Archive | July 5th, 2014

BBC, U.K.-U.S. plan for training terrorists unveiled

NOVANEWS

BBC, U.K.-U.S. plan for training terrorists unveiled ~ Plan Britannique-USA, Formation de terroristes pour combattre en Syrie ~ [2 Video-News Reports Eng/Fra]

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BBC-UK-TERRORIST-PLAN

Press Reports of the Major Events in Syria and the World, in English and French, Including the Most Important Military Operations of the Syrian Armed Forces in the Fight Against Jihadist Mercenary Terrorists.

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Watching the World Destroy Itself

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The video opens with a few bars of adrenalin-pumping music. We see a topsy-turvy camera angle, sky, trees, darkness, then a staccato pop pop pop that blends rhythmically with the music, but of course it’s gunfire, lots of gunfire, followed by a few urgent words in Arabic, then English. “Down here! Down here!”

(Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons / AustralianMelodrama)

This chaotic excitement is Iraq, the evening’s International Hot Spot, brought to us by ABC. It’s the news, but it’s also reality TV and big league sports, rolled into an entertainment package of shocking cluelessness. OMG, ISIS is on the move. It’s winning. Stay tuned!

Iraq, Iraq. This is a disaster stamped “made in USA.” Worse than that. It’s a bleeding stump of a nation that we destroyed in our pursuit of empire, at the cost of multi-trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands or perhaps a million Iraqi lives, and spiritual and physical damage to American troops so profound a new phrase had to be coined: moral injury. And now, our official, moneyed media serve up what’s left of Iraq to us as geopolitical entertainment: the moderates (our guys, sort of) vs. the insurgents. Go, U.S.-trained troops! Stand tough and die for American interests, OK?

Of course, as the Washington Post reported earlier this month: “Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the western bank of the city (of Mosul) overnight after U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants.”

This is our terrible baby, but hear the words of another Washington Post story:

“For both sides,” write Gregg Jaffe and Kevin Maurer, referring to sides within the U.S. military, “the debate over who lost Iraq remains raw and emotional. Many of today’s military officers still carry fresh memories of friends killed in battle.”

They add, however: “Iraq and the Iraqi people remain something of an abstraction. For much of the war, U.S. troops patrolled Iraq’s cities in lumbering armored vehicles and lived on heavily fortified bases surrounded by blast walls and barbed wire.”

That line — “Iraq and the Iraqi people remain something of an abstraction” — was quoted recently by former CIA analyst (and current member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) Ray McGovern in an extraordinary essay that cries out — stop! — to American militarism and American indifference. We can’t continue to play this game. We can no longer not know that we murder children, that we murder innocent people with lives to lead, in our pursuit of oil and strategic advantage and war and empire: in our pursuit of militarized “peace.”

The debate about the current civil war in Iraq is not about how many troops we should send into the fray, or how many drones or missiles; nor is it about whether President Obama should have withdrawn most of the U.S. military presence from Iraq and terminated the occupation at the end of 2011; nor is it, good Lord, about whether we won or lost the war (“. . . just a few years ago,” wrote Jaffe and Maurer, the war “seemed on the brink of going down in history as a success”).

The debate is about whether or not, at long last, enough people in this country and on this planet are sick to death of war and want to deal with human conflict in a different way.

“As we can see from simply looking at a flower, nature knows how to organize itself,” Marianne Williamson wrote recently. “And this same force would organize human affairs if we would allow it to. This allowance occurs whenever we place our minds in correct alignment with the laws of the universe — through prayer, meditation, forgiveness and compassion. Until we do this, we will continue to manifest a world that destroys rather than heals itself. Iraq is a perfect example.”

We can try to align ourselves with “the natural intelligence of the universe” — the intelligence of life and healing — or we can remain stuck in simplistic certainty, aggression and an impulse to dominate.

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

These, of course, are the immortal words of Karl Rove, who uttered them anonymously a dozen years ago to journalist Ron Suskind. As Tom Engelhardt points out, the folly of this extraordinary hubris — this smirking desire to play God — has not been left to historians of the future to uncover. The Bush administration’s all-out war on evil, inherited and modified, but continued, by the Obama administration, has been a total disaster almost from the moment W stepped onto the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and announced to the world: “mission accomplished.” The reality these war criminals created has been global destabilization and perpetual war. They’ve manifested a world hell-bent on destroying itself.

