Friday, November 30, 2007


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's backers marched in Caracas today to drum up support for this weekend's referendum on his plan to rewrite the constitution.

There were a whole lot of them.

Supporters in t-shirts with ``YES!'' written across the chest danced in the streets in downtown Caracas at today's event, in images broadcast live by state television.

``This is going to be another victory for the Venezuelan people,'' Finance Minister Rodrigo Cabezas said today on state television. ``A victory for the `Yes' vote is a victory for this process of change.''

Chavez says if the reform is approved, large states and monopoly will be banned in Venezuela, and the possibility of changes will be opened for the political-administrative structure, so as to secure a more egalitarian development of the country"s different regions.

The government has sent out a clear message that anybody out to sabotage the final run-up to Sunday's constitutional reform referendum -- as President Hugo Chavez claimed violent opposition groups were planning -- was nothing less than anti-democratic.

More than 100,000 marchers flooded the streets of Caracas yesterday to protest against the proposed constitutional changes that they say would dramatically widen the powers of President Hugo Chavez.

The latest surveys suggest the result of Sunday's referendum will be extremely close.

Tension in Venezuela is described as sharper than at any time since the attempted coup of 2002. The Catholic bishops, for example, issued a statement Monday describing the reforms as “morally unacceptable.”

On Monday, the political violence by right-wing opponents of the left-nationalist government of President Hugo Chavez claimed the life of Jose Oliveros, a 19-year-old oil worker, who was shot in the back by opponents of the constitutional reform while heading for work at a state-owned firm in the central state of Aragua. When he attempted to drive down a street blocked by protesters, he was shot and killed.

The World Socialist Web Site writes in analysis:

"...leading the campaign against the reform are the political forces tied to Venezuela’s wealthy oligarchy, backed by Washington, the same forces that sought to overthrow Chavez in the abortive US-supported coup April 2002 and which have since staged a series of political provocations."

Egged on by Venezuela’s privately owned right-wing media, the “no” campaign has generated an atmosphere of hysteria over the referendum, managing to mobilize demonstrations drawn largely from the most privileged sections of middle and upper class students."

reforms include promises to implement a six-hour workday and the establishment of a supplementary health insurance program for the millions of Venezuelans—up to half the population—who are classified as part of the “informal” sector of the economy, without any regular employment. Making these programs into articles in the constitution, however, does not create them beyond the level of a legal principle."

WSW continues:

"The reality is that the changes advanced for Venezuela’s constitution have nothing to do with putting an end to capitalism or establishing a socialist society, and the dangers that the various amendments proposed by the government pose to the working class are far greater than any promised benefits."

The essential thrust of the reforms is the amassing of greater presidential power in the hands of Chavez, furthering the consolidation of a personalist bourgeois regime resting on both the military and populist appeals to the poorest sections of the population, made possible by oil export-funded social programs."

...While much has been made about the left and even “socialist” rhetoric that suffuses the proposed amendments, the reality is that the rewritten constitution includes explicit guarantees for the private capitalist ownership of the means of production. It also enshrines the status of “mixed” private-state enterprises, which exist most prominently in the deals signed between the Venezuelan government and the foreign energy conglomerates for the exploitation of Venezuelan oil. Other clauses in the existing constitution guaranteeing equal treatment for foreign and national capitalist enterprises, patents and intellectual property rights remain untouched."

WSW concludes:

Defeating the right-wing forces behind the “no” campaign over the present referendum and as well as the very real threat of a US-backed coup that would unleash a wave of savage repression can be achieved only through the independent struggle of the Venezuelan workers and oppressed."

This requires the building of a new, independent revolutionary party fighting for the political mobilization of working people in Venezuela as part of an international struggle to put an end to capitalism."

I picked up the following report off the blog known as Renegade Eye.

Eyewitness report from Caracas march - the people have spoken
Posted on November 30, 2007 by hovreferendum

“It is only Friday evening and the results of Sunday’s referendum are already known. There has been no formal vote in a bourgeois sense and neither has the resut been fiddled, although there is no doubt that the media in the UK, along with the media internationally, will say after the result that there has been a fiddle.

Here the people have spoken in the language of the street. From 10 in the morning they began to fill the Avenida Bolivar and the side streets. And they kept on coming into the afternoon and were still arriving when Chavez was driven down the Avenida on the back of a truck. Even as he was arriving there were people leaving and others replacing them. The Avenida was packed tightly, as were the side streets. I walked the distance from the underpass bridge next to the Hotel Anauco right the way down to the end of the Avenue where the platform had been erected for the speeches. It took me an hour, so densely packed were the numbers of people.

Not people on their own, whole families. It was a carnival to celebrate victory in the referendum. Stands selling food, drinks, caps, Tshirts, posters, badges, scarves, all manner of things to celebrate Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. The smell of sizzling meat drifted over the crowd and empty beer cans were crushed under foot. The atmosphere was one of everyone having a great day out in the sunshine, and wasn’t it hot.

Large platforms were interspersed at distances so that the music from one did not interfere with the other. People listened, clapped, danced and enjoyed themselves.
Compare this to the opposition march yesterday. There the air was filled with hate, with gestures and shouts to get the onlookers like myself to join in - and very few did. Yes, they had quite a good turnout, but today was at least twice as big. It wasn’t so much a sea of red. The whole avenue and side streets looked as if they had been painted red! There were masses.

The size of this demonstration, no it was more of an open air assembly, was a joy to see. The Chavista forces did not march from anywhere to the Avenida. They just turned up as if they already knew that they had nothing to prove. They did not have to march the streets to declare that they were there. They just arrived and assembled ready for a Sunday, rest day out, except that this was a Friday, a working day, but no-one cared. They saw it as their right and duty to come and support Chavez.

So what will be the effect of this turnout? The opposition will obviously be dismayed. They will realise that despite all of the lies and smears that they have peddled, the support for Chavez has held up. So expect from them either activities to disrupt the vote on Sunday (the CIA are advocating that opposition supporters turn up to vote and do not leave the venue of the vote, thereby effectively staging a sit in and preventing others from entering and voting) or mei smears to start before the vote and go on aterwards that the results are suspicious and questionable, if not fiddled.

For the Chavista forces there is a danger. The celebrations might make them think that they have won already and that therefore there is no need to vote. Abstention is a big fear. So the push now must be for a massive vote on Sunday, a massive turnout so that the result is in no doubt and Chavez has a real mandate for the constitutional changes.

When Chavez arrived the assembled throng went wild in their cheering. He embodies all of the improvements that they have seen in their daily lives over the past nine years. When he spoke, he made sure that all understood the gravity of the situation. The CIA Operacion Tenazas (Operation Pliers) has been taken very seriously here. Measures are being taken to prevent the vote being disrupted. Tomorrow all the oil fields will be taken over by the Armed Forces, they will be militarised. The Navy and Air Force have been put on high alert to patrol the coast to watch for any signs of an impending invasion. The USA has been warned that any threatening behaviour on their part will result in the immediate suspension of all oil shipments to the USA.

The chips are down nationally and internationally. Let us see the developments tomorrow, the day before the referendum. What reports will emerge and what internal and external threats against Chavez will be made.”

For now that is all.
Darrall Cozens
30 NOvember 2007


"Solidarity Village for a Cool Planet“

A broad coalition of national and international movements is inviting their friends, allies and social movements fom Indonesia and the world to join them at the Village...

Organised in Bali from December 7 to 10 2007 during the United Nation Climate Change Conference.

This will be an open space gathering all those men and women, from East, West, North and South who believe that global warming cannot be tackled with market solutions and neoliberalism. We believe that solutions can only be found in fundamental changes in the way we produce, trade and consume.

The Solidarity Village for a Cool Planet will be a space for debates, peoples assemblies, conferences, self organised workshops, cultural events, fiestas, symbolic events and informal gatherings.

The Village will be a meeting place but not a space for accommodation/camping.

For more information, please contact Tejo Pramono tpramono@viacampesina.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it and Mary Lou Malig

More information will follow soons on :

Organized by:

The Indonesian People's Movement Against Neo-colonialism and Imperialism (GERAK LAWAN; The Indonesian Federation of Peasant's Union/ FSPI, Indonesian Human Rights Commitee for Social Justice/ IHCS, Anti Debt Coalition/ KAU, LS ADI, Federation of Trade Union JABOTABEK/ FSBJ, KAM LAKSI, Indonesian Youth Front Struggle/ FPPI, KMAI, SHI, Indonesian Migrant Worker Solidarity/ SBMI, Women Solidarity/ SP, WALHI, Institute for Global Justice/ IGJ)

together with

La Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth International, Focus on the Global South, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Migrant Forum in Asia, ATTAC Japan, Stop the New Round Coalition, Philippines, Kilusang Mangingisda (Fisherfolk Movement-Philippines), Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Globalization Monitor, Hong Kong, Transnational Institute, FTA Watch Thailand


The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) joined by hundreds of allies and concerned consumers marched nine miles to Burger King's corporate headquarters in Miami today to seek improved wages and working conditions for farm workers. The march began this morning shortly after 10 a.m. at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami on Biscayne Boulevard South, near Goldman Sachs office, one of three private equity firms that controls most of Burger King’s stock, where hundreds of protesters, wearing yellow “Exploitation King” T-shirts, from the nation gathered.

The Naples News reports supporters were waving yellow flags that read “Esperanza” (hope in Spanish), holding signs that read “Fair Wages for Farmworkers” and wearing crowns that read “Justice” and “Dignity.”

Music of jaranas, small guitars, and songs by Son del Centro, a band from California, filled the air minutes before the start of the march.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ demands include a penny increase to farmworkers who harvest tomatoes, a code of conduct that guarantees no abuse of where they buy their tomatoes and dialogue between Burger King, the Coalition and the agriculture companies from where they buy the tomatoes.

Two years ago, the Coalition reached an agreement to improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers with Taco Bell owners Yum! Brands. Earlier this year, an agreement was reached with McDonald's restaurants.

CIW spokesperson Lucas Benitez said, "In the wake of our agreements with Yum Brands and McDonald's, we have arrived on the threshold of a more modern, more humane agricultural industry in Florida. Yet rather than join us on that path toward further progress, Burger King has allied itself with tomato industry representatives to push us back, back toward the same abuse and exploitation we have experienced for decades."

Benitez continued, "But we will not be turned back. We will not give up the gains we have already won, and we will continue forward until all of Florida's farmworkers can enjoy a fair wage and humane conditions in this state's fields."

Florida's farmworkers – including the workers who pick tomatoes for fast-food giants like Burger King -- face sweatshop conditions every day in the fields, the coalition said. They include sub-poverty wages (tomato pickers earn roughly $10,000/year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor); no raise in nearly 30 years (pickers are paid virtually the same per bucket piece rate today as in 1980 - at the going rate, workers must pick more than 2.5 TONS of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage for a typical 10-hr day); and the denial of fundamental labor rights (no right to overtime pay nor right to organize).

In the most extreme cases, workers face actual conditions of modern-day slavery. The CIW has helped Federal Civil Rights officials to prosecute five slavery operations --involving over 1,000 workers -- in Florida's fields since 1997.

The following is from the San Diego Tribune.

Tomato pickers protest at Burger King HQ over low wages
By Adrian Sainz

MIAMI – Farmworkers, union members and activists marched through city streets to Burger King headquarters Friday to protest low wages for tomato pickers and alleged exploitation of field workers.

About 300 to 400 protesters gathered under the skyscrapers of Miami's downtown, many wearing yellow T-shirts reading “Exploitation King” and “Burger King Exploits Farmworkers,” others holding signs saying “Dignity” or “Justice for Tomato Pickers.” The marchers, some strumming guitars and banging large tin cans with sticks, then began their nine-mile trek to Burger King's offices.

The protesters are pressuring the Miami-based fast-food giant to pay a penny more per pound for Florida tomatoes – with their suppliers passing the money on directly to farm workers.

Burger King has not accepted the deal. The company, owned by Burger King Holdings Inc., says it is willing to negotiate with the workers on a code of conduct for its vendors to prevent worker exploitation, but it sees no clear legal way to directly pay the workers. Tomato growers say it would be illegal to let outside groups set wages.

McDonald's Corp. and Taco Bell owner Yum Brands Inc. have reached similar agreements already with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, who organized the march. But those deals are not currently in effect due to resistance from growers.

Pickers such as Sonia Lopez, 50, want better work conditions and higher wages. Many tomato pickers in the farming community of Immokalee, about 80 miles west of Miami, must toil in the dirt and hot sun for modest wages, living in cramped trailers with no overtime or health care. Most field workers are immigrants, and are here illegally.

“We want just a penny (more) per pound, that's not a lot,” Lopez, 50. “It will help our quality of life. It will help people make more money and be able to live a decent life, a better life. This affects all of us.”

Nearby, Juan Antillon, 48, also a farm worker in Immokalee, holds a protest sign with tough, hardened hands weathered from picking tomatoes for seven years.

“It's going to be a difficult march, but one that I'll finish,” Antillon said. “This is a small step but an important one.”

Florida supplies 80 percent of America's domestic fresh tomatoes between Thanksgiving and February. The agreements reached with McDonald's and Yum Brands were mostly symbolic, affecting only a tiny segment of Florida tomato pickers, but they paved the way for raising wages and strengthening farm worker rights across the industry.

Worker wages would essentially double if the McDonald's and Yum Brands deals are adopted industrywide. Yum Brands says it is still committed to the coalition, yet after two successful seasons, its suppliers opted out this year. McDonald's has yet to find any supplier who will participate but will continue to buy Florida tomatoes either way.

Steven Grover, a Burger King vice president in charge of food safety and quality assurance, said the door remains open for negotiation, but the mechanism of paying the extra penny directly to the workers “is very obscure and legally questionable from a number of angles.”

Grover said the protest was the coalition's way of stirring up controversy.

“This protest is a colossal waste of resources and time that could be focused on helping the migrant workers in Immokalee,” he said.

Tomato farm workers were not the only ones marching Friday. They were joined by members of area unions, religious leaders and even high school students from Naples.

Oscar Salas, a former orange picker from Tampa area who works as a construction worker, said he's seen instances where employers threatened to call immigration authorities if workers asked for more money.

“Wages (for orange pickers) have been stagnant out there for 30 years, just like tomatoes,” said Salas, 30, of Dade City. “I realized that my housing conditions were affected by the low wages my family lived and worked under for 20 years. We're not even middle class.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007


It seems that in Fort Worth, Texas a couple of neighborhood activists concerned about dangerous driving conditions on a local street stumbled upon a much bigger problem...and they're trying to do something about it.

It seems that one of those big old corporations that come a'knockin want to dump millions of gallons of water used by the fracturing or “fracing” process required to free up natural gas down an injection well they want to build in the neighborhood. Although the company, of course, downplays the dangers, the locals have reached a far different conclusion about what's good for them and their neighbors.

The question is will the powers that be listen?

It seems that a couple of months back with little fanfare Chesapeake Energy got a permit from the state Railroad Commission to operate an injection well near East First Street and Oakland Boulevard in Fort Worth.

Little fanfare...the Pegasus News Blog reports, "Injection wells are the issue flying under the radar at City Hall right now. There is a lot of backroom movement of this, but the public is generally shut out of the process. We depend on the newspaper to shine the light into the dark corners of public policy and help us find our way."

But the paper may be in bed with Chesapeake. Another blog The Caravan of Dreams says it isn't just "may be in bed." They report,

"the Startlegram signed a gas lease with Chesapeake Energy. 'Publisher Wes Turner said the newspaper signed a lease on nearly 40 acres just south of Interstate 20 at Hemphill Street, site of its printing and distribution center. Turner declined to disclose the terms but said the company got 'an outstanding deal.' The company owns a number of other sites around Tarrant County, including its offices downtown and in Arlington. None are leased, but 'we will lease the mineral rights under all' those locations as the opportunity arises, Turner said.' How much is that worth? Who knows, but if you assume a signing bonus of $10,000/acre -- not an unrealistic amount -- that's $400,000."

Conflict of interest? You tell me.

Personally, I wouldn't be depending on the Star-Telegram, "... to shine the light into the dark corners of public policy and help us find our way."

Chesapeake says the injection well is good for everyone including the environment. In fact, in the Green Living section the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently there appeared a full-page ad from Chesapeake Energy. “Go Green by Turning Blue. We All Win,” the ad reads. “Chesapeake understands the need to make the drilling process equally friendly. That’s why we all go above and beyond to treat essential green space and groundwater resources with the utmost of care. The environment wins. Texas wins. Our children win. Together, we all win.”

Do we really all win? Let's take another look see.

Again what's the deal with injection wells.

Oil and gas companies truck production waste from their drilling operation to injection wells for disposal. Using high pressure, operators push the waste deep underground into certain rock formations, such as sandstone. Cement casings line the path on the way down so that the waste material in theory doesn't leak into "production zones," places where other wells are trying to pull up oil, gas - or maybe drinking water.

About those non leaking casings. Well, it seems that the cement casing can melt on contact with many of the highly poisonous chemicals that drilling companies inject through them and what doesn't melt could easily get cracked and broken in unstable formations. This has been the case with other injection wells in the state.

Environmentalists also point to the damage caused by the accidents. Waste water has been spilled on the ground in Parker County Texas and has bubbled out of the ground in Wise County. Last summer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chastised the Texas Railroad Commission for its handling of a leaky saltwater well in Panola County, near the Louisiana border.

There have been explosions involving the tanker trucks unloading the waste water, too.

But they are safe, the company keeps saying.

Uh huh.

Two injection wells began operating in Panola County, near the Louisiana border area in the late 1980s. In 1996, residents complained to the state that their water tasted bad and left stains.

Six years later, in 2002, the Railroad Commission confirmed that the water was contaminated. It seems that their water contained barium, toluene, benzene and other dangerous chemicals. Yum, Yum.

Gas company executives say a multitude of other ideas of what to do with the waste are impractical and too expensive.

Keep an eye on this one to see who wins.

The following is from the Fort Worth Weekly.

Hot Water
Eastside activists join a growing line of folks worried about gas-drilling waste products.

The two neighborhood activists were worried that high-speed truck traffic and spilled sand from a gas well were creating dangerous conditions along East First Street, between the Trinity River bottoms and Oakland Boulevard. “There were at least three accidents between July and September of this year, where cars just fishtailed off the road,” Mike Phipps, treasurer of the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association, said.

But when his partner, Ed Sakerka, went down to take pictures of the crashes and road conditions, to show the city that something needed to be done, he found an even bigger problem looming for that Eastside area.

“Ed was down there one day talking to someone who worked for Chesapeake, and the guy said ‘If you don’t like the amount of traffic here now, wait ’til all the trucks start coming through when they get the injection well finished.’” Phipps recounted.

It was the first either man had heard of an injection well planned for the Chesapeake drilling site at the old Arc Park softball field north of I-30. And what they found out has made them even more concerned about the price their part of Fort Worth may be paying for what once seemed like “free” Barnett Shale income.

Injection wells are the drilling industry’s preferred solution to the major problem of what to do with the millions of gallons of water used by the fracturing or “frac-ing” process required to free up natural gas from the Barnett Shale formation underlying much of North Texas. After the water — infused with sand and chemicals — is forced at high pressure into the shale and the gas is extracted, the leftover water is extremely salty, contaminated with carcinogens and radioactivity from naturally occurring materials, and even flammable because of traces of hydrocarbons. Drillers say recycling is too expensive, and they generally get rid of it by putting it back into the ground. But the injection sites are rarely on the same property as production wells, so companies wind up hauling the water away in heavy trucks that add even more to the street damage and dangers caused by traffic around well sites.

Fort Worth is suspicious of injection wells — so suspicious that they were banned until the city council decided in June 2006 to allow some to be drilled. Two permits were requested almost immediately, one for a shallow injection well on the North Side, which was denied, and one from Dale Energy for its site on East First Street.

The Dale request was for a deep injection well that would release wastewater into the Ellenberger Sand Formation that begins about 9,000 feet below the surface. That permit was granted and was transferred to Chesapeake Energy when that company bought up many of Dale Energy’s assets. But the council, alarmed at the shallow-well request, put a moratorium until April 2008 on any further permits, to allow safety issues to be studied.

Jim Popp, an investigator who worked with the oil and gas industry for more than 40 years, said local governments are right to be leery of injection wells — that in fact, they should be even more strictly regulated. He told Fort Worth Weekly that the wells and the liquid disposed in them are considerably more dangerous than the public has been told.

“You’ve got to understand that the terms ‘wastewater’ and ‘salt water’ are just wrong for what’s really being injected into those wells,” he said. “What you’ve got is a toxic waste dump. Plain and simple, that’s what they are.” Major spills are commonplace, he said, and can poison the air and groundwater. Tanker trucks unloading the contaminated water have blown up, and so have storage tanks at injection well sites, he said.

Even though the East First Street injection well isn’t operating yet, it’s already causing major friction between the city and gas company. Chesapeake wants to truck wastewater there from its leases all over the East Side. City officials say that goes against the logic of the ordinance.

“The city’s understanding is that the only waste that can be injected into that well is waste that comes from the wells on that immediate property,” Brian Boerner, director of the city’s Environmental Management Department, said. “We wrote the ordinance to get [wastewater] trucks off the street, not to take waste from other areas and have it trucked in to the well. But Chesapeake’s point of view is that it can take waste from any of their leases and inject it there. Which could mean more truck traffic, not less, and that’s the opposite of what we set out to accomplish.”

A Chesapeake spokesperson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the difference of opinion is merely a “gentlemen’s disagreement.” But privately, the company is telling people that this issue is so important that they may consider suing if the city doesn’t change its stance. Their stake in the debate is obvious: With 190 wells operating in Tarrant County alone and more being drilled daily, a disposal mechanism is critical.

A Chesapeake spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the company is considering legal action against the city.

David Lunsford, who supervises gas well inspections for the city, said the issue probably will have to be resolved by the city council, but he doesn’t expect it to happen soon. “It could take several months,” he said.

What the council finally decides will have a long-term impact. Gas developers told the council in late summer that they will need at least 15 injection disposal wells within the city limits in the next couple of years to handle all the wastewater that will be generated. For now, the waste is being trucked to commercial disposal wells in Somervell, Wise, and Parker counties. Unlike the East First Street well, which the gas company and the city agree can take waste only from Chesapeake drilling sites, commercial wells take waste from any gas or oil drilling operation that will pay the fee of about a dollar per barrel.

“Some of the wells in Erath are permitted to take 25,000 barrels of waste a day,” Popp said. “That’s great for the operator, but what about the people who live nearby? That’s more than 250 water tanker trucks a day coming and going. In Wise, where I live, the figure is 5,000 barrels a day, but that’s still 50 trucks hauling toxic waste through the neighborhood every day.

Chesapeake’s disposal well, by comparison, is allowed to take 25,000 barrels a day — about equal to the waste from 125 wells, many times more capacity than would be needed by the wells on the East First Street property alone.

And while drillers and commercial disposal companies claim that disposal wells are dug so deep and constructed so well that there is virtually no chance of aquifers being contaminated, Popp says that’s hogwash. “When the tanker delivers the waste, it isn’t injected directly into the well,” he said. “It’s transferred from the trucks to a tank and then later injected into the well. And there is a tremendous amount of spillage. Where they want to put a well near my place it’s a little above me, and that spillage is going to roll down like rainwater and pollute my stock tanks and poison the air around here.”

He noted that even if a well is properly constructed and the operator is legitimate, hazards abound. Disposal injection wells have backed up and contaminated drinking water supplies in many places in Texas, he said.

In a deadly incident just outside of San Antonio in 2003, two tanker trucks unloading wastewater at an injection site exploded when the running engine of one of them sparked a fire in the gas still mixed with the waste. Three people were killed. Afterward, the Federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board classified gas-well wastewater as a flammable material. In several other instances, storage tanks at injection well facilities have exploded when struck by lightning.

Part of the problem is that disposal sites, like most other aspects of the oil and gas industry in Texas, are largely self-policing, according to Ramona Nye, a spokesperson for the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas wells.

Boerner, the environmental director, said Fort Worth has addressed the problem of explosions by requiring that all wastewater storage tanks be made from non-sparking material — “fiberglass or materials like it.”

However, one of Popp’s associates, who asked that his name not be used because of gas companies’ threats to sue him, scoffed at the notion that fiberglass or even steel tanks with lightning arresters would provide much protection.

“We had that storage tank over in Cresson in Johnson County get hit by lightning last March 29, and neighbors said it burned for six hours. And that was fiberglass,” he said. “So somebody pulled the wool over Fort Worth’s eyes if they think they’re protecting the populace with that move. And lightning rods? Well, lightning jumps. And if it jumps to a steel tank, that tank is going to go. That’s just reality.”

Popp and others sympathize with the problems facing Fort Worth and its citizens, but they’re tired of seeing gas-well waste being trucked to their counties from all over North Texas.

Popp insists that there are better solutions than disposal wells. “The gas and oil companies can desalinate the water and reuse it. They can separate out the toxic waste and dispose of it responsibly. It will cost them money, but that’s too bad,” he said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to stuff their pockets at the expense of our environment.”

Chesapeake envisions a series of underground pipelines that would transfer wastewater directly from their gas wells to their disposal sites. But Texas laws that give oil and gas companies the right to use eminent domain for transmission pipelines have no similar rights for water pipes, much less pipes carrying flammable or otherwise hazardous liquid.

“Chesapeake is working to acquire the right of way for transmission pipelines, and in the leases they’re also asking homeowners and others for the right to lay water lines at the same time,” Boerner said. “But they’ve got some big holes in their plans, so they’re still going to have to use a lot of trucks to get that water where they want it.”

“However you look at it, the issue is quality of life,” Phipps said. “And unless we can get those companies and those truck drivers to realize that this is a neighborhood and not a job site, we’re going to remain at odds.”


Here is a protest story like none I've run into before.

Armed with only tractors and farm tools, Chinese peasants recently attacked police who had come to seize dinosaur bones the farmers had found.

To be honest, I'm no so sure how recent this took place, but does it really matter?

After the big dinosaur bones were discovered in March 2006 by the peasants, the government told the farmers to hand over any rare and valuable fossils they had already hidden away.

Irate residents responded by forming a "dinosaur fossil protection team" that took money donations and organized a patrol against officials who tried to enter the village in this poor, often restless farm region.

"If government staff were discovered approaching the village, they would let off two blasts as a signal to swiftly call all the residents to the village entrance," the report said.

National Geographic reports the rebellion also set in motion the first court test of a 2006 Chinese law banning "unauthorized" excavation, possession, sale, and export of dinosaur fossils. Seven defendants—peasants from Shaping village in central Henan Province—are accused of forcibly resisting government orders to hand over a cache of hundred-million-year-old dinosaur bones they discovered.

Offenders like these dino-criminals are subject to lengthy prison terms or, in serious cases, the death penalty.

The death penalty for digging up bones. Whoa, hold on their comrades. Seems a bit much to me.

Many paleontologists worldwide probably are sympathetic to the Chinese government. They argue fossil sites that have survived for hundreds of millions of years are threatened by weathering,the enthusiasm of tourists, and smugglers like those the Chinese peasants feed into.

Richard Lane, a program officer at the National Science Foundation near Washington DC says that important dinosaur egg sites are being wiped out by Chinese peasants who hoe out eggs and sell them, encouraged by traders who smuggle the fossils out to collectors in the West.

But the death penalty for trying to make a living?

And, of course, there is more to the real story then dinosaur eggs. The Shaping villagers who staged the high-risk protests to protect their horde of dinosaur fossils are likely part of a trend toward increased resistance to state laws perceived as unjust. Like here in the USA the common people have little chance when up against their government...unless...perhcance they band together.

The following was taken from Environmental Graffiti.

Chinese Villagers Battle Police Over Hoard of Fossils

Chinese peasants fought a pitched battle against police, using their tractors and farm equipment as weapons, over a cache of dinosaur fossils the villagers were intending to sell on the black market.

China is the site of several of the world’s most productive fossil sites, and the fossils are often seen as a key to riches for the poor villagers who find them. Seven residents of Shaping village in China’s Henan Province were arrested after the police attack and immediately charged with obstructing justice. The group may also be the first to be tried under a 2006 Chinese law on illegal excavation and sale of fossils. The seven are accused of organizing a “Dinosaur Protection Squad” to prevent government seizure of the fossils.

Shaping is a hotbed of fossil discovery. Many of the residents have actually donated found fossils to scientists, but there is a significant portion hell-bent on escaping poverty through the ancient bones. China offered no compensation to the Shaping residents for the dinosaur bones they were holding, a fact which angered many of the villagers. The black market in dinosaur fossils is both thriving and profitable. Last year a rare fossilized dino egg nest, reportedly found in China and smuggled out of the country, sold at auction in L.A. for over $420,000.

This is not even the first time Shaping villagers have garnered international attention for a fossil based business. Last year, scientists determined that a “dragon bone” health tonic the villagers were making was in fact composed of ground up fossils. A kilo of the “dragon bones” went for a whopping 50 cents per kilo, or less than 25 cents a pound. The traditional medicine has been common for centuries in China, and is used in treating such illnesses as bone fractures, dizziness, and cramps. So far, the scientific evidence is still missing on the effectiveness of dinosaur based homeopathic bone fracture/cramp/dizziness cures.

Famous Chinese palaeontologist Xu Xing, who discovered the winged microraptor gui dinosaur, had much to say on the subject. Xu, who works out of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, said that many of the farmers in the area of his discovery have done some amateur excavations of their own. He said: “If all of the peasants who have engaged in unapproved dinosaur excavations were caught, tried and jailed, China would not have enough prisons to hold them all.” Xu believes the best course of action would be for the government to offer rewards for people who turn in fossils, rather than merely punishing those who don’t.

The Chinese government recovered the majority of the fossils in question.


This is just to update the story just from yesterday (just one down) about the teachers in Washington State whose jobs had been threatened by their participation in an anti-war protest.

The following is from the Seattle Times.

Protesting teacher back at Tukwila school
By Emily Heffter

Anti-war protesters say school officials backed away, because of public pressure, from plans to discipline the teacher and five other teachers who were involved with the walkout. Outraged students and community members packed the Tukwila School Board meeting room Tuesday night to support the teachers, whom the district had threatened with termination if they discussed the walkout.

But district leaders say the teachers were never really in trouble. They said they put the social-studies teacher, Brett Rogers, on leave just to investigate. He resumed work Wednesday because a portion of the investigation was completed, said School Board member Patti Maltsberger.

Of the teachers involved, Rogers is the only one who left school. He couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

"We don't consider it discipline at all," said district spokeswoman Jan Lande.

Students all over the country participated in a nationwide student protest Nov. 16 by walking out of classes. Among them were about 125 students at Foster High School, who walked out at 9:15 a.m., rallied around the flagpole, marched to the Interstate 5 overpass and past the Tukwila City Hall, then returned to school in time for lunch.

Maltsberger said the debate over the six teachers — dubbed the "Tukwila Six" by supporters — is fueled by misinformation. War protesters are accusing the district of curbing free speech, she said, but it's really about student safety.

"They have the right to their free speech," she said of the teachers. "What's not right is when they leave a classroom without permission, unattended."

A Nov. 20 memo sent to the teachers said the district was investigating "reports of possible misconduct relating to you in connection with the student walkout and demonstration." It said the matter "could have disciplinary consequences" and warned them that talking about the issue with anyone but their union representatives "could lead to independent disciplinary action, including termination of your employment."

Washington Education Association spokesman Rich Wood confirmed that the Tukwila teachers union is representing the six teachers.

Nathan Bowling, a Tacoma teacher who helped organize Tuesday night's demonstration, said the students — not Rogers — came up with the idea to stage a walkout. Rogers, he said, taught them a "life lesson" by supporting them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Students in Tukwila, Washington are supporting a group of their teachers in trouble with the school district for taking part in an anti-war protest. The Foster High School students gathered outside a Tukwila School Board meeting Tuesday night and rallied to the defense of the teachers who are under investigation by the Board. Others, including many parents, protested inside the meeting as well (see picture).

""Why are we being punished, why are we being silenced?" asked one student reports KING5 News.

Roughly 125 Foster High students walked out of class earlier this month joining the teachers to protest the war, part of a state-wide effort. Student made signs, gathered at the flag pole out front of the school, marched to an I-5 overpass and the Tukwila City Hall for a civic and peaceful assembly.

Socialist Alternative reports one teacher was put on administrative leave on Monday, November 19th. On Tuesday, November 20th, at least five more were delivered memos notifying them that the Tukwila school district was “investigating reports of possible misconduct relating to you in connection with the student walk-out.” These teachers were further notified that they were not to discuss “this matter with any District students or staff” under threat of being terminated.

The husband of one of the teachers who received the threatening letters is an Iraq veteran. He went to Foster High School on November 16th and spoke to the students from first-hand experience about the truth of the Iraq War that the government and corporate media are actively hiding from the American people, and he walked out with the students.

Foster High School, located just south of Seattle, is part of the Tukwila school district and has a demographic particularly targeted by military recruiters. More than 70% of the student body in the district is low-income and eligible for the free and reduced-cost school meals.

The following is from KIRO TV somewhere in Washington state.

School Board Investigating Teachers In Protest

TUKWILA, Wash. -- The Tukwila School Board said they are investigating six teachers who walked out of the classroom about two weeks ago, reported KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.

The teachers and dozens of students left Tukwila’s Foster High School to attend a protest against the Iraq war.

Protesters flooded a school board meeting Tuesday night to support a teacher who was placed on administrative leave because of his actions.

Many students spoke to the school board, pointing to a diverse, well-organized protest.

Only one man spoke in favor of the teacher being placed on administrative leave.

“We have rules and regulations we have to follow. If you’re a teacher, you’re here to teach. He should be fired,” the man said.

School administrators said that rules must be followed and they have to investigate because the teachers left during school hours.

“I am not in a position to say if what they did is correct or not, but I will have to take action appropriately if we do find there were inappropriate things that happened which were in violation of their contract,” said school board president Mary Fertakis.

The district’s two attorneys are leading the investigation. There is no word on how long it will take or if students will face disciplinary action.


In the United Kingdom the 'End Violence Against Women' campaign today published its report concerning the provision of support services for female victims of violence. The report, called 'Map of Gaps: The Postcode Lottery of Violence Against Women Support Services', shows:

• A third of local authorities across the UK have no specialised Violence Against Women (VAW) support service.
• Most women in the UK have no access to a Rape Crisis Centre and fewer than one quarter of local authorities have any sexual violence service at all.
• A very small proportion of the UK is covered by existing Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
• Fewer than one in ten of local authorities have specialised services for BME women which would address forced marriage, female genital mutilation and crimes in the name of honour, as well as other forms of violence.
• Almost one third of local authorities have no domestic violence services.
• Fewer than one in ten local authorities have services for women in prostitution.

The Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) said Scotland was leading the way in services for female victims of violence. Women in the rest of the UK faced a "postcode lottery" of support services.

Northern Ireland lags behind the rest of the UK in providing support for women who are the victims of violence.

End Violence Against Women says: "The stark fact is that every year, 3 million women in the UK suffer rape, trafficking, harassment, forced marriage, domestic violence or some other form of gender-based violence."

The following is from the Belfast Telegraph.

Abused women here 'offered less support'
By Deborah McAleese

Violently abused women in Ulster have less access to support services than anywhere else in the UK, a new report has claimed.

In Northern Ireland there is no funded, specialised support services for rape victims, no access to specialist domestic violence courts and no support services for women seeking to escape prostitution, trafficking and sexual exploitation, the shock report has revealed.

The findings have now sparked urgent calls for the Government to provide proper services for women who have experienced violence.

The report, published by the End Violence Against Women Coalition - which is made up of several organisations including Amnesty International and Women's Aid - examines the provision of services for women who have experienced violence across the UK.

Called the Map of Gaps, the report has revealed, through a series of facts, figures and maps, that women in the province who have experienced violence, have the least provision of comprehensive services.

It highlights the fact that there are no funded specialised support services for rape victims anywhere in Northern Ireland.

The report also shows how Northern Ireland is one part of the UK where women have no access to specialist domestic violence courts and that there is almost a total absence of programmes which seek to address the behaviour of men who are violent to women in the region.

In addition, it reveals that Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK where there are no support services for women seeking to escape prostitution, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

"The situation here contrasts most strongly with that in Scotland which has recently seen an increase in the provision of services for rape survivors," said Patricia Campbell of Amnesty International Northern Ireland.

She added: "The reason is simple.

"The Scottish Government is developing a strategic approach to addressing violence against women and has allocated ring-fenced funding for services.

"Women in Northern Ireland deserve nothing less. We owe it to every woman to allow her to feel safe, secure and respected. That's why we are asking our Government here to provide more support services. This deserves serious attention and funding and we will be seeking to meet with politicians here to make sure that we press the case for what is a lifeline for far too many women."

The report also highlights how one woman in every 10 across the UK experiences violence each year.

Eileen Murphy, director of Women's Aid, Newry, Mourne and South Armagh, said she welcomes the fact that the report breaks the 'silence on violence', and said that it "exposes a situation of which we have long been aware" .

"When women who approach us for help reveal that the abuse which they have suffered has included rape, the total lack of counselling and support services available for them anywhere in Northern Ireland means that we are forced to refer them to Dundalk for help. This is totally unacceptable," she added.

Marie Brown, director of Foyle Women's Aid, said: "It is vital that women across Northern Ireland have access to these services. Currently women in the North West have to travel to Belfast for basic forensic services.

"This can involve a nine-hour period of travelling and waiting to be seen. This discriminates against women who don't live in Belfast."


It should come as no surprise that the views neighborhood residents, community activists, students, small business people, and others were shunned by the New York City Planning Commission as it approved plans by Columbia University to expand into a west Harlem neighborhood. The commission’s vote is the second to last step in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a mandatory public review process

The Commission historically caves in to corporate and big business interests. Big time universities get the same breaks because they are big businesses, too. Money talks, and the people get shafted. That's the name of the game.

Mayor Bloomberg who can't figure out if he is a democrat, a republican or an independent (but knows for sure he is a rich guy) embraced Columbia University's push to expand its Harlem campus, even before the city's land-use process to evaluate the controversial plan haD begun. Since most of the members of the Planning Commission were appointed by him, well, you get the idea.

Columbia has been purchasing properties from 100th Street to 168th Street, concentrating on a mainly industrial zone in West Harlem from 125th to 133rd Streets. The property, if all goes according to plan, will provide a setting for a new 17-acre campus.

The purchases are part of a broader effort to "expand significantly over the next decade," as University President Lee Bollinger said in his inaugural address last year. Bollinger has described it as a necessary step to perpetuate the quality of a great but space-constrained university.

Isn't that nice.

Studies indicate that up to 5,000 local residents OF Manhattanville and nearby neighborhoods are in danger of either direct or indirect displacement.

The New York Independent in a brutal indictment of the plan wrote:

"For local residents, Columbia’s expansion comes with the sting of irony. Having emptied out a large portion of Manhattanville, the university is now asking New York to find the area “blighted,” so that it can use eminent domain, a state government power, in order to force remaining holdouts to sell and demolish the area for “public benefit,” as university President Lee Bollinger put it in a March interview on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” This “public benefit” comes in the form of urban renewal. Bollinger says the new campus is about building the future. Columbia estimates that its new facility will generate 7,086 permanent jobs on site, though the vast majority of those would not be available to the average person currently living in West Harlem, where 32 percent of residents hold less than a high school education."

Protesters blasted city officials after hearing of the commissions decision.

Cynthia Doty, a coalition activist who described the details of the expansion, has a less then favorable view of the plan. "They're just gobbling up everything they can," she said.

“We will stop the bulldozers and we will stop Columbia University and they will never build this plan that City Planning claims they will build,” said Tom DeMott of the Coalition to Preserve Community.

“This is an assault not only against West Harlem, but the greater community of Harlem,” said Nellie Hester Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council." She called the expansion nothing less then, "...a plan to dismantle and restructure Harlem. You are driving blacks, Latinos and working-class whites out of Harlem."

Small businesses will be destroyed in the expansion as well. But then small business people aren't held in much higher esteem then working and poor people by big business types and their lackeys anyway.

As pointed out in the article in the New York Independent:

"In Manhattanville, this kind of story has become old news. Since the late 1990s, Columbia has amassed about 70 percent of the property it seeks, vacating many of the buildings. As the university has grown, West Harlem’s manufacturing and service shops have fallen by the wayside. In the 1990s, West Harlem’s industrial sector added 403 jobs to the workforce. "

But between 2000 and 2002, when Columbia picked up the bulk of its Manhattanville property, this same industry suffered a sharp loss of 372 jobs, according to a study commissioned by Community Board 9 (CB9), which represents West Harlem."

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance which represents small business issued a statement after the Commission vote which read in part:

"The Commission, whose majority is controlled by the mayor, faithfully did what it was told to do-and did so without any recognition of the potential negative impact that expansion would have on existing businesses or residents..."

...and don't forget all of the wonderful landscaping that Commissioner Burden has included-not really comprehending the irony of providing landscaping for an area that will witness the displacement of people from their homes and businesses from their locations. You know, you may be forced out, but think of all the pretty trees that will take your place. "

Many students at the university have spoken in opposition to the planned expansion. A number of them went on a hunger strike.

The group the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification marched issues this statement more than a month ago:

"As students of Columbia University, we find it impossible to stand aside as our university actively ignores and evades the rights of the West Harlem community. Instead of engaging the community in respectful and open negotiation, Columbia has pursued an expansion plan of disruption and displacement. We believe that the community has a right to affordable housing, living wage jobs, and a prominent voice in any development plan for its neighborhood. We believe that Columbia's plan must recognize the rights of all people regardless of their economic background or race."

The commission's action did not settle the question of whether the laws of eminent domain would be invoked to take property owned by resistant land owners.

That will likely be left to the state's Empire State Development Corp.

I might point out in passing that according to Stop Columbia has already given $300,000 to the Empire State Development Corp (ESDC) as part of its effort to pursue the implementation of eminent domain. Documents attesting to these facts were uncovered by Columbia Spectator reporters. The Columbia Administration has repeatedly claimed that eminent domain was a matter for the state, which Columbia had no control over, and that it was only a distant, unlikely option in any case. Last summer Columbia said it would not ask the Empire State Development Corporation to use its power of eminent domain to evict anybody living in the new "campus' footprint."

Who do you trust?

What do you think will happen to people who don't want to leave?

The following is from Newsday.

Columbia gets approval for West Harlem expansion

Columbia University's controversial plan to expand into west Harlem got the go-ahead yesterday during a raucous meeting before a crowd of hostile protesters.

The City Planning Commission approved Columbia's construction of an arts, business and science campus on 17 acres in Manhattanville that the university maintains it needs to stay competitive, but some community groups insist will drive out longtime, lower-income residents and businesses.

Although the university has acquired most of the properties in the project's footprint, it hasn't ruled out using eminent domain to acquire the rest.

"[The plan] represents a vision for the future of Manhattanville that meets the shared objectives of addressing the needs of an institution of major importance to the city while building on the strengths of the neighborhood and providing for new investment, jobs and public open space," said Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden.

Ten of the 12 commissioners voted to approve Columbia's plan, with one abstention.

The protesters represented a cross-section of preservationists, affordable housing advocates and neighborhood activists, who accused Columbia and the commissioners of, among other things, trying to drive the working class out of the city, abusing eminent domain and building science labs to experiment on human as guinea pigs.

"The record of this commission is that their allegiance is only to other wealthy people," said architectural historian Michael Henry Adams, who harangued the commissioners with chants of "rich, rich, rich" throughout much of the meeting. "I guess the rest of us can just go to hell and die."

The meeting was delayed several minutes when protesters refused to move from the aisles of the meeting room despite warnings from the police. The protesters chanted "Harlem not for sale," and sang 1960s-style protest songs.

Plan supporters blamed a few agenda-driven malcontents for stirring up the neighborhood.

"Change is always difficult," said the Rev. Reginald Williams of the Manhattanville Coalition, a group that supports Columbia's plan. "They are trying to play on people's fears. It's the record versus the rhetoric."

The plan now goes to the City Council, which will hold hearings early next month, and is expected to approve the plans with some modifications.

Opponents of the plan vowed to press ahead.

"We will not be moved because we do not have any place to go," said Nellie Hester Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council. "A mosaic of this city is represented in west Harlem. We cannot lose that."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Now comes (as they say in court) an interesting story (to which my attention was drawn by the conservative blog "The Stiletto"). The story revolves around a proposal in Boston where police with parental consent will search bedrooms of kids to look for firearms. The story also involves the fourth amendment and the second amendment and the ACLU seemingly fighting to protect some people's right to firearms because of their concern over search and seizure.

It strikes me as funny...the notion of the ACLU fighting under whatever circumstances for the right of kids to keep and bear arms.


I mean, I'm the last guy who wants to give the police increased powers to search us, but this attempt by the city of Boston to disarm "youngsters" and to cut down on crime doesn't really do that.

Still in these days of the Patriot Act and all I worry about people becoming complacent to increasing police powers. I mean if we accept this why not do the same thing with drugs...or whatever?

The blogger Red Pills described the proposal thusly, "The police of a section of Boston are endeavoring to do an end run around the Constitution. This is occurring in Boston, Massachusetts, site of America’s greatest tea party. How far we have fallen."

Under this program, if the parents of the kids who live with them in their home or apartment consent to allow the cops to search the kids room for guns, the the cops come in and do it. Of course, cops have always had the right to search with consent. That hasn't change.

The cops say if they find any guns they'll confiscate them but they "promise" not to charge anyone with anything...unless the gun is connected to "a shooting, homicide, or other crime..." If ballistics analysis reveals that the gun has been used in a homicide or shooting, an investigation will determine who was responsible for the crime say the cops.

Police claim if they happen upon a small amount of drugs they won't prosecute. Of course, what's small and what will they do? They say they'll keep it confidential. And when was the last time you trusted your local police to keep their promises?

Now I admit if I were a kid I'd be pissed about my parents letting the cops search my room. And I wouldn't buy the whole "we'll keep it confidential" thing.

But then I don't live in a neighborhood where gunshots are common and kids (and others) are getting killed. I don't live in a neighborhood run by gangs. I didn't grow up in a time when we parents didn't know their kids has an arsenal in their room.

The cops in fact say they're just trying to help out embattled parents. “We have conversations with single mothers who express frustration in dealing with teenagers who are uncontrollable,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “In a community policing context, knocking on a door and asking . . . if they would allow us to check their kids’ rooms for firearms may give them an out.”

The Boston Globe reports that The Safe Homes project is based upon a police-community collaboration in St. Louis during the mid-1990s. That program, it says, resulted in the recovery of 510 guns from juveniles over an 18-month period. St. Louis police officers received voluntary consent to search homes from 98 percent of the parents approached and recovered at least one gun in 50 percent of their searches.

St. Louis police reassured skeptics by letting them observe searches, said Robert Heimberger, a retired St. Louis police sergeant who was part of the program.

Support for that initiative decreased after the police chief who spearheaded the effort left the force and clergy leaders failed to follow up with their promised support to parents.

I wonder what the NRA thinks about all this?

I can tell you I checked out one rabid (and I'm trying to be nice with that description) pro-gun site called Free Republic. Those commenting on the proposal were overwhelmingly against it. Many spent their time venting very thinly veiled racist comments about the parents. You can imagine.

ACLU and right wing gun yoyos all on the same side. It enough to make me crazy.

What do y'a think...a step toward fascism as several left sites I looked at said...or a way to cut back on gun violence?

Whatever you think, rest assured more and more plans like this will be popping up and if you don't like them then you'd better start thinking of other ways to curb violent crime and gang activity that you do (and today, not "after the revolution").

A whale of a lot of folks out there are sick of all the gunfire. They want something done.

The following is from the Boston Globe.

Police, activists battle over city antigun effort

Civil liberties activists fanned out through Dorchester and Roxbury yesterday, warning people that a police proposal to ask residents to let their houses be searched for guns could violate constitutional rights.

But Robin Jeffreys, who regularly hears gunshots outside her Geneva Avenue home, in Dorchester said she would not hesitate to let police in without a warrant.

"I understand people are worried about being violated and their privacy," she said, as she stood on Geneva Avenue waiting for the bus with her 9-year-old son, Tyreece. "But when it comes down to it, anybody would give up anything to save a life, to save your child, or another child."

As the American Civil Liberties Union passed out fliers yesterday decrying the "Safe Homes" initiative, police prepared to launch a campaign to reassure residents about the program. In the coming weeks, they plan to pass out brochures explaining the proposal and to hold community meetings to persuade residents that the program is a well-intentioned attempt to remove guns from the street.

Police will focus the effort in four neighborhoods - Egleston Square, Franklin Hill and Franklin Field, Geneva Avenue and Bowdoin Street, and Grove Hall - that have been plagued by shootings.

Some Boston parents said they will need little convincing to buy into the police proposal.

"There are a lot of shootings out there, and it involves kids," said Carmen Thompson, 23, as she shopped for diapers for her 5-month-old son at a pharmacy on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester. "I feel as if the police need to do something. I think it's a great idea. I think it's about time."

The program, which Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis unveiled last week to several community leaders, will let police go to houses where they believe teenagers have hidden guns, ask the parent or legal guardian to sign a form giving them permission to search the child's room, and take the weapon away. If the gun is not connected to a shooting, homicide, or other crime, police said they will not prosecute the child.

But the proposal has set off a debate about whether police are circumventing the constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure and sparked fears that parents may be so desperate to get a gun out of the house that they will allow police in without considering the child may be arrested if the weapon is linked to a crime.

ACLU members walked through the neighborhoods police plan to target, passing out fliers that read, "Know Your Rights."

"We just want to make people understand that they have a right to not give consent," said Carol Rose, executive director of the Massachusetts ACLU, in a telephone interview. "When you waive your rights and invite the police to search your home, you're waiving the rights of everyone in the household."

Thomas Nolan, a former Boston police lieutenant who now teaches criminology at Boston University says, "I just have a queasy feeling anytime the police try to do an end run around the Constitution. The police have restrictions on their authority and ability to conduct searches. The Constitution was written with a very specific intent, and that was to keep the law out of private homes unless there is a written document signed by a judge and based on probable cause. Here, you don’t have that.”

Police Commissioner Davis said police do not intend to use the program to make arrests, but to help parents.

"I don't want people to be frightened by this program," he said. "This is an attempt to help families that may be in crisis around the issue of gang activity. We intend to do a significant amount of outreach and follow-up in support of the families. . . . I find it odd that the ACLU would be so averse to a program that doesn't focus on prosecution. It's only focused on making a house safe."

Davis said the Constitution does not forbid officers from asking for access into a home or a homeowner from granting it.

Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Harvard Law professor, said that police do not have a right to "conduct random, warrantless, general searches."

"This is a decision that, if approved, the community will come to regret it," he said.

Last night, police officials gathered at the William Monroe Trotter Elementary School in Grove Hall to discuss the program with a small group of residents.

During a calm, hourlong discussion, residents asked several questions, including what kind of guarantees police could make against prosecution and whether officers who found drugs during the search would report the discovery to public housing authorities, who might decide to evict the family. Police said the discovery of small amounts of drugs would most likely remain confidential.

Deputy Superintendent Gary French told the audience the department wants to form an advisory council made up of residents in the neighborhoods police will focus on. Community leaders have suggested that religious or neighborhood activists accompany police on the searches so residents feel less intimidated, he said.

"We're trying to be as informative and as transparent about this program as we possibly can be," he said.

One young woman asked whether tips would remain confidential. French said they would.

Rose said she also is concerned that the program, which will rely primarily on tips from the community, will create hostility in neighborhoods if people suspect that a neighbor tipped off police about a gun in their house.

But Thompson said she has more pressing concerns than her neighbor's opinion.

"If it gets guns off the street, if it cuts down the sirens at night, if it keeps peace in the city, yes," she said, "I will definitely say something."


Ecuador's national oil company Petroecuador has said that it incurred the loss of some 5,000 barrels of oil output because of a weekend protest that disrupted operations at a key production facility, Spanish news agency EFE reported Tuesday.

The protest began Sunday in Dayuma, a town in the Amazon province of Orellana where villagers blocaded a bridge to all traffic.

At about the same time others forced their way into the Auca Sur station and electric plant demanding that operators shut down the entire power oil system.

By the early hours of Monday, another group of protesters reached the Auca 61D well and used dynamite to disable a hydraulic pump, effectively shutting down the installation, Petroecuador said.

According to El Mercurio the villagers are demanding The strikers new paved roads in the area, electrical service, a plan by the oil company to improve the local environment and jobs.

In March this year, a blockade by protesters in the Amazon region forced the company to cut oil exports by 36,000 barrels per day for about a week.

The following is from the Houston Chronicle.

Protesters Take Ecuador Oil Field

QUITO, Ecuador — Villagers took over an oil field run by state oil company Petroecuador to demand jobs, electricity and paved roads, the company reported.

Daily production at the Auca Sur field in Ecuador's eastern jungle dropped by some 5,000 barrels to about 171,000 barrels as a result of Monday's protest, Petroecuador said in a statement.

The protesters reportedly cut communication lines at Auca Sur and four other fields, and threw a stick of dynamite at one of the pumps, but there were no reports of injuries.

The statement did not say how many protesters were involved or give other details, and it was not clear whether the field was still occupied. The villagers could not be reached for comment.

Ecuador is South America's fifth-largest oil producer with a daily production of about a half-million barrels of crude.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Police put a stop to a demonstration against Neste Oil by Greenpeace activists at sea off Porvoo, Finland Sunday. A total of 33 activists from different countries were detained in the operation.

Lauri Myllyvirta, leader of the Greenpeace operation, told the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday evening that those who were detained had reported that police had used pepper spray against them at sea and in the dark. Matti Liimatainen of Finnish Greenpeace called the use of the spray dangerous and unnecessary. He said that the boats were already returning to shore at the time.

The police say all of those arrested have now been released.

Greenpeace has launched a worldwide campaign against the use of palm oil as a raw material for bio-diesel, which is marketed as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuel.

Greenpeace calls the oil a "rain forest fuel", and says that the production of its raw material, palm oil, increases greenhouse gas emissions, rather than reducing them.

"The production of palm oil is one of the greatest causes of deforestation in Southeast Asia. Neste Oil says that it imports the oil from Malaysia, but the company that they use plans to expand to Indonesia, where 80 per cent of deforestation stems from the production of palm oil," says Harri Lammi of the Finnish section of Greenpeace.

Indonesia, the biggest producer of the oil, releases 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases or 4 percent of the world total a year by burning its peatlands to grow palms, says John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace U.K.

Greenpeace says that widespread use of palm oil advances the destruction of rain forests in Southeast Asia as increasing amounts of forest are cleared away to make room for oil palm plantations.

Following earlier protests by Greenpeace, the Swedish filling station chain OKQ8 announced that it would cancel its plans to market biodiesel fuel produced by Neste Oil. The move is seen as a serious blow to Neste, which hopes to become the world's leading producer of second generation biodiesel fuel.

Neste Oil is an independent Finnish oil refining and marketing company producing mainly traffic fuels and other petroleum products.

The following is from News Room Finland.

Finnish police end Greenpeace palm oil protest

Finnish police detained in excess of 30 Greenpeace activists in Porvoo on Sunday.

Greenpeace had organised a protest near Neste Oil's Porvoo refinery, some 50km east of Helsinki, timed to coincide with the arrival of a tanker carrying about 10,000 tonnes of palm oil.

Police said those held included Danes, Finns, Germans and Swedes.

"The police and the Coast Guard intervened in the proceedings of the protest," said Juha Aromaa, a spokesman for the environmental organisation.

"Firstly, the police removed the fuel tanks from three of our boats on land. Then the Coast Guard towed one of our boats ashore. At that stage there were still two Greenpeace boats waiting to meet the palm oil shipment."

Greenpeace called off the protest once it learned that the majority of the activists had been taken to a police station. The police later took the remainder of the activists into custody.

Greenpeace said its fleet of six boats had not been deployed to obstruct the manoeuvring of the tanker.

The action against Neste is part of a global Greenpeace campaign aimed at stopping the destruction of southeast Asian rainforests.

Greenpeace wants Neste, the biggest producer of palm oil-based diesel fuel in the world, to stop using the raw material.

Greenpeace and other environmental organisations say the clearing of southeast Asian rainforest and peatland to make way for palm plantations served to accelerate climate change.

Neste says palm oil has great potential in reducing greenhouse gas emissions provided that cultivation is subject to due regulation, adding it was the first oil company to have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.


Utah is a beautiful state. I wouldn't want to live there myself, but it is a pretty place to pass through as I once did on the bus.

However, its citizens are no more protected against the intrusion of government than anyone else in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

But it isn't the hated feds, the bogeyman of everything Western, its the famous local government that is treating it's citizens like surfs in the small community of Eagle Mountain.

Eagle Mountain is located north and west of Provo and bills itself as "Utah's New Frontier."

Well, some of the new frontier's residents are not thrilled with the news that a huge, high tension power line pole is going to built right in their front yard...literally. Neighbors who don't get the pole do get the joy of living under the electric lines...always a bit of a shocking experience.

And if they don't like it, they can lump it. That's what their government told them.

Oh sure, the city has offered financial compensation which the local residents point out is ridiculously low...and anyway they just don't want the power lines period.

Did I mention that the city has assured the land owners that they will have full access to the land under the which they, the residents, bought and paid for? Oh, but they can't plant any trees there or build anything. But, hey, they can lie on their backs and look up at the lines to their hearts content.

One Eagle Mountain resident summed up the feelings of many with a letter to the local paper:

"Welcome to have no right to your land...the government can take what it wants. The ruling on imminent domain was sustained in the Bush supreme court."

I remember when it was just us 60s radicals who called it "Amerika." Who would have thought average citizens in Utah would find the epitaph appealing?

Just in case you think I'm being biased in favor of the feds. Far from it. I don't trust anyone much with power...state, local, federal, democrats, republicans, power companies, or Ron Paul.

Hell, back east in Virginia folks are concerned transmission lines up to 150 feet tall could scar the Shenandoah Valley’s famous view of rolling farmland and mountains.

The federal government, they say, is taking away Virginia’s right to decide where and how electric transmission lines are built in Rockingham, Page and Shenandoah counties.

At issue, they say, is a decision by the U.S. Department of Energy that includes the Valley as part of a “transmission corridor.” The decision would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to approve utility companies’ request to build transmission lines, even if the state denies their applications.

“It’s a significant expansion of federal power and an infringement on our prerogatives as a state,” said Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.

Of course, Virginia legislatures will crow about their efforts to protect homeowners from the Supreme's intrusion on their rights during last year's assembly.

Tell it to the judge, as they say...or at least the people of Northern Virginia.

Dominion Virginia Power this year decided to build its new high-voltage transmission line along the path of existing electric cables in Northern Virginia's outer suburbs bypassing pristine land where opposition to the company's plans has been fiercest.

Sounds nice?

Piedmont Environmental Council spokesman Robert W. Lazaro Jr. says not so fast. Running the new line along an existing right of way does not protect nearby homeowners from transmission lines that he expects to be significantly taller than existing ones.

He also wondered whether the existing path was wide enough to accommodate the new line or additional private property would have to be acquired.

"The fact is the state has a failed energy policy," Lazaro said. "Dominion is a huge player in the politics of this state and is able to run roughshod over consumers and responsible legislators."

Environmentalists and residents near the proposed path of the line have waged a multimillion-dollar campaign against the company and persuaded lawmakers to introduce legislation to block the line from their property.

However, the Washington Post reports Dominion's lobbyists have beaten back those Virginia...where legislation has passed to protect residents from such. Huh?

It's simple. Homeowners' rights mean little when determined corporate interests with lots of cash on hand target the land under their homes for private development.

Oh by the way, the effort has already begun to lobby the Virginia General Assembly to repeal the protections against eminent domain abuse that was enacted during the 2007 session. Redevelopment and housing authorities, the utility lobby, the real estate lobby and other corporate interests are placing immense pressure (or should we say passing around lots of bucks) on elected officials in Richmond to make eminent domain abuse easier.

It's interesting to note that the very people most vocal with their warnings about those treacherous commies who say "private property is theft" are, in fact, those most active in the stealing of private property.

The following is from the Daily Herald (Provo, Utah).

Eagle Mtn. residents protest power line plan
Caleb Warnock - DAILY HERALD

Shivering as she stands in a sub-freezing breeze in her front yard, thick tears fall down Karen O'Donnell's face as she talks of Eagle Mountain's plan to put a high-voltage power pole in her front yard.

"It's killing us," she said, weeping uncontrollably. "We are prisoners. This does not feel like America."

Karen and her husband, Kim, purchased their 5.5-acre home on rural Lake Mountain Road four years ago. They run an animal rescue sanctuary and had to delay an interview with the Daily Herald on Friday to make an emergency trip to Riverton to rescue two emus. Raising them for meat, the owner lost interest and stopped feeding the birds, one of which was suffering a bleeding eye infection. Having already cut one emu up to feed to the family dog, the others were headed for the same fate.

Over the years the couple have taken in more than 100 horses, chickens, goats, turkeys, pigs and other unwanted animals. The couple were expanding with a large pond in the front yard, and they had the necessary fence partially up when they discovered the city was taking a 75-foot easement across their front yard and placing a 60 to 90-foot power pole near their front window.

"Everything we have worked for is destroyed," Kim O'Donnell said, noting the couple were planning to cash in the equity in their property at some point and trade up for more land and a larger rescue operation in a more rural area.

The couple say they will be too afraid to use a metal water spigot that stands about a dozen feet from where the couple says city documents show the power pole will be placed. And they will not put their animals under the power lines because of health concerns.

Though discussion about the power line has been going on since spring, it was not until last week that the city gave the O'Donnells and three of their neighbors maps showing where the power poles would be placed and where the easement across their front lawns would run.

The city has offered the O'Donnells $16,000 as compensation, an amount they call ridiculously low.

"The city would prefer to discuss this matter with you directly and avoid filing a condemnation action," wrote the city attorney in the letter. "However, the city must begin construction on this project immediately in order to complete the project by summer 2008. Therefore, if you fail to respond to this letter, or if the city has not been able to reach an agreement to purchase the easement from you before Friday, Dec. 7, 2007, the city will be forced to file a condemnation action and obtain an order of immediate occupation for the easement required for the project."

Giving only two weeks to consider the offer and their options is not fair, the couple said.

"It will destroy the value of our home," said Kim O'Donnell. "Who would consider buying this home with a 90-foot power pole in the front yard? I know I wouldn't. I'd drive right by. No one is ever going to buy this home."

Greg Jeppson has been offered $6,380 for the easement across the front of his home. Like all the homeowners interviewed for this story, Jeppson said the city must either leave the residents alone, or pay them enough to compensate for the loss of value to their homes.

Jeppson said he was stunned by the city's offer. His all-brick home, built four years ago on a 5.5 acre lot, is worth almost $600,000, he said. The city would need pay at least $85,000 to cover the damage the power pole would do to the value.

"Despite the property owners' concerns, the city has determined that the preferred alignment is still the best alternative," said the city attorney in a letter to affected homeowners.

The O'Donnells, Jeppsons and others spoke out against the city's plan at a recent council meeting.

Reached by cell phone on Friday, Councilwoman and Mayor-elect Heather Jackson said that though Kinghorn's letter may demand agreement by Dec. 7, the city is still considering its alternatives and could still choose another route for the power line.

The power line had to be moved to the front yard of the O'Donnells and other neighbors because it would have been too costly to purchase the two homes across the street, Jackson said. The proposed path of the power line follows an existing high-voltage line behind the homes of two neighbors across the street, but veers to pass through the front yards of the O'Donnells and others because the two homes are in the way.

"We have to be very careful how we spend taxpayer money," Jackson said.

All residents interviewed said the only fair thing to do is buy the homes across the street, one of which is for sale, and keep the power line in its intended path.

Michelle Clark moved into the home across the street from the O'Donnells last January. She said the high-voltage line in their backyard often shocks them, especially if they touch something metal. She said she only found out about the planned power line a few days ago from the O'Donnells and that no one from the city has contacted her even though the pole would be feet from her home and would sandwich her home between two high-voltage lines.

"I would not want to live here if that is case," she said. She said she has no idea how to protest the city's proposal.

Jackson said she did not know whether any one from the city had attempted to contact the Clarks or the owners of the second home next door.

James and Marcie Taylor, neighbors of the O'Donnells and Jeppsons, said the city has offered them $910 for an easement across their land. All the families will meet with city officials and a state mediator on Thursday. The Jeppsons and Taylors are seeking independent appraisals.

The city has told them the 138kV power line cannot be buried because it would be hazardous, the Taylors said. They are angry that the city is refusing to purchase the homes across the street and keep the power line over there, they said. They have also asked the city to put the line a distance behind their home on Bureau of Land Management property, but city documents say the residents prefer the power lines in their front yards.

Residents and their neighbors say the city is trying to rush the project through during the holidays.

"It's too close to our homes," James Taylor said. "There is no reimbursement for the depreciation of our property values, and there is no consideration for our health or safety."

All homeowners interviewed said they are concerned with research and anecdotal evidence linking exposure to high-voltage power lines to cancer and other health problems.

The Taylors said they believe the city's mind is made up and the city's letter proves officials will ride rough-shod over their concerns in order to get the power line built so that thousands of new homes can be built in the southern end of the city.

Adam Ferre, public works coordinator for the city, said residents will have "100 percent access" to the ground below the power line, though they would not be allowed to build any structure or plant large trees. He said the lines are expected to be approximately 75 feet above the ground.

Finding a new home for the power lines may be impossible because the city is on a deadline and "the environmental study for the entire corridor done by a third party took about six months or so and cost a lot of money," said Ferre.

• North County writer Donna Milakovic contributed to this story.