‘Obscene’ inequality: 8 men as rich as half the world

Posted on 29. Jan, 2017 by .


The gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, according to an analysis by Oxfam released Monday.

Presenting its findings on the dawn of the annual gathering of the global political and business elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, anti-poverty organization Oxfam says the gap between the very rich and poor is far greater than just a year ago. It’s urging leaders to do more than pay lip-service to the problem.

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“Peace = 2-States,” says World at Paris Conference.

Posted on 29. Jan, 2017 by .


Taken from bicom.org.uk –

Representatives from 74 countries gathered in Paris for a conference on the Middle East peace process yesterday and called for Israelis and Palestinians to “take urgent steps” to “start meaningful direct negotiations”.

The conference was attended by 36 foreign ministers, including outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry, plus Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the secretary general of the Arab League, and the EU foreign affairs representative, Federica Mogherini. The UK sent Michael Howells, head of the Middle East desk at the Foreign Office and two diplomats from the Paris embassy. Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) representatives were not invited.

The delegates released a concluding statement, which said that a two-state solution “is the only way to achieve enduring peace”. It called on both sides to “officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution, thus disassociating themselves from voices that reject this solution” and to “reverse the “current negative trends on the ground including continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity”.

The statement also called on both sides to refrain from “unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final status issues including Jerusalem, borders, security and refugees”.

It also “underscored the importance” of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which envisages a regional rapprochement between Israel and Arab states in return for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The statement added that a follow-up conference will take place before the end of 2017.

Addressing his cabinet yesterday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The conference that is convening today in Paris is a pointless conference.”

He added: “It was coordinated by the French and the Palestinians and aims to force conditions on Israel that conflict with our national interests.”

Most Israeli leaders have opposed the conference, saying that such multi-lateral forums further encourage the PA to avoid direct bilateral talks with Israel.

Kerry reportedly called Netanyahu yesterday and pledged that conclusions from yesterday’s conference would not form the basis of a new UN Security Council resolution criticising Israel.

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USCCB Calls on Congress to Preserve Gains in ACA

Posted on 29. Jan, 2017 by .


As Congress discusses a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, the Chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, FL, is urging members of the House and Senate to provide a replacement plan concurrently so that millions of Americans will continue to have access to vital health care.

In a letter sent to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate on January 18, 2017, Bishop Dewane wrote that repealing the ACA should not be undertaken without simultaneous passage of a replacement plan that will continue healthcare access for those who rely on it for the well-being. At the same time, the letter also underscores the importance of creating a replacement plan that will safeguard human life from conception to natural death and also protect conscience rights and adequate healthcare services for the poor including healthcare for immigrants.

The full text of the letter send to the U.S. Senate/U.S. House of Representatives is available here.

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Women’s Marches Demonstrate What Makes America Great

Posted on 29. Jan, 2017 by .


Noelle and Melanie Shahin, a mother and daughter from San Jose, California, marched on Washington to defend the environment and immigrants, and in memory of their mother and grandmother, who was sent to a Japanese internment camp. “I look at the faces of my children—they are of Japanese and Iraqi descent,” Noelle said. “How can I not march?”

Michelle Trombetta, from Minneapolis, marched to honor a niece who is severely disabled. When she was younger, she wanted to be in politics but decided it would be too hard. Now, though, she plans to receive training with the organization She Should Run in order to make a bid for a city council seat.

Elizabeth Boyd came to the march from Houston, where she teaches at a high school with low-income and minority students. Her sister, Meredith Starks, came from Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana, where she started a local Pantsuit Nation Facebook page just after the election. Within days, 800 people had joined. Boyd said, “I think Trump’s election has spurred a lot of people who were on the edge of the progressive movement into political activism.”

Noelle and Melanie Shahin, a mother and daughter from San Jose, California | Photo by Sam Murphy.

Those five women were among the estimated half a million people who converged on the nation’s capital on Saturday to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump, marking the largest demonstration against a new presidency in U.S. history. The Women’s March dwarfed the crowds that had turned out to celebrate the inauguration the day before. The marching was slated to begin at 1 P.M., but demonstrators had already filled the designated route long before then. By mid-afternoon, there were so many people marching that the plan to culminate at the White House was called off by city officials out of safety concerns, and organizers at the rally were asking people to remain where they were.

In addition to the massive showing in Washington, D.C., hundreds of other sister marches took place across the United States. In Los Angeles, at least 500,000 people (some estimates go as high as three-quarters of a million) gathered in Pershing Square, downtown. In Chicago, as in the capital, the march was suspended as a quarter of a million people paralyzed transportation networks and streets within the Loop. At least 100,000 turned out for the Women’s March in Boston, and both Denver and Seattle saw crowds well in excess of 100,000. There were also big marches in Raleigh, North Carolina; St. Louis, Missouri; Austin, Texas; Oakland, California; and Phoenix, Arizona, among other places.

Altogether, the huge outpouring of millions of people into the streets across the United States sent a clear message to the new president: that attempts to roll back reproductive rights, civil rights, or environmental protections will be met with massive resistance.


  • “I am marching today for myself, my family, my friends who are immigrants, for climate change.”

One of the signature features of the Saturday protests in D.C. and elsewhere was the sight of a broad array of progressive issues coming together under the banner of women’s rights. At the rally on the National Mall, speakers including filmmaker Michael Moore, actress America Ferrera, and NRDC president Rhea Suh emphasized that today is just the beginning of what needs to be a sustained collective effort to counter the Trump administration’s destructive agenda and to advance economic, social, and environmental justice. As feminist icon Gloria Steinem put it in a speech to protesters, “This is the upside of the downside.”


The crowd seemed to get the message. The mood in the street was at once defiant and festive, with marchers energized by the spirit of solidarity and the common cause of resisting the retrograde Trump agenda. Marchers’ signs ranged from the whimsical (“CEO of My Lady Business”) to the more serious (“Our Rights. Our Planet. Our Future.”) to the assertive (“I don’t want to fight, but I won’t apologize for doing what’s right.”). Hundreds of people carried signs reading, “I’m With Her,” with arrows radiating outward in all directions. Many marchers were motivated by fears of Trump’s anti-environmental agenda. “Love America? Save the EPA!” read one sign.

Photo by Javier Sierra.

Large numbers of people at the demonstration in D.C. said it was their first time attending a political protest. Theresa, a 50-year-old African American woman from Oakland, had never marched in a protest before. “This was not convenient,” she said. “I have a meeting on Monday morning in Las Vegas. But the Monday morning quarterback doesn’t win the game on Sunday. You have to play in the game. No matter what the outcome is, at least you know you contributed.”

Marcher Stephanie Funai from Fredericksburg, Virginia, said she grew up in a military family—both her parents were officers in the air force—and that she used to identify as conservative. “Everything about me was conservative: the clothes I wore, the car I drove, the friends I hung out with. It was comfortable,” Funai said. “I think that in the last few years, it has become uncomfortable for me. It just doesn’t fit anymore. It doesn’t make sense anymore to me at all.” When the Women’s March was announced, she knew she’d be joining. “I am marching today for myself, my family, my friends who are immigrants, for climate change.”

March organizers are optimistic that they will be able to sustain the enthusiasm of those who turned out on Saturday in the weeks and months to come, as President Trump and the GOP Congress attempt to roll back the accomplishments of Barack Obama’s administration. “The march has already done its biggest job, which is to be an illustration of the power of people,” Kierra Johnson, executive director of Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, told Sierra. “I am hopeful that this isn’t the punctuation on people’s activism but a catalyst. This march is about challenging ourselves. It’s about figuring out what our role is and committing to being an agent of change in a bigger way than we ever have been before.”

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The Latest on the Pipelines

Posted on 29. Jan, 2017 by .


Moving quickly to try to erase Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, President Donald Trump signed an executive order this morning to move forward with the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. Keystone XL is the planned 1,200-mile-long pipeline that would carry 800,000 gallons of crude oil a day from the Canadian tar sands fields in Alberta to refineries in Texas. Dakota Access would stretch from North Dakota to Illinois and carry petroleum from the Bakken oil fields. It would cross beneath the Missouri River in North Dakota, the water source for the nearby Standing Rock Sioux reservation, which sparked fierce opposition from the tribe and its many Native American and environmental allies last fall.

“The Keystone pipeline was rejected because it was not in the country’s interest, and the environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline was ordered because of the threats it poses to the Standing Rock Sioux,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “Nothing has changed. These pipelines were a bad idea then, and they’re a bad idea now.”

In terms of Keystone XL, Trump’s order “invites TransCanada [the pipeline’s builder] to resubmit its proposal and directs agencies to approve it without delay,” according to White House spokesperson Sean Spicer. In 2015, the State Department concluded that the project was not in the national interest. In regard to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the executive order is expected to rescind the environmental impact statement process ordered by then-president Obama that would explore new routes for the pipeline. That process was upheld in federal district court only last week after a judge rejected a request by attorneys for Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, to put a temporary restraining order on the environmental review process. Trump at one time held stock in Energy Transfer Partners. His spokesperson has stated that he sold the stock, although no proof has yet been offered.

Environmentalists and Native American tribes vowed they would continue their opposition to both projects, which they say are incompatible with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Standing Rock Sioux immediately declared that it would take legal action to try to block Trump’s order. “We will fight this with whatever we have, in the courts and in the streets,” said 350.org’s Bill McKibben.

“Anybody who saw and witnessed the first KXL project knows how much ranchers are opposed,” said Jane Kleeb of Bold Alliance, the Nebraska-based network of pipeline opponents. “We have an alliance with the tribes—the Cowboy and Indian Alliance—and Donald Trump is up for a big fight if he thinks he’s going to get any foreign steel and foreign oil through the Nebraska plains and the Ogallala Aquifer.” Kleeb said it would be very difficult for TransCanada to use eminent domain to clear the pipeline right of way since eminent domain requires that projects be in the public interest, a standard she said the project does not meet.

The fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline may rest on politics north of the border. When the project was first conceived, a stalwart fossil fuel ally, Stephen Harper, was prime minister of Canada. In 2015, Harper lost a reelection bid; the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is more of an environmentalist. His government signed the Paris climate accord and also banned offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. A new government in the province of Alberta is also moving to cut greenhouse gases by, among other things, moving to put a price on carbon.

“The Canadian public is widely opposed to any increase in pipeline capacity and anything that would compromise our emissions-reductions promises,” said Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence in Canada. “They [TransCanada] will have a hard time attracting the capital necessary for the pipeline to be built.”

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