With Washington Eavesdropping on Brazil, France, Germany … leaders … political and financial … it is strange to talk of united democracies. A Greenwald release that brings to nil the recent Rousseff visit to the White House.
By Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda, The Intercept
04 July 15 – reported by RSN
Top secret data from the National Security Agency, shared with The Intercept by WikiLeaks, reveals that the U.S. spy agency targeted the cellphones and other communications devices of more than a dozen top Brazilian political and financial officials, including the country’s president Dilma Rousseff, whose presidential plane’s telephone was on the list. President Rousseff just yesterday returned to Brazil after a trip to the U.S. that included a meeting with President Obama, a visit she had delayed for almost two years in anger over prior revelations of NSA spying on Brazil.
That Rousseff’s personal cell phone was successfully targeted by NSA spying was previously reported in 2013 by Fantastico, a program on the Brazilian television network Globo Rede. That revelation – along with others exposing NSA mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Brazilians, and the targeting of the country’s state-owned oil company Petrobras and its Ministry of Mines and Energy – caused a major rupture in relations between the two nations. But Rouseff is now suffering from severe domestic weakness as a result of various scandals and a weak economy, and apparently could no longer resist the perceived benefits of a high-profile state visit to Washington.
But these new revelations extend far beyond the prior ones and are likely to reinvigorate tensions. Beyond Rousseff, the new NSA target list includes some of Brazil’s most important political and financial figures, such as the Finance Ministry’s Executive Secretary Nelson Barbosa; Luiz Awazu Pereira da Silva, a top official with Brazil’s Central Bank; Luiz Eduardo Melin de Carvalho e Silva, former Chief of Staff to the Finance Minister; the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s chief of economics and finance, Luis Antônio Balduíno Carneiro; former Foreign Affairs Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado; and Antonio Palocci, who formerly served as both Dilma’s Chief of Staff and Finance Minister under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Most notable about the list, published simultaneously by WikiLeaks, is the predominance of officials responsible for Brazil’s financial and economic matters (last four digits of the listed telephone numbers are redacted; click to enlarge):
NSA list covering the high priority targets in Brazil. (photo: The Intercept)
Next to each name on the list, there are codes which indicate the purpose of the surveillance and the group of analysts within NSA responsible for it. The codes appear under under the column entitled “TOPI,” which stands for “Target Office of Primary Interest.”
Alongside most of the government officials’ phone numbers is the designator “S2C42,” a reference to an NSA unit that focuses on intelligence collected from Brazil’s political leadership. The same code was seen in the previously reported document revealing NSA’s targeting of Dilma’s cellphone:
But even more revealing on this new list is the designation next to several of the targeted officials responsible for financial and economic issues. Many of these individuals have a different code next to their phone number – S2C51 – which refers to NSA’s “international financial policy branch.” Brazilians are particularly sensitive to economic espionage by the U.S., both for historical reasons (as a hallmark of American imperialism and domination on the continent) and due to current economic concerns (for that reason, the story of NSA’s targeting of Petrobras was arguably the most consequential of all prior surveillance stories).
Several Brazilian officials expressed anger over the latest revelations. Gilberto Carvalho, former Chief of Staff to Lula and a top aide to Dilma, harshly denounced the spying in an interview with the Intercept. He described his reaction as “maximum indignation,” declaring it a “violation of Brazilian sovereignty” which the U.S. “does not have the right to do.” Carvalho added that the fact that Brazil “is trying to repair our relationship with the U.S. does not in any way diminish the gravity of these new revelations.”
For his part, the Central Bank’s Pereira da Silva said his reaction is to fully embrace the stinging denunciation of NSA’s electronic surveillance contained in Dilma’s September, 2013 United Nations speech, delivered while Obama waited in the hallway to speak. That blistering speech was widely regarded in Brazil as a high point of Dilma’s leadership on the world stage.
Speaking from the General Assembly podium, she declared that “tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations.” She condemned U.S. mass surveillance as a “grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties” and, in a rare invocation of her own personal history as a rebel against the country’s oppressive military dictatorship, said: “As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship, and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country. In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy.”
Other Brazilian targets on the newly released NSA list include the long-time diplomat and author André Amado, as well as a current official with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Fernando Meirelles de Azevedo Pimentel. It also includes the “cell” numbers for several of the key targets along with their office numbers. And it lists the Brazilian ambassadors in Paris, Berlin and Geneva, with the official “residence” of the latter targeted.
Questions submitted to NSA were not answered by the time of publication. Prior to the disclosure about its spying on Petrobras, the NSA insisted to the Washington Post that (emphasis in original) “the department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.” In response to the Petrobras report, however, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that “it is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters” but claimed that it does not “use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies.”
The list obtained by The Intercept from WikiLeaks is extracted from an NSA database. Dates that appear on it indicate that the eavesdropping on several of the officials began in early 2011, but others were first targeted in 2010 while Lula, Rousseff’s predecessor, was still President. There is no indication that the surveillance has stopped. Rather than a one-time document created on a single day, the list appears to be an aggregate list of targets continually compiled and updated by the NSA. Last week, WikiLeaks released similar documents showing surveillance of French and German political and financial officials, and that spying took place over many years.
from The Century Foundation, New York City events at tcf.org
Egypt’s Next Phase: Sustainable Instability
Senior fellow at The Century Foundation Michael Wahid Hanna describes Egypt’s Next Phase: Sustainable Instability in a new issue brief out today:
“Two years after Egypt’s July 2013 coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi, the country is entering a new and unsettled phase in its ill-fated post–Hosni Mubarak political transition. The air of instability in the run-up to this anniversary was punctuated by the country’s first major political assassination in decades, with the June 29 killing of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in a sophisticated bomb attack on his convoy. That attack was quickly followed by a major coordinated militant assault on Egyptian army positions in northern Sinai Peninsula on July 1, which resulted in scores of dead and injured, and further highlighted the growing threats facing the country.
However, while Egypt as a country will continue to suffer various kinds of instability, the regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi remains firmly ensconced for the foreseeable future.”
For the full article please go to: www.tcf.org/blog/detail/egypts-ne…
Conclusion of the article: Despite unprecedented economic and security challenges and the first signs of serious public dissatisfaction with the Sisi regime, there is no evidence that these complaints will ripen into a challenge to the sustainability of Sisi’s rule. Paradoxically, this sustainability will endure despite the inevitable instability that will be a persistent feature of Egyptian life in the near-term future. Instability is unlikely to translate into serious regime vulnerability so long as the state remains outwardly unified and coherent, which itself is highly likely in an environment when the state and its institutions perceive a collectivized sense of fate. With an irreparably fragmented state of political opposition coming together with other key factors to produce an environment of sustainability, Egypt and the outside world will have to contend with the durability of the Sisi regime and the unlikelihood of a political course correction amidst a deteriorating security situation.
The real purpose of the Dilma Rousseff mission to the US was to help undo the effects of the US spying activities against her that caused her to cancel the official State dinner the US had planned for her October 2013.
By the end of the second day of the Dilma Rousseff mission to the US – it becomes clear that the Brazilian President had the upper hand, and this was about overcoming the repugnant fact that under this US President US agencies spied on the President of Brazil by hacking into her private phones and mail.
For one thing, Brazil wins now the right again to export its beef to the US, and there was also some mention of Brazil-US cooperation on Climate Change — though this was much less at the forefront as we wished to see it.
REUTERS – Politics | Tue Jun 30, 2015 6:30pm EDT
WASHINGTON | By Roberta Rampton and Idrees Ali
President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used a White House visit on Tuesday to turn the page on a spying scandal that had damaged bilateral relations and said they want to work to bolster economic ties.
“The change is particularly due to the fact that President Obama and the U.S. government have stated on several occasions that they would no longer engage in intrusive acts of spying on friendly countries. I believe President Obama,” Rousseff said.
Obama greeted Rousseff with a warm hug when she arrived in Washington on Monday, taking her for an impromptu visit to a memorial for civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. before a working dinner.
The president and visiting Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff sought Tuesday to cast their nations as “natural partners” collaborating closely on critical issues like climate and regional diplomacy, glossing over recent tensions over spying that have strained relations between the U.S. and Brazil.
By JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years after revelations about U.S. spying frayed ties between their countries, President Barack Obama and visiting Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff publicly closed that chapter Tuesday, declaring that the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil is on an upward swing.
