Thursday, June 25, 2009

SOME SERIOUS PROGRESS

According to Mongabay "Marfrig, the world's fourth largest beef trader, will no longer buy cattle raised in newly deforested areas within the Brazilian Amazon. The announcement is a direct response to Greenpeace's Slaughtering the Amazon report, which linked illegal Amazon forest clearing to the cattle producers that supply raw materials to some of the world's most prominent consumer products companies."

"Slaughtering the Amazon has had immediate repercussions for the accused cattle companies. Brazil's three largest supermarket chains, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar, last week announced they would suspend contracts with suppliers found to be involved in Amazon deforestation, while Bertin, the world's largest beef processor, saw its $90 million loan from the International Finance Corporation withdrawn. Meanwhile a Brazilian federal prosecutor has filed a billion dollar law suit against the cattle industry for environmental damage."

More info and related articles here.

HOPEFUL SIGNS AND GLOBAL CONNECTIONS

Hope Mountain Sun
Mr Sun and Hope Mountain in Takilma, Oregon (photo by Kelpie Wilson)

There's some promising news to report from my old Oregon home. But, first here is an interesting aside...

I'm online, writing this post from the Marina Silva Library of the Forest in Rio Branco - Acre - Brazil.

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Surfing the Internet and searching for the latest forest news brought me to a UK GUARDIAN headline -- Ground zero in the timber wars shows signs of peace.

The AP story that had been published from England turns out to be about my old Oregon home where 26 years ago at Bald Mountain local folks started a grassroots movement to save the old growth forests of the US Pacific Northwest.

Yup, it seems like the new project to restore the misbegotten plantations is attracting global attention. Billed as a restoration project, it has the local sawmill, loggers and environmentalists working together to reduce the fire danger and create some diversity in the old monocultures. I would not rush to conclude that a new era has arrived -- the saw mill would still love to get some old growth -- but it's certainly a fine start.

My forest defender buddy Mark Kelz is quoted in the article,

"I'm kind of hopeful and kind of skeptical too, because there've been a lot of fashions in forestry over the years ... there was the monoculture where nothing but Douglas fir and pine would be planted in clearcuts ... Now they are like, 'We need diversity. It's not healthy.' They've learned a lot, but they still have a lot to learn."

Let's hope that they do!

Meanwhile, I'm sure that Hope Mountain will keep radiating and that the good folks from Takilma will continue their long struggle to bring love and respect to the land.

Hope Mountain BW
Hope Mountain above Takilma Oregon shining with
frost on a very cold winter day many years ago.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ANOTHER URGENT ALERT

We've been following Brazil's moves toward creating legal titles for the huge amount of Amazon land that is now privately occupied. The Provisional Measure 458 started out well-intentioned, as a way to protect small farmers who need legal title to their land. Soon, however, it was manipulated by agrobusiness interests, many of whom violently and illegally have seized this land.

We have only 24 hours to convince President Lula to veto a bill that will privatize millions of acres of the Amazon and give most of the land to agrobusiness.

Send a message to Lula now!






Here's the full background fro AVAAZ.org:

Two weeks ago, Avaaz sent out an alert about the bill -- and 14,000 of us jammed President Lula's phone lines urging him to veto the bill's dangerous provisions. Within 48 hours the President stated publicly that he would do the right thing. Since then, however, the President has been under serious pressure from agrobusiness, and has made worrying statements about development in the Amazon.

We have 48 hours left to keep him to his word. We know that our voices together can influence him, and public pressure at this crucial time could tip the balance to save the Amazon. Click here to send a message to Lula NOW and send this on to friends and family - it will only take two minutes:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/lula_prazo_final

The Provisional Measure 458 started out well-intentioned, as a way to protect small farmers who need legal title to their land. Soon, however, it was manipulated by agrobusiness interests, many of whom violently and illegally have seized this land.

If the bill is passed in its current form, the richest land owners will benefit most.

We are asking Lula to do three things:
Veto indirect occupation and exploitation, so that legal titles only go to those who live on the land

Veto land titles for businesses so that only individuals are allowed regulation of the land; and

Add a clause which prohibits the commercialization of regulated land for 10 years, from the proposed 3 years, to avoid land speculation.
If thousands of people send him this message -- we could safeguard our forest.

Click here to send a message to Lula using our easy tool:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/lula_prazo_final

The fate of the Amazon will be drastically defined by the end of this week.

This certainly won’t be our final battle to defend our Amazon, but its an important one – lets keep the pressure up and show that Brazilians care!

