Once again, I return to that endless font of misinformation, the Waxman Markey website. In this case, I look at their claims about Alaska. This one will be short and sweet. Their claim is that Alaska is roasting, as in the picture below:
Figure 1. The dessert known as “flaming baked Alaska”. Ice cream covered with meringue, doused with brandy, and set on fire. Sweet.
The Waxman Markey website page on Alaska says:
Over the past 50 years, Alaska has warmed by 4 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit, much more than anywhere in the lower 48 states. This dramatic temperature change is causing the landscape of Alaska to change faster than anywhere else in the United States, threatening infrastructure, wildlife, and Native Alaskan culture.
I fear that these numbers must be from the well-known Government Misinformation Agency.
Figure 2 shows the real numbers:
Figure 2. Alaskan temperatures, as the average of all first-order stations in the state.
There are a few things we can see here. First, Fig. 1 clearly shows the dependence of Alaska temperatures on the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The PDO is a long-term shift in Pacific sea surface temperatures. The PDO has a warm phase and a cool phase, as shown in Figure 3. It shifts from one phase to the other every thirty years or so.
Figure 3. Cool (positive) and warm (negative) phases of the PDO. IMAGE SOURCE
The PDO shifted to the cool phase in the late 1940s. It went back to the warm phase in 1976-77. And recently, it has gone back to the cool phase. This is clearly visible in the Alaska temperatures. As much as Waxman Markey wants to blame the shift in Alaskan temperatures on “global warming”, the science says otherwise. The changes are due to the shifts in the PDO.
Second, their claim that Alaska has “warmed by 4 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit” is not true. The largest trend to 2009 in the Alaska temperatures is 1954-2009, which is 3.24 degrees.
I also note that they are using a very different period from the one they used in their claims about the US Northeast, where they used the trend from “the 1970′s”. Obviously, they are picking their time period to exaggerate their claims …
The main point here is that because the PDO gives Alaska warm periods and cool periods, it is meaningless to use any trend starting from a cool period and ending in a warm period, or vice versa. Yes, you can get a positive trend from anywhere on the left half of the graph to anywhere on the right side of the graph … but that doesn’t tell us anything about what’s happening.
Short and sweet.
President Obama Thursday at a town hall meeting called for a civilian expeditionary force as large as the military, while the Department of Defense issued Defense Directive 1404.10 which describes the workforce deployments as support for combat operations including restoration of order, drug interdiction and contingencies. This while having already raised US military spending by double digits to the highest level of any nation in history.
Having bet on being able to subdue the Afghan people by force and failed, Obama seems to be doubling down. The present military force which costs the nation nearly half of the federal budget is described as “overburdened.”
No indication was offered as to where the funds for the new force would come from as other areas of federal spending are being cut.
European counterparts in the UK and Germany meanwhile are reining in military spending as part of a balanced reduction of deficit spending.
Over recent years various Democratic party leaders have proposed a compulsory service for American youth including basic [military] training. Some proposals call for full military conscription.
Campaigning in 2008, Obama also called for a civilian “national security” force, we can expect to see action moving these plans forward so long as the American public continues to tolerate wars of choice and endless occupations.
New revelations in the suspicious “suicide” death of whistle-blower Dr. David Kelly point even more strongly to the possibility of murder and a subsequent cover-up, according to an explosive investigation by the British newspaper Daily Mail.
David Kelly served as a United Nations weapons-of-mass-destruction inspector in Iraq and as a scientist for the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense. He was widely considered the world’s foremost expert in chemical and biological weapons, even serving as a proof reader on the British government’s intelligence report about Iraqi WMDs. He disagreed with some of the claims and told his superiors, but was ignored.
Seven years ago, a strange saga began when Kelly sparked a massive scandal. He leaked details of the government’s WMD lies — used to justify invading Iraq — to various journalists. His identity was eventually revealed as the source, and Parliament called him to testify for an investigation it was conducting into the explosive allegations. Then, before he could reveal even more devastating secrets, he turned up dead.
