News Release Archive - 2007

Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan

SHAHID MAHMOOD
Mahmood was the editorial cartoonist for Dawn, a national newspaper in Pakistan. He is now internationally syndicated with the New York Times Syndicate. He recently wrote a piece titled “The Dream That Was Benazir Bhutto,” which states: “I too was swept-up in that initial euphoria and as a budding political cartoonist remember drawing my first Bhutto-cartoon for Karachi’s evening paper, The Star, in 1988. The editorial cartoon depicted a young, attractive woman, headscarf fluttering in the wind, tiptoeing across a political minefield that was Pakistan.

“Twenty-years later, Bhutto is now dead — depressing both in its predictability as in its brutality. My views towards this ex-Prime Minister had changed — becoming cynical soon after that first editorial cartoon. … When Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister in 1988 she very quickly began to flex her considerable hubris. Pakistan became her personal fiefdom, lorded by a feudal — with her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, a man known for his unashamed corruption, appointed as the national exchequer. … Bhutto was even implicated, when the Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996, in providing them with both financial and military support.”
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DAVID BARSAMIAN
Barsamian, a journalist and founder of Alternative Radio, has spent most of the last month in Pakistan. He is currently in transit and will be back in Colorado beginning Tuesday evening.

PERVEZ HOODBHOY
Hoodbhoy is chairman of the Department of Physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. He said: “Having known Benazir Bhutto from high school in Karachi, and then in Cambridge, Mass., I was deeply saddened by her assassination. But I feel that she should not be eulogized. It is impossible to forget her two tenures as prime minister. The second one, in particular, was a nightmare of corruption and misgovernance. She was unscrupulous and unprincipled in the quest for personal power and wealth. After returning to Pakistan she made clear that for a few table scraps, she would have happily teamed up with Musharraf under the hopelessly absurd U.S. plan to give the military government a civilian face.

“After the suicide bombing at her welcome rally in Karachi, it was irresponsible to have risked the lives of so many (including her own) by holding public rallies. She leaves behind a shattered Pakistan People’s Party, on which she had maintained absolute control with no rules for electing a party leader. But in spite of these facts, in her death Al-Qaida and the Taliban have gained, and left-wing, secular forces in Pakistan have been weakened once again.”
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SAMEER DOSSANI
Dossani, a Pakistani-American, is director of 50 Years Is Enough, a group that scrutinizes major international financial institutions.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

Pakistan

SAMEER DOSSANI
Director of 50 Years Is Enough, a group that scrutinizes major international financial institutions, Dossani, a Pakistani-American, said today: “While the death of Benazir Bhutto is the latest in a long and tragic line of blood that has been spilled in Pakistan’s history, it should not detract from our analysis of her legacy. Benazir Bhutto, like nearly every politician in Pakistan today, saw her role as twofold: first to implement the interests of her political backers in Pakistan, which in her case were the feudal lords from the southern state of Sindh, and second, to implement the interests of the U.S establishment, Pakistan’s primary benefactor for over 30 years. … We should not forget that she was among those leaders who sacrificed Pakistan’s own economic and political development in order to remain on good terms with the U.S.”

ANITA WEISS
Recently back from Pakistan, Weiss is currently in D.C. and is available for a limited number of interviews. She is co-editor of the book Power and Civil Society in Pakistan and is professor of international studies at the University of Oregon. She said today: “The heinous assassination of Benazir Bhutto leaves Pakistan with two critical political voids. Pragmatically, there was to have been an election on Jan. 8 that would have resulted in the Pakistan People’s Party winning the majority of seats in the National Assembly and Pervez Musharraf, as president of the country, would have invited Benazir to form a government. She, along with her party, was the only national political figure of consequence who was freely allowed to campaign; there were either obstacles set up for other leaders or parties or else other viable contenders were boycotting the election. Musharraf, prodded by the U.S. government, was on board with this scenario as it would have also legitimated his own political position.

“Of perhaps even greater importance is the symbolic void this assassination has left. For the vast majority of people in Pakistan — even those who supported other political leaders and parties — Benazir Bhutto represented her father’s legacy, the promise that someday the state would care for all people in the country.”
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JUNAID AHMAD
President of the U.S.-based National Muslim Law Students Association, Ahmad was last in Pakistan this August. Ahmad is a member of the Pakistan-based People’s Rights Movement, a progressive political confederation of social movements.
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DAVID BARSAMIAN
Barsamian, a radio journalist and founder of Alternative Radio, has been in Pakistan since Nov. 30. He said today: “Pakistan is showing characteristics of a state that is falling apart. The military basically is in control. The intelligence agencies exercise enormous power. The assassination was predictable. … Musharraf sacked the Supreme Court Chief Justice in March. Since then he has taken more autocratic measures supposedly to curb extremists but in fact aimed at the moderate opposition, lawyers, judges and the media.” Barsamian’s latest book is Targeting Iran.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Assessing Iraq

DAVID ENDERS
Enders is a journalist who has spent nearly half of the last four years in Iraq and is author of the book “Baghdad Bulletin.” He said today: “Any progress the military is claiming to have made in Iraq should be looked at in the big picture: the prison population is larger than ever, and some of the drop in violence can likely be attributed to neighborhoods having been effectively ‘cleansed.’ You also have the problem of millions of refugees, many of whom have had their homes taken from them. What will happen to them? Just because fewer U.S. troops are dying does not mean the situation is ‘better.'”

On Wednesday, the Washington Post published a story headlined “All Iraqi Groups Blame U.S. Invasion for Discord, Study Shows.”

Added Enders: “A reason all factions blame the U.S. is that from the very beginning of the occupation, the focus has been on sectarian quotas and playing one group off another.” Enders’s most recent piece is “Make-a-Sheikh: How the Pentagon transformed a contractor into a symbol of the surge’s ‘success’.”
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KATHY KELLY
Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Kelly recently returned to Chicago from Amman, Jordan. She said today: “In Amman, I lived amongst Iraqis who have fled the violence in their country. While there, I also learned from the perspectives of UN and other NGO workers attempting to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe.

“While there has been much celebration of lessened violence in Iraq because the numbers of deaths caused by car bomb explosions and suicide attacks have gone down, U.S. leaders still have not come to grips with responsibilities we bear for having waged a war of choice against Iraq which has caused displacement, trauma, bereavement and extremely harsh human rights violations within Iraq and in the countries to which desperate Iraqis have fled, seeking refuge and resettlement. Inside Iraq, people still lack basic needs, including access to electricity, adequate shelter, health care delivery, food, potable water and employment. In neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, millions of Iraqis are alarmed by rising prices, cuts in available subsidies, and their own dwindling resources.

“Even here in the United States, some Iraqis who have been resettled in U.S. cities find that their most basic needs are not being met. It’s true that the U.S. is one of the largest donors in support of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. But compared to the sums which the U.S. gives to military and defense expenditures for Iraq, what the U.S. has committed to assist with humanitarian needs is a pittance.”
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CONN HALLINAN
A columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, Hallinan wrote the article which states that “an enormous intensification of U.S. bombardments” in Iraq and Afghanistan entails an “increasing number of civilian casualties … and the growing role of pilot-less killers in the conflict.” He said today: “The air war continues in Iraq, there’s actually been a step-up in bombing runs. Meanwhile, there’s something of a drop-off in Afghanistan because the NATO coalition there is getting shaky.”

His most recent piece is “The Surge: Illusion and Reality,” which argues that a decrease in attacks on U.S. troops is more the result of political decisions by the U.S. government and Iraqi groups than the result of more U.S. troops in Iraq.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

Presidential Polling and Issues

MATT WATERMAN
Waterman is the designer of a web page that allows people to select their positions on various political issues and ranks the presidential candidates according to how closely their views match, creating a political “blind taste test.”

He said today: “Five months after launch we’ve had over 200,000 people use the tool to find out how well candidates’ views match up against their own. Records from the submissions have shown the most common top match-up to be, by a wide margin, Dennis Kucinich, with Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Mike Gravel as the distant runners-up. The data that have been collected are far from scientific, but do seem to demonstrate a large disconnect between where people stand on the issues and who conventional polls have indicated they plan to vote for. I would be interested to see the results if pollsters asked questions like these [‘blind taste tests’].

“People may not know where the candidates actually stand on many of these issues, or perhaps they’re making their decisions based on only a few key political issues. It’s also likely that people simply don’t see some candidates as being electable.”

Waterman is a 23-year-old student studying electrical engineering and a former Marine who recently returned from working as a U.S. Army telephone switching contractor in Afghanistan.

SAM HUSSEINI
Communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini wrote the piece “Why Public Opinion Polls Aren’t.”

He said today: “The dominant question pollsters have been asking is some variation of ‘if the election were held today, who would you vote for?’ But that doesn’t really ask who people agree with or even who they want. Perceived electability, visibility — Kucinich was excluded from the most recent Iowa debate — and other factors enter into their responses. Pollsters are also asking specific questions about electability, furthering the focus on that. This process turns citizens into pundits. What’s missing are the issues and the public’s views on them.

“For example, pollsters are not asking questions like ‘regardless of their perceived changes of winning, which of the candidates do you agree with on the issues?’ The fact that pollsters are not asking those types of questions not only marginalizes the issues, it even means that someone who is regarded as a fringe candidate now could manifest broad support, but the polls wouldn’t pick it up because the question isn’t asked.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Questioning the Candidates on Substance

ARNIE ALPERT
ANNE MILLER
Alpert is New Hampshire program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee. Miller is director of New Hampshire Peace Action. Alpert said today: “During the months leading up to its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, New Hampshire residents really do get the chance to meet all the candidates. With a little skill, preparation, and luck, they can get candidates to explain their positions on key issues. More important, perhaps, they can also shift the political debate by letting candidates know where potential voters stand.”

Some interactions are on video at the New Hampshire Peace Action blog.

Alpert continued: “I approached Sen. John McCain at the Barley House restaurant in Concord on Dec. 17 with a question about nuclear weapons. The Senator initially tried to avoid me entirely, but eventually responded to a question about U.S. compliance with Article 6 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which calls on the U.S. and the other declared nuclear powers to make good faith efforts toward the reduction and elimination of their nuclear weapons. McCain said that he was happy with what the U.S. had done on this and that it was in compliance with all the treaties.

“I followed up by asking how we would be able to convince other nations to forego the nuclear option if the United States continues on its present course, which includes the Bush nuclear doctrine of first strike nuclear attacks. He replied, ‘the same way we’ve done throughout our history.’ Video is available.

“Two days earlier, I asked Hillary Clinton if she would support a No First Use policy, which would contradict her statements that ‘all options are on the table’ with Iran, a statement which implies a threat to use nuclear weapons. Clinton, who was standing behind a indoor fence after a presentation at a Nashua college, told me ‘I’m not discussing nuclear policy on a rope line.’ I gave her a copy of my article, ‘Clinton must speak clearly on nukes,’ which was published in the Concord Monitor Nov. 2. Clinton said she would send a response.”

PAT MINOR
Minor is with the Palestinian Human Rights Action Network. She lives in eastern Iowa and has been asking several of the candidates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

JEANNETTE HASSBERG
Hassberg is coordinator of the War and Law League, which has conducted a presidential candidate survey regarding war-making powers. Among the candidates responding, the group reports: “Senator John Edwards says President Bush long ago exceeded his authority to act in Iraq, inasmuch as the 2002 congressional authorization did not give him ‘the power to use U.S. troops to police a civil war.’ Edwards wants no funding without a firm timeline for withdrawal.

“Rep. Dennis Kucinich believes that Congress’s war power includes more than the power to declare war: that the Constitution’s ‘necessary and proper’ clause empowers Congress to direct a war and ultimately to end it.

“Rep. Ron Paul says the Constitution clearly requires a president to get Congress’s approval before initiating force, even in the event of hostilities — as FDR did after the Pearl Harbor attack. He questions the legality of three U.S. wars and holds that presidential power has vastly expanded, mainly from ‘the refusal of Congress to assert its constitutional authority…'”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

UN’s Iraq Mandate Renewal

RAED JARRAR
Currently in Washington, D.C., Jarrar, who was born and raised in Iraq, is Iraq consultant for the American Friends Service Committee. He will be testifying at a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, titled: “The Extension of the United Nations Mandate for Iraq: Is the Iraqi Parliament Being Ignored?”

Jarrar said today: “The UN mandate for the occupation forces in Iraq is proceeding for another year without any conditions. Many Iraqis had hoped that there would at least be some conditions that will end the presence of foreign troops and military contractors. This continued mandate is based on an unconstitutional request submitted by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the UN without parliamentary approval.”
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JAMES PAUL
Paul is executive director of Global Policy Forum, which monitors the United Nations. He said today: “This week the UN Security Council is expected to pass a resolution giving its approval for another year of occupation. A majority of the Iraqi parliament earlier this year gave a letter to Ashraf Qazi, the top UN official in Iraq, insisting on a timetable for withdrawal of occupation forces and pointing out the unconstitutional nature of al-Maliki’s request. Scandalously, that letter was never delivered to the Security Council. Then, in June, the parliament passed a law saying the mandate cannot be renewed without parliamentary ratification. A report by the UN Secretary General falsely claimed that the law was never passed.

“There’s concern in many delegations at the UN about what is going on, but members of the Security Council are under instructions from their governments to lay low and pass the U.S. resolution. It shows the despotic power of the U.S. government to force everyone to knuckle under, no matter how much the law is violated.”

See the backgrounder: “Should the Security Council Renew the MNF Mandate for 2008?
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

Why are Clinton, Obama and Edwards Backing Nixon’s Health Plan?

DAVID HIMMELSTEIN
STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER
Himmelstein and Woolhandler are professors of medicine at Harvard University and the co-founders of Physicians for a National Health Program. They just had an oped in the New York Times in which they write: “In 1971, President Nixon sought to forestall single-payer national health insurance by proposing an alternative. He wanted to combine a mandate, which would require that employers cover their workers, with a Medicaid-like program for poor families, which all Americans would be able to join by paying sliding-scale premiums based on their income.

“Nixon’s plan, though never passed, refuses to stay dead. Now Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama all propose Nixon-like reforms. Their plans resemble measures that were passed and then failed in several states over the past two decades.”

The piece examines the promises and disappointments of the “mandate model” as versions of it have been instituted in Massachusetts, Oregon, Minnesota, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington State.

The piece concludes: “The ‘mandate model’ for reform rests on impeccable political logic: avoid challenging insurance firms’ stranglehold on health care. But it is economic nonsense. The reliance on private insurers makes universal coverage unaffordable.

“With the exception of Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic presidential hopefuls sidestep an inconvenient truth: only a single-payer system of national health care can save what we estimate is the $350 billion wasted annually on medical bureaucracy and redirect those funds to expanded coverage. Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama tout cost savings through computerization and improved care management, but Congressional Budget Office studies have found no evidence for these claims.

“In 1971, New Brunswick became the last Canadian province to institute that nation’s single-payer plan. Back then, the relative merits of single-payer versus Nixon’s mandate were debatable. Almost four decades later, the debate should be over. How sad that the leading Democrats are still kicking around Nixon’s discredited ideas for health reform.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

The Mitchell Report: Absolving the Owners?

ROBERT LIPSYTE
“Jock Culture” correspondent for Tomdispatch.com, Lipsyte is author of several books on sports; most recently Yellow Flag, a novel about stock car racing. He said today: “By investigating itself, Major League Baseball headed off a larger and tougher investigation that the government would have done — and would have been happy to do to divert attention from itself. Of course, we don’t have hard-hitting in-depth investigations of the U.S. government. Who would do them? God?

“Baseball is being incredibly smart and cynical here. The genie is out of the bottle and players are now on to much more sophisticated drugs that can’t be easily tested like hGh. The danger here is that teenagers — who are particularly vulnerable in their development — will get into steroids. Everyone will likely come down on the players union now, but for better or worse, they’ve just been doing their job — protecting their members — it’s like Teamsters with jockstraps.” Lipsyte wrote the recent piece “We Know What You Did Last Summer: Four Sports Scandals That Saved the Bush Presidency and a Fifth That Should End It Now.”
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DAVE ZIRIN
Sportswriter Zirin’s latest book is Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports. He just wrote the piece “The Mitchell Report: Absolving the Owners,” which states: “Ever had someone spit in your face and tell you it’s raining? That’s how it felt watching former Sen. George Mitchell’s press conference on steroid use in Major League Baseball. The former Senate Majority Leader unleashed his ‘investigative findings’ speaking with the somber, deliberate tones of an exhausted undertaker. Mitchell strained to convey scorn upon both baseball owners and the union for being ‘slow to act.’ Yet beneath the surface, his report is ugly sanctimonious fraud, meant to absolve those at the top and pin blame on a motley crew of retired players, trainers, and clubhouse attendants. This is truly the old saw of the magical fishing net that captures minnows but lets the whales swim free.”

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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

* Algeria Bombing * Gaza * Israel * Russia

JOHN ENTELIS
Co-author of The Algerian Civil War and numerous other books on Algeria and North Africa, Entelis said today: “The bombing today [in Algeria] is in effect a continuation of the coup that took place in 1992 when the military overthrew the Islamic government. The resulting civil war left 200,000 dead. The violence has gone down since, but the current killings flow out of that event.” Entelis is professor of political science and director of the Middle East Studies Program at Fordham University.
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AMJAD SHAWA
Shawa is Palestinian NGO Network coordinator for Gaza. He said today: “The conditions here are getting worse and worse. Eight people have been killed by the Israelis so far today, one journalist was injured. People are dying regularly because they can’t leave Gaza to get medical care since all the crossings are basically closed. A few trucks with food have gotten in. The factories and almost the entire productive sector have ground to a halt. The siege affects every part of life — limited electricity and water; there are no clothes for winter coming in, no paper for schools. People in Gaza are not alive and not dead, just in this huge prison and we don’t know when it will end.”
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ROBERT NAIMAN
Over the weekend Pentagon head Robert Gates, questioned at a conference in Bahrain about Israel’s nuclear weapons capacity, said: “Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbors, it has not shipped weapons to a place like Iraq to kill thousands of civilians, it has not threatened to destroy any of its neighbors, it is not trying to destabilize the government of Lebanon.”

National coordinator and senior policy analyst at Just Foreign Policy, Naiman said today: “As Secretary Gates tells Arab countries Iran, but not Israel, is a threat to its neighbors, Israel re-invades Gaza and continues to expand settlements in the West Bank. Last year the U.S. approved an Israeli invasion of Lebanon that killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians.”
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DAVID KOTZ
Kotz is professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and coauthor of Russia’s Path from Gorbachev to Putin: The Demise of the Soviet System and the New Russia. He said today: “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to name Dmitri A. Medvedev as his successor is not surprising, on two counts. First, despite speculation that Putin would find a ruse to remain as president indefinitely, it was safer to leave office on schedule with the usual promise of immunity from future prosecution than to name himself president-for-life. Second, the choice of Medvedev follows the tradition of picking someone whose past positions include sites of major corruption — Medvedev’s first public position was in the St. Petersburg government office in charge of foreign investments in the city. The last thing Russia’s new elite wants is a corruption-free president.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

Global Warming

WILLIAM BURNS
Senior fellow at the Santa Clara Law School focusing on international environmental law, Burns said today: “The U.S. government is claiming that it is willing to engage in international negotiations to address climate change; however, it continues to resist binding commitments despite the fact that voluntary efforts have proven to be an abject failure over the past few decades. Moreover, while the U.S. is arguing that it can’t make commitments unless major developing nations such as India and China also do so, it is working behind the scenes to persuade these nations to resist binding commitments. It’s an incredibly cynical policy.”

Burns is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy and co-chair of the International Environmental Law Committee of the American Society of International Law.
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AFSAN CHOWDHURY
A journalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Toronto, Canada, Chowdhury is director of the film “Climate Change: Does Anybody Care if Bangladesh Drowns?” Excerpts from his documentary are available online.

He said today: “People are used to thinking of what climate change is doing in the long run. But in a country like Bangladesh and a lot of countries, climate change has already happened, the devastation has already occurred. It’s so very easy to ignore Bangladesh when it drowns, it’s so easy to ignore the poor when they drown. The bad news? This is going to happen more and more. Climate change will make it a regular part of life.” Chowdhury is also director of advocacy and human rights at the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee.

TYSON SLOCUM
Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, Slocum said today: “The coal and oil industries continue to dominate American energy policy at the expense of record energy prices for households, huge profits for fossil-fuel companies and mounting evidence that the world’s nations must work cooperatively to stop climate change.”
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ANNE PETERMANN
ORIN LANGELLE
Co-directors of the Vermont-based Global Justice Ecology Project, Petermann and Langelle are in contact with numerous environmental activists from around the world at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, who they can help arrange interviews with. The group put out a recent news release, which stated: “‘Indigenous peoples are not only marginalized from the discussion, but there is virtually no mention of indigenous peoples in the more than 5 million words of UNFCCC documents,’ argued Alfred Ilenre of the Edo People of Nigeria.

“This is occurring despite the fact that indigenous peoples are suffering the most from climate change and climate change mitigation projects that directly impact their lands.

“Indigenous peoples are here in Bali to denounce the false solutions to climate change proposed by the United Nations such as carbon trading, agrofuels and so-called ‘avoided deforestation’ that devastate their lands and cause human rights violations.

“‘This process has become nothing but developed countries avoiding their responsibilities to cut emissions and pushing the responsibility onto developing countries,’ stated Fiu Mata’ese Elisara-Laula, of the O Le Siosiomaga Society of Samoa. ‘Projects like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing countries) sound very nice but they are trashing our indigenous lands.'”
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TED GLICK
Glick is coordinator of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council, which is conducting a sit-in Tuesday morning, December 11, beginning at 10:00 a.m. inside the office of Senator Mitch McConnell. Glick said: “McConnell is the Senate Minority Leader who orchestrated the Friday morning Republican vote against the House-passed Energy Independence and Security Act. We must demand that the Senate include both the 15 percent by 2020 Renewable Electricity Standard for utility companies and a Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit in the energy bill.

“A recent Zogby poll found that 77 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of independents and 92 percent of Democrats agree that utilities should be required to produce some of their energy from clean sources such as wind and solar.” Glick is on the 98th day of a liquid-only “Climate Emergency Fast.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.