The Libyan Tragedy: History will avenge

by Nilotpal Basu

It was a grotesque spectacle. The picture of a mutilated face – almost flattened like a piece of parchment paper – and that was flashed all over the world – beamed to millions of television viewers and newspaper readers. It was the living proof that the “dictator” was gone. The way the campaign blitzkrieg reached a crescendo, it is quite certain that in millions of homes there would be relief over the ‘elimination’ of the Libyan supremo – Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

But are the facts so simple? Is it a mere case of getting rid of a hated ‘dictator’ and a signal for ‘triumph of democracy’? Is it a part of the same sequence of the Arab people’s uprising for freedom and democracy – the ‘Arab spring’? Even before a week has passed since the death of Gaddafi – questions abound. And they are not being raised merely by his lawyers, friends, relatives, followers. It is being raised by the legally recognised international bodies. The UN human rights body and organisations functioning internationally and reputed enough and not to be ignored are vociferously raising these questions. Was the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime and his eventual elimination really the outcome of the Libyan people’s uprising for ‘democratic freedom’?

The chain of events, are now falling into their place. Unlike the Egyptian or Tunisian or Yemeni popular uprisings – even the most diehard pro-US pro-Nato television channels could not actually televise popular gatherings in the run up to the final end. Neither could they show celebrations by the Libyan people at large over this grotesque outcome. It is clear that the battle for power in Libya continued for almost eight months. If the ‘dictatorial regime’ was so tyrannical and so aggressive in persecuting not just political opponents but the Libyan people at large -why would the regime be so resilient so as to fight not just armed to the teeth opposition forces but also full fledged attacks by the most modern Nato forces including its air-borne firepower?

It is true that Gaddafi was no holy angel. Neither does that description fit Saddam Hussein. They were no Ho Chi Minh – or Salvador Allende. But does that qualify the US and NATO forces to run over Libya or Iraq? In the case of Iraq – it is already established that the excuse which was rigged up by the Bush regime with able accompaniment from Tony Blair’s Britain and others from the ‘coalition of the willing’ – the whole claim about Iraq’s nuclear arsenal was nothing but a damn lie. Nobody has heard a word of regret from Bush and his cohorts. But Saddam Hussein is gone. Over a million people – innocent people – women, children and the infirm in Iraq are also cold and dead. A couple of millions have become refugees. But perhaps the silent victims of that war have been American people themselves. Recently, in a brilliant expose on the financing of the Iraq war – Joseph Stieglitz has shown how the American parliament was duped by the regime to spend many more times than was originally budgeted for the military invasion of Iraq. And Stieglitz went further to show that it is this funding of invasion in Iraq and Afghanistan that has contributed significantly to bring the US economy to the brink; a disaster which happens to disarray 99 per cent of American’s daily life and livelihood.

Libya seems to be headed for a similar future. The international human rights bodies have already questioned the manner of Gaddafi’s death. Initially, the Libyan ‘National Transitional Council’ (NTC) claimed that Gaddafi was killed in a confrontation. But now there is evidence that he was killed after having been captured by the armed opponents. There is further information that Gaddafi’s convoy was hit by NATO airstrikes. No wonder that the NTC initially refused to conduct post mortem of his dead body. In the wake of global public opinion and questioned by human rights bodies – the postmortem was carried out, but there is hardly any credible authority in changed Libya whose claim of authentication will be accepted by anybody anywhere. And of course now more serious charges have surfaced. 53 dead bodies with hands and feet tied have been discovered in a hotel in Sirte – the city which was considered Gaddafi’s stronghold. These have been identified as Gaddafi supporters. That they were killed in captivity is clear from the state in which the bodies have been recovered. Nothing could be more damning in terms of violation of human rights and perpetration of war crimes.

Who said Obama was different? Who said that his ancestors came to the ‘land of liberty’ from Africa? The operation to remove Gaddafi for his alleged ‘dictatorial behaviour’ was the prerogative of the Libyan people and Libyan people alone. But, in the most brazen reenactment of the Bush regime’s infamous precepts of ‘regime change’, the Obama administration did not show any sign of qualms. It was imperialism and its quest for hegemony, writ loud and clear over the entire Libyan episode. One doesn’t know what would those gentlemen in the Swedish Nobel Academy who decided to confer on him the Nobel for peace in the second year of his presidency now have to say?

Actually, the empire is distraught and of course desperate. The four decade long process of globalization and the hegemony of finance and international finance capital have embarked on a policy paradigm which today finds them at war with their own people. With an economy which is at the brink – not just all across the United States but all over in many countries of the developed world – the people are on the streets. They celebrate the arrival of the 99 per cent. Libya was not about the ‘triumph of democracy’ and the dismantling of a ‘dictatorship’ it was about greed of the empire. The current defining feature which characterizes the empire’s every contemporary move marks their zealous enthusiasm for the control of natural resources – particularly energy resources. So, Iraq was all about oil – and so is Libya. Libya has the highest oil deposits in Africa and 9th highest in the whole of the world. The empire thinks that to contain the present financial and economic crisis that sweeps North America and most of Western Europe, physical control over the oil resources of the extended Arab world is absolutely imperative. And additionally, with such pressures on the US dollar this control over crude oil deposits – it could make a hell of a difference in releasing the pressure on the green back.

Therefore, come what may, the military expedition should go on – regardless of the forces they unleash and regardless of its impact on the people in Iraq or in Libya. The NTC in Libya is a conglomeration of disparate forces. Even through the closely filtered information coming out through the western mainstream media – the truth cannot be completely concealed. Among the commanders who ‘enrich’ the galaxy of the ranks of fighters for democracy are people with self-claimed Al Qaeda connections. These were people who were earlier released by the Gaddafi regime to dispel the notion that it was persecuting the opposition. President Obama surely has no qualms. But history will be testimony to the tragedy that Libya will be faced with for times to come. And perhaps, the American people, the western world and all those who cherish the values of a modern human civilization would find that greed for control over resources of an independent country has unleashed forces belonging to medieval ages who are running berserk. Today, that eventuality may suit the immediate interests of the empire. But future will show that it hurts everybody – including well meaning majority of the US citizenry.

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Is time travel possible?

Yes. In fact we all are time travelers traversing through time. As every second, every minute passes by, we are in fact traveling through time. So the key question is, can one travel through time at a different rate than it normally is (say 1 day per day) – that is the context in which we are having this discussion.

So if you were to ask, can one travel through time at a differential speed? Well the answer is half yes. Half yes because, this travel is possible only one-way. One can travel into the future, but can never travel back to the past. Mathematically one can go backwards or forwards in the three spatial dimensions. But time doesn’t share this multi-directional freedom. “In this four-dimensional space-time, you’re only able to move forward in time,” Charles Liu, an astrophysicist with the City University of New York, College of Staten Island and co-author of the book “One Universe: At Home In The Cosmos” observes. So all the movies where the hero goes back in time to save his college sweet-heart is nothing but extended imagination. And at least for now, everything around time travel is imagination. But we have some theories that prove such a travel is possible, one way at least.

Time travel has always fascinated man and it is true that it is possible well within the laws of physics. Isn’t that amazing… I was really very amazed to know that it was indeed possible and the best part was when I really started understanding the concepts. I have summarized here in my own words what I understood about this possibility and if I can understand, I am sure each one of you will.

Before we start there are some things we should know. This will just help you understand the concept better as we move on.
1. Time, like speed and distance is one of the dimensions in physics
2. Light travels the fastest and according to the laws of physics nothing can travel faster than or equal to the speed of light.
3. As speed increases, the speed at which time moves decreases
4. Time, unlike distance, is a relative measure and not absolute
5. Laws of physics permit time travel into the future and not into the past
6. It’s possible to bend time and cut across to great distances

The video below is a nice example of the points above in general and point 3 in particular.

So how do we say that time travel is possible?? Physicists like Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein explain it in simple terms. As you start traveling faster and faster and faster, till about you reach close to the speed of light, time slows and slows and slows down around you. So if for example travel around a black hole (that is without getting sucked into its massive gravitational pull) or travel across space in such great speeds, you will eventually slowing down time. This means, if you travel for 50 earth years in that speed, you would have actually traveled only 25. And that means, if you have started your travel in the year 2000, while you have experienced 25 years and reached 2025, the earth years would have already reached 2050… which technically means you have traveled into the future.

Now why should time slow down as you travel faster? Here is an example: Imagine we build a huge space craft carrying people that could accelerate close to the speed of light. Now as the space craft is moving at a speed close to the speed of light, what happens if a person throws a ball inside the space craft… It tends to reach the speed of light or probably would travel faster than light. But that’s not what is possible as per the laws of physics. So to ensure that the ball thrown inside the fast moving space craft does not reach the speed of light, time automatically slows down around the fast moving space craft. Now even the combined speed of the craft and the speed of the ball thrown inside will not equal to the speed of light.

And you might be wondering why I have not discussed the grandfather paradox here. The grandfather paradox is normally discussed whenever one talks (or writes) about time travel. The reason I have left that out here is purely because my explanation covers only travel into the future and the grandfather paradox comes into play only when you talk about travel into the past. And to my mind, travel back into the past does not sound quite possible with the kind of knowledge and understanding I have on time traveling. But here is an interesting video that claims to have captured a time traveler on tape. This is a scene from a Charlie Chaplin film called The Circus. In the video you will see a person who looks like he is talking on a mobile phone and mobile phones did not exist at the time this film was made.

And this may not be strictly within the context we are discussing here, but I am tempted to talk about Deja vu. Deja vu is a French phrase meaning ‘already seen,’ referring to the distinct, puzzling, and mysterious feeling of having experienced a specific set of circumstances before. A woman might walk into a building, for example, in a foreign country she’d never visited, and sense that the setting is eerily and intimately familiar. Some attribute deja vu to psychic experiences or unbidden glimpses of previous lives. So could this mean that the person has undertaken a travel to the future and he is simply revisiting what he has seen earlier?? I keep wondering…

Is time real? Does it flow in one direction only? Does it have a beginning or an end? What is eternity? None of these questions can be answered to scientists’ satisfaction. Yet the mere asking of these questions stretches our minds, and the continual search for answers provides useful insights along the way.

Posted in Science and technology | 3 Comments

Economic Terrorism

This video precisely talks about how the capitalist super power exploits the entire world for their own selfish benefits. They are the real source of all troubles and the sad this is that they never would want to accept that fact. And in fact, they go ahead finding faults with other countries, deny even some of their basic rights and if anyone stands up against them… boom. They are already in war – in the name of restoring peace in the region. Not one place in this entire has seen peace restored by a foreign power. This is true in Vietnam, Iraq, Somaila, Afganistan… What betterment have these super (capitalist) powers given to the people of these countries? Nobody knows….

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Rewiring the brain

A leading neuroscientist says processing digital information can rewire your circuits. But is it evolution? A new study by UCLA neuroscientist Gary Small says that technology change our brains. And according to Small’s new book, “iBRAIN: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind,” he writes. “As the brain evolves and shifts its focus towards new technological skills, it drifts away from fundamental social skills.” The more time you devote to a specific activity, the stronger the neural pathways responsible for executing that activity become. So it makes sense that people who process a constant stream of digital information would have more neurons dedicated to filtering that information.

To see how the Internet might be rewiring us, Small and colleagues monitored the brains of 24 adults as they performed a simulated Web search, and again as they read a page of text. During the Web search, those who reported using the Internet regularly in their everyday lives showed twice as much signaling in brain regions responsible for decision-making and complex reasoning, compared with those who had limited Internet exposure. The findings, to be published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, suggest that Internet use enhances the brain’s capacity to be stimulated, and that Internet reading activates more brain regions than printed words. The research adds to previous studies that have shown that the tech-savvy among us possess greater working memory (meaning they can store and retrieve more bits of information in the short term), are more adept at perceptual learning (that is, adjusting their perception of the world in response to changing information), and have better motor skills. Small says these differences are likely to be even more profound across generations, because younger people are exposed to more technology from an earlier age than older people. He refers to this as the brain gap. On one side, what he calls digital natives—those who have never known a world without e-mail and text messaging—use their superior cognitive abilities to make snap decisions and juggle multiple sources of sensory input. On the other side, digital immigrants—those who witnessed the advent of modern technology long after their brains had been hardwired—are better at reading facial expressions than they are at navigating cyberspace. “The typical immigrant’s brain was trained in completely different ways of socializing and learning, taking things step-by-step and addressing one task at a time,” he says. “Immigrants learn more methodically and tend to execute tasks more precisely.” But whether natural selection will favor one skill set over the other remains to be seen. For starters, there’s no reason to believe the two behaviors are mutually exclusive.

