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What Do World's Two Biggest Dangers Have in Common?

Anyone who cares about our natural environment should be marking with great sadness the centenary of World War I. Beyond the incredible destruction in European battlefields, the intense harvesting of forests, and the new focus on the fossil fuels of the Middle East, the Great War was the Chemists' War. Poison gas became a weapon -- one that would be used against many forms of life.

Insecticides were developed alongside nerve gases and from byproducts of explosives.  World War II -- the sequel made almost inevitable by the manner of ending the first one -- produced, among other things, nuclear bombs, DDT, and a common language for discussing both -- not to mention airplanes for delivering both.

War propagandists made killing easier by depicting foreign people as bugs. Insecticide marketers made buying their poisons patriotic by using war language to describe the "annihilation" of "invading" insects (never mind who was actually here first). DDT was made available for public purchase five days before the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  On the first anniversary of the bomb, a full-page photograph of a mushroom cloud appeared in an advertisement for DDT.

War and environmental destruction don't just overlap in how they're thought and talked about.  They don't just promote each other through mutually reinforcing notions of machismo and domination.  The connection is much deeper and more direct. War and preparations for war, including weapons testing, are themselves among the greatest destroyers of our environment.  The U.S. military is a leading consumer of fossil fuels. From March 2003 to December 2007 the war on Iraq alone released more CO2 than 60% of all nations.

Rarely do we appreciate the extent to which wars are fought for control over resources the consumption of which will destroy us.  Even more rarely do we appreciate the extent to which that consumption is driven by wars.  The Confederate Army marched up toward Gettysburg in search of food to fuel itself.  (Sherman burned the South, as he killed the Buffalo, to cause starvation -- while the North exploited its land to fuel the war.)  The British Navy sought control of oil first as a fuel for the ships of the British Navy, not for some other purpose.  The Nazis went east, among several other reasons, for forests with which to fuel their war.  The deforestation of the tropics that took off during World War II only accelerated during the permanent state of war that followed.

Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. Perhaps the most deadly weapons left behind by wars are land mines and cluster bombs. Tens of millions of them are estimated to be lying around on the earth. The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan's forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants.

The United States fights its wars and even tests its weapons far from its shores, but remains pockmarked by environmental disaster areas and superfund sites created by its military.  The environmental crisis has taken on enormous proportions, dramatically overshadowing the manufactured dangers that lie in Hillary Clinton's contention that Vladimir Putin is a new Hitler or the common pretense in Washington, D.C., that Iran is building nukes or that killing people with drones is making us safer rather than more hated. And yet, each year, the EPA spends $622 million trying to figure out how to produce power without oil, while the military spends hundreds of billions of dollars burning oil in wars fought to control the oil supplies. The million dollars spent to keep each soldier in a foreign occupation for a year could create 20 green energy jobs at $50,000 each. The $1 trillion spent by the United States on militarism each year, and the $1 trillion spent by the rest of the world combined, could fund a conversion to sustainable living beyond most of our wildest dreams. Even 10% of it could.

When World War I ended, not only did a huge peace movement develop, but it was allied with a wildlife conservation  movement.  These days, those two movements appear divided and conquered.  Once in a blue moon their paths cross, as environmental groups are persuaded to oppose a particular seizure of land or military base construction, as has happened in recent months with the movements to prevent the U.S. and South Korea from building a huge naval base on Jeju Island, and to prevent the U.S. Marine Corps from turning Pagan Island in the Northern Marianas into a bombing range.  But try asking a well-funded environmental group to push for a transfer of public resources from militarism to clean energy or conservation and you might as well be trying to tackle a cloud of poison gas.

I'm pleased to be part of a movement just begun at WorldBeyondWar.org, already with people taking part in 57 nations, that seeks to replace our massive investment in war with a massive investment in actual defense of the earth.  I have a suspicion that big environmental organizations would find great support for this plan were they to survey their members.

Follow the Money: Three Energy Export Congressional Hearings, Climate Undiscussed

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In light of ongoing geopolitical tensions in Russia, Ukraine and hotly contested Crimea, three (yes, three!) U.S. Congressional Committees held hearings this week on the U.S. using its newfangled oil and gas bounty as a blunt tool to fend off Russian dominance of the global gas market.

U.S. Sen Mary Landrieu at the U.S. Sen. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Photo Credit:  U.S. Sen. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Though 14 combined witnesses testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power and U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, not a single environmental voice received an invitation. Climate change and environmental concerns were only voiced by two witnesses. 

Using the ongoing regional tumult as a rationale to discuss exports of U.S. oil and gas obtained mainly via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), the lack of discussion on climate change doesn't mean the issue isn't important to national security types.

Indeed, the Pentagon's recently published Quadrennial Defense Review coins climate change a "threat force multiplier" that could lead to resource scarcity and resource wars. Though directly related to rampant resource extraction and global oil and gas marketing, with fracking's accompanying climate change and ecological impacts, "threat force multiplication" impacts of climate change went undiscussed. 

With another LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal approved by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in Coos Bay, Ore., to non-Free Trade Agreement countries on March 24 (the seventh so far, with two dozen still pending), the heat is on to export U.S. fracked oil and gas to the global market.   

So, why wasn't the LNG climate trump card discussed in a loud and clear way? Well, just consider the source: ten of the witnesses had ties in one way or another to the oil and gas industry.

Testimony: Record 36% of North Dakota Fracked Gas Was Flared in December

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The recent March 6 House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing titled "Benefits of and Challenges to Energy Access in the 21st Century: Fuel Supply and Infrastructure" never had over 100 online viewers watching the livestream at any point in time. And it unfolded in an essentially empty room. 

Pentagon Calls Climate Change Impacts "Threat Multipliers," Could Enable Terrorism

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The U.S. Department of Defense released the 2014 version of its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) yesterday, declaring the threat of climate change impacts a very serious national security vulnerability that, among other things, could enable further terrorist activity. 

Released every four years, the QDR is a broad outline of U.S. military strategy discussing how to maintain global U.S. military hegemony. Like the 2010 document, the 64-page 2014 QDR again highlights the threats posed to national security by ever-worsening global climate disruption.

Criticizing repression of protest abroad, practicing it at home: What if Americans Demanded the Ouster of This Government?

By Dave Lindorff


Ukraine’s new rulers, in one of their first acts, have disbanded that country’s riot police.


ALEC's Fracking Chemical Disclosure Bill Moving Through Florida Legislature

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) model bill for disclosure of chemicals injected into the ground during the controversial hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") process is back for a sequel in the Sunshine State legislature.

Talk Nation Radio: U.S. Marine Corps Threatens Small Pacific Island

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-u-s-marine

Michael Hadfield is a Professor of Zoology and Principal Investigator at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory, University of Hawaii, and at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center. He discusses the need to save Pagan Island, its people and other species, from the U.S. military. See http://savepaganisland.org

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

A man of many convictions: The Shape-Shifting Secretary of State John Kerry

By Dave Lindorff

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry is a man of many convictions--many of them in open conflict with one another. 

Recall that back in 2004, while trying to unseat President George W. Bush, he famously told students at Marshall University who wanted to know his stand on the US invasion of Iraq, that he “actually did vote for” a bill funding the war “before I voted against it.”

New weekly ThisCantBeHappening! radio show Climate change: Washington and the Oil Companies Know but Won’t Act to Stop It

ThisCantBeHappening! has a new radio program of the same name. TCBH founder Dave Lindotff  will be hosting the show every Wednesday at 5 pm Eastern Time on theProgressive Radio Network.

Nuclear Submarines, Whales and Tourists Don’t Mix

By Ann Wright
 
It looks like the U.S. Navy is playing fast and loose with the new military exercise regulations in areas with a concentration of marine mammals that it has received from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
 
One seldom sees a nuclear submarine on the surface of the ocean except when they are going into homeports, such as Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  But, this weekend I saw three U.S. nuclear submarines on the surface with crewmen sunning themselves on the deck—in a protected national marine sanctuary, no less!
 
I was whale watching off the Hawaiian island of Maui, Sunday, February 9, 2014 and was shocked to see three U.S. Navy nuclear submarines surface and remain about a mile offshore from the town of Lahina in the shallow waters of the protected Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
 
 December to March is when the greatest concentration of humpback whales in the world gather to calve in the shallow basin between the islands of Maui, Lanai, Ko’olawhe and Molokai.  Yet this is the time that the U.S. Navy has chosen to have military exercises and have brought fast moving, sonar emitting nuclear submarines into the protected sanctuary. 
 
Whale watching is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Hawaii and, under strict guidelines, dozens of small boats each day take tourists out to watch the whales.  The basin off Maui has the largest concentration of small commercial boats for whale watching in the Hawaiian Islands.
 
Almost 13 years ago to the day, on February 9, 2001, the U.S.S. Grenville, a nuclear submarine conducting a rapid ascent practice, surfaced off Honolulu and came up under a Japanese student fishing boat the Ehime Maru, a Japanese maritime student training vessel, breaking the 191 foot ship apart and killing 9 of the 35 on board (four were high school students) and sending the ship to the bottom of the ocean with the nine bodies.  Because of the diplomat crisis over the sinking of the training vessel, the U.S. Navy conducted one of the largest salvage missions in its history to recover the bodies and move the ship to its final resting point 12 miles off Honolulu.
 
In late January, 2014, the National Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for violation of multiple federal laws by allowing the Navy to increase sonar and live-fire training in Hawaii and California for the next five years.  The fisheries service decision allows the Navy’s training exercises to “incidentally” kill up to 13 marine mammals annually in the training areas over the next five years and cause up to 1.7 million annual incidents of low-level harassment, which includes potential disruption of nursing and breeding.  The Navy also asked for authorization to produce up to 266 annual incidents that could result in injuries to marine mammals.  The NRDC’s lawsuit argues that both the fisheries service and the Navy are ignoring the “best available science” in their findings, stating that the noise from sonar, underwater demolition and pile driving will cause significant long-term damage to whales and other marine mammals. The most intense underwater sounds used in U.S. Navy training are produced by anti-submarine warfare sonar and explosives.  http://www.stripes.com/news/suit-to-stop-navy-training-in-pacific-cites-impact-on-marine-life-1.264542

 

The U.S. Navy’s 456 page 2012 report Biological Opinion and Conference Report on U.S. Navy Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing 2013-2018 nhttp://hstteis.com/Portals/0/hstteis/endangeredspeciesact/HSTT%20Final%20Biological%20Opinion%2013%20December%2013%20signed.pdf concedes that the sounds are within the audible ranges of most whales, but that the sounds are limited in time, area and frequency with sonar pulses lasting up to a few seconds each and anti-submarine sonar transmitting only a few times per minute.

 
I called the public affairs office of the U.S. Navy in Hawaii and asked if they could provide me with the names of the three submarines that surfaced off Maui.  I was told that the Navy’s concern for operational security of the submarines did not allow them to reveal the names.  When I asked if having three submarines surface in one of the most visible and trafficked area in Hawaii and remain on the surface for hours didn’t compromise the operational security of submarines, I was met with silence. 
 
For the safety of whales and humans, the U.S. Navy should stop military exercises for its nuclear submarines and other naval vessels in the congested waters around the Hawaiian Islands.
 
About the Author:
 
Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and is a retired Colonel.  She was in the U.S. diplomatic corps for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the U.S. government in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She is the co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience. She lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.

It’s always darkest before the dawn: The Irrepressible and Irreplaceable Pete Seeger

By Dave Lindorff


I never really knew Pete Seeger, but he taught me how to play the banjo.

Climate Changes-- Washington Freezes (Part III of three part Climate Change series)

By Dave Lindorff


(This is Part III of a three-part series on climate change by Dave Lindorff that is running in WhoWhatWhy News)


What Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Can Teach Us About Climate Change (Really)

Originally posted at PopularResistance.org

For the State Department to suggest that the Keystone XL pipeline will not have a negative impact on the environment is like Walter White telling Phillip Seymour Hoffman that heroin is as healthy as kale.

If one reads the Obama administration State Department’s Final Environmental Study on the KXL pipeline it is almost as if the State department subcontracted the study to a company with vast financial ties to the oil and gas industry.

Keystone XL's Northern Leg: A Fracked Oil Pipeline Along with Tar Sands

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On January 31, President Barack Obama's U.S. State Department released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the northern leg of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The State Department's FEIS argues that the northern half of Keystone XL, if built, "remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States."

Talk Nation Radio: Curing the Twin Crises of War and Climate Change

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-curing-the

War and greed, militarism and extreme materialism, killing and consuming -- these two threats play off each other, and both can be cured by similar means.  In this week's show we hear an audio message from a newly forming movement called World Beyond War: http://worldbeyondwar.org

And we speak with Jeremy Brecher, author of "Global Nonviolent Law-Enforcing Insurgency: A Plausible Strategy for Climate Protection?Jeremy Brecher’s new book Save the Humans? Common Preservation in Action, just published by Paradigm Publishers, addresses how social movements make social change. Brecher is the author of more than a dozen books on labor and social movements, including Strike! and Global Village or Global Pillage and the winner of five regional Emmy awards for his documentary movie work. He currently works with the Labor Network for Sustainability.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Super Bowl Friday Trash Dump: State Dept Releases KXL Final Environmental Review

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The State Department has released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed northern leg of the controversial and long-embattled TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Image credit: Kris Krug.

In a familiar "Friday trash dump" — a move many expected the Obama administration to shun — John Kerry's State Department chose to "carefully stage-manage the report's release" on Super Bowl Friday when most Americans are switching focus to football instead of political scandals. **See bottom of this post for breaking analysis**

Anticipating the report’s release, insiders who had been briefed on the review told Bloomberg News the SEIS -- not a formal decision by the State Department on the permitting of the pipeline, but rather another step in the department’s information gathering -- “will probably disappoint environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone pipeline.”

And, indeed, the new report reads“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.”

This reiterates one of the earlier draft’s most heavily criticized conclusions that the pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands,” and thus avoids a comprehensive assessment of those climate impacts.

In June 2013, President Obama said in a speech announcing his Climate Action Plan at Georgetown University that he would only approve the permit if it was proven that “this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."  

The final environmental review is being released on the heels of damning revelations about the close ties between the Canadian pipeline builder, TransCanada and Environmental Resources Management (ERM). ERM was hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental review.

Citing DeSmogBlog Series, "FrackNation" Screening Cancelled by MN Film Festival

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

"FrackNation," the documentary film about hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") with close conservative movement ties, recently had its showing cancelled at Winona, Minnesota's annual Frozen River Film Festival (FRFF).

To See Climate Change in Florida, Check Out Miami Beach’s Storm Sewers

By Dave Lindorff


Miami Beach – Len Berry was relaxing with colleagues on a hotel patio here one evening last October when one of them shouted, “Look! It’s happening!”  Peering over the railing, the group could see water pushing up onto the street below from storm sewer drains – something that thanks to sea level rise has been happening with increasing frequency in this low-lying resort city. Berry, director of Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies, says he and the others were in town to attend a conference on climate change when they got this first-hand view of the crisis.

State Dept's Keystone XL Contractor, ERM Group, Also OK'd Controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A DeSmogBlog investigation has revealed Environmental Resources Management Inc. (ERM Group) — the contractor performing the U.S. State Department's environmental review for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline — gave the greenlight to Alaska's controversial Pebble Mine proposal in June 2013.

Short-term profits trump survival: Washington and the Oil Industry Know the Truth about Climate Change

By Dave Lindorff


Climate skeptics in Congress, and oil and coal industry lobbyists like the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coal Council may be preventing any significant action in the US on reducing this country’s emissions of carbon into the atmosphere, but at the Pentagon, and in the executive suites of the oil industry giants, there is no doubt about the reality of climate change.


Days Before Casselton Oil Train Explosion, Obama Signed Bill Hastening Fracking Permits on ND Public Lands

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On December 20, both chambers of the U.S. Congress passed a little-noticed bill to expedite permitting for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on public lands in the Bakken Shale basin, located predominantly in North Dakota. And on December 26, President Obama signed the bill into law. 

Dr. King’s Lessons for the Climate Justice Movement

By José-Antonio Orosco

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize.  One of the most striking aspects of his acceptance speech is the hope he expressed in humanity’s ability to overcome war.  This was no mere idealism on his part.  Less than five years earlier, the world had come to the brink of thermonuclear destruction because of Cuba.  The United States and Soviet Union eventually diminished their threats and, in 1963, signed and ratified an agreement to end the open-air nuclear testing that was blanketing the planet with radioactive fallout.  These were small steps, but to King, they indicated that human beings were capable of cooperation, even in the face of something as horrendous as the suicide of the human race.

Today, the annihilation of humanity looms again as a possibility because of climate change. In 1964, King could not have imagined the particular features of global environmental destruction that we now face. Yet, he had reflected carefully on the forms of action needed to avert mass extinction before, so his work can still be useful today in thinking about directions for the climate justice movement.

First, King reminds us to think in terms of the “beloved community” in which we are all interconnected.  That means that the injustices that we experience are also intertwined.  For many climate activists, thinking about racism, sexism, or poverty are side issues; after all, if there is no habitable earth, then those problems won’t really matter.  King cautioned against the view that injustices could be divided into neat isolated silos.  The world, he said, faces the danger of the “evil triplets”:  racism, militarism, and materialism.  These are inter-related features, he thought, that are at the root of wars of aggression, such as Vietnam, against distant peoples for control of natural resources needed to maintain the luxuries of a few.   

Climate change activists today need to acknowledge the overlapping systems of injustice that make some people vulnerable to climate damage much more immediately.  It will be poor countries, largely in the Global South, that will suffer the most from environmental degradation of air, water, and soil.  In the US, extreme weather--as we have already seen with Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy--will disproportionately affect economically fragile areas, usually made up of historically marginalized communities:  indigenous people, people of color, immigrants, the elderly, and LGBTQ people.  Climate justice activists will need to build alliances around these diverse issues, and develop the ally capabilities to listen to, and lift up, the voices of disenfranchised people.

In his last years, King wrote about the forms of activism that were needed to confront the evil triplets.  He warned activists not to get trapped by the usual mix of demonstrations and protest that were hallmarks of the early Civil Rights movement.  With these forms of direct action, King believed the movement had fallen into “crisis thinking,” that is, reacting to injustice after it had already appeared.  Complex justice would require mass protests, but it also meant getting out in front of social problems, and building alternative civic and economic structures so that people would not have to rely on problematic state or corporate institutions.  He called for organizing neighborhoods and creating diverse networks of allies that could support one another.

A glimpse of this kind of activism came about when Occupy organizers provided assistance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  Achieving climate justice, then, will mean not only protests against this pipeline or that shipping port, but also working to connect local community gardens, alternative currencies, free libraries and medical clinics, into thick webs reaching across urban and rural areas.  This kind of organizing will enable widespread skill sharing and mutual aid, but also deliver a message that was dawning at the height of the Occupy movement:  another world is possible, and there are many across the world who desire to work together to build it.

King believed we had it within us to avoid mutually assured destruction; he also thought we were developing the insights and activist resources to radically align our world to the moral arc of the universe.  The climate justice movement might become the place where we prove him right.

José-Antonio Orosco is associate professor of philosophy at Oregon State University, where he directs the Peace Studies Program. He writes for PeaceVoice and is the author of Cesar Chavez and Common Sense of Nonviolence.

Exclusive: Missouri Permit Shows Exploding ND Oil Train Contained High Levels of Volatile Chemicals

On January 2, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a major safety alert, declaring oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in the Bakken Shale may be more chemically explosive than the agency or industry previously admitted publicly

Warren Buffett Buys Stake in Pipeline Company on Same Day as North Dakota Oil Train Explosion

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On December 30, the same day a Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) oil train derailed and exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, Warren Buffett — owner of holding company giant Berkshire Hathaway, which owns BNSF — bought a major stake in pipeline logistics company Phillips Specialty Products Inc.

Optimistic Thought for the New Year: The Looming Battle for Real Social Security Can Spawn a New Progressive Movement

By Dave Lindorff


I don’t care if you are 75 and retired, 61 and just about to reach the age when you become eligible for Social Security, 50 and looking out 15 or 20 years to the time when you’ll need to retire, or 25 with grandparents collecting retirement benefits and wondering what will be there when you get old. Whatever your age, don’t let anyone tell you Social Security is in trouble, or that it “won’t be around” when you need it.


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