31 August 2013

Obama To Seek Congressional Approval For Action Against Syria & Obama says U.S. will take military action against Syria, pending Congress’s approval 31AUG13

THE president just announced he will seek the approval of Congress for military action in Syria, so the struggle now becomes even more focused on persuading Congress to reject the call for military action in Syria and to impeach the Pres Obama if he decides to ignore a decision by Congress against military action. We must not become militarily involved in Syria's civil war. This from NPR and the Washington Post.....

President Obama said Saturday he had decided to take military action against Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons, but that he will seek a congressional mandate for the action that could come "tomorrow, next week or one month from now."
Speaking from the Rose Garden, the president said he believed that he had the authority to act without Congress, but said he thinks "our country will be better off" if he had it.
"After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action," Obama said. "I am prepared to give that order."
The president said he had spoken "with all four congressional leaders" on Saturday and that he had been assured that a debate could take place soon to authorize military action.
He said the U.S. had a moral obligation to act to show that "we do what we say" and that "right makes might and not the other way around."
He challenged lawmakers to consider "what message will we send to a dictator" if Syria's use of chemical weapons were allowed to go unpunished.
"I know well that we are weary of war," Obama said. "We ended a war in Iraq, we are ending another in Afghanistan."
"That's why we are not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else's war," he said.

Obama says U.S. will take military action against Syria, pending Congress’s approval

Video: President Obama says the U.S. will take military action against Syria, but only with Congress’s approval.
President Obama said Saturday that the United States has decided to use military force against Syria, saying last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack there was “an attack on human dignity,” but that he has decided to seek congressional authorization for such a strike.

The announcement appeared to put off an imminent cruise missile attack on Syria and opens the door to what will almost certainly be a contentious and protracted debate.

Obama’s remarks came as senior administration officials were making a fresh round of calls to congressional leaders on Saturday in an effort to bolster support for a potential military strike on Syria, officials said.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were among the administration officials expected to speak to key members of Congress on Saturday afternoon, amid signs that the White House is close to ordering an attack on Syria to admonish it for its alleged use of chemical weapons last week.
“We’re continuing to weigh our options,” a senior U.S. official said. “We’re confident in our analysis that the United States and our allies can handle any contingencies that come as a result of military action should it be chosen by the president.”
Hagel, who returned to Washington on Friday night after a week-long trip to Asia, had substantive discussions while on his way home with Obama, as well as with his French and Israeli counterparts, said the official, who would discuss the administration’s efforts only on the condition of anonymity.
As key allies and members of Congress have raised concerns about and objections to U.S. military involvement in Syria’s messy civil war, the White House appears to be carefully weighing the risks of launching an attack that would likely be carried out with cruise missiles. The priority Saturday appeared to be bolstering support for the operation on Capitol Hill, where key members have expressed strong reservations and called on the White House to fully consult with Congress before authorizing a strike.
“We have a financial crisis in our military,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Thursday after being briefed by an administration official. “Several members agreed with me that whatever is decided upon, it’s going to take military resources that are at decreased readiness levels due to a lack of funding.”
White House officials have said they are only contemplating a limited, brief strike and have pushed back on the contention that such a move could drag the United States into a new prolonged conflict in the Middle East.

A map of the alleged chemical attack sites in Damascus
Click Here to View Full Graphic Story
A map of the alleged chemical attack sites in Damascus

Obama says U.S. should take military action against Syria

Obama says U.S. should take military action against Syria
The president says the White House will seek congressional authorization for a strike.

U.N. team leaves Syria, opening door for strikes

U.N. team leaves Syria, opening door for strikes
The U.N. chemical weapons investigators crossed into Lebanon, as the U.S. mulls strikes.

Putin turns up heat on U.S. over its stance on Syria

Putin turns up heat on U.S. over its stance on Syria
Breaking silence, Russia’s president derides Washington’s accusations against Assad.

‘Crisis of confidence’ dampens support for U.S. in Syria

‘Crisis of confidence’ dampens support for U.S. in Syria
As the U.S. considers military strikes against Syria, Middle Eastern allies seem hesitant to back such plans.

