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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Iraq as "Actor and Stakeholder"

by Dahr Jamail
July 29, 2009

"If the Iraqi forces require further training and further support, we shall examine this then at that time, based on the needs of Iraq," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently informed President Barak Obama in Washington. While Iraqi and US government officials continue to insist the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is currently on schedule, only a few thousand US troops have left Iraq since Obama took office, and few, if any, are expected to be withdrawn through the beginning of 2010. From his recent statement, Maliki appears to be willing to accept a long-term stay.

The timeline in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) says that US "combat troops" were to withdraw from Iraqi cities and villages no later than June 30, 2009, and all troops are to be out by December 31, 2011.

Yet on November 17, 2008, in the wake of Iraq's cabinet approving the SOFA, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking member of the US military, immediately began inferring loopholes and possible grey areas, saying the deadline for withdrawal by 2011 should depend on conditions on the ground.

"I do think it is important that this be conditions-based," Mullen told reporters at the time, "And so three years is a long time. Conditions could change in that period of time."

Mullen added that the US would continue to talk with Baghdad "as conditions continue to evolve," and when asked if the agreement could be changed, Mullen said, "that's theoretically possible."

Roughly a month later, in December 2008, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, when asked by Charlie Rose in a PBS Interview about how large the American "residual" force would be in Iraq after 2011, said that while the mission would change, "my guess is that you're looking at perhaps several tens of thousands of American troops."

"Several tens of thousands of American troops" in Iraq after 2011, according to the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America.

When one looks at overall US Foreign Policy, the media machinations of both Mullen and Gates are right on track.

The National Security Strategy of the US, updated in March 2006, lines out several goals for the US abroad.

Included are the following missions:

"Ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade," and, "pressing for open markets, financial stability, and deeper integration of the world economy."

The future strategy of US foreign policy involves, according to the document: "Opening markets and integrating developing countries," and "Reforming the international financial system to ensure stability and growth."

The document adds: "In our interconnected world, stable and open financial markets are an essential feature of a prosperous global economy. We will work to improve the stability and openness of markets by: Promoting growth-oriented economic policies worldwide," and "strengthening international financial institutions."

Regarding the Middle East, it reads, "We seek a Middle East of independent states, at peace with each other, and fully participating in an open global market of goods, services, and ideas. (emphasis added)."

This policy dovetails perfectly with that lined out by the Quadrennial Defense Review Report from the Department of Defense. The most recent iteration of this report, published on February 6, 2006, says there is a stated ability for the US military to fight "multiple overlapping wars" and to "ensure that all major and emerging powers are integrated as constructive actors and stakeholders into the international system (emphasis added)."

This brings us to the 2008 National Defense Strategy, which reads: "US interests include protecting the nation and our allies from attack or coercion, promoting international security to reduce conflict and foster economic growth, and securing the global commons and with them access to world markets and resources. To pursue these interests, the US has developed military capabilities and alliances and coalitions, participated in and supported international security and economic institutions, used diplomacy and soft power to shape the behavior of individual states and the international system, and using force when necessary. These tools help inform the strategic framework with which the United States plans for the future, and help us achieve our ends. (emphasis added)"

To accomplish these objectives, among many others, the National Security Strategy goes on to add:

"Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing or equaling the power of the US. To accomplish this, the US will require bases and stations within and beyond western Europe and Northeast Asia. (emphasis added) "

Hence the massive military bases in Iraq, as many as four of which are believed to be "enduring" bases, and an "embassy" the size of Vatican City.

Thus is the context of the aforementioned comments by Maliki, Mullen and Gates, and why, according to several of my sources in Iraq, as well as the Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayat, which on July 20 reported:

"Inhabitants of the Iraqi capital Baghdad said that a number of US military vehicles continue to patrol the streets of Baghdad and some other Iraqi cities after the pullout of the American forces from their bases to others that are outside them in compliance with the security agreement concluded by Baghdad and Washington. This agreement prohibits US soldiers from traveling around in the cities' streets without Iraqi approval and without being accompanied by Iraqi forces. Mohammad Abdullah, a citizen from Al-Dawrah south of Baghdad, spoke to Al-Hayat, saying that the "American troops continue to patrol the streets and do what they usually did before the US pullout." He added that "these troops are patrolling the streets very late at night and stopping at intersections and r oads and this annoyed the people of the region while the government is saying there are no more American troops in the streets after now."

In response, US Maj. Gen. John Johnson, a commander of the multinational forces' corps in Iraq, stressed to Al-Hayat that "the American troops are patrolling the streets of cities at present upon the request of the Iraqi Government to give military advice to the Iraqi forces."

On July 13, Iraqi police in the northern city of Mosul also accused US forces of violating the SOFA.

Nevertheless, Johnson is attempting to show adherence to the portion of the SOFA that states that while Iraq is requesting military assistance from the US, "all such military operations that are carried out pursuant to this agreement shall be conducted with the agreement of the government of Iraq." The agreements adds that all such operations "shall be fully coordinated with Iraqi authorities."

Yet Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, a US military commander in Baghdad who is clearly taken aback by the new restrictions on US forces outlined in the SOFA, wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post that the Iraqi order to sharply restrict the movement and activities of US forces runs "contrary to the spirit and practice of our last several months of operations."

He then added, "Maybe something was 'lost in translation.' We are not going to hide our support role in the city. I'm sorry the Iraqi politicians lied/dissembled/spun, but we are not invisible nor should we be."

Bolger said US troops intend to engage in combat operations in urban areas to avert or respond to threats, with or without help from the Iraqis, and wrote, "This is a broad right and it demands that we patrol, raid and secure routes as necessary to keep our forces safe. We'll do that, preferably partnered."

According to the latest polls, published in the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index, 73% of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition forces, and this is likely a conservative estimate. This is not surprising, as who would want to live in a country occupied by a foreign military power?

