Category Archives: Environment

Dark Money: Jane Mayer on How Koch Brothers and Billionaire Allies Funded Rise of the Far Right

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak to Jane Mayer, reporter for the New Yorker and author of a new book: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. In the book, Mayer traces how the Kochs and other billionaires have leveraged their business empires to shape the political system in the mold of their right-wing agenda. (Democracy Now!)

Untouchable Big Oil Threatens All Life On Earth

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin looks at how all life on Earth is threatened by catastrophic climate change and Big Oil (the main culprit) is so powerful that the U.S. government is setup to serve it, rather than regulate it. The episode includes interview with Antonia Juhasz and Greg Palast. (The Empire Files)

The Man Who Studies the Spread of Ignorance

Georgina Kenyon reports for BBC Future:

In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter “anti-cigarette forces”.

In one of the paper’s most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

This revelation piqued the interest of Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who started delving into the practices of tobacco firms and how they had spread confusion about whether smoking caused cancer.

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

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Obama’s Conflicting Energy Legacy: Interview with Chris Williams and Steve Horne

Sharmini Peries talks to Chris Williams, Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Pace University and the author of Ecology and Socialism. They are also joined by Steve Horne, a research fellow at DeSmog Blog and a regular contributor at the Guardian and The Nation. Williams and Horne discuss the many grandiose claims made by President Obama in his final State of the Union address and expose the limits and missed opportunities of Obama’s energy legacy. (The Real News)

BBC’s 2015 in Science

Adding fluoride to water supply may have no benefit, say experts

Haroon Siddique reports for The Guardian:

Water fluoridation has been in place in England for more than 40 years, and now covers about 6 million people. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls adding fluoride to drinking water one of the 10 great public health achievements in the 20th century.

Public Health England (PHE) describes it as “a safe and effective public health measure” to combat tooth decay in children and, alongside dentists’ groups, has called for it to be implemented more widely.

But health experts are calling for a moratorium on water fluoridation, claiming that the benefits of such schemes, as opposed to those of topical fluoride (directly applied to the teeth), are unproved.

Furthermore, critics cite studies claiming to have identified a number of possible negative associations of fluoridation, including bone cancer in boys, bladder cancer, hyperthyroidism, hip fractures and lower IQ in children.

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David Cameron Tells UK’s Flood Victims He’ll Do ‘Whatever Is Needed’ Despite Cutting Flood Defence Spending In 2011

Jack Sommers reports for The Huffington Post:

David Cameron’s pledge to send more troops to “do whatever is needed” to help flooding victims has not convinced people with memories long enough to recall flood defence spending was cut four years ago.

Thousands of people are fleeing their homes after “unprecedented” levels of rain caused rivers to burst their banks and left homes under water in York, Leeds and Manchester.

Cameron chaired a conference call on Sunday morning of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee as ministers worked to tackle the problem, while the Government has vowed to review flood defences as the army was mobilised this morning to help emergency services.

[…] But in 2011, the Coalition Government announced it would spend 8% less on flood defences – £540 million – over the next four years compared with the previous four years.

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James Lovelock: ‘Enjoy life while you can, in 20 years global warming will hit the fan’

Decca Aitkenhead reports for The Guardian:

[…] Lovelock believes global warming is now irreversible, and that nothing can prevent large parts of the planet becoming too hot to inhabit, or sinking underwater, resulting in mass migration, famine and epidemics. Britain is going to become a lifeboat for refugees from mainland Europe, so instead of wasting our time on wind turbines we need to start planning how to survive. To Lovelock, the logic is clear. The sustainability brigade are insane to think we can save ourselves by going back to nature; our only chance of survival will come not from less technology, but more.

Nuclear power, he argues, can solve our energy problem – the bigger challenge will be food. “Maybe they’ll synthesise food. I don’t know. Synthesising food is not some mad visionary idea; you can buy it in Tesco’s, in the form of Quorn. It’s not that good, but people buy it. You can live on it.” But he fears we won’t invent the necessary technologies in time, and expects “about 80%” of the world’s population to be wiped out by 2100. Prophets have been foretelling Armageddon since time began, he says. “But this is the real thing.”

Faced with two versions of the future – Kyoto’s preventative action and Lovelock’s apocalypse – who are we to believe? Some critics have suggested Lovelock’s readiness to concede the fight against climate change owes more to old age than science: “People who say that about me haven’t reached my age,” he says laughing.

