The unlawful use of white phosphorus was neither incidental nor accidental. It was repeated over time and in different locations, with the IDF "air-bursting" the munition in populated areas up to the last days of its military operation. Even if intended as an obscurant rather than as a weapon, the IDF's repeated firing of air-burst white phosphorus shells from 155mm artillery into densely populated areas was indiscriminate and indicates the commission of war crimes.The HRW report was not the only documentation of war crimes released this week - a collection of videos released by The Guardian highlight the use of unmanned drones, human shields, and deliberate attacks on medical personnel during this winter's genocide in Ghaza.
The dangers posed by white phosphorus to civilians were well-known to Israeli commanders, who have used the munition for many years. According to a medical report prepared during the hostilities by the ministry of health, "[w]hite phosphorus can cause serious injury and death when it comes into contact with the skin, is inhaled or is swallowed." The report states that burns on less than 10 percent of the body can be fatal because of damage to the liver, kidneys and heart.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
A coalition of organizations, led by Food & Water Watch, is urging Congress and President Obama to reform commodities markets to prevent excessive speculation, which the group cites as a primary cause of last year's global food security crisis. According to the authors, the food crisis “could have been stopped with sensible rules that, if enforced, would have staved off the malnutrition and starvation that was caused by excessive gambling of food prices. Important reforms are needed now to prevent mega-investors from viewing the futures market like a casino where they can gamble on hunger.”
While regulation may indeed be a good idea, there's certainly not a consensus that price speculation was a primary cause of the crisis. Economists are extremely divided (surprise, surprise!) over the cause of the crisis, and the role speculators play. Some argue that short-term speculators actually reduced volatility and moderated price increases. Others, like Paul Krugman, find a lack of evidence of hoarding that would suggest that speculators are to blame. And then, of course, there are those who place most of the blame on biofuel-fueled demand.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Now that's just cute.
Those infamous science-deniers at the Cato Institute are at it again, planning to publish an advertisement in major U.S. newspapers citing the number of scienticians and climatationists who disagree with President Obama's statement that "the science [of climate change] is beyond dispute and the facts are clear."
So far they've got only one signatory. His name is Name Here, and he apparently has a lot of similarly-named relatives also in the science-denial business.
Perhaps most infuriating is the cherry-picked pretzel logic of citations the author used to justify ridiculous positions like "there has been no net global warming for over a decade now" and "computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior." Both of these examples no doubt take advantage of American public perception that we've just been through a particularly cold winter, even though globally it has in fact been the ninth-warmest winter on record. Thankfully, the folks at RealClimate have thoroughly destroyed the ad's premise with a vigorous hot fact injection:
The "global warming stopped" meme is particularly lame since it relies on both a feigned ignorance of the statistics of short periods and being careful about which data set you use. It also requires cherry-picking the start year, had the period been "exactly a decade" or 12 years then all the trends are positive.Pwned.(Pichlmair, 2007)
The use of the recent Swanson and Tsonis paper is simply opportunism. Those authors specifically state that their results are not in any way contradictory with the idea of a long term global warming trend. Instead they are attempting to characterise the internal variability that everyone knows exists.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
In a new article in the New York Review of Books, economist Amartya Sen discusses the current financial crisis in the context of seminal economists Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, and Arthur Cecil Pigou.
Though Sen lauds the Keynesian approach of economic stimulus in combating the crisis, he cautions that the social welfare aspects of Pigou and - yes - Adam Smith in ensuring access to non-market public goods such as education and health care:
While Keynes was very involved with the question of how to increase aggregate income, he was relatively less engaged in analyzing problems of unequal distribution of wealth and of social welfare. In contrast, Pigou not only wrote the classic study of welfare economics, but he also pioneered the measurement of economic inequality as a major indicator for economic assessment and policy. Since the suffering of the most deprived people in each economy—and in the world—demands the most urgent attention, the role of supportive cooperation between business and government cannot stop only with mutually coordinated expansion of an economy. There is a critical need for paying special attention to the underdogs of society in planning a response to the current crisis, and in going beyond measures to produce general economic expansion.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
According to a new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization the global economic crisis is not only impacting people around the world, but forests as well. Reduced demand for wood products as a result of the collapse of the housing sector is decreasing investment in forest management, diluting long-term green policies, and increasing illegal logging. The hardest-hit forests are in Africa, where forest recourses are being used as a coping strategy in the face of high fuel and food prices, and in Asia and the Pacific, where demand for wood products and rapid industrialization is far outpacing forest regrowth and development.
And just like the Chinese term wēijīhuì (危机会) is a linguistically-nonexistent mashup of "crisis" and "opportunity" often misquoted by Simpsons and lazy scholars alike, this economic crisis presents a "crisitunity" for the world's forests:
It is impossible to know when the global economy will begin to recover. However, such crises also offer opportunities to chart new paths of development. The forest sector could benefit from the pursuit of a “green path” to development – through building up of natural resource capital (e.g. through afforestation and reforestation and increased investments in sustainable forest management), generation of rural employment and active promotion of wood in green building practices and renewable energy. Certainly, this change of path will require fundamental institutional changes, but the crisis may bring about greater willingness to accept and implement long-overdue reforms.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
According to an Oxfam survey of 1,700 Iraqi women, a reduction in violence since 2006 has not translated into improved living conditions. Poverty is rampant, electricity is sporadic, and nearly halfdo not have access to clean water.
"Women are the forgotten victims of Iraq. Despite the billions of dollars poured into rebuilding Iraq and recent security gains, a quarter of the women interviewed still do not have daily access to water, a third cannot send their children to school and since the war started, over half have been the victim of violence. And to add further insult more than three quarters of widows, many of whom lost their husbands to the conflict, get no government pension which they are entitled to," said Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs.