously than what we uncovered so far about the victims," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. He added, however, that "to be able to give a more accurate assessment, we need to wait for further investigations."

Whether the neo-Nazi trio had actually been planning attacks on politicians can only be confirmed by Beate Zschäpe, a suspect in the case who is currently in police custody. After the suicide of her two supposed accomplices, she has not yet answered any police questions on the alleged crimes. Investigators consider Zschäpe to be the key to the case, because she is probably the only one who can shed light on the series of murders and bank robberies, and above all on the motives and future plans of the suspected far-right terrorists. Several newspapers have reported that the suspect is planning to give a statement on Wednesday. The investigators did not want to comment on the matter.

The impact of the discovered list is difficult for the authorities to assess. Lists of so-called political enemies of neo-Nazi groups have been found repeatedly in raids and arrests. So far, however, these were considered more like propaganda tools. For the Zwickau cell, though, investigators have not ruled anything out. In 2006, the three suspects suddenly stopped their alleged series of murders of foreigners. Now there are fears that they may have then started working on a new plan -- whose targets have been uncovered on the list.

They smucked up

Smucker recalls jars of chunky peanut butter
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 6:35 AM Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 6:42 AM
By Associated Press business staff

J.M. Smucker Co. is recalling some 16-ounce jars of its Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter Chunky sold in several states because of possible salmonella contamination.
ORRVILLE, Ohio -- J.M. Smucker Co. is recalling some 16-ounce jars of its Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter Chunky sold in several states because of possible salmonella contamination.

The Ohio-based company says the jars covered in the recall would have been purchased in the last week or so. They have "Best if Used By" dates of Aug. 3, 2012 and Aug. 4, 2012, plus the production codes 1307004 and 1308004.

Salmonella is bacteria resulting in fever, cramps and diarrhea that lasts for several days and can require hospitalization.

Smucker says no illnesses have been reported.

The product was distributed in: Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

© 2011 All rights reserved.

“The life of the people living in the tents is not a human life.”

Wave of Illegal, Senseless and Violent Evictions Swells in Port au Prince
By Bill Quigley

Created 09/14/2011 - 09:35

Haiti [1]
haiti_evictions02.jpg [2]

A year and a half after the earthquake, Haiti’s homeless legions are driven from place to place like vermin. “The administration of President Michel Martelly has apparently given a green light to widespread violent demolition of camps without any legal process.” Billions in international donations have done virtually nothing to relieve mass suffering. “With nearly 600,000 internally displaced persons still in camps, the scale of Haiti’s homeless problem remains daunting.”

Wave of Illegal, Senseless and Violent Evictions Swells in Port au Prince
by Bill Quigley

“The life of the people living in the tents is not a human life.”

Mathias O is 34 years old. He is one of about 600,000 people still homeless from the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He lives with his wife and her 2 year old under a homemade shelter made out of several tarps. They sleep on the rocky ground inside. The side tarp walls are reinforced by pieces of cardboard boxes taped together. Candles provide the only inside light at night. There is no running water. No electricity. They live near a canal and suffer from lots of mosquitoes. There are hundreds of families living in tents beside him. This is the third tent community he has lived in since the earthquake.

The earthquake made Mathias homeless when it crushed his apartment and killed his cousin and younger brother. He and his wife first stayed in a park next to St. Anne’s Catholic Church. Then the family moved to what they thought was a safer place, Sylvio Cator stadium. They put up a tent on the lawn inside the stadium and stayed there for several months. The authorities then moved them just outside of the stadium so the soccer team could practice. They lived in a tent outside the stadium with 514 other families for over a year until they were ordered to leave in July 2011. Each family was told they had to leave and were given 10,000 Goudes (about $250 in US dollars) to assist in their relocation. Where did the 514 families go? No one knows for sure. About 150 families stayed together and live under tarps beside Mathias. Some used the money to build new tarp shelters elsewhere and some used it for food. The rest? No one knows. No one is keeping track.

When I asked what Mathias would like to say to the human rights community, he said, “The life of the people living in the tents is not a human life. Our human rights are not respected. No institutions are taking care of us, we are the forgotten. We want people to remember us and help us to have the human life we should have. It's not our choice to live this way. The situation of life bring us here. We hope to have a normal life. But the hope is very far from us.”

“No institutions are taking care of us, we are the forgotten.”

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported August 19, 2011 that there are about 594,800 people living in about 1000 displacement camps in Haiti. Most want to leave but have nowhere to go. Nearly 8000 people have been evicted in the last three months. Their report concludes by saying “With nearly 600,000 internally displaced persons still in camps, the scale of Haiti’s homeless problem remains daunting.”
Complicating the problem is the increasing wave of forced evictions happening in Haiti. These are evictions without any legal process, often by police, frequently accompanied by violence.

