Aletho News


St. Louis police charge young protester on Ferguson Commission


Press TV – December 8, 2014

A prominent young Ferguson protester has been charged with misdemeanor assault for brief contact with law enforcement officers while trying to access the closed down city hall.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department this week convinced the local prosecutor’s office to charge Rasheen Aldridge because he allegedly made physical contact with an officer who was blocking access to St. Louis City Hall during a demonstration last month, the Huffington Post reported.

The 20-year-old activist has been protesting in and around Ferguson, where unarmed African American 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death in August by a white police officer named Darren Wilson.

Aldrige, along with a number of other demonstrators tried to enter the city hall on Nov. 26, less than 2 days after the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson was announced.

According to video footage evidence, Aldridge — who is just 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds — was pushed by a large city marshal who shoved Aldridge, and the protester’s hand touched and perhaps pushed the official.

“The contrast that we see … between the actions of police that are caught on camera versus the actions of protesters that are caught on camera, how and whether these things are prosecuted — the disparity is remarkable,” Rev. Starsky Wilson, the co-chair of the Ferguson Commission.

“I’ve had a team of my church members who have been involved in actions, including being present for some of those actions downtown last Wednesday, and they were concerned about the level of aggression that they saw from police out on those lines, particularly from City Hall,” Wilson said.

Gov. Jay Nixon last month named Aldridge to the Ferguson Commission, a task force created to address problems in the St. Louis region in the wake of Brown’s death.

On Dec. 1, on behalf of the commission, Aldridge attended the White House to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss law enforcement relationship with local people and minorities.

He later said he left the meeting “disappointed” with Obama, whom he used to consider his “idol.”

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , | Leave a comment

Feds say cleaning up most contaminated nuclear weapons site in US is too costly

RT | December 9, 2014

The United States government recently argued in court filings that the state of Washington’s request of $18 billion over 14 years to address the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site should be rejected based on expense.

The US Department of Justice said in a court filing on Friday that the cost of the state’s proposal for a hastened cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation would cast into doubt other nuclear projects funded by the Department of Energy.

According to The Tri-City Herald, the filings in US District Court by the DOJ and the state of Washington were part of the state’s lawsuit that seeks a more pressing timeline for Hanford’s cleanup.

Friday was the deadline for the parties to comment on new cleanup timelines, as the DOE said many of the existing timelines were at risk of being missed.

Hanford, located along the Columbia River in south-central Washington, is the site of 177 massive underground nuclear waste storage tanks, making it the largest collection of nuclear waste in the US. For four decades, the site was home to plutonium development for use in the production of nuclear weapons.

As RT previously reported, a deal was recently struck between the DOE and Washington state to allow a leaky radioactive storage tank at Hanford to remain as is for more than a year before its contents are removed.

In its court filing, Washington state again criticized federal management at Hanford and asked for an intensified oversight plan to address its leak-prone waste tanks and the construction of a $13 billion vitrification plant to treat waste for future burial.

The state said in its filing that the DOE wants to establish future cleanup deadlines at the expense of hard deadlines already agreed to by the parties in a 2010 consent decree, which sprang from a 2008 lawsuit following the department’s failure to meet an earlier set of deadlines for the plant and its waste tanks.

The construction project “should be matched with the best project management plans in the country,” the state contended. “Energy, however, implies that such planning is impossible.”

The state asked for more than 100 new deadlines to keep the Department of Energy’s cleanup process on track, yet the Department of Justice argued the plan was out of reach.

“The state’s proposal would require a dramatic and unrealistic increase in funding that, if mandated, would jeopardize DOE’s ability to carry out ongoing cleanup operations on other parts of the Hanford site and at other sites across the country,”documents filed by the Justice Department stated.

Hanford’s construction and waste management get $1.2 billion annually from the federal government, more than one-fifth of the Department of Energy’s annual budget for national environmental cleaning projects.

The state’s plan requires $4 billion over the next five years, on top of the current level of annual funding, the Justice Department said.

The Justice Department also said the state’s plan would violate the 2010 consent decree for cleanup, as the proposal would demand new storage tanks and treatment facilities.

The federal government has claimed construction work at Hanford has fallen behind because of technical issues.

Hanford contains”53 million gallons of High Level Radioactive hazardous waste, equivalent to 2,650 rail cars full of waste,”according to the Washington State Dept. of Ecology, making it the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States. Or, as Heart of America Northwest called it,”the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere.”

In 1943, construction began on Hanford as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project.

“Hanford was the producer of the plutonium that fueled the 1st test explosion in Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945. The same plutonium also powered Fat Man, the five-ton atomic bomb that exploded over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945,” according to Heart of America Northwest.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , | 2 Comments

Spinning the ‘warmest year’

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | December 9, 2014

The buzz is intensifying about 2014 possibly being the warmest year globally in the historical temperature record.

The spin

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued a Press Release on 3 Dec: 2014 on course to be one of the hottest, possibly hottest, on record.  Excerpts:

WMO’s provisional statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2014 indicated that the global average air temperature over land and sea surface for January to October was about 0.57° Centigrade (1.03 Fahrenheit) above the average of 14.00°C (57.2 °F) for the 1961-1990 reference period, and 0.09°C (0.16 °F) above the average for the past ten years (2004-2013).