Rousseff canceled a 2013 visit to Washington in the wake of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s disclosures that the U.S. had intercepted her emails and phone calls, and U.S. leaders have been working to repair the damage ever since. On Tuesday, the two leaders were all smiles in the East Room of the White House, trading bets about the 2016 Summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
“I trust her completely,” Obama rejoined.
Both leaders acknowledged that the NSA leaks had strained the relationship between two of the hemisphere’s largest powers. Even still, Rousseff said the conditions today are different than they were in 2013, noting that Obama has since told her that should he ever need confidential information about Brazil, he’ll pick up the phone and call her directly.
“Countries do go through crises and difficulties. It’s just natural,” Rousseff said through a translator.
Aiming to move past those difficulties, Obama and Rousseff put a spotlight on areas of growing cooperation between the U.S. and Brazil as she wrapped up her two-day visit to the White House. The leaders touted a recent defense agreement as well as a U.S. decision Monday to begin allowing fresh beef imports from all 14 of Brazil’s states — a longstanding Brazilian request.
Yet the capstone of the attempt to show common cause was a joint announcement on climate change, an issue Rousseff deemed “one of the central challenges of the 21st century.”
Brazil pledged to curb illegal deforestation and expand renewable energy use as it gears up to unveil its contribution to a global climate treaty that Obama has been championing and world leaders expect to finalize this year. Although the announcement stopped short of a commitment to bring deforestation down to zero, as many environmentalists wanted, the pledge offered some of the first signs of how Brazil intends to curb its greenhouse gas emissions as part of the treaty.
The South American nation also vowed to restore and reforest 12 million hectares — an area roughly the size of England — by 2030. About three-quarters of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions come from destruction in the Amazon rainforest, which acts as a giant absorber of carbon dioxide.
Both the U.S. and Brazil announced plans to increase the share of renewable, non-hydropower electricity sources to 20 percent by 2030. That will require tripling the amount of renewable energy on the U.S. electricity grid, while doubling it in Brazil. The White House said it was counting on gains from Obama’s controversial power plant emission rules to meet the new goal.
From its inception on Monday with a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Rousseff’s stay in Washington appeared designed to show that the U.S. and Brazil were no longer saddled by the spying flap that drew headlines and outrage from Brazilian lawmakers in 2013 and 2014.
Rousseff had been scheduled to be honored with a state dinner in October 2013, an honor meant to demonstrate the growing importance of Latin America’s largest nation and a particular nod to Rousseff, who adopted a friendlier foreign policy toward the U.S. than her predecessor when she took office in 2001.
28 June 2015: Ministers from the four BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) countries convened for the group’s 20th Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change to discuss: the outcomes of the previous sessions of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP); the upcoming sessions of the ADP; and the elements of the expected Paris Agreement.
The 20th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change was held at the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the UN in New York, US, on 27-28 June 2015. In a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, BASIC Ministers welcome: the convening of the High Level Event on Climate Change by the President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 29 June 2015; the outcome of Lima Climate Change Conference in 2014; and the work of the Peruvian Presidency.
They further: commit to work constructively to ensure a successful outcome at the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015; reaffirm that the ADP process and outcome should be guided by, and be in accordance with, the Convention; and express appreciation for the progress achieved in the recent ADP sessions, but stress the need to accelerate the pace of negotiations.
Ministers underscore the need for the Paris Agreement to: address, in a balanced manner, mitigation, adaptation, finance, capacity building, technology development and transfer, transparency of action and support; not solely focus on mitigation; provide a framework for Parties to enhance actions to limit warming to below 2 degree Celsius and enable adaptation; and include comprehensive contributions that will be nationally determined and reflect each Party’s highest possible effort, in accordance with its common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR).
They call for the upcoming ADP negotiations to focus on the core provisions to be included in a protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention. They highlight that the streamlined negotiating text being prepared by the ADP Co-Chairs should be concise, including all core elements of the Durban mandate, and that COP decisions should detail the agreement’s provisions, including modalities and technical aspects.
Ministers consider that ambition and effectiveness will be achieved by maintaining differentiation among developed and developing countries in the agreement. They call on developed countries to provide new, additional, predictable, adequate and sustained public support to enhance actions by developing countries, and for the Paris agreement to establish a link between developing countries’ actions and the scale of finance, technology and capacity building support.
On pre-2020 ambition (or workstream 2), they stress that: the pre-2020 ambition gap shall be primarily addressed through the implementation of the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the outcome of the Bali Action Plan; and that developed countries’ current emission reduction, financial and technological commitments are inadequate. They support the call by the G77 and China for the ADP Co-Chairs to prepare an inclusive paper as a starting point for the discussions under Workstream 2 at the next ADP session in August-September 2015.
They express disappointment over the lack of a clear roadmap for developed countries to provide USD 100 billion per year by 2020, as well as on substantially scaling up financial support after 2020. Ministers also underlined that domestic preparations for their respective intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) are at an advanced stage and will reflect their “utmost efforts towards the objective of the Convention.”
The 21st BASIC Ministerial Meeting will be hosted by China in the second semester of 2015. [Joint Statement of BASIC Ministers]
read more: climate-l.iisd.org/news/basic-min…
29 June 2015: “We must act with courage,” UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Sam Kutesa told UN Member States gathered at the High-Level Event on Climate Change he hosted. He called for “bold, collective action” to “reverse the current trends and preserve our planet.” The High-Level Event was convened at the midpoint between the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UNFCCC and COP 21, and aimed to provide political momentum for an ambitious climate agreement.
Held on 29 June 2015, in New York, US, the High-Level Event also featured remarks from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called climate change and sustainable development “two sides of the same coin” that are being addressed by “two mutually reinforcing agendas.”
Also addressing the links between these agendas, Kutesa stressed that 2015 is a critical year, “when the world’s attention is focused on the future,” adding that “a successful outcome at COP 21 will send a resounding message that the well-being of the planet must go hand-in-hand with development efforts.”
Both Ban and Kutesa focused on the building blocks, such as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and finance, needed to achieve an ambitious agreement and commended large emitters for coming forward with commitments. Noting some controversial issues remain to be resolved ahead of COP 21, Kutesa said “a successful outcome can be reached if all Parties engage constructively and with flexibility.” Ban reminded that the agreement must not be an “end point,” but rather a “turning point” in how the world collectively acts to address climate change.
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres also spoke at the event, asserting that “Never before has it been so evident that we can address both climate change and sustainable development with the same measures,” and urging negotiators to show leadership to “create jobs, ensure energy access, safeguard food and water, improve health and protect economic and social stability for the future.”
After the opening session, two high-level panel discussions were held. The first consisted of two segments, moderated by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner and Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Chair Felipe Calderón, respectively. It focused on mobilizing political momentum for ambitious actions on mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation (MOI). Panelists discussed: equity; differentiation; renewable energy development; scaling action under current commitments; China’s green development strategy; anti-poverty efforts; transparency; and adequacy of support.
The second panel, on mobilizing stakeholders for ambitious actions on mitigation, adaptation and MOI, addressed the US$100 billion goal, private sector perspectives, land restoration for food security and increased resilience and falling costs of renewables. Green Climate Fund (GCF) Executive Director Héla Cheikhrouhou and Global Environment Facility (GEF) CEO Naoko Ishii spoke on the financing efforts their institutions are undertaking. Cheikhrouhou urged “significant, predictable funding” for the GCF, saying it “can play a key role in driving the transition to climate-resilient and low emission societies.”
Kutesa intends to circulate a President’s summary of the High-Level Event to all Member States and other stakeholders. The event will reconvene for its closing session on 30 June 2015. [High-Level Event on Climate Change Webpage] [UNGA President Opening Statement] [UN Press Release] [UNFCCC Press Release] [UNFCCC Executive Secretary Remarks] [GCF Executive Director Remarks] [UNEP Press Release] [UN Meeting Summary]
read more: climate-l.iisd.org/news/unga-hold…
President of Brazil, Ms. Dilma Rouseff, comes to the US with 11 members of her cabinet in order to promote investment in infrastructure projects in Brazil. By the way she will meet President Obama and they will talk also about Paris 2015 and the Global Futures.