Landowners use armed police and private security to carry out evictions and scare people away. They rarely go to court because they usually cannot prove they own the land. So they resort to brute force to overwhelm the families. Police and private security use guns, machetes, batons and bulldozers to push people out.

The administration of President Michel Martelly has apparently given a green light to widespread violent demolition of camps without any legal process. Though the administration announced plans to relocate families from six camps, nothing has happened.

The Haitian human rights law firm Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) reports that before June they were receiving several threats of forced evictions per month. Since June, the threats increased to several per week. Now they are receiving several reports of forced evictions every day.

Dozens of human rights activists called on the United Nations to condemn these illegal evictions and to make Haiti impose a moratorium on illegal evictions until there are realistic plans to house the families being uprooted.

“Police and private security use guns, machetes, batons and bulldozers to push people out.”

These evictions are in defiance of a ruling by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights which issued precautionary measures asking Haiti to cease illegal evictions. On November 18, 2010, the IACHR expressed concern over forced evictions of the displaced and sexual violence against women and girls. Specifically, the IACHR wrote Haiti asking the government to “offer those who have been illegally expelled from the camps a transfer to places that have minimum health and security conditions, and then transfer them if they so agree; guarantee that internally displaced persons have access to effective recourse before a court and before other competent authorities; implement effective security measures to safeguard the physical integrity of the inhabitants of the camps, guaranteeing especially the protection of women and children; train the security forces in the rights of displaced persons, especially their right not to be forcibly expelled from the camps; and ensure that international cooperation agencies have access to the camps.”

Residents recently surveyed by BAI and the University of San Francisco said money given them upon eviction was insufficient to relocate or pay rent anywhere. Small grants worth about $250 are not enough to build even the most basic 12x10 shack with plywood walls, a corrugated metal roof and concrete floor – leaving many of those evicted without any shelter except to go put up a tarp in another displacement camp. No wonder that 35 percent of them reported being the victims of physical harm or threats of physical harm.

The following are recent examples of illegal forced evictions, all have occurred since Martelly became President.

On May 27, 2011, at 6am, Haitian National Police wielding machetes and knives stormed a camp in the Delmas 3 neighborhood destroying about 200 makeshift tents, and forcing people to flee, according to Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald. There was no court order of eviction.

“Small grants worth about $250 are not enough to build even the most basic 12x10 shack with plywood walls, a corrugated metal roof and concrete floor.”

In early June, Haitian National Police showed up and began destroying tarps and tents of hundreds of families camped at the intersection of Delmas and Airport Roads. The police fired shots and swung batons as people protested in front of their camp. This was done without legal authority.

Later in June, at another camp in Delmas 3, truckloads of agents armed with machetes descended on another camp and dismantled it. After the tents were destroyed a bulldozer showed up and leveled what was left. This too was without any legal process.

In a midnight raid on July 3, 2011, police and private security forces completely destroyed tents of about 30 families in Camp Eric Jean-Baptiste in the Port au Prince suburb of Carrefour.

On July 18, 2011, Haitian National Police entered the displacement camp in the parking lot of Sylvio Cator sports stadium and destroyed the tents and belongings of 514 families. There was no lawful process. People were given about $250 to pay for new shelters. Many told human rights monitors that they did not want the money, they wanted to stay but accepted the money as they had no other options. These illegal evictions were condemned by the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights.
On July 27, 2011, members of the Haitian National Police arrested, assaulted and ransacked tents of internally displaced people protesting against the illegal eviction of dozens of families at Camp Django. Camp residents were given about $125 for their destroyed shelters.

So, what should be happening?

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, co-chaired by former US President Bill Clinton, just pledged $78 million to fund a housing plan for 16 districts in Haiti. But, as Haiti Grassroots Watch reports, even if all the planned repairs and construction of 68,025 units takes place, that is only 22 percent of what is needed since there are over 300,000 families and 600,000 people living in camps.

It is time for the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, the UN, The US and the international community to stand up for the human rights of the hundreds of thousands of people like Mathias. Housing is a human right. Using force to evict homeless survivors of Haiti’s earthquake from one spot to make them homeless in another place is illegal, senseless and violent. Mathias and his family deserve much more.

Bill Quigley is a law professor and human rights advocate at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a long time Haiti advocate in his work with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Vladimir Laguerre helped with this article. You can reach Bill at [3].