Despite this, and the fact that recent polls show at least 63 percent of US citizens also oppose a continuance of the occupation of Iraq, an estimated 437 Iraqis were killed in June, the highest death toll in 11 months, and the near-daily attacks have continued in July.

And the occupation grinds on.

Last week, the Pentagon announced that active duty troop rotations for Iraq would be maintained at the current level of 131,000 troops through at least early 2010.

On July 24, Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for the US military, reported that deployments of military reservists would not be ebbing any time soon, despite the announcement that the Army would increase its size by 22,000 soldiers.

"I want to be more realistic with them. I don't predict a drop in our op-tempo," Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz said. According to Stultz, the goal was for the average reservist to spend four years home for each year deployed overseas, but reaching that goal "could take five years."

Just like the myth of Iraq's "sovereignty," the myth of US withdrawal is just that. Until the latter occurs, the former does not stand a chance. This is particularly so, as long as Iraq, like Afghanistan, are arenas where the US military is being used to "ensure that all major and emerging powers are integrated as constructive actors and stakeholders into the international system."

Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of "The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan," (Haymarket Books, 2009), and "Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq," (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from occupied Iraq for nine months as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last five years.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man

By John Markoff
New York Times
July 26, 2009

A robot that can open doors and find electrical outlets to recharge itself. Computer viruses that no one can stop. Predator drones, which, though still controlled remotely by humans, come close to a machine that can kill autonomously.

Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone.

Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences.

As examples, the scientists pointed to a number of technologies as diverse as experimental medical systems that interact with patients to simulate empathy, and computer worms and viruses that defy extermination and could thus be said to have reached a “cockroach” stage of machine intelligence.

While the computer scientists agreed that we are a long way from Hal, the computer that took over the spaceship in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” they said there was legitimate concern that technological progress would transform the work force by destroying a widening range of jobs, as well as force humans to learn to live with machines that increasingly copy human behaviors.

The researchers — leading computer scientists, artificial intelligence researchers and roboticists who met at the Asilomar Conference Grounds on Monterey Bay in California — generally discounted the possibility of highly centralized superintelligences and the idea that intelligence might spring spontaneously from the Internet. But they agreed that robots that can kill autonomously are either already here or will be soon.

They focused particular attention on the specter that criminals could exploit artificial intelligence systems as soon as they were developed. What could a criminal do with a speech synthesis system that could masquerade as a human being? What happens if artificial intelligence technology is used to mine personal information from smart phones?

The researchers also discussed possible threats to human jobs, like self-driving cars, software-based personal assistants and service robots in the home. Just last month, a service robot developed by Willow Garage in Silicon Valley proved it could navigate the real world.

A report from the conference, which took place in private on Feb. 25, is to be issued later this year. Some attendees discussed the meeting for the first time with other scientists this month and in interviews.

The conference was organized by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, and in choosing Asilomar for the discussions, the group purposefully evoked a landmark event in the history of science. In 1975, the world’s leading biologists also met at Asilomar to discuss the new ability to reshape life by swapping genetic material among organisms. Concerned about possible biohazards and ethical questions, scientists had halted certain experiments. The conference led to guidelines for recombinant DNA research, enabling experimentation to continue.

The meeting on the future of artificial intelligence was organized by Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft researcher who is now president of the association.

Dr. Horvitz said he believed computer scientists must respond to the notions of superintelligent machines and artificial intelligence systems run amok.

The idea of an “intelligence explosion” in which smart machines would design even more intelligent machines was proposed by the mathematician I. J. Good in 1965. Later, in lectures and science fiction novels, the computer scientist Vernor Vinge popularized the notion of a moment when humans will create smarter-than-human machines, causing such rapid change that the “human era will be ended.” He called this shift the Singularity.

This vision, embraced in movies and literature, is seen as plausible and unnerving by some scientists like William Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Other technologists, notably Raymond Kurzweil, have extolled the coming of ultrasmart machines, saying they will offer huge advances in life extension and wealth creation.

Something new has taken place in the past five to eight years,” Dr. Horvitz said. “Technologists are replacing religion, and their ideas are resonating in some ways with the same idea of the Rapture.”

The Kurzweil version of technological utopia has captured imaginations in Silicon Valley. This summer an organization called the Singularity University began offering courses to prepare a “cadre” to shape the advances and help society cope with the ramifications.

“My sense was that sooner or later we would have to make some sort of statement or assessment, given the rising voice of the technorati and people very concerned about the rise of intelligent machines,” Dr. Horvitz said.

The A.A.A.I. report will try to assess the possibility of “the loss of human control of computer-based intelligences.” It will also grapple, Dr. Horvitz said, with socioeconomic, legal and ethical issues, as well as probable changes in human-computer relationships. How would it be, for example, to relate to a machine that is as intelligent as your spouse?

Dr. Horvitz said the panel was looking for ways to guide research so that technology improved society rather than moved it toward a technological catastrophe. Some research might, for instance, be conducted in a high-security laboratory.

The meeting on artificial intelligence could be pivotal to the future of the field. Paul Berg, who was the organizer of the 1975 Asilomar meeting and received a Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1980, said it was important for scientific communities to engage the public before alarm and opposition becomes unshakable.

“If you wait too long and the sides become entrenched like with G.M.O.,” he said, referring to genetically modified foods, “then it is very difficult. It’s too complex, and people talk right past each other.”

Tom Mitchell, a professor of artificial intelligence and machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University, said the February meeting had changed his thinking. “I went in very optimistic about the future of A.I. and thinking that Bill Joy and Ray Kurzweil were far off in their predictions,” he said. But, he added, “The meeting made me want to be more outspoken about these issues and in particular be outspoken about the vast amounts of data collected about our personal lives.”

Despite his concerns, Dr. Horvitz said he was hopeful that artificial intelligence research would benefit humans, and perhaps even compensate for human failings. He recently demonstrated a voice-based system that he designed to ask patients about their symptoms and to respond with empathy. When a mother said her child was having diarrhea, the face on the screen said, “Oh no, sorry to hear that.”

A physician told him afterward that it was wonderful that the system responded to human emotion. “That’s a great idea,” Dr. Horvitz said he was told. “I have no time for that.”


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jersey Mayors, Rabbis Stung in Graft Probe

By Amir Efrati, Suzanne Sataline and Dionne Searcey
Wall Street Journal
July 24, 2009

New Jersey has never been short of corruption scandals, but the one that unfolded yesterday was surprising even by the standards of the state that inspired "The Sopranos."

View Slideshow

Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell boarded a bus at the FBI building after being taken into custody in Newark.

Federal agents swept across New Jersey and New York on Thursday, charging 44 people -- including mayors, rabbis and even one alleged trafficker in human kidneys -- in a decadelong investigation into public corruption and international money laundering.

The key to the investigation: a real-estate developer who became an informant after being arrested on bank-fraud charges in 2006, according to a person familiar with the case. The developer, Solomon Dwek, wore a wire for the Federal Bureau of Investigation while offering to bribe New Jersey mayors and other public officials, that person said.

A lawyer for Mr. Dwek didn't respond to requests for comment.

While the state has a long history of dirty politics -- in Newark alone, three ex-mayors have been convicted of crimes unrelated to the latest sweep -- the scale of the allegations shocked veterans of New Jersey's political crises.

"This is not only a black eye, but this fans more cynicism," said Gene Grabowski, a crisis manager who has represented New Jersey clients in graft probes. "It validates this idea that New Jersey is a setting for 'The Sopranos.'"

A group of unidentified men are walked outside FBI offices Thursday in Newark, N.J., to a waiting bus for transport to court hearing. Federal agents swept across New Jersey on Thursday, charging 44 people in an investigation into public corruption and international money-laundering.

Court documents read like a pulp crime novel. At one point, Mr. Dwek (described as a "cooperating witness" in criminal complaints) is quoted saying to an alleged money-launderer: "I have at least $100,000 a month coming from money I 'schnookied' from banks for bad loans."

Another time, Mr. Dwek gave one of the alleged co-conspirators a box of Apple Jacks cereal stuffed with $97,000 cash, the documents say.

The arrests in the public-corruption portion of the probe included the Democratic mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus, Peter Cammarano III and Dennis Elwell; Republican state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt; and Democrat Leona Beldini, the deputy mayor of Jersey City.

A woman who picked up the phone at Mr. Van Pelt's office said, "Mr. Van Pelt was arrested today and is out of the office." His lawyer declined to comment.

Mr. Cammarano's lawyer said he "intends to plead innocent because he is innocent."

After her court appearance, Ms. Beldini said she didn't violate taxpayers' trust and declined to comment further while leaving the courthouse. Mr. Elwell and his lawyer declined to comment.

Arrests on the investigation's money-laundering side include several rabbis in New York and New Jersey, said Ralph Marra Jr., acting U.S. attorney for New Jersey. The arrestees appeared in federal court in New Jersey Thursday afternoon.

Corruption among the politicians was "a way of life," Mr. Marra said. "They existed in an ethics-free zone."

The probe includes a bizarre sideshow: the alleged trafficking of human kidneys, a lucrative, illegal industry and not one that's typically showcased alongside political shenanigans.

In the course of the investigation last year, Mr. Dwek came into contact with an alleged organ trafficker, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, and told him Mr. Dwek's uncle needed a new kidney, according to court papers. The two men discussed how Mr. Dwek would pay a $160,000 fee to buy a kidney from a donor in Israel, documents show. According to the complaint, Mr. Rosenbaum described himself as a "matchmaker."

Mr. Rosenbaum couldn't be reached for comment. A person who answered the phone at his residence declined to comment.

This federal investigation grew out of two previous cases and dates back to 1999, according to the FBI. It culminated at 6 a.m. Thursday with more than 200 FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents making arrests and executing search warrants throughout the state, said Weysan Dun, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark office.

In all, 29 people were caught up in the public-corruption part of the probe. Fifteen were implicated in the investigation into money laundering, including Mr. Rosenbaum, who was charged with conspiring to broker the sale of a kidney.

Court documents quote a number of incriminating wiretap recordings involving New Jersey politicians -- some prominent names, others known only in their small communities. For example, according to court documents, on April 27, FBI agents caught an incoming call from former Jersey City council candidate Guy Catrillo to a consultant's cellphone. The consultant asked Mr. Catrillo: "Did you get the money from [Mr. Dwek] when we saw him the other day?"

Mr. Catrillo replied: "Yeah, I took care of that. Yeah."

Mr. Catrillo's office didn't answer the phone Thursday.

A New Jersey corruption scandal so big, those arrested are taken by the busload. More than 40 people were taken into custody, including assemblymen, mayors, citizens and even rabbis. Video courtesy of Fox News.

Mr. Dwek, a 36-year-old religious-school head and philanthropist from Monmouth County, N.J., was at the heart of the investigation. He began his career as a small-time real-estate developer whose investors included friends and relatives in the Syrian Jewish community. Three years ago he was charged with defrauding PNC Bank of $25 million and remained free on a $10 million bond.

In 2007, Mr. Dwek began working for the FBI, wearing a wire and being trailed by FBI agents who videotaped his encounters with targets of their probe, according to someone familiar with the matter and information in the complaints. Prosecutors said the alleged bribe-taking was often tied to election fund-raising efforts. Other recipients took cash for direct personal use, prosecutors allege.

In the case involving Mr. Cammarano, who became Hoboken mayor on July 1, he was charged with accepting $25,000 in cash bribes from Mr. Dwek in return for promising support for zoning changes for a high-rise Mr. Dwek said he wanted to build. Mr. Cammarano is so new to the mayor's job that an events poster outside his office still lists the name of the previous mayor, David Roberts, on it.

The alleged bribes occurred during the 32-year-old Mr. Cammarano's mayoral campaign earlier this year, according to the FBI's complaint.

