Thursday, September 07, 2006
Well my friends, here is the deal. I've once again decided to suspend operation of the Oread Daily. The reason this time being that a number of years back I wrote this absolutely, incredibly good "novel" of the 60s and 70s based somewhat loosely on my activities. Seriously, I did think it to be the most honest accounts of the times I've read anyway. The biggest problem according to numerous agents (and myself) with it was that it was like 1100 pages long. Would you read an 1100 page book written by an unknown author? I think not. So I put it on the shelf mostly because I was tired of dealing with it (and also because I didn't think the writing itself was all that hot - although it did get better the more I wrote). Well, several people who have read all or part of the manuscript have convinced me that it would be worthwhile to edit it down and do revisions etc. So now, I guess, I'll give it a try and see what happens. Should anything ever come of all this, I absolutely expect each and every one of you to buy a minimum of ten copies for yourself and others. I mean how can a political and historical novel which includes sex, drugs, rock and roll, violence, conspiracy, adventure, political debate, and laughs to boot not be a really good read?
Thanks for reading the Oread Daily these many years...and if it ever returns, you'll be the first to know.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The racism against the entire Roma community is extreme and relentless. Greece is no exception.
The Greek government illegally evicts Roma communities with alarming regularity and covers its actions by calling them "cleaning operations" . This allows them to act without adherence to the law. They are just "cleaning up" During these operations, they bulldoze houses without giving adequate time for the occupants to remove their processions, often burying the debris under the ground or burning it. What little the people had in the first place is destroyed.
The fact that housing rights of the Roma in Greece continue to be systematically violated despite rulings by these prestigious human rights monitoring bodies raises serious doubts about Greece's compliance with its international and regional human rights obligations.
The following are from the website of the Dzeno Association.
Municipality of Patras completes evictions of Roma as no one tried to avert them 6. 9. 2006
Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) denounces the completion of the eviction of some 70 families from the Makrigianni and Riganokampos districts of Patras. It started in late July and was completed in late August 2006. Less than a dozen sheds remain and it is expected to be demolished soon. The eviction occurred despite previous court decisions upholding Roma’s right to alternative adequate housing and a pending decision in a new judicial procedure of eviction engaged by the municipality in early August 2006. As the court decisions were not favorable to the eviction, the municipal authorities of the “Cultural Capital of Europe for 2006” [sic] opted for summary demolition of the sheds. The events are reflected in the question to the Committee of Ministers tabled by Boris Cilevics (Latvia) on 1 September 2006 at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; in the two statements by Greek Gypsy Union President Yannis Halilopoulos; and in yesterday’s Viewpoint of the Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg. These texts follow. Greece prides itself for being the “cradle of democracy.” Today it is more appropriate to be known as “the graveyard of minority and Roma rights.”
GHM would like to underline that on 8 and 10 August, it had sent confidential letters to the top competent government official, Minister of Interior Professor Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and to the leader of the official opposition socialist party PASOK, George Papandreou, urging them to take prompt action to stop the imminent eviction by the PASOK-affiliated Patras municipal authorities. Letters were also sent to the leaders of the other two opposition parties, Ms. Aleka Papariga of the communist KKE and Mr. Alekos Alavanos of the leftist “Synaspismos,” asking them to take a public stance against the evictions since their Patras local parties seemed to go along with the anti-gypsy attitude of the municipality (as did the pro-government conservative opposition in the municipality). These letters (in Greek) have now been posted to our website at the following respective addresses:
Moreover, on behalf of the two communities of Patras Roma, and with the appropriate formal authorization of the majority of their members, GHM filed a complaint on 31 July and an update on 8 August with the Greek Ombudsman who is the competent Equal Treatment Authority according to the law implementing the EU’s Race Directive. These complaints (in Greek) have now been posted to our website at the following addresses:
To date, GHM has received no answer from any of the above, nor is it aware of any action they may have taken. GHM assumes that no one did anything even discretely as, undeterred, the Patras municipal authorities started on 24 August demolishing the remaining Romani sheds in both communities. According to Roma leader Yannis Halilopoulos (see statement below), who was present on 25 August and videotaped the evictions, some of the Roma who were present were offered meager financial incentives to move out. Others who were absent lost part or the whole of their personal belongings. Police gave full support to these illegal evictions that state agencies described once more as “cleaning operations.” By now, less than a dozen sheds in both communities are still standing and they will be demolished soon. Needless to say, no Romani family was offered adequate alternative housing with security of tenure.
It is noteworthy that the municipal authorities threatened Mr. Halilopoulos on 25 August with arrest for “he was filming a worksite.” Later on, on 31 August they publicly slandered him claiming that he comes to Patras in a car without license plates. While, on 3 September, when George Papandreou spoke at a public rally in Patras (celebrating in the Papandreou family birthplace PASOK’s foundation on 3 September 1974) he was invited by a PASOK middle-level cadre to hear a promised reference to Roma rights, which was never made (see his reaction below). This harassment follows similar harassment and the launching of a criminal investigation of GHM and its advocates since early July 2006 by the Patras Chief Appeals Prosecutor Anastasios Kanellopoulos and other first instance prosecutors. GHM has been officially informed by Hellenic Police that it was First Instance Prosecutor Apostolos Tzamalis who was present on 27 July in Makrigianni and had ordered the municipality to proceed with the initial eviction of the Roma on that day and the police to protect the municipal crew! With the Prosecutor’s office ordering illegal evictions, it was impossible for the Roma to seek any legal remedy from 24 August on, when the final Roma cleansing started.
For ten years, GHM has been telling Greece’s Roma that they cannot be evicted without being served some eviction paper that could be challenged in court and that there existed a state obligation to provide them with alternative adequate housing with security of tenure. GHM will no longer be able to repeat that after the Patras eviction. GHM has to amend it, arguing henceforth that all that exists in theory, but should a Greek authority opt to evict them without previously doing all the above, there will be no one to deter it. The Patras example also confirmed that every political party in Greece, especially on the eve of local elections (scheduled for October 2006), in effect and regardless of their “politically correct” rhetoric, would support illegal evictions while neither the Ombudsman nor EU’s anti-discrimination legislation would be of any effective help. In fact, the inter-governmental organizations cannot do anything either to prevent an eviction. At best NGOs can record it, denounce it and -if anyone provides resources to the Roma and their advocates- help seek redress including compensation several years later through the ECtHR.
Parliamentary Assembly Assemblée parlamentaire
1 September 2006
Implementation of the European Social Charter by Greece: Forced evictions of Roma
Written question No 502 to the Committee of Ministers
presented by Mr Cilevičs
One year ago, replying to my questions, the Committee of Ministers reassured the Assembly that Greek authorities were working on finding a permanent solution to the housing problems of the Roma in Patras. They also stated that the information on how Greece complied with its obligations under Article 16 of the European Social Charter was to be evaluated by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR). The Assembly was informed that, on the basis of the result of that evaluation, the Committee of Ministers was to decide on the follow-up.
However, in July 2006 the ECSR concluded that the situation in Greece has not been brought into conformity with Article 16 as there is still a shortage of adequate housing for Roma, who still do not have sufficient legal protection. Citing the Commissioner for Human Rights March 2006 follow up report on Greece, as well as Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and Amnesty International reports, the ECSR mentioned that Roma continue to be evicted from settlements without being offered alternative housing.
Recently, GHM information provided to competent UN and Council of Europe agencies and international NGOs indicates that relocation plans for Patras Roma failed because of strong local community reactions. Instead, between 27 July and 25 August 2006, the Municipality of Patras demolished the homes of Roma families in the Makrigianni district who were absent for seasonal work, served the remaining families with notices of emergency police measures of eviction, and without waiting for their confirmation by a prosecutor proceeded to forced evictions. Furthermore, in June 2006, all Roma families of the Riganokampos district were referred to a criminal trial for illegal squatting on state land, while in August 2006 they were told to leave. All that despite the protocols of eviction for both Roma communities had been overturned as abusive in October 2005 by magistrates. In June 2006, the Chief Appeals Prosecutor of Patras announced an obviously intimidating criminal investigation of the magistrates who issued these rulings and of GHM who offered legal support to the Roma. GHM also provided information on several evictions elsewhere in Greece and quoted official Hellenic Police statistics indicating that its officers were involved in 60 eviction procedures in 2005 and in another 121 in 2004.
To ask the Committee of Ministers,
What urgent action does the Committee of Ministers intend to take on Greece’s continuing non-compliance with Article 16, the widespread evictions which violate fundamental human rights and the mounting antigypsyism accompanying these evictions?
What mechanisms of effective supervision of the implementation by states of Social Charter rulings does the Committee of Ministers intend to introduce?
