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Last week, the Bureau of the IADL, meeting in Hanoi, presented President Nguyen Minh Triet of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam with the final decision of the Tribunal. The judges found the U.S. government and the chemical companies guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ecocide during the illegal U.S. war of aggression in Vietnam. We recommended that the Agent Orange Commission be established in Vietnam to assess the damages suffered by the people and destruction of the environment, and that the U.S. government and the chemical companies provide compensation for the damage and destruction.
Settlement Reached in Human Rights Cases Against Royal Dutch/Shell | Press Release
On Eve of Trial, Settlement Agreements Provide $15.5 Million for Compensation to Nigerian Human Rights Activists and to Establish Trust Fund
New York, June 8, 2009 — Today, the parties in Wiwa v. Shell agreed to settle human rights claims charging the Royal Dutch/Shell company, its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC or Shell Nigeria), and the former head of its Nigerian operation, Brian Anderson, with complicity in the torture, killing, and other abuses of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and other non-violent Nigerian activists in the mid-1990s in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta.
The settlement, whose terms are public, provides a total of $15.5 million. These funds will compensate the 10 plaintiffs, who include family members of the deceased victims; establish a Trust intended to benefit the Ogoni people; and cover a portion of plaintiffs’ legal fees and costs. The settlement is only on behalf of the individual plaintiffs for their individual claims. It does not resolve outstanding issues between Shell and the Ogoni people, and the plaintiffs did not negotiate on behalf of the Ogoni people.
We know what The Nature Conservancy thinks about forest offsets. It loves them. It loves them so much that it has got into bed with the biggest coal-burner in the US, American Electric Power. Meanwhile, TNC has developed a “global mechanism proposal”, which includes a goal of 3 billion tons of “emissions reductions from REDD” by 2020. These would be “fully fungible with emissions reductions from other sectors”. This is precisely what carbon traders, the timber industry and polluting companies like AEP want: forest carbon offsets.
At a side event at the UN Climate negotiations in Bonn earlier this week, TNC’s Greg Fishbein (whose job title, incidentally, is “Managing Director of Forest Carbon”) said, “We recognise that a goal like this needs to be combined with strict Annex I targets to ensure that these emissions reductions are in fact in addition to a contribution to overall emissions reductions and not just replacing emissions reductions that are taking place some place else.”
But when TNC talks about “strict Annex I targets”, what do they actually mean?
During the questions after the presentations, TNC inadvertently let slip that meaningful emissions reduction targets are not so important to them after all. Read more.
Last week, an organisation called Avoided Deforestation Partners launched what they blandly describe as “an agreement on policies aimed at protecting the world’s tropical forests”. Under this agreement, “companies would be eligible to receive credit for reducing climate pollution by financing conservation of tropical forests”. It is a loophole allowing industry to write a cheque and continue to pollute. This is another nightmare vision of REDD, similar to that recently proposed by the Australian government. Another similarity with Australia is the support received from what is at first glance a surprising source: big international conservation NGOs.
REDD-Monitor received the following anonymous contribution about the agreement. We reproduce it in full in the hope of generating further discussion about this liaison between conservation NGOs and polluting industry.
The following organisations signed the agreement: American Electric Power, Conservation International, Duke Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, El Paso Corporation, National Wildlife Federation, Marriott International, Mercy Corps, Natural Resources Defense Council, PG&E Corporation, Sierra Club, Starbucks Coffee Company, The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists, The Walt Disney Company, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Woods Hole Research Center. Read more.
Obama Administration Targets Environmental and Animal Rights Activists as Eco-Terrorists
By Stephen Lendman
What began under George Bush continues under Barack Obama - targeting dedicated activists with "one of today's most serious domestic terrorism threats," according former FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterterrorism John Lewis before a Senate panel in May 2005. Called "eco-terrorism," it grew out of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that created the federal crime of "domestic terrorism" and applied it to US citizens as well as aliens.
In his February 2002 testimony before the House Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, the FBI's Domestic Terrorism Section Chief, Counterterrorism Division, James Jarboe defined eco-terrorism as:
WE DON'T NEED THE GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION
by Mike Ferner
Times are anxious indeed, but simultaneously we are face-to-face with an extremely rare chance to replace our transportation system with something we can literally live with.
To take advantage of this uncommon opportunity we will have to do something far more profound, yet less costly, than a government bailout or an act of Congress. We will have to, as Paul Newman said in Cool Hand Luke, "get our minds right" on one simple fact: what we need is reliable, sustainable transportation. That does not mean we need General Motors Corporation or even cars. Contemplate the freedom implied in that statement for just a moment: we do not need General Motors Corporation.
By Dave Lindorff
Just imagine for a moment that you are a retired contractor, struggling to get by on your pathetically shriveled 401(k). when your ne-er-do-well child suddenly comes to you saying he’s got this idea to start buying derelict homes and rehabbing them for resale. He asks you to stake him with a $100,000 loan (about half of what you’ve got left in your retirement fund), promising to repay you when he sells his first couple of houses. You know the kid’s flat busted and has been laid off from his job as a dishwasher, so you want to help, but you’ve also seen his carpentry skills: The doghouse he build in high school fell apart on a windy day, and his own house has a leaking roof, needs repainting, and all the plumbing leaks. You’ve also seen his business skills: He plays the Lotto excessively, hasn’t saved a penny, and buys most of his supplies at the local 7-Eleven.
Would you front this kid half your money?
Oil Economy Driving Growth of Controversial Tar Sands
By Chris Arsenault | IPS
A report from one of the world’s top energy consultancies says oil production in Canada’s tar sands could see a five-fold increase by 2035.
"The oil sands have moved from the fringe to the center of energy supply," notes the report "Growth in the Canadian Oil Sands: Finding a New Balance" released by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) on May 18.
Environmentalists and some aboriginal groups want the oil sands to stay on the fringes because extracting heavy oil produces more greenhouse gas emissions than convention crude.
Meanwhile, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) issued a report titled "The Canadian Oil Sands: Energy Security vs Climate Change" on May 22 arguing that both the negative environmental impacts and benefits to U.S. energy security from Canada’s tar sands are overstated.
"Smart regulation can place a fair and reasonable price on the oil sands’ greenhouse gas emissions, providing the right incentive to reduce them," said Michael Levi, an author of the CFR report.
Levi told IPS that lifecycle green house gas emmissions from the tar sands are 17 percent worse than conventional U.S. oil imports. Environmentalists dispute this claim, stating oil production from the tar sands is at least three times worse than conventional oil.
"The development of Canadian oil sands encapsulates the complexities that the world faces on energy, environment and security," said IHS CERA chairman Daniel Yergin in a statement. Read more.
LONDON, England (CNN) -- The first comprehensive report into the human cost of climate change warns the world is in the throes of a "silent crisis" that is killing 300,000 people each year.
New York, Boston and other cities on North America's northeast coast could face a rise in sea level this century that would exceed forecasts for the rest of the planet if Greenland's ice sheet keeps melting as fast as it is now, researchers said on Wednesday.
Sea levels off the northeast coast of North America could rise by 12 to 20 inches more than other coastal areas if the Greenland glacier-melt continues to accelerate at its present pace, the researchers reported.
This is because the current rate of ice-melting in Greenland could send so much fresh water into the salty north Atlantic Ocean that it could change the vast ocean circulation pattern sometimes called the conveyor belt. Scientists call this pattern the meridional overturning circulation.
DS: Here's a typical misguided, well-intentioned liberal activist Email I just got from Greenpeace. If Congress is too corrupted, we should give more power to the president, Greenpeace says, regardless of whether he's even more corrupted and regardless of the danger of giving power to one person that belongs in a legislature:
President Obama could soon have the power to regulate dangerous greenhouse gases himself should Congress fail to do what’s necessary. It’s up to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and YOU to decide.
Here’s the deal: The EPA has concluded that there is overwhelming evidence that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels endanger our health and welfare -- which means that by law they have the ability to regulate those emissions under the Clean Air Act. But, before they make a final decision they’re giving the public a chance to comment. Make sure that the EPA knows how you feel by submitting a comment today.
Tell the EPA to give President Obama the power to rescue the climate.
These comments really do make a difference. The more people who tell the EPA to finalize these findings the better chance we have of giving President Obama the tools he needs to be a leader on global warming. It really is that simple.
Now, you can bet that the Coal, Gas and Oil industries, the same people who spent $45 million to undermine global warming legislation in Congress, will be hard at work pressuring the EPA not to take decisive, let alone effective action on this as well. But while money can buy you influence and access in Washington, it can’t buy you public support. Tell the EPA to do the right thing and give the Obama Administration the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The public comment period ends on June 23rd. That means we have just about a month to make our voices heard at the EPA. It’s going to take every tool available to rescue the climate and this ruling could turn out to be absolutely critical if Congress fails to pass a strong global warming bill. We can’t let dirty industry have their way on this. This is YOUR chance to have a major impact on global warming policy.
For the planet,
Global Warming Campaign Director
[Meanwhile, how is the "executive" branch actually doing on this policy? -DS]
Commentary from Mark Crispin Miller on the following article:
With this (British) article about the rising anger over Steven Chu's quick move away from
fighting global warming, there is a photo of Chu taking part in "Bike to Work Day"--an eco-friendly visual quite clearly meant to take our minds off his remarkable about-face on the construction of coal-powered electricity plants.
It's much like our First Lady's veggie garden on the White House lawn--an eco-friendly
visual, intended to distract us from her husband's strong support (exerted through his Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack) for GM foods.
You know who used to specialize in such deceptive pictures? Michael Deaver, Ronald Reagan's "Vicar of Visuals," whose skill at such manipulation has--till now--been largely unsurpassed, even by Karl Rove's imagineers.
When Reagan struck some blow against the working man, Deaver would obscure it with a
photo op in some blue-collar tavern, where the president would raise a glass, fraternally, with
several workin' guys. And Deaver also deftly masked that president's hardcore anti-environmental policies (check out James Watt) with images of Reagan looking sensitive and wise in some bucolic setting.
So here we are again. Although Deaver died almost two years ago, his spirit is still working in the White House.
[Let's not forget the Constitution behind Obama during his last speech. --DS]
America's new green guru sparks anger over climate change U-turns
By Robin McKie in London and Ed Helmore in New York, The Guardian
President Obama's energy secretary, Nobel prize-winner Steven Chu, arrives in Europe this week to discuss global warming. But his recent policy decisions on coal-fired power stations and hydrogen cars have angered many environmentalists
US energy secretary Steven Chu will fly to Europe this week to begin talks that will be crucial in the global battle against climate change. The 61-year-old physicist will hold key discussions with energy ministers from the G8 nations in Rome before travelling to London to take part in a debate with Nobel prize winners on global warming.
If you’re watching this then it means I’m not around anymore. I imagine you’re probably in your late teens now. Maybe Mt. Kilimanjaro no longer has snow on its peak. Maybe the ice shelves on the northern coasts of Alaska have melted back and polar bears are dwindling in number. I always wanted to get up there and see Alaska. Maybe you’ll make it up there one day yourself. I wonder if it’s somehow possible for you to buy a plane ticket to Baghdad, to visit Iraq as a tourist. Will you visit the places where I’ve been? Will you talk to the people there? Will you tell them my name?
At some point in the future, soldiers will pack up their rucks, equipment will be loaded into huge shipping containers, C-130s will rise wheels-up off the tarmac, and Navy transport ships will cross the high seas to return home once again. At some point — the timing of which I don’t have the slightest guess at — the war in Iraq will end. And I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately — I’ve been thinking about the last American soldier to die in Iraq.
Tonight, at 3 a.m., a hunter’s moon shines down into the misty ravines of Vermont’s Green Mountains. I’m standing out on the back deck of a friend’s house, listening to the quiet of the woods. At the Fairbanks Museum in nearby St. Johnsbury, the lights have been turned off for hours and all is dark inside the glass display cases, filled with Civil War memorabilia. The checkerboard of Jefferson Davis. Smoothbore rifles. Canteens. Reading glasses. Letters written home. Read more.
US Army gets eco-conscious, preps mega solar plant
By Austin Modine | The Register
You know the "go green" push is reaching a zenith when the fuel-slurping US Army wants to get serious about having a daintier environmental footprint.
The Army said it's enlisting several big new energy projects to promote less energy waste in local and overseas bases. Among its ambitions are rolling out a fleet of electric vehicles, establishing biomass fuel demonstrations at select Army posts, and constructing what could be one of the most powerful solar power plants in the world.
"We spend over $3bn every year on energy and the majority of it is spent on our installations. We can significantly reduce our energy consumption by partnering within government and with the private sector to capitalize on the great strides in proven technology that have been developed and implemented across the country," said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren. Read more.
It's opposed by Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace, and ...
NASA Warming Scientist James Hansen Hopes Congressional Climate Bill Fails!
By Marc Morano, Climate Depot
Washington, DC - NASA scientist James Hansen, perhaps the most vocal voice in the U.S. warning of a man-made global warming crisis, has declared he hopes Congressional efforts to pass a cap-and-trade climate bill fail. "I hope cap and trade doesn't pass, because we need a much more effective approach,” Hansen said during a keynote lecture at Columbia University's climate conference on May 2, 2009.
Two Fridays ago on the first day of its release, I went to an early afternoon screening of the film The Soloist. I'd been eager to see it since it focuses on the real life relationship between Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless member of Los Angeles' Skid Row community suffering from debilitating mental illness. In the story, as told in Lopez' columns in the LA Times, in his book, and in the screenplay by Susannah Grant, Lopez first meets middle-aged Nathaniel Ayers in downtown Los Angeles in front of a statue of Beethoven where Ayers is playing a two string violin. In that serendipitous meeting Lopez discovers that as a youth Ayers had been a gifted student at Juilliard, New York's prestigious school for the performing arts. This revelation leads Lopez on a personal mission to rehabilitate the troubled man - a mission Lopez is still on today, four years after their first encounter.
My intense desire to see this film had been predicated, foolishly as I have since come to learn, on the romantic notion that viewers would see The Soloist and be moved to help the homeless. But the film I saw, with its cartoon-like unsympathetic portrayal of the people of Skid Row, that displayed none of their individuality, humanity or humor, would never provoke such action. Instead of showing the hearts of the inhabitants and telling a few of their tales, the film portrayed them as a Fellini-esque monolith - a tainted Gomorrah teeming with decadence and dereliction.
By Norman Solomon
In the Arctic, sea ice is melting. In the United States, houses are foreclosing.
And in Washington, the Senate is becoming a real-life Bermuda Triangle for progressive agendas.
Proposals for major limits on carbon emissions aren’t getting far in the Senate, where the corporate war on the environment has an abundance of powerful allies.
As for class war, it continues to rage from the top down. Last week, a dozen Democratic senators teamed up with Republicans to defeat a bill that would have allowed judges to reduce mortgages in bankruptcy courts.
President Obama supported that bill. But as the Associated Press reported, he was “facing stiff opposition from banks” and “did little to pressure lawmakers” on behalf of the measure. The Senate “defeated a plan to spare hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure through bankruptcy.”
By Dave Lindorff
For almost a generation, the Democrats in Congress have been able to pretend to be the party of ordinary working people, the party of progressives, and the inheritor of the mantel of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, all the while doing little of substance and catering primarily to the interests of Wall Street and the nation’s corporate interests.
The Democrats managed this sleight of hand for so long by claiming that while they had the best of intentions, reality, in the form of their inability to pass legislation, even when they were in the majority in both houses of Congress, that could avoid being filibustered to death by a Republican minority.
That situation has continued to this day, with the party currently having 58 seats in the Senate.
More than 100 people were arrested during a series of demonstrations in Washington yesterday, including five members of Congress who were part of a group that gathered outside the Sudanese Embassy to condemn the expulsion of aid agencies from Darfur.
All told, police squared off with demonstrators at three unrelated protests that began in the morning and continued into the afternoon. Eight people were arrested outside the embassy, seven Greenpeace activists were arrested near the State Department, and 91 others were arrested during a demonstration by disability rights advocates outside the White House.
The activities followed a weekend of other protests connected to the meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Yesterday began with a show of civil disobedience that snarled rush-hour traffic as seven Greenpeace activists scaled a construction crane at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue NW, near the State Department, and unfurled a huge banner to call attention to global warming. The crane was on the site of a future institute for peace.
Years before it was announced that Van Jones, the premier green-jobs advocate in the country, was headed to the White House, it was clear that Van Jones was headed to the White House. Thomas Friedman devoted an entire 2007 column to Jones, writing of his lofty goals, "I would not underestimate him." Jones muscled his way through Congress to get a Green Jobs Act passed in 2007 and then lavished praise on Nancy Pelosi and now-Labor Secretary, then-Rep. Hilda Solis. Pelosi returned the favor with a rave book blurb for Jones' 2008 best-seller The Green Collar Economy, writing that Jones possessed "sparkling intelligence, powerful vision, and deep empathy." When he wasn't running his fix-poverty, fix-the-planet nonprofit in Oakland, Calif., he was seeding Obama's transition team with ideas for an all-encompassing environmental/labor/energy/
It's natural, whether as a website or an individual, to get caught up in issues that are immediate and urgent. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been the focus of so many TomDispatch columns are happening right now. People are dying now. The economy is melting down now. The foreclosed and homeless are waking up now in ever-growing numbers. Unemployment lines are getting longer as you read this. Children are hungry this very minute, and the anxiety of a middle-class in freefall is palpable right now almost anywhere you go.
But now and then, it's also useful to take a step back and ask some longer term questions. Even if we could stop the wars, put people back to work (and back into their homes), even if we could get consumers spending again, there's always the "what-for" question. What have we accomplished if all we've done is reset the clock on the next war, the next bubble, the next bust... and if, all the while, the ice is melting and the globe warming?
Chip Ward, a TomDispatch contributor since 2003, spent 16 years confronting corporations that pollute and run, leaving sickness and suffering in their wake. He was focused on urgent and immediate tasks that made a difference right away (and, while he was at it, running a library system in Salt Lake City that was slowly filling up with homeless people). Recently, he took a break and retreated to the remote canyons of southern Utah where he's been reflecting on that bigger picture and, as it happens, on the nature of bigness itself at a moment when "too big to fail" is the phrase du jour. Tom
Too Big to Fail
Ecological Ignorance and Economic Collapse
By Chip Ward
"Too big to fail." It's been the mantra of our economic meltdown. Although meant to emphasize the overwhelming importance of this bank or that corporation, the phrase also unwittingly expresses a shared delusion that may be at the root of our current crises -- both economic and ecological.
In nature, nothing is too big to fail. In fact, big is bound to fail. To understand why that's so means stepping away from a prevailing set of beliefs that holds us in its sway, especially the deep conviction that we operate apart from nature's limits and rules.
Here's the heart of the matter: We are ecologically illiterate -- not just unfamiliar with the necessary scientific vocabulary and concepts, but spectacularly, catastrophically, tragically dumb. Oh yes, some of us now understand that draining those wetlands, clear-cutting the rainforests, and pumping all that CO2 into the atmosphere are self-destructively idiotic behaviors. But when it comes down to how nature itself behaves, we remain remarkably clueless.
Since April Fool's Day expired, there has been nothing but bad news about Earth's various ice shelves circulating through the news. Antarctica's Wordie and Larsen ice shelves? The first is simply gone, and the second is disappearing fast. How about the Connecticut-sized Wilkins shelf? It has fragmented into polar pieces after the ice tether holding it to the Antarctic peninsula snapped this week, signaling that the Earth is undergoing some profound changes.
So what do melting ice shelves a world away have to do with the rest of us? That is where the fools come in.
"This continued and often-significant glacier retreat is a wakeup call that change is happening," USGS glaciologist Jane Ferrigno explained in a joint United States Geological Survey and British Antarctic Survey on the melt. "Antarctica is of special interest, because it holds an estimated 91 percent of the Earth's glacier volume, and change anywhere in the ice sheet poses significant hazards to society."
This winter, as Congress was scrambling to pass the stimulus package, the bottom fell out of the renewable energy sector -- the very industry that lawmakers have held out as our best hope of salvaging the economy. Trade groups like the American Wind Energy Association, which as recently as December was forecasting "another record-shattering year of growth," began predicting that new installations would plunge by 30 to 50 percent. Solar panel manufacturers that had been blazing a trail of growth announced a wave of layoffs. Some have since cut their workforces in half, as stock prices tumble and plans for new green energy projects stall.
Camp Lejeune Historic Water Update
Daniel McGowan, Another "War on Terrorism" Victim
by Stephen Lendman
Of so-called "eco-terrorism" in his case, a term believed coined by Ron Arnold, executive director of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE), a radical right wing group established on July 4, 1976 "to continue (the) Revolution of liberty, free enterprise and individual initiative....without hindrance by government."
According to Sourcewatch:
"Arnold blurred the boundaries between nonviolent civil disobedience and more contentious tactics such as vandalism and sabotage," (mostly rejected by environmentalists) by equating property damage to "terrorism as a societal threat."