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This is the outline of a talk I once gave at the FOR Peacemaker Training Institute.
FIRST, DO NO HARM (Hippocrates): consider consequences short term and long term, intended and otherwise.
EARTH FIRST/GAIA (Lovelock): the earth, its creatures and its elements are a single organism of interacting, interdependent parts; avoid tribalism, nationalism, classism.
The film, Kill the Messenger, based on a true story, recounts a California reporter named Gary Webb. It discussed his real life effort to link the CIA with the 1980s crack epidemic and funding of the Contras. Webb implied that drug smuggling by Nicaraguans into American cities was intentionally overlooked by the CIA and a Reagan Administration weapons program in order to supply right wing anti-democratic fighters in Nicaragua. Webb maintained that the CIA knew of the drug trafficking operation. Reagan needed that operation since following passage of the Boland Amendment Congress would not help fund any Contra-oriented operation.
The movie essentially shows how Webb took on the world while no one else listened. The San Jose Mercury News decided to let him run his "Dark Alliance" series in 1996 and the story brought Webb notoriety. Other larger newspapers such as the LA Times, New York Times and Washington Post coalesced to marginalize the Mercury's editors and Webb, claiming that the story lacked credibility. They argued this was justified since Webb never nailed down a completely verifiable CIA source. They thought the story was plausible and interesting, but too circumstantial in proportion to the magnitude of its accusations and assertions. There is however, now evidence, based on the work of Robert Parry, that the CIA used its connections with the major print news publications to undermine Webb's work. Webb put himself out there and the mainstream news media (as well as his own publication) left him hanging out to dry.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Google is so rapidly expanding both its information-collecting capabilities and its political clout that it could become too powerful to be held accountable, a new Public Citizen report finds.
“Mission Creep-y: Google Is Quietly Becoming One of the Nation’s Most Powerful Political Forces While Expanding Its Information-Collection Empire” looks at the ways Google is accruing power both in terms of the information it collects about the public and the sway it has over federal and state governments, as well as civil society.
The Conference on Land Policy in Africa starts, November 12, 2014, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Government officials, representatives from international institutions, aid agencies, and civil society organizations have gathered around the theme “ensuring agricultural development and inclusive growth.”
Given the recent explosion of land grabs across the African continent, this international conference seems pertinent and timely, especially for the millions of smallholder farmers and citizens across the continent. But let’s not allow some key facts to be drowned by the enthusiasm expressed from those attending.
Washington- The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today released its third annual report assessing LGBT equality in 353 cities across the nation, including 55 in California.
The 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, shows that cities across the country, including in California, continue to take the lead in supporting LGBT people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not.
In 2013, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and venture capitalist Yuri Milner designed the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. This is an annual award given to individual mathematicians. The prize is worth $3 million. The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences are also given to individual scientists and are worthy of each $3 million as well. This essay focuses on the prize in mathematics only.
The prize in mathematics was given to four mathematicians on Sunday, November 9, 2014 in a ceremony in Silicon Valley, California. There has been some criticism of the huge financial amount of the prize. Even Terence Tao, who is one of this year's prize recipients, suggested that more prizes of smaller amount might be more effective. It is not hard to see it would be much more beneficial if a smaller amount is given to more mathematicians. Another way of helping mathematicians in a better way is to fund centers of research in mathematics and mathematics institutions.
The US government has apparently made secret payments of $100,000 to the families of two Yemeni men who were mistakenly killed in a covert drone strike, an investigation by international non-profit Reprieve has found.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni man who lost his brother-in-law and nephew in a 2013 drone strike, was offered a bag containing US dollar bills at a meeting with the Yemeni National Security Bureau (NSB). The NSB official who had requested the meeting told a family representative that the money came from the US and that he had been asked to pass it along.
11 November, 2014, Geneva – Today, Murat Kurnaz, tortured and detained by the US for five years at Kandahar and then Guantanamo, addressed the US government and the members of the Committee Against Torture at the United Nations in Geneva for the review of US compliance with the Covenant Against Torture (CAT). He traveled with his attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy. His statement to the committee is below.
Eduardo Porter has an interesting discussion of inequality, based in large part on the views of M.I.T. Professor Robert Solow. Solow views it as unlikely that it will be possible politically any time soon to have tax and transfer policies that do much to lesson inequality. However he does hold out the hope that changes in corporate practices could lessen before tax inequality.
This is an extremely important point. There is considerable research showing that CEOs and other top management essentially ripoff shareholders, taking advantage of their insider power to give themselves pay that has little to do with their productivity, measured as the return they give to shareholders. (Lucian Bebchuk has a good summary of the issues.) If shareholders can better gain control of their companies, they might cut pay by 50 percent or more, bringing CEO pay in the United States in line with pay in other wealthy countries.
There was no election.
Despite the cacophony of the major-media propagandists, liberals and progressives did not take a walloping; and there was no mandate for the lunatic fringe that runs the Republican Party.
Virtually no one voted. Only 21 percent of eligible voters voted in California. Only 33 percent of the eligible voters participated in elections across the country. And everyone agrees: very few Democrats bothered to vote.