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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Israel Fears Obama Will Stop Hiding Its Nuclear 'Secret'

By Eli Lake
The Israeli government is worried the Obama administration will allow a U.N. conference this week to adopt a resolution that could compel Israel to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal.

At issue is a proposal at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference that would empower the U.N. secretary general to organize a conference to pursue a Middle East free of nukes and other weapons of mass destruction.

Israel is one of three nuclear states (along with Pakistan and India) that have not signed the treaty. But unlike Pakistan and India, Israel has never formally acknowledged that it has nuclear weapons.

Egypt and other Arab states have pressed for a nuclear-free Middle East zone at this conference since the 1990s. In 2010, for the first time, the conference adopted language that laid out the first steps for achieving this zone. But to move forward and hold a conference on keeping nukes out of the Middle East, the group needed consensus support from the United States, Russia and Britain, three of five countries that the treaty acknowledges to have nukes. There was no consensus.

But this time it's different. The Spanish delegation this year proposes letting the U.N. secretary general convene a conference on a nuclear-free Middle East, even without consensus support. In essence it would mean that Israel's most important ally, the United States, would not be able to block the convention.


Sorry, Republicans: Obamacare is getting more and more entrenched

Republicans have always had a problem where rhetoric meets reality on the Affordable Care Act. In the abstract, the law has never been overwhelmingly popular, but many of the things the law actually does — like preventing insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions — are extremely popular.

And so, if Republicans actually succeed in reversing the law’s progress in a meaningful way — as they might with the King v. Burwell lawsuit that could take coverage from millions of people — they may realize, like the dog that caught the car, that this wasn’t such a hot idea after all, and they might not know what to do about it.

There’s a new poll out from the Kaiser Family Foundation that not only highlights this problem; it also suggests where GOP efforts are going to be concentrated if the Supreme Court does them a favor and rules against them in King.

The survey looks at people who are in the non-group market, meaning the health insurance they have isn’t through their employer or through a government program like Medicare or Medicaid. Most of them got insurance through an ACA exchange.

Guess what? They’re pretty happy.



Friday TOON Roundup 3 - The Rest





The Issue




Friday TOON Roundup 2 - GOP

Friday TOON Roundup 1 - Middle East


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France to force big supermarkets to give away unsold food to charity

France’s parliament has pledged to crack down on a national epidemic of food waste by passing a law banning supermarkets destroying unsold food, instead obliging them to give it to charities or put it to other uses such as animal feed.

The national assembly voted unanimously on Thursday evening in favour of the measure, proposed by the Socialist deputy Guillaume Garot, a former food minister. “It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods,” he said.

The new law explicitly bans the practice of supermarkets deliberately spoiling unsold food so it cannot be eaten. Bigger supermarkets – those with a footprint of 400 sq m or more – will be obliged to sign formal contracts with charities over the new measures by July next year, or face penalties including fines of up to €75,000 (£53,000) or two years in jail.

The measures are part of wider official efforts to halve the amount of food waste in the country by 2025. According to official estimates, the average French person throws out between 20-30kg of food a year, at a combined national cost of up to €20bn.


Israel's new deputy foreign minister: 'This land is ours. All of it is ours'

Israel’s new deputy foreign minister on Thursday delivered a defiant message to the international community, saying that Israel owes no apologies for its policies in the Holy Land and citing religious texts to back her belief that it belongs to the Jewish people.

The speech by Tzipi Hotovely illustrated the influence of hardliners in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government, and the challenges he will face as he tries to persuade the world that he is serious about pursuing peace with the Palestinians.

Hotovely, 36, is among a generation of young hardliners in Netanyahu’s Likud party who support West Bank settlement construction and oppose ceding captured land to the Palestinians. Since Netanyahu has a slim one-seat majority in parliament, these lawmakers could complicate any attempt to revive peace talks.

With Netanyahu also serving as the acting foreign minister, Hotovely is currently the country’s top full-time diplomat.



1776: The Revolt Against Austerity

Was the Declaration of Independence a powerful indictment of British austerity policies? Does America’s founding document need to be seen as part of an economic debate about the British Empire? These questions may seem jarring, almost anachronistic. But eighteenth-century political argument, like that of our own day, often revolved around responses to fiscal crisis. Just as political debates in Britain and the United States today turn in large part on the response to the great recession of 2008, so the events that made the United States were shaped by the British imperial government’s reaction to the debt crisis of the 1760s. What made the Declaration so offensive to British politicians then, and what makes it highly relevant to Europeans and Americans today, is that America’s founders offered a blueprint for a different kind of state response to fiscal crisis.
The controversy over austerity in the British Empire had a long history. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European governments borrowed huge sums of money to finance their various state-building projects, with Britain setting the pace. These governments faced huge debts with uncertain means of repayment. Until George III’s accession to the throne in 1760, the British government had supported the economic development of the colonies, spending generously on infrastructure and subsidizing the immigration of many politically and religiously persecuted groups to North America. As recently as the 1730s the British state had subsidized the peopling of the new province of Georgia with immigrants from the Scottish Highlands and all across Europe. William Pitt continued these stimulus policies during his joint ministry with the duke of Newcastle in the late 1750s. Pitt, who believed that British imperial prosperity was intimately related to demographic and economic growth in America, refused to tax the colonies during the enormously expensive Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War) that began in the mid-1750s. Along with Newcastle, he drew up plans to populate newly conquered territories from Canada to Cuba, and supported bounties that would help the colonies develop new products for export to American and European markets.

By 1763, however, Britain’s national debt had risen to £122 million, or over 150 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, and in the face of growing resistance to high taxes in Britain itself, the British government abruptly changed course. George III’s new ministers blamed the escalating debt and the punishing level of British taxation on Pitt’s aggressive global foreign policy and his unwillingness to have the colonies pay directly for the war effort. George III’s ministers were determined to end what they perceived as economic redistribution to the colonies at the expense of wealthy English landowners and the government itself. Instead of subsidizing immigrants, George III’s Prime Minister George Grenville announced the Proclamation Line of 1763, designed to limit the demographic expansion of the North American colonies. Instead of encouraging the colonies to trade with Spanish America, the ministry instructed the Royal Navy to prohibit any intercolonial trade. Rather than lowering customs duties in order to encourage commercial activity, the ministry passed the 1763 Hovering Act, which made it easier to enforce existing customs regulations. Instead of allowing the colonies to bet on future growth by printing paper money, Grenville passed the Currency Act of 1764, which forbade the colonies to emit any new currency. Finally, in 1765, Grenville ushered the American Stamp Act through the House of Commons, a measure that was designed in part to restrict the colonial land market.

These changes were shocking and dramatic. Americans and their British allies interpreted this austerity program as a complete reversal of British imperial economic policy. By the middle of the 1760s, many Americans and Britons were certain that Grenville’s measures had led to widespread economic hardship. The Bristol merchant Richard Champion thought that the measures had struck “very fatal blows … at the commerce of the Empire.” The wealthy Boston merchant, and prominent signatory of the Declaration, John Hancock thought the new policies “very cruel” and would soon make the Americans “a gone people.” Contemporaries believed that British manufacturing exports to America had declined by three-quarters. Most Americans were certain that the multifaceted economic contraction of 1764-1769 had everything to do with Grenville’s austerity, which the American founders described as a “history of repeated injuries and usurpations.”



Sanders Statement on Senate Vote on Job-Killing Trade Bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement today after the Senate voted to advance a bill that would grant President Barack Obama accelerated power to complete a massive trade accord with 11 other Pacific Rim nations:

“The Senate just put the interests of powerful multi-national corporations, drug companies and Wall Street ahead of the needs of American workers. If this disastrous trade agreement is approved, it will throw Americans out of work while companies continue moving operations and good-paying jobs to low-wage countries overseas.

“Bad trade deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership are a major reason for the collapse of the American middle class and the increase in wealth and income inequality in the United States. This agreement, like bad trade deals before it, would force American workers to compete with desperate workers around the world – including workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is 56-cents an hour.

“Trade agreements should not just work for corporate America, Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. They have got to benefit the working families of our country,” Sanders said. “We must defeat fast track and develop a new policy on trade.”

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