The government, led by Prime Minister Tony Blair, immediately quashed the regular coroner’s inquest — a legal requirement in cases like this. Instead, it set up a much weaker “inquiry,” headed by Lord Hutton, into the untimely death.
But as soon as the “investigation” concluded that Kelly’s demise was a “suicide” caused by a self-inflicted knife wound, the media began picking the story apart, pointing out inconsistencies and asking tough questions that still have not been answered satisfactorily — if they were addressed at all. The inquiry has been labeled a “whitewash” and a “cover-up” by numerous media outlets, investigators, doctors, and researchers.
The two paramedics who were at the scene of Kelly’s body went public with their belief that a severed artery was not the cause of death, as the official report had claimed. “I just think it is incredibly unlikely that he died from the wrist wound we saw,” paramedic Vanessa Hunt told the British press. “There just wasn’t a lot of blood. When someone cuts an artery, whether accidentally or intentionally, the blood pumps everywhere.” The other paramedic offered a similar analysis.
A team of concerned scientists and doctors also banded together to form the “Kelly Investigation Group.” They, too, believed there were serious deficiencies in the inquiry, saying the official conclusion was “highly improbable.”
“Arteries in the wrist are of matchstick thickness and severing them does not lead to life-threatening blood loss,” three members of the group, all medical specialists, wrote in a letter to the Guardian newspaper calling for the inquest to be re-opened. “To have died from haemorrhage [sic], Dr Kelly would have had to lose about five pints of blood — it is unlikely that he would have lost more than a pint.”
The team also noted that the alleged amount of pain pills Kelly was said to have ingested would not have contributed to his death. Only a part of one tablet was actually found in his stomach.
Adding more doubt to the official story, documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request showed there were no finger prints on the knife Kelly supposedly used to kill himself.
“Someone who wanted to kill themselves wouldn’t go to the lengths of wiping the knife clean of fingerprints,” said British Minister of Parliament and current Transportation Secretary Norman Baker, who wrote a book about Kelly claiming he was killed because he might reveal more about the lies used in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. “It is just very suspicious. It is one of the things that makes me think Dr. Kelly was murdered. The case should be re-opened.”
A police spokesperson acknowledged the lack of fingerprints, but said it “does not change the official explanation.”
Suspicions in the case grew even more after it was revealed earlier this year that documents in the official investigation had been secretly classified by the British government for an astonishing 70 years, an unprecedented move that fanned the flames of skepticism. All medical, scientific, and photographic records were totally sealed by Lord Hutton, including the post mortem.
“This inexplicable secrecy can excite only suspicion that the authorities have something very bad indeed to hide,” noted Melanie Phillips in a report for the Daily Mail. “I myself have met people familiar with the shadowy world in which Dr Kelly moved who are certain he was murdered.” Another Daily Mail article reported that the legal basis for the gag order “has baffled experts accustomed to such matters.”
Researchers have raised countless problems with the “official” story — too many to go over in detail in one article. But some of the new information collected by the Daily Mail in a more recent article entitled “Dr David Kelly: The damning new evidence that points to a cover-up by Tony Blair’s government” is worth recounting.
“Our new revelations include the ambiguous nature of the wording on Dr Kelly’s death certificate; the existence of an anonymous letter which says his colleagues were warned to stay away from his funeral; and an extraordinary claim that the wallpaper at Dr Kelly’s home was stripped by police in the hours after he was reported missing – but before his body was found,” the paper reported, noting that its “rigorous and thorough investigation” had “turned up evidence which raises still more disturbing questions.”
The death certificate, only recently obtained, used peculiar wording in the box meant for entering the place of death. Instead of naming it, the certificate said Kelly was “found dead” at Harrowdown Hill. Experts say the wording alone is enough to open another investigation, especially since there are numerous other irregularities involving the location of Kelly’s body (like heat-sensing helicopters that, based on the official story, should have found the body when flying over).
The death certificate also states that a coroner’s inquest was performed. But it wasn’t. It also lacks a doctor’s or coroner’s signature, something all death certificates in the U.K. are required to have.
“This death certificate is evidence of a failure properly to examine the cause of Dr Kelly’s death. It is evidence of a pre-judgment of the issue. In a coroner’s inquest the cause of death would not be registered until the whole inquiry had been completed. As we see here, the cause of death was registered before the Hutton Inquiry had finished,” said former coroner and law expert Dr. Michael Powers QC, who aims to have a thorough investigation conducted.
“This is remarkable,” he told the paper. “To my mind it is evidence that the inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death was window-dressing because the conclusion had already been determined.”
On top of the Hutton Inquiry’s many obvious shortcomings, a letter received last month by one of the doctors involved in the Kelly Investigation Group claims Kelly’s colleagues were warned not to attend his funeral. Kelly’s widow also said police came to the house and tore off wallpaper, possibly searching for listening devices, shortly after Kelly was reported missing, but prior to the discovery of his body. Authorities refuse to comment on the allegation.
The doctors investigating the suspicious death said “concern about Dr Kelly’s death will continue to deepen until a full coroner’s inquest is heard,” the Daily Mail reported, adding that if such an inquest is performed, Tony Blair might well be expected to testify about why he “went to such lengths to avoid the normal, rigorous and respected course of this country’s law.”
Concluding, the paper noted that Blair’s reputation, as well as the reputation of the British legal system, will continue to suffer until a proper investigation is conducted, which “is the only way the whole truth about the Kelly affair, however uncomfortable, will emerge.”
Now, after all these years, there are hints that the truth may finally come out. The new British Attorney General announced earlier this month that he is considering re-opening the investigation. Meanwhile, the new Justice Secretary is reportedly contemplating releasing some of the records in the case that currently remain classified. Whether it will happen has been a matter of intense speculation in the British press, but if these crucial questions are ever to be resolved, a proper investigation is a must.
|Adeeb Abu Rahme during a protest against the wall in Bilin. (Hamde Abu Rahme)|
On 30 June grassroots activist Adeeb Abu Rahmah was sentenced by Israel to two years imprisonment at a military court hearing at the Ofer Military Complex in the occupied West Bank. Abu Rahmah already spent 11 months behind bars and his arrest and detention is part of Israel’s repressive efforts to criminalize the grassroots popular resistance to the Israeli occupation.
Adeeb Abu Rahmah is known for his vibrant presence at the occupied West Bank village of Bilin’s weekly demonstrations against Israel’s wall and for his commitment to popular nonviolent resistance. A founding member of the Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, Abu Rahmah was arrested at a nonviolent demonstration on 10 July 2009 and later indicted by the military prosecution on grounds of “incitement,” “activity against public order,” and “being present in a closed military zone.”
Abu Rahmah has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to nonviolent resistance. He has also denied all charges, aside from acknowledging his participation in the weekly demonstrations. Although his release was initially ordered on 16 July 2009, the prosecution later appealed the decision and Abu Rahmah was remanded into custody for the duration of his legal proceedings.
Many contend that Israel’s investigation of Abu Rahmeh was flawed from the very beginning, and the Israeli military court system is notorious for its lack of respect for international standards of fair trial and detention. A 5 March 2010 Human Rights Watch report particularly highlighted many due process concerns where investigations regarding Palestinian anti-wall demonstrators are concerned, citing charges based on “questionable evidence and allegedly coerced confessions.”
According to Iyad Burnat, Head of the Bilin Popular Committee, the Israeli military in Abu Rahmah’s case “relied on the forced confessions of four Bilin youth — one 14, one 15 and two 16 years of age — to convict Adeeb for having told them to throw stones.”
Burnat added: “This problem is not confined to Bilin and has also emerged in other villages.”
Attorney Gaby Lasky, who is representing Abu Rahmah, noted that the testimony from the minors in question was provided under considerable duress. “They were arrested at 3:30am, they were handcuffed and blindfolded,” she said. “They were then interrogated at 2pm the next day, without having eaten or having had a chance to use the washroom.”
Israeli military authorities claim that they questioned the youths to determine who threw the stones, and the youths identified Abu Rahmah as having done so.
“Yet, several times, the demonstrators had thrown leaflets and other innocuous objects at the soldiers. We are arguing that the police investigation was so lacking that they didn’t even ask the youth what Adeeb had specifically said,” Lasky explained.
Lasky also noted that the youth were questioned by an interrogator who was not a specialist in questioning children, and the interrogation was carried out without the presence of a lawyer or the children’s parents. Human Rights Watch states that such practices directly contravene provisions under Israeli Military Orders that allow detainees to contact lawyers and grant child detainees the right to have a parent present during their interrogations.
The credibility of the investigation was also challenged when Lasky learned that a special army unit was filming the demonstrations and that the footage was being submitted as evidence against Abu Rahmah. When Lasky subsequently attempted to get ahold of the footage, however, she was told that all the cassettes had been erased.
“Under different circumstances, this might have been enough to acquit him,” Lasky said. “There have been many problems with the investigation and we had hoped that the court would take this into consideration.”
Ultimately, Abu Rahmah’s trial may portend broader implications where the popular resistance is concerned. “Adeeb’s indictment and conviction raise much bigger questions,” Lasky explained. “The trial is really against the demonstrations as a whole.” Indeed, Abu Rahmah’s indictment may signal an escalation in the use of legal strategies as a means of quelling the popular resistance.
For the past five years, the people of Bilin have waged an ongoing struggle against the construction of Israel’s wall, which has annexed large portions of their agricultural lands and threatens the economy of the village. Since the first bulldozers began to uproot olive trees in February 2005, the villagers have staged weekly demonstrations every Friday. Joining villages such as Budrus, Jayyus, Nilin and al-Masara, their creative tactics have captured the imaginations of many people around the world and inspired other Palestinian communities across the West Bank to take up the struggle.
Villagers in Bilin have also launched a precedent-setting legal challenge alongside its popular campaign. On 22 June 2009, court proceedings unfolded in the Quebec Superior Court, where the village filed their lawsuit against Green Mount and Green Park International, two Quebec-based companies involved in the construction of condos and the expansion of settlements at the village’s expense. Citing the Fourth Article of the Geneva Convention and the Canadian Law on Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes, the complaint accuses both companies of complicity in war crimes.
Coinciding with the legal challenge, three members of the Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements also visited 11 Canadian cities for a nation-wide speaking tour.
While the case was later rejected by the Quebec Superior Court in the fall of 2009, the village later appealed the decision at the Quebec Court of Appeals. During hearings that unfolded earlier this month, judges fielded arguments from the village’s legal team regarding the “justiceability” of the village’s claim. Lawyers for the village maintain that the Fourth Geneva Convention is not incorporated into Israeli law, thereby precluding the possibility that the case can be heard in the Israeli high court. At present, the Canadian court has taken the case under advisement and a decision is anticipated in the months to come.
While Bilin’s three-pronged strategy of direct action, court cases and international solidarity have kept it in the headlines, the Israeli military continues to repress it. Indeed, Abu Rahmah’s conviction represents the most recent development in a broader campaign to quell the popular struggle.
In a recent report, prisoner rights group Addameer and the Stop the Wall campaign have noted that violence has been systematically used by Israeli forces to suppress the popular resistance. It is estimated that more than 1,566 Palestinians have been injured and 16 have been killed between 2005 and 2009. In Bilin alone, approximately 1,300 protestors have been wounded during weekly demonstrations over the past five years. Israel’s directed policy of misusing dispersement tactics also claimed the life of Bilin’s Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was killed on 17 April 2009, when he was shot in the chest with a tear gas canister.
The Israeli military has also instituted a policy of targeted arrests and detention. According to Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, “this policy is very much part of a broader campaign of repression against any form of activism.” The use of detentions and arrests has also escalated considerably in recent years. “Within the past one or two years, it has increased considerably as momentum in the campaign against the wall builds.”
Since 2002, Addameer and Stop the Wall have documented the arrests of 176 Palestinian grassroots activists in five villages, namely Bilin, Nilin, al-Masara, Jayyus and Budrus. According to Bilin’s internal village statistics, 85 residents have been arrested since June 2009, many during the Israeli military’s frequent night raids into the village The recent wave of political arrests has targeted key community activists; five of those arrested are active with the Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, and all were charged with “incitement.”
Defined as “any act of attempting, whether verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order” under Article 7(a) of Military Order 101, the use of incitement as a blanket charge is controversial.
Attorney Lasky explained that “Until recently, people had not been charged with this particular offense for a very long time and it is now being interpreted very broadly.” In a recent press release, Amnesty International also cautioned that “the broad scope of Israeli military orders mean that Abu Rahmah could be imprisoned solely for legitimately exercising his right to freedom of expression in opposing Israeli policies in the West Bank.”
From Sahar Francis’ perspective, the use of vague language and nebulous parameters is no coincidence. “The first thing we should remember is that all forms of activism are deemed illegal,” she explained. “Participating in demonstrations, holding forums — all these things are considered to be incitement. You find very vague language and definitions so broad that any action can fit inside. This was written into the Military Orders in 1967 to permit them to adapt to evolving forms of resistance.”
Abu Rahmah’s case could also have far-reaching implications for other anti-wall activists currently awaiting trial. As Amnesty International explained, he could be “the first activist against the fence/wall to be brought to a full evidential trial in a case of this kind.” Abu Rahmah’s conviction could potentially set troubling new precedents for further criminalizing the popular resistance.
Abu Rahmah’s sentence has also come as a tremendous shock and disappointment to his family, and his ongoing imprisonment continues to weigh heavily upon them. Left without a financial provider, the family of ten has struggled to make ends meet for the past 11 months.
“I am a medical student at Abu Dis University, while my sister is also studying management at al-Quds Open University,” daughter Rajaa Abu Rahmah explained. “We also have to cover the costs of books and tuition, in addition to meeting basic needs. It has been really hard to get by.”
In addition to financial pressures, Abu Rahmah’s absence has also exacted a heavy emotional toll on the family. “This is the first time my father has been away from us, even for a short period of time,” stated Rajaa. “We feel angry all the time, for no reason. It has been a sad, lonely time for us all.”
Despite the challenges faced during his absence, the Abu Rahmah family remains steadfast. “We are not alone,” Rajaa said. “Many villages also have prisoners and people who have suffered injuries. It has been difficult, but we have to come out of this stronger.”
As the Abu Rahmah family has been resilient, so too has the popular struggle. The weekly demonstrations have continued unabated and resistance remains ongoing, even in the face of intense repression and legal persecution.
“Certain people may be more cautious in their participation,” Francis explained. “Still, the resistance is continuing and even expanding to new villages, such as Nabi Saleh. They are not succeeding in breaking the will of the people.”
Iyad Burnat said that the latest round of repression leaves the movement even more determined to sustain the popular struggle. “Israel will not break us on their anvil — they will only make us stronger with their repression and hammer blows.”
Burnat added, “After five years of struggle in the village, one murder and many disabling injuries we still strive with the words of Terence McSwiney — the Irish nationalist who fought the British occupation of Ireland and died on hunger strike in protest — in mind: ‘it is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can endure the most who will prevail.’”
Amy Darwish is a writer and community organizer active in the Tadamon! network in Montreal.
Europe has signed a deal to hand over all bank transaction data to the US in order to help the ongoing war on terrorism.
The SWIFT agreement was signed yesterday in Brussels by Spanish minister for home affairs Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba and the US embassy’s economic economic officer to the EU, Michael Dodman.
Rubalcaba welcomed the “excellent agreement”, which he said had been reached after discussions with the European Parliament.
The treaty must now be approved by the European Parliament. Assuming it does pass it will be in force for five years.
IT gives the US Treasury access to bank transactions although there is now some filtering at the European end. The agreement will be overseen by Europol.
The Swift agreement was first approved in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It lapsed in February after the European Parliament rejected an earlier draft.
The European Data Protection Supervisor remains unimpressed and has questioned the need for bulk transfers of data and the time such data is kept without being investigated by US authorities. The EDPS has also called for better oversight of the process.
Most of the world’s bank transactions are transmitted by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), based in Belgium.
The Methodist Church today voted to boycott all products from Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories becoming the first major Christian denomination in Britain to officially adopt such a policy.
The decision was made at the church’s Conference in Portsmouth, an annual gathering which decides Methodist policy. The official stance of the church, the fourth largest Christian denomination in Britain, will be to boycott any products made on Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Lay Methodists will also be encouraged to follow the church’s lead.
The move will inevitably put Methodists on a collision course with Britain’s Jewish community. The Board of Deputies of British Jews had already expressed concern over a 50-page report which had been compiled by a Methodist committee and sent to all its churches before the conference explaining why a boycott was justified.
In December, Defra introduced new advice on labelling, recommending that packaging of products imported from the West Bank should distinguish between Palestinian areas and Israeli settlements.
Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, said, “This decision has not been taken lightly, but after months of research, careful consideration and finally, today’s debate at the Conference. The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region.
Ben White, a Methodist supporter if the boycott, said: “This is a clear show of support from Jews and Christians who understand that a real peace for both peoples requires justice. It stands in stark contrast to the disingenuous threat that listening to the call of Christian Palestinians and upholding international law and human rights will damage ‘inter-faith relations’ – on the contrary, inter-faith dialogue is not facilitated by ignoring serious questions about injustice.”
In the US House of Representatives, there is something curiously yclept the “Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming” despite the lack of connection between the energy independence and warming. They have a very professionally done website, filled with some of the most outrageous misrepresentations imaginable. It is designed to promote the “Waxman-Markey” cap and trade carbon tax bill by means of the historically tried and tested “Big Lie” method, viz:
All this was inspired by the principle–which is quite true within itself–that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.
It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.
I’m going to take the website’s misrepresentations one at a time, as time permits. The first one is from a page entitled “Impact Zone – U.S. New England“, which contains this lovely photograph designed to tug at the heartstrings:
Figure 1. Photo of maple trees in New England, professionally chosen for maximum emotional impact.
The accompanying text says (emphasis mine):
Global Warming in New England: Slushier Slopes and Faded Foliage
Life and economic activity across New England is marked by the seasons – maple sugaring in the spring, trips to the beach in the summer, the riot of color of the fall foliage, and the swoosh of skis and skates in the winter. This familiar cycle is already changing in noticeable ways.
Since the 1970′s average winter temperatures have risen more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit in the Northeast region. If the current rate of heat-trapping emissions continues, by 2070 summers in Boston will feel like those of South Carolina today. By the end of the century, temperatures could rise up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit in the region. Cities across New England, which historically experience only one or two days per year above 100 degrees each summer, could average 20 such days per summer, while more southern cities such as Hartford could average nearly 30 days.
The character of the seasons will change significantly. Spring could arrive three weeks earlier, with summer lengthening by about three weeks, autumn becoming warmer and drier, and winter becoming shorter and milder.
So what’s wrong with that?
Well, once we note the conjectures (marked by the weasel words in bold), we see that most of it is nothing but unfounded, un-cited alarmist claims about imaginary future calamities. They have presented only one claim of fact – that winter temperatures in the Northeast Region have risen by more than 4°F.
Now, the USHCN has the data for all of the states, as well as by region. The Northeast Region is the data that starts with “101″ in the first column. Figure 2 shows the temperature record for the four seasons, as well as the annual average temperature, for the Northeast Region:
Figure 2. Annual and seasonal temperatures, US Northeast Region. Photo shows winter surf in New England. PHOTO SOURCE.
As you can see, there has not been much of a change over the last 115 years in any of the seasons. The trend for all of the datasets is not significantly different from zero (winter p=0.06, spring p=0.15, summer p=0.34, fall p=0.68, annual p=0.06).
And more to the point, the winter trend over the last 40 years (1970-2009) is only 2.7°F, not the “more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit” claimed by their website. Such a swing is not surprising in a dataset such as the winter temperatures, which shows a 10 °F swing in one year, from 2001 to 2002.
But wait … there’s more. Because of the short length (40 years) and high variability of the 1970-2009 winter temperatures, the 1970-2009 trend is not significantly different from zero either (p = 0.12, a ways from significant).
SUMMARY: Their web page contains two misrepresentations of fact about US Northeast winters, two implied misrepresentations, and a big lie:
Misrepresentation of fact 1: the 1970-2009 winter temperatures have not “risen more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit”, they have risen 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no rise of more than 4 °F in the winter temperature record, no matter where you start.
Misrepresentation of fact 2: the 1970-2009 winter trend is not statistically significant, so we cannot reject the null hypothesis that there is no trend at all, much less a claimed 4 °F trend.
Implied misrepresentation 1: The US Northeast winters are not warming. Over the full period of record (1895-2009), there is no statistically significant trend in the winter record.
Implied misrepresentation 2: The seasonal temperatures in the US Northeast are not warming. Over the full period of record (1895-2009), there is no statistically significant trend in the overall record for any season.
THE BIG LIE: When you look at the full record for the US Northeast, there is no statistically significant trend anywhere. Neither spring, summer, winter, fall, nor the full annual average temperatures have any statistically significant trend for the period of the study, 1895-2009. And remember, this is measured by ground stations that contain spurious UHI warming, and there still is no warming trend.
The big lie is that the US Northeast is warming. The best records that we have say that it is not.
I will examine more of the malarkey from their web site as time permits, although the statements are so obviously untrue that it’s hardly sporting. It’s like shooting fish, not in a barrel, but in a bucket …
Targeting Israeli banks will help bring an end to the occupation. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)
The international banking sanctions campaign in New York against apartheid South Africa during the 1980s is regarded as the most effective strategy in bringing about a nonviolent end to the country’s apartheid system. The campaign culminated in President FW de Klerk’s announcement in February 1990, releasing Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and the beginning of constitutional negotiations towards a non-racial and democratic society.
If international civil society is serious about urgently ending Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, including ending the occupation, then suspension of SWIFT transactions to and from Israeli banks offers an instrument to help bring about a peaceful resolution of an intractable conflict. With computerization, international banking technology has advanced dramatically in the subsequent 20 years since the South African anti-apartheid campaign.
Although access to New York banks remains essential for foreign exchange transactions because of the role of the dollar, interbank transfer instructions are conducted through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which is based in Belgium. So, instead of New York — as in the period when sanctions were applied on South Africa– Belgium is now the pressure point.
SWIFT links 8,740 financial institutions in 209 countries. Without access to SWIFT and its interbank payment network, countries are unable either to pay for imports or to receive payment for exports. In short, no payment — no trade. Should it come to a point where trade sanctions are imposed on Israel, it may be able to evade them. Instead of chasing trade sanctions-busters and plugging loopholes, it is both faster and much more effective to suspend the payment system.
The Israeli government may consider itself to be militarily and diplomatically invincible, given support from the United States, and other governments, but Israel’s economy is exceptionally dependent upon international trade. It is thus very vulnerable to financial retaliation. South Africa’s apartheid government had also believed itself to be immune from foreign pressure.
Without SWIFT, Israel’s access to the international banking system would be crippled. Banking is the lifeblood of any economy. Without payment for imports or exports, the Israeli economy would quickly collapse. The matter has gained additional urgency with the bill now before the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to penalize any person who promotes the imposition of boycotts against Israel. Another important political factor is that SWIFT is not only outside American jurisdiction, it is also beyond the reach of Israeli military retaliation.
Israel has long experience in sanctions-busting since the 1948 Arab boycotts. Apartheid South Africa was also well experienced in sanctions-busting — breaking oil embargoes was almost a “national sport.” Trade sanctions are invariably full of loopholes. Profiteering opportunities abound, as illustrated by Iraq, Cuba and numerous countries against which for many years the United States unsuccessfully has applied trade sanctions. Iran conducts its trade through Dubai, which happily profits from the political impasse.
Suspension of bank payments plugs such loopholes, and also alters the balance of power so that meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians become even possible. This is because banking sanctions impact quickly upon financial elites who have the clout to pressure governments to concede political change. Trade sanctions, by contrast, impact hardest on the poor or lower-paid workers, who have virtually no political influence.
SWIFT will, however, only take action against Israeli banks if ordered to do so by a Belgian court, and then only in very exceptional circumstances. Such very exceptional circumstances are now well-documented by the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s winter 2008-09 invasion and massacre in Gaza and by the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010. There is also a huge body of literature from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations detailing Israeli war crimes and violations of humanitarian law.
The Israeli government, like that of apartheid South Africa, has become a menace to the international community. Corruption and abuses of human rights are invariably interconnected. Israel’s long military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for example, has corrupted almost every aspect of Israeli society, most especially its economy. The Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported in December 2009 that the Israeli government lacks commitment in tackling international corruption and money laundering.
The international financial system is exceedingly sensitive about allegations of money laundering, but also to any associations with human rights abuses. Organized crime and money laundering are major international security threats, as illustrated by the United States subpoena after the 11 September 2001 attacks of SWIFT data to track terrorist financing. The website Who Profits? (www.whoprofits.org) lists hundreds of international and Israeli companies that illegally profiteer from the occupation.
Their operations range from construction of the “apartheid wall” and settlements to agricultural produce grown on confiscated Palestinian land. As examples, Caterpillar, Volvo and Hyundai supply bulldozing equipment to demolish Palestinian homes. British supermarkets sell fresh produce grown in the West Bank, but illegally labelled as Israeli. Ahava markets Dead Sea mud and cosmetics.
The notorious Lev Leviev claims in Dubai that Leviev diamonds are of African origin, and are cut and polished in the United States rather than Israel. They are sourced from Angola, Namibia and also allegedly Zimbabwe, and can rightly be described as “blood diamonds.” Israeli diamond exports in 2008 were worth $19.4 billion, and accounted for almost 35 percent of Israeli exports. Industrial grade diamonds are essential to Israel’s armaments industry, and its provision of surveillance equipment to the world’s most unsavory dictatorships. Such profiteering depends on foreign exchange and access to the international payments system. Hence interbank transfers are essential, and SWIFT — willingly or unwillingly — has become complicit, as were the New York banks with apartheid South Africa.
Accordingly, a credible civil society organization amongst the Palestinian diaspora should lead the SWIFT sanctions campaign against Israeli banks. And, per the South African experience, it should be led by civil society rather than rely on governments.
Each bank has an eight letter SWIFT code that identifies both the bank and its country of domicile. “IL” are the fifth and sixth letters in SWIFT codes that identify Israel. The four major Israeli banks and their SWIFT codes are Israel Discount Bank (IDBILIT), Bank Hapoalim (POALILIT), Bank Leumi (LUMIILIT) and Bank of Israel (ISRAILIJ).
Such a suspension would not affect domestic banking transactions within Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip — or international transfers to Palestinian banks that have separate “PS” identities. The campaign can be reversed as soon as the objectives have been achieved, and without long-term economic damage.
What is required is an urgent application in a Belgian court ordering SWIFT to reprogram its computers to suspend all transactions to and from Israeli banks until the Israeli government agrees to end the occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and that it will dismantle the “apartheid wall;” the Israeli government recognizes the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Israel recognizes, respects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees.
The writer is a retired banker, who advised the South African Council of Churches on the banking sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa. He spent October 2009 to January 2010 in East Jerusalem monitoring checkpoints, house demolitions and evictions, and liaising with Israeli peace groups. He lives in Cape Town.