The US and Brazil are about equal in size, in numbers of citizens, in economic potential, and in post colonial history. While the US was dependent on England and became part of an Anglo-American Trans-Atlantic culture, Brazil was dependent on Portugal but did develop its own Southern Hemisphere culture. Today the US is the Global economic leader that is destined to share this space with a rising China – Brazil is the Global sixth largest economy and China is its largest trade partner.
The US and Brazil have clashed on many issues because of US government and industry intrusion in Brazil’s affairs. One result is that Brazil suffers from an oil industry Malaise like the US does – while like the US it could actually make itself independent of the use of oil. Now, Petrobras, has become a source of large problems for the Brazilian President and a damper on the visit of Brazil’s President that came to the US with 11 of her cabinet ministers. Five of them sat on the stage when she summarized yesterday a meeting with potential investors in Brazil’s infrastructure. She then flew to Washington to meet President Obama in a private visit followed today with a joint visit to the Reverend Martin Luther King memorial, and a non-State-Dinner. She then continues to San Francisco for further business meetings.
We expected joint statements in view of the fact that Brazil is a leader on the introduction of Sustainable Development to the lingo of the Environment and Development. This might yet come today after having been hammered out between her Minister of the Environment and the Head of the US EPA. We will deal with this when it comes. As for now – we just bring here published various expectations from different points of view. We would like to see a better alignment of the Obama Administration with this most significant State of the Western Hemisphere.
President Barack Obama talks with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil as they tour the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C., June 29, 2015. (Official White House)
10:15 AM: The President holds a bilateral meeting with President Rousseff; the Vice President will also attend
12:05 PM: The President and President Rousseff hold a joint press conference WATCH LIVE – White House Snapshot <firstname.lastname@example.org> for June 30, 2015. We assume this was followed by lunch.
Politics – PBS – Rundown
BY Darlene Superville and Adriana Gomez Licon, Associated Press June 29, 2015 at 12:05 PM EDT
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff meets with business leaders in New York Monday during a visit to the United States.
“They are putting behind the Edward Snowden affair,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “The meeting is to create good atmosphere, a good mood, establish communication and get the relationship back on solid footing.”
Obama and Rousseff will meet for a private dinner Monday evening, and then hold more formal talks and a joint news conference on Tuesday.
Countries are making their positions on climate change clear ahead of the Paris talks. The U.S. already has announced a 2025 deadline to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels.
Brazil’s first female president started her second term in January — Vice President Joe Biden attended her inauguration — but she since has been weighed down by low approval ratings, her country’s poor economic performance and a massive corruption scandal involving Petrobras, a state-owned oil company. Tens of thousands of Brazilians filled streets across the country earlier this year to protest her leadership.
Carlos Eduardo de Freitas, an economist and former Central Bank executive director, said the White House meeting may invigorate Brazil as it seeks to cut down government spending to avoid being shunned in credit markets. Rousseff is traveling with 11 cabinet members and met with Brazilian businessmen and U.S. investment fund managers and government officials in New York to discuss infrastructure before arriving in Washington.
“The government needs to unshackle its economy,” Freitas said.
The timing of Rousseff’s trip was settled months ago; Obama announced it when the two met on the sidelines of a summit in Panama in April. But for Rousseff, being seen warmly received by an American president coming off one of the best weeks of his time in office could help her back home.
Since Rousseff is not on a state visit, she will not receive a welcome ceremony on the White House South Lawn or be celebrated with the formal State Dinner.
The Wall Street Journal – World – Latin America
Brazil’s President Seeks Investment During U.S. Visit
NEW YORK—This week’s meeting of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington is expected to be short on splashy announcements, but it could go a long way to healing a breach between the leaders of the hemisphere’s two largest economies.
U.S.-Brazilian relations have been frosty since 2013, when leaked National Security Agency files revealed that the U.S. had spied on Brazil. Ms. Rousseff’s decision…
REUTERS Commodities | Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:13pm BST
By Daniel Bases
(Reuters) – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff on Monday drew on her own experience as a political prisoner during the country’s dictatorship to denounce informants in a corruption scandal that has pummeled her popularity.
Rousseff also forcefully denied her campaign had received illegal donations originating from the scandal, which involves kickbacks allegedly paid by construction companies to politicians and former executives at state-run oil firm Petrobras.
Speaking to journalists in New York, Rousseff contrasted her experience in jail in the early 1970s opposing Brazil’s dictatorship with that of informants cooperating with prosecutors investigating the Petrobras scandal.
“I do not respect informants because I know, I was jailed in the dictatorship and they tried to turn me into one,” she said following a speech to investors focused on infrastructure projects. As a young Marxist, Rousseff was jailed, hung upside down and tortured with electric shocks.
Many of the key informants in the Petrobras corruption scandal have turned state’s witness after serving lengthy pre-trial jail terms.
Rousseff spoke after Veja magazine reported on Friday that Ricardo Pessoa, an executive linked to the scandal, had said in plea bargain testimony that part of the money resulting from the overpricing of contracts was donated to the campaigns of several politicians, including for Rousseff’s 2014 re-election.
Pessoa, the head of Brazilian construction firm UTC Engenharia, is under house arrest. He was jailed last year and prosecutors say he may have led the cartel. Veja did not say how it obtained the details of his testimony.
Rousseff has denied knowing about corruption at Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, when she chaired its board from 2003 to 2010, when much of the alleged graft occurred.
The nine prosecutors who brought the case are known as “The Untouchables” in a country where the elite has enjoyed impunity. But defense lawyers have criticized their practice of combining preventive detention and plea bargaining, calling it coercion.
Monday was the first time Rousseff addressed Pessoa’s testimony, though her Communications Minister Edinho Silva said on Friday that 7.5 million reais donated by Pessoa to Rousseff’s 2014 campaign were legal and approved by electoral authorities. Silva was Rousseff’s campaign treasurer.
Rousseff’s chief of staff, Aloizio Mercadante, also denied donations made to him in 2010 by companies owned by Pessoa were linked to kickbacks.
Workers’ Party Treasurer Joao Vaccari was arrested in April and will stand trial for corruption. (Writing by Walter Brandimarte and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Mary Milliken and Christian Plumb)
UPDATE 3-Brazil’s Petrobras slashes spending to cut debt, restore confidence |30 Jun
The two Professors Chang of California link the human brain to Sustainable Distributed Energy Systems and are separately two of the three 2015 National Blavatnik Laureates as recognized by the New York Academy of Sciences.
CHRISTOPHER J. CHANG, PhD
University of California, Berkeley
PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Working at the frontiers of neuroscience and energy research
Chemistry wasn’t Dr. Christopher Chang’s initial major in college. However, his father was a chemist and he always wanted to know “what things were made out of.” He credits undergraduate mentor Dr. Harry Gray with getting him excited about chemistry and energy science. He became even more interested in chemistry benefiting society through his work with PhD and postdoctoral advisors Drs. Daniel Nocera and Stephen Lippard.
Driven by a strong social conscience, Dr. Chang and his lab work in two frontier areas of research. Dr. Chang’s first scientific goal is to identify and understand the roles of all basic chemical elements that are essential to the brain’s functioning. Using new molecular imaging tools, he visualizes chemical reactions involving metal ions and small molecules that help shape such basic processes as memory, cognition and the processing of sensory information, and may also play a role in aging and neurodegenerative diseases. His second goal is to develop technologies for personalized energy, in which people can make what they need in their own households without reliance on the energy grid, to help minimize waste and affect climate change.
“Winning the Blavatnik Award is humbling and exciting at the same time,” says Dr. Chang. “While awards are given to one or a few people, they represent the support of many others who have enabled good things to happen – including students, mentors, colleagues and family. It’s also great to support science and scientists in a public way, as education and technology have long-term benefits for society.”
“Chris Chang has changed the way bioorganic and bioinorganic chemists think about the role of redox active metals and reactive oxygen species in signaling, pathology and physiology in the brain…an emerging field known as metalloneurochemistry. Dr. Chang has overturned existing paradigms by demonstrating that redox active metals (iron, copper, cobalt, molybdenum) can serve in signaling pathways, and that reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide can be beneficial (not damaging) in stem cell regeneration in the brain.” – Dr. Scott E. Denmark, Reynold C. Fuson Professor of Chemistry, University of Illinois and a member of the 2015 National Jury.
