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Audio Tape: Will The U.S. Return to the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA)? Prospects and Roadblocks. KGNU Boulder. Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues Hosted by Jim Nelson. Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

February 24, 2021

China to Iran – one of the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative

Will the Biden Administration return to the Iran Nuclear Deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)? There is some movement on that score by the Biden Administration but complications remain. The Iranians insist that since the U.S. withdrew from the framework that there will be no negotiations with Washington until it returns to the agreement. Returning to the agreement and implementing it requires the U.S. (and Europeans) to drop sanctions – a form of hybrid warfare – in exchange for Iran limiting it nuclear enrichment program.

Beyond the technical issue involved, Washington’s return to the JCPOA would be a major step towards normalizing U.S. relations with Iran, and accepting the existence of the Islamic Republic of Iran as the United States did in the past with the Soviet Union in the 1930s and Communist China in 1979 when Jimmy Carter initiated full recognition of the Peking government.

There is momentum, popular support in the United States and Europe for a U.S. return to the agreement. On the other hand there is stiff opposition from the military industrial complex in the United States, from Israel and Saudi Arabia who their relations with Iran as a zero sum game – ie, if Iran gains influence, they lose it – as well as from their supporters (AIPAC, Zionist and Saudi lobbies) in the USA.

The next few weeks are critical.

While Kazerooni and Prince would welcome a U.S. return to the JCPOA, they are skeptical that Washington has to will to change its policy towards Iran.

The Fight for the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) – 2 – Remarks of Rob Prince. February 19, 2021

February 23, 2021

Dams along the Nile and its tributaries

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The more I look at it the more I am convinced that while, yes there are always technical issues. I’m not minimizing them at all – but ultimately, when I look at the heart of the matter of the conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia that we are going to be talking about today over the completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is the fear of other regional powers that Ethiopia is going to emerge at their expense.

Rob Prince

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Full Program on YouTube

The Fight for the GERD – a Zoom Panel discussion, sponsored by WAAS – Women of Africa Alliance for Solutions. February 19, 2021

Introductions by Mamay Worku, co-Chair of the Ethiopian Public Diplomacy Task Force, active in Colorado’s Ethiopian Community

Mamay Worku introduces Mahder Serekberhan and Rob Prince

Rob Prince – retired Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies.

Mamay introduces Rob Prince:

Rob Prince: Thanks for the introduction. I too have been looking forward to this discussion.

For starters, this morning at breakfast I was talking to my wife, Nancy and my father-in-law, Lowell Fey. They are both highly educated and generally informed about happenings in the country and the world. I asked them what they knew about the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (or GERD as it acronym is called).

They both gave me a rather blank look.

We have to realize that for Americans, this topic is almost entirely unknown and that this panel discussion is an introduction to the subject. In this discussion I am mostly directing my remarks to fellow Americans – Why should we be concerned about the GERD?

I assume that anyone from the Horn of Africa is well versed in this general topic.

Although Ethiopia rarely is covered in the U.S. mainstream media, still there have been hints recently that something is going on in Ethiopia in the media of late particularly last October when then President Trump held a press conference announcing the normalization between Sudan and Israel. Read more…

The Fight for the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) – Remarks of Mahder Serekberhan – February 19, 2021

February 22, 2021

Nile River Basin

Full Program on YouTube

The Fight for the GERD – a Zoom Panel discussion, sponsored by WAAS – Women of Africa Alliance for Solutions. February 19, 2021

As the conditions of the people of Africa deteriorate it is urgent that there is a pan African cooperation beyond borders to insure that the projects for dams and electrification meet the needs of the working poor. That is why any project on the Nile requires cooperation between borders of any one state in the Nile Valley. The technical questions and as well as the hydrological issues need to be discussed at all levels and not simply with specialists which why I really want to thank Mamay (Worku) for organizing this discussion.

Mahder Serekberhan

Introductions by Mamay Worku, co-Chair of the Ethiopian Public Diplomacy Task Force, active in Colorado’s Ethiopian Community.

Mamay Worku introduces Mahder Serekberhan and Rob Prince

Mahder Serekberhana Master of Arts Student at Syracuse University finishing her thesis on the 2019 Sudanese Uprising. Her research includes African social movements and Womens’ Movements and the African approach to democratization, the Sudanese approach to the mobilization and African political and transformational organization. An active member of the Pan African Congress – North American Delegation. President – Syracuse University African Students Network.

Mahder Serekberhan: Thank you Mamay so much for organizing this discussion and for inviting me.

Professor Prince it is also a pleasure to be speaking alongside you and thank you Rohuma and everyone else who is participating tonight.

I want to start by emphasizing the historical centrality of the Nile for all the Nile countries but especially for Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Egyptian civilization was literally built on and around the Nile River. Similarly Sudanese local political and economic history is deeply tied to the Nile.

Today more than 90% of Egyptians live along the Nile or in its delta and the river provides nearly all of their water. Sudan, having intense cultivation on either side, the Nile has served as a source of life for Sudanese farming and pastoral communities. It has also attracted colonial and large state economic projects such as the Gezira Project.

Of course from the numerous songs in Ethiopia, the Nile’s significance in the nation’s collective heart cannot be denied. Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile – the largest tributary of the Nile River – which also consists of 86% of the water reaching Egypt.

We are now at a stage where Haili Selassi’s vision of a dam is becoming a reality.

It was around the 1950s and 1960s when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation conducted a study on the utilization of the Blue Nile Water’s and that is when it was decided that these projects would be undertaken. Due to constraints also faced by the Dergue Regime, funding, civil unrest did not result in the project being realized until now.