If November and December maintain the same tendency, then 2014 will likely be the hottest on record, ahead of 2010, 2005 and 1998. This confirms the underlying long-term warming trend. It is important to note that differences in the rankings of the warmest years are a matter of only a few hundredths of a degree, and that different data sets show slightly different rankings.

“The provisional information for 2014 means that fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “There is no standstill in global warming,” he said.

“What we saw in 2014 is consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. Record-breaking heat combined with torrential rainfall and floods destroyed livelihoods and ruined lives. What is particularly unusual and alarming this year are the high temperatures of vast areas of the ocean surface, including in the northern hemisphere,” he said.

“Record-high greenhouse gas emissions and associated atmospheric concentrations are committing the planet to a much more uncertain and inhospitable future. WMO and its Members will continue to improve forecasts and services to help people cope with more frequent and damaging extreme weather and climate conditions,” said Mr Jarraud.

The provisional statement was published to inform the annual climate change negotiations taking place in Lima, Peru. WMO also updated its acclaimed Weather Reports for the Future series, with scenarios for the weather in 2050 based on the Fifth Assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, which is co-sponsored by WMO and the UNEP. Newly added reports are for Peru, France, Viet Nam, Spain, Canada and Norway, painting a compelling picture of what life could be like on a warmer planet.

Matt Ridley has a subsequent article in The Times :  Beware the corruption of science.  Subtitle:  Environmental researchers are increasingly looking for evidence that fits their ideology rather than seeking the truth.  Excerpts (from the GWPF article):

Second example: last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a supposedly scientific body, issued a press release stating that this is likely to be the warmest year in a century or more, based on surface temperatures. Yet this predicted record would be only one hundredth of a degree above 2010 and two hundredths of a degree above 2005 — with an error range of one tenth of a degree. True scientists would have said: this year is unlikely to be significantly warmer than 2010 or 2005 and left it at that.

In any case, the year is not over, so why the announcement now? Oh yes, there’s a political climate summit in Lima this week. The scientists of WMO allowed themselves to be used politically. Not that they were reluctant. To squeeze and cajole the data until they just crossed the line, the WMO “reanalysed” a merger of five data sets. Maybe that was legitimate but, given how the institutions that gather temperature data have twice this year been caught red-handed making poorly justified adjustments to “homogenise” and “in-fill” thermometer records in such a way as to cool down old records and warm up new ones, I have my doubts.

Most of the people in charge of collating temperature data are vocal in their views on climate policy, which hardly reassures the rest of us that they leave those prejudices at the laboratory door. Imagine if bankers were in charge of measuring inflation.

Typically, Michael Mann responds to Ridley’s article with this tweet:

Michael E. Mann:  Latest #climatescience smearer @mattwridley has a disturbing record of disinformation & denial. Via @SourceWatch:

Data and uncertainty

Last week,  I received the following query from a reporter:

I’m covering the release of the WMO’s provisional climate statement for 2014. It says 2014 is on track to become one of the hottest, if not the hottest, years on record. A lot of people here at the UN climate talks in Lima say this shows there is no slowdown in warming. What is your take?

My response:

We won’t really have a good assessment on the temperatures for 2014 until about March 2015, when all of the observations have been assembled and quality controlled. The different temperature datasets and analyses give different results, which reflects the uncertainties in the data and analysis methods. Even if one or several data sets do find 2014 to be the hottest year, given the uncertainties one can only conclude that this is one of the top 5 or so warmest years.

The real issue that is of concern to me is the growing divergence between the the observed global temperature anomalies and what was predicted by climate models. Even if 2014 is somehow unambiguously the warmest year on record, this won’t do much to alleviate the growing discrepancy between climate model predictions and the observations.

If it does turn out to be the hottest does that indicate the pause is over?

One year won’t really make a difference, unless it is extremely warm. And then 2015 would need to be even warmer than 2014. So declaring the pause to be ‘over’ will require continued warming. Again, the pause itself is not of such great significance; rather it is the growing divergence between climate model predictions and the observations – one warm year isn’t going to really change this.


The differences among the different global surface temperature analyses are illustrated by this figure that Steve Mosher provided for my recent Senate testimony:

Slide1 From the main text of the WMO report:

Global average temperatures are also estimated using reanalysis systems, which use a weather forecasting system to combine many sources of data to provide a more complete picture of global temperatures. According to data from the reanalysis produced by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, the January to October combined land and ocean global average temperature would place 2014 as third or fourth highest for this dataset, which runs from 1958. Based on these lines of evidence it is most likely that 2014 is currently one of the four warmest years on record, but there is a possibility that the final rank will lie outside this range.

The reanalysis systems have been underutilized for estimated temperature trends, warmest years, etc.  Because of changes to observing systems, the reanalyses have generally not been used for trend analyses.  However, particularly for examining recent trends (e.g. the pause), I would say that the observing systems have arguably been sufficiently homogeneous since 1989 for this purpose.  The great advantage of using the reanalyses is that ‘infilling’ for regions without observations is accomplished through data assimilation using a numeral weather prediction system (for details, see previous CE post  This ‘infilling’ is done in a dynamically consistent way, which IMO is much better than the various statistical infilling or kriging strategies.