CILEVIČS, Boriss, Latvia, Socialist Group
STATEMENT BY YANNIS CHALILOPOULOS
“GREEK GYPSY UNION” PRESIDENT
25 August 2006
“Patras, Europe’s Cultural Capital for 2006, ‘dressed up’ to welcome PASOK’s [GHM note: Panhellenic Socialist Movement - the major opposition party in Greece] Chairman on 3 September. On August 24 and 25, crews of the PASOK-affiliated Municipality of Patras demolished the sheds of Gypsies in the Makrigianni district. As I was told today by Gypsies in Patras, some of the Gypsies who had household items in their sheds were offered a monetary incentive in order to move out, while others were vaguely and orally promised that the municipality would undertake to pay their rents for two or three months, when they manage to find a house to rent. Until then they will remain homeless, as will those who were away from Patras on seasonal employment when the demolitions took place. The municipality also requested from the Gypsies in the Riganokampos district to find houses for rent and promised likewise that they would provide them with rent subsidies for two or three months. This constitutes the biggest eviction of Gypsies in Greece during the last years, as well as the most blatantly illegal, since the municipality did not respect even judicial decisions that have been issued or are pending. But then again, who said that there is justice for Gypsies in Greece?”
STATEMENT BY YANNIS CHALILOPOULOS
“GREEK GYPSY UNION” PRESIDENT
ON GEORGE PAPANDREOU’s SPEECH IN PATRAS
“THERE’S NO PLACE FOR GYPSIES IN PAPANDREOU’S GREECE”
4 September 2006
Yesterday evening, a PASOK [the major opposition political party in Greece] official from the Central Office in Athens informed me that PASOK President George Papandreou would make a reference to the Gypsies in his speech yesterday night in Patras. Optimistically, we traveled to Patras to listen to the speech. Much to our anger, we found out that we had been deceived, since whichever reference had been prepared was not included in the final text. George Papandreou noted:
“A just society is a society that safeguards dignity. Dignity for the pensioner. Dignity for the persons with disabilities. Dignity for the mother. Dignity for the patient. Dignity for the immigrant. Dignity for the unemployed. Dignity for the drug addict. Dignity for every citizen. A society that leaves no citizen in the margins. A society where we create a social capital, the intangible capital of social solidarity. A society where the citizen does not feel isolated, marginalized. A society where he does not feel impotent, is not afraid, does not face the heavy and faceless bureaucracy.”
Apparently George Papandreou is not interested in the dignity of the most marginalized social group in Greece, the Gypsies. Consequently, for PASOK, Gypsies should continue to live in the margins. To experience isolation, impotence, fear. To experience the faceless, oppressive and racist bureaucracy mainly of the local authorities. To be subjected to illegal evictions, such as the ongoing one in Patras, carried out by PASOK’s cherished officials in Patras. Yesterday PASOK’s president effectively endorsed and adopted the ‘cleaning operations’ against the Gypsies of Patras, as well as the slanderous attacks by the PASOK deputy mayors against me and against the few others who stand up for Roma rights.
George Papandreou also said:
“A just society is a society where human rights are non-negotiable. A multicultural society with no phobic syndromes towards foreigners.”
PASOK however does negotiate in general and in Patras specifically the human rights of Gypsies, in order to secure the votes of the “balame” (gadje), thereby sustaining a society with a phobic syndrome against the Gypsies.
“Forced eviction of Roma families must stop”
[04/09/06 12:00] Concerned over several forced evictions of Roma in Europe during the summer, the Commissioner for Human Rights stresses the need to respect the housing rights of Roma in effective consultation with the Roma themselves.
“Forced eviction of Roma families must stop”
[04/09/06] In recent months a number of Roma families in several European countries have been evicted by force from their homes. In most cases the decisions were taken by local authorities. The tenants were not given adequate notice or offered a real alternative. It is clear that several of these evictions violated European and international human rights standards.
Several serious cases have been reported to me. In the Dorozhny village in Kaliningrad more than 200 Roma were evicted in late May – early June and had their houses bulldozed to ruins. This followed speedy court procedures which were criticised by reliable non-governmental organizations for being unfair to the Roma.
In the village of Elbasan in Albania a similar action was taken in July against 109 Roma residents. It is reported that they were not allowed to remove their personal belongings before the destruction of their homes and that many of them now are homeless. In Patras, Greece, 13 homes of Makrigianni Roma who were away for seasonal work elsewhere were demolished in late July.
I have also received information about evictions or planned such actions in other parts of the Russian federation and in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. In several cases the destruction of homes and property has been accompanied by violence and racist language.
These reports, many of them confirmed by the European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest, raise several concerns. One is that there appears to be an alarming element of racism or anti-ziganism behind these actions and the way they are enforced.
Another is, of course, the dramatic consequences for the families themselves, including their children. Without a real home they also face difficulties in enjoying other rights, such as the right to education and health. A pattern of social segregation is perpetuated.
An argument put forward for the evictions in several cases has been the need to construct new, more modern buildings in the same area. However, Roma families are seldom offered accommodation in such new houses. Indeed, they are still disproportionately represented among the homeless and those living in sub-standard housing. Roma ghettos and shanty towns can still be found on our continent today.
My predecessor as Commissioner for Human Rights reported several times that poor housing conditions is a major cause of Roma exclusion in Europe. He did not accept, rightly so, the old “argument” that Roma people are nomads and therefore do not want or need proper housing.
Decisions that some people have to move because of new city plans are of course sometimes justified. However, the manner in which such initiatives are prepared and implemented should be in accordance with agreed human rights norms and procedural safeguards.
The consequence of these norms is that forced evictions only can be carried out in exceptional cases and in a reasonable manner. Everyone concerned must be able to access courts to review the legality of planned evictions before they are carried out – this requires the existence of both legal remedies and legal aid possibilities. Alternatives to evictions should be sought in genuine consultation with the people affected, while compensation and adequate resettlement have to be offered when forced evictions take place.
These norms also apply to local authorities. That abusive decisions sometimes are taken on local level does not absolve the central government from responsibility under its international obligations. The state should exercise oversight and, if necessary, regulate local action.
The monitoring mechanisms of the European Social Charter have already found several countries at fault of their treaty obligations regarding the housing rights of Roma. Furthermore, the European Court of Human Rights has judged that poor housing conditions can, in certain cases, amount to breaches of the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment under the European Convention. The UN Committee against Torture has taken a similar position.
National, regional and local authorities have to take action now. In a recommendation dating from 2005, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has given clear guidance to all member states on improving the housing conditions of Roma. Instead of evicting Roma families their right to adequate housing should be respected. One precondition is an effective consultation with the Roma themselves.
Europe has a shameful history of discrimination and severe repression of the Roma. There are still widespread prejudices against them in country after country on our continent. This makes it particularly important that governments are alert to the risk of unfair and degrading treatment of Roma – also by local authorities.
This Viewpoint can be re-published in newspapers or on the internet without our prior consent, provided that the text is not modified and the original source is indicated in the following way: "First published by the Council of Europe, at www.commissioner.coe.int"
Dženo focuses on the emancipation process of Romany in Central and Eastern Europe. The association aims to support and develop traditional Romany values and characteristics, which include open-mindedness, independence, sense of honor and righteousness, respect for elders, loving care for children and solidarity among Romany regardless of their social status. All of Dženo’s activities are aimed at supporting and promoting this basic goal.
The following is taken from Media Transparency and is by my old pal Billy Berkowitz.
Coral Ridge Ministries new "documentary" featuring Ann Coulter attributes Hitler to Charles Darwin
ADL calls it "an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust"
The buzz before and after the broadcast of "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" -- on Christian cable networks and about 200 television stations around the country -- centered just as much on the film's assertion that Adolph Hitler grounded his genocidal actions on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, as it did on whether a prestigious scientist was duped into participating in the documentary, the ventures of D. James Kennedy, the powerful pastor of the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM) which produced the film. Also in the spotlight is the growing split in the Jewish community over relations with conservative Christian evangelicals.
The documentary aired August 26-27 during Coral Ridge Ministries' "Coral Ridge Hour," accompanied by a book titled "Evolution's Fatal Fruit: How Darwin's Tree of Life Brought Death to Millions." The film "connects the dots between Charles Darwin and Adolph Hitler," a pre-broadcast CRM statement claimed. The statement boasted that "the program features 14 scholars, scientists and authors who outline the grim consequences of Darwin's theory of evolution and show how his theory fueled Hitler's ovens."
In a statement, Kennedy said: "To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler. Hitler tried to speed up evolution, to help it along, and millions suffered and died in unspeakable ways because of it."
CRM spokesman John Aman contended that "Darwinism is a philosophy, it's a worldview, and one of the key things in it is that evolution advances by death, so death is a good thing. Hitler thought he was doing civilization a favor by eliminating lives that were not worth living. We of course think that is an egregious moral tragedy and a consequence of the worldview that was initiated by Darwin and popularized by his followers."