EDWARD F. CHANG, MD
University of California, San Francisco
MD, University of California, San Francisco
Uncovering the neural mechanisms of language processing
Dr. Edward Chang credits his interest in neuroscience to wonderful teachers during his first year of medical school at UCSF, who “opened [his] eyes to the beauty of the nervous system.” These professors were also eminent scientists, and inspired him to take a few years off from his clinical training to work in a research laboratory. By the time he returned to medical school, it was clear that scientific discovery would be inseparable from his mission as a surgeon treating serious neurological disorders.
Since that time, Dr. Chang’s research, which aims to understand the uniqueness of human language and is conducted largely through monitoring brain activity patterns in awake patients during surgery, has made a major impact in a number of fields. These include: systems neuroscience, linguistics, psychology and biomedical engineering. His lab has established the basic “blueprint” of how the brain allows us to speak and hear – recording responses to nearly every speech sound in the English language. Dr. Chang is now beginning to look at brain activity patterns that underlie anxiety and depression, and developing safer and more effective methodologies to map the brain during surgery.
About receiving the Blavatnik Award, Dr. Chang says: “It is so gratifying to be recognized, especially at a relatively early stage in my career. Getting to this point required so much sacrifice and support from my family. In addition, our research requires such a special collaboration with our patients, who volunteer to participate during their surgeries. Sharing this recognition with them gives the experience that much more meaning to what they have contributed.”
“Dr. Chang has accomplished a hugely impressive and exciting body of work in a very short time – just five years since he established his own lab at UCSF. The work is unique and has already transformed our understanding of that most human of behaviors: language and speech.” – Dr. Carla J. Shatz, Sapp Family Provostial Professor, Professor of Biology and Neurobiology, and David Starr Jordan Director, Stanford Bio-X James H. Clark Center and a member of the 2015 National Jury.
About the Blavatnik Family Foundation
The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of leading educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, Europe, and throughout the world. The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, an American industrialist and philanthropist. Mr. Blavatnik is the founder and Chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held U.S. industrial group with global interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, emerging technologies, life sciences and real estate. For more detailed information, please visit: www.accessindustries.com
About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 22,000 members in 100 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy’s core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at www.nyas.org
NEW YORK, June 30, 2015 – A chemist who has made important discoveries in both the human brain and sustainable energy, a neurosurgeon who has done pioneering work mapping the “blueprint” of how humans speak and hear, and a computer scientist who has changed our understanding of the capacity of wireless networks are the three winners of the 2015 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists.
The Awards, given annually by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, honor the nation’s most exceptional young scientists and engineers, celebrating their extraordinary achievements and recognizing their outstanding promise while providing an unparalleled prize of $250,000 to each National Laureate. The prize is the largest unrestricted cash award given to early career scientists.
This year’s National Laureates all hail from California. They include:
Christopher J. Chang, PhD, Class of 1942 Chair, Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Christopher Chang is honored for his discoveries in chemistry that span both neuroscience and energy science.
“Our 2015 National Laureates have made incredible discoveries early in their careers,” says Len Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries, head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and an Academy Board Governor. “On behalf of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, I congratulate the Laureates and the National Finalists and look forward to their future discoveries. This award will help to provide them with the freedom to pursue new ideas and further innovation.”
The three National Laureates were selected from a pool of nominations submitted by 147 of the nation’s leading universities and research institutions, representing 39 states. Each institution was invited to nominate one chemist, one life scientist and one physical scientist or engineer. The names of highly qualified nominees were also submitted by members of the Blavatnik Awards Scientific Advisory Council.
Starting with a pool of 300 nominations of exceptional faculty-rank researchers, the awards jury, composed of some of the world’s most eminent scientists and engineers, conducted a rigorous review. The judges first narrowed down the selection to 32 National Finalists, and then to three National Laureates. The three Laureates and 29 Finalists will be honored at a black-tie ceremony on Monday, September 28, 2015 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
“The nominations we received this year were outstanding. The New York Academy of Sciences is confident that these young scientists will have a major future impact on their respective fields, and beyond,” says Dr. Mercedes Gorre, Executive Director of the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists. “We congratulate the Laureates and the National Finalists on their achievement.”
THE THIRD 2015 BLAVATNIK LAUREATE IS ALSO FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA – but from Irvine.
SYED A. JAFAR, PhD
University of California, Irvine
PhD, Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
Solving the mysteries of wireless communication
Dr. Syed Jafar became interested in science in high school. “Einstein’s ‘E=mc2’ captured my imagination,” he says. The equation made him wonder about how something so profound can be so simple and beautiful – and it became his lifelong dream to pursue beauty through science. As a graduate student studying information theory at Caltech, he found similar beauty in the formula describing the capacity of an information channel (Shannon’s equation). He realized how much about the capacity of communication networks was still unknown, and that the exploration of this problem would become his life’s work.
Because of the rapid growth of communication networks in the past decade, there is an unprecedented urgency to solving problems in network information theory. The main focus of Dr. Jafar’s research group is to solve as much of the mystery of wireless communication and networks as possible. He has made numerous discoveries in this area, including his groundbreaking discovery of interference alignment in wireless networks. This research demonstrated that data rates in wireless networks are not limited by the number of communications endpoints (nodes) sharing the radio frequency spectrum – a discovery that changed the thinking of the field about how wireless networks should be designed.
“I am incredibly honored to be recognized on the national stage as one of such an amazing cohort of extremely accomplished finalists, and by such an illustrious jury of the nation’s most distinguished scientists,” says Dr. Jafar. “It is my hope that this recognition will lead to broader exposure and appreciation of both the beauty of information theory and the tremendous impact it has on our lives. It is also a ‘shot in the arm’ for me to continue to take on challenging problems in our research group.”
“Syed Jafar revolutionized our understanding of the capacity limits of wireless networks. He demonstrated the astounding result that each user in a wireless network can access half of the spectrum without interference from other users, regardless of how many users are sharing the spectrum. This is a truly remarkable result that has a tremendous impact on both information theory and the design of wireless networks.” – Dr. Paul Horn, Senior Vice Provost for Research, New York University and a member of the 2015 National Jury.
To follow the progress of the Blavatnik Awards, please visit the Awards website blavatnikawards.org), or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@BlavatnikAwards). For media requests, please contact Marina Blinova ( mblinova at nyas.org; 212-298-8626).
The Sunday, June 14, 2015 program started with Fareed retelling us the content of his last Friday’s Washington Post column - www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/s… /9ce1f4f8-1074-11e5-9726-49d6fa26a8c6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1
While some hysteria-builders in Washington are worried about a Saudi nuclear race to follow Iran, Fareed Zakaria tells us clearly that besides drilling holes to get out oil from the ground, the Saudis have actually not proven capability of doing anything else. They just do not have the people nor the education system that leads to knowledge. You can actually conclude that they are hardly a State in the normal sense of the word – though with them having a full treasury they will not fail easily – but clearly not amount to much power either. In effect they are a natural target for ISIS – so let them not bluff us.
The Saudi GDP is based 44% on oil and 90% of their revenues are from oil. Their puritanical reactionary conservative education system puts them at 73rd place in global ranking compared to the much poorer Iran that is placed 44th. Two out of three people with a job are foreigners – hardly a recommendation for capability of doing anything.
Then Fareed brought on Professor Michael Porter of Harvard who makes now a career of talking and writing about America’s unconventional energy opportunity that turned the till-2005 dependence on gas import and till 2008 dependence on oil import – to an economy now that produces $430 billion/year of oil-shale fracking gas and oil products – that he says have reduced the energy bill of an average American family by $800/year and is now being enhanced by secondary industries like the petrochemical industry.
Gas prices are now lower by one third then those in US trading-countries and he contends that even though there are environmental problems with “fracking” these problems get smaller with time as there are new technological developments leading to decrease in pollution. Oh well – this at least reduces the US dependence on Saudi good-will.
To point out some more the effect of oil on developing countries that export the stuff, Fareed brought on a New Yorker journalist who works now in Luanda, Angola, and previously worked many years in Russia. Michael Specter was fascinating in his description of the “Bizarro” World of Luanda where for four out of the last five years Luanda was the most expensive City for the “Expatriates.” The Fifth year they were second to Japan.
With a watermelon selling for $105, a Coke for $10 and a cab-ride of 20 miles costing $450 – this while the working locals make $4/day while after Nigeria Angola is now the second largest oil producer in Africa.
For a saner discussion Fareed brought on Richard Haass – a former official of the Bush administration, Advisor to Colin Powell and president of the New York City based Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, and David Rothkopf – who worked for the Clinton Administration, Managed the Kissinger Associates, and now is CEO and Editor of the Foreign Policy Group that publishes Foreign Policy Magazine. Interesting, it was Haass who wore a blue tie and Rothkopf who wore a red tie – and to my surprise, and clearly to their own surprise – there was no difference between their positions on the issues.
The main topic was Iraq and they agreed that sending in some more advisers to keep the ongoing losing policy in place makes no sense and never did. Iraq has passed, or was handed, to Iran while the only functioning part of it are the Kurdish evolving State.
The problem is the Sunni part that will eventually be a State as well – but it depends on a change in US position if this will be the ISIS State or a conventional Sunni State. Trying to hold the three parts of Iraq together does not make sense – period.
Oh well – how we got there – ask the Bush family – now we guess – ask Jeb (John Ellis) Bush. and Fareed also pointed a finger at Senator Rick Santorum who wants to be President and says the Pope should not mix the church and science – leave science to the scientists which for him are the Climate-deniers paid by the oil industry.
Fareed pointed out to Santorum that Pope Franciscus happens to be a scientist. He was trained as chemist and worked as a chemist before reentering the seminarium for clerical studies.
This coming week the world might finally get a boost from the Catholic Church as very well described in the New York Times article by Jim Yardley of June 13, 2015: “Pope Francis to Explore Climate’s Effect on World’s Poor.”
On Thursday June 18, 2015, Pope Franciscus will release his most important Encyclical on the theme of the environment and the poor. This follows a meeting May 2014 of the Pope with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accompanied by his Development lieutenants. This could be finally a joined effort for the good of humanity – of faith and true science.
Above is not completely new. Already the last two popes started to investigate the moral choices of development. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI already wrote about the role of industrial pollution in destroying the environment. Francis went further – and on his January 2015 trip to the Philippines expressed his being convinced that global warming was “most;y” a human-made phenomenon. Now he is expected in the September trip to Cuba and New York, to bring the encyclical to the UN General Assembly and encourage the Heads of States to bring the issue to a positive conclusion at the December Climate Convention meting in Paris. The driving force of this Pope is his experience in Latin America with an agenda of poverty and Unsustainable Consumption that reveals ethical issues. He can be expected to reject the American conservative interests underwritten by oil industry interests that send to his doorsteps folks like Marc Morano and the Heartland Foundation with Republican Skeptics found in the US Senate of James Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Fareed also mentioned on his program the fact that coincidentally it was June 15, 1215 that King John released the First Magna Carta that was shortly thereafter declared “Null and Void for all validity for-ever” by Pope Innocent II. A new Magna Carta was instituted later and it is the 2025 version that is the basis for the Constitutions of many States – including the USA. Pope Francis’s Encyclical might be viewed by future generations as the Magna Carta for the Earth – we hope the term SUSTAINABILITY will be brought into full focus – so ought to be “sustainable development.”
One last issue of this State of the World program was about the dwindling population in all European States and in many Asian States as well. It is only the USA that is growing – this thanks to immigration and some might say energy autarky?. The subject needs more linking to the rest of the program ingredients and we expect this will be done eventually.
Burlington, Vermont (CNN)It wouldn’t be the first time a revolution sparked in New England changed the world.
But two and a half centuries after the insurrection that birthed America, the idea that a rumpled radical like 73-year-old Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders could overthrow the U.S. economic, health care and tax systems seems farfetched at best.
Yet that’s exactly the task the fiery U.S. senator has set himself in a presidential campaign targeting billionaire “oligarchs” who he says have hijacked America’s economy and inflicted misery on the middle class.
Sanders, an agitator who doesn’t suffer fools, political opponents or journalists gladly, is testing whether the kind of populist, liberal agenda that gave him 75% approval ratings in his adopted home state can catch fire nationwide.
READ: Bernie Sanders’ brotherly love
“Brothers and sisters: Now is not the time for thinking small,” Sanders told thousands of supporters in Burlington on Tuesday.
“Now is not the time for the same-old, same-old establishment politics and stale inside-the-Beltway ideas,” Sanders said in an implicit denunciation of the runaway front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.
The obstacles Sanders faces in the presidential primary race, however, are immense.
Sanders has no viable countrywide political organization, so he must foment a grassroots uprising. His task is complicated by the fact that although he caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, he has always been a political independent wary of formal party affiliations.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Kaufman writes: In Friday’s column, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman argued that although he generally approves of the forthrightness with which the Obama administration has dealt with economic issues, when it comes to international trade and investment, the president deserves a failing grade.
Especially, he wrote, on the subject of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the quasi-secret deal that the administration has teamed up with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan (W) to push through the House.
“[the] selling of the 12-nation Pacific Rim pact has the feel of a snow job,” he argued. “Officials have evaded the main concerns about the content of a potential deal; they’ve belittled and dismissed the critics; and they’ve made blithe assurances that turn out not to be true.”
ALSO: Paul Krugman – New York Times Blog Trade and Trust.
May 17, 2015
I’m getting increasingly unhappy with the way the Obama administration is handling the dispute over TPP. I understand the case for the deal, and while I still lean negative I’m not one of those who believes that it would be an utter disaster.
But the administration — and the president himself — don’t help their position by being dismissive of the complaints and lecturing the critics (Elizabeth Warren in particular) about how they just have no idea what they’re talking about. That would not be a smart strategy even if the administration had its facts completely straight — and it doesn’t. Instead, assurances about what is and isn’t in the deal keep turning out to be untrue. We were assured that the dispute settlement procedure couldn’t be used to force changes in domestic laws; actually, it apparently could. We were told that TPP couldn’t be used to undermine financial reform; again, it appears that it could.
How important are these concerns? It’s hard to judge. But the administration is in effect saying trust us, then repeatedly bobbling questions about the deal in a way that undermines that very trust.
We have a particular problem here – this with no less then the Great New York Times.
The problem is that in the paper’s greed to make money they hide the important views of Paul Krugman by asking the internet readers to pay subscription money. We know this is a subject for long discussions – but what if a great economist is indeed trying to save the country and the World and a Board that owns a large chunk of media sources just gets in his way?
What if I tell you that the opinion page of that paper, years ago, seemed to be sold to the Mobil Oil Corporation that regularly had a quarter page advertisement that left no interest space for the paper’s business-folks when it came to non-petroleum fuels?
To Facilitate TTIP the US pushes the EU to forgo Environmental legislation. The Guardian reveals how this caused the shelving of legislation on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility.
By Arthur Neslen / The Guardian
EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from U.S. trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.
Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive U.S. lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.
On the morning of July 2, 2013, a high-level delegation from the U.S. Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favor of a new impact study. By the end of the day, the EU had done so.
The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and U.S. to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.
Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.
The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn ($165bn) per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism — a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys.
A month before the meeting, AmCham had warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria were approved. The trade body wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.
“We are worried to see that this decision, which is the source of many scientific debates, might be taken on political grounds, without first assessing what its impacts will be on the European market,” the chair of AmCham’s environment committee wrote in a letter to the commission.
These could be “dramatic” the letter said.
In a high-level internal note sent to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, shortly afterwards, his departmental director-general warned that the EU’s endocrines policy “will have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade”.
Earlier this year, 64 MEP’s submitted questions to the commission about the delay to EDC classifications, following revelations by the Guardian about the scale of industry lobbying in the run up to their abandonment. Sweden, the European Parliament and European Council have brought court proceedings against the commission for the legislative logjam.
Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue “could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations”.
The German chemicals giant BASF also complained that bans on pesticide substances “will restrict the free trade with agricultural products on the global level”.
Around this time, the commission’s more industry-friendly agriculture department weighed into the internal EU debate after being “informed by representatives of the US chemical industry” about it.
A common theme in the lobby missives was the need to set thresholds for safe exposure to endocrines, even though a growing body of scientific results suggests that linear threshold models – in which higher doses create greater effects – do not apply to endocrine disruptors.
“The human endocrine system is regulated by hormones and the hormone receptors are sensitive to low doses,” said Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe’s chemicals coordinator. “In animal toxicity studies, effects are seen from low doses [of endocrines] that disappear with higher ones. But in the regulatory arena, lower doses are not tested for.”
A commission spokesperson insisted that health and environmental concerns would be fully addressed, despite pressure from industry or trade groups.
“The ongoing EU impact assessment procedure is not linked in any way to the TTIP negotiations,” the official said. “The EU will proceed to the adoption of definitive criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, independently from the further course of our TTIP negotiations with the US.”
An EU-TTIP position paper on chemicals published last May, cited endocrine disruptors as as one of the “new and emerging scientific issues” which the EU and the US could consider for “enhanced regulatory cooperations” in a future TTIP deal.
“However, given the fact that a possible future TTIP Agreement will most likely not enter into force before the adoption of definitive EU criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, it is clear that the EU’s ongoing impact assessment and adoption of definitive criteria will not be dealt with in the TTIP negotiations,” the spokesperson said.
Jihadology research by Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi reproduced by The Middle East Forum based in Washington DC. His findings show that ISIS was born in traditional schools of Sunni jurisprudence and that many of its actions, however heinous, “can find a place within the vastness of Islamic tradition.”
From The Middle East Forum: Research on the Islamic State
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a research fellow at Middle East Forum’s Jihad Intel project, is one of world’s leading experts on the Islamic State (IS) group terrorizing Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. The overwhelming majority of his writings and translations are too detailed or esoteric for distribution to a general audience, so instead MEF compiles periodic updates providing links and summaries for those who wish to follow the groundbreaking work of this prolific researcher.
Is ISIS Islamic? (April 3, 2015)
Jamaat Ansar al-Islam: Eulogy to Abu Ahmad of Mosul (April 15, 2015)
Muqawama Suriya Statement: Loss of Jisr al-Shughur (April 26, 2015)
Interview with the leader of Harakat al-Nujaba (April 28, 2015)
“We have the Swords”- IS nasheed (May 2)
from: Democrats.com is the oldest online community of progressive activists, with over 2 million
A federal court recently ruled that the NSA’s program for spying on nearly all domestic phone calls is illegal.1
But the USA ‘FREEDOM’ Act that the House recently passed would reauthorize the PATRIOT Act and risk creating a new legal authority for some of the very same surveillance practices that the court ruled are illegal.
Please join over 122,000 CREDO activists who already signed the petition against reauthorizing Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act via the USA FREEDOM Act.
Thanks for all you do!
It’s been almost two years since Edward Snowden brought public attention to the breathtaking scope of President Obama’s indiscriminate spying on American citizens. And now there are identical bills in the House and the Senate that could effectively reauthorize the PATRIOT Act without fixing the worst constitutional abuses by the NSA.1
We can’t let Congress effectively reauthorize the PATRIOT Act for an additional 4 years, legalize currently illegal surveillance activities, and grant immunity to corporations that collaborate to violate privacy rights.
But that’s exactly what the deceptively-named USA FREEDOM Act would do. That’s why groups like CREDO, PCCC and Demand Progress are joining with whistleblowers like William Binney, Kirk Wiebe and Thomas Drake to oppose reauthorization of PATRIOT Act Section 215 via the USA Freedom Act. 2
Tell Congress: Oppose the USA FREEDOM Act, which would reauthorize the PATRIOT Act. Click here to sign the petition.
If Congress does nothing, dangerous sections of the PATRIOT Act will expire, including Section 215, which has been exploited by the government to conduct unconstitutional warrantless mass surveillance on Americans’ accused of no crimes.
Under incredible public pressure, the White House and surveillance agencies have telegraphed acquiescence to minimal reforms in exchange for extension of Section 215. These minimal reforms are a trojan horse, and the legislation proposed would eviscerate numerous court challenges to lawless surveillance and provide for legal immunization and compensation of companies that provide the government with customers’ private information, even where that company knows it is unlawful.
Civil liberties advocates have tried to make the bill better but it appears to be beyond fixing. The House Judiciary committee failed to pass amendments to fix the bill. And it will almost certainly get worse in the Senate.
The USA FREEDOM Act as written has significant potential to make the current status quo for unconstitutional surveillance worse, not better. This is unacceptable. The modest changes within this bill fail to truly reform mass surveillance, of Americans and others, conducted under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and Executive Order 12333.
Like they have repeatedly in the past, the NSA and other intelligence agencies will do everything in their power to evade the modest restrictions in the USA FREEDOM Act and torture the English language to find justifications for ever more-expansive surveillance. That’s exactly what the NSA did with Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to justify its telephone records dragnet.
And because Congressional leadership and the House and Senate Intelligence committees are totally unable or unwilling to provide meaningful oversight of our spy agencies, we won’t even find out about the NSA’s new schemes until another whistleblower surfaces in 10 or 20 years.
At best, even if faithfully implemented, the current bill will erect limited barriers to only one of three known legal justifications for the unconstitutional, dragnet surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers. Given intelligence agencies’ eagerness to subvert any attempts by Congress to rein in massive surveillance programs by changing the legal authorities under which they operate, the modest, proposed changes are no reform at all.
Tell Congress: Oppose the USA FREEDOM Act, which would reauthorize the PATRIOT Act. Click here to sign the petition.
CREDO supports Reps. Mark Pocan and Thomas Massie and their Surveillance State Repeal Act. A true reform bill it would fully repeal the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and Executive Order 12333 — all of which are used to justify mass surveillance against Americans — and create important protections for whistleblowers.
And even if that important bill were passed, more would need to be done to create real accountability for the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and other secret intelligence agencies that routinely violate our civil liberties.
If Congress can’t pass the Surveillance State Repeal Act, it should simply allow the worst parts of the PATRIOT Act to expire. Passing the USA FREEDOM Act would fail to stop mass surveillance and would send America’s secret intelligence agencies a clear message that they will never face accountability for breaking the law to spy on Americans. What’s more it would allow pro-surveillance members of Congress to blunt momentum for further reform by claiming that they’d fixed the problem, even though the bill only moderately restricts one of several laws abused by the government to spy on Americans.
We have to act quickly. With the PATRIOT Act provisions set to expire on June 1, this fight will move very quickly. Please take action today. Click the link below to sign the petition:
Thank you for taking action.
Becky Bond, Political Director
Shavuot & Pentacost: Jewish and Christian versions of revelation plus Arthur Waskow on Memorial Day – as posted by Tikkun Magazine.
To read online the articles below on Shavuot, (the Jewish celebration of the first fruits and also of the giving of Torah), and on Christian spiritual responses to Pentecost, please go to www.tikkun.org/nextgen/shavuot-re…
For a take by a Catholic source on the link between Shavuot and the Christian meaning of Pentecost, both of which are taking place this weekend, please go to:http://www.cruxnow.com/faith/2015/05/22/the-gifts-of-pentecost-and-shavuot
1. The Torah describes a festival that celebrates the fulfillment of the spring wheat harvest by offering at the Temple two loaves of leavened bread and the First Fruits of the farmers’ work and the land’s abundance. This ancient understanding invites us to renew our connection with the Earth as a sacred connection with YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Interbreath of life that connects all life upon this planet.
2. The text of Torah never gives any precise date for the Revelation of Torah on Mount Sinai. The early Rabbis, bereft of the Land and strongly desiring that all future generations be able to experience the Torah in much the same way Passover made it possible for all future generations to experience the Exodus, interpreted Torah timing to make the biblical Festival of First Fruits into a festival of Torah.
Some Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah text then defined Revelation in radically open ways. Some suggested that the only expression that actually came forth at Sinai was the first letter of the Ten Utterances: an ALEPH. But the ALEPH is a “silent” letter, just an opening of the throat. So in that understanding, the deepest Truth was simply that the Universe opened its throat, wanting to speak.
3. In another view, the whole Revelation was the first word:ANOKHI, the Hebrew for an elevated, surpassingly awesome meaning of “I.” (The ordinary Hebrew word for “I,” like the Latin “ego,” is “Ani.”) This ANOKHI arises not only from the Mountain, from the universe, but also from each one of us, each human, each frog, each galaxy, each quark.
4. In the treasury of so-called “Gnostic” ancient texts written in the Semitic language Coptic and found in our own generation hidden at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, one was labeled The Thunder: Perfect Mind.
Most of its 60-some verses begin with the same “ANOKHI, I” and they are almost all celebrations of a female, feminine, and paradoxically all-inclusive understanding of God:
I [Anokhi] am the first and the last
I am what everyone can hear and no one can say
I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name
I am she who is honored and she who is mocked
I am the whore and the holy woman
I am the wife and the virgin
I am the mother and the daughter
I am the limbs of my mother
I am the sterile woman and she has many children
I am she whose wedding is extravagant and I didn’t have a husband
I am the midwife and she who hasn’t given birth
I believe this text, like that in our officially accepted Torah, is an attempt to describe the Holy ONE Who became audible and visible in a transcendent moment at “Sinai.” Its title evokes The Thunder that Torah says was seen, not only heard, at Sinai. For the full text and the story of its recovery, see [ theshalomcenter.org/sites/all/mo... /url.php?u=10464&qid=5267360 ]
5. In one of the Ten Utterances that come from Sinai, the Holy Voice insists that we not “take My Name in emptiness.” I do not think that means never to say “Oh My God!” etc. I think it means to keep fully in mind that the Name YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh is a Breath; that we should always be aware that every breath we take is the Name of God; and that the Breathing of our Mother Earth is the Name of God. “Do not breathe empty-minded, empty-hearted!” says the Voice.
Make a Shavuot practice of following your breath as it enters your body, is carried by your blood to every limb and organ, then leaves as you breathe out the CO2 to enter a tree, a field of grass — and there to be transmuted into oxygen and breathed out, for us to breathe in. As you breathe, let your breath carry these words: “We breathe in what the trees breathe out, the trees breathe in what we breathe out.”
6. Another of the Ten Utterances tells us, “Do not carve out false gods and worship them!”
I do not think this means only that we must not carve out and worship physical statues of stone or wood or metal.
I think it means, “Do not carve the One Flow into pieces and worship these mere pieces of Truth. Do not make gods of race or of nation, gods of wealth and of power, gods of greed and addiction. For these ‘gods’ may seem to have ears but hear not, hands but touch not, noses but breathe not. These idols are dead, and those who make them and worship them will bring death on themselves.”
7. Traditionally, the Haftarah (prophetic passage) that is read on the festival of Shavuot is Ezekiel’s mystical vision of the Chariot. Jerome Rothenberg and Harris Lenowitz, in A Big Jewish Book, their amazing collection of the poetic, mystical, and subversive or superversive passages of Jewish wisdom over the past 3,000 years, make their own poetic translation of this passage.
For a way of reading it intended to lift the reader closer to Ezekiel’s own ecstatic state, first see
8. The early rabbis also decided that on Shavuot, we should also read the Scroll of Ruth. It celebrates the earthiness of the Torah’s understanding of Shavuot, and especially the Torah’s commitment to social justice in sharing the abundance of the Earth. Ruth, a penniless woman from a pariah community, is treated with love, generosity, and justice.
Read the book, imagining Ruth as a penniless woman from Guatemala trying to enter the USA across the Rio Grande. How would she be treated today? How does the Bible demand she be treated?
9. According to Christian tradition, there was a Shavuot on which Jews who were followers of the radical Rabbi Jesus — who had been tortured to death because he organized spiritually rooted opposition to the oppressive Roman Empire and its local puppet government — gathered to celebrate the Revelation of Torah.
They experienced being touched by the Ruach HaKodesh – the Holy Breathing Spirit. As if that Breath had spoken to them in every human language (as only Breath can do, since only Breathing encompasses all tongues), they found themselves able to speak in the 70 tongues of humanity.
In Christian tradition, this moment became known as Pentecost, from the Greek word for “Fiftieth Day.” From this moment they went forth to bring their vision to all peoples – sometimes by speaking words of conscience and sometimes by conquest, torture, and death.. From this moment stems all the spiritual triumphs and spiritual disasters of the Christian Church.
How do we make sure that the Holy BREATH is about speaking, not killing or torturing or conquering?
Christians have no monopoly on oppression, torture, or killing. Some Muslims, some Jews, some Buddhists (see Burma and Sri Lanka) have turned to tyranny, out of fear or privilege or fury. For a Jewish perspective on how the festival of Sinai and Torah might look upon the festival of Israeli independence, Yom HaAtzma’ut, see my essay at
10. Go back to experience again two lines from “The Thunder: Perfect Mind,” as what the “I” of Sinai spoke to us all:
I am what everyone can hear and no one can say
I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name
These lines bring us back to the “Anokhi YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh,” the first words of Torah heard at Sinai.
For if the YHWH is a Breathing, It would indeed be what everyone can hear and no one can say.
Its letters, if we try to pronounce them, would indeed be the name of the sound and the sound of the name. A Breath.
The Voice at Sinai tells us: The Interbreathing of all tongues, all life, is what frees us from the Tight and Narrow Place (in Hebrew, Mitzrayyim — the name for Egypt).
If we hear Her in the all-night Torah-learning that the mystics bequeathed us for Shavuot, could we learn to think, to feel, to commune, to be silent in a different way?
Could we hear the Shavuot of Harvest and the Shavuot of Sinai as One:
“I am the earthy food that goes into your mouth, and I am the airy words that come forth from your mouth.”
Could The Thunder teach us that Earth and Torah are one, The One?
Could we hear the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Breath that interbreathes all tongues, all languages, all life-forms, reminding us to Hush’sh’sh’sh, to Sh’sh’sh’sh’ma – to Listen to the still “silent” Voice and cease from our oppressions of each other?
May the Shabbat and Shavuot that come at this week’s ending and next week’s beginning help us achieve these deepening of Spirit in the body!
Shalom, salaam, peace, Earth!
“Water is the lifeblood of healthy people and healthy economies” – President Obama knows this and promisses to act. The Republican House opposes this as they side with those farmers, property developers, fertilizer and pesticide makers, oil and gas producers and a national association of golf course owners, that reject the public good if it hurts their pockets.
Politics // The New York Times
Obama Set to Strengthen Federal Role in Clean Water Regulation.
By CORAL DAVENPORT, MAY 22, 2015
The Obama administration is expected in the coming days to announce a major clean water regulation that would restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.
Environmentalists have praised the new rule, calling it an important step that would lead to significantly cleaner natural bodies of water and healthier drinking water.
But it has attracted fierce opposition from several business interests, including farmers, property developers, fertilizer and pesticide makers, oil and gas producers and a national association of golf course owners. Opponents contend that the rule would stifle economic growth and intrude on property owners’ rights.
Republicans in Congress point to the rule as another example of what they call executive overreach by the Obama administration. Already, they are advancing legislation on Capitol Hill meant to block or delay the rule.
Gina McCarthy, above, the E.P.A. administrator, who is expected to release the final version of a new rule intended to protect the nation’s drinking water this week.
Critics Hear E.P.A.’s Voice in ‘Public Comments’ MAY 18, 2015
As head of Washington’s water department, George Hawkins, is on the scene every time a major sewer or water line breaks.
Toxic Waters: Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in SufferingSEPT. 12, 2009
The mouth of Avondale Creek in Alabama, into which a pipe maker dumped oil, lead and zinc. A court ruling made the waterway exempt from the Clean Water Act.
Toxic Waters: Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Hampering E.P.A.FEB. 28, 2010
The water system in Ramsey, N.J., has illegal concentrations of arsenic and the solvent tetrachloroethylene, both linked to cancer.
Millions in U.S. Drink Contaminated Water, Records Show, DEC. 7, 2009
The announcement of the rule could come as soon as Friday. If not, it is likely to happen next week, people with knowledge of the plans said.
Photo – Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says a new clean water rule is intended “to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction.”
This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a final set of rules intended to combat climate change, by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants. Mr. Obama is also expected to announce in the coming year that he will put vast swaths of public land off limits to energy exploration and other development.
“Water is the lifeblood of healthy people and healthy economies,” Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A.’s administrator, wrote in an April blog post promoting the water rule. “We have a duty to protect it. That’s why E.P.A. and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing a Clean Water Rule later this spring to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction.”
But even as E.P.A. staff worked this month to finish the rule, the House passed a bill to block it. The Senate is moving forward with a bill that would require the agency to fundamentally revamp the rule.
“Under this outrageously broad new rule, Washington bureaucrats would now have a say in how farmers, and ranchers, and families use their own property,” said Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming and the chief author of the Senate bill.
“It would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate private property just based on things like whether it’s used by animals or birds, or even insects,” he said.
“This rule,” he added, “is not designed to protect the traditional waters of the United States. It is designed to expand the power of Washington bureaucrats.”
The E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed the rule, known as Waters of the U.S., last March. The agency has held more than 400 meetings about it with outside groups and read more than one million public comments as it wrote the final language.
The rule is being issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major water bodies, like Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River and Puget Sound, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into larger waters.
But two Supreme Court decisions related to clean water protection, in 2001 and in 2006, created legal confusion about whether the federal government had the authority to regulate the smaller streams and headwaters, and about other water sources such as wetlands.
E.P.A. officials say the new rule will clarify that authority, allowing the government to once again limit pollution in those smaller bodies of water — although it does not restore the full scope of regulatory authority granted by the 1972 law.
The E.P.A. also contends that the new rule will not give it the authority to regulate additional waters that had not been covered under the 1972 law. People familiar with the rule say it will apply to about 60 percent of the nation’s waters.
“Until now, major bodies of water were protected under the law,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, a spokeswoman for Environment America, an advocacy group. “But they can’t be fully protected unless the streams that flow into them are also protected.”
The rule will also limit pollution in groundwater and other sources of drinking water. Polluted groundwater is now chemically treated before being used as drinking water.
“We could spend a lot of money to massively treat the water that we drink, but it makes a lot more sense to protect the source,” Ms. Ouzts said.
Farmers fear that the rule could impose major new costs and burdens, requiring them to pay fees for environmental assessments and to obtain permits just to till the soil near gullies, ditches or dry streambeds where water flows only when it rains. A permit is required for any activity, like farming or construction, that creates a discharge into a body of water covered under the Clean Water Act or affects the health of it, like filling in a wetland or blocking a stream.
“It’s going to cause a nightmare for farmers,” said Don Parrish, the senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“Our members own the majority of the landscape that’s going to be impacted by this,” he said. “It’s going to make their land, the most valuable thing they possess, less valuable. It could reduce the value of some farmland by as much as 40 percent. If you want to build a home, if you want to grow food, if you want a job to go with that clean water, you have to ask E.P.A. for it.”
The lobbying fight over the rule has also generated a public-relations battle over social media.
The Deck is not a plain playing field:
In its protest of the rule, the American Farm Bureau Federation started a social media campaign, using the Twitter hashtag #DitchTheRule, to urge farmers and others to push the E.P.A. to abandon or revamp the rule. The E.P.A., in response, created a campaign with the hashtag #DitchTheMyth, urging people to speak out in favor of the rule. But some legal experts contend that campaign might have tested the limits of federal lobbying laws, which prohibit a government agency from engaging in grass-roots lobbying for proposed policies or legislation.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany; Biovision Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland; and Millennium Institute in Washington DC, USA organize, a few days before the May session of the Post?2015 Intergovernmental negotiations on follow?up and review, titled “Follow?up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the SDGs.”
They will address some key issues associated with this topic. The event’s main focus is on the management and governance of natural resources, but the options presented could be further developed and applied to other thematic and cross-cutting areas.
“A High?Level Event on Follow?Up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
at the Millennium Broadway Hotel New York, 145 West 44th Street, New York.
This High?Level Event aims at providing a platform for UN Member States, UN organizations, ministries, non-governmental organisations, academia, civil society, and the private sector – to discuss options for follow?up and review mechanisms connecting national, regional and global levels.
It is an invitation only event – and for more information, please visit the event’s website: globalsoilweek.org/thematic-areas…
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Brooklyn Native, is Running for President in Order to Influence the Democratic Platform. Acting to Stop Climate Change Will Be Part of His Agenda. UPDATED May 1st with points from his Agenda.
April 30, 2015
Washington (CNN)Bernie Sanders is in.
The independent Vermont senator told the Associated Press in a story published Wednesday that he plans to run for the Democrats’ 2016 presidential nomination. The news was confirmed by multiple Sanders aides.
“I am running for president,” he told The Associated Press.
“People should not underestimate me,” Sanders told the AP. “I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.”
Who is Bernie Sanders?
Sanders caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate but is an unlikely candidate for the Democratic nomination, primarily because he has never been a registered member of the party and calls himself a “democratic socialist.”
Yet many of his views fit with the Democratic left, a constituency in which Sanders has found a small yet devout following.
Sanders and his top advisers hope that group of voters will propel his dark horse candidacy. Though Hillary Clinton is the dominant frontrunner, many in the progressive left of the party think she’s too moderate and are clamoring for a different candidate to support.
Sanders will outline his presidential plans further on Thursday when he holds a press conference in Washington. Sanders’ campaign advisers said that while their candidate has announced his plans to run, he won’t hold his first campaign rally until May. That event is expected to be in Vermont.
The Democratic presidential nominee that doesn’t have to be a registered Democrat.
Sanders is an outspoken critic of Wall Street banks and the outsized influence of money in politics and is a supporter of universal health care. He regularly talks about the need to rebuild the middle class and raise taxes on America’s highest earners.
“At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay,” Sanders said last month in Washington. “It is not acceptable that a number of major profitable corporations have paid zero in federal income taxes in recent years, and that millionaire hedge fund managers often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than the truck drivers or nurses.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Sanders moved to Vermont after graduating from the University of Chicago. His first successful run for office came in 1981 when he was elected Burlington’s mayor by a mere 10 votes. He was elected as Vermont’s at-large member of Congress in 1990 and jumped to the Senate in 2007. Sanders is the longest-serving independent in congressional history.
Sen. Sanders talks trade deals – Sanders watches as the Left looks to Warren
He also starts with a small campaign infrastructure, largely the remnants of his past Senate runs, and is primarily being advised by Tad Devine, a Democratic political consultant who worked on the presidential campaign for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. At an event this month in New Hampshire where Sanders leaned heavily into a presidential bid, the signs outside the house party touted his 2012 Senate re-election bid.
From the outset of his campaign, it appears money will be Sander’s biggest issue. The senator has regularly conceded in the last month that he would not be able to raise near the money Clinton will bring in.
“To run a credible campaign in this day and age, you do need a whole lot of money,” Sanders said. “Whether the magic number is $200 million, it is $150 million, it is a lot of money, but even with that, you would be enormously outspent by the Koch Brother candidates and the other candidates who will likely spend, in the final analysis, over $1 billion, if not two.”
“Obviously one would hope one would have as much support as possible from all walks of life,” Sanders said on Tuesday when asked why he thinks those groups aren’t rallying around him. “I am a great fan of Elizabeth and as for what people do and why they don’t do it, I am not going to speculate.”
Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, even mentioned Warren in touting Sanders’ jump into the race.
“MoveOn members welcome Sen. Bernie Sanders to the presidential race,” said Galland. “The Democratic Party is made stronger by each additional voice who enters the race and commits to being a strong advocate for everyday, hardworking Americans and not just the wealthy few. That’s why we and our allies continue to call on Sen. Elizabeth Warren to also bring her tireless advocacy for middle-class and working Americans to the race. Our country will be stronger if she runs.”
After his presidential announcement this week, many wondered how Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would distinguish himself from the other candidates running in the Democratic primary.
With his newly-published issues page, he offers some clues.
Among the 12 platform planks that he published there are several traditional ideas such as rebuilding American infrastructure and guaranteeing health care to all. But the very last platform offers a genuinely fresh idea: boosting America’s worker co-ops.
We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.
In the United States, co-ops are often associated with small businesses such as coffee shops or groceries. But with the right regulatory incentives and support, worker-owned businesses can be much larger. Take the Mondragon corporation of Spain, for example. Today it has over 70,000 employees and brings in annual revenues of over $12 billion Euros. Within the various units of the corporation, workers decide on the direction of production for the company as well as what to do with the profits. While CEO-to-worker pay ratios in the United States have reached over 300-to-1, in Mondragon the cooperative model ensures that in most of its operations, “the ratio of compensation between top executives and the lowest-paid members is between three to one and six to one.”
Today, there are 11,000 worker-owned companies in America, and there are up to 120 million Americans who are involved in some form of co-op if you include credit unions in the tally. By endorsing their expansion, Sanders is proving that his differences with his opponents are not just in style but in substance – providing an alternative to the top-down corporations that run our economy.