US Threats to Dismantle Palestinian Refugee Agency Trigger Protests

Scum Trump

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 28 2019 (IPS)

As it relentlessly pursues its strongly pro-Israeli policy – along with its disdain for multilateralism – the Trump administration continued to display its hostility towards the United Nations and its humanitarian agencies at a meeting of the UN Security Council focusing on the recent escalation of violence in Gaza.

The administration’s three hardline objectives were best reflected as they converged on a single political crossroad when the US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt told the Security Council May 22 it was time to dismantle the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which has supported Palestinian refugees since it began operations back in 1950.

The US has already slashed its contribution to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), from 69 million in 2016 to zero in 2017, cut 300 million dollars in funds to UNRWA and reduced 500 million dollars from the UN’s biennium peacekeeping budget

At a press conference announcing her decision to step down as US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley told reporters last October that that during her two-year tenure “we cut $1.3 billion in the UN’s budget. We’ve made it stronger. We’ve made it more efficient.”

But the reduction in funds to UNRWA has been described as the unkindest cut of all — because the UN agency has been sustaining the economic survival of Palestinian refugees for the last 69 years.

Nadia Hijab, President of the Board of Directors at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian policy network, told IPS: “If anyone is still in doubt about the Trump Administration’s deal of the century – also known as Israel’s plan to end the conflict on its terms – Greenblatt made that very clear when he said: “We do not have to wait until a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….” to transition UNRWA out of existence.

And indeed, the Administration has not waited for any kind of solution or made any reference to international law, she added.

It has simply, on behalf of Israel, imposed facts on the ground with its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its embassy move, and defunding UNRWA, said Hijab.

“Now it doesn’t want anyone else to fund UNRWA but rather to focus on the supposedly bright economic future to be discussed at the economic conference in Bahrain next month,” she noted.

But what is really underway is erasure of Palestinian national and political rights leaving the majority of the Palestinian people in exile with the rest forced to survive under the draconian conditions of occupation, siege, and discrimination in the land of Palestine/Israel, declared Hijab.

She pointed out it should be clear that a commitment to UNRWA goes beyond services to refugees: It is a powerful symbol of the Palestinians’ existence as a people with a right to self-determination as well as other internationally recognized rights including the right to return to their lands and homes.

Sam Husseini, Senior analyst at the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), told IPS the occupying power is obligated to take care of people under occupation under the Geneva Conventions.

“Israel has done anything but… It has subjected the Palestinian people to attack after attack and siege after siege, making anything like normal economic development impossible,” he added.

Husseini also pointed out that UNRWA has fulfilled a desperately needed role for generations of Palestinians.

“The fact that it’s gone on for so long is the fault of the “international community” — the US government first and foremost, having prevented a resolution to the conflict along lines prescribed by international law,” he declared.

Now, with the Trump administration wanting to stop deferring a final settlement to the conflict in favor of wanting to impose one that deprives the Palestinians of virtually all their rights, they are targeting any support that Palestinians may have to bully them into complete submission to Israel’s military dictates. UNRWA is top on that list, he said.

At the Security Council meeting, Greenblatt thanked UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl for his briefing, and for his work over the years.

“But I’m afraid it is time for him– and all of you– to face the reality that the UNRWA model has failed the Palestinian people. UNRWA’s business model, which is inherently tied to an endlessly and exponentially expanding community of beneficiaries, is in permanent crisis mode,” Greenblatt said.

That is why the United States decided that it will no longer commit to funding this irredeemably flawed operation, he added.

“We did not come to this conclusion lightly. Since UNRWA’s founding, the U.S. has donated $6 billion. Let me repeat that: $6 billion – vastly more than any other country. And yet year after year, UNRWA funding fell short.”

“UNRWA is a band-aid, and the Palestinians who use its services deserve better – much better. We do not have to wait until a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in place to address that fact,” he declared.

Responding to Greenblatt’s comments, Krahenbuhl told a press conference in Gaza UNRWA’s mandate was a matter for the entire U.N. General Assembly to consider, not by “one or two individual member states”.

“Therefore, Palestinian refugees should remember that the mandate is protected by the General Assembly, and of course we will engage with member states to ensure what we hope is a safe renewal of that mandate,” Krahenbuhl said.

Currently, over half of the 2.0 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is under Israeli blockade, receive food aid from UNRWA.