UPDATE: Bayer vs. the bees: we're winning...& Bayer is suing *Europe* for saving the bees31AUG&3SEP13

FROM SumOfUs, an update on the campaign against the giant chemical companies, like Bayer, to get the pesticides they sell that are killing off the bees banned. Bayer and the other chemical companies are running scared and the EPA is feeling the pressure to ban these very chemicals that have been banned in Europe. Check this out....
THIS UPDATE ON 3SEP13 Bayer is suing *Europe* for saving the bees See the full article below....
Dear friends,
I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Chicago, where beekeepers from across the US were speaking out about the danger of bee-killing pesticides on behalf of thousands of SumOfUs supporters. And here’s what I learned: the pesticide industry really, really doesn’t want people to hear our message.
I went to Chicago to attend a massive commercial gardening convention, where the beekeepers (who call themselves ‘beeks’) and I were delivering the voices of over 140,000 SumOfUs supporters. Our message: stop selling the pesticides that are killing the bees! It wasn’t a message that Bayer and the pesticide giants wanted the world to hear. I was barely off the plane in Chicago when I learned that the industry-sponsored convention organizers had threatened SumOfUs with a lawsuit if we took our message inside the convention grounds!
But we had come prepared (thanks to thousands of donations from SumOfUs supporters!) -- and we didn’t leave until the beekeepers had reached out to thousands of commercial garden center owners and the national media about the dangers of these bee-killing pesticides. Here’s the most remarkable thing: many of the garden center owners signed on in support as soon as they heard our message -- exactly why Big Pesticide is scared of our campaign to save the bees.
Big Pesticide is determined to silence us, but we’re not going to let them -- and we won’t back down to legal intimidation. Our colorful bus ads blanketed Chicago during the conference, and were featured on morning TV news across the US -- and now, thanks to you, we’re taking the message straight to garden center owners themselves with ads in the biggest commercial garden publications. With your support, we’re going to keep fighting until these pesticides are banned around the world and the bees -- and our food supply -- are safe.
The threat of a lawsuit wasn’t the only tactic they used to silence us in Chicago. They rolled out a full campaign of intimidation, including:
  • telling hotels across the city not to book rooms to our beekeepers, and not to allow us to screen a documentary about bees; 
  • ordering security guards to prevent our accredited beekeepers and two human-size bees (okay, our friendly volunteers in bee costumes!) from entering the conference; 
  • and even stopping an 85 year-old local beekeeper from delivering 140,000 signatures from SumOfUs members to Bayer, one of the largest manufacturers of bee-killing pesticides!
Meanwhile, Bayer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on huge ads all over the convention center and a booth advocating their “bee care” program, all the while selling the pesticides that are killing them at the convention!
But despite these dirty tactics, we got our message out loud and clear. Our beekeeper friends had hundreds of one-on-one conversations with convention attendees, handed out thousands of flyers about the deadly effects of ‘neonics’, the pesticides that are killing the bees, plastered the city’s buses with our ads, and took the city by swarm.
Bayer’s reaction shows one thing -- it’s scared. Europe has already banned these killer chemicals, so now the industry is fighting with all they’ve got to dump the neonics on North America. Just last week, Time Magazine wrote about the global bee die-off and neonic bee killers in its cover story, and this week, the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordering an immediate reduction in the use of these pesticides, and admitted that the chemical is partly responsible for the disappearance of honey bees. Big Pesticide is terrified that its profits will take a hit if we win in the US as well.
Thanks to your support, we’re going to keep up the fight. First up, we’re planning hard-hitting ads in gardening industry publications next month, to make sure the garden center owners get this vital information. And we’ve got more ideas in the works -- but after the legal threats in Chicago, we’re keeping them under wraps to stop the industry from trying to block us again.
Together, we can save the bees. We hope you’ll stay with us until we win this fight.
On behalf of all of us,
Angus and the beekeepers (Terry, Reba, Sam, Amy, and Edie)
PS: we don’t take any corporate funding, so all of this and more is made possible through your support. If you want to donate to make sure that we can keep campaigning to save the bees in the months ahead, you can do that here.

