It is not often that major international publications respond to crackpot opinion pieces in other newspapers. Yet Robert L. Bernstein’s latest tantrum against the Palestinians, which the Washington Post published instead of steering the author to an extremist website, was so far beyond the pale that The Economist felt compelled to issue a rejoinder.
Beneath the layers of dehumanization, delegitimization, distortion, and outright deceit, Bernstein’s argument is straightforward in tone yet crooked in reasoning: Israel is the victim of the Palestinians it has dispossessed and occupied; Palestinian (and Arab) hostility to Israel is—and is motivated by—anti-Semitism rather than dispossession and occupation; and anyone who disagrees with his putrid nonsense is an accomplice to incitement to genocide. His proof consists of a blend of his own imagination and assertions, and quotes from Palestinian Media Watch which is a propaganda outfit run by radical Jewish settlers that has been thoroughly discredited by serious scholars on every continent save Antarctica.
Bernstein concentrates his bile on the United Nations and human rights organizations, particularly Human Rights Watch which he apparently established. He accuses these organizations of being “accomplices” to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, which he re-defines as a campaign to commit genocide. The claim is laughable at best.
Rather than being an enemy of Israel, the UN established it. In the decades since 1948, the UN has systematically failed to redress the resultant ethnic cleansing of the vast majority of Palestinians from the territory that became Israel. Moreover, its Security Council has been instrumental in promoting Israeli impunity with respect to systematic violations of the UN Charter and other UN conventions.
This year alone, the Security Council, courtesy of yet another American nyet, ensured that Israel could continue expanding illegal settlements in occupied territory—a grave breach under international law—without consequence. Washington is currently working overtime to ensure that the Arab state in Palestine specified by the same resolution that led to Israel’s founding is not admitted to membership in the world body.
For Bernstein, that most of the world has already recognized this state means the planet is wrong and Israel is right. Anything he doesn’t like, after all, is evidence of an anti-Semitic conspiracy—and nothing more so than global support for Palestinian rights. One wonders how Bernstein would characterize the UN if it actually held Israel accountable for its actions the way it has Arab states like Iraq and Libya, and translated its annual confirmation of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination from ink to reality.
It is certainly true that the UN has devoted more column inches to the Palestine question than perhaps any other. This reflects not only the conflict’s unjustifiable longevity, but also the UN’s direct involvement and responsibility from its very outset—making Palestine the international question par excellence. This is a rather different reality from Darfur or Tibet. If the world body were genuinely hostile to Israel, the latter simply would not exist, let alone remain an active member that is simultaneously the world’s longest-serving occupying power.
The record of the human rights community on this issue is even worse than that of the UN. Until the eruption of the (first) Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, Israel’s conduct—whether in the occupied territories, Lebanon or towards its Arab citizens—elicited barely a peep. Industry leaders like Bernstein, who never let the pursuit of justice get in the way of their politics and/or political calculations, played a crucial role in this respect. It was in fact primarily on account of Israel’s globally televised barbarism that it became impossible for Bernstein’s organization and others to continue lending Israel two blind eyes.
Even today, the record of many such organizations, and that of Human Rights Watch in particular, remains deeply problematic. As any serious reading of HRW literature confirms, the organization has been more—and more openly—critical of Arab states and even occupied Palestinians than it has of Israel. In HRW reports, Israel, unlike its neighbors, is neither explicitly condemned nor directly accused of war crimes, even when the evidence it has collected itself leaves room for no other conclusion. Bernstein aims to denounce HRW, but unintentionally helps explain the organization’s persistent shortcomings.
Like fanatic ethno-nationalists everywhere, Bernstein clearly believes Israel should be held to a different standard than other states—the standard of total impunity and a complete absence of accountability. But to suggest that his own outfit holds it to the same or higher standards than others reflects pure ignorance—if not his own then his reliance on that of others.
In this respect, one would do well to judge Bernstein by his ludicrous assertion that such organizations have “chosen to focus primarily on Israel.” A brief perusal of HRW’s Middle East page—which he either does not read or willfully misrepresents—reveals that a grand total of two of HRW’s sixty-five most recent statements on the region concern Israel/Palestine, one of them a condemnation of Hamas’ harassment of Palestinian activists.
Bernstein is perhaps at his most comical when invoking his settler friends from Palestinian Media Watch to denounce Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for rejecting Israel’s recent and novel demand, without precedent in international relations, for explicit recognition as a Jewish state. If his bizarre tantrum on this issue holds any water, surely it applies equally to the rest of the planet, including even the United States, which also has yet to formally indulge Binyamin Netanyahu on this score.
There are, needless to say, legitimate points that can and should be raised about the manner in which Palestinians and Arabs have responded to Israel’s usurpation of their rights. Yet Bernstein’s tirade relies primarily on gross exaggeration and outright falsification. And in refusing—like the settlers he champions—to even acknowledge that these same points apply in plentiful abundance to Israeli leaders, opinion makers, and educational curricula, he disqualifies himself from participation in the debate about Israel and Palestine, particularly where human rights are concerned.
Since Bernstein claims to be motivated by opposition to hate speech, he would do well to first desist from this reprehensible practice. Pending such an unlikely transformation, mainstream media such as the Washington Post have a moral as well as political obligation to deny such loathsome sentiment a platform.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Italy to protest against the austerity measures adopted by the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The demonstrations were held in Milan and Rome on Saturday, DPA reported.
The rallies targeted the public sector job cuts that are part of the austerity measures, aimed at balancing the Italian budget by 2013.
A 60-billion-euro austerity package to balance the budget by 2013 was passed last month only after weeks of hesitation and delay.
Trade union representatives had earlier warned that a total of 300,000 jobs could end up being cut in the five-year period leading to 2013.
Also on Friday, students across the country protested against government cutbacks in funding for education.
Over the past three years, Berlusconi’s government has cut some 8 billion euros (USD 10.7 billion) from the education budget.
The Italian premier, who is under pressure over corruption and sex scandals, has been facing criticism for his center-right government’s erratic handling of the country’s economy.
Protest organizers said they were preparing a major mobilization for October 15 — which has been set as a day for anti-capitalist “Indignant” protests.
Over 100 top scientists and economists have written to the European Commission calling for indirect land use change (ILUC) to be accounted for in EU biofuels policy making.
The letter, seen by EurActiv, argues that assigning biofuels a zero or “carbon neutral” emissions value – as the EU has done – “is clearly not supported by the [best available] science”.
Because of “flawed” accounting conventions, “the European Union’s target for renewable energy in transport may fail to deliver genuine carbon savings in the real world,” the scientists argue.
“It could end up as merely an exercise on paper that promotes widespread deforestation and higher food prices.”
The letter’s signatories include: Daniel Kammen, the World Bank’s chief technical specialist for renewable energy; Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel Memorial Prize winner and Professor Emeritus at Stanford University; Thomas Lovejoy, chair of the Heinz Centre for Biodiversity, and several professors.
Since 2008, EU member states have been obliged to raise the share of biofuels in the energy mix to 10% by 2020.
But recent reports by the European Environment Agency and four other EU agencies have questioned whether meeting the EU’s target would cut any CO2 emissions at all. This is because the method chosen allegedly double counts the carbon absorbed by the biofuels during their growth, and omits to count their exhaust pipe CO2 emissions.
The scientists’ letter cites peer-reviewed research over several years, some commissioned by the European Commission, which show that displaced human activity caused by converting forests and grasslands to biofuels production can result in “substantial” CO2 emissions.
“All the studies of land use change indicate that the emissions related to biofuels expansion are significant and can be quite large,” the letter says.
Minutes from a recent EU executive meeting, dated 13 July and seen by EurActiv, said that targeting feedstock-based fuels such as biodiesel would be “the most effective solution to address ILUC, and would create the right incentives in favour of the development of second and third generation biofuels.”
Second generation biofuels made from ‘woody’ material such as tree bark and leaves do not compete with food production, and so have less ILUC impact. They are also more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, although they are costly.
But because of “scientific uncertainties,” the Commissioners decided to introduce a contested ‘threshold’ measurement of CO2 savings until 2018 that would not penalise individual biofuels emissions.
Some sources have suggested that there may have been a trade off between the EU’s energy and climate departments, involving the application of sustainable criteria to both biofuels and heavily polluting fuels such as Canada’s tar sands.
In a further sign of the biofuels debate heating up, European bioethanol producers have also sent a letter to the EU’s energy and climate action Commissioners, seen by EurActiv, calling for Brussels to introduce ILUC factors that distinguish between “good and bad biofuel pathways”.
“The modelling of future ILUC effects lacks enough robustness to be a suitable basis for policy,” their letter says.
Alleged EU bias
Such positions are fiercely contested by biodiesel producers. The European Biodiesel Board is releasing two land use change studies today (7 October), which argue that ILUC is “not scientifically proven” and that one recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) for the EU was biased.
“The indirect land use modelling undertaken by IFPRI has a large number of problems, and the result is that the ILUC emissions are greatly overestimated,” said one of the EBB report’s authors, Don O’Connor, of the S&T business consultancy.