According to the complaint, Mr. Cammarano assured Mr. Dwek, that "you can put your faith in me" and that "I promise're gonna be, you're gonna be treated like a friend."

Supporters of the mayor expressed dismay at the charges. "This was a charismatic guy who we thought could get us past all this stuff," said Jay Rose, a 27-year resident of Hoboken who voted for Mr. Cammarano. "It looks like we're back to square one."

In the FBI money-laundering probe, Mr. Dwek represented himself as someone who engaged in various illegal businesses, including bank fraud and counterfeiting of women's handbags.

"Business is very good. Prada, Gucci, boom, boom, boom," Mr. Dwek boasted at one point, according to court papers.

The alleged money-laundering operations -- most of them run by rabbis as religious charity organizations -- laundered about $3 million for Mr. Dwek in his capacity as a cooperating witness since June 2007, according to the court documents and a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Dwek likely will receive credit from federal prosecutors for his cooperation.

The prosecutors allege that the rabbis used nonprofit organizations connected to their synagogues to launder money they understood came from criminal activity.

In 2007 Eliahu Ben Haim, principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob, a synagogue located in the New Jersey shore community of Deal, accepted a $50,000 check from Mr. Dwek, which was drawn from an account held by a phony company set up by the FBI for Mr. Dwek to help facilitate the investigation, according to the complaint.

The check was made payable to one of Mr. Ben Haim's charitable organizations with the expectation that the proceeds would eventually be returned to Mr. Dwek, documents indicate; Mr. Ben Haim, who was charged with money laundering on Thursday, was to take a 10% fee.

A woman who answered the phone at Ohel Yaacob Congregation in Deal said, "I don't have anything to say." Michael O'Donnell, Mr. Ben Haim's lawyer, declined to comment.

The arrests place an added burden on Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat in his first term who is running for re-election this year. Mr. Corzine ran four years ago promising to quash corruption.

"The scale of corruption we're seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated," he said in a statement.

In Hoboken, a city of just less than 40,000, city-clerk employees at the municipal building huddled around a small television to watch the news conference announcing the charges.

Some residents there said they weren't so surprised. "It happens everywhere in New Jersey," said James Goggin, a Hoboken resident. "I'll tell you one thing -- it never gets boring here. But sometimes I wish it would."

Developer Became Secret Witness
Law Blog: Highlights, text of complaints
Video: FBI Arrests N.J. Mayors, Rabbis
Q&A: New Jersey's History of Corruption
Sortable table: Arrests, charges, more

Chad Bray, Robert Copeland, Chris Herring, Lucette Lagnado, Barbara Martinez and Steven Russolillo contributed to this report.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A1


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Shell investigating latest Nigeria pipeline attack

July 8, 2009

Anglo-Dutch major Shell on July 8 said it was investigating the attack on the company’s Nembe creek trunk line in Nigeria’s southern Bayelsa state by armed militants.

We are investigating reports of an attack on SPDC joint venture’s Nembe creek pipeline,” a Shell spokeswoman told Platts.

Nigeria’s main militant group MEND, or the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said on July 8 that it sabotaged major oil pipelines operated by Shell and Italy’s Eni in southern Bayelsa state.

“The plague of sabotage descended heavily on major Shell and Agip crude trunk lines in Bayelsa state at about 2:00 am and 2:30 am [01:00-01:30 GMT] Wednesday,” MEND said in an emailed statement.

MEND said the Eni Agip pipeline connects to the Brass export terminal and was sabotaged at Nembe creek, while the Shell Nembe creek line was attacked at Asawo village in the southern Bayelsa state.

MEND linked the attacks on July 8 to the army’s arrest of two militants who approached the military to surrender their arms in line with the government’s amnesty offer.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Dark Side of Climate Change:
It's Already Too Late, Cap and Trade Is a Scam, and Only the Few Will Survive

By Alexander Zaitchik
July 7, 2009

The recent narrow passage of the Waxman-Markey energy bill, better known as cap-and-trade, marks halftime in Congress' first attempt to put a lid on national carbon emissions. The bill’s supporters ended the half on top in a squeaker -- 219 yeas to 212 nays. But it’s far from clear what this lead means, either for the bill or the climate. The legislation’s fate remains as uncertain as our own.

We can, however, be sure about one thing. Between now and the autumn Senate debate, cap-and-trade’s right-wing critics will escalate their all-cannons assault on the idea that climate change is real and demands a response. They will call "crap-and-tax" the mother of all scams, a poorly cloaked state power grab, and a major goose step down the road to eco-fascism. Given the demagogic hyperbole already on display, it can’t be long before some conservative howler warns that the bill's green facade shares hues with the Koran.

As the fight over cap-and-trade intensifies, human-driven climate change denialists like Rush Limbaugh and James Inhofe will draw the lion's share of the media spotlight reserved for the bill's critics. This is unfortunate. The real debate is not between the bill's supporters and the dead-ender climate clown club. It is between cap-and-trade’s supporters and its critics within the scientific and environmental activist communities. Groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have science if not politics on their side when they decry Waxman-Markey as an industry diluted half-measure with soft gums that falls far short of what is necessary to avoid cataclysmic climate change later this century.

The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions,” said Greenpeace in a statement the day before the House vote. “To support such a bill is to abandon the real leadership that is called for at this pivotal moment in history. We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.”

This view is shared by leading climate scientists like James Hansen and his peers around the world at leading research centers such as the UK's Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research, which urge more significant and immediate cuts than the finance-sector friendly cap-and-trade system can deliver.

There is another, fourth voice in the debate over cap-and-trade, one ringing out from shadows rarely approached by the media. In these shadows dwell scientists who believe the time has passed for any sort of legislation at all, no matter how radical. The best known of these frightening climate gnomes is the legendary British scientist James Lovelock, father of Gaia Theory and inventor of the instrument allowing for the atmospheric measurements of CFC's. In recent years, Lovelock has emerged as the world’s leading climate pessimist, raining scorn on the new fashionable environmentalism and arguing that the time is nigh to accept that a massive culling of the human race is around the corner.