With regards to ‘warmest year’, Gavin Schmidt tweeted an interesting graph that illustrates record warmth estimates, although it is not clear what constitutes the distributions.  In any event, it is seen that 2014 has a similar distribution to 1998, 2005, 2010.  With this visualization, it is seen that 1998 clearly stood out as ‘warmest year’ at the time.


Implications for the pause

Well, ranking 1998, 2005, 2010 and 2014 as the ‘warmest years’ seems very consistent with a plateau in surface temperatures since 1998.  Even if 2014 maintains its status among the top 4, how does this impact the ‘pause’ narrative?

RealClimate, Tamino, and probably others are busy trying to convince that the pause doesn’t exist.  The preferred data set for such analyses is Cowtan and Way; I am not a fan of this dataset owing to concerns about how they treat the Arctic [link].   Statistical games can be played, and you can infer that there is a pause (or not).

The real issue is the growing divergence between climate model projections and the surface temperature observations, illustrated in this diagram by Ed Hawkins:


You can see that using the Cowtan and Way data set doesn’t help much with regards to the discrepancy:  Cowtan and Way is within the error bars of HadCRUT4.

Updating this diagram to include 2014 is going to increase the discrepancy between the models and observations, because the climate models show an inexorable warming.

JC summary

Focusing on the ‘warmest year’ is a pointless exercise, unless the warm anomaly is as large as 1998.  Focusing on the ‘pause’ is mainly significant in context of the comparison between climate model projections and surface temperatures.

Attempts to spin 2014 as a possible ‘warmest year’ is exactly that: spin designed to influence the Lima deliberations.  While the WMO report was not unreasonable, their press release was a clear attempt to influence the Lima deliberations in the direction of being ‘alarmed.’

I’ll be waiting until HadCRUT and Berkeley Earth have provided their final 2014 temperature analyses (which will probably be sometime late winter).  Particularly with regards to the recent temperature record and the ‘pause’, I think more scrutiny should be given to the various reanalyses, which in principle is probably the best way to provide a truly global analysis.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | 1 Comment

Alternative Media and the MH17 JIT Reversal

 By Ulson Gunnar | New Eastern Outlook | December 8, 2014

After weeks of protests and growing suspicion, Dutch authorities overseeing the investigation of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 have finally included Malaysia as a member of its Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

Malaysia had made it clear it was immensely displeased with its inexplicable exclusion from JIT formed after the downing of MH17 over eastern Ukraine. Including NATO members  (Belgium and the Netherlands), a defacto NATO collaborator (Australia) and a potential culprit in the air disaster (Ukraine), Malaysia’s exclusion looked to be a part of an ongoing cover-up amid a larger attempt to use the disaster to frame Russia and advance NATO’s agenda in Eastern Europe.

The conflict amid which MH17 was shot down is perceived to be a proxy conflict between NATO and Russia. That the investigation includes exclusively pro-NATO members or NATO members themselves, both the conduct of the investigation and any conceivable outcome would be highly suspect. Malaysia, the only nation directly effected by the disaster and perceived of being beyond the direct influence of NATO, would have provided a much needed counterbalance.

Now that it has become a member of JIT, analysts must vigilantly watch to ensure it is allowed full access to evidence and equal participatory standings. While Malaysia’s inclusion provides hope that JIT will now be unable to pursue a political agenda with impunity, the possibility is high that NATO will simply cite Malaysia’s inclusion in JIT to legitimize its actions, no matter how biased the conduct of JIT’s investigation may be or how skewed its outcome, even if Malaysia raises protests over both.

Alternative Media’s Role in JIT Reversal 

The diminishing primacy of the West’s powerful global media monopoly may be partially why Malaysia was finally included in JIT. Had there been no alternatives to this monopoly, including networks rising up in developing nations and among BRICS, as well as the more decentralized alternative media of “citizen journalists,” Malaysia’s protests simply would have been tuned out and other issues put forward to cover up the glaringly compromised nature of JIT’s original members and their methodology.

It was also revealed that JIT had arranged agreements among members to bar the release of certain information when deemed necessary. With Malaysia excluded from JIT, any number of relevant or incriminating pieces of evidence could have already been purged from the investigation while other pieces of evidence fabricated to take their place. The alternative media played a crucial role in bringing this suspicious arrangement to the public’s attention.

In all, large and growing outrage over what was clearly a politically motivated investigation was given a platform by the alternative media to reach a wider general public. Unable to ignore obvious misconduct in the investigation and a glaring lack of objectivity and impartiality because of this fact, may have forced NATO to include Malaysia despite the obvious restraints it would put on its attempt to whitewash the investigation.

What Malaysia Must Do Now

Malaysia must ask the questions and demand the evidence required to determine whether or not evidence was destroyed or switched during its absence in JIT, then ensure an impartial, objective investigation is pursued to determine the cause of MH17’s fateful crash and who was responsible. It must ensure it is included in all matters of the investigation and that pro-NATO members are unable to pursue avenues unilaterally without Malaysia’s knowledge and input.

If the alternative media did indeed play a role in helping Malaysia obtain a position within JIT, the truest test will be for the same media platform to now ensure NATO does not simply use Malaysia’s inclusion in JIT to force through foregone, biased and deceitful conclusions. The alternative media must help Malaysia bring any grievances it may have with JIT’s other members and their methods during the investigation to the forefront of public attention.

Inconsistencies and findings Malaysia may publish that run contradictory to NATO’s conclusions and innuendos must also be brought to the public’s attention via the alternative media, considering much of MH17’s investigation has either been spun or covered up entirely by the West’s media monopolies.

What the Drawn Out, Suspicious Investigation Already Tells Us

Had NATO truly been sure of Russia’s culpability in MH17’s downing, carrying out a quick, transparent, and inclusive investigation none could question would have been at the forefront of NATO’s agenda. Instead, a shadowy investigation carried out by a stacked Joint Investigation Team, excluding a nation effected directly by the disaster for no apparent reason besides its residing beyond NATO’s direct sphere of influence reeks of a cover up or at best, an attempt to spin an uncertain chain of events into a politically and strategically favorable outcome.

For JIT’s original members not to have vocally protested this suspicious behavior and multiple conflicts of interest, illustrate that much of JIT’s work regardless of Malaysia’s inclusion in the process lacks the legitimacy of a truly objective and impartial process.

That NATO cannot conduct the investigation in a transparent manner and has resorted to multiple attempts to imply Russian culpability before presenting concrete evidence suggests there is either no evidence to implicate Russia at this time, or there exists evidence that directly contradict NATO’s claims.

Regardless, it will be up to the alternative media to provide the necessary checks and balances the Western media should, but won’t provide itself. Independent analysts must continue examining the ongoing investigation and reporting inconsistencies in both methods and outcomes. By stopping NATO from exploiting tragedy to advance its own agenda amid the MH17 case, future disasters may see a speedy, objective investigation and perhaps, may not occur at all.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Failed experiment’: Privatized rail, water & utilities hit households financially – study

RT | December 9, 2014

British households could be saving £250 a year each if services such as railways and water were publicly owned rather than privatized, according to a new report.

Research conducted by Corporate Watch and We Own It reveals Britons could be saving hundreds of pounds if such services were taken out of private hands. In the long run, the British government, too, would save billions if services were renationalized.

Additionally, the investigation found that utility companies were paying out £12.7 billion a year in interest and dividends to their shareholders, while passing the cost burden to their customers.

The paper comes after a YouGov poll published earlier this month, which shows around 68 percent of the British public believe services would be better run by the state rather than private corporations.

The poll showed 84 percent of people wanted the NHS to remain in public hands, while 66 percent believed that major railways should be handed back to the state.

“Households are getting squeezed by ever-rising train ticket prices, energy bills and water bills, while incomes can’t keep pace,” said We Own It director Cat Hobbs.

“Politicians talk about the cost of living, but it’s time to look at the cost of privatized living.”

“Privatization is a failed experiment while public ownership could be a much more efficient alternative. We could run these services ourselves and save money, either for households or for government,” she added.

Average water bills have risen by 50 percent since privatization first began in 1989, while rail prices have consistently risen above inflation. Currently, prices of standard rail tickets are 23 percent higher in real terms than they were in 1995.

The majority of the UK’s public services were sold to private companies under the premiership of Margret Thatcher, whose administration aimed to shrink the British state and remove its cost burdens.

Corporate Watch added that substantial studies indicate transferring private utilities to public hands does have positive effects, claiming approval ratings in Germany shot up significantly when the state allowed water services to be administered by municipal authorities.

Similarly, they said that the East Coast Rail line, one of the few UK train services that is publicly owned, boasted an approval rating of 91 percent by regular commuters – far ahead of privately run services.

Earlier this year, an investigation conducted by the Independent showed that foreign companies, including those owned by European states, had received nearly £1 billion worth of dividends after taking out stakes in UK public services.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 3 Comments

UK building firm linked to Qatari human rights violations

RT | December 9, 2014

One of Britain’s largest construction firms has been linked to severely sub-standard working conditions for migrants in Qatar. Over 1,000 foreign workers perished in the Gulf state between 2012 and 2013, a government report shows.

The petro-rich Gulf state is investing over £200 billion in a construction frenzy in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup. Following a recent investigation into the matter, BBC Newsnight concluded that the building binge is benefitting many in the state – but not migrant workers.

Amid recent bribery allegations, Qatar’s World Cup plans have been tainted by a more unsettling reality than corruption alone. Hundreds of foreign workers hired to construct skyscrapers and stadiums in preparation for the global tournament have died in the Gulf state.

A report sponsored by the Qatari government found that migrants perished at building sites littered throughout Qatar. Most of them hailed from South Asia, many of them Nepalese. Swathes died from cardiac arrest, accidents, or falls in the workplace. Others took their own lives.

Amid mounting concern over the welfare of migrant workers in Qatar, questions have emerged regarding the obligations and responsibilities of global construction firms that win contracts in the country.

Following an in-depth probe into the conditions that foreign construction workers face there, BBC Newsnight uncovered damning testimonies about migrant workers’ poor pay, housing, and safety conditions.

Some of the workers forced to endure these conditions were employed by sub-contractors, which were in turn hired by Carillion – one of the UK’s most profitable construction companies.

Debt bondage

Imran, a 32-year-old Bangladeshi worker whose safety pass and helmet bore the distinctive Carillion logo, told Newsnight that he deeply regrets his decision to come to Qatar.

Although a recruitment agent promised him 1,500 Qatari riyal (£263) a month, he is left with a mere 650 (£114) Qatari riyal once his expenses for food and medical treatment are factored in. He must then allocate half of that meagre sum to the recruitment agency that sourced the position for him.

“I am supporting elderly parents, my wife and a child,” he told the BBC. “I can’t send them the money they need…I don’t want to stay here but I can’t leave. The company have my passport.”

Describing a typical day, Imran said he wakes at 4 a.m., arrives at work at approximately 6 a.m., and continues to work for a further 11 hours. Reflecting on his accommodation, the Bangladeshi worker said it is overcrowded and ill-equipped.

“My room there isn’t fit for humans – six of us share and there’s no place even to sit and eat.”

Carillion told the BBC that it uses 50 different sub-contractors in the Gulf state, and that the firm employing Imran provides workers for one of those firms.

Reflecting on the unsavory nature of the 32-year-old’s allegations, the company said it is “deeply concerned and surprised” and will conduct “an immediate review of these claims to establish the position and take appropriate action.”

The migrant workers’ camps are located between 10-20 miles from the center of Doha. The BBC reported that workers were sat on the floor eating at one particular camp, which is used by a sub-contractor that supplies labor to Carillion.

Complaints of delayed wages, poor pay, and sub-standard working conditions are rife. Echoing Imran, one worker claims the sub-contractor he works for has the men’s passports, and that the workers are unable to access them.

However, a spokesperson for Carillion told the BBC that “health and safety is at the very heart of our business, and practice on site follows standards that we apply in the UK.”

He added that the firm “must abide by Qatari labor law in respect of wages, living conditions and employment rights,” and emphasized the company expects sub-contractors to “comply with Qatari law which prevents employers withholding workers’ passports.”

Drastic reform required

The Qatari report which documents the deaths of migrant workers in the Gulf state calls for serious reform of the nation’s policy for dealing with migrant employees.

Human rights campaigners have denounced the measures currently in place as being similar to indentured servitude – a historical form of debt bondage common to 18th century North America.

Ray Jureidini, a leading professor of ethics and migration, has been employed by the Qatari government to offer recommendations for the reform of the state’s labor laws.

He told the BBC that the country’s legislation requires an urgent overhaul, and warned that corruption and bribery by recruitment firms must be addressed.

Jureidini said that global construction firms profiting from Qatar’s pre-World Cup building boom also have a duty to take a proactive stance with respect to workers’ conditions.

“They don’t ask about the men supplied to them,” he told the BBC.

“They feel they don’t need to ask how the workers were recruited, whether they were trafficked, or whether they are caught in debt bondage or being exploited.”

Jureidini suggested that a “corporate veil” allows global firms to evade accountability for the fate of migrant workers, because the men are not officially documented in their company accounts.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Costa Rica: State to Compensate Nemagon Victims

Weekly News Update on the Americas | December 8, 2014

A decree by Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís authorizing payments to former banana workers sickened by the pesticide Nemagon became official on Dec. 1 with the measure’s publication in the government’s gazette. Under the decree the government’s National Insurance Institute (INS) will pay out from 25% to 100% of the medical bills for workers who suffered physical or psychological damage from Nemagon, with the percentage based on their years of exposure to the pesticide. The decree currently covers 13,925 former banana workers; cases are pending for 9,233 of the workers’ children and 1,742 of the workers’ spouses. More than 11,000 other applications were dismissed.

Nemagon is a brand name for dibromochloropropane (DBCP), a chemical known to cause sterility, cancer, miscarriages, genetic deformities and other health problems. It was formerly in wide use in Central American banana fields; it was applied in Costa Rica from 1967 until the government banned the chemical’s importation in 1979. Affected Central American banana workers have been demanding compensation for decades. Costa Rica passed a compensation law in September 2001 but without setting up a mechanism for paying the workers. Some 780 Costa Ricans already won a separate settlement in 2011 from California-based fruit and vegetable producer Dole Food Company, Inc., which began making payments in September 2012 [see Update #1144]. The agreement with Dole also covered 3,157 Nicaraguans and 1,000 Hondurans. (La Nación (Costa Rica) 12/2/14; Tico Times 12/3/14)

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Official denies having confirmed Iranian anti-ISIS strikes in Iraq

Al-Akhbar | December 9, 2014

A senior Iranian official on Tuesday denied remarks attributed to him in a British newspaper saying Tehran had carried out airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Iraq.

The Guardian last week quoted deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Rahimpour as saying that Iran had conducted strikes against ISIS for “the defense of the interests of our friends in Iraq.”

His remarks appeared to contradict the official position of Iran, which has not confirmed it carried out the attacks as reported by the Pentagon.

Rahimpour on Tuesday however said he was misquoted, and that his remarks had been made in response to a question on possible airstrikes.

He said he was referring to “the general way in which Iraq is allied to Iran and that we are ready to provide military assistance if the Iraqi government asks for it.”

“My comments were misinterpreted,” Rahimpour told AFP on the sidelines of an international conference in Tehran.

Iran has consistently denied having troops in Iraq, and was not invited to join a US-led military coalition against ISIS, which has carved out a vast region of control in the country and in neighboring Syria.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he had no knowledge of Iranian airstrikes against ISIS in his country.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Israeli settlers stab Palestinian youth on his family’s land

CPTnet | December 9, 2014

img_1174On 8 December 2014, Israeli settlers attacked seventeen-year-old Palestinian boy, Moad Al Rajabi on his family land in Bani Naim, on the outskirts of Al-Khalil/Hebron. He was sitting with his father, Noah Al Rajabi, and two of his cousins when settler cars stopped nearby. As seven settlers exited the cars and came towards them, Noah ran away with his two nephews, believing that his son was also with him. He soon realised his son was not there, and turned to see seventeen-year-old Moad encircled by the settlers.

The seven were stabbing Moad, but fled as Noah ran back in a bid to rescue his son from the assault. Moad required hospitalization to treat the stab wounds, one of which penetrated to the bones in the hand; the other was on his thigh. He is now stable, and the hospital hopes to discharge him later today.

The Al Rajabi family has also suffered the violence of home demolition and the destruction of their livelihood by the Israeli military. In May 2012, Israeli forces destroyed the family’s dairy farm and home, which was on the land where Moad was stabbed yesterday.  Commenting on the destruction of the caravan (mobile home) in which the family lived, an iron barn stabling cows, milking machines and other equipment worth over 8000 USD, Noah explained that the Israeli army not “only destroy[ed] my livelihood but also the livelihoods of three other families; our farm is our bread and butter.” The Al Rajabi family has continued to have financial difficulties ever since the demolition.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

More young men and teenagers arrested by the Israeli military

International Solidarity Movement | December 9, 2014

2014-12-08-0233-336x600Nablus, Occupied Palestine – On December 8th in Nablus, the Israeli army broke into the homes of two families in Balata refugee camp and arrested two young Palestinians, 19-year-old Mujahed al Shekhalil and 17-year-old Yazan Hta.

In both cases, their homes were raised by the military in the middle of the night (3am and 3:30am) damaging doors and property inside the houses. At the time of the incursions, all family members were sleeping. The military forced all family members into one room whilst they arrested the teenagers. Both families state that between 15 and 20 soldiers broke into their homes, and they were given no reason for either the intrusions or the arrests.

In the village of Madama, on the same night, the Israeli army also entered the home of the Wajeihqut family and arrested 23-year-old Assad Allah. The army spent an hour inside the house between 2:20am and 3:20am, again forcing all family members inside one room. The family reported to ISM that the soldiers told Assad’s 9-year-old brother that if he did not stop speaking they would take him with his brother. Another brother was told that if he did not go into the room with the family then they would cut his head off.

The army confiscated every family members phone and stole the sim cards from them and the hard drive from the family computer. They also smashed the apartments heating system.

This was the fifth time Assad has been arrested and the family home has been raided by the army on numerous occasions.

In all cases, the families were not given a reason for the arrests or for the damage done to their homes, and do not have any information as to where their sons have been taken.

Photo by ISM

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

No Exit in Gaza

By Jen Marlowe | TomDispatch | December 7, 2014

Rubble. That’s been the one constant for the Awajah family for as long as I’ve known them.

Four months ago, their home was demolished by the Israeli military — and it wasn’t the first time that Kamal, Wafaa, and their children had been through this.  For the last six years, the family has found itself trapped in a cycle of destruction and reconstruction; their home either a tangle of shattered concrete and twisted re-bar or about to become one.

I first met the Awajah family in August 2009, in the tent where they were living. I filmed them as they told me what had happened to them eight months earlier during the military invasion that Israel called Operation Cast Lead and said was a response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

I had no intention of making a film when I went to Gaza, but after hearing the family’s story, I knew I had to.  I returned again in 2012 and have continued to stay in touch in the years since, realizing that the plight of the Awajahs opened a window onto what an entire society was facing, onto what it’s like to live with an interminable war and constant fear.  The Awajahs’ story shines a spotlight on what Palestinians in Gaza have endured for years on end.

What stuck with me most, however, was the demand of the Awajah children regarding the reconstruction of their new home in 2012: they insisted that the house have two doors.

What The Awajahs Saw

In separate interviews in 2009, Wafaa and Kamal Awajah told me the same story, each breaking down in tears as they offered me their memories of the traumatic events that had taken place eight months earlier — a night when they lost far more than a home.  The next day, a still grief-stricken Wafaa walked me through her recollections of that night, pointing out the spot where each incident had taken place.

On January 4th, as Operation Cast Lead’s ground campaign began, the Awajah family was at home.  Wafaa’s eldest daughter, 12-year-old Omsiyat, woke her up at around 2 am.  “Mom,” said Omsiyat, “soldiers are at the door.”  Wafaa jumped out of bed to look. “There are no soldiers at the door, honey,” she reassured her daughter. When Omsiyat insisted, Wafaa looked again, and this time she spotted the soldiers and tanks. She lit candles in the window so that the Israeli troops would know that a family was inside.

Suddenly, the ceiling began to crumble.  Wafaa, Kamal, and their six children fled, as an Israeli military bulldozer razed their home. No sooner had they made it outside than the roof collapsed.  As tank after tank rolled by, the family huddled under an olive tree next to the house. When dawn finally broke, they could examine the ruins of their house.

Just as the Awajahs were trying to absorb their loss, Wafaa heard nine-year-old Ibrahim scream. He had been shot in the side.  As more gunfire rang out, Kamal scooped up the injured boy and ran for cover with the rest of the family. Wafaa was hit in both hips, but she and five of the children managed to take shelter behind a mud-brick wall. From there, she saw Kamal, also wounded, lying in the middle of the road, Ibrahim still in his arms.

Israeli soldiers approached her husband and son on foot, while Wafaa watched, and — according to what she and Kamal both told me — without warning, one of them shot Ibrahim at close range, killing him. He may have assumed that Kamal was already dead. Despite Wafaa and Kamal’s wounds, the family managed to get back to their wrecked home, where they hid under the collapsed roof for four days with no food or clean water, until a passing family with a donkey cart took them and Ibrahim’s body to a hospital in Gaza city.

As far as I know, the Israeli military never investigated the incident.  In fact, only a handful of possible war crimes during Operation Cast Lead were ever investigated by Israel.  Instead of an official inquiry, the Awajahs were left with a dead son, grievous physical wounds that eventually healed, psychological ones that never will, and a home reduced to pile of rubble.

One Family in Gaza, Jen Marlowe’s award-winning short documentary film featuring the Awajah family

(You may also click here to view the video on Vimeo if your browser is having trouble loading the video on this page.)

Life Goes On

When I met them eight months later, the Awajahs were struggling to rebuild their lives.  “What’s hardest is how to offer safety and security for my children,” Kamal told me. “Their behaviors are not the same as before.”

Wafaa pointed to three-year-old Diyaa. “This boy is traumatized since the war,” she said. “He sleeps with a loaf of bread in his arms. If you try to take it from him, he wakes up, hugs it, and says, ‘It’s mine.’”

“What you can’t remove or change is the fear in the children’s eyes,” Kamal continued.  “If Diyaa sees a bulldozer, he thinks it’s coming to destroy a house. If he sees a soldier, whether an Israeli or Arab soldier, he thinks the soldier wants to kill him. I try to keep them away from violence, but what he experienced forces him to release his fear with violence. When he kisses you, you can feel violence in his kiss. He kisses you and then pushes you away. He might punch or slap you. I am against violence and war in any form. I support peaceful ways. That’s how I live and raise my children. Of course, I try to keep my children from violence, and help them forget what happened to them, but I can’t erase it from their memory. The memories of fear are engraved in their blood.”

I thought about Kamal’s words as I filmed Diyaa and his five-year-old sister Hala scrambling onto the rubble of their destroyed home — their only playground — squealing with glee as they rolled bullet casings and shrapnel down the collapsed roof.

What moved me deeply was the determination of Kamal and Wafaa to create a future for their surviving children. “Yes, my home was destroyed, my life was destroyed, but this didn’t destroy what’s inside me,” Kamal said.  “It didn’t kill me as Kamal. It didn’t kill us as a family. We’re living. After all, we must continue living. It’s not the life we wanted, or had, but I try to provide for my children what I can.”

The Fragility of Hope

In 2012, I returned to Gaza and to the tent in which the Awajah family was still living. It was evident that the trauma of their experience in 2009 — along with the daily deprivation and lack of security and freedom that characterize Gaza under siege — had taken a toll. “I had thought that those were the most difficult days of my life,” Kamal said, “but I discovered afterwards that the days which followed were even more difficult.”

In 2009, Kamal told me that the war hadn’t fundamentally changed him. Now, he simply said, “I lost myself. The Kamal before the war does not exist today.”  He spoke of the screams of his children, waking regularly from nightmares.  “The war is still chasing them in their dreams.”

Most painful for Kamal was his inability to help his children heal. His despair and feelings of helplessness had grown to the point where he had become paralyzed with severe depression.  “I tried and I still try to get us out of the situation we are in — the social situation, the educational situation for the children, and the mental situation for me and my family.”  But their situation, he added, kept getting worse.

My 2012 visit, however, came during a rare moment of hope. After nearly four years, the Awajah family was finally rebuilding their home. Trucks were delivering bags of cement; gravel-filled wheelbarrows were being pushed onto skids; wooden planks were being hammered down. In 2009, I had filmed Diyaa and Hala playing on the rubble of their destroyed house.  In 2012, I filmed them climbing and jumping on the foundation of their new home.

“I am building a house. It is my right in life for my children to have a house,” Kamal said.  “I call it my dream house, because I dream that my children will go back to being themselves.  It will be the first step to shelter me and my children, away from the sun and the heat and tents, our homelessness.  The biggest hope and the biggest happiness I have is when I see my children smiling and comfortable… when they sleep without nightmares.”  Kamal added, “I can’t sleep because of my fear over them.”

For Wafaa, while the new home represented hope for their future, its construction also triggered flashbacks to that night of the bulldozer.  As she told me, “Bulldozers and trucks bringing construction material came at night, and, at that moment, it was war again. When I saw the bulldozers and the trucks approaching with big lights, my heart fell between my feet.  I was truly scared.”

Planning for the new house also provided Wafaa and Kamal with a poignant reminder of the fragility of hope in Gaza. “The children say to make two doors to the house,” Wafaa told me.  “One [regular] door and the other door so when the Israelis demolish the house, we can use it to escape.  We try to comfort them and tell them nothing like this will happen, but no, they insist on us making two doors.  ‘Two doors, Daddy, one here and one there, so that we can run away.’”

The Gaza War of 2014

After my 2012 visit, I periodically contacted the Awajah family. Construction was proceeding in fits and starts, Kamal told me, due to shortages of materials in Gaza and their lack of financial resources. Finally, however, in the middle of 2013 the home was completed and as the final step, glass for the windows was installed in February 2014.

Five months later, in July, the most recent Israeli assault on Gaza began. I called the Awajah family right away.

“The children are frightened but okay,” Wafaa told me.

The Israeli army had warned their neighborhood to evacuate and they were now renting a small apartment in Gaza City. During a humanitarian ceasefire, Kamal was able to return to their house: it had been demolished along with the entire neighborhood.

When I spoke to the Awajah family at the end of September, Kamal told me that rent money had run out.  Seeking shelter at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school wasn’t a viable option, he said, because there were already so many families packed into each room. The Awajahs were back in a tent next to the rubble of their twice-destroyed home.

Click here to see a larger version

2014: Kamal and his children on the rubble of their twice-destroyed home

The family’s situation is far bleaker than in 2009.  Then they were able to tap into an electricity source and there was a communal outhouse for all the tent-dwelling families in the area. This time, Kamal said, the area near their house was entirely deserted: no water tank, electricity, outhouse, gas, or stove for cooking. Their only possessions were the few items of clothing they managed to take with them when they fled. They were sleeping on the ground, he said, no mattresses or blankets to ward off the cold, only the nylon of the tent beneath them. The children had been walking several kilometers to fill jugs with water until villagers who lived nearby made their wells available for a few hours a day.

Wafaa told me that she was cooking on an open fire, using scrap wood scavenged from the remnants of her house. For the first week, the children returned home from school every day and, surrounded by nothing but rubble, began to cry. Seventeen-year-old Omsiyat briefly took the phone. Her typically warm and open voice was completely flat, no affect whatsoever.

Worse yet, Kamal still owes $3,700 for the construction of their previous house.  Though the home no longer exists, the debt does.  “We are drowning,” Wafaa said.

The Awajah family today

(You may also click here to view the video on Vimeo if your browser is having trouble loading the video on this page.)

Drowning in Gaza

The Awajahs aren’t the only ones in Gaza who are drowning. The true horror of their repeated trauma lies in the extent to which it is widespread and shared. Nine-year-old Ibrahim Awajah was one of 872 children in Gaza killed in the 2009, 2012, and 2014 wars combined, according to statistics gathered by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. (There was also one Israeli child killed by mortar fire in that period.)

The flat affect in Omsiyat’s voice reflects the assessment of the United Nations Children’s Fund that nearly half of the children in Gaza are in urgent need of psychological help.  And Kamal’s desire not to move into a communal shelter is understandable, given that 53,869 displaced people still remain crowded into 18 UNWRA schools.  According to Shelter Cluster, an inter-agency committee that supports shelter needs for people affected by conflict and natural disaster, the Awajah family’s house is one of 18,080 homes in Gaza that were completely demolished or severely damaged in the 2014 war alone. A further 5,800 houses suffered significant damage, with 38,000 more sustaining some damage.

Shelter Cluster estimates that it will take 20 years for Gaza to be rebuilt — assuming that it does not face yet another devastating military operation. As the last six years indicate, however, unless there is meaningful political progress (namely, the ending of the Israeli siege and ongoing occupation), further hostilities are inevitable.  It is not enough that people in Gaza be able to rebuild their houses yet again.  They need the opportunity to rebuild their lives with dignity.

Kamal Awajah said as much. “I don’t ask anyone to build me a home for the sake of charity. That’s not the kind of help we want. We need the kind of help that raises our value as human beings. But how? That’s the question.”

There seem to be no serious efforts on the horizon to address Kamal’s question, which has at its core an insistence on recognizing the equal value of Palestinian humanity. As long as that question remains unanswered and the fundamental rights of Palestinians continue to be denied, the devastating impact of repeated war will continue for every family in Gaza and the terrifying threat of the next war will always loom.  The Awajah children have every reason to insist that their future home be constructed with two doors.

Jen Marlowe is a human rights activist, author, documentary filmmaker, and founder of donkeysaddle projects. Her books include I Am Troy Davis and The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker. Her films include Witness Bahrain and One Family in Gaza. She blogs at View from the donkey’s saddle and tweets at @donkeysaddleorg.

Note: To help the Awajah family rebuild their home, Jen Marlowe set up an Indiegogo campaign on their behalf, which you can visit and share by clicking here.

Copyright 2014 Jen Marlowe

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments