Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Peak Oil Resolution Passes Minnesota House

ST. PAUL – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Peak Oil Resolution (HF995/SF1948) memorializing the Governor to take action to prepare a plan of response and preparation to meet the challenges of peak oil.

"Global demand for oil is rising while supply is flattening out," said Hilty, Chair of the House's Energy Finance and Policy Committee. “The inevitable, and most likely imminent, decline in global petroleum production provide us with an overdue wake-up call. As policy-makers and private citizens, we need to develop a plan of response and preparation to meet the unprecedented challenges of peak oil."

This resolution is a follow-up to several hearings held by Energy Committee on peak oil. The resolution declares that the State Legislature supports: 1) adoption of a global Oil Depletion protocol, calling for greater transparency, stability and equity regarding access to petroleum; 2) a statewide assessment to evaluate the impact of peak oil on every area of state activity; and 3) recommended funding and direction by the Governor to state agencies for the development of a response plan.

"This resolution will compel us to look at the role of local units of government and starting addressing some fundamental logistical questions that will require considerable planning," said Rep. Hilty. "For instance, we need to start looking at the implications for the economy. Petroleum not only provides more than 95% of transportation fuels, it is also the feedstock for virtually all plastics and petrochemicals. It is literally what fuels the global economy. There is really almost no sector of the economy that will not be adversely affected by the rise in price and decline in availability of petroleum products. Clearly, we need to prepare for our future by investing in alternative energy sources, but it is vital that all of the implications of the inevitable decline in petroleum production and considered and planned for. This is an important first step."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Outspoken War Critic Poised for Green Party Run

By Matthew Cardinale

ATLANTA - With media attention focused almost exclusively on the dramatic contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, millions of U.S. voters probably have no inkling that there is a ballot option beyond the Democratic and Republican Parties.0423 02 1

“There needs to be room for a lot of policy threads in American discourse. But the corporate media is not informing the people,” Cynthia McKinney, the front-runner for the Green Party presidential nomination, told IPS during a rare 90-minute interview.

Founded in 2001 as the successor of the Association of State Green Parties, the party’s platform revolves around environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organising. It has slightly more than 300,000 registered voters nationwide, and a standing ballot line in 20 states plus Washington, DC. In other states, the party must circulate petitions to get its candidates on the ballot.

McKinney, a former congressional representative from Georgia, abandoned the Democratic Party last year in disgust at its failure to end the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, and is now poised for a presidential run on the Green Party ticket.

She has won Green Party primaries in Arkansas, Illinois, and Washington, DC. Ralph Nader, who gave the party national stature as its candidate in 2000, won in California and Massachusetts, prior to announcing he is running as an Independent instead.

McKinney also won the Green state caucuses in Wisconsin and Rhode Island, and has a total of 71 delegates. Trailing candidates include Kent Mesplay (10 delegates), Howie Hawkins (8), Jesse Johnson (2) and Kat Swift (2).

The likelihood of McKinney winning the nomination at the party’s national convention in Chicago this summer is “very high”, Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, told IPS, although he added that the Green Party will have a “one in a million” chance of winning the presidency this November.

“This country, even though it claims to be such a model, is one of the least democratic countries because election laws, campaign finance laws, and laws around debates openly discriminate against all parties except two parties [Republican and Democrat],” Winger said.

“In other countries, there is one set of [ballot access] laws,” instead of 51 sets governing the 50 states and the capital, he said. “This is the only country that exempts the two biggest parties from having to qualify.”

Scott McLarty, the national Green Party spokesperson, told IPS, “We would like to see our presidential ticket get five percent of the vote.”

Despite the fact that winning is pretty much out of the question, many party activists are excited by the prospect of McKinney’s campaign inspiring a “Black-Brown-Green Coalition”.

“Of course you’ve got the situation that the Green Party is basically a party of whites. So they are extremely aware of that fact, except in Massachusetts and DC where they merged with the Rainbow Party. You have a little more people of colour in those two states,” McKinney, who is African American, told IPS.

“There is a real need of the values of the Green Party to be known among all people of the country, not just a few,” she said.

The Green Party admits this problem. “That’s true except in certain locations. In DC, the Green Party membership is mostly black. Among leaders, there’s a lot of diversity,” said McLarty.

“Over the past couple decades, there has been a belief that the environmental movement is a white phenomenon and the Green Party has been associated with the environment even though we cover other things like health care and the war,” he told IPS.

“On top of that, a lot of black voters have felt a very strong loyalty to the Democratic Party. When people feel strong loyalty to one party, they are less likely to support start-up parties,” McLarty said.

“It’s always been true of minor parties in U.S. You’d think African Americans would have been angry enough to leave the two major parties. Tradition goes back 100 years ago that African Americans are not interested in other parties,” Winger said.

McKinney, McLarty, and Winger each have different ideas of how the Green Party should approach its political development.

“I asked for candidate recruitment because the purpose of a political party is to win office. They have successfully recruited more than 500 candidates,” McKinney said.

However, the fact that the Green Party is not on the ballot in McKinney’s home state “looks weak”, Winger pointed out. Georgians will need to collect over 40,000 signatures by July to get McKinney on the ballot, Winger said, and they’ve only collected about 3,000.

“Some people have been out of the political system for a very long time,” McKinney noted. “They made a choice to not be involved in the political process. After a series of disappointments, people made a rational choice. Unfortunately, the U.S. participation rates are well below that of other countries.”

In recent years, Green parties have been racking up electoral successes around the world, particularly in Europe.

“The Green Party participated in the coalition that led in Germany and in Ireland and in the Kenyan Parliament,” McKinney said. “The Green Party is international.”

“We have a winner-take-all system in the U.S. that pushes conformity,” she added. “Regressive ballot access laws in Georgia [and other states] prevent candidates from getting on the ballot.”

“The Green Party is a political entity that deserves to be built,” she said.

© 2008 Inter Press Service


Sunday, April 27, 2008

7th Annual Mothers Day Traditional Pow-wow

The Little Earth Community Partnership is co-sponsoring this event with the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis (IHB), we are pleased to announce the 7th Annual Mothers Day Traditional Pow-wow, "Celebrating the Spirit of our Community", to be held at Cedar Fields Park, 25th St/18th Avenue So. This is a FREE event and open to the public. Outdoor event, come rain or shine and bring own lawn chair.

Grand Entries: Saturday, May 13 at 1pm & 7pm and Sunday at 1pm. Registration starts at 10a.m. both days. Honorariums will be paid to all registered dancers. All Eagle Staffs welcome, Royalty welcome. A delicious Traditional meal will be provided by IHB. Little Earth royalty pageant, Royalty outgoing dance specials and Committee dance specials for youth/adult. Raffle, cash Bingo and pull tabs.

This is a Family event, Alcohol, Drugs and Firearms Prohibited!

Vendor Information :

Vendor Contact: Kelly Morgan at (612) 226-2980 Email: tatankawinyan04 AT yahoo DOT com

Arena Director
Windy Downwind

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Minnesota women tackle Kenya's water crisis

April 26, 2008

“Imagine giving your baby his first bath in water teeming with amoebas and parasites.” Anika Walz spoke with intensity. “Imagine trying to grow more food so your family doesn’t go hungry this season without access to water. Imagine being a principal and having to delay the opening of the school year because the rains are late, and once again the government hasn’t come through with water.”

Have you ever thought about how many gallons of water you use each day? The average American consumes 100-176 gallons of water per day, between showering (20-50 gallons in just one 10-minute shower) or flushing the toilet (5-7 gallons per flush). In America, we can turn on the tap and clean water flows. But across the globe, the fact of water is not so simple for Kenyans, who average just 5 gallons of water per day.

In August, 2007, two young women, part of a volunteer program sponsored by a religious group of women, set out for a remote village in Kenya. Their mission: to bring water to several villages facing water shortages and water polluted with amoebas and parasites. To accomplish this task, Anika Walz and Angie Van Den Hemel would spend a year working with local community leaders to establish wells and rainwater harvesting, not an easy task in a country faced with adversity. In short, they intended to tackle the aforementioned crises.

Walz and Van Den Hemel were connected to this venture, dubbed the Kenya Water Project, through their involvement with the Sisters of St. Joseph. The sisters sponsor the St. Joseph Worker Program, an Americorps-affiliated, year-long volunteer opportunity allowing young women to work in social justice and non-profit organizations. After spending the previous year working at organizations in the Twin Cities, Walz and Van Den Hemel “renewed their commitment” and signed on for a second-year residency, this time taking their passion for social change internationally.

The sisters’ passion to serve citizens globally sparked this project. According to Walz, “This evolved out of an idea and a partnership. Sister Irene O’Neill thought about how there are women religious throughout the world on the ground working to meet the needs and build networks of hope, and how Rotary is throughout the world funding and implementing projects for the common good.”

Walz and Van Den Hemel were joined by Sister Rosita Aranita and worked in Kenya from August through January, when they returned to the United States as violence over political elections mounted in the country. Back in Minnesota, their work continues. Though it is tough to be back, especially months earlier than planned, Van Den Hemel easily confesses they have to continue their work knowing firsthand the people they met and worked with whom it will benefit. The project is currently working towards raising enough money to establish or complete projects in five locations in Kenya: Kanam A, Adiedo, Soko, Koyier/Kamuga, and Wadghone-Nyongo.

For more information, or a monthly update on this project, send an e-mail to To send monetary donations, contact the Minnesota office at 1884 Randolph Avenue in St Paul, or call 651.690.7044.

The Kenya Water Project works in collaboration with local communities in Kenya and their leaders to develop plans to secure clean water for each community. The communities assess their own needs and identify resources, also selecting leaders to form Community Based Organizations (CBOs). Those leaders manage and implement all elements of the water project, which range from harvesting to wells. Their work routine in Kenya revolved around working with CBOs and meeting with community leaders that invited the three workers in. They would listen to their needs, brainstorm solutions, and identify assets. It was important though, to focus on the Kenyan leaders. “We let the community own and lead the process,” Walz said, “and we were simply a resource if and when they needed us.”

Water collection methods in Kenya, include rainwater harvesting, borehole wells, and spring preservation. Depending on the land, the last two options are not always feasible, such as villages located near the highly polluted Lake Victoria. If wells are drilled too closely, they can cave in or be spoiled by other sources of pollution. Recently, Van Den Hemel cited that Kenya receives enough rain water annually for harvesting to become a viable solution to the water shortage, and it is the most cost-effective method.

For Walz and Van Den Hemel, this project goes beyond just water. Walz wants other people to join them.

“By partnering in this work,” she says, “they don’t just bring clean water to people in desperate need. They impact an inter-connected web of development; by bringing clean water they also free girls who would be fetching water for hours a day to attend school, free women who would be fetching water so they could participate in income-generating activities to elevate their families’ standard of living, and free the local population of water related disease.”

Jennifer Haut lives in the Twin Cities and contributes freelance writing in her spare time.


Bin Laden NOT responsible for 9-11?

Osama bin Laden’s role in the events of September 11, 2001 is not mentioned on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” poster.

On June 5, 2006, author Ed Haas contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters to ask why, while claiming that bin Laden is wanted in connection with the August 1998 bombings of US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the poster does not indicate that he is wanted in connection with the events of 9/11.

Rex Tomb, Chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI responded, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.” Tomb continued, “Bin Laden has not been formally charged in connection to 9/11.” Asked to explain the process, Tomb responded, “The FBI gathers evidence. Once evidence is gathered, it is turned over to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice then decides whether it has enough evidence to present to a federal grand jury. In the case of the 1998 United States Embassies being bombed, bin Laden has been formally indicted and charged by a grand jury. He has not been formally indicted and charged in connection with 9/11 because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.”

Haas pauses to ask the question, “If the US government does not have enough hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11, how is it possible that it had enough evidence to invade Afghanistan to ‘smoke him out of his cave?’” Through corporate media, the Bush administration told the American people that bin Laden was “Public Enemy Number One,” responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. The federal government claims to have invaded Afghanistan to “root out” bin Laden and the Taliban, yet nearly six years later, the FBI said that it had no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.

Though the world was to have been convinced by the December 2001 release of a bin Laden “confession video,” the Department of Defense issued a press release to accompany this video in which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “There was no doubt of bin Laden’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks even before the tape was discovered.”

In a CNN article regarding the bin Laden tape, then New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that “the tape removes any doubt that the US military campaign targeting bin Laden and his associates is more than justified.” Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “The tape’s release is central to informing people in the outside world who don’t believe bin Laden was involved in the September 11 attacks.” Shelby went on to say “I don’t know how they can be in denial after they see this tape.”

Haas attempted to secure a reference to US government authentication of the bin Laden “confession video,” to no avail. However, it is conclusive that the Bush Administration and US Congress, along with corporate media, presented the video as authentic. So why doesn’t the FBI view the “confession video” as hard evidence? After all, notes Haas, if the FBI is investigating a crime such as drug trafficking, and it discovers a video of members of a drug cartel openly talking about a successful distribution operation in the United States, that video would be presented to a federal grand jury. The participants identified in the video would be indicted. The video alone would serve as sufficient evidence to net a conviction in a federal court. So why, asks Haas, is the bin Laden “confession video” not carrying the same weight with the FBI?
Haas strongly suggests that we begin asking questions, “The fact that the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Osama bin Laden to 9/11 should be headline news around the world. The challenge to the reader is to find out why it is not. Why has the US media blindly read the government-provided 9/11 scripts, rather than investigate without passion, prejudice, or bias, the events of September 11, 2001? Why has the US media blacklisted any guest that might speak of a government-sponsored 9/11 cover-up, rather than seeking out those people who have something to say about 9/11 that is contrary to the government’s account?” Haas continues. “Who is controlling the media message, and how is it that the FBI has no ‘hard evidence’ connecting Osama bin Laden to the events of September 11, 2001, while the US media has played the bin Laden-9/11 connection story for [six] years now as if it has conclusive evidence that bin Laden is responsible for the collapse of the twin towers, the Pentagon attack, and the demise of United Flight 93?”


On June 6, 2006 the Muckraker Report ran a piece by Ed Haas titled “FBI says, ‘No hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.’” Haas is the editor and a writer for the Muckraker Report. At the center of this article remains the authenticity and truthfulness of the videotape released by the federal government on December 13, 2001 in which it is reported that Osama bin Laden “confesses” to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The corporate media—television, radio, and newspapers—across the United States and the world repeated, virtually non-stop for a week after the videotape’s release, the government account of OBL “confessing.”

However, not one document has been released that demonstrates the authenticity of the videotape or that it even went through an authentication process. The Muckraker Report has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, and CENTCOM requesting documentation that would demonstrate the authenticity of the videotape and the dates/circumstances in which the videotape was discovered. CENTCOM has yet to reply to the FOIA request. After losing an appeal, the FBI responded that no documents could be found responsive to the request. The Department of Defense referred the Muckraker Report to CENTCOM while also indicating that it had no documents responsive to the FOIA request either.

The CIA however claims that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to the request. According to the CIA the fact of the existence or nonexistence of requested records is properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure by section 6 of the CIA Act of 1949, as amended. Therefore, the Agency has denied your request pursuant to FOIA exemptions (b)(1) and (b)(3).

Many people believe that if the videotape is authentic, it should be sufficient hard evidence for the FBI to connect bin Laden to 9/11. The Muckraker Report agrees. However, for the Department of Justice to indict bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, something the government has yet to do, the videotape would have to be entered into evidence and subjected to additional scrutiny. This appears to be something the government wishes to avoid.

Some believe that the video is a fake. They refer to it as the “fat bin Laden”video. The Muckraker Report believes that while the videotape is indeed authentic, it was the result of an elaborate CIA sting operation. The Muckraker Report also believes that the reason why there is no documentation that demonstrates that the videotape went through an authenticity process is because the CIA knew it was authentic, they arranged the taping.

It is highly probable that the videotape was taped on September 26, 2001—before the US invaded Afghanistan.

The Muckraker Report, June 6, 2006, and Ithaca Journal, June 29, 2006
Title: “FBI says, ‘No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11’”
Author: Ed Haas

Student Researcher: Bianca May and Morgan Ulery
Faculty Evaluator: Ben Frymer, Ph.D.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ahhhh -- the hate!

It's so easy

But if Bush/Cheney were out of office today
and if Obama or McKinney or even Nader was president
what would fundamentally change?

The food we eat, the fuel that heats our homes
our transportation to work, the clothes we wear
the internet that publishes our e-verses
all are products of the capitalist/petroleum-based
empire of wealth

You can't escape it even if you don't own a car
That carrot you put in your vegetable soup was shipped from California
The electricity that enables you to read this message
was generated at great cost to the environment
and at great profit to some network
of global corporations

The hate you feel for the president or anybody else
might as well be directed at your own sorry self
It's a big dead end and a waste of emotional energy

We really ought to free ourselves from
the politics of power and personality

And we can't be free until we until we stop hating and start loving

OK maybe we can't love Bush
or rightwing talk radio hosts

but we can love each other, and ourselves, and the earth
while acknowledging our weaknesses as individuals
our dependence on the economic systems we are seeking to transform
and our complicity in this project called society

Somebody once said "living well is the best revenge"

I think if we live like we're free, and love like we're free
then justice MAY follow

Of course, if somebody is pointing a gun at you,
all feel-good philosophical bets are off

But while we have the luxury to do so


-- Holle Brian

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Same-sex couples tend to get along better than others


Newhouse News Service

Watching Silda Wall Spitzer and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan try to reconcile their idea of "room service'' with their husbands', you might wonder whether same-sex couples are better off. More understanding of each other's needs and nature. Less conflicted about the whole monogamy-means-monogamy concept. Happier, even.

Isn't the problem between men and women -- forgive me, dear -- men and women?

Well, yes and yes.

Same-sex couples are more honest about monogamy and sex, researchers say. They're also more mature, considerate and fairer to each other than heterosexual couples. They're funnier and more affectionate when they argue. Less controlling. They don't take everything so personally.

The findings come from the same famed laboratory that studies thousands of heterosexual couples -- the Gottman researchers in Seattle -- as well as large university studies. After videotaping gay and lesbian couples' discussions, arguments and daily interaction, John Gottman concluded that straight relationships might one day be so healthy -- maybe in about 200 years.

In January, two large studies found much the same -- including that same-sex partners are generally happier than their straight siblings who are married.

"That may sound radical,'' says Esther Rothblum, a professor of Women's Studies at San Diego State University who co-authored one study, "but it's not hugely surprising.''

Gay couples must take large risks in just choosing to live openly, and then they must actively work to stay together because there are few of the societal or outside pressures that can help keep heterosexual couples married even if they're not happy.

And men and women communicate differently and see intimacy differently -- which matters in times of trouble.

"With heterosexual couples, you really have to translate what your partner is saying because they grew up in different worlds, they were socialized in different ways,'' Rothblum says. "That's where same-sex couples have an advantage.''

Still, the course of true love never runs smooth. Same-sex couples still break up over money, monotony, jealousy and misunderstandings. They bring baggage from their childhood and the particular burdens of living as minorities -- such as what to tell relatives about the relationship, public displays of affection or religious beliefs.

For more than 10 years, Mariah Ureel has taught same-sex couples how to work through such issues in classes at Kaiser Permanente. The Portland, Ore., relationship therapist uses Gottman's research and exercises to strengthen bonds, such as building an emotional rainy day account of happy memories to offset bad times.

As a child, she once made "Peace,'' "Love'' and "Joy'' signs and lined up her six younger brothers and sisters on the couch to support their parents' rare date night. As a therapist and educator, she's found gay couples already seem to understand the importance of date nights. "Whether they have kids or not, they're going out all the time, they're dancing, they're having dinner parties,'' Ureel says.

She teaches in part because of her own experience -- Ureel had been committed to her partner for five years when they legally married in 2004 when Oregon's Multnomah County issued marriage licenses to gay couples. (With few role models, the couple wondered, "Do we use the term husband? Wife? Hife?'' They settled on "wifebuns.'')

Her six-week classes start with the agreement that whatever is discussed in the classroom stays there, and then moves on to sharing coming-out stories. She says people immediately benefit by reducing the amount of time lost to anger and sadness. They also rediscover and celebrate what researchers have found -- that same-sex couples tend to have more compassion for each other, freedom from gender roles, and sometimes even double the wardrobe.

As for affairs, betrayal and heartbreak, Rothblum says, monogamy is always difficult to study because the data from many studies are self-reported and people may fear their partner will see their answers. But researchers have concluded that many gays are more frank in talking about sex and monogamy. For some gay men, for instance, having sex outside the relationship is culturally acceptable, but by mutual agreement. "Unlike Spitzer,'' Rothblum says of the former New York governor, "they're not doing it secretly.''

Talking and doing "homework'' exercises about expectations, values, goals and areas of conflict are key elements of the Kaiser classes. But it also helps couples, Ureel says, to realize that "we are not alone.''

©2008 Kalamazoo
© 2008 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

SMSC to install a wind turbine next to pow wow grounds

This summer the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community will begin the installation of a 2-megawatt wind turbine next to its pow wow grounds.

Several years ago, the SMSC installed a wind anemometer to determine if a wind turbine would yield satisfactory results. The results were encouraging, so the project moved forward.

The center hub will stand 262.4 feet tall and be visible for miles around. The three blades will be 229.6 feet in length and will function like a propeller.

The wind turbine has little environmental impact. It is not located near a major bird or bat migratory flyway.

This single turbine will supply enough energy for a significant percentage of the SMSC residential energy demand. Energy created by the turbine will be metered as it enters a nearby electrical substation that provides electricity to the SMSC and the surrounding area. The generated energy will likely be offset against SMSC residential energy costs.

Like many, the SMSC faces growing energy demands and dependence on outside sources for that energy. Environmental impacts associated with conventional energy sources are known to be destructive to the earth.

In response, the SMSC has actively explored local options to supply its energy demands. This focus will reduce some of the environmental impacts associated with conventional energy sources like natural gas and oil.

Most of the solutions being pursued by the SMSC do not require extensive infrastructure. Since initial investment costs are recouped over the life of the project, especially with rising conventional energy costs, other options are preferred by the SMSC. Minnesota is the third largest producer of wind energy in the nation, behind Texas and California. The state of Minnesota has set renewable energy standard that requires 25 percent of the state's energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. The SMSC wind turbine is another example to meet that goal.

The wind turbine is one of several SMSC energy initiatives already underway.

The SMSC is a major partner in Koda Energy, a joint venture with Rahr Malting of Shakopee to produce heat and electricity by burning agricultural by-products and grown energy crops. This stable, clean-energy production facility will be operational by December 2008 and could supply up to 75% of the SMSC’s energy needs for housing.

Another innovative project will soon convert the SMSC’s waste motor oil and vegetable oil to heat buildings.

Currently waste oil is hauled away; but by fall 2008, some SMSC spaces will be partially heated by waste oil. Using waste oil for heat reduces the use of natural gas. A project to convert 28,000 gallons of waste vegetable oil each year into bio-diesel for use in SMSC vehicles and equipment is also underway.

The SMSC fire station addition scheduled for completion in June 2008 has incorporated efforts to utilize the free energy of the sun.

Four skylights with daylight harvesting sensors will light a training room and equipment bay, reducing daytime energy usage. Six solar cells on the roof will capture energy to heat water for showers and equipment washing, reducing the use of natural gas.

The new ice arena currently under construction will also feature skylights specifically designed to compliment the arena use. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, the arena typically will not have a lot of use. By using skylights and daylight harvestings during these non-peak hours, energy consumption for lighting will be reduced by about 50 percent.

Another energy saving feature of the SMSC's new ice arena will capture waste heat from the refrigeration compressors used to cool the rink floor and use it to heat the arena seats. Dispersing heat in spectator spaces reduces the need to heat the entire arena. This reduces energy consumption and makes the arena more comfortable for guests.

-- Shawn Hogendorf


Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux to build a Wind turbine

This summer, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Community will begin installation of a 2-megawatt wind turbine next to its powwow grounds that it says will supply enough energy for a significant percentage of the Prior Lake tribe’s residential energy demand.

Several years ago the tribe installed an anemometer to determine if a wind turbine would yield satisfactory results. Results were encouraging so the project moved forward, said the tribe.

The center hub will stand 262.4 feet high and be visible for miles. The three blades will be 229.6 feet in length.

The tribe said the wind turbine will have little environmental impact.

The wind turbine is one of several Mdewakanton energy initiatives already under way. The tribe is a major partner in Koda Energy, a joint venture with Rahr Malting of Shakopee to produce heat and electricity by burning agricultural byproducts and energy crops. The production facility is scheduled to be in operation by December and could supply up to 75 percent of the community's energy needs for housing. Another project will soon convert the community's waste motor oil and vegetable oil to heat buildings. Waste oil is hauled away. But by fall, some community spaces will be partially heated by waste oil. A project to convert 28,000 gallons of waste vegetable oil each year into biodiesel for use in community vehicles and equipment is also under way.

The community fire station addition scheduled for completion in June has incorporated efforts to utilize the energy of the sun. Four skylights with daylight-harvesting sensors will light a training room and equipment bay, reducing daytime energy usage. Six solar cells on the roof will capture energy to heat water for showers and equipment washing, reducing the use of natural gas.

A new ice sheet addition to the community’s ice arena under construction will also feature skylights specifically designed to complement the arena use. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, the arena typically will not have a lot of use. By using skylights and daylight harvestings during these non-peak hours, energy consumption for lighting will be reduced by about 50 percent, the tribe said.

The ice arena will also capture waste heat from the refrigeration compressors used to cool the rink floor and use it to heat the arena seats. Dispersing heat in spectator spaces reduces the need to heat the entire arena.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Minneapolis citizens calling for Bush arrest at GOP Convention

by Ed Felien, Polly Mann, Kate McDonald

An appeal to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman:

Arrest George W. Bush when he steps off the plane for the Republican Convention in September.

George W. Bush has committed horrible crimes against humanity. His war against a weak and defenseless country; his use of torture and kidnapping, his illegal incarcerations of foreign nationals and the shelling of Fallujah are crimes in violation of international law. As long as he is President he cannot be tried for these crimes in another country, but once he is a private citizen, then, like Kissinger, Pinochet and Donald Rumsfeld, he will be a hunted criminal with little refuge in any foreign country that believes in the rule of law. But those are matters for foreign countries and the international court.

He has violated and undermined the Constitution by illegally spying on citizens, by refusing to enforce laws passed by Congress, by invading a country without a Declaration of a State of War by Congress and by entering into agreements with foreign countries and not submitting those agreements to the United States Senate for their advice and consent. But these are matters for the U. S. Congress to enforce. Unfortunately, Congress is unwilling to hold the President accountable to the Constitution and has refused to begin impeachment proceedings against him.

But what concerns us as Minnesotans is whether George W. Bush's actions have caused serious and grievous harm to the citizens of our state and whether that harm was incidental to the legitimate performance of his official duties as President or whether his actions were motivated by private and personal gain. As the highest elected law enforcement official in Hennepin County, it is Mike Freeman's duty to enforce the laws of this state. If it can be shown that there is probable cause that George W. Bush caused harm to the people of Minnesota and that this harm was caused by his willful pursuit of personal gain, then it is the duty of Mike Freeman to arrest George W. Bush and hold him accountable to Minnesota law.

There are three areas in which the criminal acts of George W. Bush have violated Minnesota law.

First, his pursuit of a war against the government of Iraq was not done in legitimate defense of national interest but rather in pursuit of personal wealth. His administration lied about the threat of weapons of mass destruction, and they lied about a connection between Iraq and international terrorists. They knew Iraq did not pose a threat to the United States. The only reasonable explanation for George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq was that he stood to personally benefit from the war.

To fully understand the Bush family financial interests in war profiteering it is necessary to understand their history.

Great-grandfather Samuel Prescott Bush was president of Buckeye Steel Castings. He manufactured railroad couplings for railroads owned by the Morgans, Rockefellers and Harrimans. During World War I he was on the War Industries Board and chaired the section on forgings, guns, small arms and ammunition, and he got to work with people from Dupont, Remington, Winchester and Colt. Sam Bush founded and became the first president of the National Association of Manufacturers, an organization whose principal cause was defending industrial capitalism from the threat of unions. He became an indispensable part of the military-industrial complex, and he sent his son Prescott off to Yale where he could associate with the sons of his friends in the Skull and Bones fraternity.

Along with many of his college chums, Prescott joined Brown Brothers Harriman after college and started making serious money. The biggest buck to be made in the 1920's was in re-arming Germany. Harriman & Co. set up Union Banking Corp with Prescott as Manager to trade with Nazi financier Fritz Thyssen. They bought a steamship line to ship Remington arms to Germany through a dummy corporation in Holland.

Harriman & Co. bought Dresser Industries (manufacturers of oil pipeline equipment) in 1929 and Prescott became a Director, and he continued to run Dresser from the Board for the rest of his life. They, along with John Foster Dulles and others, bankrolled Hitler as a shrewd business strategy. Prescott became Managing Director of Union Bank in 1934 at the height of trade with Germany. In 1939 he took direct management of some of the slave labor camps in Poland to aid Nazi armament, according to Dutch intelligence sources.

In October of 1942, the U. S. government seized the assets of Union Bank and three other of Prescott's industries: the steamship line, the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation (suppliers of steel, wire and explosives to the Nazis) and the Silesian-American Company (the coal mining company he managed along with John Foster Dulles on behalf of the Nazi Economic Minister). This didn't really close them down. Once the war started they simply changed sides and started supplying war material to the Allies.

During the War Bonesmen were active in forming the OSS and its later incarnation, the CIA. Prescott's relationship with Dulles would become very useful during the Eisenhower years, with John Foster as Secretary of State and his brother Allen Dulles as Director of the CIA. Prescott and Dresser Industries were kept well inside the loop. Hans Gisevius, the German intelligence agent who acted as the go-between with Allen Dulles in Switzerland and Admiral Canaris in the German High Command after the war, acted as go-between with Dulles, Dresser Industries and Prescott Bush.
George Herbert Walker Bush, Prescott's son, improved on the CIA connection to the point of becoming its Director in 1976.

After graduating from Yale, George H. W. Bush went to work at his father's firm, Dresser Industries. Eventually, with money from Brown Brothers and Harriman (his dad's parent company) he set up his own company, Zapata. It was really a CIA front. The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 was probably George's operation as much as it was Allen Dulles's. The CIA code name for it was Zapata. The boats left for the Bay of Pigs from an island that was leased to George H. W. Bush, and the boats were named Houston and Barbara.

He ran for Congress in Houston in 1964 by campaigning against the Civil Rights Act. He didn't get elected that year, but he did get elected the next time he tried. When he was Chair of the Republican Party in 1972 he set up ethnic heritage groups within the Party. These groups were havens for ex-Nazis.

While Vice President under Reagan, Bush was Chair of the Special Situations Group responsible for defeating the Sandanistas in Nicaragua. He and Ollie North set up, financed and armed the Contras through an elaborate and highly secretive scheme that saw private planes flying cash to Iran, buying Soviet-made guns, flying guns to the Contras at a private CIA airstrip in Costa Rica, trading guns for marijuana and cocaine, then flying the drugs to a private U. S. airbase in Homestead, Florida, where the drugs were traded for cash.

George Bush was Vice President under Reagan from 1980 to 1988. He was elected President in 1988 and served one term until 1992. Dick Cheney was his Secretary of Defense. When Bush lost, Cheney went from being Secretary of Defense to being CEO of Halliburton, probably the largest supplier of goods and services to the Defense Department. The revolving door connecting the military to the industrial complex seemed to be well greased. A few years later Cheney came back through the door to be Vice President for George Bush the younger.

Why did George W pick Cheney. Well, actually, Cheney picked himself. Bush asked him to make a list of candidates for Vice President. Cheney did, then he sold W on the idea that he was the best man for the job.

What makes Cheney so special, so indispensable?

While Cheney was CEO of Halliburton he built up the company by buying other companies. One of the companies he bought was Dresser Industries. Halliburton spent $8 billion buying Dresser. When they bought it, Halliburton's stock dropped by a third. Wall Street thought it was a bum deal. Why did Cheney pay so much? Was it a sweetheart deal because the owners of Dresser were his former and future bosses?

The popular image of Cheney is that he's the brains behind Bush, that Bush is some kind of simpleton and Cheney is an evil genius. The Dresser deal looks like Cheney is still the loyal employee. He's both the bag man and fall guy for the Bushs. He delivers the cash, and, when the Bushs get in trouble, he's willing to stand up and take the hit for it.
During the 2000 presidential election Cheney admitted Halliburton did business with Libya and Iran, but he denied they had done business with Iraq, "I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal. We've not done any business in Iraq since U. N. sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn't do that," he said on ABC-TV's This Week on July 30, 2000. But Dresser was selling equipment through French subsidiaries to Iraq from early in 1997 through 2000. Halliburton didn't buy Dresser until 1998, so, it was the Bush family's company that was trading with the enemy and Cheney just continued the practice. Purchasing the company also covered up the trail.

George W. Bush, in the best traditions of his family, waged war against the people of Iraq so that Halliburton could assign oil leases and control the oil and so that Halliburton would get multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts to supply the military. More than 4000 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq. Of that number 60, as of March 29, 2008, are from Minnesota, which is the justification of this appeal to County Attorney Mike Freeman to arrest George W. Bush.

Because he has committed troops of the Minnesota National Guard to tragic danger and fatalities in Iraq for the sole purpose of enriching his family's business, Halliburton, and, thereby, causing the death of Minnesota citizens, he is guilty of committing murder in the third degree: Section 609.195: MURDER IN THE THIRD DEGREE: whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years on each count.

Through the sale of oil drilling equipment Dresser Company and the Bush family have had long time relationships with the Saudi royal family. The bin Laden family have been the principal contracting firm for the Saudi royal family, so it was natural for Osama bin Laden's family to give George W. Bush $50,000 to get started in the oil exploration business in Texas. Bush returned the favor by grounding all aircraft after 9/11 except the plane that evacuated those members of the bin Laden family staying in the U. S. There was a touching video of Crown Prince Faisal visiting George W. Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. They were holding hands as they walked, evidence of a stronger relationship than the one Bush had with Tony Blair or Berlusconi.

As head of the Bush family, George W. Bush directs their investment in Halliburton. Halliburton directs the movement of oil out of Iraq, 25% of the world's supply. The Saudi family directs the movement of oil out of Saudi Arabia, 40% of the world's supply. It is reasonable to assume that when George W. Bush and Prince Faisal get together they talk about the supply and price of oil. After their last meeting in Saudi Arabia, supplies dropped and the price of oil rose dramatically. According to Minnesota State law that meeting looks suspiciously like a conspiracy to fix prices.

Because, through Halliburton's control of Iraqi oil, he has acted in collusion with Saudi Arabia and OPEC to fix the price and supply of oil to distributors in Hennepin County, he is guilty of price fixing: Section 325.53: PROHIBITED CONTRACTS, COMBINATIONS, AND CONSPIRACIES: Subdivision 1. Price fixing, production control, allocation of markets, collusive bidding, and concerted refusals to deal. Without limiting section 325D.51, the following shall be deemed to restrain trade or commerce unreasonably and are unlawful: (1) A contract, combination or conspiracy between two or more persons in competition: (a) for the purpose or with the effect of affecting, fixing, controlling or maintaining the market price, rate or fee of any commodity or service; (b) affecting, fixing, controlling, maintaining, limiting, or discontinuing the production, manufacture, mining, sale or supply of any commodity, or the sale or supply of any service, for the purpose or with the effect of affecting, fixing, controlling, or maintaining the market price, rate, or fee of the commodity or service.

Finally, George W. Bush should be arrested and prosecuted for his collusion with the opium warlords in Afghanistan to distribute heroin in Hennepin County. The United Nations and all objective reports verify that during the last year of the Taliban reign in Afghanistan, their government had reduced the Afghanistan contribution to the world supply of opium and heroin to zero, and everyone agrees that since the opium warlords have taken back control of the rural areas of Afghanistan opium production in Afghanistan now contributes 90% of the world supply. The U. S. Army and the CIA worked in support of the opium warlords by granting them control over most of the opium growing areas of Afghanistan, getting them a respected place in the central government. The CIA even insured that an opium warlord would be in charge of the Department of the Interior-the government agency responsible for drug enforcement. This is the pattern the OSS (the early version of the CIA) used to overthrow Musolini's government in Sicily. Through contacts with Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, they got the Mafia in Sicily to cooperate with the Allies in the invasion of Sicily. The Mafia in America has always been a ready and willing patriot in any CIA off the shelf adventure. When Ollie North brought cocaine and marijuana in from Colombia, the Mafia was ready to pay cash for it and distribute it. Ollie North knew these contacts when he was working with the Hmong and Meo tribes in Laos during the Vietnam War. As part of the golden triangle these tribes produced large amounts of opium that CIA planes would then transport to Marseille, continuing the colonial tradition begun by French forces in Vietnam.

George H. W. Bush was a part of all this because he was Director of the CIA when the golden triangle was active, and he was Vice President during the Contra War and probably in charge of the operation to fund the Contras through the illegal importation of cocaine and marijuana.

Opium poppies have grown in Afghanistan since ancient times. The British began to control the exporting of the drug early in the nineteenth century. The Opium War in China in the middle of the nineteenth century was a result of the Chinese government trying to forbid the British importation of opium. The British won the war and the Chinese were forced to allow the British to sell opium. Early in the twentieth century Sicilians and Italians found the opium through contacts in Beirut and had it manufactured into heroin in laboratories in Marseilles. The heroin was then smuggled into Europe and the United States.

The traditional route for smugglers was over the mountains from Afghanistan, through Iran, Iraq, Jordan and to Beirut, Lebanon. The lack of cooperation recently of the Iranian government in this smuggling conspiracy has created problems for the smugglers and international problems for Iran. But, thanks to the active cooperation of the CIA and the U S government, opium does make its way through the Middle East, to Sicily and laboratories to be refined into heroin and, finally, to the U S and Hennepin County.

Section 609.228 of the Minnesota penal code, GREAT BODILY HARM CAUSED BY DISTRIBUTION OF DRUGS, says, "Whoever proximately causes great bodily harm by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering a controlled substance classified in schedule I or II may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.

Is it possible that George W. Bush, as President of the United States, has immunity from prosecution? Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense 57 (Philadelphia, 1776), "In America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is the law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other." The Supreme Court said in an 1882 decision, United States v. Lee, 106 U.S. 196, 220, 1 S.Ct. 240, 261, 27 L.Ed. 171, that:

No man in this country is so high that he is above the law.
No officer of the law may set that law at defiance with impunity.
All the officers of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are creatures of
the law, and are bound to obey.

It is the only supreme power in our system of government, and every
man who by accepting office participates in its functions is only the more
strongly bound to submit to that supremacy, and to observe the limitations
which it imposes upon the exercise of the authority which it gives.

We respectfully request that the Hennepin County Attorney enforce the laws of the State of Minnesota and arrest George W. Bush when he steps off the plane in Hennepin County in September when he comes here to attend the Republican National Convention.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Worn down, Obama is reverting to the mean

By David Brooks

Back in Iowa, Barack Obama promised to be something new -- an unconventional leader who would confront unpleasant truths, embrace novel policies and unify the country. If he had knocked Hillary Clinton out in New Hampshire and entered general-election mode early, this enormously thoughtful man would have become that.

But he did not knock her out, and the aura around Obama has changed. Furiously courting Democratic primary voters and apparently exhausted, Obama has emerged as a more conventional politician and a more orthodox liberal.

He sprinkled his debate performance Wednesday night with the sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that are the stuff of conventional politics. He claimed falsely that his handwriting wasn't on a questionnaire about gun control. He claimed that he had never attacked Clinton for her exaggerations about the Tuzla airport, though his campaign was all over it. Obama piously condemned the practice of lifting other candidates' words out of context, but he has been doing exactly the same thing to John McCain, especially over his 100-years-in-Iraq comment.

Obama also made a pair of grand and cynical promises that are the sign of someone who is thinking more about campaigning than governing.

He made a sweeping read-my-lips pledge never to raise taxes on anybody making less than $200,000 to $250,000 a year. That will make it impossible to address entitlement reform any time in an Obama presidency. It will also make it much harder to afford the vast array of middle-class tax breaks, health-care reforms and energy policy Manhattan Projects that he promises to deliver.

Then he made an iron vow to get American troops out of Iraq within 16 months. Neither Obama nor anyone else has any clue what conditions will be like when the next president takes office. He could have responsibly said that he aims to bring the troops home, but will make a judgment at the time. Instead, he rigidly locked himself into a policy that will not be fully implemented for another three years.

If Obama is elected, he will either go back on this pledge -- in which case he would destroy his credibility -- or he will risk genocide in the region and a viciously polarizing political war at home.

Then there are the cultural issues. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are taking a lot of heat for spending so much time asking about Jeremiah Wright and the "bitter" comments. But the fact is that voters want a president who basically shares their values and life experiences. Fairly or not, they look at symbols like Michael Dukakis in a tank, John Kerry's windsurfing or John Edwards' haircut as clues about shared values.

When Obama began this ride, he seemed like a transcendent figure who could understand a wide variety of life experiences. But over the past months, things have happened that make him seem more like my old neighbors in Hyde Park in Chicago.

Some of us love Hyde Park for its diversity and quirkiness, as there are those who love Cambridge and Berkeley. But it is among the more academic and liberal places around. When Obama goes to a church infused with James Cone-style liberation theology, when he makes ill-informed comments about working-class voters, when he bowls a 37 for crying out loud, voters are going to wonder if he's one of them. Obama has to address those doubts, and he has done so poorly up to now.

It was inevitable that the period of "Yes We Can!" deification would come to an end. It was not inevitable that Obama would now look so vulnerable. He'll win the nomination, but in a matchup against John McCain, he is behind in Florida, Missouri and Ohio, and merely tied in must-win states like Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A generic Democrat now beats a generic Republican by 13 points, but Obama is trailing his own party. One in five Democrats say they would vote for McCain over Obama.

General-election voters are different from primary voters. Among them, Obama is lagging among seniors and men. Instead of winning over white high school-educated voters who are tired of Bush and conventional politics, he does worse than previous nominees. John Judis and Ruy Teixeira have estimated a Democrat has to win 45 percent of such voters to take the White House. I've asked several of the most skillful Democratic politicians over the past few weeks, and they all think that's going to be hard.

A few months ago, Obama was riding his talents. Clinton has ground him down, and we are now facing an interesting phenomenon. Republicans have long assumed they would lose because of the economy and the sad state of their party. Now, Democrats are deeply worried their nominee will lose in November.

Welcome to 2008. Everybody's miserable.

David Brooks' column is distributed by the New York Times News Service.


You can't take car envy to the bank

By Douglas R. Sease

Here's the question: How many people do you admire or respect because of the car they drive?

Note I said "admire or respect," not "envy."

No one, huh?

So now that we've established that you don't care what someone else drives and that no one else cares what you drive, let's get serious. The fact is that for most of us after our houses and maybe college educations for the kids (at a really, really good college) cars will take more of our money than anything else. And Detroit (and Nagoya and Stuttgart) want as much of that money as they can possibly get.

Hence all the expensive advertising trying to convince you that you'll feel better about yourself -- and others will feel better about you, too -- if only you drive a particular car.

What hogwash! Get past the marketing and advertising and when you buy a car you're buying something very simple: a steel box with wheels that contains about 150,000 miles. You can buy an expensive box of miles, a mid-priced box of miles or a really cheap box of miles (read "used cars") and you'll generally get the same thing: 150,000 miles (less, of course, the number of miles a previous owner put on a used car). The only difference is how much you pay to go each one of those miles.

Hidden Cost

But here's the real catch: any one of those cars winds up costing you a lot more than you think. Sure, there's sales tax and operating costs and insurance, all of which take an additional toll on your wallet. But what I'm really talking about here is opportunity cost: every additional buck you spend on that box of miles is a buck that you no longer have to invest and watch grow in value for years to come.

If you save $10,000 by buying a Toyota Camry instead of a BMW and invest that $10,000 in stocks with an average annual return of 10%, at the end of 10 years (about when your Toyota is coming up on that 150,000-mile mark) you'll have $25,937.

At that point, save another $10,000 by buying a less expensive car, invest it, and the combined savings on those two cars will, 10 years from that second purchase, be worth more than $93,000. (That's $67,275 from your initial $10,000 investment 20 years ago and another $25,937 from your latest $10,000 savings.) Can driving a car that is $10,000 more expensive than another really be worth nearly $100,000 to you?

More Than Money

Now there are certain criteria that a car has to meet if you're going to drive it 150,000 miles. Over the years I've found that the things that are important to me, in descending order, are reliability, safety, efficiency and comfort. Reliability might not seem that important in the overall scheme of things -- most people would initially choose safety -- but the fact is you won't keep a car that's unreliable for 10 years.

The real point, though, is that all four criteria are important, and you'll have to make some trade-offs. You can't have the most efficient car while still having the right balance of safety and comfort. That's why over the past 30 years I've invariably wound up driving a Honda or a Toyota. Cars from those manufacturers consistently get high ratings for reliability, safety and efficiency.

When I was working in The Wall Street Journal's Detroit bureau many years ago, a very, very high-ranking Ford executive told me off the record that the challenge facing his company was to be able to build a car as good as Honda's Accord. From everything I read today, Ford still hasn't accomplished that goal, nor have Chrysler, GM or various other global manufacturers.

Sure, the car freaks may find Toyotas and Hondas boring, but for $100,000 in savings over time I'm willing to be really bored, as long as I have reliability, safety, efficiency and comfort.

Replace That Box?

Having said all this, I acknowledge that there may be circumstances in which you shouldn't keep a car for 150,000 miles. The advent of antilock brakes and air bags were such significant strides forward in safety that they made it almost imperative that you get out of a car without those features and into one that had them.

We may be approaching another such threshold in terms of efficiency when the major auto makers begin offering plug-in electric vehicles a few years from now. We'll have to wait to see how reliable, comfortable and safe they are. But plug-ins will be a significant step beyond today's popular hybrids, which so far seem to be more expensive than they're worth in terms of overall fuel savings.

Still, the bottom line remains this: Every dollar you spend on a car (or anything else that costs more than a few hundred dollars) is a dollar that you're not saving and investing for tomorrow.

Article from the Wall Street Journal.

* * *


Hundreds of you wrote to tell us you'll miss Jonathan Clements and the "Getting Going" column. I'm with you. I'll miss him, too. Jonathan's counsel and unique voice spoke to me not only as a fellow journalist, but as a reader, like you, trying to manage my family's money.

You'll notice, however, "Getting Going" remains, even if Jonathan doesn't. That's because the column really is the heart of The Wall Street Journal Sunday. It's what we are about -- prudent saving, spending and investing.

That's certainly the message I get from this morning's column by Douglas R. Sease, a longtime Wall Street Journal writer. And it's a message that will be further explored in coming weeks by other "Getting Going" writers.

I hope you'll keep reading. And tell me what you think. Write: david.crook AT wsj DOT com.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Rising food prices a threat to world peace


School debates were noted for their either/or dichotomies. As 15-year olds, fuelled by heady promises that we were the leaders of tomorrow, we engaged in heated exchanges over whether Africa should opt for socialism or capitalism. We racked our adolescent brains over whether we live to eat or eat to live.

The thing about eating and living has been troubling my mind lately as I see a global food crisis looming in the horizon and casting a shadow right across the world.

The world is accustomed to crises. It is the nature of the planet we inhabit and we have seen them all. Energy crises. The threat of terrorism. The threat of global epidemics like the plague and SARS. One financial or economic crisis after another. And now an imminent food crisis.

Throughout history, individual countries, from Ireland to China to Ethiopia, have known the pain of hunger and mass starvation. Many others only read about it. But all that has changed, and in the last couple of years, even the richest countries in the world have felt the pressure of rising food prices.

No one has been spared. And there seems to be no solution in sight as we haggle over democracy and other fine dreams.

In the last six months, there have been food riots in virtually every continent, from West Bengal and Mexico last year to Egypt and Indonesia. More recently, there have been riots in the poorest countries like Haiti and Burkina Faso. Demonstrations have rocked Cameroon, Mauritania, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco, Philippines, and been felt across the Gulf States. Italy has seen pasta price protests.

Elsewhere, supermarkets have witnessed panic buying over rumours of imminent price hikes. The IMF warns of an escalation in uncertainty and even the threat of war as millions find themselves unable to afford food.

The situation is worrying, and the threats cannot be treated lightly. Consider that during the last year, the global price of wheat has risen by 130 per cent and that of rice by 75 per cent. At some point in Argentina, it was reported that tomatoes had become more expensive than meat.

In countries like Japan where overall inflation, excluding the price of food, hovers around 1 per cent and the where deflation is a way of life, food prices have risen by an average of 15 per cent in the last 12 months. Given that Japan produces only 40 per cent of its food requirements and is as exposed to global food prices as any poor African or Asian country, the prospects are pretty gloomy.

Food production can barely keep pace with demand, which is caused by the growth in world population in real terms and also the emergence of a middle class in developing economies that wants to eat better than their parents’ generation.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, demand for meat in China has grown by 150 per cent since 1980.

Last year, floods destroyed crops around the world from the UK to China and Australia, and vast sections of Africa. Ten per cent of the UK wheat crop was destroyed in the 2007 summer floods. As a result, prices have continued to creep up.

Cutting down rainforests and devoting agricultural land to bio-fuels might have helped relieve the pressure on diminishing oil reserves, although going by current petroleum prices that remains a moot point, but more profoundly, it has exacerbated the food crisis.

George Bush wants 15 per cent of American cars to run on bio-fuel within the next nine years. This has forced American farmers to divert 20 per cent of the maize crop to bio-fuels, in the process leading to a shortage in food and doubling the price of maize. This has had a dire effect on many Asian, Latin American and African countries that rely on American maize. Blithely ignoring the dangers, India and Brazil, among others, are pledging to take land away from agriculture to bio-fuels.

Two hundred years ago, English political economist Thomas Malthus warned that the exponential population growth rate would get out of sync with the arithmetic growth in world food production, leading to catastrophe.

It was a timely warning even though Mr Malthus could not have predicted how industrial and technological progress would boost food production, and he somewhat overestimated man’s capacity to procreate.

The threat of insufficient food remains. But now, it emanates from factors that, to 18th century people, would have sounded like the stuff science fiction is made of. When Mr Malthus was penning his doomsday scenario, cars powered by two cylinder gasoline engines were yet to start rolling down the streets of his native Surrey.

Sky-high oil prices and extreme weather are not helping either. This leaves us facing a food crisis of unbelievable proportions. It brings into sharp focus that old, popular debate topic about eating and living. It evokes images of man reverting back to his hunter-gatherer days, rummaging for scraps of food in wasted landscapes ravaged by drought and scorched by an unrelenting sun.

Democratic governments, as well as those that keep their people subjugated, could soon find themselves facing uncontrollable political activity. Instability in large economies like India and China could have serious repercussions for global peace. The case of the Haitian prime minister dismissed over food riots should force world leaders back to high school-type debates: to feed people or not to feed people.

Professor Ken Kamoche is an academic and a writer.


America supporting a failed state in Africa

Olympics in Addis Ababa for 2016! Ethiopia in lockstep with China in suppressing all who oppose "their will."

By Ernest Mpinganjira

A political disaster is looming in Ethiopia. The Government cracked down on opposition supporters in a desperate attempt to prevent Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s rivals from entrenching themselves at the grassroots.

One of the parties boycotted village, district and provincial elections. Another party threatened to follow suit in protest about uneven playing field and repression against opposition.

Against the backdrop of blatant human rights abuses, international organisations have raised concerns about the West’s silence over its ally’s excesses.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report last week accuses Addis Ababa of harassment of the opposition and independent Press. The report also questioned whether the US military aid to Addis Ababa has been used to suppress the opposition and entrench Zenawi into power.

The report noted: "The Ethiopian Government’s repression of registered opposition parties and ordinary voters has largely prevented political competition ahead of local elections that began on April 13.

"These widespread acts of violence, arbitrary detention and intimidation mirror long-term patterns of abuse designed to suppress political dissent in Ethiopia."

HRW Africa Director, Mr Georgette Gagnon, expressed dismay that while the ills persisted, the US has not raised concern over curtailment of democracy and independent media.

HRW said the repression was a preamble to national elections slated for November.

"It is too late to salvage these [grassroots] elections, which will simply be a rubber stamp on the EPRDF’s (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, Ethiopia ruling party) near-monopoly on power at the local level. Still, officials must at least allow the voters to decide how and whether to cast their ballots without intimidation," Gagnon said.

Ethiopia’s election chaos comes hot on the heels of the debacle in Kenya that resulted in 1,200 deaths and more than 350,000 people displaced. In 2005, Ethiopian forces killed 200 opposition supporters and detained dozens of others for protesting Zenawi’s poll win.

The US’s silence about Zenawi’s political mischief has elicited international concerns. The Economist magazine questioned the silence, which could encourage some African governments to ignore the rule of law and suppress democracy.

The magazine provided a glimpse of what thinking in Washington could be: The close military ties between the two countries that involve the civil strife in Somalia.

The US, it said, fears that Somalia may have already become an incubator of international terrorism, hence its reluctance to criticise Zenawi, lest he welcomes the terrorists in reaction to criticism.

"That is why America backed Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia at the end of 2006. Its own air raids on supposed terrorist targets in Somalia have relied on Ethiopian intelligence, though nearly all appear to have missed.

"American officials praise the Ethiopian troops who are still in Mogadishu, Somalia’s battered capital, as peacekeepers; most Somalis see them as occupier," writes the magazine.

Civil strife

Kenya’s political chaos after the disputed December 27 polls seem to have shielded Addis Ababa from international criticism on gross abuse of human rights.

Until last December’s disputed presidential poll in Kenya, Nairobi was the presumptive anchor of US interests in the larger East African region. Recent political turmoil have weakened this position, hence the Bush administration’s partiality to the savagery in Ethiopia.

"...The Pentagon wants to make Ethiopia a bulwark in a region where Somalia is a dangerously failed state, Sudan and Eritrea are pariahs and Kenya has troubles of its own," The Economist noted.

Some of the reasons the magazine gives for Ethiopia’s persistence in abrogation of human rights, which are largely true, are appalling.

"The African Union is based there. Its ancient Christian history stirs American evangelicals. Its poverty and population of 80 million, (Africa’s third-largest) attract development-minded foreigners," The Economist says.

But as the international community busied itself with the developments in Zimbabwe, where presidential poll results are yet to be released, Addis Ababa was clamping down on opposition during grassroots elections.

Said HRW report: "The nationwide local elections…are crucially important. It is local officials who are responsible for much of the day-to-day repression that characterises governance in Ethiopia. Many local officials in Oromia have made a routine practice of justifying their abuses by accusing law-abiding government critics of belonging to the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front."

The report said that as a result of the intimidation, candidates allied to the EPRDF are elected unopposed in the vast majority of constituencies across Ethiopia.

This was after opposition coalition, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), withdrew its candidates for fear of persecution.

"UEDF officials complained that intimidation and procedural irregularities limited registration to only 6,000 of the 20,000 candidates they attempted to put forward for various seats," the HRW report says.

Just as was the case in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria in 2006, Ethiopia’s National Elections Board (NEB) came under stinging criticism for bending the rules in favour of the governing party.

Against this pattern of abuse, HRW London Director, Mr Tom Porteous, took issue with the West for backing a brutal regime.

"If Western governments were more consistent and less selective in their reaction to human rights abuses around the world, they might be less inclined to turn a blind eye to Ethiopia’s failure to abide by international norms …" Porteous observed last week.


Kenya bound to face maize and wheat shortage

Publication Date: 4/20/2008

The country’s strategic grain reserve is already worryingly low, and development and agricultural experts anticipate a 40 per cent reduction in grain production this season.

A deserted farm in Kiambaa, Uasin Gishu District. Photo/FILE
To further aggravate matters, the five million bags of strategic grain reserve at the National Cereals and Produce Board is fast being depleted because of the need to feed internally displaced persons following post-election violence.

According to NCPB spokesman Kipserem Maritim, the reserve grain would have sustained the country until August when new crop is harvested. However, the increased demand for the stocks and the disruption of farming activities occasioned by post-election violence have set the Board’s projections back.

Regional and interntional agricultural experts have warned of a looming food crisis, and Tanzania is already facing a maize shortfall of 300,000 tonnes. It also faces a drop in production. To plug this gap the country has to import maize, which it usually sources from Kenya’s grain basket, the North Rift region.

But this season, key grain-producing districts in the region like Trans-Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Lugari will experience a drastic decline in crop production.

Erratic weather patterns

In addition to the displacement of farmers and erratic weather patterns, factors affecting this decline include escalating fuel and fertilizer prices and the high cost of labour and herbicides. To counter these rising costs, farmers have begun to cut down on the acreage under cultivation of grains like maize and wheat.

Trans-Nzoia is projected to harvest almost 3 million bags of maize this season, down from 6 million bags last year following reduced acreage under cultivation of the crop from 109,557 hectares to 98,000 hectares, said District Agricultural Officer Felicia Ndung’u.

Uasin Gishu District should harvest 3.7 million bags of maize this season down from 4.3 million bags last year. District Agricultural Officer Grace Kirui says acreage under maize declined from 38,445 hectares to 32,293 hectares as farmers moved to other more lucrative ventures like dairy farming.

But maize production in the two districts is expected to be much lower than projected since displaced farmers have been unable to till their land. More than 150,000 people were displaced in Uasin Gishu and 40,000 others in Trans-Nzoia.

The announcement by Agriculture minister William Ruto that the cost of top dressing would be lowered from Sh1,800 to Sh1,650 and the release of Sh127 million for grain delivery to NCPB have been viewed by most farmers as good news that has come too late.

“The government should have moved fast to cushion us from the high cost of farm inputs. The planting season is almost over and this kind of frustration will cause most farmers to abandon maize and wheat cultivation in favour of other lucrative ventures,” said Isaac Kiborgy of Sergoit in Uasin Gishu.

Apart from possibly having to import maize this season, the country will also have to import tonnes of wheat to meet the anticipated shortfall.

“The country should expect a drastic decline in wheat production this season. Cultivation of the crop is mechanised, and most farmers cannot afford the rising costs,” said Peter Kosgei of Moiben in Uasin Gishu.

Increase in prices

The shortage of wheat and maize is likely to cause an increase in staple food prices like bread, maize flour and cereals.

“The increased food prices will make it difficult for most families to place food on their table unless urgent measures are put in place to address the problem,” said Joyce Chekoech, a trader at the Eldoret retail market.

Protests over rising food prices have erupted in several countries, and to prevent this from happening in Kenya, farmers and industry experts have called for proper planning.

“No country in the world is safe from the looming food crisis, Kenya included. Agriculturally rich countries have either switched to other lucrative ventures including making and using biofuel or are experiencing the possibility of crop failure,” said Robert Langat, an agricultural expert.

To avert starvation and malnutrition due to possible food shortages, nutritionists are calling on Kenyans to change their eating habits and consume more drought-resistant foods
Farmers have also called for the revival of agricultural mechanisation through tractor hire and for the government to start an irrigation system in dry areas to improve Kenya’s food security.


Friday, April 18, 2008

What NSIS knew about election violence


The security services knew beforehand and issued warnings about the violence that rocked the country on New Year’s Eve, the Sunday Nation has learnt.

Youths on the warpath in Kawangware, Nairobi, after the Electoral Commission of Kenya announced the results of the disputed presidential election. Photo/FILE
The National Security Intelligence Service also warned the government that Mungiki was planning to invade the city two weeks before they paralysed transport in the city on Monday, authoritative sources said.

The same warning — and specific information where they would attack and in what numbers — was given a week before the riots in parts of the city, a top government official with access to security intelligence said.

The warning was again given on Friday and on Sunday at “tactical, operational and strategic levels”, according to the official. This means that police were provided with the information from lower to higher levels.

Public fears

In an interview with the Sunday Nation, a recently retired top NSIS official sought to allay public fears that the spy agency, considered to be one of the best in the region, was sleeping on the job.

He said NSIS foresaw the events of early in the year and made proposals — including changes to the laws — many of which were thrown out of Parliament.

The Sunday Nation formed the impression that though the intelligence community does not blame the police and the provincial administration — the main consumers of security intelligence — for the security lapses that led to the displacement of more than 350,000 people, the death of 1200 and the embarrassing presence of Mungiki on the streets of Nairobi, there is a growing impatience and frustration over large amounts of intelligence going to waste in the face of the current insecurity.

The former NSIS official, who cannot be named because of service discipline, said that though the intelligence service might sometimes “miss some things” and “see others coming”, “we know pretty much everything that happens in this country”.

Criminal justice system

He took the Sunday Nation through the steps that the spy organisation took throughout last year to prevent chaos at the election and how Parliament, the complexities of a freer and democratic society as well as “under investment in the criminal justice system” conspired to bring the country to the brink of chaos.

They informed the security agents at the district, provincial and national levels of the impending threats posed by the political tides sweeping through the country and whipping up ethnic tensions to a level never witnessed before.

The revelations come a week after hundreds of Mungiki members took control of some populous suburbs in the city and paralysed transport in other areas for nearly three days.

The manner in which the sect members struck and vanished, coming weeks after thousands of them staged a protest march that took them right past the Police headquarters raised questions about the intelligence-gathering system and its effectiveness in the war against spontaneous and organised crime.

It also came as the nation was recovering from the convulsions that followed the announcement of the disputed election results in which more than 1,000 people were killed and 350,000 others were displaced. The Intelligence community is secretive and their complex world hardly understood by the citizens they serve. Calls to NSIS for comment were not returned.

Its officers are hardly known to the public, often operating in the shadows. The only officer who takes oath in public is the director general, who is currently Maj General Michael Gichangi. The NSIS official website, for instance, has only one item under the title Bulletin.

The recently retired spy, who said he was speaking in a personal capacity but whose views are likely to be widely shared, said the law and the fact that NSIS is a civilian intelligence service, have significantly reduced its ability to “neutralise” threats to security.

“Our job is to investigate, analyse and advise, not neutralise,” he said. He said if the service had the legal mandate to act on its own intelligence “all these things would never have happened”.

Because of the history of extensive abuses of human rights, including widespread torture, by its predecessor, the Special Branch, NSIS was created as an intelligence gatherer and denied the powers to act on it. The organisation’s mission is to safeguard the Republic of Kenya against any threats emanating from within and without does which ambitious given that the NSIS Act confines the organisation to gathering, analyzing and processing information but not neutralising the threats they identify.

The former spy was categorical that NSIS foresaw that politics was taking a dangerous turn that would result in violence. He said they accurately predicted that the violence would grow out of the hate speech by politicians and some vernacular radio stations.

To contain the threat, the former spy said, NSIS proposed that the Penal Code be amended to criminalise hate speech. The service also made proposals to amend the law to empower the government to censor hate speech on FM radio. The Bills were tabled and rejected along the way.

The former official said the lack of legal safeguards opened the way for unchecked hate campaigns, which led to the chaos.

“We had proposed the passage of laws that would check these things because we had analysed information and predicted the kind of things that took place,” the official told the Sunday Nation.

“But these were difficult times when politics had divided the entire country right down the middle.”

On Mungiki, he said they had dealt with it for a long time and that they fully understood it and how to contain it. He said though he was no longer in the service, “I can tell you where four of them are meeting this minute, in this city to plan for next week”. But that the much NSIS can do is pass on the information to the police. The intelligence community regarded Mungiki as an organised crime group, funded through extortion, he said. To empower police and other law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with it, NSIS was actively involved in the Organised Crime Bill, which was presented, and rejected by Parliament.

Breakdown of law

The official said there was concern about community attitudes which tended to support the breakdown of law and order, such as what happened in the Rift Valley and in Kayole, Nairobi, where residents defended Mungiki.

He spoke of “grid-lock’” in the criminal justice system which encouraged impunity (where people are not punished for crime). The official was not optimistic that Kenya will be secure, unless there is further development of the criminal intelligence wing of the police and a lot more investment in law and order.

In the current open environment, he said, it was impossible for the intelligence services to go back to torturing people and violating rights even if they were given the authority to “neutralise” threats to security.

“We analyse intelligence and identify threats but according to the law that creates us, we cannot neutralise these threats,” he said. “We can only advise the relevant arms of government who will then decide how to use the information available.”

Officers in the NSIS do not enjoy the same powers as those enjoyed by their predecessors in the now defunct Directorate of State Intelligence, which was popularly known as the Special Branch.

The Special Branch ceased to exist in 1999 when NSIS was created by an Act of Parliament that took away from spies the powers to arrest, interrogate or prosecute suspects.

The Special Branch was dreaded as it had long been used by the Kenyatta and Moi regimes to silence politicians who held a different view from the Establishment.

“That was the wisdom that informed the thinking of Parliament at the time,” the retired spy said. “But now it’s an area that needs to be looked at to see whether the Intelligence can be given reasonable powers to arrest, interrogate and prosecute those suspected of threatening State security.”

He gave the example of the U.S. where the Federal Bureau of Investigations has powers to gather Intelligence and additional authority in law to arrest and prosecute suspects just like the police can do.

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