“Most of the ‘green’ stuff is verging on a gigantic scam," Lovelock told the New Scientist shortly before the release of his latest book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia. "Carbon trading, with its huge government subsidies, is just what finance and industry wanted. It's not going to do a damn thing about climate change, but it'll make a lot of money for a lot of people and postpone the moment of reckoning.”

Those who read Lovelock’s controversial 2006 book, The Revenge of Gaia, know that hope junkies should keep a safe distance from the 90-year-old scientist. Lovelock, who has been compared to Copernicus and Darwin, years ago arrived at a disturbingly stark conclusion about Earth’s climate future. His prognosis is now starker than ever. The small window of short-term hope he left open in Revenge is closed in this year’s Vanishing. In its place is a long-term hope that humanity in some form will survive the present century, though barely. The result is a dark and contrarian work that seeks to demolish the terms of the climate debate while mocking our response to the crisis at the personal, national, and species level.

Lovelock has not arrived at his views lightly. They are the product of years spent carefully considering the known science through the revolutionary and frequently misunderstood lens he began developing 40 years ago while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasedena. Gaia Theory holds that Earth possesses a sophisticated planetary intelligence that responds to levels of heat from the sun in such a way as to maintain a climate homeostasis supportive of life.

In four decades of research and experiment, the most famous being the Daisyworld model, Lovelock has overcome the once-widespread skepticism of his peers to officially move Gaia from a Hypothesis to a Theory. He has established that the various components of the biosphere -- plants, animals, minerals, gases, the sun’s heat -- interact in such a way as to create and maintain a climate amenable to life. Far from a passive collection of independent actors responding to conditions, the biosphere’s contents, including humans, form a living web which actively creates and maintains those conditions. Gaia prefers these conditions and will do her best to maintain them.

But there is a limit to how much Gaia can do if we keep running over the safety mechanisms -- negative feedback loops -- she puts in our path. Lovelock believes that we have pushed Gaia beyond the point of return. The cold seas, for example, can only pump down so much of our carbon before they cry mercy and turn to acid.

Lovelock argues that Gaia Theory offers a more holistic understanding of what's happening to the climate than does mainstream climate science, stuck as it is in reductionist thinking and fractured into its constituent fields. Using the Gaia lens, he maintains, allows for a more comprehensive, intuitive, and ultimately more predictive approach. He spends much of Vanishing explaining why he thinks our attempts to accurately model climate change with computers is akin to the blind efforts of a 19th century doctor trying to treat diabetes. He notes that the IPCC and its many powerful computers have successfully undershot all of the indicator trends of climate change so far. Most notably, sea-level rise has outpaced IPCC predictions at a rate of 2 to 1.

Of all the indicators of climate change, Lovelock maintains sea-level rise is the most important.

Given the complexity of the millions of interactions within the Gaia system, Lovelock argues it is best to ignore year-to-year temperature fluctuations and instead watch the oceans. The seas, he says, are the lone trustworthy indicator of the earth’s heat balance. “Sea level rise is the best available measure of the heat absorbed by the earth because it comes from only two things,” he writes. “[These are] the melting of glaciers and the expansion of water as it warms. Sea level is the thermometer that indicates true global heating.”

Using Gaia Theory as his lens, Lovelock also examines five dreaded positive feedback loops, those processes now underway that at some point will become ferocious amplifiers of global heating (he finds "warming" too soft a word for the process). Lovelock describes how the most important of these feedback loops already in motion—the loss of reflective ice cover, the death of carbon eating algae as oceans warm, and methane released by thawing permafrost—will soon accelerate the heating trend underway, leading to sudden and dramatic shifts in global climate.

Rather than the steady rise predicted by the UN’s IPCC, Lovelock is confident the change will resemble economic charts of boom and bust, full of sudden and unexpected discontinuities, dips, and jumps. “The Earth’s history and simple climate models based on the notion of a live and responsive Earth suggest that sudden change and surprise are more likely than the smooth rising curve of temperature that modelers predict for the next ninety years,” he writes.
What this means for us will be familiar to anyone who has been paying attention: cities and farmland lost to rising seas, endless heatwaves, and a drastic reduction of Earth’s carrying capacity.

“There is no tipping point, just a slope that gets ever steeper,” writes Lovelock. “Because of the rapidity of the Earth’s change, we will need to respond more like the inhabitants of a city threatened by a flood. When they see the unstoppable rise of water, their only option is to escape to higher ground. We have to make our lifeboats seaworthy now [and] stop pretending there is any way back to that lush, comfortable, and beautiful Earth we left behind sometime in the 20th century.”

Needless to say, this is not a popular message. Lovelock remains a controversial figure, now more for his politics than his science. In recent years he has become the most prominent green critic of mainstream environmentalism, unleashing his heaviest fire on what he regards as the green movement's irrational fear of nuclear power. Before he lost all hope in an energy silver bullet, Lovelock argued that nuclear represented humanity's best chance of transitioning the current civilization onto another, more sustainable track.

But it's not just knee-jerk opposition to nuclear energy that gets Lovelock fuming. He has been ruthless in his attacks on politicians and businessmen who peddle hope in the form of meaningless but potentially profitable gestures like cap-and-trade. This has deeply antagonized his fellow greens still scrambling to generate public support for bold solutions to the climate crisis.

Lovelock’s impatience with feel-good “Yes, we can” liberal environmentalism borders on contempt. There are passages in Vanishing that, were it not for their eloquence, could have been uttered by Glenn Beck. The delusional rhetoric about “sustainable development” peddled by green politicians and businessmen, writes Lovelock, just shows that we have “weaved the sound of the alarm clock into our dreams.” In one of the book’s many memorable passages on the green politics of hope, Lovelock compares sustainable development to deathbed snake oil peddled by an alt-medicine quack.

Just as we as individuals try alternative medicine,” writes Lovelock, “our governments have many offers from alternative business and their lobbies of sustainable ways to ‘save the planet,’ and from some green hospice there may come the anodyne of hope.”

But this "final warning" is more than a long and hectoring doctor’s talk about an advanced and inoperable cancer. Lovelock brightens up considerably when looking beyond the looming die-off.

And once we assume the author’s Darwinian and planetary long view, it’s easy to share his cosmic wonder and long-term optimism. Lovelock is cautiously hopeful that as many as several hundred million humans will survive the century and carve pockets of civilization into the coming hot state. Our current global civilization is about to end, but there is every reason to “take hope from the fact that our species is unusually tough and is unlikely to go extinct in the coming climate catastrophe.”

Here enters Lovelock the playful futurist. Those who survive will be responsible for maintaining a high-tech, low-impact, low-energy society advanced enough to keep the flame of progress alive but small and smart enough to carefully husband what arable land remains. Lovelock guesses the rump human race will cluster around a few temperate islands in the far northern hemisphere, including his native U.K.

He believes that if emergency preparations are made in time—he compares the present moment to 1939—and if the worst-case scenarios of geopolitical conflict are avoided—namely resource scrambles leading to global thermonuclear war—then something resembling a modern and even urban lifestyle could await the survivors. There may even be food critics in this future, which need not resemble a Soylent Green scenario of cannibalism and state-rationed crackers.

This future civilization will synthesize food from CO2, nitrogen, water, and a few minerals. Simple amino acids and sugars, Lovelock cheerfully explains, can be used as feedstock for bulk animal and vegetable tissue created in chemical vats from biopsies. Yum!

A quarter century ago, Carl Sagan issued a strange and compelling plea for nuclear disarmament. He urged the superpowers to abolish their thermonuclear arsenals for the sake of mankind’s future evolution and eventual colonization of the galaxy. Echoing Sagan, Lovelock believes it is our duty as an intelligent race, the only one in the cosmic neighborhod, to survive.

Only by carrying the flame of civilization into the next century will we have a chance to evolve beyond our current tribal-carnivore brains, which are dominated by short-term thinking and thus responsible for our current predicament. Whereas Sagan dreamed of alien contact, Lovelock's promised land is more humble: an evolved species capable of living in balance with Gaia.

In the meantime, the Earth will grow and change, as it always has. Life will continue, humans included, even though billions will suffer and die. Gaia, an ageing planet, will roll into the new climate as best she can. In her wise generosity, she will even leave some hospitable land for us, the offending species, “to survive and to live in a way that gives evolution beyond us, into a wiser and more intelligent animal, a chance.”

Alexander Zaitchik is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist and AlterNet contributing writer.
© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Made of Lies

by William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Columnist
June 30, 2009

It began more than six years ago with a lie, followed by another lie, and another lie, and then two more, ten more, a hundred, a thousand, an avalanche of lies from heads of state and hatchet men and well-fed media types more interested in getting the interview than in getting the facts.

It began with lies like this:

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." - Dick Cheney, Vice President Speech to VFW National Convention 8/26/2002

... and this:

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
- Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Adviser CNN Late Edition 9/8/2002

... and this:

"We know for a fact that there are weapons there."
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary Press Briefing 1/9/2003

... and this:

"We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more."
- Colin Powell, Secretary of State Remarks to the UN Security Council 2/5/2003

... and this:

"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense ABC Interview 3/30/2003

It began with George W. Bush standing before both houses of Congress and an international television audience for his January 2003 State of the Union address and stating that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons - which is one million pounds - of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, al-Qaeda connections and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program.


All lies.

4,321 American soldiers have died in Iraq because of those lies, 101 during this year, including Sgt. Timothy A. David of Michigan, who was killed on June 28 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Four more soldiers were killed in Iraq on Tuesday in the midst of the withdrawal.

Tens of thousands of American soldiers have been shredded and maimed because of those lies.

Nobody knows how many innocent Iraqis have been killed and wounded because, to this day, we don't do body counts. Estimates range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands to perhaps more than a million, depending on who you ask, all because of those lies.

Now, more than six years later, a new president and a new policy has brought about one of the most dramatic and determinative days Iraq has seen since the initial invasion and occupation.

"Six years and three months after the March 2003 invasion," reported The Washington Post on Tuesday, "the United States has withdrawn its remaining combat troops from Iraq's cities, the US commander here said, and is turning over security to Iraqi police and soldiers. While more than 130,000 U.S. troops remain in the country, patrols by heavily armed soldiers in hulking vehicles have largely disappeared from Baghdad, Mosul and Iraq's other urban centers. Iraqis danced in the streets and set off fireworks overnight in impromptu celebrations of a pivotal moment in their nation's troubled history. The government staged a military parade to mark the new national holiday of 'National Sovereignty Day,' and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki made a triumphant, nationally televised address."

Triumph comes in strange packages these days. The reality of the situation in Iraq has been best described by Robert Dreyfuss in a Nation article titled "Little to Celebrate in Iraq."

Dreyfuss writes:

As we pull back, we're leaving Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in charge. Increasingly, Maliki is taking on the trappings of a dictator. He's established a network of security agencies that report directly to him. He's built a countrywide patronage system to bribe and pay off tribal allies, in anticipation of 2010 elections. He's shown no compunction against using the army, the police and the secret agencies he controls to eliminate rivals. He's used divide-and-conquer tactics to outflank the Sunni-led sahwa movement, known as the Awakening or the Sons of Iraq, driving some of them back into armed resistance and others into sullen resentment or fear for their lives.

And Maliki, despite his protestations that he is a born-again "nationalist," has close ties to Iran. With Iran now revealed as a fundamentalist-run, naked military dictatorship, I expect Iran to act ruthlessly vis-a-vis Iraq, and if he wants to stay in power Maliki will pretty much have to go along.

A prominent Sunni activist from northern Iraq told me Tuesday that anyone who thinks about opposing Maliki in Iraq has to fear for his or her life. The fact remains that despite the resurgence of secular nationalism in Iraq, as evidenced by the results of provincial elections last February, Maliki sits atop a conspiratorial little party called Al Dawa, a fundamentalist Islamist grouping, and he is reliant on a small, secretive clique that surrounds him.

During the February election, in order to appeal to Iraqi voters, Maliki posed as a nationalist of sorts, but in fact he is dependent on two outside powers. First, he's dependent on the United States, for despite his bravado about the US withdrawal from Iraq's cities, Maliki desperately needs American backing to remain in power, to build up his armed forces. And second, Maliki is dependent on the good will of Iran, which could topple him instantly if he crossed Tehran.

While Iraq's Shia population celebrated in the streets and Iraq's Sunni population crouched in fear, another group got right to business. "The long-awaited auction of licenses to develop Iraq's huge oil reserves began Tuesday amid unusual contentiousness," reported The New York Times on Tuesday, "as multinationals demanded far more revenue from every barrel of increased production than the authorities were willing to allow. Scores of Chinese, Russian, American and British oil executives, representing eight of the world's top 10 non-state oil companies, gathered in a hotel meeting room in the Green Zone. They listened closely on headphones to translations as bids for six oil fields and two natural gas fields were read out and then rushed into consultations."

The more things change, the more they stay the same in an Iraq torn to pieces, covered in blood, and made of lies.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Beijing cautions US over Iran

By M K Bhadrakumar
Asian Times
June 20, 2009

China has broken silence on the developing situation in Iran. This comes against the backdrop of a discernible shift in Washington's posturing toward political developments in Iran.

The government-owned China Daily featured its main editorial comment on Thursday titled "For Peace in Iran". It comes amid reports in the Western media that the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is rallying the Qom clergy to put pressure on the Guardians Council - and, in turn, on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei - to annul last Friday's presidential election that gave Mahmud Ahmadinejad another four-year term.

Beijing fears a confrontation looming and counsels Obama to keep the pledge in his Cairo speech not to repeat such errors in the US's Middle East policy as the overthrow of the elected government of Mohammed Mosaddeq in Iran in 1953. Beijing also warns about letting the genie of popular unrest get out of the bottle in a highly volatile region that is waiting to explode.

Tehran on Friday saw its sixth day of massive protests by supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, whom they say was cheated out of victory.

A parallel with Thailand

Meanwhile, China's special envoy on Middle East, Wu Sike, is setting out on an extensive fortnight-long regional tour on Saturday (which, significantly, will be rounded off with consultations in Moscow) to fathom the political temperature in capitals as varied as Cairo and Tel Aviv, Amman and Damascus, and Beirut and Ramallah.

Beijing also made a political statement when a substantive bilateral was scheduled between President Hu Jintao and Ahmadinejad on Tuesday on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Conceivably, Hu would have discussed the Iran situation with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev during his official visit to Moscow that followed the SCO summit. Earlier, Moscow welcomed Ahmadinejad's re-election. Both China and Russia abhor "color" revolutions, especially something as intriguing as Twitter, which Moscow came across a few months ago in Moldova and raises hackles about the US's interventionist global strategy.

China anticipated the backlash against Ahmadinejad's victory. On Monday, The Global Times newspaper quoted the former Chinese ambassador to Iran, Hua Liming, that the Iranian situation would get back to normalcy only if a negotiated agreement was reached among the "major centers of political power ... But, if not, the recent turmoil in Thailand will possibly be repeated". It is quite revealing that the veteran Chinese diplomat drew a parallel with Thailand.

However, Hua underscored that Ahmadinejad does enjoy popularity and has "lots of support in this nationalist country because he has the courage to state his own opinion and dares to carry out his policies". The consensus opinion of Chinese academic community is also that Ahmadinejad's re-election will "test" Obama.

Thus, Thursday's China Daily editorial is broadly in the nature of an appeal to the Obama administration not to spoil its new Middle East policy, which is shaping well, through impetuous actions. Significantly, the editorial upheld the authenticity of Ahmadinejad's election victory: "Win and loss are two sides of an election coin. Some candidates are less inclined to accept defeat."

The daily pointed out that a pre-election public opinion poll conducted by the Washington Post newspaper showed Ahmadinejad having a 2-1 lead over his nearest rival and some opinion polls in Iran also indicated more or less the same, whereas, actually, "he won the election on a lower margin. Thus, the opposition's allegations against Ahmadinejad come as a trifle surprising".

The editorial warns: "Attempts to push the so-called color revolution toward chaos will prove very dangerous. A destabilized Iran is in nobody's interest if we want to maintain peace and stability in the Middle East, and the world beyond." It pointedly recalled that the US's "Cold War intervention in Iran" made US-Iran relationship a troubled one, "with US presidents trying to stick their nose into Iran's internal business".

Theocracy versus republicanism

Beijing understands Iran's revolutionary politics very well. China was one of the few countries that warmly hosted former supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini (in 1981 and 1989). In contrast, India, which professes "civilizational" ties with Iran, was much too confused about Iran's revolutionary legacy to be able to correctly estimate Khamenei's political instincts favoring republicanism. Most of the Indian elites aren't even aware that Khamenei studied as a youth in Moscow's Patrice Lumumba University.

Be that as it may, the Hu-Ahmadinejad meeting in Yekaterinburg on Tuesday once again shows Beijing has a very clear idea about the ebb and flow of Iran's politics. Hu demonstrably accorded to Ahmadinejad the full honor as Beijing's valued interlocutor.

Chinese media have closely followed the trajectory of the US reaction to the situation in Iran, especially the "Twitter revolution", which puts Beijing on guard about US intentions. Indications are that the US establishment has begun meddling in Iranian politics. Rafsanjani's camp always keeps lines open to the West. All-in-all, a degree of synchronization is visible involving the US's "Twitter revolution" route, Rafsanjani's parleys with the conservative clergy in Qom and Mousavi's uncharacteristically defiant stance.

Obama faces multiple challenges. On the one hand, as Helene Cooper of The New York Times reported on Thursday, the continuing street protests in Tehran are emboldening a corpus of (pro-Israel) conservatives in Washington to demand that Obama should take a "more visible stance in support of the protesters". But then, a regime change would inevitably delay the expected US-Iran direct engagement and upset Obama's tight calendar to ensure the negotiations gained traction by year's end, while Iran's centrifuges in its nuclear establishments keep spinning.

Also, a fragmented power structure in Tehran will prove ineffectual in helping the US stabilize Afghanistan. However, top administration officials like Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would like the US to "strike a stronger tone" on Iran's turmoil. Cooper reported they are piling pressure on Obama that he might run the risk of "coming across the wrong side of history at a potentially transformative moment in Iran".

A Thermidorian Reaction

No doubt, the turmoil has an intellectual side to it. Obama being a rare politician gifted with intellectuality and a keen sense of history would know that what is at stake is a well-orchestrated attempt by the hardcore conservative clerical establishment to roll back the four-year-old painful, zig-zag process toward republicanism in Iran.

Mousavi is the affable front man for the mullahs, who fear that another four years of Ahmadinejad would hurt their vested interests. Ahmadinejad has already begun marginalizing the clergy from the sinecures of power and the honey pots of the Iranian economy, especially the oil industry.

The struggle between the worldly mullahs (in alliance with the bazaar) and the republicans is as old as the 1979 Iranian revolution, where the fedayeen of the proscribed Tudeh party (communist cadres) were the original foot soldiers of the revolution, but the clerics usurped the leadership. The highly contrived political passions let loose by the 444-day hostage crisis with the US helped the wily Shi'ite clerics to stage the Thermidorian reaction and isolate the progressive revolutionary leadership. Ironically, the US once again figures as a key protagonist in Iran's dialectics - not as a hostage, though.

Imam Khomeini was wary of the Iranian mullahs and he created the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as an independent force to ensure the mullahs didn't hijack the revolution.

Equally, his preference was that the government should be headed by non-clerics. In the early years of the revolution, the conspiracies hatched by the triumvirate of Beheshti-Rafsanjani-Rajai who engineered the ouster of the secularist leftist president Bani Sadr (who was Khomeini's protege), had the agenda to establish a one-party theocratic state. These are vignettes of Iran's revolutionary history that might have eluded the intellectual grasp of George W Bush, but Obama must be au fait with the deviousness of Rafsanjani's politics.

If Rafsanjani's putsch succeeds, Iran would at best bear resemblance to a decadent outpost of the "pro-West" Persian Gulf. Would a dubious regime be durable? More important, is it what Obama wishes to see as the destiny of the Iranian people? The Arab street is also watching. Iran is an exception in the Muslim world where people have been empowered. Iran's multitudes of poor, who form Ahmadinejad's support base, detest the corrupt, venal clerical establishment.

They don't even hide their visceral hatred of the Rafsanjani family.

Alas, the political class in Washington is clueless about the Byzantine world of Iranian clergy.

Egged on by the Israeli lobby, it is obsessed with "regime change". The temptation will be to engineer a "color revolution". But the consequence will be far worse than what obtains in Ukraine. Iran is a regional power and the debris will fall all over. The US today has neither the clout nor the stamina to stem the lava flow of a volcanic eruption triggered by a color revolution that may spill over Iran's borders.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

China's "Green Dam" Overflows and Bursts

by Leslie Harris
Huffington Post
July 1, 2009 09:19 AM

Chinese Internet users won an important victory this week when the Chinese government indefinitely delayed implementation of the widely condemned "Green Dam" filtering mandate.

In a face-saving move, China, noting that "some manufacturers have said the workload is too large, the time too short and that they are not fully prepared..." announced that "according to the actual situation, the pre-installation can be postponed."

That's the good news. The better news is that, although this isn't the first time the Chinese government has retreated from an unreasonable Internet related mandate, it is the first time that there has been such a transparent, coordinated and vocal effort both in and out of the country to halt the order.

The "Green Dam-Youth Escort" plan would have forced companies to install state-approved Internet filtering software on every computer sold in the country. Efforts to implement the plan appear to have foundered under broad opposition from computer industry trade associations and governmental leaders in the United States, Canada and Europe; and most critically, a savvy network of connected Chinese activists who exposed the folly of the plan and the faults in the technology, and knew how to stir up tensions and disagreements between factions inside the government.

For Internet and technology companies now facing censorship and surveillance demands around the world, the lesson out of China blows up the conventional wisdom that there is nothing that companies can do when China makes unreasonable demands that risk user rights. Instead of asking "how high" when told to "jump," the big lesson is that push back can work if companies are willing to collaborate on a strategy to resist such demands and if democratic governments are prepared to put their weight behind that resistance. And to paraphrase an old song, "if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere."

The second piece of conventional wisdom that the Green Dam fiasco swept away was the view that the only Internet companies like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft faced Internet human rights challenges and that the rest of the sector didn't have to think about these issues when entering new markets or launching new products services in risky places.

Now, the broader technology industry surely understands that software and hardware manufacturers are at risk of becoming the target of repressive laws intended to limit users' online freedom.

With that new knowledge comes a responsibility -- individually as companies and collectively as an industry -- to understand and mitigate human rights risk and to stand together against demands that put user rights at risk. It is also important for the industry to collaborate with others that have skin in the game to chart an ethical path forward toward a sustainable global standard for corporate responsibility on these issues.

This is the goal of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), a collaborative effort of Internet companies, human rights, Internet and press freedom groups, social investors and academics (I helped to coordinate and facilitate the efforts to create GNI), which was launched late last year to help companies in this sector craft a systematic approach to respecting human rights. All technology companies that do business globally should consider joining the GNI.

As we witnessed this week, collaborative action can work.

Leslie Harris is President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology