Monday, December 22, 2014

Last Week in Indian Country

A recap of the stories that mattered most in Indian country:

ANOTHER AUCTION DEBACLE: In what has become an all-too-familiar and all-too-disappointing scenario, a Parisian auction house put sacred Native American objects on the block despite strenuous objections from Tribes.

WILL THERE BE JUSTICE?: Their land still saturated with goop, indigenous groups in Ecuador are awaiting a decision in the Supreme Court of Canada on whether Chevron Corp. can be forced to pay the $9.5 billion in damages they are owed for severe contamination of their lands.

SLUR RULED NOT OBSCENE: The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday dismissed a case filed by a Washington, D.C.-based law professor arguing the word "Redskin" is not obscene.

COLOSSAL: Sculptor Dale Lamphere wants to put a 45-foot-tall sculpture of a Native American woman on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River in Chamberlain, South Dakota.

GOOD NEWS FOR ALASKA NATIVES: In the final days of the 113th Congress, the House and Senate passed legislation that could begin a new era in the relationship between Alaska Native nations and the State of Alaska. “It is one of the biggest things Congress has done for Alaska Natives in many years,” says Troy Eid, former chairman of the Indian Law and Order Commission.

KEY APPOINTMENTS: Three prominent Native American Washingtonians have been appointed to key positions in education, environmental protection, and the judiciary.

ASSIMILATION ERA CHIC: The holiday lookbook for Ralph Lauren's RLL brand contained vintage photos of Native Americans wearing European-style clothing. Ruth Hopkins called for a boycott of "Assimilation Era chic," and Adrienne Keene called the use of the images "a new low" for Lauren.

SHOCKING CLAIM: The family of late actress Misty Upham released a statement alleging that their daughter was "murdered by two men in front of several witnesses."

NO DRILLING: The Bristol Bay watershed has been saved, at least from oil and gas drilling. President Barack Obama on December 16 decreed the entire area off limits by signing a Presidential Memorandum withdrawing “these beautiful and pristine waters from all future oil and gas drilling.”

DOUBLE DOUBLE: Jude Schimmel had her best game of the season Monday night, scoring 12 points and dishing out 10 assists for her University of Louisville Cardinals, who routed Old Dominion 100-46 to rebound from a tough loss to No. 8 Kentucky last week.


The Latest Twist in the Bizarre Prosecution of Barrett Brown

DALLAS, Tx.—Barrett Brown entered the federal courtroom shackled, with a slight swagger in his step and squinting into the light. He took his seat next to his defense team and quietly set about flipping through a stack of loose-leaf papers and then began writing. When asked by the judge if he knew why he was in court that day, Tuesday, Brown – who has spent two years in federal custody – leaned into the microphone and with a warbly Texas accent, said clearly and plainly, “I am to be sentenced today.” And then he returned to his papers.

Wearing a prison-issued orange uniform, the 33-year-old Brown scribbled for hours as a federal prosecutor attempted to portray him, not as a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Vanity Fair and the Dallas-based Dmagazine, but instead as a spokesman, strategist and contributor to the hacktivist collective Anonymous. It was the final phase of a criminal prosecution that at one point threatened Brown with more than 100 years in prison, as a result of his work on thousands of files hacked by Anonymous from the servers of HBGary Federal and Stratfor, security intelligence firms and government contractors. Through the online collective he founded, called Project PM, Brown analyzed and reported on the thousands of pages of leaked documents. The HBGary hack revealed a coordinated campaign to target and smear advocates for WikiLeaks and the Chamber of Commerce, while the Stratfor hack provided a rare window into the shadowy world of defense contractors.

The hearing followed a plea deal negotiated with prosecutors last spring, in which Brown agreed to plead guilty to charges related to threats he made in a YouTube video against an FBI agent named Robert Smith, as well as to a misdemeanor obstruction charge for attempting to conceal two laptops when FBI agents arrived at his mother’s home to execute a search warrant. A third charge, accessory after the fact, stemmed from an offer Brown made to the hacker Jeremy Hammond, to contact Stratfor to see if the firm wanted redactions of the hacked materials. Brown faced up to 8 ½ years in prison for these charges.

But in court, the question of who Barrett Brown really is—and the real nature of his work—consumed and drew out what typically would be a brief sentencing hearing at the U.S. District courthouse near Dealey Plaza. The YouTube video represents the most serious charge against him; in it, Brown says he is suffering symptoms of withdrawal from Suboxone, the drug he used to control his heroin addiction, and becomes angry when discussing the FBI raid on his mother’s home and the government’s related charges against her. He threatens to “look into” FBI Agent Smith’s kids and “ruin” his life.


Murder In The Rainforest

On the morning of December 5th, a dark piece of news began circulating at the U.N. climate talks in Lima: The body of José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a leading Ecuadorian indigenous-rights and anti-mining campaigner, had been found in a riverside grave near his village, his remains bound in rope, showing signs of beating and torture. Antún had planned to be in the Peruvian capital last week, where hundreds of indigenous leaders from around the world gathered to demand recognition and rights, as both defenders of the world’s rainforests and underappreciated players in the effort to slow climate change.
The outlines of Antún’s murder were grimly familiar to indigenous activists. The spread of logging, agriculture and extractive industry into once remote forests has sparked social conflict under the tropical canopies of Amazonia, Africa and Asia. Rising native resistance is met with repression and violence, the screams from which don’t often reach the outside world. The situation is especially bad in the northwest Amazon. News of José Antún’s death in Ecuador follows the September killing of four Peruvian indigenous anti-logging activists near the Brazil border. The group’s slain leader, Edwin Chota, had also planned to travel to Lima and use his famed energy and eloquence to help sound the indigenous alarm. Two of the widows faced down threats from local loggers to attend in his name.
This jungle violence isn’t just a human tragedy or a local environmental story — it is global climate politics. The first days of the Lima summit — known as COP 20, for the twentieth session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — saw the publication of data that quantifies, for the first time, the exact size of the climate impact made by indigenous populations as front-line guardians of imperiled rainforests. The size of this impact, a kind of negative carbon footprint, is staggering. Nowhere is this more true than in the Amazon that begins just over the mountains from the just-concluded negotiations.

Utah Land Defenders Stand Up to Dirty Politics

Lauren Wood grew up in a family of river guides in the Uinta Basin region of Utah. She navigates tributaries of the Colorado River like her urban counterparts navigate subway systems. She learned to ride a horse, and then drive a car, on the Tavaputs Plateau. And she can name most any gorge or gully in the place she calls home.

But this landscape so familiar to her has transformed over the past decade to one in which drill rigs are more common than cattle herds, and methane emissions have degraded the air quality in this wilderness region to rival that of Los Angeles.

New technologies like fracking––along with government subsidies––have ushered in an energy boom reliant on extreme extraction methods to produce oil and natural gas. Now the Uinta Basin is ground zero for what threatens to become the next phase in extreme energy extraction: strip mining for tar sands and oil shale.

Tar sands are a sticky mixture of sand, clay, water and bitumen that can be processed into fuel, but require more refining than conventional crude oil, releasing more greenhouse gases and toxins in the process. Despite the fact that Canadian tar sands mining is pushing the Earth toward disastrous climate change, some companies are moving forward with tar sands mining projects in the United States.


Fears build as CIA’s ‘ghost prisoners’ vanish into Afghan jails

A CIA prisoner whose treatment set the torture template in the agency’s notorious Salt Pit jail outside Kabul, and another known as a “ghost prisoner” – held in such secrecy that for years even his name was classified information – have disappeared into Afghanistan’s prison system, where they are once more at risk of torture.

The US military handed the two men to the Afghan government earlier this month, along with several other unidentified foreign captives who are believed to be citizens of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, when they closed a notorious jail on Bagram airbase.

“They are in the custody of the Afghan security forces and there is reason to believe there is a very real risk of torture,” said Tina Foster of the International Justice Network, which had been representing men held inside the shadowy prison for over eight years.

The prisoners at Bagram did not enjoy even the meagre protections offered those in Guantánamo, access to a lawyer or to be named, which is why many were dubbed “ghost captives” and remain unidentified even after their release.


Buru Energy #Fracking on Yawuru lands without the permission of the Yawuru Peoples

The Australian oil and gas exploration and production company Buru Energy is almost finished establishing a huge network of seismic lines and test fracking wells on Yawuru lands in the Canning Basin of Western Australia.

However, despite putting so much time and effort into its Laurel Formation Tight Gas Pilot Exploration Program, which gained official approval from Western Australia's Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) in June of this year, the company has a problem.

As Yawuru man Micklo Corpus commented in a recent video interview, all of Buru Energy's hard work was carried out in fundamental breach of the Yawuru' rights because the company failed to properly consult or gain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Yawuru Peoples.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nader: Oil Trains Unsafe (& Unecessary) At Any Speed

Back in 1991 the National Transportation Safety Board first identified oil trains as unsafe — the tank cars, specifically ones called DOT-111s, were too thin and punctured too easily, making transport of flammable liquids like oil unreasonably dangerous. As bad as this might sound, at the very least there was not a lot of oil being carried on the rails in 1991.
Now, in the midst of a North American oil boom, oil companies are using fracking and tar sands mining to produce crude in remote areas of the U.S. and Canada. To get the crude to refineries on the coasts the oil industry is ramping up transport by oil trains. In 2008, 9,500 crude oil tank cars moved on US rails. In 2013 the number was more than 400,000! With this rapid growth comes a looming threat to public safety and the environment. No one — not federal regulators or local firefighters — are prepared for oil train derailments, spills and explosions.
Unfortunately, the rapid increase in oil trains has already meant many more oil train disasters. Railroads spilled more oil in 2013 than in the previous 40 years combined.
Trains are the most efficient way to move freight and people. This is why train tracks run through our cities and towns. Our rail system was never designed to move hazardous materials, however; if it was, train tracks would not run next to schools and under football stadiums.
Last summer, environmental watchdog group ForestEthics released a map of North America that shows probable oil train routes. Using Google, anyone can check to see if their home or office is near an oil train route. (Try it out here.)

Enbridge Line 4 Spills 1,350 barrels Of Oil In 2 Minutes & 26 Seconds

The Enbridge Line 4 pipeline, a 796,000 barrels per day pipeline from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, has spilled 1,350 barrels of oil at a pumping station in Regina.
Council of Canadians Regina chapter activist Jim Elliott says, “It only took 2 minutes and 26 seconds to spill 1,350 barrels of oil in the latest spill in Regina.”
Enbridge’s Line 1 to 4 pipelines converge at Lake Superior and from there join with Line 5 which goes around the northern shore of Lake Michigan (and under the Straits of Mackinac) and Line 6 which goes around the southern shore of the lake.
It is not clear at this point how long Line 4 will be shut down because of the leak which is now under investigation. Enbridge said in June that it was building a connection between Line 4 and Line 67 so that barrels could be diverted to Line 67 during a prolonged disruption. Line 67 also runs from Alberta to Wisconsin.
Elliott also comments, “Another day, another spill. When will this stop? This is the second spill on this line. There was a spill on January 19, 2014 at a pump station in the south east part of the city, just 2 kilometres south of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology campus.” For more on that 125 barrel spill, please click here.

Mexican Federal Police Involved In Ayotzinapa Disappearances

On Sunday, Proceso magazine published an investigative report that directly contradicts the official account of the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa. The investigation, which is based on leaked government documents and a Guerrero state report on the events leading up to the September 26 disappearances, implicates federal police officials in the crime.

According to Proceso, the Guerrero report shows that federal forces were aware of the students’ protests in Iguala that day and were watching them closely. The magazine claims the report clearly shows that federal police joined in the repression of the student demonstration, in which officers and unknown gunmen shot and killed at least six people.

The article also claims that internal documents from the attorney general’s office question government of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s handling of key witnesses and suspects in the case. The documents reportedly show that the main witnesses all bore signs of torture and abuse at the hands of police interrogators.

As Proceso author Anabel Hernandez told HuffPost for the latter’s helpful rundown of the magazine investigation, the piece reveals that the Peña Nieto administration is purposefully covering up the extent to which corrupt federal officials knew about or even facilitated the disappearances. “We have information that proves the federal government knew what was happening in the moment it was happening, and participated in it,” Hernandez said.



CIA Document Warned Drone Assassination Program Might Backfire

WikiLeaks today, Thursday 18 December, publishes a review by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of its “High Value Target” (HVT) assassination programme. The report weighs the pros and cons of killing “insurgent” leaders in assassination plots. After the report was prepared, US drone strike killings rose to an all-time high.
The report discusses assassination operations (by various states) against the Taliban, al-Qa’ida, the FARC, Hizbullah, the PLO, HAMAS, Peru’s Shining Path, the Tamil’s LTTE, the IRA and Algeria’s FLN. Case studies are drawn from Chechnya, Libya, Pakistan and Thailand.
The assessment was prepared by the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues (OTI). Its role is to provide “the most senior US policymakers, military planners, and law enforcement with analysis, warning, and crisis support”. The report is dated 7 July 2009, six months into Leon Panetta’s term as CIA chief, and not long after CIA analyst John Kiriakou blew the whistle on the torture of CIA detainees. Kiriakou is still in prison for shedding light on the CIA torture programme.
Following the politically embarrassing exposure of the CIA’s torture practices and the growing cost of keeping people in detention indefinitely, the Obama administration faced a crucial choice in its counter-insurgency strategy: should it kill, capture, or do something else entirely?