But when I ask if he attributes the conflicting predictions to differences in scientific understanding or personality, he says: “Personality.”

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Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris.By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.

Inside the narrow frame within which the talks have taken place, the draft agreement at the UN climate talks in Paris is a great success. The relief and self-congratulation with which the final text was greeted, acknowledges the failure at Copenhagen six years ago, where the negotiations ran wildly over time before collapsing. The Paris agreement is still awaiting formal adoption, but its aspirational limit of 1.5C of global warming, after the rejection of this demand for so many years, can be seen within this frame as a resounding victory. In this respect and others, the final text is stronger than most people anticipated.

Outside the frame it looks like something else. I doubt any of the negotiators believe that there will be no more than 1.5C of global warming as a result of these talks. As the preamble to the agreement acknowledges, even 2C, in view of the weak promises governments brought to Paris, is wildly ambitious. Though negotiated by some nations in good faith, the real outcomes are likely to commit us to levels of climate breakdown that will be dangerous to all and lethal to some. Our governments talk of not burdening future generations with debt. But they have just agreed to burden our successors with a far more dangerous legacy: the carbon dioxide produced by the continued burning of fossil fuels, and the long-running impacts this will exert on the global climate.

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James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks ‘a fraud’

Oliver Milman reports for The Guardian:

James Hansen climate change Paris COP21 global warming NasaMere mention of the Paris climate talks is enough to make James Hansen grumpy. The former Nasa scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, is a soft-spoken, almost diffident Iowan. But when he talks about the gathering of nearly 200 nations, his demeanour changes.

“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

The talks, intended to reach a new global deal on cutting carbon emissions beyond 2020, have spent much time and energy on two major issues: whether the world should aim to contain the temperature rise to 1.5C or 2C above preindustrial levels, and how much funding should be doled out by wealthy countries to developing nations that risk being swamped by rising seas and bashed by escalating extreme weather events.

But, according to Hansen, the international jamboree is pointless unless greenhouse gas emissions aren’t taxed across the board. He argues that only this will force down emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change.

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The First Cold War: The Environmental Lessons of the Little Ice Age

Deborah R. Coen reviews Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century by Geoffrey Parker for Foreign Affairs:

Reflecting on the “misery and misfortune” he had witnessed during the Thirty Years’ War, Caspar Preis, a German farmer, was sure that “no one living in a better age would believe it.” From 1618 to 1648, the population of Germany fell by as much as 40 percent. Roughly four million people were killed in the wars between Catholic and Protestant princes; many others died of starvation or disease; still others fled their homes in search of safety. The misery was worst in the 1640s, when summer frosts and storms wiped out crops and soldiers nearly froze to death. Towns were ruined, currencies depreciated, and people made meals of grass. As Denmark, Sweden, and France were drawn into the conflict, it looked as if all of Europe had fallen into civil war. Indeed, wars and revolutions were spreading chaos well beyond the view of a German peasant, throughout the British Isles and Russia, even in faraway China and the lands of the Ottoman Empire.

Historians have long debated whether these widespread upheavals were simply what passed for normal life in the premodern world or in fact constituted a decisive historical turning point: a “general crisis” that swept away an older order and cleared the ground for the emergence of modern states, economies, and systems of thought. From the start of this debate in the 1930s, scholars kept one eye on the present, using their research to reflect on the geopolitical and economic crises of the twentieth century. Now, the military historian Geoffrey Parker brings this history to bear on the environmental crisis of the twenty-first century.

In Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century, Parker uncovers the environmental factors behind the seventeenth century’s earthshaking events, from the English Civil Wars, to the collapse of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, to the Manchu conquest of China. The immediate cause of state breakdown in each case was often an impulsive decision by a shortsighted prince. But that, in Parker’s terms, was merely the “tipping point.” What brought each state to the brink of catastrophe, he argues, was instead a global environmental phenomenon: the Little Ice Age.

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Why is Saudi Arabia Undermining COP21 When Climate Change Could Make the Gulf Uninhabitable?: Interview with Antonia Juhasz

Amy Goodman speaks to Newsweek journalist Antonia Juhasz about the role of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations 21st Conference of Parties in Paris. Juhasz’s recently wrote a piece titled: ‘Suicidal Tendencies: How Saudi Arabia Could Kill the COP21 Negotiations in Paris‘. (Democracy Now!)

As NY State Probes Exxon, Oil Giant Targets the Journalists Who Exposed Climate Change Cover-Up: Interview with Bill McKibben

Naomi Klein at COP21: We Are Out of Time… We Need to Leap

Naomi Klein gave a speech on December 7th at COP21 in Paris, France:

Here is what we know about what to expect from the official climate negotiations.

The deal that will be unveiled in less than a week — likely to much fanfare and self-congratulation from politicians and an overly deferential press — will not be enough to keep us safe. In fact, it will be extraordinarily dangerous.

The targets that the major economies brought to Paris lead us to a future of 3-4 degrees warming — those are the Tyndall Centre’s numbers — not 2 degrees, as was pledged in Copenhagen. Two degrees is how our governments defined “dangerous warming” in the Copenhagen Accord.

And we also know from leading climate scientists like James Hansen that 2 degrees is too high. Indeed we know from lived experience that the amount we’ve already warmed the globe is too much. We are already living the era of dangerous warming. It is already costing many thousands of lives and livelihoods — from the Philippines to Bangladesh to Nigeria to New Orleans to the Marshall Islands.

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The collapse of Saudi Arabia is inevitable

Nafeez Ahmed wrote at the end of September:

On Tuesday 22 September, Middle East Eye broke the story of a senior member of the Saudi royal family calling for a “change” in leadership to fend off the kingdom’s collapse.

In a letter circulated among Saudi princes, its author, a grandson of the late King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, blamed incumbent King Salman for creating unprecedented problems that endangered the monarchy’s continued survival.

“We will not be able to stop the draining of money, the political adolescence, and the military risks unless we change the methods of decision making, even if that implied changing the king himself,” warned the letter.

Whether or not an internal royal coup is round the corner – and informed observers think such a prospect “fanciful” – the letter’s analysis of Saudi Arabia’s dire predicament is startlingly accurate.

Like many countries in the region before it, Saudi Arabia is on the brink of a perfect storm of interconnected challenges that, if history is anything to judge by, will be the monarchy’s undoing well within the next decade.

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Indonesia is burning: Why is the world looking away?

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

[…] Why is this happening? Indonesia’s forests have been fragmented for decades by timber and farming companies. Canals have been cut through the peat to drain and dry it. Plantation companies move in to destroy what remains of the forest to plant monocultures of pulpwood, timber and palm oil. The easiest way to clear the land is to torch it. Every year, this causes disasters. But in an extreme El Niño year like this one, we have a perfect formula for environmental catastrophe.

The president, Joko Widodo, is – or wants to be – a democrat. But he presides over a nation in which fascism and corruption flourish. As Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary The Act of Killing shows, leaders of the death squads that helped murder a million people during Suharto’s terror in the 1960s, with the approval of the west, have since prospered through other forms of organised crime, including illegal deforestation.

They are supported by a paramilitary organisation with three million members, called Pancasila Youth. With its orange camo-print uniforms, scarlet berets, sentimental gatherings and schmaltzy music, it looks like a fascist militia as imagined by JG Ballard. There has been no truth, no reconciliation; the mass killers are still treated as heroes and feted on television. In some places, especially West Papua, the political murders continue.

Those who commit crimes against humanity don’t hesitate to commit crimes against nature. Though Joko Widodo seems to want to stop the burning, his reach is limited. His government’s policies are contradictory: among them are new subsidies for palm oil production that make further burning almost inevitable. Some plantation companies, prompted by their customers, have promised to stop destroying the rainforest. Government officials have responded angrily, arguing that such restraint impedes the country’s development. That smoke blotting out the nation, which has already cost it some $30bn? That, apparently, is development.

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Despite Military Crackdown in Papua and Other Rights Abuses, Obama Recently Hosted Indonesian President: Interview with John Sifton and Allan Nairn

Last Monday, President Obama met Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, at the White House to discuss climate change, trade and strengthening U.S.-Indonesian ties. President Obama described Indonesia as one of the world’s largest democracies, but human rights groups paint a different story, citing the military’s ongoing repression in West Papua as well as discriminatory laws restricting the rights of religious minorities and women. Indonesia has also been criticized for attempting to silence any discussion about the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indonesian genocide that left more than 1 million people dead. (Democracy Now!)

Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history

Yuval Noah Harari reports for The Guardian:

Pig carcasses hanging in an abattoir[…] The fate of animals in such industrial installations has become one of the most pressing ethical issues of our time, certainly in terms of the numbers involved. These days, most big animals live on industrial farms. We imagine that our planet is populated by lions, elephants, whales and penguins. That may be true of the National Geographic channel, Disney movies and children’s fairytales, but it is no longer true of the real world. The world contains 40,000 lions but, by way of contrast, there are around 1 billion domesticated pigs; 500,000 elephants and 1.5 billion domesticated cows; 50 million penguins and 20 billion chickens.

In 2009, there were 1.6 billion wild birds in Europe, counting all species together. That same year, the European meat and egg industry raised 1.9 billion chickens. Altogether, the domesticated animals of the world weigh about 700m tonnes, compared with 300m tonnes for humans, and fewer than 100m tonnes for large wild animals.

This is why the fate of farm animals is not an ethical side issue. It concerns the majority of Earth’s large creatures: tens of billions of sentient beings, each with a complex world of sensations and emotions, but which live and die on an industrial production line. Forty years ago, the moral philosopher Peter Singer published his canonical book Animal Liberation, which has done much to change people’s minds on this issue. Singer claimed that industrial farming is responsible for more pain and misery than all the wars of history put together.

The scientific study of animals has played a dismal role in this tragedy. The scientific community has used its growing knowledge of animals mainly to manipulate their lives more efficiently in the service of human industry. Yet this same knowledge has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that farm animals are sentient beings, with intricate social relations and sophisticated psychological patterns. They may not be as intelligent as us, but they certainly know pain, fear and loneliness. They too can suffer, and they too can be happy.

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Flawed methodology and assumptions behind claim that business is losing Brussels lobby wars

Corporate Observatory Europe writes:

Spare a thought for big business lobbyists in Brussels. According to a blog on the website of the London School of Economics, they are supposedly “less successful than citizen groups at lobbying EU legislators”. If only. The authors of the blog (academics Andreas Dür, Patrick Bernhagen and David Marshall) make this claim off the back of their analysis of 70 European Commission proposals introduced between 2008 and 2010, which they say show business actors to be less able to achieve their desired outcomes in EU legislative decisions. Let’s examine the main assumptions, methodology, and findings from the blog to try to explain how they could have gotten Brussels’ lobbying power picture so backward.

Essentially, the blog’s conclusions can be explained by the questionable method that was used to determine lobby ‘success’. On the basis of interviews with 95 Commission staff (see page 13 of the longer underlying research article), the researchers determined a long term lobby objective for business groups and citizens groups, as well as “initial” European Commission and European Parliament positions on a scale of 0 – 100. To use computer geek slang, this seems like a case of GIGO (garbage in garbage out): “if you input the wrong data, the results will also be wrong.” The figures that the researchers used to make their elaborate calculations of lobbying success are just a numerical expression of value judgements of a group of officials who had particular responsibilities for the relevant legislative proposal. Not exactly a neutral, unbiased group! On top of this, the scale of 0 – 100 to measure lobby positions and outcomes is insufficient. Many legislative proposals have hundreds of amendments and there can be wins and losses on different elements of a proposal. Real assessments of success cannot be so one-dimensional.

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If this scandal goes beyond Volkswagen (VW), the wheels will come off an entire industry

The Guardian writes:

Cartoon by David Simonds showing VW executives driving a collapsing BeetleEveryone does it. These are the words that have often sparked history’s great corporate scandals. Companies or industries become detached from reality, and illegal or improper practices become seen as normal. It eventually ends in disaster.

This was the case for traders and Libor, and now it could be the case for the automotive industry.

At present, only Volkswagen has admitted using a “defeat device” to rig emissions tests on diesel engines. Other leading carmakers, such as BMW and Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz, have fiercely denied manipulating data. However, the slide in the shares of all carmakers last week suggests that many people aren’t so sure.

Whether other carmakers are dragged into the scandal or not, the events of the last week will have a profound impact on the automotive world.

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Inside Exxon’s Great Climate Cover-Up: Interview with Neela Banerjee and Ed Garvey

A new report by InsideClimate News reveals how oil giant ExxonMobil’s own research confirmed the role of fossil fuels in global warming decades ago. By 1977, Exxon’s own senior experts had begun to warn the burning of fossil fuels could pose a threat to humanity. At first, Exxon launched an ambitious research program, outfitting a supertanker with instruments to study carbon dioxide in the air and ocean. But toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon changed course and shifted to the forefront of climate change denial. Since the 1990s, it has spent millions of dollars funding efforts to reject the science its own experts knew of decades ago.” (Democracy Now!)

French spy who sank Greenpeace ship apologises for lethal bombing

Kim Willsher reports for The Guardian:

A French secret service diver who took part in the operation to sink Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior 30 years ago has spoken publicly for the first time to apologise for his actions.

Jean-Luc Kister, who attached a mine to the ship’s hull, says the guilt of the bombing, which killed a photographer, still weighs heavily on his mind.

“We are not assassins and we have a conscience,” the former agent told investigative website Mediapart. “I have the weight of an innocent man’s death on my conscience … It’s time, I believe, for me to express my profound regret and my apologies,” Kister said.

He said he wanted to apologise to the family of the dead man, Fernando Pereira, “especially his daughter Marelle … for what I call an accidental death but what they consider an assassination”, to the Greenpeace crew aboard the ship and the people of New Zealand where the Rainbow Warrior was sunk.

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The Arctic and the Next Not-So-Cold War: Interview with James Bamford

Amy Goodman talks to investigative journalist James Bamford about his recent article: “Frozen Assets: The Newest Front in Global Espionage is One of the Least Habitable Locales on Earth—the Arctic.” Bamford is the author of a number of books including Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency and The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. (Democracy Now!)

Frozen Assets: Inside the Spy War for Control of the Arctic

James Bamford writes for Foreign Policy:

Arctic Circle Map[…] Worth an estimated $17.2 trillion, an amount roughly equivalent to the entire U.S. economy, these resources have been trapped for eons under a dome of ice and snow. But now, with the Arctic warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, that dome is getting smaller and smaller. According to scientists at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center, about 65 percent of the ice layer above the Lomonosov Ridge melted between 1975 and 2012. In layman’s terms, says Peter Wadhams, a professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, this means one thing: The ice cap is in a “death spiral.”

For the countries that border the Arctic Ocean—
Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, and Denmark (through its territory of Greenland)—an accessible ocean means new opportunities. And for the states that have their sights set on the Lomonosov Ridge—possibly all five Arctic Ocean neighbors but the United States—an open ocean means access to much of the North Pole’s largesse. First, though, they must prove to the United Nations that the access is rightfully theirs. Because that process could take years, if not decades, these countries could clash in the meantime, especially as they quietly send in soldiers, spies, and scientists to collect information on one of the planet’s most hostile pieces of real estate.

While the world’s attention today is focused largely on the Middle East and other obvious trouble spots, few people seem to be monitoring what’s happening in the Arctic. Over the past few years, in fact, the Arctic Ocean countries have been busy building up their espionage armories with imaging satellites, reconnaissance drones, eavesdropping bases, spy planes, and stealthy subs. Denmark and Canada have described a clear uptick in Arctic spies operating on their territories, with Canada reporting levels comparable to those at the height of the Cold War. As of October, NATO had recorded a threefold jump in 2014 over the previous year in the number of Russian spy aircraft it had intercepted in the region. Meanwhile, the United States is sending satellites over the icy region about every 30 minutes, averaging more than 17,000 passes every year, and is developing a new generation of unmanned intelligence sensors to monitor everything above, on, and below the ice and water.

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Bush, ‘Brownie’, FEMA and Katrina: Interview with Russ Baker

Thom Hartmann interviews Russ Baker, editor of WhoWhatWhy and the author of Family of Secrets, on his five part investigative series on the corruption that led to FEMA’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans ten years ago. (The Big Picture)

An Unequal Recovery: New Orleans 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina

‘We spend the hour today marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that devastated the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, killing more than 1,800 people, forcing more than a million people to evacuate. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has become a different city. The population is now about 385,000—about 80 percent of its pre-Katrina population. The number of African Americans has plunged by nearly 100,000 since the storm. According to the Urban League, the income gap between black and white residents has increased 37 percent since 2005. Thousands of homes, many in African-American neighborhoods, remain abandoned. On Thursday, President Obama spoke in New Orleans, remembering what happened 10 years ago. “We came to realize that what started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster — a failure of government to look out for its own citizens,” Obama said.’ (Democracy Now!)

Greg Palast on New Orleans 10 Years Later: I’m Not Celebrating

Greg Palast, creator of the documentary film Big Easy to Big Empty, recently wrote on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina:

Screw the celebration.  New Orleans hasn’t “come back.”  That is, there are still the Bourbon Street bars serving “Hurricanes” to sloshed tourists and Mardi Gras when white Americans can catch trinkets from floats floating over the ghosts of the drowned.

New Orleans is back to 79% of its pre-flood population.  Why am I not cheering? Because the original residents—that is, the majority of the pre-flood Black residents—are still wandering inAmerica’s cruel economic desert.

And the pols of Louisiana love it. Louisiana had a Democratic governor.  The purge of the voter rolls by flood has changed that forever.

Watch my film and meet Stephen Smith, who couldn’t swim, but floated on a mattress from rooftop to rooftop to save the lives of his neighbors.  Smith brought them to a bridge over the rising waters.  They waited for four days without food or water, as helicopters buzzed overhead.  Undoubtedly, one was President Bush’s copter, heading to his self-congratulatory press conference.

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Change Everything or Face A Global Katrina

Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, recently published an excerpt from The Shock Doctrine:

For me, the road to This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate begins in a very specific time and place. The time was exactly ten years ago. The place was New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The road in question was flooded and littered with bodies.

Today I am posting, for the first time, the entire section on Hurricane Katrina from my last book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Rereading the chapter 10 years after the events transpired, I am struck most by this fact: the same military equipment and contractors used against New Orleans’ Black residents have since been used to militarize police across the United States, contributing to the epidemic of murders of unarmed Black men and women. That is one way in which the Disaster Capitalism Complex perpetuates itself and protects its lucrative market.

This material is free for reproduction.

From the Introduction:

I met Jamar Perry in September 2005, at the big Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dinner was being doled out by grinning young Scientologists, and he was standing in line. I had just been busted for talking to evacuees without a media escort and was now doing my best to blend in, a white Canadian in a sea of African-American Southerners. I dodged into the food line behind Perry and asked him to talk to me as if we were old friends, which he kindly did.

Born and raised in New Orleans, he’d been out of the flooded city for a week. He looked about seventeen but told me he was twenty-three. He and his family had waited forever for the evacuation buses; when they didn’t arrive, they had walked out in the baking sun. Finally they ended up here, a sprawling convention centre, normally home to pharmaceutical trade shows and “Capital City Carnage: The Ultimate in Steel Cage Fighting,” now jammed with two thousand cots and a mess of angry, exhausted people being patrolled by edgy National Guard soldiers just back from Iraq.

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We’ve Consumed More Than the Earth Can Produce This Year

Gabe Bullard reports for National Geographic:

It may feel like Christmas comes earlier each year, but there’s a less joyful day that really is moving closer on the calendar.

Earth Overshoot Day is the day when—according to estimates—the total combined consumption of all human activity on Earth in a year overtakes the planet’s ability to generate those resources for that year.

How is it measured?

“It’s quite simple,” says Dr. Mathis Wackernagel of the think tank Global Footprint Network. “We look at all the resource demands of humanity that compete for space, like food, fiber, timber, et cetera, then we look at how much area is needed to provide those services and how much productive surface is available.”

Here’s his bottom line metaphor. Earth Overshoot Day is like the day you spend more than your salary for a year, only you are all humans and your salary is Earth’s biocapacity.

Ideally, Overshoot Day would come after December 31.  It wasn’t too far off in 1970, when it occurred on December 23. But Overshoot Day creep has kicked in ever since. August 13 is the earliest yet—four days ahead of last year’s previous record.

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Tokyo Electric executives to be charged over Fukushima nuclear disaster

Kentaro Hamada and Osamu Tsukimori report for Reuters:

A Japanese civilian judiciary panel on Friday forced prosecutors to indict three former Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) executives for failing to take measures to prevent the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The decision is unlikely to lead to a conviction of the former executives, after prosecutors twice said they would not bring charges, but means they will be summoned to appear in court to give evidence.

Tokyo prosecutors in January rejected the panel’s judgment that the three should be charged, citing insufficient evidence. But the 11 unidentified citizens on the panel forced the indictment after a second vote, which makes an indictment mandatory.

The three are former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, and former executives Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69.

Citizens’ panels, made up of residents selected by lottery, are a rarely used but high-profile feature of Japan’s legal system introduced after World War Two to curb bureaucratic overreach.

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