With hope and conviction,

Alice, Graziela, Ben, Ricken, Luis, Paula, Pascal, Iain, Paul, Brett, Ben, Raj and the entire Avaaz team

Read more about this issue:

Amazon bill controversy in Brazil:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8113952.stm

Brazil: Land reform or deforestation boost for the Amazon
http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/06/04/brazil-land-reform-or-deforestation-boost-for-the-amazon/

Brazil mulls over controversial bill to legitimize land-grab in Amazon
http://www.breakingtweets.com/2009/06/04/brazil-mulls-over-controversial-bill-to-legitimize-land-grab-in-amazon/



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

MORE GOOD NEWS FROM AMAZÔNIA

I'm back in Rio Branco, Acre where development can take on some interesting twists like the for-walking-only new bridge

Rio Branco pedestrian bridge

and the WI-FI zone of the new library from which I've been surfing the web to find the latest news.

Wi-Fi Tower - Bibiloteca Publica - Rio Branco

And, yup, there are two items really worth reporting...

Amazon deforestation in 2009 declines to lowest on record

(06/22/2009) Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell below 10,000 square kilometers for the first time since record-keeping began, reported Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc. Yesterday Minc said preliminary data from the country's satellite-based deforestation detection system (DETER) showed that Amazon forest loss between August 2008 and July 2009 would be below 10,000 square kilometers, the lowest level in more than 20 years. Falling commodity prices and government action to crack down on illegal clearing are credited for the decline in deforestation rates.


Brazil to pay farmers $50/month to plant trees in the Amazon

(06/22/2009) Brazil will pay small farmers to plant trees in deforested parts of the Amazon under a plan unveiled Friday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Brazil will pay small farmers to plant trees in deforested parts of the Amazon under a plan unveiled Friday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The Green Arch initiative (Arco Verde) will pay farmers up to $51 per month for reforestation of degraded lands in 43 Amazon municipalities where deforestation is an ongoing problem.

"We need to think about how to make those people feel that they will make more money by planting trees than by cutting them down," Lula told Reuters on Friday.


[Note: The payments may seem small but this can be significant in the context of the extreme poverty faced by many who were abandoned in the forests after the rubber boom and who now often struggle to live on less than $2 a day.]






Monday, June 22, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

I wonder if God is shaking himself?



"Tomorrow is the Saturday of destiny....Tonight the Allaho Akbar is louder than other nights....Where is this place? A country were people have only God left to reach out to... This is a country where every night people's scream of Allah O Akbar is louder than the night before... Every day I wait till night time comes so I can hear this sound and see if it is louder than the night before or not ... My body is shaking... I wonder if God is shaking himself?"


"Where is this place that where so many innocent people are entrapped? Where is this place where no one comes to our aid? Where is this place that only with our silence we are sending our voices to the world? Where is this place that the young shed blood and then people go and pray -- standing on that same blood and pray. Where is this place where the citizens are called vagrants?

"Where is this place? You want me to tell you? This place is Iran. The homeland of you and me. This place is Iran."

More here.


REMEMBER AND IMAGINE



AMEN

From blogger golrokhn

khoda

DAILY DISH, Andrew Sullivan thinks of tonight and tomorrow in Iran and says,

"I fear deeply what is about to happen. But I also sense that the Gandhi-strategy of the majority is a winning one. If they can sustain their numbers and withstand the nightly raids, and if they can overwhelm the capital tomorrow in another peaceful show of strength, then they can win. And the world will change. This is their struggle now, requiring the kind of courage that only God can provide. Their God, my God, the God of the Torah and the Koran and the Gospels."





AMEN
ABIDA PARVEEN SINGS SUFI POETRY



Destroy the mosque,
Destroy the temple
Do as you please...

Do not break the human heart
For God dwells therein!












PROGRESS TOWARD PEACE IN PERU

Peru Amazon Peace

Peru's Cabinet chief Yehude Simon poses with Amazon Indians after submitting a proposal to Congress that would revoke two decrees contested by Indian groups in Lima (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Chris Kraul for the LA Times reports: Peru's Congress voted Thursday to revoke two laws enacted last year to open the Amazon to mining, oil and timber development, measures that enraged many indigenous groups and led to a bloody confrontation this month.

Legislators acted at the behest of President Alan Garcia, who went on national television Wednesday to acknowledge that he had committed a "series of errors and exaggerations" in pushing economic policies that spawned a wave of protests by indigenous groups, including road blockades and takeovers of two airports.

According to AMAZON WATCH: Daysi Zapata, acting President of AIDESEP, Peru's national Amazonian indigenous organization welcomed the President's comments and declared: "Today is a historic day. We are grateful that the will of the indigenous peoples has been heard and we only hope that in the future governments listen and attend to indigenous peoples, and not legislate behind their backs."

Zapata said that AIDESEP it is calling on our base organizations and communities to end their blockades and protests while also calling on the government to enter into a good faith and transparent dialogue.

The dramatic shift in the Garcia Administration's discourse is likely due to the unprecedented international and domestic condemnation of the attacks on peaceful demonstrations on June 5 in Bagua. Tens of thousands protested in cities throughout Peru on June 11 in support of Peru's indigenous peoples. Peruvian consulates and embassies worldwide have been the site of repeated vigils and protests. Tens of thousands have sent letters to Peruvian and US government officials. Celebrities including Q'orianka Kilcher and Benjamin Bratt, both part Peruvian as well as Nobel Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, have publicly condemned the violence in Peru while calling for a peaceful solution.

Leading international human rights bodies including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the International Labor Organization have pressed the Garcia Administration to end repression and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples.

Amazon Watch's Executive Director, Atossa Soltani, reacted to the news with the following statement: "The Peruvian Congress's repeal of the two decrees is a welcome first step in bringing indigenous rights in Peru back to where they were before the decrees were promulgated in 2008. The conflict has become a watershed moment for Peru's policies in the Amazon and has invigorated national debate about deep-rooted violations of indigenous peoples rights. Today's good news notwithstanding, indigenous peoples are likely to continue to be at risk by Garcia's policies to open up the Amazon to extractive industries."

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO TOOK ACTION


Thursday, June 18, 2009

GREENING GOOGLE

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There's been a campaign to get google to change its logo for one day in support of the Iranian people.


GREAT NEWS They've decided to do something far more significant. Friday, Google will launch a Farsi/English translation service, an ingenious way to help Iranians and English speakers exchange information and aid each other more effectively. Add this to their Iran coverage on Citizen Tube, and their decision to relax standards on graphic videos for the scenes coming out of Iran, and they deserve some serious kudos.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY




Last Saturday, 13 June, was the traditional Feast Day celebrating Saint Anthony, the much loved patron and protector of children and the family. It was also the first of three feast days in June, inculding Saint John on the 23rd and Saint Peter on the 28th. Collectively, these days are called the Festivals of June and they include a rich popular culture of food, music, costumes, rituals (both secular and spiritual), and more. And as, you can see above, Céu do Planalto in Brasilia was all dressed up with colorful and magical decorations.

Opening the Santo Daime Festival of June, the celebration of Saint Anthony involves a full night of singing and dancing the hymnal of Padrinho Sebastião and more. Totalling nearly 200 hymns, the ritual stretches from around 9pm until the morning.

There's really no way to describe or document ceremony like this in words, so here is a sequence of videos moving across the entire night...



















With the morning sunlight flooding into the Salon, Lucío Mortimer's final hymn (received just before his passing) was sung with tremendous joy. It speaks of Lucío's illumination and of his great love for Padrinho Sebastião.



No work is quite complete without a birthday. Here's Lucas...

IMG_9625

IMG_9628

These past two months, during which I have been here at my home-away-from-home Céu do Planato, have been a time of joyous reunion for me. So many friends and loved ones are here. And what a beautiful new church! So much to be grateful about. As I will return soon to Acre for the remainder of the June Festival, I am feeling a saudade already. I give vivas to the whole community and a special PARABÈNS to Gabriela and Marcelo who will be married at the ceremony of São João.

I LOVE YOU ALL.















GOOD NEWS FROM AMAZÔNIA

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Peru offers concession to Indians in land dispute

World Bank revokes loan to Brazilian cattle giant accused of Amazon deforestation

Wal-Mart bans beef illegally produced in the Amazon rainforest


[UPDATE - 13 June: Peru's prime minister says he will resign.]

Nothing is certain yet and the road ahead will surely present huge challenges but, for the moment at least, we can call this a real progress. It seems like the call of the great Samaúma is being heard.



We send thanks and a deep bow of gratitude to everyone who has been spreading the word and taking action.




SHE IS RISING



And, as is said in a Santo Daime hymn,

Be careful.

"I am only slightly aroused."











(Photos above and below by Flickr users iran09 and Hamed Saber, respectively)

The latest: The Huffington Post reports that,
Iranian Guardian Council Has Agreed to A Recount


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(Yup, I know that you are problably glued to the media (as I am) and that you probably are already receiving the news, but as these archetypal paradigm-shifting events occur, I want to hold a record of it here in Visionshare.)

More from The Daily Dish where Sullivan has posted a lot of on-the-scene tweets and says,

What's going on in Iran is very hard to understand from the distance we are at. And interpretations of the dizzying events of the last few weeks have varied widely - and still do. In fact, it's hard to remember an event like this on which there is still such a debate. Some today have argued that Ahmadinejad won and that what we are seeing is some sore losers. Others have seen this as a turning point in the history of Iran. Others still think it may be somewhere in between. And the truth is: we do not know. At this point in time, I do not know. We may be misjudging this, over-reading it, misunderstanding it. All we can do is assemble as many facts and test as many theses as possible in real time.

And then you realize: the Iranian people do not know either. So many feel so robbed; others perhaps stay loyal to the regime. There are a dizzying array of actors and institutions now interacting in ways we have absolutely no way of knowing and are beyond the ken of all but a few Westerners. But that too makes an act of faith necessary.


Pray hard for the marvelous people of Iran.







Careful, considerate and correct.



And now, would it be that we could get him to see the videos from Peru. Think of it!



Monday, June 15, 2009

REVOLUTION IN GREEN IV



When light and nature and spirit and people combine, it is a powerful force indeed. Only plants possess the special intelligence that knows how to turn light into life. The forest, concentrating that awareness, is a powerful force. I want to honor Her. That's what the slideshow is about. I feel grateful to know Her places and peoples firsthand. VIVA VERDE!
REVOLUTION IN GREEN III

Green is Compassion
A backer of Mir Hossein Mousavi helps evacuate an injured riot-police officer during riots in Tehran on June 13, 2009. (OLIVIER LABAN-MATTEI/AFP/Getty Images)

The heart of green is both compassionate and courageous. Here is a collection of spectacular images from Tehran. Be sure to scroll down to see a group of traditionallly dressed Iranian women rushing in to rescue a demonstrator being beaten by the police.

REVOLUTION IN GREEN II

Love Embrace of the Universe
Frida Kalho's, "Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth..."

I'm tempted to say, "Green is the color of my true love's hair." Here's why:

[Update 16 June: Color matters. The DAILY DISH and the HUFFINGTON POST were the first ones. Now, the mainstream media is joining the parade of green. In solidarity, the BBC has has gone green.]

Why? First and foremost in these interesting times is the fact that green is the color used traditionally to symbolize HOPE.

And there's much more. Here are a few things that I garnered at wondrous wikipedia:

In many folklores and literatures, green has traditionally been used to symbolize nature and its embodied attributes, namely those of life, fertility, and rebirth. Green was symbolic of resurrection and immortality in Ancient Egypt; the god Osiris was depicted as green-skinned. It is often used to describe foliage and the sea, and has become a symbol of environmentalism.

Green is considered the traditional color of Islam, likewise because of its association with nature. There are several reasons for this. First, Muhammad is reliably quoted in a hadith as saying that “water, greenery, and a beautiful face” were three universally good things. In the Qur'an, sura Al-Insan, believers in God in Paradise wear fine green silk. Also, Al-Khidr (“The Green One”), is a Qur’anic figure who met and traveled with Moses.

In the metaphysics of the Seven Rays of occultist Alice Bailey, the "third ray" of "creative intelligence" is represented by the color green. In Hinduism, Green is used to symbolically represent the fourth, heart chakra (Anahata). Psychics who claim to be able to observe the aura with their third eye report that someone with a green aura is typically someone who is in an occupation related to health, such as a physician or nurse, as well as people who are lovers of nature and the outdoors.

The univeral language Esperanto uses green as a symbol of mutual recognition. A green ribbon has been used is many campaigns. In addition to support for Mousavi in the Iranian elections, these include: environmental awareness; support for farm families; support cannabis legalization; and in Columbia it is used as a symbol for peace for the worn-torn countryside.

Last, but not least, here's my favorite story about A BEAUTIFUL GREEN STONE.

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REVOLUTION IN GREEN

GREEN !!!

I'm riveted to Andrew Sullivan's blog THE DAILY DISH.
It's clearly the best cyberplace for following the amazing events in Iran.

14 Jun 2009 10:58 pm

Message From Mousavi

Via Sulliva's contacts at the Farsi-speaking BBC, a telephone plea:

I AM UNDER EXTREME PRESSURE TO ACCEPT THE RESULTS OF THE SHAM ELECTION. THEY HAVE CUT ME OFF FROM ANY COMMUNICATION WITH PEOPLE AND AM UNDER SURVEILLANCE. I ASK THE PEOPLE TO STAY IN THE STREETS BUT AVOID VIOLENCE



Sunday, June 14, 2009

POLITICAL POCAHONTAS IN PERU



In an incredible media mash-ups of politics, popular culture and press conference, Q’orianka Kilcher arrives in Peru to help pull mainstream media attention and break through the "official" news story -- promoted by President Garcia and the local establishment -- denying eye-witness reports of a massacre of non-violent protestors. The government has claimed only 9 Indian deaths and focused on the 24 policemen who they claim were "savagely murdered by ignorant locals" agitated by "extreme leftist outsiders" trying to impede progress and a better life for all Peruvians.

Kilcher, 19, held a press conference Friday at the Lima offices of the indigenous peoples’ association Aidesep, organizer of two months of protests against a law that gives the government power to grant mining, logging and drilling concessions on Indian land without consulting residents.

Saying that exiled indigenous leader Alberto Pizango "is in her heart", she arrived to join with the tens of thousands of people who took to the streets of Peruvian cities and worldwide to show solidarity with the Indians. Meanwhile,
a representative of the human rights group Aprodeh, Peruvian attorney Juan Jose Quispe, toured the conflict zone and reported that 61 people remain missing and that there have been 133 arrested and 189 injured.

Here is an on-the-scene video (in Spanish)



Catapa has assembled a photo collection of the gruesome details and many other reports.

TAKE ACTION via SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL

TAKE ACTION via AMAZON WATCH

TAKE ACTION via AVAAZ

Saturday, June 13, 2009

THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TWITTERED



This truly is incredible. Here is the re-post from Sullivan's Daily Dish.

Mock not. As the regime shut down other forms of communication, Twitter survived. With some remarkable results. Those rooftop chants that were becoming deafening in Tehran? A few hours ago, this concept of resistance was spread by a twitter message. Here's the Twitter from a Moussavi supporter:

ALL internet & mobile networks are cut. We ask everyone in Tehran to go onto their rooftops and shout ALAHO AKBAR in protest #IranElection

That a new information technology could be improvised for this purpose so swiftly is a sign of the times. It reveals in Iran what the Obama campaign revealed in the United States. You cannot stop people any longer. You cannot control them any longer. They can bypass your established media; they can broadcast to one another; they can organize as never before.

It's increasingly clear that Ahmadinejad and the old guard mullahs were caught off-guard by this technology and how it helped galvanize the opposition movement in the last few weeks. That's why they didn't see what those of us surgically attached to modems could spot a mile away: something was happening in Iran. If Drum is right, the mullahs believed their own propaganda about victory until reality hit them so hard so fast, they miscalculated badly and over-reached.

The key force behind this is the next generation, the Millennials, who elected Obama in America and may oust Ahmadinejad in Iran. They want freedom; they are sick of lies; they enjoy life and know hope.

This generation will determine if the world can avoid the apocalypse that will come if the fear-ridden establishments continue to dominate global politics, motivated by terror, armed with nukes, and playing old but now far too dangerous games. This generation will not bypass existing institutions and methods: look at the record turnout in Iran and the massive mobilization of the young and minority vote in the US. But they will use technology to displace old modes and orders. Maybe this revolt will be crushed. But even if it is, the genie has escaped this Islamist bottle.

Maybe that's what we're hearing on the rooftops of Tehran: the sound of the next revolution.

Allah O Akbar!



Friday, June 12, 2009

HAVE A GOOD TRIP



I can't tell you anything about it. Hope you will enjoy the ride and keep going into the spiritual realm.



And where are we going? The great Rumi (also from Konya) said, "Beyond all notions of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field. I would like to meet you there." That vision, just a possibility, gives me comfort and hope.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

CRISIS IN PERU

Amy Goodman reports for Democracy Now.



A full round-up and action links follow after the jump.

TAKE ACTION via AMAZON WATCH

TAKE ACTION via AVAAZ

[June 11: Update from NY Times Protestors gird for a long fight.]

[June 10: Update from Democracy Now includes interview with Q’orianka Kilcher, of part Indigenous Quechua descent, who is heading to Peru to support the Amazonian protest.]


Peru Protest - June 5, 2009
Peru Protest - June 5, 2009 - Photo: Thomas Quirynen / Reuters

Luien Chauvin reporting for TIME magazine says, Peruvian President Alan Garcia is furious. His plans to open huge parts of the country's Amazon jungle to foreign investors are crumbling ... a casualty of violent protests by indigenous people in the northern jungle last weekend. ... The violence was unleashed when police officers received word from Lima, the capital, to remove the protesters who were blocking a highway and the nearby pumping station on the northern pipeline.

According to a report from BBC there are charges of a cover-up as to the total causualties. After visiting the area, near the town of Bagua Grande, 1,400km (870 miles) north of the capital Lima, rights lawyers said hundreds of people could not be accounted for. Another BBC report says,The situation is more polarised than ever, with the government calling indigenous protesters extremists and their leader, Alberto Pizango, being charged with sedition and rebellion. He has been granted asylum by the Nicaraguan government, after seeking refuge in their embassy in Lima.

Alberto Pizango
Alberto Pizango speaking in Lima. Photograph: Reuters

According to Mongabay, More than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been allocated for oil and gas extraction, and the current government of Alan Garcia has been pushing for more. Unfortunately, as usual, these policies are promoted by and only benefit a handful of people, but negatively impact the lives of many. However, Garcia’s government did not foresee the potential consequences of their actions.

An excellent paper published in August 2008 by Dr. Matt Finer and collaborators, Oil and gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples, predicted that “environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify without improved policies” ... Yesterday, we witnessed the authors’ predictions come true when a number of indigenous civilians and police died as a result of violent clashes over oil and human rights in northern Peru.

Indigenous people in Peru have been protesting the Garcia government’s newly created laws that favor and facilitate rapid oil and natural gas extraction in Amazonian Peru. Many of the oil and gas concessions that the government has granted overlap with areas already protected for wildlife and indigenous groups. ... Regardless of exactly who did what, we know that indigenous people of Peru and other Amazonian countries, in addition to the incredible biodiversity of western Amazonia, are facing huge threats on many fronts.


TAKE ACTION via AMAZON WATCH

TAKE ACTION via AVAAZ

Monday, June 08, 2009

DIPLOMACY: CHICAGO STYLE

Chicago's Hot Dog

A Chicago style hot dog should be garnished with just about everything -- tomato, pickle, sweet relish, onion, hot pepper, mustard, celery salt -- everything that is with the exception of catchup. On a Chicago-style hot dog that's definitely taboo.

Current diplomacy may also have a curious ingredient twist.

It's hard to believe but yesterday's NY Times actually had two articles on hot dog diplomacy: Ambassador Hot Dog and A New Iran Overture, With Hot Dogs .

No kidding...

Last Friday, the State Department sent a cable to its embassies and consulates around the world notifying them that “they may invite representatives from the government of Iran” to their Independence Day celebrations — annual receptions that typically feature hot dogs, red-white-and-blue bunting and some perfunctory remarks about the founding fathers.

Administration officials characterized the move as another in a series of American overtures to Iran. The United States has not had relations with Iran since the American Embassy in Tehran was seized by protesters in 1979; the country’s diplomats have not been formally invited to American events since then.

“It is another way of saying we are not putting barriers in the way of communicating,” said one administration official. “It is another way of signaling that there is an opportunity that should not be wasted.”


But they are going to have to make sure that the hot dogs contain no pork because Muslims and Jews share a similar taboo against it. Perhaps, they will have to serve a kosher dog, like the Vienna brand (pictured above), and that could involve still more diplomacy.

Who knows, someone might then point out that all-beef hot dogs contribute to deforestation of the Amazon and picket Obama when he attends the climate change meetings in Copenhagen next December.

Guess there's more to a hot dog than I thought.


AMAZON ALERT: PERU

Indigenous Protesters in Peru
Indigenous protesters fighting logging and drilling blocked a road in northern Peru on Friday as police tear gas hung in the air. Photo: Associated Press

[Update 1: Reuters reports that the death toll has risen to more than 60 and that thousands of Indians are still blocking roads. Here's an activist's report about the actions likely this week.]

[Update 2: Simon Romero, reporting for the NY Times, points out that the issue is not only over oil and timber leases. For instance, leaders from the Asháninka indigenous group are trying to derail a plan by Eletrobrás, a company controlled by Brazil’s government, to spend more than $10 billion to build five hydroelectric plants in Peru.]

This morning (Jun 6) I received an email from our dear friend Anjo who is in Peru. She says: "heading into the jungle in a few days. mad stress to get all done. 35 people dead this morning. hundreds wounded. many I know. a curfew. feels like back in Palestine."

Anjo is not exaggerating. Here is some video from May 22, 2009.



According to AMAZON WATCH 25 civilians and 9 police have been killed in the current clashes. Peru's Amazon Indigenous Peoples need you to TAKE ACTION now.

AMAZON WATCH

Since April 9th communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon have been protesting new laws that usher in an unprecedented wave of extractive industries into the Amazon Rainforest. President Alan Garcia's government passed these laws under "fast track" authority he had received from the Peruvian congress to make laws to facilitate the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and to make Peru more economically "competitive".

Over 30,000 indigenous people have taken to blockading roads, rivers, and railways to demand the repeal of these new laws that allow oil, mining and logging companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking prior consultation or consent. The protests have led to disruptions of transport as well as the interruption of oil production.

In the early morning of June 5, Peruvian military police staged a violent raid on a group of indigenous people at a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua, in a remote area of northern Peruvian Amazon. Several thousand indigenous peoples were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and real bullets. Initial reports of fatalities include at least eleven indigenous people, along with nine police officers.

We need you to immediately TAKE ACTION adding your voice in solidarity with thousands of indigenous people. Send a letter today to the Garcia Administration demanding and end to the violent repression and respect for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples.

As one of the Earth's largest tropical rainforests, the Amazon plays a critical role in safeguarding the global climate. Its destruction releases massive amounts of global warming gases into the atmosphere, worsening climate change. Indigenous peoples are the guardians of the Amazon rainforest. They need your support.

There's more from AmazonWatch and an excellent roundup at DailyKos that covers how US Free Trade agreements have been contributing to the problem.

"THE THIRD WORST DAY OF MY LIFE", says Marina Silva

Marina Silva
Brazil to sanction illegal colonization in 230,000 sq mi of Amazon rainforest


NOTE: Last year, Marina Silva, a longtime heroine of the international environmental community, resigned from her post as Minister of Environment in protest of Brazil's development policies. Now, there is a fast-growing grassroots movement of citizens working on promoting Marina Silva's name as a candidate for the presidency. Here is the website (in Portuguese).

Mongabay reports on Brazil's program to turn lawlessness into law.

Go to original article.

(June 08, 2009) Brazil moved a step closer to passing a controversial law that would allow landowners who illegally deforested land in the Amazon to get legal title to these holdings. Environmentalists say HB 458 — which now only needs the signature of President Lula, an avid supporter — will legitimize years of illegal colonization and may promote new deforestation.

"This could be a big step backward for Amazonian conservation," said William F. Laurance, a researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute who has spent nearly three decades staying the Brazilian Amazon. "The Amazonian environment is the clear loser here."

The proposed law will enable a claimant gain title for properties up to 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) provided the land was occupied before December 2004. Critics note the law favors industrial developers over small holders, allowing those controlling 400-1500 ha to sell their holdings after three years. Farmers or ranchers holding under 400 ha have to wait 10 years to sell.

Former Environment Minister Marina Silva said the Senate's passage of HB 458 was the third worst day of her life, following the death of year father and the assassination of her mentor Chico Mendes, a leader of a rubber tapper union based in the Brazilian state of Acre. She added the law would undermine Brazil's progress in formulating and implementing environmental protections, including the setting aside of 523,592 square kilometers of protected areas between 2003 and 2009, an amount accounting for three-quarters of global protected areas established during that period.

HB 458 would grant land title to 300,000 properties illegally established across some 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles) of protected Amazon forest, more than offsetting the conservation gains of the past six years.

Development interests — including large-scale agroindustrial firms, cattle ranchers, loggers, and plantation forestry companies — have lobbied intensely to get HB 458 passed. Supporters of the legislation say that while it will legitimize land-grabs prior to December 2004, HB 458 move may improve governance in an otherwise lawless region where conflict over land and complete disregard of environmental regulations is widespread.

HEARING VOICES AT THE RIGHT TIME



Stanford anthropology professor Robert Sapolsky's brilliant exegesis on religious ritual, shamanism and the sacred teachings of the soul. Long but worth every moment.

Over at boingboing Cory Doctorow says:

Stanford's Robert Sapolsky, one of the most interesting anthropologists I've heard lecture, gives us 90 minutes on the evolutionary basis for literal religious belief, "metamagical thinking," schizotypal personality and so on, explaining how evolutionarily, the mild schizophrenic expression we called "schizotypal personality" has enjoyed increased reproductive opportunities.

Doctorow also suggests the following interesting links:




Sunday, June 07, 2009

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING

Health and life insurance companies in the US and abroad have nearly $4.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks, according to Harvard doctors.

Thank You For Smoking

“It’s the combined taxidermist and veterinarian approach: either way you get your dog back,” says David Himmelstein, an internist at the Harvard Medical School and co-author of a letter published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The largest tobacco investor on the list, the 160-year old Prudential company with branches in the US and the UK, has more than $1.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks. The runner-up was Toronto-based Sun Life Financial, which apparently holds over $1 billion in Philip Morris (Altria) and other tobacco stocks. In total, seven companies that sell life, health, disability, or long-term care insurance, have major holdings in tobacco stock.

Why is it a big deal? “If you own a billion dollars [of tobacco stock], then you don’t want to see it go down,” says Himmelstein, “You are less likely to join anti-tobacco coalitions, endorse anti-tobacco legislation, basically, anything most health companies would want to participate in.”

The letter is the third report that the doctors – who all support a national healthcare program – have published in the last 14 years.

We decided to check in with some of the insurance companies mentioned in the letter to learn more about their policies with respect to tobacco stock. Prudential was unable to respond by press time. Sun Life, however, flatly denied the charges.

“Sun Life does not carry significant holdings in tobacco stocks,” says representative Steve Kee, “We do not disclose specific holdings and, for good measure, we conducted a review further to your inquiry and our exposure to ‘tobacco’ stocks is less than 0.005 percent [about $5 million] of the investment portfolio. Importantly, tobacco-related businesses can be part of a broader conglomerate involving other aspects such as food production.”

Himmelstein rechecked his numbers in the Osiris database, and said, “I fear that if Sun Life has a dispute, it is with Osiris not with us.”

In any event, the doctors’ persistence over the years seems to be working to some extent. They targeted MetLife and Cigna in their 1995 and 2000 letters to medical journals, but neither is listed in the latest reckoning, indicating that the insurers no longer hold enough to stock to be noted on filings for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition, a representative for Cigna says they currently have no direct holdings in tobacco stock unless it is part of an index fund.

But with $4.5 billion still invested in Big Tobacco, many insurers are reaping profits from a cancer-causing industry. As Himmelstein puts it, "Is this who we want running our healthcare system?"

Orginal article at Scientific American blog.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

NATURE'S MAGICAL REALISM



The Photography of Lars van de Goor

And there's more at:

http://larsvandegoor.zenfolio.com/
http://larsvandegoor.deviantart.com/
http://www.redbubble.com/people/larsvandegoor
http://larsvandegoor.smugmug.com/

Friday, June 05, 2009

PETE SEEGER: NOBEL LAUREATE?

pete and russ
Pete Seeger at 90 - Dutchess County, NY
On the banks of the Hudson River with neighbor Russ


I just got alerted by an email from Andrew Revkin that there's a campaign to nominate living legend Pete Seeger for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Clearwater Revival minstrel, union activist rabble rousing rascal banjo picker was 90 years young on May 3, 2009 and he is still going strong. Here's a shot of Andy and Pete making music on the banks of their beloved Hudson River a couple of years ago taken by their neighbor Russ.

Revkin and Seeger Singing
photo by Russ

Russ says, "Today, I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with one of the world's most creative, respected and celebrated nonagenarians...the Legendary Pete Seeger ... The purpose of our meeting, was for me to present him with a Hudson River panorama on wood I created to celebrate his 90th.

PeteSeegerCollage
Click to see the panorama large size.

"Mr. Seeger being extremely humble and modest, didn't seem to care for the collage/panorama, because he said it contained way too many photos of him. The photos I used for the piece ... were taken throughout the course of his life...from early childhood to his recent participation in the historic Inaugural Concert at the Lincoln Memorial in DC on January 18, 2009.

"After we discussed what would be the best thing to do with the large 6'x18" panorama...we decided that it should be used by the Clearwater Organization [the local river conservation project] for fund-raising purposes. Pete said he thought it might bring in about a thousand bucks for the Clearwater Org... I'd certainly like that!"

And a Nobel for Pete Seeger? Yup! We can do it. Please go to Nobel Peace Prize for Pete Seeger to sign the petition and find out how you can help. And please share the campaign with your network.


THE NEXT STEPS



According to treehugger there are some steps you can take to help limit deforestation in the Amazon. Here are their suggestions for action:

You may have seen how a new Greenpeace report ties together the Brazilian cattle industry, deforestation and several popular global shoe brands who are using what is in essence 'deforestation leather'. If you didn't see the story the first time around, check out this quick video which summarizes the issues, dig into the full Slaughtering the Amazon report, and then take action:

Tell Nike, Timberland, Adidas, Reebok, Clark's, and Geox that you don't want your shoes contributing to global climate change by increasing deforestation in the Amazon.

The cattle industry is now the driving factor in deforestation in the Amazon, with cattle pastures now occupying land the size of Iceland. Cattle raising in Brazil is responsible for 14% of all the tropical deforestation in the world, and is their largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Including emissions from deforestation, Brazil is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

All told, global deforestation and agriculture is a greater source of greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector.

There's more background info and some hopeful signs here.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

IN THE BEGINNING: THE WORD



Complete transcript of President Obama's Cairo speech.

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.

We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words – within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores – that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

That's why we're partnering with a coalition of forty-six countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths – more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's Interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into Interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action – whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations – including my own – this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

This is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many – Muslim and non-Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you.