Monday, June 30, 2014

Despite Legal Challenges, Sale of Hopi Religious Artifacts Continues in France

The thought of Americans lecturing the French about cultural sensibilities seems like a hard sell in a country still shielding its language from idiomatic blasphemies like “le weekend” and “hashtag.” But the United States Embassy in Paris spent several days last week educating French officials about the strong emotions that have led Native American tribes like the Hopi and Navajo to sue Parisian auction houses — unsuccessfully, time and again — over the sale of sacred objects.
Prompted by another large sale on Friday of American Indian religious items — the fourth such auction in the past 18 months — embassy officials invited an American judge, who is herself a member of the Hopi tribe, to explain to government officials, art dealers, academics and lawyers why treating spiritual objects as commodities is insulting and sacrilegious.

We’ve Been Living in ‘1984’ Since 1921

That was when the Bureau of Investigation—the forerunner of today’s FBI—first opened a file on the magazine.

This is an excerpt from the new e-book Surveillance Nation: Critical Reflections on Privacy and Its Threats, a fascinating and timeless alternative history on the rise of the surveillance state. The e-book is now available on tablets, smartphones and computers—download yours today.

A healthy democracy demands transparency from its government and privacy for its citizenry. Only if we know what our government is up to can we exercise our responsibility as citizens to ratify or veto their actions at the ballot box. And only if we can be assured that our conversations are not being monitored by government officials will we have the space to develop our critical faculties, pursue intimate associations, try out new political ideas and flourish as human beings.

However, too many government officials, even in democratic states, tend to favor secrecy for their own actions and transparency from the citizenry. When asked what measures they are employing that might threaten our privacy, officials have long responded with some version of “We can’t tell you, of course… but trust us.” And when facing charges that they have violated the privacy of those they represent, the government invariably argue’s for the narrowest definitions of privacy (your metadata isn’t private) and the broadest justifications for invading it (“fighting terrorism” generally does the trick).

Because democracy depends on government transparency and personal privacy, but our representatives too often prefer the opposite, citizens, civil society and the press must be vigilant about privacy and its threats. Absent popular resistance, the tendency of government to favor secrecy and access to its citizens’ most intimate information will undermine the very foundations of democracy. For its entire existence, The Nation has exercised that watchdog role for the country with courage, conviction and persistence. This volume, consisting of essays, investigations, editorials and columns dating from 1931 to 2014, illustrates the critical importance of the Fourth Estate in checking the desires of the surveillance state.


Mayan People's Council Organizes National Strike in Guatemala

On Monday, June 23 in Guatemala, the Mayan People’s Council, known as CPO, declared a national strike in support of, and in solidarity with, the Mayan people of Guatemala. Local indigenous populations took to the street at 29 different locations all over the country in demand for equality in dignity and rights.
Lolita Chávez, Maya Quiché, and member of the political commission of CPO, explained: “We want the Government to respect our way of living and the society we want, and in which hydroelectric and mining projects as well as monocultures have no place.”

Podcast: Mapping the NSA’s Spying

Trying to follow the news on National Security Agency surveillance — much less report on it — Julia Angwin (@JuliaAngwin) found herself confused, to say the least. Being a ProPublican, her answer to the overflow of information was a news application plotting the programs for an at-a-glance overview.

She joins Assistant Managing Editor Eric Umansky (@ericuman) in the Storage Closet Studio to talk about the new matrix, published today. An “homage of sorts to New York magazine,” as Umansky says, it uses an X axis from “domestic” to “foreign” and a Y axis from “bulk” to “targeted.”

Congress appears poised to limit some of that — the phone metadata collection in particular — but there is a need for balance in reforms. “To be fair to the NSA, they have a difficult task, right?” Angwin says. “They’re supposed to do only foreign surveillance, but they’re working in a world where digital communications bounce all over the world.”

ACLU Report: US Government’s Role In Creating “Paramilitary Police”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released an extensive report Monday on the militarization of the police in the US, showing that the “federal government has justified and encouraged the militarization of local law enforcement.” The report, entitled War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, shows that the federal government has spent billions of dollars arming local police forces with military-grade weapons and encouraged their use in day-to-day policing. The report focuses on the increasing use of so-called Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) forces to take over the role of ordinary police forces. These units are, in the words of their creator, former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, “quasi-militaristic” outfits. SWAT teams have been deployed throughout the US to carry out such tasks as serving search warrants related to non-violent crimes. These raids proceed like the house-to-house searches made infamous during the US invasion of Iraq, involving police in military battledress throwing stun grenades, pointing automatic rifles at people, wantonly damaging property, killing animals, and gunning down anyone who actively resists.


