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Exclusive: Richard Goldstone Responds to General Assembly Vote on His Gaza Report

During the question and answer session at an excellent conference underway Georgetown University Law Center, I asked Judge Richard Goldstone his reaction to the General Assembly vote on his Gaza Report that took place on Friday.  The resolution — which passed 98  to 8 with 33 abstentions — gave both sides to the conflict five months to implement credible accountability mechanisms for alleged war crimes.  A similar vote occurred at the General Assembly in November, which also passed, though with a greater number of “no” votes and abstentions. 

Goldstone cited the difference in the vote count, noting that none of the 27 members of the European Union voted “no” this time around.  The only “no” votes were from Canada, Israel, Micronesia, Nauru, Panama, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the United States.  This, he said, shows a much stronger push for Israel and Hamas to hold independent investigations into alleged war crimes (which the report recommends).  The vote count, he said, indicated “a definite shift toward accountability.” Still, he remains pessimistic as to whether there is going to be any satisfactory justice mechanism particularly as the United States’ is protecting Israel from any referral to the International Criminal Court.  He wouldn’t comment much further than that (which is understandable–there was a long line of questioners and my question was slightly off-topic.)

The event was part of the Samuel Dash Conference on Human Rights, sponsored by the Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute and Human Rights Watch. The panel on which Goldstone spoke was billed as a discussion on “reconciling peace and justice in the heat of peace talks.” Other panelists included David Krane, former prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone; former U.S. special Envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson; former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker; and Sara Darehshori of Human Rights Watch.  A power-packed panel to say the least.  (In particular, folks interested in Darfur really ought to check out Williamson’s remarks for reasons that will be apparent when you watch*.) You can catch a webcast of the conference here.

*Sorry to leave people hanging.  Basically, Williamson tells some very interesting anecdotes from his government service.  I couldn’t do justice to his stories by summarizing. You got to watch it for yourself.

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Gore Takes on “ClimateGate”

In the Saturday edition of the NY Times, Al Gore took on climate skeptics and surveyed the land for pending cap-and-trade legislation. Of course, it’s no surprise that Gore has the ammunition to take down the Johnny-come-latelies.

It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it….[W]hat a burden would be lifted! We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands. We could instead celebrate the naysayers who had doggedly persisted in proving that every major National Academy of Sciences report on climate change had simply made a huge mistake.

That’s right. Gore stacks up the National Academy of Sciences, in addition to the IPCC, against Inhofe’s list. And, then he corrects critics by pointing out that NASA “confirmed last month that the last 10 years were the hottest decade since modern records have been kept.” 

All of this is fun, but probably futile.  Serious people already understand that climate change is real.  The rest are unlikely to listen to Gore. His Op-Ed’s real value-add could be showing the way forward.  He does begin to defend cap-and-trade.

Some analysts attribute the failure to an inherent flaw in the design of the chosen solution — arguing that a cap-and-trade approach is too unwieldy and difficult to put in place. Moreover, these critics add, the financial crisis that began in 2008 shook the world’s confidence in the use of any market-based solution.

But…there is no readily apparent alternative that would be any easier politically. It is difficult to imagine a globally harmonized carbon tax or a coordinated multilateral regulatory effort. The flexibility of a global market-based policy — supplemented by regulation and revenue-neutral tax policies — is the option that has by far the best chance of success.

He ends by calling on Sens. Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman to include a strong cap on carbon emissions in legislation they will unveil this week, but not before describing in detail the social and systemic barriers to forward progress. These include:

  • “[t]he globalization of the economy,” which “has simultaneously heightened fears of further job losses in the industrial world and encouraged rising expectations in emerging economies,” resulting in “[h]eightened opposition, in both the industrial and developing worlds, to any constraints on the use of carbon-based fuels.”
  • the rise of “market fundamentalism that encouraged opponents of regulatory constraints to mount an aggressive effort to shift the internal boundary between the democracy sphere and the market sphere”
  • “the replacement of newspapers and magazines by television as the dominant medium of communication,” conferring “powerful advantages on wealthy advocates of unrestrained markets and weakened advocates of legal and regulatory reforms”

Of course, he’s brilliant, but, in the end, what’s the point?  Yes, climate change is real, and, yes, he’s done well illuminating the barriers, but it’s clear that the process is badly stuck. The old strategies aren’t working. That includes “hoping” that new climate legislation won’t drop cap-and-trade, as it is expected to.   With all the respect in the world, what we don’t need right now are lengthy essays showing the lay of the land.

What’s needed is a game-changing political strategy or a brawler willing to play hard.  I think Gore probably has both within him.  And he’s obviously well-positioned to lead. He’s the clear standard-bearer on this issue. I hope this is just the opening salvo in his new push that will include more frequent, harder-hitting, and shorter jabs against those standing in his way.

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Chile Earthquake and Tsunami: Facts, Figures, and Maps from UN Agencies

The Pan American Health Organization released a new assessment of the Chile earthquake this morning that contains some facts and figures about the destruction wrought by the 8.8 magnitude quake and its several aftershocks.  At least 700 people are confirmed killed, though that number is likely to rise.  The report also notes ominously that there are “silent areas” in which, so far there has been no news. 

- The quake’s major impact was on infrastructure. An estimated 500,000 homes have been seriously damaged. It is believed that adobe structures will be most affected and indigenous populations most at risk. Access to health services will be a major challenge.

- A significant number of ‘silent areas‘ (no information on status) exist. Over the next 24-48 hours more accurate information on the extent of damage in rural, isolated areas should be available.

- The earthquake generated some tsunami activity. State television quoted emergency officials as saying that 350 people were killed in the coastal town of Constitución, Chile, which was hit by the tsunami. In addition, in the coastal city of Concepción (hard hit by the earthquake itself), several hundred people may have been washed away by the tsunami. The threat appears to have passed and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center called off the warning on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross has launched and appeal and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is on stand-by mode, ready to help should the government of Chile request assistance.

Via Russia Today, some CCTV video of the earthquake as it hit. And from the World Food Program, a map of the earthquake, aftershocks and resulting Tsunamis in the pacific region–from New Zealand to Japan.

Chile Quake Map

Finally, this image set of the earthquake’s aftermath from Flickr user Rodrigo Linfati is incredibly compelling. I strongly urge folks to scroll through his photos. Images like these help give some perpsective to a disaster of this scale.  (The image used for the this post comes from that set)

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Massive Earthquake Hits Chile, Tsunami Warnings Issued for Pacific, Hawaii

An 8.8 magnitude Earthquake struck Chile this morning.  The New York Times reports that at least 83 people are dead. That toll is likely to rise.   Some shocking video of destruction in Santiago via YouTube.The worst may yet to come.  Tsunami warnings are being issued for the entire Pacific region–from Hawaii to Japan.  Hawaii is particularly vulnerable and residents in costal areas are being evacuated.  From Reuters:

The center estimated the first tsunami, which is a series of several waves in succession, would hit Hawaii at 11:19 a.m. Hawaii time (2119 GMT) in the town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, with waves in Honolulu at 11:52 a.m…the Hawaiian islands could expect waves of six feet (two meters) in some places. Other estimates have been higher but he could not confirm those were likely.

Chile and Hawaii are both trending topics of Twitter right now.  HawaiiRedCross is also posting frequent Tweets.  Also, check out ustream for live video updates from Chile and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Bouy Data Center, to track the progress of the Tsunami. 




Goldstone Report Resolution Passes General Assembly

This was to be expected.   The resolution (below) gives both Israel and the Palestinian side five months to conduct investigations that are “independent, credible and in conformity with international standards into the serious violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law,” that were alleged in the Goldstone Report.  A similar resolution passed in November by a vote of 114 Yes votes, 18 No votes, and 44 abstentions (mostly from Europe).

This time around, 98 countries voted for the resolution, only 8 against (including the United States, Canada, Netherlands, Israel, and Panama) and 33 abstained. A number of European countries that abstained in November voted “yes” today because a reference to a previous vote in the Human Rights Council was dropped.   The vote may have been even more lopsided if not for the fact that a snowstorm prevented over 50 delegations from making it to the General Assembly on time. 

In a statement, the United States continued to maintain that the report was “deeply flawed.”

Statement by Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff, U.S. Deputy Permanent
Representative to the United Nations, on a UN General Assembly
Resolution on the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, in a
Special Session of the General Assembly, February 26, 2010

Thank you Mr. President. The United States remains deeply concerned
about the pain and suffering endured by both Palestinians and Israelis.
We continue to believe that the best solution is to achieve a
comprehensive peace in the region, including two states, Israel and
Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. There is no
substitute for direct negotiations between the parties leading to the
creation of a Palestinian state, and we should all be working to advance
the cause of peace-not to hinder it. To this end, we must safeguard the
ongoing efforts to restart Permanent Status negotiations between Israel
and the Palestinians.

Mr. President, the United States strongly supports accountability for
any human rights and humanitarian law violations in relation to the Gaza
conflict. Our goal in this regard remains to have domestic authorities
carry out thorough, independent, and credible investigations of
allegations of such violations.    In that regard, we note Israel’s
submission of a detailed 46-page report to the Secretary-General
providing information on its domestic investigations, and we note that
the Palestinian Authority has recently established an Independent
Investigative Commission.  The issues raised by this resolution that are
related to last year’s conflict in Gaza should be resolved by credible
domestic investigations and their follow-up.


We continue to believe that the Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on
the Gaza Conflict, widely known as the Goldstone Report, is deeply
flawed.  We have previously noted shortcomings that include its
unbalanced focus on Israel, the negative inferences it draws about
Israel’s intentions and actions, its failure to deal adequately with the
asymmetrical nature of the Gaza conflict, and its failure to assign
appropriate responsibility to Hamas for deliberately targeting civilians
and basing itself and its operations in heavily civilian-populated urban
areas.  The Goldstone Report is also problematic in its many
overreaching recommendations and its sweeping legal and political
conclusions. The Report contains, as does the resolution just voted, a
counterproductive recommendation to convene the High Contracting Parties
to the Fourth Geneva Convention and an inappropriate attempt to press
action on the Security Council.

The resolution we have just voted reflects several of the same problems
as the predecessor it recalls.  For these reasons, we voted against the


 A close observer of the preceedings notes, “Some worry that suspending any action on the report for another five months may effectively kill it.”   Here’s the resolution:

Follow-Up to Goldstone


Inhofe Explains Climate “Hoax”

Grist’s Amanda Little talked to Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla) after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Feb. 23 hearing about his views on climate change, which he believes to be a hoax perpetrated by the UN and the IPCC. The interview is an amazing insight into how his mind works.

In a nut shell, Inhofe believes that the UN and IPCC are perpetuating a hoax on the world and that climate change doesn’t exist.  Who else is in on it? As Little wisely points out, energy companies, “top executives in all industries,” the Pentagon, evangelical leaders, NASA, NOAA, and governments around the world, who are, according to Inhofe, “tied to the IPCC.”

Why would they possibly do that? Grant money.  A grand global hoax perpetrated by thousands of scientists (and supported by countless others) because they want to tap into some elusive hoard of grant money sitting somewhere. By forming a consensus, aren’t they all competing for the same grant money now? Those who perpetuate this argument should be prepared to look in the mirror. Isn’t the best way to make a name for yourself these days (as a scientist or a senator) to be a dissenter? 

Inhofe has become a self-proclaimed champion of “dissenting” scientists, whose views he published in an EPW “minority report.” The Center for Inquiry did a pretty thorough take down of Inhofe’s report, which included findings that over 80 percent of these “scientists” (almost 10 percent weren’t) had “no peer-reviewed publication record related to climate science.”  In other words, almost all of Inhofe’s crew aren’t climate scientists.  

I wish I could just copy and paste the entire interview, but I can’t. You should read it.




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