Tagged: treaty

Setback in bid to keep US air base on Okinawa


Mayor Inamine [center] and his supporters celebrate re-election

Efforts to relocate a US base on Japan’s Okinawa appeared to suffer a new setback Sunday, 17 years after they began, with the reported electoral victory of an opponent of the project.

The mayor of the town of Nago on the east coast of Okinawa has won re-election, according to the TBS news station after the majority of votes were counted.

Susumu Inamine, supported by several leftist parties, is a strong opponent of the joint project by the US and Japanese governments to move the US Marines’ Futenma Air Station, sited in an urban area in the south of Okinawa, to Nago bay.

Understand, the mayor wants the base off the island altogether!

Last month, more than 17 years after Washington and Tokyo agreed to move the base from the densely populated urban area, the Okinawa government finally consented to a landfill that will enable new facilities to be built on the coast at Nago.

The issue had been deadlocked for years, with huge opposition to any new base among Okinawans fed up with playing host to an outsized share of the US military presence in Japan…

The mayor of Nago does not have the right to overthrow plans to relocate the base but could refuse to approve the use of roads and other facilities necessary for building works…

Okinawa’s Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, long a thorn in the central government’s side, gave the plan his approval after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised Okinawa financial aid of at least $2.9 billion every year until fiscal 2021.

A bribe of $8,000 per resident per year.

Opponents support the removal of the US base from the town of Ginowan but want it relocated out of Okinawa altogether.

Let me insert an educated guess here. Founded on over a half-century of watching our Cold Warriors in action. I guarantee there is a secret treaty stashed in the GOUSA that specifies US troops will leave Okinawa and Japan ONLY when the United States says so – a treaty signed after Japan’s unconditional surrender in 1945.

Japan has even elected national governments on this issue and then rec’d an unpublished phone call from the White House – most recently from Obama in his first term – and then announced they wouldn’t be able to close the US Base in Okinawa. No further discussion allowed. So much for transparency, enlightened democracy.

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The United States promised we’d never spy on the Brits — we lied!

The National Security Agency is authorized to spy on the citizens of America’s closest allies, including Britain, even though those English-speaking countries have long had an official non-spying pact, according to a newly disclosed memorandum.

The classified N.S.A. document, which appears to be a draft and is dated January 2005, states that under specific circumstances, the American intelligence agency may spy on citizens of Britain without that country’s consent or knowledge. The memo, provided by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden, is labeled secret and “NOFORN,” indicating that it may not be shared with any foreign country…

The memo was provided by Mr. Snowden to The Guardian, which shared it with The New York Times. The N.S.A. also declined to say whether the memorandum merely codified longstanding American practice or was breaking new ground…blah, blah, blah, the agency said in a written reply to questions…

One paragraph, marked secret, appears to suggest that the preferred option is to gain permission from the country whose citizens are to be spied upon. But the very next paragraph, marked secret and NOFORN, indicates that the N.S.A. can go it alone if permission is not forthcoming — or if United States chooses not to ask.

Sounds like the country we’ve all come to know and revere for its respect for constitutional democracy and citizens’ right to privacy. Just not in the last five or six decades.

What you didn’t know about the Chemical Weapons Convention

The 16-year-old Chemical Weapons Convention has been in the spotlight since Syria decided to join in an apparent bid to avoid US-led military intervention over the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. But here are some lesser known facts about the origins of the treaty, whom it covers, what it covers – and who has complied with its obligations…

Between April 1997, when the convention came into force, and July 2013, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – which polices the convention – conducted more than 5,000 inspections in 86 out of the 189 countries that are party to the convention. But the OPCW can’t do much to enforce compliance, outside recommending measures to states or referring matters to the UN General Assembly or Security Council.

Seven state parties have declared chemical weapons stockpiles totalling over 70,000 tonnes, and so far some 80% of this has been destroyed…But only three countries – Albania, India and a third party widely believed to be South Korea – have destroyed all their stockpiles.

The countries with the biggest declared stockpiles, the United States and Russia, failed to meet deadlines for their total destruction in April 2007 and April 2012. The deadlines have now been extended once again…

The US currently has a stockpile of some 3,000 tonnes of chemical agents – three times the amount Western powers say Syria possesses.

There are some contentious exclusions from the CWC, such as white phosphorus – which if used as smoke (to camouflage movement) is not considered a chemical weapon despite its potential toxic effects. Napalm and dynamite are excluded because their primary destructive effects are considered to be incendiary and not chemical.

The CWC’s remit also does not include biological weapons – weaponisable bio-agents such as bacteria, viruses or fungi – which is covered by the Biological Weapons Convention.

Because of foot-dragging by the US and the Soviet Union, it took a couple decades for the proposed treaty to make it to reality in 1997. All the breast-beating we still hear from our elected officials about the plastic halo they think we deserve for starting to destroy our chemical weapons, we remain responsible for most of the nuclear arsenal remaining in the world, a significant chunk of land mines.

Los Alamos National Labs avoided most of the effects of the sequester stupidity because they – and the nuclear welfare program at Pantex in Amarillo, Texas – are busy upgrading the triggers on our nuclear stockpile of death and destruction.

Obama should return Guantanamo to Cuba


That’s right – it’s called an invasion!

U.S. President Barack Obama should return the naval base at Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, and some detainees could stay on at a U.S.-run jail there, a former U.S. envoy to Cuba said.

Obama, by negotiating a deal with Cuban leader Raul Castro about the base on the communist island, could build a long-term relationship with its people, said Michael Parmly, head of the U.S. interests section in Havana from 2005-2008…

The U.S. base is a “historic anomaly” even though the two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, Parmly wrote.

“The current partisan tensions on the (Capitol) Hill ensure that it would be an uphill climb, but it is the thesis of this paper that a similar bold step, akin to the Panama Canal, is called for regarding Guantanamo,” he said, citing that 1977 U.S. return of the waterway to Panama as a precedent.

The 26-page paper by the retired diplomat, obtained by Reuters, is to appear shortly in the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, published by the Fletcher School in Massachusetts.

“Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is not U.S. territory. Cuba is the ultimate owner,” Parmly said.

Like Panama, Guatanamo is the creation of US military and economic interests. The needs of a sovereign nation never entered the equation in the past. How likely are Congressional thugs to decide to face the requirements of sovereignty or international law?

Overdue.

Time for Bob Dole to leave the Republican Party behind

Bob Dole is probably mad as hell right now. And he has every right to be. In fact, he should leave the Republican Party in protest!

Dole, a lifelong Republican politician who was disabled during World War II, made an extraordinary appearance on the Senate floor Tuesday as lawmakers prepared to vote on a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled.

Dole, now 89, frail and in a wheelchair (and just six days out of the hospital), hoped his presence would sway his party to approve the treaty, which is modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act that he pushed through Congress in 1990.

But his party, now controlled by the hard right, rejected it. With 38 Republicans casting “no” votes, the 61-38 vote fell five short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty.

Opponents like Tea Party favorite Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) argued that the treaty by its very nature threatened U.S. sovereignty and could lead to the state, rather than parents, determining what was in the best interest of disabled children in such areas as home schooling…

An instance where just a fraction of the reactionaries in charge of Republican ideology were able to translate their paranoia, xenophobia, idiocy into party policy.

The treaty, already signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, was negotiated by the George W. Bush administration and signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.

“This is one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wakeup call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement after the vote. He continued:

“We need to fix this place because what happens and doesn’t happen here affects millions of lives. Today the dysfunction hurt veterans and the disabled and that’s unacceptable. This treaty was supported by every veterans group in America and Bob Dole made an inspiring and courageous personal journey back to the Senate to fight for it. It had bipartisan support, and it had the facts on its side, and yet for one ugly vote, none of that seemed to matter.”

So this is what the Republican Party has become since Dole left office.

The article rolls on about the emotional difficulties facing Dole if he considers leaving the party he served all his political life.

Sorry, Bob – I offer the same unnecessary “sorry” to anyone else who thinks this is difficult. I have one family member who left what the Republican Party became under George W. Bush. He didn’t need to wait for the crass cowardice of party leaders since the advent of the Tea Party.

That the party he supported for 50 years discovered a “mandate” to invade two countries and lay the deficit for those wars on the shoulders of following administrations on the basis of neo-con ideology, after taking office with a losing popular vote – was contemptible. Crap not worth justifying by any stretch of self-deceit.

What has followed through Republican opposition to the Obama presidency solely on the basis of losing control of the White House to a Black intellectual – is something lower than contemptible. Only human beings are capable of conjuring up such rationales for self-destruction.

“If Internet governance ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

The best solution to improving oversight of the Internet may be to do nothing at all, a senior U.S. official said…while briefing reporters on a conference…that could decide to consolidate control within a U.N. body.

The International Telecommunication Union, the U.N. body convening the conference, has said there is broad consensus that the treaty governing the way international voice, data and video traffic is handled needs to be updated after 24 years.

With the rapid spread of the Internet around the world, the 178 signatories have decided to look into ways of increasing collaboration, using telecoms to drive economic development, and making the rules more relevant and responsive to the fast-evolving industry.

However, doing nothing “would not be a terrible outcome at all”, said U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, who will head the U.S. delegation at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, which will be held in Dubai.

“The natural path we’re on is pretty good,” he told reporters in Geneva.

“Does that mean there aren’t things that could improve? Absolutely there are things that could improve. But the best thing to do, if you could pick two options, one is to get prescriptive and get into a lot of things versus leaving things open, we’re much better by leaving things open…”

Between ideologues who have nanny state-remits the size of a biblical epoch and political hacks living off the corporate dole I wonder sometimes how much longer Netizens will enjoy the comparative freedom we’ve had, so far. Yes, I know that varies from culture to culture. Cripes, I’ve been online since 1983.

The battle closest to my heart remains the confrontation between Web generations still intoxicated by the level of free speech afforded by the Web – and puritans, hucksters for rules and regulations committed as thoroughly to preventing thought as restricting dissent and freethought.

Senate Republicans want US shipping classed as privateers


Republican flag

When U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), both vice presidential hopefuls, recently declared their opposition to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, they virtually guaranteed that it would be dead on arrival if it were sent to the Senate. A group of 34 senators, including Ayotte and Portman and led by Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), is now on the record promising to vote against UNCLOS, which is enough to make getting the two-thirds majority necessary for ratification impossible.

UNCLOS was first negotiated 30 years ago. But back then, U.S. President Ronald Reagan objected to it because, he argued, it would jeopardize U.S. national and business interests, most notably with respect to seabed mining. A major renegotiation in 1994 addressed his concerns, and the United States signed. Now, the U.S. Navy and business community are among UNCLOS’ strongest supporters. So, too, was the George W. Bush administration, which tried to get the treaty ratified in 2007 but failed due to Republican opposition in the Senate.

Today’s Republicans continue their march backwards against history, against the best interests of American commerce. Their rejection of treaty law, multilateral treaties, guarantees outlaw status for American shipping.

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All of Mexico’s highly-enriched uranium removed to United States

Rachel Maddow reports exclusively the breaking news that all of Mexico’s highly enriched uranium has been removed to the United States, and talks with Sarah Dickerson, National Nuclear Security Administration threat reduction director, and Anthony Wayne, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, about the distribution of nuclear material around the world by the U.S. and how the deal was made with Mexico to take their nuclear material off their hands.

That’s the intro to several videos released last night as a special on MSNBC. About a month ago Rachel Maddow traveled with NSA specialists supervising the removal of highly-enriched uranium from Mexico’s research reactors – to be brought back to the United States. The program was interesting in more than one way.

Regulars here know that one function of this, my personal blog, is to offer for reflection some of the few remaining bits and pieces of professional journalism I can find. It’s a diminishing skill for a number of reasons – the biggest being the transformation of “news” into “entertainment”.

Rachel Maddow is part of an even smaller percentage of journalists who carries job skills from print to video. As a news junkie I watch a lot more news than most. I watch news programs and explode often over incompetent journalists who haven’t yet learned to ask leading questions – instead of stupid questions.

For this reason, I suggest you watch the linked videos available at the MSNBC site, Rachel’s Maddow’s blog. She and they may someday release these to easier access on YouTube or somewhere. Not yet. So, I’m not going to jump through all the technical hoops needed today – to host this at this site. But, I highly recommend watching, learning, thinking about the questioning both casual and critical. We don’t get very much of this.

Click on the photo to go to the video site. After the bloody commercial and the intro segment, I’d suggest watching the videos in sequence. There’s a menu on the left side of the screen.

Merkel and Sarkozy ask European Treaty to require nations to substitute legitimate accounting for lies


Haven’t we been here before?

Under the pressure of financial crisis and with the euro currency at stake, the two key leaders of the euro zone said Monday that they would together push to remake the European Union into a more integrated political and economic federation, with tight legal restraints on how much debt national parliaments can issue.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meeting here at the start of a crucial week that will end with a European Union summit meeting on Thursday and Friday, called for amendments to European treaties that would include centralized oversight over budgets and automatic sanctions against countries that violate firmer rules on deficits…

The automatic sanctions – or threat of – are the most Neverland part of the proposals, of course. Who expects a country unable to pay sufficient bills to pay a fine for not paying those bills?

We want to make sure that the imbalances that led to the situation in the euro zone today cannot happen again,” Mr. Sarkozy told a joint news conference. “Therefore we want a new treaty, to make clear to the peoples of Europe that things cannot continue as they are.”

Mrs. Merkel, warmly embracing the French president despite their often testy relationship, insisted that the euro zone must be effectively reestablished under a different set of rules. “We want structural changes that go beyond agreements. We need binding debt brakes,” she said…

The two leaders are aiming to develop a clear consensus among the other members of the euro zone that they will push ahead with a new treaty. They appear to be calculating that such a signal of solidarity will be enough to persuade the European Central Bank, the only institution in Europe with enough financial firepower to defend the ability of member states to raise money on bond markets, that it has enough political cover to move more aggressively to protect vulnerable countries like Italy and Spain.

RTFA for the details, anecdotal hogwash, hopeful analysis – all of which ignores the fact that standards meant nothing for the several nations brought into the EU in the first place though they didn’t really meet standards. Creative analysis, voodoo economics were used to justify including countries like Greece into the club although they were miles and years away from realistic qualification.

Cluster bomb ban starts today


Removing Israeli cluster bomblets in Lebanon

A global treaty banning cluster munitions has gone into force.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which became binding international law today, prohibits the use, production and stockpiling of the weapon, which is blamed for killing and maiming tens of thousands of civilians…

The treaty requires signatories to destroy stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, clear contaminated areas within 10 years and help affected communities and survivors…

Cluster bombs are dropped from planes or fired by mortars before the canisters open mid-air, releasing bomblets that scatter over a wide area. Most explode immediately, but those that fail to detonate on impact can claim victims many years after the end of the conflict…

More than two dozen countries have been affected by cluster bombs and activists say three out of five casualties occur during day-to-day activities.

Most of the victims are children and some are killed when they mistake the bomblets for toys.

The United Nations estimates almost half of all casualties are from Laos, where people are still at risk of being injured from unexploded bomblets.

Between 1964 and 1973, at the height of Vietnam War, the US military dropped more than 2 million tons of explosive ordnance, including an estimated 260 million cluster munitions, mainly to disrupt enemy supply lines that passed through Laos.

It is thought that around 30 per cent of bomblets failed to explode on impact, and over two-thirds of the country is still contaminated. Experts say they kill or injure about 300 people a year.

Thank you – to the nations with stockpiles of these weapons – who nevertheless signed the treaty, will eliminate these anti-civilian weapons and respect the ban: UK, France, Germany and Japan.

The United States, the world’s largest producer with the biggest stockpile of 800 million submunitions, has refused to sign the treaty…

China, Russia and Israel have not signed on either. I hope you’re all happy in bed together.