“The econometric correlation between cropland expansion and for example, deforestation has not been shown to be statistically significant,” added two Kiel University professors, who co-wrote the other EBB study.
Attempting to draw a line under the debate, the accountancy firm Ernst and Young suggested a method to incentivise green biofuels production. In a report released on 5 October, E&Y argued that indirect land use change could be mitigated by incentives that encouraged sustainable practices in biofuels production.
“Producers may be willing to adopt further sustainability requirements for biofuels, but only if the financial value gained by doing so outweighed the costs of adopting the requirements,” Andrew Britton, a senior manager in Ernst and Young’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services practice said.
A contributor to the report’s launch, Utrecht University Professor, André Faaij, a convening lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) added that this sort of “proactive strategy” would be better than an introduction of ILUC factors
“Bioenergy options can provide a key lever for sustainable development of the agricultural sector and rural economies instead of causing conflict with food supplies and land,” he said.
EU Biofuels monies
As the debate over land use change intensified, the European Investment Bank announced €500 million of loans for climate mitigation projects in Brazil on 5 October, including biogas and biomass-fired heat and power plants.
The specific projects that will be funded “still need to be identified,” an EIB spokesperson said.
The EU itself has previously contributed monies to co-finance biofuels investment projects in the developing world – such as domestic Jatropha farming in Tanzania and Kenya – from the €200 million available under the second Energy Facility.
Raffaello Garofalo, Secretary General of the European Biodiesel Board, argued that imposing ILUC standards for biofuels in Europe risked favouring imported biodiesel that have lower environmental standards.
“one of the paradoxical aspects of hypothetical ILUC legislative penalties against EU biodiesel would be that imported biodiesel from palm oil (produced not in Europe but in countries where deforestation exists) would become probably the easiest and cheapest source for biodiesel production, if not the only one in practice allowed. If this risks becoming the result of European norms on ILUC [which were] conceived to guarantee environmental sustainability, clearly there is something wrong with the way in which ILUC and European legislative options on ILUC are thought [through]”.
But, from the other side of the debate, Dr Gernot Pehnelt, the director of the independent research and consulting institute GlobEcon recently wrote a report contending that the default values ascribed by the EU to palm oil were wrong.
“Our results show that the realistic GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions potential of palm biodiesel is between 37% and 44% for transportation fuel, compared to the 19% referenced in the Annex of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive,” he said. If methane capture in the oil mill had been included, palm oil would exceed the EU’s 35% greenhouse gas (GHG) savings threshold for biofuels, and so in his view “the current default palm oil values unfairly discriminate against imported biofuels in favour of domestically produced biofuels.”
It’s no secret that Pharma is trying to replace its declining pill franchise with optional vaccines like the HPV vaccine which Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to mandate for adolescent girls. Vaccines are expensive, can be mass marketed to vast swathes of the population and are usually immune to generic competition, pun intended.
One reason for the switch away from pills is that doctors are increasingly wary of prescribing new “blockbuster” drugs after the recalls of Vioxx, Bextra, Baycol, Meridia, Trovan, Fen Phen and new warnings on asthma, epilepsy, pain, bone and hormone drugs.
And there are new wrinkles in compensation. Private and government insurers are becoming less willing to “cough up money for an expensive new drug–particularly when a cheap and reliable generic is available,” the Wall Street Journal reported recently.
So it’s no wonder that Pharma and its benefactors at the National Institutes of Health are mining a new revenue source: the nation’s millions of alcoholics and drugs addicts who need a “vaccine.”
“Sixty percent of people with a substance abuse disorder also suffer from another form of mental illness, says a recent New York Times’ Science Times. (Another?) They are “wired differently” and may have a “developmental brain disorder,” says the article, next to a photo of Amy Winehouse, lest anyone miss The Point.
“We now know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior,” says Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in an National Institutes of Health newsletter. “We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease.”
Of course, Pharma’s stratagems to grow its “mentally ill” franchise are well known. People with occasional anxiety are really depressed, then bipolar, then suffering from an assortment of amorphous “spectrum” diseases and dysrythmias with no known cause, no cure, no diagnostic tests and no turnoff valve on the pharmacy spigot.
The situation is even worse for children because they’re given drugs against their will by parents, teachers and doctors. Toddlers are diagnosed with ADHD, conduct disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, mixed manias, social phobia, anxiety, sleep disorders, borderline disorders, irritability, aggression, pervasive development disorders, personality disorders and (pant, pant) even schizophrenia–all of which require expensive medication cocktails.
But the picture gets scarier when researchers start identifying “biological factors” in “animal models” of addiction and depression at major primate research centers. (There are eight including the University of Washington, Seattle; the University of California, Davis; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Emory University; Harvard University; the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research; Oregon Health Sciences University; and Tulane University.)
Scarier for people that is. It’s already pretty scary for animals.
Because even though “proof” of mental illness in animal and human brain matter is as accurate as phrenology, it allows Brave New World diagnoses in which people suffer from – or are at risk of – psychiatric illness in the absence of symptoms. On the basis of a brain scan! Because we have a drug to treat it.
Already drugs for pre-asthma, pre-diabetes, pre-mental illness, pre-cardiovascular conditions and pre-osteoporosis are a big part of Pharma’s arsenal. (And bone measuring machines that “prove” risk for osteoporosis, are in doctors’ offices.)
Pharma’s “early treatment” ruse — especially insidious in children who aren’t given the chance to grow up without drugs — is accelerated by disinformation that the mongered “silent” diseases are progressive: the longer you wait to treat them, the sicker you get! But who knows whether the drugs were ever needed, since they’re taken before symptoms appear?
Of course, the first problem with Pharma’s plan to treat alcoholic and drug addicts’ mental illness with a vaccine is that they are not mentally ill or suffering from a vaccine deficiency. But, secondly, alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases of denial in which sufferers want to drink. Hello? (Can anyone imagine Amy Winehouse asking for a vaccine?) That’s why Antabuse, a drug that makes people violently sick if they drink on it, fails.
Thirdly, doctors have long recognized that alcoholism and drug addiction are not strictly medical problems that can be treated by practitioners. “If a doctor is honest with himself, he must sometimes feel his own inadequacy. Although he gives all that is in him, it often is not enough,” wrote William D. Silkworth, MD, in 1939. “We physicians must admit we have made little impression upon the problem as a whole. Many types do not respond to the ordinary psychological approach.”
The only treatment that works for alcoholics and addicts — much to Pharma’s chagrin — is non-medical, non-pharmaceutical and free — administered in self-help groups run by other alcoholics and addicts. Which brings us to the fourth reason Pharma can’t cash in on its new chosen customers: for alcoholics and addicts, drugs are not the solution they are the problem!
Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, tentatively titled Born with a Fritos Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, will be published by Amherst, New York-based Prometheus Books next year.She can be reached at: email@example.com.
State Dept Tool Radwan Ziadeh With Hillary
US State Department tool Radwan Ziadeh today called for a war on Syria. Speaking on Aljazeera’s prime-time, evening newscast “daily harvest”, Washington’s favorite Syrian “human rights activist” did not actually utter the word “war”, but that word is rarely used even by the powers that wage the war. Instead he opted for the agreed upon euphemism of “international protection.”
He went on to explain “international protection” would be justified under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Like the minute fraction of Arabs (they are always a minute fraction) that previously supported Western wars on Iraq and Libya, Ziadeh and a handful of like-minded friends are quick to cite Chapter 7 as a “legal basis” for their self-serving collaboration and a fig leaf for their treason. This is not the first time Ziadeh has expressed his support for a potential war on Syria, but he’s never been as clear as he was today.
Short of the American military invasion and occupation of Syria which Ziadeh is hoping for, at which time he can fly into Damascus on a US Air Force C-17 like Ahmad Chalabi arrived in Iraq, he is unlikely to ever return to the country where he would certainly be arrested and put on trial for treason regardless if the current regime remains in power or not. Ziadeh, who has appeared before anti-Syrian, Zionist groups, has also expressed his willingness, in the event he becomes part of a Western-installed regime in Damascus, to recognize the Zionist entity and continues his silence on Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Friday that Russia would veto future U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at toppling anti-western political regimes by Western powers.
“Russia will continue standing against attempts to legitimize through the U.N. Security Council unilateral sanctions aimed at toppling various regimes,” Medvedev said.
“The U.N. was not created for that,” Medvedev said, “We should recognize clearly that the goal of the U.N. and especially the U.N. Security Council, which bears special responsibility for the fate of world peace, is not to give a pretext for drawing up documents allowing the attainment of certain ends in a military way.”
In his meeting with members of the Russian Security Council, the president also said that the Syrian leadership will have to leave office if it cannot carry out necessary reforms but stressed that the decision should be only made by the Syrian people.
“If the Syrian leadership is unable to complete such reforms, it will have to go. But this decision should not be made by NATO or certain European countries, it should be made by the Syrian people and the Syrian government,” Medvedev said. Russia is interested in an early end to the crisis in Syria, he added.
Russia on Tuesday vetoed a U.N. Security Council draft resolution on Syria, saying the draft was based on “a philosophy of confrontation” and ran counter to a peaceful settlement of the crisis.