Meanwhile, as part of its ongoing policy against multilateralism, the US has already scuttled the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran, refused to participate in the global migration compact, pulled out of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, abandoned the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, dismissed the relevance of the World Trade Organization (WTO), revoked the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, and withdrew from both the Human Rights Council in Geneva and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

The post US Threats to Dismantle Palestinian Refugee Agency Trigger Protests appeared first on Inter Press Service.

As anti-vaxx dispute rages, attention turns to California’s Waldorf schools

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The private schools stress nature, creative expression and hands-on learning but the 27 in the state have very low vaccination rates

On a rainy Saturday in May, small children in tall boots, wool caps and rain gear watched marionettes perform a fairytale in San Francisco’s Golden Gate park. The crowd had gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Waldorf schools, the private schools that emphasize nature, creative expression and hands-on learning over tests and technology.

It was an enchanting scene with piglet puppets, waving stars and tinkling chimes. It may also have been the largest under-vaccinated group of children in the region.

Continue reading…

The Secret to This Brazilian Coffee? Ants Harvest the Beans

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After João Neto stopped using pesticides at his coffee farm, critters that had long been absent started showing up. Birds began singing at his window in the morning, pacas paraded through the woods, and bees appeared to pollinate the flowers.

Like many producers in the interior of the state of São Paulo, one of the main coffee-growing areas in Brazil, Neto had for decades used chemicals to grow a monocrop of coffee at his Fazenda Santo Antônio farm. But his change in approach also attracted the kinds of insects that farmers often fear: beetles, crickets, and ants.

Neto, though, says he isn’t concerned about insects plaguing his crops. “Nature is in charge. If these plants have to stay here, they will resist.” According to him, all the creatures returning to his farm are important for the “natural rebalancing that the monoculture of coffees had extinguished.”

So when ants started appearing by the coffee trees, Neto did not worry or resort to killing them. But one day, on a walk around the plantation, he noticed de-pulped beans scattered around the trees.

While it’s easy to forget when ordering at a café, coffee begins its life as a fruit, and the beans are the fruit’s seed. When Neto took a closer look, he realized the ants were climbing his coffee trees, knocking down the fruits, and carrying them into their anthills. The insects, Neto concluded, must be feeding coffee pulp to ant larvae, and then discarding the beans outside the anthill.

The ants had left enough beans to fill a large coffee grinder, so Neto gathered all of the beans in a bag to study them. When he told his friend, Katsuhiko Hasegawa, a Japanese customer who has been buying his coffee since the 1990s, Hasegawa was eager to taste coffee made with the “ant beans.” What sensory notes could it have?

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Ant coffee would not be the first cup of Joe whose production involves animal interaction. Some of the world’s most expensive coffee beans are partially digested and then pooped out by civets, a cat-like creature common in Indonesia, jacu birds, which are indigenous to Brazil, or by elephants in Thailand. The animals’ digestive enzymes can change the structure of the coffee beans’ proteins, which removes some of the acidity and makes a smoother cup of coffee. What Neto and Hasegawa didn’t know is whether a humble ant focused on the fruit was capable of a similar transformation.

To answer that question, Hasegawa decided to roast several kilograms of the ant beans for himself, Neto and his children, and other friends who were at Fazenda Santo Antônio that day. As he couldn’t count on a proper roaster machine—like the ones modern coffee shops boast in their entrance areas—he had to manage with a small roaster Neto bought years ago.

The group could barely contain their anxiety, and Hasegawa, says Neto, acted like he was handling a new, rare gemstone. With cups finally in hand, the ritual of moans and murmurs only heightened the expectation. “It was a coffee with different and pleasant acidity,” says Neto. “Although I am not a professional taster, I enjoyed it.”

The group widely agreed that the taste was unique. Some thought the coffee’s acidity had improved, or that the flavor resembled other floral coffees with jasmine notes. To test the commercial potential of the beans, Hasegawa took a few ounces to Japan to roast and taste with a baristas group.

Hasegawa runs a coffee shop in the hip Tokyo neighborhood of Ginza. Called Café Paulista, it was named after the Brazilian state where most of the coffee beans in Japan originally came from. The café was opened in 1911 by Ryo Mizuno, a Japanese entrepreneur who brought the first Japanese immigrants to Brazil to work on coffee plantations. Since Hasegawa inherited Café Paulista from his grandfather, who bought it from Mizuno, he’s retained the legacy of maintaining a close partnership with Brazilian farmers.