Bayer is suing *Europe* for saving the bees

I know it's less than 72 hours since we emailed you to update you on our bees campaign -- but Bayer is now suing Europe to overturn the landmark ban on bee-killing pesticides! See the full story below, and let's all sign now to stop this outrageous move! -- Claiborne
Bayer has just sued the European Commission to stop the ban on its bee-killing pesticides -- despite clear evidence its products are behind the massive bee die-offs.
We can't let Bayer and Syngenta get away with this blatant threat while the bees disappear. Sign the petition to tell them to drop the lawsuits now!

I know it's less than 72 hours since we emailed you to update you on our bees campaign -- but Bayer is now suing Europe to overturn the landmark ban on bee-killing pesticides! See the full story below, and let's all sign now to stop this outrageous move! -- Claiborne
Wow. Bayer has just sued the European Commission to overturn a ban on the pesticides that are killing millions of bees around the world. A huge public push won this landmark ban only months ago -- and we can't sit back and let Big Pesticide overturn it while the bees vanish.
Bayer and Syngenta, two of the world's largest chemical corporations, claim that the ban is "unjustified" and "disproportionate." But clear scientific evidence shows their products are behind the massive bee die-off that puts our entire food chain in peril. 
Just last month, 37 million bees were discovered dead on a single Canadian farm. And unless we act now, the bees will keep dying. We have to show Bayer now that we won't tolerate it putting its profits ahead of our planet's health. If this giant corporation manages to bully Europe into submission, it would spell disaster for the bees.
The dangerous chemical Bayer makes is a neonicotinoid, or neonic. Neonics are soaked into seeds, spreading through the plant and killing insects stopping by for a snack. These pesticides can easily be replaced by other chemicals which don’t have such a devastating effect on the food chain. But companies like Bayer and Syngenta make a fortune from selling neonics -- so they’ll do everything they can to protect their profits. 
The EU banned these bee-killers this past May, after a massive public campaign and a clear scientific finding from the European Food Safety Authority that neonics pose huge risks to bee populations. Bayer fought against the ban every step of the way, using tactics taken from Big Tobacco -- pouring millions into lobbying and fake science to stop decision-makers from taking action. 
We have to stand up for the European ban now, from Europe and from around the world. The current ban only lasts for two years before it's up for review, and Bayer is now determined to stop it before it even comes into force in December 2013. If it is allowed to intimidate the European authorities with impunity, then the pressure to overturn the ban will be huge. This will be a massive victory for the poison industry, and a devastating loss for the bees, and all of us. It will make every environmental regulation more difficult, because companies that can't win on the facts can use their enormous profits to fund expensive, baseless lawsuits.
Bayer is an enormous company with a ton of public-facing brands. Neonics are a big part of its bottom line, but it can't afford poor publicity on a global scale. And if word gets out that Bayer is wrecking our ecosystem and threatening a creature responsible for pollinating a third of all our crops, the company will have to back down.
SumOfUs staff and members have literally just gotten of the plane from a convention in Chicago where we took the fight for a ban in the US right to the industry itself -- so we know how important it is to hold the line.
Thanks for all you do,
Claiborne, Kaytee, and the team at SumOfUs

More information:
EU insecticide ban triggers legal action, Nature News, 28 August, 2013

Ross Perot just donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood 30AUG13

THIS is great news for Planned Parenthood and the women of Texas. Thank you Ross & Margot Perot!!!! From Salon....

Ross Perot just donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood Ross Perot
Thousands of women have lost access to vital healthcare since Texas dismantled its Medicaid-funded Women’s Health Program in 2011 because Planned Parenthood acted as a service provider under the program. As a result of these cuts, and the persistent targeting of reproductive health clinics by anti-choice lawmakers, many clinics have been forced to close in recent years, leaving Texas women without low- and no-cost options for reproductive healthcare.
Enter: Ross Perot.
The Perot Foundation of Dallas, which was founded by the billionaire and former presidential candidate, announced this week that it would be donating $1 million to the beleaguered women’s health provider to help serve the women of Texas.
“For nearly 100 years Planned Parenthood has helped to educate men and women regarding family planning and general family health,” said Margot Perot in a written statement. “Our family has supported this nonprofit for many years because we are impressed with the work they do — providing birth control; scientifically based education; breast health exams; and basic, life-saving healthcare for women who cannot afford services otherwise.”

