White House Planning to Close Guantanamo Bay’s Infamous Torture Centre

Guantanamo Bay on the beautiful island of Cuba sounds like a great place if you don’t know anything about it.

We do know what happens there and it’s immoral and likely illegal (probably even worthy of investigation by the International Criminal Court which the USA hasn’t ratified). The USA has been operating a prison there which is internationally known for shackling prisoners to floors, hunger strikes, and of course torture. As a result of the inhumane practices at Guantanamo Bay America’s “war on terror” has been mocked because it raises the question about who is causing the terror.

President Obama has tried to close the prison before because of it’s morally repugnant treatment of humans but other American politicians think the prison is needed. After years of trying Obama may achieve one of the promises he was elected on in 2008.

President Barack Obama, who leaves office in less than 18 months, has battled for years with lawmakers over his pledge to close Guantanamo by bringing to trial some detainees and holding others in the U.S. as prisoners of war, while arranging to send the least dangerous ones home or to third countries.

In recent months, the administration has sent several detainees from Guantanamo to countries including Oman and Qatar, and the U.S. is seeking additional options for transfering more prisoners, Earnest said at the White House.

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Coal Continues to Falter

Coal was a great power source at the turn of the last century because it was easy to transport and plentiful. The obvious problem is that it basically kills the planet when you burn it and that’s not going to change despite the whole ‘clean coal’ propaganda. The good news is as we enter the 21st century coal is losing out to better energy sources. This is great because coal is the worse thing ever.

Slate has an article looking into the fall of coal and notes that less-destructive natural gas is being used. We need to curb the use of natural gas too but at least getting rid of coal is a step in the right direction.

Simply put, the U.S. energy industry has stopped building coal-fired plants, and is adding plants that don’t use coal. So far this year, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s April infrastructure report, no new coal capacity has been added, while natural gas (1.5 gigawatts), solar (937 megawatts), and wind (633 megawatts) have each added a decent amount of production capacity. Of the nation’s installed electricity-producing capacity, coal only accounts for 27.5 percent, compared with 42.2 percent for natural gas.

Wall Street has soured on coal producers like Walter in part because today’s results look bad, but largely because tomorrow’s results look even worse. The stock market is famously a futures market—investors are making bets based on future cash flows they expect companies to produce. It’s difficult to see a positive future when the main coal customers are literally dismantling the machines that burn coal.

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We Need to Hold Banks Accountable (again)

The financial sector is like a hydra and we need to get it under control. The bad news is that bankers have been able to get away with some unethical practices for the last decade or so. The good news is that finally American politicians are taking notice of this and are talking about what to do.

This discourse is needed now while the banks are stable to try to ensure that the their crazy actions don’t lead to yet another financial boondoggle.

Yes, the banks are back. As the New York Times’s Neil Irwin reported, employment has returned to 2007 levels; the gap between the pay of Wall Street workers and everyone else is back near record levels, and the profits of the financial sector are soaring.

This is, as Irwin notes, a glaring contrast to what occurred after the crash that led to the Great Depression in the 1930s. Then banks were shackled, tightly regulated and greatly diminished in scope and license. The result was decades without major financial crises, during which the economy boomed and the United States grew together, with inequality decreasing. Now, however, while Dodd-Frank reforms have forced some changes, the big banks are more concentrated than ever. They continue to profit from high leverage, exotic trades and very high risk. They remain too big to fail — and apparently the bankers are too big to jail.

More and more studies, including one by the International Monetary Fund, hardly a radical bastion, suggest that a bloated financial sector is bad for an economy. It generates destructive booms and busts. Its high pay entices the most creative to use their talents on financial schemes rather than in more productive activities. Its culture of greed corrupts not just Wall Street but also our politics and economy more generally.

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China and US Agree to Cut Emissions

The world’s largest polluters have agreed that they have a problem and they need to stop it. The USA and China have come to terms with the fact that they are the worst polluters and have both decided to take action using various policy tools and joint cooperation. This is important for many reasons, for one not only does this mean the largest economies will become more efficient and less damaging to the plant. Another reason is that smaller economies (looking at you Australia and Canada) copy American policy, so hopefully the climate change denying government elsewhere will wake up and take action.

Better late than never.

According to the plan, the United States will reduce carbon emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, nearly twice the existing target—without imposing new restrictions on power plants or vehicles.

Tuesday’s announcement is equally remarkable for China’s commitment. For the first time, China has set a date at which it expects its emissions will “peak,” or finally begin to taper downward: around 2030. China is currently the world’s biggest emitter of carbon pollution, largely because of its coal-dependent economy, and reining in emissions while continuing to grow has been the paramount challenge for China’s leaders

It involves a series of initiatives to be undertaken in partnership between the two countries, including:

  • Expanding funding for clean energy technology research at the US-China Clean Energy Research Center, a think tank Obama created in 2009 with Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao.
  • Launching a large-scale pilot project in China to study carbon capture and sequestration.
  • A push to further limit the use of hydroflourocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas found in refrigerants.
  • A federal framework for cities in both countries to share experiences and best practices for low-carbon economic growth and adaptation to the impacts of climate change at the municipal level.
  • A call to boost trade in “green” goods, including energy efficiency technology and resilient infrastructure, kicked off by a tour of China next spring by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

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Vermont Stops Their War on Drugs, Will Help People Instead

The war on drugs is a backwards, destructive, and anti-human campaign that has destroyed lives. It was launched by Nixon and since then it the ‘war’ has negatively impacted everything it touches from people’s lives to the global economy.

The USA tries to enforce it’s inflexible approach around the world, yet at home many states are realizing that it’s a foolish approach. Vermont has now openly backed out of the ignorant ‘battle’ against drugs and is taking a more educated approach: helping people who are addicted rather than punishing them.

Vermont has passed a battery of reforms that have turned the tiny state of about 627,000 people into a national proving ground for a less punitive approach to getting hard drugs under control. Under policies now in effect or soon to take hold, people caught using or in possession of heroin will be offered the chance to avoid prosecution by enrolling in treatment. Addicts, including some prisoners, will have greater access to synthetic heroin substitutes to help them reduce their dependency on illegal narcotics or kick the habit. A good Samaritan law will shield heroin users from arrest when they call an ambulance to help someone who’s overdosed. The drug naloxone, which can reverse the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose, will be carried by cops, EMTs, and state troopers. It will also be available at pharmacies without a prescription. “This is an experiment,” Shumlin says. “And we’re not going to really know the results for a while.”

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