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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Cross-Posted from Mint Press News
Large segments of the environmental movement declared a win on Jan. 18, 2012, the dawn of an election year in which partisan fervor reigned supreme.
On that day President Barack Obama kicked the can down the road for permitting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline’s northern half until after the then-forthcoming November 2012 presidential election.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
With the school year starting for many this week, it's another year of academia for professors across the United States - and another year of "frackademia" for an increasingly large swath of "frackademics" under federal law.
"Frackademia" is best defined as flawed but seemingly legitimate science and economic studies on the controversial oil and gas horizontal drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), but done with industry funding and/or industry-tied academics ("frackademics").
Cross-Posted from Mint Press News
Nearly two months ago, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden handed smoking-gun documents on the international surveillance apparatus to The Guardian andThe Washington Post in what’s become one of the most captivating stories in recent memory.
Warren Buffett Buys Over $500 Million of Suncor Tar Sands Stock, Latest in "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Warren Buffett - the fourth richest man on the planet and major campaign contributor to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 - may soon get a whole lot richer.
Steve Horn discusses lies, fracking lies, tar-sands lies, and the EPA. Horn is a Madison, WI-based Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog. Steve previously was a reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. His writing has appeared on The Guardian, The Nation, AlterNet, PR Watch, Truth-Out, FireDogLake, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Wisconsin Watch, EcoWatch, PolicyMic, WhoWhatWhy.com, Z Magazine, Climate Connections, Business Insider, The Real News Network, Uganda's Daily Monitor, Modern Ghana, the London Evening Post, and elsewhere.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
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by Stephen Lendman
Japan's apocalypse continues. Emergency conditions persist. No end in sight looms. Fukushima's radioactive discharges can't be stopped. They continue. They're uncontainable.
At issue is by far the worst environmental disaster in history. It's multiples worse than Chernobyl. It's an unprecedented catastrophe. It's reason enough to abolish nuclear power.
By Linda W. Swanson
At age 69, I recently found spending thirteen hours in a Washington, DC, jail one of the most invigorating experiences I've ever had, and it seems to have already helped to make the world a better place!
The US State Department had hired a company with ties to tar sands profiteers to evaluate the safety of a tar sands pipeline, with predictable results. In the week since my husband and I and fifty-two other people of all ages and backgrounds were arrested for protesting the company involved, the State Department has decided to initiate an inquiry to determine if there was a conflict of interest. Certainly we were not alone in shining a light on this particular corruption, but I'm convinced we made a difference and played a part in that turnaround.
I'm reminded of Pete Seeger's parable of the teaspoons when I think about the contributions each of us makes every time we take a stand against injustice. We may or may not see the balance of justice tip immediately upon the heels of our action, but without each of us doing our part, getting off our couch, and engaging, the weight will not shift in the direction of justice nearly as quickly as it could.
We've now been arrested twice, and I'd like to share our story in hopes that you might decide one day to join us, not only in bending the world toward justice (one teaspoonful of sand at a time!), but also in experiencing a solidarity with others that is unlike any other experience we've had.
Two years ago my husband, Neil, and I decided to join Bill McKibben and 350.org's Tar Sands Action. Every day for two weeks up to 100 people sat in front of the White House demanding that the president reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that was proposed to run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Over the two weeks, 1250 people were arrested. We could have participated without being arrested. Many made that choice. But we chose to be numbered among those who were arrested in hopes of adding to the impact of the action. That was a positive, empowering experience that inspired us to participate in the more recent action organized by 350.org and others on Friday, July 26, 2013.
Earlier this summer, when 350.org asked if individuals were willing to risk arrest for (sadly) the same cause, Neil and I immediately signed on. This time there were more unknowns. There would be a single, secret event. There would be no "arrangements" with the police beforehand, since surprise was a key element.
Our action, a part of 350.org's "Summer Heat," had been joined to another action called Walk for our Grandchildren that was also demanding rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Over the course of the week prior to Friday, July 26, several dozen stalwart folks, ranging from children to folks even older than we, walked all or part of the 100 miles from Camp David to Washington, camping each night along the way. They arrived in time to join us for the mandatory training in nonviolent direct action from 6-10 pm on Thursday evening at St. Stephen's church in DC, and many of them also agreed to be arrested the next day.
As we stood in the dinner line before our training and mentioned that our previous training was only hours after the 2011 earthquake, a man beside us said he had been in training that same day and had been arrested along with us in 2011. We didn't remember each other, but we had found something in common and began forming a new community. By the time we'd eaten and chatted we had several more new acquaintances among the two hundred or so people present.
As the training began we were offered the opportunity to choose the level of risk of arrest we wanted to take the next day. The people choosing to be in Group A would be at greatest risk, because they were going further into the target building. Group B would remain in the building's lobby and were also subject to arrest. Group C would rally outside the building without risking arrest. As people learned more about the three groups, there was some switching, but soon most of us were comfortable with the level of risk we had chosen.
The next part of our training was an actual run-through of the action so we would have the feel of what we would be doing the next day. We were shown a diagram of the target building and told what areas of the church building would represent areas of the target building. We then had two complete run-throughs of our action.
The last hour of our training was a presentation by our attorney from the National Lawyers' Guild about the legal issues facing us. We were given a large amount of information about the law, police practices, supports that would be in place, and the levels of risk. We each filled out a form with our contact information and names of people who could be called in an emergency. We were told repeatedly that while there had been much planning, there was no guarantee that everything would go according to the plans. Neil and I concluded that sufficient supports were in place for us to be comfortable going ahead with being arrested. We joined Group B.
It was close to 10:30 pm when we left the training. We got to bed well after midnight and were up very early. We were to meet at 11:30 Friday morning in DC, and we wanted to allow plenty of time for any traffic problems, parking challenges, and Metro delays.
As we all gathered on Friday morning, a few things did not proceed as we'd been told in our training. We had expected that the A, B, and C groups would be given identifying colored armbands so we would know how to arrange ourselves on the way to the building. There were no armbands, nor was there any mention of them on Friday. When we finally lined up to march from our staging area to the building (a distance of about two blocks), we called out to each other to assemble in the proper order. We also found that a motorcycle officer was stopping traffic so we could safely cross streets, and that made some of us wonder if the police had been informed and were expecting us.
The speed at which we walked along the sidewalk was much faster than I had anticipated. Neil was breaking into a near run to keep up, and he kept motioning for those of us behind him to close ranks. I caught up to him at the door of the building, and he tried to keep the door open for people behind us to enter. He later told me that a policeman had pushed him off of the door and closed it. We still don't know if all those in the B group managed to enter the building.
by: Karen Malpede
Featuring George Bartenieff, Zach Grenier, Kathleen Purcell, Di Zhu, and Alex Tavis
Reading: September 10, 2013
The Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce St., New York, NY
Script available at: http://theaterthreecollaborative.org
Review by: David Swanson
Published in the July / August 2013 Humanist
When my dad, Neil Swanson, goes to rallies against the tar sands pipeline, people rush up to him and thank him for everything he’s doing. They don’t actually have any idea what a great guy my dad is. It’s just that his Scandinavian face looks a lot like James Hansen’s.
So, I already had a weird sort of family relationship to Hansen, whom I’ve never met, before I read Extreme Whether, a new play by the brilliant Karen Malpede that tells a personal story of Hansen in which everything is also political.
Hansen, of course, is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an outspoken advocate for putting a halt to global warming. Hansen warned Congress in the 1980s, revealed government deception in the 2000s, and has been speaking the truth, even more bluntly, if possible—and getting arrested for it—in recent years.
“Several times in Earth’s long history,” Hansen says, “rapid global warming of several degrees occurred. … In each case more than half of plant and animal species went extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world that we inherited from our elders. … And if you melt all the ice, sea levels will go up two hundred and fifty feet … producing a different planet.”
Hansen does not describe global warming as a mysterious ineluctable force, but as a policy choice made by certain powerful criminals (his word). This does not endear him to many in power, and the attacks on him are relentless, with New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera repeatedly denouncing him for hurting his own cause by being an activist, getting arrested, opposing the tar sands pipeline, and making “apocalyptic pronouncements”—never mind if they’re accurate.
Truth is not always stranger than fiction. Hansen’s story involves some pretty strange truths, but Malpede’s play adds emotional drama and strangeness aplenty. Hansen writes and speaks about his grandchildren and the fate we’re condemning all of our grandchildren to. Malpede imagines the life of a family in which Grandpa has figured out that the world is being destroyed but the world’s communications system works for the destroyers.
The fictional family includes a climate scientist, his lover (also a climate scientist), his teenage daughter, his twin sister and her husband (denouncers of climate science), an uncle, a frog, and a piece of land. The uncle is dying, like the earth. The scientist’s wife has died from an illness diagnosed and acted upon too late. His lover has received a death threat. He has received death threats. The frog has grown six legs. The land has been polluted. The sister and her husband declare the earth in perfect health, while the scientist struggles with his situation.
Like a descendant of Cassandra, the Hansen character has spoken and has not been heard. Would better language have helped? Better charts? Was there a different way to say “the world is being destroyed” so as to make it understood before the world was destroyed? He has given up and ceased speaking publicly, but is mulling over the possibility of trying again, while his sister tries to silence him—or perhaps to entrap and belittle him. At the same time, the frog, a male, has been “feminized” by poisons in the environment, a process described as happening to young male humans as well.
And then eight years flash by, global warming gets hotter, the evidence begins to become apparent to non-scientists. But the denouncers of reality double down on their hostility toward recognizing that the earth has a problem. The struggle to speak truth to power continues through Act II, by the end of which we all have a strange family relationship with James Hansen, and each other, and all of our grandchildren. The trillions of future people whose future lives are being ruined by our coal and oil consumption are a statistic until we understand one of those trillions as a grandchild and a friend and a lover and a cousin and an aunt. Then the multiplication of that intensity of suffering by a trillion becomes almost impossible to comprehend, except perhaps with the aid of Malpede’s art.
Documents recently obtained by Bold Nebraska show that TransCanada - owner of the hotly-contested Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline - has colluded with an FBI/DHS Fusion Center in Nebraska, labeling non-violent activists as possible candidates for "terrorism" charges and other serious criminal charges.
Further, the language in some of the documents is so vague that it could also ensnare journalists, researchers and academics, as well.
TransCanada also built a roster of names and photos of specific individuals involved in organizing against the pipeline, including 350.org's Rae Breaux, Rainforest Action Network's Scott Parkin and Tar Sands Blockade's Ron Seifert. Further, every activist ever arrested protesting the pipeline's southern half is listed by name with their respective photo shown, along with the date of arrest.
Nathaniel Batchelder is a Vietnam veteran and has been director of the Peace House Oklahoma City since 1990 – a center for public education on justice, peace and environmental issues.
Mark Zuckerberg's complaint box is filling up. The billionaire founder of FaceBook is behaving as destructively as other sociopaths who hoard vast riches while others starve and die for lack of medical care. And people are letting him know how they feel about it.
Zuckerberg's new advocacy group FWD.us is running TV ads in support of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A petition asks him to stop. The comments that people are leaving on the petition ask him to do a number of other things I won't repeat. You'll never guess what they've found that rhymes with Zuck.
FWD.us is a group of plutocrats who, instead of advocating for education funding, are advocating for the immigration of educated workers. And in order to win over certain members of Congress on immigration policy, FWD.us has funded two front groups, one for Republicans and one for Democrats. Both are buying TV ads supporting Congress members who support tar sands and drilling in ANWR.
"Integrity goes a long way -- longer then any pipelines."
"How can you live with your billions and support something like this?"
"If you think this pipeline is a good idea, you need to visit the Arkansas spill, see the damage done, & maybe buy everyone affected a new house in a clean environment.
"What? REALLY?? May I suggest that you visit Arkansas...."
"Yes, what is this about - are you kidding me? This is the earth where we live that is going to be damaged."
"Are you out of your mind, supporting tar sands? Get a grip and a clue or we'll start a mass exodus from FB and bring you down! This is unacceptable and boycott-able."
"Stop talking about subjects you don't understand."
"Back to MySpace -- or whatever is next -- GOODBYE FACEBOOK! Shame on you, Zuckerberg!!"
"Only greedy creeps push the tar sands."
"F--- THE ZUCK!
"You did a great thing with creating Facebook, however, that doesn't qualify you to be making big decisions for the rest of us."
"After reading about this, I'm seriously considering divesting my 1500 shares of stock in Facebook."
"So after we get all that nasty sludge you think we should burn it up and put more crap in the atmosphere? Are you insane or suicidal? Maybe just greedy."
"Please don't share the destruction of our climate! Unlike."
"I'll be avoiding facebook until I hear that you've had a change of heart."
"Zuck, your billions don't make you God!
"Mark Zuckerberg, your young voice should not be speaking for our common destruction; has your wealth turned you plumb crazy? Has cash power corrupted you utterly? Wake up young man!"
"I have an 11 year old daughter. I put her, and the planet ahead of my business and personal profits. Wish you had the same concerns. I'm about to cancel my Facebook page."
"Go back to school and learn how to respect the earth and life!"
It's not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas. Of course it is. And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy. But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.
Nor do we get a complete explanation by recognizing that our communications system is in bed with our political system, cooperatively pushing lies about our climate and our budget (defunding wars and billionaires is not an option, so there's just no money for new ideas, sorry). Of course. But when the planet's climate is being destroyed for all future generations, most of which will therefore not exist, the only sensible course of action is to drop everything and nonviolently overthrow any system of corruption that is carrying out the destruction.
Why don't we?
Misinformation is a surface-level explanation. Why do people choose to accept obvious misinformation?
Here's one reason: They've already chosen to accept other obvious misinformation to which they are deeply and passionately attached and which requires this additional self-deception. The beliefs involved correlate with poor education, so government choices to fund fossil fuels and highways and prisons and Hamid Karzai rather than schools certainly contribute. But perhaps we should confront the misinformation directly, even while pursuing the creation of an education system worthy of a civilized country.
According to a Newsweek poll, 40 percent of people in the United States believe the world will end with a battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. And overwhelmingly those who believe that, also believe that natural disaster and violence are signs of the approach of the glorious battle -- so much so that 22 percent in the U.S. believe the world will end in their lifetime. This would logically mean that concern for the world of their great great grandchildren makes no sense at all and should be dismissed from their minds. In fact, a recent study found that belief in the "second coming" reduces support for strong governmental action on climate change by 20 percent.
Apart from the corruption of money, whenever you have 40 percent of Americans believing something stupid, the forces of gerrymandering in the House, disproportionate representation of small states in the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the winner-take-all two-party system that shuts many voices out of the media and debates and ballots while allowing Democrats to get elected purely on the qualification of not being Republicans, and a communications system that mainstreams Republican beliefs almost guarantees that the 40-percent view will control the government.
Congressman John Shimkus, a Republican from a gerrymandered monstrosity in southeastern Illinois says the planet is in fine shape and guaranteed to stay that way because God promised that to Noah.
Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma (a state whose citizens get 10 times the representation in the Senate that Californians do -- if one can accuse Diane Feinstein of representing anyone), says that only God could possibly change the climate, and we should stop being so arrogant -- as if taking $1.4 million in campaign "contributions" from fossil-fuel profiteers and imagining that your positions are purely determined by your access to an all-powerful being who runs the universe on behalf of the 30 percent of the world raised on the same fairy tales as you isn't an arrogant belief.
Another senator who claims to be a theist but not of the Inhofe-Shimkus variety, publicly denounced an unnamed colleague this week for pushing the don't-worry-God-is-on-the-job line in a recent meeting.
When a large portion of the population believes that catastrophe is a good thing, rather than a bad thing, and wars are celebrated and crises bring excitement and solidarity to our lives, the influence is toxic. Of the 40 percent who believe Jesus is on his way, some no doubt believe it more than others, allow it to shape more of their other beliefs and actions. Of the other 60 percent, some are no doubt influenced to varying degrees by the armageddonists.
Belief in theism itself reaches as much as 80 percent in the United States and includes strong activists for sustainable policies, including some who passionately proselytize using the argument that only theism can save us from our apathy in the face of global warming. And there is no question that our most dedicated peace and justice activists include some strong religious believers. But theism is essentially the belief that some more powerful being is running the show. Perhaps the armageddonists haven't really found a solution to the problem of evil ("If there is a God, he'll have to beg forgiveness from me," said a prisoner in a Nazi camp), but the non-armageddonist theists have never found a logical solution to the problem of free will, either. Theists can go either way and all make as little sense as each other. But they must all of necessity promote the notion that a more powerful being is in charge.
And where does that belief show up to damaging effect? In our politics it shows up primarily as an attitude toward presidents. While President Obama has spent five years working diligently to destroy our natural environment for all time to come, the largest block of those concerned about global warming have spent their time telling each other to trust in Him, that he works in mysterious ways, that he is up against the Evil One and must be allowed time to succeed in his battle. You see, the problem with theism is not that some of its spin-off beliefs succeed in an undemocratic system. The problem is that theism is anti-democratic at its core. It moves us away from relying on ourselves. It teaches us to rely on someone supposedly better than we. And the same 80 percent or so also believe in something called heaven, which renders real life far less significant even for those generations that get to experience it.
This, in turn, fuels a belief in optimism. We are all told to be optimists regardless of the facts, as if it were a personal lifestyle choice. Combine that with a belief that everything is part of a secret master plan, and you've got a recipe for submissive acceptance. I've had great activists tell me that everything will work out for the best, either because that keeps them going, or because they've learned that saying anything else earns them fewer speaking invitations. Hardcore optimism is compatible with active engagement. But the net effect is almost certainly a contribution to apathy.
I wish it were needless to say that I am not advocating the equally dumb position of willful pessimism. I'm proposing the unpopular position of taking the facts as they come, acting accordingly, and acting cautiously when it comes to the fate of generations as yet unborn -- even if that caution requires huge sacrifices.
There are other powerful forces weighing against action as well. There is our love of technology, including our fantasies about inventing our way out of catastrophe, colonizing other planets, re-creating species. Maybe our senator friend is onto something after all when he points to arrogance. There is also greed, including our fear that living sustainably would involve living with less of the materialistic crap that currently clutters our lives and fuels our obesity. There is also the con job continuously played on us by our government that persuades so many of us that we are powerless to effect change. It's not enough to believe that the world is being destroyed and that we humans are on our own with the plants and the other animals, if we've fallen for the biggest scam governments pull on their people, the lie that says they pay no attention to us. History teaches the opposite. People's influence on their governments is much more powerful than we usually imagine. It's weakened primarily by people's failure to do anything. Impotence is a self-fulfilling loop. Those longing for the end of the world are far from alone in imagining that we don't have the power to make the world over ourselves. Nonetheless, among the things we should be doing right now is explaining to our neighbors that Jesus isn't coming back.
Randy "Salz" Salzman is a transportation writer and researcher and the author of Fatal Attraction: Curbing Our Love Affair With the Automobile Before it Kills Us. He discusses how highway construction boondoggles that are bad for health, heritage, the environment, and even the flow of traffic, have survived in these times of cramped public budgets. In particular, Salzman looks at the example of a proposed highway in Charlottesville, Va., opposed by the public but rolling ahead toward unsafe, destructive, and ridiculously expensive construction.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
More than 70 years ago, a chemical attack was launched against Washington State and Nevada. It poisoned people, animals, everything that grew, breathed air, and drank water. The Marshall Islands were also struck. This formerly pristine Pacific atoll was branded “the most contaminated place in the world.” As their cancers developed, the victims of atomic testing and nuclear weapons development got a name: downwinders. What marked their tragedy was the darkness in which they were kept about what was being done to them. Proof of harm fell to them, not to the U.S. government agencies responsible.
Fukushima's Catastrophic Aftermath Continues
by Stephen Lendman
In her book titled "No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth," nuclear power/environmental health expert Rosalie Bertell (1929 - 2012) said:
Watch my 10-year-old neice give an earth day speech that -- unlike Obama's -- mentions climate change
Any project that increases greenhouse gasses above expectations at this moment in history, particularly a substantial increase, must be determined an imminent danger to the national interest if the people living in the nation are an interest in this determination.
The United States Department of State called for public comments on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The deadline is April 22, 2013 -- Earth Day. Since Keystone is an international project, Secretary of State John Kerry has authority to decide on starting or ending the proposed conduit for toxic oil from the Alberta, Canada tar sands, across the United States, to the Houston area for refining. From there, the oil goes straight to China.
Tar sands oil produces 17% more carbon dioxide per barrel than the average barrel of oil. With China's intense demand for fuel, the volume of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere will increase at a dangerous rate even beyond the current hazardous rate of pollution.
Public Comment follows the break
By Helen Jaccard and David Swanson, http://warisacrime.org/vieques
Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico and their supporters from around the world defeated the most powerful military machine ever, through mass civil disobedience and without firing a single shot. On May 1, 2003 the bombing stopped and the bases were officially closed. People from all over the world supported the struggle on Vieques, and the activists and residents have an incredible victory to celebrate.
There were decades of resistance, civil disobedience and arrests. But those hoping and laying the groundwork for greater resistance were given an opportunity on April 19, 1999, when a U.S. Marines pilot missed his target and killed civilian security guard David Sanes Rodriguez. That spark lit a fire of nonviolent resistance that brought together Viequenses, Puerto Ricans, and supporters from the United States and around the world. A campaign of non-violent civil resistance that began in 1999 lasted four years, including a year-long occupation of the bombing range, and saw over 1,500 people arrested. The Navy was forced to close the bombing range on May 1, 2003. Peace loving people had won most of the first of their demands for the island: demilitarization.
A huge commemoration is planned in Vieques for the anniversary from May 1 – 4, 2013.
Beautiful Vieques island is only 21 miles across and 5 miles wide, and 7 miles from the main island of Puerto Rico. It is home to about 9,300 people, as well as endangered turtle species, rare Caribbean plants and animals, bio-luminescent bays, and miles of what look like unspoiled beaches.
But crabs with three claws, grossly deformed fish laden with heavy metals, once-beautiful coral reefs, and beaches and seas that have been decimated by military activity tell a story of environmental disaster with huge health impacts on people, plants, and animals.
An incredible three-quarters of the island was appropriated in the 1940s and used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice, war games, and dumping or burning old munitions. This was a terrible attack on an island municipality, one the United States was not at war with.
Now, Vieques Island, a paradise in trouble, is one of the largest superfund sites in the United States, together with its little sister island of Culebra, which took the brunt of the bombing until 1973, when the Culebra bombing range closed (also due to protests) and the bombing practice was transferred to Vieques.
In 2003, the Navy did not return the land to the people, but transferred its Vieques land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates beaches that were never used for military activities.
Viequenses fear that keeping the U.S. Government in control of their lands could result in future re-militarization of the island. Residents aren't happy that their land has not been returned to them and that they are fined for staying on their land past sunset or collecting crabs -- a mainstay of their historic diet. There are also two military occupations of lands -- a ROTHR radar system and a communications area, and the people want these closed as well. You can add your name to Viequenses' demand for peace here.
For over 2,000 years people known as Taino inhabited Vieques, which they called Bieque. The Taino found and left behind them a paradise of fertile soil, fresh water, and trees. In 1493, the conquistadors arrived. In 1524, the Spanish killed every remaining resident. Vieques was then left uninhabited by humanity for 300 years, interrupted by a few British, French, and Spanish attempts to set up forts or destroy each other's efforts.
From 1823 into the 1900s, Vieques was used by the Spanish and French to grow sugar. English-speaking people of African origin, from nearby islands, were kept in slavery or the nearest thing to it, and forced to grow the sugar cane. They revolted in 1864 and 1874, and in the 1915 Sugar Strike. The United States took Puerto Rico from the Spanish in 1898 and made residents U.S. citizens in 1917. The depression of the 1930s, together with two hurricanes in 1932, brought on harder times than ever.
In 1939 the United States bought 26,000 of the 30,000 acres of land on Vieques from big sugar plantation owners. Living on that land were 10,000 to 12,000 workers who also raised crops to feed themselves. The U.S. Navy gave families $30 and one day's notice before bulldozing houses. Most people were left without means of subsistence, but many stubbornly refused to leave the island.
Carlos Prieta Ventura, a 51-year-old Viequense fisherman, says his father was 8-years-old in 1941 when the Navy told his family their house would be bulldozed whether or not they accepted the $30. Ventura says he has always resisted the Navy's efforts to force people off the island.
From 1941 to 2003, the U.S. military flew planes from aircraft carriers based on the main island of Puerto Rico dropping bombs over Vieques. Bombs "rained down," and you could feel the ground shake within the base, as one U.S. veteran told CNN. Bombs fell at all hours, all day, all week, all year, amounting to approximately a trillion tons of ordnance, much of which (some 100,000 items) lies unexploded on land and in the sea. Vieques was systematically poisoned by heavy metals, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, and who knows what all else that the Navy has not announced publicly -- having falsely denied using depleted uranium before finally admitting to it, and having dumped barrels of unknown toxic substances into the clear blue Caribbean.
The arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum in the bombs are also found in hair samples of 80% of the people living on Vieques, who suffer at far higher rates than on the main island (and possibly anywhere else on earth) from cancer (30% higher than Puerto Rico), cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, hypertension (381%), diabetes (41%), birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages.
The impact of the U.S. occupation that began in 1941 was felt far more swiftly than cancer. According to Ventura, some 15,000 troops were routinely set loose on Vieques looking for booze and women. Women were dragged out of their homes and gang raped. A boy was killed by gang rape. Ventura says people had only a machete and a hole in the wall by the door where they could try to stab the Marines who would come to take women. A dozen people were killed over the years directly by the U.S. weapons testing. And the Navy banned fishermen from various areas, advising them to try food stamps instead. Fishermen attempted civil resistance actions, and many were arrested during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
Lydia Ortiz, a Viequense who grew up in the small town of Esperanza, recalls the bombing: "A lot of houses had their roofs falling in and everything as a result of the vibrations from the bombs for many years. It was pretty nerve wracking because you never knew what was going to crash down in your house. We lived quite close to where the bombing was happening. When I was a child they were dropping bombs near me. In the school, you could hear the bombing. You couldn't even hear the teacher because of the noise. People were afraid to go anywhere near the base or the beach so it was very difficult for many years. It seems like just yesterday or only 5 or 6 years ago that the bombing stopped, even though it is really almost 10 years ago."
A celebration of the 10-year anniversary is indeed in order. We must remember victories as they have remarkable power to motivate others around the world.
But the Navy's presence and the environmental disaster it created continue to afflict Vieques today. The U.S. government has not cleaned up the poisons and bombs and continues to use practices that further endanger the people. There is no bomb explosion chamber on the island. The United States has disposed of what unexploded bombs it has disposed of by blowing them up, further spreading the contaminants that are killing the people of the island.
There is also no hospital on the island, few ferries to the island, few and overpriced airplanes, a handful of taxis and public vans, and very limited tourist facilities. There is no college or university, and very few jobs of any kind. Business licenses are issued in San Juan and require bribes. Viequenses' families are ravaged by cancer, but also by illiteracy, unemployment, violent crime, and teen pregnancy. All of the water -- like all electricity -- comes in a pipe from the main island. Two of the residents said that the one resort on Vieques sometimes uses all the water. Seven thousand Viequenses sued the U.S. government over their health problems, but the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear the case.
With very little land available for farming, Vieques, like all of Puerto Rico, imports almost all of its food. Some people have become so desperate that they gather old munitions to sell for a little money to someone who will melt the metal for aluminum cans. But heavy metals and depleted uranium endanger the metal gatherers and whoever later drinks from the cans.
Presidential candidate Obama wrote to the Governor of Puerto Rico in 2008: "We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques." But that promise remains unfulfilled.
Robert Rabin Siegal of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques writes in a letter to President Barack Obama,
"Although I cannot claim the Navy and military toxics caused my cancer, you don't have to be a quantum physicist to understand how decades of exposure to heavy metals in the food chain, air, water and land, combined with the socio-economic pressures from the loss of two thirds of the island’s lands, would clearly contribute to high cancer rates. The Navy dropped radioactive uranium projectiles here, we believe, in large quantities, in preparation for military actions in the Balkans and the Middle East. The list of dangerous chemical components from munitions dropped on Vieques is extensive, as is the number of illnesses they cause.
"Mr. President: you received the Nobel Peace Prize; we demand peace for Vieques. An island and people used to protect U.S. interests since WWII, forced to sacrifice its land, economic prosperity, tranquility and health, deserves at least the hope of peace for this and future generations."
". . . A handful of powerful US based corporations have pocketed most of the more than 200 million dollars spent on clean-up over the past decade. We urge you to order technology transference to promote the creation of Puerto Rican and Viequense companies to carry out the clean-up of Vieques, thereby transforming that process into part of the economic reconstruction of the island as well as assuring community confidence in this crucial element in the healing of Vieques."
People anywhere in the world can take one minute to sign a petition to the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House in support of justice, at long last, for Vieques:
"I join the people of Vieques in demanding:
"Health Care -- Provide a modern hospital with cancer treatment facilities, early screening and timely treatment for all diseases. Create a research facility to determine the relationship between military toxins and health. Provide just compensation to people suffering poor health as a result of the Navy's activities.
"Cleanup -- Fund a complete, rapid cleanup of the land and surrounding waters, still littered by thousands of bombs, grenades, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium and other explosives left by the Navy. Cease the ongoing open detonation of unexploded ordnance. Guarantee community participation in the cleanup; train Viequenses as managers, administrators, and scientists, and foster Viequense companies to do the work.
"Sustainable Development -- Support the Master Plan for Sustainable Development of Vieques which promotes agriculture, fishing, eco-tourism, small guest houses, housing, collective transportation, archaeology, and historic and environmental research, among other things.
"Demilitarization and Return of the Land -- Close the remaining military installations still occupying 200 acres of Vieques. Return to the people of Vieques all land still under the control of the U.S. Navy and the federal government."
For extensive documentation, see the attachments below and others at this link.
Helen Jaccard is Chair of the Veterans For Peace -- Environmental Cost of War and Militarism Working Group. She spent October, 2012 in Vieques doing research about the environmental and health effects of the military activities. Her previous article about Sardinia, Italy can be found at http://www.warisacrime.org/sardinia .
Following a reading of Karen Malpede's new play Extreme Whether, James Hansen discussed what we're doing to the earth:
By Dan DeWalt
Corporate America just received the confirmation that they've been waiting for.
By Ron Ridenour
Yes, I mean it: the worst ever!
We’ve had James Monroe and his doctrine of supremacy over Latin America. We’ve had Theodore Roosevelt and his invasion of Cuba; Nixon, Reagan, Bush-Bush and their mass murder, and all the war crimes and genocide committed by most presidents. Yes, but we never had a black man sit on the white throne of imperialism committing war crimes.
By Bruce Gagnon
TECHNO-UTOPIANISM SEMINAR REPORT
I have just returned from San Francisco where I attended a private seminar called Techno-Utopianism: Killing the World with about 30 leading environmentalists, scientists, economists, writers, and activists. I was asked to represent the Global Network and report on the latest space technology issues including drones, global strike systems, surveillance, and the like. It was quite an honor to be invited to attend this event and I learned a great deal from those assembled.
They were the largest climate protests in U.S. history, with over 50,000 marching in Washington D.C. and tens of thousands more taking part in protests across the country. Yesterday, Jill Stein joined a large Green Party contingent from across the country, sending a clear message at the protests that ending climate change requires political change and systems change.
To drive that message home, Jill Stein has launched the Climate Voter Power Pledge, a pledge to not to vote for any candidate who supports a climate-killing "All of the Above" approach to energy production. Got that, White House?
Please sign the Climate Voter Power Pledge and tell everyone you know about it. Marching and rallying is one way to show power. But the power of the vote, and of denying the vote, is another way we can redirect our politics and our economy away from the climate cliff.
Read, sign, and share the Climate Voter Power Pledge by clicking here: http://www.jillstein.
By Michael Collins
(Washington, DC 1/17) The nation's capital hosted over 40,000 citizens assembled to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The crowd urged President Obama to bring to reality his lofty words on climate change in the inaugural address just days ago. By stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the president would deal a blow to the rogue energy companies who, by their actions, are ready to sacrifice everything to transport oil from Alberta, Canada's tar sands, across the United States, for refinement in Houston, Texas and shipment to China.
The broader concern of the gathered citizens and march sponsors, 350.org, and the Sierra Club, represents the existential issue of our time. We need to get very real, very soon on the manifest threat to the earth's climate posed by fossil fuels and the threat to the human species embodied by insane ventures like the Canadian tar sands project. The verdict of science is clear. As leading climate scientist James E. Hansen said, the full exploitation of tar sands oil and use by China, or any nation, is "game over for the climate."
"You elected this president. You reelected this president. . . . Stop being chumps!" --Van Jones
Going in, I was of mixed views regarding Sunday's rally in Washington, D.C., to save the earth's climate from the tar sands pipeline. I still am.
Why on a Sunday when there's no government around to protest, shut down, or interfere with?
And why all the pro-Obama rhetoric? Robert Kennedy, Jr., was among the celebrities getting arrested at the White House in the days leading up, and his comment to the media was typical. Obama won't allow the tar sands pipeline, he said, because Obama has "a strong moral core" and doesn't do really evil things.
As a belief, that's of course delusional. This is the same president who sorts through a list of men, women, and children to have executed every other Tuesday, and who jokes about it. This is the guy who's derailed international climate protection efforts for years. This is the guy who refused the demand to oppose the tar sands pipeline before last year's election. If he had been compelled to take a stand as a candidate there would be no need for this effort to bring him around as a lame duck.
As a tactic, rather than a belief, the approach of the organizers of Sunday's rally is at least worth questioning. For one thing, people are going to hear such comments and take them for beliefs. People are going to believe that the president would never do anything really evil. In which case, why bother to turn out and rally in protest of what he's doing? Or if we do turn out, why communicate any serious threat of inconvenience to the president? On the contrary, why not make the protest into a campaign rally for the president through which we try, post-election, to alter the platform on which the actual candidate campaigned?
The advantage to the expect-the-best-and-the-facts-be-damned approach is clear. Lots of people like it. You can't have a mass rally without lots of people. The organizers of this event are not primarily to blame for how the U.S. public thinks and behaves. But, then again, if you're trying to maximize your crowd at all costs, hadn't you better really truly maximize it? Sunday's rally probably suffered from being held on a bitterly cold day, but I suspect that most people who planned to come did come; and I've seen more people on the Mall in the summer for no reason at all, and many times more people on the Mall in the winter for an inauguration (which, in terms of policy based activism, is also nothing at all).
What if the celebrities generating the news with arrests at the White House were to speak the truth? What if they committed to nonviolently interfering with the operations of a government destroying the climate? What if they committed to opposing the Democratic and Republican parties as long as this is their agenda? What if they said honestly and accurately that the personality of a president matters less than the pressures applied to him, that this president can do good or evil, and that it is our job to compel him to do good?
Sunday's rally, MC'd by former anti-Republican-war activist Lennox Yearwood, looked like an Obama rally. The posters and banners displayed a modified Obama campaign logo, modified to read "Forward on Climate." One of the speakers on the stage, Van Jones, declared, "I had the honor of working for this president." He addressed his remarks to the president and appealed to his morality and supposed good works: "President Obama, all the good that you have done . . . will be wiped out" if you allow the tar sands pipeline.
The pretense in these speeches, including one by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, was consistently that Obama has not already approved part of the pipeline, that he is guilty of inaction, that the government is failing to act, that what's needed is action -- as if our government were not actively promoting the use of, and using vast quantities of fossil fuels, not to mention fighting wars to control the stuff.
Van Jones ended his remarks by addressing himself to "the next generation." And this is what he had to say: "Stop being chumps! You elected this president. You reelected this president. You gave him the chance to make history. He needs to give you the chance to have a future. Stop being chumps! Stop being chumps and fight for your future, thank you very much."
Reading these words, one would imagine that the obvious meaning they carry is "Stop electing people like this who work for parties like this and serve financial interests like these." What could be a more obvious interpretation? You elected this guy twice. He's a lame duck now. You've lost your leverage. Stop being such chumps!
Nothing could be further, I think, from what Van Jones meant or what that crowd on Sunday believed he meant. This was a speaker who had, just moments before, expressed his pride in having worked in Obama's White House. The fact that this crowd of Obama-branded "activists" had elected him twice was not mentioned in relation to their chumpiness but as grounds for establishing their right to insist that he not destroy the planet's atmosphere. They would be chumps if they didn't hold more rallies like this one.
Wait, you might ask, doesn't everyone have the right to insist that powerful governments not destroy the earth's atmosphere?
Well, maybe, but in Van Jones' thinking, those who committed to voting for Obama twice, no matter what he did, and who have committed to voting for another Democrat no matter what he or she will do, deserve particular attention when they make demands. Paradoxically, those who can be counted on regardless, who demand nothing and therefore offer nothing, should be the ones who especially get to make demands and have them heard and honored.
Needless to say, it doesn't actually work that way.
Our celebrity emperors attract a great deal of personal affection or hatred, so when I suggest an alternative to packaging a rally for the climate as a belated campaign event, it may be heard as a suggestion to burn Obama in effigy. What if there were a third option, namely that of simply demanding the protection of our climate?
We might lose some of those who enjoyed burning Bush in effigy and some of those who enjoy depicting themselves as friends of the Obama family. But would we really lose that many? If the celebrities and organizers took such an honest policy-based approach, if the organizations put in the same money and hired the same busses, etc., how much smaller would Sunday's unimpressive rally have really been?
(And couldn't such a crowd be enlarged enough to more than compensate for any loss, by the simple tactic of promising ahead of time to keep the speeches to a half-hour total and to begin the march on time? I'd pay money to go to that rally.)
The problem, of course, is that the celebrities and organizers themselves tend to think like Obama campaign workers. It's not an act. It's not a tactic aimed at maximizing turnout. And it's not their fault that they, and so many others, think that way.
But imagine a realistic, policy-based approach that began to build an independent movement around principled demands. It would have the potential to grow. It would have the potential to threaten massive non-cooperation with evil. It would have the energy of Occupy. It would have the potential to make a glorious declaration out of what now appears to be self-mockery when oversmall crowds of hungover campaign workers shout "This is what democracy looks like!" as they plod along a permitted parade route.
No. It really isn't.
by Debra Sweet Tuesday night we heard from Barack Obama that climate change demands immediate action, but the solution appears to also be the problem:
"The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago."