Sunday, August 31, 2014

Inter-American Court of Human Rights orders Chile to annul sentences under Anti-Terrorist Law

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights decided that “Chile violated the principle of legality and the right to the presumption of innocence” of seven members of the Mapuche community and a human rights defender who were condemned as perpetrators of crimes considered terrorism for events occurred in 2001 and 2002 in the Biobío and Araucania regions of southern Chile.

Segundo Aniceto Catrimán, Pascual Huentequeo Pichún Paillalao, Víctor Manuel Ancalaf Llaupe, Juan Ciriaco Millacheo Licán, Florencio Jaime Marileo Saravia, José Benicio Huenchunao Mariñan, Juan Patricio Marileo Saravia and the activist Patricia Roxana Troncoso Robles were tried in 2003 under Law 18.314 (or the Anti-terrorist Law). They were accused of conspiring, planning and starting fire attacks on the property of forestry companies and farm owners located in various municipalities in Araucania and Biobío, and they were given sentences between five and 10 years in prison as well as restrictions on the exercise of their rights to speech and political freedom.

These events occurred in the framework of the Mapuche protests claiming for the return of their ancestral lands. The dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-90) annulled the communal properties in 1981 and emphasized private property, benefiting wood companies.



'I Am Not An Inmate ... I Am A Man. And I Have Potential'

If you want to know how prison can shape a man, talk to Dan Huff. He's spent more than half of his 59 years locked up. He says he was "raised by the state of California."

"Even judges, when they would send me away — looking back at it now — they [were] kind of more like a father figure sitting up there," he says. "Closer to fatherly than any father that I ever had."

Those judges had plenty of reason to be concerned about him: Huff used heroin. He committed robberies.
"I'd go to the spoon, and I'd get a pistol. Or I'd go to the hardware store and get a shotgun and a hacksaw, and leave a piece of that barrel in the parking lot," Huff says.

Huff has served time for robbery, prison escape and manslaughter. He felt comfortable behind bars.

"I surrounded myself with other people, and we patted each other on the back and told each other how swell we was," he says. "We was the real men — and everybody else is a slug or worthless or a mark."

About 2 million men are currently serving time in prison or jail in America. For many of them, incarceration has played a big role in shaping their sense of what it means to be a man. And for several former inmates now living in Portland, Ore., like Huff, being on the outside has meant forming a whole new definition of manhood.


Diablo Canyon on Shaky Ground

As aftershocks of the 6.0 Napa earthquake that occurred Sunday in California continued, the Associated Press this week revealed a secret government report pointing to major earthquake vulnerabilities at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plants which are a little more than 200 miles away and sitting amid a webwork of earthquake faults.

It’s apparent to any visitor to the stretch of California where the two Diablo Canyon plants are sited that it is geologically hot. A major tourist feature of the area: hot spas.   “Welcome to the Avila Hot Springs,” declares the website of one, noting how “historic Avila Hot Springs” was “discovered in 1907 by at the time unlucky oil drillers and established” as a “popular visitor-serving natural artesian mineral hot springs.”

Nevertheless, Pacific Gas & Electric had no problem in 1965 picking the area along the California coast, north of Avila Beach, as a location for two nuclear plants.

It was known that the San Andreas Fault was inland 45 miles away. Then, in 1971, with construction underway, oil company geologists discovered another earthquake fault, the Hosgri Fault, just three miles out in the Pacific from the plant site and linked to the San Andreas Fault.

In 2008 yet another fault was discovered, the Shoreline Fault—but 650 yards from the Diablo Canyon plants.


Global Community Must Face Deeper Roots of Growing Ebola Crisis

As the worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history continues to accelerate in West Africa, with the World Health Organization announcing Thursday that up to 20,000 people could be infected throughout its course, experts and aid workers urge the rest of the world to take action and responsibility for the growing crisis.

"The international community has played a very detrimental role in de-funding and de-prioritizing the public health infrastructure in affected countries," Emira Woods, expert on U.S. foreign policy in Africa and social impact director at ThoughtWorks, a technology firm committed to social and economic justice, told Common Dreams.

According to WHO figures released Thursday, the deadly virus has already killed 1,552 people, with 3,069 infections reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. However, the actual number of cases might be between two and four times greater than currently known, the organization reports. Nearly 40 percent of the total number of reported cases have occurred within the past three weeks alone, indicating the outbreak continues to grow exponentially since it first emerged in March.

"There needs to be a concerted effort and political will to rebuild public health infrastructure with the understanding that health care is a right for all of us."—Emira Woods

The disease was first reported in Guinea and has since spread, hitting Liberia the hardest. Nigerian authorities announced on Wednesday the country's first Ebola death outside the city limits of Lagos. An unrelated Ebola outbreak has hit the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Seattle considers renaming Columbus Day

SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council next week will consider a resolution to change the name of Columbus to "Indigenous People's Day."

Native American tribes have been pushing for the change for years and successfully persuaded the Minneapolis City Council to make the change earlier this year. It was a unanimous vote.

The native groups argue that Columbus Day has been celebrated as the beginning of European domination of the Americas.

"By changing it to Indigenous People's Day is saying that you see that we have rights and you're offering you respect to work with us on a government to government level as equals," Lummi Tribal member George Jameson said Friday.

Council Members Bruce Harrell and Kshama Sawant introduced the resolution, which is on the agenda for discussion Tuesday.

Five-Year-Old Navajo Boy Denied Admission on First Day of School Because His Hair is Too Long

SEMINOLE, TEXAS — For five-year-old Malachi Wilson, the first day of kindergarten will always be one he remembers. As it turns out, Monday, which was the first day of school for students at F.J. Young Elementary School in Seminole, Texas, was not Malachi’s first day of school because he was sent home because of the length of his hair.

School principal Sherrie Warren informed April Wilson, Malachi’s mother, that Malachi’s hair is too long since he is a boy; therefore, he would not be able to attend classes until he got a haircut.

Malachi is Navajo on his father’s side of the family and Kiowa on his mother’s side.

Seminole is located in southwest Texas. F. J. Elementary School is home of the Seminole Indians. A sign near the school’s gymnasium reads: “Welcome to the Tribe.”

Wilson told Warren that Malachi is Native American and she and her husband don’t believe in cutting his hair. Malachi has never had a haircut, except for trims at the ends to keep it his hair healthy.

She explained to the principal that for religious beliefs Native Americans consider hair sacred and spiritual. The principal then asked Wilson if she could prove Malachi is Native American.

“I told her yes and told her what tribe he is part of,” Wilson told the Native News Online on Wednesday night.

Even with the explanation, Warren would not relent. Malachi was denied admission on his first day of kindergarten.


Native American Tribe Wins Victory in Fight over Religious Freedom

WESLACO - Members a Native American tribe with deep roots in South Texas are cautiously rejoicing. A federal court of appeals reversed a decision in a 7-year legal battle over eagle feathers.

The McAllen-based tribe is working to figure out what's next. The federal government seized feathers used in their religious ceremonies eight years ago. The tribe says their religious freedom was violated. That sparked the long legal battle.

Lipan Apache leaders say feathers are a vital part of their culture and religion.

Robert Soto said his people's right to religious freedom was taken, along with 42 golden eagle feathers.

"Because we were not natives registered by the federal government, they said we were violating federal law by illegally possessing the eagle feathers," Soto said.

The Lipan Apaches have a long history in south Texas.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent took the feathers during a sacred powwow in 2006.

The feds said the tribe was in violation of a federal law meant to protect bald and golden eagles.

"We don't go around killing eagles. We recycle eagle feathers," Soto said.

The tribe filed a lawsuit in 2006. A district judge ruled against them last year.

An appeal reversed that ruling, giving Soto hope his tribe's traditions can continue.

"Since the eagle flew so high in the sky, it could actually carry our prayers up to the god above. That's what some people believe. But it was a sacred bird. We didn't worship the animal, but we wore the feathers with pride and honor of the creator who gave this powerful creation," Soto said.

Soto said the case will go back to district court. If he wins this time, he said it will be a win for all Native American people.

Neither the golden or bald eagles are endangered anymore.

National Museum of the American Indian celebrates 10th anniversary

Anniversaries collide this fall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, marking the first decade of its distinctive building on the Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW.

Celebrations have been occurring nearly every weekend all year, with a big streak coming Sept. 18-21 that includes a new exhibit, a symposium and a gala ball.

Even while the celebrating is happening, keeping all the anniversary numbers straight may take some concentration.


Making a Living on a Living Planet

On Labor Day 1940, American workers faced the aftermath of the Great Depression, with mass unemployment persisting and a divided labor movement facing a renewed counterattack from corporate America. They were barely becoming aware of an even greater threat, one that would determine the future of their country and their labor movement: the threat of Nazi armies mobilizing for war.
On Labor Day 2014, American workers face the lingering results of the Great Recession, with unemployment still at historic highs, burgeoning inequality, and attacks on the very right to have a union. But, like workers in 1940, we are being pressed by another threat, one that will far overshadow our current problems if we do not take it on.
Today the American labor movement -- like the rest of American society and like labor movements throughout the world -- is being forced to grapple with global warming, climate chaos, and climate protection strategies. The future of labor’s growth and vitality will depend on its ability to play a central role in the movement to build a sustainable future for the planet and its people.
Climate change changes everything: Everything about how we organize society, how we conduct politics, even how we think of progress. For us in the labor movement, it must change how we envision the role of an organized labor movement in society.


Advocates Demand New Police Standards At U.S. Department of Justice

Marsha Coleman, member of No Fear Coalition, read the demand letter to a representative for Eric Holder, who met the protesters in the front of the Robert F. Kennedy building. The representative made no official comment but took the letter with him.
Among the demands:
- Immediate arrest and prosecution of Darren Wilson,
- Assign an independent prosecutor to the Michael Brown case,
- All military personnel and equipment must be withdrawn from Ferguson township,
- Establishment of an independent Citizens’ advisory Review Board (CARB) from civil society to fully participate in the investigation of law enforcement involving the use of lethal or excessive force,
- Issue body cameras to all police officers to help protect citizens from police misconduct and to vindicate officers acting lawfully,

Protest At Albuquerque City Hall Over Killer Cop Competition

A group of anti-police violence activists and family members of victims of police violence gathered at City Hall to demand Mayor Berry cancel the “Killer Cop” competition scheduled for next month. The Albuquerque Police Pistol Combat Tournament is designed to test efficiency in the lethal techniques that police use. Protesters claim that it celebrates militarized policing and the use of lethal force, and are demanding that the competition be shut down. A letter to the mayor signed by family members of victims condemns his insensitivity to the human cost of police violence.


Press Conference of 8/27/14

The ‘Spiral of Silence’

With folks yapping all day on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and the rest — how can there be such a thing as a "spiral of silence" online?

Easy. Just make the experience of online political debate so disjointed, impersonal and unpleasant that people shut themselves up. Or they hide out in groupings where everyone says much the same thing. In that case, what they're doing is cheerleading, not debating.

The "spiral of silence" is a theory that people hesitate to say things they believe others in their group won't agree with. It predates the Internet age.

Let me add that the "spiral of silence" disproportionately affects the shy, the thoughtful and the female.

Social media were supposed to free these cooped-up opinions by offering new venues for speaking one's piece. But this high-minded promise of a vast online town hall for pensive argument has fallen flat, according to a new report by Pew Research Center and Rutgers University.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Former NFL Coach Mike Ditka Was a 'Segregation-Era' Player' Who Dictated 'His Will' to 'Black Players'

To close out his MSNBC show on Thursday, Ed Schultz invited on a Native American social activist to discuss the push by liberals and sympathetic members of the sports media to force the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change their name.

In discussing recent supporters of the name in Sarah Palin and former NFL coach and player Mike Ditka, author and Native American activist Gyasi Ross smeared Ditka for being a “segregation-era football player who became, appropriately, a coach of – of a team – a team – an NFL team that was comprised largely of black players that he could dictate his will to.” [MP3 audio here; Video below]

In addition, he bashed Ditka with this additional comment: “There is a reason why Mike Ditka is not a football coach now and is a commentator and that’s because he can't take input from people of color.”

When asked by Schultz what it will “take to move the pendulum” to force the NFL to have Redskin’s owner Daniel Snyder change the team’s name, Ross suggested possible divestment campaigns against the team’s major sponsors and opined that Snyder is on desperate footing if he “is at the point where he’s asking for Mike Ditka and Sarah Palin to give him credibility on a topic that relates to social justice and race and ethnicity and Native Americans.”

Ross ended that comment by informing viewers that Ditka and Palin “have the combined cultural competency of Derek Zoolander and they’re going to say dumb things” and therefore Snyder and the Redskins name are in trouble.

Later, when asked why he thinks that the name has not yet been changed, Ross replied that individuals such as Ditka, Palin and Snyder "represent an antiquated and particularly crusty strain of white privilege that still thinks it’s very appropriate to speak for people of color and for Native people specifically."

On the topic of Ross having described Ditka as a “segregation-era player,” he played from 1961 to 1972, which placed the early years of his Hall-of-Fame career during the height of the civil rights movement. However, it is far from fair to link him to a decades-long policy of discrimination against African-Americans. No one describes U.S. presidents from, say, Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy as segregation-era presidents and neither should NFL players who simply happened to be alive and played at any point through the 1960s.

In addition to his absurd comments on Ditka being unable to “take input from people of color," it's appropriate to point out that he serves as a panelist on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown (which is a three-hour show during the NFL season) where four of his five fellow panelists are African American (with three of them having been with Ditka since he joined the panel in 2006). Also, his tenure as an NFL coach included leading the Chicago Bears to a title in Super Bowl XX in 1986.

Assassinating of Native American Voices by the Cowards Palin, Ditka and Snyder

Every person who wants the Washington football team to change its name got an unexpected gift earlier this week in the form of a Sarah Palin word salad. Palin decided for reasons that are best left unexplored, that her wisdom was required on this issue. Not to surprise anyone, but the former half-term governor stands resolutely with team owner Dan Snyder and vociferous Redskin defender ESPN commentator Mike Ditka, and against anyone who does not think a racial slur should be an NFL brand.

She said, among other things, “Nothing should surprise us lately; but when the Politically Correct Police bust Ditka, they hope the silent majority will cower under leftist control. My goodness, Ditka merely spoke his mind. This accomplished and esteemed coach knows there are big issues to be addressed in America today; there’s no intent to offend by referring to a team by the name they’ve proudly worn since day one and chose with pride in our native ancestry and obviously had absolutely no intent to insult; and the liberal media’s made-up controversies divide our country.”

Then, as part of her effort to not “divide our country” she made a joke that while “Redskins” is a term of honor, “Washington” is the real name that should be changed. (That painfully stale riposte has more dust on it than Ms. Palin’s career in electoral politics.)

The “esteemed” Mike Ditka, another figure who would never dream of trying to “divide” this country, said in his typically healing fashion that the controversy is the result of “politically correct idiots”, “liberals who complain about everything” and the entire debate is “silly” and “asinine.” He then said, “I hope that owner keeps fighting for it and never changes it, because the Redskins are part of American football history and they should never be anything but the Washington Redskins.”


Join the Internet Slowdown on 10 September

Cable companies are spending billions to gut net neutrality and create fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet. We can’t let this happen, but they’re so powerful. To win, we need a response that pulls out all the stops and drives the maximum number of people to voice their support for net neutrality.

On September 10th, sites across the web will display an alert with a symbolic "loading" symbol (the proverbial “spinning wheel of death”) and promote a call to action for users to push comments to the FCC, Congress, and the White House. Major websites and services are lined up to push hard on this — it affects literally everyone who uses the Internet for work or pleasure. This is the moment to win this battle for the net.

We need all hands on deck for this. Think about how best to get your audience's attention and join the Internet Slowdown with your site or mobile app. The spirit of the slowdown is that everyone can join in their own way, but we’re providing tools to make it easy. If you're going to participate, tell the world ASAP. Announce it on your blog and twitter. Help get others to join.


12 September is Leonard Peltier's 70th Birthday

Get the Military Off of Main Street

Ferguson Shows the Risks of Militarized Policing
WASHINGTON — FERGUSON, Mo., has become a virtual war zone. In the wake of the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, outsize armored vehicles have lined streets and tear gas has filled the air. Officers dressed in camouflage uniforms from Ferguson’s 53-person police force have pointed M-16s at the very citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.
The police response has shocked America. The escalating tension in this town of 21,200 people between a largely white police department and a majority African-American community is a central part of the crisis, but the militarization of the police is a dimension of the story that has national implications.
Ferguson’s police force got equipped this way thanks to the Pentagon, and it’s happening all over the country. The Department of Defense provides military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, enacted by Congress in 1997 to expand the practice of dispensing extra military gear. Due to the defense industry’s bloated contracts, there is a huge surplus. To date, the Pentagon has donated military equipment worth more than $4 billion to local law enforcement agencies. And the giving goes on, to police forces in all 50 states in the union.
Ferguson’s police department is just one recipient; small towns all over America are now the proud owners of “MRAP” armored vehicles. The largess has gotten so out of hand that a congressman, Hank C. Johnson, is introducing a bill to block the 1033 handouts.

'Moral Week Of Action' Takes Off

Last summer, thousands of North Carolina residents came together to respond to the Republican-led legislature’s “mean-spirited attack” on the state’s most vulnerable residents. Conservatives dismissed them as “crazies,” but their numbers swelled to thousands as diverse communities were united by Rev. Dr. William Barber’s “fusion politics.” Today that movement has spread to 12 more states. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin have announced their own “Moral Week of Action” events.

The North Carolina movement that so captured the imagination and inspired the hopes of progressives has now spread across the country, in the spirit of the movement’s popular chant: “Forward together, not one step back!”

More at:

Ferguson Crackdown Sparks Review of Police Militarization that Mainly Targets Communities of Color

President Obama has ordered a White House-led review of federal programs that fund and distribute military equipment to state and local police. Obama cited concern at how such equipment was used during the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of Michael Brown. One of the BearCat armored trucks used during protests there was paid for with $360,000 in Homeland Security grants. According to Pentagon data published by The New York Times, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns during the Obama administration, along with nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft. Much of the equipment is used by police SWAT teams for what amount to paramilitary raids on people’s homes. A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union examines more than 800 of these raids and found only 7 percent were for genuine emergencies. Nearly 80 percent were for used for ordinary law enforcement purposes like serving search warrants on people’s homes. We are joined by Kara Dansky, a senior counsel for the ACLU and author of its new report, "The War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bureau of Reclamation releases additional flows to avert Klamath River fish kill!

After a big protest by the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes and their supporters at the Bureau of Reclamation offices in Sacramento on August 19, Reclamation announced on Friday, August 22, that it would release additional water from Trinity Reservoir to supplement flows in the lower Klamath River to help protect the returning run of adult Chinook salmon from a devastating fish kill.

“We have determined that unprecedented conditions over the past few weeks in the lower Klamath River require us to take emergency measures to help reduce the potential for a large-scale fish die-off,” said Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo in a news release and at a conference call with reporters. “This decision was made based on science and after consultation with Tribes, water and power users, federal and state fish regulatory agencies, and others.”

Hoopa Valley Tribal Chair Danielle Vigil-Masten hailed the decision, stating, “The Hoopa Tribe basically dropped everything they were working on to address this issue. The right thing for Secretary Jewell to do was to fulfill her trust responsibility to the Hoopa Valley and Yurok Tribes. This is an essential first step.”


Is Ferguson Feeding on the Poor? City Disproportionately Stops, Charges and Fines People of Color

As the police killing of Michael Brown has focused global attention on the racial divide in the counties in and surrounding St. Louis, Missouri, a new report may explain why residents’ mistrust of the police runs so deep. It shows how a large part of the revenue for these counties comes from fines paid by African-American residents who are disproportionately targeted for traffic stops and other low-level offenses. In Ferguson, the fines and fees are actually the city’s second-largest source of income, which is expected to generate $2.7 million in fiscal year 2014. We speak with Thomas Harvey, executive director of ArchCity Defenders and co-author of their new report, which has been widely cited — including in a stunning chart in Monday’s New York Times that shows how Ferguson issued on average nearly three warrants per household last year — the highest number of warrants in the state, relative to its size. "What my clients have told me since the first day I’ve ever represented anybody is, this is not about public safety, it’s about the money," Harvey says. We also hear about the impact of the police harassment and ticketing from George Fields, who was among the local residents lined up for Michael Brown’s funeral on Monday in St. Louis.

Guns of August

In her epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Guns of August,” historian Barbara Tuchman detailed how World War I began in 1914, and how the belligerence, vanity and poor policies of powerful leaders led millions to gory deaths in that four-year conflagration. Before people realized world wars had to be numbered, World War I was called “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars,” which it wasn’t. It was the first modern war with massive, mechanized slaughter on land, sea and in the air. We can look at that war in retrospect, now 100 years after it started, as if through a distant mirror. The reflection, where we are today, is grim from within the greatest war-making nation in human history, the United States.

In the early years of the 20th century, the leaders of the nations of Europe had contrived a web of alliances, each treaty binding one country to join in the defense of another in the event of war. When the Austrian emperor’s son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, visited Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, 19-year-old Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated him. As Barbara Tuchman writes in her book, published in 1962, Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia, which set off a chain reaction, involving Russia, France, Belgium and Great Britain in the war against Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire.

After the war plans of the various powers failed, a period of brutal trench warfare began, with millions of lives lost under a relentless barrage of mortars, machine guns, mustard gas and newfangled airplanes outfitted with machine guns and bombs. By the war’s end, an estimated 9,700,000 soldiers would be dead, along with 6,800,000 civilians killed.

What, if anything, have we learned from the disaster of World War I? Look no farther than Gaza, or Ferguson, Mo. After nearly 50 days of the bombardment of Gaza with Israel’s intensely lethal, high-tech, U.S.-funded arsenal, Palestinian health officials put the number of Gazans killed at 2,139, of whom over 490 were children. Israel reported 64 soldiers killed as a result of its ground invasion of Gaza, with six civilians dead. The narrow Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places on Earth, suffering under an Israeli-imposed state of siege, is now a pile of rubble through which people pick, searching for the bodies of loved ones.


Mass. court to hear eyewitness ID cases

Zachary Sevigny was slashed with a box cutter by a stranger outside a convenience store in 2011.

Neither Sevigny nor his friend identified Jeremy Gomes as the attacker when shown his picture in a police photo array. But a week later, they saw Gomes inside a Pittsfield gas station and told police he was the culprit.
Gomes was found guilty of the attack, but his lawyer is challenging his conviction based on what he says were unreliable eyewitness identifications.

That challenge is one of four cases seeking changes in the way eyewitness identification testimony is presented to juries. The cases are set to be heard by the highest court in Massachusetts next month. Defense attorneys are pushing the court to adopt stronger instructions to advise jurors that eyewitness identifications are not always reliable.

Specifically, they want judges to tell juries that human memory is easily influenced and not like a video recording. They also want juries to be warned that witnesses who appear highly confident about their identification are not therefore necessarily reliable. And they want juries told that the failure to identify a suspect in an identification procedure — such as a police lineup or photo array — may reduce the reliability of a later identification of the same suspect by the witness.


FBI Examining Whether Russia Is Tied to JPMorgan Hacking

Russian hackers attacked the U.S. financial system in mid-August, infiltrating and stealing data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and at least one other bank, an incident the FBI is investigating as a possible retaliation for government-sponsored sanctions, according to two people familiar with the probe.


State Dept. Overseers of Contentious Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Workaround Have Industry, Torture Ties

The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other green groups recently revealed that pipeline giant Enbridge got U.S. State Department permission in response to its request to construct a U.S.-Canada border-crossing tar sands pipeline without earning an obligatory Presidential Permit.
Enbridge originally applied to the Obama State Department to expand capacity of its Alberta Clipper (now Line 67) pipeline in November 2012, but decided to avoid a “Keystone XL, take two” — or a years-long permitting battle — by creating a complex alternative to move nearly the same amount of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) across the border.
The move coincides with the upcoming opening for business of Enbridge's “Keystone XL” clone: the combination of the Alberta Clipper expansion (and now its alternative) on-ramp originating in Alberta and heading eventually to Flanagan, Ill., the Flanagan South pipeline running from Flanagan, Ill. to Cushing, Okla. and the Cushing, Okla. to Port Arthur, Texas Seaway Twin pipeline.

$15 and Change: How Seattle Led the Country’s Wage Revolution

“It’s easy to not think about the person serving you your food,” 21-year-old Caroline Durocher told me as she prepared for the 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift at a Taco Bell in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

“We definitely get disrespected a lot and looked down upon for being in fast food,” sighed Durocher. But she was about to earn some respectDurocher had been working low-wage jobs since she was 16, but after five years of so-called “entry-level” employment, she felt stuck. Unable to get a better job without a college degree, but unable to earn enough money to go back to college, Durocher barely scraped by serving up 99-cent tacos to a steady stream of impatient drive-thru customers before heading home to the studio apartment she shared with her father.

Shortly after 11 p.m. that night, May 29, 2013, Durocher walked off her $9.19 an hour job to become the first fast-food worker in Seattle to strike for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The next day, hundreds of Seattle fast-food workers and their supporters followed her lead, temporarily shutting down as many as 14 restaurants to chants of “Supersize our salaries now!”


The Roots of Racism: Fear, Freedom and Ferguson (Pt. 1)

The police slaying of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, has riveted the attention of the national media in part for its shock value (Brown was reportedly shot six times, including in the face and top of the head); because of looting and rioting all-too-reminiscent of the race riots in many US cities following the 1968 MLK assassination; and, not least, because of the long and depressing history of slavery, Jim Crow laws in the South, and strained race relations in the North and West – the latter a direct consequence of the latter. 
The facts and final verdict in the Michael Brown case await a full investigation and quite possibly a jury trial.  Face it: no one really knows exactly what happened, who said what or who provoked whom or who made the first move that led to the rapid chain of events that ended so tragically.
By the same token, George Zimmerman is the only living soul who really knows what happened on that rainy night on February 16, 2012 when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.  The shooting apparently occurred in the course of a fight.  What we do know is that Zimmerman, who allegedly followed and provoked the victim, was acquitted; that it happened in Sanford, Florida; and that during the Jim Crow era, there was no legal protection and no justice for African-Americans in the state Florida.  Whites racists who beat, raped, and even murdered blacks enjoyed near-absolute legal immunity. 

Show Me the America that has Forgotten About Wall Street’s Foreclosure Fraud

We all remember the Government Bailout of 2008 – the largest bailout gift by our government to the biggest banks in the country. That was the year when we also learned who is too big to fail: the same banks that brought our economy to the edge of the abyss.

What has changed since then? Have we seen any criminal prosecutions of those responsible for bringing our economy to the edge of collapse? No, but we did find out via the Freedom of Information Act that the official bailout dollar amount reported by our government wasn’t $700 billion, but a breathtaking $7.7 trillion.

Also, as to be expected, after the historic bailout the five biggest banks – JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs – became even bigger than before.


People In Los Angeles Demand Information On In-Custody Deaths

Community activists continue to push the Los Angeles Police Department for transparency after two unarmed men died within days of each other as a result of violent stops by LAPD officers. But to date, no information has been given.

Ezell Ford, 25, and Omar Abrego, 37, died on August 11 and August 2, respectively. Police placed a “security hold” on the autopsy reports of both men on August 15, meaning neither report will be released to the public until the hold is lifted. As of now, the LAPD has not released the names of the officers involved. The deaths happened within blocks of each other, and community outrage coincided with civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri after police there shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown to death on August 9.

Anger in Los Angeles has taken the form of peaceful marches and rallies seeking legal action against the officers involved.
Keyanna Celina and community members rally in front of LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey's office on Thursday, August 21, demanding criminal charges for LAPD officers that killed unarmed Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego. (Photo: Bethania Palma Markus)Keyanna Celina and community members rally in front of LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office on Thursday, August 21, demanding criminal charges for LAPD officers that killed unarmed Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego. (Photo: Bethania Palma Markus)
“It’s an outrage and a disgrace; they’re abusing their power,” said Keyanna Celina from the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police. “There’s nothing democratic about a family being denied the autopsy report and the officers’ names.”

LAPD Officer Bruce Borihanh of the media relations division said the department was not going to answer further questions on the two cases and referred to the press releases on its website.

“One reason the names aren’t being released is officer safety and their families’ safety has to be assessed. The officers’ safety hasn’t been assessed,” he said. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck makes the executive decision on releasing the officers’ names.


New Documentary Exposes Destruction Of Justice System

Control is a feature-length documentary that tells the story of Luther, an African American teenager whose life has been caught in the web of the criminal justice system. Co-directors Chris Bravo, an independent filmmaker, and Lindsey Schneider, who works for Vice, investigate how the system of mass incarceration affects the court system, high schools and the living rooms where families confront it on a daily basis. A three-year-long project, Bravo and Schneider followed Luther, affectionately known as Mouse, as he deals with a felonious second-degree assault charge, which he received by simply being outside of his building. Yet, Control is not primarily a story about guilt or innocence, crime or punishment, but rather about how the ongoing presence of the justice system in this community infuses every aspect of daily life. I sat down with Chris Bravo and Lindsey Schneider in Union Square Park recently to discuss their film, which recently won the Best Documentary award at The People’s Film Festival in New York City and which has been screened at the Oakland International Film Festival, the Landlocked Film Festival and many other venues.


Enbridge Figures Out An Easier Way To Move Tar Sands

Enbridge Inc. plans to construct a link between the Alberta Clipper and an adjacent pipeline known as Line 3. By transferring oil from the Clipper to Line 3 before it crosses the border and then back again after the oil is in the U.S., Enbridge doesn’t need a U.S. presidential permit that is required for new lines.

Enbridge Inc. said it found a way to ship more Alberta oil [Ed note: the industry often use the terms Alberta oil, domestic oil, heavy crude for tar sands derived bitumen]  to the U.S. that doesn’t require a review similar to the one faced by Keystone XL: switching crude from one pipeline to another before it crosses the border.

The global oil industry is gripped with the cost-cutting fever amid shareholder pressure, but the oil sands are particularly vulnerable given their baked-in higher development costs, high wages, remote location and infrastructure challenges.
The State Department, responsible for approving cross-border energy projects like the Alberta Clipper and the proposed Keystone XL line to the U.S. Gulf Coast, said in a statement that Enbridge can go forward with its plan under authority granted by previously issued permits.

The plan drew criticism yesterday from environmental groups, including the National Wildlife Federation, opposed to new imports from Canada’s oil sands because mining and processing the fuel releases more climate-warming carbon than other types of crude.


They Turned Her Water Off. Now She is Fighting Back

AtPeace Makita is a single mother of five, a life long resident of Detroit, and the Creative Director of the Detroit Water Brigade. She wants you to know that the push for the privatization of the water supply in Detroit could be coming to an area near you soon.

“If Detroit can be used as a prototype,” asks Makita “why can’t it happen in LA, Chicago, or New York? On top of the bankruptcy, on top of the foreclosures, on top of the mayoral issues and emergency manager, on top of all of it – now you want to take our life source?”

See "Detroit Water Crisis - a Prelude to the Privatization of Water"

UN watchdog tells US to curb police racism

The United States must stem police racism and brutality, a UN watchdog said Friday, as debate rages over the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white officer in Missouri.
"The excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against racial and ethnic minorities is an ongoing issue of concern, particularly in light of the shooting of Michael Brown," said Noureddine Amir, who headed a review of the US by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

"This is not an isolated event," Amir told reporters.

"It illustrates a big problem in the United States, such as racial bias among law enforcement officials, the lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations governing the use of force, and the inadequacy of training of law enforcement officials," he added.

Brown, 18, was killed on August 9 in the suburb of Ferguson in St Louis, sparking nearly two weeks of street protests in which heavily-armed law enforcement officers faced down demonstrators.

Brown was shot at least six times by white policeman Darren Wilson as he walked down a street after leaving a store where police say he stole a box of cigars.

Accounts differ widely, with police alleging Brown tried to grab Wilson's gun and witnesses saying he was shot with his hands up in a sign of surrender.

Although street protests have subsided, the debate over racial discrimination and distrust between African Americans and the police rages on.

Critics also charge that the handling of the protests shows US police are increasingly "militarised" in their weapons and tactics.

A grand jury in St Louis is tasked with deciding whether to bring charges against 28-year-old Wilson, who is on paid leave.

"The United States must ensure that every case of excessive use of force is promptly and effectively investigated and the alleged perpetrators prosecuted and the victims or their families are adequately compensated," said Amir.

"It should undertake complete and comprehensive measures to address the root causes and avoid any future recurrence of such tragic incidents," he added.
- Racial profiling -
Amir also cited the separate 2012 killings of unarmed 17-year-olds Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, whose shooters claimed self-defence under controversial "stand your ground" laws.

Their deaths stoked outrage over racial profiling and lax US gun laws.

"The United States government should take effective measures to protect the lives of all individuals and to reduce armed violence," said Amir.

The UN panel of 18 independent experts assessed the US record on August 13 and 14, with presentations from US officials and campaigners.

The hearing was not called over the Brown case -- UN members come up automatically for review every few years.

"These findings shine a light on US shortcomings on racial equality that we’re seeing play out today," Jamil Dakwar, of the American Civil Liberties Union, told AFP.

"The recent killing of Michel Brown is a tragic reminder of the need to address structural discrimination and pervasive injustice, especially within the criminal justice system," he said.



Shell Submits a Plan for New Exploration of Alaskan Arctic Oil

Royal Dutch Shell submitted a plan to the federal government on Thursday to try once again to explore for oil in the Alaskan Arctic, following years of legal and logistical setbacks as well as dogged opposition from environmentalists.
While the plan is just a first step in the process, it reflects the energy potential in the Arctic. Shell’s proposed programs consist of two drilling rigs working simultaneously in the Chukchi Sea, which could produce more than 400,000 barrels of oil a day.
Shell emphasized that it had not made a final decision on whether to drill next summer. But it said that the filing with the Interior Department preserved its options.
The efforts, even in this preliminary stage, are likely to rankle environmentalists, who argue that drilling in the Arctic is overly risky because of ice floes, darkness in winter and the presence of several species of already threatened wildlife like polar bears. Several environmental groups were quick to say they would oppose Shell’s latest plan, including with court challenges, if it receives government approval.

Students at the Barricades

Last December, NYU graduate student employees won recognition for our union, GSOC-UAW, from the university administration. With an overwhelming 98.4% of votes cast in favor of the union, NYU became — for the second time — the first private university in the country to recognize the rights of its graduate student employees to collective representation.

After more than fifteen years of organizing, NYU’s graduate student workers had won a major victory, and the voluntary recognition of the union by the administration had the potential to set a new kind of precedent for other graduate student organizing campaigns around the country. But recognition was the start of a new round of struggle: one around what kind of a contract we could win, and what kind of union GSOC would be.

In July, a group of bargaining committee members — graduate students elected by their peers to represent us in our negotiations with the NYU administration — released a statement highlighting the “concessionary strategy, demobilization of our membership, and opacity of the bargaining process” on the part of UAW staff that they had witnessed over the course of the previous semester.


Despite Calls For Humanity, Detroit Resumes Water Shutoffs

Despite widespread public outcry and international condemnation, the city of Detroit on Tuesday resumed shutting off the water supply to thousands of city residents.

Ending the month long moratorium on shutoffs, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) public affairs specialist Gregory Eno confirmed to Common Dreams that the city turned off the water to roughly 400 households that are delinquent on their water bills and have not yet set up a payment plan. More shutoffs are expected.

According to the citizens group Detroit Water Brigade, the only thing that changed since shutoffs began in March is that the city has lowered the required down payment water bills from 30% to 10%. “The water is still too expensive for Detroit,” they said. Detroit is one of the poorest cities in the United States with over 38% of the population living below the poverty line, according to Census Bureau statistics.

Members of the Detroit Water Brigade are calling on the city to halt the shutoffs altogether and consider alternatives for helping people pay their bills, arguing that restricting access to water for the city’s poorest residents is “doing nothing more than hurting people,” DWB volunteer DeMeeko Williams told a local CBS affiliate.


A New Approach To Ending A Civil War

BOGOTA, Aug 25 2014 (IPS) - Three major advances were made over the last week in the peace talks that have been moving forward in Cuba for nearly two years between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, while the decades-old civil war rages on.

On Saturday Aug. 16, a group of relatives of victims of both sides met face-to-face in the Cuban capital. It was the first time in the world that victims have sat down at the same table with representatives of their victimisers in negotiations to put an end to a civil war.

And on Thursday Aug. 21 an academic commission was set up to study the roots of the conflict and the factors that have stood in the way of bringing it to an end.
That day, the unthinkable happened.

High-level army, air force, navy and police officers flew to Cuba, under the command of General Javier Alberto Flórez, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Watch For Sold Out Pro-Fracking Enviro Groups

In 2012, when Ohio’s Senate passed a controversial hydraulic fracturing bill that was supported by the oil and gas industry, environmental groups lined up against it, saying it would endanger public health. But during hearings on the bill, it gained one seemingly unlikely supporter: the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), one of the nation’s largest green groups.

The bill supported renewable energy development but it also contained several items other environmental groups said were giveaways to the industry: It allowed fracking companies to keep private the chemicals they used in fracking, changed the required distance for contamination testing around a well from 300 feet to 1,500 feet, and prevented doctors from sharing information that might be considered trade secrets, even if it was in the interest of public health.

Matt Watson, one of EDF’s policy analysts, said at the hearing, “We would like to commend the General Assembly and the governor for the thoughtful approach that has been put forward.”


Petition Of 90,000 Signatures To Be Delivered To Detroit Mayor

DETROIT – A press conference [was] held on Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 11:00am in front of the Spirit of Detroit located outside of the CAYMC, where we plan to deliver  over 90,000 signatures to Mayor Duggan, and Governor Snyder via Emergency Manager Orr.

In an attempt to preserve the moratorium on water shut-offs, a group of Detroit residents and civil rights attorneys filed court documents over the weekend asking a judge to immediately block the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) from terminating water service  to  any  occupied  residence,  and  to  require  the  restoration  of  service  to  occupied residences without water. The ACLU of Michigan and NAACP Legal Defense fund are serving  as  expert  consultants  in  the  ongoing  litigation.

Instead, the moratorium ended on Monday, August 25, 2014 and a hearing linking the shutoffs to the policies of the Emergency Manager and the rulings of the bankruptcy judge will be held at the bankruptcy court on September  2,  2014  at  8:30am.

“Without a continued moratorium on water shutoffs, thousands more Detroiters, mostly low income children, seniors, and disabled, will immediately be at risk for shutoff,” says Alice Jennings of Edwards & Jennings, P.C., counsel in the lawsuit, “A comprehensive water  affordability plan, a viable bill dispute process, specific polices for landlord-    tenant bills and a sustainable mechanism for evaluating the number of families in shutoff status or at risk for shutoff, is necessary prior to lifting the DWSD water shutoff moratorium.”