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So when Neto’s Brazilian ant coffee traveled to Japan, it reflected a century-old relationship. Hasegawa says the Japanese baristas were excited to taste it, and intrigued by the story behind it. When they tried it, some believed the coffee had gained interesting acidity characteristics, while others said that the ants had given it sweeter notes. Overall, they liked it.

Although the baristas’ response was positive, Hasegawa couldn’t take any orders, because the farm’s production of the beans has been very limited. With the new organic approach, Neto’s coffee production has dwindled from more than 230 hectares to just 40 (from 570 acres to just 100). In his biggest year, 2015, Neto cataloged less than 60 pounds of these ant beans. He hopes to soon be able to sell tiny amounts to customers. But, for now, he only makes ant coffee samples, and he does not know of anyone selling ant coffee commercially.

Not only is producing the beans a “little ant job,” as is said in Brazil, a local expression meaning something that takes a lot of effort. But the relationship between insects and coffee trees can take a very long time to develop.

That’s according to Susanne Renner, a botanist from Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. She notes that the symbiosis between some ants and their Rubiaceae species (the family that includes coffee trees) evolved over about three to five million years. The Phildris nagasau, an ant discovered on the island of Fiji, even plants, fertilizes, and guards its own coffee crops.

“We believe that it started with the nesting behavior of ants who have lost the ability to live in any other nest or build their own nest,” she explains. “We don’t know why Rubiaceae, instead of, for example, other plant species.” This close relationship has been known since about 1880. “Our discovery,” Renner says, “is that the ants actively collect and then plant the seeds of their house-plants by inserting them into cracks in the bark of canopy trees.”

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The studies conducted by Renner with PhD student Guillaume Chomicki, whose research called for climbing trees in Fiji for a closer look, shows that this symbiosis happens regularly. It also suggests that ant species around the world may have relationships with coffee trees—Neto’s ants being a good example.

In sharp contrast to the advice of internet posts that suggest spreading coffee grounds to deter ants, new studies suggest that household ants are attracted to coffee odor. Researchers have found that several varieties, particularly Arabica, are attractive to some foragers ants, such as Tapinoma indicum, Monomorium pharaonis, and Solenopsis geminata.

This research is shedding light on the relationship between ants and coffee trees, and similar studies could one day support the production of coffee by the tiny, hard-working creature, and investigate Hasegawa’s belief that the ants notably changed the coffee’s characteristics. In any event, João Neto will let the ants do their job.

“Who knows if eventually we will have a significant amount to sell in the market?” Neto says. “The quantity of ants is increasing on the farm.” Unlike any other coffee farmer, he seems very happy about it.

Bill Gates Recommends Five Books to Read This Summer

his billions are based on luck, not being smart. everyone should look for their own books.

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It’s becoming an annual ritual. Every summer Bill Gates offers us a reading list–5-books to take on vacation. As you’ll see, his list assumes that even if you’re physically on vacation, your mind isn’t. The curious mind takes no breaks. Bill writes:

Upheaval, by Jared Diamond. I’m a big fan of everything Jared has written, and his latest is no exception. The book explores how societies react during moments of crisis. He uses a series of fascinating case studies to show how nations managed existential challenges like civil war, foreign threats, and general malaise. It sounds a bit depressing, but I finished the book even more optimistic about our ability to solve problems than I started. More here.

Nine Pints, by Rose George. If you get grossed out by blood, this one probably isn’t for you. But if you’re like me and find it fascinating, you’ll enjoy this book by a British journalist with an especially personal connection to the subject. I’m a big fan of books that go deep on one specific topic, so Nine Pints (the title refers to the volume of blood in the average adult) was right up my alley. It’s filled with super-interesting facts that will leave you with a new appreciation for blood. More here.

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. It seems like everyone I know has read this book. I finally joined the club after my brother-in-law sent me a copy, and I’m glad I did. Towles’s novel about a count sentenced to life under house arrest in a Moscow hotel is fun, clever, and surprisingly upbeat. Even if you don’t enjoy reading about Russia as much as I do (I’ve read every book by Dostoyevsky), A Gentleman in Moscow is an amazing story that anyone can enjoy. More here.

Presidents of War, by Michael Beschloss. My interest in all aspects of the Vietnam War is the main reason I decided to pick up this book. By the time I finished it, I learned a lot not only about Vietnam but about the eight other major conflicts the U.S. entered between the turn of the 19th century and the 1970s. Beschloss’s broad scope lets you draw important cross-cutting lessons about presidential leadership. More here.

The Future of Capitalism, by Paul Collier. Collier’s latest book is a thought-provoking look at a topic that’s top of mind for a lot of people right now. Although I don’t agree with him about everything—I think his analysis of the problem is better than his proposed solutions—his background as a development economist gives him a smart perspective on where capitalism is headed.

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Related Content:

Bill Gates Names 5 Books You Should Read This Summer (2018)

Bill Gates Recommends Five Books for Summer 2017

5 Books Bill Gates Wants You to Read This Summer (2016)

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Tuesday Open Thread | We Are Americans

For all the talk about going back to Africa…

We are Americans.

I had a discussion with an international student during graduate school, about the way we were treated in this country. She was like, ‘why don’t you just move?’

I was like, ‘ why should I move? My ancestors built this country.’ And, as I replied to her, I felt it in my bones. We have been here almost a half a millenia. This is our home. You fight for your home.

And, the thought that you would take mofos over to Africa to ‘train them’…Phuck Outta Here.

After 2016, we are on alert in social media. We are already calling out those that would try and bring the bullshyt for 2020. Unlike others, we aren’t about following the shiny objects, so they are about Voter Suppression.

Pan-African State in the South? What kind of foolishness is this? They do not understand us – AT ALL.

They don’t even understand what ‘civil disobedience’ means to us, and the legacy of it in this country. The mess that they discuss down below has no connection whatsoever to us as a community and our history. And, the foolishness that they are talking about would stand out to us as absolutely bogus on every front, or be seen as an FBI COINTELPRO-Type plot. Being able to see through the foolishness, is how we have survived as a people in this country for 400 years.

Russian documents reveal desire to sow racial discord — and violence — in the U.S.

The revelations come as U.S. intelligence agencies have warned of probable Russian meddling in the 2020 election.

May 20, 2019, 5:54 PM CDT

By Richard Engel, Kate Benyon-Tinker and Kennett Werner

LONDON — Russians who were linked to interference in the 2016 U.S. election discussed ambitious plans to stoke unrest and even violence inside the U.S. as recently as 2018, according to documents reviewed by NBC News.

The documents — communications between associates of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin-linked oligarch indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for previous influence operations against the U.S. — laid out a new plot to manipulate and radicalize African Americans. The plans show that Prigozhin’s circle has sought to exploit racial tensions well beyond Russia’s social media and misinformation efforts tied to the 2016 election.

…………………………..

The documents contained proposals for several ways to further exacerbate racial discord in the future, including a suggestion to recruit African Americans and transport them to camps in Africa “for combat prep and training in sabotage.” Those recruits would then be sent back to America to foment violence and work to establish a pan-African state in the South, particularly in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

There is no indication that the plan — which is light on details — was ever put into action, but it offers a fresh example of the mindset around Russian efforts to sow discord in the U.S.

The blueprint, entitled “Development Strategy of a Pan-African State on U.S. Territory,” floated the idea of enlisting poor, formerly incarcerated African Americans “who have experience in organized crime groups” as well as members of “radical black movements for participation in civil disobedience actions.”

The goal was to “destabilize the internal situation in the U.S.”

 

One of the writers at The Root.Com wrote about this topic:

First of all, how was this race war semester abroad in Africa was supposed to work? Did they think black people were going to trust some oily-haired Russian motherfuckers? After serving years as both an amateur and a professional black person, I can tell you that black people don’t distinguish between Russians and regular, riding-on-the-passenger-side-with-their-bare-foot-hanging-out-of-the-car-window whites. I doubt if some niggas from Compton and Baltimore are going to embark on a trans-Atlantic trip because some guy named Sergei promised AK-47s and liberation. We fell for that one before. You know what they say:

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you might catch these hands.”

Yes, this about sums it up for me.

My favorite comment to the article, because it was so much the truth:

KC Complains A Lot

5/22/19 1:23pm

Black people don’t want a race war. We just want to be allowed to live in peace and not be bothered by nosey ass, triflin’ ass white people.

New Wakanda would be a Utopia if only because there would be a few big laws that governed the country.

1.) Mind ya damn business.

2.) Don’t start no shit, won’t be no shit.

3.) Talk shit, get hit.

White folks are the ones constantly going on about starting race wars. And as Michael Harriot points out, THEY ALREADY LOST ONE OF THOSE. How do they think the second one would turn out?

 

WE are Americans. Period.

Remember The Gulf Of Tonkin?

I sincerely hope that all my American visitors had a great Memorial Day……

Back to work, Professor!

I’ll bet that if you are not an old fart then you have no idea what I mean by the title…..for you ‘younguns’…..

This was an attack by North Vietnam on two naval vessels cruising off their shores….and this incident lead to the mash up that cost 50,000+ American lives……

More information on the incident…..

That is enough history for you….I bring this up because I said that the attacks on the tankers in the Persian Gulf smelled like a new “Tonkin Incident”…..

But to refresh your memory…..

With the US having signed off on another 1,500 ground troops being sent to the Middle East, some justification is needed. A top Pentagon official is relying on previous speculation to make this all look very official.

Vice Admiral Michael Gilday told reporters that the US has “very high confidence” that recent sabotage of oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates was done by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. He also claimed rockets recent fired ib Baghdad were fired by “Iranian proxies.

(antiwar.com)

Then the president order more troops to the region….and now he, Trump, is using an unclear threat to help sell weapons, that the Congress has said no to, to the Saudis and their lackeys…..

In a move predicted earlier this week by members of Congress, President Trump has declared a “national emergency” for the sole reason of circumventing Congressional restrictions on arms sales, and using it to rush shipments of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Under the Arms Export Control Act, Congress is supposed to get a 30 day notice ahead of any sales, and can then block shipments. Concerns about war crimes in Yemen mean Saudi arms would be likely to face some effort to block them.

But the law has a loophole in it, which allows the president to declare an “emergency” of any sort he wants, with no oversight on that declaration, and then send the arms over without Congressional notification.

This is a notoriously cheap way to circumvent Congress on arms exports, but several Senators said they expected Trump to make such a move as soon as next week. It appears he decided to get out in front of that move with a declaration on Friday going into the holiday weekend.

Officially, the “national emergency” is tensions with Iran, though several in Congress have pointed out that the US has had nonstop tensions with Iran for decades, and that’s not a reason to suddenly declare a new emergency.

(antiwar.com)

We have an emergency according to Trump…..The Trump administration on Friday invoked a rarely used provision in federal law to bypass congressional review of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing threats the kingdom faces from Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress of the decision to use an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of $7 billion in precision guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, without lawmakers’ approval. Pompeo said, the AP reports, “that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale” of the weapons “to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.” He said the transfers “must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism.”  (If anybody can recognize “adventurism” it is the American war machine….we have been committing it for over 5 decades)…….

So the weapons could be sold….the State Department withheld info from Congress……

The US State Department missed a deadline today to explain to the heads of multiple Congressional committees why the Iran section of their arms control report contradicted all available information from US intelligence agencies.

The report came out in mid-April, and was immediately contested by a number of officials. Intelligence officials said the report was “skewed” in such a way as to justify military action against Iran. They also said that the text indicated that the State Department had totally ignored all intelligence assessments on Iran, and just wrote the report in a way that would fit the narrative.

At the time, the State Department refused to address the allegations from other officials, and claimed the report included “all relevant information,” suggesting they didn’t consider intelligence reports that didn’t agree with the conclusion they were supposed to come up with relevant enough to mention.

Ignoring Congressional calls for clarification is a growing problem throughout the administration. Repeatedly, the administration has been given direct questions by Congress, or members thereof, with specific deadlines, and just let those deadlines go with neither a response, nor an explanation as to why they didn’t respond.

(antiwar.com)

Could it be missed because the intel will not confirm that lie being sold?

A piece of evidence in the Trump administration’s case against Iran may be less than it seems.

The Trump administration announced Friday that it is sending 1,500 new troops to the Persian Gulf and authorizing new arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in order to counter a rising Iranian threat in the region. But satellite images provided exclusively to The Daily Beast by the company Planet Labs show that a component of the administration’s description of Iran’s aggressive behavior—an apparent positioning of Iranian missiles onto boats—may not be as clear in commercial imagery as anonymous administration officials claimed it to be in statements to other publications.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/satellite-images-raise-questions-about-iran-threat-experts-say

Sorry, but I have heard all this before….and it did not end well for 50,000+ Americans…..we cannot let it happen yet again!