In fact, a 2005 Kaiser study found that young people who spent the most time engaged with high-technology also spent the most time interacting face-to-face, with friends and family. And as Small himself points out, digital natives and digital immigrants can direct their own neural circuitry—reaping the cognitive benefits of modern technology while preserving traditional social skills—simply by making time for both. In the meantime, modern technology, and the skills it fosters, is evolving even faster than we are. There’s no telling whether future iterations of computer games, online communities and the like will require more or less of the traditional social skills and learning strategies that we’ve spent so many eons cultivating. “Too many people write about this as if kids are in one country and adults are in another,” says James Gee, a linguistics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. What the future brain will look like is still anybody’s guess.

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Ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

The forms taken by lord Vishnu in his ten incarnations bear a strange similarity to Darwin’s theory of evolution.

But before you read any further, I would like to add a word or two about myself. If you think I am writing this to propagate Hinduism, no I am not. In fact, I do not belong or rather do not want myself to be associated to any religion or sect or whatever. And I do not follow any ‘God’ for that matter. I am a proud atheist and what you will be reading now are some interesting observations that I came across. And it has nothing to do with religion. Now. Read further.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

The Theory of Evolution was originally introduced by the early thinkers and it was further emphasized by Darwin when he first produced his book called the “Origin of Species” in 1859. Later on some more people added their theories to the evolution theory of mankind.

General concept of the evolution theory says that about three and a half billion years ago microorganisms like bacteria originated and took the shape of amoeba (microscopic unicellular protozoa), and from that all the plants, trees, worms and animals were evolved. Mammals, birds, fish and reptiles were all evolved from aquatic worms about 600 million years ago.

The theorists use certain terms to express their process of evolution, like: natural selection, adaptation, recombination (of genes), genetic drift and mutation.

According to this theory, from the invertebrates came the fishes. From the fishes the Amphibians and from the Amphibians the Reptiles. The Reptiles in turn gave rise to two separate classes the Aves (or the birds) and the Mammals. And of course in mammals the final step in evolution was Man.

This theory was based on the principle of the survival of the fittest. So by those Amphibians had greater chances of survival than the Fishes, Reptiles had greater chances over the Amphibians and finally Man had the best chances of survival among all the beings.

So what are the similarities that we are talking about?

In the study of the manifestations of Lord Vishnu, better known as the Dasha (means Ten) Avatars, we find that the theory of evolution has been explained in a very subtle manner. They are

1. As we are given to believe, life first started in the great oceans and the first entry was made as The Fish (Macha-avatara).

2. There was then a progression and life that was in the oceans evolved and started moving towards land. This had to happen as the oceans that covered the entire face of earth slowly started to recede. Now came a life sustaining not only in water but also progressed to land to some extent. This is called the Koorma-avatara or a Terrapin (tortoise)

3. This gradual moment towards the land masses had to continue, while at the same time retaining the original support of water. And what we had at this stage was an animal in swamp and slush – a Boar or the Varaha-avatara.

The evolution of man is depicted in discrete steps. The first man was short, and then he evolved into something like the Stone Age man and then reached perfection. As the saying goes, “everything that rises has to fall back to the Earth” and so does Man too.

4. The progression led to a half-human half-animal which is called the Narasimha-avatara. The Narashima avatara, is seen as a half lion half human figure and this just denotes that stage in evolution where man was more ‘animal’. One may note here that there is general acceptance that man evolved from Chimpanzees.

5. Evolution, the path of progress took the half human to full human shape. The next avatar was that of a Dwarf (Vamana).

6. It is natural that Dwarf will progress to a full human… But with a wavering mind, uncontrollable, and acting without reasons – man with more ‘animal’ in him. Some one like a Stone Age man. This avatar was called Parasurama.

7. Slowly the man became perfect. A man who was in full control of his senses, dutiful, responsible, so on. He was Rama.

8. And then the perfect human form evolved with cleverness and ability to think and win. A person of intelligence, wits, taking decisions to suit the situation. He was Krishna. Ready to fight. Ready to mediate, and ready to love and ready to be loved. This avatar is more like the man of today.

9. Tranquility, submission, passion for peace is the next step from achieving everything. He was Buddha.

10. The cycle has to end, so that it can start again. Kalki, they say will come to destroy the world. So that evolution can take place again.

So are these similarities just a coincidence?

Posted in Vedic Philosophy | 7 Comments

What if…

What if we had a different world all together… what if there were no killings… what if there were no robbery… what if there were no cheating other people… what if there were no sexual harassment… what if there were no rapes… what if there were no child abuse… what if there were no criminals… what if there were no crime at all… what if there were no detectives… what if there were no cops… what if there no judges and lawyers… what if there were no courts… what if there were no laws… what if there were no jealousy… what if there were no envy… what if there were no wars… what if there were no Bushes and Ladens… what if there were no bomb blasts… what if there were no nukes… what if there were no ICBMs… what if there were no AK-47s… what if there were no spies… what if there were no treaties… what if there were no military establishments… what if there were no civil wars… what if there were no boundaries between nations… what if there were no messengers to god… what if there were no religion… what if there were no social status… what if there were no banks… what if there were no money… what if there were no hunger… what if there were no food for oil programs… what if there were no Somalias and Ethiopias… what if there were no Kevin Carters… what if there were no capitalists… what if there were no communists… what if there were no terrorists… what if there were no politicians… what if there were no corruption… what if there were no sting operations… what if there were no deficiency syndromes… what if there were no diseases… what if there were no docs… what if there were no orphanages… what if there were no old age homes… and what if all my what ifs ended here…

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What is maya

In Vedic philosophy, maya (Sanskrit: ma: not, ya: this) is the illusion of a limited, purely physical and mental reality in which our everyday consciousness has become entangled, a veiling of the true, unitary Self. One must seek to “pierce the veil” in order to glimpse the transcendent truth. In Hinduism, Maya must be seen through in order to achieve moksha (liberation of the soul from the cycle of death and rebirth). Maya is seen as the phenomenal universe, a lesser reality-lens superimposed on the one Brahman that leads us to think of the phenomenal cosmos as real. Maya is also visualized as part of the Divine Mother (Devi) concept of Hinduism. Maya is a lesser reality that must be overcome so that one is able to realize his or her true Self.

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An Eastphalian Order

Numerous experts have argued that the deepening global financial crisis has significantly damaged U.S. power, influence and credibility in the world and perhaps even signals the end of two centuries of U.S. and European dominance of international affairs.

As many have observed, the global order that is emerging has a distinct Asian tilt because of the rise of China and India as geopolitical forces. The two countries’ growing power may stimulate an “Eastphalian” order that challenges the Western-led approaches that dominated the Age of Imperialism, the Cold War and the post-Cold War period.

The term “Eastphalian” plays off the description of the international system as “Westphalian,” a moniker traced back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 that established the modern state system. Through Western imperialism, populations in the Americas, Africa and Asia were incorporated into the Westphalian system, a brutal process that labeled non-European societies as “uncivilized” as long as they had societies that did not resemble what prevailed in Europe and North America.

The idea of “Eastphalia” communicates that conditions have emerged in which Asian countries have a say in world affairs not dictated by, or subordinated to, Western ideas and interests. Hints of an Asian perspective emerged in the immediate post-Cold War years in the “Asian values” debate. Even though this debate faded, the growth in the power and importance of China, India and Asia as a region draws attention to how Asian countries would use their power to influence global affairs.

The power of India and China in international relations is increasingly palpable, as demonstrated at the World Trade Organization in climate change negotiations, in controversies about humanitarian intervention and in responses to security threats such as North Korea, Pakistan and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Asia’s rise creates worries for some in the West, particularly in the U.S., over intensified competition for power and influence. But Asia’s prominence also creates competition in the world of ideas–the norms and principles that should guide global governance in the 21st century.

Ideas for world politics are something the West had in abundance, as revealed by the post-Cold War, U.S.-led agenda of promoting democracy, protecting civil and political rights, pushing free market economics and expanding the rationales for using military force (e.g., humanitarian intervention, self-defense in response to terrorist attacks and pre-emptive self-defense against WMD threats).

At present, the normative content of an Eastphalian perspective appears underdeveloped. In the post-Cold War period, from Asia has come emphasis on the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention in the domestic affairs of states. These principles oppose broad notions of the right to use force in self-defense, favor pluralism in political and economic regimes and reject the homogenizing zeal of democracy promotion; prioritizing civil and political rights; and advancing the “Washington consensus.”

Stressing sovereignty and non-intervention is, however, largely defensive, reactive and negative in nature, more befitting poor, vulnerable countries emerging from imperialism than rising great powers with global interests and influence. China and India’s support for alternative frameworks during the Cold War, such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the New International Economic Order, provide no basis on which to ground an Eastphalian perspective in the early 21st century.

If Western leadership is declining, more is required of India and China than nationalistic policies to increase material power. What, in addition to this power, will China and India bring to the new global order? How India and China answer this question will determine whether Eastphalia represents warmed-over bits of the Westphalian system, or emerges as a distinct vision that serves the interests and values of people globally.

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Barack Obama – The ”New American” President

Its official. Barack Hussein Obama II is the President-elect of the United States of America. He made history (or has broken it) by becoming the first black to be elected US president, defeating Republican McCain. Obama won at least 338 Electoral College votes, far more than the 270 he needed.

Obama was born (August 4, 1961) at a time when African Americans were still battling segregationist policies in the South and his dramatic rise could help the United States bury its long history of racial tensions. Raucous street celebrations erupted across the country. Barack Obama rode a wave of voter discontent to a historic White House victory on Tuesday, promising change as the first Black US President but constrained by a deep economic crisis and two lingering wars.

Barack Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the first African American to serve as president of the Harvard Law Review. Obama worked as a community organizer and practiced as a civil rights attorney before serving three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.

Following an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he announced his campaign for the U.S. Senate in January 2003. After a primary victory in March 2004, Obama delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004. He was elected to the Senate in November 2004 with 70 percent of the vote. As a member of the Democratic minority in the 109th Congress, he helped create legislation to control conventional weapons and to promote greater public accountability in the use of federal funds.

He also made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. During the 110th Congress, he helped create legislation regarding lobbying and electoral fraud, climate change, nuclear terrorism, and care for returned U.S. military personnel. Obama was an early opponent of the Bush administration”s policies on Iraq. On October 2, 2002, the day President George W. Bush and Congress agreed on the joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War, Obama addressed the first high-profile Chicago anti-Iraq War rally in Federal Plaza, speaking out against the war. On March 16, 2003, the day President Bush issued his 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Obama addressed the largest Chicago anti-Iraq War rally to date in Daley Plaza and told the crowd that “it’s not too late” to stop the war.

Obama stated that if elected he would enact budget cuts in the range of tens of billions of dollars, stop investing in “unproven” missile defense systems, not “weaponize” space, “slow development of Future Combat Systems,” and work towards eliminating all nuclear weapons. Obama favors ending development of new nuclear weapons, reducing the current U.S. nuclear stockpile, enacting a global ban on production of fissile material, and seeking negotiations with Russia in order to take ICBMs off high alert status.

In November 2006, Obama called for a “phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq” and an opening of diplomatic dialogue with Syria and Iran. In a March 2007 speech to AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby, he said that the primary way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is through talks and diplomacy, although he did not rule out military action. Obama has indicated that he would engage in “direct presidential diplomacy” with Iran without preconditions.

Detailing his strategy for fighting global terrorism in August 2007, Obama said “it was a terrible mistake to fail to act” against a 2005 meeting of al-Qaeda leaders that U.S. intelligence had confirmed to be taking place in Pakistan”s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He said that as president he would not miss a similar opportunity, even without the support of the Pakistani government.

In a December 2005, Washington Post opinion column, and at the Save Darfur rally in April 2006, Obama called for more assertive action to oppose genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. He has divested $180,000 in personal holdings of Sudan-related stock, and has urged divestment from companies doing business in Iran. In the July–August 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, Obama called for an outward looking post-Iraq War foreign policy and the renewal of American military, diplomatic, and moral leadership in the world. Saying “we can neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission,” he called on Americans to “lead the world, by deed and by example.”

In economic affairs, in April 2005, he defended the New Deal social welfare policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and opposed Republican proposals to establish private accounts for Social Security. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Obama spoke out against government indifference to growing economic class divisions, calling on both political parties to take action to restore the social safety net for the poor.

Shortly before announcing his presidential campaign, Obama said he supports universal healthcare in the United States. Obama proposes to reward teachers for performance from traditional merit pay systems, assuring unions that changes would be pursued through the collective bargaining process. In September 2007, he blamed special interests for distorting the U.S. tax code. His plan would eliminate taxes for senior citizens with incomes of less than $50,000 a year, repeal income tax cuts for those making over $250,000 as well as the capital gains and dividends tax cut, close corporate tax loopholes, lift the income cap on Social Security taxes, restrict offshore tax havens, and simplify filing of income tax returns by pre-filling wage and bank information already collected by the IRS.

Announcing his presidential campaign”s energy plan in October 2007, Obama proposed a cap and trade auction system to restrict carbon emissions and a ten year program of investments in new energy sources to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil. Obama proposed that all pollution credits must be auctioned, with no grandfathering of credits for oil and gas companies, and the spending of the revenue obtained on energy development and economic transition costs.

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