Hosted by Kennedy, "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" (website) features Ann Coulter, author of "Godless"; Richard Weikart, author of "From Darwin to Hitler"; Lee Strobel, author of "The Case for a Creator"; Jonathan Wells, author of "Icons of Evolution"; Phillip Johnson, author of "Darwin on Trial"; Michael Behe, author of "Darwin's Black Box"; and Ian Taylor, author of "In the Minds of Men."
According to the CRM website, the accompanying book was written by Tom DeRosa, Executive Director of the Creation Studies Institute -- "Reaching the World with the Truths of creation" (website) -- (an outreach of Coral Ridge Ministries), and it "explains how Hitler tried to use genocide to speed up evolution and reveals how the American eugenics movement is likewise indebted to Darwin."
CRM sandbags scientist
One scientist, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute for the NIH, was "absolutely appalled" at how his comments were used in the film. "I had no knowledge that Coral Ridge Ministries was planning a TV special on Darwin and Hitler, and I find the thesis of Dr. Kennedy's program utterly misguided and inflammatory," Collins told the Anti-Defamation League.
"I would not have agreed to participate if I had understood that the program would promote the concept of a direct connection between Darwin's theory of evolution and the evils of the Holocaust and the massacre at Columbine High School.
"My own views on evolution and faith are...strongly discordant with the perspective put forward by the producers of this documentary."
A CRM statement disputed Collins' version of events: "A producer told Dr. Collins in person before the interview began that he was being interviewed for a program that would address the adverse social consequences of Darwin, the August 24 statement read. "In addition, he was asked specifically, during the interview, about the Darwin-Hitler connection and responded on tape that he did not agree with that view. Dr. Collins also signed a Talent Release, which gives Coral Ridge Ministries the right to use his interview ‘without limitation in all perpetuity.'"
In an article in the Baptist Press dated the August 24, Jerry Newcombe, a co-producer of the program, said that CRM "interviewed a number of scientists for the science section [of the program]." He pointed out that "We didn't interview Dr. Collins ... about Hitler. In hindsight, we would not have put Dr. Collins in the program. But he understood it was Coral Ridge Ministries. He understood we were doing a special about Darwinism.... We're sorry we had this misunderstanding and we wish him well."
According to the Washington Post, CRM agreed to pull the Collins segment from "any future airings of the documentary and would stop using his name to promote it."
"We consider him a fellow Christian and have reached a friendly understanding with him about this matter," Kennedy's organization said.
A few days before the film aired, Abraham H. Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), issued a statement calling the film "an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust. Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Trivializing the Holocaust comes from either ignorance at best or, at worst, a mendacious attempt to score political points in the culture war on the backs of six million Jewish victims and others who died at the hands of the Nazis.
"It must be remembered that D. James Kennedy is a leader among the distinct group of 'Christian Supremacists' who seek to 'reclaim America for Christ' and turn the U.S. into a Christian nation guided by their strange notions of biblical law."
Lapin leaps in
On August 24, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the head of the conservative Jewish organization Toward Tradition (website), a close friend of the indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and the go-to-rabbi for conservative Christian evangelicals, stepped into the fray. In a statement called "Help or Harm - Which Jews Does the ADL Really Represent?" and published both at the CRM and Toward Tradition websites, Lapin called the ADL's statement on the film an "intemperate and hysterical attack" against Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, and apologized for Foxman's behavior: "On behalf of all those American Jews who feel misrepresented by the ADL, I apologize to Dr. D. James Kennedy for Foxman's ad hominem attack. Dr. Kennedy has always been friendly and supportive towards Jews and has courageously defended the Biblical values shared by both Judaism and Christianity."
In addition to criticizing Foxman, Lapin also stated his backing for the film: "I believe it appropriate for thoughtful Jews to support the Coral Ridge documentary and perhaps even for it to be shown in Jewish schools because there really are only two ways to account for human presence on our planet. One is that God created us in His image. The other is that by a lengthy and random process of totally unaided materialistic evolution, primitive protoplasm evolved into Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven. This approach, ruling out any role for God, is simply incompatible with Jewish values."
"Serious people are asking these three questions," Lapin's statement read:
"Why is a movie that shows how Darwinian thought helped shape Hitler's murderous mind, dangerous to Jews?
Why is it necessary to insult so harshly one of America's most prominent Christian leaders? Or to put it more bluntly, how exactly does it help Jews when the ADL humiliates an Evangelical leader whom as many as forty million Americans revere? Especially since Christian conservatives are virtually alone in acting benevolently towards Jews and standing with Jews in support of Israel.
"Finally, had some Protestant pastor said in 2000, ‘Vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman is a leader among a distinct group of Jewish supremacists who seek to eradicate Christianity from America and turn the U.S. into a secular society based upon their strange notions of Jewish socialism,' would Mr. Foxman not have decried it as anti-Semitic? Intellectual honesty, if not a sense of decency, surely compels us to acknowledge that if anti-Semitism is an evil, so is anti-Christianism -- bigotry is, after all, bigotry."
Stop ‘bashing Christians' say conservative Jews
Distress that critical comments by Jews about conservative Christian evangelicals will threaten their support for Israel is not just Lapin's concern. In a late-May interview with Ed Lasky of the American Thinker, David Brog, the newly appointed Jewish executive director of Christians United for Israel pointed out that Christians, while supporters of Israel "do not expect any kind of quid pro quo from the Jewish community" and "it [their support] comes with no strings attached," nevertheless it is important to keep in mind "that Christians are human beings with normal human emotions."
"When they spend a great deal of time supporting Israel and fighting anti-Semitism, they are disappointed when these efforts are ignored by the Jewish community, and when the only time they hear from representatives of the Jewish community is to attack them because of their positions on social issues," Brog said.
"This cold reception doesn't sway evangelicals from their course of support for Israel. But it does cause a certain disappointment, a certain feeling of rejection, that I think is unfortunate. We in the Jewish community should try to express greater appreciation for what our Christian friends are doing on our behalf."
In a recent commentary, David Klinghoffer suggested that the reason the ADL's Foxman "stoke[s] our fears?" about evangelicals wanting to Christianize America is to mobilize his followers and raise money. Headlined "Why tout ‘menace' of evangelicals? To raise money" and posted by the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, Klinghoffer, a columnist for the Forward, a senior fellow at the anti-evolution Discovery Institute and the author most recently of "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History," argued that the reason the ADL "wildly exaggerate]s the] menace of Christian evangelicals ... [is] a financial one."
Klinghoffer added that "For whatever reason, hyperventilating about Christians makes Jews open their wallets."
Klinghoffer has criticized the ADL in other venues. In a June 2002 piece for National Review Online he wrote that Christians should be able to "ask" groups like the ADL, the American Jewish Congress, and Wiesenthal Center to "lay off a bit." Since Christians provide significant support for Israel, "at least until the Mideast crisis has subsided," Abe Foxman should stop "bashing Christians."
Youths blocked roads in Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan on Wednesday to protest at the dumping of pungent toxic waste which doctors said killed two people and made hundreds ill after it was found around the city.
"There were two deaths, a four-year-old girl and another aged nine years," an official at Abidjan's teaching university hospital of Cocody, where more than 340 people have been treated since Thursday told South Africa's News 24.
Authorities said the petrol-type substance with a high sulphur content was unloaded from a Panamanian-registered ship at Abidjan port on August 19 and then dumped in at least eight sites around the densely populated city.
The government was holding an emergency meeting in the political capital Yamoussoukro to work out a response and had requested international help to analyse the substance and work out how the city can be decontaminated.
Toxic waste dumping has been going on in the Third World for several years. Countries in the West find it cheaper to export their wastes to poor Third World countries, than to dispose of the wastes themselves.
Lately, its been high tech waste dumping in less developed countries thats become all the rage. First world computers end up in these landfills because developed countries ship them there either as charity (the idea is that these computers actually still work) or as waste. The reason why they go to all the trouble of shipping their old computers to countries like India and China instead of dumping them in their own landfills is that computers are toxic.
While you are not likely to get mercury poisoning or develop cancer from sitting in front of your computer, the hazardous materials in computers become a serious concern when they are left to leak into the land and water supply.
"A lot of these materials are being sent [to developing nations] under the guise of reuse—to bridge the digital divide," Richard Gutierrez, a toxics policy analyst for the Seattle, Washington-based Basel Action Network told National Geographic.
Earlier this year the activist organization issued a report titled "The Digital Dump." The paper concludes that three-quarters of the supposedly reusable electronics shipped to Africa's largest port are broken.
One of the problems is that no one certifies whether donated machines work before they hit the seaways. Because of this, the report says, e-waste is a growing problem in Lagos, Nigeria, and elsewhere in the developing world.
Gordon Davy, an engineer with technology firm Northrop Grumman in Baltimore, Maryland, responded to this in a manner that betrays the thinking of corporate power. He told National Geographic,""Pollution in the third world is clearly deplorable," he said. "But as far as health consequences [of e-waste is concerned], the environmental activists need to provide supporting evidence. They need to identify and count their victims."
Richard Gutierrez, a toxics policy analyst for the Seattle, Washington-based Basel Action Network responded to Davy's incredible statement. "We're dealing with toxic substances that have been studied to death. We need not come up with further studies. It would be an overanalysis of an obvious problem."
"The e-waste crisis is relatively young," he said. "The problems [that people] are being exposed to will germinate for years." By the time chronic diseases such as cancer arise, it will be too late to avert a public-health disaster, he said.
Anyway, back to the Ivory Coast for some good old fashion toxic waste dumping.
The following comes from IRIN.
Hundreds Hospitalised After Breathing Toxic Fumes
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
Hundreds of people have been admitted to hospital after breathing toxic fumes from poisonous waste dumped in residential areas of Cote d'Ivoire's main city, Abidjan.
On Tuesday, hundreds of the city's residents threw up barricades in protest, prompting the government to appeal on national television for roads to be cleared so that medical personnel could get through. The waste is residue from gasoline cargo shipped to Abidjan's port last month.
Local newspapers this week reported that two children died after inhaling the toxic fumes.
In a bid to reassure the population, health officials appeared on state television late Tuesday to say the government was trying to locate the sites where the waste had been discharged.
"Indeed, the waste consists of toxic products," said Health Minister Remi Allah Kouadio, adding that the government was considering supplying local hospitals with medication.
Hundreds of people had turned up at local hospitals, some with complaints ranging from eye irritation to nausea, while others were desperately seeking information about the nature of the waste following rumours that it was radioactive, a health official told IRIN on condition of anonymity.
Local media reports about the waste began appearing last week as residents complained of a pervading noxious odour emanating from several different neighbourhoods, including the city's main garbage dump.
Protests began on Monday near the garbage disposal site and the city zoo, with scores of people barricading roads to stop tanker trucks and brandishing placards accusing the government of negligence.
"We have been living with this horrible smell for two weeks and it is making us sick," said Guy Roland, a young resident of Plateau Dokui, one of the affected neighbourhoods. "We are asking the authorities to do something."
After gasoline from the Netherlands-based commodities trading firm Trafigura Beheer B.V. was unloaded two weeks ago a local company specialising in chemical waste disposal was charged with getting rid of the residue, according to Trafigura.
The waste contains the strong-smelling chemicals hydrogen sulphide and mercaptan, according to a report by the Ivorian Anti-Pollution Centre (CIAPOL), obtained by IRIN.
The report says hydrogen sulphide is "a toxic substance that can lead to immediate death when inhaled".
In a statement, Trafigura said it was "very concerned that the residue of the ship... has been disposed of inappropriately in Abidjan".
Trafigura Beheer B.V. is the holding company of Trafigura Group, a leading independent commodities trading company specialising in petrol, gasoline and base metals. (Editors Note: Netherlands based Trafigura Group, one of the world's top trading companies. Established in 1993, Trafigura now employs more than 630 people in 58 offices in 46 countries worldwide. In 2004 turnover exceeded $17.5 billion. Group equity now stands in excess of $500 million.)
The company confirmed in a statement that the cargo had been gasoline, containing a mixture of petrol and sulphur, with an added concentration of sulphuric products. It said it had informed authorities about the nature of the waste and had sent a written request that it should be safely discarded.
The company declined requests for an interview.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Forming a line that stretched nearly half a mile, more than 600 people marched into Burlington Monday in what organizers said was the country's largest global warming demonstration to date.
“This is the largest political rally in Vermont in a really long time, and you are the largest demonstration about global warming in the United States to date,” said author Bill McKibben to the energized throng.
"I started working on climate change almost 20 years ago," McKibben, an author who wrote about global warming in his 1989 book "The End of Nature," told the Rutland Herald. "This morning is the single most hopeful I've been in that 20 years, just to see the unbelievable level of response."
"We're hoping to incite political action on global warming," Rebecca Sobel, state organizer of the Project HotSeat campaign for the environmental activist group Greenpeace also told the Herald. "The time for research in the science of global warming is over. We need solutions and we need them now. The technology is already there. We need politicians to help implement it."
Several days ago when the walk began Sobel said, "People no longer are questioning the science of global warming. They're demanding solutions."
McKibben and the international environmental group Greenpeace organized the walk and rally in hopes of putting global warming at the top of the national agenda.
Other groups involved included the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Vermont Natural Resources Council whose director, Raven Burchard of Brattleboro, speaking to the walkers a few days ago said that political fighting must end and global warming must be dealt with squarely. "Politics won't mean squat if we can't survive on this planet," Burchard said.
“Think of this march as the first step in a marathon for our grandchildren,” said marcher Elizabeth Courtney.
The following is from the Burlington Free Press.
Walkers tackle global warming
SHELBURNE -- The new sidewalks on U.S. 7 got a workout Monday when more than 500 people walked from Shelburne to Burlington to put global warming in the political spotlight.
The 49-mile walk called "From the Road Less Traveled: Vermonters Walking Toward a Clean Energy Future," began Thursday in Ripton, the hometown of writer and event organizer Bill McKibben. Walkers were free to join the group at any point as it traveled north, crossing through Middlebury, Vergennes and Charlotte. Participation waxed and waned over the five-day period, and the largest group departed from Shelburne Farms on Monday morning, traveling down Shelburne's Harbor Road, South Burlington's U.S. 7 and eventually into Burlington's Battery Park.
Amy Schumer, a high school senior, came from Middlebury to walk with her dad and a high school friend. Schumer, 16, said she was concerned by the crowd, which contained few high-school age teens.
"I'm a little worried because I feel like people my age should care about the environment," Schumer said. "We can't vote, but I still want to raise awareness."
Roger Hill, meteorologist for WDEV, walked with his wife and his dog. Because he studies Vermont's climate on a daily basis, Hill said the tangible effects of global warming are becoming evident: heavier, wetter snow that causes power failures, severe wear and tear on taxpayer-funded roads because of recurring cycles of freezing and thawing, changes in maple sugaring seasons and regions, and economic damage to the state's ski industry.
Global warming is a trend, he said, that will hit Vermonters in their pocketbooks.
"This is not looney-tune leftist plots," Hill said. "This is mainstream science."
While some wore costumes and wildly decorated hats, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas walked in her black vestments. The associate pastor for Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, Mass., came to walk because she's concerned about the fate of the Earth.
"To me, global warming is an issue of faith. It's the most urgent moral and spiritual issue humanity faces today," Bullitt-Jonas said. "God gave us the Earth to protect and to care for, and human beings are in the process of destroying life on this planet."
The environment and global warming was a favored topic of discussion for the walkers who meandered down the roads. The journey provided an opportunity to meet new people with similar political and social beliefs. Conversations buzzed through the group as people talked about surfing and composting, sports and their kids' accomplishments.
Drivers gawked as they passed, sometimes waving or honking, but often, the walkers were too absorbed in conversations to notice.
After nearly five hours on the road, participants convened in Battery Park for what McKibben called "a good, old-fashioned town meeting." Local political leaders and candidates were asked to publicly sign a pledge to support legislation to work toward an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, increase fuel economy standards for vehicles to 40 miles per gallon and require that 20 percent of the nation's energy come from renewable resources by 2020.
Eight political leaders and candidates were present to sign the pledge
The Bolivian government rejected yesterday a general strike called by the opposition that is planned in four regions. Officials from the four provinces -- Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando -- said that the strike would be staged in response to "the ruling party's dominating and arbitrary handling of the constitutional assembly."
The Constituent Assembly (AC), which opened last month, was to rewrite the country's constitution aimed at giving its indigenous people more power.
Bolivian President Evo Morales called on the country’s indigenous population to defend the Constituent Assembly underway and the nationalization of Bolivia’s hydrocarbon reserves, in the face of what he termed a rightwing conspiracy. Morales spoke Sunday at a mass rally of small farmers in the town of Huarina on Lake Titicaca, 75 kilometers northwest of the capital.
Morales warned that whatever the opposition tries to do, the Constituent Assembly will march forward.
“With your support and the unity of the Bolivian people, those who sold out the nation will never return; nor will those who sacked the country’s natural resources and who through their parties are carrying out a campaign of attacks against the government,” Morales stressed.
The following is by Jim Shultz and is part of his regular series "BLOG from Bolivia" found on the website of The Democracy Center.
Rumbles at Bolivia's Constituent Assembly
What's going on at Bolivia's Constituent Assembly to rewrite the nation's constitution? Pick your metaphor.
Is it this one reported last week? Assembly delegates from MAS, the socialist party of President Evo Morales, were saying something (evidently with great passion) in their native Quechua. Delegates from the PODEMOS party, the political vehicle of the nation's wealthier elite, responded back, "We don't understand you. We don't speak Quechua."
Are the rumblings at the Assembly evidence that Bolivians from such different viewpoints just can't speak to each other?
Or, is it this one? On Friday the head of the MAS delegation tripped into the 6-foot-deep orchestra pit in the Assembly hall while speaking to delegates. He suffered a skull fracture and remains in critical condition.
Is MAS so enamored with its own agenda and its own speeches that it can't see itself walking into a deep hole of political opposition?
Is it a power grab by Morales and MAS, as their critics claim? Is it a move by national elites, beaten badly at the polls twice, to block a legitimate process of transformation?
The Assembly has been an important political demand of indigenous and other social movement groups for years. Their aim has been to rewrite the rules of Bolivian politics to empower a national majority long marginalized, both politically and economically. This week the Assembly is in a state of turmoil, not over any differences of what the new national "Magna Carta" should contain (not yet), but over the process of the Assembly itself.
What is a Majority?
Under the law approved by the Bolivian Congress that convened the Assembly, the proposal that comes out of that process must clear it with a "supermajority" 2/3 vote. That number is very significant because, while MAS came in a huge first place in the July 2 vote to seat delegates, it has a strong majority but not 2/3. For any vote requiring 2/3, PODEMOS and the other main opposition party, UN, is in a position to block MAS over and over.
On Friday MAS delegates engineered a vote declaring that, on the litany of issues relating to how the Assembly does its business, a simple majority will do. Critics in the opposition were quick to declare that this is exactly the kind of Morales/MAS power grab that they feared.
The parties went into full polarization mode from there. PODEMOS announced that it was boycotting further Assembly sessions until the rule is changed. They, along with civic organizations in Santa Cruz and Beni, strongholds of anti-MAS opposition, began talking about organizing a regional general strike, the same kind of tactic that MAS and MAS allies commonly used against previous presidents.
Vice-President Alvaro Garcia-Linera took the tact of chiding PODEMOS and the others, for having eagerly governed the country (and pushing through huge economic changes like privatization) with governments elected with less than a quarter of the vote and less than half the mandate MAS enjoys. Morales announced over the weekend that he was ready to call on social movements to "mobilize" to Sucre (the city where the Assembly is meeting) to "protect" the process.
Hearing that no doubt caused opposition forces to remember June 2005, when mobilizations of miners blocked members of Congress from leaving Sucre and effectively stopped the President of the Senate from taking over the presidency when Carlos Mesa resigned. Morales' weekend warnings only further inflamed the opposition.
Looking a Little Deeper
We've gotten several calls this week from reporters trying to make sense of the story. What does all this really mean beyond the fireworks of people falling into orchestra pits and threats of general strikes by the old guard elite?
First, when it comes to what the Morales government has a mandate to do, the two main sides really are speaking very different languages. Rightly or wrongly, Morales and MAS believe that they have a historic mandate to alter the political landscape of the nation in deep and far-reaching ways. PODEMOS and its allies, I think, still look at the MAS people as just having their turn at bat, so to speak. They have five years to do a few things here and there, but not wholesale political reconstruction of the state.
When MAS looks at its mandate it see Mandela and the ANC taking over the reins in South Africa in 1994 – a new constitution, a new weave of power, a new nation. PODEMOS sees Tuto handing over power to Goni in 2002, "Ok, your turn to steer a while, but keep moving in the same basic direction."
That said, is the MAS/Morales effort to reshape Bolivia according to its vision any more radical that Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada's massive changes in economic course in the 1990s, including the privatization of the nation's energy reserves and a long list of public enterprises? It would be hard to find changes as radical as those, and those he did with a voter mandate in the low 20s.
Should MAS opponents be wary of a political power grab that tilts the scales unfairly to Morales' favor? Of course, unchecked political power in any hands, be they of the left or right, is a dangerous thing – Political Science 101. But are the screams of PODEMOS and others really a rallying cry to protect democracy or the sound of that old elite finally finding some political traction in its effort to block MAS undoing the political instruments of its historic power?
In my view, that's the real debate here.
Update Tuesday Morning
Here's the latest on the political battle over the Constituent Assembly.
Yesterday civic leaders in four departments – Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija – met in Santa Cruz. They denounced MAS' moves in the Assembly as unconstitutional, announced a four-department general strike for Friday, and threatened to convene a rival Constituent Assembly to write their own constitution for Bolivia.
Vice-President Garcia-Linera repeated MAS' position that a 2/3 vote would still be required for approval of the final proposal to come out of the Assembly, and that the majority vote rule would apply only to the work of the Assembly's committees and on procedural issues. The V.P. also made a new proposal, echoed by one of the leaders of the opposition, the UN party's Samuel Doria Medina, that if the new proposed constitution fails to win a 2/3 vote in the Assembly, it would go to a nationwide voter referendum where it could be approved by a majority of those voting.
The National Assembly on Human Rights called on all the parties to start talking again, sort of a "Can't we all just get along?" declaration. In Cochabamba, Governor Manfred Reyes Villa stuck his nose under the tent of national politics (Reyes Villa nearly won the presidency in 2002 and is clearly positioning himself to run again), calling on MAS and others to respect the law that convened the Assembly but declining the opportunity to join with the more hostile anti-MAS opposition in Santa Cruz.
Hundreds of people protested in the Nepali capital for the second straight day today demanding information about friends and relatives they say disappeared during a decade-old fight against Maoist rebels.
Over six dozen demonstrators were injured when police tried to disperse them from their sit-in near the Nepalese army headquarters in Kathmandu, eyewitnesses said Tuesday.
The protestors chanted slogans in front of the army stronghold warning of dire consequences if the government continued to ignore their pleas.
In addition, the protestors also blocked traffic at capital's major thoroughfares, including Sahidgate and Singha Durbar gate.
Protestor Chandra Kala Uprety said, 'We are not here for anything but to know the fate of our beloved family members.'
Senior Maoist leader Dina Nath Sharma said at the site Tuesday that the sit-in would continue 'for an indefinite period.' The Maoists expressed solidarity with the protestors and condemned the police action.
Another senior Maoist leader Babu Ram Bhattarai told a gathering last week that the Maoists would make public the status of those allegedly disappeared by them as soon as they joined the proposed interim government.
An estimated 5,000 Nepalese citizens have disappeared over the last decade of armed conflict following their arrests by the state-controlled security forces, the Society of the Family of Disappeared Citizens by the State, said last month in the capital, Kathmandu.
“I will never stop fighting for justice. We are not seeking revenge or huge compensation, but to find these perpetrators who murdered my daughter,” said Debi Sunwar, 50-year-old mother of Maina, who was killed by officials of the Nepalese army after she was heavily tortured following her arrest on alleged charges of being a Maoist rebel, according to Advocacy Forum. She was only 15 years old
The following is taken from Nepalnews.
Families of disappeared people continue sit-in
The families of the disappeared people by the State have started indefinite sit-in strike at Bhadrakali protesting the police brutality in their protest programme on Monday.
Over a hundred people were injured when police intervened in the sit-in protest carried by the families of the disappeared people in front of the Army Headquarters yesterday.
They said that the sit-in protest will continue until the demands are met. They are demanding to publicize the whereabouts of their dear ones, who went missing in the hands of the State.
According to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), national rights watchdog, the fate of 563 people disappeared by the state are still unknown.
Issuing a press statement on Tuesday, chairman of the civil society for peace and development, Dr. Sundar Mani Dixit condemned the government’s use of force in the protest of families of disappeared people.
Meanwhile, the temporary schoolteachers also organized a sit in at Maitighar Mandala to protest the police intervention in their peaceful rally on Monday at Bhadrakali.
Over three-dozen schoolteachers were injured when police baton charged in the protest rally of the temporary teachers organized demanding permanency in their jobs yesterday.
Various groups including civil servants have been continuously organizing various protest programmes to exert pressure on the government to fulfill their demands.
"The British Ulster Alliance Flute Band are proud to confirm that we will be taking part in this years parade around the White City Estate," announces their website. The British Ulster Alliance, a group formed in October 1999 by what was described as 'loyalists, patriots and British nationalists on the mainland,'is actually nothing more than a fascist front often featured on various nazi like websites. Just what's needed in Northern Ireland, eh.
The statment below comes from a friend in Northern Ireland.
For Immediate Release : 5 September, 2006
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Antrim Philip McGuigan has demanded that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) give the public an explanation for one of their recently formed 'Kick the Pope' flute bands being listed to appear alongside a right wing neo nazi organisation, the British Ulster Alliance, at a loyalist parade planned for the Whitewell area of North Belfast.
Mr McGuigan said:
"Since the formation of two 'Kick the Pope' flute bands bearing the DUP name and logo, one in South Down the other in Upper Bann, the DUP leadership have consistently refused to answer questions as to exactly why a political party sees the need to sponsor such organisations. Both bands have regularly appeared on contentious parades across the six counties alongside bands carrying UDA and UVF flags.
"Now it has emerged that the South Down DUP band is listed to appear alongside an organisation called the British Ulster Alliance at a loyalist parade in the Whitewell area of North Belfast in the coming weeks. This area has recently seen a marked increase in sectarian attacks on Catholic homes including a recent attempt to murder a 12 week old baby in an arson attack.
"The British Ulster Alliance has been widely reported in the media over recent years as being a right wing neo nazi type grouping. The British Ulster Alliance describe themselves as 'anti-Peace Process' and comprised of 'loyalists, patriots and British Nationalists'. The DUP leadership owe people an explanation. If the DUP are serious about nationalists and republicans entering into a power sharing arrangement with them then they need to tell us what are their links to right wing groupings like this and what action they intend to take regarding their bands appearance alongside right wing neo nazi organisations." ENDS
N.B. The British Ulster Alliance have been reported as being a fascist group by both Searchlight and Anti-Fascist Action
Monday, August 28, 2006
Sunday, August 27, 2006
The Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) on Saturday warned the Mexican government that peaceful protests can easily become an armed uprising. The Mexican guerilla group, based in Guerrero and Michoacán, called earlier this month for "armed defense" and "political action" against president-elect Felipe Calderón. The EPR asserts that current president Vicente Fox, of Calderón's party, is "shuffling" the situation to allow the "imposition of the extreme right" through Calderón, and it says that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the victim of a "fraud."
The following article comes from the Spanish News Agency EFE.
Mexico armed group warns of violence if peaceful protest fails
Oaxaca, Mexico, Aug 26 (EFE).- The Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), an armed group which first appeared in Mexico 10 years ago, warned the government Saturday that when peaceful protests fail, an armed uprising is the only alternative.
"Military action is the last resort when the forms of peaceful protest fail, and in politico-military action we acknowledge that it will be the people's organizations that determine the cause and development of the fight to achieve complete freedom," the EPR said in a communique.
The armed group appeared on horseback on Aug. 28-29, 1996 in the tourist center of Huatulco in the southern state of Oaxaca, carrying out armed attacks on police facilities.
Later the EPR broke into the central plaza of Tlaxiaco in the Mixtec region, where two people suffered gunshot wounds.
In its communique the guerrilla group recalled its 1996 military action which took the lives of 29 police and military men and eight guerrillas, and left about 20 wounded.
The text also referred to the presidential elections and to the conflict set off by the accusations of leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that fraud took place in favor of the conservative ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon.
The ruling National Action Party and the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party "have decided to maintain the electoral fraud, to establish fascism in our country, to surrender our people's sovereignty to foreigners, and that is the future that obliges us to fight to stop fascism in its tracks," the communique said. With regard to the labor conflict led by teachers in Oaxaca, the group said that "the attempts at provocation by the government of (state governor) Ulises Ruiz against the popular movement will not succeed." In the same tone the communique said that "the people have to continue resisting, getting organized and standing firm" until the their demands are met and the governor of Oaxaca is driven from power.
Friday, August 25, 2006
The only meat I have eaten since New Year’s Eve 1979/1980 has been fish (which I consider for me to be kind of the equivalent of methadone if you catch my drift, although a lousy deal for the fishes). While not eating meat has been good for my health it wasn’t really the reason I stopped the BBQ chicken and the like. I stopped because I could no longer turn a blind eye to what eating meat actually meant. It meant the killing, the totally inhumane killing in fact, of gazillions of animals who had just as much right to exist as I did. I mean how could I look my dog in the eye and then go out and eat a cow.
Be that as it may, it turns out that not eating meat (I know – the fishes – I’m bad) actually coincides with another of my overarching concerns – global warming. I never even thought much about the connection until I read the article below. Call me slow, but whatever.
The following was taken from E Magazine.com
Another Inconvenient Truth: Meat is a Global Warming Issue
By Dan Brook
Al Gore’s movie (and book), An Inconvenient Truth, is playing to rave reviews. His laudable project is an urgent message on the vital issue of global warming. We all must heed the call.
If we didn’t realize it already, we now know that we are overheating our planet to alarming levels with potentially catastrophic consequences. 2005 was the hottest year on record. Think of an overheated car; now imagine that on a planetary scale.
Organizations from Greenpeace to the Union of Concerned Scientists, World Bank and the Pentagon, all agree that global warming is, perhaps, the most serious threat to our imperiled planet. The Pentagon report, for example, states that climate change in the form of global warming “should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern,” higher even than terrorism.
The effects of global warming are not hypothetical: waves are already washing over islands in the South Pacific, coastal cities and low-lying countries face severe flooding, extreme weather conditions like hurricanes are intensifying, the polar ice caps and the world’s glaciers are melting, polar bears and other species are threatened with extinction, diseases are spreading more easily, crop failures are mounting. We are standing at a precipice.
There are many human activities that contribute to global warming. Among the biggest contributors are electrical generation, the use of passenger and other vehicles, over-consumption, international shipping, deforestation, smoking and militarism. (The U.S. military, for example, is the world’s biggest consumer of oil and the world’s biggest polluter.)
What many people do not know, however, is that the production of meat also significantly increases global warming. Cow farms produce millions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane per year, the two major greenhouse gases that together account for more than 90 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions, substantially contributing to “global scorching.”
According to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Unit on Climate Change, “There is a strong link between human diet and methane emissions from livestock.” The 2004 State of the World is more specific regarding the link between animals raised for meat and global warming: “Belching, flatulent livestock emit 16 percent of the world’s annual production of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.”
The July 2005 issue of Physics World states: “The animals we eat emit 21 percent of all the CO2 that can be attributed to human activity.” Eating meat directly contributes to this environmentally irresponsible industry and the dire threat of global warming.
Additionally, rainforests are being cut down at an extremely rapid rate to both pasture cows and grow soybeans to feed cows. The clear-cutting of trees in the rainforest — an incredibly bio-diverse area with 90 percent of all species on Earth — not only creates more greenhouse gases through the process of destruction, but also reduces the amazing benefits that those trees provide. Rainforests have been called the “lungs of the Earth,” because they filter our air by absorbing CO2, while emitting life-supporting oxygen.
“In a nutshell,” according to the Center for International Forestry Research, “cattle ranchers are making mincemeat out of Brazil’s Amazon rainforests.”
Of course, the U.S. should join the other 163 countries in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Of course, we should sharply reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and shift towards renewable sources of energy. Of course, we need to stop destroying the rainforests. Of course, we need to stop the war in Iraq and drastically reduce the U.S. military budget (presently at half of the entire world’s total military spending), which would increase, not decrease, national and global security. But as we’re struggling and waiting for these and other structural changes, we need to make personal changes.
Geophysicists Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin from the University of Chicago concluded that changing one’s eating habits from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to a vegetarian diet does more to fight global warming than switching from a gas-guzzling SUV to a fuel-efficient hybrid car. Of course, you can do both — and more! It has been said that “where the environment is concerned, eating meat is like driving a huge SUV.... Eating a vegetarian diet is like driving a mid-sized car [or a reasonable sedan, according to Eshel]. And eating a vegan diet (no dairy, no eggs) is like riding a bicycle or walking. Shifting away from SUVs and SUV-style diets, to much more energy-efficient alternatives, is key to fighting the warming trend.
Global warming is already having grave effects on our planet and we need to take action. Vegetarians help keep the planet cool in more ways than one! Paul McCartney says, “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do.” Andrea Gordon, in her article “If You Recycle, Why Are You Eating Meat?” agrees: “There is a direct relationship between eating meat and the environment. E Magazine asked the same question in its cover story, “So You’re an Environmentalist. Why Are You Still Eating Meat?” Quite simply, you can’t be a meat-eating environmentalist. Sorry folks.”
Vegetarianism is literally about life and death — for each of us individually and for all of us together. Eating animals simultaneously contributes to a multitude of tragedies: the animals’ suffering and death; the ill-health and early death of people; the unsustainable overuse of oil, water, land, topsoil, grain, labor and other vital resources; environmental destruction, including deforestation, species extinction, mono-cropping and global warming; the legitimacy of force and violence; the mis-allocation of capital, skills, land and other assets; vast inefficiencies in the economy; tremendous waste; massive inequalities in the world; the continuation of world hunger and mass starvation; the transmission and spread of dangerous diseases; and moral failure in so-called civilized societies. Vegetarianism is an antidote to all of these unnecessary tragedies.
The editors of World Watch concluded in the July/August 2004 edition that “the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future — deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.” Lee Hall, the legal director for Friends of Animals, is more succinct: “Behind virtually every great environmental complaint there’s milk and meat.”
Global warming may be the most serious global social problem threatening life on Earth. We need to fight global warming on the governmental and corporate levels, and we also need to fight global warming on the everyday and personal levels. We need to fight global warming with our forks! In the enduring and powerful words of Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in this world.”
Global warming, as Al Gore so powerfully shows, is “an inconvenient truth.” The fact that the production of meat significantly contributes to global warming is another inconvenient truth. Now we know.
DAN BROOK is a writer, activist and instructor of sociology at San Jose State University and author of Modern Revolution (University Press of America, 2005). He welcomes comments via Brook@california.com.
The Oread Daily is proud to announce a coveted "GAG ME AWARD" to guitarist Ronnie Wood. Read below to find out why.
The following comes from Contactmusic.
WOOD SLAMS CELEBRITY ACTIVISTS
ROLLING STONES guitarist RONNIE WOOD has criticised fellow musicians BONO and SIR BOB GELDOF for involving themselves in politics. The START ME UP rocker refuses to get mixed up in high-profile causes like Bono and Geldof, because he thinks their efforts don't make any difference. And 59-year-old Wood says he would rather have a good time and make people smile than waste time on politics. He says, "I would never go into politics like Bono. Geldof and him can keep trying until the end of the earth but it won't make a difference. I like to make people happy. Politics doesn't do that. Art does."
Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports thousands of Basques marched Friday in Bilbao to request independence for the northern Spanish region and a new impulse to planned peace talks with the government.
Demonstrators waved Basque, Palestinian and Lebanese flags and shouted slogans urging the release of some 600 imprisoned activists of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, which is blamed for more than 800 deaths since 1968.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced peace talks with ETA in June, but the process has not taken off the ground.
The following is from EITB.
Thousands of people call for self-determination in Bilbao rally
The demonstration passed off without incident. Batasuna's Goirizelaia denounced the left-wing party Batasuna was still outlawed five months after ETA announced a ceasefire.
Chanting slogans in favor of independence and waving red, white and green Basque flags, the morning demonstration was attended by people of all ages.
Mixed among the protesters were leaders of the banned political party Batasuna including Joseba Permach, Joseba Alvarez, Pernando Barrena and Jone Goirizelaia. Prominent Basque nationalist Tasio Erkizia the leaders of the LAB trade union Rafa Díez Usabiaga and Txutxi Ariznabarreta also attended the rally.
The march was authorized by National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon after he confirmed that Batasuna was not behind it.
The protest march was called by a group of 50 Basque citizens who said they were "leftists and Basque nationalists"and were acting independently of Batasuna, which was banned by the Spanish Supreme Court in 2003 on grounds it is part of ETA.
In Garzon's ruling he told police and regional authorities to be vigilant for any sign of Batasuna, that would immediately halt the march.
The demonstrators complied and carried flags and banners calling for Basque independence.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
A soldier who refused to deploy to Iraq should find out today if he will face court-martial.
Ehren Watada said he would go to Afghanistan but not Iraq.
Watada said in court last week his refusal to serve in Iraq was his "obligation to the country."
After deliberately missing the deployment of his Iraq-bound Stryker brigade on June 22, Watada was charged with multiple violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice—one count of missing movement, two counts of contempt toward officials, and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. It was a contentious ending to a military career that began with the stuff of Army recruiters' dreams: A patriotic young man who simply wanted to defend his country against terrorists.
When Watanda realized he could not allow himself to deploy to Iraq, Watada asked to be sent to Afghanistan, a war he supports because it has a clear connection to an enemy that attacked the U.S. The request was denied. Watada then asked to resign. That request, too, was denied. After refusing to deploy and having the book thrown at him by Army prosecutors, Watada suggested a compromise: a less-than-honorable discharge and some non-prison form of punishment. The military wasn't interested. All of this suggests to Seitz that the military wants this confrontation with his client—wants to make an example of Watada.
His father, Bob Watada spoke to a gathering of 50 people yesterday in San Jose, defending his son's actions.
"My son is very strong. He's going to -- even if there's a court-martial, he's going to go to jail instead of killing innocent Iraqis -- that's the real tragedy here," Watada said.
The article below is from People's Weekly World.
Support grows for Lt. Ehren Watada
SAN FRANCISCO — Supporters of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada — the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq — welcomed his father, Bob Watada, this week for a whirlwind tour of the Bay Area.
“I feel the support is really building up,” Bob Watada told an Aug. 21 press conference here near the start of the tour. He said many organizations, including Iraq Veterans against the War, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, the National Lawyers Guild and others, are actively supporting his son. Events during the week, organized by peace, veterans and religious groups, were also slated for San Jose, Santa Rosa, Sacramento and Berkeley.
The elder Watada described the evolution of his son’s thinking about the war in Iraq. Ehren Watada joined the Army in “the fervor of the patriotic fever young people felt after September 11,” he said, “because he wanted to do something for his country, and he felt that was the right thing to do.”
Transferred back to the U.S. after serving in Korea, Ehren Watada even sought immediate deployment to Iraq, but the Army rejected the request. “And that was perhaps a misfortune for the Army,” said Bob Watada, because his son “began to study what was going on in Iraq, and started developing some strong feelings about this war,” including the daily killings of civilians and the Bush administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction.
Calling the war a violation of the U.S. Constitution as well as international law, Bob Watada said his son was acting to uphold the Constitution, including his right to free speech.
Following a preliminary hearing at Ft. Lewis, Wash., last week, Ehren Watada now faces a court martial trial, possibly in November, for missing a movement, contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer — the latter based on his public criticism of the Iraq war as a violation of U.S. and international law. He has been reassigned to a desk job at Ft. Lewis.
If convicted, Lt. Watada faces a possible seven and a half years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
Joining Bob Watada at the press conference were Marti Hiken, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild’s Military Law Task Force, and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Hidachi.
Hiken presented a statement by the task force, calling Ehren Watada’s resistance “a response to the deception and illegality surrounding this war as well as the increasing resistance to it on the part of those forced to fight it.”
Calling Lt. Watada’s position “a moral one,” the statement concluded that “all people of honor, whether in the military or not,” should reject the Army’s insistence that he “abandon his core beliefs and integrity to support this unconscionable war.”
“When people enter the military, they don’t automatically give up their rights,” Hiken said in a later interview. “The Bush administration’s attempts to silence dissent have a far-reaching impact on all of us,” she added. “We want the American people to be able to hear what soldiers are saying about the war.”
Hidachi told the reporters, “We in the Japanese community should be proud that a Japanese American soldier has taken a stand against this illegal war.” Prosecuting a soldier for stating his views on what is commonly known — that the Bush administration misled its citizens when it claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was connected to Sept. 11 — “is particularly unjust and immoral,” Hidachi added.
The web site www.thankyoult.org features a petition and further information on Lt. Ehren Watada’s situation. Information about Bob Watada’s Bay Area events this week can be obtained by calling (510) 528-7288.
The sunken M/T Solar 1 continued to leak more fuel yesterday as foul weather hampered the Coast Guard clean-up operations in the Guimaras Strait and threatened to further spread the oil spill, Harold Jarder, Iloilo Coast Guard commander, said.
Guimaras is small island off the coast of Iloilo, on Panay Island and part of the Philippines.
Contrary to the World Wide Fund and Petron Corp. claims that the leaking from the sink site had stopped, Jarder said 200 to 250 liters of bunker fuel was still being spewed out an hour yesterday, based on actual observation by the Philippine and Japanese Coast Guard at the site.
The continued leak will have far reaching consequences, going beyond Guimaras and even Negros Occidental, if the spill hits the Visayan Sea, which is considered the richest fishing ground in the whole of Asia, Ma. Athena Ronquillo Ballesteros, Greenpeace International Climate Energy Campaigner, said yesterday.
"Tragically, the oil spill is killing precious marine life and displacing thousands of fisherfolk as Petron argues," she told the Daily Star.
"Citizens are responding, LGUs and the coast guard are acting heroically and all Petron can offer to this ecological disaster are excuses and delays," Ballesteros she said.
In Negros Occidental, the Provincial Disaster Management Team expressed concern that rains could hasten the flow of the oil spill, as coastal towns and cities stayed alert, PDMT chief Vicfran Defante said.
Gov. Joseph Marañonsaid there is an imminent danger to the 13 towns and 10 cities of Negros Occidental that might result in irreparable damage to the environment, livelihood of inhabitants and property loses, he said.
He requested a "state of calamity" be declared.
Meanwhile, Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico also said the president should declare a state of calamity in Western Visayas due to the "environmental disaster" brought about by a massive oil spill.
The following is from INQ7.net.
Green activists picket Petron
HUNDREDS of kilometers away from the polluted waters off Guimaras Island, members of an environment group picketed in front of Petron Corp.’s Makati head office to demand accountability for one of the country's worst oil spills.
Holding signs denouncing the company as a “curse to nature,” members of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment picketed Petron to demand that the oil refiner shoulder the cost of cleaning up the oil spill and rehabilitating Guimaras’ ravaged fishing and tourism industries as well as its coastline.
"Petron should release 10 billion pesos to speed up cleanup and relief operations in Guimaras. We believe that's a sound estimate," said Frances Quimpo, Kalikasan spokesperson.
The group believed the company, among the three largest oil companies operating in the country, should take responsibility for the oil slick because "it was Petron's decision to let [MT Solar 1] transport the oil despite the bad weather on August 11," said Quimpo.
Oil tanker Solar I sank off Guimaras on August 11 and discharged more than 50,000 gallons of industrial oil into the pristine seas. Petron Corp, the company that contracted the tanker, promised to continue to provide the needed assistance to clean up contaminated coastline.
Kalikasan intends to send a letter to Petron executives to lay down their demands and "express our dismay over your company's denial of responsibility over the spill of Petron oil."
"It is highly deplorable for the company to act and display first-rate arrogance at the expense of our people's lives, environment and our future. We hope by now you are aware of how our poor fisher folk are barely coping with the tragic situation," the letter read.
Quimpo said Kalikasan has begun expanding its network to take action on the environmental disaster.
"Whether Petron heeds or disregards our demand for it to carry the cost of speedy cleanup and comprehensive rehabilitation, the fight for justice against this Petron-made ecological catastrophe will continue, here and overseas, whatever it takes and at all cost," the group said in its letter.
Oil has contaminated more than 300 kilometers (200 miles) of coastline on Guimaras Island and is now threatening Negros, the country's fourth-largest island, as well as Panay.
The oil has also destroyed 454 hectares (1,120 acres) of mangroves and 58 hectares of seaweed farms.
Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, who heads a task force on the oil spill, said 3,700 families were affected by the disaster and that tourism to the island, once known for its pristine beaches, had also been hit hard.
The government set up a commission of inquiry into the disaster on Wednesday and has given it three days to submit an initial report.
The spill is already regarded as the worst environmental disaster in the history of the Philippines, stretching more than 10 nautical miles and putting the livelihoods of thousands of poor fishermen at risk.
(1 dollar = 51.60 pesos)
When the Levees Broke, subtitled A Requiem in Four Acts is a 2006 documentary film directed by Spike Lee, about the devastation of New Orleans, Louisiana due to the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina. The film runs four hours, and premiered at the New Orleans Arena on August 16, 2006. The television premiere aired in two parts on August 21 and 22 on HBO. The film will then be shown in its entirety on August 29, the one year anniversary of Katrina. It has been described by an HBO executive as "one of the most important films HBO has ever made."
Lance Hill expounds below on one very troubling question raised by the film.
For five days thousands waited and waited at Morial Convention Center for aid, for relief that never seemed to come.
Where was the aid these people desperately needed.
What was most clear at the time was that these mostly African-American citizens were being left to suffer in a way that would never be allowed to a similar group of mostly white Americans.
The historical revision has been that it was simply a matter of incompetence. But to say that is to ignore reality. You know that and so do I.
The following commentary is from Lance Hill.
Commentary by Lance Hill
August 22, 2006
Last week I attended a screening of “When the Levees Broke,” Spike Lee’s documentary that focuses on the impact of hurricane Katrina on the African American community in New Orleans. The four-hour film is airing on HBO this week. It is a film that leaves one deeply troubling question unanswered: why were thousands of African Americans stranded at the Morial Convention Center for five days without food, water, or medical aid from relief agencies or the government? Was it government incompetence or racism?
Part of the answer lies with an aspect of the story has never been covered by the major media or government investigation: that FEMA deliberately withheld food and water to drive people out of the city. This is not a new revelation for a non-evacuee like myself, who had to overcome official attempts to blockade aid from reaching the convention center (more on that later). But the difference between incompetence and official policy is crucial: If the convention center tragedy was due to government incompetence, then all we need is a more efficient FEMA. That, we have already been promised. But if there was an official policy to deprive citizens of their basic human needs, then the problem runs far deeper than bad management. It means that there was a double standard for African American storm victims, which has to be acknowledged and remedied. It means that racism is not something of the past no longer worthy of nation al concern and action.
At first glance, the idea of blockading humanitarian relief sounds so irrational that it’s difficult to believe anyone would even consider the policy. But keep in mind that during those days many government officials made no distinction between looters and black law abiding citizens. There was widespread—and ill-founded—fear in the white community that black people at the Superdome and convention center would simply take relief supplies and return to the areas of the city that never flooded—and there were several hundred blocks. The people who issued the blockade order were thinking about controlling the city and not concerned with the policy’s impact on innocent infants, the sick, and the elderly who were frantic to escape the city but without transportation.
Bits and pieces of the blockade story emerged during the crisis, in news reports and on the internet, but somehow the congressional investigation missed the issue and the media never followed up to investigate the matter. For those who refused to evacuate, the blockade policy was evident from the earliest days. On Friday, September 2nd, my wife and I packed up my car with all the supplies we could gather and I began the first of four runs into the convention center, where I encountered no danger; only grateful and orderly people desperate for food and water. On my fourth run I was met by a contingent of New Orleans and State Police who ordered me not to distribute the water I had brought. A line of white state policeman with automatic weapons faced off against the crowd who were shouting to let me unload my supplies. It was an explosive situation and the police quickly relented but told me not to return.
There was never any question in my mind that these officers were acting on orders to prevent relief from getting to flood victims. My wife and I remained in New Orleans for more than a month during martial law, for the most part taking care of elderly people in the unflooded areas, and every law enforcement officer and soldier that we met told us the same thing: they had been ordered not to provide citizens with food, water, or medical aid.
Red Cross officials are on record saying they had relief supplies in New Orleans but were ordered not to distribute them. American Red Cross president Marsha “Marty” Evans went on national television and said that the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security (LA-DHS) had ordered the Red Cross not to provide relief supplies to refugees inside the city, arguing that the presence of the Red Cross “would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come to the city.” The same story was provided by other Red Cross officials and even the Red Cross web site carried a FAQ repeating that authorities had prevented them from providing relief supplies to the storm victims at the convention center.
It is unlikely that the blockade was a decision of state officials alone: subsequent reports on the internet offer evidence that federal FEMA officials were part of the decision. Indeed, former FEMA director Michael Brown testified in a congressional hearing that, contrary to his earlier statements, he knew about the convention center crisis as early as Wednesday, August 31—the day the blockade order was given. Only a formal investigation and full disclosure by the federal government will provide a definitive explanation of who made the decision and why.
Spokespersons for the LA-DHS and the Louisiana National Guard admit that they asked relief agencies not to deliver their goods to the convention center site, but explain it as a safety precaution—not an attempt to force citizens into leaving. Even if the convention center was too dangerous for relief workers accompanied by police—and I never felt unsafe when I was there unarmed—many observers have noted that helicopters could easily have dropped relief supplies.
But the excuse that the center was too dangerous for even the police turns to fiction when we consider that the police actually entered the center to execute a “rescue” after the blockade was in force. According to a story in the Washington Post, one day after the relief blockade order was issued, a twelve-member New Orleans swat team led by Sgt. Hans Ganthier entered the convention center to transport out two white women, the wife of a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy, who had requested the rescue, and her friend. The police literally had to make their way past dying elderly blacks in order to extricate the two white women. That incident alone should answer the question whether or not there was a double standard based on color for who deserved official protection and aid at the center.
There is another reason for concern if the suffering was the result of a deliberate policy and not merely incompetence. History teaches us that government directives implemented by bureaucrats in times of crisis carry a unique danger. Once the bureaucratic machinery of government assumes control, official orders take on a life of their own. Government directives have no conscience; and as they pass down the command structure they become even less responsive to human emotions or individual moral beliefs. The results can lead to appalling and dehumanizing behavior: one news organization reported that military police assigned to monitor the crowd at the convention center sipped ice water only a few yards away from dehydrating infants and the elderly.
If the assertion that there was a formal blockade policy proves to be true, then we have to come to terms with the fact that our government had a policy and apparatus that intentionally imperiled the lives of innocent African Americans. This goes well beyond incompetence or indifference to the suffering of others. The moment a government withholds food, water, and medical aid from its own citizens to achieve policy ends, it is deliberately inflicting harm to coerce behavior. The added danger is found in the cycle of human devaluation evident in catastrophic ethnic group conflicts in the past; once you deprive a group of their human needs, they behave in ways that are then used to justify inflicting more harm. Great evil begins with small acts of cruelty.
Spike Lee has asked a question that deserves an answer. The United States is a signatory to the Geneva Human Rights Treaty, which forbids governments from blocking humanitarian relief to refugees of political or natural disasters. At a minimum, our nation’s own laws should forbid using food and water as weapon against our own people.
New Orleans is busy with plans to commemorate and honor the disaster victims, including those who needlessly suffered for five days at the convention center. Among the plans is a proposal to erect a monument near the center. It seems to me that the best way to memorialize and honor those who suffered the horrifying ordeal at the convention center is to make sure it never happens again.
Lance Hill, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University and author of “Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement,” UNC press. You can subscribe to his commentaries at http://www.southerninstitute.info/commentaries/