The mainstream media cover bits and pieces of the destruction as pumped-up entertainment, with the Iraqis and everyone else trapped in the planet’s various International Hot Spots remaining abstractions and curiosities. This is journalistic malfeasance of the highest order. And it couldn’t be more at odds with the natural intelligence of the universe.

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Wake Up America: “A Commercially Successful Human Rights Violation” in Detroit ”VIEDO”

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Emily Wurth and Tom Stephens say that the city is turning off residents’ water so that they are forced to pay their bills, thereby driving up the commercial value of the public water system in order to sell it to private investors.

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The Human Narrative in Iraq Still Missing

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A displaced family from Mosul takes refuge in Erbil, Kurdistan in June 2014. (Photo: UNHCR/ACNUR Américas/flickr)Dear Mazin. The greeting is always the same and easy, although sometimes I might be more formal and address him as Dr. Mazin. But then what? I stop typing. What now? How will I phrase my question?

Writing to friends in Baghdad is delicate and complicated, not to mention scary and sad. Sometimes after a particularly bloody week of car bombings and violence, when there are reports of many dozens of people dead and injured. I say: please let me know if you are OK. Or: I’m just checking to see how you are. Mazin’s response is usually quick. Sometimes it’s short. August, 2013: We are safe to the moment of writing this email. The risk is not like 2006-2007 but the attacks can happen anywhere and we expect anything could happen to us or other families at any time. But ’till now we are alive (I can’t say safe).

Other times he allows himself to vent. August, 2011: Really, I’m asking my/ourselves if still we have the power to continue as the circumstances around us are not improving, but deteriorating on levels that we can’t imagine (chaos, corruption, loss of principals which were already declining over the last 30 years.) There is continuity of the obstacles. In addition, there is an increasing number of patients and our feeling that we shouldn’t be static, that we have to improve our abilities which puts even more burden on us, both physically and mentally.

More than ten years after-the-fact, nearly everyone with any sense recognizes the agonizing absurdity of George Bush’s mission accomplished statement. But, what about the absurdity of the current administration? What about President Obama or John Kerry or the media wagging fingers at “Iraqis” as they lecture them about “their responsibility” to pull themselves and their shattered country together in face of this current crisis?

What do they know about these Iraqis they’re calling on? Do they imagine a capable, functioning civil society has survived twenty four years of economic sanctions, war and occupation, violence and instability with the strength, or energy or capacity to pull this shattered nation together?

The country statistics are dire across the boards. In terms of education, Iraq was a awarded a UNESCO prize for eradicating illiteracy in 1982. In March 2003, a UNESCO Fact Sheet stated: The education system in Iraq prior to 1991 was one of the best in the region, with over 100% gross enrollment rate for primary schooling, and a high level of literacy, both of men and women. The Higher Education, especially the scientific and technological institutions, were of an international standard, staffed by high qualification personnel. By 2004 Iraq’s literacy rate was 74% (UNESCO) and by 2007 Education International estimated the rate had fallen to 65% (54% women and 74% men) This should come as no surprise. 84% of higher institutes of education and schools were damaged and/or destroyed in the two wars(UNESCO). Lots of parents kept children home out of fear for their safety; many children left school to earn money to help support their families. Those who attended classes often sat in building without running water or heat or adequate supplies including books. Books and supplies such as pencils could not be imported under the UN Sanctions. As a result, everyone in this once literate culture has fallen behind.

The oncology unit at Al-Mansour Pediatric Hospital in Baghdad in 2004. (Photo: Claudia Lefko)And, the medical system has been in crisis for decades. Iraq had one of the best health-care systems in the Middle East before 1990; a system of primary, secondary and tertiary care facilities that provided free, good quality services (WHO 2003). This changed dramatically after 1990. Like schools, many hospitals were damaged and/or destroyed in the years of violence. They were understaffed and undersupplied; doctors could not keep up with advances in the medical field. Iraq lost as many as 50% of its doctors. Some fled the country; others were assassinated.

Overall health–especially the health of children and other vulnerable groups–declined after 1990. The Under 5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) which UNICEF cites as–“…the single most significant indicator of the state of a nation’s children…” increased dramatically, from 50 to 130 deaths per thousand live births in the decade 1990-2000. Over those ten years, children improved in 143 countries, with declines in only 17. The country whose children experienced the greatest decline was Iraq, where the figure for “improvement” was -160% (negative 160%). The next greatest decline – 74%, was in Botswana which at the time had the world’s highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection. (UNICEF) It was a perfect storm for disaster: a population with deteriorating health and a collapsing medical system.

Iraq’s infrastructure, including electrical and water purification systems and dams were damaged and in some cases destroyed by the bombing of the first Gulf War. More damage was inflicted in 2003, and much of this is not back to pre-war capacity. Buildings and roads, communications systems are waiting to be repaired and/or rebuilt. It is an unending process given the ongoing lack of security in the country.

The list goes on and on. Where there once was a functioning, modern country, in many ways the jewel of the Middle East, there is now a rubble of lost lives and lost dreams. Estimates are that five million Iraqi children have lost one or both parents. Thousands of families have lost children and children have lost siblings and friends. Wives have lost husbands and husbands have lost wives. Everyone has lost someone and something, including hope for a better future. And then there is Falluja, a city so toxic that women are afraid to get pregnant and give birth. Let’s not forget how Iraq’s environment has been contaminated by the weapons of war and the burning oil fields.

This is obviously not a complete inventory of losses; I’m simply offering a snapshot of the country and the people. It’s the “people’s history”, to borrow a phrase from Howard Zinn, one that is almost completely missing. The main stream media, suddenly having to pay attention to Iraq …oh yes, that war…follows events as if it were covering a sporting event. There are competing teams, the Sunni, Shia and Kurds, their leaders, supporters and strategies. They regularly report on the wins and losses. They tell us which team is advancing, and which losing ground. They speculate endlessly about the outcomes; project the winners and losers. But humans…the men, women and children struggling to live in Iraq… and significant details about their lives that would help us understand the current crisis, are missing.

Secretary of State John Kerry is obviously, misleading the country when he says “What is happening in Iraq is not happening because of the United States in terms of the current crisis. The United States shed blood and worked hard for years to provide Iraqis the opportunity to have their own governments.” And Obama also shifts responsibility to the victims of these wars. The country is their problem now. “Iraq’s future will be in the hands of its people…’ (October 2010) He repeated this mantra at his recent press conference. “Ultimately this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis” he says as he announced the deployment of 300 military “advisors” to the country. We cannot wait ten years to acknowledge the absurdity and the dishonesty of our government’s position and policy on Iraq. Common sense tells us that a country and a people who have suffered so much for so long, who continue to find themselves in a situation of never-ending war and insecurity are not in the best position to solve problems of the magnitude they are now facing without serious and significant help. Not military help. The country and the people of Iraq need the help of the international community to rebuild the country, not for profit but for the people who struggle against enormous odds to continue living there. We need to mobilize against military aid and for significant economic and humanitarian assistance. It is already very late.

 

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A Call for Solidarity From Iraq

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Falah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, testifies on toxic legacy of U.S. war on Iraq at the People’s Hearing in Washington, DC on March 27, 2014. (Photo: Cassidy Regan)As violence in Iraq continues to escalate, and the United States deploys 300 special forces to gather intelligence for potential air strikes, ordinary Iraqi people are caught in the middle of a conflict set in motion by U.S. occupation. The United Nations reported on Tuesday that violence in Iraq over the past two weeks has killed at least 1,000 people and left another 1,000 injured. The U.S. hawks responsible for the 2003 invasion of Iraq  are calling for aggressive military action, but voices within Iraq and across the world warn that U.S. strikes, troops, and war will only make the tragedy worse.

Common Dreams staff writer Sarah Lazare interviews Falah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq. Communicating by E-mail from Sadr City, Baghdad where he is based, Alwan discusses discrimination, oppression, and ‘modern-day colonialism’ in Iraq; the U.S. role in militarizing and dividing society; and how people in the U.S. can stand in solidarity at this difficult time.

SL: What are the root causes of Iraq’s escalating violence? What is the role of U.S. occupation and arms flow to the region in stoking sectarian politics?

FA: The main reason behind the current wave of violence is the policies of the sectarian government. The people’s demands against discrimination are fair, but the armed political powers have conquered these provinces with their model: brutal fascist control. There is no need to add that the U.S, occupation was and still is the main motive, which is feeding and perpetuating the sectarian policies and conflicts.

SL: Some U.S. political forces are saying the violence in Iraq shows that the U.S. should never have “ended” the war and should in fact invade. What is your response?

FA: The violence—or rather, the recent tragedy of the society in Iraq—is the logical outcome of the U.S. war and invasion, so the U.S. has flamed an endless fire, and the new intervention will fuel the fire.

SL: How can people in the U.S. best stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people at this difficult time?

FA: I think the efforts to compel the U.S. administration to stop its political support to Maliki will be supportive to the front of the opposition against Maliki`s polices. On the other hand, revealing the role of the U.S. in installing Maliki personally as prime minister of Iraq during Bush’s reign will be a good initiative, as well as supporting the Iraqi movements for progress.

SL: Are there any other messages you would like to send people in the U.S.?

FA: I think the situation in Iraq is not a result of merely arbitrary events or a result of the bad behavior of the leaders. It is the result of creating or forcing a new political regime and a new distribution of the wealth and power between new political parties, which have been installed by the occupation, according to the interests of the capitalists in the U.S., who are oppressing the people in both nations U.S. and Iraq, but in different ways.

This includes devastating the life and the society in Iraq, seizing the resources, converting it into a battlefield, militarizing daily life. They are oppressing the people, especially the working class, by stealing and seizing their real wages by the taxes, and militarizing the economy and causing vast unemployment.

All the parties in power are representing bourgeois wings.They have become rulers by the U.S. invasion, not by a political development and struggle, so they are backed by the U.S. administration. They all have signed the agreements with the IMF and World Bank, accepting all the orders and conditions of these imperialist organizations.

It is the same class hegemony of the imperialism exercised over the world: a modern kind of colonialism. The recent violence resulted, by the endeavor of the parties in power, to restrain and concentrate the power in the fists of a handful of politicians. This causes the continued ignoring of the people’s demands, discrimination and marginalization of many people according to their sect, ethnicity, gender, race, etc. This government, and the whole state of Iraq, is corrupted, dysfunctional, and can never be reformed.

SL: How is the violence in Iraq affecting poor and working people?

We need to distinguish more than one kind of violence. All of them are affecting the poor, toiling, and working people.

Since 2003—for more than one decade—the daily bombing of cars and improvised explosive devices have targeting civilians, especially the poor and crowded provinces. The construction workers, the poor sellers, and porters were repeatedly targeted by the deadly attacks. The violence and oppression of the militias and armed groups are affecting the inhabitants in the provinces under their control, especially women. They are imposing their orders and traditions by force, under the name of Sharia.

The other manner of violence is that of the government against the people, especially against the workers. This includes: preventing the peaceful demonstrations, shooting the sit-in protests, and arresting the activists. In addition, the governmental forces are treating the people in the western governorates roughly and severely, arresting the young people arbitrary and storming into the houses without official warrants. These are examples of what are going on.

SL: What is your expectation for the future?

FA: In a word: a dark and uncertain future. It is a fluid situation and nobody can anticipate the directions of the events. It is an open end, and more than one option is expected. The internal war could continue; a compromise and local solution could be reached, such as the federalization of the west of Iraq; the country could be divided or the government partially changed.

I haven’t mentioned the whole revolution in Iraq despite the readiness of the subjective conditions, but the reactionary movements and political forces have imposed their influence and perspective in this crisis and have polarized a huge number of people towards their polices.

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The Egyptian Counterrevolution Will Not Be Televised

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“It is the flow of information, not the flow of military aid, that is essential to the functioning of a democratic society,” writes Amy Goodman. (Photo: cropped from Andy Carvin/cc/flickr)Egypt sentenced three Al-Jazeera journalists this week to severe prison terms, in court proceedings that observers described as “farcical.” Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were charged with fabricating news footage, and thus supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ousted from power in a military coup a year ago and labeled a terrorist organization. Along with the three jailed journalists, three other foreign journalists were tried and convicted in absentia. Greste, who is Australian, and Fahmy, who is Canadian-Egyptian, received seven-year prison sentences. Baher Mohamed, who is Egyptian, was dealt a 10-year sentence, ostensibly because he had an empty shell casing in his possession, which is an item that many journalists covering conflicts pick up off the street as evidence. The prosecutors called that possession of ammunition. The harsh, six-month pretrial imprisonment, the absurd trial itself and now these sentences have generated global outrage. A movement is growing to demand clemency or release for these three journalists. But while the words of the Obama administration support their freedom, the U.S. government’s actions, primarily in pledging to resume military aid to Egypt, send the opposite message.

The three journalists who were sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison are Al-Jazeera correspondent Sue Turton, along with Dominic Kane and Dutch journalist Rena Netjes. Speaking on the “Democracy Now!” news hour from Doha, Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based, Turton told me: “The verdicts left us all here at Al-Jazeera quite stunned. We dared to believe that the verdict would be ‘not guilty,’ because we had sat and watched the court sessions over the past few months, and we’d seen absolutely no evidence that the prosecution had brought that proved in any way, shape or form the charges against us.”

Jailed journalist Greste has won awards for his work around the world for Reuters and the BBC prior to Al-Jazeera. Fahmy was working as Al-Jazeera’s Cairo bureau chief at the time of the trio’s Dec. 29, 2013, arrest. He has also worked for CNN, contributed to The New York Times and worked with “PBS NewsHour.” Margaret Warner, the chief foreign-affairs correspondent for “NewsHour,” worked with Fahmy while covering the Egyptian revolution in 2011 when her crew was attacked. She said of Fahmy’s efforts that day: “He absolutely saved our lives. I’m no legal expert, but I can tell you that Mohamed Fahmy struck me … as nothing more and nothing less than a professional journalist.”

In a letter sent to the newly elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, more than 75 journalists, including “Democracy Now!” correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who is himself Egyptian-American, wrote: “As journalists, we support the release of all of our Egyptian or international colleagues who may be imprisoned for doing what they believed to be their jobs.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists noted, “While the focus has been on the Al-Jazeera journalists, in fact Egypt is currently holding at least 14 journalists in prison, placing the country among the world’s worst repressors.” Amnesty International is calling on people around the world to appeal to President Sisi, writing: “All three men are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression. Egypt must immediately drop the charges against the three journalists and let them go free.”

Of course, not all voices calling for freedom are equal. When the sentences were handed down in court this week, Mohamed Fahmy shouted from his cage, “Where is John Kerry?” It was a very important question. The day before the verdict was issued, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo, meeting with Sisi.

Egypt has long been one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid, averaging $1.5 billion-$2 billion per year since 1979. Since the coup d’etat last year, that aid has been halted, but the U.S. says it is resuming military aid. One of Kerry’s former colleagues in the Senate, Patrick Leahy, warned, “The harsh actions taken today against journalists is the latest descent toward despotism.” So how is it that the U.S. is restoring more than $500 million in military aid right now?

From his home in Australia, Peter Greste’s father, Juris Greste, said, “Journalism is not a crime,” echoing the sentiment that has gone global. In newsrooms the world over, from the BBC and the Toronto Star to Hong Kong, journalists and staff are posting photos of their mouths covered with tape, protesting Egypt’s oppression of the press. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry should take heed. A threat to the freedom of the press is a threat to the public’s right to know. It is the flow of information, not the flow of military aid, that is essential to the functioning of a democratic society.

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Death Row Inmates: Execution Would be ‘Biological Experimentation’

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Oklahoma prisoners charge their execution would be unconstitutional following botched killing in April

– Max Ocean

Photo: Ken Piorkowski/cc/flickrFollowing a botched execution in Oklahoma, death row prisoners in the state are arguing their executions would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment, and thus be unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit filed by the prisoners’ lawyers in federal court on Wednesday.

“By attempting to conduct executions with an ever-changing array of untried drugs of unknown provenance, using untested procedures, the Defendants are engaging in a program of biological experimentation on captive and unwilling human subjects,” the complaint states. “The Defendants’ most recent experiment, on Clayton Lockett, was a failure that produced severe pain, needless suffering, and a lingering death.”

On April 29 of this year, Lockett died 43 minutes after he was injected using a three-drug cocktail. First, Lockett did not lose consciousness for 10 minutes after he was injected, and then for three minutes he attempted to raise his head to speak from the gurney he was strapped to, after which curtains were pulled in front of the windows through which viewers were watching the execution.

The complaint charges that, as evidenced in Lockett’s case, the state’s current protocols for lethal injections are not sufficient enough to ensure that prisoners will not suffer during their executions. According to the complaint, the problems with the current methods include, among other things, the state’s self-admitted failure to consult with experts before using the three separate drugs, the fact that it changed the injection procedure three times in the two months before the execution and the lack of a backup IV.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 21 prisoners in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against the state’s corrections director, the state penitentiary warden, members of the state board of corrections and unnamed medical officials involved in the lethal injection process. Both the names of those directly involved in executing prisoners and the supplier of lethal injection drugs are secret under state law.

The prisoners are not challenging the validity of their sentences, according to the complaint, but “only the way in which their sentences of death will be carried out by the defendants.”

Oklahoma’s next execution is scheduled for November 13. The prisoner, Charles Warner, was originally scheduled to die two hours after Lockett, but his execution was postponed after the Lockett’s botched execution.

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In Stand Against Big Oil, Small Maine City Moves to Ban Tar Sands

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Coastal Maine residents are pushing to formally prohibit tar sands from being shipped from their port

– Sarah Lazare

Standing ovation for the South Portland Draft Ordinance Committee as it unveils plan to block tar sands Wednesday, June 25. (Photo: Environment Maine)Residents of a small city in coastal Maine are pushing to formally ban Big Oil’s plans to pump tar sands through their community, and they’re pretty sure they’re going to win.

Over 200 people wearing matching sky-blue tee-shirts flooded a city council meeting in South Portland on Wednesday night to cheer a presentation on a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the bulk loading of crude oil—including tar sands—as well as new infrastructure for such purposes within city limits.

Backers of the legislation, known as the Clear Skies Ordinance, say tar sands transport through their city would devastate their waterfront, unleash toxic air pollution, and risk dangerous spills.

And they have reason to worry.

South Portland is the starting point for the 236-mile long “Portland-Montreal Pipeline” which ismajority-owned by Exxon-Mobil. The pipeline is critical to move Canadian tar sands to a major port for loading on oil tankers for export. Canadian pipeline company Enbridge appears to be moving forward with plans to pump tar sands, via their Canadian Line 9 pipeline, through New England to South Portland’s Casco Bay, where the oil would then be exported to global markets.

According to Environment Maine, the Portland-Montreal Pipeline is also central to the Energy East pipeline, proposed by Canadian company Transcanada, that would pump 1.1 million barrels of tar sands daily from Quebec to New Brunswick,

“The threat is not abstract,” said Taryn Hallweaver of Environment Maine in an interview withCommon Dreams. “Tar sands oil will flow to Montreal as early as this summer for the first time ever, right at New England’s doorstep.”

Oil extracted from tar sands, also referred to as bitumen, is one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels, producing up to five times more carbon than conventional crude oil. The extraction process is extremely energy-intensive and destructive to ecosystems and creates large reservoirs of dangerous waste.

The Clear Skies Ordinance to block tar sands emerged from a six-month-long public process launched by South Portland’s City Council. It was drafted by a committee of appointed land-use experts and is slated for further consideration by the city council and planning board, with a vote slated for late-July.

It follows the narrow defeat last year of a South Portland effort to block a future tar sands terminal after the oil industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign to squash the protective measure.

Robert Selling of Protect South Portland told Common Dreams that he is “extremely hopeful” that this ordinance. He emphasized that the draft ordinance was met with “enthusiastic response” and “standing ovations” at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I think it’s going to be a model for other communities,” he said.

Pipeline map Image courtesy of EcoWatch

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In Blow to Safe Abortion Access, Supreme Court Rejects ‘Buffer Zone’

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Justices unanimously side with argument that safe zones around clinics violate protesters’ free speech

– Lauren McCauley

A sign warning of a buffer zone outside of a Planned Parenthood facility in Portland, Maine. (Photo: Andrea Germanos)

In a blow to safe access to reproductive health care services, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled (pdf) against a state effort to enforce a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics.

“This decision turns back the clock to the days when women were too intimidated by protestors to seek medical care,” said Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “Women’s health will suffer because of it.”

Ruling on McCullen v. Coakley, the justices unanimously sided with plaintiff Eleanor McCullen who argued that the buffer zone established by the Massachusetts Attorney General violates her First Amendment rights.

“Today the Justices made it more difficult for states to protect their citizens,” said Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Hogue noted that since 1991, anti-choice activists have committed eight murders and 17 attempted murders.

“The law was supported by public safety officials whose goal is to protect women, doctors, and clinic workers from the relentless harassment and intimidation that they face daily,” she added.

The law was implemented in 2007 after reports of intimidation, including pushing and shoving, outside of a Planned Parenthood in Boston.

Following the news, reaction came swiftly online as women’s rights advocates decried the court’s ruling.

As the ruling was handed down, women from across the country on Wednesday are meetingwith lawmakers to push for the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill, which currently has over 150 co-sponsors in the House and Senate, protects women’s health and constitutional right to safe abortion access and prohibits states from enacting laws that interfere with clinics’ abilities to provide essential, safe reproductive health care.

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Win for ‘Rightful Stewards of the Land’: Canadian Court Sides With First Nations

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Ruling marks first time Canadian Supreme Court grants aboriginal land title

– Max Ocean

A First Nations protest At Queen’s Park in Ontario (Credit: Rainforest Action Network/cc/flickr)In a landmark ruling on Thursday with potential implications for the planned Northern Gateway pipeline, Canada’s Supreme Court unanimously granted an aboriginal land title to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, giving them claim to more than 1,700 square kilometers in British Columbia.

“British Columbia breached its duty to consult owed to the Tsilhqot’in through its land use planning and forestry authorizations,” the 81-page decision (pdf) states.

“I didn’t think it would be so definitive,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “I was actually prepared for something much less.”

The decision rejected the narrow view of what qualified for protection under aboriginal rights from a 2012 ruling by the B.C. Court of Appeal. While the lower court had said aboriginal groups must be able to prove intensive historical use of a specific site, Thursday’s decision accepts a broader set of criteria particularly important for the Tsilhqot’in, a historically “semi-nomadic” people. Indigenous groups must now prove a looser definition of occupation, continuity of habitation on the land, and exclusivity in an area in order to be granted a title.

“It only took 150 years, but we look forward to a much brighter future,” said Chief Phillip. “This without question will establish a solid platform for genuine reconciliation to take place in British Columbia.”

The ruling will potentially apply to any lands in the country that were never ceded to the crown, including lands which the Northern Gateway pipeline is slated to run through, and many others that have been the sites of development and resource extraction.

“They are the rightful stewards of their lands, and should be the ones to decide if and how they are developed,” said Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians,which intervened in the case in support of the Tsilhqot’in, in a statement released by the group.  She stated her optimism that the decision is a sign “that there is no blank cheque for the Northern Gateway project.”

While the Tsilhqot’in are overjoyed with the ruling, there may be some unforeseen negative aspects to it that will still allow for corporate exploitation of aboriginal lands. As the Toronto Star reports:

… [T]he ruling will also be welcomed by industry and governments because the high court says provincial and federal governments may regulate economic activity like forestry on title lands. Lawmakers can do so either by consulting and getting consent of the aboriginal group, or by establishing a pressing and substantial public purpose and ensuring the regulated activity fulfils the Crown’s “fiduciary” duty to act in good faith for the benefit of aboriginal peoples.

Posted in USAComments Off on Win for ‘Rightful Stewards of the Land’: Canadian Court Sides With First Nations

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