Judge Upholds Order Demanding Release Of CIA Torture Accounts

A military judge has rejected the US government's attempts to keep accounts of the CIA's torture of a detainee secret, setting up a fateful choice for the Obama administration in staunching the fallout from its predecessor's brutal interrogations. In a currently-sealed 24 June ruling at Guantánamo Bay – described to the Guardian – Judge James Pohl upheld his April order demanding the government produce details of the detentions and interrogations of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri during his years in CIA custody. The Miami Herald also reported on the ruling, citing three sources who had seen it. Among those details are the locations of the "black site" secret prisons in which Nashiri was held until his September 2006 transfer to Guantánamo; the names and communications of CIA personnel there; training and other procedures for guards and interrogators; and discussions of the application of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques". The government has charged Nashiri in connection to the deaths of 17 sailors in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. After his 2002 capture, Nashiri's interrogators revved a power drill near his head, threatened him with a gun and waterboarded him, producing a sensation akin to drowning.


Greenwald: NSA Is Attack On Our Dissent

“Good people don’t hide; bad people have to hide because they are planning evil things like trying to bomb this auditorium,” said Glenn Greenwald during a presentation at Carnegie Hall in New York City earlier this week. He explained that he took that line from former CIA director Michael Hayden, who kept on repeating that warning during a debate in Toronto a couple months ago.” In that debate, Greenwald took on two grumpy old men, one who looked like Eric Forman’s father from That ‘70s Show and the other who claimed to be a liberal democrat who believes that we can have enough surveillance that is consistent with liberty. Needless to say, Greenwald destroyed them both with his secret weapon: the NSA’s own files, which he received from Edward Snowden in what has become one of the greatest government leaks in history. Truth be told, I didn’t really know or care much about Glenn Greenwald until I heard Facebook rumors that Bolivian president Evo Morales’s plane had been stopped and frisked in Austria. From there, I began to read about him, including about his reaction to the nine-hour detention and questioning of his partner in the London airport.


You May Have Been A Lab Rat In A Huge Facebook Experiment

A newly published paper reveals that scientists at Facebook conducted a massive psychological experiment on hundreds of thousands of users by tweaking their feeds and measuring how they felt afterward.

In other words, Facebook decided to try to manipulate some people's emotional states -- for science.

The research involved Facebook's News Feed -- the stream of status updates, photos and news articles that appears when you first fire up the site. For a week in January 2012, a group of researchers, variously affiliated with Facebook, Cornell University and the University of California, San Francisco, altered the algorithm that determines what shows up in News Feed for 689,003 people. One group was shown fewer posts containing words thought to evoke positive emotions, such as "love," "nice" and "sweet," while another group was shown fewer posts with negative words, like "hurt," "ugly" and "nasty." The findings were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a scientific journal.

The researchers were studying a phenomenon called "emotional contagion," a fancy psychological term for something you've almost certainly experienced: If you spend more time with a happy-go-lucky friend, you end up being more of a ray of sunshine yourself. (Same goes for sadness: Hang with a Debbie Downer, and you likewise become a vector for gloom.) Researchers have found that emotions can be contagious during face-to-face interactions, when a friend's laugh or smile might lift your spirits. But what happens online? Facebook was trying to figure that out.


New N.S.A. Chief Calls Damage From Snowden Leaks Manageable

FORT MEADE, Md. — The newly installed director of the National Security Agency says that while he has seen some terrorist groups alter their communications to avoid surveillance techniques revealed by Edward J. Snowden, the damage done over all by a year of revelations does not lead him to the conclusion that “the sky is falling.”
In an hourlong interview Friday in his office here at the heart of the country’s electronic eavesdropping and cyberoperations, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, who has now run the beleaguered spy agency and the military’s Cyber Command for just short of three months, described the series of steps he was taking to ensure that no one could download the trove of data that Mr. Snowden gathered — more than a million documents.
But he cautioned that there was no perfect protection against a dedicated insider with access to the agency’s networks.


Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater

WASHINGTON — Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.
American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.
After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.”

How Did the FBI Miss Over 1 Million Rapes?

Earlier this month, a 911 dispatcher in Ohio was recorded telling a 20-year-old woman who had just been raped to “quit crying.” After she provided a description of her assailant, the caller went on to say, “They’re not going to be able to find him with the information that you’ve given.” This incident had its viral moment, sparking outrage at the dispatcher’s lack of empathy. But it also speaks to the larger issue of how we are counting rapes in the United States. Sixty-nine percent of police departments surveyed in 2012 said that dispatchers like this one, often with little training, are authorized to do the initial coding of sexual assault crimes.

That’s important, because miscoding of such crimes is masking the high incidence of rape in the United States. We don’t have an overestimation of rape; we have a gross underestimation. A thorough analysis of federal data published earlier this year by Corey Rayburn Yung, associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, concludes that between 1995 and 2012, police departments across the country systematically undercounted and underreported sexual assaults.

Yung used murder rates—the statistic with the most reliable measure of accuracy and one that is historically highly correlated with the incidence of rape—as a baseline for his analysis. After nearly two years of work, he estimates conservatively that between 796,213 and 1,145,309 sexual assault cases never made it into national FBI counts during the studied period.

That’s more than 1 million rapes.

The estimates are conservative for two reasons.


Peru now has a ‘licence to kill’ environmental protesters

Some of the recent media coverage about the fact that more than 50 people in Peru – the vast majority of them indigenous – are on trial following protests and fatal conflict in the Amazon over five years ago missed a crucial point. Yes, the hearings are finally going ahead and the charges are widely held to be trumped-up, but what about the government functionaries who apparently gave the riot police the order to attack the protestors, the police themselves, and – following Wikileaks’ revelations of cables in which the US ambassador in Lima criticized the Peruvian government’s “reluctance to use force” and wrote there could be “implications for the recently implemented Peru-US FTA” if the protests continued – the role of the US government?

The conflict broke out in northern Peru after mainly indigenous Awajúns and Wampis had been peacefully protesting a series of new laws which were supposedly emitted to comply with a trade agreement between Peru and the US and which made it easier, among other things, for extractive industries to exploit natural resources in their territories. Following a blockade of a highway near a town called Bagua – and an agreement that the protestors would break up and go home, reached the day before – early on 5 June the police moved to clear it and started shooting. In the ensuing conflict, 10 police officers, five indigenous people and five non-indigenous civilians were killed, more than 200 injured – at least 80 of whom were shot – and, elsewhere in the Bagua region, a further 11 police officers were killed after being taken hostage.

“So far only protesters have been brought to trial,” said Amnesty International in a statement marking five years since the conflict and pointing out that human rights lawyers have said there is no serious evidence linking the accused to the crimes they are being prosecuted for – which include homicide and rebellion. “[S]o far little progress has been made to determine the responsibility of the security forces. Likewise, no progress has been made to investigate the political authorities who gave the orders to launch the police operation.”


The New Indian Wars Coming to Rice Lake

It’s an epic moment. The newest version of the Indian Wars is coming towards Rice Lake. This Seventh Cavalry incarnation is a set of fossil fuels and extractive mining proposals, capped by some pipelines—big ones headed every which way across the heart of Indian country: Kinder Morgan and Enbridge Gateway to the North in what is called British Columbia and into the Salish Sea; Energy East projected to go from West to East to Miq’Mac territory; the Keystone XL , Alberta Clipper, Line 9 and the Sandpiper are all intended to move fossil fuels—fracked oil and tar sands oil across some territories, which have no pipelines. The companies—Kinder Morgan, Trans Canada and Enbridge—with the largest armament, are intent upon reaching their ports: Superior, St. Johns, Kitimat, and Vancouver. They are, however, opposed.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Last Week in Indian Country

A recap of the last week's stories that mattered most in Indian country:

HISTORIC GRANT: The Supreme Court of Canada granted a declaration of Aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in over 1,750 square kilometres [675 square miles) of territory in a historic ruling that the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network called "the first time the high court has ever granted a declaration of Aboriginal title to a First Nation."

LAWSUIT: Pearl Means, the widow of longtime Native American activist Russell Means has filed a lawsuit in New Mexico accusing doctors of overlooking her late husband’s esophageal cancer.

KEEPING UP WITH THE KULTURE: Reality-TV celebrity Khloe Kardashian caused controversy by wearing a feather headdress to North West's first birthday party; she later responded favorably to a Twitter invitation to visit a Tribal museum.

SHORTLIST: Nominees for the 2014 ESPY Awards have been announced, and Onondaga lacrosse player Lyle Thompson is among the five candidates for Male College Athlete of the Year.

BAD FOR BUSINESS: The National Congress of American Indians sent a letter to FedEx CEO Fredrick W. Smith encouraging him to dissolve his company’s relationship with the Washington Redskins on the grounds that the team name is pejorative and that by using it the team continues to honor the legacy of a segregationist.

PLAYING TIME: Striker Chris Wondolowski, Kiowa, played in the 87th minute of Team USA’s game against Portugal on June 23, 2014.

TELESCOPE TUSSLE: In Hawaii, scientists and Native Hawaiians are going toe-to-toe over the decision to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) atop a sacred mountain. The summit of Mauna Kea already holds 13 telescopes, but this one would be vastly larger than the others.

HOMES ON THE REZ: The nonprofit organization Make It Right, founded in 2007 by Brad Pitt, plans to bring sustainable housing to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, in Montana, home to the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes.

HARPER SPEAKS: Describing violence against indigenous women and girls as a “global scourge,” Keith Harper, the United States ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council, called on the world peace organization to use everything in its toolbox to address the problem.

SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE: Native American Day has consistently been a proclamation for the state of California, recognizing the fourth Friday of September for the celebration; on June 24, that proclamation became an official state holiday.

CORN AGAINST KXL: Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance and their allies are quietly yet profoundly protesting the owners and supporters of the Keystone XL Pipeline. They recently converged at the farm of Art Tanderup near Neligh, Nebraska, to hand plant sacred Ponka red corn seeds along the proposed route.

GIANT MESS: A Native American Heritage night sponsored by the San Francisco Giants turned ugly following an altercation involving a man wearing a war bonnet.

POCAHOTTIES: The Washington Redskins Cheerleaders pulled a social-media blunder by posting to Instagram pictures of the sexualized faux-Indian getups that their ancestors wore in the 1960s.

BIG GRANTS: The U.S. Department of Labor announced grants totaling copy54,757,547 awarded to 32 states, Puerto Rico and the Cherokee tribal nation through the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program.


US Ambassador Keith Harper: Violence Against Indigenous Women ‘Global Scourge’

Describing violence against indigenous women and girls as a “global scourge,” Keith Harper, the United States ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council, called on the world peace organization to use everything in its toolbox to address the problem and urged the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to raise awareness of it throughout the U.N. system.

“As we prepare for the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, we express great concern that indigenous women and girls often suffer multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and poverty that increase their vulnerability to all forms of violence. We also stress the need to seriously address the high and disproportionate rates of violence, which takes many forms, against indigenous women and girls worldwide,” Harper said on Tuesday (June 24) at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. ”Indigenous women and girls have the same human rights and fundamental freedoms as everyone else, and a common recognition of those rights must underpin efforts to address violence against indigenous women and girls.


Protestors Launch 135-Foot Blimp Over NSA

Plenty of nightmare surveillance theories surround the million-square-foot NSA facility opened last year in Bluffdale, Utah. Any locals driving by the gargantuan complex Friday morning saw something that may inspire new ones: A massive blimp hovering over the center, with the letters NSA printed on its side. Activist groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Greenpeace launched the 135-foot thermal airship early Friday morning to protest the agency’s mass surveillance programs and to announce the launch of Stand Against Spying, a website that rates members of Congress on their support or opposition to NSA reform. The full message on the blimp reads “NSA: Illegal Spying Below” along with an arrow pointing downward and the Stand Against Spying URL. “We thought it would be fun to fly an airship around the Utah data center, which in many ways epitomizes the NSA’s collect-it-all strategy,” says Rainey Reitman, an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We wanted to have a way to symbolize that our movement is getting quite confrontational with NSA surveillance in a visceral way.”


Indigenous In Guatamela Blockade Roads

 On June 24, 2014, 7 Toj in the Mayan calendar, Indigenous groups from all over Guatemala took part in national protests and roadblocks to bring attention to the continued discrimination and injustice faced by the Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala. Among the main priorities on the list of grievances were the discriminatory telecommunications laws and the mining and hydroelectric companies exploiting Indigenous territories. Our team took part in the march in the city of Quetzaltenango (Xela), in the department of Quetzaltenango. The march in Xela began at 8 am from three different entry points into the city center. The three groups would all meet for a larger demonstration in the Central Park of the city later that morning. Our team met with friends from Radio La Doble Vía and Asociación Mujb’ ab’l yol close to the terminal at the north west side of the city. Arriving there, it was shocking to imagine that this crowd represented only a third of the number of people that would be in the Central Park for the demonstration later on. An enormous crowd of mostly Maya Mam and Maya Kiche Indigenous groups were standing in front of Minerva Temple, with signs in hand, cheering along to chants like “Un pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” or in English, “United, we will never be defeated!” The sun shone down on the hundreds of demonstrators as we began our march towards the park. Leading the march was a large pickup truck with speakers, filled with community leaders and community radio volunteers speaking out about the important reasons that we were protesting on this day.


Court Rules To Give First Nations Resource Rights

With just one court ruling, the situation of pipelines in Canada has changed in a big way. On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on a 14-year-old battle over logging rights on Tsilhqot’in Nation territory in British Columbia. Its decision says that any First Nation land that was never formally ceded to the Canadian government cannot be developed without consent of those First Nations who have a claim to it. To say that this has huge implications for the Canadian oil industry is an understatement. The only thing that stands between Alberta, the province that is the hub of the country’s oil boom, and the Pacific Ocean, which connects Canada to the lucrative oil markets of Asia, is unceded First Nations territory. The Northern Gateway pipeline, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved earlier this week, runs along a route that First Nations have already begun blockading, a full 18 months before the pipeline is expected to begin construction. Harper has claimed a deep respect for Canadians who want to protect their own land, and has blamed most of the agitation against pipelines in Canada on the outside influence of Americans who “would like to see Canada be one giant national park.” This ruling is going to put that respect to the test.


UN Votes Transnationals Cannot Violate Rights, US Refuses

The United States and the 28-member European Union (EU) have assiduously promoted – and vigourously preached – one of the basic tenets of Western multi-party democracy: majority rules. But at the United Nations, the 29 member states have frequently abandoned that principle when it insists on “consensus” on crucial decisions relating to the U.N. budget – or when it is clearly outvoted in the 193-member General Assembly or its committee rooms. "The division of the votes clearly shows that the countries who are host to a lot of TNCs, such as the EU, as well as Norway and the U.S., are against this proposal." -- Anne van Schaik That’s exactly what happened Thursday at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva which adopted, by majority vote, a proposal to negotiate a legally-binding treaty to prevent human rights abuses by transnational corporations (TNCs) and the world’s business conglomerates. But following the vote, the United States and the EU, have warned they would not cooperate with an intergovernmental working group (IGWG) which is to be established to lay down ground rules for negotiating the proposed treaty. Stephen Townley, the U.S. representative in the HRC, told delegates: “The United States will not participate in this IGWG, and we encourage others to do the same.”


Courage: Showing Solidarity With Whistleblowers and Defending Our Right to Know

Whistleblowers need protection from prosecution. Support Courage Foundation, which is an organization that seeks to defend whistleblowers as well as our right to know.

This interview with Sarah Harrison of the Courage Foundation is based on a radio interview conducted by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese on Clearing The FOG, originally heard on We Act Radio, 1480 AM in Washington, DC also available by podcast.

Sarah Harrison is a British journalist, legal researcher, and WikiLeaks Investigation Editor. She works with WikiLeaks and is a close adviser to Julian Assange. Harrison accompanied National Security Agency whistleblower, Edward Snowden, on a high-profile flight from Hong Kong to Moscow while he was sought by the United States government. She is Director of the new Courage Foundation which seeks to defend whistleblowers as well as our right to know.


Arizona Professor Body Slammed by Police During Jaywalking Stop, Now Charged With Assaulting Officer

After being physically taken down by police for jaywalking, Dr. Ersula Ore, a professor at Arizona State University, is the one being charged with assaulting a police office among other crimes. What is wrong with this picture?


Leaked Document from GMO Co. Misleads Consumers, Threatens to Sue Opposing States

Jargon in a leaked document from the Grocery Manufacturers Association misleads consumers and threatens to sue opposing states. They continue to promote GMO, while the rest of us try and stop it.

Read more:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pipeline politics spill into South Dakota

WASHINGTON — Another possible setback looms for the delayed Keystone XL pipeline.

On Sunday, the project's four-year-old construction permit in South Dakota comes up for renewal — bureaucratic housekeeping that needs to be done before any pipe is laid in the midwestern state.

The state's public utilities commission issued the permit in 2010 with 50 conditions to boost environmental, landowner and emergency response protections, and a June 29, 2014, construction deadline.

Commission chairman Gary Hanson compares the permit recertification process to renewing a licence plate.

But nothing is straightforward when it comes to the political lightning rod that is Keystone XL.

For the pipeline's foes, this opens up a new front in the war against the $5.4-billion TransCanada project, which would send crude from Alberta's oilsands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

"Four years ago it was a foregone conclusion the pipeline was going to go through," said Paul Seamans of Dakota Rural Action, a farm group opposed to Keystone.

"This time there are a lot more people aware of it — a lot more opposition."

Anti-Keystone groups outside South Dakota are paying attention.

While national groups like and the Sierra Club are pressuring the State Department and White House to reject Keystone, local organizations have found success closer to home.


Exclusive: North Dakota Oil-By-Rail Routes Published for First Time

For the first time, DeSmogBlog has published dozens of documents obtained from the North Dakota government revealing routes and chemical composition data for oil-by-rail trains in the state carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale.

The information was initially submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) under the legal dictates of a May 7 Emergency Order, which both the federal government and the rail industry initially argued should only be released to those with a “need-to-know” and not the public at-large.
North Dakota's Department of Emergency Services, working in consultation with the North Dakota Office of the Attorney General, made the documents public a couple weeks after DeSmogBlog filed a June 13 North Dakota Public Records Statute request.

“There is no legal basis to protect what they have provided us at this point,”North Dakota assistant attorney general Mary Kae Kelsch said during the June 25 Department of Emergency Service's quarterly meeting, which DeSmogBlog attended via phone. “It doesn't meet any criteria for our state law to protect this.” 

...Despite the fact dozens of oil-by-rail trains pass through North Dakota counties on a daily basis, carrying a substance that contains a known carcinogen and is “highly flammable,” Big Rail and Big Oil used its legal might to claim only a select few “need to know” where these cars travel. 


High Court Rejects Final Appeal Of Utah Tar Sands Mine

Without considering the merits of the case, the Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out an environmental challenge to a tar sands mine set to be dug on state trust lands on the Tavaputs Plateau. Living Rivers, a Moab-based group, was too late when it appealed the state groundwater permit issued to U.S. Oil Sands, according to the unanimous decision penned by Justice Thomas Lee. Because the petition was not filed within 30 days, the 2008 decision by the Utah Division of Water Quality "became final and immune from collateral attack." But lawyers for Living Rivers said DWQ gave no notice of that decision. "We didn’t find out about it until we challenged the permit before the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining," said Rob Dubuc of Western Resource Advocates. "It was impossible for any party to comment within that 30-day window." The appeal was the project’s last legal obstacle and Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands plans to begin preparing the 213-acre mine site and bitumen-processing facility this summer. Production of 2,000 barrels of oil a day is expected by fall 2015, according to company president Glen Snarr.


A New Play About Edward Snowden Opens In London

 Edward Snowden is holed up in a hotel in Hong Kong. He has left his life in Hawaii, abandoned paradise for a life on the run. Tortured by thoughts of his girlfriend, his mother and father and the ghosts of other whistleblowers from Chelsea Manning in solitary confinement to Thomas Drake, charged with 35 years imprisonment, he waits. But will the CIA and the National Security Agency find him first? This story has not yet finished. The revelations of mass surveillance by the U.S. and British security services keep coming out. Never mind about Angela Merkel, are they listening to your conversations, reading your messages, checking your emails?


Reclaiming the Sacred Black Hills

To say that the Black Hills (Kȟe Sapa) hold special significance for the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation) is an understatement. They’re not only our traditional homelands, where our ancestors once lived, they’re sacred. The Black Hills are the birthplace of our Nation, where we rose from Mother Earth’s womb. Our legends took place there. The Black Hills itself is a terrestrial mirror of the heavens above and thus forms the basis of our ancient star maps and Lakota astronomy. The entirety of Kȟe Sapa is a sacred site. Our rituals observe the natural cycles of the planet and our Universe. There are ceremonies that we must conduct at specific locations within the Black Hills. These ancient ceremonies benefit the whole of humanity. No, we aren’t talking about dirt protected by ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Kȟe Sapa is holy ground. It is where we are meant to pray.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Longer Prison Sentences Make Incarceration More "Contagious"

When people receive prison sentences about 17 months or longer, their peers become significantly more likely to be locked up
Social scientists have known for some time that imprisonment can act like a disease. Prison is cathcing—friends and family members of people sent away are more likely to be jailed themselves, just as friends and family members of a sick person are more likely to catch their viral flu. 

To carry the analogy further, imprisonment has become like an epidemic amongst some minority communities: one in every three African American males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their lives. Black people "are six times more likely than whites to be incarcerated, making up 38 percent of the 1.6 million Americans behind bars while accounting for only 13 percent of the U.S. population," Science magazine noted.

Looking at imprisonment this way, researchers hypothesized that there may be a "tipping point" whereupon imprisonment reaches epidemic proportions. Virginia Tech statistician Kristian Lum and colleagues looked into the possibility that the longer sentences black people usually receive (on average) could represent that tipping point. For drug possession sentences, for example, white people are given an average sentence of about 14 months, whereas black Americans usually get about 17 months.

In a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Lum and colleagues created a virtual world of imaginary people modeled after our own, assigning each a gender and age, and drawing on data from the Census Bureau and other federal agencies. At the beginning, one percent of the population was in jail. The scientists then ran a simulation twice, first using a 14-month sentence and then a 17-month sentence, and observed what happened over the next 50 years. The differences were dramatic, as Science explained...

Read more:

Shredding the Fourth Amendment in Post-Constitutional America

Here’s a bit of history from another America: the Bill of Rights was designed to protect the people from their government. If the First Amendment’s right to speak out publicly was the people's wall of security, then the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy was its buttress. It was once thought that the government should neither be able to stop citizens from speaking nor peer into their lives. Think of that as the essence of the Constitutional era that ended when those towers came down on September 11, 2001. Consider how privacy worked before 9/11 and how it works now in Post-Constitutional America.


No Warrant, No Problem: How the Government Can Get Your Digital Data

The government isn't allowed to wiretap American citizens without a warrant from a judge. But there are plenty of legal ways for law enforcement, from the local sheriff to the FBI to the Internal Revenue Service, to snoop on the digital trails you create every day. Authorities can often obtain your emails and texts by going to Google or AT&T with a court order that doesn't require showing probable cause of a crime. These powers are entirely separate from the National Security Agency's collection of Americans' phone records en masse, which the House of Representatives voted to end last month.

Here's a look at what the government can get from you and the legal framework behind its power.


Tell Facebook to stop tracking browser history and your personal data

It may seem a bit funny to share a meme about Facebook creepiness on... Facebook. But where better to share it? People on Facebook are the most vulnerable to this new surveillance, so share right now and spread the word to your friends so they can opt out and speak out t oo!

We need to draw a line in the sand and send a message so loud that every company on the Internet takes note. If you’re sick and tired of companies collecting, selling, and sharing your personal data, now is the time to act. We can make them change.  (By the wa y, we never sell or share your data, and we only email you about important campaigns that preserve free speech on the web. If you ever want to unsubscribe, it’s easy, just click the link at the bottom of the email.)

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And who are we, you ask? Fight for the Future is a nonprofit committed to keeping the Internet free and open, and protecting our most basic rights. We promise to keep you up to date on this campaign and others like it.

Want to learn more about what we do? Check out this timeline of our past achievements and this list of our current campaigns. We’ve been winning huge victorie s for the Internet ever since we beat back SOPA. We’re proud of the work we’ve done and we’re glad to have you on the team!

For a free and open web,
Kevin Huang and Evan Greer
Fight for the Future

An Ongoing Cost To Be Free (2014)

Russell Maroon Shoatz is a US held Black Unity Council and Black Liberation Army political prisoner. He has been in prison for over 40 years. This documentary tells the story of Russell Maroon Shoatz as told by his son Russell Shoatz III.

An Ongoing Cost To Be Free (Full Version) from vagabond Beaumont on Vimeo.

States must step up efforts to counter racism on the Internet and social media – UN expert

GENEVA (26 June 2014) - The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere, on Thursday highlighted the issue of racism on the Internet and social media, while warning that the rise of extremist political parties and groups poses a threat to democracy and human rights.
“The Internet serves as a formidable vehicle for the exercise of free speech, but it also provides a powerful platform for the rapid dissemination of racist ideas, ideologies and incitement to hatred,” the Special Rapporteur emphasized as he presented his annual report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/26/49).
“A comprehensive, multi-stakeholder approach is necessary to effectively counter expressions of racism on the Internet and social media,” Mr Ruteere stressed.
He urged States to observe their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and to regulate the Internet and social media responsibly. However, the Special Rapporteur cautioned that States must also bear in mind the protection of other fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of expression and opinion.
“Civil society initiatives are also essential in the fight against racism and hate speech on the Internet and social media,” Mr Ruteere noted. Civil society actors frequently collaborate to defend the rights of victims of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.
The Special Rapporteur called on Internet service providers and social media platforms to “issue clear and transparent policies regarding racism, xenophobia, and other hate speech and to include them in their terms of service.”
Considering the number of stakeholders involved in issues relating to the Internet, social media, and racism, Mr Ruteere emphasized the importance of establishing clear responsibilities and roles. “Dialogue and collaboration among these actors must be strengthened and institutionalized,” he said.
“I encourage continuing the sharing of good practices, and am hopeful that the Internet and social media networks will be further employed as a tool for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. States, civil society and individuals should seize the opportunities that these new technologies provide and fight the dissemination of hatred,” he advised. 
Mr Ruteere also submitted a report pursuant to General Assembly resolution 68/150, (A/HRC/26/50) which reviews the latest developments in the human rights and democratic challenges posed by neo-Nazis, skinhead groups and similar extremist political movements.
The report identifies the main areas of concern where consistent vigilance against racist and xenophobic crimes is required. It calls for additional efforts to combat the rise in extremist groups, and highlights good practices developed by States and other stakeholders. Extremists continue to blame vulnerable groups for society’s problems and incite intolerance and violence against them, the Special Rapporteur warned. Stakeholders need to ensure better protection for victims and prevents future crimes.
“Prompt, thorough and impartial investigations are the first step in the fight against impunity.” Mr Ruteere stated.
“Political leaders and democratic parties must condemn messages based on racial superiority. I call on them to promote diversity, multiculturalism, tolerance, mutual understanding and respect,” he added.
Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. Learn more, visit:

For further information and media requests, please contact:
Thierry del Prado (+41 22 917 92 32 /

To learn more about the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, please visit

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 /  

Nicaragua’s Mayagna People and Their Rainforest Could Vanish

MANAGUA - More than 30,000 members of the Mayagna indigenous community are in danger of disappearing, along with the rainforest which is their home in Nicaragua, if the state fails to take immediate action to curb the destruction of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, the largest forest reserve in Central America and the third-largest in the world.
Arisio Genaro, president of the Mayagna nation, travelled over 300 km from his community on the outskirts of the reserve in May to protest in Managua that the area where his people have lived for centuries is being invaded and destroyed by settlers from the country’s Pacific coastal and central regions.
In early June, Genaro returned to the capital to participate in several academic activities aimed at raising awareness on the environment among university students in Managua and to protest to whoever would listen that their ancestral territory is being destroyed by farmers determined to expand the agricultural frontier by invading the protected area, which covers 21,000 sq km.
The Mayagna chief told Tierramérica that in 1987 the nucleus of what is now the biosphere reserve had a total area of 1,170,210 hectares of virgin forest and an estimated population of fewer than 7,000 indigenous people.
In 1997, when it was declared a Word Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the reserve covered more than two million hectares of tropical rainforest, including the buffer zone.
By 2010, when the indigenous people living in the reserve numbered around 25,000, the jungle area had been reduced to 832,237 hectares, according to figures cited by Genaro. The presence of non-indigenous settlers within the borders of the reserve had climbed from an estimated 5,000 in 1990 to over 40,000 in 2013.

ICT publishes more derogatory art against Leonard Peltier

The above image is the latest anti-Peltier graphic from Marty Two Bulls, published by Indian Country Today on 26 June (the anniversary of the Incident at Oglala and the beginning of Peltier's torturous journey through America's justice system).  The point?  To discourage you and others who support freedom for Leonard Peltier.

Peltier supporters, have you had enough of this type of disparaging commentary?

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Walk a Mile in Leonard Peltier's Shoes

26 June was Leonard Peltier Day.  In addition to other events occurring throughout the United States and elsewhere, loyal supporters vowed to "Walk a Mile in Leonard Peltier's Shoes".  Photos shared on Facebook may be viewed on the event page: