- Amazon Rainforests Pay the Price as Demand for Beef Soars "Espirito Santo and thousands of farms like it raise cattle on Amazonian pasture that was once rainforest. The farms are huge, and so is their impact. The cattle business is expanding rapidly in the Amazon, and now poses the biggest threat to the 80% of the original forest that still stands. Where loggers have made inroads to the edge of the forest in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, farmers have followed."
- Obama in Cairo: A Bush in Sheep's Clothing? "His speech shows little real change. In most regards his analysis maintains flawed American policies intact..... It was disappointing that Obama recycled his predecessor's notion that "violent extremism" exists in a vacuum, unrelated to America's (and its proxies') exponentially greater use of violence before and after September 11, 2001. He dwelled on the "enormous trauma" done to the US when almost 3,000 people were killed that day, but spoke not one word about the hundreds of thousands of orphans and widows left in Iraq - those whom Munathar al-Zaidi's flying shoe forced Americans to remember only for a few seconds last year. He ignored the dozens of civilians who die each week in the "necessary" war in Afghanistan, or the millions of refugees fleeing the US-invoked escalation in Pakistan."
- Glenn Beck, Fox News Host, is a Con Man- Glenn Beck Is No Howard Beale "Fox News' latest sensation Glenn Beck has invited comparisons of himself to Howard Beale, the barking-mad TV host in 1976's black comedy film 'Network'....And Beck is not entirely unlike the deranged Beale; both men describe the world in paranoid and apocalyptic terms while attempting to play on populist sentiment. But Beale, even in full-fledged madness, could still be relied upon to occasionally say something truthful and worthwhile. It's unlikely that Beck would ever choose to speak truth to power the way Beale did"
- Green Energy Overtakes Fossil Fuel Investment, Says UN "Green energy overtook fossil fuels in attracting investment for power generation for the first time last year, according to figures released today by the United Nations..."There have been many milestones reached in recent years, but this report suggests renewable energy has now reached a tipping point where it is as important - if not more important - in the global energy mix than fossil fuels," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN's Environment Programme."
- Controversial Coal Mining Method Gets Obama's OK "With the election of Barack Obama, environmentalists expected to see the end of the "Appalachian apocalypse" -- their name for exposing coal deposits by blowing the tops off of whole mountains. But in recent weeks, the Obama administration has quietly decided to open the way for at least two dozen more "mountaintop removal" projects."
We Wanted a World Leader. We Saw Only a US President Published on Friday, June 5, 2009 by The Guardian/UK by Ahdaf Soueif
This is hard. It's hard because we so need to believe that Obama is about change, that he's wise, that he's good, that he has the interests of the world - rather than just the interests of the United States - at heart.
The 3,500 invited guests were told they'd have to be in their places by 10.30. But Obama would speak at one. An odd time for everyone, it would seem: for us in Cairo, where the cool of the evening is the preferred time for any event, and for people in America, who wouldn't yet have woken up. I dress with my eye on the television screen: the loop of Obama touching cheeks with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, his hand resting for a companionable minute on the old monarch's arm. Just before I leave the house I glimpse the prancing horses that make up part of Obama's procession into Cairo.
The Egyptian state is doing pomp, and relieved (because of the security lockdown) of traffic and noise Cairo is playing along: the morning light is clear and free of dust, the flame trees are magnificent with their crowns of red massed flowers.
In the great Festival Hall under the dome of Cairo University we are a good-humoured crowd, amusing ourselves during our three-hour wait by applauding the mic checks and housekeeping announcements of the Egyptian staff. Then something interesting happens: an American strides on to the stage, brusque and marine-like in his efficiency, he marches through a prolonged mic check: "One, two, three, mic check, from Cairo, Egypt, one, two …" When he's finished the tiny patter of hesitant applause dies out very quickly. In a couple of minutes he's back. "Mic check," he announces - then grins: "Last time, I promise." The crowd roars its approval, applauds him.
They even applaud Hilary Clinton as she beams in through a side door. There are a lot of empty seats: the security arrangements and the promise of the long wait have kept people away. But then Obama comes in, and we're on our feet: waving, cheering, clapping. And that, really, is the highlight of the occasion.
Obama did what many of us hoped he would not do: he accorded faith a central position in the relationship between our different parts of the world: rather than human beings with different histories and different political interests and ambitions - and despite a quick acknowledgment of colonialism - we were essentially people of different faiths who would now make nice with each other. And such is our beleaguered state of mind here in this part of the world that every time he quoted the Qur'an, he was applauded. But then again, it seemed that it was the same 200 or so people who were putting their hands together - to less effect each time.
"Extremism" was top of the agenda, even though al-Qaida, once so modern and cutting edge, is now tired and irrelevant. But it was prodded out of its stall again as justification for American operations in Afghanistan. We were reminded of the 3,000 people killed in New York - people who had done no harm to anyone. And every person listening east of Rome and many west of it would have been thinking "and what about the million Iraqis, what about the Afghanis, what about …" And nothing about non-Muslim extremism, about the 40 million American Christian Zionists anticipating the Rapture with glee, or the Israeli settlers who in Hebron take your photo and upload it to God to fast-lane you to hell.
Obama's speech was a lawyerly speech, a clever speech. It certainly departed from the Bush discourse, but how far away from the policies of the last eight years are the sources it springs from? We still can only wait and see.
The biggest applause he got was when he said that all US troops would be out of Iraq by 2012, and when he repeated his position on the Israeli settlements. He's been brave on the settlements, and of course we're all grateful for every step in the direction of halting the dispossession of the Palestinians. But it also needs to be remembered that stopping the settlements has been part of the official position of every American administration; what's required is the implementation of that position by cutting off the funding for the settlements and closing the tax loophole that allows private American organisations to fund them.
Around the pedestal carrying the Eternal Flame of Knowledge outside the university, the American activist group Code Pink carried banners that said "Obama: Stop funding Israeli war crimes". They came out of Gaza on Wednesday carrying a letter from Hamas to the American president, and they were at pains to point out that Hamas chose an American feminist group to carry their letter. I don't know if they managed to deliver it.
There is a difference between believing that ultimately the interests of the inhabitants of the planet are genuinely interconnected and believing that the interests of the world can be made to seem compatible with America's. Obama has said that America should have not only the power but the moral standing to lead the world. Today we waited for him to demonstrate that moral standing and assume the leadership of the world. He did not; he remained the President of the United States.
London After Midnight / Sean Brennan