As Professor Prince mentioned it’s in 2011 that the dam started being built.

Shortly before that, in 2010, a study of the Nile Basin Initiative – an intergovernmental partnership formed in 1999 conducted how Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan can plan for multi-purpose joint projects on the Nile. After failed negotiations and lack of cooperation in 2011 the Ethiopian government decided to pursue the project on its own.

I am no engineer, but let me just start with a few useful facts about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

∙ The GERD is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River of Ethiopia. It is located as Dr. Prince mentioned in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia in a place called Guba which is less than 50 kilometers from Sudan.

∙ The dam has 74 billion cubic meters storage capacity and about 60 billion cubic meter live storage and is expected to generate 6000 megawatts of electricity

∙ On average Ethiopia’s current annual electrical production is about 4000 megawatts so the GERD would provide an extra 6000 megawatts of energy annually

∙ With ten Nile Basin countries which include Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, GERD becomes an opportunity to chart new directions of African development and deal with the impact of climate change on the continent.

∙ Currently Africa generates 4% of global electricity. And a report from the World Bank reveals that close to 72% of South Sudanese, 75% of Somalis, 25% of Kenyans, 40 of Djiboutians, 85% of people in Somaliland – and I can continue…

But the fact is that all these people depend upon firewood and animal dung to provide themselves with heat for cooking and light.

So we have some very obvious shared issues like the survival of our people and the development of our region.

From 40-80% of Africans that live along the Nile Basin depend on deforesting and labor intensive means to access electricity.

The GERD becomes an opportunity to change this

More importantly we are faced with draught-famine patterns that threaten peoples’ livelihood and existence.

I was reading a report yesterday that from March to May 2020-2021 that there will be unexpected humidity levels in the region that can contribute to harvest issues, locust and even exacerbate COVID-19. I don’t know if any of you have followed it, but in Sudan seasonal floods destroyed over 100,000 homes and affected more than 600,000 people across 17 of the country’s 18 states.

I could go on but the main point is that the potential to alleviate some of these shared issues is central to why I support the project.

As the conditions of the people of Africa deteriorate it is urgent that there is a pan African cooperation beyond borders to insure that the projects for dams and electrification meet the needs of the working poor. That is why any project on the Nile requires cooperation between borders of any one state in the Nile Valley. The technical questions and as well as the hydrological issues need to be discussed at all levels and not simply with specialists which why I really want to thank Mamay (Worku) for organizing this discussion.

The peoples of Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan need to be engaged beyond their political leaders, especially considering the continuing struggle of peoples in each of these countries. Those who use military power to accumulate wealth will militarize differences instead of working slowly to build a better understanding of the required steps needed to enhance our cooperation.

So with the increased impact of climate change, population increase, water demand in the region, issues of water allocation utilization and management of trans boundaries requires Pan African engagement at the grassroots, especially among progressive intellectuals, technicians, that can insure that the project for reconstruction will be supported by people beyond a particular order of the country in which the dam will be constructed.

Generally that is where I stand and thank you once again everybody for being here.

Remembering Susan Been – October 31, 1944 – February 22, 2021 – and the Holy Jewish Trinity – Mom, Aunt Muriel and Aunt Leonor

February 22, 2021

Muriel and Susan Been – I believe in the 1970s (not certain)

Today , according to the news, the United States surpassed 500,000 COVID -19 deaths. One of them was Susan Been.

According to my sister Laurie, who had spoken to Sue’s triplet sister, Louise, she, Susan, had broken her ankles a few months ago, had been hospitalized, apparently contracted COVID-19 and died of complications.  Another close friend from my youth gone. Just a few days ago, my oldest cousin, Joan, aged 92, died in a New Jersey nursing home. I’ll write about her life later.

If I remember Susan Been’s exact birthday – and I do – and of course that of the other two – Nancy and Louise Been – the triplets she was a part of – it is because the triplets were the offspring of my mother’s best friend – Muriel Been,. It was from my mother that I learned what enduring friendship means. Mom had two best friends growing up Muriel was one and Leonore Ginsberg was the other. In both cases, these are their married, not maiden names which I would be interested in tracking down. Someone should write a novel based on the lives – and the friendship of these three who grew up a few blocks from the corner of Avenue K and Nostrand Ave in what was – and to a certain extent still is – an orthodox Jewish neighborhood.

The three never lost track of one another and were friends until the end. They went to school together, confided in each other and saught advice about their relationships with men. I have a letter in my files from Leonor to my mom. At the time Leonor was courted, pursued by two men and couldn’t make up her mind. They celebrated one another’s marriages and when we were little, the children of all three were mixed in friendship. All three would leave the poverty of their depression youth, marry up and coming types, two of which would, unceremoniously dump their wives for younger floozies leaving holes in their wives souls that would never heal as their husbands wandered off to Lala Land, like kids getting one way lifetime tickets to Disneyland. They, the ex-husbands, never left Lala Land and never wanted to.  The third, Leonor would stay married but to an abusive dentist.

After being unceremoniously dumped by her husband, Bernie, Muriel Been’s life shrank from the upscale living in Jamaica Estates – same neighborhood in which the imbecile, Donald Trump grew up, to a much simpler life in Hollywood Florida where she lived in a simple apartment and became a secretary for the Seminole Indian Tribe before the tribe built their luxurious – and to my tastes vulgar, overpriced Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. My mother and her then second husband, Nat Kaye, sold the house my sisters and I had grown up in in Jamaica Queens and moved from NYC to Hollywood Florida in 1979. There, Mom stayed in touch with “Aunt Muriel until – and here my memory is a little foggy – the latter died of a stroke in her sleep I think in the 1990s. They spoke on the phone, had lunch together. I saw Aunt Muriel a few times when visiting Mom in Florida. When Muriel died, a part of my mother died with her.

By coincidence, Aunt Muriel and my mother were pregnant at the same time, Aunt Leonor a year later. On

Robbie and the Been Triplets – July, 1945, in front of Aunt Muriel’s parents tailor shop. Aunt Muriel’s Mom next to the baby carriage; Aunt Thelma Magazine (cigarettin mouth) next to her (notice

Robbie and the Been Triplets – July, 1945, in front of Aunt Muriel’s parents tailor shop. Aunt Muriel’s Mom next to the baby carriage; Aunt Thelma Magazine (cigarettin mouth) next to her (notice hairdo). Sue Been is between her sisters, Nancy and Louis. Me, the blob on the left.

hairdo). Sue Been is between her sisters, Nancy and Louis. October 31, 1944 – an easy date to remember as it is Halloween, Aunt Muriel gave birth to triplets – Louise, Nancy and Susan Been. I popped out my mother’s belly a week later on November 6. From that time until the day what was then our family – Mom, Dad, Aunt Mal and Uncle Sam, sister Sarabelle moved to Jamaica Queens, “the triplets” and I spent a good deal of time together and the number of photos my mother took of the four of us in baby carriages and playing together attest to that fact. Louise and Nancy were identical so much so that my whole life – and I am embarrassed to admit it – I have had difficult telling them apart. Susan’s appearance was different, always recognizable.

The triplets and I grew up together. We went to the same high school, Jamaica High School (same one that Stephen Jay Gould graduated from). I suppose we grew apart some, but never completely. Not long after I moved to Colorado in 1969, Susan moved to Phoenix. SHe visited once in Denver; I never made it down to Phoemix. We’d speak on the phone a couple of times a year. She married, was involved in real estate, seemed to be doing well financially and otherwise and then the bottom fell out of her real estate work, her husband got sick and died  and Sue’s health took a turn for the worse. Although I don’t remember exactly when, she left Phoenix and if I remember right, moved in with sister Nancy (in Florida?) Mostly through sister Laurie’s connection with Louise and her husband Fred, Sarabelle, my other sister and I have remained in touch with the triplets. I’ve seen Louise and Fred a few times on my visits to the New York City area.

Good bye lifelong friend… and may your spirit unit with the holy Jeiwsh trinity – Beattie, Muriel ane Leonor…

Biden’s Emerging Africa Policy – A forum

February 20, 2021

What can the Biden-Harris Administration mean for Africa?

Date: February 27, 2021

Time: 12 PM EST (10AM MT)

Zoom Meeting ID: 927 4177 2080


The seismic changes in the USA means that there are many new players and there is need for new thinking on Africa. The new directions that the USA could take with Africa can strengthen its relationship with Africans at home and abroad. What does the newly inaugurated Biden-Harris administration mean for the future of Africa? Africa Initiative is excited to host such a dynamic and insightful group of speakers for a timely discussion.

 

Speakers: 

  1. Hon Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, 2017-2021
  2. Cheryl Hendricks, Director, Africa Institute South Africa.
  3. Julialynne Walker, Global Pan African Movement North America
  4. Marcel Kittisou, Cornell University
  5. Samar Al-Bulushi, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine

Jewish Voice for Peace’s Campaign to Oppose Facebook Criminalizing Anti-Zionism – A Discussion with two JVP-Denver/Boulder Activists. Sunday, February 21 @10am MST

February 18, 2021

Jewish Voice for Peace – Denver/Boulder

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The interview on YouTube

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Live interview with Ari Harms and Neal Feldman of Jewish Voic for Peace Denver/Boulder – Sunday morning, February 21 @ 10 am MST.

Fighting Anti-Semitism, Opposing Facebook’s Efforts to Criminalize Anti-Zionism – a National Campaign by Jewish Voice for Peace.
Tune in
Links:
Facebook: https://streamyard.com/view_on_platform/facebook?link=https://www.facebook.com/live/producer/schedule/10158558662928884
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FbtIJBG9yM&fbclid=IwAR0p3N_-Je51-SGzPZINqkAGIqN1Qu9hjtCU45PbwBUqQDVZP9vpDTlcug8
This from JVP nationally:
The Israeli government and some of its supporters are asking Facebook to add “Zionist” as a protected category in its hate speech policy — that is, to treat “Zionist” as a proxy for “Jew” or “Jewish.”

Facebook, we need to talk — and you’re not letting us. So we’re launching a campaign to make sure you do.

Cooperating with the Israeli government’s request would undermine efforts to dismantle antisemitism, deprive Palestinians of a crucial venue for expressing their political viewpoints to the world, and help the Israeli government avoid accountability for its violations of Palestinian rights.

Link to JVP’s petition on Facebook

The Fight over the Nile Water – Panel Discussion on The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – February 19, 2021 @ 6-7pm MST

February 8, 2021

WAAS = Women of Africa Alliance for Solutons\ zoom link

The Fight over the Nile Water – Panel Discussion on The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – February 19, 2021 @ 6-7pm MST

February 8, 2021

WAAS + Women of Africa Alliance for Solutons \ Zoom Address

Guest Blogger: China’s Sea of Conflict Dispatches From The Edge by Conn Hallinan

February 6, 2021

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Note to readers: I have wanted to cover the growing antagonism – entirely unnecessary and dangerous to world peace – between the USA and China.. China is now considered the primo “threat” to U.S. interest in the world according to the latest National Intelligence Estimates. Once again, with its head you know where, both the Trump and now Biden Administrations have ratched up tensions with China. Of course it is a long and detailed story that will take some time to decontruct and explain. At the same time, the story of how post revolutionary wanderings of the Chinese Communist Party from the flaying around for an economic development policy under Mao – who knew how to make a revolution as well as anyone, impressive really – but had no idea of how to go about constructing a socialist economy – to the economic reforms – state controlled introduction of market – that is capitalist – relations of Deng Xiao Ping from the late 1970s onward – this is one of the great epic stories not just of the 20th century, but of all time. 

I hope to tell at least some segments of the Chinese “leap” to economic power somewhere along the way. Mao spoke of a “great leap forward,” one that didn’t happen under his management. It was more of a tiny step, one step forward, two steps back as a famous Russian once put it. But since 1979, what has happened in China is, literally a great leap forward – even a great, great, leap forward by any standard, where truth is more amazing than fiction.

What follows below is yet another pearl by Conn Hallinan – this about growing tensions in the South China Sea, mostly between China and the USA. It is an excellent piece both in its objective description of the issues at hand and broadly speaking how to begin to turn down the temperature between the two economic powerhouses. 

RJP

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China’s Sea of Conflict
Dispatches From The Edge
Conn Hallinan
Feb. 1, 2021
First, both countries should dial down the rhetoric and de-escalate their military deployment. Just as the US has the right to security in its home waters, so does China. Beijing, in turn, should give up its claims in the South China Sea and disarm the bases it has illegally established. Both of those moves would help create the atmosphere for a regional diplomatic solution to the overlapping claims of countries in the region. 
President Joseph Biden Jr’s.administration faces a host of difficult problems, but in foreign policy its thornist will be its relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). How it handles issues of trade, security and human rights will either allow both countries to hammer out a working relationship or pull the US into an expensive–and unwinnable–cold war that will shelve existential threats like climate change and nuclear war.
The stakes could not be higher and Washington may be off on the wrong foot.
The first hurdle will be the toxic atmosphere created by the Trump administration. By targeting the Chinese Communist Party as the US’s major worldwide enemy, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo essentially called for regime change, which in diplomatic terms means a fight to the death. But while Trump exacerbated tensions between Washington and Beijing, many of the disputes go back more than 70 years. Recognizing that history will be essential if the parties are to reach some kind of detente. 
This will not be easy. Polls in the two countries show a growing antagonism in both people’s views of one another and an increase of nationalism that may be difficult to control. Most Chinese think the US is determined to isolate their country, surround it with hostile allies, and prevent it from becoming a world power. Many Americans think China is an authoritarian bully that has robbed them of well-paying industrial jobs. There is a certain amount of truth in both viewpoints. The trick will be how to negotiate a way through some genuine differences. 
A good place to start is to walk a mile in the other country’s shoes. 
For most of human history, China was the world’s leading economy. But starting with the first Opium War in 1839, British, French, Japanese, German and American colonial powers fought five major and many minor wars with China, seizing ports and imposing trade agreements. The Chinese have never forgotten those dark years, and any diplomatic approach that doesn’t take that history into account is likely to fail.
The most difficult–and dangerous– friction point is the South China Sea, a 1.4 million square mile body of water that borders South China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Borneo, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines. Besides being a major trade route, it is rich in natural resources.
Based on its imperial past, China claims ownership of much of the sea and, starting in 2014, began building military bases on island chains and reefs that dot the region. For countries that border the sea, those claims and bases threaten offshore resources and pose a potential security threat. Besides the locals, the Americans have been the dominant power in the region since the end of World War II and have no intention of relinquishing their hold.
While the South China Sea is international waters, it makes up a good deal of China’s southern border, and it has been a gateway for invaders in the past. The Chinese have never threatened to interdict trade in the region–a self-defeating action in any case, since much of the traffic is Chinese goods–but they are concerned about security. 
They should be.
 The US has five major military bases in the Philippines, 40 bases in Japan and  Korea, and its 7th Fleet–based in Yokosuka, Japan–is Washington’s largest naval force. The US has also pulled together an alliance of Australia, Japan, and India–the “Quad”–that coordinates joint actions. These include the yearly Malabar war games that model interdicting China’s sea-bourne energy supplies by closing off the Malacca Straits between Malaysia and Indonesian island of Sumatra.
US military strategy in the area, titled “Air Sea Battle,” aims to control China’s south coast, decapitate the country’s leadership, and take out its nuclear missile force. China’s counter move has been to seize islands and reefs to keep US submarines and surface craft at arm’s length, a strategy called “Area Denial.” It has also been mostly illegal. A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration found China’s claims on the South China Sea have no merit. But to Beijing the sea is a vulnerable border. Think for a moment about how Washington would react if China held naval war games off Yokosuka, San Diego or in the Gulf of Mexico. One person’s international waters are another’s home turf.
‘The tensions in the South China sea go back to the Chinese civil war between the communists and nationalists, in which the Americans backed the losing side. When the defeated nationalists retreated to Taiwan in 1949, the US guaranteed the island’s defense, recognized Taiwan as China, and blocked the PRC from UN membership. 
After US President Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, the two countries worked out some agreements on Taiwan. Washington would accept that Taiwan was part of China, but Beijing would refrain from using force to reunite the island with the mainland. The Americans also agreed not to have formal relations with Taipei or supply Taiwan with “significant” military weapons. 
Over the years, however, those agreements have frayed, particularly during the administration of Bill Clinton.
In 1996 tensions between Taiwan and the mainland led to some saber rattling by Beijing, but the PRC did not have the capacity to invade the island, and all the parties involved knew that. But Clinton was trying to divert attention from his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky and a foreign crisis fit the bill, so the US sent an aircraft carrier battle group through the Taiwan Straits. While the Straits are international waters, it was still a provocative move and one that convinced the PRC that it had to modernize its military if it was to defend its coasts.
There is a certain irony here. While the Americans claim that the modernization of the Chinese navy poses a threat, it was US actions in the Taiwan Straits crisis that frightened the PRC into a crash program to construct that modern navy and adopt the strategy of Area Denial. So, did we nurse the pinion to impell the steel? 
 Trump has certainly exacerbated the tensions. The US now routinely sends warships through the Taiwan Straits, dispatched high level cabinet members to Taipei, and recently sold the island 66 high performance F-16s fighter bombers. 
In Beijing’s eyes all these actions violate the agreements regarding Taiwan and, in practice, abrogate China’s claim on the breakaway province.
It is a dangerous moment. The Chinese are convinced the US intends to surround them with its military and the Quad Alliance, although the former may not be up to the job, and the latter is a good deal shakier than it looks. While India has drawn closer to the Americans, China is its major trading partner and New Delhi is not about to go to war over Taiwan. Australia’s economy is also closely tied to China, as is Japan’s. Having trade relations between countries doesn’t preclude them going to war, but it is a deterrent. As for the US military: virtually all war games over Taiwan suggests the most likely outcome would be an American defeat. 
Such a war, of course, would be catastrophic, deeply wounding the world’s two major economies and could even lead to the unthinkable– a nuclear exchange. Since China and the US cannot “defeat” one another in any sense of that word, it seems a good idea to stand back and figure out what to do about the South China Sea and Taiwan.
The PRC has no legal claim to vast portions of the South China Sea, but it has legitimate security concerns. And judging from Biden’s choices for Secretary of State and National Security Advisor–Anthony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, respectively–it has reason for those concerns. Both have been hawkish on China, and Sullivan believes that Beijing is “pursuing global dominance.”
There is no evidence for this. China is modernizing its military, but spends about one third of what the US spends. Unlike the US, it is not building an alliance system–in general, China considers allies an encumbrance–and while it has an unpleasant authoritarian government, its actions are  directed at areas Beijing has always considered part of historical China.  The PRC has no designs on spreading its model to the rest of the world. Unlike the US- Soviet Cold War, the differences are not ideological, but are those that arise when two different capitalist systems compete for markets.
China doesn’t want to rule the world, but it does want to be the dominant power in its region, and it wants to sell a lot of stuff, from electric cars to solar panels. That poses no military threat to the US, unless Washington chooses to challenge China in its home waters, something Americans neither want nor can afford.
There are a number of moves both countries should make.
First, both countries should dial down the rhetoric and de-escalate their military deployment. Just as the US has the right to security in its home waters, so does China. Beijing, in turn, should give up its claims in the South China Sea and disarm the bases it has illegally established. Both of those moves would help create the atmosphere for a regional diplomatic solution to the overlapping claims of countries in the region. 
The cost of not doing this is quite unthinkable. At a time when massive resources are needed to combat global warming, countries are larding their military budgets and threatening one another over islands and reefs that will soon be open sea if climate change does not become the world’s focus.

Guest Blogger: How ‘Whiteness” Won The War In Kansas by Margy Stewart (published in the Kansas Reflector)

February 6, 2021

Signs such as this one were common in Kansas and throughout the Midwest and Northeast during a time of “sundown towns” following the Civil War. (Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia)

This is reprinted with permission from the Kansas Reflector

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Margy Stewart is a board member of Prairie Heritage Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the prairie and sharing its stories.  

All too often we define racism as a personal failing, an irrational hatred harbored in the heart. This definition is certainly true on occasion but it is too limited: It misses the social force of white supremacy as it has shaped the Kansas we have inherited.

Many of us from virtually all-white rural areas and small towns maintain that racism has nothing to do with us because “there are no Blacks” where we live.

Yet as historian James Loewen writes, “In the normal course of human events, most and perhaps all towns would not be all-white.”

So how did large parts of Kansas become so “white”?

Two award-winning books — Ron Parks’ “The Darkest Period: The Kanza Indians and Their Last Homeland, 1846-1873” and Brent Campney’s “This Is Not Dixie: Racist Violence in Kansas, 1861-1927 — provide some answers.

Both books have won the Jan Garton Prairie Heritage Book Award, a $1000 prize awarded for books that illuminate in new ways the heritage of the prairie states. When read together, they shed light on the workings of white supremacy.

Evoking the day-to-day life of individual Kanzas, “The Darkest Period” describes how the Kanza people were pushed out of the state that bears their name. On their diminished reserve near Council Grove, they were subjected to a barrage of crimes committed by Euro-Americans, including lynching, theft, grave desecration, vandalism and encroachment by non-native squatters. Parks shows how the Indians’ legal rights were overridden by whites, driven by belief in “Manifest Destiny” — the idea that God had foreordained the expansion of Euro-American society across the continent.

When I asked what surprised him most during his research, Parks told me that it was the virulence of white supremacy.

“Of the various phenomena that gave rise to Manifest Destiny … by far the most pervasive and determinant was the deeply felt sense of superiority and entitlement of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants,” he said.

This white entitlement unleashed violence against African Americans as well.

In “This Is Not Dixie: Racist Violence in Kansas, 1861-1927,” Campney documents numerous lynchings, physical assaults, arson and mob attacks on Black people’s businesses and homes. These Euro-American crime waves, Campney writes, shared “one defining characteristic: the tacit or the overt support of the larger white community.”

Evoking the day-to-day life of individual Kanzas, “The Darkest Period” describes how the Kanza people were pushed out of the state that bears their name. On their diminished reserve near Council Grove, they were subjected to a barrage of crimes committed by Euro-Americans, including lynching, theft, grave desecration, vandalism and encroachment by non-native squatters. Parks shows how the Indians’ legal rights were overridden by whites, driven by belief in “Manifest Destiny” — the idea that God had foreordained the expansion of Euro-American society across the continent.

When I asked what surprised him most during his research, Parks told me that it was the virulence of white supremacy.

“Of the various phenomena that gave rise to Manifest Destiny … by far the most pervasive and determinant was the deeply felt sense of superiority and entitlement of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants,” he said.

This white entitlement unleashed violence against African Americans as well.

In “This Is Not Dixie: Racist Violence in Kansas, 1861-1927,” Campney documents numerous lynchings, physical assaults, arson and mob attacks on Black people’s businesses and homes. These Euro-American crime waves, Campney writes, shared “one defining characteristic: the tacit or the overt support of the larger white community.”

Campney quotes historian Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, who argued that “the northern faction may have ‘won’ the battle in … Kansas, but ultimately, whiteness won the war.”

The triumph of “whiteness” meant a shaky identity for Euro-Americans, constantly threatened by the full reality of people of color. It meant a false sense of superiority and therefore a craving for reassurance, all too often culminating in theatrical displays of domination, often marked by horrendous acts of violence.

Thus, many Kansas communities publicly declared themselves “sundown towns” — places where Blacks were threatened with violence if they stayed past sunset. Other towns were “whitened” after the fact, through actual violence.

Campney cites a litany of newspaper reports and editorials:

“A riot was organized in Doniphan … for the purposes of driving the colored people out of town.”

“El Dorado had a touch of high life last night. About 200 men participated in the riot and all negroes were forcibly ejected from town.”

“(The Black visitor) had exactly 15 minutes in which to leave (Pomona), or … the rope was put in suggestive evidence.”

“The killing of the negro (in Neodesha) … is already beginning to bear fruit. Most of the negroes have left town.”

“(The mobbing of Black people in Liberal) brought results. The negroes have gone, and as far as we are concerned we are glad of it.”

These public mobilizations against Black people reinforced white people’s sense of their own preeminence but also deprived them of an independent, reality-based identity. “Whiteness” depended on domination.

If only this racist tradition were confined to the past!

Unfortunately, we saw it emerge again in the theatrical anti-election protests endorsed by powerful Euro-Americans, including U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall and U.S. Reps. Ron Estes, Tracey Mann and Jake LaTurner, who tried to cast doubt on an election that featured a highly mobilized Black electorate and the election of a Black vice president.

Their objections were so blatantly focused on Black precincts that Stuart Stevens, senior strategist for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, called their Congressional coalition the “Jim Crow caucus.” Theirs is yet another dramatic performance of white entitlement, designed to garner support from “whites” who still define themselves in opposition to people of color.

But Campney’s book also documents a counter-tradition in Kansas stretching back to before the Civil War — a tradition of creative and courageous actions taken by Black people and others to create a more perfect union, to the benefit of all.

The majority of citizens of all ethnicities now favor this second tradition. Marshall et al. may well find their performances drowned out by boos.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

US Does It Again! – Talking Peace, Promoting War Series: Biden Diddles on Iran Nuckear Deal – A Discussion. February 4, 2021

February 5, 2021

John Kerry and Jawad Zarif at the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015. Will the USA return to the agreement and respect all of tis clauses?

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US Does It Again! – Talking Peace, Promoting War Series: Biden Diddles on Iran Nuckear Deal – A Discussion. February 4, 2021

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A live discussion with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince on YouTube and Facebook

Is there more room for “optimism than pessimism” because too much is at stake for both sides to risk losing what may be the last opportunity to revive an agreement that so squarely advances their interests and security” – as Quincy Institute VP Trita Parsi argues… or is the picture somewhat darker?

We are worried that the danger exists that this Administration, while mouthing support for returning to the JCPOA – or Iran nuclear deal – is doing what it can to undermine the process and basically strangle it. All the signs suggest that the Biden Administration is not serious about returning the U.S. to the agreement.

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Ibrahim Kazerooni

Ibrahim Kazerooni is an imam at the Islamic Center in Dearborn Michigan, Originally from a long line of religious scholars in Najaf, Iraq, he received a PhD in Religion and Social Change from the Joint Iliff School of Theology – University of Denver Korbel School of International Studies

 

 

 

Rob Prince

Rob Prince is a retired Lecturer of International Studies from the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. A former Peace Corps Volunteer and staff member in Tunisia he has written widely on North Africa (Algeria and Tunisia). Born and raised in New York City in a Jewish family from “The Pale” in Russia. He has lived in Colorado since 1969

Audio Tape: The Power of False Narratives. Two Case Studies: Tunisia (“The Arab Spring’s Only Success Story”) and Iran (The Myth of “the Iranian Threat”). KGNU Boulder. Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues Hosted by Jim Nelson. Tuesday, January 26, 2021.

January 27, 2021

Teheran. 42 years of U.S. plans to overthrow the government of Iran have failed. Key to normalizing U.S-Iranian relations: dissolving the myth of the Iranian threat…

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Audio Tape: The Power of False Narratives. Two Case Studies: Tunisia (“The Arab Spring’s Only Success Story”) and Iran (The Myth of “the Iranian Threat”). KGNU Boulder. Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues Hosted by Jim Nelson. Tuesday, January 26, 2021.

The U.S. government, along with the media and much of academia, accept as “fact” the idea that Iran is “a threat.” In fact the way that the narrative created as to why the U.S. should re-engage Iran diplomatically by returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal – is explained by “limiting the threat.”

Our starting point is that as long as elements of liberal and left America “drink the cool aid” and accept what we refer to as “the myth of the Iranian threat” – peace, be it through the JCPOA process or another one – will be difficult to come by.

The power of myth – what Chomsky refers to as “manufacturing consent” – has never been more pronounced than in the way that “narratives” – ways of explaining reality – are shaped by foundations, the media etc. until they become hard and fast truths., truths that then become the basis of policy decisions with profound consequences. When deconstructed, the legs on which they stand begin to wobble until the whole structure collapses.

Two such “narratives” concerning the Middle East and North Africa (MENA countries) that we want to examine and deconstruct in this program are:

  • The oft repeated asssertion that the North African country of Tunisia is “the only Arab Spring success story”
  • The oft repeated assertion that Iran is “a threat” to Middle East regional stability and not only “a” threat, but the main threat

Looking closely at the origins of these narratives – they often take shape in conservative, right wing think tanks, foundations and academic settings – but before long, in no time more often than not, they are embraced by liberal and left institutional/media thinking as well and as such, come to re-enforce the status quo, with profound consequences.

All that and more – KGNU – Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues..

 

The Power of False Narratives. Two Case Studies: Tunisia (“The Arab Spring’s Only Success Story”) and Iran (The Myth of “the Iranian Threat”). KGNU Boulder. 1390 am, 88.5 fm. Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues hosted by Jim Nelson. Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 6-7 pm MST. Details Below

January 24, 2021
tags: ,

Beja – In Tunisia’s Interior

The Power of False Narratives. Two Case Studies: Tunisia (“The Arab Spring’s Only Success Story”) and Iran (The Myth of “the Iranian Threat”. KGNU Boulder. Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues Hosted by Jim Nelson. Tuesday, December 29, 2020. 6-7 PM Mountain States Time. (with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince)

The power of myth – what Chomsky refers to as “manufacturing consent” – has never been more pronounced than in the way that “narratives” – ways of explaining reality – are shaped by foundations, the media etc. until they become hard and fast truths., truths that then become the basis of policy decisions with profound consequences. When deconstructed, the legs on which they stand begin to wobble until the whole structure collapses.

Two such “narratives” concerning the Middle East and North Africa (MENA countries) that we want to examine and deconstruct in this program are:

  • The oft repeated asssertion that the North African country of Tunisia is “the only Arab Spring success story”
  • The oft repeated assertion that Iran is “a threat” to Middle East regional stability and not only “a” threat, but the main threat

Looking closely at the origins of these narratives – they often take shape in conservative, right wing think tanks, foundations and academic settings – but before long, in no time more often than not, they are embraced by liberal and left institutional/media thinking as well and as such, come to re-enforce the status quo, with profound consequences.

All that and more – KGNU – Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues..

The 45,500 year old Sulawesi Warty Pig – 1

January 21, 2021

Sulawesi Pigs

Much is being made of the discovery of what is estimated to be a 45,500 year “pig painting” in a hidden valley on the Indonesia island of Sulawesi. Although there are, by now, a sizable catalogue of Cromagnon wall paintings and other art forms (sculptures, art done on tools) the Sulawesi wall painting,at what is referred to as the the Leang Tedongnge site, in a “mulburry-hued pigment” is considered the oldest one so far discovered.

It might be somewhat older than its announced age as the 45,500 year date is a result of uranium-series dating that tests the age of a mineral deposit, speleothem which aggregates on cave walls in close proximity to the painting itself. It is, without a doubt, a wonderful discovery, but although the date is unique, the discovery itself is far from it.

The painting certainly resembles a pig – an example of the “photographic” tradition in early human art. Turns out that the animal in the painting has an uncanny resemblance to what is referred to as a “warty pig” that still calls the island of Sulawesi home today, now, like so many others, a critically endangered species. Plus there are the hand imprints above the rump very similar to those found in the cave art in southern France where they also abound. Are they the artists signature so to speak? Or do they have some other kind of symbolic meaning of which we are unfamiliar. I dunno.

Mentioned it the same NY Times article, not far from the “warty pig” site is yet another Sulawesi early cave art site, this one a bit younger at 43,900 years of age. Discovered only four years ago, in 2017, and nearby, is a cave whose deep interior contains eight figures, among them more wild pigs and a species of dwarf water buffalo known as anoas. These figures are known as “therianthropes”, half human, half animal figures that are also quite commonly found along with animal figures, their heads animal-like on what appears to be human bodies. As NY Times writer Becky Ferreira noted in her December 2019 article,

For whoever painted these figures, they represented much more than ordinary human hunters. One appears to have a large beak while another has an appendage resembling a tail.

Such therianthropes – from whom the idea of werewolves are probably drawn – are found all over the world. Our assumption, given credance by the number of these figures in cave art everywhere, are speculated to have some kind of animistic, or religious value – as do the entire experience of people making art deep in the chambers of caves. Read more…

Tunisia Explodes…. Again. What a Surprise!

January 18, 2021

The Media, Tunis

The news from Tunisia is of spreading violence, angry demonstrations. As reported at Deutsche Welle (DW)

Unrest spread across Tunisia after the government imposed an anti-virus lockdown amid economic hardship. Many Tunisians are frustrated by the lack of political reforms a decade after the Arab Spring.

Tunisian authorities have arrested more than 600 people after a third consecutive night of riots in several cities throughout the North African country, officials said on Monday. The situation was so explosive that the army deployed troops “in several regions, includign Bizerte, Sousse, Kassserine and Siliana” that is all over the country, although authorities now claim the situation has calmed down some. The protests began on January 14th, exactly ten years to the day, that Ben Ali fled the country.

News of the protests and Tunisia’s stalled revolution brought back the memory of a conversation from those heady, optimistic days of January 2011.

Shortly after the massive 2010 Tunisian demonstrations forced then President Zine Ben Ali and his corrupt cortege from power… I had a discussion with a brother-in-law. I noted that while it was fine and dandy – and it was – that Ben Ali (who has since died) was forced out that if there weren’t far reaching socio-economic changes, that the 2010-11 uprising would result in little more than a face life with a general maintenance of the status quo. My concern/fear was that in the end it would turn into “all the changes necessary to maintain the status quo.”

He commented, wisely, something along the lines… “if the underlying socioeconomic problems plaguing Tunisian society are not dealt with, sometime in the future, the people would rebel again,” – to which I responded, “precisely.”

Nor is this current upsurge of protests, the first time that the country exploded in frustration and social protest over the failure of the new government to even begin to address the socio-economic crisis gripping the country. It has happened several times with increasing violence, including in 2016. I wrote about it then in a two part series that appeared both at Foreign Policy in Focus and at the Tunisian website Nawaat.com.

The now famous event that triggered the 2010 revolt was the immolation of a young fruit and vegetable salesman, Mohammed Bouazizi in the town of Sidi Bouzid (near Kairoaun), At that time that event gripped the entire nation first in mourning than in what amounted to a national rage. But by 2016 literally overanother 120 disillusioned Tunisians immolated themselves, and this since the start of 2015.

This time, according to the Financial Times, “the explosion of fury was sparked by the alleged mistreatment of a shepherd by a policeman in the northern town of Siliana.”

Yesterday, I was going over – trying to trim down – my file of articles on Tunisia – hundreds of them, a goal in which I did not succeed ver well.

But I did come across another 2016 article that appeared in “Open Democracy” by one Francis Ghiles that appeared just prior to the social explosion in Tunisia that year and gives context to that social explosion. In January 2016,  he wrote, at the time, five years after “the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution” as events in Tunisia were referred to:

This is a country whose government seems unwilling or incapable of conducting desperately needed reforms and whose economy is flat: where living conditions for the majority have deteriorated since they overthrew their erstwhile dictator, Ben Ali, five years ago. Two of the three engines of growth, tourism and the phosphate/fertilizer industry, have stalled and unemployment among the young in Kasserine (town in the interior), one of the towns which revoted in 2011 has increased to nearly 25% among young men and 38% among yhoung women. This is a country where neither major party, the Islamicist Ennahda party that governed from 2012 to 2014 and the lay coalition Nidaa Tounes currently in power, dares to take bold economic decisions. Foreign debt meanwhile is piling up at an alarming rate.

That was then. Today, according to the International Labor Organization, the unemployment rate has soared to what is – frankly – an unimaginable 36.5% with the economy – due to COVID-19 among other factors – shrinking in 2020 by 8%, again a frightening figure.

He goes on to note in that article that “the informal sector” – more commonly known as the black market is rampant, representing more than 50% of Tunisian GDP “thus depriving the government of much needed tax revenue and the formal economy of much needed demand.

All of that described above continues.

Ghiles might have added that as a result of the ongoing crisis that Tunisia was, at the time, bleeding its youth to al Qaeda, ISIS like groups in the tens of thousands, so much so that it now has major problems reintegrating some of these youths back into society as they return home either from capture or simple exhaustion from Syria, Iraq and points further east to where Turkey (and Saudi Arabia) have funneled them.

That was four years ago.

The United States has provided serious aid to Tunisia but the lions share of it is to beef up Tunisia’s military and security apparatus, with just a pittance targeting the socio-economic crisis that triggered this present.

Nothing, not a thing, has improved in the country since then, making the claim that “Tunisia is the only Arab Spring success story” something more of wishful thinking and  not to be taken seriously.

Since the 1980s as World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs began devastating the economies of the Global South, Tunisia was similarly described as the IMF’s structural adjustment “success story.” Yet it was precisely those policies that led to the 2010-2011 government collapse. These policies have continued unabated  with a similar failure rate since then.

And now in 2021, some 5 years after Ghiles wrote his “Something is rotten in the state of Tunisia” piece, the much repeated mantra claiming Tunisia “the only  Arab Spring success story” rings even more hollow than it did earlier. The only difference between Tunisia in 2009 and today is that Tunisians can now openly complain about their fate in the media – within certain well defined boundaries by the way – and they can criticize their government  and watch as the country’s socio-economic environment turns even more rotten than before.

What is Tunisia’s prescription to this socio-economic tightening, more IMF loans in exchange for tighter, structural adjustment programs (another one coming this year) with tighter restrictions.

Fine success! And a chilling reminder of the dangers of the fire next time.