“We also recognize the need to further inform the public of the mission of this great organization and the need to support it at this critical time,” she added.
Planned Parenthood of North Texas CEO Kenneth Lambrecht thanked the Foundation in a statement, saying, “We are thrilled that this generous gift will enable us to continue providing basic, preventive health care. Thanks to the generosity of The Perot Foundation and other community members, Planned Parenthood is proud to be here for the Texans who count on us, no matter what.”

5 Terrifying Statements in the Leaked Climate Report 20AUG13

FROM the Climate Desk at Mother Jones. 

Is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change getting blunt about how bad global warming is going to be?

| Tue Aug. 20, 2013 7:02 AM PDT
Image of a submerged pier.In the long run, global sea level rise could easily exceed 5 meters. 
Climate Desk has obtained a leaked copy of the draft Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2013 Summary for Policymakers report, which other media outlets are also reporting on. The document is dated June 7, 2013. We recognize, as we've previously reported, that this document is not final, and is in fact certain to change.
Most media outlets are focusing on the document's conclusion that it is now "extremely likely"—or, 95 percent certain—that humans are behind much of the global warming seen over the last six decades. But there is much more of note about the document—for instance, the way it doesn't hold back. It says, very bluntly, just how bad global warming is going to be. It gives a sense of irreversibility, of scale…and, of direness.
In particular, here are five "holy crap" statements from the new draft report:
We're on course to change the planet in a way "unprecedented in hundreds to thousands of years." This is a general statement in the draft report about the consequences of continued greenhouse gas emissions "at or above current rates." Unprecedented changes will sweep across planetary systems, ranging from sea level to the acidification of the ocean.
Ocean acidification is "virtually certain" to increase. Under all report scenarios, the acidification of the world's oceans will increase—the draft report calls this outcome "virtually certain." As we have previously reported, more acidity "threatens the survival of entire ecosystems from phytoplankton to coral reefs, and from Antarctic systems reliant on sea urchins to many human food webs dependent on everything from oysters to salmon."
Long-term, sea level rise could be 5 to 10 meters. Journalists are already citing the draft report's prediction that by the year 2100, we could see as much as three feet of sea level rise. But there is also a more long-range sea level scenario alluded to in the draft report, and it's far more dramatic and alarming.
Taking a look at the planet's distant past, the document ascribes "very high confidence" to the idea that sea levels were "at least 5 [meters] higher" during the last interglacial period, some 129,000 to 116,000 years ago. It also adds that sea level during this period probably did not exceed 10 meters higher than present levels. Finally, the draft report says, with "medium confidence," that temperatures at that time weren't more than 2 degrees Celsius warmer than "pre-industrial" levels.
Add it all up, and what that means is that if we exceed 2 degrees of warming beyond pre-industrial levels, then we could be looking at radically higher oceans, and submerged coastal cities, in the long run. And just how close are we to exceeding 2 degrees Celsius? Several scenarios used for the draft report project "high confidence" that we'll get there by the end of the century. At that point, seas would continue to rise well beyond the year 2100, and by much more than three feet.
This also implies a substantial melting of the Greenland ice sheet. The draft report adds that during the last interglacial period, the melting of Greenland "very likely" contributed between 1.4 and 4.3 meters of global sea level rise, with additional contributions coming from the melting of Antarctica. If Greenland were to melt entirely, it is estimated that sea level would rise by about seven meters.
Thus, a substantial Greenland melting could also be set in motion by the end of this century, which would eventually result in dramatic sea level increases. To be sure, most of this wouldn't occur during the current century—it would play out on a much longer time scale. But over 1,000 years or more, the draft report says, Greenland could melt almost entirely, and much of the change might be "irreversible." (Granted, the report expresses low confidence about the precise temperature threshold required to bring about a full melting of Greenland.)
Much of the carbon we've emitted will stay in the atmosphere for a millennium…even after we've stopped emitting it. The draft report says that 20 percent of the carbon dioxidecurrently in the atmosphere will stay there for an almost unimaginably long time—more than 1,000 years. Even if we were to completely cease all greenhouse gas emissions, the draft report adds, warming would continue for "many centuries." "A large fraction of climate change," the document intones, "is thus irreversible on a human time scale." The only way out would be if our emission levels were "strongly negative for a sustained period"—which, to put it mildly, seems highly unlikely.

Contributing Writer
Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist, podcaster, and the host of Climate Desk Live. He is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science.

The one map that shows why Syria is so complicated 27AUG13

HERE is an interesting map of Syria and the Levant / Middle East. Click on the maps to enlarge.

Click to enlarge. Each color represents an ethnic or religious group. (The Gulf/2000 Project at Columbia University)
Click to enlarge. Each color represents an ethnic or religious group. (Michael Izady / The Gulf/2000 Project at Columbia University)
Now that the United States is strongly signaling that it will lead some form of limited offshore strikes against Syria in response to suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians, one point you’re going to hear repeated over and over about the country is that it’s complicated. And that’s no joke, as the above map helps to drive home.
The map, from Columbia University’s really exceptional Gulf/2000 Project, shows the different ethnic and linguistic groups of the Levant, the part of the Middle East that’s dominated by Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Each color represents a different group. As you can see, there are a lot of groups swirled together. There are enclaves, and there is overlap.
Ethnic and linguistic breakdowns are just one part of Syria’s complexity, of course. But they are a really important part. The country’s largest group is shown in yellow, signifying ethnic Arabs who follow Sunni Islam, the largest sect of Islam. Shades of brown indicate ethnic Kurds, long oppressed in Syria, who have taken up arms against the regime. There are also Druze, a religious sect, Arab Christians, ethnic Armenians and others.

There are a couple of ways to think about what this map says about the Syrian civil war, beyond the strategic implications of where Assad is strongest (along the Alawite-heavy coast) and where he’s weak (in the Kurdish regions, for example).
Syria is run by Alawites, a minority sect of Islam whose members include President Bashar al-Assad and many in his inner circle. They’re indicated in a greyish green, clustered near the Mediterranean coast. Although Alawites make up only 12 percent of the Syrian population, they are playing a crucial role in the war, fighting to prop up Assad’s regime.
The first is what you might call the Fareed Zakaria case for why Syria is imploding (he didn’t invent this argument but is a major proponent). Zakaria starts with the premise that Syria, like many other Middle Eastern (and African) countries, has highly artificial borders that were created by European colonial powers. Those powers also tended to promote a minority and rule through it. This tactic badly exacerbated some preexisting sectarian tensions. It also forced countries into unsustainable power imbalances, with minorities ruling over majorities. That’s not actually how Assad came into power — his father seized it in a coup — but Zakaria’s thesis is that what we’re seeing in Syria is in some ways the inevitable re-balancing of power along ethnic and religious lines, with the Sunni Arab majority retaking control from the Alawite minority. He compares the situation to post-2003 Iraq, when members of the Shiite majority violently took power from the Sunni minority that, under Saddam Hussein, had ruled them. That would explain why so much of the killing in Syria has been along sectarian lines. It would also suggest that there’s not much anyone can do to end the killing because, in his view, this is a painful but unstoppable process.
The other way to look at this is that it’s a war first and a sectarian conflict second. Religious and ethnic antagonisms have been around for many, many generations in the Levant, including Syria. Maybe what’s happening is that the war began for political reasons — people protesting dictatorship, the dictatorship overreaching in suppressing those protests by force, things spiraling out of control until it’s civil war — but that the fighting is causing people to retreat to sectarian identities and antagonisms, to make the old divisions deeper and more vicious. Sectarian conflict, after all, can have its own self-reinforcing logic: Alawites are bonding together in part because they fear, not without reason, that they’ll be slaughtered in Sunni revenge killings if Assad loses. Sunnis see Alawite militias forming and thus perceive all Alawites as their enemies, so they start attacking members of that religious sect, which makes other Alawites more likely to form in-group militias. And on.
Of course, something as complicated as sectarian conflict in a country with many religious and ethnic groups could never really be defined by one neat theory. There are likely many different factors behind what’s happening. But this map is a helpful way to start understanding it. The version up top is actually cropped; the full-size version is below. Click either to enlarge them.
Click to enlarge. Each color represents an ethnic or religious group. (The Gulf/2000 Project at Columbia University)
Click to enlarge. Each color represents an ethnic or religious group. (Michael Izady / The Gulf/2000 Project at Columbia University)