Archive for June, 2013

Obama Climate Plan Not Enough to Meet Magnitude of Global Crisis

June 26, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2013
12:26 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity

Tel: (520) 623.5252
center@biologicaldiversity.org

Proposal is a Modest Step But Pollution Cuts Insufficient to Prevent Dangers Predicted by Federal Scientists

WASHINGTON – June 25 – President Obama’s new climate plan takes modest steps toward reducing carbon pollution, but the strategy announced today will not cut emissions enough to prevent catastrophic warming and extreme weather dangers predicted by federal scientists. A key point in the president’s plan is a vague directive to the Environmental Protection Agency to establish carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants — standards already required by law. The plan fails to address the Keystone XML pipeline, fracking on public lands and other dirty extreme-energy projects that could fatally undermine the climate change fight.

The Center for Biological Diversity today reiterated its call to halt Keystone XL immediately and establish a national pollution cap for carbon dioxide.

“We’re happy to see the president finally addressing climate change but the plain truth is that what he’s proposing isn’t big enough, and doesn’t move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis,” said Bill Snape, the Center’s senior counsel.

Since Obama’s election in 2008, thousands of heat temperatures have been broken and headlines have been full of deadly floods and hurricanes, epic droughts and dire predictions from the president’s own scientists of more climate chaos to come if the crisis isn’t met with ambitious steps to reduce carbon pollution.

The pollution control measures announced by the president today are aimed at fulfilling his administration’s pledge to put the United States on the path to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 4 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. But such a reduction falls far short of what the U.S. pledged in the Kyoto Protocol and would not be enough to avert catastrophic temperature rises, according to climate scientists.

“The president, like all of us, needs to be able to look across the dinner table at his children and know he’s doing all he can to ensure they inherit a planet that’s healthy and livable,” Snape said. “This plan is a small step in the right direction but certainly begs for something bigger and bolder.”

By 2050, when today’s teenagers are in their 50s and 60s, climate change will be imposing harsh new problems on America unless deep pollution cuts are achieved, according to the draft National Climate Assessment, a federal scientific report released earlier this year:

  • Rising sea levels and increased risk of storm surges will threaten more than $1 trillion worth of buildings and infrastructure on the coasts.
  • An additional 4,300 people could be killed each year by health problems caused by increased ground-level ozone.
  • Yields of major U.S. crops will likely decline because of rising temperatures and increased drought and flooding.
  • The number of days with temperatures over 100 degreesFahrenheit could double, posing major health risks to children and the elderly.

To achieve the necessary emission reductions, the Center is urging the Obama administration to declare carbon dioxide a “criteria pollutant” under the Clean Air Act and set a national pollution cap for CO2at no greater than 350 parts per million (ppm). Many independent scientists have concluded that atmospheric CO2levels above 350 ppm will cause catastrophic global warming.

This “carbon cap” would not require new legislation. The Center is also urging pollution caps for six other greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide.

“Strong rhetoric and politically comfortable half-measures won’t achieve what scientists tell us must be done to address the climate problem,” said Snape. “The White House can’t punt on hard climate questions, from the carbon cap to Keystone XL, Arctic drilling and fracking on public lands. It’s time for strong action and strong leadership.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.
Center for Biological Diversity Links:

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Critics: Obama’s Plan Lacks Urgency on Climate Crisis

June 26, 2013

Published on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

President should renounce “all of the above” energy strategy and nation’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels, say environmentalists

– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

At a Tuesday George Washington University speech on climate change, President Obama is feeling the heat (Photo: Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press)Environmentalists warn that President Obama’s ‘climate plan‘—announced Tuesday in a speech at Georgetown University—does not contain the urgency required by the fast-spiraling crisis of global warming and climate change and that though some aspects were welcome, the overall approach falls well short of what’s needed.

The plan hinges on Obama’s claim that he plans to use his presidential powers to override a Congress under ‘partisan deadlock’ and order the Environmental Protection Agency to impose carbon emissions limits on current and new power plants.

Though many of the large green groups in the US praised the push for tighter regulation on coal plants by the EPA, critics say Obama’s plan is unclear about exactly how strict these regulations will be. As an example, the president’s plan says that the EPA must be “flexible” to states’ needs, a vague directive that critics charge provides rhetorical cover for further inaction.

Furthermore, critics charge that “new” power plant regulations are hardly groundbreaking or far-reaching enough to meet the demands of the crisis. The 2007 Clean Air Act already empowered the EPA to regulate emissions for new facilities, and yet this has done little to reign in power plant emissions, which account for approximately 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions.

The president’s only new step on this front is to propose regulations fore xisting plants, but critics worry that an administration that has dragged its feet so far will not make the necessary headway.

“He promised today to do something, but there is zero guarantee that he will follow through,” declared Bill Snape, senior counsel to the Center for Biological Diversity. “In reality there are so many industrial sources that need to be regulated, and the administration has been moving very slowly on all of them. It is wise to not fall prey to the flowery rhetoric. You have to really specifically look at concrete action.”

Friends of the Earth welcomed aspects of the Obama approach but said it was not the “broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather,” but rather a more tepid “series of actions” joined by flowery rhetoric.

“A sensible climate plan,” said Damon Moglen, climate and energy program director of Friends of the Earth, “would include a renunciation of the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy, which promotes biofuels, so-called clean coal, natural gas and dirty and dangerous nuclear power.”

“In order to address climate change,” he continued, “the president needs to focus on the ambitious development of renewable energy, energy storage and efficiency technologies while setting us on a path which clearly leaves behind the fossil fuel-based energy economy of the 20th century.”

And Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen agreed, saying that though Obama’s speech contained laudable elements there was too much that in the plan that would be “counterproductive.”

The important critique, Weissman said, was this:

Catastrophic climate change poses a near-existential threat to humanity. We need a national mobilization – and indeed a worldwide mobilization – to transform rapidly from our fossil fuel-reliant past and present to a clean energy future. We need a sense of urgency – indeed, emergency – massive investments, tough and specific standards and binding rules. Those elements, sadly, are missing from the president’s plan.

A sensible climate plan would include a renunciation of the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy, which promotes biofuels, so-called clean coal, natural gas and dirty and dangerous nuclear power. In order to address climate change, the president needs to focus on the ambitious development of renewable energy, energy storage and efficiency technologies while setting us on a path which clearly leaves behind the fossil fuel-based energy economy of the 20th century. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-06-statement-on-president-obamas-climate-plan#sthash.kuzIgVkf.dpuf

On the issue of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Obama remained nearly silent. He declared that the Administration would only move forward if it determines the pipeline is ‘in our national interest’ but did not respond to widespread demands that the project immediately halt.

The president plans to vigorously pursue nuclear energy, he states in his official climate plan. Greenpeace activists have previously slammed an approach that they say embraces unsafe energy while escalating global nuclear buildup. Greenpeace USA’s Executive Director Phil Radforddeclared at a previous presidential speech:

President Obama’s energy policy has already been riddled with disasters, so it’s astounding that he would encourage even greater dependence on dangerous energy sources like oil drilling and nuclear power at a time when the risks have been made all too clear. For the millions of Americans put at risk by the inherent dangers of nuclear power, or those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the Gulf oil disaster, more of the same is hardly the path toward ‘Energy Security.’ True leadership in the face of these disasters would mean setting out an energy plan that would move us away from our dependence on fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power and instead harnessing abundant, safe and clean renewable energy.

President Obama declared that the United States must be a ‘global leader’ and work with the private industry to curb the carbon emissions of ‘developing’ nations. This is despite the fact that the Global North, with only 15 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 70 percent of greenhouse gases, and the U.S. is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the world.

The president announced that he will stop providing federal dollars to build foreign coal-powered plants, unless they are ‘clean’ coal plants, or unless that country has no other viable energy option. Yet, critics charge that the concept of ‘clean’ coal is a myth.

Furthermore, he stated his intentions to expand natural gas use, including the controversial and highly polluting drilling practice known as fracking. Public Citizen’s Energy Program Director Tyson Slocum slammed this move:

His focus on fossil fuel exports – including the explicit promotion of LNG (liquefied natural gas) and his failure to curtail coal exports – threatens to undo the positive elements of the plan. By promoting LNG, the administration is moving full-speed-ahead on fracking, with no mention of how to control fugitive emissions, water contamination and other environmental problems posed by the controversial process.

The president appeared to embrace the role of private industry in curbing environmental disaster, praising large multinationals including WalMart and General Motors for ‘voluntarily’ decreasing their carbon emissions.

While many environmental groups expressed skepticism that the president’s plan will bring about real change, they praised broad, global social movements for pushing the debate even this far.

“We’re happy to see the president finally addressing climate change but the plain truth is that what he’s proposing isn’t big enough, and doesn’t move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis,” said Snape.

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A Ten-Step Plan To Care for Our Country and World

June 26, 2013
June 24, 2013

 

By Veena Trehan

Imagine if just a fraction of the creativity, time and energy we put into raising our kids was devoted to improving our country and planet. Now make it so through this 10-step plan.

::::::::

Meet America, your new child. And planet Earth, her big sis.

Yes, they are your responsibility. For life.

Gone are the days of worshipping mothers. Perhaps 12,000 years ago, our ancestors prayed to the first female goddess. Maternal devotion continued as the Virgin Mary, the Goddess Parvati, and countless others were celebrated worldwide. Yet Ma’s contemporary resonance is lost. Mothers today are often placed in nursing homes and described as nags.  Even when we do value them, their support is rarely a daily or weekly imperative. So let’s drop the talk about the motherland and Mother Earth.


by 
Sunsurfr

Today, we dote on kids. Infants are born unable to hold up their head or speak, with a prodigious talent for pooping. But investment of our time, energy, and creativity fosters the development of their innate talents. Years later, they beam at us while accepting their medical school (or 8th grade) diploma.

For many of us, transforming our world and country–whether through questioning a spying apparatus that leaves Communist governments in the dust, removing toxicity and pollution from production, ensuring workers earn livable wages, or slowing climate change–is compelling, albeit daunting. But raising our children was also. Let’s lose excuses for inaction unworthy of us as parents, like:

“I did so much in the last election. Don’t I get to check out?” You rallied for Barack, contributed to his campaign, and went door-to-door in purple states. Sorry, canvassing superstar, you can’t check off the political participation box til 2017.

You’re logic is as persuasive as: “Boy, am I happy I got up all those nights for my toddler. Woo hoo! I’m disappearing during my son’s adolescence.” Or, for pet owners: “Isn’t it fabulous that caring for Skippy last year excuses me from walking him in 2013?”

“But I can’t possibly live up to my ideals.” Your carbon footprint is the size of Kuwait. You rush into McDonald’s before soccer practice. So really, why try?

That’s like saying you won’t help your kid, who doesn’t earn straight A’s, with her homework. Or take your son, no FC Barcelona shoo-in, to soccer practice. Moving right along…

“It won’t make any difference anyway.” Things may seem hopeless. But what would Jesus, or any person of moral courage, do? The Bible includes few scenes of Jesus sitting down, hands on knees, chin in hands, saying, “Whoa, this is so confusing. I’ll just play tiddlywinks for a few years.” Instead, he is energized by the scope of the challenge.

The growth we expect from our children is absurd, yet achievable by slogging on as an article of faith and devotion.

So act.

Do the right thing. At the simplest level, it is the truth we come to when we embrace humanity.

Remember that life is not a popularity contest (although some of the most uncompromising people would have won the contest, hands down). Life’s journey should showcase your courage and leadership, as it evolves.

For institutions you are a member of,–whether a school, company, university, nonprofit or country–work to change them. Call them out on immoral decisions or leave them.

Ask your friends and family about how they’re involved politically and what they consume. Have difficult conversations.


The world is complicated but act, already. by 
Neetesh Gupta

Look forward. There are many reasons for past inaction. One of the main Hindu holy books, the Bhagavad Gita, is devoted solely to encouraging action when values conflict. Today, powerful corporate and political forces sow confusion and ambivalence. They promote behavior at odds with common values: Buy products associated with happy or cool people, corporations advertise; not those that positively impact your health and the world. Their Whack-a-Mole arguments against sustainable practices belie the blindingly obvious truth: Investment in a broad array of programswould serve the public interest, while slowing the growth of the overfull coffers of the privileged.

It’s time to focus on numbers three and four (assuming your family has two kids). Adopt, America, a child who, in contrast to her developed-country peers, struggles with the second worst child poverty and life expectancy, the worst (the only one lacking) universal health care and paid maternity leave, soaring inequality, middling test performance, and an epidemic of poor health. She is ravaged by the effects of skyrocketing child marketing.

The world, too, has slipped from her maternal perch. As her bounty wanes she throws heated, stormy tantrums. Last week a report predicted between a 3.6-degrees Celsuis and 5.3-degree rise in global temperatures, based on a continuation of current carbon policies. Less than a year ago, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim described the projection of a possible four-degree rise by 2100 as a “doomsday scenario,” coming, as it did, just three years after world leaders agreed to aim to limit the increase to two degrees. Already, only a one-degree Celsuis rise has brought record wildfires, droughts and superstorms.

Meanwhile, corporate investors with economic power seek profits with uncontrolled avarice. Wal-Mart’s six heirs have almost as much wealth as the gross development product of 150 million Bangladeshis. Yet the corporate behemoth refused to sign on to a landmark fire safety accord estimated to cost them 10 cents per garment. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals–including cutting poverty in half and making primary education universal–was estimated to require additional funding of just one-tenth of the US defense budget.

As a parent, you’ve honed the discipline of faith and devotion. Now, bring it to your new progeny.

Here’s a 10-Point Plan You Can Follow:

1. If you don’t believe in a company, don’t patronize it. As consumers, we shape the world for better or worse. If all of us stopped eating Monsanto’s genetically modified products–particularly corn and soy (and animals who eat them)–it would cripple the company while returning us to the healthier diets of our childhood. Win-win.

Screen companies and brands you buy, making it as complicated as you wish. If you don’t have much time, don’t buy from those with negative news stories. Consider not purchasing products unless you understand their ingredients and know they’re safe. More broadly, evaluate these indicators of how the companies you buy from do business: their tax liability (Does the company pay at the rate you do?); whether their workers receive a living wage and are unionized; their political donations; their use of toxic chemicals and levels of pollution; their marketing to kids; their involvement in Third World “accidents”; etc.

The application Buycott can help. This tool can be used to identify the parent company of products, and checks whether your purchase would support specific campaigns you sign on to, including animal welfare, civil rights, economic justice, and other issues.

Each month, stop supporting a corporate bad actor, and tell your friends about what you’re doing.

2. If you’re not willing to abandon a questionable brand (You may, for example just looove your iPhonethough I can personally attest to greater happiness post-iPhone), then be super-active. Be a role model for all of us. Start or sign a petition to end the brand’s corrupt practices. Speak up at the shareholder meeting. Ask a store manager about one issue…then another. Post stories like this on Facebook and Twitter. Most importantly, talk with others about what’s at stake and encourage them to act.

Author James Baldwin describes the most important thing we can do for others as opening the door to spiritual and social unease. Evoking such discomfort builds courage and integrity.

3. Stop being defined by your political party. Politicians apply labels (like “Democrat” or Republican”) and tell you to sign over your brain, wallet and vote. Nonsense.

The majority of Americans support significant measures to address climate change, gun safety, genetically modified food, and job creation programs. Yet, neither party is shepherding through significant legislation. Standing up to your party isn’t a betrayal. We need to encourage our leaders to use the bully pulpit to promote the public interest, especially since, if we had to do it ourselves, many of us would trip out of our heels in climbing to the podium. Make it clear to politicians that your next vote is the price they will have to pay for putting the interests of lobbyists ahead of your own.

4. Push institutions to make better choices.  Few–particularly of the richest–Americans are associated with institutions they believe in a hundred-percent of the time. The energy companies, medical institutions, banks, consultancies, etc. who employ us often recommend and implement practices we know hurt the public. In addition, our schools, religious organizations, and retail stores can often do more to make things better. To use a Department of Homeland Security campaign slogan that can be applied (in a more helpful context) to practices that should be eliminated or improved: “If you see something, say something.”


One of 300 college and university divestment campaigns. by 350.org

With your perspective, you have an especially valuable role to play. Organize or attend a meeting and make your voice heard, even if you don’t have a position of leadership.

Champion divestments from unethical companies. Write a letter to the board. Ask simple questions about conflicts of interest that affect their clients and the world. (And accept thanks when less ethical competitors get buried under lawsuits.) Finally, consider an exit strategy, even it’s ten to fifteen years down the road.

Use alternative models. Push companies and institutions with which you’re associated to adopt economic models that promote employment opportunities and compensation levels that provide security and meet basic needs. Where possible, buy local and/or sustainable, engage in fair trade (on or off label), and grow or make products yourself.

5. Focus on what you can do. Sign and circulate petitions, if you can’t protest as often as you’d like. Measure and reduce your carbon footprint. Divest (and push to have your university’s endowment, your city, and your pension program divest also) from hedge-fund, private-equity, energy, Fortune 500, and banking companies that  evade taxes or prey on clients. Compost. Pledge to make your next car purchase electric or hybrid. Most importantly, tell ten–or a hundred–friends about each step you take and what you plan to do. Credit yourself for pushing things to a tipping point.


by Veena Trehan

6. Do it yourself, if you prefer.  Don’t like the message, location, or thrust of a campaign? Perfect! The cause could use your initiative. Organize your own rally. Arrange your own clothing swap. Develop and share your own list of responsible, like-minded brands. Start your own campaign. Organize a fundraiser or a documentary screening. Teach about an issue. Develop a creative protest sign.

7. Be worthy of your heroes. Be known for your creativity, integrity and moral courage. You’ll find yourself in strong, if surprising, company.

Bring the full power of your personality and talents to your new ambition. Operate from the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, bringing creativity, morality, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts, and problem-solving to the issues around you. You will astound those who may be watching (including that cute person in the mirror).

Think broadly. Don’t count on just-in-time change. Make the let’s-push-for-workplace-flexibility-and-maternity-benefits-now-I’m-pregnant behavior the exception, not the rule. While the speed and power of movements cannot be underestimated, neither can the inertia that arises from our narrow outlook.

8. Make it a habit. Target a specific amount of time to new actions that embody your values. Spend perhaps one percent of your own (or your children’s) sports or TV time on protest–which is itself often an art exhibit, concert, and history lesson wrapped into one. Maybe devote five percent of that sports or TV time to spreading information advocating greater social justice. Commit to daily and monthly activities.

9. Stop looking for the parenting book. Where’s “Your Socially Responsible Child at Age __ “? In the trash. You don’t need a guidebook  to discuss things with your kids, although bookstores with great material (like DC’s “Busboys and Poets”) exist. Show them “Climate Refugees,” “Revolutionary Optimists,” “Newsies,” “Supersize Me,” or a dozen other documentaries. Talk to them about how the Danes by themselves saved their Jews–or about the Underground Railroad, the fight for Indian independence, American muckrakers, or current inspirational leaders.

Have your teenager read “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks,” and discuss Frankie’s epiphany: “It is better to be alone…than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. Frankie realizes, too, that “it is better to lead than to follow,” as she dismisses her priorities of just a few months earlier. “It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people.”

Most importantly, tell your children about what you’re doing. Why do you buy, grow, or make what you do? Simplify, if necessary. A friend overseas tells her kids that a particularly popular brand of fast food is “not food.” Answer your children’s questions, even if they are some of the toughest you hear. Let the answers inform your actions. Honor their wishes: Join them in becoming vegetarians or in helping flood victims.

Involve your children in your own purpose-filled life. Baldwin wrote: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”


Monday’s protest in Brazil. by 
Rogiero Tomaz, Jr.

10. Get inspired. Surround yourself with your heroes. Study the courageous, creative and effective leaders in your industry and the world. Some recent campaigns may impress you:

The #FBrape campaign placed the logos of Facebook advertisers over pictures of maimed women that were posted on their social network; in response, Facebook agreed to quickly take down any misogynistic photos in the future.

The #FitchTheHomeless campaign is trying to make the Abercombie brand (meant for “attractive all-American kids,” according to CEO Mike Jeffries) the new brand of the homeless. While it may be problematic, this creative campaign is the product of genius.

An ad that depicted both the CEO of H&M and an anguished Bangladeshi woman as fashion victims may have produced important social change. Though the ad was never run, some say it moved the largest Bangladeshi buyer of clothes to sign a landmark fire safety accord, and prompted other retailers to follow suit.

Turkish demonstrators sang Les Miserables as they prevented the destruction of a Turkish public park, and, around the world, citizens are protesting the rise in public transportation fares, the misallocation of public funds, economic austerity plans (which kill), and policies that accelerate climate change.

As the greatest (fictional) hero, Casablanca’s Victor Laszlo, once said: “Welcome back to the fight. This time, I know our side will win.”

There’s much more to say, but I’ll sign off. Your children need you.

With peace and justice for all.

Submitters Bio:

Veena Trehan is a DC-based journalist and activist. She has written for NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg News, and local papers.

Migrating Animals Add New Depth to How the Ocean ‘Breathes’

June 26, 2013

June 24, 2013 — The oxygen content of the ocean may be subject to frequent ups and downs in a very literal sense — that is, in the form of the numerous sea creatures that dine near the surface at night then submerge into the safety of deeper, darker waters at daybreak.

Research begun at Princeton University and recently reported on in the journal Nature Geoscience found that animals ranging from plankton to small fish consume vast amounts of what little oxygen is available in the ocean’s aptly named “oxygen minimum zone” daily. The sheer number of organisms that seek refuge in water roughly 200- to 650-meters deep (650 to 2,000 feet) every day result in the global consumption of between 10 and 40 percent of the oxygen available at these depths.

The findings reveal a crucial and underappreciated role that animals have in ocean chemistry on a global scale, explained first author Daniele Bianchi, a postdoctoral researcher at McGill University who began the project as a doctoral student of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Princeton.

“In a sense, this research should change how we think of the ocean’s metabolism,” Bianchi said. “Scientists know that there is this massive migration, but no one has really tried to estimate how it impacts the chemistry of the ocean.

“Generally, scientists have thought that microbes and bacteria primarily consume oxygen in the deeper ocean,” Bianchi said. “What we’re saying here is that animals that migrate during the day are a big source of oxygen depletion. We provide the first global data set to say that.”

Much of the deep ocean can replenish (often just barely) the oxygen consumed during these mass migrations, which are known as diel vertical migrations (DVMs).

But the balance between DVMs and the limited deep-water oxygen supply could be easily upset, Bianchi said — particularly by climate change, which is predicted to further decrease levels of oxygen in the ocean. That could mean these animals would not be able to descend as deep, putting them at the mercy of predators and inflicting their oxygen-sucking ways on a new ocean zone.

“If the ocean oxygen changes, then the depth of these migrations also will change. We can expect potential changes in the interactions between larger guys and little guys,” Bianchi said. “What complicates this story is that if these animals are responsible for a chunk of oxygen depletion in general, then a change in their habits might have a feedback in terms of oxygen levels in other parts of the deeper ocean.”

The researchers produced a global model of DVM depths and oxygen depletion by mining acoustic oceanic data collected by 389 American and British research cruises between 1990 and 2011. Using the background readings caused by the sound of animals as they ascended and descended, the researchers identified more than 4,000 DVM events.

They then chemically analyzed samples from DVM-event locations to create a model that could correlate DVM depth with oxygen depletion. With that data, the researchers concluded that DVMs indeed intensify the oxygen deficit within oxygen minimum zones.

“You can say that the whole ecosystem does this migration — chances are that if it swims, it does this kind of migration,” Bianchi said. “Before, scientists tended to ignore this big chunk of the ecosystem when thinking of ocean chemistry. We are saying that they are quite important and can’t be ignored.”

Bianchi conducted the data analysis and model development at McGill with assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences Eric Galbraith and McGill doctoral student David Carozza. Initial research of the acoustic data and development of the migration model was conducted at Princeton with K. Allison Smith (published as K.A.S. Mislan), a postdoctoral research associate in the Programin Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Charles Stock, a researcher with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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The above story is reprinted from materialsprovided by Princeton University. The original article was written by Morgan Kelly.

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Journal Reference:

  1. Daniele Bianchi, Eric D. Galbraith, David A. Carozza, K. A. S. Mislan, Charles A. Stock.Intensification of open-ocean oxygen depletion by vertically migrating animals.Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI:10.1038/ngeo1837
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Vegetation On Earth: Stunning Satellite Imagery Depicting Vegetation Around the World

June 26, 2013

June 24, 2013 — Although 75 percent of the planet is an ocean of blue, the remaining 25 percent of Earth’s surface is a dynamic green.

Data from the Visible-Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on board the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite is able to detect these subtle differences in greenness, and is sending extraordinary images back to Earth giving us a clearer picture of vegetation around the world.

NOAA, in cooperation with NASA, used satellite data from April 2012 to April 2013 to generate a stunning series of animations and images depicting the annual cycle of green vegetation on Earth. These images allow scientists to measure changes in vegetation over time.

Vegetation data has many applications, from weather and ecological forecasting, to understanding best practices for land use. Pixel by pixel analysis of vegetation changes from week to week to give an early warning for the outbreaks of drought, hazardous fire conditions, or even whenmalaria may break out in Sub-Saharan Africa. Because vegetation greatly affects runoff, surface temperature, and relative humidity of an area, more complex weather forecasts are beginning to integrate vegetation dynamics into numerical models and drought outlooks.

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MLA

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2013, June 24). Vegetation on Earth: Stunning satellite imagery depicting vegetation around the world. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 26, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2013/06/130624141820.htm

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Terror vs. Surveillance? Keeping Americans Safe in Two Simple Steps

June 25, 2013
ROBERT JENSEN
OCCUPY.COM/Op-ed
Published: Tuesday 25 June 2013
Their argument goes something like this: No one wants to die in a terrorist attack.

In the frenzy over Edward Snowden’s leak of classified information about government data-mining surveillance, public officials and pundits have tried to lock us into a narrowly defined and diversionary discussion that ignores the most important question we face about terrorism.

Their argument goes something like this: No one wants to die in a terrorist attack. This kind of spying is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. So, stop whining about how information is being collected, used, and potentially misused—it’s better than dying.

Let me be clear: I do not want to die in a terrorist attack. But before I am bullied into accepting intrusive government surveillance that is open to politicized abuse, I have another question: Are there other ways we could reduce the risk of U.S. citizens, at home or abroad, being targeted by terrorists? Two possibilities come to mind.

 

First, stop creating new terrorists. Critics of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have long argued that those destructive conflicts have deepened resentment against the United States. People in those countries who previously had no reason to attack U.S. military personnel or civilians are understandably unhappy with aggressive wars that destroy their homes and kill their people. 

 

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For example, in the new book and film “Dirty Wars,” reporter Jeremy Scahill and director Rick Rowley have documented how the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command—our so-called secret warriors—have indeed been killing terrorists, along with pregnant women, children, and lots of other non-combatants, deepening many people’s resentment of the United States. Much of the criticism has focused on the use of drones, not only in Afghanistan but also “secretly” in Pakistan, but Scahill and Rowley show how the whole strategy is misguided. 

Second, let’s recognize that it is unlikely that the terrorism of Al Qaeda and others would have happened if not for nearly seven decades of a failed U.S. policy in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Muslim world more generally. Since the United States filled the imperial void left by the weakening of Great Britain and France after World War II, our Middle East policy has been primarily aimed at maintaining a flow of oil and—just as important—a flow of oil profits that is advantageous to U.S. economic interests, especially as defined by elites.

That doesn’t mean that every single U.S. action in those regions has been evil, or that there has been a single clear policy in every moment. But we have routinely ignored the aspirations of the people of the Middle East in favor of “stability,” which doesn’t translate into stability for people but instead for the interests of those elites. Saddam Hussein was an ally or a monster depending not on the crimes he committed against his own people or threats he posed to other states, but on whether he was in line with U.S. policy. When he killed Iraqi Kurds (about whom U.S. policymakers don’t care much) and Iranians (an official U.S. enemy), that was okay. When he threatened Saudi Arabia (an official U.S. ally, despite that country’s history of human right abuses), we had to destroy him.

People in the Arab and Muslim world pay attention. I may disagree with the politics and theology of many of those who critique U.S. policy, but I can’t argue when they point out U.S. mendacity and hypocrisy.

magine that the United States had pursued a different policy in the last half of the 20th century, aiding the struggling movements in the Arab and Muslim world that wanted to expand the scope and freedom and democracy. If we had chosen that path, would we be the targets of terrorists today?

More than a decade after 9/11, the United States political culture still is asking the wrong question (“why do they hate us,” as if our opponents are fueled only by irrational anger) and coming up with the wrong answer (“because we stand for freedom,” as if that has actually been our policy). It’s time for us to grow up, buck up, and face reality. If we want to be safe in the world, we should end the economic, diplomatic, and military policies that give people around the world ample reasons to resent our misuse of power.

When we have done that—when we have narrowed the gap between our self-righteous proclamations of inherent benevolence and the self-serving policies that ignore the aspirations of others—I’ll be happy to talk about how much of my privacy and political freedom I am willing to sacrifice to be safe. But if we were to face our mistakes and change our policies, I’m not sure that conversation will be necessary.

ABOUT ROBERT JENSEN

 

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. His latest books are Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue, and We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out,in print and on Kindle.

Jensen is also the author of All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film “Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing” (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist.  An extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff is online.

Jensen can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online. To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go here. Twitter: @jensenrobertw.

 

Species Alteration: Is GMO Rewiring our DNA?

June 25, 2013

Cristina Sarich
Natural Society/News Analysis
Published: Tuesday 25 June 2013
Double stranded RNA (dRNA) GMO created by Monsanto can allegedly turn off certain gene signals and turn on others.
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New studies in cell research are bringing up some alarming new questions concerning GMOs, and one of them in particular makes liver failure or cancer seem like child’s play compared to the garish possibilities that arise when we start to look at how genetically modified foods likely affect our DNA.

Let’s get one thing straight, first. All kinds of things can alter our DNA, for the better or worse. Bruce Lipton, a pioneering biology scientist, proved that emotions can change our DNA; research has shown that even exercise orchemotherapy can alter our DNA; ancient cultures have known that sound can affect our DNA; and the newest research states that we aren’t relegated to a specific destiny because of our genes, but it seems our brains are being rewired via DNA to become ‘new humans.’

 

Our DNA contains two strands of nucleotides that make up its stair-like structure. Each nucleotide contains one of four bases (adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine) a phosphate group and a sugar molecule. The bases contain nitrogen, which bond in very specific ways. In one species the way the four bases connect to each other are very different than how they will organize in another. 

In fact, double stranded RNA (dRNA) GMO created by Monsanto can allegedly turn off certain gene signals and turn on others. Usually, if you put in a Roundup ready gene into a plant, it requires a protein that can make a Roundup ready plant that can resist Roundup and still grow. However, the new dRNA can survive without protein synthesis. This allows the dRNA to alter genes.

In mice who were fed this dRNA, the liver completely changed its cell organization, and the mice grew strangely. The same effects were found when these dRNA were added to human cells. Allegedly, this GMO food can be turning on cancer causing genes, or quiet our immune systems. In other ways, the GMO wheat we are consuming is so different than organic wheat that it is causing us to be addicted to it. Some are calling it bioterrorism for this reason.

GMO food plants make these new dRNA so that the gene structure is silenced or amplified in very specific ways. There are no evaluations of dRNA and how it will affect our genes by the FDA, and Monsanto is working on dRNA technology, buying up companies that are developing it so that it can be issued as the next round of GMO food they unleash unwittingly on us.

Researchers in Australia and New Zealand are exposing this issue. Even inhalation of the GMO company’s sprays can change the way our bodies produce DNA and associated proteins. Most frightening is the fact that this dRNA can translate through the offspring of the people exposed to it. In Canada, new research is showing that pregnant women’s blood samples contained traces of toxins found in GMO foods. Who knows what the long term ramifications are of messing with our very genetic structure, but they can’t be promising considering the track record of Monsanto thus far.

“The finding that GE toxins and also herbicide residues are being absorbed into consumers and unborn babies blood, shows that organic and GE-free foods should be first choice for families and especially pregnant women,” said Soil & Health – Organic spokesperson Steffan Browning.

There are plans to introduce this dRNA in food, medicines, vaccines, and ‘pesticide’ sprays. Unless you want to play a game of wait and see with your own genetic evolution, it might be time to go all organic until more research is leaked on the subject of GMO and DNA alteration.

TPP (Trans-Pacific Pact)–the 1% Solution to Democracy–Government by Corporate Dictates

June 25, 2013
JEANINE MOLLOFF
NationofChange/Op-ed
Published: Tuesday 25 June 2013
The TPP-FTA (Trans-Pacific-Pact Free Trade Agreement) is the latest brainchild of the 1%.

TPP…the most dangerous trade contract you never heard of…

Chances are that you’ve never heard of the Trans-Pacific-Pact/Free Trade Agreement, aka the TPP-FTA, and that is exactly the way the Obama administration (and its corporate bosses)– would like to keep things.  The mainstream (read: corporate), media has utterly left the American public in the dark on this skunk of a deal which surrenders our national, state and  local sovereignty to corporate interests.  The TPP as it is known in secretive corporate circles represents the most anti-democracy assault devised by trade representatives from some600 corporations, including Halliburton, Chevron, PhaRMA, Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The secrecy factor…hiding TPP’s anti-democracy powers behind ‘national security‘…

The TPP-FTA (Trans-Pacific-Pact Free Trade Agreement) is the latest brainchild of the 1%.  Negotiations for each round have been so secretely guarded that paramilitary teams surrounded each locale with weaponized helicopters looming overhead.

A ‘weapon of mass deception’ specifically engineered to surrender our representative democracy to corporate rule; the TPP has been negotiated in secret since 2008 and is now nearing completion in its 17th round.

President Obama has allowed both of his US Trade Representative(s) (first Ron Kirk and now Mike Froman); to use the illegitimate veil of ‘national security’, and the accompanying overclassification of information, to shut out the public and Congress from ‘negotiations.’

No amount of public relations salesmanship from Obama can sell this stinker of a trade deal–once the facts hit the light of day.  Ironically, the facts only surfaced–because of a leak–another whistleblower. 

Leaked official documents clearly show that parties involved agreed to keep all draft and contributing documents secret,until four years after the final ratification of the agreement ( or when negotiations collapse);– EXCEPT for the final text.

During the entire length of ongoing negotiations–now in it’s 17th round, Congress was locked out of any meaningful discussion or investigation, while over 600 corporate chieftains and advisors  have all but scripted the entire document down to the last punctuation mark.

Congress locked out….

Congress was not only ‘locked out’–it was never invited to the party.  (While it’s true that the USTR ‘permitted’ limited viewing of the texts by members of Congress–none were allowed to have expert staffers in various negotiated areas of concern, present.  Furthermore, recording devices were expressly  forbidden.

The deal which would surrender national, state and local sovereignty to a secret tribunal of three corporate attorneys,–excluding all but corporate interests, was blessed with impunity on the profane altar of ‘national security.’   Leakers would be punished as ‘enemies of the state’–with a real possibility of jail time–and that threat included members of congress.

Congressional leaders questioning this ‘corporate coup’ though few–were refreshingly forthright.  Senator Ron Wyden (D) Oregon led the charge, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) Mass. and Congressman Alan Grayson (D) Fla.

Senator Ron Wyden denied access…blew the whistle on secrecy….

Senator Ron Wyden is the reigning Chair of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, the very committee assigned jurisdiction of treaties like the TPP went on record from the floor of Congress stating how …

….”the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations–like Halliburton, Chevron, PhaRMA, Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America–are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.”

Senator Wyden further reiterated the duty of Congress to review, regulate and ratify international trade negotiations. Wyden also countered the specious claim made by the US Trade Representative that providing access to negotiation documents would…’endanger national security,’ by instructing his staff to cooperate with security needs. To quote Senator Wyden;

…”As the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, my office is responsible for conducting oversight over the USTR and trade negotiations.  To do that, I asked that my staff obtain the proper security credentials to view the information that USTR keeps confidential and secret.  This is material that fully describes what the USTR is seeking in the TPP talks on behalf of the American people and on behalf of Congress.  More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing.”

Senator Wyden further reminded the president the authority granted Congress on the regulation of international trade.

…”It may be the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) current job to negotiate trade agreements on behalf of the United States, but Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress – not the USTR or any other member of the Executive Branch – the responsibility of regulating foreign commerce.  It was our Founding Fathers’ intention to ensure that the laws and policies that govern the American people take into account the interests of all the American people, not just a privileged few.”

And yet to date, only a few members of Congress have gained access to the very treaty they are constitutionally assigned to regulate.  Consistent with Senator Wyden’s criticism–the privileged few (namely corporate lobbyists) are granted unfettered input to the very treaty which would deliver a final death blow to our economy and surrender our democracy to the whims of corporate heads.

Why the secrecy?… 

If the TPP-FTA is a legitimate deal–why this unprecedented level of secrecy?   Why is the US Trade Representative refusing to answer congressional inquiries?  Why are US Congressmen such as Darrell Issa and Alan Grayson or  Senator Ron Wyden being locked out of negotiations?   As usual with this president–the facts are buried in legal jargon and double-talk.  Additionally, the now historic abuse of the national security ‘classification system’ has reached ludicrous levels which would make Karl Rove–blush like a schoolgirl in a whorehouse.

Congressman Grayson spoke to the secrecy and the most egregious elements in the TPP itself, in a telephone interview with this reporter.

…”They (USTR)  set out to do it this way, knowing full well that if they shed any light on  what they were doing  there would be a lot of hell to pay.” (phone interview 06/21/13)

Grayson was allowed ‘limited’ access after some six weeks of official requests–access to negotiation texts that any member of Congress by law–had a right to review.  After reviewing some very limited text Grayson spoke to the outrageous and unlawful giveaways in the TPP, and the cover-up maintained by the USTR.

…”…”I’ve seen an element of  the current rounds..they are binding …I will tell you that they have every reason to be concerned about them…the backlash…there would be a public backlash”…”what they said uh.. indicated was classified and they stick to appear to—-the classification system by calling the shots in secret,  and by threatening people with every nightmare discomfort …including imprisonment…except for the 500 corporate lobbyists..”

Alan Grayson may be blunt–but he’s honest.  When asked about the effects of the TPP on our country if pushed into law–he stated frankly that

…”TPP establishes what are called … procedures that are essentially” abrogating our democracy’…

Grayson explained further that…

“…they (TPP international tribunal)  replace  our five step established court systems for claims against the government with an alternative system that is wired for the benefit of multinational corporations”

 

Grayson added that the TPP extends into matters which are not under the purview of trade relations.    He added that the TPP …”goes far beyond anything even remotely resembling trade and systematically interferes in areas such as finance, that most people would regard as having no connection ….to matters of trade.”   The agreement….” extends well beyond trade in a manner that systematically benefits multinational corporations to the detriment of health, safety, the right to organize, and other fundamental human rights and progressive values. ” 

Ironically, Grayson and the others couldn’t explain why the TPP poses these dangers, as this information has been ‘classified’ by the USTR.

In spite of Grayson’s fair and rational argument–the USTR under President Obama remains unmoved.  In fact, the administration wants to finalize the TPP ‘agreement’ this October, pushing Congress to a simple up and down vote, consistent with corporate demands.

The rush to finalize this surrender of sovereignty

In addition to this transfer of power from nations to corporations; the TPP negotiating teams are rushing to finalize the document before any meaningful discussion or review.   

…”.The TPP is poised to become the largest Free Trade Agreement in U.S. history.  The twelve countries currently involved — the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — already cover approximately 40% of the global economy, and the TPP also includes a “docking mechanism” that could enable other countries to join over time.  The TPP’s seventeenth major round of negotiations concluded in Lima, Peru last month, and negotiators are racing to complete their work by an October deadline set by President Barack Obama and others.”

Fast Track …and a news blackout by the corporate owned media….

The sheer fact that the SEVENTEENTH round of negotiations has been completed with no coverage in the mainstream corporate media only deepens the suspicion.  President Obama is pushing Fast Track authority specifically engineered to ram through Congress a simple up or down vote on the entire finished document minus any substantive investigation or debate. ‘Fast Track’ dating back to the Nixon administration, denies Congress the right to study, debate or otherwise amend any piece of legislation pushed and signed off by any president.   In essence, the Obama administration is abusing the Fast Track idea to demand a blank check from Congress.   So, what specific powers does the proposed TPP take away from our democratically elected government and grant to an international corporate tribunal?

Powers granted to corporations via the TPP….

The TPP, if approved by the Senate and signed by Obama will nullify multiple areas of US law.  It is the concrete realization of ‘corporate personhood’, providing the ‘corporate person’ in discussion–is an absolute monarch or emperor.

The TPP, negotiated by corporate lobbyists and minus any substantive congressional and public oversight, grants multinational corporations a final veto over a country’s laws, in multiple areas not necessarily limited to trade issues.  No country, including the US will be able to enforce laws or regulations in many areas that ‘impede’ corporate rights.  This is ‘corporate personhood’ writ large, abusive and sociopathic.

The highlights of the leaked TPP drafts include a triad of powers that collectively enslave any nation or state.  The triad begins with the alleged corporate ‘right’ to challenge any law and demand taxpayer compensation for any policy which hypothetically could undermine estimated or expected future profits.  This could extend to any area of law, environmental, labor, public health, food sovereignty, currency standards, financial regulations, consumer standards and even civil liberties.

Leaked draft texts further describe ‘investor protections’ that incentivizes additional offshoring of jobs with undisclosed ‘benefits.’  Any regulation of finance capital (aka Wall Street) such as banning derivatives, currency manipulation, and other ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’; would be prohibited.  Any member nation’s ability to mitigate financial warfare via currency manipulation and deliver financial stability is neutered.   ‘Shock and awe’ globalization is delivered to our door, in a plain, pornographic brown wrapper, courtesy of the TPP.

The TPP grants the rights of a conquering army to foreign investors and multinational corporations.  The leaked text contains 26 chapters, yet only two chapters cover actual ‘trade’ issues, such as tariffs and quotas.

The US would be conquered, minus a single fired shot, as the USTR and Obama sign away our rights.  The TPP text obligates the federal government to serve as the bully club, forcing states and local communities into conforming with this unmitigated surrender of our sovereignty.

 

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The thousand plus page document of detailed restraints forced on federal, state and local governments is not restricted to trade.  Everything from intellectual property rights, to labor issues, to public health, to environmental regulations is forced into subjugation under this legal excuse for corporate rule. Our own federal government is reduced to a mercenary force, pointing the gun to our heads.  Nothing is safe.  This includes public lands and resources. 

TPP… a tool for stealing ever decreasing public resources….

Once again, leaked documents of the draft TPP texts reveal US property rights protections eradicated in favor of international standards (which have yet to be articulated).  These mysterious international standards would be relegated to the whims of the unelected international tribunal, for which there is no right of appeal.  In theory, public lands in the US could be summarily handed over to international corporate interests.

This could translate into foreign interests using the unelected tribunal to ‘legally’ steal US public resources such as potable water, reducing the US to a colony or vassal state.  Natural resource battles over resources like water have begun in Michigan, thanks to the predecessor ‘Emergency Manager’ law. 

Nestle vs. Ice Mountain…

Mecosta, Michigan won a ten year battle against Nestle/Ice Mountain in 2009.  Concerned with excessive water diversion by the corporate titan; a grassroots group named Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) defeated Nestle in court.  Nestle appealed and the appeals court ruled that MCWC won on concerns of environmental harm, but the corporate water interests of Nestle had to balance with the landowner’s interests.’

This was the beginning of the end, as corporate forces realized they needed a stacked deck in the face of growing citizen grassroots/netroots mobilization.  Not content to abide by a legitimate process; corporate forces pushed the Emergency Manager Act.

Michigan’s ‘Emergency Manager Law’ the predecessor to TPP…

In March of 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law the ‘Emergency Manager Law.’  Written by corporations and corporate funded non-profits under the tutelage of the Mackinac Center; the Emergency Manager Law authorized the shredding of labor contracts, privatization of public services and the consolidation and DISSOLUTION of locally elected governments.  It has been touted as ‘financial martial law.’

It does not escape my attention that this ‘law’ would have serviced Nestle’s needs quite handily.  Though several thousand protesters marched against this bill; the corporate owned media ignored the uprising.  The Michigan ‘Emergency Manager Law’ is a mini-me version of the TPP.  It is …’democracy under siege.’

Government by international corporate tribunal…

At the core of this despicable ‘agreement’ is the international corporate tribunal designated to be the final authority over any future disputes–at least on paper.  The tribunal is to be staffed by the same corporate attorneys who service the multinational corporations.  Conflict of interest is not only obvious—TPP makes it… a way of life.  No right of appeal exists and deliberations are…once again…secret.

In theory, any and all laws a foreign corporation finds irritating are taken to the tribunal.  The most egregious crimes against humanity—forced or slave labor, child labor, massive dumping of toxic pollutants, murders committed by subcontractors, police abuse, censorship, and the criminalization of dissent–are subjugated to a tribunal of three corporate attorneys.  The ‘economic royalists’ would be in the driver’s seat.

TPP grants the tribunal the right to set aside previous court decisions or the results of public elections.  Corporate personhood is elevated to emperor and  the concept of …”consent of the governed” is reduced to a trite joke.

According to Lori Wallach at Public Citizen, these same foreign tribunals…“would be staffed by private sector lawyers who rotate between acting as “judges” and representative corporations, suing governments, posing major conflicts of interest.”

Citizens Trade Campaign has legitimate solutions…

In March of 2013, watchdog group, Citizens Trade Campaign sent a letter to every member of Congress which was co-signed by over 400 additional activist groups.  The letter was a stinging rebuke of the TPP and the mechanisms used by the Obama administration to ram this illegitimate treaty through–namely the abuse of the national security classification system and the Nixonian, Fast Track Authority.  The letter also outlined conditions, which must be remediated and the mechanism used.  It was a clarion call for accountability and transparency, which respected the right to self-govern.

Groups signing on this letter ranged from unions such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters–to environmental groups such as Food and Water Watch–to religious groups such as the Holy Cross International Justice Office.  Opponents may scream foul and claim these are ‘special interest groups,’ but unlike the ‘special interest’ corporate groups pushing the TPP–these groups are collectively fighting to reverse the global ‘race to the bottom.’

Citizens Trade Campaign has identified 8 criterion which must be addressed and a separate section dealing with the eradication of Fast Track and the reform of the trade agreement negotiation and approval process.

8 Reform Measures to Ensure a Fair Negotiation and Approval Process for Future Trade Policies…

1.) …”Prioritization of human and labor rights.”  Trade agreements must protect human and labor rights (including free speech, assembly, press), above the rights of investors.  There should no tolerance for forced or slave labor, child labor, dangerous ‘sweatshop’ working conditions, or political violence used by corporate or subcontractors to suppress collective bargaining.  Environmental degradation in an era of strained resources leading to resource wars should be banned.  The rights of indigenous peoples to self-determined governance is to be respected.

2.) …”Respect for local development goals and the procurement policies that deliver on them.”  Trade agreements should never impede or nullify the rights of local governments to promote development, which benefits and reflects the needs and preferences of environmental, social or political goals.  Furthermore, all trade agreements must respect and maintain prevailing requirements for wages, environmental, labor and human rights standards, and provide policies addressing long-standing inequalities worldwide.  In terms of the USA, such trade procurement policies must maintain existing “Buy American” clauses.

3.) …”Protect food sovereignty.”  Farmers of each nation or local area are to receive fair compensation.  Consumers have a right to access foods which are affordable and safe.  Read between the lines–no GMO’s cross-polluting organic crops.  Any GMO’s ‘gracing’ grocery shelves must be clearly labeled in terms of health risks, ie.–  Monsanto is out of luck.  Nations have a right to restrict the dumping of crops at below market prices, or any other unfair trade practices which force family farmers off their land.

4.) …”Access to affordable medicine.”  Generic drugs and treatments allow critical access to lifesaving medicine.  Extending drug patents with statistically insignificant formulary tweaks,  via trade agreements is a clear violation of the standards articulated in the Doha Declaration regarding access to medicine.  Translation: the Doha Declaration should be respected in spirit, and the tweaking of formularies in minor cosmetic ways (which do not change the drug in any substantive and proven manner), as a vehicle to extend an existing patent or create a new one– should be deemed fraudulent and thus forbidden.

5.) …”Safeguards against currency manipulation.”  The US and other signatory governments have the right to implement measures which reverse ‘trade-distorting’ currency manipulation.  Trade agreements must include rigorous ‘rule of origin’ provisions, to ensure that only nations complying with the trade agreement’s rules–benefit from said agreement.

6.) …”Space for robust financial regulations and public services.”  “Trade pacts should set floors, not ceilings, when it comes to the regulation of banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial service providers.”  Translation : No language in any agreement which could be ‘interpreted’ as mandating deregulation or privatization of any service–public or private. Language must be ‘clear and specific’ on the terms of any trade agreement.  No tortuous arguments using vague language which justifies the nullification of public elections.  In other words, laws like the ‘Emergency Manager Act’, promoted by the privatizers at the Mackinac Center–would be rejected as treasonous and anti-democratic.

7.) …”Improved consumer and environmental standards.”  …”Trade agreements should set floors, rather than ceilings, when it comes to environmental, food and product safety and consumer right-to-know measures.” To use the vernacular of the street—DUH.

8.) …”No elevation of corporations to equal terms with governments.”  Trade agreements should never provide corporations or investors ‘special powers’ engineered to circumvent and nullify the domestic judiciary.  Corporate challenges of domestic laws or court decisions through the use of nuisance SLAPP suits and tortuous arguments exploiting vague contract language must be outlawed.

The ‘investor-state’ tribunal which empowers rotating teams of three corporate attorneys to demand …”unlimited taxpayer compensation for foreign firms” claiming a signatory nation’s laws …”undermine their expected future profits must be eliminated.”  Legal terms including ‘investment,’ ‘expropriation,’ and ‘minimum standard of treatment,’ must be more narrowly and clearly defined to ensure the rights of governments to legislate in the public interest.

This demand is key.  It is a clear repudiation of the ‘investor-state’ and the ‘investor-state’ tribunal.  No wiggle room here–the very core of the TPP is denounced in this simple statement.  The legally concocted concept of an ‘investor-state’ and the mediation tribunal of corporate attorneys–is the head of the TPP snake.

This single element surrenders any nation’s sovereignty and reduces it to a vassal colony.

This ‘investor-state’ device– is PLANTATION POLITICS in all its ugliness.  The only difference between the Nazi brown-shirted enforcers and the mediation tribunal–is the fact that the attorneys for the tribunal–probably wear Brooks Brothers.

Citizens Trade…on preventing future ‘abrogations of democracy,’..

Citizens Trade Campaign and the allied 400 groups signing on to this appeal are demanding the following rigorous levels of accountability and transparency with regards to the negotiation of trade agreements.

First, all TPP draft texts must be made public.  No president, including Obama should possess sole trade policymaking authority.

Secondly, Fast-Track authority must be permanently eradicated.  (Fast-Track is a Nixonian relic which relinquishes Congress’ ‘exclusive constitutional authority’ to …”regulate commerce with foreign nations” and transfers this power to executive branch and the USTR).  Under Fast-Track the executive can sign the bill or treaty in question and then force a single up-down vote on the issue.

Fast-Track strips Congress of its right to investigate, debate and amend any of the agreement’s provisions.  In terms of the TPP–Fast-Track is being pushed to deceive Congress into–signing away our sovereignty.

To quote Congressman Grayson…  

…”there is no other area that is done this way……”I’m not only referring to negotiations but …”no fast-track immigration bill, no fast-track for other legislation …”we don’t  fast-track appropriations bills, we don’t fast-track anything else…why should we fast-track the sovereignty

..”the reason why they do it in secret is because our ‘sell-out trade-representatives”  met with other ‘sell-out trade representatives”  from other countries ”

(Source : Phone interview 06/21/13)

Any trade agreement process must contain…

*Requirements that the USTR (US Trade Representative)..” consult with all interested stakeholders,” on all potential areas theoretically impacted by the proposed agreement, including (but not limited to) : pharmaceutical access, food sovereignty, currency manipulation, balance of trade, job creation or loss, expansion opportunities, environmental stewardship and human and labor rights;

* Expansion of the engagement process beginning with the TPP immediately;

*Creation of an unbiased and public process which verifies that objectives negotiated by Congress are actually present and achieved in the final document; and

*Creation of a verification process publicly certifying that any proposed agreement or provisions of the agreement,  actually reflects the public interest.  A congressional majority is required to certify that the agreement is in the public interest of the US.

*Finally, negotiated objectives must have been publicly witnessed and met, BEFORE the executive is granted authority to sign the agreement, binding  the US to its terms.

Freshman Senator Elizabeth Warren stated the argument for transparency and public discussion, including the right of dissent– most clearly.

“I appreciate the willingness of the USTR to make various documents available for review by members of Congress, but I do not believe that is a substitute for more robust public transparency. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”  – Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Precisely.

ABOUT JEANINE MOLLOFF

Jeanine Molloff is a veteran urban educator specializing in communications disorders.  She moonlights as a political commentator on various issues including civil liberties in an age of ‘terrorism’, ecological justice, collateral damage in war zones, economic equity and education.  Jeanine has published with Huffington Post, OpEdNews, FireDogLake, Counterpunch and Huffington Post Union of Bloggers.  In an era of state and corporate sanctioned censorship; she believes that journalism which demands answers to the tough questions is the last remaining bulwark of democracy.  Now more than ever we need the likes of I.F. Stone over the insipid voices of celebrity infotainment.  Jeanine works and lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Nuclear waste leaking at Hanford site in Washington, again

June 25, 2013

By John Upton

A tank storing radioactive waste at America’s most contaminated nuclear site appears to have sprung a leak, leaching yet more cancer-causing isotopes into soil some five miles from the Columbia River in Washington state.

The Hanford site
Crash Zone Photography
The Hanford site and the Columbia River

The Hanford site produced plutonium that was used to manufacture the bomb that blew up Hiroshima. Now it’s home to a different kind of horror: It’s used to store nuclear waste while a plant is built on site to treat that waste. But the Department of Energy treatment plant project has been plagued by delays, and tanks that were designed to hold the waste temporarily keep falling apart.

From the AP:

An underground tank holding some of the worst radioactive waste at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site might be leaking into the soil.

The U.S. Energy Department said workers at Washington state’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation detected higher radioactivity levels under tank AY-102 during a routine inspection Thursday.

Spokeswoman Lori Gamache said the department has notified Washington officials and is investigating the leak further. An engineering analysis team will conduct additional sampling and video inspection to determine the source of the contamination, she said.

State and federal officials have long said leaking tanks at Hanford do not pose an immediate threat to the environment or public health. The largest waterway in the Pacific Northwest — the Columbia River — is still at least 5 miles away and the closest communities are several miles downstream.

However, if this dangerous waste escapes the tank into the soil, it raises concerns about it traveling to the groundwater and someday potentially reaching the river.

The AP reports that water samples taken beneath the leaking tank “had an 800,000-count of radioactivity and a high dose rate, which means that workers must reduce their time in the area.”

 

If the leak is confirmed, it is certainly not the first time that the Hanford site has been home to such an accident. From a February editorial in the Tacoma News Tribune:

Hanford hosts 56 million gallons of hot reactor byproducts in 177 steel-walled underground tanks, some dating to the heyday of Betty Grable. Collectively, they’ve leaked an estimated 1 million gallons of waste into the desert soil, creating radioactive plumes that are gradually headed for the Columbia River.

The Department of Energy put a stop to the big leaks years ago by pumping out liquids from the tanks, leaving crusty, gooey, toxic sludges inside. Water has been penetrating one of these supposedly “stabilized” tanks. The lyrically named T-111 has reportedly resumed leaking at a rate of 150 to 300 gallons a year.

This is a reminder that the nation’s largest concentration of nuclear waste is stored under insanely makeshift conditions. The oldest tanks, including T-111, were engineered to last 20 years. They were built in 1943 and 1944.

Even Hanford’s newer, double-walled tanks – built between the late 1960s and early 1980s – are slowly rotting in the ground. One sprang a leak last fall.

News of the latest suspected leak has state officials gravely concerned, yet again. From a statement by Gov. Jay Inslee:

“This is most disturbing news for Washington. It is not clear yet whether that contamination is coming directly from the outer shell of the AY-102 but it must be treated with the utmost seriousness. The discovery was made during a routine pumping outside the tank when pumpsare also surveyed for radioactivity. …

“Even before learning of this new development, I told [Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz] I continueto have serious concerns regarding the pace of addressing the leaking tanks. We will be insisting on an acceleration of remediation of all the tanks, not just AY-102. [The U.S. Energy Department] has a legal obligation to clean up Hanford and remove or treat that waste, and we ensure that legal obligation is fulfilled.”

But it’s not clear how the government could treat the waste anytime soon. From TV station KING5:

The [treatment] plant has been delayed for years by continued problems and is not expected to meet a 2019 deadline to be up and running.

So the tank designed to hold the waste until then is now possibly leaking, no longer dependable, and there is no plan we know of for quickly pumping it out to another double walled tank.

That leaves the DOE and its contractors with fewer places to store 56 million gallons of waste and no plant built yet to treat it.

The AP reports that Energy Secretary Moniz toured the facility on Wednesday and promised Washington a new plan this summer for tackling difficulties with the waste treatment project. Don’t hold your breath (unless your visiting the site).

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin whotweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:johnupton@gmail.com.

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Japan’s nuclear safety upgrades mask industry problems

June 25, 2013

By Aaron Sheldrick and Kentaro Hamada

NATIONAL JUN. 25, 2013 – 07:00AM JST ( 6 )

TOKYO —

Japan’s nuclear utilities face shareholders this week promising restarts of idled plants as soon as next month after costly safety upgrades, plans that look wildly optimistic given they are yet to secure either regulatory or local approval.

A glaring example is the Hamaoka nuclear plant, once dubbed the world’s most dangerous for its location near a major earthquake fault zone. Operator Chubu Electric Power Co’s $1.5 billion upgrade is unlikely to convince opponents galvanised by ongoing problems from the Fukushima meltdown.

Chubu says it may apply to reboot reactors before March 2015, but others are much more ambitious as they try to cut back on imports of replacement fuels that have added billions to their costs, with firms saying they expect to restart seven reactors by the end of July.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the Fukushima plant, and five other listed nuclear operators laid out the schedules to restart reactors in documents submitted to the government to support applications to raise residential electricity prices.

This is despite signs that Japan’s nuclear regulator will take a tough stance when its new safety guidelines take effect on July 8, and amid fierce local opposition.

“Out of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors, I think Hamaoka is one of the least likely to stay open in the post-Fukushima context,” said Hajime Amano, a member of the local regional assembly where the plant is located.

The incumbent governor of Shizuoka prefecture was re-elected by a landslide in regional elections on June 16 after promising to hold a referendum to decide the fate of Hamaoka.

Chubu spokesman Hiroki Kosaka declined to comment when asked whether the company would abide by a popular vote calling for the closure of the plant. He said the company is striving to upgrade safety equipment as much as possible and is explaining its improvements to local residents.

Upgrades the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) requires in its quest to impose the world’s toughest earthquake and tsunami standards will cost the industry an estimated $12 billion, according to Tom O’Sullivan, an independent energy analyst based in Tokyo.

The complexity and cost of safety upgrades was highlighted during a recent tour to show off earthquake and tsunami defenses at the Hamaoka station 190 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.

Chubu has thrown up a 1.6-kilometer curtain of concrete and steel at least 2 meters thick that is being built to a height of 22 meters above sea level. The wall sits on concrete foundations dug into the ground to as deep as 33 meters.

Essential buildings have giant steel doors with thick rubber seals to keep out any water that breaches the wall. The plant’s emergency headquarters has giant rubber shock absorbers to protect it from the shaking of an expected earthquake.

But even if the upgrades pass muster with the regulator, Chubu Electric will still need sign off from local residents.

“Utilities cannot be optimistic at all about restarts because their need for restarts is confronted with the NRA’s need to show they are tough in order to gain credibility with the public,” said Mycle Schneider, an independent nuclear energy analyst based in Paris who frequently visits Japan.

Reactors at four stations are being reassessed after new research suggested they sit above active faults. The NRA it would err on the side of safety when it declared that a 26-year old reactor in Tsuruga, western Japan, sits above a fault.

Any delay to restarts will be costly. The fallout from Fukushima in terms of higher fuel and maintenance costs pushed the utilities into a second annual industrywide loss of $16 billion for the year ending in March, and debt is mounting.

Japan’s utilities have a median debt-to-equity ratio of more than 300%, more than double the level among U.S. operators, and may need more government support.

“The problem for the banks is that it is very hard to give additional loans to the utilities in the current situation because from a private business perspective they are bankrupt,” said Howard Schultz, a senior research fellow at Fujitsu Research Institute.

Some observers are more optimistic and argue the nuclear utilities, which all face their shareholders on June 26 at annual general meetings, have reached a turning point.

“Japan’s electric-power sector is marching down the path to normalization,” Penn Bowers, an analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets wrote in a research note. “This is occurring firstly with tariff revisions to reflect increased fossil-fuel costs.”

“With new guidelines for the safety of nuclear reactors to be established over the summer, we expect the second leg of normalization, restarts, to begin later this year,” Bowers said.

But long term the utilities need a more predictable operating environment after the LDP returned to power and said it would overturn the previous government’s decision to abandon atomic energy, according to Schneider.

“I do think that utilities badly need an energy planning framework that clarifies what capacity will be available, and thus will be needed, and when,” Schneider said. “Only then will they decide to invest either in new capacity or in efficiency.”

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013.