Friday, July 04, 2008


We asked the American people what should be done now with Jesse Helms? The results are in...

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Tuesday joined a growing group of Latin American leaders who view the reactivation of the US Navy Fourth Fleet to patrol Latin American seas as unnecessary and a threat to sovereignty.

Chavez says one of the reasons behind this action is Venezuela's huge oil reserve.

"I do not have any doubt about it. It is a threat. There is no need to make any questions. I am sure you feel it that way too," he told reporters.

He urged the member countries of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) to ask the US administration for an explanation on the deployment of the fleet.

The Fourth Fleet was created during the Second World War to combat German U-boats targeting merchant shipping lines in the South Atlantic.

However, I haven't heard any recent reports on those U-boats bothering anyone lately.

The US Department of Defense says the measure is aimed at building confidence and trust in the region by focusing on common threats.

Yeah, right.

Lieutenant commander Pat Paterson, who is the liaison between the US, Andean and Southern Cone navies disputes Chavez's contention that the fleet is a threat to his nation. However, Paterson did concede that "there is concern that President Hugo Chávez may revert the great progress his country has made toward democratic principles and institutions [...] and may threaten his peaceful neighbors or destabilize the region."

The Fleet’s rebirth, in truth, it seems to me implies a return to gun boat diplomacy and represents a new call to arms.

Some guy named Raymond Zbylut out in Omaha, Nebraska (always a hotbed of commie agitation), I think, expressed what would be the feelings of many regular old A-mer-iii-cans (if they happened to hear somewhere about this reactivation of imperial might) at's Voice of the People (don't ask me why he wrote this at a Guam cite):
"The U.S. Navy, under orders from the Bush administration, has reactivated its Fourth Fleet, which had been decommissioned for 43 years. I believe its mission is to sow terror and enforce a deadly 21st century "gun-boat diplomacy," starting in South America, now that the price of crude oil has gone up considerably. I have written to U.S. senators and congressional leaders regarding the issue."

The elite power circles in Washington, D.C., have desired to control Venezuela's oil reserves for years, as it is the second largest deposit on earth. With China and India entering a more modern stage of industrial development, the United States -- desperate to retain its global hegemony and enforce its ideals worldwide -- wants to maintain a stranglehold on the world's oil supply for this purpose."

The U.S. military industry and oil interests seem to be ready for yet another military invasion of a peaceful nation, to deny the Venezuelan people of their oil and eventually their lives should they refuse to kowtow to a massive invasion force. It was announced on April 24, 2008 that Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, current commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command (SEALs) and the Special Operations component of the Navy, will assume the command of the re-established U.S. Fourth Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command."

The head of the U.S. Southern Command, Adm. James Stavrides, said the U.S. needs to work harder in "the market of ideas to win the hearts and minds" of the region's people. Where have we heard that line before? When we slaughtered millions to win their hearts and minds of people in the Philippines, Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada and Iraq."

Soon we will hear catch phrases of how the people of Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina are being enslaved by dictators. We will hear the rhetoric that the people are desperately hoping for Uncle Sam to free them and bring them U.S.-style democracy."

I'm taking a stand now. My children and grandchildren will not learn to hate our neighbors to the south, nor kill fellow human beings so that the elite can steal the property of Venezuela."

I ask all peoples of the world to rally publicly with me in this condemnation of the re-activation of the Fourth Fleet, and this prelude to yet another war of aggression against our brothers and sisters in Venezuela, Ecuador and the entire southern hemisphere."

It is our children and grandchildren who will once again be asked to die for this murderous aggression that is bound to occur. Our time to take a stand is now, not later."
I don't think he's crazy. When I heard the news the other day about gas prices maybe hitting $7 or $8 a gallon in the none to distant future, I couldn't help but think the old idea of seizing the oil fields couldn't be far away either.

Now the Bushies wouldn't want to mess with their friends in Saudi Arabia, but hey, what better target then Venezuela.

Can't you just see some domestic turmoil popping up there, someone ousting Chavez, and the US in the interest of "stabalization and human rights" sending some folks in and putting some big boats just off shore?

Summing it all up the Council on Hemispheric Affairs writes:

"Washington’s Fourth Fleet initiative is mainly not a welcomed development in U.S. Latin American policy relations. While raising apprehensions of covert U.S. military and intelligence ranks to the armed forces of hemispheric leftist regimes, as voiced by Correa of Ecuador in April 2008, the Fleet’s presence could also lead to the diminishment of local funding for broad social and humanitarian needs as Latin America’s defense establishments will seek to bolster their budgets in response to the growing threat posed by neighboring militaries which are building up their armed forces. The return of gun boat diplomacy is only a confirmation to Latin America that the U.S. is unaware of some of the new realities as the region seeks out its destiny without the White House at its helm."

The following is from the Missionary International Service News Agency (MISNA). I know it's an odd name for an OD source, but MISNA covers lots of stuff from the ground level. I find it a good source of information.


“What we need to ask is what need is there for military deployments in areas where there are neither nuclear weapons nor wars among states? In the measure in which a similar decision implies hegemonic pretensions to use military force or to threaten its use against any Latin American country, one cannot but reject it categorically”. So said the president of the National Cuban Assembly, Ricardo Alarcón, concerning Washington’s announcement that it shall imminently reactivate, in the Latin American area, the IV fleet, which was assembled in 1943 and dissolved in 1950; the move has raised concerns in the region and Alarcón has discussed the matter during his meeting with Brazilian president Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva in Brasilia. “We want explanations from the USA, because we live in an entirely peaceful region” said Lula, who had already expressed his reservations at the Mercosur summit in Argentina; Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez also opposed the IV Fleet redeployment describing it as “a threat to peace and natural resources in the region”. Fidel Castro was the first to voice concerns over the IV Fleet last May. He said that the decision betrays new “interventionist goals” in Latin America, especially as far as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are concerned.[


A flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse.

Well, the people who assembled yesterday were called together by the group Plane Stupid, the public places they arrived at were the Bolton and London homes of British MP, Ruth Kelly, and the unusual action was taken to protest the governments planned (and unpopular) expansion of Heathrow Airport.

In Bolton the "mobbers" played "airplane noise" at 56 decibels - the level deemed by the Department for Transport (DfT) not to be a nuisance to west Londoners - at 7.30am at the Transport Secretary's Docklands address.

A spokeswoman for London's Plane Stupid group, Elizabeth Baines, said: "It's incredible. Tucked away in her post London flat I can see now why it is so easy for Ruth to ignore the concerns of West London - the expansion of Heathrow won't threaten her quality of life."

She added: "London does not want more noise and air pollution. A decision in favour of BAA would be reckless cowardice - the UK can help beat climate change but not by doubling the capacity of the world's busiest airport."

In a separate demonstration a flash mob of between 50 and 100 protesters from anti-expansion group, The Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan), threw paper planes bearing a message and Ms Kelly's face at the DfT's Westminster headquarters.

Plane Stupid cites ten good reason for their opposition:

Aviation expansion will destroy ancient forests and woodland
Hundreds of acres of ancient oak woodland would have to be destroyed to make way for the government’s expansion plans.

Airport expansion will destroy important heritage sites
Across the country over one hundred historical buildings are at risk from airport expansion.

Aviation creates massive noise pollution
Living under the flight path is like living on a motorway.

Aviation diverts money away from public services
The airlines receive over £10 billion in tax breaks each year because of tax-free fuel and VAT-free tickets and planes.

Aviation is the fastest growing cause of climate change
Despite myths propagated by the airline industry, aviation already accounts for 13% of the UK’s contribution to climate change.

Aviation is mostly unnecessary
45% of air journeys in Europe are less than 500km – about the distance from London to the Scottish border.

Aviation's contribution to the economy is massively overstated
The aviation industry is only the 26th biggest industry in Britain.

Aviation expansion is wiping established communities off the map
At its seven airports across the UK BAA is proposing the biggest single programme of airport expansion that the UK has ever seen.

Airports cause illegal levels of nitrous oxide pollution
Heathrow airport is already breaching UK and EU legal limits for the high levels of nitrogen dioxide and therefore the present growth in the number of flights is probably unlawful.

'Cheap' flights are for the priviliged
It’s the rich who are really benefiting from the artificially low prices of air travel. The average income of people using Stansted Airport is £47,000 per year – and it’s supposed to be a budget airport!

Plane Stupid describes itself as a network of groups taking action against airport expansion and aviation's climate impact. Plane Stupid has no hierarchy or central leadership, but is instead made up of small 'affinity groups' who organise themselves. Inspired by networks like Earth First! and the mid-90s anti-roads protests, members take direct action against one of the root causes of climate change.

The following is from the Bolton News (UK).

Ruth Kelly's home is 'flashmobbed'

ACTIVISTS targeted the Bolton and London homes of MP, Ruth Kelly, to protest at the Government's backing of plans to expand Heathrow Airport.

Aircraft noise was played through the letterbox of her London Docklands apartment for 15 minutes at 7.30am yesterday until the protestors were reportedly chased away by her husband.

And later on, paper planes covered in images of the Transport Secretary and Bolton West MP's face, were flown into the side of the Department of Transport's headquarters.

Last night, a spokesman for Ms Kelly's department said: "Everyone has the right to make their views known and to protest, providing they do so within the law.

"The Government is currently considering the 70,000 responses to the Heathrow consultation in which everyone has had the opportunity to send us their views on our proposals.

"The Government expects to make a decision later this year after considering all the responses it has received to the consultation."

The protest started when six female activists from the Plane Stupid campaign group targeted Ms Kelley's London home. The group's Manchester wing also protested outside her house in Bolton at the same time.

The Flash Mob struck shortly before 11am when they turned up outside the DTI's headquarters in Westminster wearing red t-shirts emblazoned with the message No Airport Expansion'.

One of the organisers, John Stewart, of linked anti-expansion group, Hacan, said: "I am very pleased with this demonstration and it shows the strength of feeling about expansion."

The demonstrations were an attempt to influence Mrs Kelly, who is due to rule late this year on the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport to cope with more planes.

They were attended by Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable, whose Twickenham constituency is below the flight paths of many Heathrow-bound planes.

He said: "Expansion would do much harm in terms of noise and emissions."

A spokesman for Plane Stupid said the peaceful demonstrations outside Mrs Kelly's homes had also gone well.

Elizabeth Baines said the group had left a letter for the MP with her husband, which read: "We do hope that you will keep this early-morning wake-up call in mind when you decide the future of Heathrow after summer recess.


The killing of 17-year-old Javon Dawson (pictured here) who was shot in the back at a graduation party was only the latest of police shooting in the St. Petersburg area. Marquell McCullough, 17, was shot 19 times in May 2004 by Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies during an early-morning traffic stop. Jarrell Walker was shot in the back three times in April 2005.

Dawson had no prior arrests and had been promoted to the 11th grade when police say he fired gunshots at a graduation party. Javon’s brother and other witnesses say he had no gun.

Nyabinga Dzinbahwe of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, also known as the Uhurus said witnesses he has spoken with told him that Dawson did not have a gun, contrary to the story put forward by the police.

“He was there with his hands raised when the police shot him. And that after they shot him in the back then when all those people attempted to help him, to stop the bleeding, the police maced other folk who where there, particularly, I believe his cousin. Then as his younger brother attempted to help him, the police told him that they would shoot him if he didn’t stop, if he didn’t get away from him.”

Javon’s little brother, Keon, explained at a community support meeting with tears in his eyes how the police threatened to kill him if he tried to help Javon as he lie bleeding to death on the ground. “I saw my brother shaking on the ground, and then I tried to run over there. The police was like, ‘get back, or I’ll shoot you too.’”

Ollie Godfrey, Javon’s stepmother, spoke at at he same meeting. She told those in attendance, “This is an injustice in our community because that could have been anybody’s child laying out there that night. They said he was in the hospital. We went to the hospital, and they said that he wasn’t there. We went back out there, and they left him lying out there for four hours like a dog in the streets. We know that the police are going to put it the way they want to to make themselves justified, but it was not justified to shoot somebody in their back. I don’t care what the circumstances were.”

The group Justice for Javon is calling for “reparations” for the victims of police shootings as well as jail for Javon’s shooter, St. Petersburg Officer Terrance Nemeth, and “real economic development” for Black-owned businesses and services.

“We do this because I’m afraid to be the next Javon Dawson or Sean Bell,” Olugbala told the Florida Courier. “This is not an isolated incident involving a rogue cop. It is an example of the brutal relationship between the police and African people.

“The police are used to protect the system of oppression of African people. The government uses terror like what Javon experienced to keep us from getting organized. Violence serves as a deterrent to stop us.”

The cops and the prosecutors kept saying they were having a hard time finding any wintesses. So last week family members put the State Attorney's Office in touch with at least seven witnesses, including Javon's 14-year-old brother, Keon, who was with Javon the night he died.

"In a nutshell, they said they did not see a gun," Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant to Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe told the Tampa Times.

The State's Attorney though remains skeptical.

And Javon's family remains sceptical of the State Attorney's office.

Maura Kiefer, a St. Petersburg lawyer representing the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, appeared in a Clearwater courtroom Tuesday to request that McCabe be removed from the case because his office is biased, court officials said.

"The motion is not a reflection of the credibility or qualification or integrity of Mr. McCabe's office at all," Kiefer said after the hearing, which was moved to July 10 because of a scheduling conflict.

Rather, the family is concerned because the 24-year-old officer who shot Javon, Terrence Nemeth, also has been a state witness on numerous occasions.

"Officer Nemeth is quite frankly a potential criminal suspect," Kiefer said. "There is clearly a conflict of interest."


The following is from WMNF Community Radio in Tampa, Florida.

Javon Dawson family’s lawyer says State Attorney should recuse himself
The lawyer for the family of a teen shot and killed by St. Petersburg Police says that all of the witnesses she has spoken to say the teen was unarmed and is asking that the State Attorney investigating the shooting be disqualified.

Attorney Maura Kiefer said she has presented five or six witnesses who say that 17 year old Javon Dawson was unarmed before and while he was shot twice in the back by Officer Terrence Nemeth on June 7th. In a motion filed Tuesday morning with the Pinellas County Court, Kiefer said Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe has a conflict of interest.

Diop Olugbala is the political action coordinator for the Justice for Javon Dawson committee and said that Kiefer is asking that an independent investigator be assigned to the case.

“The state’s attorney has been using and will most likely continue to use witness testimonials from police officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department, many of whom he is currently working with around 100 other cases in process right now, in trial right now. This represents a conflict of interest, and really you know reveals an incestuous relationship that exists between the state’s attorney and the police department that has no place in the process for justice.”

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe told WMNF that he would not recuse himself and did not consider it a conflict of interest.

“That’s ludicrous. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve investigated a lot of police officer-involved situations. … There’s no case in controversy currently. I don’t know who has standing to … I certainly don’t think this lawyer has standing to try to disqualify my office and I’m certainly not going to do it voluntarily.”

