Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It isn't every day a US president apologizes to you personally...

But it happened to me today.
Check out this article in the Washington Post. The Brandeis "some student" who asked the question to Carter about page 213? Me.
Cool huh?

Jimmy Carter's 'Peace' Mission To Brandeis
Ex-President Still Stands by His Controversial Palestine Book

By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 24, 2007; C01

WALTHAM, Mass., Jan. 23 -- Former president Jimmy Carter flew north to Brandeis University to speak on Tuesday of his hurt at the personal attacks by some American Jews that followed publication of his latest book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," which urges Israel to turn away from a policy of creating "Bantustans" on the West Bank.

"This is the first time that I've ever been called a liar and a bigot and an anti-Semite and a coward and a plagiarist." Carter paused and squinted at the audience. "This has hurt me."

At the same time, he acknowledged, with a flash of his trademark smile, that he did not simply stumble into the title of his new book. "I can see it would precipitate some harsh feelings. I chose that title knowing that it would be provocative."

Provocative mission accomplished.

Carter, who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize partly for brokering peace between Israel and Egypt in 1998, has a long history of involvement in the Middle East. But the former president has encountered much criticism since the publication of his latest book, in which his frustration with the current Israeli policy in the West Bank is palpable. In particular, he has attracted much anger for his use of the word "apartheid," redolent as it is of South Africa's policy of state-sanctioned racism.

Fourteen members of the board of the Carter Center at Emory University in Atlanta recently resigned in protest, and several expressed particular disappointment with the use of the word "apartheid."

Carter did not step back from the word Tuesday. He noted that he and his successors, notably Bill Clinton, have tried and failed to nudge the Palestinians and Israelis toward a lasting peace. The last six years, he said, have been marked by failure on all sides. The administration of George W. Bush all but abandoned such efforts, putting the onus on the Palestinians to turn their back on PLO leaders and now the fundamentalist Islamic Hamas leadership. And the Israelis, too, have all but abandoned negotiation, he said, turning instead to the building of walls.

Carter spoke of Israeli's decision to build barriers and set aside certain highways for Israelis only as creating a "spider web" that constricts and divides historic Arab lands. The West Bank, he said, has become a place of "Bantustans, isolated cantons," referring to the territories created for black South Africans under apartheid. He noted that many liberal Israelis, from newspaper journalists to professors to peace activists, also refer to Israeli policy on the West Bank as apartheid, albeit a policy grounded not in racism but in a religion-based desire to control land.

Israelis "have all used and explained the word 'apartheid' in much harsher words than mine," Carter said.

The Israeli government and others have defended the barriers as a successful tool to prevent suicide bombings against civilians. Fatalities from such bombings have fallen by 90 percent since the construction of the barriers, according to government officials.

Carter referred several times to the fact that his arguments might stir anger in a largely Jewish audience. But the former president received a mostly polite reception at Brandeis, a nonsectarian college founded by Jews where 50 percent of the students are Jewish. Students and faculty gave him a standing ovation at the beginning and end of his talk. But in between he received a number of tough questions. As a moderator noted, "There are not too many matzoh balls coming your way."

In particular, some students challenged Carter on a sentence that has brought him much grief. On Page 213 of his book, Carter wrote: "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel."

This sentence, the students noted, suggests that suicide bombings are a tactic of war, to be suspended only when peace is achieved. Carter agreed -- and apologized -- and said this sentence was a great mistake on his part.

"The sentence was worded in an absolutely improper and stupid way," Carter said. "I apologize to you and to everyone here . . . it was a mistake on my part."

He added that Palestinians who embrace terrorism draw no support from him. Calls for the destruction of Israel, he said, "are completely obnoxious to me. I would have no brief for them and no sympathy for them."

But Carter insisted that one botched line in his book should not drain his larger argument of its power. He urged Brandeis to send a delegation of students and professors to the West Bank and to report back on their findings. "You decide if I was accurate," he said, leaving little doubt as to what he thought they would find.

It was an argument that left more than a few students shaking their heads afterward. They said Carter is not quite so rare a voice on college campuses as he might imagine. They said they were familiar with his arguments and acknowledge some of the criticisms of Israel.

Yuval Brokman, a 20-year-old junior majoring in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, said, "He underestimates how hard it is for Israel to live in that part of the world. It's ridiculous to think that they have a choice. The Palestinian people have been oppressed more by their own leaders."

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Great Crime of the Century: Global Warming and Exxon Mobile's Fraud

I've been down in New Orleans the last week trying to help reconstruction in the Gulf Coast region, on a mission with Brandeis and National Hillel. The place is still a disaster area; people are saying its going to be 5, 7, even 10 years before the situation is as close to as good as it was pre-Katrina. Despairingly, I have also encountered the fear of some that New Orleans may soon be forever lost; that a rise in sea level of even a few feet worldwide could render the city completely uninhabitable. Please read this recent interview with the Executive Director of Greenpeace, as he provides tremendous insight into our present situation and the forces keeping us from confronting it with integrity and seriousness.

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Global Warming Heat Wave? January Temps Hit Record Highs Across Northeast

Temperatures this weekend reached record highs across the Northeast climbing to 72 degrees in New York and New Jersey and hitting almost 70 in Boston and Connecticut. The world's 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1994 with 2006 the sixth warmest on record. We take a look at global warming with Greenpeace USA executive director, John Passacantando. [includes rush transcript]
Britain's Meteorological Office predicted that 2007 is likely to be the hottest year since record-keeping began in the mid 1800's. The organization cited rising temperatures due to global warming from greenhouse gases and human activity - combined with the naturally occurring El Nino- as likely to break the earth's temperature record this year. The world's 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1994 with 2006 the sixth warmest on record.

Just recently, the Bush administration, under the threat of a lawsuit, agreed to declare polar bears an endangered species. The bears' arctic habitat has experienced declining ice coverage due to global warming.

Greenpeace was one of three organizations that filed a lawsuit against the government. We speak with John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.

AMY GOODMAN: John Passacantando is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. He joins us in the studio from Washington, D.C. Welcome to Democracy Now!, John.


AMY GOODMAN: Well, first of all, this record heat that we’re experiencing in the Northeast, can you talk about the crisis of global warming now?

JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Well, with no particular weather event can we say this is from global warming, but what we can say from a heat wave like we're experiencing in the East is that this is exactly what the scientists have been telling us to expect from global warming: not only increasing temperatures, but disturbed weather patterns and much warmer winters. Now, while some people have been sunbathing this weekend and enjoyed the warmer weather, most people understand that there's something very wrong with this, that this effects the size of the insect populations we're going to see in the spring. It's going to affect birds when they migrate. It's going to effect so many things. It’s going to effect when water falls and when reservoirs are filled, and that throwing this kind of wrench into our climate systems is a very dangerous thing.

AMY GOODMAN: The polar bear, explain what your lawsuit was about.

JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Well, along with the Center for Biological Diversity and the National Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace launched a -- we proposed that the US government list the polar bear as endangered or threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. The Environmental Protection Agency dragged its feet on this for a full year and didn't rule on this until the very last day, when -- we had sued them, and they were forced to rule on this and has now proposed that the polar bear be listed as threatened. They now have a year to come up with a management plan.

The difficulty the government is in is that this is the first time the Endangered Species Act has been used to protect a critter -- in this case, the polar bear -- from global warming. In other words, not from a localized impact of losing land to developers, for example, but in this case, from losing ice pack that the polar bears need to survive in the Arctic, which was at a record level of shrinkage in 2005 and a near record in 2006. So the government, on the one hand, is saying we are going to ultimately list the polar bears as threatened. On the other hand, the government is speaking out of the other side of its mouth, saying we're still not sure if global warming is happening or what exactly the impacts are.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, Greenpeace has experienced an IRS audit. Can you talk about what you went through and who you think was behind what happened to you?

JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Well, it's very clear, and it ties to the larger story about global warming. Why has the United States been so far behind the other industrialized nations in recognizing that global warming is from our emissions, CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, and so far behind taking actions? It comes down to a concerted effort by companies like ExxonMobil. Our records at Greenpeace show -- and this is all documented on a research website called -- that between 1998 and 2005, ExxonMobil funded groups that were going to be skeptical of global warming, in some cases lie about the truth about global warming, gave them almost $20 million to confuse the American public about global warming.

Greenpeace, being one of the groups that was exposing these lies, ExxonMobil -- it was later found -- created a small group called Public Interest Watch. Public Interest Watch in 2004 wrote a completely erroneous report that said Greenpeace was doing illegal things with its money. This report instigated an IRS audit that Greenpeace went through for a three-month period in 2005. Greenpeace came through this audit with flying colors, but what we later learned, a Wall Street Journal reporter found that ExxonMobil funded the group that called for Greenpeace to be audited, in fact funded the group in its entirety, in the year that it published the report, 2004. So ExxonMobil has been involved in a whole array of attempts to confuse the American public and to delay any measures to put a cap on global warming pollution.

AMY GOODMAN: Where does the US stand in relation to the rest of the world on this issue?

JOHN PASSACANTANDO: The US stands incredibly far behind virtually every other industrialized democracy. The US has essentially taken the position of ExxonMobil to the international negotiations, expressing skepticism about the science of global warming, when, in fact, it is airtight, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, now with decades of research, is showing the public just exactly what is happening from global warming. So the US administration, the Bush administration, has essentially run the oil industry's agenda.

The analogy is to the tobacco companies. The oil companies have denied global warming is a problem, and the US administration has repeated that, and now, as the evidence becomes so irrefutable, it becomes so obvious the administration is taking almost a flat earth position. They’re saying, “Well, we know something's happening, but we still need more evidence and more research.” It's an effort to stall.

And hopefully, now with more Democrats in the Congress and Democrats in the majority, they can push through this, actually have the hearings they need to have to expose this lie that was perpetrated on the American people by ExxonMobil and others through our government, because I believe it was really one of the great corporate crimes of the late 20th and the early 21st century.

AMY GOODMAN: John Passacantando, what about the government scientists, like the NASA climate expert, James Hansen, who has been talking about the squelching of government research that is taking place?

JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Again, this is part of the same pattern, where this government, at the behest of its oil company contributors, has been told not to put out information about global warming, not to allow the scientists to talk about their expertise with the press, about the connection between global warming and hurricanes. That happened at NOAA. There's been pressure on Dr. James Hansen at NASA and others, Rick Pilkey [phon.] at the Environmental Protection Agency. There have been numerous scientists who have come forward and gone public with the fact that they have been really shut down working for the government, and there are many others that we have talked to that are still afraid to come forward. So there’s been a -- really a great crime has been perpetrated on the public, in terms of allowing the public to know what the government scientists know about global warming.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, John Passacantando, there’s a website, Can you explain how it works, what it is?

JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Yes. is -- at Greenpeace, we've been gathering for about 15 years everything we can find, when it comes to the connection between ExxonMobil and other companies -- the American Petroleum Institute, the trade association, the auto companies -- funding the lies about global warming, knowing that until we pull their hands, the hands of these big corporations, off of the public policy, we’re not going to get public policy that stops global warming; we'll only get policy that keeps the status quo, these guys making a lot of money selling this oil to burn. So we put all this research on a public site,, so journalists could look at this -- and all our sources are there -- and do their own research.

Interestingly, many of our FOIAs are up there, as well, showing the conversations between the Bush administration and the American Petroleum Institute, the auto makers, the oil producers. And if you go to the White House website,, and under the search bar you just put in “Greenpeace,” you'll get a long list of all the FOIAs we did, which has a remarkable -- it’s a remarkable library of conversations, and readers will see that their government was truly in bed with the energy industry.

AMY GOODMAN: And the connection of the extreme weather that we've been seeing in Colorado -- we talked about the Northeast being record heat -- Colorado, these massive snowstorms.

JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Yes, and again, any one event I can't link straight to global warming. We know that part of this is due to an El Nino event, where parts of the Pacific are hotter than usual. This is a very old cycle, a cycle that predates human-induced global warming. Scientists are right now trying to decipher just how much El Nino is effected by global warming, if indeed there are more extreme and more frequent El Nino events from global warming, but they're not absolutely positive on that yet. What we do know is the kind of heat we're experiencing here, the kind of superstorms we saw in Katrina and Rita, the kind of raging wildfires that we've seen record numbers of in the West, all of that is exactly what the scientists have been telling us to expect from global warming.

AMY GOODMAN: John Passacantando, I want to thank you for being with us. Greenpeace USA is his organization.

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