Because the investigation is ongoing, McCabe would not discuss what the witnesses told his investigators. The June shooting occurred during a nighttime graduation party where police were called for noise complaints after 200 youth spilled out of a Masonic lodge and into the street. There were some reports of shots being fired into the air. St. Petersburg Police maintain that Dawson was turned sideways, pointing a gun at Officer Nemeth, when the officer shot him in the back of the shoulder. Dawson continued to turn and flee, according to that account, when Nemeth shot him a second time in the lower back. Dawson collapsed and died in a nearby yard. Police say a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver with three spent rounds was found near his body. But Diop Olugbala said that witnesses contest that account.

“I’ve myself have heard many accounts of what happened that night on June 7th. And I’ve even watched TV interviews on Channel 9 and other major TV networks where people came before the cameras saying that Javon had no gun. … Everybody knows that he didn’t have a gun. And from what I understand, there’s been various witnesses who have come forward to the state’s attorneys, through Maura Kiefer’s efforts, that have said the same thing.”

Attorney Maura Kiefer represented the witnesses as they were interviewed by investigators.

There will be a hearing on Keifer’s motion next Thursday morning. Keifer told WMNF that if her request is denied, she will ask the Governor to issue an executive order to assign a different state attorney to the investigation.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Greenpeace says its activists are right now blockading Australia’s most polluting coal-fired power station, Eraring Power Station (see map) to call for an energy revolution.

The 27 activists (three of whom are pictured here entering the plant) include an ex-miner from the Hunter, Australia. They have stopped coal supply. Every hour we stop the coal supply, we're preventing 2000 tons of CO2 from being released (Note: the latest bulletin from Greenpeace Australia reports 12 activists are still locked on. Fifteen have been taken into custody. Coal supply is still being stopped).

"We have to stop fuelling climate change when creating electricity," says Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Simon Roz. "Eraring, an old and inefficient plant, is one of eight coal-fired power stations in New South Wales. These plants are responsible for half the state’s and 13% of Australia’s greenhouse pollution."

Last November Australia's energy industry representatives admitted Australia does have some of the world's dirtiest power stations and is the world's worst per capita greenhouse polluter.

According to the study by the Washington-based Center for Global Development, Australian power plants produce more carbon dioxide emissions per person each year than the United States, and almost five times as much as China.

The Eraring plant in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales has been identified as one of the top 100 greenhouse gas emitters in the world.

During an occupation of a nearby power plant last November Greenpeace energy campaigner John Hepburn said, “We can't just sit back and watch while scientists measure how quickly humans are killing the planet. We should not be opening new coal fired power stations, nor extending the life of old ones, when we need to cut carbon emissions right now by making the switch from coal to cleaner, smarter energy."

Coincidentally, an Australian National University report released today found current climate change targets are too low. The report found the earth's ability to absorb carbon will decline as global warming increases, accelerating the rate of temperature change.

The report's principal author, Andrew Macintosh, says this process is known as climate-carbon cycle feedbacks.

"As global warming continues then there is a significant risk that the uptake of carbon by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems will decline and as a result a greater proportion of each unit of emissions will stay in the atmosphere," he said.

"Now that's bad because it will result in a higher concentration of carbon in the atmosphere and as a result, greater warming."

Macintosh says the importance of climate-carbon cycle feedbacks is often overlooked by policy makers.

"Decision makers often rely on data that do not fully account for this information," he said.

Macintosh says greater emission cuts are needed to keep the temperature rise below 3 degrees.

Macintosh states the current target of a 60 per cent cut by 2050 is unlikely to be effective.

"Sixty per cent is clearly inconsistent with trying to keep temperatures to 2 degrees and is more consistent with trying to keep temperatures to 4 degrees," he said.

"So clearly outside of the bounds of what a large number of people are now saying is the trigger for dangerous climate change."

The following is just in from the Australian Broadcasting System.

Greenpeace activists chain themselves to coal conveyor

Environmental group Greenpeace is this morning escalating its campaign against climate change, with almost 30 activists chaining themselves to a coal conveyor at a Lake Macquarie power station.

The action is aimed at preventing coal from feeding generators at the Eraring power station.

Climate and energy campaigner Simon Roz says it is part of an ongoing campaign for a reduction in carbon emissions in the lead up to the release of the Federal Government commissioned Garnaut report into climate change.

"We make no apology at all for the fact that our action is highlighting the urgent need to address greenhouse pollution," he said.

"Coal is responsible for a third of our national emissions and we simply must replace coal with renewable energy if we're to have any hope of averting dangerous climate change."


For some reason you'd think the electronic surveillance epidemic sweeping the world might bypass Sweden.

You'd be wrong.

The Swedish government like governments everywhere it seems has this peculiar need to listen in.

A week or so ago (while I was away from my desk) Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt won a narrow victory in his parliament allowing Sweden to spy on cross-border email and telephone traffic and snoop into how people even send faxes.

The new law has drawn the ire of folks all over the place.

“By introducing these new measures, the Swedish government is following the examples set by governments ranging from China and Saudi Arabia to the US government’s highly criticised eavesdropping program,” said Peter Fleischer of Google.

Speaking on a recent visit to Sweden (and before the passage of the law), Fleischer, the company's global privacy counsel, warned that Google would rule out making any major investments in Sweden should the controversial bill become law.

"We have contacted Swedish authorities to give our view of the proposal and we have made it clear that we will never place any servers inside Sweden's borders if the proposal goes through," Fleischer told Internet World.

Critics of the new law said it represented Europe’s most far-reaching eavesdropping plan.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European group, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) expressed "incredulity and dismay" with the new law.

"It is astonishing that one of Europe's oldest democracies where model standards of press freedom have been taken for granted has dealt such a blow to civil liberties," said IFJ/EFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "No journalist anywhere in Europe can now be certain that their work is not subject to official surveillance, that their telephones are not being tapped and that they can with any confidence protect their sources," he said.

The wiretapping bill had been heavily criticized by journalists, lawyers, bloggers, all political parties’ youth organizations - as well as the head of the Swedish intelligence agency Säpo. Also, all of the four daily newspapers’ senior political editors were heavily opposed.

The public demonstrated in the streets against the bill (see picture).

All to no avail.

Agneta Lindblom Hulthén, chairwoman of the Swedish Union of Journalists (Journalistförbundet), said all privacy safeguards would vanish with the new law.

"There is a limit to what a democracy can do to protect democracy without itself becoming undemocratic," she told news agency TT. The Swedish Journalists Association had heavily campaigned against the proposal as an attack on civil liberties that would create a 'big brother' state.

Anne Ramberg, secretary general of the Swedish Bar Association, is calling for challenges to the law in Swedish and European courts saying that this sort of law would have been unthinkable before September 11.

The Local (Sweden) wrote of the new law:

"What the law means is that all telephone and internet operators will be forced to attach a large cable to the state's supercomputer, where the state will be able to keep a record of everything said in telephone conversations, surfed on the web or written on the internet."

The law can best be described by the more explanatory term "general surveillance". Instead of just criminal suspects having their phones tapped, now everyone will be tapped via their phones, emails, web surfing, faxes etc."

There are no courts involved, and the government and all its agencies - including the police and the security police - will be able to snoop around in the tapped phone and email correspondence of its citizens."

This is much, much worse than the East German Stasi, which was only capable of tapping a small sector of the population. This is also something that has been pointed out by German members of parliament with first-hand experience of the Stasi."

Millions of ordinary Swedes have been letting the government know they can't stand the new law. More than two million of them have emailed their lawmakers in opposition. This in a country of only nine million.

The following is from Jurist.

Sweden wiretapping law opposed by millions of petitioners

[JURIST] Millions of Swedish citizens have filed electronic petitions against the country's newly approved electronic wiretapping law according to news reports Wednesday. The law was narrowly approved earlier this month and gives the country's National Defence Radio Establishment broad authority to monitor international telephone and electronic communications passing through the country. Upon passage, opponents warned that the bill could also be used to intercept domestic communications and more recently one business leader said that it may drive high-tech companies out of the country The new law is scheduled to take effect in January 2009.

Warrantless wiretaps have been an increasingly controversial topic as officials struggle to balance civil liberties with security concerns. In February, a Canadian judge ruled that Section 184.4 of the Canadian Criminal Code which allows law enforcement officers to electronically intercept private communications in "exceptional circumstances" without court authorization, is unconstitutional because it violates "the fundamental freedom to be free from unreasonable search and seizure" protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In March, the US House of Representatives narrowly passed a controversial bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Security Act that would extend government power to eavesdrop on individuals within the US under judicial oversight but not grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that had previously allowed the government to eavesdrop on their lines as part of its warrantless wiretapping program.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


It all began back in the spring of 2006 when the Cumberland Park Project resulted from an agreement between the Giles County Partnership for Excellence (GCPE) and American Electric Power. The proposed project was expected to ultimately result in a commercial site built upon a coal combustion waste (CCW) structural fill within the 100-year floodplain of the New River in Giles County, Virginia.

Well, guess what, some locals weren't all that thrilled with the deal after they did a little research. They discovered amongst other things similar structural fill sites have contaminated streams in Pennsylvania and groundwater in Maryland, and one site in neighboring Roanoke County has even become a Superfund site.

These citizens formed the Concerned Citizens from Giles County (CCGC). They believe that the health and safety of their community are at risk due to inadequate state and federal regulation of wastes.

The Cumberland Park Project is a planned coal combustion waste structural foundation fill. It is located in the flood plain of the New River, a National Heritage River, and it will not have a landfill liner. Despite its legality, it is clearly a threat to human and environmental safety.

Coal-burning power plants produce hundreds of tons of fly ash residue every day. The powdery material contains low concentrations of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic.

Ordinarily, reports the Roanoke Times, those disposing of it would have to protect nearby groundwater sources from contamination. The storage site would need to be lined and monitoring wells would be required to make sure the metals weren't leaching into nearby streams, rivers or the underground water table.

But because the fill proposed for Giles has a "constructive purpose," those requirements are waived, even though the site is just off the New River and the potential for contamination is high.

CCGC says:

"Coal combustion wastes release toxic heavy metals when they come in contact with water. The National Academy of Sciences has found that this effect wreaks havoc on aquatic ecosystems, often causing fish kills and debilitating mutations. The EPA has even published data that identifies cancer risks for humans drinking this contaminated water to be orders of magnitude above their suggested risk limits."

Environmental groups have been alarmed at the groundwater contamination by heavy metals from coal fly ash. The Appalachian Voice reports that incidents have taken place all over the country where old fly ash deposits have broken loose, contaminating neighborhoods, threatening health and reducing property values. Fish and other species die quickly when directly exposed to fly ash, and those exposed indirectly accumulate heavy metals in their bodies, harming the ecosystem and posing a serious health risk to anglers among others.

Undeterred, the coal and utility industries keep insisting that fly ash is harmless.

However back in 2003 the EPA identified over 70 sites nationwide where fly ash and similar coal power plant waste has contaminated surface and groundwater. The next year, 130 environmental groups petitioned the federal government to stop allowing fly ash to be dumped where it could come into contact with drinking water supplies.

The cancer risk from arsenic is one of the biggest issues with fly ash. People drinking groundwater contaminated by a landfill that did not use a plastic liner had a 10,000 times greater than allowable risk of cancer, the EPA said. Other risks include high levels of mercury, lead and other heavy metal contaminants.

At the time, EPA put off a decision on new regulations for 18 months. Five years later, regulations have yet to be written, although two years ago, a National Science Foundation report urged EPA to begin regulation.

Again let me say communities in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Maryland have already experienced severe fly ash problems. Water supplies had to be shut down in 2004 in the town of Pines, Indiana, and families were provided with bottled water after molybdenum showed up the town’s drinking water

In November 2007, some 34 residents of Gambrills, Maryland, filed a class action lawsuit against a power company, saying that their water was contaminated by a fly ash disposal site. The suit was filed because the claimants felt that a previous $1 million fine, levied against a utility by the state environmental agency, was inadequate.

Keep this crap out of my neighborhood.

CCGC filed an unusual lawsuit asking for a grand jury investigation into the controversial coal waste project on the banks of the New River. The suit was based on a section of Virginia code that allows court-appointed citizens to investigate public nuisances.

“You’re just looking at a catastrophe waiting to happen,” said Britt Stoudenmire, one of the participants in the lawsuit. “Fly ash is fairly benign if it’s controlled – but when you put the stuff near groundwater, it is a much bigger issue.”

The Grand Jury was formed and ruled IN FAVOR OF THE BAD GUYS.

None of the petitioners who filed suit in the case was interviewed, said their lawyer, John Robertson.

Say what?

The jury foreman read the seven-member group's 112-page report aloud in Giles County Circuit Court at a brief hearing Wednesday morning. When he was finished, Circuit Court Judge Colin Gibb said, "The court is of the opinion that that concludes the matter."

I don't think so, your honor.

The citizens are still riled up. they still say the waste project is a threat to public health and property values because fly ash which will be placed on the site has high levels of heavy metals, arsenic and other toxic materials. In addition, the design of the project is not likely to protect against groundwater contamination, the citizens group keeps trying to tell anyone who will listen. They plan further action to try to stop this project.

By the way the people in CCGC are not the only ones concerned.

The Virginia Tech chapter of the American fisheries society has said that the plan poses an “unacceptable risk to the fishery of the New River.” Fisheries biologist Than Hitt, writing on behalf of the society, also said he worried that there were “no plans for a temporary cover or cap on the fill site during the three years that (fly ash) will be disposed of” at the site.

“The plans for the project seem to assume that there will be no rain, snow or other major weather events like hurricanes, tropical storms or nor’easters for the three year disposal period. This is a recipe for potentially major leachate problems.”

Hitt also said that due to poor quality of the leachate data provided by Appalachian Electric Power, “there is inadequate analysis of the true potential for contamination.”

Ironically, one of the stated purposes of the project is to benefit the county's schools. The partnership is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose primary exempt purpose is "educational enrichment," according to its tax forms. It claims it will sell Cumberland Park as commercial property (the "beneficial end use") and donate the proceeds of the sale to the Giles County Vocational School.

But the school board says it has nothing to do with the project or the partnership and maintains that there is no arrangement for the funds to go to the school system.

However, the school board has not taken action that it could.

Five members of the partnership's board of directors are supposed to be school board appointees.

The number, however, is ZERO.

The board could right now demand its five seats on the board of directors. It could then put the breaks on the ash site and address public concerns about it.

Alternatively, says the Roanoke Times, the schools can formally split with the partnership. Thank it for whatever services it provided over the years, but clearly inform it that it no longer may claim association with the county's public education mission.

Did I mention that more than a year ago a broad coalition of 27 environmental and public health groups, led by Earthjustice, Clean Air Task Force, and the Environmental Integrity Project, submitted a proposal to EPA detailing ways to protect against pollution from the millions of tons of coal ash disposed annually by U.S. coal-fired power plants. The groups also requested that EPA take immediate action to investigate and abate pollution at coal ash dump sites.

They're getting nowhere just as fast as those 130 environmental groups did back in 2004.

The question is if some folks in some small town somewhere in America succumb needlessly to poison, does anyone notice?

Does anyone care?

The Oread Daily cares and so should you!

The following is from WVVA-TV (Bluefield, WV).

Citizens Continue to Fight Cumberland Park Project

The Concerned Citizens of Giles County had brought a public nuisance lawsuit against the Giles County Partnership for Excellence which owns the land.

We reported to you that on June 18th, the jury decided that the fly ash was not a public nuisance and you heard what lawyers for both sides had to say, but today we spoke to the people actually involved in the case.

"Our jury's decision really did not change the danger that this site poses," says Cunningham.

"We are confident that it is environmentally safe," says Spencer.

Two completely different opinions about the same piece of land.

The debate is over fly ash and its use as the structural fill for a construction project on the site.

The concerned citizens say they understand that all of the permits and regulations have been followed. That's not the problem. Their issue is with the site being located right next to the New River.

"Fly ash is most dangerous when it mixes with water, so what worse location could you possibly choose?" says Cunningham.

The concerned citizens are also upset that the Partnership is not required to monitor the water, but even though they're not required, Spencer says they are doing them four times a year.

So far, no problems.

But the concerned citizens say they have found some areas where people believe fly ash is causing health problems, such as the Town of Pines in Indiana.

"Their water supply is poisoned. It is contaminated," says Cunningham.

But Spencer says that's different because it was a landfill and this is a structural fill.

He also says this isn't the first place in the county they've used fly ash.

"This is a structural fill that we did here in Glen Lyn. We know that it works," says Spencer.

The Concerned Citizens disagree, and although they lost their recent lawsuit, they're not giving up just yet.

"Our lawyers are discussing our next step. We are determined to continue fighting for the health of people in Giles County and communities, other communities that depend on this river," says Cunningham.


Years of turmoil in Suriname came to a close in 1992 when a newly elected government reached a peace agreement with the two largest guerrilla groups, the Surinamese Liberation Army and the Tucayana Amazonas to bring an end to a rebellion of the Maroons in the interior. Many of the rebels were descendants of African slaves who escaped in the 18th century from plantations in the former Dutch colony.

Only one of the several rebel groups from years back now seems to be happy with has happened since. The others want action.

So the four other former rebel groups are threatening with action if the peace agreement of 1992 is not fairly implemented.

They are threatening to paralyse the economy if their demands are not met.

"We are fed up with the (way things are going)," says Frederick Finisie, former parliamentarian and spokesman of the group Angula.

The following is from Caribbean Net News.

Former armed groups urge Suriname government to implement 1992 peace agreement

PARAMARIBO: Hinting at possible unrest, several former armed groups are urging the Suriname government to fully implement the 1992 Peace Agreement, which ended an eight year rebellion against the government.

Claiming that the government is only looking after the interest of one particular former rebel group the other former insurgent groups formed a union to advance their agenda. According to spokesman Frederik Finisie a former member of parliament the former rebel organizations Angula, Toekajana Amazone, Mandela and Kofimaka represent over 700 former combatants.

By joining forces the union is aiming at a speedy implementation of the peace accord. The former rebels insist that 16 years after the signing of the agreement not much of the agreement have been implemented by the government.

They also claim that the government is only paying attention to issues that are being presented by members of the former Jungle Commando, of which former rebel leader Ronnie Brunswijk is currently one of the coalition leaders.

The former combatants claim that the government promised jobs, medical care and social security but never kept its end of the deal.

“But we are not specifically after government jobs,” Finisie said.

The groups are pressing for forestry concessions and other facilities to become independent breadwinners for their families.

“As soon as you apply for a concession or a piece of land your application is being turned down if you’re not a supporter of this government,” he further noted.

President Ronald Venetiaan, however, countered, saying that most of the agreed aspects in the peace accord have been implemented. The Head of State further warned that the government will not always sit idly by while individuals barricade roads whenever they please.

Several weeks earlier the former Jungle Commando barricaded the highway to Albina near the French Guiana border.

Oriana Trameh, representative of the Toekajana Amazone, stated that the groups are tired of waiting and are prepared to paralyze the country’s economy if their demands are not met.

Although the groups uttered strong words against the government during a press conference to announce their cooperation, they are still open to dialogue. According to the former rebels, numerous letters to the government have so far gone unanswered.


The president of Mongolia has issued a decree introducing a four-day state of emergency in the capital, Ulan Bator, because of rioting (first picture above) after Sunday's parliamentary elections. Public gatherings are banned and any such meetings will be broken up, according to the TV announcement, which also includes a ban on media except for Mongolian national TV and state media organisations.

The action was taken in response to the protests involving thousands of people in Mongolia's capital voicing outrage over what they claimed were rigged elections.

In the elections the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party won 41 of the 76 seats in parliament. The Mongolian Democratic Party has 25 seats and independent candidates have just one seat. Final election results are expected today.

Mongolia Web has reported:

"Protesters have set fire to the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) building (second picture above) in Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar. Fire trucks are trying to get near the site. Military and police are joining forces to control the crowd. Eagle TV shows images of smoke coming from the MPRP building and protesters trying to enter. Around 19.30 fire was coming from the windows at the ground floor, but the fire brigade seems to have controlled. "

In the meantime protesters look for the confrontation. Police men are shooting at the crowd with what seem to be rubber bullets."

Protesters have taken possession of bottles of a duty free shop and are throwing the bottles at the building while setting fire to the carton boxes."

Journalist Irja Halasz told Al Jazeera that the rioters had prevented firefighters from reaching the burning MPRP building.

"The police have withdrawn their lines back because of the rioters throwing a lot of stones, and at this point it looks like no one is in control," she reported from the building next to the headquarters.

"It looks like the rioters here have not heard the [president's] speech, they are going on and it looks like there is no end to it."

In addition part of the Cultural Palace, which contains an art gallery, a museum and a theatre, was on fire early Wednesday as violence continued.

The technically neutral President Enkhbayar -- previously with the MPRP -- earlier called an emergency security meeting that involved Prime Minister Sanjagiin Bayar and all opposition party leaders.

At the meeting, broadcast live on the privately run Eagle television, the MPRP-affiliated Bayar renewed his calls for restraint while blaming the Democrats for inciting the rioters after losing the elections.

International observers say that overall the election was free and fair, but new election rules that changed the first-past-the-post system to one of multi-member constituencies have led to procedural problems and confusion.

With an economy based on nomadic herding, Mongolia was heavily reliant on support from Moscow, but when this was withdrawn its financial systems quickly collapsed. The political system which was modeled after that of the old Soviet Union also went by the wayside.

During the difficult intervening period, the former Communists, the MPRP, and the emergent Democratic Party have competed for power.

Four years ago, they were pretty much forced to form a coalition, but in 2006 they broke apart again acrimoniously. Since then the MPRP has hung on to power through alliances with splinter parties.

Despite years of political unease, politics in Mongolia was relatively calm as long as the country was poor.

But that has changed, as the previously untapped and considerable mineral wealth of the vast Mongolian plateau starts to be exploited.

With a "victory" in the latest elections, the MPRP was expected to open the way for long-awaited agreement on how to handle billions of dollars of foreign investment in the country's mining sector.

According to the East Asia oriented web site Secure my Country, the previous broadly split parliament had failed to agree revisions to the mining law seen as essential to promoting foreign investment or to approve the long-stalled multi-billion dollar Oyu Tolgoi copper project backed by Ivanhoe Mines of Canada and Rio Tinto.

Mongolia's large estimated reserves of resources such as copper, gold, coal and uranium have drawn increasing international interest amid rising commodity prices and the rapid economic growth of China, the grassland nation's southern neighbour.

However, international mining executives have expressed deep frustration at slow progress in setting the terms of foreign involvement in projects such as Oyu Tolgoi and the Tavan Tolgoi coalfield.

Sumati, head of the Sant Maral independent political polling group, said before the rioting began the election result was likely to lead to early approval of the mining law and Oyu Tolgoi project.

The following is taken from Montsame Agency (Mongolia).


Ulaanbaatar, /MONTSAME/. In connection with an emergency situation occured in Ulaanbaatar, President of Mongolia N.Enkhbayar issued June 2 at 00.00 a.m. a decree in frames of his competence.

Under his decree, a state of emergency is declared in the capital for four days.

The decree says, due to actions with use of violation of a group of people on the territory of Sukhbaatar district of Ulaanbaatar, mass disturbances are occurred. Forces of the law enforcement organs were attacked, material values were destroyed, and fires were set up in several objects. In order to eliminate consequences of the emergency situations and ensure the security of the population, the President of Mongolia declares a state of emergency from 00.00 a.m. on the territory of the city for four-day term.

The President orders to take the following measures:
1. To strengthen the security of objects of state significance.
2. Using forces permitted by the law, to break up any kinds of demonstrations and mass activities arranged with infringing the law.
3. To restrict the traffic movement in the central part of the capital and to check motor vehicles.
4. Using forces, to disperse and arrest persons and groups of people who break the public order and arrange actions with use of forces and to examine whether they have arms and technical devices.
5. To impose a curfew from 22.00 p.m. to 08.00 a.m. in the central part of the capital, to check persons breaking it, to arrest individuals having no ID cards with forces of the police or military patrol in the period until the expiring the quarantine or for 72 hours no long until the person will identified.
6. To ban the use of devices intensifying sounds, in case of necessity to seize them and to stop activities of all televisions and radios except the national public television and radio until the expiration of the state of emergency term.
7. To prohibit the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages.
8. To put control over individuals having firearms and cold steel, over entities and plants using explosives, virulent chemicals, and radioactive substances, and over military arms and techniques used in training.
9. To charge Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs Ts.Monkh-Orgil to organize actions for implementing the decree.